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Giovenith's Cavalcade Of Creation

A coffee shop for those who like to discuss art, music, books, movies, TV, each other's own works, and existential angst.
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Giovenith
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Giovenith's Cavalcade Of Creation

Postby Giovenith » Tue May 01, 2012 5:35 am

Old stuff begins here:

viewtopic.php?p=9474387#p9474387

  • Most picture links dead
  • "Ashes of Heaven," a story following the adventures of Theo Toovson at his Danish boarding school, High Seas. What sorts of mysteries connected to the past lurk about?

New stuff begins here:

viewtopic.php?p=26912138#p26912138

Last edited by Giovenith on Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:24 am, edited 32 times in total.
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Giovenith
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Giovenith Related

Postby Giovenith » Sun May 27, 2012 9:40 am

Pearlelei, the Goddess:
The benevolent Goddess worshiped by the ancients of the country, who takes the form of either a woman (as shown here) or a dragon. Her religion is still the most popular in the country.
Image

SaTW Giovenith:
A geeky loner girl who often tries to make friends with other nations, by making them useless crafts such as baskets and drawings. A complete coward when it comes to war, she will often hide in a bunker somewhere when fight breaks out, and try to make up for it later by helping with medical teams.
Image

Queen Antoinette, in Victorian garb:
She doesn't normally wear these clothes, but it was a special occasion.
Image

Mr. Cosmic:
A random snap of the little grump himself. In more of anime-esque style than my usual style.
Image

Pearlelei/Christina Jerid:
A non-spiritual depiction of the Goddess (left) and the form she takes on as a normal human (right). In human disguise, she goes by the alias Christina Jerid, and has a degree in law and criminal justice. Oh, and her hair is supposed to be brown as Christina... in case you happened to not notice...
Image
Last edited by Giovenith on Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Giovenith
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Miscellaneous/Random

Postby Giovenith » Sun May 27, 2012 9:47 am

Kitty!:
It's one of my cats. Look upon him in fear.
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Gift for Monfrox
Image
Last edited by Giovenith on Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:14 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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North Wiedna
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Ex-Nation

Postby North Wiedna » Sun May 27, 2012 10:12 am

Your drawings are great, just don't do them on lined paper. :>
I am not at all interested in immortality, only in the taste of tea.

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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Sun May 27, 2012 10:15 am

North Wiedna wrote:Your drawings are great, just don't do them on lined paper. :>


Awww, thank you! :hug: You have no idea how much feedback means to me! T^T
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Mandicoria
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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Mandicoria » Mon May 28, 2012 6:08 pm

That cat instills fear into my soul.
Last edited by Mandicoria on Wed Nov 26, 2014 8:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
THE MANDICORIAN NATIONAL UNION
"Only god may end our state."

340,041,900 Proud Citizens
4.2 Million Military Personnel ready to serve the nation and die for it


An ultranationalist one party state led by the Mandicorian Blood Party with military support.
Politics are for losers.

As abrasive as I may seem, I do enjoy polite company. Feel free to shoot telegrams to shoot off conversation if ya wanna; ask me about whatever.

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Giovenith
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Ashes of Heaven, chapter 5

Postby Giovenith » Tue May 29, 2012 2:57 pm

Moved, see top link.
Last edited by Giovenith on Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Vahvanti
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Postby Vahvanti » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:38 am

Heh heh, that's a pretty cute art style you have there. Is it based on anything in particular?
Puppet nation of Plaath.

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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:56 pm

Vahvanti wrote:Heh heh, that's a pretty cute art style you have there. Is it based on anything in particular?


Mostly a mixture between the style of Jhonen Vasquez and my own. :)
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Giovenith
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Postby Giovenith » Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:35 pm

-
Last edited by Giovenith on Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Ashes of Heaven

Postby Giovenith » Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:38 pm

Chapter 1
The surrounding land was like a picture from those old story-books, but, you know, like the really old stories. The rare type, the uncensored, original versions that were passed down by far, forgotten generations, not those rainbow, glitter-puke, "Happily Ever After"-everytime types. I'd always preferred those original types as a child.

Looking out the car window I could almost see the shadows leap through and between the thick wall of trees and take shapes, and I wondered if the ancients had been inspired by these very same illusions. It was a beautiful, frightening place, and maybe I could have fully appreciated it if my parents hadn't been abandoning me among it.

"It's alright honey," Mom tried to smile comfortingly, "This will be a great experience for you."

I groaned, and pulled my baseball cap low to hide my face.

"Come on, Theo," said my Dad, "Pouting isn't going to change anything. Lots of kids your age would be thrilled to go to this school."

I didn't answer. Maybe some people would love this "opportunity" as they called it, but then why couldn't they have gotten it then? It was the first time I'd ever switched schools, and so far the experience hadn't been a walk in the sun, not that parents understood. According to them, I should be just tickled pink about leaving behind all my friends to go to some uptight boarding school on the other side of the world.

"What if no one speaks English?" I muttered, the lastest in my long line of pathetic excuses to get out of this.

"Don't worry, the place is used to people from all around, so there will be plenty of English-speakers."

Goodie.

"Do they have a baseball team...?" I actually asked this with a little hope. At my old school, baseball was my life, and it was one of the few schools out there that had it's own team. I wasn't really a fan of any leagues in particular or anything, nor did I collect cards or any other cult merchandise, it was playing the game itself, especially when I was on the bat.

"Um... probably not, kiddo... sorry."

I scowled, pulling cap down lower than ever. It was green with a white T stitched in front, for my name, Theodore. Theodore Toovson, thought most people call me Theo. I was fifteen years old, and had been living in a small US town my whole life with my parents, and had thus far lived a pretty happy life. We had a nice house, I had awesome friends, we spent lots of time together... up until a few weeks ago, when Mom and Dad popped their oh-so-wonderful news that they were dumping me at a Danish Boarding School for the rest of my High School years.

How such a twisted, demented, insane, out-of-the-blue idea flew into their skulls was beyond me. I mean, I knew that I had some Scandinavian heritage (something Mom tried to make me never forget, though I often did), but this... this was madness.

How to desribe how I felt? Somewhat betrayed, very nervous... I didn't think I'd done anything to provoke them into sending me away.

"If I did something bad, I'm sorry." I said for what was probably the eight-hundredth time since they first informed me of their diabolical plan.

"Oh goodness Theo, you haven't done anything wrong!" sighed Mom, exasperated. "Don't you believe us when we say that we think you'll actually enjoy this?"

"No."

"Think of it like... like going to Hogwarts."

"I hate Harry Potter."

She sighed again, and Dad just shook his head. How could they think I'd enjoy this? I would be in another country, in a new building with a million strange people, and pretty much left to fend for myself. The rest of our drive was spent in a long awkward silence that I wasn't so eager to break, so I just went back to watching the trees and shadows, trying to calm myself. It was another twenty minutes before the crunching sound of gravel under our tires was heard, and the line of forest was abruptly cut off into a wide, well-kept, grassy clearing that led to a huge, old-styled building. The car stopped, and I was dismayed at the sight of a uniformed man making his way right toward us.

"Hello there, welcome! You must be the Toovsons." he smiled an old creepy butler smile, "We've been expecting you."

We? Who was we? We've been expecting? I started getting all sorts of images from things like Frankenstein, Dracula, ready to lure me into their dark castle to steal my brain, or blood, or other bodily function part...

Mom started to get my bags out from the trunk as Dad chatted happily with the butler guy, and after staring at them all horrifiedly for a couple more moments, I sighed, and got out of the car.

"This must be young Theodore," said butler guy, "We're so happy to have you here at High Seas."

How did he know that? I didn't think that one guy could speak on behalf of a whole student body who hadn't even met me yet... but I just did my best to crack a polite smile.

Dad chuckled, "Theo here wasn't all too thrilled to come here at first."

"Well that's perfectly normal," the man said, "All new students are nervous at first, it is obviously a big change." He smiled warmly, and I decided to ease up a little on the guy and return it with a genuine smile. The dude seemed nice enough, like he'd seen this before (which he probably had), and just wanted to be comforting... maybe he wouldn't kill me after all.

After all my bags were out of the car, it was time to say good-byes. Mom squeezed me tight and ranted about how much she loved me, and Dad readjusted my cap lovingly. I was still upset with them for dumping me, but still, I was going to miss them painfully, and I frowned indulgently. They just smiled and promised we'd be together again for all the holidays, but all I could think about was how that time seemed like a million years away... then they got in the car, and they were gone.

Butler-Guy let me watch them shrink smaller and smaller down the path, till they were out of sight, before he cleared his throat and offered to show me to my dorms. I was a firm believer in fairness, so I refused to let the old dude carry my bags alone, and we made our way to a large section of the building reserved as living quarters for the students. It was fairly big, though not very fancy. The commons area had plain, single-colored furniture, with the few decorations being very Scandinvian culture-oriented. I was drawn in by some of the old, Viking-age type weapons displayed over a fireplace before moving on.

The Boys' room area was also plain, just being various long hallways with numbered doors, in a similar fashion to a hotel. They just went on and on, with the occasional sharp turns, all of which were one-wayed, so that you never saw what was on the other side until you actually got there. I wasn't sure if it was that, or just the heavy silence of the place, the only sounds being our footsteps, but I found the place to be a bit unsettling. The man stopped at Room 201.

"Here you are," he said, putting down one of my bags, "This is where you will be staying." The lock on the door was an old-fashioned key hole, and Butler-Guy took out a loop of skinny keys to unlock it.

One side of the room was completely neat and blank, whilst the other side... well... I apparently had a roommate. The bed was a mess, and his entire side of the wall was covered in posters for various punk and rock bands. The dresser on his side was littered with concerning things, like spike-adorned wrist-bands, several sling-shots, a swiss army knife, some bouncy balls, gum wrappers, paper clips, and what appeared to be a small doll crudely made from tissue, with several thumb-tacks stuck in it's head. What kind of lunatic was this?

As if reading my mind, the old guy said, "You will be boarding with Mister Luke Eldr."

Apparently a lunatic named Luke Eldr. Great. All sorts of new paranoid situations formed in my head...

"School will start in an hour," said Butler-Guy, bringing my bags to the neat side. "The school usually serves breakfast for the boarders, which is why the rooms are empty."

He handed me a package with my new uniform in it, and my own set of keys for the room, before leaving.

I allowed myself one last sigh over the whole ordeal. There. That was it. Nothing could be changed about this Theo, so you might as well stop complaining. Make the best of it. Maybe you'll make some friends. Maybe they'll have a sport you'll like. Maybe this Luke kid won't try to kill you in your sleep. I quickly changed into my uniform, and began to pack away my things into my new dresser...

Tap, tap...

I looked up at the sudden sound. There, by the window, was a large black bird.

Tap, tap, tap. It pecked at the glass annoyingly with it's long beak, stopping in-between taps to quickly nod and tilt it's head in that frantic way birds do. As I stood up, it hopped around a bit, letting out a cry that was muffled by the glass. I opened the window.

"Shoo!" I waved a it, "Shoo! Go, I have enough stress already. I don't need your annoying noises!"

It let out another cry, and looked me directly in the eye. Suddenly, I became chilled to the bone and couldn't move... I didn't know what was wrong, but the way it stared at me was ominous... and I swear, for one, quick, cold moment... it's eyes became red. However long we stood there, I never knew, it felt like eternity. But eventually the bird flew off, and stunned, I absent-mindedly turned to clock...

"Crap!" I exclaimed, "I'm going to be late!"

The strange incident fled from my mind, as I grabbed my school-issued bag and ran out the door to my first day.

Chapter 2
What ever architect designed this place deserved to have their hands chopped off.

The place was a goddamn maze, and I found myself running frantically past many confused students. They whispered in each other's ears, obviously interested in this strange new face rampaging through their halls. Great, wait a to start the year as the pathetic lost new kid, Theo... I was sure to get hell for this. Soon the number of kids in the hall began to dwindle, meaning classtime was soon, and I panicked. I stopped to take another look at my schedule, which said my first class was in Classroom 605, and numbers of the rooms I was next to were in the 200's...

Damn.

I darted round another corner, running as fast as I could past 300, 400, 500...

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!

So close. Yet so far. A half-groan half-sigh left my throat without restraint, and I ran a hand through my brown-red hair in frustration. At my old school, the place was one only one story, so it was pretty easy to find classes, but this place had five floors to it. Only three were used for classes, but it was two too many for me. I leaned against the wall, trying to let some of the steam roll off... this was turning out to be a horrible first day.

"Hey! You!"

Huh? I looked up. Standing there, on the other side of the hall, was probably the most stern-faced kid I'd ever seen. Hands on his hips, he was looking right across at me, though the way he glared it made me felt like he was looking down on me, seering into my soul. A bright orange sash stretched across his uniform, and spelled out in big black block letters, "HALL MONITOR."

Oh jeeze.

I frowned in annoyance, expecting what was to come. Hall Monitors were never taken seriously at my old school, the only people who took up the job were basically a bunch of jerks that hadn't made the cut for the football team or something, and we're looking for another way to feel like they could boss people around. I sighed, waiting for this kid to be the same way.

I had never made a more wrong assumption in my life.

"Hall Pass?" he asked the standard question, holding out his hand.

"I don't... have one..."

He narrowed his eyes at me, and I waited for the usual teacher's pet rant about how he'd report me to the principal for supposedly cutting class. But he didn't. He just stood there like a silent stone wall, chin low, keeping his eyes on my face, as if trying to read my expression.
I felt my indifferent expression slide down into a concerned frown, and quickly realized this wasn't some teacher's pet... this guy meant business. The way he stood reminded me of a cop, and not the crazy kind of cop-kid that thought they were oh-so cool and badass, I mean like a real cop. The kind that watched you for any wrong move, and was prepared to cuff you and pepper-spray you blind if you did. After a while, like a soldier, he lifted his chin and put his hands behind his back, still insepcting me.

"This is your first day, right?"

"No- I mean, yes! Yes it is!" I was tempted to add "Sir."

"Well then I guess I'll cut you some slack this time."

He wipped out a pencil and hallpass pad lightning fast like a proffesional, and scribbled on it. I stared at him. He kept that stern expression, althought it was less hard now that he was leaving me with a warning. But the sterness isn't what struck me... it was sure that this was the first time I'd ever met the kid, but the way he locked his jaw, kept his head straight, only moving his eyes... it all seemed really... familiar...

There was a second-long ripping sound, and he held out the pass to me.

"Thank you."

"Do you know your way to your class?"

"... No." I didn't like admitting defeat to anything, but there was no use trying to hide the facts. I was the lost new kid.

"Why didn't you just ask someone for directions?"

I was silent, letting the question sink in. Why hadn't I asked for directions? Uuugh... one of my moments. To tell you the truth... I wasn't exactly always the smartest guy in the world. I had my moments where sometimes I rushed into things without planning, and they often got me into trouble. This was one of those moments.

"I don't know."

"What room?"

"Six o'five."

He turned on his heel and began to strut ahead, and I followed. The kid kept his hands behind his back, and I half-expected him to start goose-stepping.

"Here you are." He stopped in front of a room marked, "Biology."

"Thanks..."

My mind got a little image of him saluting me, but he just turned and left. I watched his back, and was struck by the same mysterious sense of familiarity...

"HEY!" I called after him. He wipped around with a murderous look that made me flinch, and I vowed in my heart to never, EVER yell in a school hallway ever again. But I still had to ask. "What's your name?"

"Michael." he said simply, before walking away to continue his oh-so important Hall Monitor duties to the world.

Well then.

Let's see, creepy black bird, over-serious creepy Hall Moniter... New School: 0, Theo's Paranoia: 2. It was an uphill battle, but we had to keep on going. I entered the class, and sat quietly for the rest of the hour.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiing!

The bell chimed through the halls, signaling lunch time, at last. Mom had actually packed a lunch on the way here as something of a parting gift... I'd always taken home lunch, and this would be the last one before eating cafeteria food for the next four years. I wondered if it really was as bad as people made it out to be... I prayed it wasn't, and decided to enjoy my last guarenteed-good lunch as best I could.

The lunch room was set up on the first floor, and very spacious, with various round tables placed around in no particular order. It was loud like any cafeteria, people chattting away with their friends and no one really seemed to notice me, which let me breath a sigh of relief. By some miracle stroke of luck, my little pillage through the halls hadn't become a stain on my reputation. The rays of hope were shining, and to celebrate such, I picked a nice empty table by a window where rays of the sun were shining and dug into my food.

Tap, tap...

"Caw!"

Gagging on my sandwich, I whirled around to see a big black bird sitting on the sill of the window. The thing was looking directly at me, though I did not freeze this time... well, at least not in terms of motor skills. Rather an instinctive chill ran up my spine, and it faintly registered in my head how pathetic it was that I was scared of a bird... but hey, it was scary! Was this thing stalking me?

"You again...?" I said quietly, not wanting anyone to see me talking to a creepy bird.

It just stared at me.

"Let go of me-!"

There was a loud crash, and I completely forgot about the bird as I whipped my head to the source of the comotion. It was coming from a secluded corner of the lunch room, where not many people were paying attention to, and I could see three upper-classmen boys surrounding someone into a corner. As I stood up and quietly approached closer, I could more clearly see what was happening.

One of the older boys was holding up another boy about my age against the wall by his uniform jacket's collar, and practically snarling in his face. The other two, whom I assumed were his pals, just stood next to him and watched.

"That answer sheet you sold me was bogus!" he yelled, "I want my money back!"

The kid didn't seem fazed the older boy's threatening attitude, and just glared back at him with a snarky grin.

"Whatever do you mean...? I gave you your answer sheet."

"I failed my exam because of you, you dirty little rat!"

"Your exact words were, 'I want you to get me an answer sheet'," the kid said almost mockingly, "And I gave you that! I don't recall you asking for correct answers..."

Another violent crash rang out as the upper classman dropped the kid into the nearby metal trash cans, and I could tell from the way his victim fell on the ground that it had not been a pleasant drop. The older kid threw various curses at him, but I had to give the other boy points... there was obvious pain registered in his body language, he was on his knees, and holding his side, but he kept smiling through it all.

"I outta teach a lesson about what happens to con-artists around here..." the upper classman said, menancingly.

"You feel like a big man, saying that?" the kid threw back, "Heh... I've heard scarier threats in movi-"

His sentence was cut off and replaced with a sharp gasp as the older kid's foot collided into his stomach, violently. I had seen enough.

"Get away from him!" I shouted, and all four heads turned to me. That was probably a stupid move, but like I said, sometimes I didn't make the smartest choices... but at the moment, I hadn't cared. If there was one thing I absolutely did not tolerate, it was people ganging up on someone smaller than them.

There was a short period of tense silence, before the older kid smiled and turned completely to me, his two friends doing the same.

"Well, well... looks like someone wants to play "Hero for a day"..." he said mockingly to his friends, who chuckled along. The kid on the floor just stared at me with a stunned expression, one hand cupped around his mouth to stop the small flow of blood he'd coughed up after taking the blow.

It was three against one.

New school: 0, Theo's paranoia: 3 plus 10 extra credits for confirmation in paranoia. I wasn't a math genius, but I think that said something about my odds at winning any fight these guys presented...

I was screwed.

Chapter 3
Studies say playing lots of video games helps kids get faster reflexes. Mom didn't believe this at first when I told her, but if I vowed that if I lived through this day, I would be sure to remind her of how it saved her only child's face.

I quickly moved out of the way as the first fist came flying and hit the spot in the air where my head had just been moments before, and the snooty kid glared at me angrily.

"Pretty fast, I'll give you that, punk..."

It was currently me and the leader of the trio, while the other two hung back and each held onto one of picked-on kid's arms. Despite his own situation, he just kept on staring at me owlishly, like he was still trying to comprehend that someone was actually helping him out.

My head whirled back to the leader. His expression was scary dark, as if he was convinced this was some ultimate duel to the death instead of a school fight. One glance at the child I was defending, with slight bloody mess, warned me that that might not be a total exaggeration. I frowned anxiously, trying to not to show any weakness in my expression.

"Get over here, will you?" he called to one of his friends.

Backing away, I tried to find an opening to make a counter strike, but saw one of the jerk's friends moving towards me. This was bad... one I could handle, but I wasn't sure if could take on two people at once... crap. But just then, a flash of orange suddenly flew past the corner of my eye, followed by the sound of muffled screaming. All battle-faces were dropped, and my opponent and I turned our heads to see what was going on.

The guy who had been holding onto the smaller kid was now crippled on the floor, clutching his stomach in pain, while his former captive was now piggy-riding on the back my opponent's back-up, wildly scratching him and pulling at his hair. The dude screamed and cursed, trying to shake him off, but the kid held on tight. He only broke his concentration on his attack once, to directly shoot me a look, his green eyes burning into my own, gray ones.

Well you didn't need to tell me twice.

The leader of the gang's eyes were still fixated on the struggle, and didn't have time to stop my leg as it swept under is own, and he came crashing to the linoleum floor. He was quick to come back to his senses however, and grabbed my ankle bringing me down with him. From there, we struggled to gain the upper hand, with him throwing various punches at my head, which I did my best to block. Something had to be done, fast. Doing my best to keep the throws at bay with one arm, I stretched my other arm out, searching, searching... my hand locked around an object, and I felt a massive rush of adrenaline...

BLAM!

The thin, metal lunch tray sang a clear 'bonnnng' sound when it collided with the side of the upper classman's fat, ugly head. He gained impressive arial, and skidded across the tiles before stopping, cursing and holding his head in pain.

Whoa.

The whole cafeteria had become quiet, well, except for the screaming and thrashing of my apparent fight-partner and his victim, my shallow breathing as I felt the adrenaline slowly drain from my veins, and the clatter of the lunchtray I dropped. Every other kid in the room was staring in shock, and looking around, I contemplated exactly what to do next...

I glared at the brat, "Next time, pick on someone your own-"

"What is the meaning of this?"

Annnnnnd, my super cool victory line was cut off by an elderly, and angry-looking old woman with a teacher's uniforms standing in the double doorway. Crap, I thought, and scrambled to get up to explain.

"It wasn't- I mean- He- There was-" I stuttered panickly.

"Enough!" she shouted, and wasted no time stridding over to the last struggle. She only had to glare at the two, and they stopped mid-fight and stared at her, attacking-kid in the middle of biting the bully-kid's head. The old woman then grabbed the two down boys by their collars and pulled them to their feet.

"All five of you, to the Head-Master's Office, immediately!"

I repeat... CRAP.

But one look from the expressions of all the other children, ally and enemies alike, warned me there was no use in trying to argue. My little "ally" hopped off the other kid's back, and we all made our way after the teacher.

-----------------------

The benches outside of the Head-Master's office must have been very old, as they creeked and squeaked whenever I shifted anxiously.

All five of us were silently sitted outside, waiting for someone to be called in. Nobody dared to utter a word, but our feelings were quite clear. The leader of the bully trio wasted no effort in being discreet of his evil death-glare directed at me, holding an ice pack over the huge bump on his head from my brutal lunchtray attack.
His friends just looked at the floor and nursed their own wounds, while their former victim didn't seem to have a care in the world. He had a pair of iPod earphones set in his ears, turned up loud enough so I could hear the soft sound of some intense rock and roll playing. For some reason, it just made this whole situation even more uncomfortable.

Finally the door opened, and our heads all turned simultaneously to the elder teacher who walked out and scowled. She pointed to the bully trio, who all got up and made their way into the office, door slamming behind them. It was the first time I noticed the plaque on the door, golden and very-official looking, written boldly in Times New Roman, "Mr. Wednesday." Another shiver ran down my spine. Something about that name made me feel... hard to describe... intimidated, if not a bit humbled... I got the sense that this man would mean business.

There was a giggle from my right.

My head snapped over to the one guy left next to me, who was chuckling as he wrapped up his iPod. Getting a good look at him for the first time, I noticed his uniform was completely sabatoged and redone, with a nifty punk rebel style. He propped his combat-booted feet on the other side of the bench, laid down comfortably, and extended a spike-wristbanded hand to me in greeting.

"Thanks." he spoke with a British accent, and flashed me a three-cornered smile.

I blinked, and then shaked his hand. "No problem."

"What's your name?"

"Theo."

"Bodacious."

What...? Not very fluent in punk lingo, I just assumed that was good.

"You new 'round here?" he asked, bright green eyes staring at me with intense interest. He had a wild mess of fiery red hair.

"Yeah," I answered, "This is my first day here..." I felt my face instinctively fall, and spilled out my worries. "You don't think this will get me kicked out or anything, do you?"

The kid blinked, "Pfft, 'course not. Wednesday may be a pretty hard dude, but he wouldn't expel ya on the first day."

Not entirely calmed down, more paranoid ranting came out. "But this is my first day! There's no way I'll get off scot-free for this! It could be on my permanent record, and this is a private school! What will my parents say?"

"Calm down," he frowned, "I said you're not going to get in trouble."

There was a loud, masculine yelling that suddenly came from the office. I couldn't exactly make out the words, but they sounded stern and terrifying, and if I listened closely, I could've sworn I heard crying...

I gulped, and the punk kid winced nervously.

"Well... probably won't, anyway..." he corrected himself.

"Aren't you nervous?" I asked, "I mean... you shouldn't get in trouble, you were the one that was being assualted."

His expression perked, and he let out a jolly laugh. "Old Man Wednesday never gets mad at me!"

"... Really?" Forgive me for stereotyping, but this kid didn't exactly seem like Valedictorian-teacher's pet type. If anything, hadn't I heard something about him soliciting answer sheets before this whole mess even started...?

"Yeah," he shrugged, like it surprised him too. "I guess you could say that... the guy just never wants to ever see me, and I'm one of the worst kids here. He does that with some other kids. Can't put my finger on it, but I think you might just be the same..."

"You think I'm... bad?"

"No! Again, I don't think you'll get in trouble."

A soft click and the sound of shuffling feet alerted the departure of the three boys before us, and I looked up just in time to see them hurrying away with morbid expressions. I gulped, but then took a deep sigh and stood up, making my way to the door, putting on a brave face. If there was going to be punishment, then I would face it and take it with dignity... but the old lady teacher just calmly held up a hand.

"Mr. Wednesday has no need to see you." she stated.

I whipped around to catch punk-kid's grin, and then spun around back to the teacher.

"But... is he sure... I obviously broke the rules." I said humbly, "Those other boys got a scolding... I should deserve one too."

The teacher's eyebrow went up, as if she didn't believe what I was saying, but then softed.
"No young man," she said, "There is no need for that. The Head-Master has spoken." She removed her glasses, rubbed them clean, and put them back on. "But I must say, I deeply admire your willingness to take on a punishment," she smiled, "We need more children with your kind of attitude around here..." Her eyes narrowed as she slightly turned her head to the punk-kid still sitting at the bench, who smiled smugly and gave her a little wave.

I smiled, "Well... thank you ma'am."

"Now off to your dorms, both of you, or I really will give you detentions."

"Would yo-? Whoa!" Punk-kid, obviously sensing what I was about to say, quickly grabbed my hand and pulled me away hurriedly. Once we were out of ear's reach of the teacher, he gave me a WTF-look.

"What was with the hero act?" he asked suspiciously.

"What are you talking about?"

" 'Oh no, ma'am! Please punish me too! I deserve it! I'm such a good martyr!' " he imitated my voice with a scary accuracy.

"It wasn't an act!" I sniffed indignantly, "I really did deserve something, because I broke the rules. It's only fair."

"Ahhhh, I got a straight-arrow on my hands."

"You bet it." I said with pride, because while most teens were afraid of being called goody-two-shoes, it wasn't something I was ashamed to admit. Instead of teasing, punk-kid just gave me another wide, Cheshire cat-type smile. I got a feeling these grins were quite inconic of him.

"Luke." he said.

"Pardon?"

"My name is Luke."

I blinked, "... As in... Luke Eldr?"

"An adoring fan?" he asked teasingly.

"Nope, just your new roommate."

His grin got wider, "Excellent!"

It was my turn to grin, "Ah... you're not going to kill me in my sleep, are you?"

Luke shrugged, and smiled mock-mysteriously. "Don't count your money just yet..."

We both laughed. And that was how I made my first friend at High Seas.

Chapter 4
Screaming.

It rang from every imaginable side and angle, chiming and blending together in a symphony of immense agony and terror. What was going on? Immediately in fight or flight mode, my brain shuffled and scrambled to grasp some sense or logic in this mess.

After a few moments of confusion, I distinguished one of the voices as my own... I was screaming along in their bloody chorus, though I wasn't still sure exactly why...

But as I looked around more, I felt good reason to.

Everything was dark and chaotic, I couldn't possibly tell what exactly was happening, the best I could make out were single-moment, horrific flashes... an ax here, a dramatic squirt of blood there, fierce sharp teeth, too many misshapen, indistinguishable limbs to even attempt to count. The screams began to become more clear too... some were screaming in fear, and in pain, others were screaming in a way that a lion roars when it's in kill-mode.

And I was spinning... no, not spinning... running, flailing, jumping, a mess of different actions and motions. None the less, it, along with the terrifying world around me, made me dizzy and sick, and my abdomen screamed to bend over and hurl. But I didn't dare stop, I just kept on going, kept on fighting, because somehow I knew if I stood still... I would die.

Help... too many people said it at once, that the cry became a vague, collective whisper.

"I can't!" I shouted, "I'm sorry, I can't!"

Help...

They were so desperate, so scared, so pleading... I would have given anything to help them all, to help myself, and help anyone else escape this hell... but somehow I knew damn well there was nowhere to escape to. No safe place to run and hide, where ever you'd go, you would find the same blood, darkness, and death...

Something hot ran down my face. I wasn't sure if it was more blood, or just my tears. But unlike blood or tears, it didn't cool down... it just began to get hotter. It smoldered, burning into my skin, making me scream even more, but even that didn't deter me. I started to strike and run more in front of me, and was greeted by violent spurts of more of the same burning substance and, of course, blood.

A voice in my head. That was the last thing I heard... it sounded like my own conscience voice, but somehow, I felt it wasn't exactly me speaking... it/I sounded sad, melancholy, powerful...

He/I thought, "How could we have let this happen?"

------------------------------

I awoke with a bitter gasp.

Covered in sweat, shaking, and gulping in air like a drowning victim, I allowed myself a couple of precious minutes to survey my surroundings.

Wall. Still there.

Clock. Still ticking.

Carpet. Still there.

Window. Still letting the morning glow in.

Luke. Still snoring and drooling peacefully.

Yes, everything was normal. The madness was all a dream. A terrible, disturbing, excruciating dream... At last convinced of safety, my muscles relaxed, my breathing slowed, and I began to think clearly.

It was Saturday... no school, which is why there hadn't been a wake-up call from the House Keeper... apparently the principal didn't trust us children enough to depend on our own alarm clocks. Instead, the cleaning people arrived extra early to walk down the halls an either A) Knock on each and every one of our doors politely, or B) Walk down the halls with a blow-horn. It really depended on whose shift it was that particular day.
I also noticed that all that midnight sweating hadn't left me exactly pretty-smelling. Time for a rinse.

I got up and made my way to the bathroom (each dorm had it's own mini bathroom big enough for a show, sink, and toilet, which I thought was much more convenient than just having bathrooms down the hall). I didn't bother trying to wake Luke, I'd been boarding with him about a week, and knew that not letting the kid get his beauty sleep was a recipe for disaster the entire day. Plus, I'll admit it, he just looked so peaceful and innocent... people always seem that way when they were asleep.

… "Seem," being the definitive word in that sentence. After lifting the toilet seat, and trying to do my business... screw innocent. I was ready to put that brat on death row myself.

"LUKE!"

-------------------

I slammed my lunchtray down on the table.

"Aw come on, you have to admit it was a little funny." said Luke, sitting next to me and biting into an apple.

"Plastic on the toilet seat?" I quietly growled in response, "Don't you think that's going a little far?"

"I cleaned it up!"

"Damn straight you did! You're lucky I didn't make you do it with your own shirt."

He brushed off my threat with a shrug and an eyeroll, and just continued with his breakfast like it was nothing. I sighed outwardly, and just dug in myself.

Luke Eldr, my roommate, although my friend, and a major pain in the ass sometimes.

This little incident had just been the latest in a long line of some of craziest prank and practical jokes he'd instigated... but this wasn't whoopee-cushion and fly-in-a-fake-ice-cube pranking. Oh no. I pray to God it was as simple as that... this was steal-the-life-size-skeleton-model-from-the-biology-lab-cover-it-in-ketchup-and-stuffing-it-in-my-closet pranking, or hide-an-air-bag-in-my-mattress pranking, or in the latest news, PUT-CLEAR-PLASTIC-WRAP-OVER-THE-TOILET-SEAT pranking.

He thought all it was just the funniest darned thing to grace this school. I thought it was just annoying, but... he was still a okay guy. He had listened well when I felt like talking about my problems with my first moving here, and didn't seem to be out to get me...

Unlike some people.

I didn't have to turn around to feel the glares of the boys from last week burn into my back as they passed by with their own breakfasts. I wouldn't give those losers the satisfaction of returning their primitive intimidation tactics, so I just hungrily returned to my own food.

"I'm telling you Theo," whispered Luke in my ear, "It'd be so easy to get some of Martin and his wannabes' hair..."

"We're not making voodoo dolls of them."

"You're no fun."

"It wouldn't even work, voodoo isn't real."

"Yes it is," Luke corrected, "It's a mixture of modern Christianity and the ancient cultures of Haiti, and very much alive. A lot of their stuff really works, if you believe."

"Save me the history lesson, it's Saturday!" I chuckled a bit.

Luke could be a real weirdo sometimes... well, no, I won't sugar-coat. A lot of the time. He was pretty much a wannabe-magician that took delight in things like voodoo, paganism, and sometimes just plain ol' cheap card tricks.

"Just ignore them," I said, "It's their fault if they're so insecure that they need to try and be violent for no reason."

"Whose insecure?"

Speak of the devil.

A hand slammed down on our table, and the bully-leader leaned down with an arrogant grin.

"Don't you know it's rude to talk about people behind their backs?" he sneered.

"Don't you know it's rude to ease-drop?" I growled back.

I suppose it's come time in the story to explain a few things about this recurring villain of ours... this brute, was Martin. The richest, rudest, snobbiest kid in all of school, who had the megalomaniacal delusion that he ruled the place with an iron fist.

"Mind your own business." I told said megalomaniac, but like any good crazy person, he just kept barking.

"When you talk about me, you make it my business, Toovson!" Martin said in what I perceived was supposed to be an intimidating voice.

"That's right!" said Bill, his goon friend.

"Yeah, what they said!" said Joe, Martin's other goon friend. They were both idiots. Now I was no genius myself sometimes, but the two of them had the combined IQ of the hardened gum under the lunch tables.

"You're just lucky you're new," said Martin, "Because no regular here would dare get away with ratting me out to Wednesday like that!"

"I didn't rat you out!" I said, "The teacher caught you being delinquents all on your own!"

"Doesn't matter! Because you're going to learn how things go on around here very soon," he went on, "You, and your little ginger friend."

"Ginger?" said Luke indignantly, "Look whose talking, perfume boy!"

"It's cologne, though I wouldn't expect a crooked-toothed Brit to know!" Martin shot back. "It's how you pick up girls. Ever hear of such a thing?"

"HA! Girls? What girls? I'm not the one with a fetish for Neanderthals!"

"HEY!" said Bill and Joe in unison.

"Thought I guess it only makes sense to go with your own race!" sneered Luke back at Martin.

I sighed. Oh well. It was almost a peaceful morning. I was just about to pick up my fork in defense as Matrin pulled back his fist, Luke gripped the apple in a throwing position, and Bill and Joe cracked their knuckles, when we were all practically deafened by the piercing shriek of a whistle.

"Stop!" yelled Michael from across the room, "No fighting on school grounds!"

From the lack of a bright orange sash, and his own lunchtray carefully balanced in one hand, I guessed that he was probably off-duty. But that obviously didn't stop him from carrying around the world's loudest whistle as warning call for us naughty kids.

Michael marched over, and one look from him made the trio disappear in frustration.

"Is everything alright?" he asked.

"Just fine," I answered, "Thanks Michael."

"Your welcome, Theo," he said with a smile to me, and a curt nod to Luke, "And you, Luke."

"Meh." replied Luke, "Thanks."

"So Theo," continued Michael, "The school clubs are going to be handing out sign-up sheets today. Thinking about joining anything?"

"Maybe..." I said thoughtfully, "Nothing has really struck my fancy yet, though."

"I'm sure you'll find something."

"Yeah..." said Luke, twirling his fork with a three-cornered smile. "I'm sure too!"

"Well thanks for the support guys..."

"Anytime." said Michael, "And don't worry about Martin and his friends; they're on my list."

"Your... list?"

"Of the kids who need an eye kept on them the most," he said seriously, "The bullies, the trouble-makers, the pranksters..." He shot a look at Luke.

I just chuckled, trying not to sound anxious. Michael was a great guy, but he could be a little scary sometimes... the kid was going to make one hell of a cop one day. They'd probably put him in charge of the interrogation or something, because I knew there was no way I could lie to that face when it got all serious... not that lying was exactly my forte anyway.

After breakfast, we had the free time to roam any of the school grounds that were open to students, and my two new buds gave me an extended tour.
Everything was very much true to the old Scandinavian ways and style, from the old weapons hanging in our dorms (safely locked into display from any random snapping student), to the ancient, rune-covered rocks that littered the school grounds. Luke said they were from the real old Norse times, and Michael even pointed out a few of their meanings.

"That's thurs," he pointed at a shape that sort of look like a P, with it's look more down the middle. "It makes a th- sound, and was often associated with Thor."

"The comic book guy?" I asked, perplexed.

Luke rolled his eyes, and clonked me on the head. "No, not the comic book guy, ya silly bloke! He means the real deal Thor, that Vikings actually worshiped. God of thunder and stuff."

"He was said to be a great warrior who's primary weapon was a hammer." continued Michael, "Get it?"

"Yup." I said, though I really didn't. I still had the image of Marvel-Thor in all his red-caped glory in my head, and to be honest, I wasn't completely sure how you could fight someone with a hammer. Maybe if you snuck up on them... but against a sword or something else like that?

"Alright, we should probably head back." said Michael, "Club sign-up is heading around now. You'd do good to join one, it could really give you something to do. Boarding School can be tough, Theo, if only for the entertainment effort."

He had a point.

So we all headed back to the building, and went into the cafeteria, where all the tables had been cleared and replaced with various stands explaining the club and handing out sign-up sheets. Some of them actually looked pretty cool, there was fencing, archery, book club, genealogy, historian club, mythology club, among many others. Hey, maybe I really could find something here I would enjoy... I straightened my baseball cap, and started to roam the tons of different choices.

One girl handed a flier in my hand, and I looked up at her. "What's this for?"

"Archeology club," she said with a smile, "We go on field trips and look for real fossils, and old tools and stuff near known Viking settlements. Think about joining, will ya?"

"I will," I responded with a smile, and stuffed the flier into my pocket, continuing with my searching.

After a while of searching, a couple of fliers handed over, and several pleasant chats, Michael came to check up on me.

"Find anything interesting yet?" he said with smile.

"Lots," I said, "But maybe too many. Can you join more than one club?"

"As long as their times don't conflict with that of other clubs, or interfere with your schoolwork." he said, "If you can manage that, then you can join as many as you want."

"Cool." I looked around even more, and saw another stand decorated with many religious symbols, "Hey, what's that one?"

Michael pulled his face together in a restrained grimace. "Theology club..."

"Theo-lo-gy...?" I asked. Sounded like the study of me! Hahaha... Theo-ology... heeeeh... yeah...

"Technically it's supposed to be a group dedicated to the studies of various religions all over the world," explained Michael, "But it's pretty much been overrun with rather... enthusiastic children, from enthusiastically Christian families. I tried it once... they don't really talk much about any other religion besides their own, and when they do, it's with a very dismissive attitude."

"I see..." I said. My own family had never been very religious, but I still had some friends of mine who went Church. Carlos had been going his whole life, and he was a real nice guy, though he did admit that there were some people out there who weren't always very respectful of what others may believe. You can find them in any religion, he said.

"Bunch of crazies they all are!" said Luke, who was munching on a cookie he'd got from a stand.

"Where did you come from?" I demanded. He had not been there two seconds ago.

"Well, I don't like getting graphic, but when a mommy and a daddy love each other veeeeeery much-"

"Zip it." I interrupted, mildly annoyed.

"You're the one that asked. Anywho, yeah! Crazies in that club, full of 'em!" he said, "They tried to get me in trouble for trying out an old Egyptian ceremony once. Said "idol worshipers" shouldn't be allowed to "contaminate" other kids' minds, and that it was actually against their rights to "put up with it"! What about my rights to do whatever the bloody hell I want?" He crossed his arms and frowned genuinely.

"Gosh..." I said, "Sorry man."

"Sorry? You didn't do anything. Don't be sorry for anything you didn't do." Luke looked at me very intensely when he said that, like this wasn't just some way of twisting my words as a joke. He meant it.

"Right." I said with a nod, and a slight shiver. How did everything become so serious all of a sudden?

"Toovson?"

Great. I turned to Martin, who was looking down at the three of us suspiciously, with contempt.

"What Martin?" I growled, "I don't want any trouble-"

"I'm not the one looking for trouble."

"You-"

"Aw man!" said Bill, who walked up carrying some sign-up sheets. "Don't tell me he's joining, Prez!"

I twitched, "Prez...?"

He smirked, "President of the Theology Club, thank you very much."

"That explains a lot, then!" said Luke, glaring and tightening his fists.

"Tell your pet ginger to heel, Toovson." said Martin, "We don't need you scaring off any guests who might be interested in joining our little circle of friends."

"Yeah!" said Bill, eager to jump on the bandwagon. "Go back to your Booty-ism god or whatever!"

"I'm guessing you mean Buddhism," said Michael flatly, "They actually don't have any gods."

"... Oh. Well who cares? HA! YOU MAD?" said Bill.

Even Martin rolled his eyes at the idiocy of his companion.

"Worst trolling I've ever heard in my life!" spat Luke. "You can't say "You mad?" when the person wasn't even mad to begin with."

"Calm down Luke," I told my friend, not for anything Martin said, but rather to actually settle him down, "He may be a jerk, but he's still got a point. It's not fair to cause a scene and scare off people who might actually want to join, over our own grudges."

"Anyone with a right mind should be scared anyway. Ever see Silent Hill?"

"Luke..."

"Fine." he settled, but kept his scowl.

The two goons walked off, laughing at who-knows-what lame thing we did in their minds. They barely missed a young girl who was walking in the opposite direction as them with some more fliers, and she wobbled a bit.

"Whoa!" I quickly ran up and steadied her before she could drop them all over the place, "You okay?"

"Yes..." she said, readjusting some of the papers that had fallen a bit out of place. She smiled a bright smile. "Thank you for that."

"No problem." I returned the smile.

"Are you joining Theology club?" she asked politely, with another smile. She was a tall girl, almost my height, and obviously well-built... those were a lot of papers she was carrying. But not bulky, she was still pretty attractive.

"Uhhh... maybe..." I tried being polite and hiding my lack of enthusiasm, since she seemed nice enough.

"Aw, don't let those jerks sway you!" she said, scowling in the direction of Martin and Bill. "They don't know what it's like to be good theologians, or good Christians." She shook her head, letting her chocolate-brown hair swoosh. "They've got no respect for anyone but themselves. They're... skunk-heads!"

"Yeah... yeah." I agreed, for once dropping the formalities. "Yes they are skunk-heads."

We somehow both found ourselves laughing.

"Hey, Theoooooo!" called Luke, "If you're done flirting, I'd like to share something with you!"

I frowned, "I'm not flirting, we're just talk-"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

"But-"

"And don't you be going on about how wonderful it'd be to make out with her either, there are other things to do."

I had never met a person before that had successfully made me get murderous urges three times in the same day. Someone should give the boy a silver medal for that. I turned to the girl to apologize, but she was just laughing.

"None taken," she said, as if reading my mind. "See you around, Theo." Then she walked into a back room with the fliers.

"See you around." I said politely, then sighed with exasperation and turned to my friends. Michael was holding Luke's ear to keep him from saying anymore annoying things, but let go as he saw I was ready to talk. "What? What could be so important that it couldn't possibly wait through small talk?"

"You're going to be late for try-outs, duh." he said, chewing on his cheek a bit.

"Try-outs?" I asked, confused. "But... I didn't sign myself up for any try-outs."

"Of course you didn't," he said, "I did."

Chapter 5
Last edited by Giovenith on Tue Aug 22, 2017 7:20 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Giovenith
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Left-wing Utopia

AOH, continued

Postby Giovenith » Wed Jul 18, 2012 2:39 pm

Chapter 5
Remember when I said Luke should have the silver medal for Annoying Theo?

Screw that. The kid should go for the gold.

Needless to say I was quite upset, though nowhere near Michael’s rage, which had carried the wrath of a thousand deadly storms (or so it seemed. It was actually pretty scary, I’ll admit…). I could’ve sworn the guy was prepared to strangle the life out of Luke right there and then, but instead he had opted to simply storm off to report him to the office for fraud.

Apparently Luke wasn’t all too concerned with what the staff would have to say about him technically committing an actual crime, and didn’t bother to wait around for Michael to return. He led me through the plain, largely undecorated hallways with an annoyingly content smile on his face. I decided to waste no time yelling at him.

“Why would you sign me up for something without my permission?!”

He rolled his eyes, “Because I had a feeling you were the procrastinating type for school clubs. Consider it a favor.”

“Favor?!”

“That’s what I said!”

“I had plenty of other clubs in mind!”

“Such as…?”

I scanned my memory bank.

“Uh… well… there was… um… archaeology! YEAH! I was thinking about joining them, maybe!” I thought harder, “And others too…”

“Like the club your girlfriend is in?” he asked with genuine interest.

“What-?!” I spilled, feeling my face go hot. “What are you talking about?!”

He stopped walking for a moment, squeezed his face with hands, and proceeded to give an oh-so fangirlish squeal. “Ohh, it was just so chivalrous of you to help that young lady with her papers! Like a knight with a princess!”

I swear the temperature dropped like, two degrees.

Babbling for a few seconds like an idiot, I attempted to make sense of what Luke was insinuating. “I talked to that girl for one whole minute, and suddenly you think she’s my girlfriend?!”

“Not girlfriend,” he said matter-of-factly, as if he was a professor on the subject. “But do I sense some beginnings of U-S-T? Yes I do.”

I shook my head furiously, “UGH! J-Just show me to this stupid club and let’s get it over with!”

“My pleasure!”

We followed several paths of stairs that, I noticed, without students bustling and hurrying up and down on them, creaked with every step, another hint that the building itself with pretty old. They also had a tendency to stop, turn, and become a whole new case, each bend marked with a glass window.

Outside, the trees had only a few leaves on them, and long skinny branches that jutted out into many, many tiny twigs. They were placed almost strategically in front of the sun like props in front of a stage scene, casting a long, spiny shadow puppet show through the window and into the hallway. The branches appeared almost as demented fingers sliding down the staircases, ready to snatch up an unfortunate child who dared to walk alone….

“Uh, hey,” I asked, “Where exactly are we going?”

“The gym.” he answered simply.

“Gym?” this had my attention, “Why is it in the gym?” Whatever he had signed me up for, it must have needed a lot of room, which naturally peaked my curiosity.

My only answer was another wide, three-cornered smile. “It’s a surprise,” said Luke naughtily.

Finally, we came to the gymnasium. It was surprisingly cool for the amount of people there, some actively engaging in what appeared to be club sign-up and various other small paperwork, others merely socializing, the cafeteria apparently not suit to their taste for such.

But what really caught my attention, was the bright blue mats placed all across the floor, and the numerous people suited head to toe in white, puffy gear. Not an inch of their skin was showing, including their heads, which were covered by cage-like masks that blotted out their faces but could apparently be seen through by the way they seemed to know where they were going. Quite a few of them were fiddling with long, metallic, bendy-looking sticks.

“Fencing?!” I exclaimed, “You signed me up for fencing?!”

“Seemed right up your alley!” said Luke, looking rather pleased with himself, like he expected me to thank him a million at any moment.

I shook my head, “No. No way. I don’t the first thing about sword-fighting.”

“It’s easy!”

“Have you done it?”

“Well… no. But think of it this way, you like baseball, right?”

“Yeah…”

“Well they’re exactly the same!”

“No they’re not!”

“Yeah they are! The objective of both is to hit something, or this case, someone, with a stick.”

“I severely doubt you have the slightest clue about either sport works!”

“Well you’re certainly an expert on baseball,” he said, crossing his arms. “This means you have far more expertise in this situation than me, in which case, you’ll do great.”

“Huh?” I was tired of trying to make sense of Luke’s twisted logic. I swiftly turned on my heel and headed back for the doors.

“Aw, come on Theo!” Luke ran in front on me, a pleading look in his eyes. “Just try it?”

“Maybe I would have been more willing if you’d asked first.”

“Pleeeaaase? I just wanted you to have some fun ‘round here!”

“I think it’s more like you wanted to have some fun.”

“Please?”

“No!”

“Theo…” he gave the saddest puppy-dog face he could muster, “… please…?”

I should have been very cross with him and walked off… in fact, I was very cross with him, and completely and totally prepared to go back to our room and give him the cold shoulder for the rest of the day. But the one thing that changed my mind, the one thing that kept me from storming off into the halls, caught my eye over Luke’s head and perched behind one of the windows at a staircase turn.

Two black birds. Staring right at me.

My blood turned ice cold, and I lost breath for a moment… they weren’t cawing, weren’t tapping at the glass, just staring. Without blinking. Right into my own eyes….

Luke looked confusedly up at me, “Uh… are you alright?”

I quickly whipped my head around, scanning the room to see if there were any other means of escape, because I certainly wasn’t going to be alone in any place with those things. I say things, because at that point I was confident in assuming that these were not normal birds. To think anything else would be pure denial, and there was no way I was taking my chances, lest those things could… could… I don’t know! Suck out my soul, or something!

Unfortunately, the only other exits out of the gym were emergency exits that were hooked up to fire alarm systems, and I doubt that anyone would’ve appreciated me pulling those in order to escape the piercing gaze of a couple of birdies.

At this point, Luke looked fairly worried and a bit weirded out. “Uh… you know what? You’re right. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all. Let’s just find Michael and…”

“I’m doing it,” I declared, straightening my stance.

“What now?” it was his turn to be confused.

“Give me a sword,” I told one of the kids handing out equipment, who then trotted back into a storage area and began to dig around.

“Whoa, wait just a minute,” said Luke, “What happened to not knowing anything about sword-fighting? You were hell-bent on getting out of here just a few seconds ago!”

“I change my mind.” I said quickly, looking anxiously over at the kid in the storage room, mostly to avoid looking in the direction of the birds.

Another grin shone upon Luke’s face, and he gave a chuckle. “You are an enigma, Theo Toovson…” he almost whispered, “A real puzzle.”

“Whatever,” I took a neatly folded up fencing uniform and training sword from the helper kid, and made my way over to the boys’ locker room to change.

A few minutes later, I was completely padded in the soft, plushy body armor and seated at the risers with several other new members, all looking much more hopeful and excited than I. I periodically switched from awkwardly turning the caged face-helmet in my hands, to taking glances at the boy seated next to me, who was currently engrossed in one of the fights on the mats (actually, there seemed to be only fight at any given time from what I’d been paying attention to, what wasn’t much).

“… So…” I began, “Um, what is it we’re supposed do here, exactly?”

“You don’t get in if the President doesn’t want you!” he said adamantly, apparently comfortable with being casual with strangers.

“Really? Isn’t that, like, discrimination or something?” I didn’t think that the President of a club was supposed to be allowed to just choose who got to stay and go for a club, lest the whole thing turn into a popularity-based fraternity. At least that’s how it worked at my old school.

“Naw,” dismissed the kid, “Not in fencing club it isn’t. The Prez only wants people who can take it, and stand up with the rest of the team! They do competitions you know, big ones, being here could mean you get to go to all sorts of cool tournaments!” His eyes practically glittered with stars. “Our school’s name is already across boards across the country!”

“Well that’s… great,” I said. It did actually sound pretty impressive, but it still hadn’t answered my original question. “So what do we do...?”

He pointed to the duel, in which one of the padded figures finally fell pathetically to the ground at the feet of their opponent, and people began to cheer enthusiastically.

“The President tests you in a fight. If you can survive, you’re in.”

“Survive?” I said, a bit skeptical. “What exactly do you mean, “survive”?” It’s not like anyone was allowed to kill each other, so I wasn’t entirely sure what this kid was talking about.

“Survive, man! You gotta survive!” he continued on, “It’s like, man, it’s like eye of the tiger stuff! Swift as the coursing river! Force of a great typhoon! Strength of a raging fire…”

Okay, that was it. Obviously this guy was no help at all, and clearly a bit coo-coo, so I decided right there and then to stop listening before he broke out into the entire musical number of Mulan’s, “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” This school was weird enough without it turning into High School Musical.

One by one, the people sitting in front of me began to dwindle, and I began to drum my fingers on the bench anxiously. The adrenaline from being, yet again, spooked by those birds had run out, and I was again having my doubts about even trying out for this stupid club at all. Okay, alright, I’ll admit it did look kind of cool… the swift fall of the sword, the complicated and intricate movements the arms and legs took while fighting, forming a deadly dance.

But I still wasn’t quite sure if it was all for me… I was a baseball player, not a swordsman. I got my satisfaction from bringing ball against bat on a blazing August morning, the euphoric sensation of hearing that great big crack that meant that I’d hit (and I always hit, though it never once got old). Then I ran… ran like the fastest wind imaginable, tearing through open space like flimsy paper, I was an unstoppable storm, nothing could ever touch me….

“I am the storm…” I whispered, nearly unaware of my surroundings, lost in the dream. I said it with the utmost conviction, and for a moment, the world around me began to fade away in a surreal mesh of darkness, the only thing I was sure of being those four simple words….

“Yeah, you’re the storm alright,” said Luke in a sarcastic tone.

“What?” I quickly snapped back to reality, to find my fiery-haired companion poking his face close to my own, an annoyed expression teetering at the end curves of his mouth. “Oh, um… did you say something?”

He rolled his eyes exasperated, “I said it’s your turn, Mr. Storm-Man! Now go!”

Still a bit confused, I complied as Luke impatiently pulled me out of my seat and toward the fencing mats. Mats… mats… fencing! Mats, fencing! Fencing mats!

“It’s my turn!” I exclaimed in surprise, finally awake.

“Jee, really?! Get up there!” he gave me a final shove for good measure before running away to the safety of the sidelines.

I slowly turned to the opponent across from me… their mask was on, and they didn’t say a word. Only stared. Maybe I would’ve been just as well taking my chance with the birds….

“Look, I’m going to be honest with you,” I said, casually approaching them. “I’ve never really done this before. So would it be alright if maybe I just-“

Swipe! The metal sword swung without warning, and would have scraped me straight across the face if I hadn’t jumped back in time.

“Ah!” I staggered, “Hey, what the heck?! I was just trying to-“

Swipe! Another attack, aimed low, which I took a duck and roll quite diligently in order to avoid. Technically there was nothing to fear from being hit, seeing as the sword itself was made of a bendy-substance that could only flick me at most. But what was worrying about the whole ordeal is the apparent deadly seriousness the President was taking this duel, since they just kept attacking despite my attempts to communicate, and a blatant willful ignorance of common social skills was a tell-tale sign of, ‘Watch out! This one is dangerous!’

The chant from observers going, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” wasn’t helping much either.

“Would you just listen to me?!” I exclaimed, doing my best to avoid the strikes. “I don’t want to play this-“

Swing! Clank! A stab that would’ve cost me the game was blocked by own quick positioning of my sword. It was a desperate move, probably far less graceful than the techniques my opponent was using, but hey, it worked. There was a sheathing sound of light metal grazing each other, as my opponent’s sword swiped back to its owner, who began to back up, evaluating what to do next.

“Look!” I didn’t give up on attempting compromise, “This really isn’t fair, I don’t have any exp-“

Swipe!

“Just-“

Swipe!

“Please-“

Swipe!

“I-“

Swipe!

“STOP!”

They didn’t stop. At this point I was basically just running around in circles around the ring, dodging whatever swipe I saw coming, earning a bit of laughter from the spectators. It didn’t seem mean, more like they were interested in having a mix-up in the fights they’d been watching. Huh, well at least SOMEONE was having fun in this…

Shink! Another shaky block, I really didn’t think I could keep this up for much longer… I couldn’t just run out of the ring, every time I’d come close to the edge, the other person prevented me from leaving. They wanted to finish this thing the classic way, no other options available.

Obviously I wasn’t going to be able to talk my way out, run my way out, so the one choice I did have… fight my way out. It didn’t matter if I won or lost, but going along with the President’s game seemed to be the quickest way to leave, and I got the feeling that if I just let him stab me, he would smell my bull in an instant. I hadn’t exactly made myself out as some easy to hit this entire time, and- AH!

I tripped over a crease in the matting and fell face first. There was more laughter from the other students, and I scrambled up just before the President’s sword hit the spot I was with a loud FWAP! With little time to plan out any counter, I just ran all the way to the opposite side of the ring, and tried to think fast.

Alright, alright, alright, ALRIGHT! THINK! Think Theo, think! What should you do now?!

I had nothing.

But apparently someone else did.

Kasta…, I heard in my head.

Pasta?

Kasta!

Uh... pasta…?

I was momentarily stung by what felt like a second-long migraine, as if being slapped for my stupidity. “Ah!” I moaned aloud, earning some confused stares from a few students close enough to hear it.

Kasta…

Suddenly, I really listened to the word… as if being guided, the gibberish word slowly broke apart in my head and began to make sense… kasta… kasta… casta… cast… throw.

I chucked the sword.

At first glimpse, this may seem like a childish tactic. And it was, I’ll admit that, but hey, sometimes even the most immature attack can be effective… and this one certainly was. Because as the thing was hurtling through the air, it began to glow a very faint green light, and upon hitting the President, sent them flying backward onto their back with a force that probably defied the laws of physics.

The mask flew right off their face from the fall, but the straps had apparently been tied up very strategically, because when the mask went, what was released was a dazzling wave of luscious, long, golden hair.

Everyone gasped with horror, but none louder than me. I stood there speechless for a very long moment, letting what had happened sink in, before finally snapping to back to reality in a panic.

“I… I hit a GIRL?”

Oh my God oh my God oh my God oh my God OH MY GOD!!! I was vaguely aware of Luke calling my name, but I wasn’t paying attention. She was rubbing her head in a drowsy manner, and gritting her teeth in that way people do when they’re in pain.

Now some people may find it quite old-fashioned over the idea that you can’t hit someone just because they’re a girl, but really, it was something I held myself to. No bullying people smaller than you, no being lazy, be fair, and never, NEVER hit a girl, were just a handful of some of the oh-so un-teenage-like standards I held near and dear to my soul.

“I am soooooo sorry!” I said, kneeling down by her, “It’s just you were there, and, the sword, it just… GAH! I’m sorry! Here, let me help you!”

I held out my hand. The girl opened her eyes, as blue and deep as the ocean itself, and looked at me with an expression of confusion, looked at my hand, then back at me. I gave her a comforting smile as she reached her own hand out…

And punched me square in the face.

Hitting me harder than I thought most punches could, my face quickly numbed itself to counteract the pain, and I struggled to drift not into unconsciousness. Colorful blots briefly clouded my vision, there was a soft ringing in my ears, and I had an airy sensation of spinning, like being extremely dizzy. It was like this for what felt like a few minutes, before I finally felt a floor materialize underneath my back, and the blots slowly melted together and became the ceiling and several worried student faces staring down at me.

“Wha… what…?” I mumbled, looking around. As the ringing slowly died out, I was aware of two voices yelling at each other.

“The bloody hell, Franny?!”

“Oh, so he’s your friend then?! Makes sense!”

“You didn’t have to knock the damn lights out of him!”

“He did it to me!”

“So what?!”

“What do you mean “so what”?!”

I recognized one of the voices as Luke’s, and slowly tried to sit up. The numbness in my face suddenly gave way to a painful stinging, and I bit my lip to keep from crying out.

“Ahhhh…” I moaned, gingerly touching the spot the girl struck, a huge bump starting to bud. Soon, there was the sound of footsteps, and a hand on my shoulder.

“Hey, you okay buddy?” asked a voice.

I looked up into two very blue eyes, and for a moment, thought the girl had come over to make amends. But, no… upon closer look, I saw that the one helping me up was unmistakably masculine. His hair was the color of golden freshly cut straw in the fall, and had a soft but fairly attractive face. These things, coupled with the way the other children gave him space, it was obvious that he was a, “popular kid,” or at least a well-respected one. A few of them seemed to be somewhat shocked at the situation, probably wondering what such a cool guy was doing talking to the weird new kid who just got the crap knocked out of him by a girl.

“Thanks…” I said, still absentmindedly prodding the lump on my head.

“No problem,” he gave a friendly smile, and then stuck his thumb over his shoulder. It pointed to the other side of the gymnasium, where Luke and the girl were going at each other viciously. “Now how about you and I go clear this whole mess up before those two kill each other?”

“Alright…” it was a little weird that the guy was taking such as head charge about this whole situation, but his warm demeanor was comforting, and we quickly ran up to the argument.

“Whoa now!” said the boy, gently putting an arm between the two. “Calm on you two. Don’t you think we can work this out like civil people?”

The girl quickly snapped her head towards the boy, and in comparison, I saw they looked startlingly alike. They must have been related or something, which explained why the guy was so casual around about her, despite the girl’s death glare.

“You saw what this jerk did, Franc!” she said, “He threw me right out of the damn ring!”

“I saw,” nodded the boy understandingly, “But I also saw that he immediately apologized, and even tried to help you.”

“Y-Yeah!” I threw in, “I swear, I didn’t mean to hit you like that! It just happened!” I pointedly excluded the part about being particularly distressed over hitting her for simply being female, since that was bound to only make matters worse.

“Ha!” she didn’t buy it.

“Franny,” her twin addressed her in a patient voice, “Come on. You know stuff happens in the ring. Adrenaline rushes and all that…” He smiled pleadingly at her, an expression that would be hard-pressed to deny a request. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

I couldn’t help but smile at one of my favorite sayings. Yeah, me and this Franc guy were going to get along just fine.

For a while, the girl stubbornly held her scowl, before finally sighing and turning to me. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t right to hit you back after you already apologized.”

“Aw, it’s alright,” I said with a smile, “I guess I did kind of deserve it, cheap shot and all.”

Luke opened his mouth, probably about to say something insulting, before I shot him a look that told him to not make it worse than it was. He crossed his arms and blew a bit of hair out of his face, while mumbling, “This was so much more amusing in my head…”

I opened my mouth to scold him, and the girl, Franny, did the same. What other mean stuff she would’ve said to him though, I’ll never know, because it was right then that fate decided to have Michael burst through the doors with an army of teachers behind him.

“There he is!” he pointed dramatically across the gym directly at Luke.

“Oh, shit!” said Luke with panic, evidently much more concerned that Michael had come with back up this time. “It’s The Man! Gotta go! See ya later, Theo!”

Man, whatever past that child, Mike, and the majority of the staff had together, it must have been pretty ugly. Or at least bad enough that Luke was daring enough to bound without second thought right through an emergency exit door and into an open field of the school grounds, the attached alarm set off, making the air pulsate with ear-piercing, WEEOOO! WEEOOO!’s. Michael and a few other adults were hot on his trail, while a few of the others ran out the other way, probably thinking they could go around and block him from the front.

Whatever. After all that had happened today, Luke deserved a good cat-and-dog chase. It’d spare the tense, awkward air yelling at him at our dorm would’ve created anyway, and right now I just needed to concentrate on tending to the huge lump on my head.

“Ow!” I poked it.

“Here,” said Franc soothingly, handing me a tiny satchel he had pulled from his schoolbag. It smelled like summer.

“What is this…?” I asked.

“Some herbs I grew in garden club, they’re real good for bruises like that. Just mix the whole thing with a cup of water, and it’ll turn into a paste that you wash your face with every morning for three days.” He gave a bright, toothy smile. “My name is Francisco, by the way. And this is my twin sister, Francesca.”

“You can just call me Franny,” corrected Francesca, then gesturing to her brother. “People call him Franc.”

“I’m Theodore, but people call me Theo,” I said, “I’m new here, in case you hadn’t noticed by everyone’s dirty looks yet…” I chuckled awkwardly.

Franc laughed brightly, “No one’s giving you dirty looks!” but his cheerful smile fell as he took closer inspection at my bump, “You better start up that paste pretty soon… I’m not sure it’s right for that thing to look that blue…” Franny rubbed the back of her neck bashfully.

“You don’t have to tell me twice,” I said. They really didn’t. Franny could launch one hell of a knuckle-sandwich, and it was taking all the strength I had currently to not grimace and make her embarrassed. “Thanks a lot! See ya round some time, maybe.”

They waved politely as I quickly skidded back into the boys’ locker room, went to the bathroom area, and ran my head under the sink. A sigh of relief fell from my mouth as the cool water helped to wash away the stinging, burning sensation, like a healing spell. The knobs squeaked as I twisted them off, and then grabbed a handful of nearby paper towels to dry my face off to begin to concoct that brew Franc gave me.

Now, I was one of those people who when drying their faces, I lifted my head upward so as to allow any stray water drops to run from my face into my hair where they couldn’t soil anything. This may seem like a trivial detail, and for the majority of my short life it had been… except for that one day. Funny how destiny can make so many huge decisions based on such small, seemingly meaningless details, but I guess that’s just what made the universe so elusive sometimes… because without my usual habit of looking up, I wouldn’t have seen it.

“Hm…?”

There was something off within the pattern on the ceiling… it was a series of simple carvings that went triangle, square, triangle, square, triangle… circle? I squinted my eyes, and saw that not only that, but it was a different color as well, more of a greyish than brown… and there were lines around it. Not drawn lines, but like small, open space… like, it had been stuck in there. But why?

I wiped down the sink with more paper towels so I wouldn’t slip and crack my head open on the tile floor, before firmly setting one foot on it, grabbing the edges of the mirror screwed into the wall, and hoisting myself up. The ceiling was just out of my reach, and I had to climb back down to retrieve a pen from my backpack to poke and stab at it.

Chic… chic… almost there… chic… chic… chic… plunk!

The circle fell out of the ceiling and clattered into the sink at my feet, luckily missing the drain. I carefully hopped down, put the pen aside, picked it up, and closely inspected it.

“… Thurs?”

The symbol engraved on the circle, which turned out to be a chunk of sturdy stone, was the same middle-looped P that Michael had shown me earlier. Had someone chipped the rune out of the rock from outside, and then stuck it in the locker room ceiling as some kind of prank? Pretty lame prank if you ask me. And vandalism too, destroying a historical treasure like that… but as I got a closer look at it, I saw that it didn’t look much like the engraving from outside.
On the rock it had been scratchier, like the printer had been being careful to etch the letter correctly onto the rounded boulder so people could still read what it said. This rock was flatter, so the rune cut was deeper, and more stylized. I looked back up at its former resting spot on the ceiling, and saw that the hole it had been in was also professionally cut, like it was made for the rune rather than just being shoved in there by a student.

After changing back into my regular clothes and neatly folding up the fencing suit to return (I had still decided that the club, though Franny and Franc seemed nice, just wasn’t my thing), I pocketed the rune, and headed out the door. It wasn’t like I was stealing it… I was just keeping it safe, till I could figure out what to with it. There was no way I was putting it back in the ceiling, where any random goons could wind up breaking it or something, I somehow knew that it obviously didn’t belong there… though where it did exactly belong, I couldn’t tell you. Yet.

I guess I’d just have to figure that out myself.


Chapter 6
Thunder ripped through the sky as rain pitter-pattered against the glass of the boarding house windows, mixing gently with the voices of socializing students. The heater had been turned up a bit for the situation, since the temperature had dropped rather uncomfortably with the arrival of the storm. As an extra treat, the school cooks had managed to whip up a batch of hot chocolate and were now passing them out to children from a little hastily thrown-together booth by the main entrance.

I myself was curled up comfortably on a posh red love seat in the main living area, my own mug of hot chocolate carefully set on the nearby coffee table, steam curling whimsically in the air. I had managed to swing by the library and pick up a book on runic scripture just before the first mist had started to fall, and was currently deep in trying to decipher the rather scientific-y sounding language….

'Due to a combination of Olden Scandinavian culture being a mostly oral tradition, and the hasty and rather brutal Christianization of the area that was common to the Dark Ages, many original runic writings have either been lost or tampered with. It hasn't been until recently that extensive research by archaeologists and linguistic…'

From the fragment I gave you, it may not seem like much, but it got worse, so much worse. Rather than getting into the runes' meaning themselves, first the authors had felt a burning need to go on, and on, about the details of where they've found rune rocks, and what tools they'd used to dig them up, and how they knew they were rune rocks, and how they tagged the rune rocks, and how they dated the rune rocks…. Sure, this would have been very interesting and all if I was looking to write an essay the various ways to chip off bits of stone in order to find out just how many bajillions of years ago they were from, but that just wasn't the case.

I carefully unbuttoned the chest pocket on my school uniform and pulled out my own rune, studying the rock it was carved into carefully, as if everything the book said would suddenly make me rush into complete, total understanding and realization of my finding just by staring at it and waiting.

No such luck.

Ugh. I wished Michael was here. He'd be able to explain this stuff in a way that didn't sound quite as… boring. I hadn't been able to find him among the immediate crowd, and personally didn't feel like going through the trouble of searching the entire boarding house top to bottom for him just so he could explain a book that probably read like children's literature to him. Earlier, Luke had seemed to know a bit about runes too, but I was just plain pissed off at him right now, so he was out too.

If only…

"Hi Theo," said a familiar voice.

I looked up and saw the girl from the club sign-up area standing in front of me, the one who had been carrying the papers, smiling at me.

"Oh, hey," I said, admittedly surprised. "Good to see you… um…" I realized I had never gotten her name.

"Sandra," she filled in, as if reading my mind.

"Right, Sandra. Nice name!"

"What are you doing?"

Quickly, I slipped the rune into my pants pocket. For some reason, I was still feeling rather secretive about it… probably I was worried I could get in trouble for tampering with school property or something.

"Oh, I was kind of trying to read up on the history of the school, and country in general. You know, when in Rome and all that…" I said. It wasn't technically a lie, but it wasn't exactly the whole truth either.

"Well that's great," said Sandra, "I heard you're from America, so I guess it helps."

"Yeah…"

There was silence for a while, making things pretty awkward, at least for me. Sandra seemed nice and all, but I was starting to sort of wish she would just go away. Nothing personal, but I could still hear Luke's mocking voice in my head whenever I looked at her.

"Are you okay?" she finally spilled.

"Excuse me?" I said. I hadn't been expecting that. "If you mean am I okay with moving here, than yeah, I guess, I mean it was a little shocking at first but…"

"Not that," she admitted, "I mean about everything, and everyone, and how they're… talking, about you."

What? No. Theo can't process. What was she talking about? People talking about me? Since when?

"Huh?" I exclaimed, surprised. "What do you mean?"

"Well… you aren't exactly very popular around here so far."

Now don't get me wrong, I never cared much for social standing, especially high school social standing. That could be more brutal than the jungle food chain, so I was always sure to stay out of all the ridiculous drama people created for themselves. None the less, something told me Sandra wasn't referring to the definition of "popular" as described in Mean Girls. She meant that people genuinely did not like me around here.

"Really, why not?" I asked, not thinking I had done anything to earn scorn.

"Well," she started, "You started off your year as the lost new kid, have thus gotten into two fights, each with two of the more well-standing students here, but despite this our toughest hall monitor seems to favor you, not to mention the Head Master who has never called you in for your actions… oh yes, and you seem to always hang out with Luke Eldr, who was never exactly a favorite around here to begin with."

Oh. Oh my.

Sandra blushed a bit, rubbed the back of her head, and gave a sheepish frown. "When I talked to you though, you didn't seem like a jerk. So I figured I'd, you know, check up on you, see how things were going."

"Jeeze, I guess I didn't really notice how I was acting…" I copied her head-rubbing gesture, "Wow, I'm so sorry! I honestly didn't mean to be so, so…"

"… Skunk-headish?"

There was another moment of silence. Then we both broke out into laughter.

My shoulders were shaking and tears welled up in my eyes as all the gloom and doom from the situation just flew away. Sandra calmed down before than me, and wiped her own laughter tears from her eyes.

"It's, it's not even that funny!" she said between giggles, "It's actually kind of stupid!"

"I know," I said, "But it's just the timing of the whole thing!"

"So you're alright?" She smiled, satisfied.

"I'm alright." I smiled back.

She then cheerfully held out a fist to me, and after regarding it for a moment, I grinned and lightly bumped my own fist against it. I didn't know girls bro-fisted too! This gal was awesome.

"Well I've got to go meet up with my brother now, see you around?" said Sandra.

"See you around!" I responded. Most definitely.

As she walked away, I realized it was getting pretty late, or at least I was getting pretty tired. All the other kids seemed to be getting along just fine, but then again, they were teenagers… I on the other hand, had next to nothing to do (I had temporarily given up on the rune book), and the shockingly black sky the storm had produced was tricking my inner sleep pattern detector. With that, I packed up my book, mug, made sure the rune was still in my pocket, and headed back to my dorm.

After all that happened at this school, you would think I shouldn't have been stirred by any more odd surprises. But alas, surprise, surprise! There was Luke sitting in the middle of a pentagram on the floor with the lights turned off, strategically placed candles being the only source of illumination. He was in some kind of meditation position, and had this strange bandana covered in black etched symbols tied around his forehead, looking interestingly peaceful among the tattered remains of his tissue-dolls and discarded thumb tacks.

"What the hell are you doing?" I demanded.

He opened one eye and regarded me, then smiled tranquilly. "Ah, Theo, you're home. Good. I was starting to get worried about you, what with this awful storm out and all," he said with calm in his voice, like some uber-Zen yoga sensei.

"I repeat. What are you DOING, you crazy ginger?!"

Luke winced, "Oh, Theo-san, you do wound me with the spice-name. And here I was going to make you a cake…." Here he winked and flashed a three-cornered smile up at me.

"Ugh…" I face palmed hard, "I don't even want to understand that last part, I'm going to bed."

I flopped on my bed and began to undo my shoes, while Luke carefully put out his candles one by one with one of those old-fashioned fire-smothering tools, with the little bell-shaped thing attached to a metal stick. A whispery vapor rose and curled into the air after each flame died, which he carefully took in the site of every time, before gently gathering up his precious candles into a wooden box, and closing them up in his drawer. By that time, I had already changed into my pajamas, curled up under the comforter I brought from home and was attempting to lull myself to sleep, when he piped up again.

"Are you angry with me?" It was a genuine question, spoken softer than anything I'd ever heard him say.

I grumbled. "What do you think?"

"I think you are."

"Well there you go!"

"I don't want you to be mad at me."

"Jee, why not?" I sat up, "Hmm, Luke? Just why shouldn't I be a little ticked that you deliberately mortified me in front of the entire gymnasium? People talk, you know! Being new is hard enough without you, you… oh, you know what you did! I shouldn't even have to explain it to you!" I performed the classic, flop-roll-cover up-angrily maneuver.

"It wasn't supposed to get that far…" he said, making that kind of pained sound people do when they remember something really, really stupid they did. "But yeah, I suppose you're right, mate. It was a bit of kick while you were down. I'm sorry."

I was silent for a few seconds before breathing a sigh, deciding that he did, in fact, sound fairly sorry. "It's alright, man. Just… cool it sometimes, 'kay? Pranks are cool and all, but sometimes you just go overboard…"

"Alas, it is a curse!" said Luke dramatically, waving his hand, the spark of mischief back in his eyes.

"Uh huh," I snuggled under the nice cool sheets, "Just be sure to- ACK!"

The kid flopped on me. Just let gravity pull him straight down on me like I was a trampoline.

"Jee wilikers, thanks for bein' mah pal, Theo!" he said in a mock 1950's American boy accent, giving me a through-the-blanket hug. Clearly the little sorry boy had crawled back into whatever alternate dimension he'd popped out of, and returned my good ol' pest of a Luke back to me. Goodie.

"Ah, twas nothun' mista!" I shot back, imitating a Victorian English boy, "Naw have ye seen mah puppy, he's 'ate for tea he is!"

"Ha!" laughed Luke, "You do have a feisty side. There may be hope for you yet, Toovson!"

And with that, he finally plopped himself into his own bed and gave me a casual, "'Night!" before putting his ear buds and digging his way into the covers. How anyone could find Rise Against music a suitable choice of lullaby, I would never know, nor would I care. I relaxed myself by staring up at the collection of baseball cards pinned to my side of the wall, illuminated by moonlight, allowing myself to be soothed by the nostalgia they brought on. I fell asleep.

It was cold. That was the first thing I noticed about this dream. The other was that I could sufficiently see in this one, and found myself stranded in snowy tundra, white plains stretching as far as the eye could see, the sky itself only a shade from falling from its lovely blue to just becoming one more part of the terrain. The wind cut into my cheeks, and I pulled my cloak to cover it.

Huh?

I quickly spun around and was awed by my sudden new outfit change. It looked old fashioned… very old fashioned. Like ancient fashioned. I wasn't an expert on olden day clothes, but I guessed that most of it was either woven from hunter's game or farmed cloth material, died a very lovely springtime green, and covered by a rather heavy brown cloak. There were thick, furry boots set upon my feet, and when I moved, there was the tiny jingling of little accessories set in-between my warm layers. It was altogether quite a bit heavier than my usual wear, but quite cozy considering the environment.

"Whoa," my voice echoed through the mountains, "I didn't know I could dream up this." The last "this" hung in the air, repeating itself five more times before vanishing. Clutching the neck of my cloak, I slowly turned around in a little circle, continuing to survey my surroundings.

Something was a bit… off, about the whole thing. I knew little about the science of dreams, but knew enough to know that one couldn't dream up of something extremely detailed that they had no pre-conceived notion of… like these clothes. They looked like something pulled straight from a Renaissance or Medieval fair or something, of which I had never actually been to, nor had I ever taken the time to look through history books about what people used to wear from ye oden days. No, I had only a very vague caricature of what ancient clothing like this looked like, whereas the things I saw with my own eyes looked to be made by a professional.

Ah well, when in Rome. Or rather, when in Theo's dream.

Grabbing the edges of my cloak, I swirled around on one foot before falling and plopping back first into the snow, staring upward as the breeze began to settle down, and the faint glow of the sun slowly seemed to fade back into existence after being gone for some time. I cupped my hands around the shape of the big white ball in the sky, feeling like a tame child, letting the serenity of my dream overtake me. Everything felt so real. From the snow crunching under my body and scraping up my cheeks, to the heavy weight of my boots thumping against the ground as I lifted them up and down childishly. Usually my dreams were strange and surreal, often with no real intelligible basis to them, but this… this felt like a normal winter day spent back at home when I was nine years old.

Well, you know… minus the weird clothes and exotically icy landscape, it'd be normal.

"Caw!" A fuzzy drift suddenly tickled my face, and I swiped at the thing in surprise. Once I sat up and snapped out of my tranquil state of mind, I could clearly see what had caused the disturbance: a black feather.

Oh no. Right there and then, I expected the world to shatter and twist itself into a ghoulish nightmare, and I braced myself for a violent impact. But strangely enough, nothing happened, and after waiting anxiously for a few moments, I opened my eyes again, finding everything to be exactly the same as it was before.

"Theo…" a voice whispered. It seemed to carry a wind of its own, and it sent goose bumps crawling up my neck that my cloak couldn't possibly protect against.

At the sound of my name I clumsily turned myself around looked upward at one of the snowy hills. Perched on the top was a very tall figure, dark clothing clear against the white, and standing as still and silent as a stone statue.

For a moment I regarded him, before shouting up. "Hey!"

No response, he stayed still atop the hill, only moving to stretch a cloaked arm out to one of the black birds for it to land on, its little friend finding a place on what I judged to be the guy's shoulder.

"HEY!" I cried again, this time louder and with more frustration. So they were his birds, eh? Well, I had more than a few complaints to dish out to the lovely pet owner, and I nearly slipped trying to get the footing to begin climbing up the hill.

His head turned and stared at me for a moment, before slowly taking his birds and walking down the other side of the hill.

"Wait you!" I raced my way up my side of the hill, which was no easy task what with the deep, thick snow piled high on an apparently already steep slope. "Don't you run away from me, I've got a few questions for you!"

So I was more than a bit flustered and angry, but those birds had been nipping and pecking at the edge of my sanity ever since I arrived at High Seas, and now was my only opportunity to demand answers from someone, anyone. It was getting even harder to keep my balance on the hill, and a few times I was reduced to using all four of my limbs to get a grip, which in my rush resulted in me falling face-flat into the chilly white more times than I'd care to divulge.

After spitting out and partially swallowing another mouth full of snow, I sucked in a deep breath and shouted up with all the power my lungs had to offer. "HEY!"

The "HEY!" flew and bounced excitedly through the air, before dissipating and giving way to a new, slow and steady rumbling sound that shook the ground itself. My entire body froze, as I dared to hope against hope that I couldn't, not possibly, not in my own dream….

A white wall of terror suddenly began to roll and curve, growing bigger as it rushed down at me like a full-piston locomotive. It stretched as far I could see on each side, so it was clear I had nowhere to run but down, and as fight or flight took over, I had absolutely no qualms with that. Taking a stop-drop-and-roll down the first stretch of the hill, I clambered up as fast I could and just ran, willing the gravity to pull me down faster while at the same time trying not to tumble head first… if that happened, I'd be buried.

I had been desperately running as fast I could manage, but eventually a powerful weight slammed into my back and winded me. For a few moments everything went black, but then I saw little drifts of light coming and going at varying degrees, and realized that I was rolling with the snow. At that moment I remembered a bit of a conversation with Michael while watching a Mount Everest documentary during a class, something about trying to swim with the snow if ever caught in an avalanche, so I tried to do just that with little success. Eventually, after what felt like an eternity, I felt the snow settle down around me and all was calm.

Slowly, I opened my eyes and waited for the world to stop spinning. Soon everything settled, and I tried to wiggle my way out the snow… but I couldn't. Panic jolted me back to my full senses, and with horror I realized that half my vision was covered by the snow line; the avalanche had buried me from my feet to just below my lips, leaving just behind my head and forearms on the surface. I tried to kick my way upward, but that obviously wasn't happening.

"I'd really like to wake up now…" I groaned.

I did not. The world stayed put, me along with it.

"Come on… please…"

It was cold… so very cold… even my heavy-duty warming gear couldn't protect against being submerged in the snow like I currently was. The uncanny realism of the dream had turned against me as I began to feel very real terror at the possibility of freezing here to… what, death? Could you die in a dream? Was… was this even a dream..?

"Caw!"

Looking up, I saw those stupid birds flying above and circling me, cawing loudly. I sighed shakily, and closed my eyes, trying to will them away… I had no idea what they would do to me, but the deep pit in my stomach didn't think it'd be good. Could this get anymore horrific?

In the distance, I heard the howls of wolves.

Damn.

I struggled even more, having no desire to be slowly torn apart and eaten, but the freezing cold had already taken a toll on my motor skills, and it was getting harder and harder to move my limbs.

"Help!" I yelled, desperate for some kind of miracle. "Please, help me!"

Too late, I already saw the two gray, canine forms sliding and running down a nearby white slope right towards me.

"BOO!" I tried yelling at them, "SHOO! SHOO! GET AWAY!" Wolves were scared by loud noises, right? Or was that big cats…? Or was it appearing big yourself?! I didn't know! What the hell! I was going to be eaten alive in a few moments and there was nothing I could do about it!

Finally the wolves arrived, and I could feel their hot breath on my face as they sniffed by head and hair. One of them threw its head back and howled again, probably calling for company to dinner. The two of them were huger than any other wolves I'd ever seen, and even if by some miracle I did manage to get away, I wasn't sure if I'd have the strength of speed to get away from them. Oh god, here it came, oh god, oh god, oh god….

They whined and licked my face, then proceeded to dig diligently with their powerful paws into the snow around me. Taking turns, one would dig while the other would slobber affectionately all over my face, which while totally gross, actually did help to un-numb my face. This didn't seem like the kind of, "mmm, just tasting out the food," licking, it was more like… puppy licking, like a dog happy to see a human family member.

Soon they stopped digging, and one gave me light, non-menacing barks while the other bit gently at the back of my cloak and pulled at it with a growl. I tried to move my legs, and found that the snow was now shallow enough for me to easily to dislodge them, which I promptly did. I was free.

"Whoa…" I said, looking back and forth between them. "Thanks…."

Call me crazy, delusional from the cold, or just plain dreaming, but I could have sworn that they actually nodded, like they understood my gratitude. They then whined lovingly even more, covering me in happy doggy kisses, which I laughed off and lightly pushed away. These two weren't so bad… but it was rather strange… they acted like they knew me, though I could pretty safely say that I had never any experience with pet wolves, nor did I think that wolves were like regular dogs in that they just automatically just love any stray human they came across. The wolf was a hunter, not a familiar, yet they had helped me rather than killing me, though I had been such easy prey… why?

Suddenly they both stopped, and snapped up their heads attentively before running off a short distance away from me. I looked up, and saw the tall, dark figure less than fifteen feet away and approaching closer. The birds cawed and flapped about him, resting gently on his head and shoulders, as the wolves ran up to him cheerfully to receive pleased pats on their heads.

He mumbled something in a language I didn't understand to the wolves, from the tone and their happy reaction I guessed it was probably an affirmation of job well done. So… they were his birds, and his wolves? And he had ordered them to actually save me?

I froze for a moment, before gathering up my courage and voice. "Who are you…?"
Last edited by Giovenith on Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Giovenith
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Mythology

Postby Giovenith » Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:05 pm

Name of the Allfather:
A glorified way to write Odin's name.
Image


Loki sketch:
Drawn to, "Just Like a Pill" by P!nk.
*EDIT, better quality
Image
Last edited by Giovenith on Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Senhjali
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Ex-Nation

Postby Senhjali » Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:26 pm

good job :clap:
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Giovenith
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AOH, continued

Postby Giovenith » Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:34 pm

Chapter 7
The figure said nothing. He merely loomed, staring me down with eyes made invisible by the wide brim of his oddly-shaped hat. It kind of looked like a cross between a witch's and wizard's hat, only there were no stars or buckles (yes, I know, I had watched far too many cartoons). The rest of his outfit only added to the perceived motif, some kind of long tunic or robe thing that stretched down to his feet, covered by fur boots not unlike my own. And maybe it was a little immature of me, but I couldn't help but think of him as looking like a wizard, like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings or something! Especially that hat….

"I would suggest that you put any amusing thoughts about my hat out of your head, right now," he said in a low baritone.

How did he do that?!

"Hey," I said, my amusing thoughts fleeing, remembering just how uneasy the situation was. "Just who are you?"

"That is not important, for now."

"I'd beg to differ," I snapped, getting a little angry. The built-up feelings and frustration over the confusion of the past day's events were beginning to leak out, and I did not relent. "Listen, guy, those freakish birds of yours? Yeah, they have been giving me hell…."

One of said freakish birds emphasized this with a caw and wing-spread hop in my direction, to which I responded with a short, threatening body-lunge of my own. Though the bird did not seem deterred by this, it was, however, quickly pacified with a wave of the man's hand.

"My ravens," he stated, patiently. "My ravens were merely trying to guide you."

Sure, right, 'guide me,' guide me right off a cliff if they had the chance. The look on my face must have been evidence enough of my skeptical confusion, but from what I could see of his face, the man's expression did not register any disappointment or frustration in this. His mouth, which was mostly hidden by a long beard, white as the snow around us (I'm telling you, he really looked like a wizard!), barely twitched as he raised one long arm from his side toward the west.

"Tell me Theodore," he said (Uh huh, sure, of course freaky wizard guy knew my name). "What do you see?"

Now I had just gone through nearly two weeks filled with homesickness, fighting classmates, Luke's pranks, and a great big nightmare fest so vivid that I could feel my near-frozen toes squishing the snow-slush in my fur boots. Needless to say, I wasn't in the mood to play I-Spy with a creepy old guy who kept dangerous animals as pets, and sent them forth to stalk teenage boys.

"Why don't you tell me?" I demanded.

"I already know."

"Well then I guess you don't exactly need to be asking!"

"But you do."

"I do!" I threw my arms up in the air with exasperation. "And I gladly shall! First of all, guide me to or from what? Second, just what about all these messed up dreams I've been having?! I've seen people die in them! What-"

He held up a hand, and by some deeply-buried reverence, I stopped talking. Somehow, despite not having any real reason to hold a respect for this man, something knotted in the pit of my guy, something instinctive that said, 'When this dude says to shut up, you better shut up.' I didn't like it, but I begrudgingly obeyed it.

After a brief moment to collect his thoughts, the man spoke: "Do you still have the rune?"

"The rune?"

I patted around my pre-modern attire, seeing if it could possibly have any pockets or bags to keep my tiny piece of the bathroom ceiling that had been carved with thurs in. Slowly, I stopped, and in a dreamy Mesmer, pulled a balled-up hand away the spot on my heart where it had come to in the search. I uncurled my fingers, and there sat the rune rock in my palm, giving off a tingly glow.

Looking up confusedly, I nearly jumped a foot back; the man had silently appeared up close in front of me.

He was tall, very all, surpassing me by two feet at the least, and I could easily be described as above average height myself. No longer did I feel his expression burning into me, the intensity in his face had cooled, reduced to a heartbreaking mixture of melancholy, long-awaited relief, seriousness, a tinge of happiness… and a faint ghost of fear.

A sigh escaped him, a sound akin to that of waves crashing against sea rocks. It was long and tired, rushing through his entire body, from the heave of his shoulders, and out to the arm that gently bended my fingers back over the rune and pushed it close to me.

I was looking up at him with wide, lost eyes, cast in a spell of wonder and expectation. No words could form from my lips, I could only look on with sympathy and confusion, feeling like a young child watching their parent weep openly in front of them.

But no tears ran down his cheeks, he seemed almost hardened to the ability. Again, he straightened his stature and looked to the west. "Child," he said. "What do you see?"

"The sun," I answered quietly.

"The sun," he nodded. His half-hidden features lifted up into an almost-smile, probably glimmering at some nostalgic memory. "Orb, Dvalin's Delight. Ever Bright, Fair Wheel, All Glowing."

One eye peaked at from behind his hat, and I could have sworn he smirked, a silent question as if to ask if I had any clue what he was even talking about. I shook my head sadly in response, and his expression fell gently before giving a nod of understanding.

"And do you know," he asked, "The direction in which the sun makes her journey?"

"Sun rises in the east, and sets in the west," I answered more forwardly, beginning to slip out of our brief daze together and back to confusion. "Why?"

"Here, in this dream, the sun sets," he said, looking on into the west. "Because it signals the end, the end of the old times we have gone through. It also means you shall be awaking soon."

"What, 'old times'?"

"Your dreams from the past few nights," he said. "I am sorry that they had to be so… disturbing. But we could not waste time lulling you into an understanding, for I can see the threads in our time are being spun fast."

Thread, what about thread? His other words brought on another question, "Did you send me those dreams?"

"No," he answered. "Not so much sense, as I waved them into you. Really, they were there all along."

"But what does that mean?!"

The gossamer snow turned from a pearly white to a blush-rose pink, and bending my neck around, I saw the dream sun was slowly sinking below the horizon. Towards the west, the sky glowed a bold orange, whereas the east bled upward into a faint black-purple, the two fading into one another at the top of the dome-like sky.

"… We do not have much time," he said somewhat urgently. "We wasted enough time searching for you and digging you out of the avalanche as it is."

I smiled sheepishly, despite the serious atmosphere.

"Listen," he drilled, turning to me. "The rune is yours, and only yours. There will be some who try to tell you otherwise, but make no mistake, they are lying, and they are your enemies."

Enemies? This was getting a bit scary.

"It is imperative that you find the other runes as well," he continued. "But more importantly, to find the others; and do not have fear of travel, as you shall discover all you need in your current residence."

I absorbed all he was saying, but strangely, there was something bugging my eyes… it was like I was whiting out, my vision becoming more, and more blurred with light from the inside-out. "But where are these other runes?! What do they look like?! What do you mean 'others,' who are you?!"

"Find flere runer. Find dine venner, din gamle familie. Du har alle ventet alt for længe på denne tid fremover."

"What?!"

It was too late though, the blinding light overtook the snowy land, and the real world materialized all around me. Chilly air faded and thickened into warm sheets and blankets, my heavy bundles into pajamas, and the irritating light behind my eyes into morning sunlight streaming through the window on my face.

I groaned outwardly, shielded my eyes, and sat up, surveying. Interestingly, Luke was already gone, whatever for I didn't really care at the moment; probably something against the rules.

Quickly, I got up and opened one of my drawers, searching around a bit hurriedly until I found the rune, relieved it was still there. Now that I was more awake, my inner sense of logic began to rear its head, wondering why I was in such a panic over a dream. But, in danger of sounding cliché, it felt so real… the knot of worry in my stomach over the old man's warnings had not dissipated with the end of the dream like most of my anxiety-filled night-visions.

Turning the rune around between my fingers, I grimaced at the realization that it was far too small and easy to misplace. One slip of the hand, and the tiny stone could go rolling into some floor crevice or a dusty vent, never to see the light of day again. There was no way I could allow that to happen, so I was going to have to find a way to carry it around besides my uniform jacket's pockets.

Wondering, I turned my head toward the usual scattered mess of macabre arts-n-crafts object that forever littered Luke's desk. Most of it had been cleared to make way for some latest project that he probably had been working on during the night; one of his tissue-ghosts had been carefully staked atop a pencil that was stabbed into an eraser to keep it standing, the head of the ghost being drenched in liquid glue, and had had an entire container of purple glitter dumped carelessly all over its head. It had covered the glue well enough and had been left to dry, but most of it was littered evenly across the desk.

Ugh. Why, why? What was the purpose of that? Why was this kid so freaking weird?

I reminded myself that it wasn't really fair to be complaining about my roommate at the moment, but I was in a rather impatient mood… I glared at the mess while getting dressed for the day, wondering if I could possibly borrow a vacuum from one of the cleaning ladies to get the glitter that had landed on the carpet….

The glitter.

A metaphorical light bulb 'ping!'ed above my head, and I quickly began to carefully dig around on Luke's desk of horrors. Being slightly familiar with his projects, I knew that the individual colors of the glitter he used seemed to come in there little bottles, good for packing away… a useless bit of information before, suddenly quite valuable now, if what I thought I could use it for was true.

I quickly found it, the empty purple glitter container, and looked to see if it would meet my needs. It was simple, a two-inch high, half-inch wide cylinder of hard, see-through plastic, and the screw-on cap nearby also made it thick, white plastic. The very top of the cap, however, was thinner than the rest of the bottle, enough to slightly see the discoloration appear when I put my finger on the other side.

It wasn't hard to find one of those heavy, sturdy, type of pens that professional companies and what-not had among Luke's things, and carefully, very carefully, I pressed the tip of it against the plastic… pop. A neat little hole popped through the plastic, and satisfied, I pricked another one, so that there were two holes on either side of the cap. I looped a string through them (string not being too difficult to find on the desk either), so that each end stuck out of one of the holes. Then, I took the container itself, and making sure to blow and rub out any excess glitter, carefully dropped the tiny rune into it, a perfect fit. I screwed the stringed-cap back on with the rune inside and double-knotted the ends of the strings together around my neck, pulling the container up with it.

I now had a perfect rune-carrying necklace.

Admittedly, I was actually pretty proud of it! It was an excellent way to make sure the rock was always in plain and easy sight for me, while still being secure from tumbling away someplace. And if anyone questioned it, I could just say it was a mere fashion accessory, I had seen plenty elaborate necklaces like it in places like Hot Topic; tiny bird cages, little magnifying glasses, other bottles filled with things like beads or rainbow-colored sand… it wouldn't be hard to believe that this one was no different.

My alarm went off, playing my favorite song, "Walk" by Foo Fighters. It was one of those alarms you could hook up to your personal music player, and Luke didn't offer any complaints when I had asked if he was okay with me setting it up, mostly because I think he liked Foo Fighters too, and usually needed help getting up in the morning anyway. Today we had both evidently gotten up early, a pleasant surprise from the norm, and with a rather victorious skip in my step, I flicked off the alarm, grabbed my school messenger bag and opened the door.

That gaiety however, was quickly killed, as I nearly fell backward screaming from the sight in front of me after I opened the door. I was shivering, and tried to calm myself, but I still felt the color drain from my face as I stared ahead.

There, smeared in a putrid, rusty-smelling, red lettering across the wall and other dorm doors, were the words, "GIVE UP AND WE MAY LET YOU LIVE".
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Urran
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New York Times Democracy

Postby Urran » Wed May 15, 2013 2:05 pm

lovely
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A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good just because it's accepted by a majority.
Applejack is best pony
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Postby Rocopurr » Wed May 15, 2013 2:19 pm

Your art is adorable. Have any more recent drawings?
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Greater Corea
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Democratic Socialists

Postby Greater Corea » Tue Jun 04, 2013 9:59 am

"Sometimes the most amazing of arts is unknown to the world."
Quote from me. Keep posting/drawing/writing!

I love all your work! :hug:
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Shnercropolis wrote:
Greater Corea wrote:
...Corea was attacked by some enemy and thus troops stay high for defense porpoises.

aww yeah.
http://www.guns.com/wp-content/uploads/ ... ins-5.jpeg

Greater Corea wrote:
Ranoria wrote:...

"He's dead Jim"


:( "Spock, If I get back, we really need to talk about your bedside manner."

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Cheri
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Postby Cheri » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:13 pm

That's pretty awesome. :)
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Postby Urran » Sat Nov 30, 2013 5:34 pm

I adore Giovenith
I Am A Member Of The Best Roleplay Community :D
A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good just because it's accepted by a majority.
Applejack is best pony
The Blood Ravens wrote: How wonderful. Its like Japan, and 1950''s America had a baby. All the racism of the 50s, and everything else Japanese.

I <3 James May

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Giovenith
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New, Better Stuff!

Postby Giovenith » Sat Dec 05, 2015 5:37 pm

Euroslavia wrote:
Giovenith wrote:Are personal art threads subject to the same conventional rules about gravedigging?

Like, if I haven't posted in my art thread in a year or two, can I just go ahead and keep posting in it without fear, or do I need to make a whole new one?


Feel free to post in it without fear. Link to my post in the post you want to make (this one), saying that it's okay (Just in case anyone were to report it).


PL Halloween
[*]Pippa
[*] Gio
[*] Willow
Moar Gio
Basic Willow

Pre-classical pony era
Queen Platinum
Lt. Star Catcher, "Godric's muse"
A certain someone
Fire Rainbow (young Commander Hurricane), basic
Lieutenant Star Catcher, basic
Commander Hurricane, "I send the sword"
Princess Platinum and Clover the Clever
Queen Argenta
Lt. SC poses
CD in modern clothing
Clover the Clever
Puddinghead and Smart Cookie

Modern ponies
Willow Streaks, basic 2
Human Willow Updated
Fem!Willow
Willow snapshots
Cherub Antigonus
Toola-Roola, basic (and cute!)
Toola-Roola, "Heartbreaker"
Toola-Roola, DRESS FOR A QUEST!
Human Toola-Roola
My Toola + Canon G4 Toola
Ms. Alma Pasternak
Allegra Lovelace
Last edited by Giovenith on Mon Jul 30, 2018 2:11 am, edited 14 times in total.
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Giovenith
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Left-wing Utopia

Postby Giovenith » Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:21 am

"The Toymaker's Daughter"

She awoke with a gasp and wheezing coughs as ice water hit her head like a brick, drenching her hair but doing nothing to ease its gnarls. They'd come about from layers upon layers of glitter hairspray but had taken on a much grungier composition as a result of the hours spent in the bleary room, which without her glasses seemed to her like a blurred mirage of buzzing lights whose painful brightness somehow did nothing to pierce the darkness around them. She was never able to see what was coming or lurking about because of it. The only thing she could see clearly was the dirty bottom and bars of the cramped cage where she was held and whosoever chose to reveal themselves by pressing their face close to it.

Whoever had dumped the water on her tossed the tin bucket aside and was now walking around in the blurred shadows attending to something. The distinct clunking of male leather shoes, casual coughs, and the clanging of various metal tools rang distinctly in her ears, some sensory compensation for her lack of proper sight, and they continued on as the man refrained from becoming distracted by the sudden rattling of the cage and the voice coming from it.

"Mr. Krupin," she called out into the dark blur, gently pressing against the bars. "Mr. Krupin, please, I can't keep sitting like this."

There was no answer. There was only the tinkling sound of some sort of spinning tool. Her heart rate accelerated.

"Mr. Krupin, I want to go home," she pleaded, her voice cracking. "I'm so, so sorry, I should have done better, you can just put me on waiting next time and I won't-"

She gasped and scrambled back as best she could in the cramped space as the sole of the man's shoe collided violently into the side of the cage. She trembled in preparation for whatever was coming next, wiping at the stinging tears that threatened to mix with the crusted blood around her nose brought about by his last visit. A few long seconds passed and nothing else happened, though she did not cease to shake as her boss crouched low with his hands on his knees and a cigarette propped between his lips. She covered her nose and closed her eyes as he blew smoke into her face.

"Elena, Elena, Elena," he sighed sympathetically in a rumbling voice. "You are too pretty for this, you know? You're one of my prettiest girls. That's what I need you up there on stage, you're a customer favorite." He took another drag and puff. "I don't like being hard with my pretty girls, but sometimes you just give me no choice." Mr. Krupin considered her bruised and dirty face as if he was considering a person who'd only had a mildly stressful day. She looked like a bundle of broken dreams shaking there in her torn sparkly dress and smeared make-up. "You want some bourbon, hun? It might loosen you up a little so you'll do it right this time."

Elena was burbling soft cries now, hiding her eyes with constant wipes. She shook her head.

"The sooner you get it right, the soon you'll go home."

The cold from the ice water settled into her already stiff limbs and protested at even the suggestion. "I'm tired..." she whimpered softly.

"You're a lazy whore, that's what you are!"

Dropping the sympathy act, Mr. Krupin ripped open the cage door and thrust an arm inside, feeling around until he caught a fistful of the shrieking Elena's yellow hair and dragged her out, her malnourished form no match for his strength. He pulled her up only to forcefully throw her down against the dusty floor before turning around and walking across the room. Afraid of what myriad of things he might do to her with the tools she'd heard, Elena scrambled up and made a run for the door, bumping into several unseen boxes and other objects as she did. Betrayed by the dark and her already poor eyesight, she wasted what precious few seconds she had desperately feeling around for the lock before Mr. Krupin grabbed her hair again, laughing this time.

"Where the hell are you going to, sugar?" he asked, practically wheezing with his cackles. "You know how they feel seeing your kind running around a nice part of town like this. The deputy'll just bring you right back to me, don't embarrass yourself."

Elena struggled towards the door despite his grip on her, not caring if he ripped her hair out of her skull if it meant escape, but she was quickly indisposed by a heavy tin can to the face. It didn't knock her out, that wasn't his intention, but the sharp, jagged rim of the hastily opened top tore against her forehead. She screamed in pain as she felt warm blood flow over her eye, and Mr. Krupin let go of her hair only to deliver a heavy slap which sent her to the floor again.

"You stupid bitch, look what you did to yourself!" he screamed at her. "You think anyone's going to want to see that gash on you?! It's just one-" he kicked her, "- fucking-" Kick, "- thing-" Kick, "- after-" Kick, "- another with you, isn't it?!" He gave her one last good kick for measure before turning his back on her crumpled form to retire to a rickety chair by a desk, picking up the cigarette he left sitting in a tray and taking a stressed, bitter drag. He listened to her cry for a minute before finally collecting himself. "Tomorrow we can get Gladys to try and see what she can do with make up. If anyone notices it and walks out though, you're going to wish the cage was all you got. Now get your ass over here and do the routine — correctly this time."

The fight was all gone out of Elena. She knew the only way to get out of here was to do what he said. Getting out the last of her coughs and giving her gash a hard wipe, she slowly got to her feet and timidly walked over to stand in a still position. Mr. Krumin's hand slowly reached over to a record player on the desk, flipping the switch and setting the needle down. Cheerful music filled the room and Elena sang along with it.

" 'I'm a little teapot, short and stout,' " she sang as gaily as she could muster, going through the simplistic dance number. " 'Here is my handle, here is my spout! When you tip me over-' " Her smile dropped and her eyes grew wide as she realized her mistake. "No! I-I mean-"

Mr. Krupin's fist slammed against the desk and he raged, sending Elena scrambling backward in fear. "No, no, no! It's 'When I get all steamed up, I just shout - tip me over and pour me out!' "

"I'm sorry, I know that! Just let me try agai-"

"Long hair, short brain!" he spat, standing up and knocking the chair over. "How do you manage to dress yourself when you can't even manage this?"

"I-I just-"

"Maybe you're just not cut out for show business, eh Elena?" He towered above her with a suddenly blank look on his face. "Maybe you're right; maybe you would be more valuable put to other uses. There's always a demand for girls like you in other parts of town — maybe down the street on Main Corner."

She shook her head. "Just play the song again."

"Some of the other girls have been asking for extra hours."

"Mr. Krupin, stop, I can do it!"

"Oh no, no Elena, I'm stuck on this idea now," he rubbed out his cigarette against the desk. "You see, what with the wars going past their prime, people have been complaining about shortages. Everything's being shipped off to the troops, and a lot of families have been having trouble looking for a decent fill."

" 'I'm a little teapot, short and stout!' " Elena began to do the routine again regardless of her boss' words, desperately attempting to force the point. " 'Here is my handle, here is my spout! When I get all steamed up, I just shout-' "

"There's a lot of our special little guests out there who are more concerned with an empty belly than with hearing their favorite song done well."

He had to be joking. He was just trying to scare her to keep her in line. That had to be it. She continued to ignore his words and work through her routine.

" '- Tip me over and pour me out!' " She did a pouring motion that lead into a little bow, the way it was supposed to. She stayed that way, not daring to speak or rise, waiting through the silence for what she thought would be his inevitable warning for her not to screw up again, or a demand for her to perform it again, or even his declaration that she was fired - something. But after one second too long, Elena slowly rose her head to look up at Mr. Krupin's face.

He was smiling. It was the same smile he gave when a particularly well-dressed daddy walked into his establishment with his princess in tow, the smile that looked forward to counting the extra bills. Mr. Krupin had never been particularly kind to his employees, but the look in his eye now...

Hot tears streamed down her cheeks and her mouth went agape. "I have a baby," she squeaked, pleadingly. "She's only two."

Mr. Krupin chuckled darkly. "Don't worry about her. Nobody likes theirs scrawny."

Even after all she had been put through — the beatings, the burns, the berating — not once had this place truly become Hell before. That changed now. Elena's stomach dropped into a bottomless pit, and she stared disbelievingly up at her boss as she slowly walked backwards. Unlike before, Mr. Krupin did nothing as she turned around and made another break for the door, watching her with the same smile scramble around for the locks before she finally located them, threw open the door, and ran for her life.

Elena explained nothing as she rushed down the hall and into the dining area - giant teddy bears were propped in each corner, sparkling balloons lined the ceiling, and dozens of tables were occupied by families with their young daughters. Several looked up at her and their jaws dropped in shock.

"Mommy," one girl tugged at the puffy sleeve of her mother's fancy dress. "Why does that pony look so dirty?"

The bruised, bloody, and dusty Earth pony mare stood out in sharp contrast from all the others of her kind decked in maudlin dresses of lace, ribbons, and sparkles. Some sported menus and trays, others stood up on a stage and had been in the middle of performing various nursery rhymes, all of them had stopped to look on in horror and shock at their coworker's state. They'd known she'd been taken back to be disciplined, but they hadn't believed Mr. Krupin would ever let her back out without forcing her to clean up for the customers' sake. The human parents attempted to shield their children's eyes from the sight, and one pony — whose name tag said "Princess Chocolate Sunshine Galore" but was really named Gertrude Khayke — quickly approached the stage mare and tried to intervene.

"Elena!" she whispered worriedly. "What is wrong? Why are you-"

Elena shoved Gertrude to the floor and galloped full speed through the gasping dining room, plowing down anyone in her path. There was nothing anyone here could or would to do help her now, her only chance was to run, get out as fast as she could and jump the next trolley out of town. Get home. Never come back. They wouldn't follow her all the way. Those were her only thoughts as she slammed her hind legs into a security man's stomach and sent him flying, ignoring the screams it produced from the humans present and charging out the front doors to The World's Biggest Tea Party dining and entertainment, nearly knocking over the sign out front that read, 'Real Ponies Inside!', and galloping into man's world.

The towering two-legged pedestrians quickly leaped out of her way knowing what was good for them, but not without hurling several curses and slurs her way, a few women swiping their bags at her back and bouncing pieces of garbage off her head. Elena paid no heed, she couldn't afford to, Krupin and his men could have started after her at any time. They'd given her a head start only because Krupin enjoyed a hunt. She needed to avoid them as well as the police who would arrest her for occupational truancy and bring her back to their clutches, who would either never believe her if she told them what he planned to do to her or turn a blind eye completely and congratulate him for making the nation a little cleaner. Her wounds screamed and her muscles were close to cramping, but she kept on running, running, until she slammed herself up against the glass of the ticket booth at the trolley station. The man inside was startled, lowering his newspaper to see a desperate bedraggled pony banging her hooves on his booth insistently.

"Mr. Meier, I need to get on, please!" she begged.

The ticket man, shocked and frankly disgusted by the equine's state, waved an arm at her and yelled muffled demands to get lost.

"Mr. Meier, it's Elena Pasternak!" she was practically crying now, frantically searching around her person only to realize that she had left her trolley pass in her purse back at the restaurant. "You've seen me here a hundred times, you have to let me on!"

Shouts erupted behind her, and Elena looked over to see blurry but unmistakable figures in the distance shoving their way past pedestrians and pointing towards her urgently. Realizing there was nothing left to lose, the mare ignored Mr. Meier's swears as she ran ahead and leaped right over the turnstile and into the station. She really was on her own and against the clock now. Her heart thundered a million beats a second and sweat ran down her brow as she briefly stopped to search out the time. There should have been one here, it was usually empty of riders, but it was here!

She cried out slightly to herself as she heard the exchange between Krupin's men and Mr. Meier, an action which made her realize just how dry her throat was from both her running and terror. The only place left for her to run was through the rest of the station and into the deep city beyond it, far from home and even further from safety. She would get easily lost, pointed out, and caught there, assuming she even had the energy left to make it that far. Oh please, oh please God if you were out there, please-

Ding, ding, ding!

Elena swung her head up and felt her heart soar as she saw the familiar square face of the trolley coming around and pulling into the station. Yes, yes!

"Stop!" a man shouted, and she looked behind her again to find her pursuers filing in past the turnstile and charging after her.

Elena picked up her gallop again, throwing all the energy she had left into running down to meet the trolley at its stopping point. People filed out but few were coming aboard, meaning that the trolley would leave sooner than usual. Elena would have to be just in time, and the men chasing her just not. The drop-offs had just cleared by the time the pony reached the loading spot and the trolley already began to move. She jumped, hoping against all hope, and gasped with relief as she made it through the open door — then yelped again in shock as she felt a hard tug on her tail, forcing her grab hold of the edges of the door frame with what little grip her hooves possessed as one of Krupin's men hung onto her tail and ran as fast as he could to keep up with the accelerating trolley.

"Equus bitch, let go!" he screamed at her, the leather soles of his shoes scraping against the station pavement as the trolley dragged him along. He attempted to reach out a hand to grab hold of the door frame and pull himself in but was repelled by a sharp nip from the mare, nearly losing one of his fingers.

"No!" she screamed and began to try her hardest to deliver backward kicks to the man while maintaining her balance and grip. The trolley was coming up towards the end of the loading dock, meaning that if the man couldn't climb in he would have no choice but to either let go or drag her out, if she could dislodge or at least outlast him she would be home free. "No!"

The man tried his hardest to hold on, run, and dodge the small horse's kicks all at once, not eager to lose a tooth or get a concussion, but it was no easy task. He tried again to reach out for the frame but couldn't manage to do more than graze it with his fingertips, so fast was the trolley moving now that it was just outside of his running pace's reach. He heeved to put on an extra burst of speed if only because he did not want to wind up losing his footing and thus his face as the trolley dragged him against the concrete. It was in doing this and the lapse in concentration that came with it that he left himself vulnerable to Elena's hoof nailing him in the jawbone, breaking his grip on her tail and sending him rolling across the dock just as the trolley zoomed past it and onto the main tracks.

Elena heeved herself fully into the trolley train and collapsed sobbing onto the floor, not caring about the dirt and discarded wrappers that littered it. She'd just escaped certain death and her heart was a wild maelstrom of relief, terror, and panic. She hacked and coughed terribly from the crying not mixing well with her dry throat, and as she stood up she began to wonder what they would do now that she could never go back. Mr. Krupin had been evil, more evil than she had imagined, but he had paid well for what was available to them. He was also one of the few jobs available outside of their reservation, which even if she could get another, would she ever be safe walking around in the city with him there again? How would they be able to continue to afford food, medicine, the baby's diapers? What about all the mares who were still working there, could it only be a matter of time before Krupin began to look for reasons to do the same to them?

Elena shook her head and wiped her face. It was okay, she would get home. No job was better than dead. She would be able to tell the husbands and families of the other ladies, and they would warn them once they got home and tell them to spread it to the rest of the workers. They would hopefully all heed her and quit, which she was sure they would, especially after what they had seen with her escape. Elena knew there was no hope in ever bringing Mr. Krupin to justice, but at least ponies would be a little safer. Yes, the only thing that mattered now was getting home, where she would fix what she could and deal with tomorrow's hardships as they came. She sighed deeply, relaxed by the rhythmic humming of the trolley's tracks, and lifted her head to find the young conductor pointing a pistol directly at her face.

The trolley slowed to a squeaky stop several tracks ahead in view of the station, and in seeing this, Krupin's men took the liberty of walking down the employee-only dock stairs and racing across the gravel toward where it had stopped. Given their buddy from earlier was currently nursing his jaw against a napkin full of ice back at the station, they all felt a little cautious approaching the door, but were relieved to find a shaken conductor of about nineteen stumbling out instead of a wild bucking equine. He leaned against the doorframe and fanned himself with his cap, taking deep breaths to calm his rising panic.

"I, I," he stuttered inbetween breaths, unsure of what to say to the men (or to his boss later).

The men pulled him out of the way and one hopped onto the car's steps only to find it unexpectedly slippery. He looked down to see the imprint his sole left in a sticky red puddle and visually followed the source it pooled from to find the crumpled Elena on the floor with a sizable hole in her head. Blood quickly poured over her fixed but empty gaze, staining the whites and erasing the festive violet of her eyes from the world. He winced, knowing he wouldn't need to check for a pulse, and felt pity for whoever it was that would need to clean up the splatters from the floral wallpaper before the stain set too deeply.

The conductor sat on the ground surrounded by the other men, his knees tucked to his chin and his fingers brushed through his hair as he stared ahead in shock, replaying the moment over and over in his head and lingering on the look in the pony's eyes before he pulled the trigger. He hadn't been able to tell that it was female until after it was dead.

"She," he breathed, looking up at the man unboarding the car helplessly. "She didn't buy a ticket... I just heard the commotion, I didn't think, I..."

The unboarding man smiled, knelt low, and gave the conductor's shoulder a friendly shake. "Hey, if they didn't want it to happen, they shouldn't commit crimes, right?"

"We'll take it from here, son," another one of the cronies reassured, leafing through his wallet and stuffing a hundred dollar bill into the young man's clenched hands. "Hard working boy like you? Take you and your girl some place nice tonight, you've earned it."

Several of the other men gave the conductor thumbs ups and approving slaps on the back as they moved in to collect the body, which seemed to calm him a little but did not completely clear his conscience as he stared blankly at the bill between his fingers. None of the cronies were terribly worried about how he would fare, their focus was on the now slightly messier but much easier state of their task and the handsome cut of both cash and beef they would get once all was said and sold to the butcher on Main Corner.

~

The alarm clock sprang to life at 4:30 like always, the chiming of its rusty bells stirring Fortunato from a dreamless sleep. His tired mind teased how tempting it would be to roll over again once he silenced it but knew better that there was work to be done. The old stallion forced himself up from his bed, neatly made it, and walked to the tiny cracked mirror hanging above the dresser where all his brushes and treasured assortment of cheerful bowties sat. He tidied his tri-colored hair just so, gave his teeth a shine, and picked the tie dotted with many little smiley faces, ready to face the day.

Before heading down, of course, there was always one last thing to check. He quietly made his way down the hall and stopped at a door covered in chipping white paint. Gently turning the knob and opening the door just a crack, he could see one purple eyelid tucked beneath a fluffy mop of squash-yellow hair, blankets, and an old stuffed Pomeranian doll, the beady eyes of which still glinted cheerfully back at him. He felt a sense of peace at the slow motion of the sleeper's breathing and quietly shut the door with a smile. She had a good two more hours before her work began, and he wanted her to get her full rest. He finally made his way downstairs, fetching his apron from its hook on the way down, and turned round the corner into his workshop.

The familiar smell of wood and paint greeted him before he turned on the light, which flickered twice before illuminating the various jars and boxes of buttons, stuffing, and tinkering tools. Half-finished playthings sat patiently according to type on their own table each. One for stuffed animals and dolls, one for mechanical toys such as Jack-In-The-Boxes, one for outdoors equipment, and finally the one he wound up striding up towards: woodwork. There sat his most important project, a collection of stacking blocks recently dried from their paint job. They were for all purposes finished, but eternally dedicated to quality, Fortunato sat down and spent his morning in thorough inspection of each and every one. Each cube had a letter of the alphabet carved in elegant but legible font, the capital and lower cases taking up two faces while the other four sides sported carvings of an animal that's name began with that letter, a number, a color, and a random symbol (flower, smiley face, moon, etc.) When he was finally satisfied at the lack of imperfectons, he collected them all and carried them to the giftwrapping table where he neatly arranged them in alphabetical order into a box, placed the lid, and sealed it closed with a lovely, expertly tied ribbon. The final touch was a little doodle of a rainbow coming from two clouds on the front of the box — his business signature.

He finished just in time to catch the jingle of the entrance bells. He carefully set the box on his back and trotted out to greet the early customer, a brown and green stallion who removed his hat politely upon approaching the desk. The toymaker set the box down on the counter. "Good morning, Nikolaus," Fortunato greeted. "I have your commission right here."

Nikolaus Schreier grinned excitedly as he took the box into his front hooves. He gave it a gentle shake and smiled even wider at the rumbling of the blocks inside. "I cannot thank you enough, Mister Pasternak. Elisabeth is going to adore these."

"How is she doing?" Fortunato smiled, ears folded. "Listening to her teacher, I hope."

Mr. Schreier's own smile weakened as he brushed a hoof across the soft box lid. "She's trying. The surges are worse when she puts her mind to something, but she cannot live in a stupor forever. My wife and I are hoping that these blocks might help, that she might find a peaceful balance in learning little by little."

The stallions' attention was drawn by the thudding of stairs from the back followed by the emergence of a lavender young mare. Her yellow mane was done in its usual lazy bun, and she adjusted her glasses and green tie on the way to the front desk. Nikolaus Schreier nodded kindly in greeting.

"Good morning Miss Alma," he said. "No special occasions today, I see."

Fortunato smiled, reaching out and giving his daughter's hair a tussle. "Even on a special day, Pompom has always been an indoors girl. She's got no use for boys either, eh Pompom?"

"Heh, I can only pray that Elisabeth will grow up to be as sensible!"

Alma Pasternak had never been much of a talker even when she was small, so Mr. Schreier knew not to take it personally when she responded only with a dull stare and thin-lipped deadpan. The mare was in her late teens, but she had the soul of a bitter old grandmother. She certainly made herself up the part with such sloppy hair and relentlessly dour eyes. Aside from performing the occasional chore he rarely saw her outside of her father's home/shop, which made her sound like a perfect pet but in reality had more to do with her general disinterest in and distaste for, well, everything, than any old-fashioned sense of ladylike obedience or modesty. She was less the Pomeranian her father lovingly called her and more a sullen guard dog that knew well it didn't need to bark to strike unease into all that crossed its path. Mr. Schreier pulled a metal case from his coat, clicked it open, and offered it to her. "I'm sure shortages have been hitting you harder than us."

Alma nodded blankly but with gratitude as she plucked a cigarette from the box and tucked it behind her ear for her break out back later. Fortunato didn't like the shop smelling like smoke.

"I worry about you, you know," Mr. Pasternak told his neighbor, his voice dropping its usual cheerful politeness. "They're not getting any kinder in the city. I stand by my window at night and count who returns."

Mr. Schreier snapped the cigarette case closed and tucked it away. He knew well the deeper reason behind his neighbor's habit. "As long as you keep your head down and don't complain, it's workable," he said. "It's still the best money available. I understand why you'd stay here though, I would too if I had that option."

"Be careful, Nikolaus," the toymaker reached across the desk and put a hoof on the other stallion's. "And if you ever need anything..."

"As of right now, you've given me more than I could ask for," Mr. Schreier's smile returned as he held up the box of blocks. "More indeed. Good day to you, beloved Pasternaks. May hope always be with you."

"And you," Fortunato held a hoof to his chest and bowed his head in parting, lifting it to the chime that signaled his neighbor's departure. He kept his eyes forward and did not turn to meet his child's own hard gaze upon him.

"You did not charge him," she stated. Alma rarely bothered with rhetorical questions.

Fortunato slowly turned and made his way out from behind the desk. "The Schreiers could not possibly afford it right now, but their daughter needs the tools. Helping our fellows should come before money, Pompom. No one else will do it."

The young mare's face and tone remained neutral, but she retorted: "Without money, you cannot help anyone."

He wasn't insulted by the criticism. He instead smiled, reaching across to give her mane another loving tussle — it was little wonder her locks were hardly ever neat. "I know. It won't happen too much, okay? We'll get by. We always do."

Alma slowly averted her eyes downward in silent collection of herself as her father returned to his workshop. Always? She supposed, if you wanted to define "always" as surviving the tax collectors' wrath, then sure, they always got by. Windows could be replaced in time, after all.

She didn't know if the same could be said for Nikolaus Schreier and his family soon with the way city jobs were heading. Once happy to take their work as they scorned them, Fatherland's hypocrisy was beginning to dawn on itself and not in a good way. Alma couldn't be bothered to keep track of all the coups and ideological epiphanies that plagued the schizophrenic ramshackle that passed for a government overseeing her backwater country; hardly anyone could even bothered to keep track of the nation's name, constantly switching as it was between various pretentious cobbles of V's, Y's, and K's with every new "revolution," hence the near-unanimous choice to de facto refer it to it simply as "Fatherland" in common conversation. But no matter what the handful of little wannabe Hitlers and Machiavellis up there in the capital were trying their hands at this week, one thing would always remain consistent in their eyes...

The toymaker's daughter was ripped from her reverie by the chiming of the bell, standing a little straighter to attend to whatever customer had trotted in. She stared as a young stallion stood there with a wide smile on his face and lifted his hat in greeting.

"Howdy pard'ner!" the pony cheerfully exclaimed in thickly accented English.

Alma's expression didn't budge but she was confused. She could speak English, but even she didn't understand what he was trying to say.

"That's how you say "hello" in American," the young stallion explained in their native tongue, replacing his hat. "I'm hoping I'll be able to dine with the hospitable Pasternaks in New York, New York soon enough! We'll all have good jobs and finally get to partake in the legendary fine cuisine of Mister McDonald, yeah?"

"What do you want, Howard?" Alma asked bluntly.

The visitor's ears folded at the harshness of the desk mare's smoker voice, feeling a little intimidated, but summoned enough courage to trot up to the desk and lay down several rectangular pieces of glossy paper. "I'm going around town saying good-bye to everyone, and trying to convince them to follow me. I've won a trip to America from the raffle, I'm finally getting out of here!"

Oh, the raffle. Alma placed her hoof atop the tickets and slid them back to Howard. "We've told you before. We don't want any part of that."

Howard's smile fell. "Miss Alma, things will not get better here," he pleaded, genuinely concerned for his neighbors. "What are you fighting to keep?"

The raffle was Fatherland's latest scheme to wash ponykind out from their national fabric. Run like a sweepstakes or lottery, it was essentially a bribery to immigrate, with free passage provided to one of a list of countries the "contestant" applied for once a spot opened up. Of course it was only open to ponies — God knows there was no way in hell Fatherland would let any of its precious supply of human workers, soldiers, and childbearers spill out of the country — and the propaganda machine wasted no opportunity to paint this as a shining example of Fatherland's unending generosity and mercy toward equine kind. To say it wasn't tempting would be a lie. From what Alma had heard, the transportation was genuinely catering and the families of those who'd left had received plenty of letters and postcards confirming the ponies' safe arrival to their new homes and happy new lifestyles. But there were some, such as Alma and her father, who carried too much pride to fall to temptation. Oppression or no oppression, this was their country, they would not be run out from all they had known at the snap of the oppressor's bony digits.

"There are lands out there where kindness for all is law," the stallion insisted. "Where you can go where ever you please and humans are considered friends. Isn't that enough for you?"

"Are you going to buy something?"

Howard bit his bottom lip nervously, knowing that the "buy something" question was the first sign that Alma Pasternak was mentally counting down the seconds until she physically threw you from her store. He had to make his case quickly. "The city jobs are disappearing, and more ponies are leaving! There will not be a way to support your toy shop or yourselves soon!"

"If you're not going to buy anything," Alma began to push herself back from the desk ominously.

"I'll leave, I'll leave!" Howard caved, scampering backwards but not before giving the raffle tickets a shove back towards the desk mare. "Just, please, at least keep them on hand, won't you? Even if you never use them, just keep them close. Please think about it. I can't get you more once I'm gone, please just keep them. Please." And he turned tail and ran out the door before she could ball them up and throw them after him.

Alma snorted and dragged the tickets close, prepared to toss them in the trash bin. They were near the edge of the desk when the morning sunlight caught glint of the red and blue gloss and gave the young mare a pause. After a moment, she slowly took the paper into her hoof and gave it a few turns, analyzing the artwork: it depicted a nuclear family, mother, father, two foals, packed tightly together as they all squeezed themselves out the window to wave up at the ticket's holder, laughing smiles and eyes excited yet secure with the anticipation of a ride they were certain would take them to greener pastures. It was sunny, sentimental, and disgustingly alien here in the truth of her own faded and splintery world. To her, these tickets were a thinly disguised letter telling her that she was not welcome in the place she had a birthright to.

But to others, they were hope. It was this small realization that kept Alma from discarding them right there. There were ponies, ponies like Howard or Nikolaus Schreier, who looked at these and felt a tug in their chests, timid yet trusting, trepidation for a night when they could put their heads down without shaking at the thought of what their capricious country could, would, take from them next. It was easy for her to forget that not every pony had found acceptance with these things. Alma's hope had been her own to relinquish; she had no right to touch anyone else's. It was thus, for their own sake and not her own, that the tickets slipped over the edge of the desk, past the waste bin, and into the manila folder snug between the last week's finances and the inventory.
Last edited by Giovenith on Mon Jul 30, 2018 1:24 am, edited 1 time in total.
P2TM Mentor, TG w/ RP questions
♦ I wear teal, blue & pink for Swith


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