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About Literature / Hobbyist Member Ian Chisholm27/Male/United States Group :icongrammarnazicritiques: GrammarNaziCritiques
Truth can be harsher in a Crit
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“Every body loves her, you know?” The old woman sat on the stoop of a townhouse. She wore a thick dress and a long shawl, with scarves of blue and green on her head. Her crooked nose had one large wart. “Your mother is very busy. That is why she is late to come home every day.”

The girl at her side nodded. “Yes, Nanna.” She was a charming little maiden in black cargo jeans and a hoodie, with skin like gossamer silk, eyes like dewdrops, hair the color of walnut shell, so delicate and lovely. Her nose was in a book, reading by the fading sunlight. “I know.”

The old woman sighed. “She is so kind, so sweet-tempered. That is why she works day and night. She cannot say no to anyone.”

“Yes, Nanna.” A car drove past and the girl looked up, then back down to her book. “I know.”

Her Nanna's eyes narrowed, and the old woman smirked. “Did you know that you were born of a barley-corn, in a flower pot? She kissed the closed bud and it opened as a tulip, with you in its center. It's true, I helped your mother bring you into this world.”

“Yes, Nanna.” The girl did not look up from her book as a trolley went past, its bell jingling. “I know.”

“Ellise.” The girl looked up at the old woman, who smiled back. “I understand if you do not listen to me. But I ask one thing.” The old woman pressed a finger to the girl's nose. “You must treasure your name always. Don't end up like your mother. She was so kind, so sweet-tempered, that she married the first young man to propose. And now that her ex-husband no longer loves her, she must work day and night to feed and clothe you.”

“Yes, Nanna.” The girl nodded. “I know.”

The old woman raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you know do you? Well in that case, spare your eyes a little from that book. Sing for me, please.” The girl nodded and did as she was bade.

Ellise could sing with so sweet a voice that the like nobody ever had heard. Whenever she sang, the sun seemed brighter, the air cleaner. Birds came down to listen at the eaves, children stopped playing in the street, and grown men cried as they walked past.

That night, while the family slept, a woman with scarlet hair and wearing a mold yellow robe walked past the townhouse. She walked by again a minute later. On her third pass she crept to the door, jiggled the handle, and pulled a crowbar from her sparkling red purse.

When the door was open, the woman gestured behind her. A boy slouched closer, wearing a sickly green polo blazer and spotted yellow pants. His face was misshapen and deformed, his hair was falling out, and he couldn't stand in one place without leaning against something.

They entered the home. The woman grabbed everything of value as they stole through the house. The boy opened a silk sack wide for the items, which he carried over his shoulder. They came shortly to the room of Ellise, who slept in a white dress fit for a wedding.

The woman looked down on the sleeping girl. “Oh my dear. She is lovely.”

“Uh. Uhhhhh huh. Uh-huh,” was all the boy could say.

“Don't speak so loud!” The woman tapped her double chin several times, and then nodded. “Take her out on the river and put her on the Yacht and thence she cannot escape. We will get all your friends together for a party!”

When Ellise awoke the next morning, she was tied up and in a weather-worn, slimy green dingy with the words The Yacht painted on the side. A rope tied the vessel to an old piling in the middle of the river. She didn't cry when she looked about her and saw where she was, surrounded by water and no possible way by which she could get to land.

Two figures approached her, coming out of the morning mist. The woman in the yellow robe with her arms crossed and a gap-toothed grin, and the boy using a long pole to push a small raft of wooden planks roped together.

The woman in the yellow robe bowed most politely, at the same time that she pointed to the boy. “Here you behold my son; he is to be your husband, and you will take his name, and you both can live together delightfully!”

“Uh huh. Uh huh. Hi,” was all the bridegroom could find to say.

“Say something intelligent!” The woman sighed and looked back to Ellise. “We are of noble heritage, and you will not find a higher name. Now please wait patiently, as we are busy preparing the wedding hall and a grand feast.” She smacked the boy at her side. “Back to the dock!” And back they went, leaving the girl all alone.

She sighed and pulled her hands out from behind her. “Can't even tie a good knot.” Ellise rubbed her wrists, looked around, and sighed. “Wish I had a good book to read.”

Some time later, young children, swimming about like fishies, swam closer to the boat. They were laughing and playing, splashing each other with water, but when they pulled themselves against the side of the boat they stared in and were silent. There lounged Ellise, hands behind her head, singing.

Finally she stopped and stared at them. They stared back.

“What are you doing way out here?” asked one of the swimmers.

“Not much,” replied Ellise. “Singing to pass the time.”

“Don't you have any oars?” asked the children, their eyes searching the boat.

Ellise shook her head. “Forgot them. Could you go find me some?”

The swimmers all blinked at her. “That would be stealing,” one of them said eventually. “Why don't you swim for shore?”

“And get my nightgown all wet?” Ellise shrugged. “I'll stay in this boat.”

The children all looked at each other. They grinned and let go of the boat as one to slip back below the water. When they came back up, they were pulling at the rope where it attached to the piling.

They pulled loose the rope and waved. “Bon voyage! Good journey! Send us a postcard!” The Yacht and Ellise, slowly and gently, floated down the river.

Ellise drifted past towns and villages, singing all the while. Triple-wing airplanes flew past, buzzing low over the river. The air smelled of spring, and new flowers grew along the river bank.

An old salty dog of the sea was piloting his way upstream in a tugboat. Two other men were with him, a middle-aged man with bags under his eyes, and a young man with fair hair. They passed close to Ellise. The old man slowed his tug to drift backward alongside her.

The old man laughed and beamed back at his younger companions. “Oh, what a charming little maid! See how freely she sails! Now that's the way to do it!”

“Uh. Uhhhhh huh. Uh-huh,” was all the other two could say. The middle-aged man nodded. The young man's face was a bright red. The old man sighed and sped the boat up again.

Ellise continued staring up at the sky. The day was warm and bright, a lazy spring day. Some time later she stopped singing and sat up in her boat to stretch and look around.

The river had gotten narrower, with cobblestone streets on both sides, and the occasional arching bridge. Ellise passed below one, but the bottom was too high for her hands to reach. On the other side though, thick blue ropes were strung across this section of the river. Men and women wearing leotards in every color of the rainbow walked upon them, some with thin balancing poles, all with some kind of facial hair.

A man all in black, with a bushy black mustache and a soft round hat upon his head, flipped down to hang upside-down from his rope. He laid hold of Ellise's thin waist with his long arms and pulled her up and away. The Yacht floated on. Ellise wasn't frightened of the man, but she stared after the little Yacht that had borne her and would now float on without her.

With his ankles wrapped around the rope, the man carried Ellise above the water to the shore. He set her down, pulled himself back up on the rope, and helped Ellise onto the cobblestone street. Nearby was a large wagon, with the cramped lettering for 'The Psychic Circus of Mustachioed Acrobatics and Exquisite Delights' on the side.

Ellise stared at the wagon, and then at the man. “You're a circus?”

The man nodded, sniffed, and pulled out a thin cigarette. Then he smiled at the girl and pointed to the wagon. “May I offer you some food? We have honey, plenty of honey, far too much honey.”

Ellise nodded. The man took her to the side of the wagon. There he reached inside a compartment on the side and pulled out a jar of the purest golden honey. There were several hundred more jars inside the compartment. Ellise accepted the jar and opened it. As she licked a dab from her finger, the man took a drag on his cigarette and stared at Ellise.

“You are quite charming, although not at all like us. Perhaps that is why I find you so charming?”

The other circus members arrived then. The menfolk stared at Ellise, their beards grinning at her. “Join us! Join our circus and run away from your dull life!”

The womenfolk crossed their arms, their beards twitching with frowns. “She has skinny arms, with no muscle,” said they. “And where is her mustache? Her face looks very wretched without one. I bet she has no psychic powers either. Moreover, can she perform even one exquisite delight?”

The man in black shushed them all. He turned back to Ellise with a wave of his hand. “You have run away from your home, we can all tell this. And you wish not to go back? Agh, to spare your poor mother, I see. You should live with the circus. We will give you a new stage name and you will be paid well as a performer of exquisite delights.”

Ellise blinked at the man. She laughed, gave him a small curtsy, and walked away into the city without a backward glance.

All that long summer Ellise lived quite alone in the large city. To protect herself from the rain she slept in a green box which said Lettuce on the side. For food she gathered the sweet breads and muffins left on tables at outdoor cafes, dipping them in the never-ending jar of honey. She drank the fresh water that stood glittering on the same tables. But in the autumn people stopped eating at outdoor cafes.

As winter crept closer, so did the cold. Frequent snows dumped upon the streets and buildings, leaving the city a white slushy mess. Ellise left her Lettuce box every day wearing the rags of her nightgown and hugging a tattered blanket around herself. One day she knocked at a door, and when a middle-aged woman emerged to blink at her, Ellise prayed for a morsel to eat.

“Poor little thing!” said the mousy woman. “Come into my warm room and eat some of my corn.”

This mousy woman lived in a little apartment, warm and comfortable among the city slums. She had one whole room stored full of canned corn, and besides it a nice little kitchen and larder. The two talked for a full hour, Ellise eating a can of corn by hand, the woman rocking in her chair.

The woman sighed. “Perhaps you would like to pass the winter in my house; but then you must keep my rooms clean and sing to amuse me, for that is what I like more than any thing.” Ellise nodded and did as she was bade.

One day the mousy woman turned to Ellise. “My apartment manager usually pays me a visit, at most once a-week. He lives in a house on the other side of the city with many fine rooms, and he wears costly furs.” The woman grinned and nodded at Ellise. “If you could get him as your caretaker and take his last name, you would be well provided for. But you must not fail to sing him the prettiest and most touching songs.”

And when the apartment manager arrived that day, he stared at Ellise. “Uh. Uhhhhh huh. Uh-huh.” He shook his head and threw up his arms. “Well, there is nothing I can do about tenants having a guest.”

The apartment manager stayed several hours that day. And exactly one week later he was back, wearing mole-skin furs and a diamond necklace, to sit and chat for a few hours. He detested the sun and the flowers, and spoke of both with contempt. But he spoke very intelligently, with many large words. He had a name for every failed social program.

The mousy woman smiled and preened, listening to his every word. She made sure Ellise stayed in the room too. And when she told Ellise to sing various songs, the girl did as she was bade. The apartment manager and the mousy woman listened in rapt attention, and neighbors stood outside the door to listen as well.

One day the apartment manager took the two on a walk through an unused subway tunnel. He begged them not to be frightened by the dead man at the entrance. And when they arrived, there indeed was a man slumped against the wall, with a sign that read Will Sing For My Supper. He was covered in the rags of a navy-blue uniform and had a blanket wrapped around himself.

The apartment manager grunted and shook his walking cane at the body. “There is an end of all his fine singing now! Such a poor thing has nothing in the world except his singing and when winter comes he must starve.”

Later that night Ellise crept from the mousy woman's home and found her old Lettuce box. She carried it to the man in the subway tunnel, propped it up around him, and covered him with a blanket from the mousy woman's parlor.

The man moved. He was not dead, but only lay benumbed by winter. He stared up at Ellise.

She stared back at him, and finally she spoke. “Hello.”

He nodded. His throat let out a dry whisper. “Hello to you, my kind angel.”

Ellise blinked. “What are you doing here?”

The man was so weak he could only open his eyes a few times to look at Ellise. His voice was slow. “My fellow airmen flew south for a long campaign, but I was not content with the war. So I was put on leave, and had been living here in this torpid state when the snows came and grounded me.”

Ellise nodded. “May I help you in some way?”

The man smiled through cracked lips. “Some soup broth would be wonderful.”

When she brought the soup, he took it with both hands. “A thousand thanks, you pretty girl,” said the sick airman. “I shall soon recover my strength with your care. So please smile. Please?”

Ellise nursed the airman, who was revived enough by her care to sit up and converse with her. He had flown to many places and seen many things. They talked for hours each she visited. He was as eager to hear the things Ellise had learned from books as she was to hear the many things he knew from his travels. But Ellise always went back to the mousy woman's home without saying where she had been.

When the summer came, the airman was given his pilots license back. The war was over, and had gone so poorly that his commanders were happy enough to have one good airman alive. He offered to take Ellise to live with him on the base.

She bit her lip and looked away. “No. Thank you for offering, but … no.”

“Farewell, then, good Ellise,” said the airman. “Smile for me? Please? Goodbye! Goodbye! Goodbye!”

The apartment manager had offered to take Ellise in, and the mousy woman had offered Ellise all the wool and linen she could want to make new clothes to wear. Ellise spent that summer weaving day and night.

Every evening the apartment manager came to visit, and always spoke of his wish that the summer would soon be over, that there might be an end of the heat. And when winter should come again, that would be when Ellise would go to live with him.

Ellise complained to the mousy woman, saying she would not have the tiresome apartment manager for a caretaker, or take his last name.

“Fiddle de dee!” answered the mousy woman. “Don't be refractory, or I shall hit you with my sharp hand. I am sorry to say that you eat more than I expected, and I cannot keep you. His larder and cellar are full, and you may thank your stars that you can be so well provided for.”

Ellise sat on the apartment steps in her handmade coat and leggings. She stared at the sunset, and under her breath sang a slow song.

“Hello! Hello! Hello!” said the airman, walking past. “See, you are still smiling!”

Indeed, her smile was brighter than the sun. She ran and hugged the airman. “Why are you here?”

“I have quit the Air Force,” said the airman. “And with my severance, I have bought my plane from them. Winter will soon be here and I shall fly far away to the warm countries. If you will travel with me, I will willingly take you. We will fly over mountain and valley and sea, to those beautiful lands where the sun shines more warmly than here; where ceaseless summer reigns, and bright flowers are always blooming.”

Ellise packed a bag and was gone after one word of thanks to the mousy woman. They boarded the airman's plane and flew away to the south. They flew over mountains and Ellise grew cold, but she only had to huddle down in her seat behind the airman. They flew over farms and Ellise stared out over those patterns of lush green. They flew over the sea and Ellise gazed out over an endless blue.

They flew over islands, and stopped at the first one with an airfield. The airman went to fill the tank of his plane, for they had much farther to go. Ellise decided to stretch her legs.

In a patch of blue and green flowers a young man was sitting, wearing a crown of purple daisies. His hair was golden, his skin was tan, and his arms were strong. Ellise tiptoed closer. The young man looked up and his pale blue eyes opened wide. “Uh. Uhhhhh huh. Uh-huh.” He stood, took off his crown, and set it on Ellise's head. “Queen of the Flower Fairies, what is your name?”

Ellise's face turned red. “Uh. Uhhhhh huh. Uh-huh.” She looked down at the flowers. “Ellise.”

“You shall not be called Ellise any longer,” said the young man. “For that is not a pretty name, and you are so very beautiful. Henceforth the world shall call you.”

Ellise interrupted him, “No, thank you. I treasure my name.”

The airman walked up behind her, and Ellise took his hand. “Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!” cried out the airman and Ellise to the young man as they walked away into the sunshine.
New Tales - Little Ellise
Um … so I got a tablet for my birthday, and I loaded it with old Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, and the first one I read was The Fairy World, and the first story in it was Little Ellie, and that pretty heavily inspired this. If you haven't read it, imagine one of those old adventure stories where a young boy goes traveling through the world, having daring adventures and meeting strange people. Little Ellie is exactly like that, but also it's a story for girls, about a girl having daring adventures and meeting strange people. Of course it ends with her getting married, but the message throughout is that the protagonist was free to choose her own destiny. I did add my own little twists to the story, and I hope you enjoy it!

According to Wikipedia,… Hans Christian Andersen wrote 'Tommelise' in Danish and published it in the second installment of 'Fairy Tales Told for Children' in 1835. The story was chiefly his, though he did take inspiration from other tales of miniature people such as 'Tom Thumb.' Mary Howitt was the first to translate 'Tommelise' into English and published it as 'Thumbelina' in 'Wonderful Stories for Children' in 1846, while Charles Boner translated the tale in the same year as 'Little Ellie.'
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(Contains: violence/gore)
A beetle the size of a buckler buzzes through the air, its obsidian black wings a blur behind its pearl white shell. The lone insect circles above the swan boat, each bobbing in the swirls and eddies of wind and water.

Teal's eyes follow the beetle. The Paladin's bark armor is on the deck around her, leaving only her damp leather and chain under-armor. Her arms are tied behind her back. One hand is covered in dusty green scales, the other is made of rock, and her feet are human. Her hair is a frizzy, bedraggled mess. Teal sits in the back of the lead boat, surrounded by Rolf, Sorrow, and Bell. The former High Priestess has a dull orange corona of flame around her hands, and her palms are held facing Teal.

Rolf stares down at Teal, hands on his hips. “Ye could have been killed, Miss Teal.”

She says nothing, he gaze still on the beetle high above. Another beetle flies out of the mists starting to converge around the flotilla. The second one joins the first in circling, and Teal frowns.

Sorrow turns to the merchant. “I think I understand now, Mister Rolf. Miss Teal was experiencing the emotion known as anger. She could not help but act as she did. Tell me if I am correct, please and thank you.”

“A soldier does not feel anger at the face of her foe.” Teal grunts and looks down from the gray sky. “A soldier feels only resolve to fight. Kempf, A Soldier's Guide.”

Sorrow nods. “Resolve, I see. Father has often said that I am lucky to not feel emotions, at least on the field of battle.”

“Miss Teal.” Rolf sighs and shakes his head. “Ye must not seek revenge.”

She looks up at him and snorts. “It is justice when an officer of the law pursues criminals.”

“Do ye think I cannot tell the difference between truth and pretty words?” Rolf sits cross-legged in front of her and stares into her eyes. “Miss Teal. When ye were unable to move in the dust of Burroughs, I said many things to get ye moving again. I succeeded finally, and yet if this is how ye are going to behave I feel that I failed.”

Teal's eyes narrow at him. “Failed?” Rolf nods.

Sorrow looks from one to the other, blinking several times. “I think I was not present for this conversation you are speaking of. Give me the details, please and thank you.”

Bell sighs and shakes her hands to dismiss the orange glow. “You are dry enough.” She grabs Sorrow by the shoulder and walks away with him, to stand beside the blanket with Tress and the other two children. Sorrow stares back at them, until his eyes flash black.

Rolf lets out a deep breath, closes his eyes, and leans back. “It is never a happy day to come across a devastated village. But when ye spend yer days traveling, it is a possibility.”

“Are you trying to compare yourself to me?” Teal spits the words. “Everyone. I. Knew.”

“I am speaking now, Miss Teal.” Rolf opens his eyes and smiles at her. “Please only listen. This is what I should have told ye back then. So please, listen to me.”

He sighs and looks away again. “When my parents and I would come to a village devastated by magic or monsters or men, my mother was the one who knew best what to do. She is from a time and place in which shape-shifters were hunted publicly, whole villages of us at times. She knows what it is like to lose everything.”

Rolf's tongue emerges to lick his lips, and then flicks up to wipe under his eyes. “When we would find a survivor, hiding in some cellar or attic or tree or pit, my mother always said one thing above all.” He looks back at Teal and smiles. “Get them moving. Whatever it takes, get them walking again. They might not smile or speak or sleep for a year and a day, but if my mother can get them moving she believes they will live.”

“And so that is what I tried.” He shrugs. “At first I only kept ye talking. But then I tried to get ye to move, to stand, even to fight me.” Rolf chuckles. “But nothing had an effect on ye. I failed, and so I attempted my mother's last resort tactic. Ye are so wise, I thought it would not work. Or that eventually ye would give up on it when ye found a better motivation.”

His eyes brighten, and Rolf points over at the children. “And ye have one now! Ye can stop this scheming for revenge and protect them. Is that not the better aim?”

Teal's shoulders are hunched down, but she straightens up. “That is what I was trying to do. They have my children up there. I was going to save them.”

“In the stupidest way possible, Miss Teal.” Rolf rests his elbows on his knees, and his chin on his interlaced knuckles. “The Phoenix Army will use them in attacking this nation ye are bound to by duty. Defend the nation from attack and ye will recover the children. Ye need not attack the fortress.”

Teal looks away, to Tress. “I do not want any of them to die in war. Others may have been released from the magic, or will be released in future fighting. They could be anywhere.”

Rolf tilts his head to the side. “Have ye not talked with anyone who fought the creatures yer children have become? They are nigh invulnerable. Arrow and blade and spell do not kill them. I know of only three people proven to have even hurt one. Yerself while transformed, the mad assassin woman, and the Reaper boy.” He breathes out a puff of air. “Any one of ye I could suggest why, but explaining ye three mystifies me. But for now, we can assume yer transformed children will not be harmed unless the transformation itself does so.”

“That is not a safe assumption, Rolf.” Teal grunts and look down at the deck of the ship. “I was fortunate with the four who I know have been saved so far.”

“Oh, do ye believe in luck, Miss Teal?” Rolf grins. “What says yer book learning on luck?”

Teal scowls and drops her head lower. “Nothing I wish to repeat.”

The white mists around the flotilla grow thicker, so that ships several apart disappear from sight. As all vision fades to a field of white, only the creaking of the oars remains of each swan boat's naval neighbors. Lamps are hung from the back and front of each ship.

The two love beetles bob and weave in the air, dancing like fireflies. The buzzing of their wings is a constant whine. A third beetle joins them, its shell clicking and clacking.

Teal glances up. “What are those love beetles doing?”

Rolf stares up as well. “I believe they drink morning dew. This fog must be a banquet for them.”

“Yes, but they nest during the day.” Teal grunts, rises to her knees, and stands with a slight wobble. “Something is happening.”

Watching the love beetles, Rolf shakes his head. “What worries ye? They are harmless creatures, Miss Teal.”

“They are not acting normally, and that is suspicious. Soldiers battle first themselves, second their environment, and third their foe.” Teal twists her arms and pulls against the ropes, but her hands remain behind her back. “This is ridiculous. I should have stopped you from tying my arms. It is unlawful to restrain a paladin.”

“If ye promise not to go jumping in the lake again, I will release ye.” Rolf stands and motions for her to come closer. “Turn yer hands to me, Miss Teal.”

She glares at him. “I will free myself.”

The boat shakes as a wave passes underneath. Teal leans in to the movement, her eyes searching the lake surface. The rowers stop and cries go up from the boats.

Rolf stumbles and catches himself from falling. His head turns to stare at the sky. The love beetles are gone. “Miss Teal?” He takes a faltering step towards her. “Allow me to untie ye.”

Teal stares, her gaze following a long, murky shape under the water. “See to yourself, Rolf, and do what you can to protect this boat.” She takes off running, past Bell and Sorrow and the orphans. “I will free myself!” With a bound she clears the ship's rail and dives headfirst into the water, as the scales on her hand grow up her arm.

A swan boat on the edges of the flotilla explodes from below, from a three-toed claw thrusting up through the deck. The claw is larger than several people together and covered in white, reflective scales. It opens its talons and sweeps around, grabs several of Goldenburg's citizens, and drags them back through the hole. Those left behind scream, as the boat begins to split in two and take on water.

A crocodile covered in dusty green scales darts deeper. Its stubby arms and legs paddle at the water, and a loop of rope drifts away to the bottom of the lake. Teal spins onto her back, using her long tail to propel herself forward.

The swan boat flotilla dots the surface in a rough wedge shape. Their undersides look like large grains of rice, all arranged in the same directing against the watery blue sky. The oars thrash and churn the water, splashing but going nowhere.

Below the flotilla is a gargantuan creature swimming in a slow, steady circle. It looks like a snake chasing its own tail, but for the five multi-jointed legs spaced evenly along the body ending in the large claws. The head has jewel-like green eyes, a tapering snout, fangs that extend past its mouth, and whiskers like a catfish that trail far back in the water.

Another claw pierces up through a swan boat and pulls more people into the water, some of them pierced by the talons. They all struggle and squirm in the claw's grasp, air frothing from their mouths and floating away. The mouth of the creature opens, and it flicks one of the people on its talons backwards. Limp and bleeding out, they disappear between its jaws.

The crocodile shoots towards the white serpent. Teal intercepts a claw holding people and bites down with black teeth on the skinniest part of the arm. The claw shakes but does not release the people in its grasp. A green mold blooms across the white scales, originating from the bite. The serpent's infected appendage breaks free of the body, leaving behind a stubby, newborn arm. People swim away as the mold eats the discarded arm from within.

The serpent thrashes, its entire body shaking and making waves that pound against the flotilla from all sides. The monster swims faster. One if its claws comes up behind Teal and grabs her, taking her on a wild ride around the wide circle. The claw squeezes around Teal, and the serpent coils down and around itself to float suspended below the water.

Its head turns down to stare at her, and another claw pokes her leathery hide. Teal squirms in its grasp, but the talons hold her tight. After a moment she morphs back to her human form, her mouth clamped shut, her eyes glaring at the creature. The serpent tilts its head to one side. It opens its jaws and flings her inside.

Above, the water has become still. The flotilla still cannot see each other through the mists, though some swan boats are starting to row in various directions. Others cling to each other, using their oars to bridge the gaps.

Rolf, Sorrow, Sudo and the Count stand beside their ship's rail. They stare into the water.

Sudo murmurs, “The water is too quiet.”

The Count reaches inside his robe and turns to the others. “I have potions to give you four the ability to breath water.”

Rolf reaches inside his coat too. “I have the same, and my potions will last longer.”

The Count raises an eyebrow at Rolf. “My potions also make the drinker a better swimmer.”

Rolf sneers. “If I combine mine with a potion of strength, the effect will be the same for the imbiber. And they will be strong enough to pierce the monster's hide.”

“Oh.” The Count nods. “Good. We will use yours then.”

“Glad ye agree.” Rolf looks away and sighs. “I do not have a potion of strength though.”

The Count smiles. “I have one.”

Sudo shakes his head as the two men each pull out a potion. The Count gives his coppery red potion to Rolf, who holds it up next to a kelp green potion. A flask floats from his backpack and he pours the two potions inside together. They swirl and mingle, becoming a glowing yellow potion.

“The potion has become a good color.” The Count looks out over the water again. “Your alchemy shows promise. Use it well.”

“Um. Yes. Thank ye.” Rolf holds up the flask, frowning. “I can only make the one though. Who will drink it?”

The serpent's head breaches the water's surface behind them like a rising white pillar. The creature stands tall and thrashes its head from side to side, twisting and churning the water. It coughs and gasps, mouth wide open, a large bulge inside its neck. After a strong snap it dislodges the bulge and spits out a large boulder. The serpent dives back below the water again as the spherical stone flies toward the lead swan boat.

Sudo steps in front of the Count and flips open a fan of spoons in each hand. He catches the boulder between them, bends his knees, and sends it veering off to one side and into the deck at their feet. Sudo falls to his knees, shaking and breathing hard.

The boulder shrinks down and becomes a tall, rocky humanoid. Teal gasps for air and wipes at her mouth as her rocky skin falls to the deck. She grunts, her eyes searching the water. “Where did it go? I want a round two.”

His eyes wide, Rolf offers Teal the golden flask. “Potion of water breathing and strength?”

Teal nods and takes the potion, chugging it down in one gulp. She grimaces as a golden aura covers her skin. The Count hands her the earth maul and she presses the end against the rocks left from her transformation, forming a short stone lance. She leaps over the side of the boat again.

Rolf and the Count speak in unison, “What a woman.” They blink, and grin at each other.

Sorrow nods. “Give me a normal potion of water breathing, Mister Rolf, please and thank you.” He takes the pickaxe hanging from his side. His skin and eyes shift colors, and Joyous laughs. “I'll fight the big monster thing too!”

Below the surface, Teal speeds after the retreating giant serpent. Every kick of her bare feet sends her hurtling forward, and she nears the creature as it comes to rest on the lake bed. The serpent swirls around in the lake sediment, and a storm of dirt and sand springs up in an expanding cloud, hiding the creature.

Teal stops and flips upright as the cloud covers her. She floats inside the storm, with nothing besides brown water to be seen. Her free hand pushes forward, palm facing outward, and a blast wave of dirt and sand flies away from her. She pushes the sediment away several more times to clear the area around her, but the storm pushes back and she is surrounded again.

A claw emerges from the storm ahead of Teal. The talons are held together like a spiked battering ram, and they thrust towards Teal. She smashes her earth lance against the attack, pushing herself up and over the blow. The rock of her lance shatters, leaving her with just a handle again. The serpent's claw retreats into the storm.

Teal holds her wooden handle out again, and a round vortex of sediment forms into another lance of rock. She stares at the earth lance for a moment, and then holds her other hand out into the storm. More of the swirling sediment forms into a tower shield, thicker and denser by the moment, floating just in front of her open hand. She moves her hand around, and the shield moves as well. Teal nods and holds the tower shield in front of herself.

The claw returns, talons pointed for Teal like three heavy spears. She waves her earthen shield like a paddle, pushing herself to the side and around the blow. Another claw comes from below her feet, and she turns her shield down to face it. Her shield cracks, but begins to pull in more sediment and reform.

Teal raises her earth lance high and spears the claw stopped by her shield through its center. The three talons thrash and spasm, but Teal's lance has embedded deep in the scales and pokes out the other side. She holds tight to her earth lance as the claw swings away, taking her with it.

The serpent bursts free of the cloud of sediment and coils in the water above it, half way between the lake bed and the surface. One of the claws near its tail still holds two drowned and bloated corpses, while Teal is extracting her earth lance from a claw at its middle. The serpent flings a corpse into its jaw and chews with rough bites, staring at the glowing golden Paladin. She turns to face the serpent and readies her earth lance and shield.

The serpent-like creature blinks its large eyes. “Strange human.” Its voice vibrates through the water, slow and deep. “Why do you attack me?”

Teal's jaw falls open. She shakes her head and lowers her shield. Her mouth opens and closes, but no words make it through the water.

The monster flexes a claw. “Am I not mighty? Do you not fear me? You are strong for such a small creature, but I am ancient and wise.” Its whiskers turn forward to point at Teal. “You have weapons, but can you speak? If one of us must die, why should it be me?”

Teal shakes her head again and points to its lower claws. The serpent-like creature stares down at the final corpse, and then flicks the limp body up into its jaws. Its lips pull back in a toothy smile as it swallows the body whole.

“Do you not eat, strange - ?”

A black spear pierces out through its neck. The serpent-like creature blinks and coughs, spraying a clear white liquid from its mouth. Some of the silvery ichor lands on Teal, who only stares, motionless in the water. The monster looks down at the spear and reaches up with a claw to feel the thin spike, even as it pulls back through.

The serpent-like creature gurgles. “You.” It chokes and coughs. “You would kill.” More silvery liquid sprays from its mouth. “Kill the last?”

Behind it, a black scythe expands twice in Joyous's hands. He smiles, swings it back, and slices through the monster's neck just below the head in one blow. Its eyes go dim as head and body separate in the water. A melted, half-digested body floats up from its open stomach.

Joyous waves his arms around and dances in the water. His scythe shrinks down to its normal size and pickaxe shape, and the boy clips it to his side with a big smile. Then he shakes. His eyes go wide, his back arches, and his whole body goes rigid. The youth's eyes and skin shift colors, and he drifts unconscious in the water.

Teal blinks, and then darts forward. Her earthen shield disappears and she grabs Sorrow under his arm. The Paladin swims for the surface, her golden aura faltering.

A few oarsmen pull Teal and Sorrow from the water and onto the deck of a swan boat in the middle of the flotilla. Teal coughs and rolls Sorrow over to stare down at him.

He blinks and stares up at her. “I am fine now, Miss Teal.”

She shakes her head. “You killed it. That was a, a.”

Sorrow nods. “All living things must die, Miss Teal. So says the Damned God. Dragons live for a very long time. That angers the Damned God.” He blinks. “The feeling of its death was powerful. I did not expect that.”

Teal grunts and turns away from him. Silvery ichor drips from her hair. She punches the deck of the swan boat. “We must get to Riverside.”
High War - Chapter 18.3

Who thought I would have a dragon in this story? I didn't. I'm still not even sure the serpent monster should be a dragon, but I was inspired by an Eastern Dragon in its description. The original group killed a young black dragon at Peace Lake(which normally live in swamps and such) but that was before I made the nation one themed around dragons. Since the nation didn't find any dragons, I assumed there wouldn't be any dragons … but then I had the idea of a talking dragon confused by why someone would attack it, which mirrors the main characters of this story being confused as to why the Phoenix Army is attacking them, and that was too good to pass up. Plus a dragon is fun. Now for Zarah's chapter!

This is a part of my High War project, a story set in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language, and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.


Next: soon ...


Spider Man

“Happy Birthday, MJ!” Peter Parker says in unison with Harry Osborne, his best friend in the whole wide world. Across the table is Mary Jane Watson, the redheaded girl of his dreams. MJ blows out the candle resting on some sort of cupcake covered in palm leaves and brown grass.

Harry leans back in his chair with the biggest grin. “Hope you like this place. It usually has a two month waiting list, but I pulled some strings to get us a table for tonight.”

“It sure is unique.” Mary Jane looks around the room.

Large tribal masks and folk art cover all the blank spaces on the walls. A live band plays on a stage in the center of the dining room. Their instruments are a mix of reed tubes, hand drums, cow horn pipes and a curved lute, but somehow they're playing covers of popular songs.

“Yeah, I heard the king of Africa's son goes to school around here.” Harry stares up a yellow mask with its mouth open for a scream. “He built this place to keep him from getting homesick.”

“Seriously, Harry?”

“What? That's what I heard.”

“There's not just … There's more than one.” MJ sighs. “You know what, I have more important matters to address right now.” She picks up her chair, comes around the table, and sits next to Peter. She flashes a cheesy grin. “Sooo,” she purrs in a mock sultry voice. “What did you get me?” She emphasizes her question with a sharp poke to his chest.

“Hey I didn't pick this place for the atmosphere or the food.” Harry speaks with crumbs from the stolen first bite of MJ's birthday cake flying out of his mouth with each word. “Especially not the food. See this place never cards. That's why everyone comes here. Hey, waiter! Let's get some shots over here for the birthday girl!”

Mary Jane's face turns as red as her hair. Even in the crowded, noisy room dozens of heads turn to the sound of Harry's yelling.

OMG! The world slows down as Peter's thoughts go into overdrive. I was so busy trying to convince Aunt May to borrow the car for tonight, I completely spaced on buying MJ a gift! AHHH! Okay, think Peter, what are my options?

Option 1: Tell the truth. MJ, I had to get the car from Aunt May, and then I was busy fighting some villain with a fishbowl for a head, by the way I'm Spider Man … bad idea.

Option 2: Tell some of the truth. MJ, I had to get the car from Aunt May and it totally slipped my mind … yeah, she'll never speak to me again.

Option 3: Delay and find a last-minute gift. MJ, of course I have a gift, and I'll give it to you right after this trip to the bathroom which might take a little while … nope, too suspicious.

Option 4: Improvise?

“Come on, MJ. The best gift that I have is to be here for you.” Peter leans closer to MJ so the crowd noise won't drown him out. “I'm here tonight to keep you grounded, even while Harry over there tries to get you drunk.”

MJ shakes her head and blinks her eyes. “What?” She doesn't look convinced.

Peter tries to laugh off his lame first try. “But if you still want something, I guess there's also.” He reaches down into his backpack and pulls out a paper lunch bag. “Here.” He hands the bag to MJ as the live band hits what could almost be considered a crescendo.

Unfortunately, the necklace inside is Aunt May's. Her condition for taking the car today was to take her old necklace to a jeweler and have the clasp fixed. But then fishbowl-head attacked and that had to be put off, along with buying a gift.

Option 5: Give MJ the 'borrowed' necklace, discover the broken clasp, take it back from her with an apology and a promise to get it fixed tomorrow, and then buy something else. MJ, I went to have it fixed but then I saw this!

“Oh Peter, thank you.” MJ looks inside and smiles. She slides the bag into her purse before giving Peter a hug. “It’s beautiful.”

Peter's heart thuds in his chest, and thoughts of his plan vanish. Maybe Aunt May will approve of giving away her necklace? Peter sighs and returns the hug. The plan is good, follow the plan.


Another body was pulled out of a dumpster in Hell's Kitchen this morning. A contact in the coroners office leaked Matt Murdock the reports. The third this week. They all said roughly the same thing: High school age, red hair, affluent family, high BA content, and postmortem lacerations to the neck. That's too many similarities for these murders to be unrelated. Some psycho is running around Hell's Kitchen slashing teens. Not for long.

The latest victim had a receipt from the Happy Panther Nightclub down by the old docks. That's why after a long day of losing his shirt in court, Matt is sitting across from his best friend and business partner Foggy Nelson in a Wakanda-themed nightclub. Earlier Foggy ordered randomly off the menu and is now timidly picking through his dish which would not incorrectly be referred to as a scorpion porridge.

This place is packed to capacity with drunken, spoiled children. With the exception of the staff, Matt and Foggy are the only ones here that are past puberty. He needs to find the next victim before the killer does. Not an easy task considering that even though his miraculous senses allow him to perceive that what few others can, hair color is not among them.

Foggy is extracting the finger sized scorpions from his dish and piling them on his coaster. He jumps out of his chair in a panic. “Ah! Matt, one of them moved! Matt, get away from the table. The scorpions are alive!”

The scorpions are not alive. “Good. If it bites you, we can sue. Our firm can certainly use the money, especially after today's fiasco.” Matt Murdock is not in a good mood. The first day in court for Nelson and Murdock Law Office was a total bust. It was supposed to be a cut and dry case. A tenant fighting his eviction notice. The guy's been living in the same apartment for thirty years in Hell's Kitchen.

Matt and Foggy hit a wall with the case. The judge listened to their plea, case references, and city statues supporting their client, and then threw them out, letting the eviction stand. There had to be something else behind this, but Matt couldn't see what. He and Foggy couldn't even find out who was really evicting the guy. The building was owned through at least three different shadow corporations.

But right now, Matt needs to focus his attention on solving a whole different matter. He needs to get Foggy to let him know if there are any redheads in the vicinity without seeming too suspicious. Mat can hear raindrops starting to fall outside as he scoops a bite of his vegetarian rice dish.

“Did you read that study about the ratio of female redheads in a public place directly correlating to how likely it is to start raining?” Too easy.

Foggy turns around and checks out the room. “Huh, only one here. Wonder what that means.”  Foggy shrugs before going back to picking arachnids from his meal. Matt sighs inwardly. But where is she?

A wave of complaints buzzes around the club and collects in Matt's ear. “What happened to my phone?” “Ugh, no service.” “Hello, you still there?” A slight buzz, barely perceivable even by Matt's fantastic senses, brushes across his ears. Something odd is happening.

Three men enter the club. One is built like a tank, bleeding from the face, and held up by two others.

A man in a sleek black vest walks over to them. “What's going on here?”

“Call an ambulance, there’s been an accident.” The smaller man smells of gunpowder and metal polish. “Me and my friend Montana hit this big ape with our car, I think he has a concussion.” With a large groan the big guy crashes to the ground.

“Please, let's take him to the back. I'll call for help.” The greeter pulls out his phone and brings it up to his ear. He frowns. “It's not working. I'll use the phone in the office.”

“This guy weighs a ton. Little help over here, fellas?” Montana says to the bouncers. They rush over and help carry the large man to the back office.

No one else in the club seems to notice, too wrapped up in their own little worlds to give the situation any thought. Matt almost does the same, but then from the back office he hears the sounds of muffled cries and breaking bone.

A man with a deep voice grumbles. “I told you to make it realistic, not break my god damn face in, Dan.”

“Hey, hard part's over, Ox. Stop your belly aching. Just snatch the kid and you’ll have enough money that you’ll be able to pick up broads even with your ugly mug.”

The three men filter back into the room. They shove aside drunken teens and spread out around the club, walking back and forth as they search. Now Matt is paying very close attention to the three. He can hear one of the smaller two whispering to the other when they meet up at the other end of the room.

“Hey isn’t that Osborne's kid sitting by the redhead?” The one known as Dan slurs, pointing toward a table in the corner of the room. Montana gives a silent nod and motions the big guy to them at the bar.

Okay, the corner table. Matt turns to Foggy, coughs, and stands from the table. “Excuse me a moment, nature calls.”

He navigates through the room with his staff tapping in front of him. Matt plays up his blindness instead of using his keen senses to easily navigate the crowd. To the patrons credit, a couple of them even part to make room for him.

Spider Man and Daredevil

Peter's Spider Sense starts tingling. A man is weaving through the crowd. He appears to be blind but something is a little off in his movements. And his walking cane somehow seems not quite right either, as if it is more than meets the eye. Is he walking this way?

“Here we go, and a root beer for our good friend the designated driver.” Harry slides two drinks to MJ and Peter, and keeps the fullest one for himself. “To Mary Jane!” Peter and his friends clink their glasses together and down their drinks. MJ coughs and sputters. Harry grunts. “Ugh. Another round! Heh, hey MJ, some creepy fat old dude was checking you out. And his friend had sunglasses on. Guys like that should be put on some sort of list.”

Peter sips his root beer and sighs. “Geez, Harry, you'll make her self-conscious.” He reaches over and pours water into MJ's empty shot glass. “Don't forget your antidote, MJ. One for one.” Peter smiles at her. “Will you show us how the necklace looks on you?”

As Matt nears the table where he heard someone talk about being checked out by a fat guy, he smells perfume and hairspray mixed with feminine deodorant. That must be the redheaded girl. Now that Matt has his target, he walks up behind her chair. It should be a simple thing in a crowded club to make a blind man slipping over someone's purse seem accidental.

“Oh sorry, Pete.” MJ half-smiles and shrugs. “I didn’t want to get it stolen, we’re in a bad neighborhood after all. But I guess it was rude of me to put it away before trying it on.” She reaches for her purse, only to be slammed into by the stumbling blind man. MJ shrieks. “Ah, my purse!”

“Ooof!” Matt falls against the table hard and loud. It actually knocks the wind out of him a bit. He is determined to make it look real.

“Hey!” Harry shouts, crawling onto the table to take a sloppy swing at the man.

The table vibrates. The sounds of falling glasses and spilling liquids warns Matt of someone about to take a swing at him. Through the distraction something is even more troubling. The third person at the table remains completely still. Something seems unnatural about him. Matt can’t quite put it into words but he gets the distinct impression that the third person is something other than human.

Matt takes the blow on his face and slumps to the ground, acting dazed. It's not to hard to act, considering the surprising violent outburst. He figures this guy must be having a really bad day to hit a blind man for tripping in a crowded room. “I'm so sorry! Did I hurt someone? Can someone please help me up?”

He reaches out, waiting for a hand to help him stand back up. “It's just so crowded in here. I'm so sorry, again. I think I need to step outside for a moment, but I'm very turned around. So sorry to disturb your meal.” Putting on a panicked expression and rubbing his cheek, he looks helplessly in the young lady's direction. “Can someone help me outside? I think I injured my cheek somehow.”

After taking the outstretched hand and helping the man stand up, Peter sighs. “Good work, Harry. You hit a blind man square in the face. Nice one.” He squeezes the man's hand a little harder than necessary, testing his grip strength and also getting a firm hold in case he tries to run. “I'll help you outside, sir.”

Peter glances back at the table. “MJ, I'll be right back.” He points to her purse and nods twice, hoping she'll get the message to check if anything was stolen while the man was down on the ground next to it. “And don't forget to drink that water.”

On second thought, he grabs his backpack from below the table before leading the man away, his grip still firm. “Follow me, sir.” Looks like there are bathrooms, a custodian's closet, and some closed offices down this hallway. Should be a good place to have a nice, calm, friendly chat with Mister Suspicious while continuing to keep an eye on MJ.

Matt was hoping the redhead would help him out, but since it appears the odd man with the strong grip is taking him, he decides to put all of his cards on the table. Once they are away from the table he rests his hand on Peter's closest shoulder feigning a need for support. In a barely audible whisper he says, “There's no time to explain. We need to get both of your friends out of here now. They're in grave danger.”

“We?” Peter laughs and turns to face the man. They stand in the archway between the dining room and hallway, below a pair of tribal masks, one grinning and the other grim. “It's MJ's birthday tonight, and you nearly tackled her. Maybe you could explain just a little? Enough to let me know I can trust the blind man who doesn't quite walk like a blind man, with a cane that doesn't quite look like a cane.”

Across the room, Dan puts a hand on his companion's shoulders. “Change of plan. One spoiled rich kid's good as 'nother. Ox, you'll take that fake badge of yours and arrest that kid who wailed on that blind guy. Montana get the car warmed up. I'll wait here in case there's any trouble.” Dan says with an obvious effort to not slur his speech.

There's no time to waste. Matt drops the helpless blind man pretense and turns directly towards the strange young man. “I was trying to get her to leave the restaurant.” He senses something in him. Something about his smell is off and he has the presence of a body builder, even though his frame seems scrawny. Matt feels like he has to trust him.

“Someone's been abducting and murdering redheads. And there's at least three men here plotting to kidnap not only your female friend there, but the Osborne kid too. I don't know if it's related but this is happening right now. Did you notice the large man bleeding from his face? I'm more than happy to explain later, but if you don't get them to leave out of the back of the restaurant right now, this will be your friend MJ's last birthday.”

This is the best Matt figures he can do. It's all up to this odd kid now. If he believes him and acts quickly, Matt can help his friends.

Only one thing makes it through Peter's head. MJ is in trouble! How? Doesn't matter! He turns around. Three adults are at the bar. The one towering over the other two has a fresh cut on his face. That one nods at something and begins lumbering through the packed crowds to Harry's table. The blonde man that's dressed up like a cowboy heads out the exit while spinning a key chain. The last of the three, a man in a cheap suit, continues to drink. He looks like he's chatting up the girl next to him.

“I don't know how you can smell trouble, but now I see it thanks to you.” Peter drops the blind man's hand and pulls on his backpack. There might be enough time to duck into the bathroom and put on the costume, but the sooner MJ gets outside the better. “I'll look after MJ like you said. If you could do something about one of those goons, that would help.”
Heroic Spider-Man - Season 2 Issue 1
Unfortunately this is what they call a fall-back plan. But hey, it's a Daredevil crossover! And there's a part 2 coming soon!

To be perfectly clear, this is me and some friends playing a game of Marvel Heroic online, with only a few changes to make things presentable. Marvel Heroic belongs to the Marvel Heroic guys, the superhero characters belong to their respective owners, and I'm pretty sure I can't use this to make money so I won't even try. And on a more personal note, Marvel Heroic is a great game, thanks for making it. There's a bit of violence and bad language here, but I think it's pretty tame.

Next issue: soon
First issue:

A flotilla of swan ships bob in the water. Each ship has twenty oars to a side, and by dipping into the water like wings they propel the fleet forward. The decks are crowded with Goldenburg's citizens. They are seated at the rowing benches in teams of four, with others standing ready to replace them. Priests in white move among the rowers, touching a drooping shoulder or head. Children run from side to side, pointing at the water below.

The lead swan boat sways from side to side. The Count stands at the foremost point, his hand on the swan's neck, his golden cape billowing behind him. Sudo waits at his shoulder. This ship is crewed by Goldenburg's city guards. The brawny men and women grunt and sweat at their oars, no priests in white to give them aid and comfort.

A blanket is spread on the deck in the back of the lead boat. The two orphans are asleep on the blanket, with Tress sitting near their shoulders, her hands placed on their heads. Bell in her gray cloak stands on one side, and Teal on the other.

Teal stares past the flotilla to the shoreline a few miles away, where the charred Karth grows smaller behind them. She sighs and turns to Bell. “I must thank you, Priestess. For watching over the children.”

Bell nods and folds her arms. The hood of her cloak hides her face.

“And your assistance was valuable in discovering the enemy agents in Goldenburg.” Teal shrugs and reaches up to run a hand back through her hair. “If you wish to hear it, I have the time now to explain what happened to the agent you saw.”

The former High Priestess turns her head away. “Klax explained. He was killed by his commander. You and the other woman had nothing to do with it.”

The Paladin stares up at the sky. “Not much anyway. We brought trouble to your temple. If I had been thinking properly, we would have taken him to somewhere with rift denial warding.” She stares down at her gloved hand. “But I was not thinking properly.”

Bell's whole body shakes. Her folded arms tighten and she hugs herself. “I was the one not in my right mind.”

Teal's voice is light. “You were angry.”

“I was mad!” Bell spins around and throws back her hood to glare at Teal. “You don't understand! I was under the sway of a malignant spirit.” She brings her hands up and places her palms against her eyes. “And now, now I.”

Teal stares, her eyes wide, as Bell breaks down into silent sobbing. The Paladin looks down at Tress, who turns to meet her gaze. The child sighs and points at Bell. Teal winces, but walks around the blanket to put her gloved hand on the other woman's shoulder.

Bell's voice is muffled by her hands. “I thought I had grown stronger, learned control, made something of my life. But with one small mistake I was forsaken by Light. What can I do now?” Her hands burst into flame, and Teal steps backward. Bell turns, liquid fire running down her cheeks, and holds up her hands. “Why am I always reduced to ash and cinders, again and again?”

Some of the rowers are turning back to stare at Bell. Teal grits her teeth, steps between Bell and the children on the blanket, and places a hand on her maul. “This is a wooden boat. Please calm down.”

Bell nods and wipes her magma tears away. The corona of flame around her hands dwindles and goes out. She covers her hands with the long sleeves of her cloak, and pulls her hood back over her head.

Teal lets out a breath. “Okay. Good.” She stares at Bell. “What mistake? You have your fire magic.”

Bell shakes her head. “I was born with the fire, which is beloved by Light but not the magic He grants.” She sighs. “The ritual to call on Light's knowledge was my mistake. In opening myself to the higher powers, another presence entered my body and hid there, later controlling my actions to attack you. And for allowing such an evil into my heart, Light took back the divine magics he had granted me.”

“You were being controlled?” Teal blinks and tilts her head to the side. “I thought you were using allegory when you mentioned a spirit.” She nods. “Fine then. As Dromon the Elder said, 'We make war with magic. We must live with our comrades when the battle is won.' Mind control magic is a fact of war. Your god will have to forgive you.”

“I betrayed Light in turning my eyes from Him.” Bell huddles down and pulls the gray cloak closer around herself. “I am seeking atonement with humble repentance, but there is a chance I will not be forgiven.”

Teal snorts. “Your god can take it up with me. I forgive you, and Klax probably forgives you too. Zarah will have forgiven or forgotten, which might be the same thing with her.” She stares at Bell and shows a small smile. “That is everyone from the incident. You admit it was a temporary loss of your sense, and I believe you will try to do better next time. Any god who didn't forgive you after all that is worthless.”

A breeze whips across the lake and tears off the hood of Bell's cloak. She covers her eyes and crouches down beside the blanket, her hair shining in the sunlight. Teal stares down at her, sturdy as a rock. Tress reaches out and pats Bell's shoulder.

Bell stands, her lips curling into a frown. The former High Priestess mumbles, “You will not speak ill of Light.” She turns to face the sky.

Rolf paces back and forth on the forward deck of a swan boat. He stops every few passes to lean against the swan head and stare at the boat in front of them, some thirty to fifty helms away, where Teal is standing on the rear deck. Every time he stops, he resumes his pacing after a moment.

The closest rowing bench holds Sorrow, along with a thin middle-aged orc man in a suit, a tall and gangly human woman in a low-cut blouse, and an older Small Folk man with the leather apron and muscles of a blacksmith. The four stare at Rolf, their eyes following him as he paces.

Sorrow nods. “Mister Rolf, if you have a lot of energy, taking a turn at the oars will benefit you.”

Rolf snorts. “Me? Row? I don't have the fortitude. Nor the coordination.” He glances at Teal and scuffs his foot against the deck. “Ye might be better off without me.”

The thin orc shakes his head. “Nah, man. You can take a middle seat. It ain't too bad.”

The gangly human nods. “Yeah! I pick berries like most of the time and this is like a lot tougher than that.” She smiles. “But like everyone has to pull their weight because like the Count said so.”

Sorrow only rows, staring at Rolf. The orc grins at the human and bobs his head. She shrugs and smiles back. At the end of the line, the Small Folk grunts and says nothing.

Rolf scowls. “Well I am also doing a very important job of watching for enemies. Even in the middle of a lake, there might be all manner of beasts and monsters.” He pulls the crossbow from his hip and points in over the water. “We all have a job to do.”

Sorrow tilts his head to the side. “You have been watching Miss Teal a lot. But that does not make sense. I do not see why you would consider her an enemy.”

The orc and the human gasp. They smile at Rolf, who looks away.

The burly Small Folk chuckles. “You fancy the Count's favorite Paladin? I saw them two in the Forge during the escape. The Count was quite concerned for her safety. And the Paladin, she went out into the city, fought monsters, and then returned to his side.” He winks at the other three sitting beside him. “They've the makings of a real love story.”

The orc and the human gasp again and row a little faster.

Rolf turns on the Small Folk. “Ye are wrong there. Miss Teal doesn't like him. She can barely stand to be around him.” He scowls. “She leaves whenever he is around. Miss Teal doesn't care for him at all.”

The human sighs. “You don't understand like how girls think. She would run away if like he makes her feel flustered. But she would like keep coming back to get used to that feeling of like being in love.”

The orc and the Small Folk nod. Sorrow stares at them, his gray eyes blinking. Rolf grumbles and looks away.

A half-human priestess in white walks up to their bench. “Does anyone here need Light's fortification?”

The orc shakes his head. “Nah, lady. But I got a question. So Light is the god of birth, am I right? So does that make Him an expert on love?” He nods his head at Rolf. “This guy here is lovestruck, and he needs to know if the lady he likes is interested in another guy. Can Light help him?”

The priestess gives a shaky smile, as the blue patches circling her forehead turn darker. “Light does not grant the power to detect true love. Is that what you mean?” She nods to Rolf. “Light brings fortune to any quest for love, if the pairing should be one blessed.”

Rolf smirks. “By blessed, ye mean if the two are able to breed. Light is truly the god of rabbits alone.” His thin smile turns to a frown. “Yer god grants me nothing. I will make my own fate.”

The half-human shakes her head. “To meet the person you love is Light's work. If blessed love is meant to be, Light will show the way. You may doubt Light, but Light will remain.”

“Ye say that word, but love is not my desire.” Rolf laughs and clips his crossbow back at his hip. “May I be honest? There is a child present, so I will not be explicit. I desire only to make love, not experience love. True love was never part of my considerations.”

The Small Folk and the orc nod, sharing a smile with Rolf. The human and the priestess shake their heads, frowning at him. Sorrow looks back and forth among them, blinking in silence.

“I got you now, man.” The orc chuckles. “Staring at her from a distance won't help you. That's why I thought you were lovestruck. You've gotta get over there and say something, even a cheesy line.”

The Small Folk nods. “I was the same once, hiding behind a tankard of ale and staring at the tavern wenches. But I started making jewelry, and that's how I caught the eye of my wife. Maybe you can catch her with a hobby or craft.”

“Staring like some creep definitely won't like help.” The human sighs. “Gifts are nice but like she'll see through that. What matters now is like if she likes you back.”

The priestess closes her eyes. “Light tells me that, in the end, mutual attraction decides if love-making will occur. There is no such thing as a one-sided love.”

“Father has often said that he does not understand women.” Sorrow shrugs. “But he also tells stories of having many wives and many more lovers. Tell me if that means he in fact does understand women.”

The orc grunts. “Sounds like your dad is a rich, lucky bastard.”

Rolf grins. “No. The one he calls father is exactly the opposite, along with being a teller of tall tales.” He sighs and nods. “I will take all yer advice to heart, but I believe I have made my intentions clear to her. Perhaps she and I will never be, but I feel as if I must try patience a bit longer. I can watch her from a distance, at least.”

The rowers push their oar through the water without a reply. Rolf goes back to staring at Teal from the swan's neck. The priestess bows her head and walks to the other side of the boat.

Cries go up from the boats. Bell shades her eyes. “What is that?” She points at the sky behind them.

A mountain drifts out from behind the largest bank of clouds in the sky. The mountain is a great oblong shape in the sky, with jagged cliffs above and below. A stone castle crowned by spires and turrets sits atop the mountain. The five flags flying from the five tallest towers are black, white, red, green, and blue respectively.

Teal growls, “An earth mote!”

Bell's eyes go wide. She whispers, “I sense the one who controlled me. He is there. The Mad God.”

Brown feathers sprout through Teal's armor. Her arms become wings with a span wider than the swan boat, as the rest of her body morphs to become bird-like. Her body grows to twice its size. The roc flaps its wings and takes off from the boat, sending back a gust of wind.

A rift portal opens in front of Teal, but she swings around it. A line of red energy springs from the back of the portal and attaches to Teal's black talon feet, anchoring her from flying higher. The swan boat behind the lead boat lifts higher in the water. Standing on the deck of the boat, Rolf has his crossbow in hand. A thick crossbow bolt is planted in the dense wood at his feet. A line of red energy extends from the back end of the bolt to a rift portal at his shoulder.

Rolf shouts, “Miss Teal, that is a bad idea!”

The roc lets out a shrill screech and fights against the red line of energy. Sorrow and a few other citizens pile atop the crossbow bolt, holding it down.

Rolf grasps the line of red energy. “Think, Miss Teal! Even if ye could reach it, ye would have no support. Ye would be captured, or worse.” His arm bulges, and he yanks on the line. “Do not be rash!”

Diving back down, the roc spins around the rift portal. The line of red energy wraps around the rift, closing it, and the line shatters. With another shrill cry the roc speeds toward the sky. But its feathers fall out, as if plucked away by the wind. Teal rises for a moment, wingless and grasping at the distant flying mountain. Then she falls to the water below, landing with a cannonball splash.
High War - Chapter 18.2

Finally! Finally, finally, finally I got to the chapter which was inspired by the image I use for High War's cover. One of the original gamer groups did cross Peace Lake (the other went through the swamps like Zarah is doing) but I didn't think at the time about having the Phoenix Army's flying fortress come out of hiding while they were stuck in boats and couldn't do anything about it. Teal does try to fly up, but her wild shapes only last for three rounds; if Rolf hadn't stopped her, she would have fallen from a much higher place. But she didn't think about the time limit, because she was angry. Note to self – It shouldn't always be the male characters holding back their female love interests from acting emotionally. Although as we learn here, there was more to Bell's outburst than simple anger.

This is a part of my High War project, a story set in a D&D-inspired world that I have tried very hard to make my own. I really don't want to step on anyone's copyright toes here, which to some degree is not easy at all. I have no idea where the background of my preview image comes from, as far as I know it came from a free image site; if you know otherwise then please tell me so I can take it down, although I would be happier to use it with the permission of its creator. This will be a story for somewhat mature audiences, there will be occasional violence, language, and adult themes. Thanks for understanding, and if you don't then I would be happy to discuss with you my thoughts on the issue.



For a long time I didn't understand the problem of Cultural Appropriation. What could be wrong with appropriating culture? I appropriate other cultures all the time in my writing, when I don't feel like making up a culture on the spot or using my own. And even outside of my writing I use other-cultural words, or I try other-cultural foods, or I practice other-cultural habits. What could be bad about taking some aspect of a culture not your own and trying it out? So that was my starting point. I didn't think there was anything wrong with Cultural Appropriation.

When I was told the full definition of Cultural Appropriation, I started to understand the problem. I'll take that definition and break it into its pieces. Cultural Appropriation is 1) The adoption of a cultural element by a group, 2) When said group may become the most-visible face of said culture, 3) Creating the illusion that said element is central or authentic to said culture. Cultural (Mis)Appropriation is often seen as worst when it is 4) Without the consent of said culture and 5) An ethnic majority capitalizing or profiting off another.

I could only see part (1) of the definition. I had never thought about cultural adoption coming to represent the “truth” of that culture to the world. Now at this point everyone seems to use Native Americans as the example victim of Cultural Appropriation, so pernit me to jump on the bandwagon.

Consider this example: Joe buys a Feathered Headdress (or as we know it an Indian Chief Headdress) and wears it to a Halloween party, perhaps with his deerskin jacket and buckskin pants and carrying a tobacco pipe. Joe is appropriating the headdress (and all that other stuff) from our pop-culture idea of what Native American culture is like. He is cementing the idea that “Native Americans wear Feathered Headdresses” or that the Feathered Headdress is a central or authentic element of Native American culture.

By the way, what does anyone mean by calling a cultural element central or authentic to said culture? Culture is a wide and varied thing, and we get in trouble when we start saying any one thing is central or authentic to any one group. Some members of the culture may say it is, and some members may say it isn't. Cultures change over time, or they have segments within with different beliefs. Culture is created by people, and people cannot be defined by one element. Stereotypes come to exist when we do so. In other words, calling some element of a culture central or authentic is how we create a stereotype about that culture. The problem of Cultural Appropriation is related somehow to stereotyping.

Joe supported / strengthened a stereotype by attending that party wearing that costume, and Cultural Appropriation is the name for how he did so. But then the problem isn't with Cultural Appropriation. The problem is our human nature to stereotype, and to commit evil because of those stereotypes. Cultural Appropriation may be one way to commit a stereotype, but stereotypes don't need Cultural Appropriation to exist. Who started that Feathered Headdress stereotype in the first place? Not Joe, he only bought the headdress because the stereotype existed.

Let's turn the situation upside down. Consider if Joe were in fact a Native American. Maybe he's one-twelfth and likes to play that up. Or maybe he's eleven-twelfths and from a long and proud line. And maybe he knows nothing about Feathered Headdresses, or maybe he knows everything. Notice that some of these are cases of Cultural Appropriation and some are not, depending on how “close” Joe is to the culture. The important point is that when Joe goes to that Halloween party, he is still making himself a public face of the culture and setting the stage for stereotyping to be committed. Everyone who sees him at that party and thinks, “Oh, Joe went as an Indian Chief” is stereotyping Native Americans down to one icon, the Feathered Headdress. The problem is not Joe and Cultural Appropriation, the problem is stereotyping.

On the other hand, what about the eleven-twelfths Joe who knows everything about Feathered Headdresses? That Joe would know that a Halloween party wasn't the right place to wear his Feathered Headdress, if he even owns one. As a close member of the culture, he would know how and where and when and why to wear a Feathered Headdress. But is that the solution? Should members of a culture never share their culture's icons outside of their culture, for fear of creating stereotypes? Even the real and authentic ones? No. Sharing our culture expands and strengthens our culture. Especially someone like Joe who can explain and demystify his own culture.

By the way, what is Cultural Sharing? You might call it the good version of Cultural Appropriation. Rather than being adopted or stolen, someone simply tells people about the element in question. If they become the public face of the culture, they should tell people how central or authentic the element is rather that allowing people to assume, and thus avoid wrongful stereotypes. And I don't want to limit this to just close members of the culture. Any culturally informed version of Joe should be able to tell people about Native American culture. Maybe Joe is just a person who likes Feathered Headdresses. Sharing of the culture expands the public knowledge and will (in theory) banish wrongful stereotypes.

But even if Joe can explain his culture in a authentic way, that can still create stereotypes. Consider the Telephone Game, where a message is passed along and becomes wildly different when it reaches the end of the line. Even if Joe tells people everything about Feathered Headdresses, some of them will misunderstand or hear something wrong. Despite Joe's intentions, a stereotype is created. Whatever is done, stereotypes will be created.

Here we discover a strange positive of Cultural Appropriation. No matter who wears it, a Feathered Headdress is an excellent conversation starter for a discussion on cultural stereotypes. Joe should probably start the conversation himself. And calling something what it is (in this case, a stereotype) lessens its power over us. Stereotyping is the problem, and Cultural Appropriation is one way to start a conversation discussing the problem of stereotyping.

So what about the last two parts of the definition? Personally I don't believe part (4) is going to change the issue. Part (4) is why we say, “I have a friend from that culture and they said it was okay.” Notice how we sound like we are trying to excuse ourselves from bad Cultural Appropriation? But that doesn't change the fact that something bad may be happening. If that friend isn't here, their mere existence can't really be used to say the element is okay to appropriate here and now. Is one person even justified to excuse you? Can anyone gain consent from an entire culture? Maybe from a cultural majority, or a cultural leader, but not a culture as a whole. A culture is not a person, and a culture cannot give consent.

Part (5) of the definition is more troubling. When an element of a culture becomes “cool” or “exotic” it will often be used to turn a profit, and more often than not by members of an ethnic majority. Consider if a company that sold headphones made a special set that looked like a Feathered Headdress, and they sold it as Indian Chief Headphones. That would be Cultural Appropriation at its worst. At a deep, instinctive level it feels wrong for the company to create and sell those Indian Chief Headphones.

But again, the problem is about stereotypes. Even if the headphone company was run by a board of Native Americans, the Indian Chief Headphones they created would be a bad stereotype. But someone could come along and use the Indian Chief Headphones to start a conversation discussing the problem of stereotyping. And if the Indian Chief Headphones are really that bad, people shouldn't buy them; if that happens, the company won't make them anymore.

In summery, the basic sense of Cultural Appropriation isn't that bad. Part (3) of the definition shows us that the problem is related to stereotypes. But even when someone within the culture – in defiance of part (1) – becomes a public face of the culture – as described in part (2) – stereotypes will be created. Cultural Appropriation is no different from (and no worse than) Cultural Sharing in creating stereotypes. Whatever we do, stereotypes will be created. And Cultural Appropriation creates an opportunity to discuss the problem of stereotyping.

The expanded sense of Cultural Appropriation is where we get into the worst cases, that of a majority profiting from a minority. But at that point it also becomes the responsibility of the consumer to not allow any profiting to occur. And above all, it is my belief that we should promote positive Cultural Sharing, even when done by someone who is not a close member of that culture. If someone comes along and tells people, “This element is central and authentic to this culture” they are creating a stereotype, for good or more likely ill. If someone comes along and says, “This element is one part of this culture and I like it” they are acting well.
In Defense of Cultural Appropriation
For a long time I didn't understand the problem of Cultural Appropriation. What could be bad about taking some aspect of a culture not your own and trying it out? When I was told the full definition of Cultural Appropriation, I started to understand the problem. I discovered that the problem is related to stereotypes. But I believe that stereotypes will be created whatever we do, and the act of Cultural Appropriation creates an opportunity to discuss that problem. Cultural Appropriation is at its worst in cases of a majority profiting from a minority. But at that point it also becomes the responsibility of the consumer to not allow profiting to occur. And above all, it is my belief that we should promote positive Cultural Sharing, even when done by someone who is not a close member of that culture.


Ian Chisholm
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Favorite Quote: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

I'm here to tell my stories; I love Anime and I'm aiming at a career writing animation scripts, but for now I'm a writer-in-training creating worlds and characters and telling stories with them for my amusement. I'm also searching for a visual artist to collaborate with; if you read something here that inspires you and you can make dem perdy picture things, I would be interested in enlisting you for a creative partnership with the goal of collaborating on something awesome. And I'm here to learn; I want advice on how I can improve, I gladly work with, co-author or even take on requests to sharpen my writing skills, and if you'd like a critique or some proofreading you only have to ask.

I upload something new every week, either part of an ongoing story I am writing, or something more random like a character piece or personal opinion paper. I also try to do prose critiques every week, and I write webcomic reviews semi-regularly for my Journal section and collect them in archived compilations of ten. Occasionally I look back at something I have uploaded to DA (at minimum a year old) in the hopes that I can glean something useful from it, and when I'm bored I hang out in the Philosophy forum. Of course the busier my life gets, the less of all that I do.

My 2015 avatar is me, writing down by the lake! Of course you can't see much of me, especially not the sweet hat I'm wearing, and this image is from forever ago, like high school or something, and I'm writing data findings on the water for science, some project my Grandpa gave me to help his fishing club ... but it's me!

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Rhekya Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thanks for the fav!
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PuzzlingPredicament Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the fav~! <3
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GroundSpiritMinerva Featured By Owner May 7, 2015  Student General Artist
thanks for the trade!
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TheArchosaurQueen Featured By Owner May 7, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy birthday ^-^.

And no I haven't forgot your questions on my righting, I've just been busy with other things again, so I'll answer it eventually.
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Spiritofdarkness Featured By Owner May 7, 2015
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