I just love this one. While the interruptions of the [hungryhungryhungry]'s made it a little confusing to read at times, I felt that they still did a good job at conveying Lyra's appetite. The part with the children was just adorable, and Ket'Thull's personality and behavior are incredible. My favorite has to be Lyra though. I just love her spunky personality and wit, and the story made me really curious to see how she got in her situation from her point of view.
Originally Posted by Lady Moreta
Overall, the writing was excellent, and I really loved the contrasting character personalities. The way you got into their heads was incredibly well done, especially in spite of the third person narration, which doesn't tend to be as conducive for that sort of thing.
Now this one, I really really really enjoyed. I'm a total sucker for love/hate relationships, and I really like how Lyra and Ket'thull's relationship was handled here, with Lyra's confusion and Ket'Thull's bemused reaction. I'm glad that I got to learn more about Lyra's past, and I love how I left the story feeling like there was still much more about her character that I needed to learn. Like who Garrett is, and what events actually led to up to her current lot in life. I'm very curious to see how she acts around her other party members as well. Well done!
Originally Posted by Lady Moreta
Oh man! This is one is amazing! Dala's snarky and sardonic attitude is just hilarious, and I love how you managed to capture all of that in such a short diary entry. You also hinted at a lot of past adventures, plans, and other characters, which really made me curious about Dala's history and her effect on the world. This was really a great piece!
Originally Posted by Pisha
Now I have some Natalia and Varen snippets to share as well. I've been working on writing the events that followed The Other Side and In Search of Truth, but have yet to finish to them. So instead, I just have some of their past interactions with the shakers and movers of the campaign world. At the very least, they should prove revealing.
The Pride of the Father
(or Daddy's Little Princess)
I was finally free!
The Deathwind was dead and the Hearteater was gone. I was now the chieftain of the most bloodthirsty legion of terrorists on the continent, and they had to obey me. Not that I had planned to do anything about that. I just had to escape. And since their newly ascended leaders had to survive in the wilderness alone for three days, it would be all too easy for me to disappear. In fact, I already had. The Crownbreakers were one day behind me, and I had made good progress. By the time they realized that I wouldn’t be coming back, it would be far too late. There was no way that they could catch me now. The feelings of disgust and horror over my actions had now been replaced with joy and exhilaration. I never thought I would have escaped alive. But as I walked along and surveyed my surroundings, a strange feeling came over me. Something seemed familiar…
No… It couldn’t be… Could it?
As I finally came across the small little brook, I knew it was. The Monastery. Somehow I had found my way back to where it had all began. After all this time, I was finally home.
I ran up the hill from the creek, and there it was. Or at least, what was left of it. The charred remains of the abbey were scattered all across the grounds, and nothing was left at all save for a few pitiful walls and a strange makeshift hut in the center of the foundation. Even stranger though, was the man standing outside of it.
He was tall and sturdily built, with long, wavy auburn hair, and when he saw me, his face went pale. Almost as if he had just seen a ghost. In a way, I guess he had. But something about him was just too familiar…
That voice… That hair… Those eyes…
“Natalia!” he cried as he ran to me, catching me in a strong embrace. “Oh gods! They told me you were dead! Oh Natalia!”
“Father?” I could barely contain myself. “Father, is that you?”
“Yes, Natalia!” he was sobbing now. “Oh my dear little girl! Yes!”
“Natalia…?” I heard another voice, this one much more wary. “She’s alive?”
My father released me and wiped the tears from his eyes, smiling widely. Father Daugherty cautiously approached me, his eyes wide.
“My, my, my…” he muttered as he stroked his thick blonde mustache. “It is so good to see that you are alive, Natalia,” he gave me a small smile. “But I’m afraid we have much to discuss. There is much you need to know regarding the attack,”
They led me back to the hut, my father holding me tightly. After we were all seated, Daugherty began to speak.
“It is good that you are seated for this, Natalia,” he said at last. “For there is much that we must reveal to you,”
“Wait,” I interrupted. “I have some questions for you. Father, you said that I would never see you again! Father Daugherty, why are you still here when there’s nothing left? How long have I actually been gone?”
“Patience is a virtue, my child,” Father Daugherty muttered as he gave me a disapproving look. “If you must know, it is Springfall of the year 981. You have been missing for almost two years,”
“When I heard the news, I left my hiding place in Didierros to pay my respects,” my Father said. “But I’m a wanted man, there is a large price on my head. I had to be very careful, so it took me a long time to get here. I have been here with Daugherty for a little more than a month, trying to find out what happened on the day of your kidnapping, why Daugherty was never warned, why you were the only person taken,”
“Wait! Hiding? A price on your head? Father, what is going on?”
“My dear, if you just let us tell you the story, you would hear for yourself,” Daugherty mumbled, mainly to himself.
“You see, Natalia, my brother, your uncle, is none other than Acton Sen’Gowran! The Emperor of Geridia himself! I am his elder and only brother, and fifteen years ago, I was the heir to the throne! But your uncle, that blackheart, wanted the throne for himself. He secretly had a bounty put on all of our heads, yours, mine, and your mother’s, so that no one but him could lay claim to the throne! Your mother, gods bless her, was killed in our own home,” he dropped his head into his hands and began to sob uncontrollably. “So I brought you to Daugherty; he’s an old friend. I thought you would be safe! Never did I expect though, what your evil uncle would be willing to do to finish you off,”
“You see, through the many contacts I have maintained from my time as heir, I learned that Acton, gods curse him, had specific information planted within the Fear Legion’s ranks that pointed to this very monastery as the perfect target for an attack! Not only that, but the king made sure no information would be passed to warn Daugherty about the impending doom of the monastery! All of your friends, comrades, and teachers were killed by the Crownbreakers, just so that you would be killed as well. They were condemned for merely being near you!”
I was shocked. I was confused. I was frightened. But most of all, I was angry as hell.
“The Emperor was behind this? Behind everything that we had to go through…?” I was seething with rage. “He doesn’t deserve to live, much less lead!”
“Indeed,” Daugherty said solemnly. “But first tell me, Natalia, why are you dressed like a Crownbreaker?”
“I managed to escape by killing their chieftain-”
“You killed the Deathwind?” my father interjected. “That means you’re their leader! This gives me a wonderful idea!”
Daugherty looked dumbstruck.
“Natalia, you see, the world thinks that I am dead. But you! You are the next in line for the throne! As my child, you take precedence over Acton! You can take over, and you and I can lead this country into peace and prosperity! You said it yourself, Acton does not deserve to lead! Well we can stop him! We can save this country!” He was so excited he could barely contain himself. “And you’re controlling the Crownbreakers! This is perfect! You see, the Crownbreakers have already shaken the people’s faith in Acton. You can lead them with my directions, to keep the pressure up on him! And then, when the people begin to revolt, you can step in, separate from your Crownbreaker identity! The people will flock to you as their savior! Then, when the time is right, you as the leader of the Crownbreakers will lead them against the Empire’s forces, purposefully feeding them faulty commands! They will fall and will be forever destroyed, and we will be able to restore Geridia to a time before Acton Sen’Gowran! And best of all, the people never need know what you did in order to get there!”
I went cold. What my father was saying frightened me. I had to go back to the Crownbreakers, then I would have to lead them, to assist them in spreading terror.
“Father, no,” I said, worried about alienating him. “What you’re saying is crazy! You’re asking that I harm innocent people to scare them into action! I cannot agree to this!”
“Natalia, I thought you would understand. It is for the greater good! More people will be harmed by both the Crownbreakers and my brother if we don’t act! Don’t you see? If he was willing to have a whole monastery of the Eight-Pointed Star destroyed just to kill you, imagine what else he would do out of pettiness or spite! Would you just allow your country to fall into chaos? We need to stop him, and this is the only way!”
Daugherty gazed at me solemnly, a sad expression on his face.
“I am afraid that I must agree. Natalia, you must do this. If the Emperor learns that you yet live, then you shall be killed as well, and more people will be harmed. While people will die no matter what you choose, if you side with your father, then you shall at the very least prevent the loss of more life in the long run,”
My father just stared at me, an agonized expression on his face.
“Natalia…” he said, his voice choked. “Don’t you trust me…?”
“All right,” I finally said. “I will do as you ask,”
(or Someone Needs a Better Babysitter)
There were people everywhere. My ears were assaulted by the roar of the masses as they went about their daily lives. The thick scents of spices, fish, hay, potions, animals, and alcohol clogged the air. The sun beat down hot across the plaza, and the air was thick with humidity. I could scarcely believe my senses. I was finally in the capitol city.
It had been weeks since the attack on the monastery, and I was still searching for the Crownbreakers. Unfortunately, I was falling farther and farther behind, and I had finally run out of supplies. This was only supposed to be a quick stop, but I had already become lost.
As I stumbled through the throngs of people, one sound stood out above all the others. A shrill scream of fear. I watched in horrified disgust as the masses parted to reveal a massive, darkly-clad figure sprinting through their midst, carrying something slumped over his shoulder. A small child.
Without thinking, I gave chase. The kidnapper was fast though, and my armor slowed me down. But nothing would stop me. He tried as hard as he could to throw me off, but although he had speed, I had stamina. Soon the figure began to tire, and that was when I struck. I tensed, and somehow managed to launch myself at him, despite the weight of my armor. To both my surprise and his, I caught him and pulled him to the ground. He dropped the child, who fell and remained stock-still in fear as I pummeled the kidnapper. Unfortunately, he wriggled free and escaped into the crowd. But the child was still there. I turned to her and smiled, intending to be reassuring.
“Are you alright?” I asked. The poor thing. She couldn’t have been more than five years old. I shuddered to think about what could have happened to her if I hadn’t intervened. It seemed like no one else would have done anything.
“Y-yeah,” she started crying.
“Oh! Hey, it’s alright! Don’t worry! Don’t be scared! You’re safe now!” I cooed as I gave her a hug. She started to calm down, much to my relief. “There we go. Now don’t worry, okay? I’m here to help you now, alright? My name’s Varen,” I smiled at her again, and this time she smiled back. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Sadia, Mr. Varen,” she said that as though it had been rehearsed a thousand times.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Sadia,” I said. “Where are your mommy and daddy? Were they with you when that bad man came and grabbed you?”
“No, Mr. Varen,” she shook her head. “They were busy. I was with Adalyn,” This kid had some really good manners…
“Okay, and do you know where Adalyn is?” I asked.
“No, Mr. Varen,” She shook her head again, then stopped, a frightened expression on her face. “Do you think a bad man took her too, Mr. Varen?”
“No! No,” I smiled at her again. Poor thing. I really hoped that wasn’t the case, but even if it was, I had to get poor little Sadia back home before I could do anything about it. “I bet she went back home to get some help to find you! So if we go back to your home, we can save Adalyn a whole lot of trouble, right?”
Sadia smiled and nodded her head.
“Alrighty then!” I patted her shoulder. “Do you know where your house is?”
“Yeah!” she grinned excitedly. “It’s the biggest house in the whole city!” she looked shocked and appalled immediately after she said that. “Oh no! It’s bad manners to say that!”
“Sadia,” I said. “You don’t need to worry about manners with me, alright? No need for the Mr. Varens or anything! Okay?”
“Okay Mr. Varen,” she said. She still looked a little worried and embarrassed. Poor thing. I just wanted to cheer her up.
“Hey, if your house really is the biggest, then I might not be able to see it from all the way down here,” I said. “But I bet if you ride on my shoulders you could see it, and then you could lead me to it!”
Her smile was immense. I bent down, and she excitedly scrambled up onto my shoulders, piggy-back. It didn’t take long at all before I had received a multitude of directions and instructions.
So we wandered throughout the city for a while, with her pulling on my ponytail and excitedly pointing out her favorite sites the entire time. I wasn’t sure if she actually knew where she was going, but at least it was a great way to get to know the capitol. But when night fell and I had about given up hope for finding it, she shrieked in delight!
“There it is Mr. Varen!” she pointed. “I told you it was the biggest house in the city!”
It wasn’t just the biggest house in the city. It barely qualified as a house. It was a palace. And not even just any palace. The Royal Castle stood right in front of me, the home of the Emperor himself.
With Sadia still sitting on my shoulders, I made my way to the gatehouse. Before I knew what was happening, I was surrounded by the Emperor’s personal guards. Sadia waved to them happily.
“Don’t worry you guys! Mr. Varen saved me!”
“Oh! Sadia! I was so worried!”
“Oh thank the gods!”
A blonde teenaged girl and a mousy-haired middle-aged woman ran to me from the castle grounds, pushing past the guards. I carefully lifted Sadia from my shoulders and handed her to the woman.
“Adalyn,” she asked warily. “This isn’t the man who took her, is it?”
“No, mother,” the girl shook her head. “He is far too short… No offense,” she added hastily.
“None taken,” I smiled at them. “I’m just glad that I could get my new friend home safe and sound,”
“You are truly a saint!” the woman said as she embraced me. The guards shifted nervously, unsure of what to do. “Don’t mind them,” the woman laughed. “Come in, come in, I’m sure Sadia’s father would love to have a word with you,” Before I had a chance to protest, she dragged me through the courtyard into the keep.
“I’m Elvira, by the way,” she smiled at me. “I do apologize! In all the excitement, I forgot to have us introduce ourselves! Pardon my terrible manners! My step-daughter here is Adalyn,”
“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Varen,“ Something about Adalyn seemed strange to me. She looked eerily familiar. But before I could dwell on it further we were already in the Great Hall.
“Acton! Sadia is safe! We have her savior here with us right now!” Elvira shouted, her voice echoing throughout the castle halls. Oh gods. This was really the royal family. I was in Emperor Acton Sen’Gowran’s home, being praised by his wife, the Queen. I felt incredibly awkward and out of place. “ACTON! GET DOWN HERE AND THANK THE MAN WHO SAVED YOUR DAUGHTER!”
“Coming, dearest,” I heard a deep but tired voice from across the hall. And there he was. The Emperor himself strode across the hall, until finally, we were face to face.
He was much shorter than I had expected, but it was undoubtedly him. The short-cropped auburn hair, the dark green eyes, the sturdy build, the royal fineries and all.
“You must be the man who saved my daughter,” he smiled pleasantly. “You are a good man, but I am ashamed to say that I am not aware of your name,”
“Varen Castellos, your highness,”
“Varen Castellos,” he smiled as he seated himself at the long table. “It’s a good name. I imagine I’ll be hearing it much more in the future,” His family gathered around him.
“Please Varen, come join us,” Elvira said. “We’ve had to postpone dinner for fear of Sadia’s safety. Now that she’s here, the least we can do is feed you as well,”
I simply wasn’t allowed to say no. The dinner was fantastic, and the royal family was more than accommodating. They were incredibly easy to talk to, and soon I found that I had told them my entire story. It seemed that all too quickly, it was over. Soon, I found myself sitting at the table alone with the King.
“You know, Varen,” the King said, half talking to me, half talking to himself. “I always strive to be the best I can possibly be. The best ruler, the best commander, the best husband, the best father…” He patted me on the shoulder. “But you are a much better man than I. In just the span of several hours, you have done more for my daughter than I feel I have managed to my whole life. She just wouldn’t stop talking about riding you around the city,” he chuckled warmly.
“My lord,” I said. “You obviously love your daughter, which makes you a far better father to Sadia than I could ever be. You are always going to be there for her because of that. Your love is what really matters,”
He patted me heavily on the shoulder, a huge smile on his face.
“You are a good man, Varen,” the King shook his head. “This Natalia of yours is incredibly lucky to have someone like you,” He stood. “I am a busy man, Varen. So please forgive me for not being able to stay and talk longer. But you have saved my child. So for that you have my eternal thanks, but even that feels like it is not enough. If there are any favors you would ask of me, I would be all too happy to try and grant them,”
“My lord,” I was shocked. “Please, there is no need-”
“Perhaps not,” he cut me off. “But if you ever truly need my assistance, never hesitate to call upon me,” With that, he began to walk away.
“Good luck, Varen Castellos,” his voice echoed throughout the hall even after he had left.
“You will need it,”