Saturday, August 29, 2015

Small Beginnings

I think I've figured out why the young are always admonished to dream big, or to keep dreaming.

It's because dreaming can be so incredibly hard.

I graduated from high school in 2014. Being homeschooled, I had the opportunity to plan my own grad ceremony. My family and I rented a spot in a local church. Friends and relatives showed up to wish me well. And there were speeches made my parents, my three grandmothers, and my brother. Bet you can guess a common theme, right?

They offered golden nuggets of advice for living well and following Jesus, of course. But time and again, it came back to the topic of dreams. Aspirations for the future. Choosing where to stake your tent. Never giving up. Always looking ahead. Dreaming big dreams, holding on to hope for great things.

We hear it everywhere. Disney creates sugary tales of underdogs who, with just the right amount of goodness and a little help from magic, achieve their dreams with a "Bippity, boppity, boo!" Songwriters encourage us to reach for the stars. People tell us we can be anything we want, do anything we set our minds to.

All well and good. But there's more to dreaming. And I think maybe we forget that there's more, because the next part is harder to swallow.

There's this thing called perseverance. There's another thing called stick-to-itiveness. There are ingredients we must add called patience, humility, and a willingness to learn (so that we can actually handle our dreams coming true).

Because some days, dreaming is downright hard. When everything in your world looks exactly the same as it did a year ago, or five years ago, it's hard to believe things will ever change. When you fall down again and again--when the mountain you were climbing ends up being far, far higher than you imagined at the start--it's oh so tempting to give up. It's tempting to let the dream die, because it hurts to hold onto it.

My dad recently described me as being "a bulldog with lipstick." When I fix my mind on something, I don't let go. I clamp my jaws around it and refuse to let anyone tug it from my grasp--not Time, not Challenges, not Discouragement. I would be lying if I said that wasn't hard sometimes. It is. Some days I couldn't even tell you why I do it. But I know it will be worth it one day. I've come too far to give up now. So on I go.

Something I've had to learn--no, a truth that splashed me in the face like a bucket of cold water (which was the only way I'd find the humility to accept it), was that small beginnings are okay. I grew up fashioning grandiose dreams, under the delusion that they would just happen, and that they would happen in large proportions.

Now I'm realizing that great things start small.

I'm realizing that though I long for the battlefield, I have been despising the training ground, and how unwise is that? If I ran into battle without an idea of how to swing a sword, I'd be dead in moments.

I'm realizing that to be faithful in the little things will one day result in bigger things coming my way.

I'm realizing that I'm most certainly not above doing the menial and the mundane.

It's these sandpaper days that smooth my rough edges. It's these long hours of doing things that aren't what I've set in my heart to do, that are preparing me for those very dreams.

There are waiting rooms in life. There are training arenas. Embrace them. Five loaves and two fish will become a feast. A tiny seed will turn into a massive tree. Small beginnings, dear one--don't despise them. Somewhere down the road, you'll look back on those little days and smile, for the wisdom and beauty woven into them will finally be visible.
"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." -Helen Keller
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin . . . (Zechariah 4:10a)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Beautiful People - Friendship Edition - Josiah & Aileen

I put off doing this month's Beautiful People (which is friendship themed) for a while because I just didn't know which companions to feature. Luci and Aleida came to mind, but that would be somewhat repetitive in light of last month's BP post. Then there's Luci and Hadrian, but they're a romantic pair. And, erm, she doesn't really have any friends beyond those two people. So I crossed Sleeping Beauty characters off my list of candidates, and settled on the obvious choice.

You may have seen their names floating around here before: Aileen McKay and Josiah Williams, the main characters of that fantasy series spoken of in vague terms on my Writings page above. I've spent so much time with them, they've almost become real in my mind. Answering these questions will be fairly easy!

Before we continue, if you're new to the wonderfulness of Beautiful People, you can find out more from the hosts, Skye and Cait. Now: onward!

1. How long have they known each other, and how close are they?
Only a matter of weeks (although for me, they've technically known each other for seven years). Yet in those few weeks, they form a bond stronger than most. Death-defying experiences tend to encourage such bonds, you know.

2. What’s their earliest memory of being best friends?
They were distant acquaintances for a long time--knowing names and faces, passing each other in the halls at school--but the whole best friend thing is quite recent. Their first real connection was when they started talking about the disturbing visions they were both experiencing. Shaken by their most horrible waking dreams yet, they found empathy in each other.

“You mean you’ve been having dreams too?” Aileen gave a wobbly smile. “I wondered, especially since you were researching dreams in the library.” The smile disappeared. “Does that mean you had a dream like mine? About your family?”

Josiah crossed his arms in an effort to ward off the cold, both inside and out. “Yes.” In as few words as possible, he outlined the visions of the past few days, right up until the end of the latest one. As he finished, his eyes welled with tears again. Something conclusive needed to be said now, something comforting, but no suitable words came to mind. So instead, he pulled Aileen into a hug—the kind of embrace between friends who have borne the same miseries. They stood there shivering, Aileen’s head resting against his shoulder while snow swirled around.

3. Do they fight? How long do they typically fight for?
So far, they've fought only once, but it was a doozy and lasted for days. Let's just say they could have avoided some very bad things if they'd only been more open with each other. *coughs to hide evil author laugh*

4. Are their personalities similar or do they complement each other?
Josiah is more outgoing, whereas Aileen tends to be introverted. He makes snap decisions; she thinks things over, too much sometimes. Both feel very deeply. As for negative emotions, Aileen releases tiny amounts of pressure through biting, sarcastic remarks (which don't prevent the inevitable explosion later on), and Josiah processes them as they arise. Depending on what's going on, that process will either be verbal or else shown through body language.
I would say they complement each other . . . which is sometimes code for "they clash." Most of the time they mesh well, though.

5. Who is the leader of their friendship (if anyone)?
Josiah definitely is. Or at least, he leads in action. Aileen may lead more in the emotional sphere. She was the one that instigated their first connection, and she'll often be the one to bring up deep or difficult topics.

6. Do they have any secrets from each other?
Naturally--they haven't known each other long enough to know everything. But do they keep intentional secrets? Well, considering that open communication is pretty vital to staying alive in another world, no. Except for that time when tension drove them apart (see question 3).

7. How well do they know each other's quirks and habits?
What they do know, they know quite well. But it's hard to pick up on all of someone's quirks when they've been transformed into a dragon! Facial expressions just aren't the same, you understand. As for verbal mannerisms and other such things, I'd say they've got a pretty good idea of what to expect from each other.

8. What kind of things do they like to do together?
Save multiple worlds. Fly around in dragon form. Train together. Fight together. Go off on epic quests together. When life returns to normal, however, they enjoy having long talks, being in the woods outside of town, and wondering when the next adventure will turn up.

9. Describe each character's fashion style (use pictures if you'd like!). How are their styles different/similar?
In a few words . . .
Josiah: functional and comfortable. Tees and jeans will do the trick.
Not quite how I envision him, so ignore the face.
(Although the hair color is pretty close...)

Aileen: artsy in a casual, somewhat vintage way. Maybe a scarf or cute ankle boots added to a basic outfit.
Again, this picture is here only because of the clothes,
but this one's a wee bit closer to how I imagine Aileen.
Oh, oh--except her eyes should be brown. (Finding
good charrie pictures is so HARD.)
10. How would their lives be different without each other?
They would likely be dead. If not dead, then significantly less than they are now. Aileen wouldn't have gotten outside her own mind or learned to risk, fight, and forgive. Josiah wouldn't have discovered humility, sacrifice, or the uplifting strength of companionship. Together they are more than they are apart.

I'm getting excited about this series all over again! In a way, I've been missing them. Their world is sometimes an insane challenge for me as the writer of it, but I love it to bits. Keep being patient, Aileen and Josiah--I will come back to you. (Just as soon as my Sleeping Beauty novella finishes growing up, then goes on a cruel diet to lose about five thousand words in weight . . . But that's another post for another time.)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

To the Perfectionists

Dear Perfectionist,

I have something to tell you, and by extension, something to tell myself. You have many faces and many forms, and so I write this to:
  • the neat-freak who cannot stand a molecule of dust out of place
  • the perfectionist in disguise whose desk is in chaos but whose personal standards are sky high
  • the one who puts in countless hours in an effort to achieve the perfect ____ (fill in the blank: musical skill, writing abilities, sports performance, test scores, etc.)
  • the one who expects everyone else to hold the same high standards
  • the one who extends grace to everyone but themselves
  • and the one who's given up because they've failed too many times
You are a slave. You are chained to an ideal, a cruel master impossible to please. Day after day you strive to reach perfection. Or maybe you don't even call it that. Maybe in your mind, Perfect is known as Better. Whatever its name, you chase it relentlessly, but somehow it always eludes you.

You likely don't chase it in every area of life. Maybe you seek it in performance, but you're perfectly all right with a messy room. Maybe you seek it in your outer world--everything in its place--but less so in your inner world, where you give yourself room for mistakes. And quite likely it's an even more intricate paradox than that--your bookshelf might be organized alphabetically but your closet looks like a tornado hit it. You may hold strictly to an academic standard, yet not so much in physical fitness. There are infinite combinations, but if this letter is to you, there is at least one area in which you are enslaved.

Can I tell you something? I'm a perfectionist in disguise. My room is sometimes a group of little contained messes, with semi-organized piles of papers and books and things that belong together in some abstract way that only makes sense to me.

I think it should be cleaner.

When I sit down to write, I'm mostly okay with clumsy sentences, scrambled plots, and misbehaving characters in a first draft.

But I think I should write more, or faster.

Do I chase a state of perfection? Maybe. I don't know. But I do know I chase progress. Because progress means movement towards perfection, or if not that, betterment. If I wake up intending to get some good writing done, and I go to bed at night having written nothing because life got in the way, I don't like it. If I look at an area of my life and see no growth, it bothers me. Am I growing spiritually? Am I progressing as a writer? Am I getting better at my job? Are my relationships doing well? If the answer is ever no, that must mean "try harder."

Those are the chains I struggle to break. Yours may look different.

This slavery is sneaky. It's not constant misery. Sometimes you do achieve something you're happy with (at least somewhat), and so there's a measure of success, of satisfaction. It's a carrot dangling in front of your nose, a taste of the glory you'll feel when you finally reach that perfection in full. But when you stumble, your own whip comes whistling down to tear your back.

You could have done better.
You should have done more.
You shouldn't have said that.
You failed.

Bleeding, you drag yourself up and try again. The worst part about this enslavement is that most of the time, you're not aware. You don't realize you hold the whip; you don't know you're bleeding out. You have moments of self-awareness, but those usually end up in more lashes, because goodness knows you shouldn't be so hard on yourself. (And down comes the whip again.)

What drives you? Why do you so badly desire that perfection? Do you know?

Like so many other things, the answer is rooted in fear.

Fear of failure, of rejection, of not being loved. Because if you're good enough, they'll love you, right? If you press on and work harder, do better, they'll accept you. You'll have a place in the ranks. You'll mean something. You'll be worthy.

If you do better, God will love you.

Is that the lie you've believed? Because trust me, though your mind may balk and say, "I know that's not true, I know God loves me no matter what," your heart might tell a different story. Mine has. And trust me when I say that your heart can hold so tightly to that belief, that it thickens and tightens and wraps a chain around your neck. And for the longest time, I had no idea that iron grip was there.

Breaking those bonds takes a journey. It's a process of discarding the old and knowing the truth that sets you free. I wish the English language had another word for know. The kind I mean isn't with your head--it's with your heart. You may mentally acknowledge that you are loved, but do you know it? Do you completely and utterly believe it, to the point that you act like it? Is that truth so rooted in you that any word to the contrary can't penetrate your heart because you know how very wrong it is?

If you've never heard it before, or if you've heard it a thousand times with deaf ears, listen now.

You. Are. Loved.

Did you know that if you stopped trying, if you let it all go to pot and let your life fall into shambles, that fact would not change one iota? I know you can hardly wrap your brain around that idea, so try instead to wrap your heart around it. Shut your brain up for just a moment. If you never did another thing for God or for anyone else, He would still love you just as much as He does right now. Your value to Him would remain unchanged. Can you see that? Can you start to?

Once you're grounded in love, perfection isn't necessary. Instead, you can strive for something much better: excellence. Do the best you can with what you have, and leave it at that. Keep going, keep improving--to stop is to stagnate--but don't ever attach the pursuit to your identity. Give yourself grace. God does.

With love from:
A Recovering Perfectionist A Person of Excellence

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

There and Back Again - An Expected Journey (aka vacation)

In case you were wondering, the reason I was absent for a week and a half was because of family vacation. But, as of last Saturday night, I have returned! And I have a small collection of motley tales to show for it.

But first, an introduction. We rented a vacation home on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River, close to Stillwater (which is on the Minnesota side). This was our second time there, and we couldn't have asked for better weather: it was sunny and warm, but not humid or overly hot. And the best part? There were almost no mosquitos. Hallelujah!

We spent our ten days relaxing in the cabin, shopping, swimming, and doing a bit of sightseeing. Spending uninterrupted time with my family was amazing--now that I'm employed, I value vacation and family time even more. No phone calls, no computers, no work shifts, nothing. Just us. I even took a break from writing.

On to the motley tales! Prepare for copious amounts of pictures.

Day 1 (Thurs. July 30)
Woke up early, loaded the van, and drove all day. We reached the cabin in time for a late supper and watched Bolt afterward. (We rented a pile of movies to bring along, but didn't watch nearly all of them.)

Day 2
Relaxed on one of the cabin's many decks in the morning, during which time I finished the book I started on the drive the day before. In the afternoon, we did a little shopping, then had supper at Quickfire Pizza in Stillwater, MN. If you're ever in the area, stop there--they serve drool-worthy pizza.
Me and Mom
I took the opportunity in the evening to sketch, something I've done very little of recently.

Day 3
We were blessed with beautifully warm weather for swimming at Square Lake.

In the evening, we watched Spy Next Door and laughed at Jackie Chan.

Day 4
Big homemade breakfast of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast. This was a Sunday, so we listened to a CD of a message from church. Then more chilling, reading, and sketching (on my part), and afterwards--shopping again.

Day 5
There's a trail behind the cabin that leads down to the riverside. Steep and full of switchbacks, it's a good quarter-hour hike. My dad and siblings and I armed ourselves with walking sticks and started out. Now, this trail is no big, bad mountain of a climb--but even so, it's enough of a workout and enough of a novelty that I couldn't help feeling like some intrepid explorer.
Partway down, we came across a fallen tree propped up on one of its brethren. Being the brave adventurer I am, I chose to venture across it. Okay, to be honest, my dad tested it first to make sure it wouldn't break . . . and I scooted across in a sitting position rather than standing (which would've put me higher off the ground, you see) . . . but even so! The drop was fairly steep, and I'm not overly fond of heights. Not terrified either; heights and I just have an uneasy alliance. So it did take a smidgen of bravery to stand up at the far end and pose heroically while my willing photographer--ahem, Dad--snapped some pictures from below.

Down by the riverside, camera back in my hands, I went into shutterbug mode.
Me and Cece (that's her nickname)

Me and Dad

Kitty (also a nickname) is not
cooperating with my selfie ;)

Five intrepid explorers!

This day continued to be eventful, for in the afternoon, all six of us went tubing down the Apple River--something we've never experienced before. We lashed our tubes together, and after much squealing over the water temperature and flailing about as we dumped ourselves in, we floated off. Soon we mastered the art of steering around the riverbends . . . most of the time. Some of us got very close looks at trees hanging out over the water. (I kid you not, I was nearly impaled.)
Not to mention the fact that the river was higher than usual, concealing all manner of rocks beneath the surface. We exchanged numerous cries of, "Lift your butt! There's another rock!" as we floated along. But all in all, 'twas a pleasant experience. The other tubers we passed must have wondered at our silliness and laughter.

Over two hours later, we came to the rapids. We'd been warned about them, but had been told they were short and fairly mild, so we chose not to cut our ride short by taking the exit. We wanted adventure, of course! Unfortunately, this adventure involved an accident. Josiah's tube had loosened somewhat from our bunch. Near the end of the rapids, he somehow lost balance and flipped backwards--headfirst--into the water. You know when you see someone falling or dropping something, and time seems to slow down? You see it vividly, you want to reach out and stop it, but you can't because it's happening too fast. Seeing my brother fall out was like that--a moment of frozen panic. I yelled something as we kept rushing downstream, leaving him behind. Dad jumped out, braced himself against a rock, and held onto our connected tubes. (Totally the kind of hero-fighting-the-current thing you see in movies.) Drenched, stumbling over rocks and struggling to stay upright in the current, Josiah made his way back to us.

Other than a few scrapes on his feet and the loss of his glasses, he was fine, thank God. The water was only waist-deep, and the way he fell headfirst, it's a miracle he didn't hit his head on one of the many, many rocks beneath the surface. We all felt a little shaken, but by the time the three-hour ride was over, we were starting to make jokes about the incident.

And then, as a rather fitting conclusion to our adventurous day, we spent the evening watching The Adventures of Tintin.

Day 6
Mall of America. All day. Lots of walking. Lots of shopping. I myself had only a few purchases to show for it, which was okay. It was my fourth time at MOA anyways.
Cece, me, and Kitty

Day 7
The best breakfast EVER: cinnamon buns from Cinnabon and coffee, partaken of out on the deck in the morning sunshine. It was heavenly, I tell you.
This day was fairly standard . . . more relaxing, more shopping around. Watched Daddy Daycare.

Day 8
Ate out for breakfast and spent the morning being totally touristy on Stillwater's Main Street, which is beautifully quaint, with all its little shops.

Looking down on Stillwater

the gals
Midafternoon brought rain, so I curled up in the cabin and read for hours.
I snapped this on a
different, non-rainy day.
Day 9
More of the same out and about stuff mixed with cabin time. The sun came out in time for ice cream at this little place called Nelson's. Their portions are deliciously ginormous and nicely priced.
Anyway, it was nice that the last two days consisted mostly of downtime at the cabin. All the shopping was getting a bit tiresome for me--maybe it's because I work in retail?--and quiet was exactly what I needed to top up the relaxation tank.

Day 10
Homeward bound! It's good to go on holidays, but it's also good to come back.

Some miscellaneous noteworthy things . . .

Nothin' better than a homemade burger.
White chocolate berry mocha

I'm a big fan of Cherry Berry's
frozen yogurt.
The exchange rate between Canadian and US dollars is not so good for us Canadians right now, so I didn't spend a whole lot. But I did buy a couple movies and some music (Lindsey Stirling's Shatter Me, Owl City's new album Mobile Orchestra, and The Battle of the Five Armies soundtrack). And of course, books.
  • Illusionarium by Heather Dixon (Deb, I bought this because of you!)
  • The Sorcerer of the North by John Flanagan (I'm collecting the series entirely out of order. Nine bought, three to go!)
  • The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (As much as I don't want to compare her to her father, Ted Dekker, I suspect I will be. But I'm fully expecting she'll be her own writerly self, and that her book will be awesome.)
So that's where I went and that's what I did! Now I've come back to my own pillow, my house, my daily routine . . . back to work, writing, blogging, and everything else. Home sweet home!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Landon // a writing dare

As I am still without internet access (let's have a toast to post scheduling, shall we?), here's a little more entertainment for you. In the spirit of the snippets I posted last week, I've decided to share a fuller piece of writing, but not of Sleeping Beauty. That one's for a contest, you know--I can't tell you everything!

What you will be reading is the result of a writing dare shared among my online group of writing buddies (affectionately referred to as the Pack) . . . This picture was sent out, and a few of us chose to write something based off of it. I was one of them. And the fragment of story that spilled from my fingertips has since latched onto my brain. Even now, over three months later, it's still there. Percolating, I suppose--the stories I label "Wait" tend to sink into my subconscious and steep quietly. One of these days, with or without my permission, this little coffeepot will float back to the surface and demand to be made into a full-fledged novel.

But for now it's still a tiny scoop of coffee beans, not even ground up yet. Probably not even roasted. So. Without further ado, the dare--which, contrary to my description, has nothing at all to do with coffee:

Landon awoke with his face wet and damp leaching into his clothes.
He cracked open his eyes, but the grey daylight sent a wave of pain rolling through his head. Where am I? The surface beneath him was hard and unyielding, gritty with tiny pebbles. Pavement. His left hand skimmed through a shallow puddle on the way to his face. Shielding his eyes, he tried opening them again. This time the light was more bearable.
Overhead, grey clouds rushed by, scattering only a sporadic drizzle. Landon, still caught in the muzzy half-realm of waking, watched them for a while and thought of nothing.
But the damp pavement soon grew uncomfortable. Finally he stirred, and realized his right fingers were clenched around something. He looked over at his hand. A scrap of paper. Rather than being damp and wrinkled from the rain, it was smooth and dry. A single word was scrawled across it: Arcus.
Something whined at the edge of hearing range, almost more of a thought than a real sound.
Landon sat up. Why am I on the street? My street? Yes, it was his street. There was his house on the left, bordered with the riot of flowers that Mom tended every summer. There was the birch tree in the yard—
The tree lay across the front lawn, jumble of roots exposed. Uprooted.
“What’s going on?” Landon muttered. He scrambled to his bare feet. This is weird.
He scanned the neighborhood. No one in sight. Every window dark. All was quiet, still.
Panic jolted down his spine. “Hello?” he called. “Hello?” Stuffing the paper in his jeans pocket, he stumbled across the street toward his house. “Mom, are you home?”
What had happened? Landon stopped at the fallen tree and just stared. There was something . . . something terribly wrong. Memories struggled to return, as if being pulled out of a slurping, grasping muck. He’d been inside, doing . . . nothing, right? Doing nothing, or maybe sketching, and then . . .
Landon kicked the birch trunk in frustration, and pain flashed up his bare toes. He growled. Something had happened. Someone had knocked on the door or the phone rang. There was some sort of interruption. Mom had been in the backyard, filling the birdfeeder, so Landon had answered the door—or the phone—and then . . . The rest was a blank haze.
He bolted to porch and yanked the front door open. “Mom?” His foot brushed something.
Next to the welcome mat lay a black-shafted arrow.
He snatched it up. Brown fletchings, like bird feathers on one end; a roughly-made arrowhead on the other. That barely-perceptible whine buzzed in his ears again.
Landon was about to charge into the house to look for Mom when a voice from behind broke the silence.
He turned. A girl ran down the street, dark hair streaming behind her. She raced up his driveway and onto the porch, then threw her arms around his neck. “Oh, Landon, you’re alive!”
He pushed her off. “Who are you?”
The wide blue eyes searching his face, the freckles dusting her cheeks, the lips parted in surprise—and now trembling—none of it was familiar. A laughing sob burst out of her. “I—I’m Skylar.”
He stared uncomprehendingly.
She seemed to wilt, like a flower with its petals curling inward. “Your girlfriend.”

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Sleeping Beauty Snippets

I'm without internet connection for a little while, so I've temporarily disabled the comment moderation. Feel free to comment away, and be sure to check back later, because I'll be responding to you all when I return to the realm of internet.

This is my first official snippets post, and what better story to give you a peek into than my current WIP! Yep, that's the Five Magic Spindles entry . . . which still doesn't have a title. Botheration. Anyway, enough rambling. Behold the raw magic of a first draft. (Or perhaps, the raw mess. Take your pick; there's a bit of both in there.)


Shutting the book, Luci leaned her head against the wall. "If loves puts you in a cage, I'd rather they didn't love me."


Reverie prattled on through the second and third courses, by which time the conversation had veered from dwarves and boots to rumblings from the ogre colonies, to the torrential rains sweeping across her homeland, to the princess's lacy wrappings spun by Iror's best spinners, to the quality of the rubies in the cutlery.
Aleida nodded along and inserted an "Oh my" or "Indeed" when appropriate.


Riar's face tightened. "Forgive me. I am not in the habit of inviting dead people to parties."


Luci eyed her company. "Master Boris."
Her tutor raised his head. "Yes, Princess?"
"Have I ever told you that you have the nose of a pig?"
Boris blinked and touched his rounded, upturned nose. "I--no, Princess, you haven't."
"I think it goes lovely with your squinty little eyes." Luci sliced off another bite of melon. "You would make a convincing swine in next year's children's pageant."


"How fares your training?" Father asked, chipper tone belying his wasting frame.
"Better than ever." Hadrian massaged his sore bicep.
Father sighed contentedly and shifted against the pillows. "Good. A king should know how to wield his sword."
Hadrian looked down at the tiled floor. The onset of the withering six months ago had served to bring out Father's greatest wisdom, however slight it may be, and in the past weeks he had talked of little more than kingship, death, and the crowning of his only son.


Without a backward glance, she ran up to her chambers and slammed the door. If her tongue could not speak her mind, that echoing boom certainly could.


Two things happened at once. The royal couple's faces paled to the color of frost, and Aleida staggered back with a sudden wave of realization, crashing like the Falls when they were swollen with snowmelt.


"Who are you?"
"My name matters little." She still did not face him, but stood rigid, arms crossed.
"It does if it belongs to the one who rescued me."


Kronna turned on him, prematurely-grey braid swinging. A small beam of daylight fell on one side of her face and painted it paler than usual, while shadows cloaked the other side--a grotesque contrast on her harsh features. "Where are you going?"
Hadrian met her gaze unflinchingly. "The gardens."
With an impatient wave of her hand, she turned to Father. "Go. If Bauglind were a plot of dirt, you would make a very prepared heir indeed."


Floating. Falling--ever downward, never stopping. Nothingness full of something. Silence full of sound.


"Hold your thundercloud, I'm coming!" a voice shouted from within. Moments later, the door banged inward. "Oh! Prince Hadrian!" Reverie blinked. Her faded golden curls formed a tangled halo, mussed from sleep. "Good mor--is it morning?" She peered outside at the sky. "Hardly close enough to even wish you a good one. Hmph."


In the waking world, during the hour before the sun rose, the sky would always begin to brighten in preparation, lightening in subtle shades. And slowly, the darkness would lift, and the shapes in Luci's chambers would grow more distinct. That was how it felt now, as bits of knowledge floated back to her mind.


Reverie . . . launched into a story drawn from history, just wild enough to waver on the brink of belief, and just strange enough to make sense.


"There is a magic deeper than the curse, and deeper than my blessing." [Aleida] spoke softly, but her words echoed against the mist. "We fairies cannot touch it. It lies within the very marrow of the earth's bones, and it is beyond our comprehension to control."


Luci whispered the words burning in her throat. "I have called them to their deaths."


He came up behind her. "If I close my eyes, will you face me and hold out your hand?"
"Promise to keep your eyes shut?"
"Promise." He closed them. "Now hold out your hand."
Grass rustled. He reached out blindly and found her hand, warm and smooth as silk-leaf. Carefully, he wrapped her fingers around the star. "There. Something unasked."