Syre’s Comic Stand Fling {Bonus Story for Project Orion / AAWC Challenge #5}

I should have done this wayyyy earlier. As a result, it’s sort of awkward. But here it is, it uses all three prompts, and it’s somewhat on time. Enjoy or cringe – it’s your choice.


Syre could think of a lot of places he’d rather be than where he was. Maybe in a coffee shop with a hot chai latte. Or better yet, under his pet snake’s heat lamp. But he was sitting on the steps outside Peridot Institute, watching the wind toss withered leaves into the oncoming traffic, and wishing desperately that he’d worn his thermal shirt.

He was waiting for his friend Sasha to crash through the doors behind him, the doors that had been locked five minutes ago, just when he’d figured that she wouldn’t mind him changing their meeting spot. He’d tugged on the handle, pleading with his eyes, but Mr. Summerlin had shaken his head and pocketed the keys. Thus rejected, he’d taken a seat on the cold concrete and crossed his arms – more because of the cold than because of his attitude.

Daring to pull up the sleeve of his coat, he checked his watch. She’d been in Miss Jae’s office for thirty minutes now. Whatever she was in trouble for, she’d gotten into it deeper than the Black Forest. He wondered whether he should go home and hear all about it later. Even though he knew she’d be mad at him for deserting her, anything was better than waiting here for another half hour. And besides, it took longer to walk home with Sasha than to walk home alone because she got sidetracked easily and always wanted to explore. If he went ahead and left, he would save himself ten or fifteen frigid minutes.

He was about to get up (and potentially kindle her irritation) when the doors opened behind him. Sasha quickly slammed them shut again, like she’d detonated something inside. “Come on, before they know it was me!” she hissed, nearly dragging him by his hood as he stumbled to follow her.

“What’s up?” he asked as they took off down the sidewalk at a swinging walk.

She dug in her pockets for her mittens, resisting the urge to run. “I might have, just possibly, broken the statue of that old dead guy with the chair.”

“You broke Adam Weishaupt?”

“So that’s how you say his name,” she muttered. “Uh huh.”

Syre chuckled. “Is it fixable?”

“So long as they don’t notice it. I just cracked the base, that’s all. It fits right together again, no problem. I just have to glue it when no one’s looking and – voila! Vice Hopped or however-you-say-it is still standing. Sitting, I guess.”

He shook his head. “How’d he break?”

“I was trying to hurry and get out. Ran into him.”

“Miss Jae sure kept you awhile, didn’t she?”

She nodded.

“What’s up?” he asked, knowing he was treading on thin ice. He tried to catch her eye, but she turned away.

“It’s my stupid grades again.” she muttered.

This wasn’t the first time Sasha had been chastised for grades. She was smart enough, Syre knew, but he felt the problem was that she couldn’t spit back the important information they were required to know – especially in timed tests under Miss Wilshire’s eagle eyes. Naturally easygoing, she was a deer in the headlights when pressed, and both she and Syre knew it. But there was nothing he could say, because he’d made a 99 on the last test. Sasha’s nines had been turned upside down.

So he said nothing, let the hum of passing cars and idling engines fill the space between them.

On any other day, they’d be talking about whatever they saw as they started the long walk to the Straus Square Metro. Every day, twice a day, they had to pass under the concrete-and-steel beam beast known as Brooklyn Bridge, admire the teeny shops set up underneath, their fading signs written in half-Korean. After passing the graffiti-tagged vans and were out of the bridge’s shadow, they only had a few blocks before they would trip down the stairs into the subway car at exactly 4:00.

But today, things would be different. The metro had left without them already due to Sasha’s delay. The other thing Syre was realizing was that he couldn’t let her keep being so dejected. Her optimism, her carefree happiness that she usually had, was what had made them instant friends in the first place.

Biting his lip, he put his arm around her shoulder.

She glanced at his hand hanging next to her backpack strap. Then she looked at him. “What’s this?” she asked, pointing.

“It’s an arm around your shoulder.”

She chuckled, shaking her head. “Okay.”

“Look, I know you’re not feeling so great.”

“Yeah.” She sighed.

He looked at her, waiting for her to elaborate.

She kicked a rock in the sidewalk, averting his eyes. “It’s like, all my life I’ve thought everyone liked me just the way I was. And now all the sudden I’m not good enough.”

“I’m sure it’s not that.”

“No, it is. You remember why both of us are in this school.”

He nodded. “Because of what they saw in us.”

“Yeah. But you’re more the type they want. And now I feel like an idiot.”

“Don’t say that.”

“It’s true,” she muttered.

“Who says?”

“Everybody.”

“Except Leo,” he offered.

She looked at him as she pushed her glasses up her nose. “Don’t you remember? You’re supposed to call him Mr. Cordova now.”

“Well, sure, I’m supposed to, but since when have I followed the rules? Besides, he likes Leo better anyways.”

“I dunno.”

Syre felt like he was about to grasp the real problem, the thing that had hid behind her braces-clad grin for what must have been months. There was no way to find out for sure (she wasn’t in the mood for spilling her guts right now, he could tell), but it had something to do with Leo.

When Syre had first met Sasha, she’d had a friend in Leo. An odd friend, for sure, considering that he was years older than she was and certainly caught up in more than she knew existed, but a friend nonetheless. She was the captain of a ragtag baseball team, now defunct for school. And then there was him, the mysterious kid who had become friends with her in the most peculiar circumstances.

Now, since Peridot Institute’s reopening, Leo taught the new generation with the other alumni of the school. Busy and enjoying the new life he was leading, he treated Sasha more like the rest of his students. Yes, he was much more partial to her than to anyone else, but the magical thing they had forged out of simply being neighbors was gone. And moving to this new school full of studious, motivated, hero-material kind of people had made her feel like she didn’t belong.

He didn’t want to tell her that Miss Jae might be right, but that seemed to be the case. Even though her unorthodox look at the world was what had gotten her into P.I, she needed to straighten up to succeed. And that was something he felt she would never be good at. He was pulling off alright, but he couldn’t see her being as sober as he was and still being Sasha.

But did he seriously want her to straighten up? Wasn’t she, weird optimism and all, what had changed everything for him? She wouldn’t be any different – it wasn’t like her. And then everything suddenly made sense.

For the first time in her life, Sasha was lonely. Leo, the one who listened faithfully to her weird ideas, was too busy for her. She didn’t have any other friends at this new school except himself. But now he felt like their grades, his success and her capers, had put a division between her and everyone she loved.

He glanced at her pensive face. She was probably jealous, too.

“Look,” he said, feeling just a bit guilty about that, “Let’s go home a different way today.” Just as they were about to cross Broadway, he turned her to the right.

“Why?” she asked. Something sounded different about her voice.

“I dunno,” said Syre, searching rapidly for a newsstand. There had to be one around here somewhere. It was prime time to sell evening papers, they were in a business district…and if there was one thing that could cheer her up, it would be a comic book.

The two of them had disagreed minorly on comics since they’d met. Syre always felt guilty for buying something as silly as a comic book, when there were other better uses of money. But to Sasha, comics were her hobby. She collected comic books, loved everything about them. She called it looking through a giant camera. Once she’d mounted the ladder and peered through the enormous lense, she could see a world larger than the world she lived in, and that enchanted her.

What she needed right now was to feel the way he felt about her – that she was perfect just the way that she was, and that someone cared about her.

He dug in the pocket of his jeans, fingering the five-dollar bill he’d slipped in there earlier.

“So maybe there’s a place I wanna stop by, is that okay?” he asked.

“Sure,” she shrugged.

Finally, he saw it on the green of a nearby park, its red and blue banner flapping in the cold February wind. NEWSPAPERS – MAGAZINES – COMICS, it advertised.

She felt them walking towards it. “I – uh…I don’t have any money, she faltered.”

“Don’t sweat it,” Syre replied, slipping the bill into her hands. “On me today.”

She stopped in her tracks and looked him dead in the eyes. “But you think comic books are stupid,” she questioned.

“Well, the person I know who likes them isn’t so…”

Her smile flooded back to her face. “Oh, gosh.”

“What are you waiting for?”

It was like doing just that had switched off her depression. In between thanking him, she started talking, just like she used to. It came slowly, awkwardly at first, but soon he could tell she’d forgotten she was lonely. She was back to her old self, talking to whoever would listen, or even pretend to listen. Grey eyes bright again, cheeks red from the biting wind, she looked her old self again.

Their boots crunched in the icy, dead grass. “A laser gun,” she was saying. Syre was so busy thinking about her that he hadn’t been listening. “And then Beta looks at him and says, ‘Did you just shoot down, and possibly kill, Santa?'”

Syre laughed as hard as she did, not really because whatever Christmas-exclusive edition of Inventions Prime was so funny, but because he was overjoyed to see her back to her normal self.

As she pored over the books (and Syre stood watching), the newsboy leaned over and whispered, “Hey, kid, did you see it?”

“No?” Sasha looked at him.

Christmas is back.”

“Are you serious?” she asked, picking it up. “This is the one I was telling you about, Sy, you gotta come look.”

Syre came and laughed over the zany, ridiculous pages with her. But he found himself looking at her smile more than Beta. Christmas wasn’t the only thing that had returned. The Sasha he knew and loved was back.


I didn’t want to have to go through all the explaining but it would have made almost no sense if I didn’t. I also wanted to stop it when he saw the newstand, but I needed to use the other two prompts.

I’m setting a new record here! I used all three prompts:

She called it looking through a giant camera. Once she’d mounted the ladder and peered through the enormous lense, she could see a world larger than the world she lived in, and that enchanted her.

“A laser gun,” she was saying. Syre was so busy thinking about her that he hadn’t been listening. “And then Beta looks at him and says, ‘Did you just shoot down, and possibly kill, Santa?'”

As she pored over the books (and Syre stood watching), the newsboy leaned over and whispered, “Hey, kid, did you see it?”

“No?” Sasha looked at him.

Christmas is back.”

I also used my team name:

Whatever she was in trouble for, she’d gotten into it deeper than the Black Forest.

Lamely, albeit, but still.

I also drew these two stupid drawings that I didn’t put in line because I’m not proud of them (and I failed on the backgrounds and ended up cutting them out):

So yes, this entry was hurried, but it’s an entry!

Total points: 1 (participation) + 6 (prompts) + 1 (team name) + 4 (illustrations) = 12 points!

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

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Interview with Daisy Chessington {Tunes of My Heart Launch Tour}

Today (for once!) I’m not talking about something I’m doing. Rebekah from Stuffie Adventures has a brand-new personal blog that I’m shamelessly promoting! Tunes of My Heart is the new place to find her writing, photography, music and life. I’m really proud of her for embarking on this new journey and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

Now, I intended to write up a really cool narrative version of this. I wanted to have crossovers and awesomeness….but I ran out of time. So unfortunately, you’ll have to deal with a run-of-the-mill character interview, though not of a run-of-the-mill character!

Put your hands together as we welcome to the stage…

Daisy Chessington!

{Protagonist of Rebekah’s novel The Traitor In The Pages}

I’m so delighted to give Daisy an interview – let’s get right into it!

What would you say is your biggest achievement in life?
Hmm, cool question! I haven’t done that much in life yet, actually. I’m only twelve, after all (or as Mother would say “you’re already twelve!”) But people do tell me that I’m pretty talented at horseback riding – with Dusty, my trusty dappled horse. I remember winning a riding competition where you have to perform tricks with your horse, and apparently the judges liked all the daring stunts I did with Dusty. Because I came out first, which is really a pretty decent achievement considering that there were competitors up to the age of 18 and it was one of the more competitive contests!

Have you ever been in love?
Nah. Once a boy took a fancy to my curls, but he was annoying and I didn’t like him – and soon he got so tired of my sarcasm that he was like “Forget it.”

What’s your all-time favorite song?
We actually don’t listen to much music up here in medieval Ireland. The only music we do listen to is all those boring ballroom waltzes during dances…which, of course, I don’t like at all. I’d rather have something peppy and upbeat!

Do you live by any quotes?
Yup! I live by this one: “You must go on adventures to find out where you truly belong.” – Sue Fitzmaurice

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?
Ughhh, I wish I could be more prim and proper like my super annoying older sister Cora. It would make life so much easier for me. I’m supposed to be all “kind and good-mannered” and “ladylike and proper” and “good representation of Duke Chessington (my father).” Instead, I’m super tomboyish and daring, which is really not what a duke’s daughter should be.

What’s your favorite holiday?
Christmas, definitely! I love the magic of the season: the snow, the holly berries, the gift giving, the candlelight, the glorious carols and hymns…and the candy and nuts!

Describe yourself in ten words or less.
Adventurous, brave, sassy, fearless, sarcastic, saucy, tomboyish, friendly, determined fighter.

What do you do when you’re alone?
Alone? That’s bor-ing! I’d rather be with Karah (my lady’s maid and best friend, and the other protagonist in the book that Rebekah and Julia are co-writing!) But when I absolutely have to be alone, I’ll usually just stay in my bedroom (it’s rather big, actually, and contains nearly all my stuff) and write in my journal, sketch something, or play with my dolls. I have a really nice wooden dollhouse by my bed with about eight or nine rooms in it, and several dolls, most of which were gifts from Father when he came home from all his important business trips. My favorite is one with dazzling golden curls and blue eyes just like mine! But anyways, I like entertaining myself by making stories with them (and usually I’ll end up writing the stories in my journal, too, which is fun).

If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?
Well, Daisy is actually my nickname. My real name is Lusitania, and I absolutely h a t e it because of how fancy it sounds. Some people call me that even though I tell them it’s just Daisy, so I wish I could change my real name to Daisy so that they wouldn’t have an excuse to call me Lusitania anymore. 😀

What’s your most favorite place on earth?
This is in the book – my best friend Karah Vedier’s house. You would think I’m kidding. I’m the daughter of one of the most powerful dukes in Ireland; I live in a manor sprawling acres and acres with several rooms all to myself and all the luxurious extravagance any twelve-year-old girl could wish for, and yet…honestly, I would rather be in Karah’s home. It’s a wee little cottage half the size of my bedroom, and truly it’s the most rundown and dilapidated place I’ve ever seen, but there’s something there that can’t be felt when I’m back at the manor. Maybe the manor is just too big and fancy for me, I guess. But Karah and her father and mother and her four little siblings just seem to be so happy. Despite how poor they are and how they don’t even know where their next meal is coming from. And for whatever reason, every time I get to go there (I got to go to her little sister Rebekah’s birthday party, guys, you can read about that when the book is released for beta reading), I’m strangely infected with their happiness as well!

Daisy is such an intriguing character! She’s not all that Rebekah has to offer, though.

Click here to go to Tunes Of My Heart! You won’t be disappointed.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

2018 Art Dumps, Issue 1

(I just tagged this post as “fun”. Seriously, Tess?)
(But I wouldn’t say I’m doing so bad. After all, this is my FIFTH post this year so far. Considering that I didn’t post last year until Februray 15th, I’m doin’ great. *looks haughtily at those coordinated people who treat their blogs like actual websites and not end-of-the-pipeline imagination dumping grounds*)

Welcome to Issue One of my 2018 Art Dumps (of which most are yet to be made), in which I show you a bunch of pictures you never asked to see and expect you to know how much blood, sweat, graphite and tears went into them. Stick around until the end and you might see something resembling actual talent.

I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I guess. I have been making improvements. It hasn’t been quick or easy, but I’m getting there. However, I have had my fair share of creeping myself out with strange facial expressions that are a result of bad proportions. (We’ll get to a nice example of that, too.)

The other thing to note is that when I scanned these in, I could barely see the lines, so I had to adjust the brightness and contrast and all that fun. The result is that the background is almost always grey. Oh well, it’s easier on the eyes anyways.

So, without further adieu,

let’s get into it!

(Disclaimer: These are in no particular order, are sometimes kind of cringey and weird looking, and are by no means professional artwork. I’m self taught so yeah.)
(Disclaimer 2: If I catch you stealing any of my artwork I will not hesitate to call you out on it. I mean not like you’d wanna steal it, but just in case you think it’s good enough. XD)

In general my art is 75% wolves and 25% everything else. I’m intrigued to say that it’s not the same case here. The breakdown is 62.5% wolves, 34% humans, and 7% horses. (I calculated carefully, but somehow it adds up to 103.5%. We’ll say that extra 3.5% is eraser shavings.

The reason I haven’t drawn as many wolves as I usually do is because I’ve been animating wolves for that MAP thing I’m doing. (I mean, after spending an hour doing nothing but drawing wolves, I’m not really in the mood to draw any more wolves.) But I have done quite a few – including a series I call Fifteen Wolf Sketches.

F.W.S. came out of a flashcard project I had to do for my Hebrew class. We were supposed to draw pictures on one side and write vocabulary words on the other. My teacher was really miffed at me because I took wayyyy too long to do these, but I think the result was worth it. Let’s go!

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For the vocabulary word for “river”. I’d never drawn a wolf doing this so this was a ton of fun.

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To descend. Yup, they’re going down quickly – imho, the top one is to die for. LOOK AT HIS LITTLE FEETS.

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To take. My sister got so disturbed by the rabbit, it was funny.

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To put.

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To be pregnant. The passage we’re doing is the first chapters of Exodus, so yep, we gotta learn all the words. *awkward smile*

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WOOK AT TEH BEBES. THEY’RE TINY BOLLS OF FLOOF.
Ahem. To nurse.

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To go up. This ended up being one of my favorites.

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To come. Conversely, this is one of my least favorites.

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To draw water. Hey, I don’t think I did so bad, seeing as I couldn’t use any references at all for this. XD

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To drink. Well, a form of drinking, anyways. This one is more of the passive version to drink.

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To, erm, give birth. Yeah, I wasn’t going to draw that exactly, so I just drew this puppeh meeting his daddy. Awwwwwe….

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To see. Her eyebrows are like, not there. Not the best of the bunch.

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To stand.

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To call. I think I’ve drawn this drawing five times over. It doesn’t get old, though.

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To walk. Ahhh, I saved the best of these sketches for last. Here’s my wittle OC Archer, with leg positions that are SPOT ON. Ahhhh.

And now we enter the realm of the Epic Sketchbook. I really need to give him a name – if anyone has any suggestions, I’d appreciate it. He’s enormous and has taught me a lot about drawing large.

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Here’s the first drawing I did in him – sort of like a christening. I wish I’d put more definition in his ears but he’s cute.

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I am quite proud of this. It took soooooo long (like, three hours) from start to finish, but it’s so worth it. I’m so happy to have this in my sketchbook because it actually has color and makes me look like a pro. XD

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A random horse! Haha. I do still love horses. I just don’t draw them as often as I used to. In reality, they’re incredibly hard to draw and pose. But this is proof that I still do it – and I stepped out of my usual outlining style and did soft colored pencil around everything.

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In speaking of horses, here’s a partially colored cab. His gait looks subdued but meh, it’s okay. That cab was very hard to draw, and as a result the sizing is a little skewed, but it’s not noticiable if you’re just glancing (which you probably are ;))

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This driver looks quite dapper, lap blanket and all. What a shame that I never colored him.

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I suppose this also goes under the heading of horse-human drawings. I was interested in drawing humans at this point, but a little under-referenced. But it isn’t exactly easy to use references in a hotel room, which is where I did this. Because of this, we’ll ignore the fact that her horse has no near rein, her head is tiny in comparison to her shoulders, she looks like she’s about to fall asleep, and the stray lines on the bottom. Oh well.

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I had grand dreams for this drawing. I was going to completely shade it and make it look wonderful. But I suppose I sort of lost interest. It’s at this point a scrap that needs finishing.

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These buildings, though, are pretty awesome.

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(ignore the drawing on the back please. this was finished while I was just doodling.)

A little bit of human-wolf affection. Awe. My human bodies are half-decent. They’ll certainly work for now. I have the ability to convey a lot of poses using the top-secret method I use. My faces, though, leave a lot to be desired. I hide them a lot of the time with hair or other things, because when I draw them they end up looking like this a lot of the time:

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This is a bona fide Tess mess up! I dubbed her Lolina (not sure why?) and she looks like a nutcracker. The effect is worse than my scanner makes it. THOSE TEETH, WHAT HAPPENED.

It was after dear Lolina that I decided to not draw lips at all. After a bunch more like her, human faces started to make a bit of sense.

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I’ve found that profiles are the easiest to draw. It’s all in the nose. And hair is quite easy now that I’ve been practicing. I will admit that I draw most men’s hair in a certain way. It’s not the way I particularly like it, it’s just the way I’ve found that it’s easiest to draw.

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When I took the pictures for this post, this drawing was only half-done. I’ve finished it since then. (These are Nano charries :D) I really liked the facial proportions here. After I finish faces, tho, the next battle will be clothes. Because I can’t draw clothes right now to save my life and so everyone wears about the same thing.

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(I added the captions. Any guesses as to who these are?)

I thought this turned out pretty good. We’ve got a few issues with the eyes/skintones but it’s pretty decent. Closeups:

I think they’re pretty good.

Beofre we get to the last, best one, here’s a scrap:

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Hey, his hair is slightly different. Whaddaya know. (This is supposed to be Robin from Ettiquette and my other nano. :D)

Now.

I always save the best for last, as you know, and so I present to you another Nano charrie drawing that came kind of out of nowhere. It’s not even in the big sketchbook. But here we go:

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Is this….a human face that doesn’t look creepy, sleepy or just….off? DOES IT SERIOUSLY LOOK DECENT? wow.

The future for my drawing? I have to master human faces. This doesn’t mean that I won’t be drawing anything else, but that’s what’ll get the practice right now.

Tell me which one was your favorite!

Any comments? Advice? Freaking out over Lolina? I welcome suggestions and questions.

Maybe next time I sump some art, I’ll have some better faces! Haha.

Sayonara,
{Tess}

House Of Ghosts {AAWC Challenge #3}

Welcome back to what I’m calling The Saga Of Nedicent 😉 This installment is a bit rushed, and I regret that, but I’m the one personally responsible for holding back the next challenge because I begged Zielle to let me turn in late. Sorry, guys. So here it is, from Millicent’s POV.

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A cold gust of wind threaded its way through the crowded buildings of Burton-On-Thames, blowing the fishermen’s hats away and unraveling the braids on the working horses. It crept up under the hood of my cape, taking a piece of my dark hair loose from behind my ear and sweeping it across my eyes. I pushed it off in annoyance as I pulled the warm, red cloth tighter around my thin shoulders.

At the corner where Shobnall Street and Borough Road interstect, a stylish carriage rattled through a puddle, sending a stinging spray of dirty, melted snow and pebbles in my direction. Fortunately, the cloak caught most of the stains, and how fortunate, too – I would have hated to see the silk I foolishly chose to wear today ruined by a careless, flippant, stuck-up coachman.

It always seemed to happen that way with me. I started the day telling myself I was going to be elegant, composed, and upper-class. Then, I’d get caught up in whatever I was doing and end up dirty, tired, but triumphant. Today was no exception. This morning, when I’d awoken, I knew in the back of my mind that I had important, troubling things to do. But my favorite silk dress called out to me from the wardrobe, just begging me to wear it and look sophisticated, dainty and upper-class.

If I had really been a part of the upper class, I would have been up in a drawing room, wearing silk slippers and possibly playing a spinet on this blustery January day. But though my father had money, he was an outcast of society, and so here I was, continuing the chain of eccentricity as I splashed through the puddles in his boots.

Finally, I came to the address I was seeking, climbed up the stairs between the two stone dragons guarding its entry. The townhouse was slowly being conquered by armies of vivacious ivy and overgrown bushes. The gardener that used to maintain the foliage had died almost a decade before. So had, for that matter, the cook, the maid, and the butler.

And now, Sir Giles Dawson himself was no more.

I hadn’t believed Father when he’d broken the news to me. It didn’t seem possible that he could no longer be living the square, gothic townhome hidden by leaves. But it had been true, unfortunately. And being his only real friend, it was my job to go through the dark, cozy rooms and gather the things he wouldn’t have wanted to be sold.

It pained me, to stand there, to know that there would be no Sir Dawson waiting for me inside, his feet propped on the footstool, his knobbly hands on the book in his lap, his square shoulders covered by the damask bathrobe he always wore. He wouldn’t greet me with his elusive smile, ask me to throw another log in the fireplace, or complain to me about how unjust the world was.

Everyone always whispered behind my back about my friendship with him, but always loud enough for me to hear, so they could impart to me their views on my visiting him. The ladies thought I had no business associating with an unrelated man four times my age. That would be true if he weren’t so lonely and sour and fed up with the world that had rejected him. I was good for him, Father said. Father’s friends, however, called me a forest maiden – because I ‘associated with the animals of the forest, particularly the grumpy, cross, bear known as Sir Dawson’.

I raised my hand to the the brass knocker, the griffon’s head on the door, then remembered that no one lived within anymore. I used to have knock – it was a stipulation of his. Then he’d say, “Herein!” in his gruff voice, and I’d unlock it with the key I had.

Those days were sadly passed, though. I reached into the pocket sewn to the inside of my cloak, pulled out the brass key with the cobalt string round the top of it. I slid it into the keyhole. The click it made as it met the lock seemed to echo in the entryway. As I pushed the heavy, mahongany door open, a smell of stillness met me. If it was possible for loneliness to smell like anything, this was its scent.

The entryway was dark, even darker after I closed the door behind me. I reached for the little table next to the door, found the matches and lit a candle. The only reason I knew they were even there was because I’d put it there.

The haunting, dancing, yellow-orange light filled the low-ceilinged entry, with its foreboding paisley carpet, sordid walls and oppressive crown moulding. The parlour, or, what I could see of it through the doorway to my right, was a pool of blackness. So was the dining room on my left and the hallway before me. I moved toward that hall, the light creeping over the floor and pushing away the darkness that surrounded me. At the same time, it felt as if the dark was breathing down my neck, getting closer and closer behind me as the candle danced away.

Sir Dawson had not entertained a single person while he had lived here. So, naturally, the dining room and parlour both were frightfully bare. Not a single trinket or item of intrigue lived in them, not even to gather dust. The only thing I ever recalled seeing in the dining room that wasn’t a piece of unmoved furniture was a set of blue wedgewood dishes peering out from behind the glass doors of the china cabinet. I’d learned they’d been his only inheritance from a long-dead uncle he never had liked. There was a personal joke accompanying them, one that made him smile saucily every time he thought about the set. But it was a joke I would never know.

I skipped those two rooms entirely, aiming straight for the stairs at the end of the hallway. I knew he didn’t have anything he cared about downstairs, because he lived upstairs, where his bedroom and study were. And this was where I knew he kept the only possessions that mattered to him.

The light trembled about as I took it up the stairs, each step bringing me closer to the rooms of reminiscence and memories. Never did I imagine that these memories would be painful to recall.

I arrived at the top of the stairs, my feet dragging slower and slower. I might as well get the hardest part over with, I figured. So even though I did not want to open that door and drown myself in a torrent of retrospection, I forced my wrist to turn the doorknob and my feet to step over the threshold.

Sir Dawson’s study, his office, was where he had spent most of his time. But it didn’t feel like it belonged to him anymore, not without his robed countenance sitting in the chair, telling me that I was fashionably late. Without him there, without his watchful gaze on the bookshelves, his feet on the footstool, his papers and ink on the desk and his curmudgeonly voice resonating through the wood paneling, the study felt as if it were in mourning, too.

My skirt brushed against the blackout curtains pulled agressively over the windows. I wondered who had done that. He’d always liked them open, despite his reclusiveness – he had liked to ‘look down upon the street, so’s I know what I’m missing’ (his words, not mine).

Why did I love him so much? The question flitted through my self-conscious as I ran the tips of my fingers over the book still face-down on his endtable, open to the place where he’d left it. He was a pessimistic curmudgeon at best; a depressing crank with barbarian manners to the less accepting set. I put up with his antics, though. Furthermore, I actually saw him as a friend. But why?

I kept mulling it over as I opened the curtains, letting in the soft, ambient light, filtered through the sordid January clouds outside. Securing them with the ties on the wall, I looked around at the room, still awaiting its master’s return. I hadn’t the heart to say that Sir Dawson wasn’t coming back. I could barely convince myself that truth.

I shook my head to clear it. Though I would have loved to sit in the chair he’d sat in for so many hours and let my emotions flow freely, I had a job to do. It was up to me to make sure that his important things were safe from his so-called friends. I strode over to his desk, trying to let the confidence pulsate through me. He had to have written a will. In my tulmultous state of mind, I needed to have everything spelled out for me.

He had said he kept the most important things out of sight. I opened the drawer on his desk, which was little more than a writing table. In that drawer, amid a nest of various papers, writing utensils, and a bundle of red string, was the document I sought.

He wrote it out on very thick, very nice paper, with a seal on the top. I took it over to the window so I could read the cramped, crabbed handwriting.

Last Will And Testament Of Sir Giles Dawson

I, Sir Giles Dawson, of Burton-On-Thames, Essex, England, declare this Document to be my final Will and Testament.

After jumping through the hoops of legality (no, he was not married, he had no children, either), the document circled round to the part everyone would be hanging on – if he had any friends, that is.

To Miss Millicent Blair, the daughter of Mr. John Blair, of Burton-On-Thames, Essex, England, the following is to be bequeathed: the set of wedgewood china in the dining room; in the bedroom, the marble bust of Plato, along with any books to be found near and around the bed; and in the study, the library, writing desk, green wingback chair, globe and porcelain elephant.

There was not much more to be read after that paragraph, just that he wished everything else to be sold and the money given to none other than myself. I lay the paper down on the windowsill and sighed. What was I to do with these things now? They didn’t look the same without him.

I meandered out the door, still thinking, only half-noticing what I was doing. The light from the windows now spilled out over the threshold. I opened the bedroom door, barely discerning the form of the tall, four-poster bed as I made straight for the window. As I pulled back the curtains, the room awoke in shades of grey, just as the study had.

His bed was unmade. I proceeded to pull the sheets up to the top, pulling a book or two out from the foot of the mattress, where they’d become tangled in the bedclothes.

Plumping the pillows and setting them right, the thought that I was essentially being a maid crossed my mind. I pushed it out promptly. It was worth getting dirty to set everything in order for him.

There was a small pile of books on his sidetable, burying the ornate glass oil lamp with the dirty chimney. I stacked them neatly, arranging them from largest to smallest. As I kept adding to the stack, picking up the books scattered on the floor and over the top of the dresser, I realized that Sir Dawson’s insomnia had been more severe than I’d thought. He must have kept the oil burning very late every night to read all of these.

Soon I had at least five and twenty books stacked neatly on the bench at the foot of his bed. It occurred to me that the room smelled quite nasty, rather like sleep and smoke. Unlocking the window, I slid up the casement, and let the blustery but refreshing breeze ruffle the curtains around the bed. Then I went over to the wardrobe.

Two suits were hanging on the front of it. I opened the door to reveal his hastily stuffed closet. Running my hand between the suits to smooth them out,  I realized that he probably only had the other two out because he hadn’t any more room inside. And it wasn’t like he wore anything but his dressing gown, anyways. As I lifted the tails of a musty-smelling tailcoat, something in the bottom of the wardrobe caught my eye, faintly luminiscent. I picked it up. It was the gold banding across the spine of yet another book.

Hauling thirteen more books out of the wardrobe, I began to see that I had a ticklish problems on my hands. I couldn’t take these books, not when felt like they still belonged to him. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy them if I could still hear his voice reading a paragraph out of them.

As I was bent over, reluctantly checking to see if there were any more books in the wardrobe, something brushed against my cheek. I pushed it out of the way, but it swung back towards me. I fingered it. It was the tailcoat.

With the fabric in between my fingers, a conversation slowly twirled its way back to my consciousness.

They say two hundred books are published every day.

It had been nearly a month since that night, the twenty-second of December. Thirty-eight books, plus the five or six hundred in the library on the other side of the wall, equalled – I rubbed the tailcoat between my fingers as I made the calculation – roughly ten percent of the books Mr. Glasscock should have read by now.

I stood there, still fingering the tailcoat, staring at the stack of books, for a solid minute, as the realization occurred to me.

I could not decide for the life of me what it was.

Domesday-book-1804x972

Yeah, it’s not as good as Ettiquette. But I stretched out something Millie could have told Ned in one line to 2500 words. NAILED IT.

Prompts used:

Le bear picture.

I intended to illustrate this but yeah I’m still working on those faces. XD But I did mention my team name and the prompt in the same sentence – bonus points?

Father’s friends, however, called me an elfin maiden – because I ‘associated with the animals of the forest, particularly the grumpy, cross, bear known as Sir Dawson’.

1 point (participation) + 1 point (prompt) + 1 point (team name) = 3 points

*whimpers* Oh, that’s frightfully low. Go Team Forest!

What did you think? Are you looking forward to the next installment of Ned and Millie’s story? It’s going to be told by a very side character this time…

Sayonara, I’m going to try not to cringe at this piece,

{Tess}

Etiquette {AAWC Challenge #1}

Let me preface by saying that I had completely forgotten about this challenge until Zielle posted about it and I saw my name in Team Forest.

Let me also say that I didn’t really care for these particular prompts, so I sort of just winged it. (Wung it?)

But let me finally say that I love what came out of this.

Here is my newest short story Etiquette. Enjoy.

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I shoved my hands in the pockets of my tailcoat, even though I knew it looked odd. But it wasn’t like like I cared. I had wanted to stay home tonight. I had wanted to continue with my enthralling study on fourteenth-century architecture. In fact, about the last thing I had wanted to do was to get dressed up and go socialize.

But Robin, in that that annoyingly enthusiastic way of his, had promised the host that I’d be there – to “get a bit of air and exercise his smile”, he’d said. And when I’d loudly protested, he’d grinned, like he was enjoying it.

“I’ll be sick that day!” I had threatened.

“I’ll call up the doctor. He can give you a placebo,” was his wry reply.

I sulkily leaned against the pillar behind me. Well, he could make me come, but he couldn’t make me be happy about it.

I caught sight of the top of his head in the sea of people before me. It was unmistakable. He was very ginger, and his hair was pushed up in the front – he had a habit of running his fingers through it when agitated. He was weaving through the crowd, dodging servants with trays of prawns and champagne and trying not to step on anyone’s toes.

Finally, he broke through the crowd. I pretended I hadn’t seen him, because the look on his face was unmistakable. He was coming to chew me up about being a wallflower, and I was going to have to expend some effort and tell him he couldn’t force me to do anything.

He stopped just a few feet from me. “Come on, Ned, I didn’t bring you here so you could sit over here and pout.”

“Well, that’s what I’m doing,” I replied. “Any questions?”

He shook his head, smiling a bit. “I just can’t imagine how you could prefer doing nothing to Yuletide.”

I was actually thinking over intelligent topics, but I decided not to test my luck. “Your cravat is crooked,” I said critically.

“Yours would be too if you were having any fun.”

I shrugged. “Maybe your idea of fun. I’d rather be doing something intellectually enriching.”

“I’ll choose to not be offended by that.” He chuckled. “But come on, the only other person sitting out is Dr. Matterhorn over there.”

“It’s because he’s smart.”

“It’s because he’s a sociophobe,” he whispered, smiling grinchily. “Bring honor to our name and be a bit less reclusive, for heaven’s sake.”

“I’ll do what I want, thank you.”

For a moment, I thought that rebuff was going to work. He stood there and looked at me for at least ten seconds. Then I saw the naughty idea twinkle in his blue eyes.

He took me by the shoulders and turned me round to face the party. There were people I knew, people I didn’t know, people I recalled seeing but couldn’t think where. I felt him grab my upper arm. His hand could almost go the whole way round it.

“Well,” he said as he started to drag me along, “if you won’t come on your own, I suppose I can lend a hand.”

“Let go of me,” I replied, trying not to make a scene. But he kept striding on, nearly pulling me out of my shoes at times. Finally, he let go of my arm. I pulled away, brushed my sleeve off. How embarrassing.

Robin smiled amiably. “Social interaction, courtesy of big brother. If I catch you back on that wall I’ll make you dance. Understand?”

I crossed my arms. “I’m not promising anything.”

He shrugged. “You’d best find a lady you like, then.”

At least he left me alone after that. I began to think of ways I could get out of this situation. Though I may not have been able to confront Robin physically, I definitely could outwit him. Or so I thought.

I must have looked quite odd. Here I was, standing in the middle of a Christmas party, staring down at my shoes with a face of inner turmoil.

“Heart been broken again?”

I turned around. A man was standing behind me, speaking from behind a furry mustache. He was short, stout and was wearing spats. He had his head back and was dangling a prawn over his open mouth. I furrowed my brow and just looked at him askance.

“It happens to the best of us, son. ‘Many a head will rest on pillows wet with tears as prejudice and fear mar the perfect world that spins about our ears.'”

There were many things I could have said that would have sent him packing. But I was curious now, though desperate not to let him know that. I’d learned that people like him thrive on people’s curiosity and disbelief.

“Beg pardon?” I said.

“It’s by Kaiser. Good, isn’t it? But it doesn’t detract from he situation you’ve found yourself in.”

“What situation?”

He looked at me like I was daft. “Why, your pickle, is there any other?” He didn’t wait for me to answer. “You love her deeply, just pining away, but when you work up enough courage to tell her that, she rejects you.”

“Who?”

“You, silly!”

“No, no, I’m rejected by whom?”

He adjusted the bluish crystal monocle in his left eye. “Why, I don’t know. I’m not a gipsy fortune-teller. Be a good boy and tell me, won’t you?”

Some people. “Firstly, I’m not a boy. I’m nearly twenty as it is. Secondly, I’m currently pining away for no one.”

“Well, I wouldn’t be either if she had done the same to me.”

“No, no, I never was.”

He chuckled, patting his belt line. He wore his trousers very high, so that was about right at his navel. Or so I estimated. “Come now, son, don’t be prickly. I do understand that this is a difficult time in your life, but I assure you, you’ll weather through it. You’ll come out on the other side wizened, but -”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

He stopped, his mouth still open, then closed it like a spectacle case. “It’s rather rude to stop a man from sharing his words, don’t you think?”

“I prefer not to play by the rules of society, if you please.”

“Aha, so you’re a rebel, are you?”

I didn’t want to explain. There wasn’t any way to speak my mind without offending him. My actual position in the matter? Parties are pointless and are basically cesspools of people like this man – people who won’t leave you alone. But at last he found a new victim to heckle, and sauntered off, seizing a cup of punch from a tray as it passed over his head.

Sighing audibly with relief, I tried to remember where my train of thought had been before he’d derailed it. Ah, yes. I was plotting escape. In all this mess, it shouldn’t be too hard to slip off when no one was watching, to retreat in a cab to my lovely study with its bright fire and claustrophobic bookcases. So where was the exit?

I craned my neck, trying to see above the hubbub I was within. The room was very large – it had a balcony skirting the walls that was supported by thick columns of white granite. I suppose the architect put it in just so the people like me could have a birds-eye view of the frivolities below. Between two of these pillars, I remembered there being a set of gilded double doors, which we had come in through.

A glint of gold caught my eye. One of these doors had been opened – by a certain man with orange hair pushed up in the front. Once he’d closed it again, he picked up his glass where he’d set it down and leaned against the jamb.

Well, so much for that. I wondered whether he’d done it on purpose or not. It could go either way. But there had to be another exit. Wasn’t that required by the fire marshal or something? I turned around to inspect the walls – and nearly ran over a lady in a white organza gown.

It is one thing to be rude to a nosy old man or a pushy brother. But I would have had to have no soul to tell a lady she was in my way, particularly when she hadn’t directly annoyed me yet. That’s the troubling thing with ladies – they lack self-confidence, so if anyone tells them to go away, they take it personally. Perhaps I did spend too much time in my study, but I had read an ettiquette book or two.

“Excuse me,” I said apologetically. Or, rather, as apologetically as I could manage.

She chuckled. “No trouble, no trouble.”

We looked at each other for a moment.

“You look distressed,” she said. Was it that apparent? “Is there something wrong?”

Composure, Ned, composure. “Not horribly. I’m just looking forward to getting back to my study, that’s all.”

She considered that for a bit. “You read a great deal, then?”

I nodded. “You can’t change much about yourself, but you can improve your intellect.”

“Intriguing,” she said, the word coming awkwardly off her tongue. It was evident that she’d been waiting for a chance to use it. “Are you attending a university?”

“Hopefully, I will be soon. Until then, I’ll learn as much as I can on my own.”

We were silent for a bit.

“What brings you to the ball, then?” she asked, cocking her head.

“Peer pressure.” I caught sight of Robin, now occupying a clearing in a forest of people. He seemed to be giving a speech of sort, perhaps telling one of his stories. The room was too large for me to tell which it was. “I’d much rather have spent tonight at home.”

That comment slipped out without my realizing it. I instantly regretted it. Maybe I hadn’t read as many ettiquette books as I should have. You don’t tell people you wish you were elsewhere while at a ball; rather, you’re supposed to give the impression that you are having the time of your life, even if it’s not true. That’s the other thing about party manners – you have to say a lot of things that aren’t expressly realistic, just to save your face.

I worked up enough courage to glance over at her. She was looking at me. I looked away. Yes, she had heard me, but she wasn’t affronted. In fact, she looked…curious?

“You certainly have no problems saying what’s on your mind,” she finally said.

Oh, this was embarassing. “It’s a symptom of solitude, I’m afraid. I apologize.”

“Don’t be sorry,” she chuckled. “It is nice to know that there’s someone here who says the truth.” She didn’t say it with a trite tone and genteel manners. There was a spicy tone to her voice, like she had been lied to, perhaps indirectly.

“If I can be so bold as to make a hypothesis, I’d say we’re agreed on the subject of parties.”

“I’m not exactly enchanted by them, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

We looked at eachother significantly. She laughed. Without really realizing it, we began to walk together, just observing our surroundings in eachother’s company.

“I suppose it’s a nice change of scenery,” she said, gesturing toward a garland of holly curled around the railing of the staircase.

“It’s a prison cell,” I muttered.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing.” We moved closer toward the railing, shoulders touching as a woman in a very large skirt passed us. “I was being sarcastic.”

We were up on the mezzanine now. She leaned on the banister, staring down at the swirling colours of silk and satin blooming over the dancing floor.

“It’s not the idea itself that bothers me,” she regressed. “In fact, I think it’s a rather nice idea, to all come together and pass an evening over champagne.”

I looked over at her. A strand of her dark hair had fallen out of the bundle on the nape of her neck. Now it trailed down, curling slightly, past a white tea rose she had placed behind her ear.

“Then what keeps you up here with someone as anti-social as me?”

She tore her gaze from the dancers and looked me straight in the eyes. “You’re the first person I’ve met who’s honest with himself.”

Both she and I knew that it was terribly rude at a ball to spend all one’s time with just one person. But neither of us were too concerned with manners that night. It was all a show, anyways. I found myself regretful to leave, strangely enough. It wasn’t because of the other people, though. I had finally found someone who thought roughly the same way that I did, and now that I had made that connection, I almost didn’t want to go back to being a solitary creature in a study.

Perhaps my solitude had always been because I’d never found anyone who saw society the way I did.

The moment I had been looking forward to before hit me with an undertone of sorrow.

“Goodnight,” I bid her politely. “And a happy new year.”

“The same to you. They say two hundred books are published every day, so that means you should have read…” She calculated. “Seventy-three thousand by the time we cross paths again?”

“Let’s hope it’s fewer.”

She chuckled.

“Goodnight, Mister…”

“Edward Glasscock.”

“Mister Glasscock.” She pressed something into my hand as her father, who had chaperoned her, waited with her cloak.

I closed my fist around it, tipping my hat. “And goodnight, Miss -”

“Blair,” she called over her shoulder as they climbed into their cab. “Millicent Blair.”

The coach’s door closed as she pulled her white organza skirt out of its jaws. I didn’t realize it (or perhaps I didn’t care), but I stood there and watched it leave, the horses’ feet clopping on the cobblestones and echoing off into the night. Many others passed in front of me, between the double doors and away in other coaches. Finally, I looked into my hand.

On the scrap of paper torn from who-knows-where, she had written an address in very nice letters.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and jumped, shoving it into my breast pocket. Robin was standing behind me, the look on his face spelling triumph.

“What are you so joyous about?” I asked, turning to face him.

“Oh, nothing. I’ve just got this proud feeling inside me that my efforts paid off.”

He laughed. I sighed in annoyance, even defeat.

“Don’t expect it to happen again.”

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I realize this was really long, clocking in at almost 2500 words. So I apologize.

Trivia: Ned and Robin were the main characters of my 2017 Camp Nano novel Brother Robin. Next challenge will feature some more Nano characters – fun!

I only used one prompt. Can we please not use the ridiculous mistletoe one anymore? I kept on trying to think of ways to use it that weren’t repulsive to me, but I couldn’t think of any. And obviously, because of the Victorian setting, I didn’t use the pickup truck. Though I did like the photo.

I also mentioned my Team Name (I caught sight of Robin, now occupying a clearing in a forest of people.) 

So 1 point for participation + 1 point for the prompt + 1 point for mentioning my team name = 3 total points.

Sayonara for now – Go Team Forest!

{Tess}

AG Create-Your-Own: Nanowrimo Edition

I had no idea whether to put this on my doll blog or here on Steeplechase, but I decided that since it involved the characters of my past Nanowrimos, I should post it here.

Anyways, today I’ll be trying to duplicate some of my past Nanowrimo characters (and probably ranting about them in the process ;)) with the AG Create-Your-Own maker. Enjoy.

Sybil Glasscock
A Falcon Of Gold, 2015 (40k)

sybil

Ahh, Sybil, you extremely pessimistic bean, your clothes are completely period innacurate but they’re more to reflect your character than your actual costume. I apologize for shipping you at the last minute. That was unfair.

(Sybil was part islander and part English. But the islander was more dominant. She was a really big jerk though.)

Kat McKittrick
A Charger In Command, 2016 (50k)

kat

(The picture size changed for some reason. Sorry for triggering your severe OCD.)

Kat was a more sedate Sybil. Maybe it was the horses; maybe it was the fact that she wasn’t an orphan. (There are really too many orphans in today’s literary world.) Whatever it was, she was more stable. But I shipped her at the last minute too. *ducks as people throw tomatoes*.

I’m fine with shipping characters, it’s just when it’s last minute that makes it bad. Instantly.

Kaori Sasaki (sound familiar?)
The Taiso Senshu, 2017 (15k)

kaori

It was after I wrote Kaori’s story in April that I realized that I wrote almost exclusively about dark-haired, pessimistic girls. Nevertheless, she was my favourite out of the three, only because she was Japanese and Japan is awesome. (Well, because I didn’t want to do any research, I made it a Japan-like society called Pseudo-Japan in my notes. I’m lazy.)

(So much from her story was borrowed for my doll stories, so I can’t share much more. :P)

Millicent Blair
Brother Robin, 2017 (50k)

millicent

Millicent, you refreshing change to the norm! It’s a pity you were an underexplored side character. At least the MC of Brother Robin was a light-haired, blue-eyed British man. He was still pessimistic though. Maybe you’ll be a good influence for him. As I did ship the two of you. (sorrynotsorry).

Honorable mentions, also from Brother Robin:

And one more honorable mention: Kseniya, a she-wolf, from my novel in preparation about canine culture, reimagined as a human.

kseniya
“Where are my ears?”

And finally, from my upcoming story for Nanowrimo 2017…

Sasha Sokolovsky
Project Orion (50k)

sasha

Part Russian. Part naïve. All nerd. I’m going to have so much with you this November, despite that you’re only a side character!

Time for…

Secrets

The answer to this question is the password to the Secrets page, which holds a bonus picture for you to enjoy! (It will be all lowercase.)

What is the ship name of my OTP?
(hint: it’s in a caption)

What kinds of characters do you tend to write about? Do they all follow a pattern or are they different? Are you going to do this on your blog? If you are, then link it back and I’ll read it!

Sayonara!

{Tess}