One day, there were these beautiful pumpkins that were growing in Miss Petunia's back yard. One day Mr. Grapasaurus, her neighbor, snuck into her backyard and stole 10 pumpkins for a bonfire party that he was planning. But nobody came to his party so he needed more pumpkins. This time, he stole 20 pumpkins. Miss Petunia was out of town and a couple people came to his second pumpkin bonfire. He kept stealing more and more pumpkins until he stole all of Miss Petunia's pumpkins, which Miss Petunia noticed. She smelled the bonfire and she walked over to her neighbor's yard and saw that it was him, Mr. Grapasaurus, that had stolen her pumpkins.
Miss Petunia called the police on Mr. Grapasaurus and she waited by her fence so she could keep an eye on him and keep an eye on her driveway. She was getting a little tired so she planned to go inside but she knew she couldn't leave. Then, she felt a tiny little tap on her leg. There was one of her other neighbors, Lulu Woodsketch. Lulu was 5 years old. Lulu said, “I can watch him. You can go rest.” Then Lulu called her older brother Neal Leo Woodsketch. He was 18 years old. She called Neal Leo so quiet Mr. Grapasaurus couldn't hear. Lulu told Neal, “You watch for the police and I'll watch him. If I need your help, I'll call for you.” Then Lulu called Violet Weenberry, who is her cousin, to go to the other side of the fence to watch that side. Violet was 7 years old. Lulu and Violet could see each other but Mr. Grapasaurus couldn't see them.
The police showed up and one went to the back door and one went to the front door. Another went to Lulu and another went to Violet. Mr. Grapasaurus tried to get out one of his side exits. He tried to get out Violet's side first but she grabbed his legs, flipped up into a handstand, and put her feet up on his shoulders. Then, she kicked him over with her feet. Then, Lulu opened up the other side of the fence and ran in. While Violet kicked over Mr. Grapasaurus, the police ran by her and grabbed everyone that was at the pumpkin bonfire and stuck them in all of the backup police cars. Then after Violet knocked down Mr. Grapasaurus, she did the splits on top of him and then did 3 handstands across him, then spun across him, then kicked him over and started to dance on his back. Then, Violet lifted him up with one hand and carried him to the next town and to that police station.
While Violet was doing that and before the police took everybody away, Lulu grabbed everybody that was at the bonfire and carried everybody to all the different cars and she had to do a handstand to do that like her cousin Violet did. Then after that, she ran back to her cousin Violet and while she was running back, Mrs. Weenberry stopped her and asked, “Do you know where Violet is? I thought she was supposed to be with you?” Lulu said, “She is with me. We went over to Miss Petunia's house to help her because Mr. Grapasaurus is there trying to steal all of her pumpkins. Then, he was having a bonfire with all of these people. So, we were helping her get everybody where they belonged. If you follow me, I can show you. And if you really want, you can ride on my shoulders. It wouldn't hurt me. I carried 5 people on my shoulders already to get them into the right squad cars.”
So, they both went and found Violet and after the police left, Mrs. Woodsketch and Mrs. Weenberry and Violet and Lulu and Neal Leo and Miss Petunia all went to the corner of Miss Petunia's yard and they all grabbed out their wands and said, “Magic is a wonder. It is like a wonderland of wands and magic. That's how much fun it is.”
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful frozen lake that everybody went to because, when the lake was alone, it built benches and made more ice skates and fed the animals that lived around the frozen lake. When people came, they could skate around and sit down when they needed to until one day the lake melted. Nobody could come and ice skate because it was just liquid. And the sun came and evaporated it all up. All the benches and all the ice skates melted because they were made of water too.
One day, two little monkeys that liked to ice skate decided to go to the frozen, magical lake (as they called it). When they discovered that there was no lake, they started doing little monkey calls. The big Koala Monster who was their leader came running. When their leader showed up, he tickled the little monkeys out of his way and he tried to find where the water had gone but he didn't see anything. He saw that the lake had been swallowed by the ground. He saw the sun and he said, “Wait a minute. The sun can suck things up. The sun made it disappear.” He did not tell the monkeys because he thought he was too better for the monkeys.
Then 2 little monkeys started to cry and this girl heard them crying and came out. She asked, “Why are you crying?” The monkeys said, “We were wanting to ice skate on the lake that used to be here.” The girl said, “What do you need to restart that? Do you need water?” “Yes,” the monkeys said. “And do you need the sun to go away so it doesn't melt?” she asked. The monkeys said, “Yes.” So, the girl ran into her house, grabbed a bucket, filled it with water, and grabbed her wand. She made herself invisible and went outside. She made the sun go away permanently. Then, she made herself visible in her house and came out with the bucket of water. She poured it on the ground where the lake used to be and then kept going back and forth with buckets and pouring it on the ground until they had a nice, thick lake.
Then the girl brought the monkeys into her house and before she closed the door, she shooted a evil curse at the Koala Monster. It made the Koala Monster disappear completely and float up onto a cloud and stick to the cloud. Then she closed the door and shot a nice curse at the monkeys to make them turn into who they were. They were 2 small wizarding boys. They said, “Thank you!” Then the girl said, “Help yourself to any of the food. I'll be upstairs.” Then she got on her phone and she found HOL. She said, “What is this? This looks fun.” So, she joined and told the wizarding boys about it. They joined too. Then they yelled, “Go HOL!”
Arcadia ducked behind the nearest bush as quickly as she could. A streak of lightning flashed through the sky, so bright it nearly burned her retinas as she kept a keen eye on its path. She couldn't blame the sky gods for targeting her, but she did wish they would do so in a subtler manner. Jupiter had always been such a braggart, it was a wonder no one had put him in his place before.
Once she felt the coast was clear, Arcadia peeked around the bush and made a run for it. The next town was only a few miles away. She could make it before she was obliterated, or so she hoped. The lightning seemed to have ceased, but it was time for the onslaught of precipitation. They knew as well as she did, that running for one's life through curtains of water was a fairly difficult endeavor. Which way was the town again? There was hardly enough light for her to see ten feet in front of her, much less any outline of buildings amidst this watery landscape.
Cupping her hands securely around her mouth, she shouted an outburst of thunder, the sound waves and droplets beginning to argue in a midair dance of a battle. This internal fighting allowed Arcadia to make out a building in the distance, and she ran as fast as she could towards it. Winds whipped around her face as she kept dashing through the pelting rain yet she continued to push forward. She saw the tiny floating lights from the town and a smile broke across her face. The rain stopped. The sky seemed to glare down at her, but knew it couldn't do much more to stop her. She had attained the powers of thunder and intended to use them to bring about a revolution.
Prof. Sky Alton
Rachel gripped Tanya’s arm lightly as they made their way through the car park, holding her cane loosely in her other hand. They wove their way through some abysmal parking before Tanya paused, letting Rachel tap the kerb with her cane and step up onto it before strolling off again. The restaurant door opened as someone else came out, the delicious smell of frying onions gusting out with them.
“This place is meant to be amazing,” Tanya said.
Rachel could feel her practically vibrating with excitement. Tanya absolutely loved food, particularly trying new things. It had led them to some very odd places over the years (the popcorn café serving seafood flavoured popcorn was a particularly vivid memory). This grill was actually quite safe sounding by Tanya standards.
The restaurant was noisy: full of chatter and jazzy music that had been turned up just a little too loud. They were seated at a table by the window. Rachel propped her cane in a corner.
“Can I get you some drinks to start off?” the waiter asked.
“That would be great,” Tanya said, “I’ll have an orange juice.”
“Certainly. And what would she like…?”
Rachel’s heart sank slightly. She could practically sense Tanya’s blood pressure start to inch upwards. All the same, she forced a smile and pointedly turned in his direction.
“Just a sparkling water, please,” she said firmly.
“I’ll bring those right over,” the waiter promised, hurrying off.
“Not a word,” Rachel said, before Tanya could explode.
“We came to relax. Not bust a blood vessel.”
“Fine,” Tanya grumbled.
Rachel nudged her with her foot. She was sure Tanya was already planning a scathing online review and wanted to derail her if she possibly could.
Tanya obligingly began to read out the options. After six months of dating, she knew which pages to go to first. She’d even stopped doing funny voices to try to be cute… for the most part.
The waiter returned after a while with the drinks.
“Have you decided?” he asked.
“I’ll take the veggie taco plank,” Tanya said.
“And what would she –.”
“You’ll need to ask her yourself,” Tanya snapped.
There was an awkward silence.
“A chicken burrito, please,” Rachel said, as though nothing had happened.
The waiter mumbled his polite platitudes and raced off even quicker this time.
“I just don’t get it,” Tanya said and Rachel could tell she was grimacing. “How can you live with it?”
“It bothering me isn’t going to change the fact that it happens all the time, is it? If I get aerated about every little thing, I’ll spend my life angry.”
“So it… doesn’t bother you?” Tanya asked quietly.
“Of course it bothers me,” Rachel sighed, swirling her straw in her drink. “I would just rather not focus on it when we’re meant to be having fun.”
It was hard to explain. That it made her die a little inside every time someone spoke to whoever she was with rather than to her. That people seemed to think being blind made you incapable of interacting with them. But to make a big deal out of it took energy and guts, two things she only had a limited supply of. An extremely limited supply after a hard week at work. It also meant she had to live with the embarrassment, discomfort and guilt of whoever she was taking to task. Maybe she shouldn’t feel bad for the people who had treated her poorly… But 9 times out of 10 she did. Because 9 times out of 10 they hadn’t meant to do it. Maybe not correcting people every time it happened made her a coward. But sometimes she just wanted a burrito and to eat it in peace… Well, as close to peace as you could get in a crowded restaurant with terrible music.
Their food arrived.
“She should -,” the waiter caught himself. “Sorry, madam. You should know that the plate is very hot, so please, please don’t touch it,” he said in a rush.
Rachel smiled and nodded at him. She could feel the eruption building across the table. Showing uncharacteristic restraint, Tanya managed to wait until he’d moved off again before exploding.
“Who’s she, the cat’s mother?”
Rachel had to laugh.
“At least he’s starting to learn…”
“He’s still speaking to you like you’re a 5-year-old,” Tanya said.
Rachel just reached for her food. Maybe it wasn’t the instant attitude change and grovelling apology that Tanya wanted. For her though, it was a start. She’d treat it as a win for now.
Prof. Sky Alton
A rain drop the size of a marble bounced off her nose. She simply stared at her handlebars and the road beyond them. she’d left frustration behind twenty kilometers ago and misery had slipped away at least five back. Now she was just feeling a detached kind of bemusement: how could one day have gone so, so wrong?
She’d woken up to find everything from her kit to her breakfast sodden. She’d gotten herself onto the road with an extreme effort of will… and immediately taken a wrong turning. What was worse, it had taken her three kilometers and a formidable hill to realise the mistake. Around mid-morning, she’d tried to gain a little time back by risking a shortcut. She’d ended up having to wheel the bike through potholes deep enough to swallow a moderately sized hippo.
Lunch had been as soggy as breakfast and a passing car had drenched her in muddy water thrown up by its wheels. And now? Now she was struggling up the steepest hill she had ever, ever encountered. It was so steep that the water slick road in front was practically at her eyeline.
She willed her numb legs to keep going, then spluttered as something flew into her face. Whether it was a rain addled insect or a hailstone, she wasn’t quite sure. Muscles burning, she crawled a few more feet up the hill. She fought the temptation just to let herself veer off into the nice soft ditch to her left. It wasn’t like she could get any wetter or filthier…
At last, she crested the hill. She leaned on her handlebars for a second, blinking water out of her eyes. The land stretched out beneath her, a patchwork of fields and woods in hazy browns and greens. There, tucked neatly at the bottom of the hill, was a collection of buildings, looking like nothing more than discarded toy blocks from up here. Looking to the horizon, she saw a patch of blue that was steadily growing larger. She was almost there. With a whoop, she plunged down the hill.
Winter was merciless in the north.
Not that they had expected any of this to be easy, but the ferocity of the storms howling across the land and freezing them to the bone had still come as a surprise. Kedrin looked across the room at the boy who sat huddled in a huge bearskin which made him appear even smaller than he already was. The lad shouldn’t have been here, but he had insisted when his father made preparations to set out, pleading endlessly with him until he had finally given in and allowed him to come along.
They had left with Duke Rostamund’s blessing in the spring, foraging as they went and making their way north. Lord Edren had led the expedition and they had made good progress, each day going further and discovering new lands with rivers, mountains and forests as well as areas of grass which would be perfect for establishing farmland.
As they made their way further north, the landscape had gotten harder and as autumn began to set in they had eventually realised that they had gone too far to be able to return before the winter storms made travel impossible.
So Lord Edren had ordered that shelters should be built. They would stay here and wait out the winter.
Here too they had made good progress and soon the huts were built and insulated with peat. They had hunted and filled a shed with what meat they had been able to salt and dry as well as apples they had gathered.
As snow started falling they had been well prepared and they’d all been confident that they could simply wait out winter here and move on once spring came and the ice melted.
For a while it had all gone to plan too.
Until the bear had managed to break down the door to the shed and eat through large parts of their supplies before they had finally managed to hunt it down and put an end to the raids.
But their victory hadn’t been without costs.
Lord Edren had been buried at the edge of the marsh at the foot of the mountain*. It had been hard work; the ground was already frozen and they had spent days toiling before the hole was finally deep enough.
Alderin, despite his youth, had carried himself with dignity. It was clear he mourned his father, but he had acted with composure and solemnity befitting a lord. His father would have been proud of him.
Since then things had been hard, and though the fire still burned in their hearth, somehow the heat did not seem to truly reach them. Outside snow continued falling, seemingly determined to encase them in ice, as if it wanted to mirror the coldness of grief that gripped them all. Kedrin kept a close eye on Alderin, their new lord who was still far too young to shoulder such a burden, not to mention shouldering it while he still mourned his father. But there was nothing any of them could do other than support him and hope that they would all come out of this alive. Alive and with their souls unbroken by the mountains of ice that were the North.
*Unbeknownst to the future generations of Genlith, this was where the crypts of the High Keep were later built.
In the great hall of Duke Arfron, the green banner with the tree of Tyaldi and the crown above it hung behind the throne as usual, providing some much needed stability in the face of everything else that was going on. It was about the only thing in the hall that was unchanged. The hall smelled of soap and fresh straw on the floor underneath the tables that had been brought in. The straw and tables in particular were strange. Usually this place was for Duke Arfron to receive his subjects and hold council, not to host a feast. But at this time that was exactly what was planned.
The alliance forged when his son Pietr and Lord Edren' daughter Lady Tanwen had been engaged was about to become permanent; Lord Edren had arrived with his family and a respectable following as was appropriate for the wedding of the future duke of Tyaldi.
He had been warmly welcomed and given rooms for him and his family; the following had to be put up in less luxurious quarters, but no one complained. Not even Duke Arfron when the preparations started turning his house on its head, culminating in the complete upheaval of the otherwise austere and serious impression left by his hall. Now it was adorned with flowering branches on the walls and light and brightly coloured fabrics hanging between them, fluttering when the wind swept through the doors that never ceased to open and close as one servant after the other bustled in, doing some preparation or another.
Duke Arfron kept to his study these days; it was impossible to get any work done in the hustle and bustle in the hall and although this was a time for celebrating it did not mean he would neglect his duties. In fact; quite the contrary. Many lords would be attending this celebration and he intended to make good use of that fact to settle matters of government now that they were here. It was the most efficient way.
As he sat at his desk, he heard the sound of his son's voice coming in from the outside and looked up from his papers to glance out the window. What he saw made him smile and shake his head slightly to himself.
Lady Tanwen and his son obviously thought themselves unseen by anyone and though they should not have been alone together they had apparently found a way to do so regardless. He couldn't tell what they were talking about, but whatever it was, he could tell from the look on his son's face that this match wasn't only good politically. She made his son smile and though Duke Arfron valued rules and seriousness, he also knew that everyone needed someone to be their sun in winter.