LotSF: Respect

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I sprinted through the forest full-tilt, the anger and adrenaline coursing through my body pushing me past my pain. It was like my body was fading away with every step, the aches and wounds unravelling and leaving just my soul exposed. I hurdled fallen branches, pushed off of jutting rocks, wove between trees lightly and powerfully and nimbly. I felt faster than the river, lighter than the air. I didn’t just feel free, I felt capable.

Unstoppable, even.

The bearskins were faster, more desperate, more afraid, and they scrambled haphazardly through the trees towards some unknown destination. They plunged ahead, skidding and stumbling, but only ever went a few dozen metres before pausing to see if I was still following. Their pale, vile eyes flickered white in the failing light. They snapped and snarled at one another as they fought to get away but still I kept running.

I knew it was there, the fire between my fingers, the little black vortex churning ceaselessly within my chest. It was driving me on, pushing me through every twinge of pain or weak muscle. I wanted to rip into those bearskins, burn them alive for what they’d done, and the thought of finding their little hidey hole, where obviously there was something important to them, filled me with a dangerous hunger.

Steady, the wind seemed to croon as it twisted around my body. Steady.

I was more than this anger burning beneath my ribs. I was more than the blindness and the pain and the fear. I was more than loss and isolation and desperate risks. I was alive and powerful and I was not stopping for anything.

I leapt up on a rotting stump, planted my boot against its wood, pushed off and hit the ground running, kicking up leaf mulch and pebbles. My breath thundered in my ears. I wanted to go faster.

But rising above me was a steep ridge, lying across the forest floor like a bony spine beneath the grass and leaves. The bearskins’ claws raked deep gouges in the dirt as they frantically clambered up the incline and threw themselves over the other side.

I sped up, kicking hard as I fought gravity and my own heavy body. I grabbed shrubs, thick tufts of grass, anything within reach that could help pull me to the top. And there I stood at the crest of the forest’s backbone. My chest heaved. My legs shook. The aches and pains came coursing back.

I turned, looked behind me. Smoke curled up from the ground where liquid handfuls of flame had scorched the dead leaves. You could see the deep orange trail of smouldering forest tracing my steps hundreds of metres back into the darkness. That was me. That was me passing through the forest, as powerful and unstoppable as I was, and leaving my ugly black mark on it.

That damage was my fault.

My ribs shuddered as I fought to normalize my breathing and I slowly turned again, looking back ahead of me on the other side of the ridge.

There it was. Their hidey hole.

Bearskins swarmed like ants in the little hollow in the middle of the forest, their greasy pelts catching the moonlight, their pallid eyes reflecting white daggers in the darkness. They churned around their dingy camp, between piles of rotting meat and hoarded junk. The bearskins I’d been chasing flooded into the hollow, stirring the others to run faster and more erratically, until they were a chaotic, senseless mass.

I scanned the mass of seething bear pelts, searching for any tiny sign of anything that might be a clue. There was nothing. No sign of Faith, no sign of any gypsies, no sign of anything that meant anything to me. What had I expected anyways? That these brainless monsters would really be hiding anything important?

The swarming bearskins had started to slow, not quite as frenzied as they’d been when I first arrived, and I watched them with a curled lip. They were horrible creatures, monsters that preyed on emotional weakness, that inspired the same fear they thrived off of, and here they were in front of me. Afraid of me. So what did that say about me?

Maybe I belonged here.

I half slid, half clambered down the side of the ridge, tiptoeing around animal carcasses and rusted metal until I stood in the centre of their camp. They instinctively moved away from me, surrounding me in a circle that spun and bristled and pulsed constantly. The faint moonlight rode like a serpent on their backs. Their continuous motion was dizzying and infuriating and I wanted them to stop.

“Where are they?” I snarled at the beasts, and a low growl passed through the pack. A few of them swerved out of the circle to snap their jaws at me and a flicker of fear sparked in my chest. These monsters could kill me if they wanted to and it was their fear of a magic that wasn’t really mine–that I couldn’t really control–that kept me safe. If they decided they weren’t afraid of me anymore…?

The spark of fear flared hotter and now the bearskins were dodging in and out at me, snapping and snarling, made hungry by my worry but still cautious in the glow of the fire dripping from my fingers. The fear in my chest kicked harder, spiraling into something big and fierce, and my efforts to contain it only seemed to compress it into something sharper. The bearskins slowed, scraped their claws, turned inwards to glare at me. A few of them stepped towards me, threatening and huge.

The anger flared defensively, using the fear as ignition to make it burn hot and unwavering, and the bearskins leapt back from it. I sent them into a maddening dance, pulled like a magnet by their obsession with my fear, repulsed forcefully by the heat of my anger. They didn’t know how to respond, they didn’t know how to treat me, and we stood in a tense stalemate.

I swallowed tightly. Balancing the fear and anger like a pendulum where my heart should be, I took a step towards the bearskin directly in front of me. It immediately retreated, but I let out some of my fear, drawing it back, then held it there with a flash of anger. It felt scalding and nauseating in my throat, the potent emotional cocktail, but it held the bearskin transfixed as I took another step, and then another. I was standing a breath away, our eyes locked. My heart pounded, fury stretched taut across my shoulders, as the monster and I faced each other with ruthless respect.

It was a respect caked in dread and hostility, but it was respect.

My breath steamed hot and restless.

“Find them,” I snarled softly, baring my teeth in the darkness.

The bearskin growled lowly, pale eyes flickering, and then it took off into the night.

***

*collapses into an exhausted heap*

This was an effort to write. But it is done and hey, look, it’s the 15th. I’m sort of not really on schedule.

I have things I would like to do and a direction I would like to pursue and a whole lot of vague thoughts and aspirations but I have no promises for when any of that will happen. For now, I am tired.

Night.

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LotSF: Chasing Fear

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

I tripped on a root, exhaustedly catching myself against a tree trunk and standing weak-kneed for a moment to try to catch my breath. I was becoming progressively clumsier as I went on, less and less steady on my feet, less and less able to keep myself going every time I tripped. My whole body felt like a throbbing bruise. Every muscle wanted me to lie down on the forest floor and give up.

And this felt so terribly hopeless.

Why was I out here, wandering the forest alone and injured?

How could I ever find my horse in hundreds of acres of trees, when I didn’t even really know if she was alive?

But I had nothing else. Nothing to lose. Nothing to do but keep moving, keep walking, keep trying to fix the mess I’d made. So I pushed myself away from the tree and focussed on putting one foot in front of the other.

Almost an hour after I’d started walking, as the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon, I noticed them. Bearskins. Creeping silently between the trees on either side of me, easily keeping pace. Their hungry, greedy eyes were fixed on me, glowing yellow and amber in the dying light, and my hand reflexively dropped to my hip. My sword wasn’t there. I was weaponless, surrounded on every side by dozens of monsters that could easily tear me apart.

But they weren’t attacking. They kept me surrounded, they kept their eyes trained on me, but not a single one of them stepped towards me. If I stopped walking, they paced restlessly, antsy and jumpy and skittish. They were afraid of me. Afraid of my ugly, flaming magic, most likely. It made me feel astoundingly powerful, knowing they wouldn’t dare touch me, but being this close to something so brutally dangerous raised the hairs on my arms and neck. It was so incredibly eerie.

The sun sank lower, burning the sky red and gold, and still I hadn’t even come close to finding Faith. I was tiring myself out, disorienting myself in this massive forest, and keeping myself company with a pack of bearskins–company that made my stomach twist into all sorts of horrible knots. This didn’t feel like progress. It felt like it was making things worse and I was growing desperate.

But over the next little ridge, I found a river.

Judging from the size and speed of the river (plus a pretty desperately hopeful bias), I decided it was safe to assume this was the same river the gypsy camp was built alongside. That meant that if I followed it in the right direction, I would find the gypsies and possibly even Faith. Except that I couldn’t figure out which direction would take me to the camp. I knew vaguely the direction we’d ridden to fight the bearskins, but had that been up- or downriver? I couldn’t remember enough to give myself a clear answer. I couldn’t even use the position of the sun–I’d never thought to pay attention to its location when we marched out.

I was lost. Completely and utterly lost, with a 50/50 chance of becoming found.

I could walk forever, trying to find the camp, and as injured and fatigued as I was… what if I didn’t make it? What if the gypsies weren’t even there? What if the bearskins finally realized I was too weak to hurt them and attacked me?

Feeling helpless and powerless and so horribly lost, I waded into the cold water. I walked past my thighs, up to my hips, water flowing under my dusty, ashy armour, before falling to my knees and letting the river rush over my shoulders and chest. My blood mingled with the water where it flowed past my damaged shoulder and I wished it would wash the rest of me away, carrying me along the river’s course, dumping my ashes into the lake where they would settle to the bottom.

I felt the water drag at my body, urging me to join it, to give up my pointless quest, to just admit that I’d failed and run away from all my problems. Its weight was so tempting, so soothing, and I wanted to follow wherever it might take me.

This was so, so hopeless.

But it was my fault.

did this to Nolan. did this to Faith. did this to myself.

So was going to fix it, damn it.

I felt it again, the little stirring anger in my chest, that ugly black hole where my magic used to be. It burned like a coal within my ribs, urging me up onto my feet, pushing me out of the river. I was angry. At myself, at the bearskins, at the woman who’d kidnapped Nolan, and that anger drove me on, drove me up, drove me onto the riverbank. I staggered, lungs heaving, feeling an electric energy build inside me that I could neither stop nor control, and I felt heat brush against the insides of my palms. I looked down at my hands, remembered the flames.

Small, lazy yellow tongues of fire dripped down my fingers.

The bearskins stirred anxiously in the shadows of the trees. I turned towards them, raised my hands. They pressed back, away, clamouring over one another to try to escape me. They were terrified of the magic.

The anger kicked up in my chest. I wanted to summon massive torrents of flame, I wanted to hurl them at the beasts and punish them for what they’d done to me. But I bit back, reined in the fury, held white-knuckled onto the fire in my hands. I would not let this anger overcome me. I would not let it consume me.

Because while the bearskins were doing everything they could to escape me, they weren’t fleeing randomly into the forest. They were gathering at a specific point, some of them darting off into the darkness but all of them following the same path. I walked towards them and they funnelled along that path, never straying, never breaking away.

There was something there. Something they felt they could run to. Something that made them feel safe.

Maybe it was the woman who’d stolen Nolan. Maybe it was something else.

But it was better than wandering alone in the dark.

The anger, the determination, lifted me above the pain and fatigue.

Fire clutched tightly in my hands, I took off after the fleeing bearskins at a run.

***

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I did it. I actually wrote a LotSF chapter.

It’s horribly late (it’s currently 1:23am, whoops) but it’s done. It’s here. I did it!

It feels good. It feels really good. I am proud of myself. And I am so much happier with the way this chapter went than the way it was going before.

Again again, thank you everyone for being patient and all of that, I hope this was worth the wait.

For those who are possibly new to the whole thing, welcome welcome. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope everyone is having a good weekend thus far. I will see you all sometime tomorrow (or later today, since it’s already Sunday) for my regular posting schedule.

Good night!

-Alex

 

 

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, my dear readers. Whether or not you celebrated, I hope that it was a lovely day for you.

I know Halloween means different things to different people, and I know that for some of you it means nothing at all, but I hope that you all can feel it. I hope you can all feel the magic of the night. The feeling of a warm candle’s flame in a sea of darkness. The feeling of safety amongst many fears.

I hope that you can feel that peace in your hearts, and that it lingers for a little while.

Tonight is the night that magic is strongest, and it will be a couple days yet until that magic fades again. So in the meantime, while the magic is still so strong, I hope that you can take the light of the jack-o-lanterns and capture it in a spell. Just a little spell will do, but let it be something to preserve that special peace. A spell you can summon on days with no candle flames. Something to bring you light in the darkness.

Weave a little witchcraft. Let the magic flow through you.

Take care.

-Alex

Villain Awareness Month 2015

You know the guy.

Terrible posture, bony fingers, the laugh that sounds like a half-strangled weasel.

The guy who’s always stirring up trouble, who never seems to get along with anyone, who’s always muttering under his breath about how awful everything is.

The guy who never seems to stop scheming. The guy who wants to solve all his problems with death rays and blueprints for world domination. The guy with the shifty eyes and the wolfish grin and a melodramatic sense of style that makes you question how many cows were sacrificed to produce that much leather.

He’s the villain.

Oh yes. The bad guy. The antagonist. The crook. The arch-nemesis to the hero we hold so dear. He is the embodiment of all evil and the absence of all mercy. Destruction brings him glee. Children’s tears give him sustenance. He is terrible and he is wicked and yet we absolutely adore him (or her).

Ah yes, everyone loves a good villain. I mean, we hate good villains, but it’s the fact that we hate the good villains that makes us love them. Stories would be so boring if the villains weren’t any good at being evil. There would be no conflict, no climax, no epic final battle in which the hero rises dramatically against all the odds and strikes down the abominable villain, purging them from this world! Without a good villain, the hero looks just a little bit silly.

The villain therefore has a very crucial job. They’ve gotta be mean, they’ve gotta be fierce, they’ve gotta have so much power, they’re just one step away from utterly annihilating the hero and everything they hold dear. They have to strike fear into our hearts, make us believe they might actually win this round, and they have to do it all while having an edgy and bold sense of style. It’s not easy being a villain. Especially since they just end up losing at the end of the day.

That’s what Villain Awareness Month is all about. Recognizing the important work the villains put into their antagonizing as they make each beloved story great. Recognizing how dull our lives would be without them. Appreciating them for everything they do for us.

And laughing at them.

Because while villains are the embodiment of the things we fear most, while they’re the embodiment of hatred and ruthlessness and violence, they can always be defeated. There’s always a hero who can bring them down. And in a lot of cases, the hero gives us a reason to laugh in the villain’s faces. To remember that we can be brave. That we don’t have to be afraid. That there is always hope.

Villains are important. Good villains are important. Villains that become terribly powerful but ultimately lose are especially important. The evilness we find in them reminds us how strong our goodness is. It reminds us why we keep fighting.

So thank you, villains. Thank you for everything you do for us.

Any villains you’d like to thank?

May you never meet a villain you cannot vanquish.

-Alex

The Goodness of Halloween

Halloween, Halloween, the best time of the year.

What do you think of, when you hear the word “Halloween”? Do you think of ghosts and jack-o-lanterns? Do you think of candy and trick-or-treaters? Do you think of witches and evil spirits?

I think of the magic, mostly. It’s the night when magic is strongest–so strong that the air feels charged with it. It’s also a night of great and terrible evil, when dark spirits and deep fears come out to play. But it’s a night of revelry and bravery and a whole lot of fun.

Some of my fondest Halloween memories are from childhood. Getting to dress up in a costume and pretend to be someone or something else, going house to house and seeing all the neat decorations, getting candy that could last you for months with careful rationing… Halloween filled me with a special kind of happiness. A sort of exhilaration that you only get from touching magic in its purest form.

Now I’ve grown up and don’t go trick-or-treating anymore, but I still make costumes and still like to see all the decorations and haunted houses. The costumes still have their charm: the thrill of being someone else, of stepping into their skin and pretending that you’re just as powerful or brave or menacing as they are. And the decorations have a sense of community. Everyone is celebrating and banding together against the darkness. It’s kind of amazing.

Jack-o-lanterns, too, fill me with a special sort of joy. They’re so fun to carve, you can be so creative with them, and they’re absolutely beautiful standing out in the blackness with their candlelight. They ward away the evil spirits, protecting our homes with their gentle glow. They’re the very embodiment of bravery. They’re the very embodiment of goodness.

Because while Halloween might be filled with demons and vampires and fear and horrible evil spiders, it all serves as a mirror, reflecting how brightly a single light can shine in the darkness, revealing how strong the human heart can be in the face of such terrible things. Sure, there’s a lot to be afraid of, but when everyone gets together and enjoys the warmth and laughter, it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

And when you touch the magic, even for a moment, and feel it wrap around your heart and soul, warding off fear, keeping you safe, making you feel just a little bit braver… it’s a powerful thing.

Halloween is for having fun. It’s for acknowledging fear and facing it head-on. It’s for setting lights in the darkness and being safe in good company. It’s for the magic.

What is Halloween for you?

May your Halloween be full of fun and magic.

Alex

 

LotSF: Snow

 

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Author’s Note: as of April 1st, 2017, this chapter has been removed from the LotSF timeline.


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If asked, I couldn’t explain exactly what it was that made it feel like the ladder was calling me. I would’ve guessed it was curiosity that encouraged me to reach out and touch the lowest plank, as if I intended to climb it, but it felt like there was something more. I wasn’t the one who’d made the ladder but I wondered if I’d ever climbed this tree. It certainly didn’t look familiar. I couldn’t bring up any memory of this tree in particular, no matter how hard I thought about it, so if I hadn’t climbed it, then why did it feel so important to me?

I ran my thumb along the rough, weathered wood musingly, trying to put a finger on why this tree was special. Was it intuition, or was I just missing something? Did the forest woman have something to do with it? Was this the moment that I was supposed to trust myself? And was I supposed to climb it?

I looked up the tree trunk dubiously. The ladder would make the climbing easier, but it was an awfully old ladder. Some of the planks were split and most of the nails were rust-ridden–if they weren’t missing entirely–and the ladder only went up so far. At a certain point, I’d have to climb onto one of the branches and then I’d be on my own. I’d gotten a lot of practice tree-climbing when I was younger but I hadn’t done so in several years. Too many years. The last thing I needed after everything that had happened was to fall out of this massive tree and break my neck.

But the tugging. This tree, this ladder–they were pulling at my soul, yanking on my bones, driving me forwards until the urge to climb the ladder was almost too much to bear. I put one foot up on the first plank, contemplating the wisdom of going ahead with this. My body was still aching, my shoulder complaining loudly behind my curiosity and my hips and thighs knotted with a quieter pain. Could I even physically get myself up the tree? If my shoulder or legs gave out… I backed away from the tree, firmly decisive. I couldn’t do this. It was insane. I would just get more hurt. And there was no reason for me to climb this tree. I needed to find Faith. Unless she was waiting at the top, perched on one of the branches, climbing the tree wasn’t going to help me. I had to move on. But my feet felt rooted to the spot.

She told you to trust yourself.

I can’t trust myself if I’m dead.

Why are you so afraid? You can fight bearskins but not climb a tree?

I’m not afraid of the tree. But my fight with the bearskins is the very reason why I can’t climb the tree. I’m injured.

You’re strong.

I’m injured. My shoulder is torn up. I can’t climb a tree.

You know you can.

Yeah, well, I know I shouldn’t.

you could.

I’ll regret it.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I ground my teeth and shook my head, turning away from the tree. I didn’t need this indecision. I didn’t need this crossroad. How could I even think about climbing it? My body was too battered. And it had honestly been years since I’d even attempted to climb a tree. I could just imagine the struggle I’d have to go through to haul my butt up there. And not to mention getting down at the end. That would be a disaster.

But…

…it would be kind of fun.

Nooo, it wouldn’t be fun. I shook my head again, scornfully. What part of hurting myself would be fun? Absolutely none of it. But being up in a tree again, high above the ground, pretending I was a bird, one with the wind… that was the part that would be fun. That was the part that my landlocked heart longed for.

I turned back towards the tree, taking a hesitant step. I could at least try… I touched one of the planks, giving it a little tug to see if it would support my weight. It seemed sturdy enough… and my left hip seemed to hurt less than my right, so I could use that leg to pull myself up…

I was so tempted. But my shoulder. It was hurting even more now, as if reminding me how bad an idea this was. I sighed and let go of the plank. There was no way. It was an entertaining idea, and on any other day I wouldn’t have hesitated, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Not today.

Making up my mind once and for all, I turned sharply away, picked up my boots, and started walking in the opposite direction. I cast a yearning look over my shoulder, just one last glimpse of that enticing tree, and as I turned my eyes back to the forest, I caught a flash of white along the edges of my vision. I followed the movement, pausing uncertainly, and saw it again–a dash of white darting between the trees, caught for a second in the moonlight. I watched it with narrowed eyes. What was that? I couldn’t think of anything white that would be running around in this forest, but I supposed that–

–the white flash stopped, frozen in place for just a heartbeat, and my breath caught in my throat.

It turned dark eyes towards me. We stared at one another. It took just a fraction of a second, barely enough time to think, and then the connection was broken as it leapt and sprinted away.

But the image was seared into my mind.

It was a unicorn.

It was Snow.

***

Whaaaaat?! LotSF so soon?! I know, I know, it’s exciting that you don’t have to wait two months for a new chapter. Please, try to contain yourselves.

In all seriousness, though, I actually couldn’t wait to write this one. For a while there, as I was writing the earlier parts of this story, I had veered away from my original vision and inspiration, and I think that may have been a factor to why it was so difficult for me to update frequently. But now I’m getting back to the raw spirit of the story and it’s exciting! Thus the early update, hooray!

And a unicorn too! I have always always always loved unicorns. Still do. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to write about them. (Well, there was this one story I attempted when I was younger, but that was a flop. I’ve never had the opportunity to write dedicatedly about them, we’ll put it that way.) So this is an exciting experience. We shall see where it takes us, yes?

For now, I am going to have to take myself to bed. Toooo tired. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Have any exciting plans?

Good night, friends.

-Alex

LotSF: Childhood Calling

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Author’s Note: as of April 1st, 2017, this chapter has been removed from the LotSF timeline.


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A sharp twig dug into my heel and I cringed, sidestepping off it quickly before I put my full weight on that foot. I stopped and rubbed my heel unhappily, glad it was my right foot this time and not my left. I’d already made the mistake of stepping on a rough patch of lichen that had pretty well chewed up the sole of my left foot. This early in the spring season, I hadn’t quite built up the leathery toughness I was used to on my feet.

I sighed. But it was nighttime, and I wasn’t supposed to walk with boots in the forest once the sun went down. That was what I’d learned back when I was a kid–you wear boots at night, you get bad luck. And at this point, I needed all the good luck I could get.

Ugh, but what a pain. I’d forgotten how many pointy things there were hiding on the forest floor, under the leaf cover. Twigs, lichen, stones, pinecones–sometimes bones, even. Lots to get hurt on.

“How did I do this as a kid?” I muttered under my breath, pushing a branch aside so I could keep following the path. Seriously, though–how had I managed to survive romping through the forest barefoot and armourless as a kid? How had I not gotten scratched to pieces, or broken any bones falling out of trees? I mean, I had a few scars from scraped knees and cut palms throughout the years, but I couldn’t remember complaining about sore feet back then. And I used to go wild, running and jumping and crawling all over the place.

A wave of nostalgia rolled over me, thick and irresistible, and I felt a twinge of longing for my younger years. The days when I could just climb up any tree, quick as a squirrel, and survey the forest like it was my kingdom. The days when I could fit in those little nest-like nooks that formed at the bases of the trees, where the roots curled and twisted over each other. The days when I didn’t run out of energy and I never felt so angry as I did nowadays.

Heck–I missed the days when I could understand the Small Folk. When I could see them.

It had been so long since I’d  been a part of that world. This winter had been so long and brutal… almost six months of darkness and deafness. Six months without seeing a gypsy sprite, or a trick-it, or a turn-up. Six months feeling like my tongue had forgotten how to speak because I couldn’t remember the language of magic that had brought me such joy.

The Small Folk magic had been a gift. I was blessed at birth with the ability to hear and see their world, to speak their language. I had grown up with it, learned from it, let it shape my life. And now I had lost it. I’d lost it because… of myself? Because of some psychological block in my mind that was preventing me from tapping into it?

The problem was I didn’t know how to get past that. I didn’t know what part of my mind was cutting me off from my magic and it was driving me insane. Long gone were the days of my childhood when I could believe in anything without thinking twice–when belief was a matter of the heart, and not the mind. I didn’t know how to tap into that youthful state of being. I didn’t know how to go back to the old me, the me that could use magic.

And now what was I doing? Wandering a dark forest with the owls and the fireflies, still looking for my horse even though I had no clue where she was. That strange forest women had told me to trust myself and that I would find my heart again, but what was that supposed to mean? Probably something that I wouldn’t be–

I stopped. Blinking and turning in a half-circle, I looked around me. Something about this particular place felt familiar, though I knew I hadn’t been here in a very long time. I searched my memory, searching for an experience that just barely escaped my grasp, and failed to remember why this place was significant to me. But it was, there was no denying that.

I kept walking, slower now, my eyes searching the darkness for any landmark that would remind me what this place was. I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out, but as I came over the crest of a small ridge, I saw something that caught my attention.

A tall, fat, gnarled old tree stood proudly just beyond the ridge. I didn’t recognize the tree exactly, I couldn’t even begin to recall its name or its history, but I knew at once that it was special. Because crawling up its sides, fastened on with rusty nails, was a ladder made of weathered planks. A ladder made by a child.

And it was calling to me.

***

I just got back from camping with my parents for the weekend, so of course I had to write some LotSF.

It was so good, to get into the forest for a little bit–especially since spring is in full swing over here. I actually went for a couple walks in the forest near my house (the one that inspired me at the beginning of LotSF) which was a bit of a nostalgic trip. I can’t believe I started writing this two years ago. Crazy.

Also, some LotSF news for you: I’ve created a Google Doc of part 1, Spring. It’s the same story, with all the pictures included and everything, but it’s put all together in order so that it will hopefully be easier to read for newcomers or for anyone who wants to read it again. It’s a work in progress right now, but I’ll link to it when I have it closer to being done (it’s taking foreveeeeer). I’m thinking of posting it elsewhere too, like maybe Wattpad, for those who don’t like Google Docs all that much (*coughcough*me*coughcough*). But yes, this is the news. You’ll be able to find the link here or on the LotSF about page.

Oh! Whoever’s been reading through all the LotSF chapters these past few days (yes, I can see you in my stats)–I don’t know who you are, but hey, thanks! If you’re new and catching up, welcome! If you’re a regular reader going through it again, well thank you very much. I’m quite honoured that you’re giving my story a read.

And also in my stats–I keep seeing that some of the views from my blog lately are referrals from Twitter. Are you the same person reading LotSF? (Who aaaaare yoooou?!) Anyways, welcome Twitter person! Thanks for clicking through and checking out my stuff. Much appreciation.

All right, all right, that’s enough from me. If you’re in Canada, happy Victoria Day! If you’re not, well, I hope you have a swell Monday. You shall hear from me soon.

Take care.

-Alex

Welcome to the Family

Happy Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you.

(And also with you.)

Ah, Star Wars. There’s been quite a lot going on in the Star Wars corner of the world lately–the new movie, the TV shows, the Battlefront game. Lots for the fans to get excited about. And boy, are they excited. You can hear them screaming in the streets every time a new piece of info is released.

I have always appreciated the existence of Star Wars, but I never really got into it, truth be told. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just… don’t want to. There’s not this driving need to go out and watch the movies. I suppose if someone offered to marathon them with me, I would say yes, but I have no need to do so on my own. Star Wars is cool, the fandom is great, but I’m a-okay if I’m not a part of it.

Well, sort of.

It was an accident, I swear. I never meant to get into it, but Star Wars Rebels just happened to be on TV and I just happened to leave it on that channel, which led to me just happening to watch one two three episodes. And then the rest of the season. Which then led to me obsessively looking online for info as to when the new episodes would be coming out.

And now I’m hooked. Yet another cartoon I’ve fallen head over heels in love with.

So of course, naturally, I feel the need to gush about it :P

Star Wars Rebels is a beautiful show in a lot of ways, from the symbolic lighting to the wonderfully expressive graphics to the oft-dark storyline (torture, guys–literal torture), but perhaps the most powerful virtue it has is its representation of family.

“We’re not exactly anything. We’re a crew. A team. In some ways, a family.”

Sabine Wren, Star Wars Rebels

Star Wars itself has created an amazing family of fans. From the tiniest of toddlers to the grey-hairedest of adults, there’s an incredible sense of unity between generations. You see it today, on Star Wars Day, and you see it in conventions like Star Wars Celebration. The common love for the Star Wars world bridges the gaps and brings all kinds of fans together. And once you enter this intergalactic family, you’re in it for life.

Star Wars Rebels does a lot to emulate this sense of family. This group of rebels joined together under some pretty dire circumstances. Living in a dangerous galaxy, fighting against the oppressive Empire, narrowly avoiding death time and again, doing all they can to give hope to the people around them, helping those who can’t help themselves. There are a few small victories, but a lot of massive losses. It’s hard to not succumb to despair in a time like this. But when things seem too overwhelming, this precious Space Family has each others’ backs.

There’s something incredible about the bonds that can form in such grim situations. It’s incredible, how people who are at one time strangers can very quickly come to trust each other wholeheartedly when lives are on the line. Time and again in the show, you see someone who is uncertain, afraid, vulnerable, and you see how they are strengthened, comforted, and supported by the rest of the family. There is a deep love between these motley rebels and it’s what gives them their indomitable courage in the face of such overwhelming odds.

I mean, I’m always a sucker for character dynamics, but Star Wars Rebels gives me a lot to work with. Seeing the way each character interacts, seeing how they express their care… it’s heartwarming. You see Kanan, surviving Jedi of Order 66, faltering in his leadership because he’s afraid he’s not good enough. You see Hera, brave Twi’lek pilot, making the most heartwrenching decisions for the good of her crew. You see Sabine, young Mandalorian explosives expert, questioning the crew’s path because she’s afraid of losing everything. You see Zeb, a surviving Lasat of his planet’s annihilation, unsure how to express himself after being so strong for so long. And you see Ezra, the young Space Blueberry padawan, experience all sorts of growing pains as he learns how to open his heart to others. There’s so much emotion in this show, it’s insane.

Every member of the crew has experienced something different–something painful that the others can’t truly understand. They come from different walks of life with different perspectives and motivations, but they’ve all come together because they’ve all shared the same hopelessness. The same fear, the same loneliness. And in each other, they found hope, courage, and comfort.

And then there’s these two. Agh, they make my heart explode with feels. They drive me insane, but I love it. The relationship they have is golden. The bond they’ve formed is so precious. I love them. But they drive me nuts.

I’m such a big fan of the family-but-not-really-family dynamic. It takes a lot, for people to trust each other so deeply like that. Especially when living in such difficult times. It can be so easy, to let pain and fear harden your heart and strengthen your defences. It isn’t easy to let someone in and see your vulnerability. But when you do… this is what happens. You gain a family.

It happens in a lot of stories. It happens in a lot of real-life situations. A special camaraderie can be found on the battlefield, out on the streets, in impoverished countries–even in places like high school. Anywhere that people experience a common despair, there is the potential for bonding. There is the potential for trust and love. There is the potential for family.

And when such a family is formed–a true family, with bonds that will never break–that is when we find our greatest strength.

Together, as one.

Incredible.

What family-but-not-really-family have you found?

May you always have a family to support you, whether blood-bound or soul-bound.

-Alex

The Boss Battle Awaits

As of Friday, I officially finished my first year of university.

It seems so strange to think that I am actually finished with school. In the middle of April. And I don’t have to go back till September. My brain is so confused, honestly. And I’m still experiencing that residual stress, where I keep thinking there’s work I need to do even though I know there’s not. I’m off the hook. I’m freeeeeeeee! *sails away into the sky*

*descends back to earth* But now is a good time to sit down and think. Reflect. Because this last year has been… wow. A lot less and a lot more than I though it would be. A lot less because it wasn’t as terrifying as I expected. A lot more because it changed me in more ways than I ever anticipated.

The first semester, as you know, went really well. I fell head-over-heels in love with university. I was having the time of my life. The second semester started out the same way. Woo, life was great. And then… mm. Not so much.

I don’t… I don’t really know what happened. Everything was fine up till reading week, in February, and then things just went downhill really fast. Maybe I fell behind, or maybe things actually started piling on, but it became a series of 100m dashes from due date to due date as I struggled to keep up with all the little assignments I had to do. The stress came suddenly, and it came hard. The whole month of March was disgusting. I was starting to count down the days till the end of the semester. I wanted to be done. I was already done, fed up with it all.

So by the time exams rolled around at the beginning of last week, I was absolutely exhausted. Mentally, physically, emotionally. Uuuuugh. I was feeling beaten down, worn thin, and utterly demoralized. I just wanted to sleep. That was the word of the week: sleeeeeep.

And at the end of it all, I had a bit of a breakdown. It was a very painful breakdown, lots of tears, the whole ordeal, but it was a very important breakdown. First of all, that breakdown got rid of all the gross feelings that had accumulated during March, so it was much needed emotional detox. Second, it made me realize something very important about myself.

I am stronger.

In a moment of helplessness, I confessed to myself that I was afraid of going back to how I felt in high school, going back to feeling like everything was wrong. But in a moment of courage, I reminded myself that I’m not who I was a year ago. I am stronger.

The first semester of university was important because it made me braver, surer of myself. I found new independence. I realized I was capable of great things and found pride in myself. It was a fantastic adventure, one which allowed me to become a better person while having a hell of a lot of fun.

But the second semester was the part of the adventure where things stop being fun. Suddenly, the danger is real. Suddenly, the hero is deciding that she really wants to go home and forget about adventuring. It was the darker half of the adventure that leads up to the boss battle at the end of the road.

That was the part of the adventure that was either going to make me or break me.

Thank the gods it didn’t break me.

Well, it nearly broke me. It broke me down, but it didn’t destroy me. It made me stronger. It forced me to find a part of myself that was strong enough to endure the stress. It forced me to find my inner steel. I made it through. I made it through and came out alive and now I have new strength to draw upon.

Strength I’m going to need for the boss battle.

I wish I could say final exams were the boss battle, but unfortunately it looks as though they were the mini-bosses. The henchmen. The real boss battle is set to take place this summer. I’ve been applying desperately to different summer jobs but the only place I’ve actually been accepted is at a factory. A factory. The pay is great but the work itself… terrifies me.

Ohhh, the past few days have been a game of ignorance. Ignoring the fact that I have to sign the job offer on Thursday. Ignoring the fact that I’m soon going to be doing shift work for the next four months. Ignoring the fact that I’m so damn scared that I won’t be able to handle it. Ignoring, ignoring, ignoring. I’m trying to enjoy the few days I have left.

But there have been a few times these past few days when the ignorance just hasn’t worked. The fear, the anxiety–it kicks in full force, making me doubt myself. Making me doubt that I’m going to make it through the summer without absolutely losing it. And it makes me even more anxious, because I haven’t doubted myself like this in a while.

It’s funny, though, because I’m torn between two states of mind. A part of me wants to do this, wants to go through hell and back just to prove she can, and that part is not daunted by a mere factory job. But there is another part, just as strong, that wants to turn around and go home. She wants nothing to do with any of this. She wants to curl up in a ball beneath the stars and keep herself safe and give up on this awful quest. And it’s a tug of war between them, to see which one comes out on top each day.

Is it sad that I’ve only been out of school for a few days and I already want it to be September again?

I really don’t know what I’m going to do, to get through this summer. The fear is gnawing at me. Maybe it will end up being like university, where I do all this worrying for nothing. One can always hope, I suppose.

I’m sure I’ll end up crying, somewhere along the way. The crying hurts, but that’s where I learn the most about myself. And when all my tears are spent, when the scared part of me has exhausted herself–that’s when the strong, dauntless part rises up to protect her. That’s when I find my strength.

You can fight even if you’re afraid.

You can be strong even through your tears.

You can have faith even when you’ve lost sight of hope.

These are all lessons I’m learning. Lessons I’m trying to live up to. These lessons are the faith that I’m clinging to, the faith that I’m relying on to carry me through to the other side.

So why all the Legend of Zelda pictures? Because Link, Zelda, Sheik, Impa–they all inspire me. They inspire me to rise to the challenge, defy the odds, and destroy all enemies who dare stand in my way. They inspire me to protect what I love, even if it happens to be myself. They inspire me to always find the strength to keep going.

If you can’t find hope, sometimes you have to make your own.

This will be a difficult boss battle, that much is certain, but I will have to prove to be a difficult adversary. I will have to prove myself, prove my mettle. One way or another, I have to do this. It is my quest. I am its champion.

What quest must you embark upon?

May you rise to the occasion and endure all the boss battles that come your way.

-Alex

If I can beat Ganondorf, I can beat this, right?

 

LotSF: Getting Up

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I didn’t want to get up.

Standing up would mean taking responsibility. It would mean facing the real world, and facing the long battle ahead of me. It would mean pain, and sorrow, and suffering.

But lying here, curled up on the ground… I didn’t have to face anything.

I’d been crying for a long time, even though my heart was past the point of aching anymore. A cold trickle of tears was still sliding down my cheek. I didn’t even know what the tears meant. They just wouldn’t stop.

I wanted to close my eyes and slumber forever, forgetting everything. I wanted to dream of the past, when I could speak the language of the Small Folk, when Nolan was there beside me and we were happy. But that felt so long ago. It felt like just a dream, like it had never been reality at all. If it had been real, then wouldn’t I still carry memories of such happiness in my heart? Now my heart was dark and empty. How could those sunny days have been real?

I wanted so badly to close my eyes and give up. I had done this, after all. I’d been so consumed by my anger, so worried about getting my old magic back that I’d ended up destroying everything. I had ignored Nolan’s efforts to help me, ignored the fact that my own loss was hurting him, and now he was gone. You did all this, without even trying.

I wanted to lie there forever. I wanted to stop hurting everyone else. But part of me was terrified. What would happen if I let go? What would happen to Nolan, or to Faith? I had hurt them. But I still loved them. And I needed to know they would be okay.

I couldn’t just give up.

You owe them.

And yet, as much as I knew I had to get up, as much as I wanted to stand so I could help them, it suddenly seemed as though just standing up was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

Get up. You have to help them. Get up. Get up. Get up.

But I had no strength. I told my muscles to work, to push me up, but they were too weak to obey. I was being pressed into the ashy earth and it was taking me in as its own. I would be swallowed whole, consumed. I would be free of my responsibilities. I would be free of everything.

But they need you. You owe them.

I pushed harder. I put one arm under me, propping myself up on my elbow. It felt like there was a thousand-pound weight on my back, bearing me down, but I had to get up. I put my other hand on the ground and pushed, and now my torso was lifted free of the consuming earth.

My shoulder throbbed with pain but I had to ignore it. I had to keep going. My arms were shaking, but I got my knees under me. I was farther off the ground. I was getting there. I was getting up. Just a little bit farther.

I put my boots under me and steadied myself, head swimming with my weakness, before slowly straightening. I swayed as I stood tall. My legs were numb, as if they couldn’t bear my weight, but I was stable for now. I could walk.

And so I started walking. I walked away from the cinders and ashes, towards the forest. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t even have the sense to check the sky, to try to find my direction from the sun. I just kept walking, hoping for a sign. Hoping I would find something, or someone.

My footsteps were uneven and I wasn’t sure I could make the trek ahead of me without falling, but I persevered. You have to help them. You can’t fall. I focussed my thoughts on Nolan. He needed me. He trusted me. All this time, he trusted me to be there for him, and I wasn’t going to let him down. I couldn’t. Not now.

Thinking of him hurt, but I steeled my heart and kept going. There was no place for weakness. I had to go.

How could you do this?

You have to fix it.

How could you be so heartless?

I have to fix it.

I didn’t know what to believe. I just had to keep moving. I had to hope for something. Anything.

I stumbled and caught myself against a tree. I swayed for a moment, regaining my balance, and closed my eyes as I fought off a rising wave of sickness. That was when I felt it. A gentle breeze on my face, cool and insistent. I opened my eyes, heart pounding. There it was again, but stronger, wrapping around my shoulders and settling on the bridge of my nose.

“Alex…”

Oh gods. Nolan.

“Nolan,” I whispered aloud. “Nolan, where are you?” My voice rose in volume as I grew more desperate.

“Find Faith…” he said through the wind, and I shook my head.

“No. No. Where are you?”

I needed to know. I would find Faith, yes, but I needed to know where he was.

“Please…” he said, and I could feel the breeze fading. I was losing him again. And I didn’t know where to look.

The wind unravelled from around my shoulders and ebbed away from my face and I was left alone again. I wanted to scream at him to tell me where he was so I could save him, but there was no point. He wouldn’t tell me, or he couldn’t, and the wind was gone anyways. At least he was alive.

But where was I supposed to find Faith? I looked around me, at this great big forest I had stumbled into. Where would I find my injured horse amongst all these trees when she could’ve gone anywhere, in any direction?

I didn’t know. But I had wandered into this woods with only the hope of finding something, and that had found me Nolan’s voice. So I was prepared to keep wandering. To keep hoping.

I had to find her.

***

Another LotSF, and in not bad timing either.

I really don’t know what to say. I’m tired. And I need to catch up on things, as per usual. And that makes me more tired. Yawn. But I feel excited, for some reason, like something good is going to happen, and I guess it’s true. I’ve got some good plans for the rest of the week so there’s certainly a reason to be excited. I’m raaambling.

Also, I don’t know if the picture I used at the top really fits this chapter, but ohhh well. I guess the blurred effect of the droplets kind of represents how LotSF Alex is feeling right now, so there’s that.

All right, I’m off to bed (in a bit). Have a good night everyone :)

-Alex