Fiction Fragment Fridays: Planning for the Future

FFF

Since I’m a bit pressed for time these days, and I have to get to work scheduling posts for my next two weeks of work out West, today you get a fanfiction drabble from a short series of drabbles that I did relating to Harry Potter characters. This one is about the Weasley twins, who I loved for their tenacity. Enjoy!


Planning for the Future

Fred and George sat next to each other on George’s bed, each a perfect mirror image of the other. In each of their hands they clutched a list of grades, recently delivered to them from Hogwarts. The results were…less than satisfactory.

“Mum’s gonna kill us, you realize?” Fred pointed out.

“If we’re lucky,” George replied.

They stared at the papers in dread for a long time, until eventually they turned to each other with identical grins on their faces.

“Well, we knew it would happen,” said Fred.

“I guess it’s time,” answered George, “to start planning our real futures.”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 12 – Part 1)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Enjoy, and also check out FanFiction.net, where I’ll also be posting this story. 

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

Edgar - ShockedLocke - ShockedSabin - WoundedCeles - Glance
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

After very thoroughly losing his cool, Locke explained exactly why he had strong reservations about going to the town of ZoZo.

“It’s a town comprised entirely of thieves, brigands, and the scum of the earth,” he told Celes. “Everyone there is a crook of some kind or another.”

“You should fit right in then,” Sabin teased.Read More »

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 5 – Part 3)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

Banon - Sad (Front)Terra - Glance
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

Locke led Terra back to the room with the beds she’d spied upon their arrival. They were both silent, neither sure what to say to the other. Locke motioned Terra toward a corner bed in the empty room and she sat down. After a moment of hesitation he turned and sat facing her on the next bed over.

Terra’s mind was swirling. ‘Our only hope’, Banon had said. What could he possibly mean by that? What was she supposed to think about it? He hadn’t explained anything at all, just dazzled her with a fairy tale and left her with a hell of a lot of confusion and questions. Was he…was he expecting her to fight for him?

“Locke,” she said after what felt like an eternity of silence, “Why did you join the Returners?”

Locke’s eyes probed Terra’s face, but she was staring resolutely at the floor while she awaited an answer. After a moment he sighed, lay back on the bed, and crossed his arms behind his head. “Someone important to me was jailed by the Empire,” he explained slowly. He didn’t use so much as a pronoun, but Terra’s mind flashed an image of Locke standing next to an older, more rugged version of himself…father and son. “I’ve hated the Empire every since,” Locke continued on. “When I realized that they were completely rotten to the core, I sought out and joined the Returners. I wanted to make a difference.”

Terra considered his words for a while before speaking again. “But I have no significant other in my life, no one to fight for. No one to ‘make a difference’ for.”

Locke turned his head to look at her, and this time she was looking back. “That’s not entirely true,” he told her. “Your memory still has a lot of holes in it, so you can’t be sure that someone like that doesn’t exist for you.” He smiled. “Besides, I’m sure there are people out there who feel that you’re important to them. They’re probably out there right now, somewhere, counting on you to do what’s right.”

Terra couldn’t decide whether that was a comforting thought or not. It was nice to imagine that there might be people out there who were emotionally attached to her, but it was also frustrating to think that they might be counting on her to make a decision that she felt completely inadequate to make. She just didn’t know what the ‘right decision’ was.

She popped up from the bed so suddenly that Locke jumped. “I need to move,” she announced. “Take a walk or something.”

“You want me to come with you?” Locke asked, propping himself up on his elbows.

“No,” Terra replied slowly. She turned toward the door. “I need to think.” She strode off before Locke could object.

There were plenty of people wandering the tunnels of the hideout; more than Terra had expected, men and women of all ages. It seemed that the Empire was more widely hated than she’d realized. It was difficult to find somewhere quiet to think. She met up with Edgar in one room, and he gave her some thoroughly unhelpful advice.

“It’s tough to try and talk you into joining us,” he’d said with a careful smile. “If we push you too hard then we’re really no better than the Empire. So we want you to make up your own mind…trust yourself.”

Later, by the food bar, Sabin gave her some even less helpful advice.

“The only thing I can add,” he’d said thoughtfully, “Is that you can trust my brother implicitly. He’s a good man and has always been fair with me. You can trust him, Terra.” He added with a sheepish grin, “But don’t you dare tell him I said that!”

After a polite smile to each, and feeling thoroughly uninspired, Terra eventually made her way to the mouth of the cave entrance. Here she finally found a quiet place to think. It was still fairly early in the day, but the sun was beginning to disappear behind the large walls of mountains, casting shadows across the valley.

For a few minutes she let her thoughts disappear beyond the mountains as well. The warm breeze blew through her hair and she stood with her eyes closed, listening to the sounds of the evening; a wolf’s howl, an eagle’s cry, and the grass in the valley rustling in the wind.

“Peaceful, isn’t it?”

Terra jumped about a mile before peering around the corner of the cave entrance. Banon was there, a few feet away, sitting down against the stone wall. His eyes were closed, his head resting back.

“I come out here sometimes, to think,” he explained. “It’s a very calming environment.”

Terra hesitated for several moments before walking over and sitting down next to him. “That is why I am out here as well,” she admitted.

“Hmm…” said Banon. “Trying to make up your mind about joining us?”

It was another few moments before Terra responded. “Yes.”

Banon offered no more, but Terra soon found herself irresistibly displaying her thoughts for him to see.

“It’s just that,” she started, “I think you’re the ‘good guys’, but how do I really know? My memory has so many gaps. How do I know that the Empire isn’t perfectly sound and that the Returners aren’t just a group of rebels who want to overthrow the government?”

Banon chuckled a little, and the response he gave almost seemed to be rehearsed. “I suppose when you put it in that sense, you really can’t know for sure,” he told her, his eyes still closed gently. “But we don’t fight because we know we’re right. We fight because our hearts tell us we’re right. Tell me, Terra, knowing that the Empire enslaved you against your will, what does your heart tell you?”

Terra didn’t have to think very long before admitting, “Anyone who would do that to someone has to be bad…”

“And as for us, well,” said Banon, “We can’t really prove to you that what we’re trying to do is inherently ‘good’, but certainly there’s no harm in observing for yourself. Allow yourself the time with us in order to give your heart enough evidence to decide properly.”

Terra considered this for a long time. She watched an eagle, its wings spread majestically, soar high in the twilit sky. “Yes…I suppose so…”

Now, finally, Banon opened his eyes and turned to look at her. “Then I must ask, as it’s been killing me, you see,” he said with a flicker of a smile, “Have you made your decision? Will you give our organization a chance and possibly become our last ray of hope?”

Terra continued to watch the eagle until it landed on a nearby ridge, where sat a large nest. She spied several tiny bald heads peek up as the mama-bird nuzzled in.

“Yes,” she whispered.

Banon’s eyes lit up. “Really? You will?”

“But,” Terra interrupted loudly, “I’m scared.”

Unable to hide his jubilation, Banon twisted to place both hands on Terra’s shoulders and grinned. “That’s natural,” he told her. “But try to have faith. If everyone works together, with a common goal in our hearts, we’ll be successful. Never give up hope!”

Terra allowed herself a small smile.

With a childlike bounce, a grinning Banon jumped to his feet. “I believe,” he said aloud, “That it is time to call a meeting!”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 4 – Part 2)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

Vargas (Front)       Sabin - Action
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

The base of Mount Kolts was foreboding. There was a path, but it was thin and steep. They would have to go single file, and the chocobos would have to be left behind.

“They’ll be okay, won’t they?” Terra asked as they dismounted.

“They’ll be fine,” Edgar promised. “They’re extremely smart birds, and well-trained. They’ll stick together and make their way back to the forests to the west of Figaro Castle. There’s a stable master there who will take good care of them.”

Terra nodded and turned to her chocobo. She nuzzled her face into its feathery cheek and whispered a quiet, “Thanks for everything.” The bird cooed softly at her and ruffled its wings in reply.

“Okay, are we all set?” Locke asked. He was looking warily up the path, to a spot about a hundred meters away where the air suddenly became very foggy.

“Ready,” Edgar replied, voice steady. He pulled the auto-crossbow from his back and held it at the ready in front of him.

Terra nodded and began clenching and relaxing her fists in preparation. She looked back at the chocobos one more time and they squawked at her once before turning and trotting off together. Terra silently wished them a safe journey.

They headed up the mountain cautiously, Edgar at the front, ready to sink an arrow into anything that attacked them. Locke was at the rear; he’d produced two long, curved knives from his pack and was twirling them around his fingers while keeping his eyes warily on the fog. Terra walked in between them, no physical weapon on her, but continuing to clench and flex her hands. She tried to watch all directions at once in case either man found himself in trouble.

Though the path was steep, slowing their ascent, it wasn’t long before they began to approach the wall of fog. It was a little disconcerting, to be sure. The misty whiteness hung in front of them, still and silent, as though an invisible wall was holding it from sinking down any lower. It was thick as well; even Terra’s excellent eyes couldn’t tell what was beyond it.

Without meaning to, the trio had stopped in front of the white wall, hesitant to proceed. From somewhere above, a small rock fell with a gentle, echoing clatter, and Locke jumped. Eventually, just when Terra was starting to wonder if the men had gotten cold feet, Edgar took a deep breath and choked up on his auto-crossbow.

“Keep close,” he instructed. “And watch your footing.”

It was an odd sensation, Terra thought. She could make out Edgar’s body in front of her, and she could feel Locke’s presence behind her, but everything around them was a void of white and shadow. They shuffled along very slowly now, taking care that their feet continued to land on solid stone. For all intents and purposes, they could have been climbing the mountain with their eyes closed.

Terra stopped suddenly. Preoccupied, Locke stumbled into her. Edgar whipped around at the sound.

“What’s wrong?”

Terra’s eyes were narrowed, staring at a spot some fifteen feet to their right. “I saw a shadow…”

Given the nature of their journey, Edgar and Locke decided to take the claim very seriously. They raised their weapons, eyes darting to where Terra was staring.

Cautiously, her arms raised out in front of her, Terra began to creep forward to where she’d seen the movement. Eventually, gingerly, the fingertips of her left hand met rock; her right hand met open air. With Locke and Edgar creeping along behind her she examined the rock wall – and the absence of rock wall – with her hands. She noticed that minuscule movements in the air displaced the fog from the area where there was no rock.

“It’s a cave,” she deduced. With the men sticking close to her sides, she began to move into it.

They walked very slowly at first, feeling along the walls to guide them, Terra now in the lead. Soon, however, the fog began to clear. Gradually a wide tunnel appeared before them. It was dark, but without the fog their eyes were able to adjust. Terra conjured a small flame in her hand to help guide their way.

“I’m…I’m not sure which way he went,” Terra stammered when they came to a fork in the road. “But I’m sure that the shadow I saw was a large man.”

Edgar nodded gravely. “Alright,” he said. “We’ll try the right path then. I’ll lead, Locke will keep an eye behind us, just in case. Terra, you keep the light going.”

She adhered, but as they started down their chosen path she couldn’t help feeling anxious. Neither man’s eyes were as good as hers and she worried that the shadow-man would pop out and attack before either of them saw anything happening. If only she’d seen where the shadow had gone, they’d know where to focus their attention! She found herself obsessively turning back and forth to make sure that neither of the men had been silently murdered while she wasn’t looking.

“There’s light up ahead,” Edgar announced quietly. It was only a tiny light at first, but they soon found themselves coming back out into the mountainside.

There was no fog here; only clean, crisp mountain air and the bright mid-day sun shining down on them. There was a rickety-looking bridge creating a path from one ledge to another, and when Terra looked over the edge she saw that the fog was below them, masking their elevation.

A flash of movement brought Terra’s eyes back up to another cave opening at the far end of the rope bridge. “There!” she hissed at the men. “Someone is in that cave!”

Eyes narrowed, Edgar lifted his auto-crossbow and dashed across the bridge. With a cry of alarm Locke ran after him, and after half a second of surprise, Terra followed.

“Edgar, hold up!” Locke cried. “This bridge might not be safe!”

As though his words had been a prophecy, the air was suddenly filled with the sickening echo of snapping wood as a foot-board broke. With a yell of alarm, Edgar disappeared from sight. Locke hit the bridge with full force on his stomach and threw his arms out, barely snatching Edgar’s flailing hand out of the air. The force of the catch jerked both men forward. Locke quickly looped his feet around the rope rungs of the bridge to stop himself himself from being yanked through the hole as well.

“You idiot!” Locke bellowed.

“I’m sorry!” Edgar’s cracking voice wafted up.

Helpless as to what she should do, Terra dropped to her knees, scraping her legs on the weather-beaten wood, and began hauling on Locke’s legs. “Hold on!” she cried, panicked. “I’ll pull you back!”

“You can’t!” Locke grunted as she nearly ripped his legs from his body. “The two of us together are too heavy!”

She was about to argue, but just as she opened her mouth another ear-splitting crack filled the air.

Locke had just enough time to twist his head and look at Terra with wide eyes before the entire bridge collapsed beneath them.

The moment of the drop seemed to last forever as Terra’s heart raced, but the fall itself was all too fast. Before a second had passed they were hurtling through the layer of fog. Less than a second after that, the wind passing by her ears began to burn. Half a second later they’d come to a very sudden, extremely jerky stop.

For a moment Terra thought they’d hit the bottom and died. Then she realized that her right hand was still locked in a death-grip on Locke’s pant leg. Further below, looking as though he might pass out from fright, Edgar was still dangling from Locke’s arm. After a few seconds of tense silence, Terra took note of the strange position she’d landed in and looked up to find that the leather belt she’d wrapped around her waist to carry a pouch of seed for the chocobos had caught on the thick branch of a tall tree. They’d been saved by a lonely tree growing in the middle of the mountain. Edgar’s hanging feet were less than five feet from the ground.

“What’s this tree doing here?” Terra asked aloud, examining their surroundings. The tree’s great brown body and spindly green leaves were the only color amid a sea of gray.

“Do you honestly give a damn?” Locke replied, laughing out loud with near hysterical relief. “Hey Edgar, think fast!”

Edgar had half a second to prepare before Locke dropped him, but he managed to make the landing with both feet. “Hey!” he cried, though he too was laughing nervously. “You could have broken my legs!”

“It’d be more than you deserve, you idiot!”

Terra was laughing now too. She couldn’t have said why, but it felt so right. They’d almost died, but been extraordinarily lucky…should that really be so hysterical? Disbelief of the situation buzzed around in her head, and yet she couldn’t stop the strange giggles.

With Terra keeping a firm grasp on his leg, Locke swung himself to another branch. He tossed down Edgar’s auto-crossbow – which had gotten tangled in the branches – and helped Terra to safety. Together they descended the large tree that had saved their lives, and Terra promptly gave the trunk a huge hug. She only released the embrace when Locke spoke.

“What is it, Edgar?”

The young king’s brow was furrowed as he examined a piece of wood from the fallen bridge. He ran his fingers along the break, which was straight and perfectly smooth through the first three quarters of the depth of the board.

“This plank was cut,” he announced. There was a gleam of anger in his eyes. “I think someone tried to kill us.”

“But why?” Terra asked.

The voice that answered her was deep, cold, and unforgiving. “Because you dared to scale my mountains.”

Their heads turned, surprised, up to an alcove of rock above and behind the tree. There, crouched like an enormous cat ready to pounce, was a huge, bulging man. His skin and thin ponytail of hair were dark, and the only clothing he wore was a loose pair of black pants. His arms were massive and his muscles twitched and bulged as he stared down at them with hate in his eyes. “Sabin sent you, didn’t he?” he snarled, baring his teeth.

“Who’re you?” Locke retorted.

The murder attempt momentarily forgotten, Edgar posed a different question. “Sabin? Is he here?”

Locke pushed his friend aside and stepped forward, pointing an accusatory finger. “You were shadowing us earlier, right?”

Even from here Terra could see the man roll his eyes. “Brilliant!” he mocked. Then, to their surprise, he placed both hands at the edge of the outcrop and pushed off with mighty force. He propelled himself over them and landed a few feet away on the other side with a foreboding thud. When he stood up to his full height, Locke visibly gulped. The man was even bigger than he’d looked; at least twice the size of Edgar.

“And how unlucky it is that you should have to run into me!”

Edgar got one shot off before the man rushed. The arrow was aimed perfectly, but the man was very fast and very agile. The shot bounced uselessly off the rock wall behind them. The charging bull went straight for the king, but missed when Locke yanked his friend out of the way. While he was distracted, Terra threw out both of her arms, but the fire merely licked at his heels as he leapt to a large rock out of reach. If he was surprised by her use of magic, he didn’t let on. Instead he bowed, grabbed on to either side of the rock – which was almost as big as he was – and began to lift. He hoisted it above his head as though it had no more heft than a wooden chair.

“Watch out!” Terra screamed to the men, but to her surprise the bolder came hurtling straight for her. In a panic move she raised her hands and screamed. The rock exploded brilliantly, showering everyone in shards. Terra and her comrades shielded themselves, but the huge man stood still and allowed a few shards to mar his skin.

“Enough!” he cried, his face clearly wrought with anger. “Away with you!”

It wasn’t magic, of this Terra was sure, but the technique he used then was powerful, beyond what most humans were capable of. He swung his fists, up and down, back and forth, and he created wind. Or perhaps he commanded it… It was hard to explain. Regardless, a mighty wind was conjured where a moment prior there had been nothing. Terra’s dress whipped around her legs and she had to squint her eyes against the sting of the rushing air. Again and again he swung his arms. The wind grew and grew until Terra started to stumble backward. A muffled yell, barely audible, made it to her ears. Leaning into the wind as much as she could, she raised her arms above her head and looked over to the tree. Locke and Edgar were there, hanging on for dear life, Edgar’s cape whipping so violently that it looked like it might rip from his shoulders.

Come on! Locke mouthed, reaching one hand out as far as he dared.

She tried, but the wind tripped her, pushed her off course, and she soon found herself on the ground, nails digging into the rocks in a desperate attempt to stay still. She tried to raise her palms toward the caller of the strange wind technique, but every time she tried she was pushed back even further. Locke was shouting, though there was no way she could have heard him, and Edgar looked one step away from letting go of the tree and running to her.

Terra was just about to shout to them not to move – not that they would have heard – when a large pair of bare arms wrapped around her waist. Before she could twist around to see who the arms were attached to, she found herself being hoisted into the air and carried, as though the wind no longer had any effect. Locke and Edgar were staring in shock, but the new stranger dropped Terra next to them and turned before she could see his face. She stared, instead, at his body. He wore only a loose pair of blue pants and a sleeveless white top, and although he wasn’t freakishly enormous like the other man, his arms were muscular and very large. A short shock of spiky golden hair stood straight up from his head, and the muscles in his back were tensed.

“Give it up, Vargas!” his angry voice exploded over the wind.

“Is that you, Sabin?” Vargas laughed cruelly. He saw that his attack was having no effect and lowered his arms.

With the wind disappearing, Terra leaned forward to look at Sabin’s face. Though the body shape and hair style were very different, she was surprised to see that the face was Edgar’s through-and-through. The eyes, in particular, were absolutely identical.

“Vargas, why’d you do it?” Sabin cried. His hands were clenched into shaking fists. “How could you do in your own father like that?”

Vargas’ face twisted into an ugly sneer. “Fool!” he screamed. “He made the mistake of choosing you as his successor! He snubbed me, his only son!”

Sabin’s shoulders slouched. “No! You’re wrong! You were the one he chose!”

“Liar!”

Sabin shook his head and Terra saw pain on his face. “Our master wanted you to be his successor, not me. He appreciated your spirit…”

Vargas’ whole body was shaking, his face darkening with the rush of blood. “Enough of your lies!” he shrieked, his face contorted with rage. “Now have a taste of my Blizzard Fist, you bastard!”

Terra saw it coming and quickly wrapped her arms around the trunk of the tree. The winds came in one enormous, continuous gust that was as frigid as ice water. Tears sprung to Terra’s eyes as she struggled to see if Locke and Edgar had managed to hold onto the tree. In a moment of panic, when she couldn’t immediately see them, her fingers began to slip.

But it ended almost as quickly as it had begun. Locke and Edgar had lost their grip, but had only flown a few feet before the winds dispersed again. When Terra looked she found that Sabin was only a couple of feet from Vargas now, fists held high in a boxing stance. Vargas was rubbing his chin, his eyes fierce.

“Ahh, Sabin…the Master has taught you well.”

“I guess there’s no avoiding this.”

Vargas raised his hands in a mimic of Sabin’s stance. He was so enormous that Terra couldn’t believe Sabin didn’t tremble.

“Fate made us train together, and fate will send you to your doom!”

Vargas began to charge. The spectators tensed in concern, but in one split second Terra saw a wave of calm and confidence pass over Sabin’s face.

“Blitz technique!” he bellowed. His voice echoed all through the mountains.

Vargas stumbled, and for the first time since he’d appeared before them, there was something other than rage on his face. Terra thought it looked like…fear.

“W-what the-?” he stuttered. “H-he already taught you that?!”

It was an amazing sight; Terra’s eyes flew, trying to follow the movement of Sabin’s fists. Locke and Edgar stared so blankly that it was clear all they saw was a blur of motion. It was hard to watch, but it was also hard not to. Vargas’ head snapped back and forth; his chest, stomach, and arms moved in strange ways with every landing of Sabin’s fists. It was impossible to tell whether it was the last hit that did it, or if Sabin just realized eventually that it was over.

Vargas’ body, beaten to a pulp, dropped unceremoniously to the ground. For a moment Sabin stared at it as though he expected the man to jump back up, but when nothing happened he slowly lowered his fists.

“If only you hadn’t been in such a rush for power…” he said quietly. There was genuine pain in his voice.

The silence was deafening until Edgar could no longer hold himself back and shouted, “Sabin!”

Sabin jumped a mile, as though he’d forgotten anyone else was there. “Big brother?” he replied, spinning on his heels.

The two blond men wasted no more time in sprinting toward one another. Their laughter filled the mountains as they clapped each other on the back and examined the changes that time had brought. Terra was again struck by how identical the two faces were.

“The brothers are reunited!” Locke cried jovially.

“Brother, yes…” Terra smiled and approached the reunion. “At first glance I thought he was a bodybuilder who had strayed from his gym!”

“B-bodybuilder?” Sabin exclaimed. He burst into laughter. “I think I’ll take that as a compliment!” he roared. Soon, however, he turned back to Edgar with a concerned look. “Anyway, brother, what are you doing here?”

“We heard about your Master’s murder,” Edgar explained, looking a little sheepish. He glanced over at Vargas’ body. “We, uh…came to rescue you.”

Sabin guffawed at the irony of it, but there was also a joyous gleam in his eyes. Clearly, Terra thought, the idea of his brother rushing off to save him made him happy.

“Yes, it’s a terrible thing that’s brought us together,” Sabin eventually sighed. He looked to Vargas as well and the pain returned to his eyes. “I’ll miss them both terribly.” He shook his head suddenly and turned back to the others. “But that wasn’t really what I meant, brother. Why are you here, away from Figaro?”

“We were on our way to the Sabil Mountains.”

Sabin nodded slowly, shooting glances at Locke and Terra. “To the Returners’ hideout, no doubt?”

Edgar and Locke nodded.

Sabin raised his eyes to the sky and thought quietly for a moment. “I’ve been watching from afar,” he admitted, “Hoping that the world might regain some of its sanity… At this rate Figaro will be reduced to a puppet state.”

“No!” Edgar exclaimed. He shook his head angrily. “Our time to strike back has arrived! The Empire will pay for all it’s done!”

Sabin’s eyes dropped to meet Edgar’s and the two brothers gazed at each other for a long time. Terra could only assume that they were both thinking about the past…about their father…

Eventually Sabin broke the silence. “Think a ‘bodybuilder’ like me could help you in your fight?” He winked at Terra.

Edgar, in spite of himself, looked surprised. “You’d join us?”

Sabin nodded, his face grave. “I’ve been sheltered away here, studying, for too long.” His gaze returned to the still body of Vargas and a sad smile appeared on his face. “Besides, I think Master Duncan would rest easier if he knew his disciple played a part in bringing peace to the world.”

Edgar couldn’t keep the grin off his face. He happily clapped his beefy brother on the shoulder. “Come then,” he said joyously. “We’ll need a guide down the mountain. And also,” his eyes glanced toward Terra, “There is much to talk about.”

Laugh, Cry, and Scream

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of jumping between stories. Within my own work I’ve been moving between zombie apocalypses and werewolf romances, between epic fantasies and personal journeys. At the same time I’ve been reading books, watching movies and TV shows, and playing video games. All this going back and forth between different stories with different characters has gotten me thinking about what makes a truly memorable character. What is it that makes a particular person in a book, tv show, movie, or game become this amazing character whom you can’t get enough of? What makes a character great?

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with three answers, three things that make a character great, in my opinion.

Great characters make you laugh.

Humor is almost a given, isn’t it? Laughter is like a drug, one for which the only side effects are happiness and maybe some pleasantly sore muscles. Mentally and physically, our bodies get high on humor, which is why we love comedies so much, why we appreciate friends and loved ones who can make us chuckle, and why we tend to gravitate toward peers who share our appreciation for what is or isn’t funny. Sense of humor is not universal, of course, but almost everyone will find themselves drawn toward a character who can make them laugh, especially if that laughter is of the deep-down, belly-rumbling, gasping-for-air variety.

Characters who give me the giggles:

Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory – He’s just so absurd and stoic in everything he says and does that it’s absolutely hysterical. I genuinely don’t know how the actors of this show make it through their lines sometimes.

Tyrion Lanister from the A Song of Ice and Fire series (G.R.R. Martin) – I’ve rarely read a character so damn witty. His humor is rude and crude one minute, and exceptionally intellegent the next. Every second line out of his mouth makes me go “HA!”

Great characters make you cry.

Sadness is a little less obvious, but whether you might believe it or not sometimes we crave a good sob-fest. Why else would movies like The Notebook be so popular? The thing is, crying is cathartic; even if you didn’t realize you were stressed out or upset, crying gets all the pent-up bad mojo out, and while no one wants to be sad for real-life reasons, being sad for a character allows you to experience that release of emotions. Being able to feel for a character, to be truly empathetic toward them and experience their pain, releases a host of hormones and chemicals that leaves you feeling somehow refreshed and rejuvinated.

Characters who give me the sniffles:

Dean Winchester from Supernatural – It’s one part great writing and one part awesome acting on behalf of Jensen Ackles, and the combination is a character who has made me exceptionally weepy on more than one occasion (but don’t tell my husband…I always turn to my side so he doesn’t see).

Simba from The Lion King – There is one scene in particular that I’m talking about, and if you don’t automatically know which one I’m talking about you can’t possibly have ever seen The Lion King, so GO WATCH THE LION KING RIGHT NOW, YOU FREAK.

Great characters make you scream.

Fear is another thing entirely. Though there are always going to be some people who run in the other direction when faced with fear, quite a lot of us love it. Fear gives a person a unique rush of adrenaline and “fight or flight” hormones that can be obtained in no other way, and how better to experience such a thing than from the comfort of your own home while reading a scary book or watching a horror movie? When a character makes your heart beat faster, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and gives you a nervous twtich because of the incredible tension, that is something real and visceral that you won’t soon forget. If the eventual result is actual nightmares, the character has really done their job.

Characters who give me the wiggins:

The creepy ghost girl from Shutter (original Thai version) – There is one thing I will give to the Asians…they know how to do ghosts, and this chick in particular had me literally watching the movie from between my fingers. Bonus points for totally freaking out my husband and father-in-law.

The Joker from The Dark Knight – He may not be scary in the “I’m going to have nightmares forever!” sense, but Heath Ledger’s maniacal version of The Joker creeped me out more than I can tell. He was truly, entirely mad, and that is a frightening concept.

There are, of course, lots of other factors that go into making a good character. The protagonist should be likable but also have real flaws, the antagonist should be hateful but have relatable qualities as well… You’ve heard it all before, I’m sure, or if you haven’t I’m sure you know most of the rules without even realizing it; that’s how you as the consumer recognize the characters you like. But in my opinion, the three things I’ve mentioned above are what take a character from simply enjoyable, to positively incredible. And if you can somehow incorporate all three of these types of characters into one story…wow. Just wow.

Character (groups) that have made me giggle, sniffle, and wig out:

The cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) – Fear doesn’t necessarily apply anymore, but I watched this show when I was young and significantly more innocent, so hear me out. Back in the day the monsters creeped me the hell out, the banter between characters (good and bad) constantly had me laughing, and the misery that several of the characters went through made me (on more than one occasion) bawl like a little girl. To me, that is seriously a winning combination, and that is why this show is one of my all-time favorites to this day.

The characters from Invitation to the Game (Monica Hughes) – The characters in this book were witty and amusing, went through a tense, frightening situation that threatened their lives, and experienced a plethora of negative emotions and miseries. I’ve read this book dozens of times and I still experience an emotional rollercoaster whenever I read it.

As a writer I now find myself in the position of trying to incorporate these factors into my characters, which is a much more difficult endevour than simply pointing them out in the books I read and the movies and shows I watch. Humor isn’t my strong point, although I’ve been told by readers of my fanfiction that I’ve made them chuckle a time or two. I strive to incorporate fear into my horror and fantasy pieces, and I hope it comes across, but I haven’t been in the position yet to have anyone tell me one way or the other. Misery seems to be my “thing” (what does that say about me…?), as I love to torture my characters and I’ve had a number of people inform me that I was successful in drawing out those tears. It’s a very difficult thing striking all three, but as other writers will attest, writing is rarely easy and creating excellent characters can often feel like an exercise in futility. Regardless, now that I’ve beaten down exactly what it is that creates characters I’ve come to love, you can be damn sure that I’ll be keeping these three factors in mind whenever I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

What about you? What characters have made you laugh until your belly hurt? Sob like a baby? Cower under a blanket? Are there other factors that make a character great for you? Please share!

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 1 – Part 4)

Trucking along, we have part 4 of Returning Hope, Chapter 1. Because of the way the points-of-view are divided this is technically parts 4, 5, and 6, but I didn’t think it necessary to divide the remainder of the chapter into so many separate smaller parts. This will therefore be the last part of Chapter 1.

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

Locke - FingerTerra - Blink (Left)
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net*

An evil chuckle. A foreboding sound that chilled her through to the bone. A voice that made her cringe internally.

“Uwee hee hee…my sweet little magic user…” he whispered, stroking her cheek with an icy cold finger. “With this slave crown I’ll practically own you.”

She felt the object being placed on her head and struggled, but the restraints held and she could scarcely move. And just like that she found that all control of her own mind and body was forfeit. She could see, and she could comprehend, but she could not control.

He took her to a field. Dozens of Magitek soldiers stood at command in their giant armors. At his command, she climbed into the armor he had readied for her and prepared for battle. Her hands and feet moved of their own accord, acquiescing to his every demand. She tried with all her might to close her eyes against the death before her, but even her eyelids would not accept this simple request.

“Yes!” he cried, his voice betraying his enjoyment of the slaughter, ” Kill them all! Burn them all up! Show me your power!”

Now they were at the head of a great fortress. Others stood with them, though she could not turn her head to examine them. She knew there was a beautiful woman with long, pale hair, and a tall man with a stout body. Before them was a strange old man in glamorous garb. This one spoke to the mass of soldiers who stood below, hanging on his every word.

“We stand on the brink of a major breakthrough!” he told them, “In the days to come, we will witness the total revival of Magic!” The soldiers cheered madly. “It is our destiny, mine and yours, to take this mystical force and use it to claim what is rightfully ours! With our new-found abilities, nothing can stand in our way!”

“Hurrah!” the soldiers cried, “Long live Emperor Gestahl! Long live Emperor Gestahl!”

Her heart ached. It was all wrong. All terribly, terribly wrong, and yet she could do nothing to change it. No one noticed amidst the excitement when a few solemn tears fell from her eyes.


The cheering of the soldiers in her nightmare gave way to a different set of noises. At first, Terra couldn’t tell if the clanging echoes were real or just in her head, which was pounding ceaselessly. Barely conscious, she opened her eyes part-way and glimpsed a mysterious sight. There was a young man in tattered pants and a tight blue shirt. His leather-booted feet were in a wide stance and a blue bandanna held back his scruffy brown hair. From her vantage point on the floor, Terra could not see his face, but he was holding a dagger that seemed to be dripping blood. Surrounding him on all sides were short, strange little creatures that she could not identify. They appeared to be small white bears, however from their backs sprouted tiny pink wings. Could she be seeing things?

“Back with you!” the young man yelled.

A voice came from beyond the crowd of little white creatures. “We want the girl, thief!”

The young man’s posture stiffened. “That’s treasure hunter, you bastard!

“Come on then you little punk!” another voice demanded.

Terra wondered if she was still dreaming, and before she could call out to the young man she found herself retreating back into a dead faint.


It may have been only a moment later, or it may have been hours; she didn’t know for sure. However, when she awoke for the third time that night she found yet another change of scenery. As she slowly regained consciousness, she found herself gazing into the bright blue eyes of the young man from earlier. At first she began to panic, but she found that looking into those friendly eyes made her feel safe and comforted.

“Back with us now?” he asked. His voice was playful and kind.

“Who…who are you?” Terra asked.

He raised her neck, helping her to sit up on the hard stone floor. “The name’s Locke Cole,” he introduced, “Arvis sent me along to help you out. Luckily I found you just before the miners did.”

She coughed and found that her ribs ached but nothing seemed broken. “You…saved me?”

“Save your thanks for the moogles,” Locke insisted, winking, “They really helped me out of a jam.”

Terra didn’t ask what he meant by the word “moogles”, but in her mind’s eye she saw the funny little white creatures from earlier.

The confusion on her face hinted Locke off to her ignorance. “Yeah…Arvis told me that you have amnesia…” Suddenly he jumped to his feet, putting his gloved hands on his hips and grinning like a maniac. Terra almost jumped back in surprise. “Well don’t worry!” he insisted loudly, “You’re safe with me! I give you my word as a man that I will not leave your side until your memory returns!”

Terra blinked a few times and her mouth dropped a little. “I…um, okay…” she stuttered, “I guess…thank you?”

Locked grinned and gave her two thumbs up. Terra couldn’t help but think that he was a bit off.

“Well, we’d better head off then,” he said, his demeanor suddenly turning all-business.

Terra stood slowly, taking in the aches in her body, but not finding any serious wounds. Looking around she saw that they were surrounded by rock walls on three sides, the fourth side being the route they’d obviously come down. “Head off where?” she inquired, raising an eyebrow.

Locke wagged a finger and winked at her again, then turned to the far wall. Running his hand along the stones, examining them carefully, he found a small circular stone that made him grin and pushed it firmly. The stone slid, almost mechanically, into the wall, and there was a deep rumbling as the wall itself split in two and grudgingly swung outward.

“A super-secret pathway into and out of town,” Locke explained, “We should be able to make it away without being seen.”

Cautiously following him outside into the cold and the dark, Terra saw the lights from the town a mile or so off. Grunting, Locke slid the secret door back into place.

“Where are we going?” Terra asked, shivering against the cold.

“South, to Figaro Castle,” Locke replied, dusting off his gloves, “The king there will give us shelter while we plan our next move.”

“And then, what is our next move?” Terra inquired, “I…I don’t understand what’s happening or why I’m involved in any of this. What is happening to me?”

Locke’s face was kind with concern. He smiled a gentle smile and reached up to wipe a tear from Terra’s eye. “I know,” he told her, “I’ll try and explain as much as I can on the way. It’s a bit of a hike.”

She looked up at him and didn’t know what to think, but didn’t think that refusing to go with him was reasonable.

“I’ll come then…” she agreed, “It’s got to be better than waiting here for people I don’t know to try and capture me for reasons I don’t understand.”

Locke grinned happily. “Alright then! Let’s head a little east first then. I’ve got a tent there with some extra clothes and you look frozen.”

“I’m Terra,” she said suddenly, remembering, “By the way…Terra Branford.”

“Nice to meet you Terra. I think we’re going to become good friends. You’ll see.”

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 19

~Raindrops keep falling on my head…~
Literally and figuratively! It’s raining out again (I love you, Spring weather [/sarcasm]) and I had the pleasure of watching the Toronto Maple Leafs completely blow a 4-1 lead in game 7 of the first round playoffs. ARG.

With that depressing thought in mind, I don’t have much to report this week.

Health and Body Image Goal
My intention when I got home was to continue on with the Zombies! Run! program and try to get my energy up enough to maybe do something a little more intense. The days and days of rain put the kibosh on that. We’ve only had two half-days of decent weather so far since I’ve been home, and I spent those outside playing with the baby and tossing some junk to the curb for heavy trash pick-up. Why didn’t I just run in the rain, you ask? Because screw that, that’s why. *grumble grumble, excuses excuses*

Editing Goal
I haven’t done any actual editing, but I’ve been working on figuring out a better method. So far I’ve been printing out so many pages of my manuscript at a time and scribbling all over it in red ink. While this method is somehow strangely satisfying, it’s slow and messy and requires me to lug a bunch of printed sheets back and forth across the country with me. It would be a lot simpler if I could just use Scrivener, but since I take my tablet out West with me instead of my laptop and the internet out there isn’t reliable enough for any kind of remote access setup, that’s not really an option. I’ve recently downloaded an app called Kingsoft, which might be a better word processor than the one that comes with the tablet, so we’ll see…but in the meantime, if anyone has any better suggestions to make editing quicker and easier, please share!

1,000,000 Word Goal
I might have to hide my head in shame on this one. After doing a quick count of a couple of pages I wrote for my Final Fantasy fanfiction recently, I found that this week I wrote a grand total of 749 words. That’s 749 words that I may not have written, but still. For shame. I’m getting ever closer to having a week during which I write 0 words, and that is all kinds of not good. It’s almost as though other things keep coming up to keep me away from writing…huh. Well, anyway, if you’ll excuse me I have to go cuddle up and watch My Little Pony with my daughter now. 😛

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 1 – Part 1)

A true jewel from my childhood, I’ve always felt that Final Fantasy III (VI in Japan) was one of the best video games of all time, at least partly because of the wonderful storyline. The characters were fun and lovable, the plot genuinely pulled you in and kept you playing, and it even had a number of subplots and character back-stories to really pull everything together. My best friend and I spent countless hours playing that game, and when it was released again as a Gameboy Advanced cartridge I nearly lost my mind.

That’s why, a few years back, I decided to write a fan-fiction for this particular game. But not the usual kind of fan-fiction where you take the characters and put them in a whole new story…no, I wanted to novelize the story I already loved. That’s how Final Fantasy: Returning Hope was born. I’ve been writing this story off and on for a while now, and I’m not even close to being done, but the comments I’ve gotten on it so far have been pretty good. That said, I thought I’d start sharing it for Fiction Fragment Fridays. I’ll have to chop the chapters up quite a bit because of the length of some of them, but you’ll always be able to see the whole story by choosing “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope” from the Categories drop-down banner on the left side of the blog. Enjoy the first part of Chapter One!

Terra (Front)Vicks - GlanceVicks - Glance
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net*

The wind was bitterly cold. The natural formation of the mountains funneled each gust down into the large caverns, creating ghostly howls that would cause even the bravest man’s hair to stand on end. The two men who stood on a cliff overlooking these mountains were certainly brave, but certainly not the bravest.

“There’s the town…” Biggs mumbled. He glared with dislike at the twinkling lights of the small mining town several miles away.

“It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” Wedge asked no one in particular, “A thousand years after the War of the Magi and they dig up a perfectly preserved frozen esper…”

“Think it’s still…alive?”

Wedge gave Biggs a strained look. “Judging by the urgency they put on this mission? I’d say that it must be.”

The two soldiers stood in silence for several moments, the enormity of the situation weighing heavily on their minds. The wind blew heavily at their backs.

A very out-of-place flash of color caught the corner of Biggs’ eye and he sneered. The woman standing silently several feet away was a sore topic for him, but even so he couldn’t help staring at her strange and mysterious beauty. The flash of color he’d seen was her long, wavy hair, which was a decidedly inhuman bluish-green, akin to the hue of tropical waters. Her eyes, which stared unblinking as though they were dead, were a hauntingly beautiful gray; looking into them was like gazing into a thick wall of fog through which sunlight was desperately attempting to burst. Draped around her thin body were bits and pieces of Imperial armor, although this had been done simply as a formality. No one truly expected this ‘soldier’ to be in any danger of physical damage.

“This woman…” Biggs broke the silence, “This…witch…why is she with us? I don’t trust her. I heard she took out an entire battalion of Magitek soldiers in under three minutes!”

“Overblown rumors,” Wedge insisted, though the sound of his voice indicated that he had considered the stories as well, “Besides, we’ve got nothing to worry about.” He pointed to the thin gold circlet wrapped around the woman’s head. “The slave crown robs her of all conscious thought and free will. She’ll follow orders.”

Gazing into those unblinking, unmoving eyes, Biggs found that he was neither convinced nor comforted. “Whatever you say…” he muttered, “Let’s suit up.”

The huge mechanical bodies that they climbed into made Biggs and Wedge feel slightly more comfortable amidst the dark, the wind, and the snow. The cranks and levers, which controlled the massive arms and legs, felt warm and familiar beneath their fingertips. From the chest up their own human bodies rose above the Magitek armors, allowing them to take in their surroundings from an elevated point of view. The suits would also make their trek much faster and much less exhausting.

Due to the suggestion implanted in her mind before they’d left for their mission, the woman followed suit and climbed gracefully into her own armored body.

“Whatever you might say, I want her up ahead of me at all times,” Biggs announced over the wind. Wedge rolled his eyes, but secretly he had been thinking the same thing.

“We’ll approach from the East. Move out!”

I’ve Been Changed in the Write Way

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

101. How writing has changed your life.

When I was in the third grade, we were assigned a writing project. I can’t recall exactly what the project was, but it involved writing a short story and binding it into a little book using construction paper and string. I wrote a story called “The Mystery of the Emerald-Eyed Cat” and while I can’t recall precisely what the plot of the story was, I remember that I bound it in green construction paper and that I drew mean-looking cat eyes on the cover. I also remember that I signed my name on the front with an extra middle name that doesn’t actually exist, but hey…kids are weird.

Anyway, I remember my teacher at the time, Mr Power, telling me how good the story was and that I should write more. Looking back, he was obviously just being a sweet, encouraging teacher, but at the time I took him at his word it was pretty much then and there that I decided I wanted to be a writer.

My writing continued on throughout grade school with my best friend and I writing what we called “The Game Masters”. They were two separate series’ with the same basic plot, one written by each of us. They had the same characters, but in my series I was the main character, and in hers she was the main character. We would write our stories in those thin, crappy scribblers that little kids get for school, and whenever we each had a full chapter or so we would exchange and read each others’. It was great fun, and though I’d probably cringe terribly to read those stories now, they seemed pretty damn awesome at the time.

From there on my writing has waxed and waned due to any number of reasons, but I’ve always returned to it. I wrote nonsensical mini-stories in junior high school, fanfiction in high school, slash fanfiction in college, and eventually returned back to original fiction over the past 10 years or so. In the past couple of years I finished my first original piece, start to finish (minus the editing part), and I am currently in sight of the finish line for my second original piece.

So you see, writing has been a part of my life for a long time. As to how it has changed my life?

On the negative side, writing has definitely made my life more stressful over the past few years. It’s difficult to work a writing schedule around a full-time job and a husband and child, and even thinking about doing so makes writing feel more and more like work, which I hate. Writing is something I love to do, so I have to struggle hard not to let it become one of those things that I have to do and dread to do. I would love to be able to write for a living, but I never want writing to become a job, and sometimes when I’m trying to force myself to write a few paragraphs in camp after I’ve worked a 12-hour shift, that’s exactly what it feels like.

But on the positive side of things, writing has kept me sane all these years. No matter what else was going on in my life, I could always write. When I had a fight with a friend as a child, when I was a ridiculously awkward teenager, when I experienced heartbreak, when I had doubts about my future…whenever something frustrating was happening in my life, I still had writing. Some people escape into books written by others, but I’ve always been able to escape into stories written by myself. I can pour my feelings out into my characters when I don’t know what to do in real life. I can torture my characters to make myself feel better, or give my characters the world for the same reason. I can twist reality exactly as I see fit, which is even more satisfying than you might imagine. Writing, for me, has always been one of the most cathartic things I can do. It keeps me from punching holes in the wall and screaming until my voice gives out. It is my Valium.

So I guess, what you could say, is that writing has changed my life by helping to prevent me from becoming a violent lunatic, because I can just write violent lunacy instead! That sounds sane, right? Right?

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 6

Excuse me for a moment while I get something out of the way:

*does a little song and dance* I’m going home today, I’m going home today~!

Okay, now that I’ve got that out, it looks like its time for another round of accountability. [whine] Do I have to? [/whine] Yes, yes I do. Shut up, me! Do better and you won’t dread these posts!

Health and Body Image Goal
I’m not really sure if I should report a good week or a bad week for this one. I didn’t eat particularly well (although I did have some pretty healthy breakfasts) but I ate less and I actually took it upon myself to get up early Sunday morning and squeeze in a P90X video. It was only one day yes, but I know it was a good one because I was too sore Monday morning to do another one. The plan is to check out some Jillian Michaels vids when I get home, so look forward to hearing about that venture.

Editing Goal
Remember two weeks ago when I said I was taking my manuscript out to work with me and that I would find the time to look at it at some point? Well I finally looked at it…last night…for about five minutes…while I was packing.

It’s not that I don’t want to get the damn thing edited, it’s just that I’m so thoroughly obsessed with the writing aspect that I’m having a really hard time convincing myself to go back over to editing. Writing is fun and joyful. Editing is pain and misery. Okay, some parts of writing are pain and misery too, but all of editing is pain and misery.

No excuse, I know. Feel free to flog me now. ~_~

1,000,000 Word Goal
It wasn’t an excellent week because work got really busy in the second half, but I still feel I did pretty decently, all things considered. I wrote a measly 404 words toward blogging, 4585 words toward my current work in progress, and another little grouping of 286 toward a new mini-project that might end up as a contest entry. So that’s a total of 5275 words for the week. Nothing to turn up your nose at!

As an add-on to this Tuesday post I would like to announce that I’m going to simplify my blogging “schedule” a bit. From now on I’m only going to blog through the weekdays and give myself the weekends off (unless there’s some specific reason I wish to blog on a particular weekend), and from now on Fridays will be Fiction Fragment Fridays. On this last day of the weekdays I will share a fragment of my written fiction, whether it be a drabble, part of one of my fanfictions, or a scene from my manuscript or current work in progress. It’s time to start sharing my actual work rather than just my personal thoughts and feelings. Look forward to it!