Reading and Writing (but No Arithmetic, I Promise)

So I found this questionnaire the other day and thought, “Yeah, sure, why not?” The questions are mostly related to reading and writing, which interested me, so here we are. I found the questions on Things Matter, but they originally came from Blu Chicken Ninja, so check out both sites!


#1. What is your favorite book?
I’ve answered this question before in other posts on this blog, and the answer hasn’t changed. Though I have lots of favorites, the one that I always return to over and over again is “Invitation to the Game” by Monica Hughes. It’s a short novel, but she managed to pack a lot into it, and I absolutely love her version of a dystopian future on Earth. It’s absolutely, definitely worth a read, I promise you.

#2. What are your goals? For the year? For life?
If you follow my blog you already know what my goals for the year are: to take better care of myself, to build my readership/viewership, and to write a lot. But what about my life goals? Mostly they’re pretty simple, common things: raise my daughter to be a good person, keep my marriage strong and happy, avoid ever getting into any kind of debt again, stay healthy. But there’s also the one that’s always niggling at the back of my mind: become a successful writer.

#3. Are you a writer? If so, tell me about your work.
Obviously the last question gave this one away. Yes, I am a writer. I have completed and published one novel (so far), a zombie apocalypse story called “Nowhere to Hide”. It’s a story of survival, mixed with lots of horror and a little bit of psychological drama, and I’m pretty proud of it to be honest with you. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback, both from friends and family as well as complete strangers, so I feel confident that I did, in fact, write a good book. Now if only I could convince several more thousand paying readers of that fact. Ha!

#4. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I don’t think I really have one answer to this question. I mean, if I had no ties, no responsibilities, and didn’t have to worry about money, I’d probably visit a lot of different places, but I don’t really think there’s one particular place that I desire to go above any other place. And if I’m being totally honest with you, being a fly-in/fly-out worker has given me one hell of an appreciation for home, or wherever my husband and daughter are. So seriously, if I could go anywhere, it would just be wherever the three of us can be together.

#5. What was the last movie you saw in the theatre, and was it worthwhile?
I have a horrible memory, and I’m sure my husband while correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the last movie we saw in theatres was “Guardians of the Galaxy”. And if I’m correct, it was absolutely, totally worth it. Going in, hubby and I didn’t really know much about the Guardians other than the fact that Rocket Raccoon was one of them, and also some talking tree thing. We came out totally hooked on the characters. The movie was awesome; it was tons of fun, didn’t take itself too seriously, and also told an epic story. I’ve since watched it multiple times, and it’s even become one of the little missy’s favorites.

#6. I’m curious, are there any books that you’ve tried to read and simply couldn’t finish? This is a no judgement zone.
Lord of the Rings. There, I said it. And I feel like I lose geek cred for admitting it. The thing is, I loved the movies because it really is this truly amazing, epic adventure, so I figured of course I’d love the books as well. So, years back when the first movie had just come out in theatres, I asked my parents to get me the books. They got me the big three-books-in-one version, and I set to it… But I never made it past about halfway through the Fellowship. I couldn’t do it! There is so much excess stuff that is painstakingly boring. Tolkien tells an amazing tale, but he intersperses it with the completely unnecessary backstories of every race in the world, along with pages upon pages of describing things like what a forest looks like. I actually, literally, fell asleep with the book on my chest one night because my brain couldn’t handle reading any more descriptions of trees. I’ve often tried to convince myself to go back and give it another go, but I’ve got so many other books in my backlog now that I don’t think that’s going to happen for a good, long while.

#7. Are you currently working on a new book/project right now? If it’s secret you don’t have to tell me about it. If so, however, I hope it’s going well.
My current project is a four-part series that is a kind of young adult fantasy. I’m tentatively calling it “The Other World” and it involves a teenage girl being pulled into a parallel universe and finding out that she was actually born there and is the key to defeating a great evil that has taken over the throne. I’ve been working on this story for pretty much a decade, and it’s changed multiple times, but I’m confident that this is the one that makes its way to becoming a completed, published series of novels.

#8. If you could live in any of your favorite books, which one would you choose?
Oh lord…I don’t think I’d want to live in the world of any of my favorite books. Most of my favorite books are super-freaky horrors or the kind of epic tales where half (or more) of the characters die. Would you want to live in a Stephen King novel, or in the every-freakin-body-dies worlds of George R.R. Martin? No, I didn’t think so.

#9. Are there any book-to-movie adaptations that you think are just incredible? That you absolutely hated?
If we’re counting comic books, I’ll definitely have to mention “The Avengers”. I absolutely loved that movie, and I thought that the actors (particularly Robert Downey Jr and Tom Hiddleston) did an outstanding job of representing their respective comic book characters. I also thought that the first “Harry Potter” movie was amazing, and though “Game of Thrones” is a show, not a movie, I think everyone involved in it has done an absolutely astounding job.
As for ones that I absolutely hated? I could probably sit here all day and list movies that didn’t do their books justice, but the one that first came to my mind was “The Mist”. It was actually a good movie, and I really enjoyed it, but the ending (which deviated from the ending of the book) seriously made me want to kill myself. It was the most god-damned depressing thing I’d ever seen, and I felt like just watching it took years off of my life.

#10. What do you look for in a book that you want to read? What’s the first thing to capture your attention?
Monsters or magic. I love all kinds of creatures, especially the ones that are actually monsters and not just over-sexualized playthings, and anything magical or fantastical gets my attention right away. I love epic stories with evil creatures and struggling heroes. That’s my jazz.

#11. If you’re an author, what do you do when you first get an idea for a book?
I obsess over it. For ages.
Usually, when I get an idea for a book, it starts out as an idea for a scene, around which I then create a reason for the scene to exist. And once I’ve got that scene it usually takes over my brain like a parasite. I play it over and over in my head. I put music to it. I sketch it out. Sometimes I’ll write and rewrite that scene a dozen or more times, trying to get it just perfect. And then, hopefully, a book forms around it.

#12. How do you feel about different genres? Romance? YA? Sci-fi? Poetry? Do you have any favorites? Any least-favorites?
My favorite genres are definitely horror and fantasy, no question. I love the creepy and the epic. When I was younger I used to read a lot more sci-fi as well (mostly because I was obsessed with Star Wars and had to read every available novel), but that’s tapered off to pretty much nothing. Romance? Hate it. I enjoy a good romance as part of a story, but when the story is just about the romance? No go. YA I can handle as long as it’s well-written. Poetry, totally not my thing.

#13. If you could meet any writer in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t think I’d ever really want to meet any of my favorite writers. I know some excellent writers personally, so they don’t really count, but my feeling about a lot of big writers is that they tend to be very judgemental about other writers. Some of my favorite writers have said some pretty awful things about other writers, and many of them have this horrible attitude that a book has to be written in an exact formula, and anything that deviates is trash. I don’t like that attitude, and I’d like to avoid it if at all possible.

#14. Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Definitely fiction. Non-fiction has it’s place, and I do enjoy reading a bit about some historical stuff, but mostly I want to escape to another world when I’m reading. I’m all about the speculative fiction, and all the crazy stuff that is sort of grounded in reality but could never really happen. That’s the stuff that really gets me into a book.

#15. Are there any characters that everyone loves that you can’t stand? Or vice versa?
How about that twit in the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books? That seems like a cop-out because, in reality, there are probably as many people who hate her as there are people who love her, but man, I really hate her. I just thinks she’s so horribly written, and her thought process makes me wonder if she’s completely brain damaged or something. Even if she weren’t falling in love with a guy with an extremely abusive personality, she’s just such a horrible character that I can’t feel the least bit of empathy for.

#16. What do you do besides reading/writing?
Well, I’m a mom, so there’s everything that that entails. I also play video games, make YouTube videos (mostly unboxing videos), and watch a lot of TV shows and movies with the hubby. It’s a pretty simple (but enjoyable) life.

#17. If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?

Well, I’d like to think that I’d be rememberd for being a good daughter, a good wife, and a good mother, but obviously. Aside from those, I’d like to be remembered for being a good writer, someone whose books were enjoyed by many. Hey, a lady can dream.

#18. What is your favorite guilty pleasure book?
Guilty pleasure? Gonna have to go with the Twilight books. Despite being horribly written, with idiotic characters who you want to strangle, for some reason I still find some strange little bit of pleasure in these books. It’s kinda the same idea as enjoying B-movies. They suck, but somehow they’re still kinda fun. Feel free to stone me now.

#19. Do you have a reading goal set for this year?
No goal in particular, no, but I have been trying to convince myself to read more often. Somehow, in the past couple of years, I just started reading less and less, so now I have this huge backlog of books that people got me for holidays and the like, and I’m starting to feel bad about myself for not getting around to them. In the past couple of weeks I’ve nearly polished off the entire “House of Night” series, and I’m currently working on finally finishing “A Dance With Dragons”, after which I plan to grab a couple of the Stephen King novels that have been piling up on my shelf.

#20. Tell me anything about yourself that I haven’t asked. Random fact. Weird human trick. Whatever.
Completely random fact: despite doing absolutely nothing special to take care of it, I’ve been told I have wicked-awesome hair. I rarely get split-ends, it takes, like, three or four days of not washing it before it gets greasy, and no matter how many times I straighten it it never dries out. Unfortunately I have absolutely no skill in styling it, but we can’t have everything, now can we?

Did you enjoy the questionnaire? Anything you’d like me to elaborate on? Don’t forget to check out the websites above, and leave a comment below if you answer the questionnaire yourself so I can check out your answers!

The Great Divide

I’ve come across another interesting prompt via The Daily Post today:

When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?

Right off the bat, no question, I prefer fiction, and I know exactly why. You see, while there are parts of human history that I’m interested in (I’m fainted by cultures like the ancient Egyptians, for example), when I’m curling up with a good book I’m looking to escape reality. I don’t want to read about the real world – that’s all around me all day, every day. No, I want to read about worlds that don’t exist.

On that vein, I’d like to take my response a little deeper: when I read for fun I choose speculative fiction, for all the same reasons that I love to write it. I enjoy myths and legends, epic adventures and monsters. I don’t want to read about regular people doing ordinary things; I want to read about magic and supernatural creatures.

I was always the kind of kid who lived in her own head, imagining the world as so much more than it is, and I’ve become an adult who does the same. Every day I’m surrounded by industry, politics, people talking about their ordinary lives, and the media trying to shove celebrity lives and not-so-reality shows down my throat. When I get a chance to relax and enjoy a good book (or show, or movie, or game), I want ghosts and demons, mermaids and fairies, parallel worlds and space battles. I don’t want common events; I want a goddamn anthropomorphic raccoon wielding a laser gun that’s as big as he is.

This. This right here. How can you not want to know the story behind characters like this?
This. This right here. How can you not want to know the story behind characters like this?

What about you? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? What are your favorite genres or topics? Please share!

Also, a reminder that I am running a contest throughout the month of March. For each comment you post on my blog throughout the month, you will receive one entry toward a draw for a hard-copy of my zombie apocalypse novel, “Nowhere to Hide”! Please note that in order to accept the prize, I will need you to give me a mailing address where I can have the book sent. If the winner drawn did not intend to enter the contest and/or does not want the book, I will draw another name. Please also note that obvious spam/duplicate comments/etc. will not be counted toward an entry…play fair! And good luck!

The Next Challenge

I’ve finally completed the Blogging 101 challenge, and while I enjoyed doing it I am definitely ready for something different. About halfway through Blogging 101 I started to get bored with talking about the blogging process (which I think I’ve pretty much gotten down by this point), and I started to long to write about something different. Luckily for me, while I was working on Blogging 101, The Daily Post featured another awesome challenge called Writing 101.

Best university in the world...enrollment is 100% free!

For the Writing 101 challenge, The Daily Post provided a prompt per day for 20 days. Each prompt gets you writing about something different – maybe even things you’d never otherwise think to write about, and includes ideas of the fiction and non-fiction varieties. Each prompt also includes a “twist”, or a little something extra to try to accomplish if you so desire. The rules of the challenge state that you can mix and match as you desire (do just the prompt, or just the twist with your own writing idea, or do both) but I’m going to try to do the whole thing every time because I’m baddass like that.

As a final note, since this challenge will involve some fiction writing, if said fiction happens to line up with my need for a Fiction Fragment Friday post, I will totally take advantage of that.

So look forward to it! I start soon!

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Heat


Continuing on with my series of drabbles today. A reminder that if anyone would like to use any of these drabbles as a prompt, feel free but please thank me by giving a shout-out to the blog if you post the results anywhere. To check out past drabbles click on the “Categories” drop-down on my sidebar and select “Drabbles”.

For today’s drabble I thought I’d take a break from all the creepy, scary, and just plain weird stuff that I usually go in for, and try out some good old fashioned romance.


Eric’s fingers trailed along the back of Sylvia’s hand. The light touch sent shivers down her spine.

“You’re gorgeous,” Eric said. “You know that, right?”

Sylvia began to shake her head, but the movement was cut short as Eric pulled her close and leaned down to press his lips to hers. The kiss was exactly as she’d imagined it would be. Her whole body flushed as she leaned her chest into his and wrapped her arms around his neck.

A long, wonderful moment later, they pulled apart. Sylvia looked up, a powerful burn in her stomach.

“Your place or mine?”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: The Bus


How would you like another drabble today? Yeah, you know you want one. As a side note, I’d like to mention that if anyone would like to use any of my drabbles as a prompt, feel free! I only ask that if you post the result anywhere you give a shout-out to my blog. And if you’d like to check out previous drabbles, use the “Categories” drop-down on my sidebar and choose “Drabbles”.

The following drabble came to me as a result of a desperate attempt to get some sleep on the bus to and from work, and the weird little snippets of dreams that ensued.

I knew something was wrong when I realized that the bus wasn’t moving. We hadn’t been driving for more than ten minutes; I was sure of it because I hadn’t even managed to drift off yet. I opened my eyes.

The bus was completely empty – even the driver and her backpack were missing – and it was stopped in the middle of a dark highway that seemed to go on for miles in either direction.

Tentative, I leaned forward into the aisle and called, “Hello?”

And from right behind my ear, too close to be possible, came the reply: “Hello, sweetie.”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Losers


Another drabble for you on this fine Friday, courtesy of the WTF-ness of my dreaming brain. Feel free to assume that I have deep, deep problems.


She wondered how she’d come to find herself in such an odd situation, sharing this enormous old mansion with all of her coworkers. It didn’t seem…proper. And yet, here they all were, rearranging furniture to give everyone their own space.

The men shifted an old couch and out skittered a tiny white mouse, and suddenly all was pandemonium. The men jumped and shouted and panicked, but not her. She grabbed a poker from the fireplace and – in a single movement – skewered the rodent through the belly.

“Man up, you losers,” she growled, and stalked off to hunt for more prey.

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Buried


As I mentioned last week, I’m giving myself a little bit of neccesary relief by way of drabbles on Fridays for a little while. This one is something I whipped up while telling drinking stories with the boys at work (don’t worry…this exact story did not actually happen to any of us!)


The first thing I noticed was the pounding headache. The second was that the air I was breathing was awfully stale and dusty-tasting. I tried to sit up, but my head immediately cracked off of something extremely solid.

Frustrated, and hungover as hell, I shifted around in the pitch-black, tight space in order to wiggle my BIC lighter out of my jeans pocket and into my hand. Lacking back and holding the BIC near my face, I flicked the little wheel to bring forth a flame.

I was inside a cheap wooden coffin.

“Ah shit. Not this again.”

Fiction Fragment Friday’s: From the Cat’s Eye


Since I’ve been working my butt off to get lots of blog posts scheduled over the past while, I’m going to returning to posting quick, glorious little drabbles on Friday’s for a few weeks. Are we all okay with that? Of course we are! See, I knew you loved me.

This is a little something I came up with based on how I think cats genuinely feel about kids. Not my cats though. My cats are abnormal.


I awake to the sound of small humans laughing. I open my eyes just wide enough to sneak a peek of the two of them playing on the floor with those ridiculous pony toys. Humans are so stupid. The little ones doubly so.

I stand and stretch, yawn and dig my claws into the fabric of the couch. The little ones see my movement and spring to high alert. I feel my hackles go up and ready to swipe, but their own attack was pets and coos and ear rubs.

Humans are stupid, but the little ones are acceptable.

(Non-)Fiction Fragment Fridays: The 5-Year Diary

I thought I’d do something a little different today, so this is the first ever NON-Fiction Fragment Friday. Aren’t I just so clever?

A while back a fellow blogger (apologies, but I can’t recall who it was) mentioned a little “journal” called the “Q&A-a-day 5 Year Journal“. The neat little book asks 365 questions – one for each day of the year – and provides you enough space to answer each question five times…in other words, the goal is to answer each of the 365 questions once a year for five years. Presumably, as you’re answering the questions again and again (and again and again), you get to see how your thoughts and feelings have changed on different topics. The journal asks questions as in depth as, “If you could spend a day with any dead person, who would it be?”, and as simple as, “What did you wear today?”


Now, my original plan had been to share and answer some of the questions that I’ve come across in the book so far. I had the post written. I had the post scheduled. Unfortunately, I am writing this section of this post at 4:30 am as I wait for the work bus to leave, because I opened the post to add the picture above and found that somehow, AGAIN, half of my post had vanished. So today’s “Non-Fiction” Fragment Friday is sadly going to be more of a suggestion for how you can write some fun and quick non-fiction, miniature-autobiography style.

And in the meantime, if someone (I’m looking at you, WordPress) would like to explain why transferring between the WordPress app on my tablet and the one on my phone regularly makes my posts spontaneously combust. It’s starting to get pretty goddamn old.

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

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!”


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.”