Photo CC by Deon D.

Photo CC by Deon D.

So, the writing process I think is going swimmingly. I’m actually excited to do my homework (at least for this class) and I’m seriously considering giving DS106 a try. This week’s prompt was one that I spent WAY OVER my designated two hours writing, and I can’t decide if it was because I was super involved with what I was writing or because I’m trying to procrastinate on my Decision Support for Managers homework that I literally have not started even a little bit. Let’s hope it’s the prior, oui? I honestly think it’s the combination. 

Oddly suiting. Thanks to  github for this lovely image.

Oddly suiting. Thanks to github for this lovely image.

This week’s writing prompt was to involve an inner struggle written in first person. Naturally, I chose to write about my very own Gwendolyn Sah’rit during the single most agonizing scene in her life: the death of Zairi. I’ve decided I’m gonna go ahead and include it as it’s been through the editing ringer several times now. Following the last commandment and enabling folks to comment anything they’d like to see changed. As Jeffy pointed out in one of his edits that he sent back, I use a lot of Final Fantasy XIV jargon, so if any of you are confused about any of it, feel free to tell me.

Jargon wasn’t the only struggle I had either. While those who play FFXIV, particularly as a black mage will be more than likely to understand most of the shit I say, but one of my challenges during this writing prompt was to make it to where the average reader would also probably understand it, at least to the point where they could see the scene in their heads. However, tenses were the other big struggle. I tried to write this one in present tense, mostly, with a flash back taking a past tense stance on shit. As I’m not really used to writing in present tense when I write fiction, I struggled. And I struggled HARD. However, I started picking out where I was fucking up on tenses and even caught some my lovely editor/guide (Jeffy) missed. A few slams of my forehead on our copper table and a more than a few rounds of editing later, I will post it on here.

When Jeff starts running out of ideas to make me write, I think I’m going to switch to the DS106 classes, get my prompts and shit from there and force ask Jeffy to edit for me. Easy enough?

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Despite the dry desert that surrounded it, the walls of the caves were damp. Further down, a flutter of bat wings can be heard mingling with the ever-present moaning that hasn’t stopped since we entered the cave. I felt a chill run down my spine all the way through the tip of my tail, and could almost hear all the voices of those that warned us against this ringing through my ears. But, I’m an adventurer and I’ve a job to do. The Immortal Flames wouldn’t have hired us if they didn’t think we were going to come out alive, right? Besides, we had all that we needed with the exception of a healer, and they hired one for us. I drew my arms in over my chest sighing.

Zairi looks back over her shoulder, flashing a grin at me, “Not having second thoughts are we, Gwen?”

I could feel a scowl harden on my face, though she knew it wasn’t serious, “Of course not! We’ve got this. It’s just–”

“A bit creepy?” Albion Ashton, one of our disciples of war butt in. He’s tremendous with a lance, and an asset for our team. There was a reason Zairi and I had chosen him to come along with us. He also made for pleasant company, which is more than the healer hired for us could really say. Aemir Saleh was his name, and he is in the back actually scowling. Albion and I are walking abreast, Zairi is in the lead, and Aemir follows close behind. As seems to be his custom since he was hired, his arms are perpetually crossed.

He is having none of the conversation either, “Well, we’re here now. No turning back. Iato, what do you see?” Aemir’s an obnoxiously formal guy, preferring to use Zairi’s last name over anything. He’s also a jerk. Did he even know who he was addressing?

Zairi sighs, “Looks like a dead end. We may have to go back…”

I shake my head, “No look, it’s like before, see? We have to go down. I think that’s the way to the chimera…” I point, and I can feel my ears perk up involuntarily when Zairi nods her head in agreement.

“Through the sands it is,” she flashes me a comforting smile. I couldn’t help but return it. She looks so strong, impenetrable. We would make it, and that chimera was as good as dead, as long as Aemir the sour-pants could keep us alive.

***

Zairi and I laid on our backs on one of the hundreds of sand dunes in the Sagolii Desert, our heads were almost touching. The stars were bright that night, and despite the heat of the day, the sand below us was cool to the touch; it was refreshing. A slight breeze wafted by, cooling the skin and the desert sands alike. We had met the day that Kassius decided to travel his own route, and had been friends since. We’d been inseparable. The moon was full tonight, and not far behind us was the murmur of nightlife from the town of Forgotten Springs. A few clouds lined the skies, shifting with the desert winds.

“Look at that one!” Zairi chuckled, “Looks like one of your cudgels that you picked up after we explored Thousand Maws!”

My eyes shifted to where she had been pointing, and she was right. I laughed, “I can see that, but that one there looks like a tiny dragon. Do you see it? I wish Albion were here, but he’d rather get drunk.” I chuckled, but Zairi just nodded instead, and I could feel the sands shifting under her weight as she sat up.

“Gwen?” I could see her looking down at me. Looking over, I could feel my ears point in her direction, an alert to her that she had my utmost attention.

“Yeah?” I was propped up on my elbows now, my tail wagging lazily, trying to keep the setting friendly.

“I’m kind of glad Albion stayed behind…” her voice was soft, almost a whisper, and color had risen to her pale Hyuran cheeks. I tilted my head, looking up at her kind of confused. Her eyes found a spot in the rolling sand, “Gwen…I think I-I love you..” I bit my lip looking over at her. She looked as if she was about to cry. This was probably the hardest thing she had ever done…

I sat up and moved closer, lifting her chin with my forefinger, “Zai? I think I love you too…” And I kissed her.

*****

Cutter’s Cry was full of enemies, but thanks to Zairi’s cunning, there was never too much to handle. My strength as a black mage had been increasing and most enemies went down with only a slight fight. Despite Aemir’s grouchiness, he was keeping up incredibly well, and I could tell why he was hired to accompany us. The echos of our footsteps rang like resounding gongs in our ears, interspersed the occasional plink, plink of moisture dropping from the cave walls.

From Square Enix

From Square Enix

The cave is foreign to us, but we are more foreign to the cave. We had made it this far, and there was no turning back. Zairi puts her hand up, stopping the company. She points. Here the cave erupts into a vast expanse, with the chimera resting in the middle. There were columns of what appeared to be natural rock interspersed throughout the cavern. The beast that we had been hunting was resting in the middle of this expanse; there was no mistaking it. The chimera had three heads, two serpentine stretching out from his enormous back, one a lion’s head. His giant leathery wings were folded against his back. The resting chimera lay with his bulging forelegs in front of him, the duel serpents erect, keeping an eye on the surroundings. The pair of eyes belonging to the lion’s head, were closed, though all in the party knows that he senses we are there. I swallow a glob of spit that gathers at the back of my throat, and Zairi reaches her hand back to graze my own. I nod to her, and she nods in response. It’s time.

Zairi dawns her axe and runs at the chimera, the rest of us lingering behind for just a moment; his attention has to be on her. She is the strongest and will be able to endure the most. She swings her axe, letting out a cry as she did so. The rest of us move into action. I move to the right, Albion to the left. As planned, Aemir sticks to the back. Zairi is doing her job wonderfully, keeping the monster’s complete and utter attention. Everything is going according to plan.

“His eyes are blue! He’s casting Ram’s Voice! Away!” Zairi shouts. She runs back, as do Albion and I. Aemir was already a safe distance, and we call could feel the little ting of our bodies being mended during the fight. The feeling was as familiar as breathing. Zairi’s gasp was inaudible to me as I could hear nothing but an explosion. “Dragon’s Voice! In!” Aemir, Albion, and I run underneath him and I can feel the mana draining out of my body. I cast Umbral Ice to remedy this problem. With Umbral Ice cast, the number of spells I can cast are limited, as is the damage dealt, but I can feel the mana starting to flow through my veins once more. I place Blizzard beneath us before evacuating back to his side. The chimera stumbles, ensuring us that he is starting to weaken. The familiar tings are becoming less and less frequent and I can feel my body starting to weaken with blows from the creature when he is not completely focused on Zairi.

With my mana back up to par, I’m able to cast Astral Fire, enabling me to use more spells that deal more damage, and the magic orbs encircling me change from an icy blue to balls of flame. I pelt him with as much power as I can muster. Glancing back at Aemir, I see that he has stopped healing completely, his arms folded across his chest, a steady smirk etched onto his face. “Saleh! What in the Seven Hells are you doing?!” I use his last name as though to mock him, trying anything to get his attention. He means for us to die. But why?

The Chimera veers to the left, turning to Albion, and I glance as my fire spells charge. Zairi has fallen. “Zairi! No…” My voice is drowned out by the sudden roar that the chimera releases. He cast Dragon’s Breath without my realizing it and a scream escapes my throat. An exploding pain emanates throughout the right side of my face and I drop to my knees, attempting to stumble up again, more fire appearing in my hands. We’re…we’re going to die here…

“Gwen!” that’s Albion’s voice, he’s still up! “Gwen, keep it together! You have to–Gyah…” The chimera faces me now, I can feel my eyes widen, and the chimera is feeding on my fear. He’s almost down, but so are we, and our healer is not with us. I break into a run with the chimera right on my heels. I can’t see from one of my eyes; everything is black from one side of my face. I’m left with one option, I don’t have the time to wait for spells to charge, so I’m forced to use Scald—a low damage spell that requires no charge, it’s instant. However, as it is instant, I’m able to keep on the move while casting it, and I do as often as my mana will allow me. Umbral Ice is not an option here. We should have listened; we shouldn’t have come here… As soon as I feel as though I’m about to collapse, the creature finally dies with one last Scald. I turn to face him, both our hearts are about to pound out of our bodies and fire forms in my hands to destroy him. I finally do what we had come here to do. No mercy this time. His eyes close for the last time.

“You…” My voice is unnaturally hoarse and more tense than I can ever recall it being as I turn to face Aemir.

Aemir chuckled, “Is there a problem, Sah’rit?”

“You let them die…” The balls of fire dance around me, realizing that I’m not done. Not yet. My ears flatten against my head, my tail twitches in jerky movements, he will not walk away from this while my friends lay in their own blood.

Aemir’s smug smile stayed on his face, “Gwenny, Gwenny, Gwen…I never thought I’d see you like this. You know, I can bring them back; they are fresh enough.” He looks up as though he’s trying to think of what to say next.

I speak before he gets the chance, the fire dancing faster around my body, “Bring them back, and you can live…” I feel the heat from my own magic burning against my skin.

Thanks, Sodahead.

Thanks, Sodahead.

This actually elicits a laugh from him, not the result I was expecting, “You think you can defeat me now?! Look at your condition, you’ll be blind in your eye for the rest of your life if I don’t heal you, your party is dead or dying, and you can barely stand. You see, Gwendolyn, I did not come to get rid of them so much as I came for you. The Garlean Empire has been watching you, and we could use a black mage of your ability in our ranks. As much as I’d hate to have you with us, my superiors think otherwise.” He stops to watch me, and as strong as I had hoped I looked, I know I’m a mess. Tears are running down my face, leaving the white of my skin exposed in a thin canal down the side of one half of my face. I shake my head. No… “The only way to save your precious Zairi, Gwendolyn, is to join us. It’s the only way. Of course, she’d be joining the ranks as a grunt, but you’d be able to see her in the little down time you had between training and killing the Scions.”

I must have shaken my head again because he continues to speak, “Look. This is not a choice. You come willingly and we add three new recruits to our ranks, or I take you and Cutter’s Cry adds two to its body count.” No…no, this can’t be happening. I can feel the crunch of a loose rock underneath my shin as I fall to my knees. Running my hands through my hair, they become sticky, moist. I cannot join them. I won’t. I can’t force Zairi to be with them, not after what they did to our families…

“What will it be Gwendolyn?” his voice is terse. He is not waiting, I can only assume that he has his linkshell ready to call in his reinforcements.

Getting to my feet, I meet his gaze, taking not-quite steady steps towards him. He keeps his steady smirk, anticipating an acceptance. I could feel my body getting hotter, so hot that the flames in my hands are not voluntary this time. The balls of fire circling around my bodice are raging now. “You know what I say?” His smirk fades from his face. “I say you can go fuck yourself.” Meteors seem to fall out of nowhere, all homing in on our former healer. The explosion is deafening, and the ringing in my ears is almost unbearable, but only for a second, then all is black.

Thanks again, Sodahead.

Thanks again, Sodahead.

I wake to find Albion hunched over me, trying to pick me up. “Al…bion?” my voice is weak, seeming to belong to someone else.

He does his best to offer me a weak smile, though I can tell it’s fake. Tears form in the corners of his eyes, “She’s gone, Gwen. I’m…I’m sorry…” Gone? This…this can’t be…I shake my head, the tears fresh again, and things go black once more.

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