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LMS V: Earth Descended



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Sat Jul 27, 2019 9:01 am
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Ventomology says...



Whaddup whaddup it's time to plan for LMS V even though I literally just started another project. It's fine; my upperclassmen at uni say this year won't be as busy as last year.

@TheSilverFox please jump on this wagon with me.


Earth Descended

a post-apocalypse fantasy that will actually kill me if I don't plan it out.


Goodbye, lovely days of world-building by coming up with random bull details on the fly. Here's the skinny.

The World:

As mentioned, I'm thinking a post-apocalypse fantasy. But I honestly don't want to tell a very dark story! (Okay actually the story is kind of dark, but that doesn't mean the scenery has to be.) I'm really into the idea of a landscape that is totally infused with magic, and I want to explore how that energy could pass through like, food webs and natural cycles of water and air and earth, as well as what forms it would take in different creatures and environments.

Honestly, that's where this whole idea started. Magic landscapes. I am a sucker for floating rock formations and skyscraper-sized cacti, and magic is the answer.

And no, it was not always like that.

...I'm going to need a map.

The Characters:

I've got two main characters that are definitely on the table: Petro and Ming, who will go on separate adventures through the world. Ming will be mostly traipsing through nature with a kind of Indiana-Jones-meets-Hatchet thing, and Petro will follow after the antagonist organization of the story, with a little more fighting and adrenaline and interpersonal action. I haven't completely developed their personalities, since I find that better to do once I start writing, but right now it feels like Petro will be duty-driven, and Ming will be curiosity-driven.

I'm not actually sure how many other named characters this piece would need. There is an "evil organization," which I currently have named the Zealots, though they must have a different name for themselves. They are trying to return the world to its pre-apocalypse state, which could be a good thing, if they weren't such terrible people.

I am still in limbo as to whether or not to create a pantheon of gods. It feels right but also totally unnecessary. I may make one, reference their names in expletives, and just not give much explanation. Or they might play a large role in the apocalypse. Like I said, super not sure yet.


I'll probably post drawings later, so stay tuned?
Last edited by Ventomology on Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:21 am, edited 2 times in total.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Jul 29, 2019 6:32 am
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Ventomology says...



The Pantheon:

It's decided. A pantheon is necessary for this novel's lore. Here are the big guys. I'll do sketches and come up with some legends at some point.
Hopefully.

Elemental:
  • Hydron | Water, medicine, patience
  • Geora | Earth, construction, stability
  • Pyra | Fire, war, power
  • Aeron | Air, travel, flexibility

Life:
  • Antho | Flora, agriculture, persistence
  • Therin | Fauna, athletics, valor
  • Dema | Humanity, art, ingenuity

Celestial:
  • Phosphor | Light, law, righteousness
  • Melana | Dark, business, ambition
  • Kosmos | Heavens, academia, wisdom

Lore:
  • Genis | Creator
  • Cyclene | Destroyer


Personally, I think there would be more gods than this. There's a god for everything. But all other gods would report to one or more of these here deities, and maybe they're not as powerful, or may even be particular to a specific region.

Each member of the pantheon has a home where their essence is stored, with one exception. These homes are both a product of and an influence on their surroundings, and I will be building the map accordingly, by setting out some basic geography and landmarks, then placing the gods' homes in appropriate locations. Once the homes are placed, I will have a better idea about what kind of magic is in that particular landscape.

Sketches coming soon!!!
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:07 am
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Ventomology says...



No sketches yet. I don't have a scanner, and all my computer sketches are making me sad. But I've got some better ideas about the characters.

Petro:

As I mentioned before, I'm thinking of Petro as a very duty-driven character. But I also don't want him to fall into the stoic-man trap. I was rereading some Tamora Pierce and realized though, that Keladry is some hella good inspiration.

I had kind of pinned Petro as perhaps being a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, but I also think that would be a very difficult thing to portray in a story where the main characters spend a great deal of time away from each other, and where the society and rules have been lost. Reading about Keladry again reminded me that I can have very emotional duty-driven characters! I think Petro is the kind of person who cares deeply and feels deeply, but isn't bound by stoicism, and so lets it show. He's serious, but in an intense and caring way.

...That's a really intimidating character to write, now that I think about it. Also, he would be a total heartthrob yikes. I'm so glad I'm planning on no romance.


Ming:

As foil to Petro, I initially thought Ming would be very bright and curious and ready to bend rules. And I think, to some extent, she will be those things, but I'm not sure I want her to really be a happy-go-lucky character, as I'd first planned. It feels a bit flippant, and maybe inappropriate for the way I'd like to develop them both.

I'm starting to see her as an actually neutral force, more along the lines of the morally grey scientist. Without companions, she mostly has to test things on herself, and probably would anyway just because it's easier than convincing someone (Petro) to play guinea pig. I think, when she and Petro are separated at the beginning of the novel, that of course she's going to look for him, but she's also very interested in digging up dirt on their world.


The Zealots

This is the only vaguely antagonistic group I think is necessary for this story. They're a raiding contingent of a religious organization, who believe that the magic of the land belongs to the people, and that it always did, until it was stolen. They think that if they kill and force everyone to convert casually remind everyone that people used to have magic, then some higher power will give magic back to them.


The Wanderer

An enigmatic figure who encounters both Petro and Ming several times on their journeys. Why tell parallel tales if they're not going to involve intersecting characters?

I think people fleeing the Zealots might also pop up in both journeys as well, but not with the regularity or mystery that the wanderer gets.



That's it for today. It's late.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Aug 05, 2019 1:51 am
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Ventomology says...



Image

Ming
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Aug 05, 2019 3:12 am
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Ventomology says...



Image

Petro

Amazing how much a little shading can make me feel less sad about my computer drawings.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:47 am
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Ventomology says...



I've had a revelation:

Originally, I had played with the idea of starting the novel while Ming and Petro are away from their village on separate errands. BUT.

For the sake of a good, circular plot and also because Petro's character motivations will be far more emotionally compelling this way, I've decided to start the story while Petro and Ming are still together.

Now I gotta decide though, why they're leaving at the same time. Is it for a coming-of-age ritual? Scavenging? Hunting/Gathering? I don't know yet!

Also I still don't have a map. I didn't bring any big sketchbooks with me to my current apartment. Just little pads of paper. D :
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Thu Aug 29, 2019 7:46 pm
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Ventomology says...



Pony up, cowboys. I'm gonna talk about maps and only maps for the next several days.

I've finally started it. I doodled a little sketch on a napkin last night and got the land lines inked in on a 24 x 18 inch photoshop document. It's wreaking havoc on my processor. I love it. My land lines are 10 pixels wide on this enormous canvas, and it feels like raw and uncontrollable power.

Today, I'm dropping in mountains and rivers and marking out regions and villages. Plus, it's time for light color washes over the blue and brown that I filled in yesterday.

Expect a preview tonight!
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:41 am
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Ventomology says...



Image

The little island in the middle with two peaks on it is about the size of New Hampshire. If you know how big New Hampshire is.

Also this preview is... less than a sixteenth of the full map. It's a very big map.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:14 am
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Ventomology says...



The map is killing me. Have some more pantheon info.

The Elemental Gods: Hydron, Geora, Pyra, & Aeros

Of the greater gods, the Elemental Gods were once the most prolific champions of human magic. Their power resides in practically every part of the world in some way, shape, or form, and of all the pantheon, they have the most wide-reaching effects.

Their power inhabits every particle of their domain, and though they have temple homes, their magic does not pool in place as others' might. Instead, the Elemental Gods' magic waxes and wanes over time. Pyra grows strong in summer and weak in winter. Hydron's power grows with the volumes of his bodies. Geora is steady and slow to move or change. And Aeros follows the folly of air, moving and changing as he is allows others to move and change him.

The Life Gods: Antho, Therin, & Dema

Like the Elemental Gods, the Life Gods' power is far-reaching. They, however, do not shape the world as the Elemental Gods do. Antho, Therin, and Dema reflect the nature of the world in its place; they are shaped by the same elemental forces as life itself. In places where life must be hardy, they provide hardiness, and in places where life competes viciously, they provide the tools for battle. In places where life flourishes, they cushion their domains with extravagance.

The Life Gods' magic pools in places where something fantastic has happened: in the harshest parts of the deserts, the deepest cave ecosystems, the tallest trees in the forests, the riverbanks of farming people, and the grazing grounds of wanderers.

The Celestial Gods: Phosphor, Melana, & Kosmos

The Celestial Gods have homes. They may wax and wane with the night and day; dwell in lanterns, caves, and clear skies; and breathe magic and feeling into the hearts of their devotees, but these three have homes.

Phosphor's power pools in the east. It filters into the ground where his greatest lighthouses once stood, and shines on in smaller towers still. Melana's power pools in the west. Her magic breathes in the cavernous cave temples her followers carved and seeps into the air in foggy places. And Kosmos's magic dwells in the sacred places of the earth: atop mountains, in the middle of plains, in sparkling caves, and in calm water. His followers built observatories and still, secret places in far-removed locales.

The Lore Gods: Genis & Cyclese

Genis built his home atop the tallest mountain in the world, gave his magic to his god children, and holed himself away to take visitors only every hundred years. There is magic in his mountain, but no one knows if it is still his, or what it does. Creation is volatile without context, after all.

If Cyclese has a home, no one has found it. No one is really sure what the destroyer's magic has ever done, or if it will ever be worked upon the earth in the future. Some believe it has been done already, and some believe the day is yet to come. Their magic is not yet documented.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:32 am
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Ventomology says...



Novel Organization:

NO CHAPTERS WE DIE LIKE MEN

Also I cannot possibly come up with enough funny, sarcastic, and vague titles for the things that happen in this book.

Instead, we're going back to the disaster that I had in LMS II, where there are no chapters, just parts. Only this time it will work better because I'm slightly less of a fool and also because I need it to organize when and where Ming and Petro are at any given time.

And... well. The map is really big. I've always been a bit fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, and trying to plan out every ruin, village, magical site, and ecosystem at the very beginning is destroying me. Splitting the novel into parts lets me contain things, properly devote energy to the precise places that the characters actually hit, and makes it so I don't have to plan so far in advance.

There will be five parts. I have them mostly named, but because the titles could be ah... revealing, some are left out for the time being.

1. A Tale of Two Travelers
2. Diverged and Diverted
3. Vertex
4. The Great Cycle
5. Ouroboros Starved
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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458 Reviews



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Points: 15855
Reviews: 458
Mon Nov 25, 2019 6:50 am
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Ventomology says...



This is my place for unfinished chapters I guess. I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this, but classes are destroying me and I can't always get through as much as I'd like.

24 Nov. 2019
Spoiler! :
Ming barely makes it through the village. She can’t look at anything; the bodies and burnt buildings and empty fields make her want to lose her dinner. She can’t even look at the dog, because it keeps running around and sniffing awful, disgusting things.

She doesn’t know what to do. Everyone is dead. Well, they might not all be, but Ming isn’t exactly ready to look at all the bodies and figure it out. Even Petro is probably dead.

Her body moves on its own while Ming’s head imagines a plethora of terrible things. She thinks for a moment that there is water over her head, closing in and dampening her hair to its roots. It puts pressure on the air in her nostrils and pushes against her lips until they open. She suffocates in the dirt a second later.

Ming’s feet carry her up a tiny, narrow trail that clings to the cliff walls, and her brain thinks that it might currently be dashed against the ground below. Her cheeks sting with air rushing past, or possibly rain, or just tears, and her breath supplies her with the energy to crest the top of the cliffs.

It’s a spot she and Petro once hung out at. From the top of the cliffs, they watched the ocean batter against solid, grey rocks. Its white foam ate into the stone, and the stone grew back wet and shiny and glittering like uncut diamonds.

Ming stares at the rocks, still not thinking. Far away, the sun hovers above the horizon, and it sends pink light skittering across the waves. The rocks glow in that light, refracting the pink into glorious bands of red and purple and yellow. With an unthinking scoff, Ming considers the idea that they might actually be valuable.

She blinks. She's seen a cut gemstone before. Once, after a storm, the smith had picked up a rock up here on the wall, and she'd cut it into a strange, pointy shape that reflected rainbows in all directions. Bits of the cliff could be just like that: enormous, cut stones.

A light panting grows in Ming’s ears, and she turns to find the anglerdog grinning at her. Its little bauble bobs up and down, and Ming thinks back to the moments before she’d seen the fire. That bauble had activated her souvenir. It must be able to do other things, too.

Ming glances around, searching for something that might be a conduit. There’s a strange rock formation to her right that might look like a podium. To her left, the top of the wall starts to crack into hexagonal tiles, like the stone had simply grown that way and was now unravelling.

She goes to the podium first. Her footsteps are faster now, and she can hear them slap against the earth. A little part of her thinks she ought to mourn longer, but she can’t. There’s something afoot that she can solve, so she has to solve it. If she doesn’t, she has nothing.

With the anglerdog at her side casually sticking its nose and bauble under her armpits, Ming bends down to examine the podium. She pokes it and prods it and bats the dog’s light bauble so that it hits as much of the podium as possible, but nothing happens. It might just be a weird rock formation.

As she heads over to the cracks, Ming looks down over the village and the sea. It amazes her how close they are in elevation; without the walls, the buildings would have washed away with the first storm of each winter. Maybe they’d even sink under high tides.

When she reaches the cracks, she kneels to get a closer look, and immediately sticks her fingers into the fine black lines that spiderweb across the ground. She pulls this way and that, and watches carefully as the dog dips its head to sniff at a crack, but still nothing happens.

“Am I just doing this wrong?” she murmurs. “It’s not metal like the lighthouse, so maybe it just works differently.”

Ming stands up again to think suddenly, startling the dog. It barks. The cracks in the ground glow yellow-ish white.

“Um.” Why does the anglerdog’s bark work and not Ming’s own speaking voice? Admittedly, if the rocks responded to human voices, the village would have found whatever is in the wall ages ago.

The stones in front of Ming’s feet rise into the air, extruding from the ground like strange, orthagonal noodles. They float, a few feet above the walls, forming a wall of columns so close together they’re kind of pointless, and then shoot straight down into the holes from which they’d come. The ground beneath Ming’s feet rumbles and settles, and the dog whimpers.

Ming creeps forward and finds a staircase set into the holes. She has nothing else to do, so she descends, and the dog follows her with yet another whine.

The tops of the columns form steps made for giants. Ming has to jump from one to the next, wary of the way the stone looms overhead as she keeps going down. Her knees and ankles groan in protest, but Ming ignores it. She’d ordinarily have no trouble. These are special circumstances.

Despite the descent, the air is light and easy. Ming never has to rely on the dog’s bauble to see, because something about the stone around her emanates a dim, constant light. She spots the bottom of the staircase soon enough and picks up her pace. Her feet slap against the rocks, and her heavy breathing echoes in the cavern inside the wall. The echo is so strong that it distorts all of Ming’s noises into something that sounds like a soft, urgent conversation.

She reaches the bottom and heaves out a sigh. And then Ming realizes that the noise is not a distorted echo. There is a conversation going on.

Immediately, she perks up. Those must be the survivors. She cranes her neck and closes her eyes, focusing on the sound, to see if she can identify the voices.
They’re accented. Definitely not the villagers. Shoot. This could be bad. Ming holds her breath and glances back at the staircase, hoping that the accent doesn’t belong to the raiders. She wants a better listen, but her heart starts pounding in her ears, blocking out all the important information.

“I’m dying, Geora,” says one voice. A man with a rich, melodious bass. “It’s too late.”

“You’re not dying!” replies another. This one is a woman with a voice like honey. “You can’t die. You’re literally immortal.”

What? Ming’s jaw falls to the floor.

“I can still die,” the man says. “And I will. If we take action, we might be able to save Aeron, but I’m going to die.”

“You’re being a pessimist.”

“I’m telling you the truth. I can’t keep it all restrained anymore.”

“Go talk to Genis then!”

Ming wonders who all these people are. Is Genis some prominent person with those raiders? She creeps forward to hear more clearly. The room is big, but littered with enormous rocks and spikes sticking out of the ground. She has plenty of hiding places.

“I did,” the man sighs. “He won’t do anything.” There is a pause...


1 Dec. 2019

Spoiler! :
...and then he chokes on a sob. “Actually, he didn’t even say anything.”

“But he didn’t actually say no,” the woman reasons.

The man huffs out the most dejected laugh Ming has ever heard. Even Petro’s father never sounds… er, sounded, so tired.

“He gave me this look,” the strange man says, “like he knew it was going to happen, and he was going to let it. So it will.”

“Oh. I guess that is the kind of no Genis would give.”

“Yes,” the man says. His voice cracks, and it is the worst sound Ming has ever heard come out of a human mouth. It is like an icicle shattering against the ground, this tiny, high-pitched thing that pierces his soft bass voice. “You must do something, Geora. I cannot stop it.”

“Such as?”

“Something,” the man begs. “Anything. If you do not stop it, people will die. Many, many people.”

That settles it for Ming. These must be people from the raiders. She creeps up behind a pointy rock, and then darts to hide behind another. The voices get louder and clearer the further she goes, so hopefully the people behind them will appear soon.

“When?” the woman asks.

A long pause sits in the cavern, and Ming hears the strange, strangled sound of the man gulping. “It has already started.”

Check, check, and check. That’s it. Ming steps forward, her footsteps light on the stone. The floor is surprisingly clean. Her boots don’t crunch on loose pebbles, and her toes don’t knock against gravel. It’s kind of strange.

The voices keep growing louder, and Ming keeps moving. The spikes in the floor thin out eventually, until she finds herself in a clearing with a crystal-smooth floor. The wall opposite her is dark and closed. The rocky face of it drips with water, and in the dark, Ming can’t tell if there are any seams in it for doors.

She touches the wall, and the voices keep going. They bleed into one another as the man and woman discuss the particulars of preventing all out tradgedy. Perhaps a wall? Or maybe by salting the land so nothing will grow and the people will move away from the shores. Ming places her ear against the wall, but if anything, the voices grow quieter. Maybe there’s a secret tunnel somewhere high up where the sound can travel.

Ming peers up into the darkness, hoping for some bit of light to catch on something, but she sees only the continuous rock climbing up into blackness. She turns around and peers into the spikes from which she came. The dog’s bauble bobs up and down between the jagged stones.

“Here!” she whispers. The dog perks. She can’t see it, but she can tell by the sudden change in the light’s movement. “Doggy! Come here!”

The dog barks, and the sound echoes through the cavern. It rattles off the stones and bubbles into the staircase opening.

The voices cut off.

Oh no. Ming freezes in place, heart pounding like a drum with a feedback loop, and then looks down at herself. She’s wearing dark clothes. She could hide. Or she could just let them take her. That’s an option.

“I’m dying, Geora,” the man says. It’s a cadence and precise set of tones that Ming has heard before. “It’s too late.”

The woman speaks next. “You’re not dying! You can’t die. You’re literally immortal.”
Ming doesn’t know exactly what’s going on, but she figures she ought to leave. The conversation continues, so alike before that she might be having deja vu, but Ming ignores it. She has to get out. The raiders are going to continue their attacks. They’re going to go inland. That’s the only explanation for what she just heard.

She has to warn the people inland. She’s never met them, though she knows they exist; Petro’s father organized trades during difficult years. They don’t deserve to face the kind of fate that Ming’s village faced.

That’s what she has to do now. There’s nothing here, but at least she has something out there to achieve.

Ming takes a deep breath and sneaks back through the rocks. Her feet are just as quiet as before, and she somehow, miraculously, makes it to the steps without being caught. As she hauls herself up the first of the huge treads, she turns back to the cavern. The dog’s bauble is still dancing among the rocks.

“Dog!” she hisses. “Come on!”

It barks again. The voices jumble.

Ming runs.

***

Petro follows the garbage. Whoever burned the village is careless; they’ve left bits of food everywhere. Bones litter the ground in tidy trash piles, which is absurd. Bones are valuable for broth and tools. The little ones can be ground up and used in paints and other things. Whoever these people are, they have so much excess that they’ve forgotten how to make use of what they have.

He can tell by the rot of their wasted food that he’s at least a day behind them, and Petro wants so badly to keep pushing himself. He wants his feet to move faster and his eyelids to stop drooping. He’s almost out of water. He hasn’t eaten anything more than berries in the past three days, and his stomach cries like a lost child.

The fish keeps a constant beat in his backpack.

Petro is almost a day away from the village when he realizes that he can eat it. Sure, it’s raw, but it’s so salted that whatever icky things might be hiding in there are probably dead. It’s dry too, so it won’t feel like he’s really eating raw fish.

He swerves into the long shadow of a small outcropping of trees and kneels in the grass. His pack slides off his back in one fluid motion, and he reaches in with his left hand to grab the fish while the other hand goes to his belt to fetch his knife.

His right hand closes around nothing. He left his knife on the path north of the village. Stupid thing to do.

The fish’s silver scales glitter with red-gold in the evening light. Its steady movement makes it sparkle. Its dead eyes shine, like the thing has been weeping.

Petro takes it in both hands and gulps.


Dec. 8

Spoiler! :
His stomach turns before he even opens his mouth, but somehow, he forces his jaw to unclench. He closes his eyes, brings the fish to his mouth, and bites into it.

It's as dry as he expected. The blob of salty fish muscle twitches in Petro's teeth, and he's suddenly glad he left most of his stomach contents back in the village. He would have vomitted again otherwise. He gulps the stuff down and wrinkles his entire face in disgust. And then he takes another bite.

By the time Petro has made his way through eight whole bites, the sun is red and low. His gut twists, somwhere between sickened and satisfied.

He stashes the fish back into his bag, and some piece of him flinches at the thought of this partially-eaten fish continuing to move against his back. The rhythm was bad enough when the thing was whole.

As the sun sinks beneath the horizon, Petro continues on, following the trash to its source. When the last vestiges of light disappear into the sea, he lights his lantern and keeps going. His eyelids turn to lead, even as his feet keep him moving.

It’s harder to know where he is now. In the forest, the dark may be scary, but here, where the land is flat and unchanging, the darkness is empty. Petro thinks he may be getting into the fog too. He walks in a wide zigzag, keeping his lantern low so that he’ll spot the place where the raiders entered the path.

At some point in the daze of timeless, endless not-quite-dark, he finds the trail. The grass on the right side of the path bends and folds in a strange, haphazard weave, crushed by a multitude of feet and things being dragged over it. This new, unpaved path is wide and clear, and Petro can follow it without stooping over to keep his little circle of light bright.

He was already moving slowly, but Petro slows even more when he steps off the path. He carefully rolls his feet, heel to toe, as he walks, to prevent the grass from rustling with his steps. He steadies his tired back to keep his pack from shaking. His breaths come in slower and deeper, filling his lungs with heavy, anxious air.

The ruined grass diverts around one last outcropping of trees, and Petro dims his lantern. It's been a long time since he walked this area, and he did it with Ming and his father, so he was probably distracted enough to not remember much of the terrain. But he thinks he's close to the shore. There'll be a small drop, where the rocky, grassy ground falls away to reveal a stony beach, and if anything, that's probably where the raiders are camped out.

Petro’s steps turn to a timid, sliding shuffle as he skirts around the trees. He knows he’s in the fog now; the moisture of it clings to his skin and dampens his hair. The darkness is eternal. Even if he lit his lantern, he’s not sure he’d see anything.

He feels for the give of the ground, so careful with his weight that he probably looks stupid. His hands grasp at nothing, constantly moving, gauging his position in space. It takes a bit, but then he finds the drop. One foot slides over the edge, and he scoots his other foot closer so he can find someplace to put his weight.

Petro ends up crawling backwards down the slope. It’s not a big one, barely the height of his chest, but in the total nothing that surrounds him, it’s safer to be cautious. Once his feet hit the tiny stones of the beach, he straightens and turns around, hoping to see some indication that the raiders are there.

He sees nothing. Not even the dim glow of a campfire. He wonders how the raiders are faring.

It’s harder to stay quiet on the beach. Every footstep crunches. The pebbles skitter every time he so much as turns his head. Petro strains to hear anything else. These raiders must be making far more of a racket than he is.

He stops moving, and there it is. A constant whisper of swishing and crunching floats into his hears. Someone laughs with a big, booming voice, and a chorus of others follow with higher pitched giggles. The fire is hidden behind layers of fog, but Petro hears it crackle and pop.

Now that he is here, Petro doesn’t know what to do. He has no inkling of their numbers or supplies. He doesn’t know what they look like or what weapons they have. He has nothing to defend himself with.

This was stupid. This was really really stupid. He should have checked the area surrounding the village before chasing after these people. Maybe Ming was somewhere else entirely, totally safe. He should leave now. Get out while he still can.

Against his wishes, his breathing picks up. It rattles in his throat like crashing waves. He steps back. His foot sends a shower of pebbles sliding and buzzing over the beach. Panicked by the noise, he steps back again. He misses his footing. He falls.

The noise deafens him. The people near him fall quiet. Petro’s heart pounds like a hammer on an anvil, laborious and loud, clanging and ringing. There is no taking back a strike of the hammer, and no taking back the noise he has made.

Petro pivots, overturning on the slick rocks, and runs. He ditches his pack, tossing it into the foggy abyss, hoping the sound will lure the raiders away. It hits the ground, sending up a flare of skittering rocks, but Petro is still louder and more consistent. They’re going to get him.

He struggles up the bluff and collapses into the grass on his hands and knees. His feet hang over the edge. Something bumps his toes, and Petro gasps. He scrambles to get upright and run, but then a cold, wet hand closes around his ankle. A quiet, deafening shing reverberates through the cold, wet air.

Petro falls off the edge, and a silent blade stabs through his chest.


Dec. 15

Spoiler! :
Ming did not look closely, and will never look closely, but she’s fairly certain there isn’t any food left in the village. She has enough dried berries to last another day, and enough water to go two days, and there are streams inland, east of the fork, that journey-goers from previous years said were clean enough to drink from.
There aren’t any weapons left in the village either, but where Ming is going, she won’t need them.
A little bit south of the fork, there is a tiny footpath that curves away from the black stone and wraps around the side of a hill. It descends into a river valley and clings to the water until it reaches open fields bursting with the largest produce known to man.
Well, that’s what Petro’s father said. They haven’t needed to trade with the people of the giant’s fields in years, but they’re there, and the things they grow could feed armies. Ming figures she can warn them about the raiders and stock up on supplies in return.
She skirts around the edge of the village, not daring to take her chances with the bodies. The dog will absolutely sniff them again, and Ming doesn’t know if she wants to hang around with a creature that sniffs dead bodies. Also she doesn’t want to vomit.
Even from the edge of the fields, the village looks sad. The buildings crumple in on themselves, and though the ashes sparkle in the sunlight, the town is grey. When the sun sets later, it will be dark and dreary in the shadow of the cliff walls. Thankfully, Ming won’t be around to see that.
She follows the same paths as before, letting her feet carry her without her conscious thought. Her footsteps are even and steady while the dog runs to and from in a strange erratic movement. Near sunset, she turns south at the fork. When the sky is red and pink, and the path is dark with shadow, she starts searching for the footpath.
It’s a tiny thing, hardly noticeable among the mottled patches of brown and green and black that cover the forest floor. In the dim evening light, with its long, deep shadows, Ming isn’t even sure she could find the footpath if it were in the grassy fields south of here. She has to light her lantern and squint into the bushes to see.
She finds the path tucked between a tight grove of trees and the rocky face of a hill. It’s wide enough for her, but she wonders how on earth Petro’s father ever fit his giant feet and wide frame on this skinny strip of bare dirt. She bets Petro could fit, and then regrets thinking about it, because he’ll never get big enough to not fit on the path.
The dusk turns to night, and the red streaks in the sky recede like shriveling worms, until they disintegrate into the blue black night sky. Ming wonders if she should rest, but the thought merely flits through her mind on occasion. It isn’t like the constant onslaught of fear of the raiders, or the unyielding beat of her heart, both of which whisper for her to continue onward, without rest, for as long as possible. Without space to explore, even the anglerdog is running steadily alongside her. Their steps combine into a polyrhythmic beat that would be fun and intriguing in any other situation.
The landscape changes slowly. In between short naps, Ming sees it go from dense forest to grassy foothills. This is different grass from the dense, green stuff on the shore. Here, the grass is beige and brown, dried out by a summer sun that’s still going strong during the day. The tall, dense trees bleed into short, stout pines so gnarled and grey that Ming wonders if they’re actually just burnt. And ever so slowly, the path descends.
The tiny footpath is easier to spot in the tall, yellow grass than it was in the forest. From the top of the foothills, Ming can see it wind along the hillside, carving a light beige line into the landscape. She follows it down, into the bed of a stream, which trickles still down into a river valley of light green reeds and willows.
The river valley erupts into a floodplain, and that’s when Ming knows she’s close.
The floodplain is enormous. Here, the grass is so yellow and shiny that it might be made of real gold, and it waves in the wind at eye level. Ming has never seen grass that tall; the wheat in the village fields only grew up to her waist.
The river widens into a grand, slow procession of cobalt and gold, which cuts through the plains like a chasm. The path next to it grows into a dirt road with a pair of skinny ditches etched into the surface. Huge, emerald trees slouch into the water, their branches brushing the river like the hems of a hundred long skirts. Giant brambles full of huge red berries wall Ming off from the grass.
As Ming walks further into the giant’s fields, the landscape around her grows larger. The trees become mountains, and the grasses turn into a sea. The cerulean sky grows endless and immeasurable. Ming feels like an ant following a scent to a faraway scrap of food. The bright red raspberries hanging off the brambles balloon until they’re the size of Ming’s head.
At some point, the river bank turns perfectly straight. The stone peeking out between the dirt and the water grows smooth and perfect. It isn’t white--instead it’s stained with green and grey from age--but Ming is still impressed.
She stops for a moment at a spot where a portion of the river diverts, flowing into a smaller but no less perfect channel, which dives into the fields straight as an arrow. The path diverts here, too. A strange, stone bridge, as flat and smooth as the ground around it, runs over the channel, while a small, stone path turns right with it.
Ming peers down the diversion and gasps.
A person walks toward her, ambling lazily along the channel. They seem normal sized from afar, but as they grow closer and closer, Ming realizes why this place is called the giant’s field.
It’s not just the produce that’s large.
The people are too.


Dec. 21

Spoiler! :
Petro’s gut feels like it’s about to spill out, not through his mouth, the way guts usually spill, but through the skin over his stomach. His liver threatens to roll out of his body. Something else he doesn’t know the name of seems ready to leap out his side like his body is a cliff and the organ is about to commit suicide.
Groaning, he pushes himself up onto his forearms and peeks at his stomach.
He blinks at the damage, and then wonders if he’s actually just dead and chilling out in the afterlife.
His shirt is cut open in one jagged line that wraps around his side like a boomerang path. The skin underneath is also cut open. Underneath that, the writhing, blood-red stuff inside is also cut, but it’s not a line. Instead, the damaged bits form two separated surfaces, like someone had started cutting into Petro like he was a loaf of bread. What’s weird is that he’s not bleeding out. His shirt is still mostly the same beige it’s always been.
“I’m dead,” he says. “I’m super dead.”
“Eh, not quite.”
Petro tenses for a moment, and he feels it when his abs clench, but also kind of don’t because they are literally cut in half. This must be some kind of in-between space. Like, he’s mostly dead, but if he wasn’t a coward, he could go back to living and feel his body go cold.
As it is, his body feels the normal temperature. The air around him is a little nippy though.
“You some kind of gatekeeper?” Petro asks the voice, not bothering to look for its source. He can’t stop looking at his wound.
“Ohh, no. Well, I mean, I could be, but I’m hoping to delegate that out sooner rather than later.”
That makes Petro look up. His eyes settle on a person sitting in the dim wherever-he-is with him. They’re taller than him, though not by much, and they have dark hair and brown skin and eyes that glitter an uncanny and improbable amount. Ming is mischievous, and her eyes don’t glitter that much.
“You’ll die if you don’t get help for that,” the person says, gesturing vaguely at Petro’s body. “Want me to heal it?”
“You can do that?”
The person shrugs. “Sure. It’ll be easy. Snap of the fingers.”
“Go for it then.”
They snap their fingers. One moment, Petro’s skin is split open, and then next it’s closed. There is no glamor about it. He wonders if all the stuff inside is fixed too, or if he’s going to have a very fun time with internal bleeding. He stares at the clean skin under his still-cut-open shirt and pulls his lips into a thin line. “Cool,” he says, like getting magically healed is normal. Like being alive despite being partly cut in half is an ordinary occurence.
“Well,” the stranger says, clapping their hands together, “now that you’re patched up, would you mind answering a few questions?”
Petro pulls himself up so that he’s seated cross-legged, and shrugs.
“Wow, what a non-answer. I’ll ask, and you can choose to say nothing, how about that?”
“Is this an interrogation?” Petro asks. “Are you with the raiders?”
The stranger pouts, clearly put out by the fact that Petro is asking things instead. “Of course not. I’m here for the same reasons you are.”
Even though the stranger might not be able to see it, Petro raises one eyebrow. “Which are?”
“Magic, obviously.” They wave their hands in a strange flourish, and a dusting of glowing pink particles drift from their fingertips. “They’re capturing anyone they can find who has magic. It’s put a real damper on things for me.”
Petro is reasonably certain that he’s lived long enough to know whether or not he can do magic. Though not dying after wounds like his probably would seem magical. He’s still not sure how he did that.
Some kind of enlightenment must show on Petro’s face, because the stranger grins, and their white teeth sparkle in the darkness. “Did you eat something magic?” they ask in a whisper.
Of course. The undead fish kept him alive somehow. “Yes,” he replies.
“Ah, the rules of uncivilized magic are so fun.” Their smile turns to a strange combination of wistul and gleeful, and Petro doesn’t like it. Before he can ask what ‘uncivilized magic’ is though, the stranger keeps talking. “By the way, I never caught your name.”
Petro shrinks back. “You tell me yours first.”
“Naturally, naturally.” Placing a delicate, fine-boned hand over their chest, the stranger says, “My name is Cyclese.”
“Petro,” he replies.
He’s not sure why, but Cyclese’s eyes brighten when they hear the name. “Really? Petro? Like the same Petro that you use in the word petrified? The one about rocks?”
“That would be the one, yes.” Petro tries to keep his words slow and measured, but he doesn’t like where this is going.
Cyclese claps a few times and bounces up and down on their bottom. “Oh! That’s just perfect. Hey, how would you feel about having real magic? Like, magic that’s yours and not whatever nonsense you just happened to eat.”
“What?”
Laughing, Cyclese climbs to their feet and wiggles their fingers. “How about eternal life? Or, well, as close as you can get to it. You interested in that?”
Shaking his head, Petro scoots backward. He scoots until his back collides with an uncomfortable set of metal bars, and then he turns around and looks and he’s trapped. He’s imprisoned with a totally insane person who thinks that eternal life and people having magic are real.
Well, given that Petro was just saved from death by a person with magic, maybe that part is real. But still. This is ridiculous. “Eternal life doesn’t exist,” he says.
“Eh, it could, if people didn’t get themselves killed instead of just hermiting away forever.”
It hits Petro then that he has no idea where he is. He assumes the raiders tried to kill him, saw he wouldn’t die, and stuck him in their magical prisoners cell, but that doesn’t tell him much. If he’s ever going to get out of here, he needs to figure out where on earth he is and learn about the raiders themselves. Talking nonsense with a crazy magic person will not help him.
“You’re really not interested?” Cyclese asks. Their voice is right in Petro’s ear, and it makes him jump a few feet off the ground. Tingles run up and down his spine. “You could use that power to get out of here.”
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  





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Mon Dec 30, 2019 4:43 am
Ventomology says...



New parts compilation because I am on travel and doing this lms business on my phone please end me.

Spoiler! :
Petro grabs the bars and tries to shake them. “Why don’t you get us out of here then?” he hisses. “If you’re so powerful.”
“I’ll leave when I want to leave.”
And that is just so infuriating that Petro shakes the bars even harder. He’s never been especially strong, though he’s been beating Ming at arm wrestles lately, but now the whole space around them groans. Petro peers down at the place where the bars bolt into the floor and finds the wood cracking under his feet.
He keeps shaking. Either he’ll get out or someone will come and talk to him, and at this point, either option is better than being alone with Cyclese. Even if that crazy magic stuff is real, he knows there’ll be consequences for saying yes.
A pattering of feet echoes up the hallway, bringing the low yellow glow of a lantern with it. Petro keeps shaking, because he’s nearly pulled apart the wood under the bars, and he thinks he’ll have more even footing with his captors if he isn’t behind bars.
The feet and the light round a corner, and Petro hears the wood beneath him split. The bars come free at his feet, but he’s still behind them when his captors arrive, and he can’t get a good enough angle to crawl under them. He peers down at the break anyways, and in the lantern light, he sees that the wood is wet and half rotten. The splinters are soft under his feet.
One of the captors kneels to examine the broken wood, and Petro watches him, taking stock of the boy’s clothing. He’s clearly dressed in a uniform; the matching blue coat and pants can’t be anything else. It’s old though, probably older than the boy wearing it, with patches over the elbows and tears in the seams. The hems have started fraying, and most of the gold and silver trim is missing, though a tiny bit of detailing still curls around a button near the boy’s neck.
Petro looks up to find a tall man splitting the crowd, wearing a similar but tidier version of the same uniform. He wears a tattered white neck cloth tucked under the lapels of the jacket, and a roughly wrought bit of gold hangs from his chest pocket. It must be a medal or sign of rank.
He’s as tall as Petro’s father was, but thinner and meaner looking. His eyes narrow into slits when he sees Petro still holding the broken bars. His grey hair shines with oil in the lantern light.
“Let go of the bars, boy,” he orders. His voice grates like a nail scraping across stone. It’s terrible and acidic, and it make’s Petro’s heart hurt. He misses his father’s low, smooth voice.
“Let. Go.”
Petro gulps and pries his fingers off the bar.
“Good,” the man says, in a way that does not sound good at all. “Now we are going to ask you a few questions.” He brings his hands out from behind his back to reveal a white hot iron rod. One of the boys around him pulls out some kind of red rock, which Petro guesses will keep the metal hot.
He knows where this is going. The man angles the molten tip of the iron toward Petro and grins.
“And you are going to answer them.”
***
The person ambling towards Ming is not twice her height, but they feel that way. Ming cranes her neck even when the person stops several feet away, and she wonders how Petro’s father ever managed to negotiate, let alone have a conversation, with these giants.
“Excuse me?” the giant says. They remove their monstrous straw hat and clutch it to their chest, and without the shade over their face, Ming can see their long, thin nose and huge brown eyes.
Ming shakes herself, and she feels the dog shake next to her. "Uh," she says, ever the picture of eloquence.
The giant keeps looking at her, straight down their nose, and after a long moment of silence, they raise one thin brown eyebrow in confusion. "Are you okay? You look a bit pale."
The people of the giant's fields have a strange accent. Their vowels draw out longer than Ming's, and they pull their lips into a funny fish shape as often as the words will let them. They talk with a rhythm, like they're always matching their syllables to their long, slow gaits.
"Food?" Ming manages to say. Her head hurts, and the little thing in her stomach that's been gnawing at her the past few days revs up with a vengeance. "I... haven't eaten in- I don't know. A day and a half? Two?"
"Ahh, yes," the giant says. "I can help with that."
The giant, Leo, absolutely helps with that. They guide Ming to the center of their village, one of many little communities around the giant's fields, and sit her down on a hay bale with a single apple slice as wide as her palm.
"That is all you get for now," Leo says, patting her head. They could cover her entire head with both hands. "Cannot have you throwing up."
Ming isn't sure she can eat the whole slice anyways. It's longer than her face. She doesn't think she'd throw up again though.
"Stay while I fetch the elder," Leo orders. They frown, and it's probably supposed to be intimidating, but their face is so gawkish and gangly that Ming kind of wants to laugh.
She doesn't laugh. She nibbles on the apple slice and nods, wide-eyed, like she has been properly cowed. The dog wuffs and touches its wet nose to her leg. Its tail beats a scratchy rhythm on the hay, and its panting rasps on the offbeat.
The apple crackles like lightning under Ming's teeth, and all the juice inside it dribbles down her fingers in fat, sticky rivulets. The taste could tame a demon.
As she eats, she takes in the little village. It's smaller than hers was, made up of only eight houses grouped together. They have thatch roofs and stone walls pasted together with some kind of white gunk. They have the same tiny glass dome windows as the houses in her village did, which makes Ming wonder if the technique was shared between the groups.


January 5

Spoiler! :
She sits under a wire frame structure dripping with grapevines and giant bunches as long as her forearms. The tall, domed ceiling looms over her as she waits and chews, legs swinging.
Leo returns with a silver-haired woman bursting with muscles. She’s taller than Petro’s father too, and just as broad, and the wrinkles in her face all pull from her mouth to her nose, like she’s spend her entire life smiling. Ming knows this is an exaggeration, because the woman is not smiling now.
She stomps right up to Ming and stares down her long, thin nose. Her tan skin, mottled by the light and shadows of the grapevines, reddens. “Leo tells me they found you on the west road, completely out of food. What is going on? You journey kids are only supposed to get to the edges of the fields, not wander into our territory. That’s part of the agreement.”
Ming lowers the apple slice into her lap. “I’m not on my journey, ma’am.”
“Ha! Is the old man sending children to do negotiations now?”
With a shake of her head, Ming takes a breath, ready to explain herself, but the elder cuts in again.
“Tell old Helio to stuff himself! He can make the damn trip if there’s something he needs. I know he’s not dead yet.”
Ming feels the blood rush from her face, leaving her tan cheeks grey and pale. “He is. The whole village,” she blurts. “Burned. The bodies are just. Laid out. I got back from my journey and it”- She can’t finish. Tears sting at the corners of her eyes. All the air in her chest stops moving.
Somehow, the elder gets more angry. “Who did it?” she asks, her voice low and dangerous. “Who killed them? Where did they come from? Why?”
Something wet drags down Ming’s cheek, and she feels her throat struggling to move and vibrate and go. “I- I don’t know. I was coming back from the light house and suddenly there was litter from their trail and a fire and”-
“You didn’t see any of them?” the elder asks. “They came from your direction and you didn’t see any of them?”
“No.” The blood rushes back to Ming’s face. Her stomach drops, carrying with it the few bites of apple she managed to get down. “I… as soon as I saw the fire I went north to find my friend. He was supposed to be coming back from the fish fields.”
The elder scowls. “Clearly you didn’t find him.”
As the elder tosses up her hands in disbelief, Ming drops her head lower and lower. Shame courses through her, rising up to turn her stomach and heat her face. “I found evidence that he’s probably… also dead.”
Leo taps the elder’s shoulder in a light, frantic pattern. When she turns to them, they hiss something incomprehensible in her ear, and the elder’s face colors.
She sighs and rubs a hand over her face, dragging her skin out of its wrinkles. “I’m sorry,” she says. Her voice remains hard, but Ming feels the undertone of regret, like a strain of iron in rocks. “That was insensitive of me.”
With a gulp, Ming raises her gaze to look back at the elder. She’s not sure if she should say something or not.
“I understand that this is difficult,” the elder says slowly. “I would appreciate it, however, if you could tell me everything you can. I would not want my people to face the same fate as yours.”
Of course. That’s why Ming came out this way. “I- I understand too,” she says. She bites her lip and thinks back. The route was foggy, so Ming couldn’t see much about the raiders, but the mere fact that they could get in and out in such terrible visibility meant something. “They can navigate well,” she says hesitantly, “because they came in from the foggy part of shore.”
The elder nods and stays quiet. Leo watches on with wide eyes, constantly fidgeting and jittering.
“They must have a lot of resources,” Ming continues. “They left their waste all over the path. And they came from the sea, because that’s where the trash all led.”
The three of them sit in silence for a few long seconds while Ming racks her brain for any other information she might have. But she doesn’t have anything else. She never saw them. She never saw the ships they must have used to get to the coast, doesn’t know if they’re hopping along the shore or sailing long distance. She never saw their weapons or their numbers, only the nasty things they left behind.
“That’s all I know,” she admits, dropping her face further. She absently sticks a fingernail into the flesh of the apple, and a tiny stream of juice runs down her forearm. “Sorry.”
Leo glances at the elder for reassurance and then rushes to Ming’s side. “Oh, nonono. Do not be sorry! You came all this way to warn us. That was something. At least we know to be prepared you know?”
With a watery laugh, Ming straightens her back a little. “I guess.”
“Yes,” the elder says, and her hard voice cuts apart whatever sweet, reassuring mood Leo had been trying to establish. “Being warned is better than nothing.” She cups a cheek with one hand and stares off into the giant expanse of wheat fields surrounding them. Her eyes gleam with calculations, and Ming feels her eyes go wet just seeing that expression.
Petro’s father wore it constantly. Her grandmother wore it during festival planning. Gods, even Petro had that face. He got it every time the two of them planned an excursion together, or a trick, or ways to convince their families to eat together. It is a face made of flat eyebrows and flat lips, and flat cheeks, but glittering eyes.
Suddenly, the elder turns back to Ming, that same look in her eyes. “So, what will you do now?” she asks. “Do you want to stay with us?”
Ming probably could do that. The people of the giant’s fields have plenty to eat, and with the way they’re split up, they’ll probably never get wiped out the way Ming’s village was. This particular clan, the one most inland, would be safe as safe gets.
"I've got dreams like you--no really!--just much less, touchy-feeley.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny
on an island that I own, tanned and rested and alone
surrounded by enormous piles of money." -Flynn Rider, Tangled
  








The most important thing is to preserve the world we live in. Unless people understand and learn about our world, habitats, and animals, they won't understand that if we don't protect those habitats, we'll eventually destroy ourselves.
— Jack Hanna