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LMS VI: The Lost Dragon

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Sat Aug 27, 2022 9:48 am
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soundofmind says...

The Lost Son Dragon

A necessary sequel to The Lost Dragon
That I totally didn't try to start and bail on in 2021, what are you talking about?

It's okay the story is a mess and I've just accepted now that it will be a mess and probably will always be a mess. But hey, at least it will be written, write? I mean, right? Haha. Yeah cool cool ty ty.

Anyways. Synopsis. Uh. What's my book about? What a horrible question. Basically (SPOILERS FOR LAST BOOK)
Spoiler! :
Carter is king now and well that's not good. Guess that's gotta change. Also Clandestine has full dragon powers and what about magic being outlawed and what about James and him being outlawed and ??? His family? Insert bonk emoji.
Yeah so lots of stuff gotta happen. Nice. I'm sure you understand now.

Anyways turns out the only way to finish something is to 1.Die to your pride and 2.Start. Cool! Love death.

Speaking of death, people might die. What? I have about as much context as you.

Things I can promise: this thread will be a mess. This story will be a mess. But it will be written. Aha. AHAHAH. HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Last edited by soundofmind on Tue Oct 04, 2022 9:19 am, edited 2 times in total.
Pants are an illusion. And so is death.

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Sat Aug 27, 2022 10:35 am
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soundofmind says...

Where in the Nye Are We?


Behold. I have obessively made maps and now things will be way more concrete in book two than in book one and we are all just going to pretend I didn't retcon anything. Nothing at all. Look at this. Look at this map. You see this map? I put my tears into this. Not blood and sweat, though. That'd ruin the paper.

I was going to say more but just expect this whole thread to be a mess.
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Fri Sep 02, 2022 9:30 am
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soundofmind says...

Ok so you're all going to hate meeeeeee HEHeEHEH ahha but like... what if I actually did rewrite the whole story... I'd have to be a rogue... it's okay... I mean but what if... haha no I wouldn't... unless??? >_> LIKE OKAY I'm rereading the story and guys. I wrote it in 2018 LMAO like it's been years. It's not terrible but like. LOL. I've improved in the past 4 years I SURE HOPE. Like specifically the like, first HALF of the story. YA KNOW??? And it's mostly because I'm like there are some major plot things I'd want to rework so that the second book is actually strong ya know.

Then again if I do a full rewrite (do-over) but like rewrite and not edit it all... :thinking emoji: hmmmmmhmhmhmmhmhmhmmmmmmmmm

Also tbh... I might just do the full story from James POV because. I just. Yeah. Like occasional POV switches only when needed but what I did before was so confusing every like SCENE POV SWITCHING..... all u Clandestine fans will hate mmeeeeee

ALSO... I HAD THE BIGGEST CRACKBRAIN IDEA... WHAT IF I MADE IT A WEBCOMIC INSTEAD OF A BOOK. You know, like a CRAZY person. haha I'd never do that.... unless....

If I change my mind about this in a second we'll see. I'm still uh. Re-reading (skimming) thru book 1 to get my head on straight for book 2. We'll see. Maybe I'll just annoyingly retcon a million things in book 2 and confuse everybody because B) ahaha


Edit: This could also be pre LMS jitters but. Okay. nevermind on trashing Clandestine's POV i think it's mostly that there's just some things I would change about her character a bit. Like I still want her to be a lil anxious and silly but a bit more grounded... ahsdkjghlk idk ok anyways. I h a v e i de a a s I am not saying

Nobody read this wait its too late to say that
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Fri Sep 02, 2022 10:21 am
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soundofmind says...

Okay so after sitting here trying to think of a way to rewrite it entirely I have come to realize it probably wouldn't be a pure rewrite because it's mostly the first half of the story that I really want to rework so I feel like that'd really just be... rogue-ing. Hm.

I could still follow through with the sequel. Honestly, either way, plotting will be a headache. The story IS a headache (but the only story in my head that just dwells there waiting to be written, hence I'm still here). It will exist, though, which is something. Mostly what I regret in the first half of TLD is that most of what pushes the plot feels.... aimless. Like a bunch of sidequests that don't intentionally build up the world or lore or story. Like, yes, it develops Clandestine and James's relationship but it's so... messy. They separate like, twice lmao (which tbf isn't entirely OOC for James being who he is but like from a story standpoint I'd rather just create a set of circumstances that force them together longer because they fact they run into each other in the whole griffin side-story arc just by like... oh we both happened to select the same side quest.... like okay..... what are the odds. I mean I get it so many things happen in stories for the story but it just felt like.... why. If James had his way he'd be out of Ruddlan, not get involved in some lost child quest. Honestly after the whole Alexander thing why would he not?

Now I'm just like. As a rogue... could I just... like it's a rogue. I can do whatever the heck I want. Nobody tell me I'm wrong I know it's not EXACTLY a free for all.

Also NGL the whole James journal entries thing was fun I guess but. I just. Like what was that for. It didn't actually lead to much and it was all just a ploy for Clandestine to discover/read it and be like omg you're not who you say you are but the invasion of privacy and her reading it just kind of felt like. Such a huge breach of trust that I don't think she'd actually do? At least, there wasn't enough for it to feel... warranted.

IDK like I like the journal things but also lmao... haha... James writes the way he thinks and talks (when he's not you know, being an imposter). I'd rather just have it... come out in dialogue or internal monologue I guess.

I dunno. Also at this point in his journey he really .... wouldn't keep a journal anymore. He'd have trashed it way earlier because literally, it's a liability issue.

Also literally all of this is written just for me. I'm processing here because it's my thread and I can loloololol.

I really want James and Clandestine to meet in a different context. Like, the whole "I walk up to this random guy in a tavern and ask him to be my hunting partner because he seems nice" is........ I mean it's not bad, it's just. It doesn't feel. Strong? TO ME? Mostly it's not strong enough for James to actually bite? Like even if he's pretending to be "Matt" let's be real. His Matt persona is a mellow cowboy or whatever. He's not going to be like "oh sure let me go MONSTER HUNTING THAT SOUNDS FUN and totally not high risk and life-threatening."

Would James agree? Sure. But he's. YOu know. ITS COMPLICATED, OKAY

Stupid wanted man's brain overthinking everything. He's a prime example of "I've seen so many actors lose themselves because they're too committed to 'the BIT'" LMAOOOOO ok only I get that, it's fine

So ok. If I did a sequel I think just what's frustrating me is I'd have to keep writing with this whole... first half of TLD existing and I'd have to still act like it's canon and I don't like it lol.

James in book 2: hey sorry I was a jerk
Clandestine: sorry i read ur diary
James: its a journal but. u know what. yeah
Clandestine: u were a jerk tho
James: ..........
James: this is my character development
Clandestine: and mine is to get a bit more confident and assertive >:)
James: good for you. meanwhile my ex-best-friend is evil and sitting on the throne apparently and there's this whole unresolved never-spoken-of-plotline about my family
Clandestine: YOUr FAMILY???
James: also hey you're a dragon now. how're the fire power things going
Clandestine: that's deflection but also. hey.

Dinny in the bg: don't forget the goblins!!! ;-;
me: I'm so sorry there's so much going on i forgot about the goblins and trying to resolve all of that is overwhelming and i might just. leave that out I'm sorry. save it for an actual rewrite? aha.................

this is me getting all of this out of my system don't mind me uwu *crown emoji*
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Fri Sep 02, 2022 11:17 am
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soundofmind says...

Now that I have complained a lot I am here to say that yes. Fine. I probably still will simply be writing the sequel because at the end of the day it's probably still gonna be less work to wrap up the current story and then look back and fix it. But I will not enjoy it (I mean I will but I won't).


We're off to a great start.
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Fri Sep 02, 2022 11:47 am
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Ventomology says...

ALSO... I HAD THE BIGGEST CRACKBRAIN IDEA... WHAT IF I MADE IT A WEBCOMIC INSTEAD OF A BOOK. You know, like a CRAZY person. haha I'd never do that.... unless....

What a mood honestly.
"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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Sun Sep 11, 2022 8:17 am
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soundofmind says...

wc: 1,137 words

Temporarily posting the chapter here since it's incomplete and I'm not sure how I want to split it yet, but when I figure that out will post in the big boy Reviewing Room as a Literary Work
Spoiler! :
The sky was clear.

It had been a dry summer, and the month of Sael had passed with no rain, leaving the rolling, grassy plains a pattern of yellow and brown. The last time he saw patches of green was down by the river, before they'd moved inland with the herd, slowly leading them to their resting place before the next season, and before some of them were sold off.

James sat atop his horse, looking down the sloping hill at the herd of cattle down below. Faintly, he could hear the cows braying, happy to be grazing on a new patch of grass. Beyond the herd, he could see the other ranch-hands, Kenneth and Percy, trailing behind their boss, Gregor on horseback.

The air was still, and the sun was dipping down towards the horizon. Beyond the cities, out on the rolling plains, the only constants were the four of them, the cows, and the sun, ever beating down on them.

Every once in a while, there'd be a breeze, but that was a lot to hope for, and hope was something James measured sparingly these days.

With a flick of his reins, he rode along the top of the hill.

"Come on, Elliot," James muttered softly to his steed. "Let's count these cows and then get some rest."

Elliot bobbed his head as if in agreement, though James knew Elliot only ever did that as an affectionate response to the sound of his voice. Perhaps Elliot did understand the sentiment, but that was something he would never know.

Meticulously, James began to count the cows, head by head. He scanned the herd, trying to pick out each individual cow from the next as they drew closer together. Squinting, he found himself struggling to make them out clearly, as their brown and black forms blurred into one big mass.

Gregor didn't know (and would never know) that he was near-sighted, but it made the task of scouting at the end of the day all the more difficult. In resignation, James was committed to seeing it through even if it meant he had to count ten times over to make sure he had it right. Though Gregor only ever took it as James being thorough, Percy took it as license for teasing, which resulted in the nickname "cowpoke." Considering all the things he could be called in comparison, James didn't let it get under his skin, but he and Percy were never that friendly in the first place.

His first run through, James only counted twenty.

He glanced down at Elliot, though Elliot was unaware that the number was one short. It was supposed to be twenty-one, which meant that he'd either miscounted, or one of the cows had wandered. Considering his track record, he didn't worry about it much, and simply counted again.

Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty.

And again.


Just to be sure, he counted one more time, trying to be hasty as they started losing daylight.

Still twenty.

With a sigh, he glanced over at Gregor and the others. They had begun to settle down to camp for the night. Kenneth was digging out a pit for a fire, and Percy was tying up the horses while Gregor was off with one of the cows. Petting it, maybe. James couldn't really tell from such a distance.

It seemed that one of the cows had gotten away, but it couldn't have wandered far. One of the benefits of the grassy plains was that that was all there was. Hills and grass. On occasion, there was a tree or two, but it wasn't hard to see for a few miles from the top of a hill. It was just a matter of how many hills the cow had wandered over.

Just from a quick look around, it was at least one.

He clicked his tongue, and Elliot started forward again, taking them down the hill. He rode around the cows and up to Gregor, who, now that he was closer, looked like he was checking one of the cow's legs.

"Everyting alright?" James asked as he rode up behind him.

"It's all right," Gregor said. "She'd just gotten a little rock in her hoof, but we got that out for her and she's all right now, ain't ya, 'ol girl?"

He patted the cow's side with a smile, and the cow dipped her head down to start nibbling at the grass below. Putting his hands on his hips, Gregor turned to James with a smile.

Sitting atop his horse looking down at him, Gregor seemed even smaller than he did on foot. He was a short, wiry man with thinning brown hair, normally swept back under an old cowboy hat. Gregor was the type of man who looked like he'd worked hard every day of his life and enjoyed every minute of it, but had the personality of someone who had all the time in the world to rest. Overall, he was enjoyable. He never pried too hard and was kind an supportive, even when it was undeserved, which was a rare thing to find, and one of the deciding factors that prompted James to work for him in the first place. It was the only thing keeping him there, too. At least, for now.

"I think one of the cows wandered off," James said.

Gregor's smile faded, and his eyes flashed worry.

"Is that so?"

James nodded.

"Well," Gregor said slowly, looking out at the other 20, then fixing his eyes back on him. "Matt, would you mind looking for her? Can't have gone too far."

Again, he nodded.

"Of course," James said, and already, he started to ride past him.

"Oh, and Matt?" Gregor called out.

He brought Elliot to a stop and looked back.

Matt wasn't his real name, but for Gregor, Percy, and Kenneth, it was the only name they knew. He'd had to train himself for it, but he'd already gotten used to responding to it without delay. To them, he was Matt, and that was how he wanted it to be.

"If you're quick about it," Gregor said. "Dinner should be warm and ready when you get back."

James knew it was a well-meaning incentive and merely smiled and dipped his head, tipping the brim of his hat ever so slightly.

"I'll do my best," he said, and then turned back around, passing the cows on his left and Kenneth and Percy on his right. The two of them seemed to pause around the now-lit fire to look up at him as he went, but he offered them no explanation. Gregor would do so for him, and besides - they could stand some getting used to his sudden departures. One day he'd leave for good, and he'd rather no one question it.
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Sun Oct 02, 2022 8:13 am
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soundofmind says...

Chapter Two WC for LMS b/c this chapter part is incomplete and I don't want to split it here exactly

WC: 1082
Spoiler! :
"Great," Clandestine said, a little too chipper. "Would it be alright if I came along? I was hoping I'd be able to make it back to Bone before sundown, but things with the wind wolves took longer than I'd planned."

She watched as the man - very briefly - assessed her, and then shrugged, offering a very small smile.

"Sure," he said.

Clandestine was practically beaming in contrast, even though her nerves were buzzing.

She didn't trust this man, but she couldn't deny that despite the unspoken tension, she did look forward to meeting new people. And there was something about cowboys and their rough edges that she always found oddly comforting. It reminded her of home, even though, these days, she wasn't sure what 'home' was anymore.

"Thanks," she said, adjusting her hold on Billy's reins while she watched Matt tie the cow to the horn of his horse's saddle.

Looking his horse over, she noted that the horse seemed far more cared for than the man himself. Its light, golden coat shimmered in the flickering firelight of her torch and its long, cream-colored mane was neatly brushed to the side.

"You have a beautiful horse," she decided to say lightly. "Whats its name?"

The man hopped up into his saddle and glanced at her.

"Elliot," he answered.

"This here's 'ol Billy," she said, patting her horse's neck. "He's a good horse. I got him a few years ago when I was going through a rough patch but he's been real steady. People tell me he's one of the calmest horses they've ever seen. I suppose all the monster hunting taught him he can trust me to take care of him even when there's some pretty crazy monsters running around. Isn't that right, Billy?"

She looked down at Billy and patted his neck again with a small smile. His ears turned towards her attentively, and bobbed his head a little bit. She thought she caught a small smirk on Matt's face in the corner of her eyes but when she looked up, it was gone.

He started riding up the hill, and the cow lazily followed with a low moo. Clandestine rode Billy around to the other side to stay out of the cow's way and kept pace with Matt and Elliot.

Though she thought of launching into several different questions, she knew it'd be a minute before they were around other people and would be interrupted, so she kept her mouth shut.

If Matt had stumbled upon her even a minute or two later, this would all be fine. She could introduce herself to the cowboys, greet them, be friendly, and be on her way. She wouldn't feel as pressed to stay if she didn't feel like someone was about to walk away with one of her biggest secrets. And it wasn't just that it was personal. Getting caught using magic got people killed. It wouldn't just ruin her career, or her livelihood. If she got put on the mage hunter's hit list, that'd be the end of it for her. She'd have to go in hiding for the rest of her life - and that was if she didn't get caught and killed first.

When they got to the top of the hill, she could see a fire pit lighting up the small camp below. The dim light, unobstructed in the barren hillside, went far enough to shadow the mass of cows on the left and leave the other horses as silhouettes looking on. Three other figures sat around the fire, with one sitting a bit closer, reaching into a pot with a ladle.

They were only a few yards off when Clandestine decided to speak up.

"How long have you all been traveling through the prairie? To get to Bone and all."

"About three weeks," Matt said.

3 weeks. That was a longer way to travel with cattle, it sounded. Not that she knew that much about ranching.

"Have you run into much trouble on the way?"

"A few wild beasts here and there," Matt said. "But nothing we haven't been able to avoid or drive away."

That was vague. But they were both being vague. Maybe Matt was just a vague man who needed more specific questions.

"That's good," she said with a small nod. "If you went north it'd have been a lot worse."

Matt looked over to her with an odd look. Or maybe it wasn't so odd as it was simply unreadable.

"We came from Tin Can," he said. "Not Lettera."

Clandestine laughed a little too forcefully.

"Oh, I--I know that," she said. "No one would make that trip through the wilds--"

She stopped abruptly when she realized everyone's eyes had turned to them. They stopped a few feet from the fire, looking down at the three men huddled around it.

There was brief silence in which the collective bewilderment between the five of them was palpable. There was an older man - who looked to be more experienced, and likely the boss - who looked to Matt with searching eyes. But the other two men were staring at her.

One was a bigger guy with a darker complexion, brown, like hers. He had long black hair that stuck out under his hat. The other man seemed a lot taller, even while sitting, and was a pale, freckled man, with bright red hair, short and messy. They were just as dusty as Matt was, but seemed a bit more... open. Interested would be the better word.

The big guy was the first to open his mouth.

"Looks like he found more than just the cow," he said with a little smirk. The red-headed man immediately elbowed him in the side after that comment, but the big guy just shoved him away.

Clandestine wasn't sure if there was any kind of story behind that comment, but she found herself raising her eyebrows and rolling her eyes.

The older man got to his feet and hurried over to Matt, and before he could ask a question out loud, Matt hopped off of Elliot and began to explain.

"This one wandered to the north," he said, gesturing to the cow. "As chance would have it, there were wind wolves being led that direction."

He looked to Clandestine, gesturing to her in turn.

"Clandestine is a monster hunter. She was directing the wolves away from Bone. We ran into one another. Or rather, the cow ran into her first, and I followed after."
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Tue Oct 04, 2022 7:24 am
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soundofmind says...

Part something something of this chapter continuing and wow its getting long lmaooooo

WC: 1012
Spoiler! :
Clandestine, this is my boss, Gregor. That's Percy and Kenneth."

Clandestine followed suit and hopped off of Billy, taking his reins in one hand and waving with the other.

"Pleased to meet you all," she said with a warm smile, extending her hand to Gregor. He mirrored the smile and offered a quick, firm shake before pulling away.

"A monster hunter all the way out here," he said with a genuine sense of awe. "Rare they come out this far. Small-town folks like us normally can't afford them. Thank you for your service to our community."

Clandestine's smile grew a little tighter as she laughed lightly.

"Oh, well, you know. Someone's gotta look out for the little guys," Clandestine said with a shrug.

"It's much appreciated," Gregor said with a nod, and then gestured to the fire and the bubbling pot of what smelled like beans. "We were just about to have dinner. There should be enough for one more. Would you like to join us?"

Though Clandestine did feel like she was mildly intruding, Gregor seemed genuine in his friendly offer to share food, and she couldn't deny that the smell of fresh food pulled on her stomach which was almost always a little empty. But what tugged on her hunger the most was the smell of meat. Sausage, it looked like, fried in a pan.

Well, she wasn't one to say no to free food.

"I wouldn't want to--" she started to say anyway, but Gregor cut in.

"It's fine! It's fine!" Gregor insisted with a wave of his hand. "It's always nice to have new company."

As Gregor gestured for Clandestine to join them all around the fire, Clandestine looked over to Matt, only to realize he wasn't where she last saw him. He'd silently walked off with the cow, leading it back to the herd, and was already tying up his horse besides the others.

She let out a faint hum in the back of her throat but followed Gregor, watching as their shadows danced in the flickering firelight. It was a short walk, but by the time she made it there, Matt had circled back to meet them and sat down opposite the other men, not looking to anyone in particular. As Gregor sat beside Percy and Kenneth, Clandestine decided to plop down next to Matt. It would make it easier to initiate conversation with him later.

"So, Clandestine," Gregor spoke up as Kenneth started to pull out some bowls, mugs, and spoons. "I know Matt already said it, but my name's Gregor. Some folks call me Greg, but most call me Gregor."

"What about Cowboy Gregor?" Clandestine asked with a small smile.

"Well, I've never considered 'cowboy' much of a title in that way," Gregor said with a chuckle. "But Mr.Gregor works if you insist on being more respectable."

"Mr.Gregor it is, then," Clandestine nodded. "So how long have you been working with cattle then, Mr. Gregor?"

"Since I was a boy, really," Mr.Gregor answered. "My father kept a ranch all my childhood, and I inherited the trade. And the cows. Later hired these boys."

He gestured to Percy and Kenneth.

"Picked them up about five years ago," he said. "They've grown to be good trusty ranch hands. Real naturals, now, I'd say."

Kenneth looked to Mr.Gregor with a small smile and scooped out some beans into a bowl, and Clandestine could see bits of sausage had been mixed into it.

"It's only because Mr.Gregor is a good teacher," Kenneth said, handing the bowl to Percy.

"So how long have you been monster hunting?" Kenneth asked as he scooped up another serving.

"Well, I'm not that old, so it's only been a few years I've been doing it professionally," Clandestine answered, eyeing the bowl as Kenneth passed it to Gregor. "But I spent most of my younger years training for it before I started hunting on my own."

"Wow," Kenneth whistled, pulling out another bowl. "You've been working up to this your whole life, then."

"Yeah. I guess so," Clandestine shrugged.

"I've got a cousin who's a monster hunter," Kenneth said, filling this bowl up more than the other two. "She serves in the Wester Isles. They've got a whole fleet just to take care of sea monsters and keep the waters clear for merchant vessels."

He offered her the bowl, and she noticed he'd been generous with the serving, giving her a higher proportioned amount of meat than the rest. She took the bowl with a grateful nod.

"I've never had a chance to hunt monsters on the water like that. That's amazing," Clandestine said, stirring her bowl up with her spoon.

"And dangerous," Kenneth added, handing another bowl to Matt.

"True," Clandestine admitted. "But that's part of the job."

"And we're thankful for those that do it despite the dangers," Gregor chimed in. "Someone's gotta do it, else our cities would get overrun with all kinds of beasts and critters."

"You know," Percy cut in, pointing his spoon at Clandestine. "My step mother is a monster. Can you hunt her for me?"

Kenneth had just poured himself a bowl, but he went out of his way to look to Percy and dramatically roll his eyes. Gregor just laughed lightly and shook his head, but Matt didn't even look up. He was entirely preoccupied with his food.

Clandestine offered a light laugh.

"Only if she's classified as a monster in the official monster hunting manual," she said.

"Oh, it's official," Percy said.

"I'll have to look her up then," she humored him. "What's her name?"

Percy opened his mouth to answer but Kenneth beat him to it.

"If your mother heard you talk like that--"

"But she ain't!" Percy interrupted.

Kenneth looked to Clandestine in the same way a longsuffering older brother might when their sibling was getting out of control.

"Sorry for him," he said. "He's always like this."

Clandestine only laughed and finally took a bite of food, before it started to get cold. It wasn't anything fancy, but it hit the spot.
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Omni says...

wait wait is this the lost son or the lost dragon? XDD because i dont know if i should read because spoilers or not >.>
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Tue Oct 04, 2022 9:19 am
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soundofmind says...

Omni wrote:wait wait is this the lost son or the lost dragon? XDD because i dont know if i should read because spoilers or not >.>

It be the Lost Dragon see look it says it yes
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Mon Oct 17, 2022 12:27 am
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soundofmind says...

wc: 1,102
Spoiler! :

"So, Clandestine," Gregor said, sounding like he was being careful to pronounce her name correctly. "That's a pretty unusual name," he smiled. "I like it."

Clandestine raised her brows and stared at him for a moment before she let out a light laugh.

"Thanks!" she said brightly, "I like it too!"

"It's a bit of a mouthful," Percy said, ironically talking through a mouthful of food.

"Well, most of the time I tell people they can call me Clanny instead," Clandestine offered. "It's easier on the tongue."

Percy chewed on that (quite literally), and Clandestine joined him, taking a spoonful of beans and meat herself.

"Works for me," Percy said with a shrug after he swallowed.

Clandestine huffed through her nose, smirking.

"Clandestine isn't that hard to say, Percy," Kenneth chided, pointing at Percy with his spoon.

"Is too," Percy objected, still talking through his chews. "That's like... four syllables."

"Three," Kenneth corrected.

"Sure, Ken," Percy said with a roll of his eyes.

At that moment, Kenneth seemed to lean in a little closer to Percy, lowering his voice. Clandestine watched curiosly as his posture seemed to shift from that of a teasing older brother to something more caring.

"You know," she heard Kenneth say. "I could teach you how to read."

"Don't need to read to herd cows," Percy muttered, shoving Kenneth away. "Don't need to write a book about them."

Clandestine leaned away from the fire a bit as the two of them started mumbling to one another, and she only caught a few words here and there. It was clear that their attention had pulled away from her and they were having a private conversation, and Gregor looked to be lost in his food and gazing off at the cows.

Turning her attention back to Matt, she saw that he was almost done with his food. In the few minutes she'd been talking to the others, he'd apparently been shoving food down at the speed of light. Or maybe she'd talked for longer than she thought.

Glancing down at her bowl of food barely touched, she decided it was worth ignoring a little longer if it meant she could get a read on Matt.

She hated this. Not knowing.

What was she supposed to do? Outright ask? Yeah, and if he hadn't seen, she'd be giving herself away, and boy would that make things awkward.

"You said your name was Matt, right?" she asked. The question wasn't entirely a grasp for straws. She really wasn't sure if she remembered right.

With his mouth full, Matt merely nodded.

"Have you been working with them all this time too?" she asked, tilting her head in interest.

Matt hesitated, waiting to finish chewing. He swallowed and cleared his throat.

"I'm a recent hire," was all he said before scooping up more beans and filling his mouth again.

Clandestine was trying to be decent. If he was just a normal guy who hadn't seen her use magic, she wouldn't think anything of it. People were antisocial and nervous around new people all the time for all sorts of personal reasons that didn't have anything to do with magic and monsters. And even then, it could just be that he was really hungry, or simply not interested in her at all.

Though the latter kind of stung her pride a bit if she admitted it.

"Oh," Clandestine said.

Recent hire. So, he was a newbie. New to ranching, perhaps, or at least new to this group of ranchers.

"How recent?" she asked.

Matt glanced at the others across the fire.

"Three months ago," he answered.

"So not that long," Clandestine said.

He shook his head, taking the last scoop of beans to clean out his bowl.

"Were you doing a lot of ranch work before that?" Clandestine asked.

Matt nodded again, and it was at that moment that Clandestine realized if she kept asking yes or no questions, that was probably all she was going to get. Nods or head shakes. Alright. So she'd have to rephrase her questions, then. Say something more open-ended but still a question.

She hadn't had more than a few seconds to think.

"You mentioned you've been a monster hunter for a few years," Matt spoke up. "Where'd you start out?"

Clandestine hesistated. The answer to that question could go in... a few different directions.

"Well, I registered as a freelancer with the guild a while back, up north," she said vaguely.

"How long ago?" Matt asked.

Cladestine felt like she was catching on a pattern of him mirroring her questions, but she didn't devote more time to overthinking it because she found herself preoccupied with doing mental math. She hummed, trying to figure out numbers in her head.

"I think about three years now," she said slowly, hoping she'd landed on the right number.

"That's quite a while for your line of work," Matt commented.

Right. Because a lot of young, gutsy, monster hunters didn't make it very far. It was the careful ones that lived longer.

"Well, if you're good at what you do," Clandestine said with a weak smile. "You can keep at it for years, you know."

Matt hummed.

"Ideally, yes," he agreed.

"And a good monster hunter," Clandestine went on, "Is good if they hunt monsters. Not the other way around."

She didn't know why she felt the need to defend herself, but she did, and she found herself laughing again. Nervously.

"So clearly I'm good at it," she said, gesturing to herself with a wave of her spoon. "Because. Well. Look at me. I've survived."

Gods. Why did she have to make it weird? She could've just left it at the good monster hunters not being hunted bit. Now it sounded like she was concerned about surviving or something. She hoped he didn't read too much into it.

"I see," was all he said. And that told her nothing. What did that mean? I see?

"Yes," Clandestine blurted. "I also see."

And there she was making it even weirder. Why did she say that out loud? Yeah. Sure. She saw too. Saw that she didn't know if she could trust him still, but it wasn't like she had to say it. Clandestine had no idea how to recover from that.

"I imagine as a freelancer you're pretty well travelled," James said instead, moving on as if that was a completely normal human thing to say.

"Oh. Right," Clandestine said too-quickly, the words sputtering out of her mouth. "I mean. Yeah. I've seen the world a bit, yeah. Why? Why are you asking?"
Pants are an illusion. And so is death.

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soundofmind says...

finally finished the last of this chapter
533 wc for this bit, more wc for rest of week to come

Spoiler! :
Sometimes, it was like Clandestine was viewing herself from an outsider's perspective. This was one of those moments, and she was shaking her head at herself.

This was supposed to go the other way around. She was trying to interrogate Matt, but now it felt like she was flailing around and making things worse. She hunted monsters. She wasn't a mastermind at manipulating conversations. She didn't know what she was doing. She just didn't want to die.

With dread she watched as Matt opened his mouth to say something but didn't get a word out before Gregor spoke over the fire.

"Hey, Clanny," he said, quick to use the easier-to-say nickname, "You mentioned that you drove off wind wolves earlier. Any chance they'll circle back? Wind wolves are an awful menace to cattle. They stir the cattle up real bad."

Relieved, Clandestine whipped her attention to Gregor.

"Well, I wish I could tell you that they're gone for good," she said, offering a small shrug. "But unfortunately, wind wolves aren't very predictable creatures. Much like the wind, they come and go as they please without much rhyme or reason to it."

Behind the dancing flames that separated them, the old man's eyebrows drew together and he frowned deeply with worry. Clearly, Clandestine's words didn't comfort him, but unfortunately, she didn't have much more comfort to offer. Wind wolves were impossible to kill, and there was no way to get rid of them for good. You just had to hope they didn't come back with the next south wind.

Gregor cleared his throat and cast his worried glance northward where she'd come from.

"Clanny," Gregor said slowly, turning to meet her eyes. "I don't mean to ask too much fo you, but we're only two days away from my ranch. We've made it this far and I'd like to ensure we make it the rest of the way. I'll pay you for your service if you'd travel with us back to my ranch outside Bone and take care of any beasts if - dragons forbid - they come our way."

It took Clandestine a moment to rip herself out of the awkward conversational disaster she'd dug herself into, but the opportunity to protect others from monsters and get paid was enough to pull her back into confidence. That? That was her expertise.

A broad smile spread across her face.

"It would be my pleasure, Gregor," she said with a superflous wave of her arm and a bow of her head while she held her bowl of beans close to her chest. "I was heading back to Bone anyhow. I don't mind going the long way around to make sure you and your cows make it there safely."

She tipped an invisible hat, trying to channel her inner cowboy. That made Gregor chuckle and some of his worry melted away. He tipped his actual cowboy hat back at her.

"Well," he said. "I'm mighty grateful."

Clandestine smiled a little brighter, but in the corner of her eye, she noticed Matt had left again, retreating to the horses.

Well, at least she'd get paid to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't rat her out.

and rest of wc for week
wc: 547
Spoiler! :
It was nice to have a stomach full of food. Clandestine never ate too heavy when she was on the road, though some days she didn't eat much at all. Monster hunting could get you good money when you were registered in a city guild and committed to that city, but she'd tried that sort of life for a few months and didn't take well to it. It wasn't that she didn't like working with other people, but she found it too constricting. City-paid monster hunters had more protocols and paperwork, and while it was mostly for good reasons, she could never use her fire magic in a sticky situation, and she never did feel fully safe within a city's walls even if the point was to keep the monsters out of them.

Truth was, monsters were inside city walls too. They just took a different shape - one that looked a lot more human than anything else.

Clandestine could remember a time when magic was a natural part of life. It was as common as breathing, as normal as having a bite to eat, or going for a walk. No one bat an eye if you used your magic to stoke a fire, to stir a pot of soup, or to smooth the path out before you. But something changed in the past 100 years that scarred the world forever - both literally, and in every sphere of society.

Everyone called it the calamity. She just wished she knew what that really meant. At her age, it was hard to ask questions without sounding like an idiot.

Sure, she'd pieced things together here and there. Magic was illegal. Mages were hunted. They'd built a worldwide business on the bones of the dead just to enforce the law. There was a war, there were disasters, but none of it ever added up. Then again, maybe these sorts of things were never supposed to. Every version of the story seemed curated by the side that won, always painting people with magic as the villains. And, well... she didn't fall on the winning side. Not on this side of history.

The past few years she'd been able to get by. It was a clumsy effort, adjusting to all the changes, but she'd settled into a rhythm that made sense. Freelancing as a monster hunter allowed her to pass under the radar, kill monsters, keep people safe, and do something that at least made a little impact in the world.

It was all she had. She didn't want to lose it.

After everyone finished their food that night, things settled down pretty quickly. Gregor said they rose with the sun, which meant they'd have to be up early, so they wasted no time cleaning up and pulling out their sleeping mats.

Clandestine helped clean off a few dishes while Gregor reassured her that she wouldn't be expected to do anything but keep a lookout for monsters and any creatures that could cause trouble.

Kenneth and Percy were the first to go to sleep, finding spots a little ways from the fire, but still in the light. Gregor lingered and explained that they slept in shifts, and they'd just fold her into the rotation, putting her at the end for the night.

total wc: 1080
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Tue Oct 25, 2022 6:25 am
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soundofmind says...

Spoiler! :

It was kind of nice, though, to be around cowboys. There was something about it that was strangely comforting, and she couldn't help but think of the cowboy who found her and helped her get back on her feet all those years ago. Of course, she never did get his name. Neither of them had talked about their pasts, but it had been for the best in the end. It hadn't been relevant. At least, that was what she told herself so she could make peace with it.

She never knew what happened to him after he left. She didn't know why he even left in the first place, either. But she supposed that was part of life. People leaving.

Or, particularly, leaving her.

She tried to find a comfortable position on the ground, tossing and turning a few times until she settled on her side with her blanket pulled around her shoulders and her legs curled in. She always slept with her sword near her side, usually on the ground, and she kept it in view, within reach.

Just in case.

She found herself facing the horses, all of them lined up in a row, with Billy on one end and Elliot on the other. She didn't get the other horse's names yet, so they were just horse one, two, and three for now.

Her eyes followed Matt, who was evidently on the first shift.

He went over to Elliot, and seemed to be intentional as he looked around, like he was checking that everyone was asleep. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling a bit childish as she waited a few long seconds before opening them again to see what he was up to.

Turns out, it wasn't anything that exciting. Of course, she didn't know what she expected. If he was going to turn her in it'd probably be when they reached town. There wasn't much he could do in the plains unless he tried taking things head on himself, and he seemed pretty avoidant, to say the least.

He took out a brush, it looked like, and started brushing through Elliot's mane. Though they were a few feet away, she could overhear him softly talking to Elliot. She couldn't understand what he was saying, but it sounded... gentle.

Awh. That was kind of cute. For a guy who might want her dead, anyway.

Matt turned his head, looking out over the plains again. This time, his gaze swept faster than she was able to hide her face, and she felt her cheeks burn when it looked like his eyes landed on her.

Well this is embarassing.

She pretended to make a snoring noise, grunting as she rolled over to the other side and hid her head under her blanket, cringing at herself. Her face burned and she pinched her eyes shut, wondering if she was going to regret all of this.

Maybe she should've called it at the start. Maybe she should've taken the risk and asked what he'd seen. She supposed she still could. She just needed to find a way to frame the question so he wouldn't be suspicious if he'd, in fact, seen nothing.

This was stupid. She was overthinking it, wasn't she? No, she couldn't afford to not overthink her literal livelihood. Not when the stakes were so high.

She sighed, muffling the sound in her blanket.

She just had to figure this out before she got to Bone. And in the meanttime, all she had to do was keep an eye out for monsters.

It was going to be okay.


That morning, they woke with the sunrise. Clandestine was on the last watch, so she got to watch the sun come up over the horizon. With nothing to obstruct the view but the low, rolling hills, the brilliant sunrise filled the whole sky, painting the expanse with a gradient of orange, pink, and blue.

With the rising of the sun came warmth, and the chill of the early morning slowly started to melt away. Clandestine had managed to keep the fire alive through the early hours of morning, sneaking in a spark of her own flame. You could say that she was, perhaps, playing with fire, both in the literal and metaphorical sense of the saying, but Clandestine felt like it was a low risk to make sparks when she was pretending to use spark stones.

It was just faster, and she was lazy. Besides, her fire always burned hotter and quicker anyway.

When everyone got up, there was no morning meal prepared. Instead, everyone ate away at snacks they had in their packs while Gregor had his men pack up.

Clandestine didn't have much to do besides roll her blanket back up and tie it down to Billy's saddle, but she did notice that something seemed off with the cattle.

Now, she was no cow expert, but she knew when creatures were looking a little antsy. If she noticed it, she knew Gregor must've felt it too.

"They're restless this morning," she said, standing by Billy as Gregor passed by.

Gregor looked back at her, worry showing in his eyes.

"That's odd," he said. "I ain't seen anything."

"Maybe they just miss home," Clandestine joked with a small smile.

Gregor grinned, but it didn't seem to alleviate his fears. His brows pinched together.

"Well, I guess that means we should get going, then," he said. "You keep an eye out."

And that was when Clandestine got to see real cowboys at work.

She had to admit, she never had the opportunity to see cowboys in action, herding real cows. She'd only ever run into them when they were outside of their element, when they stopped into cities, usually crashing taverns or inns as they passed through.

They came around the herd on each side. Gregor went out at the front, leading the way about fifteen feet or so ahead of everyone. Meanwhile, Percy pushed the cattle on the left, Kenneth on the right, and Matt pushed them from the back.

And that was where Gregor told Clandestine to ride. In the back, where she'd be able to have a view of the whole herd and spot anything - and if Gregor caught anything up ahead, he said he'd holler back to her.

1049 words :)
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soundofmind says...

Spoiler! :
Of course, things were a little tense.

Clandestine rode behind Matt for a while. Every now and again she noticed how he'd look back at her, like he was checking if she was still there. In a normal situation she'd think he was concerned she'd get lost, but she couldn't help but wonder if he was watching his back. Something about his scan of the herd seemed deceptively calm. It was like he was trying so hard to look calm that it gave off the impression it was fake. A fake calm. Too calm to be real.

Then again, it was possible she was overthinking things.

The pull of anxiety pushed her two directions. Forward, and back. She'd inch back when she was afraid Matt would notice something was off about her and she'd inch forward when she felt like she didn't have a good enough view of him to make sure nothing was off about him. And of course, in between, she'd be looking around for monsters or anything else that was odd.

She played this dance for a few hours before she finally got sick of it and caved.

The silence was agonizing. She was tired of feeling anxious the whole time. Nothing was happening. She was bored out of her mind. She was used to having to travel alone, but when she was around other people it was like there was no excuse to just do nothing all the time. She ached for conversation even if it was with a man she didn't trust.

Inching forward, she noticed Matt glanced over his shoulder again, looking back at her. For a moment, their eyes met, and she couldn't tell if his face said: "What?" in the "What do you want?" kind of way or the "What are you looking at me for?" kind of way. Unable to decide, Clandestine simply took it as an invitation.

Mustering a small smile, she hurried Billy up beside Elliot and matched their pace.

"So," she said, looking at him closely. "Which cow is your favorite?"

Matt stared at her for half a second with a blank expression, but when her question processed, his eyebrows shot up and he let out a singular, quiet "ha" from the back of his throat.

"That's the thing," he said. "These aren't milk cows. They're meat cows. You can't get too attatched."

Clandestine smirked.

"See, you're not supposed to," she said, narrowing her eyes. "But it still happens."

Matt pursed his lips and looked out at the herd. He hummed.

"Is it the black one with the white spot between its eyes?" Clandestine asked. "Or is it the smelly brown one with the stringy tail?"

Matt huffed through his nose, but didn't quite smile.

He pointed.

"See the brown one over there?" he asked.

Clandestine had to admit, she didn't. Half the cows were brown.

"Uhhhh..." she drew out, trying to figure out where exactly he was pointing. It didn't seem exact.

"I like that one," he said.

Clandestine narrowed her eyes at him.

"You just picked a random cow, didn't you?" she asked.

"You don't believe me?" Matt asked, looking over to her with a smile in his eyes.

"Okay," she said, sitting up a bit straighter in her saddle. "Tell me one thing you like about that cow that makes it exceptional."

"It has a very deep moo," he said. "That I find very amusing."

Clandestine let out a light laugh and grinned, watching as Matt's eyes seemed to have a glint of comedic mischeif in them, even though the rest of his face seemed relaxed, like he was purposefully keeping a straight face.

"Oh, sure," she said. "I didn't know cows 'moo-ed' in different pitches."

"Guess you don't know much about cows," Matt said.

Clandestine snorted.

"I guess you'll just have to teach me," Clandestine said, a smirk pulling at the corners of her mouth as she quickly glanced over the herd before returning her gaze to Matt.

"What's the moo sound like?" she asked.

Matt was pretty busy constantly scanning the area around them, but at that question, he actually looked at her and raised a brow.

"Just so I can get an idea," Clandestine said. "Your voice is pretty deep. I bet you could do a good low moo impression."

Matt huffed through his nose, and she could see the amusement again in his eyes.

"Sure--" he started to say, but he stopped talking when they heard Mr. Gregor up ahead. He was shouting back at them.

"There's some flying boar up ahead!" Mr. Gregor said. "We'll go around!"

Clandestine pulled Billy back a little, not wanting to get in the way of the ranchers as they pushed and led the cattle. Matt rode forward, but she caught him glance back at her with a look she could only explain as one that was satisfied there'd been an interruption - as if he'd gotten away with something, when in reality, he was only spared from being silly.

Gregor and Percy began to pull the herd to the left while Kenneth pushed from the right. Matt began to push against the back of the herd, and Clandestine merely followed as they came up over the top of a hill at an angle.

When they reached the top, Clandestine saw the other side of the hill was a little more patchy. As they'd been travelling for hours through the plains, all the hills had looked about the same, aside from a few rocks or spindly trees here and there. But this one seemed a little... odd. It was more than just patchy. It looked like the patches missing grass were unearthed.

She didn't think people would be digging out here, and this didn't look like the work of earth mages.

She paused at the top of the hill, feeling uneasy. In the back of her mind, she could only think of one thing that this reminded her of.

Sand worms.

"Hey, Gregor!" she shouted, easily able to spot him from the top of the hill.

His head whipped around, and he shouted back.

"What's wrong?" he asked, clearly sensing the alarm in her voice, even though she was trying to be careful more than alarming.

"We should hurry!" she shouted back. "I've got a bad feeling about this patch!"

Problem was, sand worms tunneled under ground for miles. If they'd surfaced out here at any point there wasn't any way to tell how close they were to the surface or if they were even close. They could've come up to the surface days or weeks ago, and if nothing else came through here except wildlife, the tunnel they left behind would be left largely undisturbed.

That, and if they were close she didn't want to waste time looking down holes. Sand worms were a Class A monster for a reason. They were huge.

Fortunately, from what she could see, the holes she was looking at looked like they were on the smaller end of the spectrum. They were probably juvenile. Just little wormlets.

wc: 1179
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