“So you’re back.” Fiera said as I walked into the auditorium, head down in thought as I came up to the platform.
“Yes, I know it’s been a while,” I said, watching the wooden floor pass beneath my feet as I ascended, “but I had a graduation and open house to deal with, and now my tower’s not hooked up since my grandmother’s going to be staying in my room tomorrow night.” I paused at the top and looked up, and saw a tall man with silver hair, his face thin and drawn, standing next to Fiera. He looked over at me as if I’d interrupted a conversation he’d been having with Fiera, and his slate gray eyes matched the suit he wore beneath an ebony cloak which hugged his shoulders and hung down to the middle of his back. He had a pointed goatee of gray-turning-white hair, and his mouth was a thin, tired line. “Who’s this?” I asked, stepping over to join them.
“This is Count Leem.” Fiera said, tilting her head as she emphasized the last letter. Her turquoise eyes quickly flitted towards the sheet draped at the back of the stage, and I realized that a group of soldiers, dressed in drab gray uniforms to match the Count, stood at attention, attentively watching the three of us. They started to relax, as if the Count’s name had instinctively cause them to snap to attention. When my gaze returned to Fiera, she held a rolled up scroll towards me, and shook it at me.
“Read it.” she said, her eyes glistening knowingly. For a moment, her eyes tightened, but she forced a broader smile onto her face. “And quit fixing the stupid pronouns.” she added as I took the parchment.
“Not my fault.” I added ritually, accustomed to the change required by Word. After unfolding it, I skimmed the document, which bore one simple sentence. “His name is Count Lee?” I echoed the words on the page, and the Count sighed in exasperation as the five soldiers on the screen snapped to attention, their right hands bashing against their foreheads from their quick response.
“General Lee!” the five shrieked in unison, their backs ramrod straight. Count Lee sighed again, and Fiera glared at me pointedly as she took the scroll back again.
“So that happens every time?” I asked, glancing over at the five soldiers standing as still as statues.
“Yes.” the Count said in a worn voice. There were dark bags under his eyes, and he looked at me sadly. “It is almost impossible to get them to do anything when I go by my given name. Every time they hear it, that happens.” He pointed over at them and shook his head. “So I added the ‘m’ and go by Leem now.”
“And watch this.” Fiera said, hunching over like a cat as she turned towards the five soldiers, who had yet to move. She looked back at us, a silencing finger held to her lips, her eyes vibrant, and then turned back towards the troops on the sheet. So softly I barely heard it, she whispered, “Ulysses,” and the five soldiers broke from their trance, a fierce scowl on each face.
“Where’s the cursed Yank?” they snarled, peering around viciously as they searched for the deceased Union general. Fiera snickered and slipped back over to us.
“They’ll be distracted until someone says You-Know-Who’s name.” she informed me, smirking from her triumph.
“Or that happens.” Count Lee said, waving his hand absently at his men. They stirred briefly for a moment, as if a breeze had wafted the cherished name towards them, and then went back to their searching.
“Well, you just try what I told you, and let me know how it works out.” Fiera said as Count Lee started walking towards the viewing screen.
“I will.” he replied, giving her a tired smile as he stood by the flickering sheet. Then he thrust his arm into it, disappearing into Nick’s story world, and was gone.
“It took you how long to introduce him?” Fiera snapped at me, her smile melting away as she turned on me, her teeth bared ferally.
“Hey, I’m sorry. I already explained I’ve been busy.” I said defensively, and she huffed and crossed her arms.
“Oh, sure, you’ve been busy. Busy writing other stories.” she said as she turned her back to me, her tone offended.
“Fiera,” I said, rolling my eyes as I took a step towards her.
“No!” she snarled, spinning back towards me. Her dress billowed out into a bell shape, and she smoothed it down angrily before wagging her index finger at me. “No comments about my being cute. And no excuses. You’ve been writing that stupid Kira story for months now, and haven’t even finished it.”
“Fiera, I’m trying to work out the last Thread and return to the Main Story right now.” I interrupted. She scrunched her nose in disgust.
“Oh, of course.” she said irritatedly. “It’ll only take you about another hundred thousand words or so to finish it off.” Her eyes snapped up to meet mine, simmering with fire. “And you’re writing your friend’s story, too. That’s where all your spare time’s been going.” She shook her head angrily and stormed off a few yards away from me before stomping her foot and planting herself. “You haven’t even touched my story in forever!”
“Forever is a long time, Fiera, and no, it’s only been…what? A month at most?” I asked.
“That’s not the point!” she said, her hair hugging her face as she spun towards me. She brushed away the loose strands in exasperation and glared at me. “The point is, you’re spending more time on all these other stories, one of which you can’t even claim as yours, and yet poor little me has to sit on the shelf, collecting dust.”
“Fiera, you’re not collecting dust.” I told her, shaking my head. She folded her arms across her chest again and shifted her weight back, mouth taught as she frowned at me. “It’s not like I’ve been ignoring you. And you can’t complain about ‘collecting dust.’ How long has it been since I’ve even touched the Legends?”
“That’s not the point.” she repeated stubbornly.
Sighing, I said, “Okay, what is the point?”
“The point is you haven’t been paying attention to me at all!” she exclaimed, throwing her hands up as if I should have known that all along.
“Fiera, I have been paying attention to you.” I informed her. “Just because I don’t have the time to type your story doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention to you.”
“You’re at your grandparents, flipping back and forth between me and Goodreads.” she accused. “That’s not giving me your undivided attention long enough to finish out this chapter.”
“All right, Fiera, I’ll pay attention long enough to get this chapter completed.” I told her. She smiled briefly, then stalked back over to me, grabbing my shirt by my sleeve and dragging me back towards the projector that sat in the center of the stage.
“Good, because I know you’ve got ideas bouncing around in your head, so spill ‘em.” she commanded, twirling me towards the machine. I regained my balance and faced her.
“Gimme a second to…” I began, then stopped as she started chuckling.
“You used that phrase again.” she pointed out cheerfully.
“Yes, thank you for distracting me and making me dizzy; now let me think!” I snapped in irritation, and she giggled again. Grumbling, I walked towards the machine, powering it up with a distant wave of my hand.
“Talk.” she said, walking over to stand beside me. “What’s going on inside your head?”
“I’m trying to remember what it was I wanted to introduce here, and what’s going into Eldia.” I said, staring at the glowing hologram of the world projected before me. “I had a name for Nick’s world, but now I can’t remember what it was.”
“So now that’s going to bug you as well.” Fiera shook her head in mock sympathy. “Have fun. But at least note Oslt first.”
“Fine, but I haven’t settled on what he’s going to be yet.” I told her. “I’m not sure if he’s…”
“Well he’s going to be a Moderator for this world.” she interrupted.
“I knew that much, Fiera.” I looked up at her while keeping my head down, glaring through my eyebrows. “Thank you.”
“Your welcome.” She smiled sweetly, batting her eyelashes at me. I shook my head at her and smiled, then returned to the sphere levitating before me. Sinking my hands into it, I ran through my memory banks, trying to stir up the relevant files.
“Going through the dregs, are we?” Fiera asked as she watched me.
“I’m going to sic a few scads of Empenatta on you if you don’t leave me alone.” I said, trying to ignore her.
“Fine, fine, but I’m not going to put up with you ignoring me.” she stated firmly. “You’ve been gone for far too long, and…”
“Fiera.” I said flatly.
“Sorry.” she replied, grinning.
I sighed, and lifted my hands from the hologram, leaving ripples in it as if it were wet. “I can’t remember what it was, and I’m not going to give it a placeholder name because that’s not the point. Then I’ll have to go back and change it later.”
“Or you could just leave it alone and let it come to you.” she said, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “Or, you could use the Springhole randomizers.”
“Fiera, I had a specific name in mind.” I said, and she smiled at me.
“Which you didn’t write down, just like you didn’t write down that ‘c’ word you’d been looking for forever. Oh, and it was in that book you just read, wasn’t it? That ‘Rise of Empire?’”
“Fiera, be quiet.” I said, trying to concentrate.
“Oh, let it go! Write it down when it comes back to you, and pay attention to me now.” she said in frustration. “Come on. I finally get you to come back, and you spend the entire time trying to think of what you wanted to call Nick’s story world. What about me?”
“Yes, what about you?” I echoed thoughtfully. “That reminds me. I need to think of a name for this school. Oh, and whether or not I was going to have the main auditorium for the Eldian story room.”
“NO!!!” Fiera shrieked. “No! You are not leaving now.”
“Sorry, my parents are here.” I shrugged. “I don’t have a choice.”
She glared at me and pouted. “You are not doing anything but finishing this story the moment you get your computer hooked back up.”
“All right, Fiera. I’m sorry. I’ll pick this back up later.” I saved the file and turned off the computer.