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Before The Dragon - Chapter 36

by ShadowVyper


The next two weeks passed quickly. Aerik spent a considerable amount of time helping her learn about the R’hyk. And Jerica spent even more time practicing it on her own. Aerik did not, however, tell her anything at all useful about the Guild. Still, he let her send letters to Derik often. And they sparred and trained together.

Jerica sat at the kitchen table and held her hands over it. An apple was levitating over each of her palms by several inches. She’d gotten comfortable supporting objects without Aerik’s help. She was also able to get a fair bit of distance between her palm and whatever she was holding. And now, she was practicing two hands.

The tingling of the R’hyk still felt odd – almost like there was an itch she couldn’t scratch. But even that she was learning how to manage. It flowed through both hands now, pressing against the glossy surface of the apples as they hovered over her palms.

A letter materialized in front of Aerik.

She looked up, the apples wobbling.

“I didn’t say you could stop,” he chided. “Focus.”

Jerica looked back at the apples and fixed her attention on keeping them levitating over her palms. It was harder now that her attention was split between her task and the knowledge that Aerik had just gotten a letter.

“Would you look at that,” he said. He was sitting across the room, next to the fireplace. He’d turned one of the stuffed chairs so that they could see each other while they worked. He’d been mending clothes while she practiced the R’hyk. “One guess how the war is going.”

Jerica snorted.

She insisted on asking with each letter how things were going. And the answers were always the same. The war was locked in a stalemate. He and Akeno were fine. Rek had recovered well and was up and about now, though a bit weak. Kieran had broken his arm during the fall, but it was also healing, and he was otherwise safe and well.

And, no, he didn’t want Jerica to come back yet.

A bit more of Jerica’s guilt lessened with each letter. It still felt wrong to be resting and learning from Aerik while her friends and her men were in lockdown. But as long as the war was political instead of physical, there wasn’t anything Jerica could do to be helpful. In fact, it was probably best she was out of the way. Up here, where she couldn’t run her mouth.

“Huh,” Aerik said.

“’Huh’ what?” she asked, focusing on the apples.

“You asked why the stalemate has been going so long,” Aerik said.

Jerica didn’t look up. “And?”

“And it’s because they managed to capture Josef Femola.”

“What?” The apples fell. She caught them as her eyes snapped up to look at Aerik. “They took Josef prisoner?”

“Apparently so,” Aerik said. “In the attempt to rescue you.”

Jerica strode across the room, a strange emotion settling deep in her chest. She wasn’t quite sure how to name it. It wasn’t quite guilt. Or fear. Or even concern. But a vague sense of uneasiness enveloped her as she thought through the implications. “Did they hurt him?”

Aerik looked up at her as she stopped in front of him. “Why do you care?”

“I don’t.” Jerica held her hand out. “Can I see?”

“You do,” Aerik countered, but held the letter out to her.

“Maybe,” she agreed. She wasn’t sure if she did. Or why she did.

She read.

Aerik,

Hope things are going well for the three of you up there! Things are fine here.

Tell Jerica things are the same here. We're all fine. The war is fine. It's

best that she stays up there for now. Same as always.

As for the why, that's a bit more complicated. We actually captured Josef

Femola during the raid when we were trying to rescue Jerica. I didn't mention

it since there's nothing the two of you can do about it anyway. But we've been

holding him to make the Femolas pay reparations for this idiotic war.

The official story, of course, is that we want them to trade Jerica back to us.

I'm waiting to see how long it takes Femola to admit that he tried to

feed her to a dragon. But, for now, not much change. I asked an obscene

amount of money for Josef's return since they obviously aren't able to

turn Jerica back over to us. Poor kid is caught in the cross-fire, but

hopefully he takes it as a lesson and governs better than this when

-- or if, I suppose -- we decide send him back to daddy.

Anyhow, that's life here. I'm sure Jerica will ask again, so, same as

always, let her know that it's still safest for her up there. We'll

get through this soon enough, then she can come back. And we'll all

be overjoyed to get to see her again.

Derik

This still didn’t answer her question. “Can I reply?”

“Of course.” Aerik gestured at a pencil and some paper laying on the table a few meters away from them. “I still want to know why you care, though.”

“I mean, I don’t…”

Aerik snorted.

“Not really,” Jerica defended. “He just… was kind to me when I got captured.”

“Before or after you got a fingernail ripped off?”

Jerica cringed at the memory, grabbing the paper and settling down on the floor. “Before. And that one wasn’t his fault. None of it was, really.”

She set to work on the letter.

Hey Derik,

It’s Jerica. We’re all good up here. Aerik is still teaching me how

to use the R’hyk. We’re doing better than it sounds like you’re

doing down there.

Did Josef get hurt during the capture? It might not be a horrible

idea to keep him locked in a room in the palace instead of in

the dungeon, and ensure that he’s getting medical attention.

Jerica hesitated. There was no justification for that request. And, it didn’t seem like her at all. Why did she care? Even she wasn’t sure about that one. It just felt wrong to have Josef rotting in a dungeon when he hadn’t done anything. His only crime was being born as Femola. If either of them deserved to be chained up somewhere, it was her. Not him.

Femola will pay more for his release if you can prove you’re

returning him in the same state as you took him.

And… She hesitated again, still trying to think of some rationale for this odd request that her conscience was demanding she make. She couldn’t very well say that she didn’t think the son of the aggressor of a literal war was blameless. And, yet, it was true.

He was also kind to me when Femola was keeping me prisoner,

for what it’s worth. He snuck me some food and water. A small

gesture, but it meant a lot in the moment. So, it might not

be horrible to show him a bit of kindness in return.

Jerica

She read the letter. It felt odd, to be the person suggesting this. She was always so careful to dehumanize the enemy. Or, at least, she tried to be mindful of her perception of opponents. She had to slaughter them, whether she liked it or not. So, may as well believe the worst about them, to make it easier.

And yet Josef had somehow snuck past that mental block.

She bit her lip as she realized that she felt bad for him. Her mind flicked back to their conversation in the tent – however brief it had been. They were more alike than she’d like to admit. Both of them were trapped in positions neither of them asked for or wanted, just because of what family they were born into. Both were treated poorly by their King Uncle.

Jerica stood up and carried the letter over to Aerik.

“You don’t think Derik should be holding Josef,” Aerik said. He took the letter and sent it without looking at it.

“It’s not that,” Jerica said, brushing the claim away.

“Then what?”

“It’s just… I think… I don’t know,” she sighed.

“You do,” Aerik said gently. “Just think about it.”

Jerica dropped to the ground in front of Aerik’s chair, sitting crisscross. She rested her elbows on her knees and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. Forcing herself to think through things as meticulously as Aerik wanted her to was by far the hardest thing he asked her to do. Not the sparring, not even the R’hyk. Just trying to untangle her own thoughts.

“It’s not fair to lock him away in the dungeon,” she said at last.

“How isn’t that fair?” Aerik challenged, voice soft. “A prince for a princess. Seems fairly even, doesn’t it?”

“Well, imprisoning me wasn’t fair either.” Jerica snorted.

She hesitated. It still felt so foreign to sit and chat with Aerik. She didn’t let her guard all the way down around him. But it was still nice. Kind of. She wasn’t really sure what to say when someone asked why she had an opinion, rather than barking at her to shut up. To really think about what she meant.

“And?” he prompted.

“Well… I guess I did have this one coming.” She sighed and pulled her hands away from her face, looking up at him. “And maybe Josef did too. I don’t know.”

“And maybe he didn’t,” Aerik said. “I don’t know. Walk me through your thoughts.”

“I just—” Jerica scoffed, brain unwilling to actually form thoughts that she could explain to him if she’d wanted to. Which she didn’t. “Can you un-send letters?”

“Hah!” He smirked. “I wouldn’t even if I could. Did you ask him to let Josef go?”

“No.” Jerica shook her head, rubbing her face again. “It’s a good move. The right move.”

“… But?”

“It just…” she sighed. “Capturing me was also the right move. It’s a war. I’m dangerous. But he didn’t need to shove his finger in my wound. Or rip my fingernail off. Or try to feed me to a dragon. You can do the right thing in the wrong way and it stops being a right thing.”

“Mm…” Aerik was silent for a long moment. “That’s a wonderful insight… So, what do you think the right thing is here?”

“I don’t know,” Jerica admitted. That was far more complicated. She hesitated a moment, trying to think through it. “I guess… just treating him better than Femola treated me.”

“Low bar,” Aerik commented.

“Heh. Yeah,” Jerica agreed with a grim smirk. “I just asked that Josef be kept under house arrest than in the dungeon. Seems… less cruel.”

“Kind, even.”

“Pff, not hardly,” Jerica scoffed. “It’s not kind to keep him prisoner. It’s just smart.”

“But the right thing?”

“If it’s done the right way.”

“That’s fair—” A yawn cut him off. “Excuse me. It’s been a long day.”

“It has been.” Jerica pushed herself to her feet, noticing the tension in her shoulders. She adored her lessons with the R’hyk, but they left her fatigued and her muscles sore from tensing them while she focused. “I’m going to bed.”

“Goodnight, Princess.”

“Night,” Jerica answered, yawning as she cracked her back and started down the hall. With any luck, she’d fall asleep quickly. And not have to try to work out why it was that she cared so much about how Josef was treated in his imprisonment. She laid down and stretched out, calming her thoughts until she finally drifted off. 


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Fri Jun 25, 2021 2:57 am
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TheScribe wrote a review...



I am not going to find that awesome song again cause I will get distracted and talk about it instead of this. c:

The next two weeks passed quickly. Aerik spent a considerable amount of time helping her learn about the R’hyk. And Jerica spent even more time practicing it on her own. Aerik did not, however, tell her anything at all useful about the Guild. Still, he let her send letters to Derik often. And they sparred and trained together.

Quick, easy, elegant timeskip. Well done.

“I didn’t say you could stop,” he chided. “Focus.”

Can someone kick him between the legs and then hug him? Make it a "I love you but you deserve this sometimes" thing?

A bit more of Jerica’s guilt lessened with each letter. It still felt wrong to be resting and learning from Aerik while her friends and her men were in lockdown. But as long as the war was political instead of physical, there wasn’t anything Jerica could do to be helpful. In fact, it was probably best she was out of the way. Up here, where she couldn’t run her mouth.

Well, yes, but that also means that no one is sticking it to Biryn & co atm and that they're enjoying free reign.

I'm waiting to see how long it takes Femola to admit that he tried to feed her to a dragon.

Oh gosh
idea
what if
What if Derik makes everyone think Jerica is dead
and then
BOOM
"GHOST" JERICA ARRIVES TO KICK SOME NYKERIAN A-- BUTTOCKS! :D

She read the letter. It felt odd, to be the person suggesting this. She was always so careful to dehumanize the enemy. Or, at least, she tried to be mindful of her perception of opponents. She had to slaughter them, whether she liked it or not. So, may as well believe the worst about them, to make it easier.

Well, that's what happens when you're forced to think one way for your entire life.

Have a nice [*insert time of day here*]!!! <3<3<3




ShadowVyper says...


Thanks so much for the review! <33



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Mon Jun 14, 2021 6:16 pm
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AshlynPhoenix wrote a review...



Hiya Ashlyn here for a review!! Before I dive into it though please know that this review is not intended to offend you or make your writing look bad!
Notes: I haven't read the previous chapters so this review probably won't be that helpful but hey-at least you get a second opinion XD

Jerica sat at the kitchen table and held her hands over it. An apple was levitating over each of her palms by several inches. She’d gotten comfortable supporting objects without Aerik’s help. She was also able to get a fair bit of distance between her palm and whatever she was holding. And now, she was practicing two hands.

So a classic magic type deal? Well, it can be portrayed in original ways but I must say-its nothing that I haven't seen before. Heh, that comment aside, I gleamed something about Jerica-she seems to be quite the determined character, if shes practiced and focused enough to levitate an apple without help (God, that sentence sounds funny XD).
Jerica strode across the room, a strange emotion settling deep in her chest. She wasn’t quite sure how to name it. It wasn’t quite guilt. Or fear. Or even concern. But a vague sense of uneasiness enveloped her as she thought through the implications. “Did they hurt him?”

Aerik looked up at her as she stopped in front of him. “Why do you care?”

“I don’t.” Jerica held her hand out. “Can I see?”

“You do,” Aerik countered, but held the letter out to her.

“Maybe,” she agreed. She wasn’t sure if she did. Or why she did.

She read.

'Vauge sense of uneasiness' and then she asks 'Did they hurt him?'' hahahahahah XXXDD. Alright, at least she half-admits it.
Aerik,

Hope things are going well for the three of you up there! Things are fine here.

Tell Jerica things are the same here. We're all fine. The war is fine. It's

best that she stays up there for now. Same as always.

As for the why, that's a bit more complicated. We actually captured Josef

Femola during the raid when we were trying to rescue Jerica. I didn't mention

it since there's nothing the two of you can do about it anyway. But we've been

holding him to make the Femolas pay reparations for this idiotic war.

The official story, of course, is that we want them to trade Jerica back to us.

I'm waiting to see how long it takes Femola to admit that he tried to

feed her to a dragon. But, for now, not much change. I asked an obscene

amount of money for Josef's return since they obviously aren't able to

turn Jerica back over to us. Poor kid is caught in the cross-fire, but

hopefully he takes it as a lesson and governs better than this when

-- or if, I suppose -- we decide send him back to daddy.

Anyhow, that's life here. I'm sure Jerica will ask again, so, same as

always, let her know that it's still safest for her up there. We'll

get through this soon enough, then she can come back. And we'll all

be overjoyed to get to see her again.

Derik

So do letters naturally materialize structured like this in Jerica's world, or this just Y.W.S formatting? It's probably the former, but I want to be sure ^^ Anywho, this letter did tell me some key information, but it felt lengthy to me. Perhaps you could try figuring out the main point of that letter, keep everything that leads to that main point, and omit the rest? It's your choice though ^^
She read the letter. It felt odd, to be the person suggesting this. She was always so careful to dehumanize the enemy. Or, at least, she tried to be mindful of her perception of opponents. She had to slaughter them, whether she liked it or not. So, may as well believe the worst about them, to make it easier.

And yet Josef had somehow snuck past that mental block.

She bit her lip as she realized that she felt bad for him. Her mind flicked back to their conversation in the tent – however brief it had been. They were more alike than she’d like to admit. Both of them were trapped in positions neither of them asked for or wanted, just because of what family they were born into. Both were treated poorly by their King Uncle.

Hmmmm a female MC fallen for the antagonist, or an antagonistic like character? I haven't seen thaaat before, but hey-I love situations like that haha XD. I love the insight I get here. They were probably both raised to hate the other family. Not sure exactly what their 'King Uncle' did, but I imagine there was a lot of narcissism, and verbal/emotional abuse involved.
That concludes this review! I hope you found it helpful :D
BROUGHT TO YOU BY....
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ShadowVyper says...


So do letters naturally materialize structured like this in Jerica's world, or this just Y.W.S formatting?


Oh, whoops, didn't even notice that. That is definitely YWS formatting being funky, it's supposed to be a normal letter.

Perhaps you could try figuring out the main point of that letter, keep everything that leads to that main point, and omit the rest?


Fair enough! I'll try to cut it down ^-^

Hmmmm a female MC fallen for the antagonist, or an antagonistic like character?


Ahahaha omg no xD She feels bad for him, but is absolutely not attracted to him (and I promise you that's not the direction this novel is going). I can see why it would seem like that with where you jumped in, but, god no xD

~
Thanks so much for the review! Helpful insights ^-^ Good luck with Team Tortoise!





Ahahaha omg no xD She feels bad for him, but is absolutely not attracted to him (and I promise you that's not the direction this novel is going). I can see why it would seem like that with where you jumped in, but, god no xD

xD thanks for clearing that up omg :P





Your welcome for the review btw, I'm glad you found it helpful!



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Mon Jun 14, 2021 3:31 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Ok, I totally meant to get to this in the morning before my brain was fried but... such is life! Hopefully my comments will still kinda make sense.

The next two weeks passed quickly

Ok so I'm all for time jumps, but in this case I think you definitely need to soften the ending of the previous chapter because that plus skipping two weeks is a bit jarring xD

Aerik spent a considerable amount of time helping her learn about the R’hyk. And Jerica spent even more time practicing it on her own. Aerik did not, however, tell her anything at all useful about the Guild. Still, he let her send letters to Derik often. And they sparred and trained together.

So when is she allowed to join/when is she allowed to go home? She just doesn't seem the type to be content with just waiting. I know that the magic is distracting her and that makes sense, but I think this is something that needs to be addressed. Even if she's happy to wait now because she has something to learn and do, she was there for a week already with no sign of things changing and she just,,, didn't really seem to mind. There was the brief thought of escape which was totally what I was expecting from her but then there was never any real mention of that again. And I guess she can't send letters to anyone other than Derik? Does he let the others know she's ok? Do they think she was captured and died? What do the Nymerians think?

She’d gotten comfortable supporting objects without Aerik’s help.

Just the apple, or other things too?


The tingling of the R’hyk still felt odd – almost like there was an itch she couldn’t scratch. But even that she was learning how to manage. It flowed through both hands now, pressing against the glossy surface of the apples as they hovered over her palms.

I like this description, it's a nice way of filling in the gaps of time having passed!

And, no, he didn’t want Jerica to come back yet.

A bit more of Jerica’s guilt lessened with each letter. It still felt wrong to be resting and learning from Aerik while her friends and her men were in lockdown. But as long as the war was political instead of physical, there wasn’t anything Jerica could do to be helpful. In fact, it was probably best she was out of the way. Up here, where she couldn’t run her mouth

Ok, this makes more sense now as to why she wouldn't be constantly thinking about going back!

“I don’t.” Jerica held her hand out. “Can I see?”

“You do,” Aerik countered, but held the letter out to her.

This is a nice nod back to some of the earlier chapters - it feels so long ago!

She read the letter. It felt odd, to be the person suggesting this. She was always so careful to dehumanize the enemy. Or, at least, she tried to be mindful of her perception of opponents. She had to slaughter them, whether she liked it or not. So, may as well believe the worst about them, to make it easier.

Ahh such character growth! She's almost ready to admit her love to Akeno ;) Does Derik know why she keeps asking about him, or is it one of those worst kept secret deals?

So this chapter is definitely not as bad as you think it is! The jump only feels a bit disorienting because of the way the previous one ended, and it's nice to have some clarity on why Jerica is ok to stay put. Although if I were her I'd still be demanding to know when I could join this guild and get some answers!

Let me know if there are any specific parts I haven't commented on that you were having issues with but otherwise this was a pretty good chapter! I'm ready to have some more characters to read again though!

~Icy




ShadowVyper says...


Ok so I'm all for time jumps, but in this case I think you definitely need to soften the ending of the previous chapter because that plus skipping two weeks is a bit jarring xD


Ahaha yeahhhh I knew this one wasn't smooth xD

I think this is something that needs to be addressed.


These are all fair points that you raised... I'm kind of struggling with making things interesting while also making her concerned about being back home, too. I definitely agree with you xD It's just a lot to juggle. And it's nice to hear these thoughts so I can go back and revise on the next draft!

And I guess she can't send letters to anyone other than Derik? Does he let the others know she's ok? Do they think she was captured and died? What do the Nymerians think?


These... are all questions I don't know the answer to xD

The Nykerians definitely think she's dead. But honestly, the other thoughts didn't really cross my mind. I think she can't send the others letters because they don't have magic/know the R'hyk exists... but I'm not sure if Derik would have told the others or not. My gut reaction is he'd tell Rek and Akeno... but I feel like he'd let Levin and Biryn believe she's dead for now (and they're mourning. a ton. for real. ;) ) -- but these are all really interesting questions and I'll definitely explore them more!

Ahh such character growth! She's almost ready to admit her love to Akeno ;) Does Derik know why she keeps asking about him, or is it one of those worst kept secret deals?


Ahahah the denial runs deep ;) And Derik knows about her and Akeno -- he vaguely disapproves, mostly just because of over-protective-paternal-figure-syndrome, but likes Akeno as a human so he's not like,,, adamantly opposed to it. Rek also knows about them and is all for it xD The others do not know, but I think Biryn suspects and just hasn't managed to get proof.

So this chapter is definitely not as bad as you think it is!


AYEEE that actually is really relieving to hear <3 I was afraid it would seem too random, but was going for some growth here, especially before the next chapter (we get a n g s t ). So, yeah, all of your comments were particularly helpful in this chapter! You raised some really good points that I'll definitely mull over for the next draft.

I'm ready to have some more characters to read again though!


Fair lol I actually have a fair bit of the rest of the novel written, I was just having trouble connecting the inspo I had for that with what I already had written. So, hopefully, I can edit and it'll be a bit smoother than this transition is lol All that to say, chapter after next involves more people, so hopefully the pace will pick up a bit then.

Thanks for the awesome review <33 I super appreciate you and all the constructive criticism you provide



IcyFlame says...


I can't decided if I'm ready for the angst or not...

<3



ShadowVyper says...


ahaha <3




Nothing is impossible, for the word itself says, 'I'm possible!'
— Audrey Hepburn