Young Writers Society



Among the Dragons - Chapter 2.1

by Shady


"How many times have I told you dismount before you enter the stable?" Biryn’s voice grated on Jerica’s nerves before she even saw him. Half a moment later he came striding into view at the opposite end of the hallway, sneering already.

So, they were doing this.

She bit back a sigh, but sat a bit taller on Ranofer’s back to emphasize her defiance. She forced an edge into her voice, "I don't know. I usually tone it out when I hear you talking."

"Cute." His voice dripped with sarcasm. She swerved around him and directed Ranofer into his stall, then dismounted. Biryn followed close behind. "I trust the mission was successful?"

"Mission?" She glanced over Ranofer's back at Biryn, but then focused her gaze on the saddle's girth instead. "Ohh, you mean the sanctioned murder? Yeah, one Lord, murdered, as promised."

"How did it go?" He was looming, blocking the doorway.

"Oh, it was great," she said sarcastically. "Everyone was super excited that we were there. The townspeople threw a little parade for us—"

"I'm being serious," he snapped.

"Lord Milyba skipped down to the courtyard to meet us," she continued, undeterred. "His kids literally begged me to let them watch."

"Why are you always such a bitch?" Biryn huffed.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she answered, voice sickly sweet. "You know how good of a mood I'm usually in after I murder someone."

Biryn rolled his eyes. "Did you do it or not?"

"Yes," she hissed, dropping the act. "It's done."

"And you named a new heir?"

Jerica forced her expression to stay sour, even though a strange sense of amusement pricked through her at how angry he was going to be when he learned what she'd done. But she was going to let it be a slow-burn. Something he was informed of, later, rather than throwing it in his face tonight. "Yes. One brand-new Lord Milyba, up and running."

"Good." Biryn turned and stepped into the hall. "Finally did one thing right at least."

That was nearly enough to put a smile on her face. She couldn't wait for him to learn the truth. But rather than answering, she dragged the saddle off Ranofer's back and headed towards the tack-room, ignoring Biryn as he made his exit.

Her better sense tried to remind her that Biryn was an As’veri and she should not, in fact, intentionally provoke him. But, then, she’d gotten away with a lifetime of irritating him – and he’d been just as dangerous before, when she wasn’t aware that he was an evil spirit inhabiting the body of a sorcerer.

Besides, it was his own fault for sending her to do the execution in the first place. There were any number of other people in this country that he could have sent. There were any number of ways he could have been more specific with his instructions. But he’d made his choices, and she’d made hers, and she’d sit back and wait for the fallout from said choices.

Jerica sighed softly now that she was alone in the stable. Her entire body ached far, far more than it should and her saddle felt much heavier than it was. The hilt of her sword dug into her side, but she couldn’t be bothered to take it off, yet. She needed to stay focused. First, get Ranofer squared away from the night. Second, get herself groomed and ready for the night. Third, have a proper breakdown. Alone.

There was no room for Jerica when it was time to be King’s Assassin; and no room for King’s Assassin when it was time to be Jerica. She needed to wash the blood and assassin persona off, then curl up under her blankets and deal with the flood of nasty, painful emotions that were no doubt going to surface the instant they could. But she needed to stay King’s Assassin until she had the privacy to be messy.

Jerica shifted the weight of the saddle so she could open the door to the tack room. It was dark inside. Straight ahead was a wall equipped with beams for saddles – dozens of which were occupied. An empty one sat on the second row up, third from the right, waiting for her to return her own saddle to it. Further in the room—

Someone was there.

Jerica started, throwing the saddle in the same motion that she jumped backward to give herself more space as she drew her sword. No one should be here. No one. It was too late for stable boys to be here – and they’d have a torch besides. If there was someone lurking in the darkness, it could only be for some sinister reason.

“It’s just me,” Aashi’s panicked voice came in an urgent whisper. She had her hands extended in front of her in the darkness and shrank back against the wall.

Jerica huffed a loud sigh, both in frustration and relief, and slammed her sword back in its scabbard. She swallowed hard, trying to still the racing of her heart and quell the embarrassment accompanying the surge of adrenaline over someone as harmless as Aashi. “What are you doing here?”

“Waiting for you.” She strode forward and bent down to pick up the saddle for Jerica. She hefted it off the ground and managed to get it up to her mid-thigh before she grunted. “Wow, this is heavy—”

Jerica took it from her, maybe a bit rougher than she needed to, and threw it onto its designated beam with her right hand alone.

“You’re so strong,” Aashi said with a nervous grin.

What are you doing here?” Jerica demanded again, irritation creeping up her spine as she looked at her best friend. She wasn’t in the mood for this. Aashi didn’t deserve to have to deal with the King’s Assassin – and yet, here she was. Well before Jerica had had the time to switch the flip from assassin back to Jerica.

“I came to see you.”

Jerica grabbed a brush and a can of grain, and strode back into the hall. “Why?”

“To see how you’re doing.” Aashi trotted after her, peering into the stall as Jerica removed Ranofer’s bridle and dumped the grain into his bucket. “I heard you, ah, uh, you had to, uh – how are you doing?”

Fine,” Jerica snapped, quickly brushing Ranofer. She’d been planning to spend more time on him. But she needed to get done and get away from Aashi as soon as possible, before she did anything they’d both come to regret.

“Okay, but, like, for real.” Aashi said, exuding anxious energy as she watched Jerica. She was tall and thin, but somehow seemed very small and awkward as she stood in the hall. Her ebony skin was warm; blue eyes filled with concern. “I know ‘how good of a mood you’re usually in after you’… you know.”

Jerica cast an annoyed sideward-glance at her and walked back to the tack room to hang up Ranofer’s bridle and return the brush to its bin. “I just said that to get rid of him.”

“And you’re just saying you’re fine to get rid of me,” Aashi pointed out, following along behind her. “But it’s not going to work for you this time.”

“Go away,” Jerica said, throwing the brush down with a loud thunk.

“No.”

“Aashi.” Jerica turned on her, drawing herself up to her full height and glaring at her. Looming. “I mean it. Leave me alone. Now.”

“Or what?” Aashi scoffed.

“You really want me to answer that one?” There was a threatening edge to Jerica’s tone as she shut the door to the tack room and started across the courtyard to the palace. If Aashi wouldn’t leave her, then she’d leave Aashi.

Aashi snorted, swift as she strode forward fast enough to match Jerica’s pace. “You won’t hurt me, and we both know it.”

They did both know it.

Aashi was one of the precious few people who had been there for Jerica through thick and thin since they were children. Jerica would sooner cut off her own leg than so much as flick Aashi. But it didn’t mean she wanted to deal with her right now. And if she couldn’t threaten violence, then she’d find another threat. “I’ll tell Derik you’re bothering me.”

“Oh, yes, War Lord Ainsley will be very cross with me for being your emotional support.” Aashi got a few steps ahead and pulled the door open, still chattering as she held it for Jerica to walk through. “But, fine, if you insist, go ahead. Tell him. Then he can talk you through this instead of me—”

Jerica huffed a sigh.

But Aashi had a point. Derik was an excellent War Lord, and an even better uncle. To an annoying extent sometimes. Such as now. He’d brush it off if Jerica complained to him about Aashi; but if Aashi reported Jerica as unstable to him, then he’d fret over her like the mother hen that he was. An artifact of being the one who raised her since her own parents weren’t around when she was growing up.

Aashi followed Jerica inside and looped her arm through Jerica’s elbow. Jerica flinched, instinctively jerking away, entire body tense in an instant. Aashi cringed. Her voice was much gentler as she said, “Sorry… I forgot.”

Jerica huffed again and turned away without an answer, starting up the stairs. She was annoyed by Aashi’s carelessness, but couldn’t be properly angry about it since she knew it was a genuine mistake. Aashi was cuddly by nature. Jerica was not; but she made an exception for Aashi. Most of the time.

But not when she was in this state.

Jerica was always a jumpy, paranoid disaster after she had to act as King’s Assassin. Her guilt reminding her that the only thing she deserved was pain and violence in return for the monstrous things she’d done. Every touch felt like a threat, unless she focused on it and reminded herself again and again that it was supposed to be reassuring not menacing.

Which she didn’t have time to do if Aashi grabbed her without warning.

Jerica’s bedroom was on the third floor of the palace. The wing was entirely abandoned aside from her room, which suited her just fine. She didn’t get much privacy, so she relished the bit that this afforded. Unless they had visiting dignitaries that Levin particularly disliked. Those always got assigned to Jerica’s wing, to punish them by having to be so near to the fearsome King’s Assassin. It also punished her by making her babysit them.

But there were no visitors now.

Jerica pushed open her bedroom door and strode inside. It was a large room, even though it was one of the smaller ones in the palace. Along the left wall was her bed, which was covered in hunter green bedding from Lutalya. The blanket was trimmed with golden embroidery and reminded her of something out of a storybook, which is why she’d asked Derik for it when she saw it in the market. That’d been years ago now, but she still liked it.

Straight ahead was a row of windows now drawn with black curtains to shut out the night sky. And, more importantly, any prying eyes that may be able to see within her lamp-lit room. To the right was an empty fireplace. In the back corner along the right wall was a doorway that opened to her anteroom.

Her attendants strode through it at that very moment. In the lead was Dar’shaya. She was a short, plump girl with warm sepia skin and close-cropped black hair. She was wearing a simple light blue dress and folded her hands in front of herself as she met Jerica’s gaze. Harlyn was close at her heels. She was tall and thin, with pale skin and fiery red hair that hung in curls around her shoulders.

There was a nervous energy to them both as they looked from Jerica to Aashi over her shoulder, then back to Jerica. They’d clearly been told about the execution, then. Jerica had a… habit, of being less than pleasant after an assignment like this. She’d been trying to do better. But. Well. Sometimes the switch between assassin and human was difficult to make.

“Ma’am!” Dar’shaya said with an anxious smile. “I’ll draw your bath? We’ve got water over the fire already.”

“… Thank you,” Jerica said. A bath would help, yes. It was a good call.

Jerica strode into the room and began unbuckling her belt. She needed to clean her sword before she settled in for the evening. She’d already given it a thorough wash in a stream she passed on the way back. But it was a beautiful blade of excellent craftsmanship that deserved a thorough wipe down and oiling before she retired.

“Harlyn, would you mind having Kieran take care of this?” Aashi asked, reaching for Jerica’s sword.

Jerica didn’t let go. “It’s not Kieran’s job to tend to my sword.”

“It is quite literally his job as your squire,” Aashi insisted, keeping her grasp on the sheath as she looked at Jerica. “Like, not something that is vaguely close enough to his responsibilities that it’d be reasonable to ask him to add on. No. His job is to help you with your official duties. You did your part. Let him do his.”

Jerica looked at her for a long, long moment, then sighed and let go. Her day had already been long enough. And Kieran did know exactly the sort of routine that Jerica wanted for her sword. So, Aashi could win this round. She guessed. For now, a bath. 


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Fri Dec 09, 2022 10:00 am
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hello old friend! I'm only 3 months late to this, which is basically nothing... right? The good news is it means I have a backlog of chapters to read, so I don't just read one and then get left wondering what's going to happen for months ;)

Anyway! I've just reread chapter one and tried to simultaneously remember and forget the book that came before. I think I'm all caught up, but please shout at me if I forget who people are/what's going on!

Biryn rolled his eyes. "Did you do it or not?"

"Yes," she hissed, dropping the act. "It's done."

Does she ever...not murder people? I know the whole of the last book was more focused on the war and at that point she was heading up a group of soldiers (which I gather has now changed anyway), but she doesn't tend to directly disobey orders. She plays fast and loose with the rules but does Biryn actually expect her to not have executed the Lord?

Besides, it was his own fault for sending her to do the execution in the first place. There were any number of other people in this country that he could have sent.

But she's the King's Assassin, who else would he send? I think because we haven't seen Jerica doing her actual assassin duties (what a weird sentence) I don't really know whether this kind of thing falls under her job description or not. Isn't she the first person to send to do something like this?

Aashi snorted, swift as she strode forward fast enough to match Jerica’s pace. “You won’t hurt me, and we both know it.”

They did both know it.

Aaaah I'm so here for this friendship! I know Aashi is a relatively new addition who's supposed to have been around in the previous book but I'm just so happy Jer has a healthy female relationship too - I think she needs it <3

“Oh, yes, War Lord Ainsley will be very cross with me for being your emotional support.”

Is War Lord a new title?

I loved the whole interaction with Aashi! The only thing I would say to watch out for is when you go and rewrite her back into BtD, I think it could be very easy to introduce her in much the same way. This felt like an intro to the character which makes sense because she didn't originally exist but maybe just watch out you don't repeat yourself too much. The thing with her touching Jer's arm and forgetting worked so well that I know if it were me I would accidentally use something like it in both books xD

She was a short, plump girl with warm sepia skin and close-cropped black hair. She was wearing a simple light blue dress and folded her hands in front of herself as she met Jerica’s gaze. Harlyn was close at her heels. She was tall and thin, with pale skin and fiery red hair that hung in curls around her shoulders.

I'm not sure you need a full description of these two here. It felt a little forced to me, perhaps because they aren't main characters and I didn't really feel like I needed to know what they looked like. Perhaps you could soften it by contrasting one to the other, so it doesn't just feel like listing descriptions?

I like the transition in this part of assassin to Jerica and the steps she has to take to get herself back in that mindset make sense. I'm keen to get back to some of the other characters we left behind in the last book because I'm not too sure where we are after she didn't marry Stanton after all... also I miss Derik.

Next part here I come!

Hope this was still helpful :)

Icy




Shady says...


I'm only 3 months late to this, which is basically nothing... right? The good news is it means I have a backlog of chapters to read, so I don't just read one and then get left wondering what's going to happen for months


Hahah very valid points xD no worries at all! This was actually the first notif I saw when I woke up this morning I may or may not have a bit of a problem/addiction xD and always check for an RP response like within thirty seconds of waking up and this morning I had this instead and it made me smile. I have now been awake an hour and have the capacity to actually respond lol

She plays fast and loose with the rules but does Biryn actually expect her to not have executed the Lord?


That... is fair xD I think I was going for this as him asking if she'd run into any roadblocks that prevented her from completing the assignment but it definitely came across as him asking if she obeyed lol so I shall rephrase.

But she's the King's Assassin, who else would he send? I think because we haven't seen Jerica doing her actual assassin duties (what a weird sentence) I don't really know whether this kind of thing falls under her job description or not. Isn't she the first person to send to do something like this?


This absolutely falls under her job description, this is just a case of unreliable narrator/her pouting lol like the whole point of King's Assassin is to go intimidate people for Levin -- but she's convinced herself that she shouldn't have to do that and that she should only be called on if assassin skills are needed (like stealth), where an executioner easily could have done this. But it's definitely her job lol she's just pissy about it and trying to justify it.

Aaaah I'm so here for this friendship! I know Aashi is a relatively new addition who's supposed to have been around in the previous book but I'm just so happy Jer has a healthy female relationship too - I think she needs it <3


<3

Is War Lord a new title?


Nope, that's always been his title... but come to think of it, I'm not sure how much that would have come up in book one? Cause obviously Jerica/Rek/Levin/Biryn are on a first-name basis and she mostly interacted with him in front of those people in the last draft and/or the soldiers would just respond "yes sir" to him if he addressed them. So... not new, but perhaps unfamiliar?

The thing with her touching Jer's arm and forgetting worked so well that I know if it were me I would accidentally use something like it in both books xD


Haha that's very fair xD but thanks! I'm so glad you like her! My irl friend remarks that Jerica is very much like me so I decided to base Aashi after a much-bubblier version of my actual best friend and I'm glad it worked xD I, obviously, love her for that fact haha

I'm not sure you need a full description of these two here. It felt a little forced to me, perhaps because they aren't main characters and I didn't really feel like I needed to know what they looked like. Perhaps you could soften it by contrasting one to the other, so it doesn't just feel like listing descriptions?


Good to know, thanks!

I'm keen to get back to some of the other characters we left behind in the last book because I'm not too sure where we are after she didn't marry Stanton after all... also I miss Derik.


Luckily Chapters 3 and 4 are both Derik heavy ;) and Kieran. I'm so eager to see what you think of the new developments with him in particular ^^ won't spoil anything, but I will say I am going to edit BtD so that Kieran plays more of a major role so this hopefully won't be quite as surprising as it may be in this draft lol but I'm really excited about it and hopeful that you will also like it haha

Hope this was still helpful :)


100%! No worries at all, dude <3 I am hoping to get more consistent with this moving forward but 2022 has very much been an RP year, not a novel year so I'm moving at a snail's pace xD but your feedback is very helpful, whenever you have time to give it. And I appreciate it and you a lot <33



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Wed Oct 26, 2022 2:43 pm
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Otterpop wrote a review...



Hiya Shady! It's been a real long while but I noticed that (a) you tagged me in a post where you mentioned you had some new material for this up and (b) I simply need to get back to critiquing written works.

Anyways, on to the review!

I noticed immediately that you put in a lot of characterization across this section. Namely for Jerica of course, but even also for Aashi, whom I have not met before (I don't know if she was present in the previous installment but for now she's a new character to me). I very much enjoyed Jerica's snarkiness towards Biryn, but just as she mentioned it does concern me since there could be repercussions for her actions later. And of course her interactions with Aashi throughout the second half of the piece provided some levity to all the murder and chaos from story sections prior.

Now for some more specific feedback:

...and he’d been just as dangerous before, when she wasn’t aware that he was an evil spirit inhabiting the body of a sorcerer


Whether this serves exaggerated figure of speech, or if this relates to worldbuilding/story from the previous installment, but I must say that I find it intriguing either way!

First, get Ranofer squared away from the night.


I think you meant "...squared away for the night."

There was no room for Jerica when it was time to be King’s Assassin; and no room for King’s Assassin when it was time to be Jerica. She needed to wash the blood and assassin persona off, then curl up under her blankets and deal with the flood of nasty, painful emotions that were no doubt going to surface the instant they could. But she needed to stay King’s Assassin until she had the privacy to be messy.


This right here was a very well-described character moment I have to say. Though I do see a lot of tell, there are also lots of implications and showing bits that really pull me in to and understand Jerica's character. I would definitely keep this portion in this part of the story no matter what.

No one should be here. No one. It was too late for stable boys to be here – and they’d have a torch besides. If there was someone lurking in the darkness, it could only be for some sinister reason.

“It’s just me,” Aashi’s panicked voice came in an urgent whisper. She had her hands extended in front of her in the darkness and shrank back against the wall.


I meant to extend the quote further in the previous couple of paragraphs but hopefully you get the jist of it. The transition here between Jerica looking for a potential intruder and Aashi announcing her presence felt a little abrupt and underexplained. I cannot easily picture in my head just how Jerica was looking around, and how Aashi presented herself and where their initial interaction took place.

Ky pushed open her bedroom door and strode inside.


Wait, who or what is Ky and where did it/they suddenly appear from to open the bedroom door?

In the lead was Dar’shaya. She was a short, plump girl with warm sepia skin and close-cropped black hair. She was wearing a simple light blue dress and folded her hands in front of herself as she met Jerica’s gaze. Harlyn was close at her heels. She was tall and thin, with pale skin and fiery red hair that hung in curls around her shoulders.


I noticed this across the piece but it stood out here the most. You used the word "was" in every single sentence in this paragraph. The overuse of these kinds of verbs (was, were, is, am, are, be, been, etc.), especially in a short segment of writing, creates a passive voice that often leads to disinterest from the reader.

This is a particular form of feedback I offer to a lot of people, primarily because I used to make the same mistake as a younger writer and noticed a huge difference in my writing simply by changing the tone of voice I wrote. Now that doesn't mean you should eliminate these words altogether, that's a hard feat to pull off! But you should work to reduce the use of all these words and work to create a more active voice in your writing. It will stick out more and keep a reader's interest for longer.

If you may notice in my own review, I quite rarely use any of the words I mentioned in the short list above. It can require some mental effort to keep aware of your use of said words and avoid their usage in many cases, but over time you can grow accustomed to it. You may want to look up the differences and examples between passive and active voice, and I do think that adjusting your writing for a more active voice would greatly improve a reader's interest in learning more about the surroundings and the characters you've presented in this story. You do not have to of course! But something to think about. I also think you should know that character dialogue doesn’t not necessarily follow this same advice.

(So you’re aware, you used “was” 61 times, “were” 10 times, “be” 15 times, and “been” 8 times in this single writing section)

That's all I got! Hope I could provide some decent feedback for you, and hopefully I will soon read the following section of the story and provide a review there as well!




Shady says...


Thanks so much for the review! Super helpful and made me smile to get this notification :')

Whether this serves exaggerated figure of speech, or if this relates to worldbuilding/story from the previous installment, but I must say that I find it intriguing either way!


This is my not-so-smooth lore insert xD the big reveal at the end of book one was that Biryn is what's called an As'veri, which are basically undead characters and are highly feared. There are two main modes of magic manipulation in this universe, but the way sorcerers conduct magic is they use spells and potions to summon evil spirits/demons to do their bidding. If they summon a spirit that is too strong, then the spirit kills them and possesses their body. As'veri are super, super feared (and very rare) because they're super powerful and all-around nasty/dangerous. So the big reveal at the end of BtD was that Biryn is an As'veri but only a very small handful of people know that. And I didn't know how to work all of this in smoothly lol but glad you enjoyed!

I meant to extend the quote further in the previous couple of paragraphs but hopefully you get the jist of it. The transition here between Jerica looking for a potential intruder and Aashi announcing her presence felt a little abrupt and underexplained. I cannot easily picture in my head just how Jerica was looking around, and how Aashi presented herself and where their initial interaction took place.


Good to know, thanks! I'll work on explaining this better ^^ basically Jerica walked into a dark room and saw someone inside when she was expecting it to be empty. Got paranoid and pulled her sword. Aashi shuffled backward/cowered afraid Jerica was going to go into flight or fight (knowing it would be fight lol) mode before she realized it was Aashi.

Wait, who or what is Ky and where did it/they suddenly appear from to open the bedroom door?


>.>
<.<

oops xD

Ky is another one of my characters, who you will actually meet later on in this novel lol but they're my main for the RP GrandWild and I are going wild writing so I guess I slipped up here. I meant Jerica and have edited it now lol

(So you%u2019re aware, you used %u201Cwas%u201D 61 times, %u201Cwere%u201D 10 times, %u201Cbe%u201D 15 times, and %u201Cbeen%u201D 8 times in this single writing section)


O o f

That's all good suggestions and I will attempt to keep it in mind moving forward, thanks for pointing it out! I already have a list of words I watch out for and try to avoid in my writing but didn't realize I was (hah) such a "was" offender. I'll try to be more mindful of these words in the future!

Thanks again for the review! Super helpful and I appreciate it a lot!




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