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The Chosen Grandma, Chapter 30.2

by BlueAfrica


A/N: Continuing our antagonist's point of view. When last we left him, Red had woken up from a nightmare and was headed for the kitchen, unable to sleep.

A fire was crackling in the kitchen grate: someone else was up. Red stifled a yawn and padded to the kitchen table, a rough-hewn thing he’d built himself, when he was young and even angrier. Old Joe had gotten tired of his angsting and given him a project to keep him busy for a while. All by hand; he hadn’t learned any magic yet. Frankly, he hadn’t much learned to use tools, either, and the table had been splintery and uneven. Now, after two decades of breakfasts and coffees and late night conversations—not dinner, which they had all together in a separate and far bigger room with several tables—it was worn smooth and looked like he’d made it rustic on purpose.

At present, the table was piled high with potatoes. Old Joe sat at its head with a knife, peering at a half-peeled potato through her ancient reading glasses as if expecting to find a message there.

Red pulled up a chair. “You’re up late.”

“I’m up early. Couldn’t sleep?”

She knew perfectly well that he’d had the old nightmare again, but it was something he loved about her, that she wouldn’t bring it up unless he wanted to. He shrugged and grabbed a potato. It started peeling itself obligingly. Joe grunted.

“Show-off.”

Red grinned and set another potato peeling. Joe had learned magic alongside him, up to a point. It had never come as easily to her as it had to him, and at last she’d declared, “You can’t teach an old wizard new spells,” which he didn’t think was particularly true, and given it up. Household tasks certainly weren’t beyond her reach, but she did them all by hand anyway.

They peeled potatoes in silence for a while. Then Joe said, “I don’t like it,” and Red knew she wasn’t talking about his use of magic.

His next potato unpeeled faster than it needed to. “We’ve been through this.”

“There’s too much that can go wrong.” Joe’s voice was so calm it was maddening. “There will be so many Knights in town.”

Red gritted his teeth and willed his potatoes to peel themselves more slowly. It didn’t work.

“That’s the point. The more Knights there are in one place, the more we can get rid of in one go.”

Joe shook her head, and sweat trickled down Red’s forehead. They’d had the same argument every day since Kiernan called.

“I don’t like it,” she repeated. “Don’t you think they’ll expect something? They’re not stupid. They have to have noticed they’re being targeted. That many Knights in one place, if they’re armed—”

“They won’t be armed. It’s a conference.”

“—there’s the school right there, think how many more Knights and weaponry—”

“Enough!”

Half a dozen potatoes shot from the pile and smashed into the wall behind her so hard that they exploded in a smattering of pale potato flesh. Red blinked sweat out of his eyes. Joe regarded him over her glasses as if he were a naughty child, but her voice trembled when she spoke.

“Shoddy. I’m right here. You’d think one might have hit me.”

He swallowed hard, feeling as if he’d just run a marathon. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides.

“We leave today,” he said, “whether you like it or not.”

He pushed back his chair and stormed off. The magic and anger stabbed at his insides, sparking in his eyes and fingertips, lighting the halls of the keep in brief flashes like red lightning. Pressure built in his head until the pain blinded him, but he kept going, faster and faster until he was sprinting unseeingly through the keep, until he reached the back door. He burst through it, out into the warm, humid air of a Dominion dawn. With a yell, he released the magic—hurled a bolt of fire onto the rocks below and then fell to his knees, winded. The rocks cracked and scorched. Sweat soaked through Red’s shirt.

He ran over his face and gulped down air, trying to calm his hammering heart. It hadn’t been this bad in weeks.

The sun rose swiftly over Dominion, drenching the mountains and jungles in color. Wisps of cloud chased each other into the sunrise. Red sat back and watched light spread over the valley far below. Steam wafted up through the canopy, a sign of river dragons surfacing in the river hidden beneath the foliage. His breathing slowed as he lost himself in the beauty of it all. If someone had told him, all those years ago, that he would grow to love it here, he would have thought they were crazy. Now this was home. Sometimes it made him second-guess himself. If his plans succeeded, could he really bear to leave?

But then he’d spend weeks worrying when Kiernan left for supplies, or he’d think of something from childhood that Nadia and the others were missing out on. They were trapped here. Fugitives. Leaving meant freedom.

Rocks clattered down the mountainside behind him. He twisted around. Copernicus, his favorite dragon, was making his way around the narrow ledge leading from the keep to the massive cave they called the barn.

Red snorted despite himself. Watching a ten-ton winged lizard delicately pick its way around a mountainside—delicately do anything—was a sight. Copernicus glared at him out of snakelike orange eyes.

“Just fly over, you idiot.”

Copernicus made a noise halfway between a roar and a hiss. Red shrugged.

“Stay there, then.”

Copernicus made the noise again and then lifted into the sky with a flap of his wings that ruffled Red’s hair. A moment later he landed, lighter than you’d expect. The ground barely trembled as he padded over to Red, turned around in a circle, and then curled on the ground with his massive head in Red’s lap. Normally when he did this, Red told him off—a mountain dragon’s head was the size of a Labrador and added too much weight and heat to your lap for comfort—but just now he didn’t mind. Not that telling him off worked often anyway. Once a dragon decided to do something, you pretty much had to sit back and wait for it to decide it was done.

“Joe said I’d find you out here.”

Red glanced around so quickly he cricked his neck. Shira had slipped out the back door and was looking at him with an expression he couldn’t read. He looked away as she sat beside him.

“How is she?”

She shrugged. A breeze picked up, blowing her tawny curls around her face. Red loved her hair.

“I didn’t mean to scare her,” he mumbled. “I just—”

“Got angry. I thought you were working on that.”

She yanked her hair back from her face and tied it back. She had high cheekbones and bronze skin and dark eyes that never smiled. She was beautiful. And showered. And fully dressed. And he was in a sweat-soaked t-shirt and his boxers. Not that she hadn’t seen more of him than that. It was something else the others teased him about.

“Why’s it so hard for you to talk to her? You’re already screwing—”

“We aren’t,” Red would tell them, because he really wasn’t interested in that, not even a little bit, but it didn’t matter. They poked fun at him anyway.

“I am working on it,” he said shortly, and then cursed himself for being short with her when he’d already frightened Joe. Copernicus huffed at him. Red cuffed him on the side of the head. “I just—I can’t—”

A headache was coming on again. Red sparks leapt from his fingers, but he took a deep breath and held it in. The sparks faded.

“I’m so angry,” he said, “all the time. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Shira gazed steadily out at the jungle. “We all have things to be angry about.”

“You never get angry.”

She turned her gaze on him, and her dark eyes were full of pain he’d rarely seen there.

“The last time I got angry,” she said, “I was thrown into Dominion and left to die.”

He wanted to touch her, but he didn’t think she’d let him. Instead they sat in silence until Copernicus decided he’d had enough of being a lap dog, stretched his wings, and glared at them expectantly.

“Today’s the day,” Shira said. “You’d better get them ready.”

She waited a moment, as if expecting him to say something. Then she shrugged again, stood up, and headed back into the keep.

Red sat for a long while after she’d left, even though he knew he should get a move-on. The anger was still bubbling below the surface, stabbing at him, ready to rise to the surface if he let go even for a moment. He breathed in the tropical air and tried to focus on his plans. Today was the day. Today was the day. They would leave for Barstow, be there in two days—just in time for the conference—destroy the school, the conference center, as many Knights as possible, and fly away again before anyone had time to even think about what had happened. With the Chosen One in hand.

He felt better. Soon Barstow would be a blackened shadow of its former self. Soon he would know how much the Chosen One knew, and what she would do to stop him.

Soon the Knights would be destroyed.

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Tue May 08, 2018 4:03 pm
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LadyBird wrote a review...



Hey Blue.
Do you think it would be crazy if I tried to finish this new star by the end of May?
I feel like the answer is yes, because I'm finally catching up on your novel.

Image

I was previously attributing Sophia to Edna, but Joe completely wipes Edna off the board. I think maybe Rose will be Edna, since she's like sort of innocent about some things but the only character in the book who is genuinely nice to people.
Yes, I will now be referring to everyone through characters in other things. For instance, I am now regarding Benjamin as Jack McFarland (and you're not gonna fight me on that one. well maybe a little.)

Let's just uh skip right to the end.
Soon the Knights would be destroyed.

Obviously Red (who reminds me of Red from Blacklist because 1. same name, 2. similar motivations), you're not gonna destroy the Knights, because no matter how much Beth here sweetens you up, you're still gonna be the villain.
And like it's great to personalize villains and make them seem like something besides thugs who just want to throw some fire at some innocent town people, but I saw a few other people refer to this as well. He's not being quite evil enough, or at least his plans aren't clearly defined in a way that identifies him as the villain.
Maybe he's more of an anti-hero (but that's not what you said) and I can hardly imagine him being the Deadpool flavor of anti-hero. He has previously been clearly defined as a villain but his reign of terror wasn't clearly defined before, so that's messing with me a bit.

The dragon is also great.




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Sun Apr 22, 2018 10:10 pm
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Mea wrote a review...



Alright, back! This will be both me commenting on this part and last part as well.

So, by and large you're pretty good about seamlessly incorporating the diversity of your characters into the novel without it feeling out of place or anything. But honestly, as a whole the times that do feel a bit jarring tends to be when it's about the characters' sexualities. This is *especially* the case with Redway's asexuality as revealed in the part before this.

He did actually like her and wouldn’t have minded stealing a kiss now and then—if he thought she’d let him—but he had zero interest in sex, with her or anyone else.

It was mostly this sentence that felt really jarring, though I think the two paragraphs before could also use some work. You set a somewhat dark and ominous or at least discontented mood - the tortured soul waking up in the middle of the night, needing a bedmate just to sleep - and then ruin it with this much more lighthearted aside about him being teased and him actually secretly liking Shira. It just doesn't feel like something he would think about at the moment, or if he did he'd be more grim about it.

As a whole, I think that's what you should do with the last chapter, is go back and fine-tune the atmosphere. You could definitely add it being a stormy night (I'll be honest, I sort of assumed it was - it's cliche, but it works!) and in general cut down on his long rambling thoughts, since the tend to be pretty dry and clinical and undermine his emotional state. For example:

His biggest problem was his temper, which fueled his magic beyond his control if something set him off while he was working a spell. Sometimes even if he wasn’t working a spell. The rest of them had learned to tread carefully around him when he started to get irritable.

This and the next few paragraphs just feel entirely too emotionally bland.

I really love the part with Nadia, though. Is she his kid, or someone else's? Either way, it's so sweet and it really adds to the tragedy of them being in exile if they have kids.

Then this part feels like it's supposed to be much more light-hearted, and that works because there's someone else in the scene now - he's not just alone with his thoughts. (At least until he gets angry, and that works really well.)

In general, I think you could do with making Redway more menacing. When I commented "Dang" on the last part, it was because those lines starkly showed us his worldview and just how dangerous, if understandable, it is. Similarly with when he gets angry here. But then in between those moments, it feels forgotten, and he just feels like another character. But he's not another character, he's the villain, and even though he's somewhat sympathetic, we need to consistently and clearly see what about his worldview makes the conflict we are rushing towards inevitable. We should be going "Wow, I understand you, but you are terrifying."

Copernicus, his favorite dragon, was making his way around the narrow ledge leading from the keep to the massive cave they called the barn.

Random small thing, but I had a hard time picturing the lay of the land.

Regardless of all of this, I really liked these chapters. We get introduced to even more characters here, but they still all feel different - you're really good at letting them slot neatly into distinct roles in the story from the very first meeting. And that's all I've got, so I'll see you in the next one!




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Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:16 pm
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papillote wrote a review...



Hi, I feel like I’m cheating with this review, because I don’t have much to contribute.

It was a solid, nicely-written chapter with just the necessary amount of suspense at the end. My only, very minor, gripe is that you introduce a couple of new characters at once and I'm afraid that I'm going to get them mixed up if they don't reappear soon.

My feelings about Red are the same they were after I read the last chapter. I can’t help admiring his determination to lead his “family” to freedom, I can relate to his love for each of them as individuals, but also for his hate-love feelings about Dominion. I really like how you wrote his “angry magic”. It felt almost like he was sick, rather than a powerful wizard with a tendency to blow up.
Also, I like how the relatable parts can surprise us anywhere. The way you wrote Copernicus almost made it sound like a beloved old pet – and that’s not the way you expect to feel about a dragon. And then, there is the part where he shows off with his magic to Old Joe – who is, I take it, something of a parental figure. If I had magic, I would totally be doing that.

My feelings about the Knights and the country in general haven’t changed either. On one hand, the people you made us love are Red’s enemies, people he doesn’t care about (like Benjamin, Edna, Clem, etc). On the other hand, I’m still getting a seriously bad vibe about who those people in Dominion are. One sentence, especially, threw me for a loop. It’s when Shira says, “The last time I got angry, I was thrown into Dominion and left to die.” What the hell does that mean? I can’t wait to find out.
It’s getting to the point where I read the last sentence (“Soon the Knights would be destroyed.”), and I was more puzzled than worried for our main protagonists.

Also, on a little side-note, the scene with Old Joe peeling potatoes in the kitchen made me think about Molly and Lir in The Last Unicorn. I don’t know why. A fantasy trope maybe? When you want to humanize a larger than life character, you put a peeler in his or her hands and you set them to peeling potatoes with the most ordinary character in your cast, I guess…? Just a random thought, but maybe it’s just because I had just watched the film.

Moving on to chapter 31.1, now.




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Sun Mar 25, 2018 9:33 am
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DarkPandemonium wrote a review...



Halloooo, BlueAfrica. I literally have no idea why it took me so long to get to this because I really enjoyed it, but that's the way I roll. You can always count on me to procrastinate even the things I like doing.

Small Comments

Old Joe had gotten tired of his angsting and given him a project to keep him busy for a while. All by hand; he hadn’t learned any magic yet


I feel like that fragment clause isn't in the right context to work, but I can't quite pin why. If you had something like this:

Old Joe had gotten tired of his angsting and made him take up a project. All by hand; he hadn’t learned any magic yet

I feel like this is a bit more natural. You wouldn't say 'given him a project to keep him busy for a while all by hand', however you could say 'made him take up a project all by hand'. Because it works as a full sentence, I think the fragment is less jolty, if that makes absolutely any sense at all.

Half a dozen potatoes shot from the pile and smashed into the wall behind her so hard that they exploded in a smattering of pale potato flesh. Red blinked sweat out of his eyes. Joe regarded him over her glasses as if he were a naughty child, but her voice trembled when she spoke.

“Shoddy. I’m right here. You’d think one might have hit me.”


I love this moment. It tells us so much about Joe and Red's relationship - that they're obviously close enough that Joe can poke fun at him, but that she can't help being a bit afraid of him as well. I'm already loving their dynamic.

Also, props to you for making a bunch of hurled potatoes actually seem threatening. You handle the escalating tension of their discussion/argument really well.

The sun rose swiftly over Dominion, drenching the mountains and jungles in color. Wisps of cloud chased each other into the sunrise.


Gorgeous description!

Copernicus, his favorite dragon, was making his way around the narrow ledge leading from the keep to the massive cave they called the barn.


I don't know about including the bold. It's a bit tell-y and makes me feel like I'm being directly addressed, but it's not a major problem.

The ground barely trembled as he padded over to Red, turned around in a circle, and then curled on the ground with his massive head in Red’s lap.


BIG FRIENDLY DRAGON I'M SO JEALOUS OF RED RIGHT NOW

They would leave for Barstow, be there in two days—just in time for the conference—destroy the school, the conference center, as many Knights as possible, and fly away again before anyone had time to even think about what had happened. With the Chosen One in hand.

He felt better. Soon Barstow would be a blackened shadow of its former self. Soon he would know how much the Chosen One knew, and what she would do to stop him.

Soon the Knights would be destroyed.


I don't think you need the bold - you're just repeating yourself, really. 'With the Chosen One in hand' would be a powerful enough line to end the chapter on.

Overall Thoughts

1) You really thought this wasn't as good as the first half?? I love it! It's great to see Red's darker side, but you still manage to make him feel complex and sympathetic. His relationships with both Joe and Shira are really interesting. Even though Red is the figurehead of this villainous movement, it feels like he's really dependent on the people around him to keep him from flying off the rails. I like that. It's great to have a villain who's not only vulnerable, but actually a lot of people who care about him.

2) I'm growing more and more fascinated by their motivations, as well. Red and Shira both seem to have had a really tough time of it, and at this point I'm not sure who to trust. I'm almost aligned with them at this point; I'm really suspicious of the Knights and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Edna doesn't end up taking Redway on after all. But we shall see.

3) I. LOVE. COPERNICUS. I love Red's relationship with Copernicus. I want more of that. My biggest weakness is dragons that are both fierce and dangerous and deadly but also turn into lolling puppies around the people they trust, which is probably, like, 50% of the reason that I adore this chapter beyond measure.

Overall: two thumbs up. Chapter 30 has been my favourite chapter since the one with Kiernan and the dragon, I think. Why do I always love the villains best?

Keep writing! :D
~Pan




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Fri Mar 16, 2018 9:28 pm
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Saen wrote a review...



Hello, BlueAfrica! I hope my review can do your work justice.

Grammar and Syntax

No problems here, so I'll move onto the other parts of the review!

Characters

Now I'm starting to see why Redway is the antagonist. I think the conflict between his good traits and his bad ones are what makes him so interesting - I've never liked an antagonist as much as I like him. He wants his revenge for what he perceives to be a major injustice, but he's also got a temper. (If only there were licensed therapists in Dominion! I suspect the problems he's caused wouldn't have arisen in the first place if he had some other way to vent his emotions.)

#GiveRedwayTherapy2018

Anyways, this chapter was really strong in the character interactions department! The interactions with Shira and Old Joe did a great job at showing the facets of his personality, and his kindness towards Copernicus shows that he doesn't hate animals. Even if that animal happens to be a dangerous fire-breathing dragon, but oh well. c:

Plot

The first part of this chapter and this part served as a nice little transition from one point in the story to the next. The stakes are higher, and Redway is about to make his move. Things were already interesting. Now they're going to get even more entertaining!

(My favorite part in this chapter has to be the scene with Copernicus. I'm a sucker for cute moments between people and dragons, and I hope you can sneak some more in before the end of the novel.)

I really enjoyed reading your work. While there may have been a few rough spots, it's overall a wonderful piece of writing. If you feel like some parts of my review need further explanation or just aren't good enough, please let me know. I'd gladly clear up anything about this review.

Keep up the great work (which I doubt you'll have trouble with) and good luck on your writing endeavors!




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Wed Mar 14, 2018 12:18 am
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Sonder says...



Bum bum bum

I really like him. The idea of his anger manifesting itself as dangerous magic is really intriguing. :)





It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.
— Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind