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Before the Dragon - Chapter 28

by ShadowVyper

A/N: I changed the name of Niap to Nykeras and the name of Atra to Atraya.

Jerica woke feeling emotionally muted. The tumultuous emotions had settled, but they seemed to leave behind a void that Jerica didn't know how to fill. She wasn't happy, or sad, or worried, or even angry. She just was.

She pushed her blankets back and sat up, taking a few moments to orient herself. Her room was still a wreck, the debris of her tantrum littering the floor, and she was still wearing the thin, sleeveless undershirt without anything covering it.

Aerik had stayed with her a long while before he left her. He'd offered a few more encouraging words, but she hadn't had much to say in return, and eventually they fell into a comfortable silence. At some point -- it might have been an hour or three, she really couldn't tell -- he had convinced her to give sleeping another try, and sat with her until she drifted off again.

It was fully daylight now.

She looked down at her hand, grimacing as she tried to flex it. Her knuckles were still bloodied and now the bruise had spread almost to her wrist. She figured she should eventually wrap it. And yet, as she looked at it now, she could feel the pain -- but no other emotions to pair with it. No worry, no remorse -- just pain.

She got out of bed and slowly set to work on restoring her room to order. The fire poker was still lying where it'd landed after she bounced it off the wall. The shards of the pitcher were scattered about. The remnants of the table needed cleaned up.

Jerica started with the fire poker. She picked it up with her undamaged hand and walked it back to the fire place, setting it on the low-set hearth. She squatted by the broken pottery and raked up the bigger pieces into a pile, then picked up each piece individually and set it in the palm of her right hand, being careful not to move her fingers any more than she had to.

She stiffly walked across the room and tried the door. This time it swung open easily. Jerica hesitated a moment then strode outside, blinking in the bright sunlight, then looking both directions, suddenly unsure of what to do with the garbage in her hands. She edged forward to look over the cliff directly in front of her, then turned her hand and watched as the broken pottery free-fell through the air. They turned to dark flecks and disappeared before they reached the bottom, evidence of just how tall the cliff was.

Jerica took a deep breath. She let the breath out slowly and walked back into her room, grabbing a piece of the table and then bringing it back outside to hurdle over the side of the cliff. She made several trips back and forth between her room and the cliff, carrying only what she could with her undamaged hand, keeping her right hand tucked close to her chest.

She leaned against the doorframe and looked around her room, strangely exhausted by the minimal exertion. A few deep breaths later and she found her mind wandering back to her conversation with Aerik last night.

It was odd to hear someone say positive things about her. She'd been called fierce before, but it was always exclusively in relation to her fighting ability. But intelligent? Incredible potential? Clearly Aerik didn't know who she was. What she was. The only potential she had in life was to be her uncle's pawn -- a killer sent on whatever witch hunt struck his fancy.

Jerica pushed off the doorframe and slowly started up the incline that led to the training cave. She didn't have any idea what flavor of Aerik she was going to be met with today -- the fatherly figure who would stay up half the night to comfort her, or the harsh dragon keeper that lacked all traces of humanity. She also didn't have any idea what she planned to say to him.

There wasn't much from the past twenty-four hours that she wanted to think about, much less talk about. The rape, the murders, her recapture and fight with Aerik, her temper tantrum and then meltdown -- those certainly weren't events she would count among her finer moments. And yet, she couldn't very well expect Aerik to be satisfied with small talk after all that had happened.

She strode forward until she could see clearly into the cave, but lingered next to the wall. Aerik was standing at the table next to the wall, cleaning the weapons they'd used in the rescue the previous day. He ran his rag along the length of the sword several times and then inspected blade and replaced it on its place on the wall. He turned around and his eyes instantly landed on her.

He looked at her for a moment, then turned back to the table and began cleaning one of the daggers.

Jerica bit her lip. That was as much of an invitation as she was going to get, it seemed. And yet as awkward as she felt, it was nearly guaranteed that choosing not to enter the cave was going to be worse, now that he'd already seen her. She steeled her will and strode down the steps and across the short distance that separated them.

Aerik finished cleaning the dagger and placed back in its place on the wall, then threw the rag on the table and turned to face her fully. She crossed her arms over her abdomen protectively but forced herself to maintain his unreadable gaze.

"How are you feeling?"

Jerica hesitated a moment. That was even more of a loaded question than usual. The hollowness that filled her chest when she woke was still predominant, crowding out any other emotion that might want to creep in. "I'm not."

Aerik regarded her for a long moment then nodded. "I suppose that's reasonable, given your... distress... last night."

Jerica narrowed her eyes, daring him to make a comment on her pitiful display the night before, but he had gone back to cleaning the weapons. She pulled her arms even more tightly around herself, wishing she didn't feel so vulnerable.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I would prefer we never mentioned it again," she answered stiffly.

"I see," Aerik answered thoughtfully, carefully keeping his gaze on the work in front of him. "And is that because you've worked through those emotions, or because you want to pretend that they don't exist?"

Jerica felt a prickly sourness bubbling up inside of her, annoyed at his prying. "None of the above. It's because they are none of your business."

"Ah, I see," he said again, still avoiding eye contact. "So you'd rather let your own mind tear you to pieces, rather than trust me with something that is clearly bothering you?"

"You had no business being in my room last night, to know that in the first place," Jerica snapped.

Aerik finally looked up from his work, his kind, thoughtful eyes calm as he looked at her for a long moment. She set her jaw, unwilling to back down. "You know as well as I do that that is an irrational comeback."

He turned away from her to put the dagger back on the rack. She pulled her arms even tighter around herself, cringing as she forgot to favor the broken hand. She shifted her posture until her damaged hand was safe from her anxious habits. "And you know as well as I do that I don't talk about these things."

"Not quite as well, I don't think," Aerik argued gently, turning back towards her. "I know that you live in an vacuum, pulling your negative emotions deeper and deeper into yourself until you're convinced they've disappeared. And I have my theories about why I think it is that you've learned such unhealthy methods of dealing with trauma. But can't honestly say that I understand why it is that you insist so vehemently that you're okay, when last night clearly demonstrated otherwise."

Jerica shifted uncomfortably, flicking her gaze over his shoulder to avoid his eyes. She shivered slightly, the cool air from the cave reminding her of the lost clothing. "Do you have a spare tunic?"

"I do," Aerik answered, walking past her to access the chest sitting next to the table. He rifled through it for a second and then held up a clean shirt. "Since yours was lost to a noble purpose, I'll even let you have it. I would suggest a bath first, though."

Jerica glanced down at herself and then nodded. It was undeniable that she needed to bathe. Her trousers were ripped and dirty from her scuffle with Kaidren in the forest, and her forearms were splattered with blood from the battles -- both her own from various knicks, and from her enemies.

She reached out to take the tunic he offered with her left hand. His gaze traveled towards her right hand, cradled protectively against her chest, then up towards her eyes. He lifted an eyebrow.


"Broken," he supplied. "I'm not going to offer you the healing of the Vim, since this was a self-inflicted wound. But I will help you wrap it."

Aerik turned back towards the trunk and pulled several more bags from it. He set them on the table and then gestured for her to come closer. Jerica hesitated for a moment, not entirely sure that she appreciated his tone a few moments before, but finally sighed and walked forward. There was no point in fighting the help he chose to offer.

Aerik held his hand out. Jerica hesitated again, then reluctantly placed her hand in his. He examined it for a moment then let out a low whistle. "Really busted it up this time, didn't you?"

Could have been your face, she thought sourly. She clenched her jaw. Aerik looked at her for a long moment and then smirked, as if he could hear her very thoughts. She glared harder, annoyed at his glib demeanor.

"All this, and still looking for a fight?" he mused. "That's good. You need to have an unbreakable spirit to survive in the world you've been thrown into."

Jerica was silent, unsure how to respond to that even if she'd wanted to. She took a deep breath and forced her face to remain expressionless, even as he wrapped and prodded her hand in ways that made pain shoot up her forearm.

"How does the Vim work?"

Aerik hesitated in his wrapping, seeming startled at the sudden question. He considered her for a long moment, then went back to his task for several long moments before he answered. "It is an ancient method of harnessing the energy of the universe and using it to accomplish things that you want it to do."

"Like healing?"


Jerica was silent for a moment, trying to process what he'd said. She didn't have anything to compare the information to, and felt like she was trying to carve out a new box in her mind to start collecting the facts she knew about this Vim that Aerik controlled. "And immobilizing me?"

Aerik smirked again. "Yes."

Jerica was silent for another moment, trying to think through the implications of what he'd said. It was hard to imagine the same force that could mend bones could also be used in a fight. "Can you teach me how to use it?"

Aerik tied her bandage off and then moved his gaze towards her face. "Why should I?"

"Why shouldn't you?"

"Well, considering the fact that you have attacked me," he rubbed his shoulder pointedly. "Or tried to escape every single opportunity you saw, I don't quite know why you think I would choose to equip your bad behavior with truly dangerous skills."

Jerica hesitated. She couldn't argue with his logic, and yet she felt desire to know how to use the Vim crowding out both the hollowness and the frustration that she felt at her core. "But it wouldn't be dangerous to you, because you'll know more."

"I suppose that's true." 

There was a brief silence between them. "So... does that mean you'll teach me?" 

"Perhaps," Aerik answered. "But it isn't going to come before your mental health." 

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Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:10 am
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Vincian wrote a review...

Heya Shady! LAST CHAPTER TO REVIEW FOR REVMO YAYYYYY okay, let's jump into it!!

I like that you have her just be drained here, emotionally and physically. I kind of wish there was a bit more of this idea of just going through the motions here, like you have in the beginning, or maybe she just doesn't have the energy to clean up the mess from last night, and honestly I don't know if she should (just yet at least, not at this point). My reason for this is because it feels like she's trying to cover up the mess she made last night, to a point, which I know is probably a facet of it, but I also know that, for me at least, when I have a breakdown like she did in the last chapter, I don't feel like doing anything, and often can't do anything, it's hard. Also, for a lot of this middle-beginning area, she says she doesn't want to think about what went on, but she ends up talking about it quite a bit (and ironically, she talks about it a bit when she talks about not wanting to talk about it aha)

"I'm not going to offer you the healing of the Vim

The healing of the what? Is that the magic source of this world?

Also, I think that when you talk about emotions, especially something this rough like what happened with Jerica last night, it's far stronger for characters to not talk about what they want to talk about, or for it to have layers. I think Aerik's speaking exactly what's on his mind and it's not helping the conversation, or Jerica. Also, he's expecting her to trust him?? He's captured and imprisoned her! Lol, there's only so much trust you can give a person like that.

"That's good. You need to have an unbreakable spirit to survive in the world you've been thrown into."

You mean the imprisoned cave? Or, did you mean the world she's been living in for seventeen years, Aerik? Because both of them are not good reasons for you to say this. I also would have liked to see this a bit awkward conversation betweem them instead of getting straight to the point, for a bit of, yknow ~spice~ right

I would have liked to see a more vague answer at the end of this chapter for Vim instead of perhaps. I can't wait for the next one! The review will not be as fast as these were, though BECAUSE I HIT FIFTY BABY i hope this helped <3

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Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:39 am
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JabberHut wrote a review...

So Aerik felt a bit weird to me in this chapter. And I think it might be because he's put into this counselor role that I've never seen him in? He's like... suddenly a therapist, forcing Jerica to talk about things she doesn't want to talk about until they get to the root of the problem, until he convinces Jerica there's something wrong with her.

It's very strange, and it honestly felt just very awkward to me after the last couple chapters. He was more of a wise old man then, but here... I was absolutely with Jerica the entire time on probably stronger levels. It just felt very uncomfortable having Aerik talk about it and for so long. She's a teenage girl, and he's a clueless old man. It was so difficult for me to read. XD

But that's not necessarily a bad thing? It could just be ME personally 'cause I still generally don't like Aerik or trust him well enough to want to talk about any personal stuff with him, so I wouldn't expect Jerica to either. Like, he actually said something about the idea of not trusting him with her issues, and my brain was like, "well DUH DUDE, she has NO REASON TO TRUST YOU."

I wouldn't have minded a smaller exchange and then a topic change, maybe as a clever way for Aerik to get into her head, but this just felt like a confrontation.

THE VIM. I don't know what this is, but I'm excited to learn about it. It never really explains why Jerica wants to learn it. There's never really been any indication or foreshadowing to this moment. In fact, I had figured she just naturally was opposed to the idea of using it, leaving to the people who know how to wield it so she can focus on what she can do -- swords and bows. Whatever it takes to get the job done, right?

I'm totally cool with Jerica wanting to learn magic, but there's just really no indication as to why she would want to. There wasn't even a hint of vengeance using it against Levin or anything. It was just a random "I want to learn, will you teach me" moment when she's still technically a prisoner and being held against her will from going home.

Alternatively, I wonder why Aerik is so willing to consider teaching her ?? It seems like a serious investment of time and effort, so he's clearly got plans for her and doesn't intend to give her up within the next couple months (or however long it takes for her to learn magic well enough to use later).

I like that Aerik is considering her health before training, especially considering her hand's broken?? Which, again, could take a few months to fully heal. (Also, is she right-handed ?? Will this affect her swordplay?) I'm going to guess that either there's a Part 2 coming with a huge time skip, or Jerica's gonna end up healing her own hand.

At the end, I really would have just liked Aerik to say "perhaps" and end it there. If I were Jerica, and this guy told me that, I'd be really put off and confused and almost annoyed or offended. Like, I feel perfectly fine, just a little emotional. To Jerica, she sees nothing wrong with her. Someone telling her that something is very wrong with her is kind of off-setting, to put it lightly. This is just like.. Dr. Aerik is in the house now, and it's really weird to me 'cause he's never been Dr. Aerik before or had shown any indication of being such. (Well, I guess when they first met, but that was such a high level creep factor, it doesn't really feel like it.) It would also make me question as to what his plans for her are next. Like, Jerica would NOT like the idea of lying on a couch and talking about her feelings, but that's what it feels like Aerik is hinting at.

I'm starting to think, though, that being awkward is just how Aerik does things. It feels uncomfortable to me, but it's probably just a me thing in the end. XD HE'S SO AWKWARD.

Jerica would much rather just bury her feelings, which has been addressed by Aerik, it's just being handled so poorly by him. The only way he's going to get through to her is in a fight, in battle, etc. She doesn't talk, but she's far more comfortable in a fight than in a deep personal conversation with this guy over tea and biscuits. Unfortunately, she has a broken hand and won't be able to do that either. So the lesson would have to be taught somewhere else, a bit more cleverly. In fact, magic training might be his ticket to training a healthy mind. It really is up to Aerik as to how he wants to do this, but he's clearly got a lot on his plate training this kid up on a number of levels, and I don't know if he's on a tight schedule or not.

In the end, though, it is part of Jerica's character development to change her mindset about herself. This is clearly an end goal -- to love herself, find self-confidence, to be her own person. It's not going to happen in a single therapy session though, so I'm interested to see how Aerik handles this. And also hope it doesn't stall the plot too much!

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Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:48 pm
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mellifera wrote a review...


aA now after all that what's going to happen?? now what's she gonna think!! I mean, I could READ the chapter but I could also just stress about it!

he had convinced her to give sleeping another try, and sat with her until she drifted off again.

ooooof my hEART <333 precious. soft.

but no other emotions to pair with it.

Now I know this is only the second time this is mentioned, but just like how you kind of got a little overzealous describing how much emotion Jerica had over the last few chapters, you'll want to be aware of saying how little she feels now? It doesn't feel like a necessary addition to have her think she should be feeling something about her knuckles? I don't know, I might have just stopped after she thinks about how she should wrap it? I don't think an emotion needed to be tied to it.

She edged forward to look over the cliff directly in front of her, then turned her hand and watched as the broken pottery free-fell through the air.

I don't know why this is so funny to me?? but the image of Jerica just standing on a cliff's edge, staring at the pieces of pottery in her hands with a kind of scrunched, confused expression, and then just pitching it off the cliff and watching it fall kinda thoughtfully is?? really funny?

But intelligent? Incredible potential? Clearly Aerik didn't know who she was. What she was. the only potential she had in life was to be her uncle's pawn

NO! stop that! does she really think Aerik's coming out here to give her empty compliments? he's not the type? Jerica >:(

"I would prefer we never mentioned it again," she answered stiffly.

please let him call her out on this.

Jerica felt a prickly sourness bubbling up inside of her, annoyed at his prying.

Okay so I think what I've noticed you do sometimes is put in unnecessary additions to some of your sentences/paragraphs/etc? I think I've pointed it out a few times but now I'm realising what it is I was noticing. Like here? You could have this sentence without the comma or "annoyed" (and honestly, my first thought reading this was you don't need anything after the comma. the reader should know what she's feeling sour about without the hand out, y'know? There's like,, nothing else she should be feeling sour about right now). So you might want to just, watch for that? while you're writing, for things that might be repeating something you've already described (unless it's for consistency) or spoon-feeding the reader things they should already know. I,,, think that makes sense.

The sixteen year old in Jerica is really strong in this chapter and I really love that you put it in. I mean, she's driving me crazy here, but it is realistic. she's sixteen! I feel like too many writers just, have sixteen year olds that are WEIRDLY stable.

But can't honestly say that I understand why it is that you insist so vehemently that you're okay, when last night clearly demonstrated otherwise.

knowing her uncles like you do, Aeik, do you REALLY think they're cool with Jerica coming to terms that she's traumatised or that she has Emotions™?

You need to have an unbreakable spirit to survive in the world you've been thrown into.

she needs better coping mechanisms and a better childhood, but go off I guess.

It was hard to imagine the same force that could mend bones could also be used in a fight.

I mean, I'm pretty sure there's other things that can do stuff like this, but sure. hand that holds the tool or something like that.

Why does he need her to spare to prove that she's worthy of wielding the Vim? He's already seen her fight, they've already trained together and he's watched her train with his machines. Why is he making her do that all over again to learn the Vim now? And why did he have to test her reflexes? Because, again, we're on chapter 28 now, doesn't he know her fairly well by now? The ending just,,, confuses me a little bit. Like!! I want Jerica to learn how to use the Vim, but fighting is her thing. If he really wanted to make her uhh, work for it or whatever, why doesn't he help with her trauma? I don't know how,,, to word this,,, without sounding insensitive,,, which is definitely not what I mean, but it seems more of a challenge to get Jerica to try to heal than it does to fall back into old patterns. And I know he probably doesn't want to push her, but if he doesn't at all, won't she just,,, ignore the trauma? I don't know,, if he really wanted to test her, fighting doesn't seem like the answer, because it's the one thing she's good at, does that make sense?

anyway. that probably sounded kinda awful of me rip. I know trauma isn't a black and white thing and she's not just going to snap her fingers and be better. I don't ?? know how else to word it??

okay but!! that's all I have for today (and that's all the chapters that are up ))))): ). hope to see more soon! I'm always around if you want to talk novels! :D

I hope you've having a wonderful time! <33

ShadowVyper says...

Thanks so much for the review!

... that actually makes a lot of sense at the end. I guess I wanting to move into a sparring scene but that does make sense for him to also not want to push her too hard right away and focus more on the emotional side of things, especially since he has known her for a while. I kinda want to get a sparring scene in there between them at some point (because I'm going to nix that entire chapter where they spar right after he heals her the first time so at this point it's going to be like they haven't fought at all... so technically speaking he hasn't witnessed her in action beyond that little bit right before her meltdown, seeing as she already killed all the Nykerians before he got there).

But I do agree with that analysis. I've only written a few paragraphs of the next chapter and I think I'm going to re-work that now. I'm honestly just a little aimless right now, since all of this is new content. I mean I have a few things that need to happen, obviously, but since I changed the structure of the plot I'm not sure how to fit them all in now lol

But I am going to write and post that ASAP so that I can continue benefiting from this Tortoise awesomeness ;) Thanks again <333 I really appreciate it!

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Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:12 am
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FlamingPhoenix wrote a review...

Hello Shady, FlamingPhoenix here with a review for you.

Let's get to it.

Over all I think your story is coming along really well, and I can't see anything wrong with it. I will have to say it was a little hard having to get used to Atra and Niap's names being changed, but I will get used to that. I really think you are a born writer, I mean to second I began to read your chapter I got pulled in write away. I mean this paragraph as amazing.

Jerica woke feeling emotionally muted. The tumultuous emotions had settled, but they seemed to leave behind a void that Jerica didn't know how to fill. She wasn't happy, or sad, or worried, or even angry. She just was.

I just love this, I have know idea why, but it just do. I also love the way you ended your chapter.

Aerik grabbed a sword from the wall and walked towards the sparring block. "Well, then, how badly do you want to learn?"

As much as I hate cliffhangers I just loved this one, it let me know something interesting and fun to read will happen in the next chapter. So I wish you luck.

Like I said before I can find anything wrong with your chapter and I think your a great writer. I wish you luck with writing the next chapter. Never stop writing and have a great day/night.

Your friend
FlamingPhoenix. :D

ShadowVyper says...

Thanks for the review! I appreciate it! :)

Your welcome. I love reading your story. SO POST THE NEXT CHAPTER SOON!!!!!! XD

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
— Oscar Wilde