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Before the Dragon - 1.5

by Shady


Jerica and Akeno made their way across the dark courtyard, into the Palace, and – by no small miracle and lots of assistance from Akeno – up to the third floor where Jerica’s bedroom was. Her room was on the East Wing on an entirely abandoned, barren hall that was used only to punish visiting dignitaries by forcing them to be near her.

That suited her just fine. It meant it was quiet and more-or-less private. She staggered into her room, cringing as she cracked her back. She did a quick scan around the room to be sure her attendants weren’t present.

Bed off to the left. Dresser and mirror to the right. Windows and chair straight ahead. But no attendants.

“Dar’shaya? Harlyn?” she called half-heartedly, glancing towards the door off to her right that led to her anteroom that she used for bathing. She didn’t expect them to be in there. And, sure enough, there was no response. She grunted and strode further into her room, glancing at the mirror absently.

She stopped short when she saw her appearance.

Her shoulder-length black hair that she usually kept pulled back into a tight bun was mostly ripped free of its confines and was in a wild knot sticking out in all directions from her head. But her gaze gravitated towards the huge bruise forming across her left eye and cheek from the blow that the man landed on her. The skin was swollen and tender and already a dark purple, contrasting sharply against her pale skin. The white of her eye was now completely bloodshot, the red making her green eyes look muddy and ugly.

Akeno walked up behind her and began massaging her shoulders soothingly.

She closed her eyes and sighed, leaning into it as the pressure from his hands released some of the tension from her body. “Think Derik will notice?”

Akeno snorted. Jerica cracked an eye open and looked at him in the mirror. He was smirking and shook his head slightly. She did, as well, closing her eyes once more; satisfied that her joke had landed well. Akeno’s words were dry when he responded, “hard to say, honestly. You know how much he usually misses.”

Jerica chuckled and leaned back against Akeno’s chest, letting him support some of her weight. Derik Ainsley was War Lord of the King’s Imperial Army of Atraya, and, of equal note, the overprotective uncle who had raised her from infancy. She could scarcely grimace without him noticing and asking what was wrong. He was going to be upset with her when he saw her in the morning – she was sure the bruise would be even worse by then. With any luck, Rek would get to the dining room first and warn his father about the fight. But. Well. It was always a gamble, seeing as she had no way of knowing where he was, without going looking.

“Seriously, though, how are you doing?” Akeno asked, wrapping her in a hug from behind and resting his chin on her shoulder.

“I’m fine,” she sighed, cracking her eyes open and glancing at him in the mirror. Then she turned towards him, happy he kept his arms wrapped around her as she did. She remembered she had his shirt on and plucked it away from her chest. “Want this back?”

“Eventually.”

She began unbuttoning it. She wasn’t about to sleep in that dirty, smelly thing. “I mean… or neither of us could wear it.” She leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the lips.

Akeno chuckled, then stepped back and shook his head. “Not tonight.”

Jerica wrinkled her nose and shrugged off the shirt, setting it on the back of the chair as she moved towards her dresser to retrieve her night clothes. “Why not? We can blow out the lamps if you just don’t wanna see my ugly face.”

She could feel herself slurring her words but she couldn’t seem to find the energy to stop. She opened a drawer and pulled out her pajamas, then turned and glanced at Akeno.

He snorted, looking at her flatly. “You’re not ugly. And it’s not that.”

“What is it, then?” she shimmied out of her trousers and began pulling on her night pants, trying not to fall over. She was drunk enough to pry, but no meant no, so she wasn’t going to pressure him for a yes.

“You’re too drunk,” he said gently, walking to her closet and retrieving the pajamas they’d stashed for him in the back corner. “You can’t consent.”

“Am not,” Jerica scoffed, turning towards him with a frown. “Can too. It was my idea.”

“Your drunken idea,” he pointed out.

“I’d want to even if I was sober.”

“And if you were sober, I’d want to, too. But you’re not. And I’m not. And I don’t ever want to have to worry about whether something I did to you was okay or not. You matter too much to me for that.”

Jerica scoffed again, but didn’t have a coherent comeback. She was silent for a long moment as she pulled on her shirt then shuffled over to the bed and pulled back the covers. “Why do you gotta be so… so…”

Akeno raised an eyebrow, also changing into his pajamas and striding over to her. “So…?”

“… thoroughly decent,” she decided at last, making sure to pout like she’d just said a bad thing.

He smirked a little. “Thanks? I think.”

“Mm,” she grunted, then glanced at the bed, and back at Akeno. “You sure?”

“I’m sure,” he confirmed with a nod.

“… Can I at least have snuggles?”

“You can have all the snuggles,” Akeno laughed, following Jerica onto the bed as she crawled under the covers and scooted over to make room for him. He blew the lamp out and then laid down.

“Promise?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Akeno opened his arms to her, inviting her in to snuggle against his chest.

“You better not die,” Jerica murmured, voice fading as her energy slipped away rapidly. “I’ll… follow you to… the afterlife… and kick your butt… if…if…” She was asleep before she knew how she was going to finish that sentence. 


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Wed Oct 04, 2023 7:48 pm
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IcyFlame says...



*cough* MORE




Shady says...


This comment actually has helped me get back to writing lol I am near being done with the next chapter part, so thank you for the encouragement ^^



IcyFlame says...


MOAR



Shady says...


I know I said this before and am not done yet lol but this comment actually did spur me towards writing more and I am hopeful to have the next chapter posted in the next couple days ^^



IcyFlame says...


I aim to be helpful haha



Shady says...


Haha you are indeed and I am perpetually flattered by your long standing interest in this novel <3



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Sun Apr 30, 2023 11:30 pm
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SilverNight wrote a review...



ahhhhhhh this is very late into the review day BUT it will still be on Review Day so I’m making good on my promise! Yay!

Her room was on the East Wing on an entirely abandoned, barren hall that was used only to punish visiting dignitaries by forcing them to be near her.


XD

As someone who has visited many old castles from various time periods, though, I'm obligated to make the remark that I have not ever seen a hallway where all of its length was dedicated to a single room, or would have been rarely traveled. Large bedrooms for royalty that take up a lot of space are the norm-- a castle might even have several for the same person-- but they're often either in a corner of the castle with hallways leading out on two sides, or a large room to the side of a hallway that is of an extravagant size but still not even close to the full hallway length because those hallways are endless lol. So, most plausibly, Jerica's room would be large but have different rooms to the side of it, and her hallway would be heavily trafficked because people would be using it to get between the other hallways rooms and to other hallways.

Still. This is slightly niche knowledge and I do love the line, so I thought I'd share this knowledge that is so rarely useful and leave it up to you XD

She staggered into her room, cringing as she cracked her back.


Should there be another word instead of cringing here? Wincing sounds more fitting for the act (and though some people do cringe at the sound of someone else cracking their joints, I don't think Jerica would, especially not if she was doing it herself).

“Dar’shaya? Harlyn?” she called half-heartedly, glancing towards the door off to her right that led to her anteroom that she used for bathing.


This sentence feels a little unnatural in the way that the detail about its location is added-- like, there's a door leading to the right that has an anteroom that is also for bathing. It seems like the details stack on top of each other weirdly and this could be a little smoother ;-;

Her shoulder-length black hair that she usually kept pulled back into a tight bun was mostly ripped free of its confines and was in a wild knot sticking out in all directions from her head. But her gaze gravitated towards the huge bruise forming across her left eye and cheek from the blow that the man landed on her. The skin was swollen and tender and already a dark purple, contrasting sharply against her pale skin. The white of her eye was now completely bloodshot, the red making her green eyes look muddy and ugly.


ayyyyye character description, love it! I was wondering where this was in my last review, it's good that it's in your first chapter-- tYWS chapters being in multiple parts has the unfortunate and unwanted effect of making readers go "this detail should be here, where is itttt it's missingggg >:(" when it's in a later part XD

Derik Ainsley was War Lord of the King’s Imperial Army of Atraya, and, of equal note, the overprotective uncle who had raised her from infancy. She could scarcely grimace without him noticing and asking what was wrong. He was going to be upset with her when he saw her in the morning – she was sure the bruise would be even worse by then.


yessss Derik ;) Please let him be in the next chapter XD

“Why do you gotta be so… so…”

Akeno raised an eyebrow, also changing into his pajamas and striding over to her. “So…?”

“… thoroughly decent,” she decided at last, making sure to pout like she’d just said a bad thing.


decent (derogatory)

“You better not die,” Jerica murmured, voice fading as her energy slipped away rapidly. “I’ll… follow you to… the afterlife… and kick your butt… if…if…” She was asleep before she knew how she was going to finish that sentence.


to restate what previous commenters have said here: HE BETTER NOT DIE

thank u for taking this into consideration I would strongly consider it if I were you ._.

~~~

Okay! So this chapter tells me/is leading me to think that you're going in a different direction with Jerica and Akeno's relationship. Which, cool! I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads.

I'm also hoping to see some larger conflict/higher stakes in the next chapter-- presumably war, if you still have that in this version? Hopefully some more character introductions, too. I'm really looking forward to it-- great job!

Hope you're doing well! I would love to be tagged when the next part is out <3

- silver c:




Shady says...


So, most plausibly, Jerica's room would be large but have different rooms to the side of it, and her hallway would be heavily trafficked because people would be using it to get between the other hallways rooms and to other hallways.

Still. This is slightly niche knowledge and I do love the line, so I thought I'd share this knowledge that is so rarely useful and leave it up to you XD


Tank u for this insight <3

To clarify (and I admit I wasn't super clear in the description so I see where you got it from) her bedroom definitely doesn't take up the entire hall. I was thinking more... like, there are numerous rooms around hers, but they're all for guests and no one really goes down this wing. In my brain (coming from someone who has never seen a castle lol) most of the castle activity happens on the first and second floor (royal bedrooms, infirmary, dining room, treasury, throne room, offices, library, etc), forth floor be for servants, and then have third floor be mostly for guests that don't fit in spare rooms on the first two floors.

So now a lot going on on the third floor in general, but she got put there sort of like a step-child room where they could forget about her haha. By barren, I meant it wasn't very decorated like the first two floors because the king rarely goes up there since everything he needs is on the first two floors.

Does that explanation make sense? Or do I need to modify further? I am very happy for this insight and that's a genuine question <3

YWS chapters being in multiple parts has the unfortunate and unwanted effect of making readers go "this detail should be here, where is itttt it's missingggg >:(" when it's in a later part XD


ahah yeppp been there xD But yes thank you for calling me on that ^^ it is indeed a weakness of mine to ensure I have adequate character description so def feel free to let me know when it seems too sparse hehe

yessss Derik ;) Please let him be in the next chapter XD


Oh he's 1000% in the next chapter xD

decent (derogatory)


hahahah omg I literally LOL-ed when I read this the first time xD

[quote So this chapter tells me/is leading me to think that you're going in a different direction with Jerica and Akeno's relationship. Which, cool! I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads.[/quote]

A bit, yeah! Still hammering out exactly what it's going to look like, but definitely aiming for softer than it was in the last draft. Tbh Akeno started as a plot device and then people fell in love and kept asking me for details and I was like uhhhhh xD and then I developed him and also fell in love haha I do have something slightly nefarious (not death) planned for him but I might get burned at the stake by an angry mob if I go through with it so we'll see if it remains by the end of this draft xD

I'm also hoping to see some larger conflict/higher stakes in the next chapter-- presumably war, if you still have that in this version?


I do! But it will be a very approach, hopefully you like the changes lol

Thanks again for the reviews! Super helpful and I appreciate them <3 will certainly tag you when the next part is out <3 I've had horrendous writer's block lately but I may?? be getting over it, time shall tell



SilverNight says...


Does that explanation make sense? Or do I need to modify further? I am very happy for this insight and that's a genuine question <3


This makes more sense to me now! Another sentence describing what you said here could help, but this idea is definitely more clear now lol <3

I do have something slightly nefarious (not death) planned for him but I might get burned at the stake by an angry mob if I go through with it so we'll see if it remains by the end of this draft xD


well. now I'm worried >:( But also yay to (hopefully) defeating writer's block!



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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Okay I'm now on the last part so I must insist that chapter two is posted soon so that I can continue reading more of this please and thank you.

Her room was on the East Wing on an entirely abandoned, barren hall that was used only to punish visiting dignitaries by forcing them to be near her.

But why? Don't they need the space?

But. Well. It was always a gamble, seeing as she had no way of knowing where he was, without going looking.

This part threw me a little, are we talking about Rek or Derik? And surely she has know way of knowing where anyone is? Or is the point that he always seems to be everywhere?

Jerica scoffed again, but didn’t have a coherent comeback. She was silent for a long moment as she pulled on her shirt then shuffled over to the bed and pulled back the covers. “Why do you gotta be so… so…”

I'm interested to know how she feels about this. In her mind, she and Akeno aren't in a real relationship, right? Does she think of it as just a physical thing, or are they together but secretely? If it's the former, I would expect her (perhaps not now as she's had a lot to drink) to freak out at the thought that they've slept together without actually sleeping together - like, that's the mark of a more serious relationship. And she's very vulnerable around Akeno... so I'm interested to see more of the dynamics of their relationship/whatever this thing is.

“You better not die,” Jerica murmured, voice fading as her energy slipped away rapidly. “I’ll… follow you to… the afterlife… and kick your butt… if…if…” She was asleep before she knew how she was going to finish that sentence.

If this is foreshadowing I will be very very cross!

Ok, broadly I think this was a good intro chapter. You've established who Jer is, and already introduced us to some of the more important characters. Her relationship with Rek is lovely and whilst I have some questions around her one with Akeno (I expected it to be less emotional right off the bat) it give me the warm and fuzzies.

I think it's compelling enough for someone to keep reading, but I think you might need a second opinion on that as I'm entirely too invested in these characters already and so I'll read anything that has them in which might...not be the most helpful thing for you to hear xD

I'm ready for some conflict next chapter, and I presume some more character introductions. I've no idea if we're at war/planning to be at war soon but I will be patient and just read!

Now I'm all caught up, Happy Review Day! (Also, more please)

<3

Icy




Shady says...


Okay I'm now on the last part so I must insist that chapter two is posted soon so that I can continue reading more of this please and thank you.


Heh. *laughs in two months later shameeee*

This part threw me a little, are we talking about Rek or Derik? And surely she has know way of knowing where anyone is? Or is the point that he always seems to be everywhere?


I more meant this as a tip of the head to the fact they don't have cell phones lol but fair enough ^^

And she's very vulnerable around Akeno... so I'm interested to see more of the dynamics of their relationship/whatever this thing is.


Don't want to spoil too much, but I will say there's more depth to the relationship this go around ^^

I think it's compelling enough for someone to keep reading, but I think you might need a second opinion on that as I'm entirely too invested in these characters already and so I'll read anything that has them in which might...not be the most helpful thing for you to hear xD


hahaha awwww <333

thanks so much for the reviews and sorry again it took me so long to reply @_@ I kept meaning to and then forgot. But! take heart that the reason I remembered to come back and read them again is that I am attempting to pick this back up <33



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Sat Mar 18, 2023 5:12 pm
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Carina says...



awww akeno is wholesome and yes very kind n decent man

..... why do I feel like this is foreshadowing for him actually dying tho. shady? SHADY????




Shady says...


%u2026 there%u2019s an idea actually :hmmm: wasn%u2019t in the works but might be better than what I had planned%u2014

Tank u for the binge likes xD I%u2019m glad you enjoy her Bae



Shady says...


This just in ellipses are 2026, apostrophes are 2019c and periods are 2014. Tell a friend



Carina says...


thank u for decoding i am now a master cryptographer

but YES am enjoying dis and will comment along :') i can totes see jerica absolutely losing it and go full revenge vibes if akeno does die tho... but also don't hurt her pls she deserves happies




You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.
— Rod Serling