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Violence

Children with Stars in their Veins (Chapter 39.2)

by mellifera


a/n: hey, thanks for checking out Starry Veins! This is the novel I wrote for Round V of LMS, and it's still a first draft! While I don't discourage any feedback, I prefer not to receive feedback on grammar! I'm not polishing this draft up yet, so I'm not as concerned about editing. I am, of course, open to all feedback, but I ask that you keep this in consideration! Thanks <3

*

Rowan grabbed onto the parka of whoever was closest to them.

“Ori—” Ember squawked.

“It’s Jax and Justiciar.”

She stopped and spun like a whirlwind. The moment she spotted Jax, her face lit up. “Jax!” she cried and took off at a sprint.

Jax, at the sound of a summons, startled. He barely turned in time to see Ember barrelling towards him, but somehow recovered quick enough to catch her and hold her aloft into the air after a quick, tight hug.

They approached at a more sedated pace, now followed by Alanna and Cassius and, even further behind, Enoch.

Jax was grinning as he set down Ember, and his expression grew further delighted when he glanced up and saw the rest of them. “Oh, thank the graces, the four of you are all okay!” He knelt, drawing Alanna into a hug as she approached, and then Cassius.

Rowan stepped forward and, for a moment, it felt like they were back at the Citadel, greeting Jax after his absence for months.

Then he drew away and stood, face drawn in worry. “I passed the Citadel on the way here and the four of you were nowhere to be found. I dreaded to think that something may have happened to you. I have no words for how relieved I am to find you all here.”

“Was anyone there?” Ember asked, eyes wide and bright. “Was the village ok? Did you talk to anyone?”

A shadow crossed Jax’s face which he quickly covered with a tight smile. Rowan frowned.

“The village is perfectly all right. Those who escaped the fire went there, and they’re shaken but recovering.” He sighed. “I cannot say the same about the Citadel. I’ve heard of magefire eating away at stone, but never would I have imagined a fire as devastating as this one.”

Rowan glanced towards Ember. Her expression screwed up for a moment, before she frowned up at Jax.

“Those who escaped?” Ember’s voice was small, cautious. She already knew the answer.

Their stomach shrivelled as Jax’s smile fell. “There’s nothing to say that those left in the village now are the only ones who survived. They could have fled on the roads rather than going to the village.”

“What about our parents?” Alanna asked, eyes wide and glistening bright with unshed tears.

“What about Lady Sylvania?” Ember added.

Jax hesitated, and a sickening feeling took root in Rowan’s heart. Jax glanced towards them. “I saw Eluna helping in the fields, trying to get everyone back on their feet. But I also did not see to everyone. It’s very possible I missed some, and even more possible that some were simply not there, but fled to the industrials roads when the fire spread.” He looked towards Ember and some tension faded from his expression. “Lady Sylvania is perfectly all right.”

Rowan felt all at once a flood of relief and terrible guilt at it, that their mum was okay but also that she was the only one that Jax had seen. Only their mum? Not one of the others’ parents? That surely wasn’t right. Couldn’t be right.

“What if they were captured?” Cassius asked. He looked to be fighting hard to keep dismay off his face. “By the Grey Masks?”

Jax frowned. “The Grey Masks?”

“We’re being chased by people in grey face masks,” Ember explained. “They were the ones who attacked the Citadel. They said they were looking for us.” She turned around and grabbed onto the bottom of Enoch’s shirt and tugged on it. “This is Enoch. He saved us from them and brought us here.”

Jax stepped forward and offered his hand. Enoch eyed him as though he were wielding a dagger in the proffered hand but took it and shook it.

“Then I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you found them and looked after them,” Jax said, smiling once again. “I’m Jax, I’m something of an informant for the Chronicler’s Guild. As for the Grey Masks, you said they attacked the guild and were looking for you?”

Rowan thought about the conversation they’d had with Caddy. “They were looking for us. And Jax, they knew who we were.”

He raised his eyebrows at that. “They knew who you were?” He reached back to rub Justiciar’s broad, muscled neck. “I warned Margaretta before I left that I had heard Tyrus Frost had been getting up to some kind of trouble in the west, though they were rumours and I had hoped that perhaps they were just that. But if they knew who you were…”

“Tyrus Frost?” Alanna asked. The corners of her eyes pinched as she narrowed them in confusion. Ember wore a similar expression.

Cassius’ brow furrowed deeply. “Belle told me about him. Didn’t he try to poison Margaretta?”

“I didn’t realise Isadora remembered that,” Jax said, surprised. “She was only nine. Yes, he did. It was an oversight not to do away with him after Salvador was removed from the guild, but Margaretta wanted his brilliance. I warned her about him, back then.”

“So it was about Salvador,” Rowan said. “It was that they knew us that threw me off, and knew Ember’s name in particular, since only those at the Citadel and the village knew about it.”

Ember eyed them. “Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“I did, but to Caddy, not to any of you. She asked about it, and it got me thinking.”

“Speaking of Isadora…” Jax turned to Justiciar and reached into the saddlebags. He procured an envelope and faced them again. He held it towards Rowan. “She gave this to me to give to the four of you. I had intended to give it to you at the Citadel, of course, but things didn’t exactly go according to plan.”

Rowan took it and felt a lightness in their chest. If nothing else, Isadora and Mishal were okay then.

Alanna’s head snapped up. “You saw her and Mishal?” she asked, hope lining her words like silver. She looked much younger suddenly, and it was then that Rowan realised that she looked so much more grown than she had just a few seasons ago. She looked older and, they had thought, more aware and mature, but now they realised she simply looked much more burdened.

“I did! They miss you all terribly.” Jax smiled brightly, as if relieved to be talking of something happier than the burning of their home. “They ran into a few spots of trouble, but now they’re headed towards the Sundown Ruins. If my estimates are right, they should be in the City of Bells right now, though knowing Mari, they could have already pressed south.”

Cassius shifted towards Alanna and, in quick motion, she had ducked under his arm and buried her face in his side. Even from where they were, Rowan could see that she was trembling. Cassius murmured something into her hair, and she laughed, but did not re-emerge.

“We were planning on going to Chromium,” Ember said. “We figured that the Grey Masks would have a harder time trying to grab us. With the gargoyles and all that.”

Jax nodded. “That’s actually a good plan for now. It may be closer to wherever Tyrus has set himself up, but getting to a city and Chromium especially, you’ll have a better chance at warding them off. On the roads and smaller villages, it would be easy to grab children without anyone noticing, but in a bustling city, it’d be harder to pull off. I’d certainly feel better if I knew the four of you were safe. If I wasn’t trying to get to Glacier’s Keep and handle some… complicated situations, I would be right beside you to escort you there.” He looked to Enoch. “You’re leading them there, protecting them? I would be happy to grant you anything in my power for their safety. It means more than I could possibly say that a stranger would take them and keep them out of harm’s way like that.”

Enoch looked incredibly uncomfortable, and Rowan almost had to laugh at the irony of the situation and all that Jax didn’t know. But no use worrying him more than he already seemed to be.

“…I agreed to guide them to Chromium, aye,” Enoch said. “And I’m prefer nothing, if it’s all the same to you. I’m satisfied with what I already have.” He crossed his arms over his chest, shoulders tense. “We should continue to be on our way then, if all is sorted here.”

Jax nodded. “I have to stable Justiciar, but by morning I must be on my way.” He smiled down at the four of them. “I’m so glad to see the four of you unharmed. Try to keep it that way. I’ll have word sent to Margaretta, Mishal, and Isadora as soon as possible, to inform them.”

It was only as Jax had left that Rowan remembered they should have asked about the whole trueblood thing.

They laid down that night, and slept very little, unease and dark thoughts plaguing their mind.



word count: 1,516




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Thu Nov 12, 2020 7:29 pm
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starlitmind wrote a review...



Ice cream

“It’s Jax and Justiciar.”


YESS, REUNION TIME!! Imagine all the stories they'll have for each other

“Was the village ok? Did you talk to anyone?”

A shadow crossed Jax’s face which he quickly covered with a tight smile. Rowan frowned.

“The village is perfectly all right.


Is Jax hiding something :o

“I cannot say the same about the Citadel. I’ve heard of magefire eating away at stone, but never would I have imagined a fire as devastating as this one.”


Oh that's it, I should've just kept reading haha. Eeek, that's not good. I wonder where the families all went to, and the cooks, and the teachers... there were like a bajillion people in there. I just hope everyone is okay <3

she was the only one that Jax had seen. Only their mum? Not one of the others’ parents? That surely wasn’t right. Couldn’t be right.


Yeah, somebody's parent(s) probably died. That's so terrible to think about. There seems to be only bad news, never good. I feel so bad for them all ahh </3 But I'm really glad they got to see Jax, a familiar face. That must've made them feel a bit better

Wait, Jax doesn't know that they know about their true identities, right? xD I wonder if he is going to get to know that this chapter. I wonder how he would react

“Speaking of Isadora…” Jax turned to Justiciar and reached into the saddlebags. He procured an envelope and faced them again.


YES I had completely forgotten about the letter. Yayaya, something good is happening for them; they must all be so thrilled! c:

She looked older and, they had thought, more aware and mature, but now they realised she simply looked much more burdened


Aww :( she's so young though </3 they all are

Enoch looked incredibly uncomfortable, and Rowan almost had to laugh at the irony of the situation and all that Jax didn’t know.


I can only imagine how Enoch is feeling aha xD

I'm soo glad that all reunited. It must've brought them comfort, and the letter as well. Although we got some bad news about the citadel and the likelihood of surviving that, at least there was a bit of hope in this mess. And hopefully Isadora and Mishal will get the news of their well-being quickly so they can be comforted too <3




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Tue Sep 22, 2020 3:37 am
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JabberHut wrote a review...



WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE.

This is such an exciting moment, man. I am just so stoked about this. It's been ages since these kids have seen each other, and now we're finally getting the smallest of connections to tease us a bit. Just a little -- enough to make us see hope for a reunion.

And I love how heart-warming this reunion here issssss! GAH, I just love it. We've never seen the kids interact with Jax, and we've seen Isadora and Mishal interact with him already not too long ago. Now we see the younger kids, and it's just SO clear how much they admire him -- even moreso now after everything that's happened. A familiar face is 100% welcome in such dire needs.

OH I have to ask because I just canNOT remember -- did they ever change their clothes? When Alanna hugged Jax, I wondered if she was still in a torn up, ash-ridden nightgown. I just can't remember if the kids ever got a decent change of clothes--oh wait. Wait, maybe in the village they did. Maybe. ...Or was that... oh gosh, I can't remember. I guess this is just me saying to keep that in mind. XD

It was hilarious how Jax introduced himself and then Enoch said nothing. We don't even hear a grunt from him, an awkward silence that Jax is forced to move on from -- just nothing. He gets no window of response. XD

It's curious here, though, 'cause now Enoch knows... well. He doesn't know who they are, and I think that was carefully planned here, but he knows they're someone. Rowan hinted as much. I'd like to see Rowan or someone purposely dance around that term because of Enoch and their public surroundings, just to hint at the reader that this is being danced around and not said outright. This would also excuse Rowan for not having a chance to ask Jax about the trueblood stuff 'cause how would they without revealing themselves?

Anyhoot, Enoch has every right to be even more suspicious of what's going on and who these kids really are. Jax also emphasized how precious they are, though I suppose it could be a very parental love Jax showed in the conversation, but it is a very strange relationship from an outsider's perspective nonetheless.

And I felt sad that Enoch still said he was taking them to Chromium. Though it was also weird Jax didn't jump on that either like he wasn't going to help them settle in Chromium or anything. Just escort them to the gates with no money or anything. Jax seems very sure the kids will be alright.

DUDE. Imagine if Enoch is the one that gets into trouble now and the kids band together to help him escape or something. Like how fun would that be. Honestly, though, I am pretty excited at the possibility of learning about Enoch more and understanding his role in the future.

Oh! And Ember can explore blacksmithing things some more! Really stoked to see more of that passion come out of her, maybe we'll get a better grasp as to what her role will be in the future.

And what about Artemesa? She certainly must be in hiding right now or Jax would've seen her, let alone the public as well. I'm still curious how she'll be in an underground city like Chromium, if she'll feel too cooped up in there. Or if they could even smuggle her in there to begin with.

POO ON ME. I can't remember what Isadora wrote in the letter. I really would love to hear/see some Alanna moments hearing a letter from her sister read to her or something along those lines. It gets kinda swept aside how Alanna and Isadora are sisters lately, and I feel like Alanna would only be thinking about her at this point since Isadora is the only home she has left in her mind. And vice versa, since Isadora is the older sister. But I'm a sucker for sibling love too so don't mind me.

There's so much to comment on this, man, there's just SO much. I lovelovelove that the kids IMMEDIATELY asked about their parents as soon as Jax mentioned the citadel. I love how you expressed their anxiety and depression here as it was just ALL too real and really well done.

This was a really great chapter, honestly. A moment we've been waiting for and at a good pace into the novel, I think! After everything that had happened, I really feel like this was a good time to introduce a scenario where their worlds kinda collided with such a cool character at that. ilu jax




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Sat Sep 05, 2020 11:05 pm
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Tuckster wrote a review...



Top of the evening to you! I'm back with another review :)

They approached at a more sedated pace
I don't know how, but I read that as moose-sedated pace and assumed you meant "the pace of a sedated moose". I will give you 500 points if you can naturally work that into one of your chapters.

She looked much younger suddenly, and it was then that Rowan realised that she looked so much more grown than she had just a few seasons ago.
I think? I now understand what you mean after a few reads, but on first read this seemed like a paradox.

I really enjoyed this chapter, not only because Jax is joining the ranks as one of my favorite characters but also because it helped me catch up to speed. You did a good job of slipping in small pieces of relevant information in an engaging way. For example, I now know more about the Grey Masks and some of the characters that I met briefly a few chapters ago. None of that information felt like it had been forced as part of the plot, so kudos to you on that!

“I’m Jax, I’m something of an informant for the Chronicler’s Guild. As for the Grey Masks, you said they attacked the guild and were looking for you?”

This felt like an uncharacteristically short and somewhat curt interaction for Jax. If I was meeting someone who introduced himself and then immediately returned to a conversation, I wouldn't feel as if they were appreciative of me, if that makes sense? Since Jax seems to care deeply for others, this somewhat curt exchange doesn't line up with the impression I've gotten of him so far.

Something I didn't see in this chapter was any indication of where this interaction takes place. While it totally makes sense to emphasize the conversation more than their environment, I wanted you to be aware of the fact that I have no idea where they are. Are they conversing somewhere public, or private? Are they back at the barn, or are they still in the city somewhere? Granted, it's been a hot minute since I read the last chapter, but maybe slipping in some indication of that could set the scene a bit better than what you have now.

I also noticed that Enoch behaved very standoffishly towards Jax (excellent job showing that rather than telling, btw :D). While I can understand why Enoch would initially be hesitant, since he seems pretty protective of Ember especially, I was surprised to see that he didn't seem to warm up to Jax at all once he saw the way they interacted. It's clear that he cares for the safety of the group, and I was surprised to see that Enoch was still very apprehensive towards him.

Overall, this was a pleasant reunion scene that clarified a few questions I had about the characters and their relationships and feelings towards each other, and you did a fantastic job of showing instead of telling! I did my best to point out some impressions I had of the characters in the hopes that it would be helpful to you. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!

Best,
Tuck




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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

And time for the second part of this one...

First Impression: *dabs* I knew that was Jax. *does an jig*. So...looks like we might have found out our captain grey mask. Interesting. Or maybe this is a false lead. Time will tell I guess. And it appears that they will leave for Chromium soon then.

Anyway let's get right to it,

Rowan grabbed onto the parka of whoever was closest to them.


I think that was a little formatting error there.

Jax, at the sound of a summons, startled. He barely turned in time to see Ember barrelling towards him, but somehow recovered quick enough to catch her and hold her aloft into the air after a quick, tight hug.


Hugs are good.

Then he drew away and stood, face drawn in worry. “I passed the Citadel on the way here and the four of you were nowhere to be found. I dreaded to think that something may have happened to you. I have no words for how relieved I am to find you all here.”


So he made his way back there and did all of that. Great. And I think I almost forget but there were two other riders that went that way? What happened to them? Did I forget?

Their stomach shrivelled as Jax’s smile fell. “There’s nothing to say that those left in the village now are the only ones who survived. They could have fled on the roads rather than going to the village.”


Extremely ominous.

Jax hesitated, and a sickening feeling took root in Rowan’s heart. Jax glanced towards them. “I saw Eluna helping in the fields, trying to get everyone back on their feet. But I also did not see to everyone. It’s very possible I missed some, and even more possible that some were simply not there, but fled to the industrials roads when the fire spread.” He looked towards Ember and some tension faded from his expression. “Lady Sylvania is perfectly all right.”


The vibes coming off this are all just bad and sad.

“Then I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you found them and looked after them,” Jax said, smiling once again. “I’m Jax, I’m something of an informant for the Chronicler’s Guild. As for the Grey Masks, you said they attacked the guild and were looking for you?”


Wouldn't some of the survivors of the citadel have notice said Grey Masks and told Jax all about it? Seems like this shouldn't be such a big surprise to him.

“I didn’t realise Isadora remembered that,” Jax said, surprised. “She was only nine. Yes, he did. It was an oversight not to do away with him after Salvador was removed from the guild, but Margaretta wanted his brilliance. I warned her about him, back then.”


Points for good memory.

“I did! They miss you all terribly.” Jax smiled brightly, as if relieved to be talking of something happier than the burning of their home. “They ran into a few spots of trouble, but now they’re headed towards the Sundown Ruins. If my estimates are right, they should be in the City of Bells right now, though knowing Mari, they could have already pressed south.”


And the award for understatement of the day goes to...

It was only as Jax had left that Rowan remembered they should have asked about the whole trueblood thing.

They laid down that night, and slept very little, unease and dark thoughts plaguing their mind.


Come on Rowan...I though you're memory was better than this.

Aaand that's it for that.

Overall: Overall a great chapter. Looks like things on this side are also being set up for them moving on. This is getting to be quite good. Besides the couple of things I mentioned everything is rock solid and moving on pretty well.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry





I love how we all band together to break things...
— Kelpies