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The Lost Dragon 16.1

by soundofmind


Chapter 16 Part One: Here Comes the Birdy

The sounds of the busy street were below them now; floating up through the open window to a second-floor apartment above a small tea shop. Flowers and herbs grew in little pots that hung over the windowsill, and the sun angled in to illuminate the room.

The walls were painted forest green, and shelves filled with plants lined the walls. A faded yellow couch sat near the edge of the room in front of a long table littered with water stains. The only thing on the walls was a long, yellow scarf that stretched out to fill empty space, pinned up at either end.

There was a wooden divider that split the small room in two, and James could not see beyond it. His desire to respect the couple's sincerity and privacy was all that was keeping him from looking behind to check for surprise visitors, in case it was some kind of trap.

It wasn't.

A trap, that is.

The man James had met in the alleyway had invited him into his home and introduced himself as Marren. James had listened to his story, but parts of it got muddled when Marren would start crying again. James tried to piece it together.

From his understanding, Marren and his wife, Linda, had made a routine trip to the outer city to visit a farmer who sold them tea leaves for their shop that they couldn't buy elsewhere. During the business exchange, Linda was occupied with stocking their wagon while Marren was paying the seller. While their attentions were held by other things, their six-year-old son, Killian, wandered over to a nearby fence to look at the farm animals grazing.

Then they heard a blood-chilling screech from a griffin.

A giant shadow passed over them as the griffin began to swoop down. Marren and Linda both ducked. Marren ran for his son, but by the time he started running, it was too late. The griffin had scooped up their son in its talons and carried him off into the sky. That was about where Marren's story would no longer be understandable, and he began to cry when he spoke of his son's screaming.

James had a difficult time knowing how to respond. He stood with Marren in silence for some time before Marren's tears stopped until he said the only thing he could think to say.

"If there's anything I can do to help..."

And that was how he ended up in their apartment.

He stood by the edge of the window, just close enough that he could keep an eye on the street if he needed to. Marren sat on the couch while Linda started pouring tea into mugs for each of them, despite James's repeated objections to the offer.

"I know the story sounds ridiculous. Even to me it sounds ridiculous," Linda said as she moved her thick locks of hair over to one shoulder so they wouldn't get in the way of the cups. "Griffins don't come that close to the city, and even if the guard believed us, they wouldn't be able to do anything about it. They just told us that Killian's -" he voice faltered, and she looked up at Marren, who's covered his face with one hand. "-they said he'd probably be treated like any common prey," she continued, fighting to keep her voice steady.

"But it wasn't just a wild griffin," Marren muttered, rubbing his eyes.

James looked between the two of them, raising a brow. Linda caught his look.

"It was one of the griffins from the games," she said.

James raised both brows. "Are you sure?"

"Griffins don't have purple wings naturally," Linda said with a bitter scoff. "That's something people do to them. It must've escaped, but I don't know how no one's been talking about it. The purple one's a rising champion - not that we bet on the games-"

"We don't gamble," Marren interjected for emphasis, still with a hand shielding his face.

"It's a fool's pursuit," she added. "But it had to have been the Ranger."

"That's it's... title?" James asked.

"Royal Ruddlan Ranger. It's a lot of r's," she said.

James sighed and turned his gaze back to the street outside. A young boy was struggling to lead a dog through the crowds. The dog snatched something from one of the vendor's booths, causing a small commotion. He sighed. If a griffin from the games had escaped that wouldn't be good press for the games. If it was paired with safety warnings it'd be likely to cause hysteria at worst, and a loss in sales at best. As much as people enjoyed watching griffins fight, everyone knew they were beasts to be feared, especially when they were conditioned their whole lives for violence.

It wasn't likely that their son was alive, whether or not the griffin was escaped from the games or not. But he'd never heard of a griffin intentionally hunting a human. Then again, that was probably more Clandestine's expertise...

"If the public's not aware of the Ranger's disappearance, they probably have some sort of private search party going for the beast," James hypothesized aloud. "I'd imagine the loss of a popular fighter wouldn't go unnoticed for very long. It'd be difficult to say they were just retiring it after it's recent success."

Linda and Marren were silent in response. James held his gaze out the window for a drawn-out moment before looking over to them. Marren was sipping his tea. Linda was walking over to James with a mug. There was a brief moment of awkward hesitation on James's part before he took the mug with a thankful bow of his head. She reciprocated the bow and went to sit by her husband.

"Do you think it might cause trouble looking into it?" Linda asked. "Is that what you're saying?"

James looked down into the steaming cup. "I'm not sure. Admittedly, I'm not wholly acquainted with Ruddlan politics. Though I'm aware much of the city profits come from the games."

Marren looked up at James, his expression weary and strained. "One loose griffin won't kill the games."

"Have any griffins escaped before?" James asked.

Linda and Marren exchanged a look. "Not that we've heard of," Linda answered.

James pressed his lips into a line. All he had was speculation. He needed to talk to people on the inside. Even if there was no hope that their son was alive, if a scared, escaped griffin was flying around town, that would be good for no one. He wanted to imagine that the city authorities were on top of it, but doubt had already set itself in his gut.

Of course, they wanted to keep it quiet that a griffin had escaped. They had a reputation to keep. Tourists to ensure the safety of. Business to keep. They weren't worried about a small shop owner's family getting closure for the loss of their son.

He took a sip of the tea and looked back out the window. His eyes lifted up above the street and found the arena peeking out above all the buildings in the distance. He could hear Marren sigh.

"It's... it's alright, Matt. Thank you for taking the time to listen," he said.

"And for actually believing us," Linda added.

"I know there's not much you can do," Marren continued. "And you're only passing through."

James set his cup down on the windowsill and turned around towards them, leaning against the wall. "I'm not sure what I'll find, but I'll do some digging," James said. "You deserve some answers. For your son."

Marren and Linda both looked at each other. He could tell they weren't sure what to think of him, and he wasn't sure himself. All he'd told Marren was that he was passing through town looking for work. The previous job he mentioned working as a cowboy didn't necessarily qualify him as a detective, and he knew they were thinking that by the looks on their faces.

But the two of them had a shop to run, and they couldn't just drop everything to figure out what happened to their son or find a griffin.

James on the other hand... he could do one more thing before he dove back into the wilderness and said goodbye to civilization forever. As long as he could keep his head down while he did.

--

Alexander was a looming threat in the back of James's mind as he approached the arena, and the looming building only grew larger. The sun was still high in the sky and the city was buzzing with energy. Sellers in front of the arena were shouting about ticket deals for the upcoming tournament, and people filled the city square in front of the arena, but there were no griffin fights for the day. That, James quickly gathered when he entered the grand arena's halls and noticed people far below in the pit, past the staggered levels of seating, raking through the dirt and cleaning.

As massive as the building appeared from the outside, the inside was equally overwhelming. James found himself longing for the simplicity of the forest and Elliot by his side. But he'd left his horse in a stable, nervous for when he'd return to him. He couldn't walk a horse into the building, as large as the sweeping arches that cradled the double-door entrances were.

Where he'd entered, at the middle level of seating, there was a large walkway that circled around the seats, level with the first row. Souvenir and food shops found homes on the far wall ready for watchers of the game to wander up the steps, along with ticket booths and betting stations.

Large pillars appeared every few yards, holding up the second level of higher seating. Signs pointed to stairwells leading upward. Colorful paintings of griffins in battle and advertisements for local goods covered every open wall.

A tall, metal fence surrounded the base of the seating area, closest to the dirt pit and the gates through which griffins entered. The fence stretched upward into a dome, creating a cage of metal and netting that looked intentionally built to keep the creatures in, and away from the viewers.

James wished he could pause to take it all in. But doing so would be likely to draw attention. Only newcomers susceptible to hungry sellers stopped and gawked at the structure that had become normal to the locals. The last thing he wanted was to be called out by someone selling feather accessories or the latest griffin guide.

So he kept walking through the crowds. The sheer amount of noise and business felt like an uncomfortable cloak that was as necessary as it was overwhelming. It made it easy to disappear into the chaos, but he never did like crowded, busy cities. And he wasn't interested in anything the arena had to offer.

He was looking for something, or somebody useful.

Of course, he wasn't too sure what exactly it was he was looking for. He knew the city guards wouldn't be very useful, and he assumed he'd get the same treatment Marren and Linda had received. Anyone who was involved with the griffins would be likely to give him the same vague answers and tell him there was no griffin loose, and there was nothing to worry about.

But surely, someone had to have witnessed something. Had it escaped in the day? In the night? Such a thing couldn't be so isolated. Someone had to exist that had no motivations to hide it. It was just a matter of finding them.

But in a city so large, the likelihood of that was discouraging.

James caught sight of an unmarked stairwell leading to lower levels. There were no guards stationed there, only a small sign he was able to read when he got closer.

"Authorized personnel only."

For the five remaining seconds he spent approaching the doorway, he debated against the decision he already determined to follow through. Any hint of hesitation might draw suspicion and make him look like he didn't belong. One more check of his surroundings could catch someone's eye. He couldn't bet on being invisible to strangers who wouldn't care or notice. He never had that luxury.

He went down the stairs. If he had to, he could always say he couldn't read. It was as believable a lie as any in these parts.

He held his breath as the stairs came to an end. He'd entered what looked like a storage area on the lower level, underground. Mirroring the upper floor, there was a hall that followed the curve of the building, but it was narrower. There were unmarked doors and small slits of windows at the top of the ceiling letting dim light in.

The only people in the hallway were two workers pushing a cart down the hall, away from him, and two guards passing him in the other direction. No one appeared to notice his presence as he stood still on the second step, waiting for them to pass.

He counted thirty seconds before stepping out. In the event someone came down the steps behind him, he didn't want to be caught doing nothing.

He hurried down the hall, following the direction the workers went. He adjusted his hat on his head and kept walking for what felt like quite some time. He didn't run into anyone for several minutes, and he found that his senses were anxiously waiting for any signs of someone coming from ahead or behind.

Still, nothing.

He considered turning back, but his feet kept pulling him forward. He straightened up with a start when he heard yelling echo down the hall. It sounded faint, but as he slowly drew nearer, he could tell it was coming from inside a room.

On the wall closest to the center of the arena there was a wooden door that stood open just a crack, letting the sound carry through. He approached on light feet, trying to understand what was being said.

"I don't care about why you didn't see what happened!" he heard a woman screech. "I've got twenty people breathing down my neck for your mistake, and now my job's in jeopardy."

A deeper voice protested. "Please- I swear it wasn't-"

"This isn't an argument, Gideon. Coming in late is one thing, but losing a griffin is final. You're fired."

Silence hung in the air. He could hear steps shuffling towards the door. James backed away and made it appear that he was only starting to approach that section of the hall at the door opened, and a tall, husky man shambled out with his face downcast. His short hair looked unkempt like he'd never seen a brush in his life.

As the man closed the door behind him and looked up, he and James made eye contact. James had been anticipating it would be awkward, but he wasn't prepared for the man's awkward shuffling to the side and ducking of his head, as if he'd interrupted James in the middle of something.

He started to turn away. James took a few hurried steps forward.

"I... I couldn't help but overhear," he said.

The man sent James a pleading glance. "Look, man, I just got fired, I really don't-"

"I know. That's terrible," James replied in earnest, putting on the face of Matt again like a worn-in pair of shoes. He felt some measure of pity for the man, but he also had no idea what had actually happened yet. He drew up a sympathetic grin. "I heard about the griffin escaping but I didn't think they'd blame the stablehand. You're no griffin tamer."

The man let out a sigh and looked back at the door he'd left behind. He started to walk and James followed. He showed no objections to it.

"I was just cleaning one of the empty cages," he said bitterly. "It wasn't my fault."

"What happened then? With the griffin?" James asked.

The man shrugged. "Some kind of smoke came flowing into the room. I thought there was a fire, but then I must've hit my head on something... I fell asleep somehow. When I woke up, the griffin was gone. Its egg too."

James had to withhold his surprise. The griffin had an egg? "That sounds-"

"Fake? Suspicious? Yeah, tell me about it."

"I was going to say convenient, but yes."

The stablehand rolled his eyes. "Look... guy. We're really not supposed to talk about the loose griffin much."

"But you were fired," James reminded him.

"Yeah, which means it's not my business anymore. They're looking for it and I have to go looking for a new job now."

James's eyebrows drew together.

An egg. An egg. Clandestine had seen someone selling a griffin egg. Griffin eggs couldn't be that common, could they?

The stablehand glanced over at James and James removed his look of confusion. He could tell the man was losing interest in talking about his recently lost job.

"But it's taken a kid," James said.

The stablehand stopped walking and stared at James. "What?"

"It's taken a kid. Does your boss know that?" James questioned.

"Wh-what? No. No? I don't know. She didn't mention a kid. How do you know the griffin took a kid? When? Where?"

"Yesterday. Who would know if a child was snatched up by the griffin?"

The stablehand's expression was growing more worried. "Who? Look. I don't know, guy. If Ingrid knows she hasn't said anything. But if anyone knows it'd be Barlowe."

James blinked, trying to remember why the name was familiar. Barlowe... Barlowe...

"She's got an eye on everything," he said. "But really, I've got to go. Before Ingrid finds me again."

James gave him a nod. He'd stopped listening to the man. "Good luck finding a new job."

The man scoffed and turned to walk away. James did the same and turned the opposite direction. Now he really needed to go back. He hurried through the empty hall, back to the stairwell from which he came. His thoughts were swirling.

An escaped griffin, a missing egg, all kept quiet because of Barlowe. The name rang around his head and he searched his memory for anything of relevance. He could remember that Barlowe was someone important. Someone - oh.

She was the mayor. He mentally facepalmed.

So she was the one pulling the strings in the games? Why did she have her fingers in one loose griffin case when she was busy running a city?

James felt his heart lift when he spotted the stairs. Someone was going up them, so when he reached the foot of them he waited a moment and listened for the echoes of a heavy door opening and closing up top before going up himself.

He'd been lucky. But he still had many questions, only one lead to follow, and with his face? He had no idea how he was going to get a conversation with the mayor.


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Sat Jun 15, 2019 5:35 pm
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mellifera wrote a review...



hey sound! I'm back again finally for another review! :D


The sounds of the busy street were below them now; floating up through the open window to a second-floor apartment


I really don't think that the semi-colon belongs here? I think you could use a comma and have it continue naturally.


whoever lives in this apartment really likes yellow. aside from that, I'm really loving the description? I would live in that apartment (without all the yellow lol)? it sounds real pretty. I might be won over because of all the plants and it being about a tea shop though haha


It wasn't.

A trap, that is.


This would work better if it was on the same line, rather than breaking it up, since they're tied together. Splitting up paragraphs involves change of Time, Topic, Place, or Person, and this is none of those.

James tried to piece it together.


I'd throw this sentence out, because it's telling and not showing. In the next paragraph, you describe what he's figured out anyway, so this line doesn't serve any purpose (so this goes for this and any other sentences like it).


aw man, poor Killian and Marren and Linda?? that's really sad :(
also though- they in the city when it happened, yeah? I know this is an recounting and such, but like,,, I'd imagine if they're at some shop or stocking their wagon outside the shop (thus being in the city, even the outer city), somebody would have noticed a rogue griffin? I don't know what sort of police activity or animal control or whatever they have for griffins escaping (because I feel like that would be a Thing), but it seems odd nobody would do anything about a griffin Swooping by to snatch a child? even like, the farmer not noticing? or anyone else? no farm hands or other people around at all?


"Griffins don't come that close to the city,


Aren't the Griffin Games in the city? Where do they house/stable the griffins when they aren't fighting? I can't imagine having them far away from the fighting pit/arena would be very... productive? easy to do?

"We don't gamble," Marren interjected for emphasis,


Honestly, this interjection makes them sound more guilty than less so? I don't know if that's what you were going for, but I though I'd point it out. It seems like you could have had Linda's broken up dialogue ("not that we bet on games" - "it's a fool's pursuit")… not broken up. ("The purple one's a rising champion. We don't bet on those games, it's a fool's pursuit, but it had to have been the Ranger" and even maybe adding something about hearing people talking about the Ranger? I imagine that would be a thing people would do around the city. Unless them like, lying about gambling on the games is pivotal to the plot, I feel like it doesn't have much of a place here at all, so just brushing over it quickly seems like the better course of action here)


I'm going to go back to my other point for just a second (and maybe I'm just misremembering because it's been a hot minute), but if they were in the city, it seems really implausible for nobody else to have seen the griffin attacking a child and carrying him off? Like, even if by some chance it was an abandoned area where Killian got taken, I think a giant bird hybrid flying off with a screaming kid would attract attention.


Maybe Marren and Linda were already worried about getting into trouble, but I would have that mentioned then? I'm wondering why they didn't go to the authorities before? (that was... changed? yes? I know Linda had talked to a guard originally?? right??? but then you changed it???? *lays down* it's been A While)


He wanted to imagine that the city authorities were on top of it,


A few things. 1) if the city's authorities were on top of it, shouldn't the Killian incident not happened? 2) does James trust authority? I know the next line is literally "I DOUBT THEY'RE DOING MUCH", but it seems odd that'd he would be like "I'd like to put my faith in authority", which I am deriving from the fact that he's a criminal but also that like, does he know Ruddlan real well? I don't know, I'm always suspicious of authority figures lol so I might be biased.

They had a reputation to keep. Tourists to ensure the safety of. Business to keep.


I don't like the repetition of "to keep", and since the reputation is tied to the business of the Griffin Games staying up, it seems kind of unnecessary to mention both in that way.

Marren and Linda both looked at each other.


Very minor, but "both" has no effect on the sentence? if they're looking at each other, it's already implied.


I think I said this before in the original part of 15.1, but it seems odd to me that James is all about trying to help these people now? I don't think he's a bad person, per say, but... he seemed really shut off from Clandestine, wanted to distance himself from her and her problems after she found out he was James. I get that he's pretending to be "Matt", but it seems odd that he's risking getting caught by Alexander and Carter to help strangers find consolation/closure. His character seems a bit wobbly right now, like you're not quite sure about his moral compass or couldn't quite transition from James being more cold and self-preserving (I mean this in a way that he's trying to stay alive and away from bounty hunters and,, such) to willing to help people on the streets just because.
(as an addition, if he somehow felt inspired or w/e by Clandestine and her compassion, I would have liked to see that earlier? This sounds like something she would do 100%, but not so much James, which makes me wonder if it's a subconscious way to try to be more like her or make her happy even if she's not there or whatever the reason, but there wasn't enough of it beforehand to make to completely plausible?)


Alexander was a looming threat in the back of James' mind as he approached the arena, and the looming building only grew larger.


Multiple things here. 1) the repetition of "looming" doesn't read well. 2) you describe Alexander as the looming threat in the beginning of the sentence, but then "only grew larger" refers to the building and not Alexander, even though Alexander was the first thing to be described/introduced and not the arena. I would have nix "and the looming building only grew larger" altogether? when you're approaching a building from far away, of course it gets larger. it's unnecessary to describe it unless you're going for like, a feeling of anxiety or impending doom, which I don't believe James is getting anxious, but I'm willing to believe he feels kind of pressured because of Alexander. I just wish that would have been executed better, if that were the case.
(I,,, hope that makes sense lol I was just jumping around there oop)

He knew the city guards wouldn't be very useful,


vERY

and he assumed he'd get the same treatment Marren and Linda had received.


oop did I,,, comment on this and completely miss when they were talking to the authorities/mentioned talking to them??? if so,,, sorry oop

This isn't an argument, Gideon.


you've got a Gideon and a Carter xD brb going to roll around

When I woke up, the griffin was gone. Its egg too.


O: its eGG!!

He could tlel the man was losing interest in talking about his recently lost job.


losing/lost repetition that I'm going to complain about ;)

Now he really needed to go back.


really

He had no idea how he was going to get a conversation with the mayor.


*whispers* ask clanny to do it she's looking into the griffins too


I will have to say that it does seem kind of odd how the story transitioned? Like, we had Clandestine and James, and plots like Clanny's history and magic, and James' treason/being a wanted man were getting woven really nice into the main story line, and now all that seems to be tossed aside (temporarily I would hope??) for them to work separate (but really the same) jobs? I trust you'll go back to other story lines, of course! But right now I'm just wondering how all this griffin stuff fits in? not that I'm complaining about griffins though, love me some griffins. It just... doesn't feel quite natural how they're being woven into the story right now. And maybe it will be later! I don't know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Anyway! I hope you're having a great time, I'll try to get to the other chapters as soon as I can :D keep on writing <33




soundofmind says...


Me??? I am struggling. Thank you so much for your commentary, it's totally valid and I wish I had answers to your questions/concerns aldshf

I think this does feel more ooc for James, but at this point in writing, it's kind of late to rework it/rewrite it.. ..... so I'll have to just.... keep this in mind for next draft/revising/editing

Bless u <3



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Sat Jun 15, 2019 1:16 pm
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Omnom wrote a review...



AYYYY this is the last review for my star! WOOOOOOOOOOOO okay let's get to it!!

So, I think scribbs asked this in a review a couple chapter parts ago, but I'm going to echo it: why would James leave Clandestine because he didn't want to be around people and make connections etc. etc. because they were not blending with his edgy routine, just to help a random man in a random alley just because he was crying? Also, did I forget to mention that Alexander was in the same town just a few moments ago? Because it SURE SEEMED LIKE JAMES DID xD

I'm sure I'm sounding like a broken record at this point, but I think this feels really out of character for James, and all of this that started with the griffins really has been feeling off. I blame the griffins XD but seriously I don't think this is the best direction for the story. BUT since it's the story I have, I'll continue reading :P

James says Alexander's a looming threat, but issssss he really? I think that James just doesn't want to leave the city because he doesn't really want to leave Clandestine. Which, dude I get but you're still risking yourself and doing an act of good will for a stranger doesn't help that XD

So, I actually am enjoying the threads you're starting here with the griffins. I just, wish that some of the threads were answered from earlier before this was started. This feels like a new story arc, and in some ways it is. You introduced griffins, have your characters both doing new quests, and all of it revolves around these griffins. You have moved on from the kidnapping, but still clinging onto it. I honestly think this would be better if it was written in later, after some kind of act 1 climax, and you were setting one up perfectly honestly. Or maybe act 2? Who knows, just an act XD but, what you have is interesting, and is setting up for something cool and who doesn't love griffins, right?




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Sun May 26, 2019 1:03 am
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Dossereana wrote a review...



Hi @soundofmind I am here to do a quick review on your work, by the way I was EagleFly before hand, I just got a name change.

The sounds of the busy street were below them now; floating up through the open window to a second-floor apartment above a small tea shop.

I think that this line was a great way to start the chapter of, it was just so clear.

Flowers and herbs grew in little pots that hung over the windowsill, and the sun angled in to illuminate the room.

The walls were painted forest green, and shelves filled with plants lined the walls. A faded yellow couch sat near the edge of the room in front of a long table littered with water stains. The only thing on the walls was a long, yellow scarf that stretched out to fill empty space, pinned up at either end.

There was a wooden divider that split the small room in two, and James could not see beyond it. His desire to respect for the couple was all that was keeping him from looking behind to check for surprise visitors, in case it was some kind of trap.

This was a lot of description, and it was really nice how all the lines blended into one another. One thing though the bit in bold is the bit that I am a little confused about. I think these lines in bold could do with a little bit of work. In some way thoughs lines just are not making much sens. Maybe in some other way do that bit in James thoughts.

The man James had met in the alleyway had invited him into his home and introduced himself as Marren. James had lent him an ear, listening to his story, but a large part of it got lost when Marren started to cry again. James tried to piece it together.
I am not really shore about this line, I feel like James and Marren's name are getting a bit mixed up from the first to the last line here. I think it is all confusing from the first line. I think its the words that say himself as Marren, I feel like your saying James Is Marren. but he is not so I am just a little bit confused with that bit.

The man shrugged. "Some kind of smoke came flowing into the room. I thought there was a fire, but then I must've hit my head on something... I fell asleep somehow. When I woke up, the griffin was gone. Its egg too."

I found this bit really interesting when the man started talking. I really like were this chapter is going, the plot is moving a lot, I am really surprised by what is happening, never stop writing sound.

So that is all that I can say, If I was being to harsh and mean then pleas forgive me for I am really sorry for it. So keep up the great work. This chapter was great I am so ready to read the next one. :D

@Dossereana Out In The Sky Of Reviews

Happy Review Day!




soundofmind says...


Thank you so much for your review and catching those confusing sentences! I'll fix those right away! :) And no worries! Nothing you said was too harsh. I always appreciate your reviews, and I'm so happy you're reading and following along with the story.



Dossereana says...


Your welcome. :D I hope you have a nice day.




Some people file their [tax] returns inside of a dead fish.
— John Oliver