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The Lost Dragon 21.1

by soundofmind


Chapter 21.1: No Talk Me I Hurty

James had experienced many different types of pain in his years on the run as a wanted man. Often, it felt like his fate toyed with him. The moment he'd think he was in the clear and the moment he'd fully recovered, something else would come. Be it a bullet, an arrow, or a punch to the gut - it was always something.

He'd already accepted that this was his lot in life. He'd brought it on himself.

He just hadn't expected so much to happen all at once.

He took in a deep breath. Billy and Elliot were tied to a tree off to the side. Clandestine had hurried to get a fire started while James sat and put actual pressure on his wound in the waiting. All he'd really been doing atop his horse was fill a sock up with blood and nearly lose his balance. Though it had been a nice thought, it wasn't quite possible to put pressure on a wound while riding a galloping horse in the dark. Now, he was leaning against a tree. It was easier to lean into a bunched up cloth and push it up against his wound that way than to reach around his back like some kind of double-jointed spider.

James watched as Clandestine cleared away a pit of dirt and piled dry twigs and leaves and broken branches. The whole time he'd been sitting, she hadn't stopped moving. She was running around, tossing more flammables into the pit before she ignited it - not with a firestarter, but with her hand. She hardly had to breathe on the magical flame before it caught, and started eating up the dry leaves.

Soon enough, they had a small pocket of light under the stars.

A shiver ran up his legs and arms as if his limbs were thawing. James hadn't realized quite how cold the night air had become until the warmth of the fire started to prick at his skin. He was covered in blood and sweat and dirt, and he could finally make it out in the light. He stared down at his shirt - more red and brown than it was white. Why had he chosen to wear white? White always stained. It never held up well in the long-run.

He wasn't sure how long he ended up staring down at his feet, his toes starting to feel a burning sensation through his boots, only being a foot away from the fire.

"Laura taught me a bit about sewing up wounds and keeping blood in," Clandestine said. She was standing right next to him, and he flinched, skittering to the side and losing the cloth on his back as it fell between his back and the tree. He hadn't realized she was there.

Clandestine jumped a little too, before drawing closer again, putting a hand on his shoulder. He flinched again, but not as much. She didn't move her hand.

"Y'know, back when I got stabbed in the leg. I already knew a bit from patching up myself when I've been in tight spots, but I'm glad she showed me how to do it right," she said quietly, lowering her voice near to a whisper. "I just need some light to see what I'm doing."

James was breathing hard, and he'd fixed his gaze on her hand as she spoke, before looking up into her face. Her eyebrows were knit together, tight in worry, but she mustered the smallest smile.

She'd come back for him again, even when things hadn't gone according to plan. She also saved him. Again.

"I'll help you get to the fire," she said softly. "We need to act fast."

After James nodded, time didn't seem to exist anymore. First, they peeled off his bloody shirt. Then, she wrapped his shoulder tightly, with padding over the cut. She said she'd sew it up after the bullet wound. He didn't argue. Next thing he knew, he was lying with his stomach on the forest floor. Clandestine was sitting beside him on his right, facing the fire on his left. Things seemed to be going smoothly once she said she got the bleeding under control, but when she started digging into his skin to find the bullet, he dug his fingers into the ground.

Clandestine had been explaining everything she was doing until she started fishing for the fragments of the bullet, and after that, James found himself somewhere else.

He was awake, but his mind was empty as he focused on digging his fingers into the grass and dirt, knuckles turning white as he gripped the earth as tightly as he could.

When it was all over, he was sitting up again, back against the tree, in a clean shirt, with bandages underneath, snugly wrapped around his shoulder and torso.

Clandestine was moving more slowly, even though he could tell she was still trying to hurry around. She was packing everything away, back into their bags, and taking a long look at Billy. He watched as she stopped to pet him, holding her head against the steed's neck and stroking his snout slowly.

"Is he alright?" he asked.

Clandestine's head shot up and she looked over at him. "What?"

"Billy."

Clandestine blinked, before letting out a small laugh. "Oh. He'll be okay, I think. He's just tired. Poor guy's real sweaty. He's been doing lots of running. We uh - well, I had to hurry to find you. Things didn't go exactly as expected on my end."

James leaned his head back against the tree.

"Mine either."

Clandestine smiled, but it was weak, and quickly faded. He knew it wasn't just Billy who was tired.

"You should get some rest. I don't think I'll be sleeping for a while."

Clandestine laughed again, but this time more forceful. Almost pained. She leaned her head back against Billy.

"I don't think I will either," she admitted in a sigh. "Besides, I need to take care of Billy. And Elliot too-"

"I can-"

"No," Clandestine cut in sharply. "You got shot, and I saw how Alexander tackled you to the ground. You don't need to be doing anything but sitting or lying down. I'll be fine."

James frowned, but he fell back into silence, and Clandestine didn't prompt him anymore as she turned her attention to Billy and Elliot.

His eyes fell to the fire, watching as the fire ate away at the wood. The crackle of the fire mixed with the distant hum of crickets and the occasional owl in the trees. The cool air hung around him as a sharp contrast to the pool of warmth at his feet. He could hear the shuffling of the horses as Clandestine started to take some of the weight off their backs and brush them.

It was just then that he realized he didn't even know if she'd gotten hurt. He hadn't spotted any blood on her (besides, perhaps, his own), and nothing seemed to be broken. But he could tell that she was tired - she was moving slowly and deliberately, especially in comparison to all of the running around she'd been doing before stitching him up.

He took in a deep breath, but his breath hitched about halfway through. It hurt. He let it out early.

He'd done nothing to deserve Clandestine's kindness after how he'd treated her.

He stared down into the fire as guilt ate away at his conscience. The vision of the flames dancing in the dark consumed his attention for some time until his eyes caught on a puff of smoke rising in the dark.

"We might need to put the fire out soon if we don't want Alexander to catch up again," James said quietly.

Clandestine glanced at him as she squatted by her bag, looking through it for something. "Good," she muttered, turning her face away. "I didn't get a good hit in at him anyway. If he wants to come back, he can."

James wasn't sure how to respond to that.

"I'm just saying it would be wise to be cautious," he answered, watching Clandestine closely.

Clandestine pulled out a waterskin. It looked like she was done with the horses. She stood up slowly before walking over to him, sitting down beside him, just a little closer to his feet and the fire.

She looked down at the waterskin in her hands and then at the fire.

"I can put it out if you want," she said quietly. "I just thought you might be cold."

He wiggled his toes a little inside his boots. They were warm, which he was thankful for, but he wasn't sure that it was worth getting found again for. But he'd also lost a lot of blood, and he had been cold, and it certainly felt better to stay warm.

He sighed.

"We can let it burn a little longer," he said. "Then I can just grab my blanket if we don't need to move again."

Clandestine nodded, setting down the waterskin beside her and drawing her knees up to her chest, hugging them loosely.

She didn't say anything. He waited for a minute, and then two, and more for her to speak, but she stayed silent, staring over the fire, somewhere in the direction of the horses.

Guilt, again, fed off the silence. James started picking at the seam on his pant-pocket.

"Are you okay?" he asked, his voice soft.

Clandestine lifted her head but didn't look at him.

"What? Of course I am. I'm all in one piece. The griffin got her egg. You're alive. It's okay. I'm relieved!" She threw up her hands, before wrapping them back around her knees. "Like you have no idea how relieved I was. I mean, I thought I'd never see you agai-" her voice cut out for a moment. She looked down and cleared her throat. "Again."

He resisted the urge to scoot up closer to her. She wanted to hide her face, and he'd respect that.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "For all of the pain I've put you through."

Clandestine's shoulders tensed, and for a second, she squeezed herself before lifting her head and looking back at him. Her eyes were misty.

"What? James, no. It's not your fault. I was the one who dragged you into this whole griffin thing. I was just being impulsive, and dumb like I always-"

"You're not-"

"I probably led Alexander right to you!" she said, her voice rising. "Again! I'm the reason you got shot!"

James's brows knit together tightly and he looked her in the eyes.

"You are not the reason I got shot," he said. "Look, Alexander has been tracking me for a long time - probably before we even met. And even if he wasn't, you're not responsible for him, and you're not responsible for me. I'm a wanted man. You don't have control over that."

Clandestine's eyes were welling up and her lower lip started to tremble, but she pressed her lips together in a tight line.

"But none of this would've happened if I hadn't suggested finding the egg," she whispered.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Alexander would've found me again sooner or later," he said, his tone softening again.

Clandestine sniffed and turned away for a moment, wiping her eyes before looking back at him. Before she could say anything else, James needed to finish his apology.

"I'm sorry for lying to you," he said. "About who I was. My name. All of it."

Clandestine froze, her eyes widening as she stared at him, locking her eyes with his. She'd only just wiped her eyes, and they were starting to well up again. She sniffed again and looked back at the fire with her chin resting on her arms, still practically curled in a ball. James wasn't sure what he'd expected as a reply, but the sudden silence made his stomach turn and his chest tighten with anxiety.

The minute that followed was agonizing. As each second passed he wondered if he should say more, or if that would render the apology ingenuine. Should he directly ask for her forgiveness? Would that be selfish? He wanted to give her the choice. She didn't have to forgive him - it wasn't like he'd done anything to deserve it. But the reality started sinking in that he hadn't just burned the bridge between him and Clandestine, but he'd really hurt her in the process.

He thought back to when they first met, and the blind trust she'd given him, inviting him to go monster hunting. She'd been so quick to welcome him into her world, and he hadn't even thought of her as a friend - just a means to get some money and alleviate some boredom. He'd spent so much of the time spent with her thinking about when he would leave that he hadn't even stopped to really get to know her. Their entire relationship had been formed through fight after fight and helping each other recover.

Not that that was a surprise, seeing as he never went out of his way to get to know anyone anymore, but still.

In his pocket, he was rubbing his thumb over his forefinger in a flicking motion until his nail caught on a loose thread in his pocket.

Finally, Clandestine spoke up, quiet, with her mouth behind her arms.

"Are you going to leave me again? After this?"

His heart broke at the sadness in her voice. He took a slow, measured breath. In the back of his mind, paranoia started listing off a million reasons to say no. It wasn't realistic. She could get killed. But at the end of that long list, it all boiled down to one thing: could he trust her? If she really knew everything?

She was a mage, hiding in plain sight. Her life was at risk just as much, if not more than his if she were to ever be discovered. She was a living relic of times before the calamity. She didn't even seem to hold any loyalties to any people group or kingdom. Clandestine was just doing what she knew - monster hunting in a world filled with monsters of every kind. But she wasn't hunting him, and for reasons he didn't understand, she seemed to like him enough to want to stick around and even ask that question.

And he didn't mind her company. He really didn't.

"We barely stayed apart for a day. I don't see any reason why I should."

She slowly turned her head to look at him, eyes wide with her eyebrows drawn up and pinched together. He swallowed, still feeling his stomach twisting in knots. What was he saying? Would he regret this?

"So... no."


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Fri Jul 03, 2020 7:35 pm
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



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

And tis the last review for this novel

First Impression: OHHHHHH!! What a place to end. I hope you update this sometime soon. It's been a month. I really want to see how this ends.

Anyway let's jump right into it,

He took in a deep breath. Billy and Elliot were tied to a tree off to the side. Clandestine had hurried to get a fire started while James sat and put actual pressure on his wound in the waiting. All he'd really been doing atop his horse was fill a sock up with blood and nearly lose his balance. Though it had been a nice thought, it wasn't quite possible to put pressure on a wound while riding a galloping horse in the dark. Now, he was leaning against a tree. It was easier to lean into a bunched up cloth and push it up against his wound that way than to reach around his back like some kind of double-jointed spider.


Great description right there.

"Laura taught me a bit about sewing up wounds and keeping blood in," Clandestine said. She was standing right next to him, and he flinched, skittering to the side and losing the cloth on his back as it fell between his back and the tree. He hadn't realized she was there.


That's just a really weird phrase. Maybe go for preventing blood loss or something like that.

Clandestine was moving more slowly, even though he could tell she was still trying to hurry around. She was packing everything away, back into their bags, and taking a long look at Billy. He watched as she stopped to pet him, holding her head against the steed's neck and stroking his snout slowly.


And it another cute moment there. I love these two horses so much now.

Guilt, again, fed off the silence. James started picking at the seam on his pant-pocket.


It's nice to see James show these emotions about Clandestine finally. The wheels in his head are visibly turning as he finally accepts the idea that maybe Clandestine could really be a friend to him.

The minute that followed was agonizing. As each second passed he wondered if he should say more, or if that would render the apology ingenuine. Should he directly ask for her forgiveness? Would that be selfish? He wanted to give her the choice. She didn't have to forgive him - it wasn't like he'd done anything to deserve it. But the reality started sinking in that he hadn't just burned the bridge between him and Clandestine, but he'd really hurt her in the process.


Pretty nicely timed realization right there.

She was a mage, hiding in plain sight. Her life was at risk just as much, if not more than his if she were to ever be discovered. She was a living relic of times before the calamity. She didn't even seem to hold any loyalties to any people group or kingdom. Clandestine was just doing what she knew - monster hunting in a world filled with monsters of every kind. But she wasn't hunting him, and for reasons he didn't understand, she seemed to like him enough to want to stick around and even ask that question.


And this thing. When will Carter inform those mage hunters?

"So... no."


And what a place to end.

And that's it from me for the chapters that have been uploaded so far.

Overall: Well this chapter had a lot of really well written emotion. It was really good. The character growth is very visible. And that's it so far. I hope the goblins put in an appearance soon.

And now that this is the last one I must say that your chapter titles throughout have been absolutely amazing!!

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

Stay Safe
Harry




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Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:45 pm
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Cow wrote a review...



Hello, hello! I am here to review, so let's get started, shall we?\

From what I can tell, dialogue once again I believe. Try reading your dialogue out loud to make sure its not just there, that it has some purpose, it will also help it seem like an actual person is there, saying what you have written, put down on the paper and to help portray what you want you to the reader. It should help with the flow and taste, not to mention help you understand how you want a character to talk or if what they are saying fits their personality, and just how they function in general. There wasn't much in the dialogue, like characters looking at one another, making faces, fixing clothing etc. But you didn't repeat the word said a lot and allowed for other descriptors so that's good!

The description seems fine! You seem to able to convey nervousness, like picking at a thread in a pocket very nicely so good on you for that! I can see those characters in my head well, not to mention their actions or the area around them. Not bad!

Grammar isn't my strong suit, but it seemed find. Maybe some typos here and there but who doesn't have those, right!? Overall, not bad.

- Cow




soundofmind says...


Thanks for the review, Cow! Just a question for clarity - what about the dialogue felt like it wasn't purposeful? What didn't feel realistic about it?



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Magebird wrote a review...



Hey sound! Remember how I said I was just going to send you my comments via Discord and not write any reviews on TLD?

I apparently lied. :P

To start off, I guess it's probably a good idea to address what just happened in the novel - you know I spent all of it geeking out, but I think the reason I was struggling to review it was the pacing. I'm not sure if it was the length of the sections or the fact that I read them so spread out. Both are definitely more of a me thing than a TLD thing - it's been awhile since I read works longer than 2,000 words online, and I was terrible about keeping up with the last few chapters.

But I thought you might want to know. :)

Now, time to get into the actual content of this chapter! I'll start off by commenting on individual lines with critiques/fangirling, and then move onto my overall thoughts (which probably will include more fangirling :P).

Chapter 21.1: No Talk Me I Hurty


...James, are you sure it isn't just because you don't like talking? :P

James had experienced many different types of pain in his years on the run as a wanted man. Often, it felt like his fate toyed with him. The moment he'd think he was in the clear and the moment he'd fully recovered, something else would come. Be it a bullet, an arrow, or a punch to the gut - it was always something.


This part hits differently after our latest DTWH. :(

I really love how you describe his experiences with pain, though! For someone who isn't as well acquainted with James through roleplays and DTWH threads, I feel like it'd be the perfect insight into his character.

The whole time he'd been sitting, she hadn't stopped moving. She was running around, tossing more flammables into the pit before she ignited it - not with a firestarter, but with her hand. She hardly had to breathe on the magical flame before it caught, and started eating up the dry leaves.


I know James is the one who needs to seriously open up more, but I just love how Clanny is comfortable enough with James to use her magic. He obviously knows about it at this point; it's not surprising. But it's just a really subtle way to show that she feels safe enough with him to be herself, and I love that way too much.

Why had he chosen to wear white? White always stained. It never held up well in the long-run.


Nice job reminding the reader how long James has been doing this! :)

"Laura taught me a bit about sewing up wounds and keeping blood in," Clandestine said. She was standing right next to him, and he flinched, skittering to the side and losing the cloth on his back as it fell between his back and the tree. He hadn't realized she was there.

Clandestine jumped a little too, before drawing closer again, putting a hand on his shoulder. He flinched again, but not as much. She didn't move her hand.


I'm not sure what I love more - the fact that Clanny can care for his wounds, or the fact that he keeps flinching at her touch. The first part is useful; the second just makes my heart ache. I hope James can feel more comfortable around her someday in the near future!

Clandestine blinked, before letting out a small laugh. "Oh. He'll be okay, I think. He's just tired. Poor guy's real sweaty. He's been doing lots of running. We uh - well, I had to hurry to find you. Things didn't go exactly as expected on my end."

James leaned his head back against the tree.

"Mine either."


It's protagonist syndrome. :P Things never go right.

Also, I really love how James asked about Billy - having your MC be concerned for animals and people says a lot about their character.

"No," Clandestine cut in sharply. "You got shot, and I saw how Alexander tackled you to the ground. You don't need to be doing anything but sitting or lying down. I'll be fine."

James frowned, but he fell back into silence, and Clandestine didn't prompt him anymore as she turned her attention to Billy and Elliot.


I'm so glad Clanny is there to tell him to stop pushing himself - I have a sneaking suspicion he would be making things worse for his body if he was alone.

He'd done nothing to deserve Clandestine's kindness after how he'd treated her.


Image


This line makes me feel so conflicted. James has a tendency to make himself feel overly guilty about things, and I know that Clanny is grateful for the company that she found in him. Considering his circumstances, everything he's done around her makes sense. But Clanny's shown time and time again that she's trustworthy (minus the notebook incident) and really is in need of a buddy - like him.

"We might need to put the fire out soon if we don't want Alexander to catch up again," James said quietly.

Clandestine glanced at him as she squatted by her bag, looking through it for something. "Good," she muttered, turning her face away. "I didn't get a good hit in at him anyway. If he wants to come back, he can."


I mean, I guess that's an option? :P

why haven't we thought of doing that in any of our threads sound

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "For all of the pain I've put you through."

Clandestine's shoulders tensed, and for a second, she squeezed herself before lifting her head and looking back at him. Her eyes were misty.

"What? James, no. It's not your fault. I was the one who dragged you into this whole griffin thing. I was just being impulsive, and dumb like I always-"

"You're not-"

"I probably led Alexander right to you!" she said, her voice rising. "Again! I'm the reason you got shot!"


I've been so busy thinking about how guilty James is feeling over everything with Clanny that I didn't think of the reverse. :(

I know I gush about James so much, but I really love the personality Clanny has. She's honestly the character I relate to the most out of the two of them, so seeing her like this really hits me hard. She has a very different response to guilt than James does. James's is almost defeatist, in a way, while Clanny's more likely to put herself down in a very noticeable way. And when someone tries to object to her putting herself down, she protests it - unlike James, who would probably just fall silent.

I just really love the juxtaposition of their responses to guilt.

"I'm sorry for lying to you," he said. "About who I was. My name. All of it."


Image


His heart broke at the sadness in her voice. He took a slow, measured breath. In the back of his mind, paranoia started listing off a million reasons to say no. It wasn't realistic. She could get killed. But at the end of that long list, it all boiled down to one thing: could he trust her? If she really knew everything?


I love how his first reasons are the reasons we expect - a friendship with James is dangerous, and a long list of horrible things could happen to Clanny because of it. But then he confronts the truth that he's just unsure if he can trust her, and I love how he realizes that's the real reason he left her before.

"We barely stayed apart for a day. I don't see any reason why I should."

She slowly turned her head to look at him, eyes wide with her eyebrows drawn up and pinched together. He swallowed, still feeling his stomach twisting in knots. What was he saying? Would he regret this?

"So... no."


Image


I love this part so much! It's the perfect combination of getting what I was waiting for - them sticking together - and James's dry sense of humor. It just ahhhh. I'm so happy they've finally gotten to this point.

I guess that's the perfect segue into the rest of my review, actually! Unsurprisingly, I couldn't find anything wrong with this chapter - it was a little hard to read through all of it and write a review on it, but the only solution I can think of is posting it in slightly smaller installments.

(Or I just accept it'll take me awhile to write a review for it. :P)

Besides that, I think my biggest comment would have to be how good it is to see James and Clanny back together. One of the strengths of your novel - and writing in general - is the interactions you write between very different characters. James and Clanny had to go their separate ways before James could see that Clanny was here to stay, but I feel like one of the reasons I struggled to keep up was because we lost that dynamic for a bit. Both Clanny and James were off on their own, and they didn't really have another character to fill the role that the other played during that time.

Now that they're back together, I have a sneaking suspicion I'll be better at keeping up. :P

All in all, great job! I can't wait to see what you have in store for Clanny and James in the rest of this chapter.




soundofmind says...


I totally get you- the pacing has been really slow in some parts and I think Clandestine and James being apart just has a different vibe. But I%u2019m glad you like their reunion!!! I LOVE ALL YOUR COMMENTARY AND wow... your thoughts on how Clanny and James deal with guilt? Ahaha I didn%u2019t even think that in depth into it but it%u2019s so cool reading you put it into words cuz u right!

And I%u2019ll have to shorten uo my chapters ahahaha - this one went long (almost 3000 words). Shame on me!!!

THANK U SO MUCH FOR YOUR REVIEW AAAAAAAA LOV U



soundofmind says...


Apostrophes on mobile rlly do be turning into numbers... sorry that response looks barely legible. Also I mean %u201Cshorten UP%u201D not uo lol



Magebird says...


YOU'RE WELCOME I'M GLAD YOU LIKED IT




Love is not an emotion. Love is a promise.
— 12th Doctor