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The Lost Dragon Chapter 3.2 (LMS VI)

by soundofmind


Chapter 3: Anxious: The Cows and Me

That morning, they woke with the sunrise. Clandestine was on the last watch, so she got to watch the sun come up over the horizon. With nothing to obstruct the view but the low, rolling hills, the brilliant sunrise filled the whole sky, painting the expanse with a gradient of orange, pink, and blue.

With the rising of the sun came warmth, and the chill of the early morning slowly started to melt away. Clandestine had managed to keep the fire alive through the early hours of morning, sneaking in a spark of her own flame. You could say that she was, perhaps, playing with fire, both in the literal and metaphorical sense of the saying, but Clandestine felt like it was a low risk to make sparks when she was pretending to use spark stones.

It was just faster, and she was lazy. Besides, her fire always burned hotter and quicker anyway.

When everyone got up, there was no morning meal prepared. Instead, everyone ate away at snacks they had in their packs while Gregor had his men pack up.

Clandestine didn't have much to do besides roll her blanket back up and tie it down to Billy's saddle, but she did notice that something seemed off with the cattle.

Now, she was no cow expert, but she knew when creatures were looking a little antsy. If she noticed it, she knew Gregor must've felt it too.

"They're restless this morning," she said, standing by Billy as Gregor passed by.

Gregor looked back at her, worry showing in his eyes.

"That's odd," he said. "I ain't seen anything."

"Maybe they just miss home," Clandestine joked with a small smile.

Gregor grinned, but it didn't seem to alleviate his fears. His brows pinched together.

"Well, I guess that means we should get going, then," he said. "You keep an eye out."

And that was when Clandestine got to see real cowboys at work.

She had to admit, she never had the opportunity to see cowboys in action, herding real cows. She'd only ever run into them when they were outside of their element, when they stopped into cities, usually crashing taverns or inns as they passed through.

They came around the herd on each side. Gregor went out at the front, leading the way about fifteen feet or so ahead of everyone. Meanwhile, Percy pushed the cattle on the left, Kenneth on the right, and Matt pushed them from the back.

And that was where Gregor told Clandestine to ride. In the back, where she'd be able to have a view of the whole herd - and if Gregor caught anything up ahead, he said he'd holler back to her.

Of course, things were a little tense.

Clandestine rode behind Matt for a while. Every now and again she noticed how he'd look back at her, like he was checking if she was still there. In a normal situation she'd think he was concerned she'd get lost, but she couldn't help but wonder if he was watching his back. Something about his scan of the herd seemed deceptively calm. It was like he was trying so hard to look calm that it gave off the impression it was fake. A fake calm. Too calm to be real.

Then again, it was possible she was overthinking things.

The pull of anxiety pushed her in two directions. Forward, and back. She'd inch back when she was afraid Matt would notice something was off about her and she'd inch forward when she felt like she didn't have a good enough view of him to make sure nothing was off about him. And of course, in between, she'd be looking around for monsters or anything else that was odd.

She played this dance for a few hours before she finally got sick of it and caved.

The silence was agonizing. She was tired of feeling anxious the whole time. Nothing was happening. She was bored out of her mind. She was used to having to travel alone, but when she was around other people it was like there was no excuse to just do nothing all the time. She ached for conversation even if it was with a man she didn't trust.

Inching forward, she noticed Matt glanced over his shoulder again, looking back at her. For a moment, their eyes met, and she couldn't tell if his face said: "What?" in the "What do you want?" kind of way or the "What are you looking at me for?" kind of way. Unable to decide, Clandestine simply took it as an invitation.

Mustering a small smile, she hurried Billy up beside Elliot and matched their pace.

"So," she said, looking at him closely. "Which cow is your favorite?"

Matt stared at her for half a second with a blank expression, but when her question processed, his eyebrows shot up and he let out a singular, quiet "ha" from the back of his throat.

"These aren't milk cows," he said. "They're meat cows. You can't get too attached."

Clandestine smirked.

"See, you're not supposed to," she said, narrowing her eyes. "But it still happens."

Matt pursed his lips and looked out at the herd. He hummed.

"Is it the black one with the white spot between its eyes?" Clandestine asked. "Or is it the smelly brown one with the stringy tail?"

Matt huffed through his nose but didn't quite smile.

He pointed.

"See the brown one over there?" he asked.

Clandestine had to admit, she didn't. Half the cows were brown.

"Uhhhh..." she drew out, trying to figure out where exactly he was pointing. It didn't seem exact.

"I like that one," he said.

Clandestine narrowed her eyes at him.

"You just picked a random cow, didn't you?" she asked.

"You don't believe me?" Matt asked, looking over to her with a smile in his eyes.

"Okay," she said, sitting up a bit straighter in her saddle. "Tell me one thing you like about that cow that makes it exceptional."

"It has a very deep moo," he said. "That I find very amusing."

Clandestine let out a light laugh and grinned, watching as Matt's eyes seemed to have a glint of comedic mischief in them, even though the rest of his face seemed relaxed, like he was purposefully keeping a straight face.

"Oh, sure," she said. "I didn't know cows 'moo-ed' in different pitches."

"Guess you don't know much about cows," Matt said.

Clandestine snorted.

"I guess you'll just have to teach me," Clandestine said, a smirk pulling at the corners of her mouth as she quickly glanced over the herd before returning her gaze to Matt.

"What's the moo sound like?" she asked.

Matt was pretty busy constantly scanning the area around them, but at that question, he actually looked at her and raised a brow.

"Just so I can get an idea," Clandestine said. "Your voice is pretty deep. I bet you could do a good low moo impression."

Matt huffed through his nose, and she could see the amusement again in his eyes.

"Sure--" he started to say, but he stopped talking when they heard Mr. Gregor up ahead. He was shouting back at them.

"There's some flying boar up ahead!" Mr. Gregor said. "We'll go around!"

Clandestine pulled Billy back a little, not wanting to get in the way of the ranchers as they pushed and led the cattle. Matt rode forward, but she caught him glance back at her with a look she could only explain as one that was satisfied there'd been an interruption - as if he'd gotten away with something, when in reality, he was only spared from being silly.

Gregor and Percy began to pull the herd to the left while Kenneth pushed from the right. Matt began to push against the back of the herd, and Clandestine merely followed as they came up over the top of a hill at an angle.

When they reached the top, Clandestine saw the other side of the hill was a little more patchy. As they'd been traveling for hours through the plains, all the hills had looked about the same, aside from a few rocks or spindly trees here and there. But this one was more than just patchy. It looked like the patches of missing grass were dug up and unearthed.

She didn't think people would be digging out here, and this didn't look like the work of earth mages. And when she was traveling out into the plains alone, she hadn't gone this way. She hadn't seen anything that could cause holes like that.

She paused at the top of the hill, feeling uneasy. In the back of her mind, she could only think of one thing that this reminded her of.

Sandworms.


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Sun Jan 29, 2023 12:01 am
Dossereana wrote a review...



Hi @soundofmind I'm back for another review, you going to get sick of me leaving a review at this rate. But whatever let's jump right in.

With nothing to obstruct the view but the low, rolling hills, the brilliant sunrise filled the whole sky, painting the expanse with a gradient of orange, pink, and blue.


who I just love description like this it's so nice, it puts the best images in my head, and it lets me see it as though it where in real life.

The silence was agonizing. She was tired of feeling anxious the whole time. Nothing was happening. She was bored out of her mind. She was used to having to travel alone, but when she was around other people it was like there was no excuse to just do nothing all the time.


Okay I've noticed that you use she a lot and while this is good so you don't say the character's name so much because it can sound a bit repetitive, it can also be a down fall because you're saying she too much as well. So, all I'm suggesting is that you say Clandestine's name and say she but in a more balanced way. Don't worry I struggle as well when it comes to repeating things.

These aren't milk cows," he said. "They're meat cows. You can't get too attached."

Clandestine smirked.

"See, you're not supposed to," she said, narrowing her eyes. "But it still happens."

Matt pursed his lips and looked out at the herd. He hummed.


Well I know that you need characters like Matt but wow I don't like his attitude. I feel like his just so mean while pure Clandestine is such a sweet person and is only trying to come up with a conversation.

"You just picked a random cow, didn't you?" she asked.

"You don't believe me?" Matt asked, looking over to her with a smile in his eyes.


Honestly, I thought he'd picked a random cow to, but I'll have to read on to truly no. This is good character development by the way.

"Just so I can get an idea," Clandestine said. "Your voice is pretty deep. I bet you could do a good low moo impression."


This got me laughing, I was really hoping that Matt would do it. but I guess that will have to wait.

She paused at the top of the hill, feeling uneasy. In the back of her mind, she could only think of one thing that this reminded her of.

Sandworms.


Ooh this was a great way to end the chapter, I am happy that you has already posted lots after this one. :)

so that was all I can say again a really good chapter sound! So if I was being harsh I'm really sorry that was not my intention, I'm only saying what I think might be helpful, I hope to read more of your chapters, keep up the great work.

I hope you have a great day/night witch ever side of the world your on.

@Dossereana Flying Over The Green Room And Spreading Shards Of Encouragement




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Sun Dec 18, 2022 3:00 am
Liminality wrote a review...



Hi sound!

First Impressions

The mood in this one seems a bit more fun and cheery than the last! I thought the rising sun created this nice and hopeful atmosphere compared to how dark and lonely things seemed at the beginning of the previous part. There were a bunch of funny moments, and James in particular was pretty likeable in this one. I also like Clandestine’s use of her powers and her observation of the grass towards the end of the chapter – I thought those were cool.

Characters

You could say that she was, perhaps, playing with fire, both in the literal and metaphorical sense of the saying, but Clandestine felt like it was a low risk to make sparks when she was pretending to use spark stones.
It was just faster, and she was lazy. Besides, her fire always burned hotter and quicker anyway.

From this bit I get the sense that Clandestine is proud of her magic – she doesn’t like not being able to use it, maybe, and that’s why she’s willing to take small risks just to be able to have it active. Is there a feeling that generally bothers mages in this setting if they don’t use their magic for too long, I wonder? Or is this just a Clandestine thing? Anyway, I agree with her that it’s a low risk – after all from James’ POV we know he didn’t even really see her use magic when she had that torch with her.
She'd inch back when she was afraid Matt would notice something was off about her and she'd inch forward when she felt like she didn't have a good enough view of him to make sure nothing was off about him. And of course, in between, she'd be looking around for monsters or anything else that was odd.

This is an unusual and really fun way to have this kind of character conflict. I think normally in a story where two characters are suspicious of each other and trying to hide things themselves, there will be something like them almost letting their secret slip in front of the supporting cast – but here it’s like the focus is more on the two of them keeping it discreet, and a lot of funny shenanigans happen as they do it, too.

Plot

I like that Clandestine is going to have a chance to do some monster hunting. It feels like the pace might pick up a bit from here, which will be interesting to see.
Now, she was no cow expert, but she knew when creatures were looking a little antsy. If she noticed it, she knew Gregor must've felt it too.
"They're restless this morning," she said, standing by Billy as Gregor passed by.

I like that you set up the problem early on in this chapter. It felt like it developed quite naturally and I didn’t feel overly caught off guard by the sandworms thing in the end.
But this one was more than just patchy. It looked like the patches of missing grass were dug up and unearthed.

Speaking of sandworms – I’m kind of imagining the classic video game enemy, where they’re giant worms that pop out of the ground.

Comedy

I also like where you placed the comedy relief in this segment and how it gets cut off by the flying boars. It sort of ‘distracts’ me from the issue with the cows just enough such that when Clandestine sees the odd patches of grass it still feels like an ‘oof’ moment, if that makes sense.
Clandestine narrowed her eyes at him.
"You just picked a random cow, didn't you?" she asked.

That’s what I think he did, too. James probably hasn’t been there long enough to have a ‘favourite’ cow xD
"It has a very deep moo," he said. "That I find very amusing."

That *is* funny! I’m not sure where I’ve heard about deep cow moos before, but it also sounds legit to me. Again, James’ curtness and reticence seems to be playing out in his favour. He never says enough such that he starts running away from his ‘story’ and seeming suspicious. I feel like he keeps Clandestine guessing – like is he hiding something, or is he just a quiet guy? Though if I were Clandestine, this interaction would make me think he’s probably not going to report me to the mage hunters, since he seems to be being friendly rather than all guarded and afraid like you’d expect someone who hates/ is scared of magic to be?

Overall

I’m pretty excited to see where the story is headed from here. The character interactions are definitely a strong spot in your writing, and I’m keen to see how those will play into the sandworms business.

Hope this helps – and keep writing!
-Lim





Don't let fear keep you from some amazing opportunities.
— WeepingWisteria