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The Lost Dragon Chapter 6.1 (LMS VI)

by soundofmind


Chapter 6: Crawling In My Skin

James woke with a start.

He shot up in the dark as stabbing pain shot down his back, radiating from his left shoulder.

Sweat made his shirt cling to his skin, and he could feel the all-too-familiar sensation of bandages layered underneath his clothes - taut around his shoulder. Taut around the pain.

Staring emptily into the night, he slowly reached up to touch his wounded shoulder. He unbuttoned a top button of his shirt so he could reach in and feel the bandaging, flush with his skin, and now melded to the wound with salve and sweat. Carefully, he tried to massage away some of the tension that had coalesced around the tender skin.

He could hear his fractured breathing shudder with a rumble in his ears. It sounded so loud. It was as if the whole earth had paused from speaking just to hear him, and he couldn't help but worry if any of the others had heard him too, or if he'd made too much noise in his sleep and waking them.

Much to his disadvantage, he couldn't make out the shadows of anyone around him yet. His eyes had yet to adjust, and at this point, it didn't matter. If someone had woken up, it was irreversible.

He just hoped that they'd leave him alone if they did.

Tucking up his legs as he sat on the ground, he leaned forward, feeling the ache of his whole frame.

It was enough to feel constant pain every day. His body already hurt all the time. And then, of course, there was this.

He closed his eyes as he rested one forearm on his knees and rested his head against it.

Another near-death experience. He could hear the voices of friends he imagined to still be around echoing the sentiment, and for some, the nuance carried sadness and empathy, but for most, it was shame.

The former day was returning to him in pieces.

It had started with the monster hunter. No, that was the day before. She'd followed him back and gotten roped into working for Gregor because he was nervous. The next day his worries had been proven true, and Clandestine had to step in.

Sandworms.

Gods, if he had a gold piece for every giant, freakish creature he'd encountered, he'd have at least three gold pieces. If he was a monster hunter, maybe that would've made sense - but he wasn't.

It came back to him in full clarity, crisp in the front of his mind.

He'd been at the back of the herd. Clandestine had been tracking the sandworm's movements and pulled away to do so.

At that moment, he'd hesitated.

He'd pulled away from the herd to go help her. Some insane part of his mind thought he was equipped to help her face off against a monster of gargantuan size and ridiculous strength. It felt wrong to leave her to take on that kind of beast alone, regardless of her profession.

But she told him to go back, and he did.

Tried to.

The arm attached to his injured shoulder hung limply at his side. He wondered how many more times his body could be ripped apart before it'd stop working entirely. He wondered how long it'd take for him to recover from this one. He wondered why he'd run in blind on purpose. He knew the answer.

He lifted his head and shook away that trail of thought.

The conversation that followed the worm's end was spotty, but he remembered the gist of it.

Clandestine was a mage, and he'd sworn to keep that a secret. Somehow his poor eyesight had come up, but she'd agreed not to bring it up again. The contrast between the two subjects would've been comical, but he knew the weight of Clandestine's secret was far from a laughing matter.

He was putting his life on the line by protecting her. Mages were killed for their magic, but if anyone was found out to be an accomplice - or to even associate with them knowingly - they were put to death as well. He'd seen it with his own eyes. Over, and over...

It wasn't like he had anyone to tell. And the last thing he was going to do was walk into a guild or a sheriff's office to collect a reward.

Clandestine deserved to live. That was a given.

James sat back up with a slow, controlled sigh. Careful not to be heard, he let his chest fill with air and then held his breath, counting down the seconds until he finally let it all back out in a thin, steady stream.

The deep, black sky was starting to brighten in hue. Instinctively, he knew that the sun was only a few minutes from peeking over the horizon, and before he knew it, everyone would be waking and asking him how he was. He determined to take care of himself before then.

Yesterday, Gregor had helped bandage him up. He was the only one that he would've let see him that exposed, but even so, he knew Gregor was only withholding questions out of respect. He could still see the worry in Gregor's eyes. He could hear the hidden nuance in his words in their conversations. He could see it in the way Gregor was careful - like he thought James was fragile.

James forced himself to his feet, and for a moment, his head began to spin. He paused to let it run its course, and when the sensation alleviated, he picked up the blanket that had been laid out beneath him and finally found Elliot's silhouette in the early morning light.

Elliot was resting, so James came up alongside him from the front, making sure Elliot could hear his footsteps so he wasn't spooked. Softly, he muttered half-words, and Elliot's ears flicked toward him. It was enough for Elliot to remain calm, knowing it was James.

Quickly, James found his medical kit in his bag and worked to change the dressing on his shoulder.

He was lucky that no one woke up before he was done.

His colleagues remained asleep while the sun still peered over the horizon. But Clandestine, the monster hunter, stirred first.

He sat near Elliot, watching as Clandestine stretched out like a cat under the sun. She rolled over, face buried in the blanket that she had laid beneath her, and for a moment, he thought that it was a false arousal. She stilled again, and he swore he could hear a muffled snore.

But then she flopped back over with a sigh and sat up, rubbing her eyes.

James turned his attention to the sunrise but remained aware as Clandestine got to her feet and stretched again, and eventually looked around to see that the others were still asleep. Except for him.

For a split second, he considered not looking at her. He knew it would be a voiceless invitation that she could take to start a conversation, but he knew he couldn't avoid her, either. At least, not until they reached Bone.

Then he'd leave everything behind.

They made eye contact for a split second, and Clandestine offered him a nod and a sleepy smile. He nodded in return. When she made her way over to her horse, he stopped paying as close attention to her and found himself staring down at the grass.

The grass was a mix of yellow-brown and yellow-green. He followed the lazy, swirling path of a summer fly until it landed on the tip of a feathered blade of grass, letting itself sway with the blade in the breeze.

The fly darted off when Clandestine started to walk over.

James looked up as she approached casually, welcoming herself to take a seat beside him two paces away. Her eyes landed on his shoulder, and she crossed her legs.

"How're you feeling?" she leaned in.

The ever-vague question.

"About how I imagine I'd feel were I bitten by a giant worm," he said.

Clandestine nodded slowly.

"I see," she said - but the way she said it seemed carefully enunciated. As if she were quoting something.

It took him a moment, but he remembered. She was referencing their first day of conversation. He laughed with a puff of air through his nose.

"I also see," he said, quoting her own words back to her. He did, however, reconsider the familiarity creating a joke created between them when he knew their time together would be so short-lived.

It was too late, though. Clandestine's lips upturned into an amused, self-satisfied grin, and she laughed lightly too.

"Well," she said before any silence could follow. "Glad you're not dead."

"Me too," he said compulsively.

"I'm glad this guy made it too," she said, looking up at Elliot, who grazed peacefully behind them. "I'm surprised he kept a cool head the whole time. Horses usually aren't that good under pressure."

James glanced back at Elliot.

"He did rear," James reminded her. "And I fell off."

That was why he got bit in the first place.

"Yeah, yeah, but that was only because the worm erupted from the ground in front of you two and Elliot would've run into it if he didn't stop," Clandestine said, raising her brows as she waggled a finger at him. "And even so he had the sense - or lack thereof - to come back for you after."

James didn't know why Clandestine was harping on Elliot's behavior, but he didn't want to let it lead to wherever she intended it to. She was trying to draw conclusions and pry for more information that he didn't plan on giving her.

"He's always been like that," James said. The moment it left his mouth he knew it was a lazy response, but he hoped it at least moved things on.

"Yeah," Clandestine laughed. "And I've always been able to slay giant worms."

"I don't doubt it," James said lightly.

Clandestine's brief laughter, however, quickly subsided, and she stared at him with narrowed eyes, a smirk growing on her face.

"Uh-huh," she said, still staring.

Not really caring to discover what the smirk was about, James picked up the conversation.

"So--" was all he got out.

"You sure your shoulder's okay?" Clandestine ran him over.

"What? I said it's fine," James answered quickly. "Not much can be done about it now."

"It doesn't hurt too terribly does it?" Clandestine pressed.

"I can still function well enough," James said, gesturing to his arm.

To keep himself from overexerting that shoulder, he'd put his arm in a makeshift sling. It made him one-handed, but he was an experienced enough rider that it didn't hinder him in his job, for the most part. That, and it was far from the first time he'd had to ride one-handed anyway.

"You know," Clandestine began. "One time I got bit by a giant fox-hound. This was before I was a fully realized monster hunter. I was only a kid, and I tried to bite off more than I could chew going after it. I still have this nasty old scar on my leg. Big 'ol tooth marks. My mentor at the time said that it'd at least be a reminder to think before I act next time."

James didn't know if that was meant to be a dig at him disguised as a personal anecdote, but it sure sounded like it.

"It sounds like she taught you well," he said instead.

"She did..." Clandestine said with a small, wistful smile.

He noticed she trailed off as she stared out over the plains, and he waited for her to end the lull between them. It only took a few seconds.

"You've never been a monster hunter, have you?" she asked.

For a moment, James wondered what prompted the question.

Was it his reckless eagerness to jump in and help her that got him hurt in the first place? Was it his scars? Was it his fearless horse?

Either she already knew the answer, or she genuinely didn't know who he was.

Still careful, he took the lighter route.

"What, did my lack of forethought give it away?" he joked.

Clandestine turned to him with a look of mock offense.

"I think ahead!" she defended.

James lifted his good hand.

"I didn't accuse you," he retorted, amused at how quickly she took it personally.

Clandestine pressed her lips together into an indignant pout and he huffed through her nose. Shaking her head, she blew a stray hair out of her face.

"Listen," she said, looking at him squarely. "I'm just trying to say -- well, what I mean is--"

She took in another sharp breath and shook her head, starting over again.

"Did you run out to grab the attention of the sandworm on purpose?"


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Mon Feb 27, 2023 12:31 am
Dossereana wrote a review...



Hi @soundofmind I'm back to do another review on the next chapter, I'm so trying to catch up right now. So lets get into it shell we.

James woke with a start.

He shot up in the dark as stabbing pain shot down his back, radiating from his left shoulder.


Shame pure James, I imagen that his going to have a ruff couple of days.

Sweat made his shirt cling to his skin, and he could feel the all-too-familiar sensation of bandages layered underneath his clothes - taut around his shoulder. Taut around the pain.

Staring emptily into the night, he slowly reached up to touch his wounded shoulder. He unbuttoned a top button of his shirt so he could reach in and feel the bandaging, flush with his skin, and now melded to the wound with salve and sweat. Carefully, he tried to massage away some of the tension that had coalesced around the tender skin.


I know the feeling where you want to just massage the wound to help the pain go away, but sometimes most times that just makes it worse. He must feel so alone in the dark without anyone to comfort him. I don't like the dark it makes me feel unsafe when I'm not feeling well, or in this case injured.

He could hear his fractured breathing shudder with a rumble in his ears. It sounded so loud. It was as if the whole earth had paused from speaking just to hear him, and he couldn't help but worry if any of the others had heard him too, or if he'd made too much noise in his sleep and waking them.

Much to his disadvantage, he couldn't make out the shadows of anyone around him yet. His eyes had yet to adjust, and at this point, it didn't matter. If someone had woken up, it was irreversible.


You have done so well with describing everything, and it feels so realistic. :) I feel him so much at the moment, that thought of possibly waking everyone up just because you are breathing to loud. Oh gosh I swear this happens to me every morning.

Over All Thoughts

I really did like the chapter, and with every chapter I read I can see that you put a lot of effort into it. There is a lot of character development as well witch is really nice and with each chapter I can see it all happening. Also James is sweet for thinking he could try to help Clandestine with the sandworms. This pure guy does sound like his been beaten up a lot though.

I'm looking forward to seeing where the plot of this story takes us sound. I'll be of to try to read the next chapters soon to, not sure when I'll get around to it though, but I'm enjoying it, witch is giving me a reason to read it. :) But 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 you're on.

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




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Fri Feb 10, 2023 8:13 pm
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Carina says...



i fully expect "i see / i also see" to be a running joke especially since james is blind




soundofmind says...


legally nearsigted man gets turned into a joke! we all laugh



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Sun Jan 29, 2023 9:37 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again sound!

General Impressions

The first part of this chapter had a darker tone than the previous one, probably because I thints at some inner demons James has. I like that we’re coming back to what James did around the sandworm, since that was pinpointed earlier on as being important. I can tell Clandestine is very curious about James’ past though I can’t relate to her willingness to have a long tricky conversation to tease the info out of him xD

Glows – What I liked

I liked the elements of the story that bring tension here. After Clandestine finds out James won’t turn her in, it seems that the most pressing issue is now dissipated, but this chapter picks right back up with the conflict from the first chapter, which is James’ plan to leave the group of cow-herders plus the issue of his mysterious past. I do also like that James considers how his life might be in danger as Clandestine’s “accomplice” – that adds an element of realism to the society in this setting and also like the other things I mentioned adds tension.

I also like how the fearful atmosphere was built in the first part of the chapter when James is alone. The setting details are very sparse there, just the description of the dark sky and how quiet it is, which makes it spooky and also focuses the scene on James’ thoughts.

Grows – Ideas to consider

As for the parts after that initial scene, I was kind of hoping to see more setting descriptions.

The grass was a mix of yellow-brown and yellow-green. He followed the lazy, swirling path of a summer fly until it landed on the tip of a feathered blade of grass, letting itself sway with the blade in the breeze.

^ I was kind of more curious about how a blade of grass could be “feathered” rather than about the colour of the grass, so was hoping for more expansion on that. Is the feathery bit a flower or seed? What colour is the feathery bit, since I assume the grass is just green or brown like most grass is.

Another thing that could have helped me imagine the setting of the scene could have been temperature. I know it’s breezy and I presume it’s summer since a “summer fly” is out and about. But it would make the scene feel more alive and real if the characters reacted to how cool it was in the morning or that it’s starting to warm up, if that makes sense.
Also this next one isn’t really a criticism but more of a character analysis thing:
He could hear the voices of friends he imagined to still be around echoing the sentiment, and for some, the nuance carried sadness and empathy, but for most, it was shame.

He could hear the hidden nuance in his words in their conversations. He could see it in the way Gregor was careful - like he thought James was fragile.

So these two bits make me think James has an issue with pride or he doesn’t want to be seen as weak. I thought it was interesting that in both of these quotes, he uses the word “nuance”. It’s almost like his friends don’t explicitly show they think he’s “fragile” (because they likely don’t actually think that way) and James is reading too much into it. That’s the thought that occurred to me when reading that anyhow – not sure if that’s the intention!

Overall

I thought this was a good continuation form the sandworm/Clandestine’s magic debacle. I suppose Clandestine and James are going to launch into another conversational ‘battle’ next as James struggles to answer that last question.

Hope this helps – and keep writing!
-Lim




soundofmind says...


Lack of descriptions seems to be the bane of my existence haha. I shall continue to try to improve in adding setting descrips. I tend to either forget to or overthink and fear I'm overdoing it. It's helpful to know how it reads to someone else, since I always know what I'm imagining in my head.

Thanks again for all the feedback!




[as a roleplayer is feeling sad about torturing her characters] GrandWild: "You're a writer, dear. Embrace it."
— GrandWild