English project
 ~ the call ~

The window cast no reflection, dark and brooding rather than the colorful splashes it should have held. Furthermore, it itself was reflected in the similarly dark eyes that appraised it, its big rectangle flashing in the stygian depths of the woman’s eyes. Well, not quite a woman... but soon to be. Seventeen years would be enough when she passed this, the greatest of Cohgan’s Obstackels. She was quite certain of victory; among the few that knew of this odd realm of chained orbits, the ‘Obstackels’, she was the best. The most equipped, the quickest. The one most capable of murdering Cohgan himself.

Unblinking, her eyes trained on the black sheet, Julianna Drenert made only the slightest of movements as she readjusted the velvet pouch at her side, testing the edge of the dagger concealed underneath. She would use it, soon, finally. After all these years, this vengeful dagger would pierce for the third time in history, would once again soak in the blood of the Obstackels’ Master. She chuckled inwardly at the thought, anticipation stirring inside her stunning figure.

Ten minutes passed. Julianna began to grip the edges of her seat ever-so-lightly, impatience stirring in with her eagerness. She had never been well at waiting, that’s what had gotten her here before the other, more incompetent fools. She barely suppressed a contempt-filled snort at the thought of the others lagging far behind. Why did they bother? They had seen her at work, they should know better.

It finally came, inflaming the innermost parts of her soul - well, she wouldn’t exactly call it a soul anymore - and causing her to stand up from her chair reflexively, facing the window in a wary crouch.

"Julianna..." The slightest of whispers.

"Come to us, oh dark-haired beauty..."

"Miss Drenert, it is time..."

The blank window wavered, shimmering obscurely before her gaze, contracting and folding in on itself until it was gone and a tinted sphere was in its place. The whispers continued as she stepped forward, cloak flapping in some unseen wind, hand pawing the short sword at her side. Finally.


~threshold~

Julianna reached a hand out towards the last portal, sinking her slender fingers through to the unknown of the other side, her arm following. It felt fine enough so far... even if it hadn’t, though, she still would have gone. This was certainly the chance of a lifetime.

She full-out laughed now as she pushed her body through the portal to the 10th Obstackel.


~tests~

It was definitely not what she expected. Well, she hadn’t thought much of it anyhow, but even if she had this would not be in her musings.

Everything else had been harsh, threatening, dark and brooding in some way. This... this was nothing of the sort. To say it caught her off guard would be an understatement.

She stood in a beautiful valley, sunshine flooding its curved grassy slopes, filling in every nick and crack. Clouds that were so light and fluffy they seemed fit to burst with buoyance, a clear stream that bubbled and sparkled with ecstatic energy, huge mountains rising majestically over the whole lot. Julianna groaned. Maybe this was a challenge; a being so hateful and frigid as her didn’t match up with this sunny stuff at all. Ugh. It was too bright, too cheerful.

But still a part of the Obstackel, no doubt. Julianna strode forward, eyeing the area around her warily. Sunny or not, she still had to be cautious. This was referred to as the most difficult of the Obstackels.

Hmm, where to start? The stream seemed enticing enough... maybe if she crossed it and headed towards the mountains? That seemed likely enough. It made sense that the Master of the Obstackels would choose the mountains as his domain. Even if Cohgan wasn’t there, Julianna would get a good view of the area around her. Without further ado she veered to the left towards the stream, calculating the easiest way to cross. Ah, perfect: flat rocks rose from the pebbled bed, forming an easily accessible path to the other side.

Wait. Frowning, she inspected the rocks more carefully. It was too plain, too easy, too simple. She knew Cohgan’s mind enough from the other Obstackels he had arranged, and this was not something that ran through it. A strait track across an innocent stream? All too innocent in her opinion. Especially now that she could see the humble dusty path winding from further on towards the mountains.

She made a snap decision and turned around, not going in quite the opposite direction but angling between the two, to the far slanting side of the valley. She was too smart, too wary of Cohgan King to follow his path, specifically set out for her. And she wouldn’t just turn around and walk exactly opposite of that path; she wasn’t stupid enough to fall for the whole reverse psychology thing.

Upon reaching the base of the incline, Julianna was satisfied to hear the slightest of unfriendly noises from above, a growl. That sounded better, more of what was to be expected. She could handle it, and if this way was protected almost immediately, it was bound to be the more likely pathway.

Holding back a confident, challenging grin, Julianna made her way up the valley side and was soon to the top. She drew her sword and leapt up to level ground, brandishing her weapon. Nothing faced her but a thick, dark forest. Heh, it eased her senses a little to see the darkness. Maybe that wasn’t the intended effect, but the harmless things had been so unatural to this realm.

Sword at the ready, Julianna’s satisfaction faded away as she glided forward into the trees. Another growl in the distance. Other than that, it was noiseless, the air thick with humidity and threatening silence.

As she progressed a growl was heard every now and then, first close by and then farther away, to the left and then behind her. Whatever it was was toying with her, of that she was sure. Oh well. She could wait for it.

She walked for a couple hours - everything around her remaining the same dark, leafy green - before the creature decided to show itself.

Wham! Falling from above, it leaped at her with fangs bared. She stopped and took it in, unsurprised. She had encountered this creature before. A werewolf, huge and formidable, shaggy coat glinting dully as he snarled wildly. His fangs were huge and stained, as yellow as its slitted eyes.

Instead of waiting for an attack she threw herself at it, sword flashing as she aimed to decapitate it. It jumped to the side, swiping at her with long claws. They both missed, and repeated the action. This time the werewolf jumped the opposite way, catching her side. She stumbled and parried another swipe, stabbing at his haunches. She was rewarded by a harsh grunt.

More jumps and leaps, swipes and thrusts. The werewolf’s matted paw slammed into Julianna, crashing her into a tree yards away, leaving her gasping for breath. Ouch, that had hurt. She slid down to the ground sorely as the werewolf started charging for her, its eyes glinting madly. Bruised and torn, she stood absolutely still, waiting for it.

It reached her and she pulled her sword back up, stabbing it through the furry chest as it careened into her.

The breath whooshed out of her as the werewolf’s momentum carried it full-out onto her, smushing her against the tree once more. She swore as she heard a bone or two in her arm break. Disdainfully she shoved the carcass off of her with her good arm and sword.

She made sure to stumble a good few feet away before sheathing her sword and angrily opening her pouch, untying one of the numerous pockets and upending it over her hand. A purple powdery substance spilled out, which she immediately began to rub none-too-gingerly along the length of her broken arm. She sniffed coldly at this inconvenience; thanks to that stupid werewolf, she was now immobile for the next ten minutes. Great.


Days passed before she reached the edge of the forest, the brooding trees giving way to rough, rocky ground. She could see the sun setting gently in the west, filling the sky with the most brilliant shades of orange and red, tinging the golden clouds with an edge of soft cerise. Too beautiful for her.

That was twice her arm had been broken now: once by the werewolf and the second time by that dratted gang of natives. Weird, inhuman natives, but all the same. She hadn’t quite inflicted any horrible harm before they’d just decided to charge her.

As if she wasn’t angry enough all the time without their help.

Julianna decided to camp out right at the edge of the trees, curling up beside a big combination of an oak and some sort of pine tree. Ignoring the beauty laid before her in the sky, she promptly fell to sleep, hand on her sword.


"Julia..."

"Anna, dearest, wake up..."

"Julie, honey, can you hear me?"

"I don’t know, maybe we should leave her a little longer."

"But she seems like she’s coming around."

"Magenta, just leave her be. She’ll be fine."

"Okay..."

Little Julianna’s eyelids flickered as she listened to these thoughts in her head, and realized that they were not inside her but outside. Her parents. Talking. About her?

After a few muddled seconds it came back in a flash. Her father’s angry face, the smell of alcohol thick in the air. A crash, pain, blackness. She gasped, though whether it was out loud or not she didn’t know. This was worse, much worse, than last time. What would she do? What
could she do?

She heard someone enter the room again, heavier footsteps than her mom’s, attempting unsuccessfully to tread softly. No...

"Julie. I know you’re awake."

No!! Why, oh why, did he do this to her?

"Listen to me."

She kept her eyes tightly closed.

"Now, you and I both know it would be best for the both of us if you didn’t say anything. Right?"

He didn’t even wait for the tiniest of nods. They knew she would obey. What else could she do, being only six? Of course her mother would remain in the dark to all of this. Again.


Julianna woke abruptly, eyelids sliding open in deadly fury. She didn’t need to be thinking of this. It was over with. Done.

She pushed it all away - hidden, like it should be - and focused on the world around her, getting a better view of the rocky path that lay ahead. When she finally looked around, she jumped up, startled. Where rocky lands had been... well, it wasn’t anymore. Nothing like it.

It was like a great maze, constructed from some sort of pale yellow bricks, twisting and turning around her. O- kay...

Even the trees had disappeared, replaced by huge, thick walls that towered over her. Great. Of course this was intended to be a challenge.

With an agitated huff she dusted herself off, walking forward a few feet and turning right at the first bend.


It had been hours and she was getting nowhere. It was really beginning to tick her off, actually. She looked up at the unseen tops of the walls. If only she could get up there... if there even were any. She doubted it. Man, this was getting frustrating.

It was around midday when she caught a glimpse of something farther on, an outline of a person. Who? Maybe they could help. Julianna began to sprint towards it, feeling her darker representation of hope. It was about time there was something besides the pale walls, the silence, and herself.

When she reached the place it had been, she stopped. There was no sign of anything unusual anywhere. Not a footprint, not a mark. Nothing...?

She had no more time to think as everything whirled around her in a frenzy of colors and shapes. She gripped her hair and doubled over; the spinning seemed to tear at her from everywhere, hurting her, confusing her, leaving her muddled and rent. She nearly screamed before she collapsed and fainted.


Ugh... where was she...

Somewhere else. Half-conscious, she sneered. Of course the scenery would change again.

But then she realized where she was.

It was home. Her home. From when she was a kid.

What was this?

She saw her mother, usually so happy and young, oblivious to the horrors that when on in her household when she was gone. She had never found out, had always remained happy. So why was she crying? Julianna only remembered one time in her life when she had seen tears run down her mother’s face...

She gasped as she realized what was happening, just before she watched herself enter the room. The younger Julianna, not even a teenager yet. Only eleven years old, promising, without hate-lines etched into her forehead. Clear ocean eyes.

"Julia, please..."

Young Julianna looked harshly at her mother while the older Julianna watched, knowing every thought that went through the other’s head. She remembered this scene well, when she had left her mother and father. Her poor mother still didn’t know what was really happening.

Yes, she knew what she was thinking. Her mother was so incompetent, so dumb. Unaware of everything. Loving both her dratted husband and her daughter, overlooking everything. So much stupidity, so much wrongness. It nearly showed in her eyes... but no, she couldn’t let her mother know. Dad would hurt her beyond belief in his twisted love for innocent Magenta.

But then, as this old scene replayed in her head, Julianna heard something else.

No, baby, don’t. I love you.

It was her mother’s voice, though not a word had been spoken on her part. This was new.

Julianna May, you can’t do this to me. Don’t leave me alone with him.

Still no movement, no sound from Magenta’s mouth. Her thoughts, maybe?

It’s not what it seems. I’m not ignoring this, not ignoring you.

What?

He hurts me too. He forces me into this sick play. Please...

The younger Julianna obviously heard none of this; she said the one thing the observing Julianna had most regretted in her life: "You’re so stupid. I don’t belong here."

Pain erupted in the older Julianna’s skull, an echo of her mother’s. NO!! Her baby!! She couldn’t leave, she was the only good thing Magenta had left. The only thing she dared to love anymore. Robert couldn’t chase her away too! Julie, nonono, please don’t go! Don’t do this, don’t go with his sick play!

Young Julianna stormed out the door, never to return. Magenta collapsed on the floor, sobbing. Robert, horrid, accursed Robert. His fault, and she couldn’t do anything about it. She doesn’t know. Why? Maybe if she had at least had a glimpse of what was really happening, of Robert’s twisted games. No...

A single tear trailed down Julianna’s cheek in unison with her mother’s as everything spun and whirled her into bitter unconsciousness once more.


This time she almost didn’t bother to open her eyes, but from habit she had already pushed most of the thoughts away, hidden, and was back to indifferent Julianna, the tear gone. She now found herself in darkness. Black. Empty black, no sound, no light, nothing. Where the heck was she now?

She sat up, but wasn’t sure if she was up or down; it was as if there was nothing there, as if she didn’t exist. Was she dead? How had that happened?

She swore, just to hear herself, to make sure she did exist, that sound was possible in this hollow place. The sound faded immediately into the stygian pit enveloping her. Creepy. Certainly a change from that ridiculous valley she had started in.

She sat there for a few minutes, not even bothering to get up. Did time pass here? Or was it all just still nothingness, like everything else? Hmm.

Okay, this was gonna drive her crazy.

It was already really pi-

What was that!? Something, finally!! A light growing, getting closer and closer by the second. She nearly cheered. Nearly. But she did smile in satisfaction.

The smile faded when she realized that this light wasn’t here to help. She could feel a much bigger, more powerful, more different presence concealed behind this light.

She had a feeling she knew who it was.

She uncovered the dagger as she leapt up, whipping it out and bracing herself, the blade glinting metallically in the growing light.


~abyss and revelation~

She hadn’t moved for minutes, she was so dumbfounded.

It was Cohgan King... not a human sorcerer. Nothing like one. The light before her was - she was in absolutely no doubt - Cohgan King. The Master of the Obstackels. A dragon.

And so beautiful.

His dark russet eyes gazed down upon her, somehow so intense yet so detached at the same time. Big, brown orbs, set in a triangular head, ivory horns crowning the top. A long, winding neck, topaz scales glittering brilliantly with their own light, illuminating the darkness surrounding them. His torso, fine and lithe like no other, held up by two powerful hind legs as he reared back and spread his brilliant chiropteran wings to their full extent, strong and proud and glowing. His spiked tail swayed behind him, not unlike the movements of a cat’s, as thick and graceful as the rest of him. So deadly, but so befuddlingly beautiful.

It took a few minutes for any thought to cross her mind, to register. When she finally did come back to herself she realized her jaw had dropped open and immediately closed it, clenching the dagger. Seconds more passed by as she thought. I can’t kill this creature. Even if it was possible to hurt this marvelous being, she couldn’t kill him. Cohgan’s life was not hers to take, she had no right, no will to destroy the only beauty she had ever seen in her life. Especially not beauty of this magnitude.

She struggled internally for a second, remembering all she had gone through, all the tests through the years, all the troubles. The revenge she had wanted, the lives and opportunities she had ruined, demolished for this one moment.

Finally she gave up with a small sighing gasp and looked to Cohgan’s head far above her. "I... I can’t kill you."

"Tell me something new," the dragon rumbled.

Julianna’s eyes widened. He talked! Even more, his voice was just as wonderful as the rest of him, ringing with the brazen tones of a thousand bells, underlined by fierceness. "Um, excuse me?"

"Yes, I can speak, Miss Drenert. I was asking, where’s the avant-garde? You’d think someone who’s made it this far would have something more original than that. ‘I can’t kill you.’ Huh." He snorted, lifting his scaly upper lip to reveal shiny, lethal fangs. "I was anticipating you to be more interesting, let alone more of a challenge."

Momentarily bristling at his words, Julianna was indignant that he should insult her so. However, the humor of the situation suddenly appeared to her and she shortly laughed. That felt good... she actually laughed.

Usually she would just go right back to being suspicious, but she couldn’t help it. She just laughed some more. She couldn’t stop, it felt so good, so nice. She had never laughed before. Well, only once before with her mom, when they were alone. Long ago.

The dragon actually smiled. That made her laugh more. A dragon, smiling at her! Of all things! This obviously made him happier. "It’s pleasant to observe some happiness out of you. And I’m sure you will find it slightly more difficult to revert back to your previously dysphoric self, whether intended or not."

She understood what he was saying well enough, but not what he meant. Was he saying that she wouldn’t be all doom-and-gloom and whatnot? Impossible. Well, she did feel... different... better...

He seemed to sense this. "The concept should be clear enough. You’re happy now. Here is where you belong."

"Yeah?"

"Absolutely."

"Oh, and how do you know that?"

Cohgan snorted again. "First of all, listen to yourself now, your laugh; that should draw enough conclusion to convince you. And - you know well that I am magical - I’ve seen you. Numerous times. I saw your arrival here... trust me, it has been no easy thing for me to wait for. And now you are here. Believe me, I have undoubtedly looked forward to your arrival."

She blushed. Since when did that happen? "Um... why?"

He merely lowered his head way down to hers and gazed at her... softly? What was this about? But she froze when she looked right back into his huge eyes, and it all clicked.

Julianna saw everything in there.

Love, kindness, compassion and knowledge. An unexplained love for her, so strong it was against all logic and reasoning. He had loved her before he had known her, from the first time he had seen her in a vision when he took the Obstackels’ Throne and morphed into a majestic dragon. They belonged to each other, will or not. He had no choice but to adore her and gaze at her with love aplenty. He saw now for himself all the good things that were hidden inside of her. And how could she refuse that adoration and attention he was giving her, the happiness he was drawing from her? She couldn’t help but feel the same, like they were two pieces meant solely for each other.

How funny. She had set out to murder someone, and had ended up with her true love instead.

It was also funny how he didn’t have to talk to show her everything. Like how he was really a good being, the first good thing to rule the Obstackels, but there were things about the realm that he couldn’t change. Even the things he could make better, he was restrained from reforming until his other half had come. Julianna.

She actually did laugh out loud this time, lost in his eyes as they crinkled with their own glee. She didn’t have to explain why she had laughed. He saw it all in her, just as she had been drawn into his mind. Ah, mutuality.

And then... it all disappeared. The bad memories, the pain, that hard shell of defense; all erased completely. Gone forever, she hoped. And it was real hope that she felt this time.


~atonement~

Beauty. Goodness. Light. Everything that hadn’t been her.

Now it was.

Now that she had seen her very own life from a different perspective, she could understand it all so much better. Tears ran down her cheeks for the first time in years. She could only imagine...

With a small sighing laugh she attempted to curtsy in front of Cohgan, radiating thankfulness. How she had yearned for this, to feel this. Even if she had been lying to herself.

"Thank you so much," she whispered, overcome with such a change in emotions. Before she had laid eyes on this wonderful being, the only thing her face had known was a scowl. Now it smiled... she was almost surprised those muscles still worked... it felt so good.

He knew, he understood, he could feel it all. This was him, inside her. He was right, they were so alike, once all of that outer shell had been evaporated. She could feel herself in him too, looking into his russet eyes. Wow. How mushy.

How wonderful.

"I love you." A fact she had not known could be possible. Ever.

"I know." He chuckled. "But you must promise me something first."

She would do anything for him. She had already proved that in a sense, hadn’t she? "Yes?"

"Promise you’ll go back first."

She blinked. "Huh?"

"Return to your home, make things right. As they should have been. I’m sure it won’t be hard. And indisputably invaluable at the end."

She bit her lip and avoided his eyes, thinking it over. He reached down and nuzzled the top of her head carefully. "It will help."

She sighed. "Yes. Yes, I will."

Julianna would go home first, amend things. Make them better before she came back. He asked her to, she had promised him, and she would do it.


~return~

The gravelly sidewalk crunched under her feet as she uncertainly made her way past the rows of houses, all the same shade of brick-red and slate-grey. Which address had it been? 4059 Walnut Street... yeah, that sounded right. Magenta and Robert Drenert, 4059 Walnut Street. Ah, there it was, three houses forward.

Nervously clutching at the fresh bouquet of flowers Cohgan had advised, Julianna swallowed, feeling bare without her sword and pouch at her side. Too normal in a light violet dress, no jeans and cloak. Taking a gulp of air, she tried to pass right by her childhood home when she neared it, but couldn’t bring herself to do it. She had promised. And besides... she now understood the pain she had given her mother, had felt it firsthand not too long ago.

How, oh how was she going to do this?

Diiiinngg. The doorbell wasn’t the annoying nasally sound she had always heard before. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t bothersome anymore. A good sign?

Her father answered. Both backs went rigid.

He snarled at her, quivering with anger. "What...? I told you..."

For a minute she was the young Julianna Drenert, small and scared under her father’s rough shadow. That changed in an instant as she straightened and became her old self momentarily, mean and undaunted. He must have seen something in her eyes, because he made a slight stuttering sound. He tried again. "Go. Now."

She looked him full in the face, growling right back. "I want to see Mom. Let me through right now, Robert." She didn’t bother to call him Dad anymore; he was not her family. "I don’t think I even need to say I’m not afraid of you anymore." Her words were harsh and cold.

They glared at each other for a moment, both eyes narrowed. It didn’t take long for Robert to lower his eyes and turn around. Things certainly had changed. "Magenta, dear...."

Julianna stopped him before he left. "I think you should start packing."

He looked at her defiantly for a second more, and her face sent him backwards and out of her way in angry defeat.

Julianna grinned happily and stepped into the house, her inner peace returning as she saw her mother’s face for the first time in years, kind and beaming. They embraced upon sight, bursting into tears, as Robert shuffled out of the room.

"Mom," she whispered through her sobs. "Mom... I love you."

"I l-l-love you t-too, honey."

Julianna smiled in the warm arms of her dear mother, the image of a beautiful topaz dragon shining in her head with approval.


Comments:
 
Moonrose   Moonrose wrote
on 2/12/2009 1:52:04 PM
Haha, thanks to the both of you. Very encouraging!!

SapphireCat   SapphireCat wrote
on 2/12/2009 12:57:57 PM
awesome! you should totally expand on this. You wrote this for English? Man, we never get to write stuff like this in my English class. Can I join yours?

Moonrose
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writing Moonrose
Life is an art. You are a masterpiece.
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Synopsis
Um, English project I just turned in. Only had one night to do it, so it's kinda bad in my view, even if it is long. Don't worry, though, I hope on building around this and extending it into a novel of some sort when I have more time. It'll be much better then! ;^)) Any kind of comments or criticism are welcome for future reference. Go ahead, people, let me know, whatever you think will make this a great book!
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