The Summer Queen

This is the sequel to the The Snow Queen, written by Joan D. Vinge. So! I have finally found the time to pick up this story again after months of hiatus from my lovely books. I will tell you now, at first I was getting slightly confused from the different times that are passsing from different worlds but later on, I realized that I would have to rely on the author to state how much time was passing rather than trying to guess.

The Summer Queen

And guess who’s back? The guy who made me cry in the first book: BZ Gundhalinu. How I wished that he would have chosen to fight for Moon in the first book but I guess, without having passed through those obstacles (apparently in “World’s End,” he had almost gone insane but was saved by… I can’t say, otherwise I’ll be spoiling the book for those of you who wants to read it). The past events turned him into the person BZ is now, in The Summer Queen, and I really think it was for the best. Although, deep inside I have this nagging fear that he would be too late if or when he gets back to Tiamat. Sparks is an excellent secondary character, but that’s all he’ll ever be. His situation from the previous book did nothing to endear him to me and his actions in this sequel are–so far–not helping to make me sympathaize with him. It’s something about how he deals with things… almost in a childish manner, that makes him a turn off. BUT!!! Let’s not be hasty; I am still a hundred pages away from the halfway mark of the book and so far, everything that’s happening is sort of making sense to me. The first book was definitely faster paced but this book lets time pass so you really see what’s going on, how the next generations are turning out, how past characters get re-introduced and how the plot slowly but strongly ties itself together. I love it!! Do you want to know who had moved me to tears in this one? Jerusha; this is from what I’ve read so far. We’ll see as I read further in the book if that will change or not.

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The Chances

Vicious curling arms encased the smallest of seeds

Wrought in fear and darkness of the acidic, unfeeling minds;

They creep ever so slowly to rot the virgin inside.

 

A solitaire princess, atop the glass throne,

Never forgives and rarely forgets the tragedies

From seeking the dearest hearts to look upon her broken mirage.

 

One flight was all it would take, one touch to break the spell

To conquer the ocean, and thus to live a free soul,

Crossing the unknown and that which is known to man…

 

One word could alter the chaos, and set right the pendulum;

While the Father can only watch, unwilling to aid,

The brushes of fate keep fading with the moon’s shadow.

 

As the telltale thunder bolt that stopped the flood

Crashes against the wall of the human heart–a flesh easily wounded;

A spirit unbound by tedious patterns hides itself in diffidence.

 

Growing, it shall gain wisdom; feeling, she shall gain dreams,

As the seed flourishes, a kinder being smiles,

For the chances that had been taken were but a whisper of the heart

 

Of how a young maiden would paint the garden of Eden

The colour of contentment, an ever eclipsing happiness

Rising and ever transcending, unsurpassed in its magnitude.

 

Then the seedlings shall soar above the yearning clouds–

A wish to escape the cruelty of fences that break the fragile branches;

As the witching hour waxes, they shall wound us no more.

Dune by Frank Herbert

Ok, this book is really interesting. This is the reason why lately I hunt for old books rather than the newly published ones. It’s hard to find these kinds of writing lately and the mainstream books are all for teenagers who are hung up on Romeo & Juliet type stories that are embedded in a contemporary world. Yes, I’ve read Twilight, but that was a few years before the movies became a hit even. As a teenager then, I did appreciate it for it’s stars-in-your-eyes factor of the (first) book. Then I simply forgot about it and moved towards more plot and substance. I could tell you about lots of books, but let’s focus: Dune. This book was actually a little iffy for me at first, seeing how it had other books; Trilogies always scare the hell out of me because I assume that: (a) the first book will not have a finished feel and (b) too much thick books can be a little daunting and (c) if I know I won’t have time to read all of the books, then that’ll leave my brain with a story that’s half finished. You see, I’ve finished a few trilogies but like I said, time is a factor.

Dune by Frank Herbert

So let’s get started here. Dune; we start off with a boy who is visited by an “old crone” as the book calls her. Now starting with this, I had no idea that he was going to the main character of the book. The short synopsis on the back of the book made it sound epic and I guess I couldn’t see how an epic story could start with a fifteen year old boy. That age, if I think back on experience, can be a little immature and stupid. Of course, I had to read further on to realize that he wasn’t like any ordinary boy. This book is very interesting in how it threads the stories together. Each one character introduced, you slowly peel off the onion skin– if you get my meaning; it’s like getting to know them, but as the story progresses. So in little bits, you learn about them, how they make decisions and why–all because of the personalities that is slowly revealed to the reader. So far, I’ve only had time to finish the first book (Dune) and I’m going to start on the second book (Muad’dib) soon since I’m on my day off today. Spoiler: I wish the relationship of Jessica and the Duke were expressed more; the book so far only allowed little glimpses; even with the characters thoughts, they were almost hiding it, sort of, and that’s what made it very interesting. You get the feeling they do like each other, but they hardly show any signs; it’s very subtle and minimal. That’s what makes that relationship sad and heart-wrenching, in my opinion. You feel deprived or almost cheated that they never got a chance to show it openly, and that’s how Jessica and the Duke felt towards the end (I can’t say the end of what, since that’ll be revealing too much). The story moves quite fast, but at the same time, nothing much happens. I mean, time moves forward really fast–in the first book, anyway. First you’ll see them having dinner then the next there’s an attack. The transitions are non-existent; you jump to the next scene and you better be ready or else you’ll get lost. LOL, at least, that’s how it was for me. But yes, so far very engaging, sad and fast paced enough for me. =) Give it a try and see how you like it.

Long, Broad & Sharpsight

This is a fairy tale or folk tale of the Slavonians (Western). I’ve read this one quite a long time ago; I was probably still under 10 years old. My cousins had lots and lots of books and I would just read and read coz my family hardly owned books. I was absolutely enthralled with this story because it was like the quest stories of most Greek myths and I just adore these kinds of stories. This was in a collection book of Slavic fairy tales among those other ones which I have yet to find. This was very interesting to me and I think my reading experiences as a child are what mostly drives me to write my own. So without further ado, here is the story of Long, Broad and Sharpsight:

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THERE was a king, who was already old, and had but one son. Once upon a time he called this son to him, and said to him, ‘My dear son! you know that old fruit falls to make room for other fruit. My head is already ripening, and maybe the sun will soon no longer shine upon it; but before you bury me, I should like to see your wife, my future daughter. My son, marry!’ The prince said, ‘I would gladly, father, do as you wish; but I have no bride, and don’t know any.’ The old king put his hand into his pocket, took out a golden key and showed it to his son, with the words, ‘Go up into the tower, to the top story, look round there, and then tell me which you fancy.’ The prince went without delay. Nobody within the memory of man had been up there, or had ever heard what was up there.

When he got up to the last story, he saw in the ceiling a little iron door like a trap-door. It was closed. He opened it with the golden key, lifted it, and went up above it. There there was a large circular room. The ceiling was blue like the sky on a clear night, and silver stars glittered on it; the floor was a carpet of green silk, and around in the wall were twelve high windows in golden frames, and in each window on crystal glass was a damsel painted with the colours of the rainbow, with a royal crown on her head, in each window a different one in a different dress, each handsomer than the other, and it was a wonder that the prince did not let his eyes dwell upon them. When he had gazed at them with astonishment, the damsels began to move as if they were alive, looked down upon him, smiled, and did everything but speak.

Now the prince observed that one of the twelve windows was covered with a white curtain; he drew the curtain to see what was behind it. There there was a damsel in a white dress, girt with a silver girdle, with a crown of pearls on her head; she was the most beautiful of all, but was sad and pale, as if she had risen from the grave. The prince stood long before the picture, as if he had made a discovery, and as he thus gazed, his heart pained him, and he cried, ‘This one will I have, and no other.’ As he said the words the damsel bowed her head, blushed like a rose, and that instant all the pictures disappeared.

When he went down and related to his father what he had seen and which damsel he had selected, the old king became sad, bethought himself, and said, ‘You have done ill, my son, in uncovering what was curtained over, and have placed yourself in great danger on account of those words. That damsel is in the power of a wicked wizard, and kept captive in an iron castle; of all who have attempted to set her free, not one has hitherto returned. But what’s done cannot be undone; the plighted word is a law. Go! try your luck, and return home safe and sound!’

The prince took leave of his father, mounted his horse, and rode away in search of his bride. It came to pass that he rode through a vast forest, and through the forest he rode on and on till he lost the road. And as he was wandering with his horse in thickets and amongst rocks and morasses, not knowing which way to turn, he heard somebody shout behind him, ‘Hi! stop!’ The prince looked round, and saw a tall man hastening after him. ‘Stop and take me with you, and take me into your service, and you won’t regret it!’ ‘Who are you,’ said the prince, ‘and what can you do?’ ‘My name is Long, and I can extend myself. Do you see a bird’s nest in that pine yonder? I will bring you the nest down without having to climb up.’

Long then began to extend himself; his body grew rapidly till it was as tall as the pine; he then reached the nest, and in a moment contracted himself again and gave it to the prince. ‘You know your business well, but what’s the use of birds’ nests to me, if you can’t conduct me out of this forest?’ ‘Ahem! that’s an easy matter,’ said Long, and began to extend himself till he was thrice as high as the highest fir in the forest, looked round, and said: ‘Here on this side we have the nearest way out of the forest.’ He then contracted himself, took the horse by the bridle, and before the prince had any idea of it, they were beyond the forest. Before them was a long and wide plain, and beyond the plain tall gray rocks, like the walls of a large town, and mountains overgrown with forest trees.

‘Yonder, sir, goes my comrade!’ said Long, and pointed suddenly to the plain; ‘you should take him also into your service; I believe he would serve you well.’ ‘Shout to him, and call him hither, that I may see what he is good for.’ ‘It is a little too far, sir,’ said Long; ‘he would hardly hear me, and it would take a long time before he came, because he has a great deal to carry. I’ll jump after him instead.’ Then Long again extended himself to such a height that his head plunged into the clouds, made two or three steps, took his comrade by the arm, and placed him before the prince. He was a short, thick-set fellow, with a paunch like a sixty-four gallon cask. ‘Who are you?’ demanded the prince, ‘and what can you do?’ ‘My name, sir, is Broad; I can widen myself.’ ‘Give me a specimen.’ ‘Ride quick, sir, quick, back into the forest!’ cried Broad, as he began to blow himself out.

The prince didn’t understand why he was to ride away; but seeing that Long made all haste to get into the forest, he spurred his horse, and rode full gallop after him. It was high time that he did ride away, or else Broad would have squashed him, horse and all, as his paunch rapidly grew in all directions; it filled everything everywhere, just as if a mountain had rolled up. Broad then ceased to blow himself out, and took himself in again, raising such a wind that the trees in the forest bowed and bent, and became what he was at first. ‘You’ve played me a nice trick,’ said the prince, ‘but I shan’t find such a fellow every day; come with me.’

They proceeded further. When they approached the rocks, they met a man who had his eyes bandaged with a handkerchief. ‘Sir, this is our third comrade,’ said Long, ‘you ought to take him also into your service. I’m sure he won’t eat his victuals for naught.’ ‘Who are you?’ the prince asked him, ‘and why are your eyes bandaged? You don’t see your way!’ ‘No, sir, quite the contrary! It is just because I see too well that I am obliged to bandage my eyes; I see with bandaged eyes just as well as others with unbandaged eyes; and if I unbandage them I look everything through and through, and when I gaze sharply at anything, it catches fire and bursts into flame, and what can’t burn splits into pieces. For this reason my name is Sharpsight.’ He then turned to a rock opposite, removed the bandage, and fixed his flaming eyes upon it; the rock began to crackle, pieces flew on every side, and in a very short time nothing of it remained but a heap of sand, on which something glittered like fire. Sharpsight went to fetch it, and brought it to the prince. It was pure gold.

‘Heigho! you’re a fellow that money can’t purchase!’ said the prince. ‘He is a fool who wouldn’t make use of your services, and if you have such good sight, look and tell me whether it is far to the iron castle, and what is now going on there?’ ‘If you rode by yourself, sir,’ answered Sharpsight, ‘maybe you wouldn’t get there within a year; but with us you’ll arrive to-day–they’re just getting supper ready for us.’ ‘And what is my bride doing?’

An iron lattice is before her,
In a tower that’s high
She doth sit and sigh,
A wizard watch and ward keeps o’er her.’

The prince cried, ‘Whoever is well disposed, help me to set her free!’ They all promised to help him. They guided him among the gray rocks through the breach that Sharpsight had made in them with his eyes, and further and further on through rocks, through high mountains and deep forests, and wherever there was any obstacle in the road, forthwith it was removed by the three comrades. And when the sun was declining towards the west, the mountains began to become lower, the forests less dense, and the rocks concealed themselves amongst the heath; and when it was almost on the point of setting, the prince saw not far before him an iron castle; and when it was actually setting, he rode by an iron bridge to the gate, and as soon as it had set, up rose the iron bridge of itself, the gate closed with a single movement, and the prince and his companions were captives in the iron castle.

When they had looked round in the court, the prince put his horse up in the stable, where everything was ready for it, and then they went into the castle. In the court, in the stable, in the castle hall, and in the rooms, they saw in the twilight many richly-dressed people, gentlemen and servants, but not one of them stirred–they were all turned to stone. They went through several rooms, and came into the supper-room. This was brilliantly lighted up, and in the midst was a table, and on it plenty of good meats and drinks, and covers were laid for four persons. They waited and waited, thinking that someone would come; but when nobody came for a long time, they sat down and ate and drank what the palate fancied.

When they had done eating, they looked about to find where to sleep. Thereupon the door flew open unexpectedly all at once, and into the room came the wizard; a bent old man in a long black garb, with a bald head, a gray beard down to his knees, and three iron hoops instead of a girdle. By the hand he led a beautiful, very beautiful damsel, dressed in white; she had a silver girdle round her waist, and a crown of pearls on her head, but was pale and sad, as if she had risen from the grave. The prince recognised her at once, sprang forward, and went to meet her; but before he could utter a word the wizard addressed him: ‘I know for what you have come; you want to take the princess away. Well, be it so! Take her, if you can keep her in sight for three nights, so that she doesn’t vanish from you. If she vanishes, you will be turned into stone as well as your three servants; like all who have come before you.’ He then motioned the princess to a seat and departed.

The prince could not take his eyes off the princess, so beautiful was she. He began to talk to her, and asked her all manner of questions, but she neither answered nor smiled, nor looked at anyone any more than if she had been of marble. He sat down by her, and determined not to sleep all night long lest she should vanish from him, and, to make surer, Long extended himself like a strap, and wound himself round the whole room along the wall; Broad posted himself in the doorway, swelled himself up, and stopped it up so tight that not even a mouse could have slipped through; while Sharpsight placed himself against a pillar in the midst of the room on the look-out. But after a time they all began to nod, fell asleep, and slept the whole night, just as if the wizard had thrown them into the water.

In the morning, when it began to dawn, the prince was the first to wake, but–as if a knife had been thrust into his heart–the princess was gone! He forthwith awoke his servants, and asked what was to be done. ‘Never mind, sir,’ said Sharpsight, and looked sharply out through the window, ‘I see her already. A hundred miles hence is a forest, in the midst of the forest an old oak, and on the top of the oak an acorn, and she is that acorn.’ Long immediately took him on his shoulders, extended himself, and went ten miles at a step, while Sharpsight showed him the way.

No more time elapsed than would have been wanted to move once round a cottage before they were back again, and Long delivered the acorn to the prince. ‘Sir, let it fall on the ground.’ The prince let it fall, and that moment the princess stood beside him. And when the sun began to show itself beyond the mountains, the folding doors flew open with a crash, and the wizard entered the room and smiled spitefully; but when he saw the princess he frowned, growled, and hang! one of the iron hoops which he wore splintered and sprang off him. He then took the damsel by the hand and led her away.

The whole day after the prince had nothing to do but walk up and down the castle, and round about the castle, and look at the wonderful things that were there. It was everywhere as if life had been lost in a single moment. In one hall he saw a prince, who held in both hands a brandished sword, as if he intended to cleave somebody in twain; but the blow never fell: he had been turned into stone. In one chamber was a knight turned into stone, just as if he had been fleeing from some one in terror, and, stumbling on the threshold, had taken a downward direction, but not fallen. Under the chimney sat a servant, who held in one hand a piece of roast meat, and with the other lifted a mouthful towards his mouth, which never reached it; when it was just in front of his mouth, he had also been turned to stone. Many others he saw there turned to stone, each in the position in which he was when the wizard said, ‘Be turned into stone.’ He likewise saw many fine horses turned to stone, and in the castle and round the castle all was desolate and dead; there were trees, but without leaves; there were meadows, but without grass; there was a river, but it did not flow; nowhere was there even a singing bird, or a flower, the offspring of the ground, or a white fish in the water.

Morning, noon, and evening the prince and his companions found good and abundant entertainment in the castle; the viands came of themselves, the wine poured itself out. After supper the folding doors opened again, and the wizard brought in the princess for the prince to guard. And although they all determined to exert themselves with all their might not to fall asleep, yet it was of no use, fall asleep again they did. And when the prince awoke at dawn and saw the princess had vanished, he jumped up and pulled Sharpsight by the arm, ‘Hey! get up, Sharpsight, do you know where the princess is?’ He rubbed his eyes. looked, and said, ‘I see her. There’s a mountain 200 miles off; and in the mountain a rock, and in the rock a precious stone, and she’s that precious stone. If Long carries me thither, we shall obtain her.’

Long took him at once on his shoulders, extended himself, and went twenty miles at a step. Sharpsight fixed his flaming eyes on the mountain, the mountain crumbled, and the rock in it split into a thousand pieces, and amongst them glittered the precious stone. They took it up and brought it to the prince, and when he let it fall on the ground, the princess again stood there. When afterwards the wizard came and saw her there, his eyes flashed with spite, and bang! again an iron hoop cracked upon him and flew off. He growled and led the princess out of the room.

That day all was again as it had been the day before. After supper the wizard brought the princess in again, looked the prince keenly in the face, and scornfully uttered the words, ‘It will be seen who’s a match for whom; whether you are victorious or I,’ and with that he departed. This day they all exerted themselves still more to avoid going to sleep. They wouldn’t even sit down, they wanted to walk about all night long, but all in vain; they were bewitched; one fell asleep after the other as he walked, and the princess vanished away from them.

In the morning the prince again awoke earliest, and when he didn’t see the princess, woke Sharpsight. ‘Hey! get up, Sharpsight! look where the princess is!’ Sharpsight looked out for a long time. ‘Oh sir,’ says he, ‘she is a long way off, a long way off! Three hundred miles off is a black sea, and in the midst of the sea a shell on the bottom, and in the shell is a gold ring, and she’s the ring. But never mind! we shall obtain her, but to-day Long must take Broad with him as well; we shall want him.’ Long took Sharpsight on one shoulder, and Broad on the other, and went thirty miles at a step. When they came to the black sea, Sharpsight showed him where he must reach into the water for the shell. Long extended his hand as far as he could, but could not reach the bottom.

‘Wait, comrades! wait only a little and I’ll help you,’ said Broad, and swelled himself out as far as his paunch would stretch; he then lay down on the shore and drank. In a very short time the water fell so low that Long easily reached the bottom and took the shell out of the sea. Out of it he extracted the ring, took his comrades on his shoulders, and hastened back. But on the way he found it a little difficult to run with Broad, who had half a sea of water inside him, so he cast him from his shoulder on to the ground in a wide valley. Thump he went like a sack let fall from a tower, and in a moment the whole valley was under water like a vast lake. Broad himself barely crawled out of it.

Meanwhile the prince was in great trouble in the castle. The dawn began to display itself over the mountains, and his servants had not returned; the more brilliantly the rays ascended, the greater was his anxiety; a deadly perspiration came out upon his forehead. Soon the sun showed itself in the east like a thin strip of flame–and then with a loud crash the door flew open, and on the threshold stood the wizard. He looked round the room, and seeing the princess was not there, laughed a hateful laugh and entered the room. But just at that moment, pop! the window flew in pieces, the gold ring fell on the floor, and in an instant there stood the princess again. Sharpsight, seeing what was going on in the castle, and in what danger his master was, told Long. Long made a step, and threw the ring through the window into the room. The wizard roared with rage, till the castle quaked, and then bang! went the third iron hoop that was round his waist, and sprang off him the wizard turned into a raven, and flew out and away through the shattered window.

Then, and not till then, did the beautiful damsel speak and thank the prince for setting her free, and blushed like a rose. In the castle and round the castle everything became alive again at once. He who was holding in the hall the outstretched sword, swung it into the air, which whistled again, and then returned it to its sheath; he who was stumbling on the threshold, fell on the ground, but immediately got up again and felt his nose to see whether it was still entire; he who was sitting under the chimney put the piece of meat into his mouth and went on eating; and thus everybody completed what he had begun doing, and at the point where he had left off. In the stables the horses merrily stamped and snorted, the trees round the castle became green like periwinkles, the meadows were full of variegated flowers, high in the air warbled the skylark, and abundance of small fishes appeared in the clear river. Everywhere was life, everywhere enjoyment.

Meanwhile a number of gentlemen assembled in the room where the prince was, and all thanked him for their liberation. But he said, ‘You have nothing to thank me for; if it had not been for my trusty servants Long, Broad, and Sharpsight, I too should have been what you were.’ He then immediately started on his way home to the old king, his father, with his bride and servants. On the way they met Broad and took him with them.

The old king wept for joy at the success of his son; he had thought he would return no more. Soon afterwards there was a grand wedding, the festivities of which lasted three weeks; all the gentlemen that the prince had liberated were invited. After the wedding Long, Broad, and Sharpsight announced to the young king that they were going again into the world to look for work. The young king tried to persuade them to stay with him. ‘I will give you everything you want, as long as you live,’ said he; ‘you needn’t work at all.’ But they didn’t like such an idle life, took leave of him, went away and have been ever since knocking about somewhere or other in the world.

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There are more of these tales from this website.  Happy reading! =)

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen. Such an epic novel. This book by Joan D. Vinge is now ranking high in my Favourite Books of All Time. This is probably the only book that made me feel hopeless enough to cry for a good few minutes from having to process what I’ve read. It’s a very full, well written book.

The basic outline of the book follows the original ‘Snow Queen’ by Hans Christian Andersen where the little girl tries to save her friend from the clutches of the Snow Queen. The book is set in a colorful world that you can almost see in front of you as you read. The characters are wonderful and the entire world that the author created is marvelous. Tiamat (an ocean goddess, according to Babylonian myth–lol yes, I researched the name; i was curious) is a mostly ocean planet with two tribes/clans called the Winters and the Summers. Summers are more traditional and Winters are in to technological advancement.

This is the kind of sci-fi that I like to read. I started reading in the fantasy genre and when I ventured into sci-fi, I’ve read some good one and not so good ones because not all of them deal in this type of imagery and story-telling. The world is huge and the characters are all unique. I absolutely love the mythological tones in the book!

the only thing that bugged me a bit is Sparks. He’s one of the main characters in the book and somehow, I felt that his character development was rushed. somehow, his actions felt out of character from what you know of him and i got the feeling that the focus on his part in the story was rushed. I can’t say any more without ruining the story for you guys, but if you have not read this, I strongly suggest you give it a try. I’m so lucky I found my old lovely copy in Value Village. Now I’m gonna hunt for The Summer Queen and see how it is. =)

The Windflower

Ok I have just finished the book by Laura London (aka Tom and Sharon Curtis) and of course I loved the characters, especially Cat. If you’re curious, the book is basically a romance and it happens aboard a pirate ship where the young girl Merry is kidnapped. You’ll have to read the book since right now, this is not a book review. This post is more like a tribute to my favourite character in that book, which is Cat. OMG, everytime, I think about him, I just can’t help it. Yesterday, I started a little story on him, I guess… So you could say this is a fan fiction story. But anyways, I tried to be true to Cat’s nature and the writing style so it it would seem like a continuation of Cat’s story after The Windflower. And so this is the first part….

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Cat stood out like a sore thumb in his class. Even though it had been two weeks since he’s been in the well-known university of Oxford, all the other boys around him couldn’t seem to get over the fact that he was real and different and of course, an ex-pirate. His ivory hair was braided neatly behind him, a dark green velvet ribbon at it’s end. The black and gold of the uniform he wore, similar to the other students, accentuated his pale but lightly tanned skin. From experience, he was used to people staring at him due to his exotic appearance. Yet while the cold and jealous stares were too petty for him to mind at the beginning, lately it was starting to wear out his patience. Avoiding any sort of exchange, even a simple conversation, in order to avoid conflict seemed to be making things worse for him but Cat had no desire to mingle with these stuck-up and condescending lot. If most of them weren’t looking daggers his way, they’d be sniveling behind his back with rumours and tall tales. Forcing himself to sit as still as he could, he half-listened to the professor’s lecture, his fingers absently twirling a pen. Inside his mind, he was back in the Black Joke, moving with ease, and familiar faces all around. He saw the rich blue satin of the sky and the far away line of the horizon. He could almost smell the wind as it caught the billowing white sails of the pirate ship. He pictured Morgan with his devilish face as he smiled saying, “Good luck, babe.” A sudden flare of anger burst inside his chest, but he extinguished it quickly, hardly taking off his gaze from the talking old man’s stout figure. Sometimes, he wished Morgan hadn’t made it known to his father that he was alive.

As simple as it was to come to this rich boys’ school every week day, it was an effort for Cat to try and be the son that Cathcart wanted him to be. He didn’t feel like himself and thoroughly felt like a fool pretending to be the same as these spoiled brats. It was bad enough that he now has to answer to a new name as was suggested by his father. “A new name for a new chapter in life, both yours and mine,” his father had said with a tender smile. He couldn’t bring himself to hate the man even if he consciously tried. Besides, the name wasn’t half-bad.

Cat let his eyes wander to the heads of the boys in the front row, settling his bored eyes to one who was busily scribbling in his notebook and intermittently looking up at the instructor and nodding as though in agreement before going back to his notes. Nobody else was as interested in law and ethics as the boy with the funny dark brown hair. All the other students, aside from him, were yawning or already asleep if they weren’t shooting glares at Cat. Cat allowed himself to wonder what the boy found so stimulating about lectures that included boring court statements and passing of bills and such.

A bell rang once and everyone seemed to come alive around Cat, hurrying out the double doors of the amphitheatre lecture room. The boy with the funny hair looked up as though surprised and scribbled some more before getting up and gathering his books. Cat sat there waiting, until all the other students had gone. Professor Langham, who was now putting his papers back into his bulky leather case, stopped to listen and waited as the boy tried to manage his books in his arms.

“Professor, if I may, why is it that only men can make laws? What about the girls, I mean women, don’t they have a say in law-making? The world isn’t populated in its entirety by males, is it?” A slightly challenging tone could be heard even from where Cat sat motionless, at the furthest row from the professor and from the doors.

The stout belly jiggled as Professor Langham cleared his throat. “Well, boy, isn’t it obvious that the genteel ways of ladies will be too strained to be handling things that the intellect of men can handle? Women serve their purpose by being the ladies of the house. That is the best they can achieve.”

Getting intrigued by the conversation, Cat remained seated and leaned on his palm, waiting for the boy to react.

“Well, isn’t that more of an assumption than fact? A fair example is the Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen; she ruled with excellence and she didn’t even need a king! She sure didn’t settle for sewing embroidery and waiting around for a husband to order her around. If you didn’t know, Queen Elizabeth was excellent in writing Italian, Latin as well as French and Greek. She’s one of the best educated women in her time!” The frantically escalating voice of the boy was getting pitchy from emotion. As Cat figured, the boy with the funny hair was more than a little willing to back up the reputation of girls or women, as he had mentioned. “Why can’t our society accept that today for our women?” the angry question came at an almost shout.

Flushing beet red, Professor Langham shuffled his papers into his case and shut it with a snap. “Young Evans,” he said, as his eyes bulged out as though trying to intimidate the boy with his glare, “You just have to accept the fact. Men govern, and women follow orders. Now, enough of this nonsense! Go off to your next class, shoo!” The balding old man kept mumbling about impertinent students as he made his way out and disappeared as the doors swung shut behind him with a bang. In the silence, Cat stared at the boy, who was still staring at the doors. Suddenly, as though he felt Cat’s eyes on him, the boy turned his head towards Cat. For a split second, the boy appeared to be searching his face. Again the pitchy voice came, “What are you staring at?” When Cat didn’t answer, the boy stormed out of the room.

After a yawn, Cat stood up and left. He wandered aimlessly through the halls as he always does, avoiding or driving off any of the others’ attempts at conversations with a single icy glare from his pale blue eyes. Nevertheless, his feet eventually took him past the arched halls and giant stone walls to a quiet spot where he was slowly getting developing a liking. It was a small garden in the northeast of the campus, past the wide field that was used for sports and ceremonies. There in the small garden were two benches made of gray stone which had cracks that told the age of the twin seats. In between those two benches was a tiny pond, overgrown with water lilies and water spiders crisscrossing the glasslike surface of the water. Behind it was a forgotten plot where vegetables must have been grown once upon a time. Cat saw some small tomatoes starting to turn orange-red he but couldn’t recognize the rest of the plant population among the small plot of land.

He settled himself on a cracked bench and stared at the small pond. Seeing the dark moldy water, he was reminded again of the ocean. Shaking his head, he murmured to himself, “Jesus, this had better stop soon,” as though uttering it to himself would make it happen. The homesick feeling crept up on him when he wasn’t careful about his thoughts. He had to guard himself from remembering the freedom of the ocean breeze and the familiar ease of being with his fellow pirates. Somehow he couldn’t make himself believe that he was a university student now and not a pirate. He remembered his father’s kind but naive advice. “Try to get along with your peers in the campus and if there’s any trouble, tell me at once.” The aging man had a blessed soul but Cat knew he would never utter a word even if there was trouble. Not that he was keen on making one for himself in the rich boys’ school; he was more preoccupied with the fact that the Black Joke had already sailed, and without him.

Two weeks ago, right before he started university, the crew had said their good lucks and farewell salutes. Raven, clapping him on the shoulder and shaking his head desolately, aptly said, “Hey, Cat, I’m sorry you have to go to that school.” Morgan had pulled the dark skinned boy away from him and faced Cat. “You belong here now, not on a pirate ship. We will all miss you, babe. But, who knows, eh? We might come back here.” Somewhere in his captain’s dark eyes sparkled a vague promise of some sort; one that Cat knew if he took seriously, he’ll be the one falling for the trick.

Feeling he was close to tears, Cat had willed himself not to do so. He knew better than to shed tears in front of his mates. “Yes, I know, Morgan. You’ll pass by here again in a hundred years, right?” he remarked, letting the sarcasm drip with every word. The whole crew guffawed and a shadow of a smile could be seen from Cat’s lips.

Bringing himself to the present, Cat kicked a rock and he watched as it tumbled away from him to settle close to the edge of the pond. He sighed, knowing he should put his frustration in check before he exploded on someone. The lazy afternoon sun was still high and the hot rays made him feel close to boiling in the constricting and heavy linens of the uniform. His hair was shorter, now only reaching his shoulder blades and the single braid felt lighter. Stretching his neck from side to side, Cat silently wondered if this was now truly the life he was to live.

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That’s the first part. I still have to find a way to properly introduce our heroine for the story. =) Her name is Lilian but she is often called Lily. I have her character in my mind and she is one funny girl, very spunky, too. So, did you like Cat’s story so far?? I originally intended for him to still be on the Black Joke (I started thinking of his story before I even finished the book) but when the ending gave the fact that he was going to school, I had to change things around.. I still like the other version.. if I have time, I’ll write it down sometime.

The Life and Times of Me, Pencil (Part 2)

I’m such a loser, aren’t I? I can’t even fight back even when I know I’m in the right. It’s not that easy in my case; I’m half Softy and half Eyeballs, anyways. But–there’s always this big BUT–only in DNA, is what I like to say. The Softy part of me I’ve abhorred most of my life; the Eyeballs part of me, I’m indifferent about it. Being part Softy, I got specific traits like being shy and quiet, stubborn, and very hardheaded. The traits I got from Eyeballs included being bossy, unforgiving, and quick-tempered. Although I got my height from both sides (grandfathers), I got mostly the facial features of Softy, the eyes and mouth mixed in with Eyeballs’ cheekbones and jawline. Even today I refuse to say I look like either of them (they bicker about it) and I just tell them I look like myself.

Eyeballs and I have a love-hate relationship from what I can tell. When me and my siblings were still small, Eyeballs stayed at home for the most part doing all the household chores while Softy was working abroad. I used to be fear-stricken whenever Eyeballs would get mad for not doing our homework before playing or watching TV. Eyeballs ruled with an iron fist. It was very hard to get away with anything, but we did try to get away with things nonetheless. One time, probably before I was about third grade or so, we had moved to our new house. It seemed like a big house to me back then; it had 3 bedrooms but one was converted to a kitchen area, a living area, dining area and of course, a washroom. The washroom was unfinished. So when we needed to have a poo or a pee or have a quick wash, we had to get out of the house, walk for about a minute to get to our old washroom. The little house we used to occupy was destroyed by a typhoon, but the washroom area stood. The floor was cement and one wall was connected to the kitchen sink and counter area made of hollowed blocks put together. With all the other three sides made of wood, it was easy to climb up the wooden parts to get over the cement wall and get out on the other side, onto the sink/counter area. This piece of information was very helpful when me and Fishie got locked in after finishing our wash. “What do we do?” Fishie had asked me. I was pulling at the door and yelling out to anybody who might possibly hear but no one came and the wooden door wouldn’t budge, stuck onto the doorframe like glue. “You’re smaller,” I remember saying, “so you can climb up the wood, get down onto the sink and push open the door from outside.” Fishie looked up, looking like it didn’t really look that high up.

Eventually, after a time of delaying, Fishie finally climbed up. I didn’t want to say this, but we were both butt-naked. We didn’t bring our change of clothes, thinking our house was very close. The towels were a hindrance at that time so Fishie climbed without anything on. Upon reaching the cement wall, I was looking up, admiring how Fishie was so courageous to do such a thing. From where I stood, Fishie suddenly looked very high up. Straddling the cement wall, Fishie looked to the outside where the sink and counter were then she looked back to where I stood. “Go on, then. Just get off and come open the door.” Did I mention how old Fishie was as this point? Let me think, third grade… three years younger… I think Fishie was about six years old. I  didn’t know what was going on in her mind back then but I was getting annoyed that she wasn’t moving. “Are you just going to sit there?” I had asked. “I want to get off,” she said. I picked up on the panic in her voice, but I tried to calm her down and not seem scared that she could possibly fall off or be stuck up there forever if she didn’t move any further. “Oh, alright. Get back down here then, and I’ll do it.” I remember seeing her hands gripping the wall in fear. Two eyes started to water and Fishie’s face changed as a loud cry came out. It was my turn to panic. Trying to hush Fishie, I kept saying the same things over and over. “Be quiet! Eyeballs will hear you! Just move and get back down here! I said be quiet! Eyeballs will hear you! Fishie, just move and get back down here! Hurry up!”

Even though I sounded very bossy and demanding, I was turning all kinds of goo inside. I knew my life was over at that moment, that Eyeballs would punish me and I was in big, big, bigger-than-life trouble. I heard people coming closer and I heard Eyeballs. I heard that voice, alarmed and upset, panic-stricken and furious at the same time. “What are you doing up there!” was the demand from outside. I tried to justify what they saw  and reason with them all at once. “The door was stuck; it won’t open. We couldn’t get out.” I gave a show of pulling at the door, but it opened. I stared at it for more than a few seconds, stunned at what just happened. I was completely stuck on the fact that it just opened that easily after my pulling and straining earlier. Eyeballs was giving instructions to people on how to get Fishie off the top of the wall and there were some bystanders watching the whole thing from a small distance. I quickly wrapped the towel around me and got out of the washroom as soon as Fishie was back on the ground. I wanted to run back to the house, but everybody was in the way. Lingering in the background, I wished no one would notice me while Fishie cried. But then they were asking what had happened and she was relaying the whole thing all too easily. I was getting uncomfortable and Eyeballs was getting hysterical, especially when she heard that I made Fishie climb up. Eyeballs–literally, all of them–zeroed in on me and Eyeballs came stalking towards me. I tried to back away but there was nothing to back away into.

I was cold with fear. Seeing Eyeballs going straight towards me sent red flags to my brain but I couldn’t move; I knew if I so much as ran away a few steps, my punishment would be worse than it already was going to be. Eyeballs grabbed me by the arm, pulled me closer so that I saw a set of eyes going cross-eyed in fury. “Why would you make her do that, huh, Pencil? Why? Fishie is not as big as you are and you make her climb all the way up there? What if she fell and hit her head? What if she was badly hurt? Would you be happy if she fell off and died?” I knew my role. I kept quiet–it was the best alternative; any effort of answering would mean I was backtalking Eyeballs. She looked away from me for a few seconds, setting those eyes on a older cousin of mine, Chocolate Milk. “Get my walis tingting.” Now, let me just explain what a walis tingting is (even though you probably won’t be able to imagine it)… It’s basically made of the middle part of individual coconut (tree) leaves, pulled apart to look like skinny little sticks. So it looks like dried sticks which are less than a meter long. In big bunches, it’s used to sweep the ground, but in smaller bunches, it’s used to swat flies. For Eyeballs and most parents from that time who were just as strict, the smaller bunch was used to discipline naughty children. And that day, I had been extremely naughty.

It was right after she said that awful word that I felt like crying. I thought to myself, I had no underwear on and no shorts to pad my skinny little bum from the pain it was about to recieve. Seeing Chocolate Milk run to the house and run back to Eyeballs just as fast sent thoughts of ‘Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod,ohmigod, I’m gonna get the walis tingting‘ to my poor brain. It was at that point in time where no one wanted to see little Pencil get hit on the bum, so the bystanders (mostly relatives) quickly dispersed and all that was left was Chocolate Milk and Eyeballs and Fishie and someone who was cooing and comforting Fishie.

I looked at Fishie, hating her for being such a baby. Then I looked at Chocolate Milk, hating her for bringing Eyeballs the fearsome walis tingting. Then I looked at Eyeballs, fearing the look in those fury-filled eyes. “Turn around!” I resigned myself to fate. Turning around, I knew what was to come. And as it did, in swift but painful whips, I swore to myself never to go with Fishie again to wash. That must have been the turning point on how I viewed Fishie. Ever since that incident, Fishie, to my eyes, was nothing more than a crybaby and a tattletale.

(To be continued…)