She appeared with the thunder, her voice whispering among the rain.


Lightning flashed. The young mage jolted awake in a cold sweat.

She stood by her bed. Her uniform was singed, torn, and bloodied, her orange face pale and drawn. Her eyes were empty white, the expression in them of dark, pulling dread.


Irix brushed her long black hair from her face, her heart freezing to stone within her. Blood was soaking through the bandage around the soldier’s head. Another large splotch stained the fabric over her heart.

Pain pulled through Irix’s chest. “No…” She shifted toward the specter, horror squeezing her throat. “No, you’re across the sea,” her voice came out as a timid plea. “You’re in Dilikí…”

I… the figure hesitated. Pain crossed her sheer features. I think I’m dead, Irix…

Irix’s shook her head. Her breath caught. She pulled the covers aside and stood up. “No—No I’ll fix this. I’ll get to you somehow. I can—”

Please…Don’t. The young, war-torn woman reached out a hand. Her palm was icy against the back of Irix’s hand. It’s too late…The cuts and burns began to fade. I’ve come to say goodbye.

Irix stepped closer, tears welling up in her eyes. How much pain she must have been in before she died.

She was dead. How could she be dead?

Slowly, the specter raised her hands. They gently took either side of Irix’s head. She leaned in, planting a cold, misty kiss on Irix’s forehead. Tears began to spill down Irix’s face. She raised a hand to touch the hand of her friend, but it passed through. Irix bowed her head, choking on her grief. This couldn’t be happening. This had to be just a nightmare.

But Irix wasn’t one to dream. Not like this.

“I’ll find a way to bring you back,” Irix said.

No, the specter said, softly, fading. I must go. I’m sorry, Irix.

            “Promise me,” Irix looked up into the vacant eyes, desperate. “Promise me you’ll remember me. You have to find me again.”

The young woman managed a sad, gentle smile. Irix…

“There has to be something,” Irix insisted. “I could—”

Let this happen. The specter ran a tender hand across Irix’s face, brushing a strand of hair from the mage apprentice’s eyes. Irix, let me go…

“I can’t,” Irix said, the tears resurging. She shook her head again, her voice breaking, “I can’t….”

I’m so tired…the specter sighed. She bowed her head against Irix’s. Keep faith, all right? Prosper, for me.

            Irix bit her lip. She closed her eyes tightly. The tears burned her face. She nodded. “Your death will not have been in vain. I swear it.”

The soldier smiled. A smile Irix had missed. She’d seen it so many times before. But on a healthy, orange face, with brown eyes and warm breath. A herald of unbridled sarcasm, in brighter days, gone forever.

It was sorrowful now, faded, aching.

Never again. It would never be the same again.

“I love you,” Irix said, her voice shaking.

As do I, the soldier’s voice was little more than a sigh now. She faded, pulling apart like vapor. Goodbye, Irix…

Irix opened her eyes with a start. Thunder clapped loud, snapping painfully through her jaw. Her room was empty, her face drenched with tears.

She tore her covers aside and lurched unsteadily for the door. She couldn’t see straight. She tore out into the hallway, and tripped on the rug. Her palm hit the wall. She fell to her knees.

Irix clutched her face in her hands. “Eislin,” she choked. “Eislin no no no…” She doubled over, bowing her head. “No why did this happen…” Irix was mere months from finishing her training. She was going to return to the continent. They were going to be together again. Irix was going to protect her so she’d come home too–

The thunder churned outside, the rain tapped on the roof, but her friend was no longer within it. Eislin was gone.

Irix dragged herself upright and pushed on in the dark. She could hardly breathe. She welcomed the static seeping in through the looming windows. She gathered the pain, pulling it into her. Drawing the energy, collecting it, holding it. She could imagine the book in her mind’s eye, its location on the shelf, about where the spell would be located. What would happen if her master caught her attempting it, or if she even managed to pull it off.

The Arkenyon monarchy would fall. Arken and Dilikí would pay for their war. For cutting Eislin’s life short. Irix would dismantle them both.

And she would make something new.

Eislin would grow up in a better world than the one she left behind. And she would stay alive in this one.

Even if Irix never saw her again.


A/N: Kennick’s master is neglecting to mention something…Not important, right? Probably not important…


I am both driven and plagued by the conviction that if one works hard enough, they can achieve anything. They can make anything work, push themselves further than anyone, especially themselves, thought possible.

A classic American cultural value. Good old optimism and elbow grease. Taking hold of your life and making something good.

But it doesn’t apply to everything. I knew that. But still, when it’s time to bail, I find myself blaming my weakness, my lack of faith, my inability to self-motivate, my lack of desire. Whether it’s true or not, I want to blame myself, berate myself for being so incompetent, so weak, so tired.

I came to California thinking I had to do it all. But I see now that things have to back up a bit. Maybe I jumped the gun, put too much faith in my own abilities, maybe I was naïve, or maybe I needed to learn more about what I do and do not want out of my life.

If I divide myself, I will be divided. I should not divide myself so much if I cannot accept the consequences. As a biologist, I should know that energy is finite.

Perhaps in a higher energy season, I could have pulled it off.

But I came here drained. I could only hope I’d be all right. So far, I still cling to that hope. It feels like I start again every week, and not in the good way. The never-settling-down kind of way, the constant-exhausting-complications kind of way.

But am I just jumping off because things have gotten hard? Too many warning signs cropped up in the 14-day period I just spent without a day off from work or school. Where I needed to do homework little by little, but left it undone for days because I was simply too tired to concentrate and resist the stress. Today is my first day off in two solid weeks, and it must be spent working on homework.

I haven’t been playing much these days. I can’t muster much more than noncommittal doodles, scribblings, and homework. I want to draw digitally, but I don’t have the energy. I haven’t been getting enough sleep. The constant strain and frustration of never feeling settled has made me unhappy. It took me weeks to admit it.

I’ve been waiting for more coherency to write a life update. More courage to focus on only the positives, poke fun at my own insecurities to help work through them, think deeply enough for organized social commentary. After such a long silence, I wish I had something more interesting, more polished.

But this is all I have on the nonfiction front. At least for now.

Don’t worry about me. Things are in hand. They just need to shift.

Snake Wrangler

A/N: Kennick is too old for a proper governness, not that Irix thinks she needs additional house staff to manage him. Edhard Delaine is the head of Irix’s household security, which incidentally includes miscellaneous tasks not included in his job description, such as chasing down the baby mage.


Edhard appeared in the doorway of Kennick’s room. “Master Kennick, you’re to get ready for—”

Kennick was over the side of the bed in an instant, catching himself on his hands and propelling himself toward the side door.

Edhard jumped. “Hey—Kenn—”

He leaped for Kennick’s serpentine lower half, but Kennick managed to pull it out in time. He heard Edhard scramble up as he grabbed the corner and pulled himself around it.

Any moment, he expected to feel Edhard’s grip. He had to find some way to lose him, somewhere to hide. There was no way Kennick was going to a political meeting and pretending he wasn’t slowly turning into a snake in front of royals and politicians, while pretending he understood or even cared what they droned on and on about.

He spotted a window. It had a ledge. If he could access it in time, he’d be able to hang on it and cling to the trellis below and hopefully throw off Edhard’s pursuit. Irix couldn’t drag him anywhere if she couldn’t find him.

He veered toward the opening to freedom.

A body slammed down around his tail. A tug stopped Kennick dead. He lost his momentum, along with the balance of his torso.

Frantic, he planted his hands underneath him, pulling and reaching up for the sill.

“Oh no you don’t—” Edhard said, clawing his way up Kennick’s flank.

The floor tiles offered a poor anchor. Kennick could shift his tail under Edhard’s grip if he twisted it right. Maybe if he jerked everything to the side—

But then Edhard was on top of Kennick’s back, and Kennick’s torso was pinned. His tail looped and thrashed behind Edhard, while Kennick pulled uselessly. Edhard had the physique of a brick wall. His hands planted on Kennick’s shoulders.

“Come on, Master Kennick,” he said as Kennick struggled. “You can handle being bipedal for a couple hours.”

“Last time was horrible!” Kennick’s tail collided with the wall. He could get it out and over the sill, but he might hurt Edhard if they both fell. “I start feeling sick after 30 minutes! And I puff up like a biscuit and everyone can tell—”

Edhard pushed Kennick’s shoulders flat with a grunt. “Your master is waiting.”

“I’m not going,” Kennick huffed.

“I don’t think that option was on the table…”

“I’ll be sick then,” Kennick said. “You’re breaking my ribs, anyway…”

“Sorry…” Edhard gingerly eased himself up from Kennick’s torso.

Kennick tried to bolt immediately—an act which earned him a headlock.

He squirmed, gripping Edhard’s clamped arms. He shifted and wrapped his tail around Edhard’s legs, trying to pull him off, but the guard held fast.

The more Kennick pulled, the more he pulled his own neck. He stopped, finally, to catch his breath.

Edhard’s breathing had deepened as well. His body was humid around Kennick’s face. Between breaths, Edhard began to laugh. “Never a dull moment,” he said with a sigh of a scoff. “Never a dull moment…”

Kennick slowly released him. “I’m not going,” he said again, strained.

“Are you now?” Edhard seemed content to lie there on the floor, Kennick’s still-attached head as his prize.

“I can’t,” Kennick said into Edhard’s sleeve. “I’ll be bipedal while Irix is gone, if she wants, but I’ll transform at home—not in high society.”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing to negotiate,” Edhard said gently.

Kennick moaned.

“I had a feeling this would happen.”

Kennick looked up. His master stood over them, arms crossed.

Kennick exchanged a glance with Edhard.

Irix sighed. “Thank you, Edhard. You can let him go.”

Edhard hesitated. Kennick considered resuming his attempted escape, but thought better of it as the guard released him.

Edhard helped pull Kennick upright. Then he brushed himself off, tipped a polite nod, and departed, scooping his hat up off the floor as he went.

Kennick waited, chagrined.

“Stay put,” Irix said.

Kennick nodded, looking at the floor.

“So what is all this?”

“Can’t we wait until I’ve fixed this?” Kennick mumbled.

“We can’t put anything on hold,” Irix said. “I have enough portable energy reserves to last you all night if necessary.”

Kennick made a face. He preferred to use the master reserve downstairs in the temple with its warm, crackling energy. The portable energy reserves were angry little electrocution boxes. Callous, abrupt. Like shooting lightning up his nose.

“I’d have to use them every two hours,” Kennick said. “And because you won’t have a moment, I’ll have to transform all the way in order to revert back. That’s a waste of energy, and I’ll have to do it in some bathroom somewhere. Some of those fancy bathrooms are really small.”

“Maybe,” Irix said. “But you won’t have to do it more than three times—at the very most.”

Kennick’s expression darkened. “If I was sick with a virus, you’d let me stay home.”

“Life goes on even when participation is hard to stomach,” Irix said simply. “If we waited for perfect conditions, we’d never accomplish anything.”

Kennick rolled his eyes.

Irix flicked his forehead. “None of that, Kennick.”

“Sorry.” Kennick rubbed his forehead.

Irix turned. “Come on, then. Get ready and meet me down in the temple in half an hour with your trousers and other effects. You can revert right before we leave.”

“And if I’m late?”

Irix didn’t turn around. “You don’t want to be late.”

Kennick crossed his arms. The door to the hallway closed behind her.

Kennick frowned. He’d been punished by his master enough times to know that suffering through the night’s political meeting with his current affliction was probably better than finding out what Irix had had in mind.

With an exasperated groan, he directed himself back to his bedroom.

He should have planned this out better.

Perpetual Low-level Panic

I don’t think my family and roommates quite thought through what it would be like going through this transition with me. Or maybe they did, and didn’t tell me they knew what they were signing up for.

Because I certainly didn’t.

Soft road-raging and regular word-vomit, escape mode when I should be enjoying the novelty, fussing up a storm about things that aren’t technically my responsibility, sleeping in the same bed as me for 5 weeks, broken ranting sessions full of things I mostly don’t mean but need to cleanse myself from at 11pm when you have to be up at 5:20am for work the next morning, tearful, timid conversations about how scared and anxious and tired I am, random texts about how California’s the worst because money and traffic, unexpected fits of “I got the job but I still feel like the interview went badly and I can’t stop feeling so incredibly awkward about it.” And so on, and so on.

I used to think I was generally pretty easygoing. But perhaps not in a time of such transition when I was in the middle of one of those “off” years anyway—when everything feels forced and painful and borderline useless, yet everything’s changing out from under me because of this step I’ve made. I’m still hurting from the burnout of this last year, but I’ve launched myself into a position where nothing is familiar or straightforward; and swift, multifaceted adaptation is demanded or else.

So, my brain’s been crying a lot, but somehow the knots are gradually untangling. Things are generally ok, and though I seem to get lost every time I step outside, I’ve managed to show up for where I need to be. There are still some hang-ups we’re working on, but I pray those will be resolved soon.

Thanks for sticking it out with me. You know who you are.

Needless to say, I haven’t been in a great position the last few weeks to write a coherent blog post. It’s been a lot.

But in the midst of the ongoing “Sara-is-losing-her-mind” times, good things have been happening. I’ve made it through orientation, for one. Training for my job starts a week from tomorrow, which is also the day we can hopefully move into our apartment, which is within walking distance of the transit station (aka no more swearing/praying while trying to find a parking space is making me late first day of orientation). I’ve attended both of my on-campus classes once, and though I’m not sure how to approach homework efficiently, I think I’ll get used to it pretty quickly. I’ve already learned so much and I’m really looking forward to all this semester will bring.

It’s all going to take so much work, so many extra miles with hurting feet. Admittedly, I still don’t feel ready, but I’m unsteadily bracing myself anyway. I feel like I’m training to become a wizard. Illustrators are wizards, truly. And training for wizardry’s intense, man.

We’re not in undergrad anymore. No social events, no indeterminate bedtime, no room for procrastination or “I don’t want to do homework right now.”

It’s time to break out the upbeat anime protagonist music (though I’m more the sarcastic, tired, awkward protagonist these days—but they’re a part of happy slice-of-life shows, so it’s fine, I think). I’m here to work. It will take early mornings, late nights, dead recovery Sundays, hardcore time budgeting, probably some blood, and lots and lots of charcoal.

But I think it’s going to be worth it. I really do.

The Ghost Prince

“Why did you take your coverings off outside?” Evin’s governess, Gwinna sighed as she applied a pungent glob of salve to the raw skin on the back of the boy’s otherwise colorless neck. “And why did you leave them off for so long?”

Evin winced. He looked at the reddened skin of his burned hands. A little closer, he thought. A little closer to the color he should have been.

Though he was still very far off.

“It was too hot,” Evin said quietly. His mask and hood breathed well enough, but the canvas chafed against his face. The coat it was attached to became humid if he ran, especially in the summer.

Not to mention the garb looked stupid. He hated it.

The only part of him people could see were his eyes, but only through large tinted glasses—which didn’t fit his face properly and constantly slipped down his nose.

Everyone knew Evin couldn’t set foot in the sun without being covered head-to-toe. Yet Stephan and the other kids always insisted on playing outside anyway. It was supposedly more fun.

Evin had freed himself that afternoon. Just once, to see for himself how expensive it was. They didn’t understand how good they had it.

A door opened and the smug, violet face of his older brother appeared.

“Hey old man,” Stephan said. “How’s the ectoplasm?”

“Shut up,” Evin muttered.

“Stephan,” Gwinna said. “I think your brother needs some space right now.”

Stephan smiled and shrugged. He sauntered out to the balcony and disappeared over the side.

“You know how dangerous it is for you to be out in the sun,” Gwinna said. “Don’t ever take your coverings off outside again, all right? I know you don’t like it, but it’s not worth hurting your health over.”

Evin nodded dismally.

Everyone in the whole world got to have some sort of color: Red, orange, burgundy…And how could Evin, a kid who happened to belong to a family with a very specific, important skin tone, be the only one denied?

Poor Evin, they said. Had to be cursed, they said. The royal family was always dark violet. What had the king and queen done, people whispered, to deserve to have a child without pigment?

“This is going to blister…” Gwinna sighed, gently applying the salve to his face. She lifted a hand to rub some in the part in his white hair. “Thank goodness you kept your glasses on out there.”

Evin nodded, narrowing his red-violet eyes at the tiles beneath his feet.

At least Dilikí had one proper heir.


A/N: Diliken tend to be superstitious, and rather shallow in some circles. It’s just a genetic defect, guys. Everybody calm down.

Still, 13 years later, Evin did rise to the head of the monarchy. How? We shall see.

Royal Bicarbonate of Soda

A/N: Stacea doesn’t quite understand that regular people really can’t smell as well as she does. But everyone else just thinks she’s either being sensitive or metaphorical most of the time. Perthaeam are kind of like highly territorial guard dogs with a knack for sensing things that lie beneath the surface. Two days’ time will reveal for Kennick and Irix what’s afoot.


“Aría.” Stacea stepped up beside her, an empty silver tray tucked under her arm. “What do you make of that kid over there?”

Aría surveyed the guests in the direction indicated by Stacea’s tilt of head.

She spotted him, standing along the edges of the reception, mouth clamped shut and eyes staring straight ahead. His entire demeanor was an inward moan of social anxiety.

Aría ducked her head closer to Stacea. “What about him?”

“What do you make of him?”

“He looks uncomfortable to me. I didn’t see who he arrived with—seems too young to have come alone. Who does he belong to?”
“He smells like a reptile to me…” Stacea said quietly. “I don’t like him.”

Aría hesitated, confused. “Like he can’t be trusted, you mean?” She didn’t know if calling someone a reptile was an insult in Dilikí as it was in Kaladría.

“I don’t know,” Stacea murmured. “It puts me on edge.”

The boy winced. His hand found its way to the gold vest, over his abdomen.

“You really don’t smell it?”

Aría abruptly handed her tray to Stacea, startling her. “Hold this for a second.”

Once the tray was out of her possession, she ignored Stacea’s hissed protestations and threaded through the satin and conversation to the kid leaning against the wall.

The boy noticed her with a start.

“Excuse me, sir,” Aría said gently. “Are you all right?” She could practically feel Stacea’s dismay boring a hole in the back of her head, but she didn’t look away from the king’s guest. “Can I get you anything?”

The boy looked at her, wide-eyed, as if cornered. He pulled his hand off his vest and pinned it to his side.

He was sweating. “No, I’m fine,” he said. “Thank you—” His breath caught. He swallowed. “Actually, where is the bathroom? Sorry…”

“Here, let me show you,” Aría said. “It’s just outside of these doors down the hallway.”

The boy moved after her, his hand finding its way to his middle again. “Thank you, ma’am.”

Aría hadn’t expected an honorific toward her to come from his mouth. She led him out into the silent hallway, watching him in her peripheral vision. He kept his gaze on the floor, eyes tight.

“Really, can I get you anything?” she ventured again as they came upon the door. “Soda water, perhaps?”

The boy cracked a wan smile and reached for the doorknob. “No, thank you.” He opened the door.

“If you change your mind just let any of us know, all right?” Aría tugged lightly on the black collar of her servant’s uniform.

The boy nodded and slipped into the bathroom. As Aría stepped away, she thought she heard the sound of vomiting.

She hesitated. The door from another one of the rooms opened and Aría jumped to make herself scarce. She stole down the hallway, ducked into the servant’s passage, and headed straight to the kitchen to continue her assigned task for the night.

She would keep an eye out for him, she decided, and possibly swing by the bathroom later to make sure he was all right.


Kennick dragged himself out from behind the heavy bathroom door. As he unsteadily made his way toward the ballroom, the door opened to betray his master.

“Where have you been?” Irix said.

Kennick gestured behind him. “In the bathroom, hurling chips.”

Irix let the door shut. Her expression softened as she strode up to him. “That’s not good…” She put a hand on his forehead. “You don’t feel feverish…And what did I say about colloquialisms?”

“Sorry…” Kennick said.

“You haven’t been drinking have you?”

Kennick shook his head. “Just juice, water, and food, as you said.”

Irix crossed her arms. “Have you been feeling sick today? Are you nervous? Did you drink tap water somewhere?”

Kennick shook his head again. He winced at a sharp jab of pain in his abdomen. “I think it’s passing.” And he thought he’d already adjusted to upper class tap water.

“Good.” She considered his face. “I have another couple of hours before we can leave. Can you make it that long?”

“Yes, I think so,” Kennick said. He felt like he was lying, but he thought he’d be fine sitting still and sipping water. If he could just be with his master, he’d be all right. People didn’t usually talk to him much if he was near her.

Half an hour later, the maid who’d shown him to the bathroom found him in the parlor, reclined in an easy chair near where his master sat at a table talking with colleagues. The maid offered a well-meaning smile and handed him a squat wine glass with a cloudy, fizzing liquid inside.

“For your stomach, sir,” she said quietly. She didn’t sound Diliken, or Arkanian as far as Kennick could tell. “I hope you’re feeling better.”

“Thank you.” Kennick flashed a wan smile as he took the glass. Irix glanced back, making eye contact first with Kennick, then the servant before giving a single, appreciative nod, and returning her attention to what the man across from her was saying.

The maid bobbed a respectful curtsy before pivoting around and taking her leave.

Kennick watched her go, gingerly raising the glass to his lips.


“Stacea,” Aría lowered her voice as she accompanied her back toward the kitchen. “That kid you don’t like? I think he’s with Irix Ingram.”

Stacea glanced back, the side of her nose scrunching up. “You were babying the apprentice of Irix Ingram?” She looked aside thoughtfully. “No wonder he smells strange.”

“She has an apprentice?”

“How did you find out who he was?”

“He was sitting by her in the parlor when I gave him soda water.”

Stacea brought a hand to her forehead. “Aría, that’s not your job.” She looked up at her. “Wait—you mean you were close to his master?”

“We made eye contact…Can you believe that?”

“You not only handed her apprentice an unapproved beverage, but you handed it to him right in front of her? She could have thought it was poison, for all we know. What if she took offense?”

“She looked kind of grateful, actually.” Aría ducked her head. She lowered her voice further as they entered the kitchen, “I just wanted to help the kid. He looked so miserable. And the posh and starch of these sort of things are bad enough without throwing up in a king’s bathroom—”

Stacea shot her a warning look as they neared the table where the kitchen staff was busily filling trays with more appetizers.

Aría picked up a tray. “He’s with his master now. I’ll leave him alone, all right?”

Stacea’s lips tightened as she picked up a tray of her own. “That would be best.”

How have I been? Well…

I used to think autopilot was a bad way to live life. I’ve since come to find out that a measure of autopilot-ing in life is good. It frees up headspace for more important things. Avoiding “reinventing the wheel,” so to speak so I have more energy to spend on writing, drawing, and coffee dates.

My autopilot’s kind of out of commission these days because I’m moving away soon; taking a foolhardy, unprepared step further toward full-blown adulthood and my dream career. Admittedly, it’s hard for me to imagine professional life. I’ve learned so much, I have experience in a wide variety of areas, and I learn quickly, but I forever feel like I’m not quite there.

Looking for a job to pay for my rent just intensifies the feeling—that I’m still just a derpy kid not ready for the world. Not ready for anything.

Everything’s displaced and I haven’t even left yet.

This Saturday, my family is accompanying myself, my sister (roommate #1), and my friend (roommate #2) to the SF Bay Area for a week while we scramble to find affordable housing and good work compatible with class schedules.

And right now, I’m just sitting alone at the kitchen table, music blaring through my headphones, typing away and thinking. Thinking. Thinking.

I’ve felt a little out of touch with reality lately. The reality I’ve naively tried to ignore.The burnt out biology student throwing herself into graduate art school and needing to work a good 30 hours a week to stay afloat. I don’t want to have to face the dark sides of that reality. I’m not sure if I can take it.

I wish I could hype myself up, get myself to believe that it will be challenging but fun nonetheless like I did freshman year of undergrad. The most recent semester felt like a constant state of being run over, and I can’t stand the thought of that happening again with an added hour commute, alien terrain, and monthly bills on top of it all.

But God has worked me through self-worth issues, an arduous path of personal betterment, and classes that I thought would be the death of me. He has led me into things I never would have thought I’d have the heart or the courage for. He encouraged me in the science route for undergrad, challenged my obsession with writing, pointed me toward professional storytelling the moment I pried my hands off what I thought I wanted for a career. He saw me through 2.5 years of a sport my family couldn’t afford. He found me a good car for under $2000 that I really should have paid a lot more for.

If He can pull off all He’s already done for my family and me in my short 22 years of existence, I think He can get me a job and an apartment in the Bay Area.

As much as I complain in this anxious, listless limbo, I still believe it will work out.

Because there’s still a part of me that leans toward naïve optimism out of a deep sense of necessity. As cynical and burnt out as I still am from the last four years (which really were a good 4 years), and as this move is becoming more and more complicated (impossible housing market, losing a roommate, car trouble, etc. etc. etc.), the interface between logic and faith as I understand it demands I recognize the need to look for the bright side of things. To not lose hope in optimism and the excitement of new seasons realized. To above all look to the God who has proven Himself faithful countless times over.

Problematic Providence

A/N: An excerpt from Dragonfly, but you may recognize these two from an earlier post about a scrappy 12-year-old with mention of her sullen, adopted brother. Flash forward seven years, they’re nowhere near model citizenship: key players in a guerrilla-style resistance movement, up against human weapons and an impending dictatorship, suddenly faced with a possibility that could just as easily spell their victory as their demise.


“Derek, you’ve been brooding for two days,” Andrew sat down across from her brother, who silently picked at a bowl of cereal Tuesday morning. “What’s eating you?”

Derek didn’t move for several long moments. Finally, he tentatively lifted his gaze. “You know that screening we did the other day?”

“Yeah. I thought nothing came of it.”

Derek hesitated. “I’m Compatible.”

Andrew just stared at him. Her eyebrows lowered as the full meaning of Derek’s words sank in. “Compatible.”

Derek nodded. “And Livingston wants me to activate it as soon as possible.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Please tell me you told him to get over himself.”

“I told him I’d think about it.”

“You’re actually considering it.”

Derek shrugged.


“Well I don’t really have a choice, do I?” He raked a hand through his black hair. “Having a Compatibility on our side could turn this battle in our favor.” He looked up. “There’s a chance I could rescue Mom.”

“And you’re willing to turn yourself into a monster like the ICoNs to do that,” Andrew said quietly, indecisively. “Assuming Mom is even still alive…”

“They’re not monsters—” Derek insisted, perhaps a little too quickly. His mind turned to what Orly had said about her son, Patrick.

“You realize you’ll be a weapon, right? No matter what Livingston says, he’s going to head that direction the moment you finish transforming. Especially if it’s something intense.” Andrew crossed her arms and leaned back. “And once you bring it out, you can’t go back. If you don’t like your Compatibility, or if something goes horribly wrong, no one will be able to help you.”

“I know.” Derek rested his elbows on the table.

“And you’re a wanted man. If you go to the hospital, it’ll all be over. Another one of our upper circle captured.”

“I know…”

“Don’t do it, Derek,” Andrew said softly, but Derek detected the threatening edge to her tone. “We can get everyone back on our own. No mad science involved.”

“But that’s what we’re up against,” Derek said, anxiety and desperation pulling at his throat. “And would it be so bad? To be a Compatible? I’d still be me, wouldn’t I?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”
She shrugged. “On your Compatibility. And it’s not just whether you’re yourself or not. How will your decision to go through with it align with the rest of the Conscience? Would loyalty falter if you and Livingston dabble in the government’s insanity?”

Derek stared dismally at the table. “I don’t know. It’s just…I have a responsibility. To you, to Mom, to this huge network we’ve created—to do whatever I can to set things right.” His eyes narrowed. “And I helped plan those failed missions—and I hate sitting here unable to do anything. If there’s even a shred of possibility that I could repair some of those mistakes…”

Andrew frowned. “We’re all doing the best we can…”

“But what if it isn’t enough?” Derek met her gaze. “What if it will never be enough? Too much is at stake, Andrew. If we fall, who will take our place before the government wreaks utter destruction on peace and order?” He turned his face aside and narrowed his eyes at the floor. “We’re on borrowed time as it is. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be better to take the precaution…” His expression softened. “…It would be a small price to pay. You have all given so much, and that means a lot. An awful lot. What kind of leader would I be if I weren’t willing to make a few sacrifices myself?”

Andrew stared at him, her jaw tense. Her eyes burned, but she didn’t say anything more.

Snakes and Rabbits

KennickA/N: High society is a much darker place than Kennick realized. And Ix has a lot to deal with, especially with her loud-mouthed apprentice learning more about the vulgarities of the world the hard way.

The boundaries of this story are still extremely unsolidified, so I’ve just been kind of going off the deep end. As you’ll no doubt find in the excerpt below. (Mages tend to be quite eccentric.)

+ + +

“Just send out a bunch more oranges. They reproduce like rabbits anyway.”

Kennick was lurching toward them before he realized it. “What the heck did you just say?”

A firm hand caught his shoulder, tugging him back.

“Let them talk,” Ix whispered warningly in his ear as she turned him around. “Doesn’t mean anything.”

Kennick tried to extricate himself from her. “Oh no, I think it does.”

That was him they were talking about. His mother, his sisters, his other family and friends. His father too, who had died on the battlefield fighting their war.

Is that what they thought about oranges? Is that what they thought about the sacrifice and loss and grief that had ravaged so many families?

He pulled against his master. He glanced back over his shoulder as Ix just short of dragged him from the room. He wished he had his snake tail instead of his socially appropriate legs. He wished he could wrap it around them and squeeze.

They’d see who the real rabbits were, then.

“Kennick,” Ix was saying. He kept pulling, trying to pry her off even as the door closed behind them, leaving them alone in the hallway. “Kennick.”

Kennick glanced aside to see an unoccupied electrical socket. He reached for it.

Ix slapped him hard across the face. “Kennick listen to me.”

Kennick stopped. He couldn’t meet her gaze.

Ix stared him down. Kennick stood very still, futility and anger and grief throbbing in time to each other in his stinging face. He felt the hate emanating from behind the closed door. The barrier of which he was supposed to pretend he was on the better side. If he let them talk they’d continue talking.

“Things do not have to stay the way they are,” Ix said steadily. “That’s why we’re here. To make sure they don’t. But it takes time.”

Kennick’s eyes narrowed, pain welling up in his throat. How could he stand there and pretend he was one of them? To let this go on for even one more second?

Ix sighed, resting a hand on his shoulder and gently guiding him toward the opposite door. “Come on. Let’s go home. I’m done here anyway.”

Kennick rubbed his eyes. “They have no right to say that. They’re stupid if they think—”

“Not here,” Ix said, her hand tightening.

“But how can they even think that?” Kennick persisted, at least attempting to lower his voice. “Was that all they were? All the people that died? Are we just rabbits to you?”

“No,” Ix said. “Not to me.”

Kennick regarded the burgundy skin of her arm. The false illusion of burgundy she had rendered his own. He felt sick.

“Let’s get you properly serpentine and with some hot chocolate in your possession,” Ix said, thinking. “We’ll plant ourselves in the lounge and talk it through, all right?”

Kennick nodded, dismal.

Talking about it in secret wouldn’t change anything. He expected it would just make him feel worse.