The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Developing: The furcuţă curse
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:25 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2017 3:14 am
Posts: 4
Topics: 1
Hi (she says nervous as hell)

Help would be very much appreciated, I've never done this before.

Thanks so much :)

Jinny




The Furcuţă Curse

By the Mulberry Thief

Summary:
This is a story about a girl, her sisters and her mysterious pet frog all living on the edge of an enchanted forest. In her quest to keep those dearest to her safe, can Tara unravel a dark curse from her past and find love in the most unlikely of places?

Setting:
Romanian folklore, early sixteenth century.

Pairing:
W/T centric, it just takes Tara a little while longer to realise it. Other notable coupling include; Angel/Buffy with undercurrents of Drusilla/Spike.

Disclaimer:
The story is mine, but I’m borrowing the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and some narrative components from the brothers Grimm tale The Frog Prince, Twelve Dancing Princess, and a lovely little book called Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.

Rating:
PG – NC17, mild violence, sexual content and references.

Feedback:
I could use all the help I can get. This is the very first thing I’ve written that’s managed to venture further then my USB stick.


CHAPTER ONE–The visitor

We live outside a strange village, full of folklore, mysteries and unexplainable things. The town’s people fear the woods, they whisper of ghost walkers, otherworldly trickery and all matter of horrid beasts lurking beneath the forests cover. And they fear us, for our mansion stands alone on the very edge of the wildwood.

My father is a peculiar man, the type whose eccentricity encourages rumours and prying eyes. As a young lad he spent his entire inheritance to buy our castle for no other reason than he loved the notion of hidden nooks and secret passages. We three sisters never questioned the sense in such a decision, children rarely do. We thought it was thrilling having a forbidden mansion all to ourselves. Only our mother suffered the move. I imagine she found it awfully lonely out here on the Border, and though she loved us dearly, I don’t think she was ever truly happy hidden away from the world.

When she died, rumours spread. Rumours of curses, dark forces and the price one pays for living so close to the woods. Another death on the Maclay estate.

The first death had not been a member of our family, but a childhood friend. Her name was Willow and she was the Rosenberg’s little girl.

The Rosenberg’s were the closest things we had to neighbours, though their territory was in the Yarrow’s and almost half a day’s ride south. It was good farmland there, high up in the mountains, and according to gossip, much less likely to be possessed by demonic spirits. My father and Lord Ira had somewhat of a business relationship. Rosenberg would oversee our accounts ensuring that my father’s trading prices were competitive and well marketed in exchange for a percentage of the annual profits. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement, especially considering Rosenberg’s affinity with numbers and my father’s connections with the finest silk merchants in Venice.

Many years ago the Rosenberg’s had two children.

The eldest, a son name Warren, who was frightfully stubborn and not at all like his farther. He walked with a swagger and when he spoke he spat words into the air and when he ate it was almost as if he was slaughtering the food on his plate all over again.

He could not be more different then his sister, the ever-smiling, ever-polite Miss Willow Danielle. She was bright in every way, her mind, her hair, her eyes. When she was five years old she beat old man Snyder in the village chess tournament. It was the talk of the town. No one had done that for decades. When she was six her father started bringing her on his business ventures. He called her his lucky charm, and that she was. Merchants fell in love with the clever young lady, keen to hear all they could teach her.

Though of course the towns people talked, for a man to bring his youngest daughter over his oldest son on such trips was very odd. Surely when it came time to name his successor he would call on his son. Though, if that were the case, why was his daughter chosen as his obvious apprentice?

As it turns out, there would never be a deciding moment wherein Lord Rosenberg made his decisions clear. Willow drowned in the River Swallow before her tenth birthday.

I have heard people speculate and exaggerate the circumstances of that day so many times that I, one of the two people who witnessed it, have lost any true sense of what really happened. But even after so many years night terrors still wake me, and I swear I remember seeing hands in the water dragging her under as Warren struggled desperately to pull me to shore. Like claws from the deepest depths pulling her down until nothing but rushing water remained.

“She’s gone Tara. Willow’s gone.” Her brother kept telling me, small hands on my shoulders and wet hair plastered to his brow.

He was only twelve at the time, but on that day he looked faded and old.

The Rosenberg’s never truly recovered.

Lady Shelia still only wears muted colours of mourning and busies herself with meaningless tasks. Only on the rarest occasion have I caught her without distraction and in those moments she looks every bit the broken mother as she did the very day we first told her of how her daughter disappeared beneath the surface.

Warren becomes more distant and cold with each passing season. His heart has grown hard and his humour is dark and spiteful. He blames the forest. He blames a curse. He blames magical folk his never seen.

It troubles me; how consumed by paranoia and rootless suspicion he becomes. I owe him my life, and for that I will be forever grateful. But I worry. Shouldn’t his pain lessen with time? Shouldn’t his hate become more palatable? But instead anger builds inside him, burning away at the boy who pulled me from the water and leaving behind a broken mess of a man.

And what of Lord Ira? He is still a fair and friendly man by all accounts, but the great loss of his treasured child robbed him his jovial laugh and has left his face creased with deep wrinkles.

Those wrinkles were especially prominent when he came to visit on the first day of winter of my nineteenth year. Sitting across from me at our grand oak table and dressed in fine foreign fabrics. I wondered where he’d purchased his finely embroidered tunic, and what exotic places he had worn it.

Lord Rosenberg really was one of the most interesting people I’d ever had the pleasure of meeting. And whenever he came he always brought treats, pastries and rare teas from wherever he’d travelled last. Dawn was especially fond of this tradition. She’d often run to Rosenberg’s carriage to meet him at the gates and see what strange gifts he may have acquired for us this time.

That day it was ginger tea and raspberry tarts, a refreshing contrast to the bland provisions we kept in the stores. Our housekeeper insisted on steeping the leaves in our most expensive pot, and we led our guest into the large kitchen hall to entertain until my father was available to attend to whatever business they had planned.

If it had been any other merchant we would have insisted on sitting in the formal dining room for appearances sake. But Ira was an old family friend, and the warmth of the kitchen fires was much more inviting then the stone walls and marble floor of the dining room.

“I trust you are all well.” Rosenberg smiled as Dawn helped herself to the tarts.

“Yes, my Lord, quite well. Father will be with you as soon as he is able.” I answered.

“And Buffy? Is she still riding?” He questioned politely.

“As we speak.” I smirked. It was unreasonably cold outside for such activities, though Buffy had always been a bit more adventures that what might be deemed reasonable.

“Now why doesn’t that surprise me?” He offered a knowing smile which I returned before taking a sip of my tea.

It was then that my unconventional little friend began wiggling about from the safety of my skirt pocket, hopping in gentle leaps across my lap and then onto the table. Understanding the gesture I blew gently on my tea before pouring a few drops onto the saucer and setting the cup beside it. Low-low, doing her best not to draw attention, crouched next to the small plate and subtly licked at the cooling liquid. If Ira noticed the little creature attendance he did not mention it, instead he steered conversation to more professional matters.

“Your father and I have been discussing expanding our trade over the Northern Waters. It’s a long journey, over two moons passing, but the people in those parts are wealthy enough to afford exotic treasures, yet secluded enough to have little access to such rare commodities.”

It was not customary to include women in such talk but Lord Rosenberg was notorious for challenging social conventions concerning such things. Most folk attributed this harmless yet eccentric behaviour to his mysterious upbringing in a far away land. But I gave him more credit than that.

“It sounds like an excellent opportunity.” I spoke honestly.

“It does seem that way, yes.”

Dawn helped herself to another tart, quite purposely avoiding my eye as not to be refused the chance.

“Then why do I sense hesitation in your proposal My Lord? Do you think establishing relations in the North could have serious political consequences?” I had not initially considered this. But it seemed to me that Rosenberg needed convincing of his own idea, and I wondered what ramifications such decisions might have.

The red bearded man allowed a glowing smile to soften his worn features.

“My dear girl, however do you manage to see through people as though they are transparent glass jars of bottled emotions?”

I blushed a little, not sure whether that was criticism of compliment.

“Sometimes I’m quite thoroughly convinced she’s a mind reader.” Dawn was taking yet another tart, if my count was right this was at least her forth, I caught her eye and gave a subtle disapproving head shake. I’m quite sure she understood the gesture, however she did not relinquish the treat. Instead she broke the pastry in half, placed one piece on Low-low’s saucer and ate the other half in a single bite.

“My concern is not in forming new alliances, but your father’s ability to undertake such a journey in his poor health.” Ira admitted.

My heart ached at that. So he had notice too. The hollowing of my Father’s cheeks, the ragged coughs that shook his body. It did not take a trained physician to see that what had started as a seasonal sickness was becoming more sinister by the day. What would happen if the worst was to occur was unthinkable. With no heir to our estate, I could only assume that we would be repossessed, our home and my sisters with it, perhaps by some distant cousin with no appreciation anything he’d come to acquire.

What would become of us? Would we watch our home be sold to those ignorant of all it’s historical quirks, and hidden secrets? Would we be separated? Married off to wealthy men who care nothing of his bride except that of her suitability for child-birth? I couldn’t let that happen, not to Buffy and Dawn. I was the oldest, if only by a matter of months. If I found a husband, a reasonable man who allowed for some freedoms, then I could protect my sisters. They could stay in our home, they could live whatever life they chose. And I would find satisfaction in knowing I enabled them as well as I was able.

I highly doubted any form of romantic love would ever see me wed. I’d never found notions of dark rugged strangers in anyway appealing and I imagined they’d find me rather plain. My hair is an indecisive shade of golden brown, stuck awkwardly between Buffy’s lighter blonde and Dawns darker brunette and I’m just tall enough to make average heightened men feel inadequately short.

Don’t be sad Tara.

Came the silent voice only I could hear. The little creature made her way to where my hand rested and nuzzled against my palm.

I’m here.

I smiled softly and let my fingers trace the green markings on her smooth back. A frog is no doubt an unusual pet for a lady of my standing, but Low-low was no ordinary frog, and maybe I wasn’t much of a lady.

“It’s warmer in the north, isn’t it?” Dawn asked after a moment.

Ira and I looked to my sister and Low-low shifted under my palm.

“Maybe a change in climate would help him get better. It’s so cold here at night.” She finished, sounding much more innocent then her twelve years.

“I think that’s a great idea Dawnie.” I shifted my hand across to hers and squeezed.

You’re a good sister Tara.

Not long after I sent Dawn upstairs to check on father, and soon they both returned, her footsteps bounding and boisterous, and his creaks and shuffling on the old stair case. We talked about trading in the north, we talked about the weather, we talked about Warren’s hunting and Lady Shelia’s hope to throw a ball before Spring. But none of us mentioned how weakly my father’s voice rasped in his throat or how hard he found it to catch his breath after descending the stairs.

By the time Lord Rosenberg bid us adieu it had been decided the Father would venture North and Ira’s scribe Jessie would accompany him on this journey. The Rosenberg’s would supervise our estate while he was gone. Though it was mutually understood that Buffy and I were quite capable to care for our land in Father’s absence, their involvement would merely be a formality.

And that is how we planned that winter, though that is not at all how it turned out.


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 Post subject: Re: Developing: The furcuţă curse
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:00 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2017 3:14 am
Posts: 4
Topics: 1
CHAPTER TWO –The stranger

Tara, what is it?

Low-low enquired, startling me from my daze. She sat perched by her water jug on my bedside table, watching me with the biggest most inquisitive eyes.

“Hmm?” I answered distractedly.

We were alone in our bed chamber.

What were you thinking about just now? She insisted, jittering a little from too much sugar in the raspberry tart. She was adorable that way, once I allowed her two sips of caffeine and she quite literally bounced off the walls.

“Oh.”I reached behind my back to fasten the clasp of my dancing gown,

“N-nothing.” Curse my stuttering.

Casually I brushed my hands over my stomach to flatten the slight wrinkles in the fabric then started fiddling with my braids.

“How should I wear my hair tonight?”

It didn’t matter, my hair never sat the way I intended it to, but I desperately wanted to talk about something else.

“Like this?” I asked pulling it up away from my face.

Usually that was enough to distract her.

If it's nothing then why don't you tell me?

Now ordinarily I am an adequate enough liar. I’d done every full moon for the last ten years. But lying to her...it was like lying to a part of myself, and I suppose in a way I was. The root of my denial had begun only three nights prior when I’d had the strangest dream, a dream that lingered with me in a way I was embarrassed to admit.

I’d dreamt of a girl floating towards me, and I could hear her trying to talk but it was as though she spoke from underwater. Everything was just sounds and swelling. But when she’d come close enough, all I could do was stare. I memorised every feature of her face. The depth in her eyes and the curve of her nose. I memorised the colours, the leafy green, copper rouge and the freckled pink. And I memorised the four words I caught her saying through all the distortion.

“Tara. Please see me.”

And that was it.

When I woke I felt I’d spent all night looking at her and the strangest notion overcame me. A residual yearning. I longed to see her again the moment I opened my eyes. It was this notion that made me so uneasy. There was a part of me that was worried that if I revealed my seemingly innocent encounter that my brilliantly intuitive amphibian would see right through me. That no matter how calmly and well practiced I recounted it she’d catch that hidden thing I was scared to feel.

Want.

I’d never wanted someone like that. Not when Buffy talked about handsome stable boys or when Dawn fantasized about wealthy young bachelors dressed in their finest.

But I was drawn to this...this...girl.

And that was not something I would allow myself to confess. I had a responsibility and it did not bode well to acknowledge this unsettling truth. We had a problem, no heir to our estate. I had a solution, marry a husband. This figment of my imagination was dangerous, and I refused to justify it by admitting its existence, even to my dearest confidant.

Tara, I'm worried about you.

“I’m fine, okay. Now will you just help me with my hair?” I muttered impatiently, getting more flustered.

Just tell me, I can help.

“You can’t fix everything Low-low.” It came out harsher then I’d meant.

She flinched and tucked her legs underneath herself, shrinking into her best impersonation of a mossy rock.

“Oh Lowie, I’m sorry.” I quickly scooped her up in my hands, though she didn’t move an inch. The damage was done.

“Please, I’m just tired and I’m concerned about father. We’ve never been in charge of the estate for as long as we will be this time.”

She refused to move, holding perfectly still in my palms and I worried that I’d truly offended her. We very rarely fought.

“Please believe me.”

I stroked her back with the pad of my finger.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have snapped. It’s not your fault. Please don’t be upset.”

For the next few minutes I attempted to sooth her back into the warm hearted companion I knew her to be, but Low-low remained a small bundle of nervous energy quivering in my hands.

Perhaps I would have stayed there all night if we were not interrupted when Buffy burst through the door, all dressed in dancing wear, hair pinned and rosy cheeked. It always amazed me how she could transform from windswept wild child to the loveliest of ladies without even batting an eyelid.

“Tara, where’s the lace that matches your buttercup gown? Dawn needs something around her waist...” Before I could answer she was scrimmaging through my wardrobe.

“Bottom draw...” I aided.

“Oh thanks.” She turned and faced me, ribbon draped over her arm.

“You’re not ready yet?” Her tone was somewhere between annoyed and alarmed.

I was just sitting there, Low-low perched on my knee, half dressed and hair tangled.

“I-I...”

Was being ignored by my frog?

“I’m just finishing up.” I landed on weakly.

“Well you better hurry, we need you to open the portal and you’ll be the joke of the Glade if you come through looking all dishevelled like that.”

I self consciously touched my gown and as I did it slid off my shoulder reminding me I hadn’t even finished fastening it at the back. Quickly I dressed, heaped my hair onto my head with a clasp and ignored my mess of a reflection.

Usually that was when my little friend would whisper something sweet like: you’re so beautiful, and though I wouldn’t have believed it, I would know that at least she did. Of course that night we weren’t speaking, so I’d have to face the Glade without even the assurance that a frog thought me pretty.

“Would you like to ride on my shoulder tonight?” I asked Low-low quietly.

She did not respond, simply sat; staring vaguely out the window and shoulders tense. I swallowed heavily and followed her gaze. The plane was frosted over.

“Though it’s awfully cold out there, perhaps you’d be warmer in my pocket?”

Next door the floorboards squeaked and I knew my sisters were getting in position. It was time to go.

“I-f you’d rather stay here I’d understand.”

You do not want me to come?

“No, of course I want you to come. You have to come. I just... I t-thought... ”

If it pleases you, I will ride on your shoulder.

“It does, it really does.”

Then she hopped haphazardly for my torso and I caught her half way through the air, held her gently then placed her where she always sat, snuggled just at the base of my neck.

I joined my sisters in the nursery across the hall, they were both crouched under the stain glass window.

“Hurry Tara!” Dawn whispered and Buffy patted my place in the triangle.

Kneeling beside them I sore they’d already shifted the rug we kept over the discoloured symbol engraved on the wooden floorboards.

This was our secret.

To me the symbol looked like a crown but it seemed to appear differently to whomever sore it. That is perhaps the first hint that it is not of the Human world.

The stain glass window above was the only source of light in the room and it glowed with the radiance of full moon, and I watched and waited for the light to align with the centre disk of the coloured glass before I placed my hand over the seal and begun our spell.

“A crown for a queen.” I begun.

“A blade for the warrior.” Buffy seconded.

“A key for a passage.” Dawn chimed.

“We are friends with good intentions, with your permission we will cross over.” I finished softly.

Then the symbol glowed white and fell through floorboards, taking with it the ground it was engraved on. The shimmering hole it left dropped into a vast catacomb of tunnels bellow.

Magic.

Nothing else could explain why a seemingly common nursery on highest floor of a castle could lead to an underground passageway. Nothing else could explain how we three sisters stumbled across it by accident ten years ago or the wondrous place it lead too. This was our full moon secret.

Buffy leapt through the opening first before sliding down the slopped path and onto a stone floor with agility and poise. Dawn followed her, lowering herself down in a controlled movement and stumbling a little on the way. I hesitated before going after them. Buffy was brave and where I was sensible. Dawn was energetic where I was calm. I suppose that comes from being just a little older, and just a little more wary. But it is for this very reason that I always went after them nonetheless, someone had to keep watch, someone had to bring them home and remind them where we belonged. The Other Kingdom can be alluring in the most incredibly confusing ways.

“Hold tight Low-low.” I whispered, and felt her brace herself against my collar bone.

Always. Her little voice so tender.

On three?

I nodded.

“One.”

Two.

“Three.”

And with that I fell through the portal and into the labyrinths of stone tunnels.

The four of us followed our usual route deeper and deeper into the darkness. We held hands when all light faded and followed the sound of waves crashing on a distant shore. I walked first in our chain because the only time I hadn’t my sisters had gotten terribly lost. It seemed I was necessary in this, I could go alone, or I could take others. But it had to me, otherwise the familiar paths become twisted and safe passage was not guaranteed. I’d walked those catacombs countless times but I still relied on Low-low’s little voice.

Almost there, two more left turns up ahead. Then straight till you see the rocks and the skyline.

I once asked her if she could see, and she simply said.

No, I just remember from the first time.

That in itself was impressive, it was over half an hour’s journey on foot and each turn bent into the next.

One more left, and just like Low-low said we could see the skyline. In some ways so similar to our sky, same consolations and arrangements, but here there was never clouds and the stars almost seemed to dance as though alive.

We approached the River Swallow, which always glistened and gleamed in this realm. Buffy and Dawn released one another’s hands and raced towards the silhouettes of three small boats docked nearby and I smiled at the image of them in their elegant dresses running wild like forest nymphs. I didn’t chase after them, Low-low was tensing as we drew closer so I took her from my shoulder and pressed her gently against my chest humming a lullaby my mother use to sing.

She hated crossing.

Dawn once pointed out how ridiculous it was that a frog was petrified of a river.

“It would be like a sheep afraid of pastures or a bird afraid of nesting trees.”

I thought it best not to mention the time Low-low sore a wild bull frog and was so horrified she hid under my skirt and begged me to save her from the beast.

I could feel her shivering against my neck.

“We’ll be over before you know it.”

On the shore the three boats bobbed steadily, each an enchanting vessel in its own right. One was carved to look like a heron, the next a swan and the next a wood duck and each only large enough to carry their captain and one passenger.

I could see Dawn on the duckling, laughing with her guide, a familiar boy, almost human in appearance except for the rams horns protruding from his forehead and the bluish tinge of his skin.

My guide was Clement, a loose skinned floppy eared creature.

“Miss Tara.” He bowed then helped me onto the heron vessel.

“Clem.” I greeted with a curtsey.

I took my place where I always did, leaning against the mast, Low-low safe between my fingers, and the two of us praying to be on solid land soon. Dawn was always more daring, she bustled about from one side of the boat to the next trying to catch sight of all the incredible things.

“Look! Look! A pixie near the bridge!” She’d say.

“Oh there! A little island with glowing flowers!” A moment after that.

Buffy however would usually stand at the bow, leaning forward and dragging her hands through the water. I use to ask her not too , I remembered the claws that pulled the Rosenberg’s little girl under and I feared the marine dwellers. All matter of luminous eyes and scaled cretins inhabited this river, and those were only the beings that chose to make their presence known

Who’s that? Low-low asked.

I followed her gaze and caught sight of the swan vessel. They were yet to way anchor. I’d never seen the guide with Buffy before, he was a tall man, dark featured and well dressed.

He watched her with frightening intensity.

“Who is the man accompanying Buffy tonight?” I enquired, attempting to keep my tone casual.

His eyes...they were hungry eyes, and they never left my sister for a moment.

“I don’t know his name, but his travelling companions are honoured guests of her majesties Glade.”

We chopped through rougher waves and a shiver ran down my spine

“I thought it wasn’t customary for a guest to act as an escort...” I pushed.

“It’s not, but he requested to meet with one of the human girls on Full Moon specifically. Even challenged a few of our locals to a duel of the matter. Knocked the legs right outa Forrest Gates. They may not be much for talking those Night People, but boy they can put up a good fight.” Clem had a good-natured grin on his face.

“N-n-night people?”

They’re not real.

I’d heard stories of garlic, holy water and throats torn from sleeping children. Everyone had. But I’d thought they were myths, old wives tales, and superstition.

Suddenly I was desperate to call out to Buffy, to warn her of the danger she might be in.

“Do not fret Miss Tara. He will not harm your sister, or anyone here by invitation. The Glade is a peaceful gathering, and even the most violent of creatures abide by the rules of full moon.”

I wished they weren’t so far behind, I wished Buffy would turn so I could see her face.

“H-how can you be sure?”

Clem smiled.

“Our rules are not like human rules, believe me, you of all people are safe here Miss Tara.”

His reassurances hardly eased my anxieties and I spent the remainder of the journey preoccupied with my own restlessness. I was shocked when the boat scraped across shallow ground.

Clem disembarked and requested his dance. I accepted, but only on the condition that we wait for the others. Just as the swan vessel made port he led me away from the river. I let him but watched over my shoulder the whole way. Buffy’s escort bowed deeply, and offered her his hand while assisting her to dryer land. If it had been any other suitor I would have thought he respectful, but I didn’t like any of this, and I didn’t trust him for a moment.

The Glade was a clearing in the woods, round and lined with butterfly lanterns and hovering tinker bell lights. At the apex was three golden thrones where Glory and her advisers sat and watched the splendour of it all. A queue of adoring subjects weaved around the crowd, waiting for an audience with her Majesty, which she gave to each in due time. The band were at her right, playing whatever she demanded at the pace she tapped her foot and to her left were acrobats and jesters performing for her amusement. The inner circle was the dance floor, and the outskirts were for those who preferred social niceties. Some debating philosophies of interspecies communications, some simply who chose to watch rather than join the festivities and all those who had grown weary of dancing and had retired for the evening. Then the most unsociable ominous creatures lingered just behind the shadowed trees. The ones who feared the light, but curiously hovered near. My sisters and I had long agreed that those regions were strictly forbidden.

Poor Clem led me through the steps of the fox trot without any assistance on my part. We spun and we parted and our feet twirled about but the entire time I looked for them over my shoulder. As always it was invigorating, and the drums sounded of beating hearts, the tambourines of secret thoughts and the fife of life’s melody itself. The music of the Other Kingdom far surpassed anything I’d ever heard at village concerts and balls. But perhaps that was because the fey playing them seemed born for their instruments, strange fingers that could reach impossible notes and hard hooves that clacked along. Usually I found it the most delightful thing, and though I am not the most graceful of dancers ten years of moon lit practice have made me passable by any standards.

Low-low did not enjoy my dancing. She retreated to the pocket I had sown into the hem of my gown and was forced to be flung about wherever my dress took her. Occasionally she would make a little noise as a goblin bumped into my hip or a flying couple kicked their legs about without the slightest concern. Though she always insisted on staying with me, even though after the twirls she seemed to come out dizzy and nauseous.

After the first dance I sore Dawn and Antoine skip off towards some other youngsters and found Buffy amongst the crowd, she was still linked arms with the stranger. His pale skin looking unnaturally colourless under the lights and his dark eyes burning through her.

“E-excuse me Clement. Oh, and thank you f-for the dance.” I hurried off towards them.

“Buffy.” I tried to get her attention, but she seemed as enraptured as he was. Hypnotism? I’d not heard tales of that. I continued squeezing through the mass, through elves and minatores and creatures with feathered wings.

“Buffy!” I repeated louder, though the music was starting up for the next dance and people begun to take their places. Her and the brooding stranger were slipping out of sight.

“Would you do me the honour?” I heard a low voice, and a hand was on my shoulder.

If given time I may have made an excuse to the exceptionally tall bachelor, but we were already bowing to our partners and I was sure he’d have a clear view over the masses.

“It would be my p-pleasure.” I answered back as we started moving. I tried to see Buffy by standing on my toes.

I stepped twice then again.

“Forgive me my Lady, but you seem distracted tonight.”

“Miss, miss Tara. My mother was the Lady of our estate, I am merely her daughter.” I absent minded corrected. Of course she was dead so perhaps the Giant was actually the more correct out of the two of us.

“Forgive me Miss, so I wonder which gentlemen has caught you eye.” I only then realised that he thought me indifferent. Of course I was. He was handsome enough, but I wasn’t really looking for handsome. I was looking for appropriate inheritor material, and otherworldly giant didn’t really fit the bill.

“It is not my own concerns that distract me, but my sister, I’ve lost sight of her and she was dancing with the most ominous of partners.”

And by ominous we mean suspicious. Low-low muttered.

“Oh, perhaps I can assist you in your search.”

For the next turn he lifted me high and held me there a few moments longer.

I sore them.

“That c-can’t be right...”

What can’t be right?

They were leaving the dance floor and heading towards the forest.

We never left the Glade...those were the rules. Buffy was smarter than that, she was sensible.

What is it? Where are they? I want to see, take me out.

Then my partner placed me back on the ground and spun twice under his arm.

“Any luck?” He asked charmingly, completely unaware of my inner turmoil.

I nodded, Low-low was trying to squirm from my pocket but I subtlety pushed her back in.

Let me see. I’m coming out.

“You’ll get trampled on.” I hissed under my breath.

“I’ll get what?” The giant must have heard.

“I-I must apologise. I’m feeling al l-little...” I couldn’t see Buffy at all anymore

“I’m n-not...” Where was he taking her?

“I h-have too...” Images of my sister disappearing deeper and deeper into the woods assaulted me.

“I need a moment.” Quite rudely I dropped my partners hands and scurried in the direction I’d seen them leaving.

What's happening?

I scooped Low-low out of my pocket and placed her on my shoulder.

“Where is he taking her? What on earth is she thinking?” I fumed as the crowed thinned and I pushed through.

I don’t know, but we better hurry. Something’s not right.

“Buffy?” I called out blindly.

I squeezed through the last of the dancing couples, only to come to the scattering expanse which transitioned from clearing to dense forest. I rushed through the area of tied dances, onlookers and laughing spectators too the shadowed place that was always forbidden. The folk here were guarded and strange. A backwards headed monkey, a serpent headed man, a gathering of dark witch’s with things hidden under their robes. All watched me sceptically and I was left with the unmistakable impression that I didn’t belong amongst them.

I crossed my arms around myself defensively.

“Where is she? God I’m going to kill her when I find her.”

Where did you see them last?

“Over there.” I pointed to a winding path leading into the woods.

Oh. Of course, let the creepy bloodsucking man lead you away from all the witnesses.

“What is she doing going that far into woods? And with one of them?” I took one last look at familiar glade behind me, of the merriment and festivities, then I looked ahead and set off after her.

Wait, I don’t like this, too dangerous, you shouldn’t go alone.

“I’m not alone. I’ve got you.”

I don’t count.

“Don’t say that. Not ever.”

That’s not what I mean.

I picked up the pace. There was something terribly eerie about these trees, the way they sagged and clung and bent. With every step the howls and creaks grew louder and louder and the dancing Glade faded away.

Please Tara, go back for the giant.The big one who was flirting with you.I’m sure he’d be happy to play the big strong protector.

Or ask Clem.

Or Doc.

Or anyone with arms big enough to hit something.

“I don’t intend on their being any hitting.”

Something snapped in the nearby branches and I suddenly realised we weren’t alone.

Not even slightly.

The sombre faces were all around us. Some laying together on roots and tangled twigs. Some pressed against the trunks. Some lounging just out of sight, dim figures blending into shadows and silhouettes.

The Night People were everywhere; I’d stumbled helpless into their den.

Pretend you don’t see them.

I fixed my eyes on my feet and carried on.

Don’t run, they’ll chase you if you do. Move slow. Turn around, go back. Go back now.

Low-low was nudging her nose into my neck over and over: go back, go back, go back now.

But there was no going back. Not anymore. I had a sister to save. And then possibly kill if she hadn’t managed to do that on her own. So I walked through the lair of the beasts, and their gazes weighed heavily on my chest.

Please, I’m scared.

I wanted to answer her, but they’re eyes were all over me, and they were suffocating.

Please take me back now.

Take me home.

“Not this time baby.” My voice so quiet I almost mouthed it. But I knew she heard the moment she stopped prodding and buried into the nook of my neck. I felt a little braver for it and tilted to rest my cheek against the smooth of her back.

She was there.

We were together.

I noticed one of them following me soon after. Slinking behind. Then another, stalking just off the path.

Faster and faster I walked, trying to appear calm. Faster and faster they followed, gaining with each stride.

“Little mouse, little mouse, lost her way.” I heard a women’s voice close on my heels. Her voice... I can only describe it as that of a deranged poet. Fluently haunting. She sung it as she swooped, overtook and blocked my way in one graceful movement. She was not what you’d expect for a bloodsucking monster, unnaturally beautiful, fine featured and elegant. But there was something profoundly dangerous about her.

I tried to move around her but she reached out and caught my arm, loose hipped and slinking.

“Twelve franks for the beastie on your shoulder.” She said with an air of vague detachment.

Her grip on my arm tightened.

“Let me go.” I pulled against her only to back into the other one.

“Woah there pretty lady.” Spinning quickly he grabbed my wrist but I yanked him off with a little shove.

“No need for that pet.” He was tall, blonde haired and smirking as he and his partner circled.

“We’re all civil folk here.” He leered towards me and licked his lips.

“Gotta play nice on this side of the moon. Play nice for her Highness, she’s a nice sort of Queen.” He bowed low, kissed my hand in rough jab then grinned wide, exposing his teeth, elongated and disfigured.

When he released me I backed away so quickly I almost stumbled.

On my mark, you run, I’ll distract them.

“Isn’t she a lovely birdie, chirping away in her master’s ear. You think she’d sing like that for me Spike? ” The women purred.

“W-what?” I spluttered. Did she hear…?

I started to back off the path and into the forest.

“It seems Drusilla has taken a liking to your toad. Got a thing for the weak and pitiful she does.” He explained.

Low-low was shaking. So was I.

“S-she’s not for sale.” I managed, quickly sliding my friend out of sight under my bodice.

“Oh don’t be rude, we can make a deal, I’ll be your beastie instead if you like? You can carry me around and press me to your bosom. I’d make a good beastie. Much prettier then that ugly thing.” She reached her hand out towards me.

You touch her and I’ll kill you. Low-low hissed.

“I-I’m looking f-f-or my sister.” I stuttered out.

No Tara.

No questions.

No talking.

Blood sucking tricksters, not to be trusted.

You run when I say.


“She as tastey as you?” Drusilla seized my throat with an unsettling sense of forced intimacy and a vice like grip.

NOW!

Low-low leapt from my gown and landed directly on Drusilla’s perfect face causing her to squeal and flap her hands about.

I slipped from her grasp, dropping to the ground to scrambled for something, anything, to use as a weapon.

“It’s in my mouth!!” She screeched, slapping Low-low away like a bug.

“Feisty for a frog, isn’t she?” Spike attempted to snatch her up. Low-low hopped and hopped but within moments he’d caught by the leg.

“Not to bright though. Getting yourself smooched and all.” He dug his fingers into Low-low’s little body.

“Squish her dead.” Drusilla hissed and spat out the bad taste.

I couldn’t breathe. One of his nails had split through her skin and I sore red pooling around his thumb.

No. No. No.

“Stop it!”

I snatched up a branch and swung it before me like a sword. It wobbled in my hands. I wobbled all over.

Blood.

Not much for a person, but a too much for a frog that fits in your palm. Too much.Too much.

“Give her back to me.” I demanded. Low-low wasn’t moving. Every ounce of me was begging her to just be playing dead. Just be pretending. Just be alive.

“Vicious for a mouse.” Drusilla slunk away into the dark, but her partner didn’t flinch.

“I m-mean it. Giver her back or I will drive this through your heart, and we’ll soon see if what they say about your kind is true.” I didn’t recognise my own voice.

Spike snickered at my threat, it was awfully patronising.

“Settle down love. As I said, all civil folk on this side of the moon. But you should tell your little toad to mind her manners, not all folk are as understanding as I am.” With that he threw her carelessly into the shrubbery and I heard her splat against something solid.

And just like that my first encounter with the Night People was over. They disappeared like dust in the wind and I couldn’t care less where they went. Frantically I ran to Low-low, scrimmaging through thorns and bristles, to find her limp form awkwardly flopped on a rock.

I lifted her as though her guts might spill out of her any moment.

Her body quivered and twitched with each little breath and a crescent shaped wound above her collar seeped.

Tara.

So weak, so very weak.

“Sshh darling....”

My eyes stung as I tore a layer of silk from the hem of my gown tied the fabric tightly over her little shoulder to slow the bleeding, the makeshift bandage covered half her entire body and a scarlet stain quickly seeped through.

“Lowie, your hurt.”

Not safe here. Have to get back.

“You’re really hurt.” I held her so carefully against me.

Doesn’t matter. Have to get somewhere safe.

“Safe...” Yes, urgently I rose and clutched her as I ran back down the path.

I needed help.

A healer.

A sage.

Anyone.

I ran through the woods one way, then the next, this direction, then that. I ran towards the sound of the Glade, but never manage to reach it. I ran until my lungs and legs betrayed me and I was forced to press on despite them. Everyone knew the stories of people who strayed to far into the wildwood, everyone knew what happened to those who couldn’t find their way back.

Tara...


“Hang on Low-low. I’ve got you.”

Her eyes, usually hyper-focused and alert were cloudy and her shaking grew weaker by the moment

Please hurry.

And I did, I hurried as I have never before, adorned in a tattered dress and ruined dancing shoes, I hurried.

My mind was plagued with thoughts of Buffy following the dark stranger to her doom, of Dawn lost and alone in the Glade, of the red mark leaking through fabric. Of my father’s coughing and my sisters never getting home. Of Low-low lying there, of his hands around her.

I must have found favour with the Goddess herself because, vision blurred and weary, I ran straight into my sister full paced. Buffy swerving out of the way, and me tumbling over with a gasp.

“Tara?!” She exclaimed while trying to catch me.

I struggled against her as not to lose sight of the dark stranger lingering at her heel like a lost puppy. I tried to drag Buffy away from him but my sister resisted my efforts with her usual tenacity. She didn’t understand. She didn’t know what he was.I had to warn her. But first we had to get away.

“We have to g-go. ” Everything ached. But nothing more than the uncharacteristic silence of my companion. She’d stopped talking miles ago.

“Tara, you’re filthy, what’s wrong? Look at me. What happened?”She lifted my chin to face her.

“We h-have to go, Low-low she’s...”

“Is that blood on your arm?” Buffy checked me over for injuries but I brushed her away. No time for that. I was fine. But Low-low...

My stained hands started to tremor despite willing myself to be still as I revealed my frog from beneath the satin bandages.

“Angel, I need you to take us the fastest way back.” Buffy looked at him with an expression I’d never seen on her, a vulnerability. My independent wild child force of nature sister was relying on this man, this thing, to get her home

And he did.

By whatever way he navigated us through the dense wilderness, he had us back to the Glade much faster then I knew should be possible. It was as if the paths were straighter now, the light brighter and the distance that took half an hour to run before now only took three little steps.

He didn’t say a word.

But I sore him gallantly kiss the back of her hand after she whispered her goodbyes.

We quickly fetched Dawn from a cluster of youngsters who all silenced when they sore me approaching, I must have looked frightfully serious. One of the tree dwellers gave me a velvet pouch of herbs to put in a soup for Low-low and another suggested I add a cup of water from the River Swallow.

The journey back passed in a blur that a scarcely remember how I got from one side of the shore, to the other. Once home I put Low on a saucer of warm water by the fireplace and got to work. I didn’t want the water to cause more bleeding, but her body was frozen through, and the wounds needed cleaning. The broth smelt positively awful, and as I stumbled about the kitchen in the early hours of the morning trying to find a ladle, a match, a bowel, any morsel of vegetable matter that might make it more palatable, I couldn’t stop from shaking.

As the sun rose I was still awake in my bed chamber, and Low-low was asleep on my stomach. Warm now. She’d managed to drink almost half the broth with me bringing the teaspoon to her mouth. The crescent shaped slice at the base of her neck was deep and oozing, so after washing it with alcohol and sterilising a needle and thread from my sewing kit I sutured it closed as if I was mending one of my father’s old socks.

Buffy had sent Dawn to bed and hovered around to help for a while, but I hardly acknowledge her. The truth was that I was mad, and the part of me that wasn’t spirally down into a guilty despair blamed her for everything.

Not her fault. Low-low had muttered through a tense little frown as I pieced her skin with the needle.

“Hush.” I was trying to concentrate, and when she spoke I wanted to cry and that wouldn’t help anyone.

She didn’t mean anything bad to happen. And I’m alright Tare. Truly.

“Hold still.” Is all I could say.

After I was finished, and she was neat and bandaged and tucked next to me I started to cry. I’m not sure if it was because everything caught up to me all at once, or I was simply too exhausted not too. And Low-low, likely in more pain then she was letting on, nudged by tear stained cheeks with her nose. When I finally calmed she wiggled down to my tummy and buried herself under the blankets.

I dreamt of the girl again, the floating mirage, the forbidden affair. This time she didn’t effortlessly drift through my mind, but struggled to stay. And I felt as though the only reason I was able to keep her was that I held her in place. And that the only reason I heard her message come faintly from her lips was because I knew what she was going to say

“Tara, please see me.”

But then I couldn’t, because she was fading.


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 Post subject: Re: Developing: The furcuţă curse
PostPosted: Fri Aug 25, 2017 3:29 am 
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1. Blessed Wannabe

Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2017 3:14 am
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CHAPTER THREE -The farewell

Father had dressed in his finest coat, but it hung off him like a scare crow, and sagged awkwardly from his shoulders. To Warren’s credit he seemed perceptive enough to avoid mentioning how frail he looked, or how unfit for travel. I suppose I should have been thankful for that small amount of tactful refrain.

“You look very weary Tara. It is not an attractive state for a young woman of your standing.” He announced on his arrival.

This says the man who never fastens his trousers. Low-low grumbled, it had been four days since full moon, and apart from the occasional wince she was almost back to her old self.

“I’m sure she didn’t mean to spoil your line of sight.” Buffy (quiet unhelpfully) bit back. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the defence, but Warren is sort of man who only worsens when met with confrontation.

“No, you’re right; I should make more of an effort. I’ll endeavour to do so in the future.” I smiled at him, hoping to brush past my sister’s remark.

“See that you do.” He then slurped loudly from his teacup, and I could see Dawn struggling not to explode in a fit of giggles from the opposite side of the table.

Swine. Low-low hissed from my lap.

This was about as civilized a conversation one could expect from the young Master Rosenberg, whom I always seemed to have the special ability to keep civil. My sisters use to joke that he was in love with me, and when I ventured into town I sometimes heard speculation of our impeding union. There was no legitimacy in it. Warren’s never looked at me with affection, kindness, or intent. In my opinion it’s only my natural tendency to avoid confrontation to the point of self destruction that allowed our encounters to pass in a seemingly respectable manner.

That, and presence of his father, who he always fought to impress but never received quite the approval he so desperately craved. I suppose he was trying to be what she was, but I highly doubt that Lord Ira ever looked upon his son with even a fifth of the adoration he shone upon his daughter.

It is hard to define the exact quality that Warren was lacking in comparison. It could not be said that he didn’t have a firm grasp of arithmetic, astronomy, and geography, for he was very well schooled. Intelligent even. Only that past summer had he invented, designed and constructed a mechanical contraption that polished boots and leather goods more efficiently then by hand. But the machine broke from lack of maintenance, and Warren, rather than mend it, cursed in for its inadequacy to perform its purpose.

Perhaps that was what was missing. A certain substance of character that allows one to learn from their failings rather than discredit their ability to fail. Perhaps that is why Ira so frequently ignored his sons contribution to conversation, as he did across the table on that day.

“I will see you off, and then stay the night in Port. I’m expecting Doctor Wilkinson to meet us at the docks” Lord Rosenberg sat beside his son and opposite Father.

“That won’t be necessary.” Father’s voice was dry, but he’s pride was still intact.

“Nonsense, I have business in that part of town that needs tending. It’d be an inconvenience not to come.”

“I meant the physician, an ailing fever is hardly cause for continuous medical attention, I appreciate your generosity dear friend, truly, not only in orchestrating my departure, but also in supervising the estate in my absence. But I cannot let you waste resources on paying this doctor on account of me. The physician comes but once a week in my own home, I cannot see why I’d require more care while at sea.” It was the most I’d heard from him in months and the flash of determination across his features made me hope perhaps a full recovery was not too much to imagine.

“Every good ship has a medic Kendrick. And Benjamin Wilkinson was a naval apprentice before he began his career; he has offered to act as one of the crew when his skills aren’t required in his field. He’s a strong lad. I think he will prove quite obliging.” If there was ever a time where I most ardently believed Lord Rosenberg to be the best of men, it was in the resolute nod he bestowed on my father then. It was as if he was assuring him of whatever insecurities he needed most assured of.

Before the men departed I made a special effort to thank Lord Rosenberg for his kindness, and he held me snugly against his chest and told me how proud he was of my sister’s and I and what a splendid job I’d done at growing up. It brought tears to me before I‘d even begun to bid my Father farewell. I’d hoped I’d stay composed for Dawnie, but I’d quite simply fallen apart. It was as if I was already losing him forever, and the responsibilities of that were such heavy weights to bear.

He had always been a quiet man, so rather than offer promises and sentiments he simply kissed my brow, and both of my cheeks.

“Be well.” I whispered.

“You remember where I told you the safe key was, in case of any additional expenses?” He’d asked quiet, but I’d been incapable of replying.

“Yes.” Buffy answered for me while holding my hand through woollen mittens. God she was strong. Her eyes were slightly glossy, where I was a mess.

I spluttered through the last little sentiments only with Low-low’s comforting little voice in my ear and as the carriage started off down the drive I felt a numbness settle over me like no other I’d experienced.

Buffy led Dawn inside, where I knew I should join them, but something held me to that patch of dirt, eyes strained on the horizon for one final glimpse of them

“I fear we will never see him again.” I confessed softly to my dearest confident.

If Lord Kendrick Maclay is only half as courageous as any one of his children, there is no illness on earth that he cannot endure.

I removed the stitches that afternoon, her skin had started to heal over the thread and she hadn’t been able to hold still. So I’d held her anxious little body as Buffy wielded the knot picker and Dawn the tweezers. As an amateur surgeon, but experienced seamstress, I was quite happy with the way the scar was coming together.

We tried to distract one another the rest of the night by making shadow puppets on the wall, and pulling old stock out of the storage in the attic to try and find a hidden treasure. Quite often merchant’s cargo would come without correct documentation, or damaged, or without an intended recipient, or double what was originally ordered, and all of that was hoarded away in the highest level of our castle. Persian rugs, things carved of wood, half broken clocks made of cogs and intricate pieces. Contraptions and gizmos and maps of the East. Books in strange languages, perfume and beads. All of our dancing gowns we’re made from the surplus of fabrics we’d discover up in that loft and on that particular evening Buffy stumbled upon some gorgeous white lace, with doves embodied all over.

“Tara, look its perfect.” She held it over her arm and let it draped towards the floorboards.

“It’s awfully delicate.” I ran my fingers down the length.

“That’s what makes it so beautiful.” She implored while laying it down to get an idea of how much she’d need.

Then she smiled an unfamiliar smile, as if seeing memories in her mind that she didn’t wish to share and in a very hushed voice she whispered.

“I would very much like new outfit for the Glade, one that’s not quite as conservative as the rest. Not that I don’t like the way you wear yours, but we’re very different shapes, and I’d like to have something that...” Rather than finishing her sentence, she just grinned mischievously at me but after a moment she turned quiet serious.

I could only imagine where her mind had wondered...to a man, with dark features who looked at her with the most intense yearning as they swayed under lantern light... I checked that Dawn and Low-low were still out of ear shot. My youngest sister had stumbled across a checkers board and it seemed that (despite one of them lacking the ability to move the pieces) they’d struck up a quite competitive match. Assured that we were speaking privately I ventured on.

“Do y-you want to w-wear it for him?” I was afraid of her reaction, but this was important.

She didn’t speak for a very long time.

“Perhaps I could layer it over some tulle.” She said finally.

I reached out and touched the back over her hand but she didn’t look up.

“Buffy, he’s d-dangerous...”

“He’s not like the rest of them.” She defended so quickly, too quickly and for a moment I didn’t know what to say. She withdrew he fingers from beneath mine, gathered the material up in her arms and started towards the stairs

“How can you be sure?” The question caught her in the doorway, and she froze at the threshold, her back turned and her posture tense. Then she glanced over her shoulder and muttered goodnight and left without another word about it.

I noticed the candle still burning in Buffy’s chamber into the long late hours and Dawn came stumbling into my room to beg for a spot in my bed. She grumbled weary complaints about how annoying it was sharing chambers with a mad women and I found myself defending Buffy, because she’d never given us any reason not to trust her decisions, because she knew what she was doing, because she’d never ever do anything to hurt us. And by the end of it, I almost believed myself.

Long after Dawn had drifted off, Low-low still nuzzled at the skin just behind my ear.

Are you asleep?

I barely shook my head, but she was close enough to feel the movement.

Are you okay?

I shifted slightly to face her on the pillow and gave a little nod.

Good.

Out of nowhere she flicked her little tongue out to lick the tip of my nose and I giggled, then quickly covered my mouth to muffle the sound.

Dawn groaned and shifted behind me.

Sorry, being quiet now.

I was still giggling into my hand as she settled in the nook of my neck, rolling her head under my chin a little like you might expect from a kitten.

Although technically, I’m always quiet.

I’d stopped laughing, but the smile stuck goofily on my face as I melted into sleep – it was the first genuine smile all day.

------------------------
A/N: I have another five chapters written; but I thought I'd get some feedback before posting them. I'm not a writer; I'm not even anything creative, so it's hard to gauge whether this is actually worth reading or not. So if it's an abomination - please please tell me while I've still got a little pride intact.

Thanks Betas,

Jinny


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 Post subject: Re: Developing: The furcuţă curse
PostPosted: Thu Sep 07, 2017 12:10 pm 
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10. Troll Hammer
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Joined: Sun Apr 24, 2005 1:49 pm
Posts: 1159
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Location: Seattle, WA
Hi TMT -

Apologies for not having commented sooner. This is an excellent first fic. I don't have a lot of notes right off, but I can compile some and post them later.

I just wanted you to know that your work is worthwhile and to please continue.

Cheers
DW

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 Post subject: Re: Developing: The furcuţă curse
PostPosted: Fri Sep 29, 2017 3:41 pm 
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3. Flaming O
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Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2016 10:54 am
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I'll give you the weirdest piece of feedback I have: The bit with the caffeine really threw me. I know, I know...Talking frogs, river monsters, magic, vampires, and I'm hung up on the blasted caffeine. Mostly because the language style/period of the story is so specific and the the word caffeine is definitely so modern. Another thing I noticed, and wondered about, is the word "sore" whenever you meant to say "saw"--are you using a speech program to write? There are minor spelling and tense errors here and there that are easily fixed. I've read a giant, f***ton of fic online, and there are native speakers who would struggle to put out a draft as clean as yours.

But otherwise I'll second DW. You should keep going. I totally see where you're going with the gothic fairy tale style. Definitely reminds me of Grimm's and Baba Yaga stories I used to read.

Don't hold back with the other chapters. Even if you feel some kind of way about the finished story, there's something to be said about completing it. And as you're doing here you can always 'shop the chapters before you "publish".

Cheers


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