Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fish-ie update

Alright, so I'm addicted to fish. Anyways, lots of things have happened since the last update for anybody who cares--which is mostly just me, I imagine--but unfortunately no pictures.

Let's see... bad news first. I bought 4 small-ish angelfish from the LFS (Local Fish Store), but 2 of them died within the week, and for some reason 2 of my bigger ones (that I've had for almost a year now) passed away as well. That and giving away the deformed angelfish left me with 5 angelfish. I was very upset, and did about 3 water changes in as many days, and sometime in the process, managed to temporarily break my fluorescent light (which is necessary for my plants, and the general health of the fish tank).

So, I went out and bought a new light. It's beautifully inexpensive for all of its 260W PC. Only $110 plus tax. It sort of comes with moonlights (there's the wiring for it, and a switch, but no actual lights...) and two fans. I got in black to match my tank but only use half of the light because I'm not ready to do all the dosing and CO2 injection yet. That will take another 400 or so dollars... but I'll get there eventually.

And then yesterday, I went out and bought 10 baby angelfish. They're nickel sized and simply adorable. They're in my tank, and all acting well and eating well this morning. So I'm satisfied that they'll hopefully all be healthy and alive, at least by the time I come back next weekend.

I changed the water on the goldfish tank, but to my chagrin, it's still cycling for some reason. 0 ammonia, which is good, but 1.6mg/l of nirite, which is horrible. I did change the water, but only 15% and I'm wondering if it will be alright. But I'm depending on my goldfish, which have been hardy throughout the last year. (I have not been taking care of their environment as fastidiously as I should have.) And they seem healthy and eating so far. Nitrate was sort of okay. Existent, but not much of a concern. The lucky bamboos in there are fine, finally sprouting about 1 mm of roots... but hey, it's there.

My marine tank is doing well, too. And I'm very happy about that, partly because it's my first marine tank, partly because it's a nano, and partly because the livestock (and everything else, really) are all just so much more expensive than freshwater things. In either case, the tank has definitely finished cycling (didn't test for nitrates, though), and the diatoms are dying down, leaving room for the beautiful purple coralline algae to spread out more. The tank isn't that nasty orange color anymore. The colony of mushroom corals have far surpassed my (admittedly low) expectations are still alive, and possibly even thriving. The shrimp and scarlet hermit crabs (2) are doing well, active and feeding. At least, I assume that the hermit crabs have been feeding. I haven't been feeding them anything, though. I will probably add another cleaner shrimp to the tank tonight, and wait until Thanksgiving (which isn't all THAT far away) to add that Nemo-fish that I want.

Lastly, I setup a 10 gallon tank at my dorm. Currently, I only have one lazy dwarf gourami in there, which both my mom and my roommate find extremely boring. That, and there are no decorations in the tank (besides gravel). I will probably bring some fake plants and stuff and some algae and set it all up and then buy some cherry shrimps for the tank. If they are big enough, maybe they won't get eaten. Ah, well, we'll see what happens.

Anyways, tanks are mostly doing well. I still need to buy that goldfish for the goldfish tank, but not before it finishes cycling.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Magic in Aquila - Chapter Two

I only noticed the little white ball of magelight—at least, I assumed it was magelight—lighting up the room when I had settled down on one of the chairs. I could see the bookshelves lining all the walls of the room, with ancient tomes and unrecognizable titles. I realized that the halls had been lit, too, because his cloak had seemed like an unnatural dark shadow.

“You can still do magic,” I murmured, wondering what that meant.

“You’re right, Ro,” he said. It sounded mocking, but I couldn’t be sure. He was so different, now, from what I remembered. “They didn’t recognize me as a Talent until after the wards fell.”

“Do you know who did it, then?” I asked, curious. He had been my childhood hero, the one who always seemed to know everything. When I had first come to Aquila, I had thought I would know something Tiernan didn’t and go back and tell him all about it. Only, I hadn’t had the chance, and now I found him here, and he still knew more than I did.

“I do,” he answered, surprising me. I waited for him to continue, and he did. He leaned toward me and said in a conspiring whisper, “It’s me.”

For a moment, I didn’t quite understand what he said, and when I did, I felt my eyes widen. “Why are you telling me this?” I whisper back at him. It felt as if I should be whispering.

He smiled, but it didn’t reach his hard, green eyes. “Why, Ro, because we are friends,” he said, and I was sure it was mocking this time.

It made me want to cry. I decided then that I hated Aquila. It changed my Mom into somebody cold and sharp and hard. And then, I finally saw Tiernan again—he was partly why I wanted to return to Sarsen so badly—and he had also changed into somebody cold and sharp and hard. It felt like the people I knew and loved were gone, and I stared at an warped illusion instead. It made me suddenly feel very lonely.

He lifted me to face him with a long, slender finger under my chin. “We’re friends, aren’t we, Ro?” he asked. He sounded cold, though, and uncaring of my answer.

No, this wasn’t the Tiernan I knew. Maybe I never really knew Tiernan. After all, I hadn’t seen him since I was eight, and childhood memories were always said to be sweet. “If you wish, Talent Kae,” I replied instead.

“Why don’t you call me Tiernan?” he asked me quietly, as if it were the answer to some puzzle.

I looked away from his thoughtful green eyes. I couldn’t stand the way he was looking at me, like I was some spell or the sweater waiting to be unravelled. “You asked me to call you Talent Kae,” I replied. It wasn’t the answer—that Talent Kae suited him like a well-tailored suit now and Tiernan seemed like a child’s toy he had already broken and cast away—but he seemed to accept it.

“What if I asked you to call me Tiernan?”

I looked up at him, wondering at the meaning behind his eyes, as flat as broken glass bottles. “It would be disrespectful of me.”

“Rowana...” My name sounded foreign the way it rolled of his tongue. He stood up then, and came right up to me. His cloak was an even darker shade than the shadows. He pulled me up with his hands on my arms. They didn’t hurt, though, when I followed their guidance and stood up. One of his slim fingers pulled at a loose tress of my hair. “Beautiful like the Sarsen dust,” he murmured.

I didn’t know if he meant for me to hear it. My hair was like the Sarsen dust—had always been like it. Mother said it was because I watched too many Sarsen sunrises and ate too many Sarsen pheasants. But it would always be too dull and tangled to be beautiful. I didn’t know what he was trying to do and tried to pull away from him.

I didn’t have anywhere to go, though, standing between him and the chair. So, I turned my head to look at the big grandfather clock. Its hands crawled slowly towards nine o’clock.

His fingers trailed down my cheek and turned my chin to look at him again. They trailed down to hold me by my neck and I shivered. His fingers were so cold they tingled. He was still so much taller than me, and carried himself more like the majestic prince I had always imagined to be his secret identity when were both little.

But his eyes... I couldn’t stand looking in his eyes. They weren’t a prince’s eyes, and they made him a stranger to me. I looked down at his golden cloak clasp instead. I felt naked wearing a thin white dress when he was clad in a heavy black cloak and thick black boots. “It’s late, Talent Kae,” I said quietly, relieved that I kept the quiver out of my voice. “If you would excuse me, I must go rest.”

His hand dropped then, and he stepped away from me. “You’re so beautiful now,” he said cryptically. “But you’ve become so cold and distant.”

I had no reply, but he didn’t seem to need one. “Alright, then, Miss Craine, our lessons begin tomorrow. Best be well prepared.”

For the first time in many years, I took out the little purple pouch from the bottom of my trunk. In it was my last baby tooth that the tooth fairy had forgotten to take. It, at least, was still the same.

I didn’t sleep well that night. I had a dream that a demon had possessed Tiernan, and it came to hunt me down with cruel, laughing eyes. I woke up gasping and found the covers wrapped too tightly around me for comfort.

I hadn’t been able to go back to sleep for the rest of the night. When dawn crept into the room, I decided to get up and wash the tiredness from my eyes. I picked a fresh white dress and tied it with a gold sash, and looked identical to my reflection yesterday. My stomach was painfully eager for breakfast, but I hesitated, because Tiernan had promised to teach me magic after breakfast.

Still, the meeting with Tier—Talent Kae was unavoidable. So, I entered the main dining area where all the students from Lancer’s Academy ate together. It felt right, although less noise than usual floated down to the main entrance where I stood; some were still mourning Talent Issaka’s passing.

I almost took my usual seat, the far end of a table filled with boisterous Untalented students. Other than an occasional greeting, most of them ignored me, and I had eaten there in peace. When I approached them this morning, though, they gave me looks. Some of them jabbed their forks into the air between me and them to further highlight that I was no longer welcomed there, if I ever was.

I moved on, then, to the other half of the room, where more students chose silence over chatter. I felt strange, wandering amongst those strangers in black, for mourning, when I wore lily white, to show my inexperience and ignorance in the Talent. They didn’t stare too much, though, and most ignored me. Finally, I sat down near the end of one of the tables that weren’t too crowded.

Breakfast was eggs, milk, and toast this morning. My toast was already a little cold, and the butter wouldn’t melt on it properly because I had come down to breakfast later than recommended. I wondered if there was a simple spell to reheat toast, but I knew that I was getting ahead of myself. And besides, Talent should not be wasted so frivolously, especially when they were in such short supply. Still, it would have been nice to fill my anxious stomach with warm toast.

“Hello, Rowana,” somebody said from across from me.

I look up. “Dane!” I had had classes with Dane, before they discovered his Talent, and we had been friends. He had been shorter than me, then, but judging by the width of his shoulders, he was probably at least half a head taller than me.

His brown eyes lit up. “You remember me!”

“Of course.” I didn’t know why he sounded surprised. He had been one of the few friends I ever had. “How are you?”

“Doing well, considering the circumstances,” he answers a bit grimly before brightening up again. He leans towards me and whispers, “You have a rogue as your teacher.”

I knew that already and didn’t need any more patronizing or snide remarks about my “unorthodox” teacher. I just nod to him, though.

Then, he grins, “Well, do teach me if he teaches you any special tricks.”

I looked at him for a moment before I managed to answer, “I can’t.” At his hurt expression, I hastened to explain, “I can’t tell what’s ‘special’ and what’s not since I don’t know what you are learning.”

Dane hummed and took a bite of his breakfast and I followed suit. Then, he asked, “So, what’s your area of specialty?”

“What?” I didn’t understand his question.

“You know,” he waved his fork in the air and it glittered. “What are you good at? Which test or tests did you pass?”

“Oh, I can’t do anything but scry,” I answered before picking at my food again. The eggs had been overcooked this morning, and I picked at the very dark brown patches.

“Wow!” It was Dane’s loud exclaimation that brought my attention back to him. “We haven’t had a seer in ages!” he continued. “They usually come into their power earlier, you know. Like at thirteen or fourteen, but they say that seers are the opposite of mages and that the later they come into their powers, the stronger they are. So, what did you see?”

I shifted uncomfortably under his direct gaze. “Just myself with Talent Kae,” I mumbled. It hadn’t felt special when the plain image had rippled over the water the way my reflection would have.

Dane smiled lopsidedly then, a good-natured smile, and reached across the table to pat me on the arm. “No wonder they’re tutoring you privately.”

But I didn’t see any reason they handed me to Talent Kae besides that we seemed to be the only two with Talents who didn’t have the Emperor’s Spell. It was only luck—I have yet to decide good or bad—that Talent Kae now tutored me privately, and had nothing to do with my Talent at all. Still, I saw Dane’s conviction and decided not to correct his misconception.

“So you know...” Apparently, Dane wasn’t done yet. I tried to remember if he had been this talkative when we had last known each other, but his face was a bit blurry in my mind. I couldn’t remember how he had acted at all. “Does Talent Kae know who broke the wards?”

I nodded. I remember him answering my all-important question last night about who broke the wards.

“Well, who is it?” Dane asked.

“I...” I shook my head then, to clear my thoughts. I swore he had told me who broke the ward, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember who it was anymore. You’d think I would remember such an important piece of information, but I had always been forgetful. “I don’t know.”

Dane sighed, and leaned down onto his hands on the table. “Well, I didn’t expect him to tell you, anyways, but it was worth a try. It’s the mystery right now, you know?”

I nodded, and picked some more at my breakfast when the bell rang, a ten minute warning for the first class. Students and Talents started to stand up and leave. Dane waved a little goodbye before standing up. “I’ll introduce you to my friends next time,” he offered before leaving.

I just nodded, but his back was already to me then so I don’t think he saw me. The breakfast was hopeless anyways; the toast had also been too burnt and the eggs were thoroughly brown. I gave up on it and decided that I might as well prepare myself to see Tiernan—Talent Kae. There was nothing to be done about my white dress, but I thought I’d do my hair up at least.

I had tied my hair into a tight bun as a futile attempt to tame it. Strands of it still fell out, though, and kept on tickling my face. Magic wasn’t messy, per se, but there was something about dabbling in something entirely new that made me want to prepare myself. At least, I’d be able to see clearly... if my hair would only stop falling out of the bun.

Ti... Talent Kae didn’t look any smaller by daylight. He seemed more ominous, actually, with a much sharper contrast between his shadowy cloak and the dismal daylight. In fact, if my mind were taken with flights of fantasy, I would have said that his cloak took away the sunlight and cheerfulness that we sorely needed after everything that had happened.

And this... dismalness was part of the Talent Kae that was I slowly starting to get to know. He was like a twisted nightmare of a reflection of the boy I had once known, inexplicably handsome instead of plainly lovable, sinister instead of mischievous, and cutting instead of witty.

“I’m here, Talent Kae, for the lessons,” I said to his back in a small voice, torn between letting him ignore me and learning magic as I ought to be doing.

He turned around slowly, his cloak remaining silent swirl of darkness, and he didn’t seem at all surprised to see me. “There will be no lessons,” he announced, though only to me.

It took me a moment to understand what he said, enough time for him have strode halfway across the room—and that much close to the door to the room. And to me.

“What do you mean?” I managed.

He stilled, then, and looked at me, green eyes shadowed by long, dark eyelashes. “You have no Talent.”

I stared at him some more before answering, “But I would not be here if I had no Talent. Talent Diesus checked for us himself.”

He smiled beatifically, then, as if I had walked into a trap instead of clearing up the matter. “Talent Diesus couldn't make an illusion, of course, because he was bound by his Emperor's Spell. So, he assumed that the magic for the image in the scrying pan came from you.”

“It was you, who put the image there, then.” I was finally beginning to understand.

“It wasn't very difficult.” He took a smooth step toward me, as if bringing the shadows with his cloak. “It wasn't difficult at all imagine you grown up, with flowers surrounding you. Although, now that I've met you again, I think daggers might have been more appropriate.”

“Oh...” I hadn't seen flowers in the scrying pan, though; I had seen him, as he stood now, and me standing by his side.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Eggs Will Be Eaten

I think of all my current hobbies that I've mentioned on this blog (reading, writing, drama-watching, and fansubbing), I've actually managed to forget mentioning fish keeping. But that's probably it's something that I do myself and at home, without really the need to share it others.

Still, even though I'm by no means professional or even consistent with my fish keeping, they are one my pride-and-joys. I currently have 3 tanks up and running, with a fourth one in the process of being set-up.

The reason that I brought all this up in the first place is because two of my angelfish decided to mate and spawn. There are little brown eggs on the leaves. I don't know if they are actually a pair, though. The male could be sterile. They could be lesbians (and no, it's not uncommon for that to happen).

Either way, though, I'll probably have to wait until the next spawning, because I have a pleco in there. And plecos are liable to eat up the eggs during the night, when the parents sleep. (I totally understand this, since I'm a big egg-eater myself... chicken, duck, goose, ostrich, robin...) The parents are doing a good job guarding it so far, though. Sadly, I don't have a tank setup for angelfish spawning, or I would move them there. Ah, well, we'll see if I can get a good deal somewhere.

On to the pictures (click on them to get the full sized version)...

First, my 55 gallon planted freshwater tank, the tank that I'm most proud of (and therefore maintain most carefully). It has a nice Emperor 400 HOB filter, and a 300W submersible heater. There are 80 watts of fluorescent strip lighting on top, spray painted black to match the tank. The substrate is made especially for plants... but I don't remember its name or the name of the plants, despite that I spent a small fortune on them.

It's actually understocked right now, with 6 angelfish, 11 neon tetras, and 2 swordtails, and a common pleco. I'm getting rid of the malformed angelfish (it's not doing will in my tank anyways), and would be, ideally, moving the mated pair elsewhere for spawning. I've had the pleco for a year already, and the other fish since New Year's.

Anyways, I got the six angelfish altogether at New Year's, like I already mentioned, and now, about 9 months after I got them, they're actually considered adults. They are no where near 6" (the full grown full grown size for angelfish), but there's actually already a mated pair.

Here they are... (From left to right, mated angelfish pair with the eggs on the plant leaf, a closeup of the eggs on the plant leaf, a picture of one of the adults, a picture of the other adult, and a picture of the littlest "disabled" angelfish.)

Then, there's the little 10 gallon tank underneath. It's not nearly as exciting, with only a whisper 10 filter, and not even a heater. There is a betta and two grow-a-frogs in there (frightened into hiding by the betta). It's not really my tank, but I maintain it with the other tanks. If you looked carefully, you can tell that this tank is placed underneath the 55 gallon tank.

Oh, and I mentioned I have a 25 gallon goldfish tank. But it's terribly dirty right now. The water itself is fine, but there is algae growing it. I just need to spend some money on an algae scraper... It's come through snail mail...


Monday, September 3, 2007

Magic in Aquila

Fantasy Romance

Rowana's mother brought her from their little village of Sarsen to the capital, Aquila, to study at the prestigious Lancer's Academy, despite that Rowana is Untalented and Lancer's caters to Talented students. When the wards around Aquila fall, though, and Rowana discovers she is Talented, she is pulled into a treasonous plot against the emperor himself.

Chapter One
Chapter Two


Magic in Aquila - Chapter One

We all just stand there, small and slumped over under the weight of the grayness of the sky.

I have never seen Talent Issaka and know of him only by his marble statue in the library courtyard. Talent Issaka acted as the High Talent at the academy when he had was alive and his half of the academy kept him busy. I stay in the other half of the academy, the half within the Aquilan wards where magic is prohibited. Though, I don’t think that the wards existed anymore.

I haven’t seen his face today either, because it’s a closed casket funeral with little, white stralie flowers strewn everywhere in honor of his title as Talent. Only a few people saw Talent Issaka after his death, other Talents from the academy and important people investigating the situation, and they decided that the body should remain hidden.

When the coffin thuds six feet below ground, my cloak suddenly feels damp and scratchy. Water and mildew hang in the air. My head itches, but I worry that the priest's black, beady eyes would turn on me if I moved, even if I’m waiting with over five hundred other students from the academy.

Boryk stands to my right, a pale, earnest boy, with his cloak whipping about him as if it might bring him away from all this sorrow. Saaria stands to my left, straight and tall and still, but I can see the shimmer in her coffee-brown eyes. They are both Talented students and have taken lessons from Talent Issaka himself.

I wonder if my mother would read of this in the newspaper, but she has cared very little for newspapers since we had moved to Aquila. She’s more likely to hear it sitting in one of her friends' sun-shaded living rooms. Oh, Talent Issaka was the High Talent at Lancer's, mom might remember, or she might not. She has cared very little for Talents since we moved to Aquila; it was sudden and strange, moving to Aquila.

We used to live in Sarsen. It’s boring and dusty and exists only to grow klang, a kind of drug to stimulate the Talent. It’s a lazy village, where I would climb down from the tree for dinner when I smelled beef stew or roasted pork. Then, on that summer night, mother set down a letter she just received, stood up, and told me, "Ro, you are going to Lancer's."

I was eight, I remember, because I had just lost my last baby tooth, and I worried how the tooth fairy would give me my money on a train. When I actually arrived at Lancer's, it was night, and I still remember the whispered creaking of the gate as it opened just for me, and the sharp, unbroken tap-taps of the shoes of the man who led me to my bed. I clutched his cold, waxy hand only because my mother had left me with him. I couldn't see his face very well—there weren't very many candles lit—but I remember his dark, silent cloak, because mom would never wear something so somber.

Eight years have passed since then. I still miss my mother's beef stew. Sometimes, I want to tell my mother that I don't want to go to Lancer's anymore; I have no Talent anyways, and though Lancer’s also takes Untalented students like me, their main programs are for the Talented students. Then, I would remember how back at Sarsen, late at night, I would wake up to her flickering shadow, trying to find a way to give a better education.

"Your father would want you taught properly," Mom told me once with a faint smile that she wore whenever she remembered father, when I had said that I didn't care about learning. "But I don't have very much to teach you."

I think that my mother believed that my father was alive, then.

Maybe she believes it still—they have not found his body—but I doubt it. She hasd become a beautiful diamond, cold and hard and sharp in elegant shades of gray, since she left the house in Sarsen where she had lived with father and came to Aquila. She never smiles or cooks or hums anymore. Instead, she sparkles correctly for her friends in society. I think she must have loved my father very much.

Talent Issaka died trying to hold up the ward.

They say that Talent Issaka had the strongest Talent of anybody in the Empire and so he took it upon himself to defend the ward when it came crashing down. It crushed him anyways.

Why the ward fell in the first place was anybody's guess. There are rumors, of course; there were always rumors. Some said that the Dark King has risen, that the great dragons are displeased, that a sliver of the sun has fallen through, or something as dramatic and outlandish. All the rumors agree, though, that there is magic in Aquila, although sometimes it’s unclear whether the Talent entered before the ward broke—and caused it to break—or after, when the ward had already broken.

It’s odd to think of magic in Aquila. All I can imagine are Talent-warmed streets during winter and fire shows in the summer, but I doubt that anybody who took the effort to force magic into Aquila would use it so frivolously. Still, people I know who are Talented never talk much about what they do in the other half of the school beyond the ward, and left to my own devices, I can imagine nothing more exciting than fire shows or more useful than warmth.

As for the fallen ward, some people think it has disappeared, as failed magic are wont to. Some people think that it has reformed itself without any major damage, as old magic are wont to. Nobody knows for sure, not even the Talents, incapacitated as they are by their Emperor’s Spell.

I have only ever lived in the half of Lancer's lit by sunshine and candlelight, but they say that in the other half, darkness reigns. Without magic, the Talents have no light and do not remember candles. They lose themselves in the labyrinth of their own academy. Things transfigured remain transfigured, and things shrunken remain shrunken and useless. At least the kitchen is for the entire academy and has no need of magic, or we would surely all starve to death.

The lack of magic is due to, of course, the ward falling and triggering its last trap to inhibit the magic of anybody with the Emperor's Spell, which is any Talent in the Empire, from performing magic. The fact that it has activated was another point of controversy. It proves that the ward no longer exists and therefore the spell is actively prohibiting the Talents from performing magic, or it proves that the ward still existed and was supporting that last spell and therefore the Talents cannot perform magic.

I hear that we were running out of bread in Aquila—here, in the capital!—because nobody knows how to transport bread without magic. I never liked bread anyways.

We all shuffled inside after the wind carried away the last words of the priest and the first raindrops had begun to splatter and darken the ground. It might shower for two minutes or pour for two hours. That was Aquilan winter. A quiet buzzing surrounded me, although both Boryk and Saaria remained in their sunken silence.

I stood with all the Untalented students, waiting in line, as the Talented ones disappeared behind the warded—or at least used to be warded—stone door. They could eat or sleep now that the ceremony was over—or grieve, if they had known Talent Issaka personally. The rest of us stood and waited for another hour or two or three, on tired feet and worn-out patience, to be tested for "undiscovered Talent."

After any sort of upheaval in Aquila, they would test each of us. It was all very perfunctory and useless. In this case, what they really wanted to find was people unencumbered by the Emperor's Spell. If they had enough people and if they taught these students fast enough, perhaps Aquila might not tumble into total disrepair. Of course, they were also searching for the person who caused the ward to crash in the first place.

"Try to light the candle," Talent Diesus, the Talent overseeing new Talented students, asked of me.

I couldn't, of course.

"Try to move the feather."

The feather sat serenely on the bare wooden table.

"Look into the scrying pan."

I looked. Those who were talented would sometimes see true visions. The rest of us saw whatever the examiner chose to put there. This time, the examiner put an image of me with a man, with robes as dark as his hair and green, glittering eyes. I told him what I saw.

He smiled then and I felt uneasy. "Rowana Craine?"

I nodded hesitantly.

"You are Talented."

I stared at him, for longer than necessary. "But I'm not."

"You saw yourself with a Talent, or your future as a Talent."

"But you put that vision there, Talent Diesus," I felt obligated to point out.

He shook his head. "I couldn't have; I am bound by my Emperor's Spell."

All Talented students began with general classes, of course, and there were usually twenty or thirty students in each class. Students who wanted to disappear strove to be average and those who wanted attention were the best, or failing that, the worst. I thought that I would be average... or maybe the worst, since it was already months into the school year and even the raw beginners had had practice.

It turned out that I was overly worried. They had already found a Talent to teach me. When Talent Diesus told me of this, I had thought that they had meant a tutor to help me catch up—what he had meant was that I would be tutored separately. I wanted to tell Talent Diesus that I wouldn't mind having to catch up with classes, but I didn't, because it was such a privilege to have a tutor early on; most students only received one-on-one training their last year or two.

"You should appreciate this," Talent Diesus warned me with a disapproving brow. "Talent Kae is not even a graduate of this school, but we had none to spare to teach a new Talented student, with everything that has happened. We found him to tutor you only because you are the only one with Talent we have found unbound by the Emperor’s Spell."

I nodded quietly and kept my eyes on the rug.

"Make sure you listen to Talent Kae," he continued. "But don't lose your common sense. Talent Kae is known for unconventional methods; he never underwent formal training."

I looked up sharply at him and looked away quickly. He had surprised me, by telling me that he didn't completely approve of Talent Kae. Of course, one school of magic never quite approved of another—and Talent Kae was rogue, but Talent Diesus insinuated that Talent Kae was not only unconventional, but sometimes uncaring of the consequences of his actions.

"Yes, Talent Diesus," I promised.

He smiled wanly. "Don't let his charm blind you the way it did Princess Sophia."

"Yes, Talent Diesus."

I stared at myself in the mirror for a long time the next morning before I went downstairs to pledge myself to High Talent Kae. My white dress was tied simply with a golden sash. I had never thought that I could miss a color, but symbolism was everything to the Talents, and only those with raw, unformed Talent could wear white.

I wondered if I was still a student at Lancer's Academy. Talent Diesus had not asked me to pack or leave, so I assumed that I would still occupy my room. But I was not pledging myself as a student to Talent Linnings, acting High Talent of the academy. Instead, I was pledging myself to Talent Kae, a rogue Talent. I wondered if I was his first student... if he would have other students.

After a final tug on my dress, I put on my cloak and realized that I was running late. I hurried through the corridors, my white satin slippers pattering along with the raindrops outside.

In front of the alder door, I paused. I looked at the carving on the door of the dragons first giving Jenoi the Talent, and I had an inane thought that maybe I could run back to Sarsen with my mother. Nobody could track us; nobody could use magic. To this day, I still don't know why I hadn't run away.

But I did push open the door. I was actually quite proud of how calmly I stepped inside. Nervousness churned in my stomach so that I could barely focus on anything I saw. Two Talents stood inside, one of them Talent Diesus, and I focused my attention on him. All that I knew of the other Talent was an impression of height and shadows hidden in his cloak. That was how I saw Talent Kae.

Then, I knelt down in front of him to pledge myself. Did I come of my freewill? Yes, I come of my freewill. Would I do my best to learn? Yes, I will do my best to learn. And to serve His Majesty, the emperor? Yes, and to serve His Majesty, the emperor. And so on and so forth the questions and the answers came. I never felt anything more than a sore knee, or maybe it was because nobody could actually perform magic.

After the pledge, I hesitated before I stood up, and when I did and I saw the face that the shadows had hidden, I found myself immobile. The dark hair. The green eyes. But his little, lost smile—how I had remembered him—had disappeared.

Talent Diesus waited patiently until I finally found my voice. "Tiernan...?"

Talent Diesus cut me a glare for my disrespect to a Talent, and I suppose, for embarrassing him. Tiernan's green eyes narrowed a bit at me before he let out a dark chuckle.

"Talent Kae, I ap—"

With a wave, Talent Kae cut off Talent Diesus's apology. "Yes, Rowana." Somehow, I found his steady gaze unsettling. "But you must call me Talent Kae now."

I nodded numbly.

"Follow me." He turned with an impressive swirl of his dark cloak. I felt loud and clumsy stumbling after his gliding shadow. "You have things to learn."

The alder door creaked a little before slamming shut behind us. I used both hands to pick up my cloak and my dress so I could catch up with Tiernan's long strides.


Magic in Aquila - Prologue

Tiernan didn't have a mother.

He didn't have a father, either, but everybody knew that. But Rowana believed that he stayed at home all day, watering the vegetables or dusting the rooms, because his mother asked him to.

Of course, Tiernan dusted, as best as he could, which meant that he never quite reached the top shelf of the bookcase. He did the laundry when he needed to and he cooked, occasionally, but only so that the fowl no longer oozed red. Mostly, when he stayed home, he practiced his Talent.

It was a weary lifestyle, even Tiernan admitted, but he had to learn to control his Talent by himself. No Talent ever passed through the dusty village of Sarsen, much less to stay and teach, and Tiernan refused to leave Sarsen. Besides, he liked Rowana's company.

Rowana was a Sarsen girl, with hair the color of Sarsen dust and eyes like the clear Sarsen sky. She and her mother lived next to Tiernan, in a cottage as small as his.

Rowana stayed home a lot in the winters, and sometimes Tiernan wished she would stay outside and bear the cold with him instead of warming her hands in front of the fireplace with her mother. Sometimes, though, Rowana's mother would invite him to dinner and he could pretend, for a while, that she was his mother and he was eating a family dinner. More often than not, though, he had to decline and pretend that his mother wanted him with her.

But in summer, the days were long. When the air was too hot and the wind too lazy, Rowana's mother didn't really care anymore what Rowana did with herself, and Tiernan played with Rowana every night in the summers. Tiernan would think, This is what it would have been like if my parents had wanted me; I would've had a little sister like Ro.

One night nearing the end of summer, when the full moon hid behind the blackened clouds, a terrible anxiety took hold of Tiernan. He asked Rowana, "Promise you'll always come over and play?"

Rowana had looked at him strangely and made a hole in the dirt with her finger. "Of course. Why not?"

Tiernan looked at her and then away just as quickly. "Promise me you'll stay."

Rowana grinned, showing a gap where she had lost her last baby tooth. "Of course I will."

Tiernan had thought that Rowana was in earnest, then. She must have been. She was eight and too young for artifice like that. But whether Rowana meant her promise or not, that was the last time she came over and played with him.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Subbing News... and Other News

I've finally come back from China. I love the country dearly, and I only ever go there for vacation now, so it's very relaxing. And I love being with my grandparents. But still... there's just something lacking when the computer CPU is less than 1.0 GH, and there's only 128 MB of RAM. (That, and some idiot installed XP on the machine.) The internet fairly crawled at 10 KB/sec, average, as compared to the dorm internet I'm used to.

I haven't been entire useless, though. I wrote some of my stories. Though, I still don't know if I'll be able to finish them. And I've done some subbing.

Let's see...

Pawnshop No. 8 is my current baby, with the first batch of softsubs (eps 1-5) out already. battlegirlai is timing it, and it is quite a small group (2 people) for quite a large project (116 episodes). Still, I suspect it'll get done within a year... or two. You can find out all the information about it here.

The Blood Drinking Knife is my personal pet project, with no episodes released. It's a period drama... and things are going, but slowly. Ah, well...

Engagement for Love is still on hold. I did manage to download the 6th feeling version of it, which has very nice quality (thank you battlegirlai), but I'm just not motivated to do it right now... so it's put on hold.

Otherwise, I'm still in SUBlimes, but it has slowed a bit. Or maybe I hadn't participated in much in the last couple of months (due to being away and all that). And or course Flower Rain is still subbing its shows.

Ah... what am I going to do when school starts?