2020 Goals – The Review

Many, many, many people are saying this about 2020 but I have to add my voice asking “what in the everliving fuck was that?!?” Whatever, let’s grab a big glass of vermouth and have a look at how I did on this year’s goals.

1.) Start doing blog posts again – For this one I managed to post 73% of the planned blog posts for the year (one every two weeks) which, in this year of 2020, I’m counting as a win. As Meatloaf would say, 19 outta 26 ain’t bad.

2.) Finish TE1 synopsis (by 28 Feb) and keep on submission – Success! Not only did I finish the full query packet but it’s been on submission ever since and the rejections are piling up! Yaay! I mean, every one of them is a gut punch but I’m treating this like my training montage right before the film KICKS OFF. That’s how you do it, right?

3.) Get Fishperer beta ready – I made a lot of progress on this at the start of the year and then in the second half it kinda went out of the window. Still, it’s a lot closer to being done than it was so that’s something I suppose. 

4.) Complete a Goodreads challenge – Yeah, this one never recovered. It’s not been a good year for reading new books at all. This year was far too much about the comfort zone. Oh well. There’s always next year?

5.) Do enough art to do the end of year meme – I DID IT! I made enough art and made the meme. Despite September to November being very phoned in, I’m still very proud of myself for it. The best thing about this goal is that I can look at my January art and my December art and actually see a difference. I’m hoping to make this one a tradition because I finally feel like I’m making some progress with my drawing skills and I don’t want to lose it again.

6.) Hit weight goal – Zero shits given about this one. It’s 2020. I’m just along for the ride. This one will probably be back next year as I want to achieve it for my dysphoria but if we’re up for 2020 2.0 then I’m not going to stress about it too much.

If we include the very shaky “win” for goal number one, that’s a 50% hit rate. Sod it, it’s 2020. I think I did good. Happy New Year everyone, let’s raise our glasses, cross our fingers, and enter the brace position because like it or not, here comes 2021!

NaNoWriMo 2020 Post Mortem

So, how did NaNoWriMo 2020 go? Well, I’ll have you know that I actually wrote a (very brief) post to put up midway through the month but I was so caught up in writing my novel that I completely forgot, despite the post already being written. This year I had my best NaNoWriMo ever. I wrote over seventy thousand words and, for the first time since the very first time I did NaNoWriMo eight years ago, I completely finished the rough draft of my story. This has been the fastest ever that I’ve made it to 50k (made it on the 15th!) and all it took was stubbornness, a story I’ve completely fallen in love with, and bribery by food. 

At the end of October I made the decision not to continue on with the story I was planning on and instead switch to a different project. Given the year 2020 has been, I decided to switch to a project that was going to be pure fun. Full of tropes and nonsense, just something that I was writing purely for myself with no intention of ever showing anyone. This was how I started writing and how Twyned Earth came about all those years ago. I completely let go and just wrote whatever I wanted. I created the project in my “Fluff Writing” folder, where I keep my stories which I have no intention of ever doing anything important with. It was freeing. The project is still living there and yet I already have a bunch of revision plans for it and ideas I want to squeeze in. I’ve even done art of the main character (and have plans to draw his love interest next)! 

I think that at some point, after I had the realisation that I would like to become a published writer, I became too worried about avoiding things that were too tropey or self indulgent. If we can’t be self indulgent in our writing then what is even the point? I need to re-embrace the sacred art of not giving a crap what other people think when I’m drafting again because after just 30 days I have ended up with a whole new, finished draft and let me tell you – I’m in love.

NaNoWriMo 2020

Like so many other people, my year started out on a strong note, creativity wise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that had gone more or less out of the window by the time May rolled around and the rest of the year has been like wading through treacle. Looking back at my original goals for the year, a lot of them are going to go unmet. Given everything that’s happened, I’m trying not to let that bother me too much but it’s not always easy. It’s been A Year.

No matter how bad things get though, there always seems to be one event that kicks my brain back into overdrive. That’s right, it’s the 1st of November and NaNoWriMo is back, baby! Given the nature of the year, rather than carrying on with a project that I’d already started as I had planned, I’m instead going to be starting on something new. Why, you ask?

This year has been hard and, while Monarch Necrotic is a story very dear to my heart, writing something that has a character severely suffering from the mental illnesses I share with him might have been a bit heavy. I want to have fun this month and pour out words with gay abandon, rather than dissecting myself on a deep emotional level. I want to write something invigorating, not exhausting. So that’s what I’m going to be doing. 

Trashy? Possibly. Tropey? Definitely. Banter? 98% of my word count this November. And I can’t wait!

Be kind to yourself, even if that just means writing disaster monster friends causing chaos in some rich dude’s mansion.

Personal Rejection

Writing can be a hard thing for a number of reasons. Even after we’ve got past all the actual writing and editing and finally have a finished product, it doesn’t get easier. There’s all the query material, the finding of agents, and of course the waiting. Damn, the waiting. 

The places and people that give you a time frame for you to wait are few and far between. The number of responses you receive are only marginally higher than that. Normally, it’s just a form rejection, which is understandable given the load of stories agents have to go through. It might be easy to think that even adding a brief line should only take a moment but that’s an easy rabbit hole to fall down, and keeping on top of things is too important. As someone who’s worked in many fast paced work environments, it’s something I sympathise with. 

That doesn’t mean getting a form rejection is easy. It’s never easy and it’s never fun, though I certainly appreciate not being left hanging. 

The real jewel in the sea of sadness that is publishing rejections is the personalised rejection. So rare it may as well be mythical and carrying the same heavy weight of all the usual rejections, but with a glimmer of hope scattered across its surface. A kind word about the rejected piece is all it takes to turn the discouragement of the rejection into something far more. A clue as to why a piece was rejected can transform the hollow feeling of “I’m just not good enough” into something constructive and tangible that can be worked on. That one simple act can turn the whole thing around. 

Being rejected always sucks, but acceptance letters aren’t the only ones that can bring a little happiness and motivation. 

Creative Break(through)

Given the current circumstances, I’m actually impressed that it took me this long through the year to hit my wobble (though it was just terribly timed right after my “look at how well I’m doing! post. Talk about a jinx). With COVID, a huge amount of work stress, and the death of a very old and beloved pet as just a selection of the things going through my head for the past few weeks, my creative ventures and presence online disappeared for a bit. I’ve had a bit of a recharge though and gotten through it, and hopefully I’m back on track for the rest of the year. 

Creatively, I’ve had a lot going on in my head but a complete inability to put it down on paper. This has been for both writing and art. There were a lot of things I wanted to do, new shiny ideas I wanted to explore as a way to deal with the current state of life. All these attempts have failed though, and I had a reminder over the weekend to keep things simple. Often, simple is the best way. 

I had been struggling with the thought of drawing anything, and when I tried it just wouldn’t work. Eventually, after a month of failing and being frustrated, I decided to go back to my very first passion as an artist. Wildlife. 

Drawing characters and concepts is 99% of what I want to do as an artist. I want to get all these fantastical creatures and people out of my head and into the world in a viewable way. For some reason though, the thing that comes most naturally to me is drawing animals. So I finally threw my hands up in the air and decided to do a quick sketch of an otter. It was the best decision I could have made, and I felt the walls of art block come tumbling down. 

For writing as well, I was convinced that I needed to pour out some personal passion piece to get myself through this time, but it simply wasn’t working. It would have been nice, sure, but the idea that this would help me was actually holding me back. I know now that what I should have done was simply look back and a tried and tested story I still need to work on and keep chugging away at that. 

So that’s what I’m going to do. 

You know, along with trying not to disappear for a month and a half for at least another year.

The 2020 Halfway Post

It’s July, which means it is time to review how I’m doing on this year’s goals! As I’m certain most of you are also feeling, this has been a very odd year. This post feel about 9 months overdue and also about 3 months early at the same time. Seriously, 2020 really needs to get its act together. Anyway, on with the post!

*

1.) Start doing blog posts again – This has gone well so far! Two posts were one day late but aside from that, we’ve been rocking and rolling. I’ve managed to keep this up through some pretty rough patches so hopefully the momentum sticks and we keep going for the second half of the year.

2.) Finish TE1 synopsis (by 28 Feb) and keep on submission – You may have guessed from my last post that the time lines were derailed on this one but good news prevails in the end. I hit the original deadline of 28th of February but then… Just didn’t send it out. Working with my therapist has been really helpful though, progress has happened and as of June 15th Through the Black has officially been on submission! I also have packets ready for the next couple of agents for when this one comes back. There’s a plan in place to keep up this momentum so there’s no stopping me now! 

3.) Get Fishperer beta ready – This is on track! Been working away at it and all of the comments have now been addressed. It’s scene by scene time now, then it’s onto the big print out and check, then bish bash bosh we’ve got a beta ready MS! Just need to keep at it. Handy that a certain Camp NaNo event just started, amirite? 

4.) Complete a Goodreads challenge – This is one that has started terribly but I’m hoping to pick up a little in the second half of the year. I don’t know with so much time wasted if I’ll hit the endgame goal but I’m determined to make a decent dent in it regardless.

5.) Do enough art to do the end of year meme – Some months have been better than others, and at least two have literally only had ONE piece of art, but that still fits the criteria so I’m counting that as a win. What I do count as a big win is that my folder for 2020 art now has more in it than any other year since… well, since before university. And we’ve still got six months to go! Let me tell you, that’s a great feeling and I can really see some improvements with my stuff. I missed art so much. It feels great to have it back in my life. 

6.) Hit weight goal – Not great progress on this one but with everything else that’s been going on in my life and the world in general, I’m not too surprised or worried about that. 

*

Overall and considering the on goings both personally and not, I’m pretty pleased to have gotten to where I am. Some things are going slower than I would like but everything is moving forward. I hope you’re all out there smashing your 2020 goals, but if you aren’t I’m pretty sure there was never a better excuse.

Take care of yourselves and do what you can. Personal progress is nice but in the face of a global pandemic, looking after yourself and those close to you is the number one goal.

Eyes Closed, Head First, Can’t Lose

There was no post yesterday because I intended to make a far longer and more detailed post about my last two weeks. I’ve been flip flopping back and forth but I don’t think the time is right or that I’m ready. Needless to say, I’m going through Some Stuff and have been working with my therapist on some things that are getting twitch-inducingly close to the root of my issues. After several years of trying to get help, to finally be on the right track is great – and way scarier than I was ready for. 

Why am I waffling about this on a writing blog? 

Mental health affects everything – especially the stuff we don’t want it to. People who have followed this blog for a long time will be sick and tired of hearing about me being “ready to query” or “so close to querying” or “just this left to do!” This has literally been going on for years. Years! It probably came as very little surprise to everyone after the third or fourth time when it was revealed that the Great Querying Event never actually happened. The most frustrating thing for me though was why did it never happen? I was ready. Have been ready. For a long time. It turns out though that there was a very specific mental health thing holding me back.

That thing has been identified. My therapist wants to try treating it with exposure therapy and asked what we should start with. Sod it, I thought, this has been going on too long. Querying has always been such a huge mental blockage for me, especially for this novel. Was choosing something this big a terrible place to start my healing journey? Or did I really need to do something drastic to kick start this process? Honestly, it feels like I did the right thing, even if it’s been a very, very difficult process. 

I did it. I sent the query. I have a list of next-up agents for when the rejects come back. Sometimes, you just need to take your life advice from the wise Jake Perulta*.

Jake from Brooklyn 99 with some life advice.

*I would not recommend this as a regular occurrence. 

Testing the Snowflake Method – The Results

A long, long time ago, I started trying out the Snowflake Method of planning a novel. The original post is here and considering that this was to be a very small side project, it’s somewhat escalated (see Monarch Necrotic). The rough draft of this novel isn’t completely finished yet, but has come far enough that I can make some assessments on how this method of plotting worked for me.

What didn’t work

Let’s start with the bad side of things. Despite all the meticulous planning (in fact, some issues are because of the planning), the novel is going to need a significant amount of restructuring. Due to the nature of the planning, the novel has ended up with a lot of extraneous scenes, many of which are going to end up being cut, with only small portions being shifted into other places. It’s going to take a lot of work to turn this into a streamlined, well paced story. 

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons for me originally trying out the Snowflake Method was to try and minimise the huge issues I generally have with rough drafts and reduce the extent to which I need to rewrite things. This has, unfortunately, not worked. However, like with anything, using this method is going to be something that requires practice. Now that I’m aware of what issues it creates, I can be more aware of how to avoid them during planning and how I ended up making these mistakes in the first place. I’ll be a lot more aware of not reducing each scene to a single concept, and condensing things a lot more efficiently in the future.

So why am I talking about using it again when it didn’t do what I wanted on this try? 

What did work

I had some issues with the method, or rather how I implemented it, but with hindsight I can see where I went wrong and how I could tackle a different project. Even without considering that though, I wouldn’t abandon this method because it came with some fantastic benefits. 

World building is normally something I normally do on the macro scale before starting, then do the small details on the fly as I go. Most of my world building generally occurs after the rough draft, when I know what I need to know and can add in the details later. While this works for me, it contributes to the extensive rewriting I need to do on the second pass. With this method, I knew which areas of world building would need to exist for this particular story, meaning that I could work on those details before starting and meaning that I didn’t need to tweak or twist anything later in the story that didn’t fit. I could fit story points around things that had already been worked into my world. It also meant that I could add more detail to these things on the first pass, creating a deeper and richer world.

The other great benefit I found was with characters. My usual approach to plotting involved just that. Plot and story. Characters were generally bare bones concepts that were allowed to develop as I wrote the original draft and, as with the world building, that tended to lead to a lot of rewriting. Character interactions all have to be altered and more often than not what made sense for a hollow placeholder character to do when I started made no sense for the fully fleshed out actually-having-a-personality version of the character that emerged at the end of the story to do. 

The meticulous levels to the character planning in the Snowflake Method meant that all of my characters had really strong voices and personalities before I ever started writing the stories. The characters can play a far more prominent role in shaping the story, rather than things having to be re-jigged later. It also made it very clear when a character was just there “because” or solely to hold up someone else. I could see these issues and ensure that each and every character there had real drives and motives. It allowed the very story to have more soul to it right from the start, rather than have it crowbarred in later with great effort and anguish. These benefits alone have made me very pleased I tried this out. 

Will I use it again?

While I’m going to try and refrain from starting any new novel projects until I’ve got some of the many I’m still working on in to something resembling finished, I’ll definitely be trying this again in the future. Now that I know where I’ve gone wrong on the plotting front, I think I know how I can eliminate some of the major issues I’ve had in the past. Considering the amount of rewriting I usually have to do anyway, I think the payoffs here have been well outweighed by the benefits. Though it is amusing that it gave me the opposite of my usual problem (having to flesh out an overly short draft vs a draft full of unnecessary bloat). Having relatively recently made my first attempt at truly pantsing a story (writing with zero prior plotting), I can definitely say that this style works better for me. 

Plus, and perhaps most importantly, doing it was just fun.

Organisational Tools: Trello

One of the things about me is that I find it difficult to have just one project on the go, and I have far more than one creative hobby. As such, it can be quite easy for things to get lost along the way to completion, to forget my progress on something, or just forget about a project entirely. I’ve tried several systems for keeping track of things in the past but none have really captured what I wanted or needed.

Enter Trello.

So, in my day job, last year I was assigned to a team that works using a management system called “scrum.” Now, ignoring my personal feelings on that, there was one particular aspect of it that I really liked. The Scrum Board. A board with all current works to be completed within a certain time period, laid out in columns including “to do,” “in progress,” etc. And I thought there was a far more fun application of this than WORK.

I did a quick search and found Trello, a website that allows you to make your own boards for your own projects. I did, and I love it. What are some of the features that make Trello work for me?

Columns are the first useful thing. This is to separate out what state everything is in. The above screenshot is from my personal board, which holds ALL my projects in it. I have “In Waiting,” for everything that I want to do, but isn’t currently on my radar. “To Do” is for things I want to start working on next. “Doing” speaks for itself and of course “Done” is the WOO HOO column. In particular, I like having the distinction between the “In Waiting” and “To Do” columns because it stops me feeling overwhelmed by too many projects, while giving me the reassurance that nothing is being forgotten about.

Example Trello column headers.

Projects or tasks are made into “cards” that can be moved about the board. These cards can be given as much or as little detail as you want. The ones on my personal board vary wildly between paragraphs and paragraphs of detail to just the title. You can add due dates, attachments, and custom fields of your own. I have a custom field for estimating the “size” of a task, so I have an idea of what I’m getting myself into while looking through my list to pick what to work on next.

Example Trello cards. Ignore that overdue blog post…

One of my favourite bits of Trello is that it lets you add brightly coloured labels, which speaks to the part of me that has many binders covered in brightly coloured sticky markers. This is very useful for me in particular as it allows me to keep all of my projects on one board while still being able to pick out what sort of thing I’m looking for at that point in time. These can all be customised, so the board tells you what you need it to tell you.

Example Trello labels.

And finally, another personal favourite. Be it a badly scrawled post-it, the back of my hand, a phone app, or that expensive notebook I’ve finally worked up the courage to use, I love making lists. Lists are awesome. Not only does Trello let you add checklists, it lets you add multiple to one card. For example, one my novel progress I like to have checklists with the big steps such as “rough draft,” “first draft,” etc but I also like smaller ones so that I can track progress on the actual part I’m working on. A sense of progression helps me keep working, otherwise it’s all too easy to become overwhelmed by a project that doesn’t feel like it’s moving.

Example Trello card checklist.

So this is Trello and why I love it. It’s also very easy to keep up to date, which means… that’s right! The Project Status page is getting revamp! And by revamp, I mean a link to a public, trimmed down Trello board that will display all my project progress in an easier to handle fashion. Here’s a nice direct link to the CM Schofield Progress Board

Do you have your own methods for organising your projects? What do you find works for you?

The Tower of Storms: Part 4

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Tamin had descended the stairs a half an hour prior. Baird waited, back pressed against the wall adjacent to the entrance. The only entrance. They were at the top of the tower here, with nowhere to go should things go wrong. A good few things could – Tamin betraying him being at the top of the list. He hoped against that for several wildly varying reasons.

Something stirred below. A voice. Baird held his breath and tightened his grip, sword in one hand and the mark of Oblear in the other. In Baird’s former cage was a makeshift dummy constructed from straw and armour taken from the dead. It was a poor likeness but the plan wouldn’t allow the sorcerer to stare for long. Echoing footsteps rose from the stairs.

“Idiot boy,” the elder grumbled, voice carrying up the stairwell. “There’s no way that fool could damage my bars, I don’t care what chemicals you thought you smelled.”

He reached the top step, striding past Baird into the room. A thrill went through him – this might actually work. The sorcerer halted.

“What the-“

Baird lunged, bringing his sword down in a sweeping arc towards the fiend’s back. With unnatural speed the sorcerer half turned and looked at Baird with wide, manic eyes. In the time it took for Baird’s sword to move an inch the sorcerer thrust out his hand. It felt like he had just been slammed in the chest by a bear. He took off from the ground and was thrown down the stairs. The impact knocked what little air he had left completely from him. His armour protected his bones from the solid steps but momentum and gravity sent him tumbling down the rest of them, landing in a dizzy and aching heap, wheezing for breath.

By the time he had his senses the sorcerer was already stood over him with a satisfied smile. Shouldn’t have taken the pendant off, Baird thought as a hacking cough racked his body. I hate magic. His sword could have been anywhere but the chain of Oblear’s mark was still wrapped around his fingers. At least he still had that – and the elder sorcerer hadn’t noticed it yet, instead calling for Tamin. He appeared from behind one of the painted wood partitions on the other side of Baird, looking timid.

“Come here, boy,” the father said and Tamin reluctantly approached. “Now is your chance to repent for this morning.”

“Yes, father.”

Uh oh, Baird thought.

The elder sorcerer turned his attention to the still struggling adventurer. “You’re going to tell me how you got out of that cage.”

Ratting out Tamin would just get them both killed. Plus Baird wasn’t exactly the type to bend to his enemies’ will. He was much too stubborn for that.

“Rot in the Pit,” he spat.

“As you wish,” the elder said before nodding to Tamin.

The young sorcerer paled. He lifted a trembling palm toward Baird. Baird froze, his hope extinguished under a volley of ice water. Tamin’s mouth twitched, eyes watered.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered.

Baird didn’t know what to say. The young man was terrified of his father. This life was all he knew. All Baird could do was brace himself for pain. Tamin thrust his hand forward and he winced.

A gust of wind blew through the room. It tingled Baird’s skin but assailed him no other way. The elder sorcerer exclaimed in surprise as his clothes passed through his flesh as though through water, billowing out and falling onto the steps behind him. It took both Baird and the sorcerer himself a moment to adjust to the fact that he was suddenly stood there in nought but his boots.

Baird was the first to react, pushing himself up with one hand and throwing the mark of Oblear hard at the wretch’s chest. The sorcerer thrust out his hand and a look of panic struck his face as the sigil sailed past his fingers. Baird grinned. The sigil hit the sorcerer square in the middle of his saggy, sallow chest.

He opened his mouth but no sound came, face twisting in agony. The sigil stuck to him and the flesh around it turned grey, blossoming in a grotesque wave across his body and turning to dust. He crumbled away until there was the clattering of bones into a dusty pile. Baird held his breath, watching the remains, but no retribution came. A small, pained sound came from behind him.

Tamin was on his knees, face in his hands. The weather raged on outside. Baird pulled himself up and crouched next to Tamin, wrapping his arms around him. Tamin’s whole life, everything he had ever known, just disintegrated before his eyes. It was seconds before the young sorcerer’s arms were around Baird’s neck, face sobbing into the metal plated crook of his shoulder. It could have been relief or despair. Probably both.

Baird resisted a long moment but could no longer wait, hating himself a little for his lack of restraint.

“How can I stop the storms?” Baird whispered into his ear as he held him.

Tamin pulled back from him and wiped his eyes, keeping his head down and avoiding Baird’s gaze. He rose to his feet and headed for the other partition, giving his father’s ashes and bones a wide berth. His movements bordered on mechanical. Baird felt a pang of guilt as he followed.

“What happened to him?”

“The mark turns the user’s magic against them,” Tamin said, voice small. “The magic that kept him alive past his years reversed.”

Baird placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

They rounded a partition and came to a grand bedroom, lavishly plastered in rich fabrics and gold adornments. At the end of the master bed was a mahogany pedestal, a glowing blue orb upon it. Turbulent mist twisted and warped beneath the surface. Baird was drawn to it, soothed by it. Warming, unseen tendrils snaked into his being, calming his bruises and setting his mind at rest. He was unaware of his hand moving slowly toward it until Tamin grabbed his wrist.

“Don’t,” he said. “It makes people strange. Like father. Like mother.”

Baird’s skin crawled and he withdrew his hand. “What do I do?”

“Shatter it,” Tamin said, voice cracking slightly. “Set her free.”

Baird shook his head clear as the orb’s influence took another stab at him. He glanced behind himself and saw a small foot stool. Not wanting to risk the thing’s spell a moment longer, Baird grabbed the stool in both hands. He spun, bringing the makeshift bludgeon down on the orb with all his strength.

This was it, his moment, his self-appointed destiny. It all hinged upon the word on a man he just met.

The orb did not shatter. The stool sunk into it and it burst like a soap bubble. Mist from within swept into the air like a puff of pollen. Baird stumbled away but Tamin stayed put, releasing a giddy laugh. Baird panicked. Had he been played? The mist engulfed Tamin and he collapsed in a haze of blue, falling to the floor. Baird backed against the partition wall as the blue spread but it did not approach him. A warm, pleasant voice filled his mind, forcing upon him a brief wave of euphoria.

The ancients will not forget this heroism.

The mist was gone. It didn’t so much vanish as it just wasn’t there anymore. Worry struck him as he realised the voice was the last thing he heard. He smacked his ears with his hands but became confused as his armour rattled. His jaw dropped. He clambered to his feet, dashing past an unconscious Tamin, and approached the window.

No rain lashed against the glass. No wind howled, rocking the building. In that moment, Baird experienced silence for the first time in his life. It frightened him, the vast emptiness of it, the sheer depth of nothingness. Before that fear could grow too deep, the sprawling black clouds split like curtains and a beam of golden light fell upon his face. He began to tremble as he lifted his hands to his cheeks. It was warm.

Baird dropped to his knees and laughed. He’d done it. He’d actually done it. He laughed some more. Of course he had. He’d always known he could. Definitely. He pushed thoughts of the cage away and pulled off his gauntlets, wiping the joyful tears from his face. He loosed a deep exhale and buried his triumph. He needed to check on Tamin.

The young sorcerer hadn’t moved since he collapsed, breathing softly. Baird knelt next to him, carefully brushing the hair back from his bruised face. He looked so peaceful it was almost a shame to wake him. With his other hand, Baird softly tapped his shoulder.

“Tamin?”

It took a couple of attempts before Tamin’s eyes fluttered open. Baird frowned when they did – they were a rich, swirling blue. This faded so rapidly, returning to the proper soft grey, that Baird was certain he’d imagined it.

“Are you alright?” Tamin said as he tried to focus his weary eyes.

Baird blinked. “Me?” he asked, incredulous. “Of course I am! I’m a famous adventurer! You’re the one who collapsed.”

“Oh…” He closed and opened his eyes a few times. “Yes, I am well,” he replied. Physically at least, Baird thought. A sadness hung about him.

Baird smiled. “Good. I have something to show you.”

He helped Tamin to his feet. He was unsteady and shaken so Baird took the liberty of wrapping an arm around his waist. Purely for support. Tamin didn’t complain, leaning his weight against Baird as he was guided to the window. He gasped as they stepped into the warm beam of light, face filling with wonder at the landscape before them, laid out clearly for the first time in both their lives.

“It’s… incredible.”

Pride swelled in Baird’s chest. He had done this. Of all the heroes who had come and tried, it was Baird who had succeeded. Released the Glen. Avenged his father. Without Tamin though, he never would have. He grinned as he looked out of the window. He couldn’t quite see Glen Feen but the view was more than a victory for him. Flat, barren and laden with water, to Baird it was beautiful. He pointed to the horizon.

“You see where the sky touches the land?” he asked. Tamin nodded. Baird looked down at the slight man and their eyes met. “Just beyond lies your new home.”

They smiled at each other and looked back to the landscape, damp and bedraggled as it was. At his side, Baird’s fingers lightly grazed against Tamin’s. Slowly, their digits twined together as they both watched the clear blue sky before them.

And Baird would even have been telling the truth, if they had been looking out of the other window.

Fin!