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Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab

Fantasy and Fantasy Writing from every angle: fantasy and sci-fi novels, films, artwork, superhero cartoons, children's and YA books, manga, anime, video games and comics. Put the microscope on 'Geek Culture'.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Review: Saga Volume 6

If you're not already reading Saga, you should be.

The Non-Spoiler part - What Is Saga?

WHAT IS SAGA? How can you even ask?! Only one of the most out-of-this-world, emotionally gripping, artistically fantastic, fascinating and compelling comics of my generation, THAT'S ALL.

Saga, in short, is a love story. During a war. In space.

Marko and Alana are soldiers from the two opposing armies who fall in love and have a child - something so abominable that their own armies want them dead. This is a witch-hunt across the galaxies; complex magic, lie-detector cats, dismembered ghost babysitters and a treehouse spaceship are only a very small element of the AMAZING MADNESS THAT IS SAGA.

Also, the narrator of the story is Marko and Alana's baby :3

Not convinced yet? Here, Let Me Help You.

The Spoiler Part - So How Was Volume 6?

To the newbies - this is where you stop reading and go find a copy of Saga Volume 1. Trust me on this one. Okay? Okay then. I'll see you later, when you're read it. *mwah*


Spoiler review: What a wild, wild ride. Saga Volume 6 was released yesterday on; because I'm with Amazon Student they actually posted it through my door yesterday. I got the alert at work that it had been delivered and couldn't wait to get home. I'd read Volume 4 and 5 over the weekend and the suspense was killing me.

Volume 6 is a year after V5. I can't believe it - again with the time jumps. This comic handles them so well, I'm in absolute awe. (Maybe I'm just not a very good writer.) Hazel has become so smart; her curiousness and naivety is heartwarming. Plus, she's four years old now - FOUR!!!! She grew up so fast, but it's brilliant. Saga is certainly not a tale that drags things out. And yet towards the end of this volume, and I was afraid that Noreen would help Hazel escape and miss Marko by mere seconds - JOY! They reunite! That scene was heartbreaking. When Marko gave her a big bear hug, I was so. Happy. (I'd had a moderately shitty day - not terrible, but still.) The only other part of this volume that made me geek aloud was when Ghüs rode in to save the little Princeling from The Will - perfect.

The ending had me drop-jawed. Alana and Marko's expression summed it up my mix of emotions perfectly - and can we stop to ponder for a moment how on earth they'll be able to keep hiding if their family grows much bigger?! Anyway. It'll be hard to wait for volume 7 to be released but I'll try not to go crazy until we get there.

A quick salute to some very special characters.
  • Marco and Alana :)
  • Hazel - for being a smart little bean.
  • Klara - for being a hard-as-nails warhammer.
  • Izabel - for providing comic relief and being generally awesome.
  • Sophie - for somehow developing a Will of her own (ehehehe... see what I did there?) between volumes 2 and 3.
  • The Will - for putting one foot in front of the other, even if he is losing the plot and gaining a dangerous amount of weight (for a man in his profession).
  • The Stalk - because she is fascinating.
  • The Brand - wasn't she brilliant?! Ugh two volumes was NOT enough. G u t t e d. Still, she might get more ghost-airtime! =D
  • Noreen - for reminding us all of that person who, without knowing us very well, wants whats best for us. What a babe. x
  • Ginny - despite being a sly little homewrecker, for being a breath of fresh air.
  • Heist - oh Heist. :(
  • Lying Cat - no explanation needed. I lub you, cat.
  • King Robot - DID YOU SEE THE SIZE OF HIS HEAD?!?!?
  • And despite her sudden and gut-wrenchingly disappointing cowardice, Yuma, who died as she lived (high as fuck).


What Else Am I Reading?

Probably mentioned this before, but I am heartily tired of DC and Marvel... in the process of being turned away from the comic monopolisers, I eventually became Image's bitch. If it's not Image comics, I am not interested.

The Wicked and The Divine Vol 2 + 3

Read Volume 2 of WicDiv over the weekend - the cliffhanger had me dying. In less than five minutes I had logged onto Amazon to order Volume 3 with Prime One Day delivery. It arrived the very next day and I devoured it. Didn't do much to temper the suspense, but I liked reading the backstories of the less seen Gods. Volume 4 of WicDiv is out in October, which is just torture. It's like when I finished The Falconer and realised that The Vanishing Throne was like a year away. Grr.

Well I should be writing my novel in the meantime anyway.

Paper Girls Vol 1

When I saw that Brian K. Vaughan had a new comic out, I ordered it ASAP. Paper Girls is just as effing brilliant as it is wild. I wrote a review for that on Amazon UK a while back (and a review for Saga 6 on Amazon UK yesterday.) It was nostalgic, unpredictable, and very endearing. The illustrators do such a great job as well - when we get about halfway, each page becomes so otherworldly.

I just LOVE that bit when Tiffany is sat in front of her TV playing that game for ages - I had to read that bit like three times. Even with no speech, it conveyed SO MUCH. Bring on V2.

The Sword Vol 4

I haven't read 1-3 in a long while, but I picked it up two weeks ago and realised that I never did actually finish the story. Ordered Volume 4 and read it for the first time recently. The ending had me stunned and I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was a bittersweet ending to a memorable comic.

I think what got to me most is that so much was left unsaid. There were so many mysteries in the story that'll never be answered. This story also made me think a lot about the darker aspects of human nature. Anywhoo, lets not get too depressing. The Sword, like Freshmen, is one of those comics that pack a real punch and are hideously underrated. If you like fantasy comics, give it a go.

That reminds me, I haven't read Runaways in a long time. Another brilliant one - a story about the children of supervillians.

As always, thanks for dropping by. What have you read lately? Have you tried any of these comics? Got any good suggestions for me? =]

Ashana Lian .

Saturday, 25 June 2016


New Blog Name

When I began this blog, I had NO IDEA what to call it. I figured an accurate, descriptive name was better than a flashy name that gave no indication as to what the blog was about. 'Ashana Lian - A Fantasy Writer's Blog' was just that and for three years, that was that.

Now, looking back, I can see my main focus with this blog was to analyse the fantasy material already out there, to explore and intercept it. Without claiming to know all the facts, this blog was more experimental than authoritative. Now I know it’s true name.

Ashana Lian's Fantasy Lab

... which (after years of trying to come up with the right title,) is the name that won out over Grand Fantasy, Fantasy Scholar, Fantasy Mad, Defiant Fantasy, and an additional two dozen potential names I wrote down in my notebook. Thinking about it, I'm pretty chuffed that I didn't even use a name generator.

Facebook Page

I picked up my pencil again in 2014 and my collection of artwork has grown since. To my surprise, my difficulty with getting myself to draw (“artist’s block” I guess) was far more foreboding than my writer's block. Still, looking at the last few years in isolation, I have more to show for my art journey than my author journey. So I created a Facebook page, very obviously titled:

Ashana Lian

... with the tag ‘artist’, because it wouldn’t let me put ‘writer, blogger and artist’. I guess they don’t want you to be an overachiever – duly noted.

Jade Rose Project

Jade Rose is the only project, and character, that means more to me than Karalan. If it's ever finished I'm sure it'll be my uncelebrated magnum opus or something. Jade Rose is my whole world, and her symbolism is so complex and personal that I couldn’t explain it on this blog(!!).

... join the fun.

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Challenges Disbanded

As I stated in my previous post about blogger ambition, I took on more than I should have with this blog as I was surrounded by so many brilliant memes and tags and challenges and blog hops and giveaway events and anniversaries.

I created three challenges. Great ideas, but it was driven by the feeling that I should do more to encourage bookish communities in the blogosphere and I had no real vision for it. Naturally, they lasted something like four months...? Not even the whole year. So, to all of those challenge champions, thank you for testing the waters with me. It was fun while it lasted.

Review Posts (?!)

I’m reading again!

More importantly, I’m finally getting round to reading the books I bought two years ago  O_O  at Fantasy In The Court and the Grim Gathering. I may actually post a few reviews this year! Or... not. I dunno. I'm not pushing myself this time.

Still, I have a lot to say. There were some books I particularly loved and also books I particularly, specifically DID NOT LOVE AT ALL. I recently read:

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey (Fantasy)
I rated 2/5. Not for me.

Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson (Non-fiction, self-help)
I rated 5/5. Brilliant.

The Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin
I rated 5/5! Amazing!

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
If only I could give 6/5. This was phenomenal.

Red Dust Road by Jackie Kay
I rated 5/5. This was part of a reading group for uni, and this book was deep for me. DEEP.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I feel so bad because I met her at Fantasy In The Court. But.. I rated 2/5.

Until next time.

Ashana Lian .

Monday, 20 June 2016

Courage & Blogger Ambition

It's been four months, and somehow I am back.

I have been embarrassed to have my last post Headache as the prominent post of my blog for so long. But that embarrassment was fleeting feeling because I was suddenly so tired of feeling ashamed or unworthy, or confused about whether or not I have the authority to post my own point of view on my own blog.

Every so often, I have to rediscover myself and my motivations. Ergo, here I am.


It's taken months to gather the courage to post.

I have about a hundred draft posts sitting in Blogger, but for the first three months I couldn't even log in to my account. I was paralysed, petrified. Stone.

I didn't write for my blog, and I didn't read any other blogs. I was completely disconnected and that allowed me to breathe, reset my mindset, and reconnect. I started to miss the blogging world - typical. I started to get back into the swing of reading. I started drawing like crazy, too. I reformed my opinions on old topics and forged opinions on new ones. I suddenly had something to talk about again. I suddenly didn't feel worthless with my blog, a physical product of my mental efforts. I thought of my blog more and more often. I finally plucked up the courage to log in. But I didn't write anything.

Remember Karalan's Legacy?

Zuri has finished writing her book, and it'll be published any day now. That made me think more and more about my own novel, about my silent and raging Karalan waiting for me. She wants her story to be finished, and for the love of God, so do I.

Right now, I am supposed to be clearing my room. I am supposed to be booking a holiday to somewhere far away from this beloved crudbucket. To be washing my hair, which will make my arms ache once my dreads are full of water. To be stretching out my painful muscles. To be doing something else, a whole list of Something Else's. Instead, for some reason, I sat down at wrote this post in eight minutes.

I'm ecstatic. I'm back.

Blogger Ambition

Blogging stopped being fun.

Do you know Paper Fury? Its creator, Cait, is one of the most incredible bloggers I have ever come across. She dwarfs the blogosphere with her unwavering passion and dedication to books - she read 300 books last year. I'm not joking, see her Goodreads.

Why am I saying this?

At some point along the way, I started to feel as though what I was doing was enough. At first it was fine - it just showed that I cared. But then I started to lose my soul - constantly trying to manage a post schedule and make my content engaging and to free, blogs hops, giveaways, tags, blogger awards, sweet but superficial things, trying to boost views, trying to boost comments, trying to churn out three posts a week, trying to cover all of subjects this blog covers - novels, films, comics, games, cartoons, anime, manga and artwork - to review every book I read on the same day; I was cracking under the strain that I put on myself.

The good news is that I pulled back, but the bad news is by the time I got there, I stopped caring about blogging.

Blogging is always the best at the beginning, before the feeling of inadequacy creeps and and you feel like you have to give so much just to stand on the same level as your peers.

Ashana Lian .

Guess what? I finally made a Facebook page.
You can guess what it's called, right?

Sunday, 7 February 2016


Headaches are rare for me, and I suspect they’re telling me that I’m cracking under pressure. Aside from being miserable and always feeling unfulfilled, I’m trapped in a ridiculous situation where not being able to write makes me kind of sick and crazy, and yet, writing for any length of time also makes me kind of sick and crazy. I’m isolated and lonely, but I can’t speak to anyone. I’m bored and idle, but nothing holds my attention. I’m stressed and my muscles are so tense that my body aches, and it’s painful, but nothing seems to relax me. I can’t sleep. I’ll keep trying. Depression is the worst kind of mental torture, trapped in the prison of my own insecure psyche. I just want to go to sleep, permanently.

Ashana Lian .

P.S. The image above is from the book Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig. I also wanted to share a writerly quote:

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.” ― Graham Greene, Ways Of Escape

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Stacking The Shelves With Fantasy (Jan 2016)

I don't think I've actually ever done this before, but today's post is Stacking The Shelves #195, WHOO! Stacking The Shelves is a link-up hosted every Saturday by Tynga at Tynga's Reviews. As my short story The Sorcerer's Secretary (I chose that title for Wattpad. I really wanted to call it Dragon Ellen) is posted here on Saturday, this post was pushed forward. It's been a long time since I've had a haul of any kind, because in 2014 I bought something stupid like 120 books. So this is exciting! Let's start.

Half Wild by Sally Green
YA Fantasy, bought at Waterstones. After I read and reviewed Half Bad, I was sorely disappointed that it was set up to be continued. The story was strong enough to end right there. The only loose end, really, was Annalise, and she was CERTAINLY not interesting enough to make me want to spend £7.99. However, I lent HB to my brother and he loved it, so I begrudgingly bought Half Wild for him.

Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Epic Fantasy, Borrowed from my sister. Technically I already had this one, but I forgot until this month. Does that count? XD I finally read it too. My first five-star fiction book of 2016, and I'm glad I FINALLY read it. It's phenomenal.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
YA Fantasy, bought on Amazon. I decided to return a comic I bought called Low, because I didn't like it at all =( and exchanged it for Truthwitch. I've read no fewer than fifteen reviews of Truthwitch - most have been overwhelmingly positive save two, which were highly critical. Like Throne of Glass, it just seems to be That Book in YA right now that everyone and their mother reads. Because the blurb did intrigue me, I'm giving it a go. Please God, don't let it be as excruciating as Throne of Glass.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Historical/Science Fiction/Something...? Another borrow. I'm so curious about this book, and also excited because The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet was just riveting, although difficult to get into.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
This one wasn't borrowed from my sister as much as it was forced on me by her XD I have no idea what it's about, but I plan to read and return it this month.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Classic Literature, bought from Amazon for uni last week and I enjoyed it hugely. Well, until Rochester asked Jane to marry him, the book pretty much went downhill from there.

Loop by Karen Akins
YA Sci-Fi, bought from Amazon last week. I remember Charnell at Reviews From A Bookworm mentioned this and I found it really interesting. Amazon UK is selling the hardback copy at something ridiculous like £2, so I couldn't resist. I hope it's good.

England, England by Julian Barnes
Literary Fiction, bought last minute with Amazon Prime. This book I bought over the weekend for my uni class tomorrow. I've read half of it; parts are really good, other bits are a bit boring, but I'm enjoying it overall. I especially loved the beginning.


I was getting bored with my Mum's Netflix, so against all of my suspicions about Amazon taking over the world e_e I decided to sign up for Amazon Prime. As a student, it's only £39 instead of the usual £79. Ha! I say "only" but I know it's not that cheap when you pay a lump sum. However, when Netflix raised their price from £5.99 to £6.99, they actually became more expensive than Prime. PLUS, Prime isn't just movies, it's free one day or evening delivery, Prime music, Kindle Lending library and more. You really do get your money's worth, provided you can pay forty quid at once.

THUS. It was a weird experience this month placing an order and then having it literally turn up the next day, but it made me more excited for my books and I'm reading them faster. Good thing too, because my university essays loom closer and I have a lot of reading to do. o_o

On Prime, if you select No-Rush Guarantee delivery, Amazon awards you with £1 credit for ebooks, music or films. I used that credit to buy the sci-fi novella Binti last week, by Nnedi Okafor (at £1.41, hehe 41p book! That's cheaper than Poundland.) It's INCREDIBLE, I want so many people to read it. I also bought Plato's Symposium (well not really as it was £0.00) and I hope it'll be interesting.

Ashana Lian .

P.S. For those of you who commented on Blogging Communities - thank you so much. I'm still not a hundred percent, but I'm doing a lot better.

P.P.S. Have you read any of these books? What did you buy/borrow this month?

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Fantasy Miniseries: The Sorcerer's Secretary (Chapter Three)

Hey there my loverlies.

You may notice that, surprise surprise, Chapter Three of TSS wasn't up yesterday. Unfortunately, I had an acute headache. I'd been trying to format the post all of yesterday - not only did I not succeed on that front, but the glare from my laptop turned an acute headache into a pounding headache.

So I gave up and posted it today.

Chapter One - A Cat Called Rabbit and Three Dead Dragons
Chapter Two - A Clever New Best Friend and A DRAGON UP CLOSE!
read this chapter on Wattpad -


Chapter Three
Faux Coffee With Graduates And Illegal Dragons Eggs

I waltzed into the living room, bringing with me the smell of omelette from the kitchen, and waited until Nana’s attention broke from the Megavision and she turned to ask me what the hell I was doing just standing there twiddling my thumbs like an idiot.
       “Do you have any problem accepting stolen goods?”
       She gave me an odd look. “No. But –”
       “Then HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” I thrust at her the thumb-sized blue crystal. She took it, but didn’t look anywhere near as impressed as I hoped she would. “I thought it was kinda pretty. Hope you like it.”
       “My birthday was two and a half months ago.”
       “You said it’s always the thought that counts.”
       “Your ‘thought’ is almost three months late.”
       “So it doesn’t count?”
       “But I didn’t have any money at the time! You said it was okay.”
       Nana’s look grew more sour by the second. “It wasn’t.”
       Nana is the laziest woman I have ever had the misfortune to share a life with. Our flat was small, blue, and embarrassingly messy. Paperwork was scattered over every surface – several files marked ‘TOP LEVEL SECURITY: CONFIDENTIAL’ almost blew out of the window last summer when she stood a fan beside the sofa. Nana was the type who insisted on owning dozens and dozens of cups so she could always reach for a clean one instead of washing the last one. I tidy and clean non-stop, but she’s so messy that it makes little difference. Needless to say, Nana never cleaned. Her clothes and private investigator disguises lay all over our flat. A bright – and when I say bright I mean blinding – orange bow tie floated in a bowl among bits of cereal. I dumbly stared at it for a whole five minutes, trying to figure out how it made its journey from the wardrobe to the sink.
       I kept a close eye on the time as I ate a burnt omelette – I couldn’t cook to save my life, Nana and I were a really pathetic pair – then went to brush my teeth. I wouldn’t normally do it in that order, but Rabbit peed in the bathroom just before I got up and I was waiting for it to air out. As I put my own bowl in the sink and filled it with water, I spotted the pudgy white cat squatting over my handbag.
       “Hey! HEY! NO!” I screamed and whisked him into Nana’s bedroom, shutting the door. He hissed at me and scrabbled at the door. He really hated me, little crapheap. My parents were back from holiday today – I couldn’t wait to go and give him back. Catsitting was the worst.
       “Nana, did you clean the...”
       ...litter tray, and she hadn’t. In addition to used litter were balls of dust, used lint roll sheets and hair bands. I wasn’t surprised Rabbit didn’t want to use it.
       “Nana!” I called, cautiously creeping back into the bathroom. Airglade was doing its work. I sighed with relief, then bellowed,
       She trudged into the bathroom and lazily looked at where I was pointing. A dense brush with a clump of jet-black hair attached stood in the cup that held our toothbrushes. Don’t even get me started on this bathroom. The bathtub was like a second wardrobe for Nana. Her work as a PI meant she had two wardrobes full of costumes, a whole cabinet full of stage make-up, wigs, hats, hundreds of shoes, gloves, padding, masks – her bedroom was a zoo. She tended to expand her wardrobe space to the bath, the airing cupboard, the coat cupboard, and the kitchen table.
       “Oh, man. This is disgusting!”
       “Where do you want me to keep it?”
       “I don’t want to you keep it. Look at it. Urgh, is that an ant in there? Throw it away!”
       She took it from me and looked around. She made to put it in the toilet but was stopped by the huge stack of papers on top of it.
       Furiously, I snatched up a wad of papers from the toilet seat. “I won’t live in your filth anymore. We need to get a cleaner or something.
       Then her eyes flashed. “Absolutely not. There’s classified information in here, I can’t have some nosy bitch rifling through my –”
       I couldn’t believe my ears. “Your papers? These supposedly classified documents?” I flicked through sheets and read aloud, “‘There is almost no information available on the subject. We know that the subject is a female between twenty and forty years old, a trained warlock with –’”
       “Stop! Be quiet,” she said sharply, “What’s wrong with you? Do you want to get locked up?”
       “You left these on the fucking toilet seat, Nana.”
       “I was going to read them again when I used the fucking toilet.” she replied curtly. “What’s the point in putting them away? We never get visitors.”
       I was about to explode. “WE NEVER GET VISITORS BECAUSE...”
       I gave up.
       It was a privilege to share a life with Nana, but the privileges easily got lost among the trials I’d had to struggle through. True, she’d never had a brush with the law – the known law, that is. Her work as a private investigator is tied to the secret law. She’d gotten her degree and paid off her student loan fairly quickly with her incredible salary. She told me all about the fascinating creatures she came into contact with, and always knew about news stories before they went on the air. Her uncanny foresight was bizarre, thrilling; wonderful. It’s probably worth mentioning that she was rich. My parents were moderately wealthy before they publicly fell from grace, and my awful tycoon grandparents were rolling in it. LITERALLY rolling in money – they had a Rolling Room and smoked hundred coopa bills (apparently they have a minty taste) and even then, Nana was rich beyond anything I’ve ever known.
       But what I didn’t know, until last month and completely by accident, was that her funds are controlled by the secret law. It gave them leverage over her and stopped her from going astray. But they gave her a generous weekly allowance to carry out her work. She spent all of her money on clothes and food, no surprises there.
       Nana watched me as I hopped from one room to another getting ready, tripping on things, stepping on things, scowling and kicking things. She suddenly spoke with a mouth full of Mars bar, “It must be illegal, how hard they work you.”
       Here we go again. This discussion never seemed to end.
       “Please, not again.” I said weakly, kneeling to pack my handbag. A pair of rainbow tights trailed out of it. The toes didn’t smell all that clean.
       “I won’t stop bringing this up.” she warned me. “I don’t understand. Why would you stay on as a secretary for that pretty-boy, arrogant boss of yours?” Nana said, her jaw clenching the way it did whenever Noah’s name was mentioned. “If you’d looked for, say, a teaching assistant role, you could already be on your way to becoming a Supernatural Species Professor.”
       “It’s complicated, Nana.”
       “No, it’s not.” she said shortly, “You just don’t want to tell me whatever it is that’s keeping you there.” She folded her arms and turned back to the screen. “Nevermind. I have other means of finding out.”
       “If that were true, you’d have found out by now.” I said, keeping my voice low. She didn’t respond.
       We never seemed to resolve this discussion for good.
       The truth was, NIRFL was curiously private about its work. They weren’t keen on hiring or firing their workers; they’d switch us between departments instead if they felt we’d outlived our usefulness. I went to Noah’s boss with my resignation last year, after Noah had waved it away and refused to take it. The old director, a curious old man with a fuzzy ash-coloured beard, had offered me twice the salary I was currently getting. It was more money than I’d ever seen, and meant that I’d be earning a ridiculous amount of money for doing very little. In my excitement, I took it and didn’t bother him again. Later, I would lie awake at night wondering if I’d ever be able to leave NIRFL. I’d run for the prize so fast, I hadn’t stopped to recognise the trap.
       I couldn’t tell Nana.
       “Don’t worry, I will figure it out. It’s my job to figure things out.” She held up the crystal. “Speaking of which, are you gonna tell me where you got this, or should I do some snooping?”
       “Don’t,” I pleaded, and stood up to face her. “You agreed you wouldn’t ask questions.”
       Nana frowned. “What? I never agreed to that.”
       “Oh. No? Well... how about now?”
       Suddenly my mobile was blaring the new song from my favourite band, High Sirens. I don’t really know how they’re still a band at all; their drummer had contracted Sphinx disease; their lead guitarist had given himself cancer by injecting too much unicorn saliva (in small doses, it cures blindness); and their lead singer was going through a pretty rough divorce because their teenage daughter had run off with a dragon dealer. I guess the controversy gave them even more exposure.
       “Hi honey!” came Dad’s voice. My favourite parent. If it had been Mum, I honestly wouldn’t have answered.
       “Are you alright? You sound breathless.” I said, and made eye contact with Nana, who wasn’t happy that I’d dodged the conversation via phone diversion.
       “Sweetheart, you’ll never guess...”
       He filled me in on what happened, and it turns out; a stray Dracosaurus dragon was circling Novapol and caught sight of Mum and Dad’s hovercar. It was so old that the green paint was flaking off, and the silver underneath caught the light of the sun. Hovercars aren’t even made in green anymore. I suppose that’s why it caught the eye of the dragon – she saw the glint of green and silver, like dragonscale, like a dragon egg to be more precise. Dragons get very angry when they find eggs in human territory. She swooped down, caught it in her claws, and flew off with it. Our street alone has somewhere between four-hundred and five-hundred residents, and how NOBODY saw this happen is completely beyond me. Then again, most of our neighbours don’t like my family. That’s why I live two-hours walk away in the infamous Luminance district, located in the city centre, home to artists, insane academics, and people who would rather be forgotten.
       “So where are you now?” I said, looking for my other dolly shoe. I found it on top of the kitchen cupboards, eventually.
       “We’re at the police station. The dragon must’ve realised its mistake when parts of the car started to fall off, because it dumped it on top of the Tesco. The police wanted us to come in and confirm it’s ours. You know your mother. She’s called a dozen journalists already. Just can’t resist being in the limelight.”
       “Yeah, I know.” I muttered. “You said parts were falling off the car as the dragon few over Novapol – wasn’t anybody hurt?”
       “Oh yeeeeah, broken spine, fractured leg, two deaths,” my Dad said casually, “But we’re not being sued for once, so that’s a relief.”
       Two deaths. I couldn’t speak for a whole minute. Finally, I found my voice. “Dad, I have to go.”
       “G’bye, love. Give us a call when you’re coming round to drop off Rabbit. Oi, aren’t you gonna take my photo?” was his faint shout before the line went dead. I went to my bedroom to start getting ready and thought deeply. There’s no record on my childhood up until age 7, so the possibility of me being adopted is actually quite probable. I will have to investigate further and pray for the very worst.
       Now I was running late. With a yelp, I doubled my speed.
       Nana stood against the front door, arms folded. “Where’re you going?”
       I glanced at her. “You never want me to have a life outside of you, do you?”
       Her scowl deepened.
       “Out for artificial coffee with my old uni friends.” I said, grabbing my coat, then realising it was a rainbow cloak, ditching it, grabbing another coat, finding it stained, grabbing another coat, realising it was too small, then grabbing Nana’s coat.
       “Hey.” She nodded to the Megavision. “Your parents are on TV.”
I paused. Two deaths. I know it was the dragon’s fault, but my parents always end up implicated in something that either hurt or embarrassed other people. I couldn’t help but grumble and turn away. “Just turn it off.”
       Nana shrugged and headed for her room. “Goin’ for a nap. But we haven’t finished discussing –”
       Then she screamed with rage. Rabbit darted out of her room, dragging a pair of tights printed with pork chops in its mouth. He looked shifty, as cats do. “This little shitting cat! Look at my stuff! Oh. Oh my God. It actually pooed. That is disgusting. Look at my stuff.”
       “When did I tell you to clean the litter tray, Nana?” I said smugly.
       Furious, but silent, she went into my room and slammed the door.

I know I haven’t gotten to the sorcerer yet. You have to bear with me, okay? This stuff is important. It links up. Also, there’s nobody else I can insist on listening about my life.

“Real” coffee stopped being produced about seventy years ago. We have the scientists to thank for that. They’d been modifying coffee beans to create certain flavours and qualities; they claimed they’d found the ‘perfect bean’. It was consumed on a massive scale, depleting crops quickly – then things took a harsh turn when it couldn’t survive in the after effects of climate change and the entire variety became extinct. The coffee addicts went crazy and started hunting through Alphapol to find an alternative. They didn’t find one, but Alphapol scientists rediscovered an old experiment they did with cashew fruit and cacao pods. The result wasn’t the cocoa bean, and it wasn’t a cashew nut, but the weirdest tasting thing ever. They continued to engineer it with the original coffee bean, and now the bobo bean – as it was idiotically called – was a compulsory ingredient in every hot beverage, although an acquired taste. I get depressed thinking about all the idiots that existed before I was born.
       My old Supernatural Species classmates waited in a huddle outside Frostas.
       I spotted Aria first, singing softly to herself, her hands stuffed in her pockets, her breath visible in the chilled air. The gang spotted me and let out an “Awwwww!” We group-hugged.
       “Good to see you, Elleeen.” Aria smiled. “Nice coat.”
       “Looking goood, Ellen.” Everett wriggled his eyebrows at me.
       Aria touched my arm. “Are you okay? You look tired.”
       I smiled gratefully back at her. “You wouldn’t know the half of it. But I’m so excited we’re all here – this is the last time we’ll get to see each other this year, right? Let’s go inside and catch up.”
       The window seat was free, so we hastily claimed it. Ellington got everybody’s drinks; orange juice for me, because drinks made from bobo bean are honestly disgusting; a predictable Boffee for Aria (Bobo coffee), a fancy-pants honey and butterscotch tea for Indie Star, as I expected; water for Everett because he never had money; and a soothing honeylemon tea for Ellington himself.
       “Elleeen!” Aria sang, gracing me with her sweet soprano. She frowned and peered into her cup, then scowled and tilted it to us. She’d mixed the froth in and revealed that the cup was only half full. We chuckled and she shook her head. “Anyway, what’s going on? How’s life?”
       Aria Jolie was our pride and joy. We loved to fuss over her because she was the smallest and had a gentle temperament. Still, she was the oldest of us all and her steady and stable manner made her the perfect prefect at Novapol University. Ar-Jo was insanely beautiful, short brown hair and a wide, welcoming smile. She was the most organised of our little group and normally arranged our meetings, acting as Mayor whenever arguments broke out.
       “I honestly don’t know where to begin.”
       “Start at the part where you go back to uni.” Everett said, raising his eyebrows again.
       I was stunned. “How did you know?”
       He grinned. “A little bird –”
       “You went back?” Indie said in dismay. “Why would you do a dumb thing like that?”
       “Well, it’s not exactly...” I mumbled.
       “Hang, on, let her speak.” Aria said gently. Ellington listened patiently, but Everett’s exasperation wouldn’t let him stay silent.
       “I really don’t get you, Ellen. Why would you sign up for another three years of absolute boredom?” he said.
       Suddenly, I felt kind of stupid telling them. “Well, it wouldn’t matter to you, you almost failed.” I retorted instead, making the others snigger quietly.
       “Yeah, but you got a first. So...?” Indie said.
       “Dissatisfaction is not the dish that went untried, but the dish that was tasted and disappointed.” Ellington murmured, speaking for the first time.
       Everett’s mouth hung open. “What sort of philosophical bullshit was that?!”
       I smiled at Ellington. “I guess that’s it, Ellie. Fulfilment.” He started to smile back, but looked a bit annoyed at ‘Ellie’.
       “Well, I wasn’t asking Noble Philospher,” Everett said. Ellington was even more irritated by this and looked away, while Aria patted his arm reassuringly. “I kind of wanted your own answer. Unless you don’t even know.”
       Everett Maas was the guy who never did any work in class and relied on us girls to tell him what was going on. He’d rush to us as exam day loomed closer and urged us to fill him in on a term’s worth of information. He literally passed Supernatural Species by one point. Since then he’d become mad into sports, especially unicorn-racing. Clearly he paid attention enough to be a sometimes winner in that field, but the ethics of the sport always got me and Indie arguing with him.
       I was saved from answering by Indie’s sudden outburst. “Are you still at NIRFL?”
       “Ner-ful?” said Evereett, puzzled.
       I laughed. “You mean Novapol International Research Facility and Laboratory?”
       Indie gave me a grin, “I remember you had a very sexy boss. Neddy...? Noah...?”
       “Don’t make me throw up.” I said, but only to hide the fact that I secretly agreed. “I’m still there.”
       A pause. Aria’s mouth pouted slightly. “You don’t sound happy about that.”
       “I’m not!” I burst out, “I asked Noah about a promotion last month and he said I was too good a subordinate to let me move up.”
       “Bastard.” Everett said.
       “Always hated that guy.” Indie said automatically, but she was wiping up the tea that sloshed over the side of her cup, so I think she was only half-listening.
       Indie Starr was fierce, but unlike Nana who had a quiet and deadly fierceness, Indie was wild and loud. She was very good at talking and talking at someone until they were stuck in a corner, which is why she was in sales and quickly climbing the ranks in real estate. Indie, to the shock of us all, had actually failed her degree because the stress had crashed down on her at the last minute. But now she was earning the highest wage of us all – until NIRFL gave me that raise. Of course as part of my contract, I’m not allowed to disclose to anyone what that is.
       “Anyway it doesn’t matter.” I hesitated, wondering how much I was allowed to say about the destruction of my department by three sick dragons. Ellington cocked his head, listening with interest. “As you know, Novapol don’t like to hire or fire people. Get in is hard and leaving is harder. Generally they just move people between departments when needed, even if they don’t have the skills. “I’m switching departments. I’ll be a sorcerer’s secretary now.”
       There was a collective ‘Oooooh’.
       “Yeah, you say that,” I said ruefully, “I’ve heard he’s awful. Thankfully he’s away until next week.”
       “Ellen.” Everett said seriously. He’d already finished his cup of water. “Do not waste this opportunity. A sorcerer! Think of all the perks.”
       I couldn’t help but laugh fondly at him. I remembered my first year of NU when he asked me out and I was in that awful position of saying no. He became so sulky and bitchy with me until Indie threatened him with poison ivy. After that he apologised and agreed we should be friends. Turns out, friendship suits us really well. I give him essential life advice, and he makes me laugh by ignoring them and ending up in the police station holding cell. Win-win.
       “He can curse people who give you a hard time and bewitch people into giving you things. Think about it. We’re talking about a lifetime of no speeding tickets and free concert tickets.”
       “I know next to nothing about magic, but I know that’s not how it works, Everett.” Aria said, starting to laugh.
       “Magic is a gift coveted by all, available to some, appreciated by none.” Ellington said. Aria smiled at him.
       And finally, Ellington, who I didn’t actually know all that well at university, but since his marriage to Aria last year we’ve got to know him better. He shares Aria’s calm and thoughtful way, and only speaks to share some deep philosophical insight. Everett thinks he’s as weird as anything, but I adore him. The only thing that annoyed me what how much his name sounded like mine – I always thought people were calling me when they weren’t.
       “Guys, guys.” I laughed awkwardly. “We’ve been talking about me since we got here. What about you?”
       There was a pause.
       “I’m still trying to make ends meet,” Everett shrugged. “What’s new there?”
       “We talk about you because nothing interesting ever happens to us.” Indie shrugged.
       “Speak for yourself!” Aria said indignantly. “I started my own business.”
       “Reeeeally?!” we all hushed, grabbing whatever part of her we could reach; Everett got shoulder, Indie got hand, and me, being on the other side of the table, awkwardly got a bit of her hair. She giggled.
       “Aw, you guys are sweet. Yeah, since working for the sphinx company, I noticed that there were no organisations in Novapol that protect endangered magical species. The Novapol government is funding us to find them and move them out to the astronomy caves. Some of these creatures are sheltering in private gardens, so they’re not hard to find – people actually calling us with the details! Plus I get to work with animals and supers. It’s great.”
       I was starting to feel sick, once again, with the disappointment of doing nothing with my SS degree. I smiled with the others, but as they babbled, I was silent. Soon, Indie noticed and spoke suddenly,
       “How’s Mum and Dad Willesden, Ellen? Still doing anything on TV?”
Aria nudged her. “Indie. You know she hates talking about that.”
       I gave Indie a dark look. “I cringe thinking about it. They were last on TV this morning actually, when their car got stolen by a Dracosaurus.”
       There was a stunned silence.
       “That was them?” Everett said hesitantly. “I heard about that. my best friend’s lil bro got hit by the bumper of the car that fell off. His spine is broken. He might not walk again.”
       I stared at him. “Oooo.” I said embarrassedly. The embarrassment was painful. The silence stretched out for miles. This had to be the worst moment of my entire life.
       “It’s not your fault, obviously.” Everett managed to get out finally. I almost said ‘Who are you kidding? The way you went silent made me feel like I personally went up to your best friends’ brother and whacked his back with a baseball bat.
        “So... anyone heard from any of our classmates?” Indie said.
       “Oh my God – did you know Ricardo and Easoon’s had a baby?” Aria squealed.
       “Really?” Indie, Ellington, Everett and I said at once.
       “Yeah, she was pregnant before we graduated! The kid’s got to be almost five now. Wait, four. Wait... ah, I can’t count.”
       “She is the last person I would ever expect...” I began.
       Indie cut in, “Those two are the last couple I’d even expect to get together in the first place.”
       Everett chipped in, “Profesor Noyoye found out he had cancer the year after we graduated from uni. He’s not working there anymore.”
       We all made a sound of dismay. He was truly a great teacher. Never mind that he was a fugitive and probably wasn’t even legally a professor. He made sure we all passed his class with flying colours.
       “I still have that recipe for Jolof rice that he gave us.” Indie said fondly.
       “Me too.” Aria said.
       “Same.” I added.
       Indie gasped. “Oh my God! I didn’t even tell you guys.” she sat up. “You remember Steafán? Short guy, really quiet, slapped the Dean in the face?”
       We all burst out laughing.
       “Oooh yeah.” I nodded, “I’ll never forget that in a million years.”
       Indie gave me a sardonic smile. “Funny you should speak of millions, because he’s a millionaire now.”
       We all froze and stared at Indie in utter shock. “What? How!” I said.
       “After he was expelled, he started posting videos on TrueTube about the university, stuff like, how to get through admissions, things you learn their, teacher secrets and stuff like that.”
       “Wouldn’t he have got into trouble with the Novapol police?”
       “He never actually said it was the university, once. But people knew. Anyway, that got him to be quite popular, and then he invented some dragon-tracking gadget.”
       “My Mum has one of those!” Aria said, stunned.
       “Everybody has one of those. He’s rich and famous now. Well, famous, not so much. He left Novapol to enjoy his fortune in peace, I guess.”
       Everett scowled. “It’s always the little shits who get to live out their life in peace. Then you got Ysabel, the smartest, prettiest girl in our class – not counting you lovely ladies of course –” Aria, Indie and I narrowed our eyes at him. “ – working in McDonalds.”
       We all sighed and went quiet. We were only twenty-four, but already our degree in Supernatural Species was becoming less relevant with each passing year. Now, only Aria was really making it count. Everett and I were in the field, but what Everett was doing wasn’t strictly legal and I was a secretary, not a scientist.
       “I’m depressed, girls.” Indie sighed again.
       “I’m depressed too.” Aria said.
       “I’m fed up and my brain hurts.” I sulked.
       “I’m not a girl.” Ellington muttered, and we all laughed at that. Except Everett, who made a face.
       “I quit smoking. I know it’s done me good, but I feel worse.” Indie said.
       “I didn’t know you were smoking, Indie.” I said softly.
       She looked at me and shrugged. “I can’t get into it all now, but I went through some dark times before I ended up here.”
       I tilted my head. “Where’s ‘here’?”
       She laughed bitterly and drank the rest of her tea, now cold, in one gulp. “That’s exactly it. Nowhere.”

Are you still with me? Good. I haven’t yet got to the part about the sorcerer I worked for, and he’s kind of a big deal.

I waved Aria and Ellington off at the turbotrain station, Everett and Indie off at the hoverbus stop, and I walked, as always. ‘It was so good to see you’, they’d said. I’d simply smiled, because I didn’t want to say that it hadn’t been nice to see them at all. All we did was gossip mindlessly about other people’s problems and then moan about our own problems. Not that it wouldn’t be nice every once in a while. But I miss the times just after graduation, when we’d been so positive about our future. Today’s meet-up had left me feeling sober.
       I let my feet take me to NIRFL. The building didn’t have the same meaning for me as it used to. I cautiously went inside, even though there was nothing for me here – Noah had said I didn’t have to come in for work before I switched over to work for the in-house sorcerer, Rubin. I guess he was trying to give me a break. It bothered me that Noah hadn’t called once, though.
       Rubin was still out of office, attending an international conference. I decided to go to the upper floors and take the opportunity to find out more about him. To my dismay, the little I did discover wasn’t good. He was very good at what he did, but not everybody agreed with his methods. One person even called him ‘sadistic’. To say that least, that made me very nervous.
       I was just about to leave when a small, fair figure rushed up to me. “Ellen!”
       For some reason, I was really glad to see me old assistant. “Olly!” I gave him a quick, tight hug. Over his shoulder stood Noah’s three PAs; quiet Kelsey, bulldozer Poppy, and charming Valentin. They were finishing off their boffees and about to go upstairs.
       “I’m glad I saw you. I... need your help.” Oliver said, hesitating. I frowned, and gestured that he followed me outside. The air was freezing now the sun had gone in. Oliver wasn’t looking me in the eye.
       “What’s happened, Olly?”
       He took a breath. “My parents kicked me out.”
       I was completely taken aback. “What? Why on earth...”
       “They saw the dragon eggs I got from the crystals –”
       “Oh no.” I said at once. Dragon eggs. I remembered Mum and Dad’s car.
       “- and you can imagine what they thought so –”
       “Oh Olly.”
       “I was just wondering if –”
       “No Olly.” I already knew what he wanted.
       “Just for a couple days!”
       “No!” I shouted, “You are not staying in my flat! What were you thinking? Dragons eggs? You’d be sentenced to life in prison if you were caught. Don’t you understand how dangerous they are?”
       Oliver bit his lip. “They were such a good deal, I –”
       “OLIVER!” I bellowed at him. He flinched away from me and his eyes went very round, like a frightened cat. I wanted to kiss his nose, but no matter how adorable your toddler looks you still have to spank him if he sticks his fingers in a plughole. “When you asked me last week about dragon eggs, I had no idea you were planning this. What I told you wasn’t rumour or speculation. I’m a SS graduate, I studied them.” I sighed and rubbed my brow. “The moment you get some sapphire crystal to pawn, what’s the first thing you get? Illegal dragons eggs from the black market.”
       Now he was getting sulky. “I’ve always wanted –”
       “I’ve always wanted to be a dragon tamer, but I don’t kid myself into thinking I’d survive for two minutes trying to tame a dragon with NO EXPERIENCE.” I glanced through the window. Noah’s PAs were watching us. I casually turned my back to them.
       “Oliver, where are they now?”
       “The eggs? They’re... uh... I dumped them.”
       “Oh, fucking –” I reigning in the string of swears I had lined up, then took a breath. Nana was such a bad influence on me. “Where?”
       He looked bewildered. “In an... alleyway...?” I shrieked into the air and started pulling my short reddish-brown hair.  Oliver was now terrified. “Was that not the right thing to do?”
       I remembered how often my professor warned us against handling dragons eggs. I knew the repercussions inside out. Oliver quickly picked up on my horror and started to panic.
       “Okay, I’ll take them to Nova Labs!” he gabbled.
       “NO!” I bellowed, “You’ll be arrested! You go to that phone booth, make an anonymous call to the Novapol police and tell them where it is. Don’t do anything stupid and mention your name or address. Or my name. Do it. Now. Go. And then I’ll think about what to do with you.”
       I watched him as he made the call. We walked for about twenty minutes to the place where he thought he dumped them. I bought him a boffee, and we sat on a bench and waited. The police took an age to arrive. It turned out not to be in that alley but the one two streets down, so by the time they found it, the sky was dark and the moon was glinting eerily. But at least they found it. I for one, was extremely relieved. If some homeless person had found it, who knows? More people could’ve been hurt than the causalities from my parents’ car this morning.
       It was too late to find Oliver and Bed and Breakfast and I was shattered. Begrudgingly, I took him home. I guess I was destined to be a babysitter for ever; first to my parents, then to Everett, then to Noah, and now to this little arsehole, as much as I adored him.
       When I got home, Nana was shrugging her coat on. She turned when the door opened and said, “Oh.” and took it off again. I looked at her fondly. I hadn’t realised I’d made her worried.
       “I didn’t think faux coffee with graduates would take eight hours,” she said. Spotting Oliver, she grinned. “Who’s this? Toyboy?”
       I smiled, insincerely. “This toyboy bought three dragons eggs off the black market and dumped them in an alley this afternoon.”
       The smile snapped off her face. She stared at him. Oliver literally wilted under her gaze. I folded my arm, pleased. Nana would make a terrible Mum, except for the discipline part. “How old are you?”
       He said in his smallest voice, “I’m... eighteen.”
       “Interesting. Even an eight year-old wouldn’t be as stupid as you.”
       I couldn’t help cringing myself, and her wrath wasn’t even being directed at me. Oliver hung his head. Nana pointed to my room, and he silently went inside.
       Then, she absolutely amazed me by starting to tidy up. She shuffled documents together and packed them away. She pulled a big trunk out of the coat cupboard and into her room, then piled all of the sensitive files inside along with every article of clothing, every wig, every stick of make-up, every accessory and prop. The floor was visible, finally. Who’d’ve thought a visitor would provoke her to do what I’d been asking her to do for months. I started to help and we had the thing done in under two hours. It wasn’t totally clean of dust, but it was at least tidy for the first time that I can remember. I got the feeling we’d have to do several loads of washing tomorrow. She locked the door to her room, then leaned against it.
       “Ellen,” she said quietly, her coal eyes meeting mine. “Keep an eye on him.”
       Silently, I nodded.


Ashana Lian .
written January 2016

Author's Note - I can't even tell you how DIFFICULT chapter 3 was. The first draft was fine, but I had to do at least five re-writes because it had a lot of problems. Gah. Drove me crazy.

Read On!
(Links will go live when they are posted. Chapter names may change as I'm sort of writing this as I go.)

Chapter Four - An Old Boyfriend and Dragon Murderers
Chapter Five - A Dinner Date and A Month of Horror
Chapter Six - TBA
Chapter Seven - TBA
Chapter Eight - TBA
Chapter Nine - TBA
Chapter Ten - TBA

read something else -

Prompt - leave me a superhero name relating to either 'fire' or the colour 'blue', and leave me something you'd eat for lunch, and I'll work it into the next chapter. =D Comment below.
Request - typos tends to be a problem for me. Be a pal - tell me where they are!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Fantasy Miniseries: The Sorcerer's Secretary (Chapter Two)

I'm super excited to continue the short series I was writing. It'll be posted every week on... well, Saturday would be better, but my original tags were for Fiction Friday. Oh well. Let's say Saturday morning!

Chapter One - A Cat Called Rabbit and Three Dead Dragons

- read this chapter on Wattpad -


Chapter Two
A clever new best friend and A DRAGON UP CLOSE!

Do you have any idea how depressing it is to end up at the same place you were six years ago?
       I was surrounded by eighteen-year-olds just starting out, fresh out of normal college and eager to get a taste of the world famous Novapol University, the central hub of magical endeavours.
       The excitement was still on their faces, mainly thinking about the girls or boys they could pick up at this institution rather than the immense intellectual currency at their fingertips. So many girls were dressed in the most ridiculous outfits I have ever seen, like they’re only paying thirty-thousand coopas to bat their eyelids at the opposite sex. Or maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old lady like Nana, the grumpiest twenty-nine year-old ever. I remember when I first started out. I looked like a fucking train wreck too.
       I followed the flow of students to the induction ceremony to get my identity card (which would get me a 20-percent student discount at Frostas!) and formally become a student at the university. Again. The noise was deafening in the enormous magenta induction tent. I could immediately see their intake of students was bigger than it had been when I was last here. In my day, going to a prestigious university was pretty elitist. The fact that I was accepted onto the course at all was impressive. I was quite chuffed with myself. Now, the admission was much less strict and I certainly didn’t feel special; just looking around me at the boys who’d turned up without a single thing in their hands let alone a notebook or pen, and at the girls who loitered at the back and gossiped, I could see an entirely different atmosphere. The standards had dropped. Or maybe I’ve just become a crueller person in the last six years. Living with Nana will do that to you.
       When I got to the desk, a bored owl-like lady took my photo and then I had to sign the student agreement. Not wanting to be that person holding up the queue, I flipped through it and tried to pick up the main gist. It was different to my Supernatural Species contract, which made me pledge not to harm another living creature except in self defence and swear the knowledge I obtained at the university wouldn’t then go on to be used in an illegal trade, like dragon dealing, or unicorn horning, or sphinxifying; which was when you held people under a compulsion spell using a sphinx.
       But this Practical Magic Application contract was less about what I shouldn’t do and more of a warning about all of the possible side effects of using magic. Premature aging. Loss of hair. Loss of libido. Yellowing skin.
       “Magic is basically a cancer.” I muttered to myself, flipping to the last page.
       “You can sit here all day and read it, or you can just sign it.”
       The voice had a sharp bite to it and I glanced up quickly, realising after a moment that it wasn’t my owl-lady, but her colleague next to us glaring at her student.
       I was shocked. I don’t normally pull my bitch face out in public, but I couldn’t help it. I turned my whole body to stare. I fixed her with such an utterly scathing stare that after a few seconds, she noticed me looking and was appropriately offended. The student sitting with her simply watched, and then spoke with a disinterested calmness.
       “If I have to sit here all day and read it,” she said slowly, “Then I’m going do it and you’re going wait. I am about to spend thirty thousand coopas. I may lose my health or my life in the process. Obviously, I would rather read it, thank you.”
       Every syllable was stretched to its fullest - I really don’t know how she was able to speak without her voice becoming angry or cold, or sarcastic. I wanted to applaud her. Instead, I snorted and clapped a hand to my mouth. She glanced at me. Smiled.
       Eventually though, she did sign it. Sitting, hunched over the form in a pink hoodie and dark blue jeans, brown hair hanging dead straight over most of her face, her right hand twirled until a very elaborate signature was down on paper. It was slow, and it was on purpose. Her lady was fuming, and it filled me with such pleasure. Then she pushed the contract towards the lady who in turn threw her ID card down on the desk. The girl smiled again at this insulting gesture.
       “When I’m a fully fledged sorcerer, I am going to curse you.”
       The woman went very still.
       The girl was positively grinning now. The tables had turned. “Look out for me in three years...” She peered at the nametag. “...Betty.” Then she stood up and made to leave.
       I didn’t want to lose her, so I hurriedly flipped to the end of mine and signed it too. If that girl signed it and understood the risk, then I trusted her, somehow.
       The owl-lady gave me a sceptical look. “Did you even read this?”
       I laughed, pityingly. “Do you even care?” She’d been filing her nails the entire time. She looked down at the table thoughtfully.
       “Not really,” she admitted. I smiled.
       “Have a nice day.”
       I turned to try and catch up with that girl, only to my surprise I saw her waiting for me. She smiled and we want to the demonstration hall together. That was how, to my delight, I made my first friend. She was an eighteen-year old born and bred Nova called Charnell, and I didn’t know it yet, but she would be an invaluable, lifelong friend. She wasn’t ‘intelligent’ as much as she was just ‘smart’, if that makes any sense at all. With a cunning kind of creative intuition, a talent for thinking outside of the box and thankfully common sense, that is, an aversion to dying – if she couldn’t find the answer to a problem, she knew exactly where to find someone who would, or create a substitute, or fake it. She didn’t just give up. It’s surprising difficult to describe her, actually. I guess, long story short, that Charnell Cunningham’s innovative ideas and ingenious plans were worth a lot more than simply being good at memorising facts and kissing up to teachers.

       The Dean was fatter than when I last saw him. Quite rude, but it’s true. I couldn’t help but be astonished when I compared what I was seeing with what I remembered. How did he get so fat? Even I’ve put on some weight around the legs but not this.
       I also noticed he looked kind of unhappy, or worn, I suppose. That made me a bit sad, because he was a good guy. I’d been to his office a couple times – once to collect a small congratulatory trophy after I won a grant (he’d forgotten to bring it to the assembly). And once again because in my final year I had a bit of a breakdown and let my ghouls loose on purpose – for some reason it calmed me to see the destruction,  seeing things as broken as I was inside. My professors didn’t know what to do with me so they sent me to the Dean. I don’t know why. It turns out he spent a lot of his time watching TV dramas in his office and snacking. I was nervous as first in case my parents popped up on TV, but thankfully his weakness was for quiz shows, not reality dramas. I ate a lot of cookies on that one visit and it made me feel a lot better.
       And so the welcome ceremony for Practical Magic Application, or Wizardry as it used to be called, began. I felt so out of place sitting at the outside auditorium among all of these sex-crazed teens. Okay, maybe I was being a little dramatic. But I swear to you, these teens were crazy for something.
       It’s just occurred to me that perhaps I don’t like kids.
       I started scanning the room for other postgrad students but at this age it’s really hard to tell. I mean the forty-year-olds stood out loud and clear, but if that’s my only other option I might as well hang out with the sex-crazed teens. At least they’re closer to my age. I’m only twenty-five, it’s not fair that I should sit in a room and feel old. Well we were outside, but you get my point.
       “So you’ve studied here before?” Charnell asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. We shuffled up when a group of students wanted to sit together on our stone bench. “Was it hard?”
       “Oh yeah.” I nodded. “And not even remotely rewarding. My degree was a waste – wasn’t worth much to any of the employers I ended up working for. It always is, unless you’re a sorcerer. Plus, it was very expensive.” Sand was already getting into my shoes. I sighed, grumpily. “I’m not sure why people do it.”
       The was a short pause.
       “Er... then why did you come back?” she said wryly.
       “Because I need an actual, proper, respectable qualification that will make the rest of my life worth living.”
       The welcome event began. There was a sudden hush, and me and Charnell weren’t sure what caused it so we craned our necks to see. All away across the courtyard, there was a rustic red barn and three men were pulling the white doors open. We could see a figure with blue hair. She had something in her hand. Suddenly she ran toward the open auditorium and flew it into the air like a javelin champion. There was a fierce rumbling, a growl that shook the ground underneath our feet. I was alarmed, but Charnell gripped her knees with excitement and whispered,
       It burst out of the barn and snapped up the bait in midair, its jaws snapping unbelievably loud. All of the PMA students started screaming with applause. I was bewildered until I remembered that most of these kids had never seen a dragon this close before. It wasn’t the largest I’d seen but it certainly was intimidating – it was a rare silver one; glowing golden eyes, long thin tail with a sharp swordfish point. It circled the auditorium a few times, descending steadily, then all of a sudden it dived. The cheers became screams as it approached the stone seats rapidly, but suddenly it slowed right down as if distracted, hovered and landed in the orchestra pit in front of the blue haired girl – she held what looked like a long flute but waved it like a wand - in fact more like incense, slowly, left and right. It watched her, puffed out smoke disinterestedly, flopped to the floor and tucked its head under its wing.
       We applauded again – everybody around me stood up but I couldn’t be bothered. I had to work hard to swallow my envy. After I did, I just felt sad. I’d always wanted to be a dragon tamer when I was little, and slowly let go of my dream as I got older and realised it’s not for average people like me. And then I felt angry, because I hate feeling sorry for myself. Out of the corner of my eye, Charnell looked down at me and frowned. By the time everybody sat down, the Dean had moved to the centre stage, smiling.
       “What’s your worst fear, Ellen?” Charnell asked suddenly.
       “Honestly? To spend the rest of my life working as a secretary.” I said, feeling depressed all of a sudden. “If that fear didn’t paralyse me so much, I wouldn’t be putting myself through uni again.”
       Her eyebrows raised at my unintentional confession. “You said –”
       “Thank you, Miss Blue,” The Dean said, his voice magically amplified. “Magnificent work. That, students, is just one of the things you can achieve after diligent study of practical Magic Application.”
       Miss Blue grinned, mock-curtsied, and guided the dragon back into the barn.
       “And so I say welcome! Welcome to Novapol University and to a once in a lifetime student experience. Welcome to the only university in the world willing to teach you –”
“- the secrets of the world you live in.” I murmured to myself. I worked for the university as an events co-ordinator in my second and third year, so I knew this speech very well. Charnell glanced at me and held back a laugh.
       “There are nine divisions at the university, and yours is like no other. Your peers all across the university will wonder what marvellous things you’ll learn that are forbidden to them. But they were not chosen – you were.”
       Charnell and I snorted in unison and exchanged a glance. Chosen? Please. More like, they couldn’t afford the cost of this course. PMA is the most expensive course at NU, and ironically it’s the most dangerous. Of course, there are no refunds if you die.
       The Dean began to pace. “Rest assured that this division is fully equipped with all you need to accelerate your learning. Excellent teachers, brilliant learning environments, brand new first-rate equipment –”
       “- and of course,” murmured a low voice behind me, in chorus with the Dean. I started because I thought it was Charnell, but she was quiet and listened raptly. “the hearts, minds, and spirits of all the students who have gone before and showed us how to make this university better for future generations.”
       “- for future generations.” The Dean stopped to cough, and I covered my mouth to chuckle. Glancing back, I caught a quick glimpse of a guy sitting behind me, smiling, but not looking at me. Slate grey hoodie, floppy black hair. What is it with these kids and their hoodies?
       “Postgrad?” I whispered in hope.
       “Undergrad. Repeating my second year.” he whispered back. I knew it. “And man, does this speech get old.”
       I was still smiling as the Dean continued, but then he stopped again, because the floor was shaking. Everybody gasped and looked wildly around; the stones benches we sat on trembled, and I saw a statue on the other side of the courtyard fracture and topple over. For me, that was the thing that set all my nerves on edge.
       The Dean frowned.
       “Mr Gallagher, sir!” screamed a male teacher running out of the quivering induction tent and across the centre stage. “It’s got loose again, sir!”
       “Shit.” The Dean said in front of two hundred students, and that was when the barn pretty much exploded. The silver dragon burst free. It ripped through the air and into the sky with such speed that it vanished from sight after only a few seconds. The girl with the blue hair ran to a clear space and stared up, shocked, making a visor with her hand.
       “Something scared it.” Charnell said quietly.
       “Scared a dragon?” I hissed.
       “Hi ladies,” the guy behind me said suddenly, leaning forward and speaking fast. “Nice to meet you, I’m Xiumin, we should get together sometime, but, I’m running for my life right now. If I ever see you again, we should exchange numbers.” Abruptly he stood up and bolted. I immediately saw why.
       A massive score of dragons – at least a dozen – soared overhead. They weren’t attacking, not even breathing flames, but they were flying extremely fast and growling with enough intensity that the vibrations were damaging things on the ground. The students went crazy. They ran in such a  disorganised mess I could hardly see.
       “Follow the signs!” one teacher was yelling, “Leave all of your belongings behind and follow the nearest member of staff!”
       Drop my bag? Was he kidding? What if somebody took my credit card in the confusion and used all the money? How much is a bag gonna slow me down anyway? If I’m going to survive this, I don’t want to survive this and be poor.
       “Charnell? Charnell!” I shouted, looking around. I couldn’t see her anymore. I never even got her number. I wondered if I should find her, but then another huge group of dragons passed and this time an enormous, enormous crimson dragon landed in the auditorium. It opened its jaws wide and roared, but then mid-roar it sneezed and fifty or so students towards the west side of the stands were blown away like leaves in a breeze. Then it looked around, confused, and hiccupped.
       Without a second thought, I hoisted my bag and made a break for it like the other students.

Much, much later, I had a passing thought about the dragon’s strange behaviour. I’d never seen a dragon do that before, except for one the Lab found injured. Well, I found it, I lured it in with Skittles. My point is, when we found it, it also sneezed and jerked in the manner of a hiccup, and a few days later it died. I thought about what a strong, vigorous dragon looked like and concluded that the crimson one must be sick. But the thought left as quickly as it came, and I didn’t think about it again.

I know I haven’t got to the point about the sorcerer yet, but don’t you worry. He’s coming.


Ashana Lian .
written January 2016

Author's Note - I keep using too many commas. Also, when I started this last year I knew exactly what 'coopas' meant but I can't remember now. So annoying when I forget my own theory!!

Read On!
(Links will go live when they are posted. Chapter names may change as I'm sort of writing this as I go.)

Chapter Three - Faux Coffee With Graduates and Illegal Dragons Eggs
Chapter Four - An Old Boyfriend and Dragon Murderers
Chapter Five - A Dinner Date and A Month of Horror
Chapter Six - TBA
Chapter Seven - TBA
Chapter Eight - TBA
Chapter Nine - TBA
Chapter Ten - TBA

- read something else -

Prompt - leave me the name of a person, the name of your favourite drink or a bizarre item of clothing, and I'll work it into the next chapter! (Or try. Be kind, lol. XD) Comment below.
Request - can you spot any typos? I'm really bad with them. Please help me out!

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