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Once upon a long time ago in a land far from Nantucket, the girl who lived spoke the words. And there was much rejoicing.
A special prize to someone who can name all six references.

Firstly, I like reading. Secondly, I like writing. And thirdly, I like board games.
There's a whole host of other pleasures beneath these, like the feeling of warm sheets on freshly-smooth legs, a well-made chicken alfredo over penne, coddling my adorable little nieces, and telling an attractive man or woman just how stunning he or she looks. But the triumvirate of entertainment remains unshaken through the decade. Some favorite picks are: anything written by Terry Pratchett (The Wee Free Men would be a good starting point); Beneath the Dragoneye Moons from Selkie Myth; Salvos by MelasD; the Stormlight Archives from Brandon Sanderson; Terraforming Mars (now available on Steam); Dungeon Lords; and a classic bout of Canadian Fruit Basket.

I dislike excessive negativity, so for this section, (as they say) that's all she wrote.

I'm hoping to have fun. That's why I'm here. I write by myself already. Now I want to share what I write with a partner, and read what they contribute, and throw compliments back and forth for witty turnings of phrases and keen insight into character motivations. Roleplay is a format I'm familiar with for doing this; let it be known, though, that I'd be just as happy to do a collaborative writing project. Less 'you play him, I play her' and more 'we write them.'

My love language is words of affirmation and my Myers-Briggs returns either an INTP or an ENFJ depending on the month.

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The second mutant puffed away into nothing. Sam took a deep breath as she lifted her sword again. There was one bird-thing left in front of her, but it was being more careful than the others had been. Its head cocked to one side, far enough Sam felt like her own was going to crack, and watched her curiously.

“Look, can you explain now?” Sam begged the bare-chested warrior.

“Hm. That weapon you hold…” he started slowly. Sam nodded along, not taking her eyes off the monster before her. Right, what was this weapon? “...it’s a blade. You swing it like a club.”

Sam staggered, narrowly avoiding face-planting. “Well gee, thanks! I hadn’t realized! It’s not like this is the first time I’ve ever used a sword or anything!”

The pigeon rushed forward while Sam was distracted. She cursed and dove beneath its attack, narrowly avoiding a beak, but couldn’t bring her weapon to bear in time to counterattack. The creature was over her then, and it decided to keep going after far easier prey. Sam cursed again, jumping up to give chase.

“Then don’t use it. Put away the blade. Use the claws.”

“The what?”

“Put away the blade.”

Sam grunted in frustration, but she did as instructed. She grabbed the sheath tied to her belt and slid the sword into it. Then she looked to her other side, where a pair of bear claws hung. “You mean these? How do I use stuffed bear claws?”

“Put them on.”

“How do I put them on?!” The things were stuffed! Solid! Not gloves!

“Pick them up. Don them. You can do it. You haven’t struggled with the pants, you can handle the claws.”

“What about my-” Sam began, but then she saw what she was wearing. She’d missed it in the moment–fighting giant mutant pigeons takes a lot of focus from other things–but she wasn’t wearing her casual skirt and jacket anymore. Her chest was wrapped in a piece of brown leather that didn’t come close to her shoulders or navel; and her legs were covered by the baggiest set of pants she had ever seen. It was only by pure magic they weren’t already around her ankles; the material maintained at best two points of contact with her skin, and usually only kept one.

The sight was so unnerving, she stopped running for a moment. With how loose the trousers were, she could see none of what she was wearing was what she had put on that morning. These were an attractive red, not the plain white her drawer was filled with.

A renewed bout of screaming forced Sam to look up and start running again. The monster had grabbed someone as she stepped out of a shop. It took… something out of her, a purplish, glowy ball that definitely wasn’t a person’s soul, and left her body to flop to the ground.

“Claws!” the warrior ordered. Sam ground her teeth, but without any time to spare she just grabbed the claws and yanked them off her belt.

And suddenly her hands were a pair of bear claws.

The pigeonman took wing and flapped over Sam’s head, moving back to the street it had come from. Sam pivoted as well, chasing after the monster. Her new paws left her feeling unbalanced, but she wasn’t about to let the thing get away with…whatever it was trying to get away with.

Unfortunately, one more hopped around the corner to block her as the monster with the definitely not a soul fled.

“NO! YOU! DON’T!” Sam screamed, launching herself at the new enemy and swinging her giant claws down on it. She felt it resist for a fraction of a moment, before it wisped away in a puff of smoke.

“Like a club,” her partner nodded sagely. “Much better for you.”

“Not helping! Where did-”

And now that Sam was around the corner, she saw more costumed crazies cutting down the creatures. Closest to her was the world’s smallest viking, and further down the street was a miniature Joan of Arc. And the monster she was pursuing was carefully flying above both.

“Hey! Try and see if you can find something they’re bringing that purple stuff to!” little Joan called out. Sam did a double-take as the girl then lifted a sword bigger than she was and moved. It wasn’t like a teleport, or vanishing; Sam could see her go from point A to point B. She just did so…instantly. Like space had bent for her so she wouldn’t lose time.

“Sure! That one has a ‘purple stuff’ with it!” Sam shouted back, pointing at the creature quickly moving toward the other end of the street. Now that it was past the others, it was descending and glancing around in search of something. “Grab it, I’ll handle the ones still out here!”
The echoing boom of Gunthar creating their next tunnel traveled back over the trio as they worked. True to her promise (despite feeling awkward after Fenn hugging her for it), Talia was acting as first Light. Rather than trying to manifest her Aura as a torch, hovering over her shoulder as the older demons did, she channeled her Aura up to her horns. The two tips glowed, more than enough to light the tunnel around them out to thirty feet, with dim vision that far again.

"What did you do with your day off?" Dante asked his favorite Sunday question. It gave Talia pause for a moment, as today wasn’t Sunday, or even Moonday, but Tidesday; then again, her answer never really changed, either. And it looked like he had something on his mind. His swings weren’t as enthusiastic as usual.

“I spent Sitterday with Draconhouser, mostly helping Brom with his letters. He’s determined to catch up to Sophrena.” The sibling rivalry the twins had was cute, but at their age Brom was at a definite disadvantage. He never stopped trying, though, and Talia could encourage that.

Just having a sibling to compete with looked fun.

The mining continued, Dante semi-distracted but trying to keep some conversation up and Fenn semi-distracted by default; he never did a good job of staying focused on work, even with Talia’s polite nudging. Gunthar passed on his way out, pushing two carts full of rock and towing a third behind him. He’d definitely earned his moniker, “Big Fracking Gun.” As he came back through, an idea occurred to Talia.

“Why don’t we go with Gunthar? He’s making fresh tunnels, so there should be more ores right on the surface. He might even be knocking some loose that we could add to the carts.” She turned her gaze up, and up some more, to see what the ogre thought of the idea. “Would you mind, Gun? We’ll stay far enough back you won’t have to worry about hitting us.”
Oops. That, uh, wound up being a thousand words.
The typical grocery store was two minutes away from Sam’s house. Their neighbors could walk to it and back comfortably, as long as they didn’t have long shopping lists. Unfortunately, Sam’s family just couldn’t be ‘typical.’ Her dad had jumped into the health food bandwagon before it was even finished being built, and he’d never gotten off. If she was going to bring groceries back for the family, it had to have good ol’ TJ’s brand on it.

That store was close to ten minutes into the city, well outside their quiet residential district. Thankfully it wasn’t a big store, so grabbing everything on Mom’s list (plus the garlic and basil that had run out without Mom noticing) took all of five minutes. Sam was out the door with her purchases and heading back toward her car when the first screams started.

First one person, then three, then a dozen came sprinting around the corner, fleeing like chickens from a fox. Sam had to jump aside to keep from being run over by the terrified crowd, her eyes shooting up in the hope of seeing what had everyone so spooked.

A giant, malformed pigeon shot out from the adjoining street, crashing into a man and driving his body to the ground. When the abomination pulled itself up, the man didn’t move.

Cold panic shot through Samantha’s veins. A hundred people were running past her, away from the nightmare come alive. Men and women, shoppers and workers, from middle school to middle age, everyone was running. Everyone who wasn’t already lying still on the pavement, at least.

‘The hell?’

Partly, she was guessing where these monsters could have come from. Partly, she was angry at the entire damn populace. Her sister was at home working hard, waiting for her to get these groceries back so she could eat a decent meal after a hard day of practice on what had been a day off for all these people. And now she was going to be late.

The pigeon turned toward her. Maybe not her specifically, but it was chasing the crowd that was even now flowing past her.

Samantha dashed to her car, dove behind it, and threw her bags into the passenger seat. As soon as her hands were free, she was pulling her phone out to dial the emergency line. She was already planning how to report this in her mind--and her fingers stopped when she realized it would come out as, “Please help, bird-monsters are killing people.”

‘Proof first, then?’ she decided. Carefully, Sam peeked out from behind her car.

The pigeon-thing crashed into the next car over, pecking at the roof to try to get at the person inside. Sam flinched, but lifted her phone with shaky hands to snap a picture.

Then a man in full-native cosplay jumped at the monster, tomahawk swinging down viciously. Sam’s eyes shot open--then even wider when the man’s tomahawk, and then the man himself, fell right through the bird. He picked himself up with a huff, then cast his glance around until their eyes met.

A shiver ran through Samantha’s entire body. This was going to be trouble, she already knew it.

In a blink the man was beside her. “You would fight?” he demanded, holding out his tomahawk.

Sam shook her head. The dude may be a ghost, and ghosts can’t die; but she had no such insurance. She had seen the body earlier.

He frowned beneath his wolf-pelt hat. “You would die, then?”

Sam shook her head even harder. The whole point was to not die right now. That pigeon that was raising a racket a second ago would… Why was it quiet?

“Choose. Fight, or die?”

Instinct drove Sam as much as the question did. She jumped forward, one hand closing around the tomahawk’s shaft and the other reaching toward the man’s shoulder, just as the pigeon’s beak came down on the cement behind her. The man was just as ephemeral as when he struck the monster; but the weapon she felt, the shaft firm in her hand. As she passed through him, she tucked herself into a forward roll, feeling the hard pavement against bare shoulders and back before coming up on her feet.

She turned to face the monster, weapon in hand. The tomahawk was gone; instead she held a sword, the blade slightly curved at the end, in both hands. Two beast-hide gloves wrapped partway up her forearms, ending to reveal a series of tattoos adorning the rest of her arms. A sudden weight around her hips told her she was wearing pants with a belt, and several things were tied onto it. Red hair the color of autumn leaves blew out behind her.

All of this Sam didn’t have time to think about. The bird-person-thing was flapping its arm-wings, kicking up air and preparing to lunge at her. Sam lunged first, her blade slicing forward into the creature. She felt the weapon connect; then the monstrosity vanished like smoke, wisping away into the air.

“We fight,” came the man’s satisfied voice from behind her.

Sam spun around. “Yes, I fought the thing. With… whatever all this is. Where did this sword even-”

“No. We fight. The man pointed back up the street. Two more of the abominations had come out from the adjoining street, their heads twisting left and right to find the prey that had fled ahead of them.

Sam stared at the creatures, stunned. “Okay, seriously, what the hell?”

“We fight,” the crazy warrior reiterated. The mutated pigeons had found the people fleeing further down the street and were taking wing, eager to take more lives.

“Fine! But AS we fight, can you please tell me what’s happening?!” Sam screamed as she ran into the street between the two parties, sword up and ready.
Mkay, well then. We'll get moving forward again.
The mines grew deeper every year as the miners chased after winding veins. Talia often wondered if, should they keep mining, they could break out the other side of the mountains–back to their ancestral homeland. It was a frivolous wish; they were as likely to dig too deep and fall through the bottom of the world, as they were to dig clear through the mountains. But she let herself wish all the same.

Virgil started calling out at the head of the column. “Separate into your squads! As a reminder, torches are only for emergencies; we don’t want to make more work for the carters in charge of ventilation. Pair off, and trade who’s acting as Light BEFORE you run out of Aura. I’M TALKING TO YOU, TAGG! That happens again, I might not send a team after you next time!”

The crowd chuckled quietly. It was all bluster and they knew it; if anyone needed help, they would get it. They hadn’t lived for this long in a mining camp by abandoning a friend to a collapse; everyone had each other's back.

Talia shuffled her way toward a side where she could see Dante. And Fenn.

She shook her head, trying to ward that thought away. Fenn wasn’t a bad person, she repeated to herself. She just felt… a little uncomfortable around him, sometimes. Probably just part of him being slightly older than her. The three of them had been grouped together since they were too young to maintain a Light long enough as a pair.

‘And I’ve got their backs,’ Talia told herself again. That was how they all succeeded: together.

“Dante! F-Fenn!” she called out, only fumbling his name a little bit. “Want me to be first Light today? I’ve been practicing a technique to help me last longer.”
“Dad, I’m home!” Sam called into the house. Her voice echoed through the front room, past the kitchen, up the stairs, around the bedrooms, and finally bounced off the closed door of her father’s studio. A moment of silence in response let her know he was sealed in and busy with his latest project.

Sam sighed as she slipped her shoes off. If he’d been lost in his art all day, he probably hadn’t eaten again. Or taken the list Mom had left him and gone shopping. She carefully padded up the stairs to drop her bag off in her room, then made her way toward the closed door to his art studio.

“Dad?” she asked, not particularly loudly. No reply came. “I’m borrowing the car to run to the store, okay? I’ll have your card, too, so… Well, you can’t really leave if I have the car anyway, huh,” she mumbled quietly to herself as she turned away. She poked into her parents’ bedroom just far enough to grab his wallet and the car key off the dresser, then went back downstairs to grab Mom’s shopping list off the fridge.

The door opened just as she was slipping her shoes back on. Diana pushed her way in, volleyball bag in one arm and schoolbag in the other. Their eyes met, and the sisters shared a smile.

“Back early today?” Sam asked, tapping the heel on her sneaker to help it settle.

“A little. Coach said she was feeling unwell, so she cut practice short. Back late?”

“The festival planning meeting ran long. Dad’s not making a sound, so I’m running to the store. Go ahead and shower up; start on your homework, too. I’ll be back in half an hour or so to start dinner.”

“Thanks, Sam. Heard anything from Mom?”

“Nope. And you know what they say-”

“- ‘No news is good news.’ Yep. As long as nothing sudden appears to keep her at work.”

“Right? How hard can it be for a major headline to not happen in the next two hours?”

Diana slipped up the stairs and Sam stepped out the door. Dad’s car was parked in the driveway, a two-door compact that somehow still ran–largely on miracles and spite by now. He’d had the thing in college when he and Mom first started dating, for crying out loud. But for all Sam complained about the old thing, it got the job done. She liked that about it. With a rumble and sputter, she backed the car out the driveway, pushed in the clutch, and started into town.
Thanks! I found that first image and I had to put a sheet to her. Before that I was honestly considering how to make mahou shoujo "Maou Shoujo" with horns and chuunibyou. I think this will be better than the pun.

Important factoids:
Sam has a driver's license.
Her mother is a newscaster (I think the term is anchor? The person at the desk, not the one onsite).
Her little sister, Diana, is Diarmi's age. Not that I expect them to have met, since Diarmi seems somewhat nomadic and Mrs. Walters definitely sent both her girls to private academies. Although before I commit to that, I should probably see what the hook that pulls everyone into the same sphere is going to be. It might be important that everyone remain reasonably close outside 'working' hours.
Shaman



Samantha Walters is the type who takes on responsibility. A teacher needs help with handouts? She’ll hand ‘em out. The student council needs a reliable secretary? She’ll step forward. The city will be destroyed if nobody fights the monsters? Well, that’s a new one; but since it’s something that needs doing, Sam will do it. Doesn’t seem like anybody who’s supposed to deal with this sort of thing will, after all. Way to leave it to a 16-year-old girl. Jeez.


Kammu was part of a tribe of the Apache. He spent his life fighting against foreign invaders who claimed manifest destiny. He followed Geronimo into the thick of conflict, until one time he couldn’t follow him back out. Now a powerful leader once more calls on him to fight against the invaders. He stands just as ready to defend as he did then–even if the people he fights for are nearly as strange as those he fights against.
Shaman



Samantha Walters is the type who takes on responsibility. A teacher needs help with handouts? She’ll hand ‘em out. The student council needs a reliable secretary? She’ll step forward. The city will be destroyed if nobody fights the monsters? Well, that’s a new one; but since it’s something that needs doing, Sam will do it. Doesn’t seem like anybody who’s supposed to deal with this sort of thing will, after all. Way to leave it to a 16-year-old girl. Jeez.


Kammu was part of a tribe of the Apache. He spent his life fighting against foreign invaders who claimed manifest destiny. He followed Geronimo into the thick of conflict, until one time he couldn’t follow him back out. Now a powerful leader once more calls on him to fight against the invaders. He stands just as ready to defend as he did then–even if the people he fights for are nearly as strange as those he fights against.
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