Whew! That was a long title. 🙂 (And so was the title of my last post.) Anywho, here are the next two stories for Loren’s CWWC challenge (challenges 5 and 6)! And it’s kind of a lot of work to put in the pictures and links of the writing prompts, so will you forgive me if I’m lazy this time and send you over to Loren’s blog if you want to see the pictures? You won’t forgive me? *Sigh.* Well then… Hmm, I’m sorry, but I’m going to do it anyway. XD XD Just click on the blue “5” and “6” above to go to the fifth and sixth challenges, respectively.
Breathe. You can do this, Alyssa. Concentrate. I tried to calm down, but my little pep talk wasn’t working – I was just too excited! I, Alyssa, daughter of the captain of the King’s guard, was about to enter my first tournament in sword-fighting. My friends and I had been practicing all year for this tournament, and I was determined that my team, Team Dragons, would be the champions. I looked around and saw my father standing among the crowds around the battlefield. My mother had to stay home and watch my two younger siblings, which I was disappointed about of course, but at least my father was here.
I cast an admiring glance down at my professional-quality armor, made especially for me for this big day. My father and mother knew as well as I did that I wanted to devote my life to the safety of my kingdom, but they had been reluctant to let me out of our safe castle and into the dangerous world – until this year. Finally they had seen that I was determined to practice sword-fighting, that it was a noble cause, and that I could excel at it. It had been one of my greatest days when they enrolled me in one of the top-notch sword-fighting schools in Lorrania. After a whole year of training, we were ready to fight in a mock battle. It would be many years until we could fight in the real world, but for now, I was just as excited as if I had been sent on a mission to save Lorrania, our kingdom.
Why did our kingdom need sword-fighters? Good question – I’m glad you asked. (Well, technically I guess I asked you.) You see, the kingdom of Lorrania was unfortunately placed next to a – er… rather aggressive – kingdom . Their army was continually invading our land, trying to take over our kingdom. As soon as our enormous gates opened, the enemy, always cleverly disguised, started infiltrating our city. Our king’s army, or guard division, was continually kept busy with driving out these invading spies and warriors so that, by the night time, every last enemy was locked up in prison – or killed. The streets of Lorrania were never safe after dawn, but always safe – or at least the guard strove to keep it that way – by the time the sky was black. Sword-fighting was a noble art that allowed you, if you were skilled at it, to become one of the much admired warriors of our guard division. Sword-fighting was also dangerous. But I chose not to think about that part any more than I had to.
But back to the tournament. It would start in a little less than an hour, and already a big crowd had gathered to claim the best seats. A sword-fighting tournament was a big deal in our kingdom.
Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see my father’s concerned face looking at me.
“Alyssa, there’s been a problem. Our spies have spotted an enemy, and I’m afraid I will have to help drive the warrior out. I am terribly sorry, Alyssa, but I suppose I cannot stay to watch the tournament.” His face was sorrowful, and mine was even more so.
“Oh, Father!” I cried, “Isn’t there any way you can stay just this once?”
“I’m afraid not, Alyssa. Most of the back-up guards are watching the tournament too. Since I am the chief guard, it is up to me to see that the job is done. But…” his eyes brightened for a moment, but then he shook his head. “No, that would never do,” he muttered under his breath. Father was turning to leave when I caught his arm.
“What would never do, Father? Pleeease, please tell me!” I widened my blue eyes into my special “pleading look” that Father almost always fell for.
Father smiled. “Oh, alright. I was just going to say that since there are barely enough guards for the job, I could…” he hesitated.
“You could what?!”
Father shook his head again. “I could take you with me to help.” He sighed after this statement, as if displeased that he had told me this.
“Oh, Father! Would you really? I’d like that so much more than being in a tournament! Pleeeease! I know I could help you a lot!” I turned my “pleading look” on to full power.
“But who would take your place in the tournament?” Father questioned.
“There are plenty of my friends that have to sit out because there aren’t enough places for everyone to join. I’m sure they would be delighted to take my place,” I begged.
“Alright. Here’s the deal. You ask your teacher, get someone to take your place, and if you can do all that in five minutes, you can go.” I was off like a flash of fire from a dragon’s mouth. And exactly four minutes and 42 seconds later, I rushed panting back with good news.
“I can go, Father!”
“The enemy was spotted in at Sea-Foam Inn,” Father told me as we walked briskly out of the arena. “We’ll have to take a boat.” Sea-Foam Inn was a unique tavern and inn that stood on poles in the water on the other side of Blooming River. (The name “Blooming River” comes from the beautiful yellow flowers that bloom all along one side of the river, and on several little islands scattered in the river itself.) The only way to get to the inn was by boat.
“Even better! I love boat-rides!” I exclaimed happily.
We approached the dock on one side of Blooming River. The only two boats left there were old and unpainted, but at that moment, I didn’t care. I was too elated with our mission. Father and I paddled across the peaceful river, and finally docked on the other shore, a little further up from the long row of boats already stationed there. It was low tide, and Sea-Foam Inn was only lightly brushed by little waves. Father and I could walk up to the Inn. I went ahead while Father carefully hid his weapons under his thick clothes. There had been no time for him to put on armor, but he was used to situations like this.
It was almost twilight, and a full moon was just beginning to come out from behind a few rosy clouds. We would need to complete our mission quickly if we wanted to drive out the enemy before night really set in.
Father caught up to me and we both walked quietly but swiftly through the wet sand. I climbed the creaking steps with my hand on my sword hilt. Now that we were about to go into the danger zone, I was beginning to get a little nervous. Father softly opened the door. This was it. Breath, Alyssa. You can do this.
A man off in a corner straightened up as soon as he saw Father. I saw him stealthily move his hand to a sword hilt sticking up above his casual peasant-dress.
“Father!” I whispered, nodding my head at the man. He nodded back, and we approached the man.
“You are under arrest!” Father told the young warrior firmly. Father didn’t shout or get angry at the warrior, but his firm voice got the message across. The warrior squinted his steely eyes and drew out his sword.
“This time, the Lorranians are going down… forever,” and the young man snapped his fingers. Six other warriors appeared out of the shadows, and only one warrior had appeared to help Father. This was it. I was on my first real mission. And I would need to help Father with all of my skill if I wanted to get out of this alive.
Heh-heh. Cliff hanger! Now… Challenge#6.
“Here we are, Hazel,” Albert said gruffly. “You can take care of yourself from here. I must go now.” Before he turned to leave, Albert pointed to a foreboding looking old building. “That’s your new home.”
Hazel Grace Oscar shouldered her small bag and forced her legs to carry her to the iron gate surrounding the building. She rapped the heavy iron knocker on the gate, and waited for something to happen. While she is waiting, I shall describe Hazel herself. Hazel had the black, curly hair, shining, dark eyes, and smooth ebony skin of her African American father, though Hazel’s mother had fair skin and light hair. Hazel’s parents had dropped her off at an orphanage ten years ago when she was a baby, because they were too poor to care for her, leaving her with nothing except a birth certificate and a small, thin blanket to remember them by. Ever since then, Hazel had been hurried from orphanage to orphanage. By the time she felt she had finally grown accustomed to one new home, she was promptly moved to another one. Now she had to repeat the whole terrible process once again – and this orphanage, Hazel noticed gloomily, seemed the worst of them all.
Finally the door opened, and a woman appeared. Hazel had prepared herself for a grumpy, scolding old lady to fit the atmosphere of place, but nothing could have prepared her for the lady in front of her. She was actually beautiful! She had lovely dark, wavy hair; pretty skin; and twinkling blue eyes.
“Hello, there, sweetheart!” the woman greeted Hazel. “You must be Hazel Oscar! My name is Adeline, and we are very happy to have you with us.” Adeline’s smile was genuinely happy, and as she took Hazel thin little hand to lead her inside, Hazel thought that perhaps she wouldn’t mind to stay at this orphanage after all.
Adeline talked genially with Hazel as she led her up some rickety stairs. “I’m sorry, Hazel, but I’m afraid I haven’t much time to help you get settled. There is always too much to do in an orphanage, you know. But here we are now! This will be your room. Three girls are already using this room, and they are very excited to meet you. Just ask them if you need anything. And good luck – they’re handful!” Adeline opened the door, and Hazel found herself looking at a brightly painted room with one large bed in the middle. Three girls were sitting together on the bed. Hazel started to inspect them, as she usually did with new acquaintances. The first had blonde hair and brown eyes; the second had light brown hair and gray eyes; and the third had red hair and blue eyes. But before Hazel could finish inspecting them, they all jumped excitedly off of the bed, and ran to meet her.
The blonde-haired girl spoke first. “Hi! My name is Emmy!”
“My name’s Violet. Welcome home!” the girl with the brown hair said softly.
“I’m Ruby!” added the red-haired girl. Then she took a deep breath and rattled off the following: “We are so excited to meet you! We need another color in our room, you know. We’ve only painted three walls so far since Adeline told us you were coming. And now we can be the four Color Girls instead of the three Color Girls! I know your first name is Hazel, but what are your other things? Do you remember your dad and mom? I don’t. If you do, what were they like? How old are you? My birthday is almost coming. When is your birthday? My best friend is Emmy, but I like Violet too. Hey Violet, why are you pinching me?” Violet shot an understanding glance at bewildered Hazel, and knelt down in front of Ruby.
“Honey, we all know you’re excited, but let Hazel catch her breath!”
Before she could get any further, Emmy broke in. “Why does she need to catch her breath? Did it run away? Maybe it’s playing tag. I like to play tag, especially freeze tag. Have you ever…” But Violet mercifully shushed Emmy before she talked Hazel into exhaustion.
Hazel was extremely bewildered and overwhelmed at this strange welcome. But, “When in doubt, sit down and think” was her motto. Since that didn’t seem to be an option, she fell back on her Plan B motto: “When you can’t sit down and think, ask questions.”
“Wh-what are the Color Girls?” Hazel questioned the bouncy girls.
“I’m so sorry,” Violet said, “We just got so excited that we didn’t give you a very good welcome. I’ll try to explain it now. We call ourselves the Color Girls because all of our names are colors – Emmy’s real name is Emerald, and Ruby and Violet are color names too. Adeline put you in our room with us because Hazel is another color name. As for the walls, we used to have ugly old wallpaper on them, but Adeline said that we could paint them, and we have painted three of the walls so far according to our names, but we left one wall for you, in case you wanted to paint it hazel.”
Now Hazel understood. But her head was still spinning, so the best response she could come up with was, “Oh.”
Emmy jumped up and offered to take her bags and Ruby offered to show Hazel around the orphanage. Violet reminded the other girls that Hazel might need a little time to rest, which Hazel acknowledged.
“I do very much want to see the orphanage,” Hazel explained, “but I need a little break first. I am very tired from walking all the way here.” So Emmy, Ruby, and Violet moved quietly over to a corner of the bedroom and whispered plans to each other while Hazel flopped onto the bed and took a short nap.
She was awakened by three small faces peering anxiously down at her.
“She’s awake!” Ruby crowed when Hazel finally opened her weary eyes.
“Now we can play!” exclaimed Emmy. Hazel pulled herself out of bed, wondering if she could ever learn to live with this much energy. At her last orphanage, all of the kids were gloomy and quiet.
Ruby and Emmy led the way, but Violet stayed behind with Hazel. “Please don’t mind those two,” Violet advised. “They are always in front together because they both never get tired. All of the other kids call them the two “gem buddies” because, well, you know, Ruby and Emerald are also jewels names, besides being color names.” Soon they entered the boys’ section of the orphanage. Several boys, little and big, were playing with old rusty cars and toys on the faded carpet of the boys’ hall. They waved to Ruby and Emmy, and stared at Hazel the newcomer.
Violet noticed that Hazel was getting a bit uncomfortable with all of the stares, so she introduced her. “This is Hazel, boys. She just came to the orphanage today.” A mumbled chorus of hellos greeted Hazel at this announcement. They passed the boys section, went down another flight of stairs, and finally caught up with Emmy and Ruby who were impatiently waiting for them at a door downstairs.
“Let’s go outside, now, Hazel!” Ruby suggested. Hazel nodded her consent, and immediately Emmy and Ruby rushed out the door. Violet and Hazel followed a little more sedately.
The backyard of the orphanage was not much better kept up than the front of the building, but it was more attractive than the front because of the lively little figures playing tag or swinging on the rusty swing set.
“This is a really heavy-duty fence, Violet,” Hazel noted, running her long fingers along the iron stakes of the fence surrounding the orphanage yard.
“Yep. You know why, don’t you?” Violet looked searchingly at Hazel. “It’s to keep the public safe from all of us.”
Hazel frowned. “No. I didn’t know. Wh-why would any of the kids here hurt the public?”
“We wouldn’t. Everyone is just scared of us. They think we’re ugly little brats, and they don’t ever want to come near us. The mayor of Mannata made the orphanage put up the fence to calm the people’s worries. And no one loves us – except Adeline. She was an orphan too, but she made a way for herself in the city, and soon people got over their fear of her being an orphan, and loved her for who she was. As soon as she had enough money saved up, she bought this place to hold all the many orphans in the city. This orphanage runs on funds given to the by the city, just to keep us orphans out of the way. When we turn sixteen, Adeline sends us out into the world. We must either try to eke out a living in Mannata, as Adeline did, or else travel to another city.” Violet cast her eyes down at the ground at the end of this speech. Her eyes were shining brightly with tears.
“That – that’s horrible!” Hazel declared, outraged. “The people should be ashamed of themselves.”
“I know. They should be,” Violet agreed, “but they aren’t.” Hazel looked sadly over the tall iron fence to the gray city beyond. Everything was so still and lifeless. Just waiting for all of these little children to liven it up, Hazel thought. Her gaze roamed over the landscape until it stopped on a neon sign above a large building. “Picture House,” it said, only some of the letters had become unlit, so it looked like “Cure us.” My sentiments exactly, thought Hazel. Cure yourselves of your prejudice against innocent orphans who just need a loving home.
Just then Emmy and Ruby bounced up. “Hi guys!” Emmy said cheerfully, breaking Hazel’s gloomy train of thought. “We’re ready to show you the rest of the orphanage.”
“Yeah, we were just finishing freeze tag first,” Ruby added. So Hazel and Violet once more allowed the two younger girls to lead the way.
Hazel had a hard time going to sleep that night because she was really rather squished between three sleeping bodies. She thought over her day as she liked to do every night – she thought about all of the new people she’d met and all of the new places in the orphanage she had discovered with the help of her three new friends: the Color Girls. Hazel had a feeling that she would fit in here a bit more quickly than she had at the other orphanages, where she had always been a loner off in some corner. She smiled to herself as she gazed at the blank wall that would soon be painted in a fresh coat of hazel paint. Eventually she fell asleep. As the bedroom disappeared in a haze of sleep, a new scene appeared in Hazel’s mind.
She was dressed in a flowing red cape, standing in the middle of a colossal platform embossed with a beautiful mandala design. There were pillars surrounding her on every side, and hanging from those pillars were illuminated paintings of planets and other worlds, six of them, in each color of the rainbow. For a few seconds Hazel stood gazing at these paintings, until all but three of them disappeared. There were left only the red, green, and purple worlds. As Hazel watched, a figure appeared in each of them. A grinning, freckled face with red curly hair and blue eyes gradually filled the painting. Next, a laughing blonde-haired girl with brown eyes filled the green painting. And finally, the purple painting portrayed a portrait of a girl with soft brown wavy hair, gray eyes, and a gentle smile. As soon as all of the faces had appeared, Hazel heard voices echoing her name. “Hazel! Hazel! Come play with us!” She softly approached the paintings and stood there, staring up at them. Then a new painting appeared. It was a lovely shade of brown – you could almost call it hazel brown. Hazel’s own face soon filled the frame, and looked happily towards the other faces. The voices still called to Hazel, and this time, her painting answered them. But the faces kept repeating the same phrase until Hazel woke up.
When she awoke, she saw three small faces peering down at her. “She’s awake!” Ruby crowed, exactly like she had the last day. But this time Hazel was glad to get up and begin another day with her new friends, the Color Girls.
It was fun to write about the Color Girls. 🙂 I might add more to that story later, but, we’ll see. Thanks for pushing through all of those words! Oh wait! There was something else I was going to show you. Two things, actually. The first is a PFA (Post from the Forgotten Abyss.) This time I decided that there really wasn’t any use in copying the whole post, when I can just give you a pretty lil’ link. So here it is:
Appropriately orange, eh? I posted that about a year ago. Here’s a picture from the post lest you wonder what a “Clementine Butterfly” is.
The last thing I wanted to show you is just a little stats update. Or rather, a big stats update! Take a gander at the difference between the stats for this year so far (one day over a month) and the first year I started blogging (I blogged for about seven months out of the first year)! SQUEEE! This blog got about five times more views in the month of January than it did in seven months, two years ago! And in one month this blog has gotten more than half as many views as THE WHOLE LAST YEAR!! Thank you so much, readers, for doing your part to add to that little orange bar of happiness. 🙂 I am ever so grateful. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! 😀