Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Quote Queste | October

Miss Melody is hosting yet another Quote Queste! *Trumpet fanfare* This month’s Quote is:
I’ll admit this one gave me a bit of trouble, as there were several couples in my head who could work in this scenario. However, I couldn’t use them because…spoilers, sweetie. :-P Then I started writing the scene, and Jason Windrider and Ember MacTavish insisted on acting it out. They’re both way in the future of my Ýdára series, but they’re two Characters who are very special to me. I look forward to working with them “for real” eventually. :-D

* * *
Ember MacTavish:
via Pinterest
     Ember MacTavish sat on a nearby boulder, frowning at her snapped bowstring.
     “Sure, an’ the heroes in those books o’ yours never had to deal with skronky weapons,” she snorted, flinging a chunk of fiery curls off her face. “They’d never be savin’ their lady-loves if their swords broke in two just as they were about to slay the dragon—” She stopped short and looked at Jason with horror in her round turquoise eyes. “Och! Your pardon; I forgot.”
     “Oh—ah—that’s not—I mean, it’s all right,” Jason Windrider assured her. “Not all Dragons are good like my friends. They’re kind of—I mean, they are—the exception…to the….” He shook his head, feeling like it was full of cotton wool. As usual. “Oriános says most of the Dragons in this world—even the intelligent ones—haven’t any scruples. They wouldn’t think twice about capturing a princess.”
Jason Windrider:
via Pinterest
     Ember chuckled. “Well, now, I s’pose there’s hope for the love-struck heroes o’ this world, then.” She took a new bowstring from her pouch. “Sometimes I wonder if love really be worth fightin’ for, anyhow.”
     “What do you—that is—what makes you—say—?”
     “Sure, an’ I can understand fightin’ for freedom,” she continued, ignoring his awkwardness. “Or defendin’ one’s homeland or kin. But love?” She shook her fiery head, setting her kinky curls bouncing, and threaded the string through the bottom notch on her bow.
     “It does seem almost…kind of…rather contradictory, if that makes any sense,” Jason agreed. “But then I look at you—think of all you’ve been through—think of how I’d feel if some blackguard hurt you or caused you more grief.” His brows lowered into a determined scowl. “If that ever happened,” he declared, clenching his fist, “I’d be ready to go to war, if it meant making things right for you again.”
     Ember paused, looking at him sideways over the tip of her bow. “Half a moment—would ’ee be tellin’ me ye love me, then?”
    “Oh—er—well….” Jason blushed, rubbing the back of his head. “Um…yes, I guess I do. I mean, I am—that is—not that I know anything about—well, I’ve just read—in books, you know….” He scrunched up his face and gave his hair a couple tugs. “Why is it so hard to talk to you coherently?” he sighed.
     She smiled ruefully at him as she fitted an arrow to the string. “Never mind, boy-o,” she soothed, taking careful aim at the target they had set up fifty paces away. The arrow sunk into the bull’s-eye with a satisfying thump. Turning back to face him, she gave him a merry smile, eyes dancing. “’Tis honored I am—’though we both be a mite young yet to be thinkin’ o’ love.”
     “I—yes, I suppose,” Jason admitted.
     “An’ to be sure, I be the first lass ye’ve ever laid eyes on—”
     “—so it doesn’t count?” Jason’s shoulders sagged.
     She lifted one shoulder and side of her mouth. “Who’s to say? ’Tis Elyon alone knows the future. He might ’a’ made ye an’ me for each other, or He might have someone better for us both, down the road. But for the time bein’,” she continued, fitting another arrow, “ourselves can pretend we’re brother an’ sister, an’ then we can be sayin’ ‘I love ye’ to each other wi’out shame or nonsense.”
     Jason stuck his hands in his pockets and smirked shyly. “I’ll settle for that…Sister.”
     Ember took aim at the target. “By the bye, boy-o,” she said, pulling the arrow back and squinting along its length, “what ye said about goin’ to war for a loved one….” She released the arrow and watched it fly before finishing her sentence. The arrow hit the bull’s-eye almost exactly where the first one had. She smiled at him. “That goes fer meself, too, ye know.”
* * *
God bless,

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Character Encounter | October ~Estrella (and Carlo)~

For this month’s Character Encounter, I’ll introduce you to a character who, sadly, tends to get shoved to the back corner of my Imagination because she’s so quiet and patient…a fact that ticks off Lotán rather—but he’s another story. :-P And Kendra’s bonus challenge this month—having our Character bring a pet—is perfect, considering Carlo’s self-appointed status as Estrella’s bodyguard while she’s looking for her birth-mother.
Technically, the driveway isn’t really a road (I just call it the High Road and the Low Road), but the street we live on isn’t the best for walking, and I don’t do road-trips (not that I wouldn’t like to someday!), so I had to fudge it.
Now let’s get on with the Encounter!

* * *
Estrella (sleeves should be more fitted):
(Via Pinterest) Clothes aren't right,
but I haven't finished her PaintShop portrait yet

     It’ll take me a few years, I daresay, to get used to warmish Octobers. By this time of year in North Idaho, we’d be bundled up in turtlenecks and sweaters, reaching for warm hats and wool coats to venture outside. We might even be getting nightly visits from Jack Frost. But here in Southern Oregon, while the mornings are decidedly chilly, by afternoon it’s pleasant enough for short-sleeved T-shirts.
     Feeling restless, with a sense that this weather would be gone all too soon, I decided to take advantage of the sunshine and do a couple laps around the driveway. Most of the velvet-ash trees had shed their yellow leaves, and the cottonwoods were about to follow suit. The black oaks had that dried-up brownish tint to their leaves, due, no doubt, from the drought this Summer. I paused by the edge of the driveway—the part I call “the Low Road”—beside our neighbor’s seasonal pond. Dead grass lay flat in Deer Hollow, with a swamp-willow hedge jutting in from the right-hand side of the hill. I wondered how the young trees would like it come Winter, when the rains turned Deer Hollow into the Naiad’s Looking-glass.
     A low dog-bark to my left drew my attention sharply off the pond. At the fork in the drive—where the Low Road meets the High Road—I spotted a dark-haired girl and the biggest, shaggiest black dog I’d ever seen. It looked somewhat like a Newfoundland hound—husky and bear-like—but with the kinky-curly coat and leaner snout of a Bouvier de Flandres or a puli. The dog barked again and galloped toward me, its long fur rippling comically with each bound. He skidded to a stop right beside me, quivering all over and smacking himself with his enthusiastic tail-wagging.  He whined happily and let out a couple yips, batting at me with his huge paw.
     “Well, hi there, fella,” I greeted, slowly extending my hand for him to smell. One doesn’t just reach out and pet a strange dog, after all.
     “Carlo!” the girl called as she caught up to him. Her olive complexion had a rosy hue to it from being in the sun, which set off her sparkling dark eyes beautifully. “Forgive me, my lady,” she said to me, curtsying a little. “I trust my dog has not frightened you?”
     “Oh, no,” I assured her, secretly wondering why she would address someone wearing jeans and a T-shirt as my lady. “I can tell he’s friendly.”   

     The girl smiled, squatting down to ruffle Carlo’s kinky fur while I scratched his floppy ears and got a better look at her. The brown leather toe of her boot peeked out from under her dark-blue skirt, covered by a colorful apron with large pockets. Matching ribbons—perhaps cut from the same fabric as her skirt—fastened the straps of her cherry-red bodice, and her white chemise had stripes of shinier thread woven with the cotton. Her smooth raven locks fell freely, without adornment, to her slender waist, framing a perfect oval face. But it was her necklace that really caught my eye—a long string of red beads the size of mustard seeds, interspersed with larger faceted ones in groups of three and five, attached to a tiny pouch made entirely of emerald-green seed beads. The pouch sported a fringe made of more seed beads and slightly larger beads, with glass bellflowers at the bottom of each strand. And right in the center shone a large emerald, set in gold prongs and glittering in the filtered light.
     “You must be Estrella,” I remarked.
     The girl looked up sharply, her eyes wide and her mouth agape. “How do you know my name?” she gasped.
     OK, I mused, she’s one of my Characters who doesn’t know me or that she’s imaginary. Aloud I replied, “Oh, I’ve heard a lot about you—mostly from Lotán.”
     Estrella looked puzzled. “From Lotán? But that is impossible; he shuns all contact with people—save Master Jeraias and myself.”
     “Well, I’m a friend of Jeraias’, so he tolerates me,” I explained, choosing my words carefully. “I’m a sort of historian, so I’m trying to get him to let me write his biography. But he’s a bit of a—well, let’s just say he prefers to scold me for forgetting about you.”
     “I?” Her eyebrows shot up.
     Carlo had found a sizable stick—a dead branch, really—near the oak trees we stood under and dropped it at my feet, looking up expectantly at me.
     “Oh, yes, dear,” I replied, hefting the thing as far down the drive as I could. “I’ll be writing your story, too, someday, Elyon willing. But it seems I can’t write it soon enough to suit Lotán. He seems to think I neglect you—that I’m somehow doing you an injustice if I spend time with any other Char—er, any of the other people I’m writing about.”
     Estrella shook her head sadly. “Life has not been kind to Lotán, but of course that does not excuse him. I am sorry he is unkind to you, Lady…?”
     I hesitated. “Call me Rosaleen. Everyone in the Free Realms calls me Rosaleen. And don’t worry too much about Lotán. He’s actually halfway polite compared to some of my—subjects.”
     Carlo galloped back, stick in mouth, and again laid it at my feet, this time with an excited yip!
     “OK, boy,” I laughed, picking up the least slobbery end of the stick. “Go get it!” I whooped, throwing it into The Meadow at the bottom of the Low Road.
     “I can speak to Master Jeraias about Lotán, perhaps,” Estrella offered. “He seems to be able to reason with him.”
     “Or you might speak to him yourself.”
     Estrella looked at me as though I had suggested she could fly. “You pardon, Lady Rosaleen, but I fail to understand you. I have no influence over Lotán.”
     I raised an eyebrow and one corner of my mouth. “You’d be surprised.”
     Just then, I heard the screen door on the front porch open and Mom and Peter talking up on the hill.
     Estrella extended her hand. “If you will excuse me, Carlo and I must go now. It was a pleasure to meet you, Lady Rosaleen.”
     I laughed. “Hardly a lady, dear, but thank you. I enjoyed meeting you, too.”
     “Do you—do you perhaps know of a Románii troupe in these parts?” she asked timidly, her voice quivering.
     “’Fraid not—not around here. But…but I do know there’s one scheduled to visit either Dunsmüir or Lochton soon. And—and I’m told there’s a fabulous dancer among them…named La Sapphira.”
     Estrella’s face brightened. “Oh! Perhaps that is the troupe my mother travels with! Thank you very kindly, my lady; you have renewed my hope.”
     We parted company then; Estrella and Carlo (stick in tow) continuing up the Low Road towards the forest behind our house, and myself joining my family at the Y to go fetch the mail.
     (I found out later that the reason Estrella called me a lady was because she saw the world around her as though she were still in Ýdára, and that somehow, my modern clothes looked, to her, more like the purple dress I wore on my birthday.)
     I really want to write her and Lotán’s story, Lord, I prayed. But I’m afraid it’ll be a while before I get to them, since “Prince Nácil” has top priority just now. But when I do get to them, Lord, please give me the right words; their story is special to me, and I want to tell it right.
     I had a feeling Lotán and Estrella were in good Hands….

* * *
God bless,

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quote Queste | September

For this month’s QQ, I’m dabbling with a character who is still in the Inspiration stage, and will probably show up way in the future in my Ýdära books. At this point, all I know about him is that his name is Edward, and he’s the king (probably of Dunsmüir)…but he’s only around ten years old, so he has several people around him to train him how to be king.
Frankly, I don’t know if I’ll even use this storyline—I only have a bzillion other Characters to write in this world, LOL—but I like this plot idea, so we’ll see what happens….

* * *
"I think this sword is too big for me." ~Edward:
Via Pinterest
     “This sword is bigger than I am,” Edward complained, gripping the handle tighter as the long blade weaved drunkenly through the air. “How am I to learn proper swordplay if I can’t even keep my weapon steady?”
     “Your Majesty must concentrate harder,” Talír replied calmly. “Your arms are strong enough, but your Majesty’s mind is elsewhere.”
     “I don’t want to fight,” Edward confessed, resting the tip of the sword on the grass. “It’s because of fighting—and swords—that my father is dead, and I have to be king.” He threw down the sword and glared at the ground. “I’m too young, Lord Talír! I’m tired of trying to learn how to rule a kingdom; I’m tired of endless lessons. I’m tired of never being allowed to spend time with other children. I’m only ten years old, yet everyone expects me to act like an adult!”
Older Talír:
Via Pinterest
(Ignore the horse for now)
    Talír rested one leather-clad hand on the boy’s shoulder.
     “I won’t deny that life has placed a heavy burden on your shoulders, your Majesty—shoulders that are, admittedly, too young for such a responsibility. But without you, Sire, our people have no leader.”
     “Father always said Elyon is the true King of any land,” Edward countered, folding his arms. “Why can’t we all just follow His Law, rather than forcing one man to make all the rules?”
     “Because people are like sheep, your Majesty, and need a shepherd to keep them in line. Yes, Yeshua is the Chief Shepherd,” he added, as Edward opened his mouth, “but He appoints under-shepherds to represent Him in the world. Just as your Majesty has lords and governors under you, so are the kings of this world under Elyon. Just as they are responsible to obey and carry out your laws and enforce them, so a king is answerable to Elyon, and it is a king’s duty to obey and enforce Elyon’s Law among his people.”
     Edward turned his back, but not before Talír caught sight of tears in the boy’s eyes. “I hate being king,” he sighed. “Other boys my age are allowed to run and play in the fields, or gather nuts in the woods, or swim in the creeks. I’d give anything to join them—to be a real little boy. I’m…I’m so lonely.”
     “Your Majesty’s destiny is a weighty one, and with great destiny comes great loneliness. Not everyone is fit to wear the crown.”
     Edward frowned at him over his shoulder. “But if I’m to be king, won’t I eventually have a queen? Perhaps I sha’n’t be so lonely then.”
     Talír laughed. “Now that’s a matter your Majesty is definitely rather young to worry about yet.”
     “I suppose so,” Edward conceded, lifting one corner of his mouth. He faced Talír with a humbler expression. “I don’t mean to be so difficult, Lord Talír—forgive me—but this has been building inside me so long, I simply couldn’t hold it in anymore. But I suppose a king must learn to be stronger than that.”
     “No king should bottle up his feelings, Sire; that only leads to harm. I know your Majesty desires to do right, but I also know that sometimes, one simply needs to ‘let off steam,’ as the saying goes. I’m not offended, Sire, so don’t trouble yourself on that head. Now then,” he continued, picking up Edward’s sword and handing it to him, “let’s resume your Majesty’s lesson.”
     Edward took a deep breath, nodded, and took hold of the weapon.
     This time, the blade remained steady.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rizkaland Blog Tour | Character Interview ~Jasmine~

It’s official—Book One of Kendra E. Ardnek’s Rizkaland Legends is available to the public! To celebrate, she’s throwing a fabulous Blog Tour (visit her blog, Knitted by God’s Plan, for details), and has asked some of her fellow bloggers to participate in the fun. Today, I’m honored to host a Character Interview, featuring Jasmine, handmaiden of the Water Princess.
Hello, Jasmine; welcome to The Rambling Rose! And don't be alarmed at all the strange people and Creatures waving at you through the windows--it's just the Peanut Gallery. They're Characters of mine who hang out here with me sometimes. They're harmless, and most of them are friendly.
Oh, okay. *waves slightly*

Now, then, we'll start with a simple question, in case you're nervous: What's your favorite color?

Yellow, I think. Today at least. There are so many pretty colors.

Do you have any pets?

Well, in a couple drafts of the book, I had a puppy named Mable, but Kendra doesn't know if I do anymore. She didn't make it into the final draft.

What were your first impressions of Water Princess and Fire Prince?

Well, I thought the Water Princess was a little strange, because she wasn't used to our ways yet. And when I met the Fire Prince, well ... Kendra says I can't say much about that, because of what she calls "spoilers," but he was very brave, and I liked him. The Water Princess doesn't seem to, though.
Kendra tells me you're a lady's maid to the Water Princess, and yet you're only eight years old. How did you get to be a lady's maid at so young an age?

Mostly because I'm a - oh, what's that big word that Jane likes to use. A prodigal? No, that's not quite it, but I'm really good with hair. And I didn't seem to be good at much else, so that's how they put me to work.

Tell us a little about your family.
Well, there's Papa, who's a guard for Lord Erik, and then there's Momma, who's the village midwife. Then there's Joan, who's already married, and Joy, who's also a Lady's maid, and then Jill, who's a seamstress, and Jennifer, who helps Momma, and Jessika, who works in the kitchen, and Julia, who cleans. Then there's me. And then there's Trevor, and Titus, and Tristan, but they're all babies still and don't do anything.

I hear you're good with hair. Since Water Princess' hair is so short, did you find it challenging to style?

Well, sometimes, but it just requires different styles.

Have you any dreams or ideas of what you want to be or do when you grow up?
Be a better lady's maid than I am now. And maybe fall in love and get married. That would be fun.

Thank you for being part of this interview. I look forward to visiting your world one day.

Can you bring your - what did you call it - your Peanut Gallery with you?

Heavens, no! Not the whole Peanut Gallery—too many folk to keep track of…but I may let a few of the better-behaved ones tag along.

* * *
Don’t forget to stop by Kendra’s blog and give her a virtual toast. Be sure to visit all the other fabulous bloggers hosting Character Interviews, Book Reviews, and other festivities!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Cover Reveal—Water Princess, Fire Prince

My fellow scribbler, Miss Kendra E. Ardnek, is getting ready to publish the first of her Rizkaland Legends in August! *Confetti*

Book Description:
When the Lady Dragon does come,
Hold fast, do not fear, do not run.
Your Water Princess will fight,
Fire Prince will set all to right.
Each shall come from a Fall,
Their union will save you all.

Despite the fact that she's on track for competing in the Olympics, and he's practically raised his younger brothers since they lost their mom in a car accident, Clara Mandras and Andrew Stevenson are pretty much normal teens. They have normal hopes, normal dreams, and they live in a normal world.
All this is torn away from them when they are thrust into another world and declared Water Princess and Fire Prince. With no experience ruling a country, meeting each other for the first time, and being expected to fight the Lady Dragon – an evil sorceress plaguing the world of Rizkaland – Clara and Andrew are underprepared and inexperienced. Unless they learn to work together despite their standing opposition, Rizkaland's hope will be lost.

What is to come will change their lives forever.

Author Bio:

Kendra E. Ardnek loves fairy tales and twisting them in new and exciting ways.  She's been practicing her skills on her dozen plus cousins and siblings for years, "Finish your story, Kendra", is frequently heard at family gatherings.  Her sole life goal has always been to grow up and be an author of fantasy and children's tales that also glorify God and his Word. You can read more about her on her blog,knittedbygodsplan.blogspot.com.

Available for kindle preorder: http://www.amazon.com/Water-Princess-Prince-Rizkaland-Legends-ebook/dp/B00YTQBTDI/  $2.99 the 19th and 20th ONLY (at which point I’ll put it up to its official price of 3.99)

I must admit to being really excited to visit this world, after pouring over Kendra’s Pinterest board all these months. And having read Kendra’s blog posts about the protagonists in WP,FP, I’m really looking forward to meeting them and reading their whole story (OK, OK, I’ll admit she had me hooked when I found out Andrew—the “Fire Prince”—is a redhead :-P).
But enough rambling. Here’s the loverly cover art:

A simple design, but none the less intriguing. There’s something about polar opposites—and Fire and Water in particular—learning to work together that has a special attraction. Who are these people, and exactly how are they “Water Princess” and Fire Prince”? Do they possess special powers…or is it something beyond that? How will their union save an entire world? I’m probably not the only one eager to read the book and find out!
And just for fun, here’s the interview I did with the principle characters, Clara and Andrew, as well as the author herself:

(Kendra) Hi Tom WildRose!
I'd like to thank you for graciously allowing me over to your blog on June 19th for this cover reveal - my biggest reveal yet!
Thank you, Kendra, for letting me be a part of this cover reveal!

Andrew—I hear you're the cook in your family. What's one of your favorite dishes to make--your specialty, if you will?
Veggie Pizza, but don't tell my brothers that it's veggie, because then they might stop eating it. With three growing boys to feed - well, four, if you count myself - I've become quite adept at hiding healthy food to make it seem not so healthy.

Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. And hats off to you for taking the time to make healthy meals and make them taste good.

Clara—Besides swimming and martial arts, do you have any other hobbies? Knitting/crochet? Painting? Sculpting? Gardening? (I guess what I'm really asking—out of curiosity, mind, so please don't take this wrong—is, do you have any more feminine interests?)
Feminine interests, hmm ... well it's more of a culture thing, whether or not something is feminine or masculine. But, I suppose the most feminine activity I do is dance, maybe gymnastics. Truth is, I'm an active person, don't like to be still, do like to push my physical limits, and I'm all thumbs when it comes to most handcrafts, and I live in the city where gardening is impractical. I do a lot of reading, mostly classics, if you'll count that.

*Sheepish* That’s true—the things I mentioned could be done by either gender. (And I’m reminded that there was a time when knitting was done mainly by men and considered unladylike!)

Kendra—I notice you like to pair up people who are pretty much polar opposites (and what could be more opposite than Fire and Water?). Are there any couples in this series (or your other writing in general) who have similar personalities?
Of all my couples, I think Rosamond and Robert of Bookania are my only "like attracts like" couple that I've developed (there may be more, but I haven't worked with them sufficiently to know). Truth be known, I like a blend of both philosophies, but you have to admit that opposites-attract couples make for a lot of conflict.

Very true; and part of the fun is how they find out how their differences can actually benefit one another. I’m eager to see how you do it with Clara and Andrew!

What about you, Gentle Readers? Are you looking forward to reading Kendra’s Rizkaland Legends? Have you seen her fabulous storyboard? Which character(s) is/are you looking forward to meeting?

God bless,

Monday, June 8, 2015

Quote Queste (June Edition) ~Prince Nácil~

By God’s grace, I actually had some free time for once, so I whipped up this month’s Quote Queste entry! This month’s Quote is:

 I don’t know if I’ll actually use this scene in my current WIP, Prince Nácil, but it kinda fits the mood of the book, and Nácil’s character in particular.

* * *
Nácil Vituódhtrán, Crown Prince of the Faeries
via Pinterest
 “They used to shout my name,” he murmured, “greeting me with joyous smiles. Our people loved their Royal Family…but now….” He sighed. “After all these years—after all that has happened in Ýdära—I cannot help but wonder if there are any left who even remember the House of Othniel.”
     “Many, your Majesty,” Lady Müriel assured him. “There are few of our people who do not hate and fear Iceheart for what she has done to Arboria—and to yourself. They dare not so much as speak your name aloud, but they do whisper it…with hope.”
Reminds me of Müriel
via Pinterest
     He turned his head, frowning in puzzlement at her. “Hope?” he echoed. “How can my name give our people hope?”
     She looked him straight in the eye, her own eyes shining, her voice firm, yet gentle. “They live in hope, Sire, that you will return, and defeat Iceheart, and reclaim the throne.”
     He exhaled heavily and nodded solemnly. “It would appear that Elyon has sent me here to do just that…or to die in the attempt,” he intoned, adding under his breath, “which is more likely at this point.”

* * *

Until next time, Gentle Readers,
God bless,

Monday, June 1, 2015

Quote Queste (May Edition) ~Yong Yu-Yin & Tora’tsuki~

Well, this is a bit late, but…Life happened. Anyhoo, my dear cyber-friend and fellow scribbler, Miss Melody Muffin, has begun a fun new venture called Quote Queste (actually, she started it a few months ago, but I haven’t been able to join in until now). It’s a writing exercise, taking a short quote and writing a scene based on it. Click here for all the particulars if you want to join the fun!
So, then, on with the Queste! This month’s Quote is:

The scene you’re about to read is taken from my “Super Hero-meets-Fantasy” world of Onória. It’s a fun place, and quite frankly is in danger of eclipsing Ýdära as my favorite imaginary world. Someday I’ll throw a blog party or something—like Kendra did a while back—and write up a proper introductory post for each of my worlds/series/books, so’s y’all will know what in Middle-earth (or out of it) I’m talking about. :-P
Anyroad, the characters are relatively new—I thought them up months ago (maybe even last year), but this is the first time I’ve actually written anything with them. I should mention here that their “Tribe” (called the Sulu on Bro’s suggestion) is comprised of Humans whose ancestry is a combination of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other Oriental cultures. I’ve been interested in certain aspects of Japanese culture since I was a kid…but unfortunately, research isn’t my strong suit, so if I get something wrong, that’s why. I’ll have to bone up on Oriental culture before I write that part of the book….
But enough yakking from the Anka. On with the story!

* * *
Tora'tsuki, dressed for her coming-of-age ceremony     Yong Tora’tsuki scowled at her reflection in the full-length mirror. She saw a slender maiden—just barely fourteen, she reminded herself—draped in a flowing red silk skirt that reached the bamboo-matted floor.  A hip-length white kimono-jacket trimmed with red and tied with a simple red sash completed the outfit, contrasting strikingly with her jet-black hair, which hung in thick hanks in front of her shoulders. Tora’tsuki rolled her eyes and sighed, reaching up and squeezing the knot comprised of the rest of her hair, resisting the urge to pull out all the pins—and the silly silk tiger lily Yu-Yin had stuck in the bun—and fix her hair in a more practical braid. But she had promised her twin she would do nothing to spoil her looks, and it would be dishonorable to break her word.
     A strange reflection, to be sure, and one she still had trouble believing to be one of herself. How she longed for her comfortable trousers and hapi-coat! How she wished she could at least take out her katana and practice with it before the ceremony. Even if she merely waved it over her head a few times, that would cool the anxiety simmering deep inside.
     She smiled. Why not? There’s still time before we need to leave.
     She crossed to a wall of the room where the slender, gently-curved longsword hung above her cupboard. It boasted a black disc between the foot-long handle and three-foot blade, cast to look like a circle of twisted rope surrounding a pair of crouching tigers, beautifully enameled. Little bronze discs connected the tigers to the rope, and each was blackened to represent the different phases of the moon. The handle itself was made of the same shining steel as the blade, and wrapped in such a way that little diamond-shapes of the metal peeked through the black woven braid.
Not quite right, but similar to Tora'tsuki's katana (imagine it with enameled tigers and moon-phase discs inside the twisted border)     Tora’tsuki carefully removed the sword from its brackets and slowly pulled it out of the polished ebony sheath, relishing the sound it made. She laid down the sheath and walked slowly—silently cursing the length of her skirt—to the center of the room, took firm hold of the handle with both hands, and raised the katana over her head. She smiled broadly. I feel better already!
     A knock at the door brought her back to reality. “Tora’tsuki?” Yu-Yin murmured from the other side.
     “You may enter,” she called.
Yu-Yin, dressed for her coming-of-age ceremony     The door opened, admitting a different sort of mirror-image. One that walked and moved independently from Tora’tsuki, but who possessed the same slender, petite build and perfect oval face. One clad in silver-grey shaded with stormy-blue and navy where Tora’tsuki wore red. One with a cluster of dangling silk flowers in her hair, like a string of little bells, instead of the brilliant orange lily. A mirror-image sporting a shaded blue sash woven with silver threads and beautifully embroidered. A mirror-image whose rice-powdered face wore an expression of horror at sight of the katana.
     “Yong Tora’tsuki!” Yu-Yin gasped.
     “Yes, Sister, I’m holding my katana. I was about to practice my instructor’s latest techniques when you knocked.”
     Yu-Yin’s obsidian eyes widened. “You promised!” she whispered.
     Tora’tsuki frowned and waved the sword in a circular motion above her head. “I gave you my word I’d do nothing to spoil my precious ceremonial garb,” she pointed out. “And I’ve been standing here doing absolutely nothing for twenty minutes. I simply had to get out my katanahad to, I say! I feel I’ll explode unless I have an outlet.” She grinned impishly as an idea came to her. Then, before Yu-Yin could react, Tora’tsuki twirled the sword above her head, running towards her twin so quickly that to anyone who might have looked in, Tora’tsuki would have appeared to be a blur of red and white. A mere two feet from Yu-Yin, she made a flying leap, turned three somersaults above her astounded sister’s head, placed her feet firmly on the wall above the door, and used her momentum to run a few feet along the ceiling. Then she did two more midair flips and landed in exactly the same spot she had stood when Yu-Yin had first entered the room. She beamed triumphantly—and a bit smugly—at her twin, who stood like one turned to stone, gaping at her.
     “You must not do that!” Yu-Yin whispered hoarsely, when she found her voice. “Suppose someone had come in just now—suppose someone saw—”
     “Everyone in this house knows about our powers,” Tora’tsuki drawled, swinging her katana back and forth gracefully. “Why should we worry about being seen to use them?”
     Yu-Yin lowered her head, clasping her hands in front of her. “Not everyone.”
     Tora’tsuki paused in mid-swing and stared at her sister. “Not even Ru-Ping?”
     “Especially Ru-Ping.”
     “Yu-Yin!” Tora’tsuki flung her hands in the air, exasperated. “You and he are betrothed to be married in seven years—do you mean to say you haven’t told him he’ll be marrying a Super?”
     “Shh!” Yu-Yin pleaded. “Please! Keep your voice down, I beg of you. No, I have not told him yet. His nerves are frayed enough with the ceremony and having our betrothal made public. How can I add to that the knowledge that I now lead a double life?”
     “You speak as though being Super were a dishonorable thing,” Tora’tsuki frowned. “What could be more honorable than to be a Guardian of the Realm? To protect our people from invasion? To aid the Shogun in making his kingdom a safe and prosperous place? It is a great honor, a great responsibility.”
     “Yes,” Yu-Yin sighed, “we are expected to be heroes, yet we are only children.”

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Until next time, Gentle Readers,
God bless,