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Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

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Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:22 am

Hey there...
After some time of quiet around myself I'm in a predictament regarding a story (or more) I wrote.
I need a beta for this one.
I can speak English very well though grammar is always a problem with foreing languages.

I hope someone will read this through and tell me if she/ he found any grievious mistakes.
So I guess I will get it on with the story.


Last edited by sarcastic-dog on Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:01 am; edited 1 time in total

sarcastic-dog
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:25 am

This is the rewrite of „Long winter nights".

I decided that the old version had not enough infos in it and was indeed to short. So I tried to pack a lot more of info and character into this story. I changed a few things as well, like names and similar.

Sorry to everyone who saw my story simply vanish, but it was eating at me and I'm a perfectionist.

The poem in the beginning is out of Dante Aligheries „Divina Comedia".

If you want to read it, go buy the book and read the „Inferno, First Song 1-9"

Have fun.




Long winter nights

1. The purple Lady

Halfway through the journey we are living

I found myself deep in a darkened forest,

For I had lost all trace of the straight path.

Ah how hard it is to tell what it was like,

How wild the forest was, how dense and rugged!

To think of it still fills my mind with panic.

So bitter it is that death is hardly worse!

But to describe the good discovered there

I here will tell the other things I saw.



The wind chased the snow around the tiny house at the foot of the hill with the ruins of an ancient castle smothered in snow. Thick layers of the white substance were piling around the door and crows cawed in the distance. The forest was looking through the lit windows with a thousand eyes and somehow it seemed to smile.

The kids were restless. Their mother had rushed them in just minutes ago to prepare for bed, however none of them were tired. The day had been quite busy, throwing snowballs while the elders had been out cutting wood. The first snow in winter was always a feast for the children but it also meant hard times ahead. The parents let them play well into the darkness though this didn't hinder the little rascal from complaining. So, for little humans, clad in sleeping wear in various states, were gathered around a big fluffy chair in front of the fire place.

The old man in the chair raised an eyebrow at the display in front of him. A grizzled white beard which almost did cover his entire face and twinkling eyes full of wisdom and wonder. He took a big puff from his long pipe which rested on one of the arms of the chair and his expression turned into a smile when one of them, the youngest of the bunch, raised her arms and latched onto him like a desperate monkey while pleading , „Tell us a story, Gran...please."

He grinned. The wrinkles in his face deepening as he was contemplating about an appropriate bedtime story. One of the older girls, raised her green eyes at him and demanded „We want a story we didn't hear already, Gramps. So think a bit longer this time ..." His grin broadened. Seemed like the little lass had caught him.

„Well Elena..." he raised a white eyebrow at his green eyed granddaughter. „You have heard about the castle up on the hill, behind the village, right?" His shining brown eyes regarded the kids carefully. „You all know it's forbidden to enter it...many have tried and vanished behind the rocks and stones and the big gates..."

The little girl scowled. "You already told us about the secret passage, Gramps." The old man laughed gently. "Then I have to tell a new one I guess..." he trailed off.

He gathered them around them some more and began.

"Listen carefully, because this story is as true as my hair is white..."

Kurga, the small kingdom in the north of Fuuka is dominated by a dense and dangerous forest, called the forest of Daran.

Apart from small parts of land lying in valleys in the Rusbeki mountains over the half of the kingdom is covered in woodland.

The wood is home to many small villages. The capital city Kardash almost at the center of the forest is renowned for it's sights and beautiful houses carved out of wood. It's only natural that the main export is wood or small plants and animals.

The settlements in the forest, much like those in the mountains are fortified with a wooden stockade and a fence. Breeding animals is more common than growing crops, the beasts of the forest, especially the wolves can get quite aggressive in winter. So the animals can be brought into the stockade during any attack.

The forest is famous for it's beasts. There are legends of giant wolves, talking bears and rampaging boars.

Particular famous are, or more were the giant wolves. A special breed only found in the northern parts of the kingdom. Especially the Kruger family up in the north was famous for riding in battle on wolves the size of an ox. Now they were almost extinct.

The people are hardworking and solitary. It's hard for an outsider to fit into a community. In the forest villages there are special people and sometimes merchants who hold up trade and communications with the rest of the kingdom. Depending of the fief or the dukedom the roads are paved, simply trampled earth or barely visible.

The nobles know their position in the higher order of things and sometimes come over as a bit crazed or extremely cold and aloof. The outer kingdoms got the saying „...as cold as a noble winter" which means that the nobles of Kurga have a very close relationship to their land and it's seasons. Normally it isn't uttered when some of them is around. Legends tell that those connections go as far as changing appearance in correspondence to the season, however most deny those stories to be true.

The kingdom is separated into 5 big dukedoms. They are Artai, Rasnyce, Kistraya, Bhodka and Kruger. From the last one came the long line of kings the land had from its founding to the modern times now.

Each of this families are nearly as old as the kingdom. Some of them, the Artai and Kruger family are even older. The kingdom was a dukedom of the Daronian empire some hundred years ago. The Krugers ascended over the rank of Dukes and defended the land against an attack from their neighbours. Shortly after the victory they were declared the royal family and the kingdom of Kurga was founded.

They had held the kingship ever since. They married into the other families to prevent the dukes and their monetary funds from running out or turning on them, however at least it was always a true Kruger sitting on the throne.

The line was somewhat broken a few years ago. 4 years ago the land suffered under the pest. It had been brought in through merchant vessels over the various small rivers. The rats carrying the disease had run into the few big city and not soon after, the first people died.

The epidemic proved to be fatal for the small country. Within less than a year almost over a third of the population had died in its fatal grip. For a land relying so heavily on their peasants and the products they brought to market it was a heavy blow. Economy came to an halt. Crops simply went to rot on the fields, cos there was no one being able to harvest them. Soon starvation swept the land...and with it came the riots.

Most of the nobles failed to adapt to the situation, either because they couldn't comprehend it or simply they thought themselves above the illness. Soon they were proved false.

In the end even Kardash wasn't spared the problems. In the end the black death held the capital in an even more heavy grip than the country itself. Due to the packed living arrangements in the city the desase spread like a wild fire, leaping from one house to the next sparing no one the heartache of losing someone dear.

When the royal court conducted that there had to be a regulation concerning the food for the survivors the city went into an uproar. Some say it was the work of strategically placed agitators, though the results were the same. The citizens stormed the royal castle in the city only to find that their king too had succumbed to the illness and had died the day before. The castle was raided but they found no trace of his wife and two daughters. The culprits responsible for the uprising were swiftly dealt with and in absence of the royal family line the dukes voted for a new king. A distant relative of the old King Rodrich II. He was crowned as Stanislaw I and his first action, though rumor was going around that he did it on the pressure of the dukes, was to remove the remains of his relative from the family crypt in Kardash with the explanation that the could still could possibly carry the dreaded disease. The fear of the black death was still great then, so nobody complained though suspicion rose that the new king was just going to be a pawn of the dukes surrounding him at court.

The land was still in a repairing state. Whole villages had vanished during the plague and the merchants had to find new routes through the forest, which had become even more dangerous than before. Brigands were the least to worry about.

The winter had started very hard this year around and the wild animals were fewer in numbers, due to poachers and typical deseases. So the wolves and other beasts had come down to the cities and small villages, feasting on the dead lying around. They had acquired a taste for this easy food, specially in dark times like this and it could happen to a merchant group that they lied down at the fire place, only to find in the morning that one of their companions had been eaten alive while sleeping.

As an response to that they began to travel with escorts. First it had been dogs, but soon they proved to be even more easy prey for the various packs in the woods. Then they started to hire professional hunters...that was also when the tales of the „Queen of Snow" started.

She had heard first of it at the docks of one of the little ports at the river Donya. The tales had been spread by merchants who always claimed that they had heard the stories from one who actually had seen the woman.

It always the same: the merchants had been stuck in the woods with wild beasts sorounding them, the guards had fled long ago and a heavy snow storm was coming over them. The wolves attacked in the night and the stories always ended with a woman standing in the snow and rescuing the desperate merchants. In a few stories she was a beautiful young woman, wielding the power of ice and snow and turning the wolves into glittering sculptures, in others she either was a hideous mix between beast and human, Strigoya a human wolf controlling the packs, or an old hag which was actually the forest itself.

Shizuru Viola came from a country where everyone believed in such tales. She for her part had seen enough to not believe in creepy bedtime stories anymore, but she was superstitious enough to see a part of truth in them. Someone had rescued these merchants after all.

Curiosity had been nagging at her. That had been part of the reason she had let herself being hired as an armed escort for a route into the forest. Maybe she could see with her own eyes if this new legend was indeed true.

At least she knew that there probably about her too were stories circulating around through the various merchant and bank houses. People used to turn around when she walked and sometimes she couldn't ignore the whispers that seemed to follow her everywhere.

Purple and blue were both very expensive and also royal colors. So far she had been the only one around, beside a few nobles with a blue or purple sashes but nothing more, who was wandering around dressed in a deep purple coat.

Her origins were clearly visible. The garments worn in Daranje were almost similar to those in Kurga but different enough that a inhabitant of both countries could tell the difference immediately.

Her coat, a kaftan it was called at home, was dyed purple and had trimmings at the borders of golden rabbits fur. Underneath she wore a shirt which ended at her knees, in other countries people would have called this one a tunic but at home they called it a rhubak. It was heavily embroidered with red around the hem, collar and sleeves and a maroon belt with a shiny, complex knotted buckle held it together at her hips. The pants were lighter and made of deer. Gamashes made from some long white fur covered her thighs and if that whole get-up didn't brand her a foreigner so would the weapon she was always carrying with her.

It was fashioned like a lance with a shaft of about 6 feet and a blade attached to the side. A bardiche wasn't used anymore in Kurgan. So far only the palace guard had issued them, though they long had exchanged it for weapons more suitable in close quarter.

This didn't mean that the young woman didn't know how to use this particular polearm. In fact she was quite adapt with it and n their journey through the forest did she have many a opportunity to show her skills, even in close quarters.

So it had been 3 days since she had left the merchants behind to travel alone and in peace, with at least 12 guards they would be fine without her. The feeling of people who were afraid of her was sitting heavily in her mind and she almost could have tasted the relief in the air when she had told the leader of her desire to leave. She had welcomed the silence and the snow. It felt like being at home again. Though it also brought back unpleasant memories.

Due to the severeness of your task we have no other choice, Shizuru. You have to go... The words still stung at the back of her throat despite it having happened a long time ago. She had been hurt and angry with her family back then...now she could understand that it had been a form of protecting her too. She had become stronger over the years, she wasn't the little girl anymore. One day she would return and set things right again.

Her home country was just a a few hundred miles behind the borders of the kingdom and the brunette could feel a wave of nostalgia washing over her. It had been so long since she had been there. Though there was no option of returning...at least not for her. Guilt began to gnaw at her bones again and with an agitated frown she plowed even further ahead in the snow.

The snow had been falling heavily for days now. It piled so high on the trampled earth that the wagons barely got through. The close proximity of her home and the constant bickering and frightened whispering of the merchant soon had grated on her nerves. Also that the more bolder and older ones tried to make advances didn't raise her esteem for them. She left the group in the second small village they had reached three days ago.

Ever since she had enjoyed the silence of the winter. It soothed her already frayed nerves. News from home had been bad and she cursed her fate for the bad things that had happened back then. Maybe this was the reason why she always hovered around in the north. Her mother had been right. She couldn't leave her home simply behind. Blood is thicker than water after all...

Determination fueled her movements and she plowed further through the snow and into the darkness.

There were eyes watching every move of the intruder on their turf. This human female though was not like the others they had encountered before. First she didn't smell of fear, in fact she smelled dangerous.

It made his skin crawl and his lips tightened into a snarl. A growl behind him.

They would watch her more, follow her every move and then, when she wasn't expecting it they would strike out from the shadows of the forest. Though they would have to be mindful of the long stick she was carrying. He still could remember the sting on his hide from one of them not so long ago. He had twisted and throttled it till it had broken much like the human who had tried to hurt him.

He would do that again soon.

The others behind him sniffed the air repeatedly. Yes, he could smell the blood on her too, saw the rabbit skins hanging from her poach which was belted around her side and it made his mouth water.

He gave a silent signal to his companions. Soon, very soon indeed.

The dark was closing in now and to her dismay Shizuru found out that she had lost the road. Snowfall was getting heavier by the minute and the brunette was glad when she arrived at a very thick patch of firs. The trees were heavily laden with snow, however under them at their trunks a bed of dry needles had been prepared.

Shizuru rejoiced. She had been tired from a day of wandering and it would be unlikely the she would encounter a hut or a small village here. The trees were offering necessary fortification against the snow and soon the young woman had a small fire burning.

She needed the rest. Though she couldn't allow herself the luxury of sleep. Not when she was alone in the woods.

So it would be another night with open eyes. The wolves and other great beasts were only waiting for an opportunity...she had to take care and guard herself.

Within minutes she had dug a circle around her sleeping gear and the fireplace, placed dry sticks of wood into it and a firecircle was surrounding her place guarding her from anything that feared the fire made by humans.

After a meal of dried meat and bread, she didn't want to attract more attention with the smell of roasting beef, especially in the night. Shizuru spend the rest of the night cleaning her gear and weapons and drying her purple coat at the fire.

Without her noticing she fell asleep while cleaning her shoes.

The female certainly was a clever one, he had to give her that. They had followed her all day, twice they had been forced to go in circles around her to avoid detection. Definitely some sharp eyes and ears on that someone.

Some of the younger generations wanted to attack as long as she was unaware, but he held them back.

He feared the fire with a passion. Bad memories resurfaced whenever he smelled coal and burnt wood and he licked the fur on his left side which was almost hairless and had the pink hue of an angry burn not so long ago.

They waited.

The human seemed to get sleepy and as soon as she wasn't moving about and slumping over he gave the signal to attack.

One of the eager whelps, ready to prove his mettle on the hunt and in battle, attempted a jump over the wall of fire but something repelled him in midair and he flew back to earth with a yelp.

A new smell assaulted the chiefs nostrils. His yellow eyes widened in panic. SHE was here...

He gave the sign for retreat. His comrades followed eagerly tails between their legs.

Shizuru woke up in the cold. The fire circle had burnt down in the night and the glow of the climbing sun was creeping over the trees.

Someone was watching her. The person sat right next to the still glimmering fire not a 6 feet away. In an blink of an eye it was gone.

Must have been a trick of light...and the lack of sufficient sleep.

Shizuru could feel the tightening of the muscles around her eyes which usually indicated that she was in for a headache.

She went to pack her things and extinguish the fire and stopped dead in her tracks.

There right next to her weapons and the fireplace were the deep imprints of two booted feet. There also lay the remains of a half eaten roasted rabbit. Someone had been here!

When she finally began to walk again she noticed the numerous tracks of wolves around her sleeping place. The human tracks simply vanished among them as if they never had existed.

Shizuru shoot a nervous and disturbed glance towards the treeline and advanced further.

It was strange indeed.


Last edited by sarcastic-dog on Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:04 am; edited 2 times in total

sarcastic-dog
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:32 am

So this is Chapter 2....
Had a long journey till there. I hope that people are still reading this or my boyfriend would be right and this would be a waste of my creativity.
Christmas was quite busy and a desaster....I really hadn't had the heart in me to begin to write again on the computer (it always leads to some arguments ...) though my notes were getting bigger and bigger.
I try to be a bit more descriptive from now on. Wish me luck. ^^
Thankfully the snow gave me back the inspiration for this piece (40cm !!)
I hope you like it so read and review !

Another piece of Dante’s inferno in this one.




Chapter 2: Ghosts from the past


But when I had reached the base of a hill,
There at the border where the valley ended
That had cut my heart to the quick with panic,
I looked up at the hill and saw its shoulder
Mantled already with the planet's light
That leads all people straight by every road.
With that my panic quieted a little
After lingering on in the lake of my heart
Through the night I had so grievously passed.




The clearing behind her resting place looked peaceful enough with the white blankets of snow spread out over it. Shizuru knew that looks could be deceiving and that she had to tread carefully. It still bugged her that the tracks of her mysterious visitor simply vanished on the clearing, still she looked around for them a few moments though she began her journey again when she found absolutely nothing. Her headache which she had acknowledged in the morning was becoming worse.

Soon enough her misgivings about the nature of the ground proofed to be true when she felt the slippery and smooth surface of ice underneath her soles. The lake had been frozen over, but the ice still cricked and groaned dangerously when she attempted to cross it.

Twice did she slip and fell down into the snow. The coldness bit harshly into her face and her hands took most of the brute of the fall however her skin burned after it. There had been snow slipping down her neck and Shizuru needed at least fifteen minutes to properly get it out of her clothes.
The second time she twisted her ankle as it broke through the surface on the far side of the lake. She did her best to get away from the mass of frozen water as fast as possible. It only strengthened her resolve to leave when she found the frozen solid carcass of a deer with half of his body, including the head, under the waterline just about 15 meters from the shore.
This meadow was a deathtrap.


Soon she had reached the trees again and here the walk was maybe more tricky, though she didn't have to look too closely on the ground. A sharp and cold wind had picked up and rustled the needles of the firs she passed. It stung and burned in her throat when the huntress inhaled but she never had felt so alive. It was the strong and cold wind from the north and to her it smelled like homecoming.



He sniffed the crisp air suspiciously. The roasted meat of the grilled hare had vanished down the bellies of his people in seconds. Still, the smell lingered...diffusing his concentration.
The place reeked of human...and HER. There was a distinguish minty scent in the air, like the smell of ice over pine trees. He knew SHE smelled like the wood itself, a fact which made it even more difficult to stay away from HER. The smell reminded them to much of home and the dark woods. They were the free ones! They would not cower before someone!

He concentrated on the scent of the human again. The fair female had left the trees behind and had stepped out on the lake. A growl of disappointment left his throat. That area was treacherous. He had lost many a young pup to the lake. There even was a possibility of the human having drowned.

He knew that they were going against HER wishes, if they crossed that lake they would enter forbidden territory but if you had a lot of mouths to feet you let the rules fall over board and grap what you can get.
One of the whelps yowled behind him. They were hungry again. It hadn't been much meat on the small hare and it definitely hadn't been enough for the youngsters. Though it was still to dangerous to act right now.
They would follow the female within a distance and out of her sight, wait till she tired and then he and his fellows would strike from the shadows like they had done many times before. He yipped at his family and together they vanished into the murky and dark depths of the forest.



Snowflakes stung in Shizurus eyes. A storm was brewing over the horizon and she would nto be caught unaware in the middle of it. She had to find shelter soon.

Also did she feel being watched. Someone or something followed her that was sure. The young huntress always had trusted her instincts on that. The question was who or what was following her and why?

She had to stay focused or she would loose her way in the endless maze of trees and white snow.
Shelter was hard to find and the young woman decided to keep walking till nightfall to find a suitable place to rest or till the storm forced her to build something from scratch.


There was fire in that girl. That much she had to admit. She had seen far too much people on that particular path which had disappeared without a trace. Men and woman looking far stronger, than the young, fragile woman, who was trudging through the snow.
Her eyes had been on the fair headed woman since some of her many guards had informed her of the crossing on the borders. The determination, she could almost smell it in the wind.
Sadly she was walking in the totally wrong direction if she wanted to find shelter. After the trees right before her were the vast meadows of Rindishy. The village had perished in the years of the plaque and now the field lay barren with the wind howling over them.
A stab of disappointment in her heart. Such fire was rare in these parts of the land, it should be protected...cherished.
She gave a sign with her head and in a flash she and her friends vanished.


Night was falling quickly and settled on the white trees like a coat of darkness. Shizuru had been walking for nearly 11 hours straight. The headache had worsened considerably, she could see flashes in front of her eyes and her head felt like it would burst any minute.
When the sun set she only stayed still to lit a small lamp which was fastened on her knapsack.

Orange light cut a path through the inky blackness and small animals fled again into the shadows. A shelter which would provide enough warmth against the winds eluded her. In the end the young huntress was so tired that she just huddled down under a fir and pulled the lavender coat tightly around her body.
Fire...she had to make a fire. However the sticks she found were not dry enough and when she had managed to open her knapsack with almost frozen fingers half of the dry wood she had kept there fell into the wet snow.

Tear of exhaustion leaked from her wine-coloured eyes and almost instantly they froze on her face.
A second attempt at fire failed when she discovered that her numb fingers wouldn't hold the flint and steel. Resigning her fate to any god that was watching this night she curled up under the green needly branches and tried to warm her fingers. Maybe later she could make a fire......



The light of the small iron lantern guided her and her friends to the small thicket.
When she finally found the woman she was fast asleep, shattering her teeth and with ice-cold skin.
This was not supposed to end here; she wouldn't let this happen. Her determination on that part surprised her. Before she wouldn't have given a damn about who died in a frosty night on her lands. Though in this particular case she did...and boy was she surprised about it.

She did send her minions off to gather food and dry wood. She and her litter brother stayed with the woman who had stopped shivering when her brother curled up around her.



An ice-cold hand caressed the brunettes feverish face who flinched and tried to open her eyes.

What she had seen at the moment she couldn't say and also not remember clearly. Someone had spoke to her....and she had felt warm and fine fur around her.
Whoever it was, he or she was trying to warm her up, though that didn't matter. Only the warmth she felt did.

She had tried to focus on what the voice had said and after a few more flakes of snow had fallen on her she had been asleep again.
That deep and gentle voice she had heard followed her into her dreams. „ You shouldn't stay Menimishyka. You're on the wrong path....“


Shizuru awoke slowly to the smell of burning wood and roasted meat. It was strange....She could almost imagine
an Ishyaq, a snow woman, taking interest in her. She still could feel the ice-cold touch on her face.
However this was ridiculous. Ishyaq where never known to venture into the forest regions, they rather stayed out on the flat plains.
She couldn't remember making a fire and cooking. Had she died? This wasn't the place where she had fallen asleep. The baffled woman sat in the remains of an old farmhouse. The ruins provided shelter enough to keep the cutting edge of the wind outside.

Her coat had been dried thoroughly and spread out over her while she had been sleeping. A little fire was burning bright in the corner. A roasted rabbit, wrapped in it's own quickly scrapped raw hide had been buried in the coals, emitting a delicious smell. His two companions and there furs hung still on one of the still standing support beams of the building.
She hadn't caught those....There wasn't a sign of another human being around. Only her boots looked a bit worse and like something had chewed on them for a while.

Maybe she really had died...maybe her body was still lying under that tree, gradually being covered up by the snow.
NO! She remembered someone being there, carrying her. She could still smell the hot breath of some animal on her face. So this someone must have carried her here, took great care in making her sleep as nice and warm as possible, didn't steal her belongings and made sure to leave a few pieces of meat for her when she would wake....But why then simply vanish?

Hunger was gnawing at her and her loudly protesting stomach told Shizuru that she should try to solve this mystery while eating. The rabbit, removed from his hot grave under the coals tasted delicious and the brunette almost gobbled it down in one bite.
Now she had time to properly take in her surroundings. The house, or the ruins of it, was quite old. The wooden beams still stood, covered in moss and snowy winter-grass. The ceiling had fallen through, as well as the roof, however that must have been quite long ago. Shizuru could only see a small hill of rotten reed and wood, partial hidden by the snow. A hedgehog was sitting in front of it, nibbling on a nut he had found somewhere. He scurried back into his grassy home when he noticed her.

Animals in her homeland up in the high north were different. They spent the whole summer eating and storing food to get enough supplies and fat to survive the colder times. Then when the first snow fell they would hide away and only would come out at the beginning of spring. Or some tried to survive like the big white bears from the coast. They hunted the fat animals who couldn't build a shelter and even whales.
She threw a few more logs into the fire.

The place reminded her of home. Her family had lived also in a Long-house. Maybe 30 people were able to fit in here, the foundations had been strongly build in stone and the floor had been made from planks which had turned rotten in the wet elements. That was the only difference to the house her family had build so long ago.
The last time she had seen such a house was when she had crossed the borders of Kurga almost 6 years ago.

Shizuru felt homesick, here in this abandoned place it wasn’t so difficult to remember the hurt and sad face of her mother.

The young woman gritted her teeth as she tried to wish the image away from her mind when some movement at the edge of her vision drew her attention.

There, like being whisked on the spot by the violent winds outside, stood a white wolf. Snowflakes in his ivory coat glittered in the low light and he simply stared at her from a distance.

Suddenly the magnificent animal turned around, walking right through a gap in the ruined stonewall. After a few seconds it returned peaking through the stones and sending Shizuru an expecting look.
„Woof !“
The white one flicked its ears, scratched snow beneath him and went back to where he came from.

Shizuru, despite feeling small, lost, sad and homesick had to smile at his antics. She raised an eyebrow when the wolf came back and stood at least 5 feet away from her. Big white paws scratched the snow and the beast flicked its tail back and forth.

Obviously he tried to look friendly. „You’re not going to eat me, right?“ Shizurus voice sounded scratchy and wheezy and she hoped that she wouldn’t be seriously sick in the next days. That could be deadly.

Humans….they were so easy to understand but in turn they didn’t understand anything around them. He contemplated about going up to her and pull on her sleeve….
That would be kinda bold….and you never could predict how a human would react to such things.
A few steps forward again, ready to bolt at a flinch.

Did that wolf really roll his eyes at her just now? Shizuru had to smile again. This was strange for sure.

Now he came nearer again, head held low and ears rolled back. It certainly wanted something from her.
She stood up.
The beast almost jumped two feet away from her and the young woman nodded into his direction. She had understood and would follow him.

Packing her things together was a matter of one minute and not much later she was following a obscure animal through the woods.

Shizuru knew that she had lost her orientation, but who could guarantee that all what had been happening so far wasn’t a trap.

As if he had guessed her thoughts the wolf returned from over the hill, rolled his grey eyebrows at her and did something totally unexpected.

He didn’t stop a few pace before her, like usual. Instead he advanced further proudly, rubbed his head at her sides, then took her hand into his muzzle and began to pull gently.
“I understand, I understand.” the woman laughed. “You’re here to help. I’m coming with you.”

His furry eyebrows rose and the wolf wagged his tail while jumping ahead. Despite feeling so tired that she could drop at the spot she felt mirth bubbling up in her chest. She followed the wolf laughing quietly.

The Alpha would be pleased. He was being a good Beta, leading the human to safety just like his superior had demanded. She in her human form had foreseen that the hunter would die out on the plains. He too could smell the scent of sickness wafting around the human, partly covered by her own scent which was earthy and reminded him of summer days with bushes full of raspberries.
He could already see the lantern light shining golden through the trees and he urged his charge on.


The huntress, too had seen the golden glow. To her it was like the light of heaven shining down on her. This was going to be her rescue.
Shizuru’s headache had gotten worse again and a few seconds before she had felt so tired, now new energy surged through her veins and she pushed on towards the edge of the forest.

Michail Baradowitsh threw another big log into the fire. The little had gotten nicely warm while outside a storm decided to finally fall over the land like a hawk on a unsuspecting chicken. Snowflakes danced to a unheard maddening tune and Michail believed this to be the worst winter ever. As if he hadn’t believed that before…

A large kettle was sizzeling over the fire and while stirring the soup Michail’s gaze fell on a pile of hay in the corner of the room.
He still had to feed the rabbits. Grumling the old man left the spoon in the pot and gathered maybe three hands of hay in his arms. He had to rationize or his life-stock would not survive the cold. He took the nine-inch knife from it’s place next to the door and stepped outside.

He nearly dropped the hay when his old eyes could make out a small light moving through the trees. A fen fire?
He threw the hay into the cages and just when he was about to close the door behind him to keep the evil ghosts outside, he saw her stumbling and falling in the snow right before his house.

At the tree line the wolf turned around. Shizuru’s vision was going blurry but she still could see the outlines of a small house in the light. Someone was standing in the doorway. A dark shadow highly contrasted by the bright light.
The wolf returned to her side, rubbed his muzzle affectionaly against her pants leg and literally shoved her into the direction of the house. Then he wagged his tail again and bounded off behind the snow covered firs. Soon her furry fairy was out of sight and Shizuru stood alone among the dark trees.


She couldn’t walk any further. Still her concisousness and a small voice inside her head urged her on.
You have to!! GO!
Without knowing she had stepped out on the meadow and suddenly the pain in her head increased from a dull throbbing to an ice-cold knife thrusted directly into her brain. A small cry tore from her lips and without a sound the huntress fell down into the snow.
In the distance a wolf began to howl.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Author notes:
Ishyaq = a snow ghost or farie, known to take interest in humans and leaving them to a cold death in the snow.
Menimishyka = Kurga dialect. Means "ray of light" or basically " my dear". Normally used as an term of endearment.




Last edited by sarcastic-dog on Tue Jan 18, 2011 2:05 am; edited 1 time in total

sarcastic-dog
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Mon Jan 17, 2011 1:58 pm

I wish I had time to beta, this looks like a very interesting tale. I'll ask around for a beta reader. :) If no luck, I'll do it myself, but you'll have to wait 'til next week.

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Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Wed Jan 19, 2011 2:36 am

Thank you...If any one wants to beta this, PM me or reply in this thread.

^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:40 pm

sarcastic-dog wrote:Thank you...If any one wants to beta this, PM me or reply in this thread.

^^

:D I'm going to beta this for you over the weekend, but I will contact you on dA just in case you found someone else. :)

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Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Thu Feb 17, 2011 3:49 am


next chapter is ready: it seems to be extra long nao...I'll edit it later :D


Long winter nights
Chapter 3: Legends of recent


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were -- I have not seen
As others saw -- I could not bring
My passions from a common spring –
Edgar Allen Poe „Alone“


The sharp smell of cooked meat and vegetables assaulted her nose. Shizuru felt slightly nauseas and warmth surrounded her, she could feel the scratchy structure of the wool blanket on her bare arms.
Wait a minute…Blanket? I remember falling in the snow…A dull throb at the base of her skull made her wince when she tried to turn her head it became worse.

Feet, heavy and gruff, were coming her way. They scuffled over the rough cut floorboards she could see out of the corner of her eyes.
„You’ve been lucky, Miss. You’ve fallen down right in front of my doorstep. You’ve been quite sick !“
The deep voice rumbled like a empty barrel in a dark cellar. It was a kind of voice which made you feel …safe!?

Rough hands with many old blisters on the fingers thrusted a wooden bowl in her face. The smell intensified and Shizuru’s stomach rumbled.
She groaned as she tried to sit up. Her head felt hot like a furnace and she could barely lift her hands. In the end she did manage to support herself with one arm, laying the bowl in the crook of her elbow while eating a few spoons. Everything felt so heavy and the throbbing in her head intensified as she was trying to swallow the broth.

„You’ve been very ill, young miss. A few moments I thought that you would leave this world behind. The strong wrinkled hands finally lifted her into a sitting position and Shizuru couldn’t help but gasp.

…no..silly me. She scolded herself. Grandfather Yaruslav has been dead since ten years.
But still the old weathered man with his bristling white beard sitting in front of her, holding a bowl of soup, could have been his twin brother.
“How…?” her voice was only a shadow of the smooth alto she possessed since she had turned 14. It croaked and cracked like an old rusty water pipe and the brunette simply closed her mouth.
It would need days to get it back in old shape.

A sparkle of mirth stole itself into the eyes of her benefactor. His deep voice rolled around the house while he was laughing slightly. He had the typical Kurgan accent with the rolling r. Shizuru had been speaking to Kurgans before and back then she had decided she liked their way of talking.

“The headache will go away, young lady. Give it time. You ask how long you’ve been asleep? “ For unexplained reasons she felt her face go hot and she hoped that he couldn’t see it, because of the fever.
His chuckle indicated otherwise.
“There’s not a thing to be embarrassed about. For your information it’s been nearly a week nao that you are here. “ he adjusted his hold on his bowl, spoon still in hand pointing at her. “ It’s the cold. It creeps into your bones, chills everything and the next thing you know is that you’re freezing to death somewhere in the woods.”
He took a mouthful from his bowl and raised his eyebrows. “Eat! Eat! You’ll need the strength to get healthy again. I’m Michail by the way. “ His white mustache lifted up and showed only one remaining tooth while he grinned at her.

“I’m Shizuru…” the old men mentioned her to be quiet, just to go easy on her voice. So she ate a few spoons of the surprisingly rich broth and soon fell asleep afterwards again.


Strange dreams invaded her nights from there on.
She saw a beautiful castle slowly crumble to ruins, snow coming and going like the seasons, wolves running wild in the forest and always someone was there…right at the corner of her eyes. She always just caught a glimpse of black hair and the woman, somehow she was sure it was a woman, managed to stay out of her sight.
Joy, laughter , the edginess of playing children in the snow, fear , frustration and anger. These emotions assaulted her from all sides but she also could feel the loneliness covering it all up like a blanket.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><

It was the third night in which his guest woke up with a start. A silent scream on her lips, never to be heard by anyone. Michail had noticed her fidgeting since she had fallen asleep at dinner.
He laid the carving knife back on the table, ready to tend to his patient should the need arise.
The next days continued in the same vein.


This night seemed to be even more unpleasant than the ones before. Shizuru , an odd but fitting name for the calm and gentle girl, was sitting up in her makeshift bed. Back as straight as a wooden post and a hacking cough wracked her frame.

It’s no use…She won’t get any better if she continues to scare herself like that…he stood at the small window on the right side of the house. His worried gaze regarded the growing snow outside with more unease than ever before. It was hard to live in the woods and if…his gaze got gloomy again…if the girl couldn’t get a decent sleep, she would never survive till spring.
He risked an affectionate gaze on the nao again soundly sleeping form under the cotton blankets. It was hard to just sit by and watch something this beautiful wither away.

Slowly the condition of his guest had gotten worse after an initial good start on the first day of her awakening. On the third night the fever had taken a turn for the higher degress again. Since then she had lain on the makeshift bed, barely able to move...and nao Shizuru's headache had intensified again, pounding at the inside of her head with steel jack-hammers.
She couldn't eat, couldn't sleep right. When she did sleep her dreams were eventful and generally unfitting for a fevering patient. She didn't want to die like that! A small voice in her dreams always told her that she had still so much to do, so much to learn. She just couldn't simply die from a common cold or a flu. She wouldn't let it happen. Her battles were fought silently and proved to be utterly futile.

Michail was frightened. It was nothing new to him that people got sick, even this bad with the coughing, it had happened before. Though back then he hadn't been living alone in the woods with the next medicus miles away.
The girl needed special medicine or she wouldn't survive the next week.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><

At the end of the second week his guest began to talk to her parents.

Michail, who liked the girl a great deal already, spend the days outside, cutting wood and praying for her to get better just to distract himself from the impending death wandering around his house.


It was getting near dawn again and the snow glowed in all shades of red in the light of the setting sun.
The cold was growing in the same tempo that the sun needed to disappear behind the horizon. He would have to be home again soon.

Suddenly a snow-hare jumped out of the brushes not 2 feet away from him. Despite the age gnawing at his bones, Michail's aim still was true and his eyes keen. Quickly he threw a small log at the animal and hit him right between the ears. The hare twitched a few seconds on the snow and lay still forever.

Just when his hand reached down to pick the carcass up, he heard growling right behind him.
Slowly he turned and his eyes turned wide and he threw up his hands to guard his throat.

Behind him stood a wolf, as white as the snow, baring his ivory teeth and staring at him and the dead rabbit.
The thing that Michail nearly gave an heart attack was standing behind the beast in the shadows.
He just saw glowing green eyes and the silvery tip of an arrow pointed directly at his chest. A low whistle and in the next moment the wolf in front of him jumped at the dead animal and carried it off in the bushes.

Something had hit him in the chest and for a few seconds Michail believed, that whoever that was, who was hiding in the bushes had shot him. nao the young woman in his hut would be claimed by the fever and eaten by scavengers.
He stared.
Obviously he was still alive...then ...what had hit him?

It was a small parcel, wrapped in watertight oil-parchment. Carefully he opened it and a few dry leaves fell out.

“For your guest!” the words had been spoken quietly, but the woodcutter had heard them nonetheless. He nodded, but when he got up and looked back under the trees, nobody was there.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><

Another week went by and despite the mysterious herbs the woodsman suddenly had produced out of nowhere, Shizuru's healing process was quite slow.
It was right in the middle of winter when she was able to walk around again. The snow had gotten even higher and on some days they were literally snowed in.
To regain her strength Shizuru helped the old man cutting the wood on days with good weather.

Michail had taken her in his heart and to pass the time on the bad days he told her old stories and legends form Kurgan in exchange for her help. Shizuru was an attentive listener and even produced a few legends of her own lands.
But soon she was getting restless.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><<

“Say Michail, how high did the snow get nao?”
The man frowned while gazing out of the window. “I told you...much to high for you to walk in it. Even with snow-shoes.”
The huntress didn't say anymore but Michail kept her under close watch the next day.

He felt her restlessness, much like the proverbial elephant in the room and often he found the young woman at the windows gazing out the trees. It had been going on for five days and it tore at his heart that eventually he would have to let her go.

“I can't explain it...there's something out there that seems to pull at my strings.”
They were curing rabbit-hides at the moment and the smooth, silky fur seemed at least to ease her troubled mind a bit. Michail raised his head to see her in the eye.
“I'm searching for something, but what it is I cannot say. I just it's calling to me...and I have to follow.”
The old woodcutter raised his salt and pepper eyebrows at that explanation.
“Did you have this ...yearning all the times since coming to this land?” His hands hovered over the fur which he was cleaning and then he put away on the small table.
She had his rapt attention.

He had learned a few things about her past in the long nights of her illness. Some of them he had sworn to himself to not tell a living soul. He often thought her to be the granddaughter he didn't have and often in the last few day she would call him Balyshka...Grandfather in her own language.
Under this aspects it was totally understandable that he regarded her with concerned eyes nao. After all he new the stories of his homeland and what the girl was telling him was not sounding good in his ears.

A small smile on her still slightly chapped lips. She hated the feeling of the chafing skin, but right nao it couldn't be helped.
“I'm not trying to kill myself, Michail. I just feel ...eager to be somewhere. Ever since that strange dream...”
Michail's head whipped around, like the branches of a young willow in a storm.
“Dream? What dream?” Fear was evident in his voice as he gripped her small hands with the sudden strength of...despair?
“What did you dream of child?”

Shizuru gazed at him, unsure as how such innocent a comment could bring out so intense a reaction. Gently, she freed her fingers from his death grip and stared out of the window.
“It was maybe a day before you found me before your door. I got lost in the woods, disorientated myself while deciding to walk all night to find a suitable resting place. I remember the cutting cold, the numbness in the limbs and that I tried to make a fire, but somehow the wood got wet.” she chuckled humorlessly.
“I already must have been sick by then...maybe the beginning fever clouding my judgement. A storm was coming up and I feel asleep in the snow. I couldn't make a fire and I huddled down under a great fir to at least protect myself.”

A strangled gasp on her side drew her attention again. Michail was gripping the edges of the wooden table so hard she could see the splinters forming between his fingers.
“There are not many firs around here...you mean those great crooked ones. Just a few minutes down the hill....the one on the edge of the meadow.?” Curiously she still stared at his hands when he shouted at her. “ That's dangerous territory...I told the stories surrounding that place. No one goes there! Not even at day!” He drew a calming breath, sucking in air in big gulps.

The huntress raised her hands to placate the old man. “Honestly, I don't remember much...I felt warm, some fur had been wrapped around me. Someone touched my face...but I can't really tell what the voice said.” The woodcutters eyes went wide and he gripped his chest tight.
“She talked to you...!? What did she say? Tell me!”

The old man began to frighten Shizuru nao for a bit.
“ Michail, Balyshka! What's wrong? Why is such a thing so important?”

Still frightened the woodcutter that down next to her on the cot and gripped her shoulders.
“It may be the answer to all your questions...” he drew another raspy breath.
“It's about time I think that I told about HER....”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><

It's a story of long tradition here in these parts of these lands. Since Ephraim I came to this lands to build the county of Kurga as a gift from the emperor it is said that his family had special relationships with the spirits of nature.
The story tells that Ephraim came from Darlan, a kingdom long lost to the dusts of time. The emperor had granted him the land around the woods as a fief for valorous service.
When he came around the lands and woods were still occupied by savage tribes and barbars.
At first he tried to get to a peaceful solution with the chiefs, but soon enough their personal greed and ambition drove him away. The numbers of his followers were dwindling and not much time had gone by when he found himself hunted by a mighty chief from the mountains.
It was here in these woods were their hounds caught up to him.

He found a young wolf in the trap-pit of a peasant and he rescued the little beast despite being in danger himself.
Suddenly the mother wolf appeared behind the trees and lured the dogs away from him so he could flee into the valleys.
There he found friends and vassals and could gather an army to conquer the north. Within half a year he had all the chiefs under control and establish his own set of laws, thus creating the county of Kurga.
Two years after his success one night a young woman stood in his private chambers. Ephraim had no idea from where she had come, nor how she had managed to come by his guards.
He reached for his sword.

“Hold your hand Ephraim.” the young lady said and raised an arm. “I'm a messenger of forces who have watched you for quite some time nao. We have tested you and found you worthy.”
She took a step forward and laid a small packet on the ground. “In two days you will see...open the parcel tomorrow and on the next day you will know what to do.”
Then she turned around and disappeared like dust in the wind.

Two days from there a your lady, so beautiful, appeared in the city under the castle and Ephraim, mindful of the prophecy of the spirit openend the parcel found a ring in it and married the woman. Saliah, the nymph she was called and the marriage was quite a happy one. Six children were born to those two and his great-great-great grandson was the first King of Kurga.
It was a good marriage and he build a mighty castle in these woods for his wife. It is said she was an Aruth, a wolf spirit and that she was often seen in her other form roaming these woods. It was also said that the art of changing the form was passed down from her through the royal family.

The story was artfully told and Shizuru had soaked everything up like a sponge. Though she couldn't quite make the connection.
“It's a nice story, Michail...but why are you telling me this?”
The woodsman raised a hand, took a swig from his cup of tea and rolled his eyes at her.
“Not long after the king had died, the people in the villages around here told me that they often saw a big black wolf with white markings running around.”
The young woman paused in mid swig. “A big wolf? How big?” Michail raised his hand above the ground. “At least as big as a small horse...” Shizuru raised her cup, taking a large sip.

Michail got up and began to close the shutters of the small windows. “I believe if the stories about the wolf and the woman in the snow are true, then it couldn't be anyone but her. The very ancestor of the Kruger family and she's out to punish the people for the deeds done in the time of war.”

Outside the hut a wolf began to howl. The people in the hut stared at the windows for a moment. The call had been so melancholic, so sad that Shizuru for a moment was tempted to go to the door.
It was like it was calling her.
The fine hairs on Michail's thick arms stood up and he was visibly shaken.
“You see...” he turned around eyes running wild. “It's too dangerous outside...in combination with those dreams you had...”

A cough tore itself from the young womans throat. How had he known?
“I watched you closely while you slept.” came the wise answer when the old man sat down on his chair again.
“What have my dreams and nightmares to do with this....and what is your concern with them?” the question had come out harder than she had intended but the years had taught her to be on guard for personal things. At least she hadn't told him everything about her past.
So she was a bit surprised to see the aged but still powerful man shrink back into his chair. In the next moment he was gripping her hands over the table and looked her in the eyes.
The huntress was surprised by the concern she could see in his eyes. And here I thought nothing could shake him...
“She spoke to you ...maybe even touched you. She has put her mark upon you, child and I fear what the outcome for you will be.”
Shizuru simply smiled at that and put her empty cup back on the shelf.

He had learned a lot about the young woman he had let into his home nearly a month ago. With or without her talking he still knew a great deal about how her mind worked. She should be angry with him, maybe she was. He knew that Shizuru cherished her privacy above all. So he was quite surprised to be pulled into a hug.
He had seen her smile a lot. Though the smile she wore nao was so radiant in his opinion that she could have set up a blaze with it. It was a true smile which reached her eyes and it made her even more beautiful in the low light of the beginning evening.
“Thank you for your concern, Balyshka. It is nice to know someone cares. I had not the impression that this mystery person was trying to kill me. I've even got a guide when I seriously needed one.”
Gently she released him from her arms. “I'm grateful for everything you've done for me...” her eyes looked past him, at the door, a far of look with so much behind it, that Michail could no longer watch. “...but tomorrow I will have to go.”


Her slightly accented words still rung in his ears the next morning, when he looked after her retreating form, slowly disappearing into the forest.
He looked and waved till the young woman was just a purple speck in the never ending sea of green trees and disappeared behind a hill.
“I wish you luck young lady. May it be true what you said ... and she'll be friendly.”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>><

It hurt her soul to leave the old cutter like this. The snow was really deep and true t Michail’s words she had difficulties walking.
She pressed on though, eager to be somewhere else, finding new adventures…and maybe finally finding what was calling her into the woods.
Strangely she felt happy and energized. The cold wind blowing over her face promised her new things to happen and she felt herself lookg forward to it.
It was like at the very first beginning of her journey.
The long stay in the hut had opened her eyes for new things and when she looked around she noticed new things around every corner.
Like, how the frozen snow build tiny sculptures of ice on the tree branches,or like the tracks of different animals made complicated mosaics on the ground.
When night drew nearer she build a snow-hole on the side of a small hill and tucked herself in for the night.

This had been the moment he had waited for. The human was on the road again. She had been marked. To top it off by the person he despised the most. He could smell it, the wind carried over the stink of the old human’s house just behind the hill.
Oh how he hated the smell of burning coals.

She had been marked…all the more reason for him to kill the female and eat her heart.
He gave the sign for the group to circle the small snow hill.


She awoke from shuffling and growling just outside her “doorstep”.
Wolves….!? Are they trying to dig me up? Shizuru gripped the shaft of her weapon and a knife and waited.
I’ve got two options: Either those are my savior and some friends trying to help me again. Or, and that is even more plausible, those are normal hungry wolves smelling an easy meal.
She decided that it would be better to stay put and wait for the right moment to do something.


He could smell the human, right under the thin sheet of snow, though something was missing.
The fear…normally the air around the humans was ripe with it, when they got wind of being hunted down.
This one was different…and it made him furious!
He monitored his minions to move faster.

They were nao only a few centimeters of snow away. She could see the dark shadows on the white ceiling. The shuffling got faster and Shizuru could already see the first paws breaking through the surface.

It was a decision of seconds and one shaggy wolf stumbled away from the hole, blood spraying everywhere. The huntress knife had hit him right under the jugular when his searching head had broken through the snow.
His comrades got more furious and desperate.
The snow broke away and snarling, snapping heads were met with cold hard steel.

Two of the young ones fell back, seriously crippled and another veteran stayed on the snow.

It was time that he should take a part in the fight and show that human something to be fearful of.
He sniffed one of the dying pack brothers and barreled furiously through the mass of furry beasts blocking his way.

Shizuru suddenly saw herself confronted with a moving, snapping and furiously growling mass of teeth. Small yellow eyes stared evilly at her out of a thick mane of grayish spotted dark fur.
A thick burn scar covered the left side of the wolf’s face, making it even more hideous and Shizuru did retreat further back into the hole.

She managed to nick the beast on the burnt side of his skull. Hell broke loose.

It had been just a small scratch but the already injured side of his face exploded in pain as if the human had poured acidic poison over his head.
His conscious shut down and his only goal for the next few minutes was to get his teeth into the white flesh and tear and break till nothing was left of the source of the pain.

The brunette for her part had trouble to keep the mad and frothing beast away from her. The teeth gleamed in the low light of dusk and the wolf managed to snag a piece of her coat.

She felt like being tossed around like a piece of wood in stormy water. A mighty jerk with from the wolf and Shizuru was flying out of the hole, landing hard on the ice encrusted surface of a very small pond.

The human was wounded and disorientated. It was the perfect moment to strike. He bunched his muscles and made ready for a charge, head on. He only heard the whistle when the object flew by his ear. He saw his comrades fall like leaves in fall and vowed to end that human treachery nao and for all. Just a few moments nao and all would end.
In the next moment he felt a weight crush him to the ground. Something had jumped him. A warning growl in his ears set him on edge even more and then he felt sharp teeth close around his neck.

The huntress couldn’t really follow the unfolding event anymore. Maybe she had cracked her head on the eyes…she didn’t know for sure. She could feel the darkness creep into the edges of her vision and desperately tried to stay awake.
These wolves must have been following her for days. They had been so intent on killing her, the ambush had been far to coincidental. They had known where she had been hiding.
Shizuru could feel that a wam liquid was coating the side of her face and matted her hair. She tried to battle the rising panic, but the pain distracted her.
Oblivion was grabbing at her with cold hard fingers and the last thing she saw, was a black wolf in the size of a small horse standing on the carcass of her attacker. It was fending off the other members of the pack and just the second before she lost consciousness, shining yellow eyes looked at her.



A/N:
Balyshka = (in Kurga Baruyshka) means Grandfather or old man


:D

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Mar 21, 2011 3:05 pm


hey...luu ^^

I'm back again and chapter 4 is already brewing up.
I' would be nice to know what you're thinking so far. ^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Mon Mar 21, 2011 8:40 pm

It's been an expressive story thus far, doggeh! But thanks to real life stuff (work, planning for an upcoming trip, the Japan disaster), I've been kept busy from fun stuff like beta'ing. I'll get around to it soon, just need a little more time. Good luck on chapter 4! Mikoto Minagi

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Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:21 am


take your time. Just wanted to make myself known again. ^^
I think it would be bad if I don't get real feed-back on this...^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Tue Mar 22, 2011 1:04 pm

sarcastic-dog wrote:
take your time. Just wanted to make myself known again. ^^
I think it would be bad if I don't get real feed-back on this...^^

You're right, I will review the current chapters tomorrow despite not being done with the beta-ing for ff.net. That way we'll have something. :) Look in your inbox btw.

_________________
Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
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Posts : 38606
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:30 pm

Luu Sky Sapphire reviews Long winter nights...so far. XD

Sorry for the late review, doggeh. It's been so busy these past couple of weeks, I feel awful taking so long. Let me nao present the review of your story "Long winter nights". So far anyway, since it's not done. ^_~

There was a lot of detail put into the story from the get-go, the titles of this vast middle age Mai-HiME AU were all over the place. Took a few rereads to soak it all in and imagine the setting and remember the unique names in my head. It's great to see tradition play a role with Shizuru, connected to nobility. Shizuru fits the whole theme of Nobles in old UK, it mirrors being raised with more of life advantages (compared to Natsuki) in the Mai-HiME anime, so you executed nicely on staying true to the spirit of the anime in some way.


Her coat, a kaftan it was called at home, was dyed purple and had trimmings at the borders of golden rabbits fur. Underneath she wore a shirt which ended at her knees, in other countries people would have called this one a tunic but at home they called it a rhubak. It was heavily embroidered with red around the hem, collar and sleeves and a maroon belt with a shiny, complex
knotted buckle held it together at her hips. The pants were lighter and made of deer. Gamashes made from some long white fur covered her thighs and if that whole get-up didn't brand her a foreigner so would the weapon she was always carrying with her.

Even in the moments of explaining something like signature clothing in the story were so well thought out. In Ghosts from the Past, you set the bar very high on how expressive point-of-view literature can get. Believe or not people, the snow itself was an integral character. The scene with the wolf had such a human element to it. Here was this lonely person with this beautiful animal guiding her to a place of better comfort. Flashes of "On Wolf Mountain" from the Shirahime-Syo Snow Goddess Tales entered my mind. While these stories are not 100% alike, the same majestic feel and environment was present.

Soon her furry fairy was out of sight and Shizuru stood alone among the dark trees.

Though I never had the chance to beta yet, the writing always remained consistent in my opinion. Never drifting off into another confusing scenario. What I'm looking for in future chapters is what you do with Natsuki, Shizuru and your O.C.s in terms of development. "Legends of recent" had a thrilling finish, please follow up on it as soon as possible.

_________________
Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:06 pm

Thank you for the review.
I never had one for real actually, like someone commenting about my style and all that.
Thank you again. *bows*
I'll try to keep this up.
In Ghosts from the Past, you set the bar very high on how expressive point-of-view literature can get.
Have you ever read the stories of ethnewinter?
That's where i got my inspiration for that style. you should read it.
Thanks to all who have read this on the forum so far...you'll be in for surprises in the next chapters v^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:46 pm

sarcastic-dog wrote:Thank you for the review.
I never had one for real actually, like someone commenting about my style and all that.
Thank you again. *bows*
I'll try to keep this up.
In Ghosts from the Past, you set the bar very high on how expressive point-of-view literature can get.
Have you ever read the stories of ethnewinter?
That's where i got my inspiration for that style. you should read it.
Thanks to all who have read this on the forum so far...you'll be in for surprises in the next chapters v^^

I tend to focus on the style of writing in any fanfiction as I want to feel emotion from your story. You are a good storyteller, even in-character as Shizuru. You're welcome, I enjoyed what you did so far.

No I haven't read ethnewinter's work yet, I'm only familiar with her artwork on deviantART. Might as well plug her here:

ethnewinter

Her artwork is so powerful, I can just imagine the worlds she nurtures in writing. Come back soon, Doggeh! Arika Yumemiya

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Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.

Posts : 38606
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Apr 11, 2011 1:59 pm


You really should read it. "Inter Nos" is really beautifully written....and it's long...so very long *sighs* Don'tz try to read it in one go...you'll die!

Chapter 4 is coming along nicely ....though I have no title for it at the moment.
I'd also like to introduce another story of mine into the forum. I'll post it the next few days and let me tell you it's on the entirely different end of the gamut.

Me telling the story from Shizuru's eyes...well it just kinda happened. Although me and her are fundamently different I dare say. However I plan to vary the persons in the telling part. (No easy feat I can say...)
I guess what we (Shiz and I ) have in common is that I'm very calm normally...I can be irritated by the tiniest things though....and then the plates begin to fly.... :DR Kruger: (I broke a door twice..... :shock: )

So stay tuned for the next chapter and then we'll see if you still like what you read. ^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:47 pm

sarcastic-dog wrote:
You really should read it. "Inter Nos" is really beautifully written....and it's long...so very long *sighs* Don'tz try to read it in one go...you'll die!

Lol, long fanfiction does require concentration on my part. I don't mind length as long as the story as a whole, doesn't drag on. ^_~ I believe in a beginning, middle and end.

sarcastic-dog wrote:Chapter 4 is coming along nicely ....though I have no title for it at the moment. I'd also like to introduce another story of mine into the forum. I'll post it the next few days and let me tell you it's on the entirely different end of the gamut.

Oh I will, especially if there's more scope to the story than your current story. Ah, Medieval Latin. <3

sarcastic-dog wrote:Me telling the story from Shizuru's eyes...well it just kinda happened. Although me and her are fundamently different I dare say. However I plan to vary the persons in the telling part. (No easy feat I can say...)
I guess what we (Shiz and I ) have in common is that I'm very calm normally...I can be irritated by the tiniest things though....and then the plates begin to fly.... :DR Kruger: (I broke a door twice..... :shock: )

So stay tuned for the next chapter and then we'll see if you still like what you read. ^^

XD All that says to me that you're an unpredictable individual who makes for diverse storytelling. Looking forward to it all, Doggeh. setsuna

_________________
Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Fri Jun 03, 2011 1:41 pm

#
I'm still alive and chapter 4 is finished, started allready on 5...
work just caught up with me and I need time to write the thing down on the computer (you should see my notes...)
Hopefully it will be on on monday.. ^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by Luu Sky Sapphire on Sat Jun 04, 2011 2:31 am

sarcastic-dog wrote:#
I'm still alive and chapter 4 is finished, started allready on 5...
work just caught up with me and I need time to write the thing down on the computer (you should see my notes...)
Hopefully it will be on on monday.. ^^

Hey Doggeh, long time no see! :) Can't wait to see what you deliver next! booze

_________________
Mai-X-Project

The law of physics: Whenever there's this much gay in one room, Shizuru manifests!
When Shizuru said "Ara" for the first time, the "Ara" broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.

Luu Sky Sapphire
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.
Administrator. The Showstopper. The Headliner. The Main Event. The Icon. Mr. Mai-Series.

Posts : 38606
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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:22 am

As I promised but later ...
this is the new chapter.
Personally I think it was not so good...but I let the readers decide that.

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:24 am



Chapter 4: Golden Emerald

Ibrahim was a knight of old
when his feet touched this white land,
his horn it rang both wide and bold
through ice and iron band.

The woods were cold and dark with blight
when he was chased afar,
through snow that glistened in the night
and doors that stood ajar...
„Bailak’s ballade“ 1-2
The chronicles of Burdan Hill




The snow burned wet on her skin and left tiny rivulets of cold water running down her neck.
She felt so tired…but strangely not cold.
Her face felt wet but then also not. I all had a strange quality to it.

Someone was calling her name. The girl in the snow rolled herself into a ball. She didn’t want that voice to find her …she just wanted to sleep. Yes, sleeping would be nice.

Cold white hands gripped her shoulders and turned her around…and when Shizuru lazily opened her eyes she stared straight into the light brown eyes of her older brother.

„You have to get up, sleepy-head. Sleeping in the snow…really Shizu, you should know better. „
The brunette stared at her hands which where entwined with those of her brother. They looked so tiny…Wasn’t she older than him by now? Also that wasn’t her coat…and her weapon was slung of Alantes back like it belonged there. Which it had. Once, a long time ago.
There was something she had forgotten. Had she only dreamt to be an adult and far away from home? Something was nagging at her mind but she couldn’t quite lay a finger on it.

„You should get up, Shizu. It’s already getting dark,“ he pointed a finger into the direction of the dark borders of the fir tree forest so unlike the woods she remembered. „…and she’s waiting for you !“

With one quick and strong tuck had he pulled her on her feet . Her eyes followed the digit pointing in the dark. Something was not right.
Her red gaze fell on a dark figure lurking in the shadows of the trees. She felt being watched.
Something definitely wasn’t right…but what?

„Come on Shizu. We’ll have to be home by nightfall and it’s already late.“ A strong hand, it felt unusually cold, grasped her and began to pull her forward.
In the distance Shizuru saw the watcher in the shadows shake her head.

She looked again at the broad back of her brother. Alantes had never done something that would harm her and for a second Shizuru recoiled in fear when she saw the red flowers bloom on the back of his shirt.
Suddenly she was pulled and pushed forward. Alantes gurgling voice followed her when she began to stumble and run back towards the trees.
„Go! Get her little sister. A better thing as death you’ll find everywhere…“

Now she remembered. Oh how she missed him and his strong arms. The tears flowed freely down her face and she reached out for the rough bark of a fir like a blind man in the dark.
Glowing yellow eyes looked at her out from the gloom and a black flash jumped towards her….



Shizuru awoke with a scream. It rang shrill in her ears and her violent panting filled the silent void around her.
Where was she?
She smelled old wood, the burnt ashes of a fire and the moldy smell of very old cotton.
A room with eight walls, worm- eaten wood-panels, a half rotten tapestry in once bright colors on the wall opposite her, an old fireplace and a small table with gothic chairs and moldy curtains which swayed gently in a draft that came through one broken window.
Over all lay a thick layer of dust.
Dust of the centuries, hmm…? -…That’s not important now. Important is to find out where I am now.

A silent whisper to the side of her head. Cotton scraped on her skin.
She was lying in a four poster bed with a wooden ceiling. The curtains had either been so ratty, they had fallen off on their own or someone had ripped them off the bed right at the edge.
The scraps fluttered in the wind, making eerie sounds in the total silence of the room.

Another whisper on her ear. As she rolled around she saw a faded coat of arms on the scratched wooden ceiling. The wood seemed to have absorbed the color and Shizuru had to squint her eyes to see it.
A checkered white and blue background, an animal on a dark jagged line running through and something that looked like a motto-scroll.
Where have I seen this before…?
Again the brunette asked herself where exactly she had ended up.

Red honed in on beady button eyes and big yellow teeth.

A rat the size of a small cat sat on the side of her bed and petted Shizuru’s hair with his hand-like paws. Her eyes widened when the animal squeaked and touched her nose with a single claw-bearing digit.
Shizuru just slightly drew her head back, still too shocked to move suddenly and in that moment the small beast scurried away from her and vanished through the open door.

The huntress sat up quickly, her golden-brown hair flying around her face and immediately she felt sick. Her head swam and her vision blurred for a moment. She had to close her eyes.

When she opened them again, a little girl with blonde unruly hair stood right before her. It seemed like she had appeared out of thin air and Shizuru scooted away from her a bit.

The black and white spotted rat sat on her shoulder like a strange living stole and squeaked in greeting.

The girl couldn’t be much older that 10 or 11 years. A black band of velvet kept the blonde strands away from her face and in place. She wore a sleeveless overcoat made of some soft looking brown fur. A surcoat..? The huntress had seen such garments before but never this simple and at the same time elegant and fitting. What raised her eyebrows even higher was that she could see the girl was wearing breeches and boots. Well it’s no wonder with this climate around here. Shizuru knew she must have looked even stranger in her garb.
The sleeves of a green shirt, so dark it appeared to be black, stuck out from underneath the coat and together with a sash of dark blue it completed the picture.

Shizuru noticed that she was staring and turned her gaze towards the face of her impromptu guest.

Steely ice-blue eyes regarded her with equal interest. Her eyes alone let girl appear to be much older and for a moment the brunette felt like an insect under inspection.

The rat squeaked again. It sounded like a question and intelligent button eyes looked her up and down. The girl smiled, it let her face shine from within, and shook her head. Eyes never leaving the woman on the bed she lectured her pet: „Squeakes, I told you not to be so rude…and no I don’t think she‘s fit enough for dinner yet. “
The rat looked sad for a moment, shook its head and then crawled down the arm and out of the door.

„I hope he’s been not rude or anything.“ the girl said with a small bow. „The little guy is not used to us having guests.“
Shizuru wondered. Here she was in an unknown house in the back of the woods of Kurga and yet this little girl showed manners as she had been taught by a private teacher. Her voice was a little quiet and raspy but soothing and much like her eyes did she show wisdom beyond her years.

Right now she was starting to build a fire in the fireplace and unconsciously Shizuru pulled the blankets tighter around herself. Her eyes followed her everywhere, bewilderment still written on her face in bold letters.

„I’m sorry for the poor accommodations. “ Flint hit steel with these words and the first sparks were born to live. „This house is not used to having guests and we barely use the spare rooms. “
Twigs cracked when she placed them next to the rapidly growing flames. From a hidden pocket in her coat she produced dry leaves and sprinkled them over the flames. Immediately the fire got brighter and hotter.

“I’m Alyssa.” She turned around again sitting on her haunches and for the first time in the short moments Shizuru had known her she truly looked like a 10 year old.
“If you feel up to it just walk down the stairs and come into the great hall. Dinner is ready in a few minutes. Otherwise I’ll look after you in half an hour.”
Like a small summer whirlwind chasing leaves around she was out of the door.

With the warm glow of the fire the room didn’t look so rusty anymore. The old chairs held still some of their original coloring, the old velvet curtains were of a rich brown only dimmed by the dust flying around them.
Water glistened in a wash basin on the table and the polished brass handle of her bardiche glinted in the corner.


Candles as thick as Shizuru’s arm, had been placed in the corner of each second step down, giving the stairs a mysterious but also friendly and inviting feeling. Old pictures in oil so old they were blind littered the walls looking like dark windows to a world unseen.
Dark wood glowed in the low moon-and candlelight and Shizuru felt ….welcomed, when she trotted down the stairs.
The way into the great hall was as astounding as the strange room she had woken up into. Weapons, some glinting in the low light of candles, some so rusted that they threatened to fall from their holders, littered the walls.

Obviously she was in an old fashioned castle, judging from the numerous hallways she encountered on her way. Some looked frequently used, the floor had been swept and not a speck of dust was on the weapons, armors and banisters. Others looked so long forgotten and disused that even the rats and spiders had abandoned them and a cold wind howled down those particular ways.

Warm glow and the smell of food greeted the wary wanderer from behind a great double door.
She could hear Alyssa talk accompanied by the clatter of silver ware and the clanking of metal.

Who is she talking to?

Whoever that was, who the girl was questioning, he or she seemed quite agitated and barely answered. The quiet tones were almost not understandable.
She pushed the door and with a small creak both wings turned on their hinges inward.

Alyssa, the little blonde girl noe wearin a sort of apron, stood at the side of the room greeting her with a smile. She was carrying a pot and placed it on the middle of the impressive old oaken table. The speckled wood looked massive and havey and was also quite chipped at the edges. Must be a few decades old....thought the young woman when she gazed at the inviting dinner layed out on the table. Two hares, roasted and stuffed with chestnuts and decorated with various winter herbs and vegetables such as black carrots and winter leeks.

Shizuru's stomach rumbled loudly at the sight which just made Alyssa's grin grow wider. “Come on, sit!” She literally was shoved into a high backrest chair with elaborate gothic window design. “You must be famished after sleeping for so long. Be our guest.”

Just then the hunter noticed the other person in the room. A rather pale looking woman, very light hair and red eyes sat motionless on the left side in a chair with dragon ornaments cut into into the headrest.

Shizuru stared for a moment. The woman was a bit to similar to her for her liking.
Alyssa's companion had grabbed a piece of meat and began to chop it up methodically. A crow was sitting on her shoulder, eying the meat with hungry eyes. A curt nod and a croak was the greeting for the guest.

Alyssa laid the silverware out on the table. The polished metal gleaming on the dark wood.
“Sister, dinner is ready. I hope you're finished with cleaning,”

The brunette turned around to see to whom the blonde was talking to...and stared right into two big yellow eyes. Warm breath washed over her face while Shizuru simply had turned to stone for a moment when a giant tongue began to lick her face.

The wolf had a shoulder height of at least five to six feet. His grey salt and pepper fur ruffled into white at the edges of his face. White teeth as long as small daggers glowed in his mouth. Was the beast grinning at her?

In fact it had sat itself on his haunches forcefully shoved his massive head under her arm and looked mighty happy when Shizuru began to scratch him hesitantly behind the ears.

The wolf's momentary bliss was ended by a sharp growled command. For a moment the brunette searched for the other wolf in the room when her eyes fell on the chair in front of the fire-place.

Pieces of a big fur-coat, probably bear-skin, spilled over the arm and backrest and the glinting pieces o f a kinghts armor lay at it's feet waiting to be polished.

White hands with strong fingers lay curled upon the brown fur. A white and slender neck disappeared behind a curtain of blue and black hair which went till past the shoulders.
A slender built with strong shoulders and a face as pale as the snow outside the window. A stark contrast to the rich black of her hair and the royal blue of her tunic.

Truly an ice-princess...

It reminded Shizuru about the tales at home. Of powerful winter spirits taking on human form just for their own amusement.
As if she had read Shizuru's thoughts asmall half-smile-half-frown formed on the woman's face and Shizuru looked directly into her eyes....

...and recoiled for a moment. She had seen those green opals with the single golden speck before, in her fever-dreams...and even before that. She still could remember a cold but soft touch to her face, the eyes and an advice or a warning. The exact wording wouldn't come back to her but instinctively she knew that it had saved her live. Still she feared the strange woman in front of her which was highlighted by the fire in an sinister halo.


Just two candles lightened the small but highly decorated room with the imposing wooden desk. The fact that the polished wood had the thickness of a man's ankle hadn't stopped the silent intruder in nailing the owner of said desk onto it's surface with a sword.The thrust had been so powerful that the tip of the blade showed through the wood on the other side by at least an inch.

Michailov Bilanitsch da Artai's eyes held the gaze of a man utterly betrayed. His guards had found the Duke several hours to late when they had realized that he hadn't left his personal study. His lifeblood already had covered the brown wood and stained the expensive carpet from Arabia in an unforgiving rusty red.

There had been no evidence of the murderer, only the red splotches everywhere and the magnificiently crafted sword.
Sergey Wong felt quite uneasy by the unfolding of these mysterious events. The feeling was growing even more when he had the chance to be alone with his charge, the eldest son of the Duke Nagi, right after the violent death of his father.

Nagi, who looked at least ten years younger due to a slight dwarfism, always had worn a ironic smirk and Wong had been shocked to see it on the young mans face when the carcass passed him by.

After a few moments alone with him Sergey had been certain that the young lord had his hands in the whole arangement. The question was how had the little bastard done it?

Sergey's suspicion rose even more when a burnt slip of paper was discovered right next to the fireplace. The evidence disappeared right after that but Wong knew that Nagi's name had been on it with a thick jagged line obscuring the letters. Michailov's will was nowhere to be found and in line with tradition the next Duke became the eldest son.

It all had happened in a whirlwind of activity and Sergey, despite his better judgement, had decided to grit his teeth and be silent.
He had sworn fealty to his lord when they had been kids and he would stay true to his oath. Even if it meant sacraficing his heart and honor. Such was the way of a steward.


Alyssa and her pale haired companion, whose name was Miyu, had cleared the tables. A strange silence lay over the hall. Only the cracking of the burning branches was heard.

The tattered flags still hanging between the high gothic windows fluttered slightly in an unseen breeze.
They seemed to be very old. Threads were coming off at the edges, color had faded to almost nothingness and the fabric had holes and tears all over. Despite all that they looked well taken care off, like the people living in these halls didn't want to forget about the past.

Shizuru began to feel uneasy. The other ocupant of the room, Alyssa's sister had, right when the plates had been cleared, left her seat and wordlessly resumed her place at the fire. The silence was grating on her nerves. For a person being outside for long periods of time absolut silence was something that didn't exist. Something unatural and terrifying. It made Shizuru's ears hurt and carefully did she step towards the chair.
Absentmindly she noticed the excellent carvings of a hunting scene cut into the edges of the wood. A magnificient stag running through the trees followed by a pack of dogs and a bowmen in hot pursuit.

Her hand reached out to touch that lustrous black hair in front of her.
What am I doing?
The next moment the huntress nearly screamed. Within a second the woman had whirled around and had gripped her hand. It felt like her hand was painfully stuck between two grinding boulders of ice. The sheer force of the grip threathened to crush her fingers.

Suddenly her hand was free again. An almost vulnerable look was on the other face, like she didn't meant to hurt her guest. A polite cough on the door indicated that Alyssa had returned and she shot her sister a warning glance.
With a grimace Shuizur massaged the blood back into her digits. The wolf came fover from his cushion nest to his mistress's seat and licked her unjured hand. Shizuru's hard lept at the calm and husky voice behind her. “He's trying to memorize you, in case you get lost...again.” The woman had managed to leave the creaky chair without a sound and when Shizuru turned aroud their face where just inches apart. Now she could take a more closer look at those fascinating eyes.

Deep green like a forest in spring with a golden yellow ring around the iris. They resembled perhaps emeralds with a tiny golden heart.

Alyssa had watched it all from far away and decided to act. The spell was broken when a wooden spoon hit the dark head in front Shizuru on the side.
“Sister!! I know you don't meet much people out there in these woods but that's no excuse to behave like a savage!”
The short girl whacked her sibling whith a towel for good measure. “You could at least apologize before staring people to death.” Green eyes flashed with guilty amusement and a hand just rubbed the sore spot on her head.
“Besides,” Alyssa threw her arms akimbo ”first I thinks it's our guest's turn to ask some questions and tell us her name.”

A glance towards the huntress. Shizuru run dry there for a moment. The change of subject had been so sudden that her thoughts had difficulty following.

“Where am I ?” The little girl grinned broadly and rolled her eyes in a comical way. “That's the easiest question to a very difficult answer.” She glared at her sister for a moment and pointed to one of the many windows. “Technically speaking you're nowhere. Let's start over again, shall we?”
She gave the dark one a small shove and perched herself on the armrest of the chair. “Again...I'm Alyssa and you're on Burdan Hill Castle, Since you're from outside the country you'll probably never get the problem with this sentence, but what's most important is that you're with friends. Who are you? “

The small off-comment had stung terribly at Shizuru's pride but the girl had been right. She didn't get the point at her being here being a problem. After all they did rescue her form an untimely death in the snow.
A flicker of doubt run through her thoughts, after all supposedly they were very near to the border, but then she thought about Alyssa's easy smile in the first moments and heard herself say: “ I'm Shizuru Viola.” Alyssa's blue eyes widened in surprise and her sister looked up from her polishing with interest. “ A Viola? I knew the family once lived around the ilands but I would never had guessed to see some of that family for myself.” Shizuru felt the familiar sting in her eyes again and sketched a shaky smile on her features. “ I crossed the border almost six years ago, I haven't been home since...”

The little girl pulled her into a chair “I have so much to ask. It's rare for people to come here...”
Then she bomarded the poor unsuspecting huntress with questions.

“How old are you?” “Twenty seven.”
“Is the bardiche your only weapon?” “No, actually I have a very long dagger in my right sleeve.”
“Do you like to read?” “Very much so, but I'm afraid I'm not fluent enough in your language.”
Alyssa smiled. “You speak it just fine. Just watch I'll have you reading the classics in no time.”

Shizuru began visibly to relax. Her stiff posture slumped a bit, she laughed more freely and her hands were animatedly accenting some points in her speech.
“What are you doing around here? Most people try to stay away from these parts in winter.”
A shadow seemed to fall over her eyes while she still tried to present a civilzed front. In reality the question had been so unexpected that her walls were crumbling on the insides now. She felt the familiar pressure of tears behind her eyes.
“I tried to earn money for a living.” The blonde didn't seem to be satisfied with that short an answer.
“I've never heard that any of the Violas left and ventured out of Daranje for such a long time. They 're far to important...”
“That's not true.” A hint of steel was in Shizuru's voice now while she desperatly tried to keep her cool. It couldn't be possible that those two knew about her secret.
“My Grandfather rode out form the north into the south to get a bride.”

Duran had stood up and eyes his young charge with worried eyes. It was like he could sense the uneasiness radiating from Shizuru in waves. The tightly controlled paranoid anger was getting him on edge and he cooked his ears, eyes never leaving the pair at the table.

“ So that's where you've got the southern look. If you're looking for someone I can tell you..”
“ALYSSA !!”

The sharp call from the fireplace immediately drowned any sound. Like even the walls were listening to what the mistress of the house had to say.

The green eyes seemed to have gotten lighter, the yellow spark were attempting to blot out the green. Or was it a trick of the light?
A white hand was pointing at the little girl which looked like she had been caught with her hand in a cookie-jar.
“I know you haven't met many people rom outside this last few days and I'm sorry for it. However what Viola is doing here is her own business. Don't pester her about it.”
Alyssa's cheeks puffed in an almost adorable pout. “Don't you want to know if she's the ...”
“I said that's final !! Don't pester her about it. She'll talk about it at her own pace if at all.”
The whole room had been silent at the last sentence. You could have heard a pin drop in there.

Now Shizuru was sure that something was wrong with her host's eyes. For a moment they had been a light yellow-green, nearly flashing in the low light.

Now it seemed it was time for Alyssa's hackles to rise. “ At least I told her my name. I know she's not skilled in Kurgan Heraldy or she would have run screaming from the room you gave her!”

Light brown eyebrows rose. Heraldy...!?

White fingers pointed at the behind the chair when the knight caught Shizuru looking. A big emblazoned coat of arms was visible on the smooth stone.

Metal inlay with precious stones and lots of burned glass. A pale blue rampant wolf with a crown around it's neck stood before a royal blue and white checkered background. A jagged red line ran behind the animal dividing the magnificient shield in two seperate fields. The wolf stood above a scroll but Shizuru couldn't read what was written on it.
The helmet and the coat that covered the top of the shield were a wondrous work of glass, steel and lapislazuli. The symbolic crown as the helmet figure was glinting knowingly at Shizuru.

She knew she had seen the picture on the top half of her bed, but she still didn't know the significance of it. Where else had she seen this particular set-up?
She knew that those shields were supposed to be unique. Even more so in Kurga where the nobles liked to distinguish themselves from others. Which meant there was probably only one family in this land with this particular arrangement.

What did the crown mean? In all her years in Kurga had she never seen a noble with a crown in his shield, only laurels banners. The crown...she knew she had seen the wolf with the crown somewhere...

Alyssa sighed and stepped over to Duran to keep him busy. The tense silence seemed to grate on his nerves and whined tensly, eyes never leaving his master.

Then it hit her. The crown ! There was only one family in Kurga which was allowed to carry a kings crown in their shields and Shizuru wished to hit herself. Of course! The crown, Duran, the castle...her old teacher back at home would have pulled her ears for such a slip.

“You're a Kruger...” it broke from her mouth and inwardly she cringed at the accusing tone in her voice.
Though it only earned a dry laugh from the woman in the seat. Alyssa wore an expression between pride and sadness and seemed to wait for a signal from her sister.
As soon as the laugh had echoed through the pillared hall, Duran had curled around the feet of his master, who again had managed to get out of her chair without a sound. One of her white hands lay on the wolf's head while the other beckoned her little sister near her under the seal.

“I'm Natsuki Sarkai da Kruger. This is my sister Alyssa, Miyu is an old friend of the family and this...” she petted the wolf “...this is Duran.”
All had been declared in a levely cautious voice. Shizuru winced at the hopeful gaze Alyssa shot at her. I can't save you little girl...I can't even save myself
“The lost princesses....” She knew that even in Kardash rumors had gone around that the King had been murdered at the decision of the noble council . The more prominent rumor when she had stayed in the city was that the queen and her daughters, who had been declared dead after three months, had managed to vanish into the woods and were still alive. Weren't they related to the wood spirits?

Shizuru was astounded and happy that this time the peasants had been right.

A dry smile which didn't quite reach her strange eyes, was on the older Kruger's face.
“Three lost princesses hauled up together in a castle. Whoever will save us but ourselves...Maybe you can change something. Make me proud Viola.” In the next moment Shizuru was alone with Miyu and Alyssa. She still pondered over these words when she stared at Duran's retreating tail in the dark.


Kardash was a devastating place in winter. Most nobles fled into their castles, Chales or whatever they owned as long as it wasn't in the city. Normally the king himself would be on one of his castles in the woods to escape the icy season.
Tonight was different.

The wind hunted snowflakes through the muddy alleys, the smoke of numerous chimneys and housefires would be caught in the chase and provided the moloch with a fine white and grey smog that wouldn't stay in one place. The “white fog” like the folklore used to call it was also to blame for the dark coloring of the houses. Sinter and soot covered nearly every stone in the city.

It was a depressinng sight, Kardash by night. There was nothing of the so called “Charme of the North”. The howling wind, chilling everybody to the bone just added to that. No wonder that no one was out on the streets in the cold months.

Sergey would have preverd it to stay away from the city as long and as far away as possible but his new lord had demanded that the mourning festivities should be held in the capital.
Nagi literally had torn his coat apart when the tablau with the corpse of his father on it had passed him by at the funeral. The old Duke had been burned as it was tradition and all the speeches afterwards had been held with the expected good words and a lot of tear-choked voices.

Wong was disgusted by the display of this fraud. The bile in his throat rose even more when he caught a glimpse of his master's slightly smiling face.
He looked like the cat who just had succeded in robbing a pair of birds right out of their nest.
Dear Lord, what have we done....?


“Stop torturing the poor woman. I guess she would have found the way here even without your help...as cryptic as it was.” Alyssa had joined her sister after a few moments and now they were wandering through the halls. Duran had returned and immediately had curled protectivly around the feet of their guest, sending them off with a look of aproval.
“Remind me to thank Michail for that....Don't be too hard on me Alyssa. I tried as much as I could...”

Alyssa always wondered. Black hair gleamed light blue for a moment at tiniest of motions. She, with her more then average knowledge and intelligence still didn't get it how her own sister managed to look like a ancient faerie while simply standing.

She definitly had inherited their mothers look. Though while Saeko da Gadhar had been like warm spring breeze her daughter was as cold as an icy sculpture. Alyssa knew that under the frosty exterior lay a jungle of feelings but still admired her sister for such a thight controll on her emotions...and in the same time pitied her for it.

It was rare for Natsuki, who disliked personla attention to herself fiercly, to embrace her little sister or simply comfort her. So Alyssa was a bit shocked when those strong arms enveloped her in a thight hug. It was always a pleasant surprise for the little girl, because these were the rare moments when she could see and feel the warmth under the layers of ice.
Her white teeth flashed in the darkness. “You're talkative today...”

Barely visible in the low light began a slow of a fine black eyebrow above golden emeralds.
“Is that so?”
Alyssa smiled again while she tried to make childish fog pictures on the old and expensive glass windows. “ You're glad she made it here allright, right? “
Her whisper carried well through the silence and the little blond waited patiently. She knew her sister.

“ I helped her as good as I could...I ...couldn't risk...” “You still don't trust her ? “ Alyssa only had raised her voice to normal but still she could see the twitch in her sisters fine shoulders.
“I'd like to Aly...I'd really like to...” Golden green eyes looked out the window at the still forming moon.
“She'll have to come clean with herself first...”



Authors note:

I don't know if I got Natsuki right on the spot. It's always difficult to get into the head of a fictional person with her sort of issues...
I see her as a very intelligent and cautious woman, who knows more that it is good for her. Some people tend to portray her only as a person who seeks revengeor reduce her on the comedy aspect of her character. I don't think she would be reckless enough to put her whole envoirement at risk. I see a normally highly emotional girl with a very bad temper that has problems with interacting with other people. As to why she has this problems ...that's difficult to explain and I only can say read a book of Psychology. What I wanted to say is that there are never white and black with people. There's a whole gamut of colors and I will try to express these aspects of the characters in my story.

I refuse to victimze Natsuki or anyone in this here.If they are unhappy about something they sure as hell will try to do something against it.

Shizuru on the other hand is in this story a whole other can of worms. She's to far concerned about her outside image. In fct she's so caught up in being the “perfect girl ...etc etc” that she literally killed herself from the inside. Shejsut as guarded about herself as Natsuki but she hides it behind a lavender wall (kudos to Chibi Rachy for that wonderful expression ^^ ) She tries to be as conform as possible and doesn't know who she is anymore.

Also there will be no blush-fests or Kyoto-ben in this story. First it doesn't fit the mood and the background of the story and second my japanese isn't nearly as good as I want it to be and so I decided not to butcher it by using it wrongly...and I think some people really overdo it with the “Ara Ara”.

Translation:

Kruger: urban and dialect form of Kuruga or Kurga. Symbolizes the land, which means that the family with this name is literally the land.They royal family got the name back in the founding days of the kingdom and never abondanded it.

Sarkai: “great Beast” or “great Warrior”. A very old name.

Natsuki's first name was chosen by her mother as a reminder for her birthday. (Summer solstice). The name comes from Saeko's home, the ilands of Balan in the south of Kurga where the people speak a mix between Kiarani (Kurgan) and Zipangu which lies on the other side of the ocean.

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

Post by sarcastic-dog on Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:24 am


Questions will be answered and reviews will be noticed ^^

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Re: Long Winter nights ..... Beta reader needed; also critic is welcomed

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