My writing and art! Main @cjadewyton and polished work on @jade-wyton
‘Oh, yes! Very okay!’ Keemi’Keemi nodded. ‘Keemi when you small, and parents give you three kisses on nose to make giggles!’
‘So your name is...’ Ka’harja hesitated.
‘Six giggle kisses!’ Keemi’Keemi beamed.
Ka'harja's Journey, Chapter 7 excerpt:
Before he could get the words out of his mouth, Annanyn plopped herself between the pair and offered them both fish from her complicated-looking platter. As she turned to Ka’harja her face pulled in a grimace. ‘What’s that smell?’
‘What smell?’ Sken asked.
‘Smells like mouldy cloth,’ Annanyn muttered, sniffing at the air. ‘I think someone’s cast magic here recently.’
‘What?’ Ka’harja laughed. ‘What are you talking about?’
Annanyn was too busy sniffing to respond, so Sken answered for her. ‘She’s an aura sensor. She can smell magic.’
‘Smell magic?’ Ka’harja echoed. ‘I though aura sensors … sensed magic.’
‘Smell is a sense,’ Sken scoffed, rolling her eyes and grinning playfully. ‘Every aura sensor is different. Annanyn smells it. … What sort of magic is it, puddle-hopper?’
From Ka'harja's Journey, chapter 6
‘You gonna get dressed?’ Ka’harja scoffed. ‘Or at least dry off?’
‘Nah, I’m alright!’ Distro grinned, starting back towards the camp. ‘I’ll just drip-dry.’
Ka’harja watched the two mothers leave with Little Demon. They talked happily between themselves; like old friends who’d known each other for years. Ka’harja felt almost jealous that Dena and his mother had bonded so quickly in the past month. Especially when he considered the cold looks Dena gave him.
He shook his head. It wasn’t Dena’s fault; she’d lived with Kay’oten for … who knows how long? He could only imagine what she saw when she looked at him. He thought it must be for her like it was for him when he was young, and first saw himself in a mirror. … That horrible, familiar face that wasn’t quite his parents’ but close enough to make him sick.
He sighed. He just had to be patient with Dena until she saw him as himself, and not a reminder of the Heck’ne.
‘That’s not fair,’ Stars mumbled, swimming up next to Ka’harja. ‘Everyone gets to be naked except for me.’
‘You’re naked now,’ he pointed out.
Little Demon's first word.
Little Demon gave a gurgle, and Ka’harja laughed and pulled him back against his chest.
‘Hah, idiot,’ Ka’harja teased. ‘That’s what you are, aren’t you? Stupid!’
‘F. ... Flu!
‘That’s a new noise,’ snickering, Ka’harja adjusted the wiggling infant until he was more comfortable. ‘You trying to say flowers? Flowers. Can you say that?’
‘F. ... Fuck.’
Ka’harja felt his blood ice over.
Oh Eighth Child of the Ninth.
‘Uh, right,’ Ka’harja smacked his lips together and stood straight. ‘Right. Right. Baku? Baku!’
Baku stuck his head out of the caravan he’d disappeared into. ‘Yeah?’
‘Hold this for me,’ he didn’t wait for a response before thrusting Little Demon info Baku’s arms. ‘I have to— I gotta go.’
‘Ka’harja!’ Baku called back loudly as Ka’harja disappeared around a corner. ‘Hey! No! Stars asked you to look after him! I’m busy! Sken said. ... BY THE GODDESS KA’HARJA WHAT DID TOU DO TO HIM?’
‘Ah, yeah, I didn’t think those two got along much,’ Ka’harja replied. ‘Did something happen between them?’
Coff shook his head. ‘N-No. They just— They just— Just—‘
‘Just don’t get along?’ Ka’harja offered.
Coff bit his lip and nodded. ‘Y-Yea—’
‘—HAH!’ Distro’s laugh cut in from above, and the boys turned to see her, Denni, and Dena staring down at them from the top of the hill. ‘GAAAAY!’
‘THAT’S THE POINT!’ Ka’harja shouted back as his mother began her way down towards him. ‘Aw, no, what does she want— THIS IS A PRIVATE CONVERSATION! GO AWAY!’
‘YOU SKIPPED BREAKFAST!’ Distro pointed to Denni, who brandished a loaf of bread high above her head. ‘BUT IF YOU’RE GOING TO BE UNGRATEFUL, THEN FINE! DENNI?’
The loaf of bread sailed in a perfect arc through the air and Ka’harja didn’t have time to respond before it hit him full in the face.
‘Ow!’ Ka’harja exclaimed, dramatically motioning from his face to the bread. ‘Seriously? SERIOUSLY?’
‘LOVE YOU!’ his mother called back. Then she headed back up the hill and put an arm around each of her friends, leading them both back towards camp.
‘Gods! I swear! Sometimes she’s just— UGH!’ Ka’harja flopped onto his back and gave a groan. ‘Sorry about her.’
?? Apparently I didn't post this?? Coz I was like "Oh I'll reblog my book's cover!" but can't seem to find it on any of my blogs *raspberry noises*
Ka'harja's Journey is the first book in my series, Don't Lose Hope. I'm 80k+ words into the public version of it, and still have a lot more to go! It's a passion project that's completely free and can be found on my world-building website, demrefor.com! It contains some adult content & sensitive topics, though, so be aware of that if you choose to check it out!
When you're tired from your all-night shift and it makes you have small feelings, but that's okay because your boyfriend's feelings are big enough for the both of you.
‘Hello! I am Keemi’Keemi! I am serving drinks today!’ the avio gave a happy flap of her wings.
‘I’m Stars!’ Stars’ face lit up. ‘And this is Koko, Baku, Lif, Trat, Sken, Annanyn, Coborn, and my best friend— Ka’harja!’
‘Oh best friend!’ Keemi’Keemi beamed. ‘I have seven those! They very fun have! Lots and lots of love!’
Stars nodded. ‘Is it okay if I ask what keemi means, Q?’
‘Oh, yes! Very okay!’ Keemi’Keemi nodded. ‘Keemi when you small, and parents give you three kisses on nose to make giggles!’
‘So your name is …’ Ka’harja hesitated.
‘Six giggle kisses!’ Keemi’Keemi beamed.
Ka'harja's Journey, Chapter 9 (WIP)
Ka'harja falls in a river and is pulled out by Sken. The following conversation is as awkward as those two always are when put together.
‘Hey— No, no!’ Ka’harja leapt to his feet and raised his hands defensively. ‘You guys can’t bully me!’ ‘Crock!’ Distro gave a wicked grin and made to stand up. ‘We can absolutely bully you!’ ‘NO!’ Ka’harja didn’t mean for it to come out as a shriek, but the entire room had taken cue from his mother and suddenly advanced on him— And he was only half out the door before he felt his mother leap onto his back and whoop like she was taming a wild horse. He nearly slipped down the last step as her weight slammed into him and stumbled along the damp grass for a minute before Distro’s arms wrapped around his face and he couldn’t see where he was going. ‘Git ‘im, Distro!’ ‘No! Stop getting me!’ Ka’harja exclaimed. Then he tripped and fell, the weight on his back pulling him down sideways. ‘Aw, FUCK!’ Distro exclaimed as Ka’harja landed on her. ‘Elbow— ELBOW!’ Ka’harja rolled off her and she let out a gasp, gripping her stomach and rolling over to catch her breath. ‘Y’kay, Distro?’ Denni called. ‘Yeah, fine,’ Distro replied. ‘Serves you right,’ Ka’harja joked, rolling to his feet and offering his mother a hand. ‘I’m a sensitive boy, you know!’ Right as he said it he met eyes with Coff, and felt like an idiot. But then Coff smiled and he felt a little less like an idiot. … And then his mother yanked him onto the ground again and started sticking her fingers in his ears, and the shriek he let out made him feel stupider than ever. ‘Let me go!’ he cried. ‘I’m fragile! I’M FRAGILE!’ ‘Crock!’ Distro retorted before making a throaty snort— And Ka’harja screamed as spit made its way down the back of his neck. ‘DISGUSTING!’ his voice rose so high it hurt his ears. ‘YOU’RE DISGUSTING!’ ‘You’re the one with spit on you.’ ‘Get off me!’ wiggling as much as he could, Ka’harja managed to escape his mother’s grip and fled through the caravans towards the river. He couldn’t hear her following him and he slowed as he made it to the incline, turning to see nobody behind him. ‘Oh, thank the Eighth child of the Ninth,’ he breathed, stumbling down the hill. Then he slipped and tumbled the whole way down before splashing into the river with another loud cry.
‘Uh, I’m not actually sure,’ Ka’harja admitted. ‘I wasn’t joking before. I’m … lost.’
‘—I know where she should be, if they haven’t left me behind,’ Ka’harja pointed in a random direction. ‘By the river.’
‘River ain’t that way, Sweetheart,’ Denni corrected Ka’harja by pushing his fingers until he was pointed in the right direction.
Ka'harja is good at one thing and one thing only... And that's being hungry
‘Ka’harja and I use fresh herbs all the time,’ said Distro. ‘Let me see them.’
Ka’harja watched his mother stand over the healer and point. ‘The moon’s leaf is fine, but the cortcor berries are a little underripe, see the orange colouration? Put them in some sugar-water until they’re a bright red.’
‘W-Will that w-work?’ amazed, Coff put the berries aside and wrote a quick note.
‘For cortcor berries it does,’ Ka’harja chimed in, leaning over the two and brushing some pale green berries away from the rest. ‘Not for the julijun, though, the sugar makes them lose their potency. You need to pick them ripe or they’re useless for anything but replanting.’
Coff nodded and scribbled down another note. ‘Wh-What about the a-acorns? I’m not s-sure if they’re o-okay or— Or if they’re going bad.’
Ka’harja picked one up and bit into it. ‘Tastes fine to me.’
The healer looked at him, horrified. ‘You’re n-not even go-going to. …’
Ka’harja swallowed. ‘Not going to what?’
Ka’harja frowned. ‘You only shell them if you’re using them for potions, I thought?’
Coff put his face in his hands and let out a long, pained sigh as Ka’harja ate the rest of the acorn, cap and all.
‘He’s like a squirrel,’ Distro snickered.
‘Squirrels do-don’t eat the sh-shells,’ Coff corrected. ‘He’s like a. … A. …’
‘Hey, I’m right here, you know!’ Ka’harja snapped playfully, finishing the last bowl of soup. ‘Dammit.’
‘Still hungry, bin-boy?’ Distro asked. She grinned when Ka’harja nodded. ‘There was a lot more leftover. I don’t think anyone will mind if you have another bowl.’
‘You— You just had s-seven bowls of soup!’ Coff exclaimed. ‘How are you st-still wanting m-more?’
Ka’harja shrugged. ‘I always eat this much.’
This is pretty long, but I'm very happy with it! It's actually from a published chapter, so if you want to read the whole thing properly formatted you can find the series HERE.
Ka'harja's had an awkward day. Annanyn offers to sit with him so he can have a break, and accidentally tells him her entire life story.
He nearly jumped out of his skin as Annanyn put a hand on his back.
Great Star! Could he not go anywhere in this place without someone trying to talk to him?
‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ he lied. ‘Just … thinking.’
‘About Coff?’ Annanyn asked.
‘Wh— What makes you think that?’
‘I saw you two talking. It looked awkward,’ she gave him a sympathetic smile and readjusted Little Demon in her arms— Ka’harja had almost missed the tiny little lad until he’d let out a tired murmur.
‘Hey, you little fucker,’ Ka’harja couldn’t help bending down and smooching the boy’s nose.
‘Don’t call him that!’ Annanyn gasped, quickly planting her own kisses over the baby. ‘You’re not a swear-word! You’re a brave little man!’
Ka’harja couldn’t help but giggle. ‘I mean, I’m not good with kids, but I’m pretty sure it’s okay to swear in front of a one-month-old. He’s not going to repeat it!’
‘You’re right, you’re not good with kids,’ Annanyn scoffed. When she was done rolling her eyes her smile returned, creasing her chubby cheeks against her eyes in a cheeky grin as she gave her fins a happy flick. ‘I’m so lucky Stars is letting me look after him. I can’t wait to adopt my own little cutie!’
‘Right, coz you’re gay!’ Ka’harja blurted. ‘I mean— Well yeah. … Because of that.’
He was glad Annanyn had a sense of humour.
‘Yes,’ she giggled. ‘Unless the gods put a child in me, I really doubt it’s going to happen any other way.’
‘Right,’ Ka’harja coughed. ‘So. … How is Sken? I haven’t seen her all day.’
‘Busy,’ Annanyn replied, her shoulders sagging as she sighed. ‘I haven’t seen her much, either.’
‘Sounds lonely,’ he wasn’t sure if he should put a hand on her shoulder? Maybe. … Oh gods why was she so sticky?
Ka’harja remembered she was a seces at the last moment, and swallowed the sick feeling that her slimy skin left in his chest.
This was a mistake. But he couldn’t just take his hand away, now.
Maybe a quick pat?
Was that enough pats?
Maybe he should. …
That seemed about right.
‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ Annanyn asked carefully. ‘You don’t seem okay.’
‘I’m fine,’ he repeated his lie, though this time it came out a little less confident. And this time, it was obvious Annanyn didn’t believe him.
‘Would you like to come sit with me?’ she offered. ‘In my caravan. I have to double check the books —stock and stuff— and it’d be nice to have some company. We don’t have to talk or anything.’
‘Uh, sure,’ Ka’harja liked the idea of that. Just quietly blending into the background was when he felt most comfortable.
Annanyn nodded and then, as if to prove she wasn’t going to bother him by talking, turned around without another word and began her way back to her private caravan.
She held the door open for Ka’harja, who wasn’t sure if his quiet thank-you was heard. But he was too embarrassed to repeat himself and instead plopped himself down on the floor next to the bathtub-bed and rubbed the tense muscles in his neck.
Annanyn took her place at a small, book-covered desk that resembled Coff’s and began carefully moving stacks of paper from a nearby shelf onto her workspace.
Ka’harja felt … awkward, sitting in silence. He knew Annanyn had said they didn’t have to talk but he— He actually sort of wanted to talk to her? He couldn’t believe it. Just a month ago if she’d come over he’d have retreated into the pantry and hidden away to avoid conversation. Now he had the urge to start a conversation with her. …
Would it be rude to talk while she was working? Should he say something or should he keep quiet?
He watched her scribble away for a few minutes before finally deciding to say something.
‘That’s a lot of math,’ he offered. ‘I’m not too good at math. I know that’s not the best thing to hear from an alchemist but. … Uh. … I’ve just never been able to sit down and focus long enough to figure it out. You know?’
‘Oh, yes, I understand completely!’ Annanyn’s excited tone reassured Ka’harja he’d made the right choice as she turned in her chair and raised her gills. ‘I used to be terrible at it! So terrible my parents actually considered sending me to the Gallamor to study! But luckily for me, while my surrogate was looking into it my genitor got offered a job in Dr’oy, and they forgot about it during the move. I wasn’t going to remind them, so I was spared. Until I got fired from my first job for math-related reasons. Then my surrogate lost xer mind! Xie started talking about sending me to boarding school again, so I faked a job offer from a company in Canis La’Can. I’d say it was a mistake, because that place was cold, but I met Sken there, so not really. And— And. … I’ve been talking for a while, haven’t I?’
‘Keep going,’ Ka’harja grinned. ‘How’d you and Sken meet? I want to hear it!’
The look on Annanyn’s face was well worth the high-pitch scree that escaped her gills as she continued, ‘Well, I met Sken a few weeks after moving to La’Can! I was looking for a place to stay, but not many people wanted to give board to a sixteenth-eclipser without a job— And not many places wanted to give a job to someone without a mailing address. So I … may have stolen a few wallets and tried to fake being a lady called Luronne.’
Ka’harja was so shocked he almost laughed. He couldn’t believe Annanyn had ever broken the law! She always seemed so sweet! But here she was, lying to her parents, running away from home, stealing wallets and— ‘You stole someone’s identity?’
‘Tried to. Only she was pretty well-known, so it didn’t work. I was just lucky she didn’t press charges,’ Annanyn shook her head and grinned. ‘I was legally an adult by seces law, and old enough to live alone by wolven law, so if she’d not had a sense of humour I could have ended up in jail!’
‘Shit, you were a rebel!’ Ka’harja almost wanted to tell her his own wild adventures stealing and lying his way through life— But bit his tongue. He’d stolen from her, after all. It was a bit more awkward to explain then stealing from a complete stranger. … Though she’d been a stranger when he’d done it.
‘Don’t swear in front of the baby!’ Annanyn scolded in a hushed voice. She grinned again as she continued, ‘Needless to say, they booked me a boat back to Dr’oy. Which I missed four times before they gave up on me. Then I saw Felelor again— Oh, I don’t think I told you how we met?’
‘He told me before,’ Ka’harja chuckled. ‘Jumped in front of a valenor and saved your life.’
Annanyn nodded, flicking her gills and smiling widely. ‘Felelor was an absolute sweetheart and let me stay at his place while he was recovering from his injuries. In return I had to do things for him that he couldn’t do. Like getting groceries. The local shopkeepers shadowed me whenever I dared set foot in their stores, though, and apparently Felelor got a few letters about what I’d done.’
‘Yeah,’ Annanyn giggled. ‘I don’t think he really cared too much. I’m grateful for that, because it got cold real fast and I was a really stubborn teenager. … I would have frozen before I went home. It was actually one of the cold days I met Sken! I went to the market to pick up potatoes with Naranako and bumped into her in the crowd. … I remember the look she gave me; I think she just fell in love with me on the spot. She offered to carry my bags— Sort of. She was really flustered and couldn’t get the words out, and it was cute, so I asked if she wanted to walk with us and, well. … Two years later we got married and started travelling. … Oh, Scara. This was meant to be about math! I’m so sorry. If I even think of Sken I just sort of. … Get distracted.’
‘You tell stories like I do,’ Ka’harja chuckled.
Annanyn’s cheeks turned a deep green and she bit her lip. ‘So much for not-talking, huh?’
‘I started it, and I really enjoyed hearing about your life!’ he replied, moving to sit on his tail so Annanyn wouldn’t see it wagging— He realised too late that he’d only brought attention to it, and blushed as Annanyn giggled. ‘Hey— Uh, maybe a bit personal, but in all honesty … I’ve never been in a good relationship before and I was curious. … What do you two do when you fight? If you’ve ever fought before? I always seem to fall out with my boyfriends over one thing or another. Any advice?’
‘We disagree on plenty of things,’ Annanyn’s impish grin returned and she leant in close. ‘But usually I just compliment her muscles and she caves and lets me get my way.’
‘Somehow, I don’t feel that would work for me,’ Ka’harja gave a dramatic sigh that ended with an involuntary giggle. ‘But yeah, I’ve seen you do that to your wuvly Skenny-poo!’
‘Shh!’ Annanyn covered her mouth and clamped down her gills, trying to muffle her snicker. ‘Great Star, Ka’harja! Don’t! She’ll hear you!’
‘Weally? You weally weally tink so?’ Ka’harja teased. ‘Your big stwong kelp knot will hear me? Wot will she do to me?’
‘I’ll beat the living shit out of you!’ Sken’s voice nearly gave Ka’harja a heart attack.
He was on his feet before she managed to shut the door, and was halfway to the back of the room before Annanyn made it the three steps forward to kiss her wife.
‘You’re done setting up camp?’ she asked, a desperate hint in her voice as she buried her face into Sken’s chest. ‘I’ve missed you!’
‘I’ve missed you too, puddle-hopper. Sorry today was so long,’ Sken whispered into the top of Annanyn’s head. She breathed her in for a long moment before pulling away and turning to Ka’harja, her dreamy eyes turning into a death-glare as she flicked her barbed tail in his direction. ‘If I ever hear you refer to me as “kelp knot” again. …’
Sken gave a humoured snort before putting her arms back around Annanyn and grinning. ‘I caught you a walleye.’
‘Coff?’ Sken’s gills twitched curiously. ‘He’s alright. Koko reckons he works too hard. Which is saying something, considering she pushes people more than I do! But I think. …’
‘It’s to distract him from something,’ she finished. Then she cracked open another bottle of drink. She drank this one slowly. ‘He’s always looking for something to do; when he runs out of work he’ll tear down his shelves and rearrange them just to keep himself busy. … I keep telling him it’s fine. But he doesn’t know how to stop. Complete opposite of you. You don’t seem to start anything.’
Ka’harja’s Journey - Chapter 7
‘She to be happy when know more nurlak-kin here! You visit us, Q? It make mumma happy! We have house Below! Pink door at centre town fountain! Seven floor down, blue feather room door, black handle! Knock for sure!’
‘I’ll try and visit before we leave,’ Stars replied. ‘I promise.’
Ka’harja wasn’t sure how she’d do that, considering the directions the child had given. ‘Uh, do you have a map or something? I don’t know if we’ll be able to find it.’
‘Really? But it’s so simple,’ Stars blinked. ‘Their house is in the caves, and the building with the pink door near the town’s fountain is the closest entrance. Go seven floors down, find the door decorated with blue feathers and a black handle. Knock before going in.’
‘Oh,’ Ka’harja sighed. ‘Are you sure you’re not part avio?’
Stars shakes her head. ‘I’m very happy being nurlak, thank you.’
‘You are very rude foxen,’ Cor’Bala said, jumping out of the caravan and giving a wave. ‘I do not mind that you rude. But I ask that please do not be rude if visit, or mumma get mad with you! Hit with a broom, like with last one to visit! Not a fun.’
Context: Ka’harja is a sneaky theif who stole from the caravan, and overheard Baku’s name while doing so.
Also, he has anxiety.
Ka’harja nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard Baku’s voice calling out. He forced himself to smile and turned to face the guard. ‘Just asking for a bit of help for the girls. No need to worry, Baku.’
As soon as the name escaped his mouth Ka’harja’s chest tightened and he felt the uncontrollable urge to backflip into the sun and die. He couldn’t believe he’d let that slip!
Baku just stared at Ka’harja and frowned. ‘Have we met?’
‘Yes!’ Ka’harja lied. His voice broke with fear and he gave a quick cough, which he pretended was a badly-timed sneeze. ‘We met last year. Don’t you remember me?’
Luckily Baku seemed to think Ka’harja had been offended and not terrified. He glanced at his feet and apologised. ‘I’m usually good with faces. I can’t think of how I’d forget yours; it’s very unique.’
Ka’harja shrugged and tried to laugh. ‘You were pretty drunk, I’m not surprised you don’t remember.’
‘Ah! That would explain it,’ an uneven grin spread across Baku’s face, squashing his scars until they looked like age lines on his otherwise young face. ‘I wouldn’t have thought I’d forget a man like you! But I suppose I wouldn’t remember forgetting, would I?’
‘I have to get back to work —the caravan is leaving soon— but I hope we see each other again next year.’
Smiling back awkwardly, Ka’harja gave Baku a nod. He figured Baku was the sort of guy to draw attention to himself and in a panicked attempt to make his story more believable, he took a gamble. ‘Right, and you can do that party trick again.’
‘The one with the two bottles and the chikchik? Sure!’ with a wave, Baku turned and strutted away.
Ka’harja walked as calmly as he could until he was out of the caravan’s sight. … Then he sprinted away as fast as he could in the direction of his house.
‘I expected her to come sooner,’ Distro explained. ‘After Ka’harja told me what she did to him. I’ve been wanting to break this bitch’s neck since she broke his leg!’
Sken glanced to the scar on Ka’harja’s leg, then looked up with awe. ‘You really care about him, don’t you? Even though he’s not really—’
‘—That sentence better finish with “very bright,”’ Distro hissed. ‘Because if anyone else dares to imply he’s not my son, I’ll kill them, too!’
Sken’s gills pressed down in shock and she gave a curt nod.
Y’all want some dumbass gay shit?
‘S-So,’ Coff echoed. ‘Ka’harja, I-I. …’
Ka’harja waited patiently for Coff to finish, but when the man didn’t, he simply sighed and looked to the floor. ‘I know you like Stars.’
‘Wh-What? Why would I. … We h-have nothing in-in c-common!’ Coff gasped. ‘I don’t— I d-don’t l-like her!’
‘Wait, you don’t like Stars?’ Ka’harja asked. ‘Then who’s the crush you were talking about?’
Coff stared at him for a long, long moment. The look on his face told Ka’harja that he should have known, but in the state he was in he … couldn’t quite figure it out.
After a minute that felt like an hour, he decided to guess. ‘You like … Sken?’
‘NO!’ Coff exclaimed, burying his face in his hands. ‘Y-Y-You’re so— So st-st-stup-stup-stupid— H— How— How are you— Even— Even—’
Ka’harja wasn’t sure what to do as Coff doubled over with a frustrated cry, so he awkwardly leant over so he could pat the healer’s back. ‘I’m sorry. Does it really matter that I know? I mean— I’d probably end up telling them by accident. …’
Coff took a deep breath and sat up straight. He stared at Ka’harja again, his eyes wide. After a minute, he spoke.
‘I like … you.’
‘As a friend?’
The healer struck him across the cheek so hard he slipped off the bed and onto the floor.
The opening of Stars' third eye (literally)
For context, Stars is a nurlak; a four-eyed race of humanoids. However, Stars was born with her second set of eyes imperforated, meaning her eyelids were fused together at birth. She was never treated for it and her second set of eyes were always just sort of under the closed lids.
There's an accident when she's training with Baku, and she's nicked by the tip of his sword... And it doesn't go well.
cw: blood / gore / facial injury / pus / general gross stuff
Stars made for the block. She stepped back and lifted her own sword in one motion, preparing to expertly block Baku’s swing. But at the last second Stars’ foot slid on a rock; her ankle twisted and she dropped her sword as she fell to her knee.
Baku stumbled back awkwardly, too far through his swing to halt. The tip of his sword barely tapped Stars’ face and Ka’harja sighed with relief. At worst she’d have a cut on her forehead, at best it would just be a light scratch…
But then Stars fell forward, gripping her forehead and screaming, and Ka’harja leapt to his feet.
‘It hurts!’ Stars exclaimed. ‘Baku! Help me! It hurts!’
‘It’s just a scratch,’ Baku tried to comfort Stars. He stepped to her side and put a hand to her shoulder. ‘It’ll hurt for a bit but it’s not—’
Baku’s pause made Ka’harja’s chest tighten. His heart felt like it was going to explode as he raced over to Stars.
She still clutched at her head and blood oozed between her fingers; lots of blood. Too much blood. And there was another, pus-like liquid. Yellow-brown and thick, Ka’harja could smell its rank oder as he reached out and grabbed Stars’ arm.
She squeaked and pulled away as Ka’harja tried to see what Baku’s sword had done.
‘It hurts!’ she repeated. ‘It hurts like fire and scratches and punches all at once!’
‘Get Coff,’ Ka’harja demanded to Baku.
Baku nodded and started back to the caravan.
Ka’harja tried to coax Stars off the ground, but she refused to move. Tears streamed down her face and she struggled as Ka’harja forced her to her feet and dragged her towards the caravan.
‘Stars, you’re hurt!’ said Ka’harja, his voice breaking. ‘You have to get to Coff!’
Stars shook her head and collapsed to her knees again. She trembled for a second before looking up to Ka’harja. ‘How bad is it?’ she asked nervously.
Ka’harja watched in horror as she slowly pulled her hand away from her forehead. Blood and pus trailed after it, sticky and stringy like too-thick gravy. It dripped down her arm and face and she had to wink her eye to stop the blood from getting in it. The small cut Baku had made had torn open wider and jagged-edged skin sliced across almost half of Stars’ forehead.
Ka’harja nearly threw up when he saw the wound. ‘Bad.’
This scene is mostly a break from all the sad stuff; it’s a silly arguement that both develops the characters and shows off some of the world building!
It also helps to lift the mood so that when it drops again, you feel the drop and it has more impact, so instead of you feeling like “ugh they’re STILL sad?” you (hopefully) feel more like hugging then and saying “baby no its okay!”
‘Fireproof charms were ten percent off,’ she mumbled. ‘And I was already getting the invisibility enchantment put on.’
Ka’harja laughed. He felt guilty about taking the things, but he was happy to know that none of it was damaged. Perhaps he could sneak it back into Coff’s caravan when everyone else was busy.
‘Hey, don’t laugh, I saved twenty gold on that enchantment—’
‘—WHAT?’ Ka’harja knew that a fireproof charm wasn’t worth fifty gold— And that Distro must have paid at least three times that much for a ten percent saving to be twenty gold. He quickly tried to calculate it in his head and nearly slapped his mother when he figured it out. ‘You paid two hundred gold for a fireproofing enchantment?’
‘No, I paid one hundred and eighty!’ Distro snapped. ‘You’re forgetting that I saved twenty!’
‘Saving twenty gold on a fireproofing charm should mean you get it for free!’ he retorted. ‘You could have gotten a cheaper one somewhere else—’
‘—And have the enchantment wear off after a week? No thank you!’ Distro snapped back. ‘Lifetime guarantees don’t come from cheap enchanters!’
‘Lifetime guarantees don’t come from cheap enchanters,’ Ka’harja mocked. ‘Great Star, mum, no wonder we’re always broke!’
‘You mean: no wonder we always have things that work properly!’ Distro put her hands on her hips and shook her head. ‘Imagine if I used cheap ingredients for the potions? They’d not be half as good!’
Ka’harja just laughed and walked back to the ashes of his house.
‘Don’t you walk away from me!’ Distro called out, following her son. She nearly ran into Baku as he came out of the pantry. ‘You! Baku, was it? Tell Ka’harja for me— Tell him that it’s better to pay more for something that works, than pay less and have to replace it later!’
Baku looked stunned. ‘I— Ah— Wha— Huh?’
‘She paid two hundred gold for a fireproof enchantment on a canvas sack,’ Ka’harja explained.
‘How much?’ Koko’s voice called from behind the burnt wall and she poked her head out of the pantry. ‘Scara in the High-World, who pays that much for an enchantment that’ll wear off in a month’s time?’
‘Well, I’ve had the enchantment on it for five years, and it hasn’t worn off!’ Distro huffed. ‘And if I was paying ten gold every month for five years, I would have paid … uh … a lot more than two hundred by now!’
Baku shot Koko a look, as if asking her to say something, but Koko just shrugged before retreating back into the room.
‘Why won’t you talk to me?’ she cried, grabbing her wife around the waist.
Sken froze in place, and for a long moment she just stood there.
‘Please talk to me,’ Annanyn sobbed. ‘Why don’t you trust me!’
Then Sken turned, and put her arms around her wife. ‘I trust you.’
‘Then why does how Stars feels matter?’
‘I don’t want to lose you,’ Sken’s gills clamped, and she let out a sob. ‘She has everything I can’t give you and it makes me so scared I can’t breathe.’
‘You’ve got more than she could ever offer me,’ Annanyn said softly, leaning into Sken’s chest and hugging her. ‘You will never, ever lose me. I promise.’
‘She’s everything I want to be,’ Sken said, her voice quivering. ‘And she. … I know it’s stupid, but I feel like she’s going to take everyone from me. Like Koko and— And you.’
Annanyn’s lights lit up; though for once, it wasn’t a happy glow. She threw her arms around her wife and squeezed her tightly. ‘I would never leave you.’
Sken shivered, and looked away. ‘Even if it meant you could have a child?’
‘No, not even if it meant I could have a child,’ she replied, her voice calmed and her lights dimmed. ‘Because if I couldn’t raise them with you— Well … what would the point of it be?’
After-effects of a high-risk fight scene where Ka’harja’s two mothers (biological and adopted) fought to the death over him.
The fight introduced an important piece of world-building, dragonshifting, and gave us some more info on what abuse Ka’harja went through before he ran away.
Though this scene focuses more on Distro and Ka’harja’s bond; and how they help each other heal after traumatic experiences.
Distro flinched as he sat beside her. She turned her face away and shifted awkwardly, scratching at the scales that had grown over her freckles with an anxious energy. Ka’harja elbowed her hand away from her neck before holding out one of the bowls of soup, which he had figured he was lucky not to have spilt on his way down the hill.
Distro sighed as she took it, staring at it rather than eating it, and Ka’harja had to lean over and kiss her before she realised it was food.
She smiled at him with her uneven jaw and her new teeth clanked together as she tried to pull back her underbite into a more comfortable position. Her uncomfortable smile faded into a frown and she flicked her too-long ears in frustration.
Ka’harja was intrigued by the fluff that now spilled out of his mother’s ears and fell under its own weight like decorative hair extensions. But when he reached out his hand he found that, instead of following his first instinct to playfully tug on his mother’s hair, his palm met her cheek and his thumb wiped away a lone tear that had found its way under her eye.
Her skin barely felt like her own, but he didn’t care. No matter what she looked like she was still his mother, and nothing —not even turning into a dragon— could ever change that.
Ka’harja slid his hand over his mother’s face and he rested a finger on her nose. He grinned and pushed against one of her nostrils. ‘I bet I could fit an entire finger in one of these bad boys.’
Distro snorted a laugh and batted his hand away from her snout.
‘Guess what?’ asked Ka’harja as he poked his mother’s nose again. He continued when she met his eye with a tired grin. ‘You’re great.’
Distro’s laugh was louder this time. ‘No, you are!’
‘You’re greater though,’ barely noticing the new deepness to her voice, Ka’harja poked her again. He stopped and looked down at his food as he turned the day over in his mind. ‘You saved my life.’
‘You’re my little boy,’ Distro rasped. ‘What else was I meant to do? Have that bitch take you back to the Heck’ne? I’d rather die than let that happen.’
Ka’harja smiled and drank his soup. It was hard to figure out what he was feeling; the last two days had been pretty hectic. He knew, though, that he was relieved Distro was still alive. He couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to lose her. Whenever he tried to think about what he would have done if she’d lost the fight or died in the fire, his mind shut off and all he could imagine was a bird flying into a window. Maybe he was supposed to be the bird? He wasn’t sure what his brain was doing.
‘I love you, mum,’ he finally managed. ‘I love you more than I love anything else.’
‘Even more than that sexy werewolf calendar you got on our holiday to Bonark?’
Ka’harja nearly choked. ‘At least twice as much. You didn’t see me pulling that out of the fire, did you?’
Distro’s smile seemed to stick on her now, and even when she looked away it didn’t falter. ‘How’s the soup taste?’
‘As salty as Koko’s attitude,’ Ka’harja laughed. ‘I think you’ll like it. Give it a go.’
Distro lifted her bowl and blew over the soup; mist flowed into the air and it almost looked like she’d exhaled white smoke.
Ka’harja grinned at his mother as she turned back to him.
‘No spoon?’ she joked.
Ka’harja shrugged. ‘Since when were you the sort of loser to eat soup with a spoon?’
Distro laughed. She put the bowl to her mouth and tried to drink, but the ceramics clinked against her teeth and hot soup spilled down her front.
Ka’harja’s shirt ripped in his hurry to get it off. He forced it over his head and wiped the steaming soup off his mother before urging her towards the cold river.
‘It doesn’t hurt at all,’ said Distro as she pulled away from her son. ‘It feels … comfortably warm.’
‘But it was steaming!’ Ka’harja exclaimed. ‘You’d have to be a dragon for it to not … burn. … Right. I get it. Stop laughing.’
Still giggling, though covering her mouth to muffle it, Distro shook her head at her son and gave him a shove. ‘Did you not notice?’ she asked with a grin.
‘Look, it’s been a long day,’ Ka’harja plopped down next to his mother and sighed. He watched as Distro started to scratch at her new scales again. ‘Itchy?’
‘No,’ mumbled Distro. ‘Just different.’
Here’s a scene from Ka’harja’s Journey where Ka’harja is too stupid to realise Coff likes him.
Coborn just stared at him like he was an idiot.
‘Oh, I suppose it’d be obvious to you, wouldn’t it?’ Ka’harja rubbed the back of his neck. ‘You’ve known him so long. I imagine … you can tell who it is.’
‘Yes he. … He told me who,’ Coborn replied. She refused to meet Ka’harja’s eye and focused on her cooking instead, pulling out a pile of weird-looking vegetables and packets of herbs that Ka’harja only sort-of recognised as ingredients to a few pick-me-ups he might have made in his own profession.
‘Who?’ Ka’harja asked. ‘Or, I mean. … I guess you can’t really say, huh? None of my business. But I’m curious— It’s not Koko, is it? She’s not really his type, plus the whole Baku thing.’
‘No it’s … not Koko,’ Coborn confirmed, continuing to avoid eye-contact. Then she gave a humoured snort before finally putting down the food and half-looking at Ka’harja. ‘But I’m really curious. … Who do you think it is?’
Ka’harja hesitated. Who did he think it was? It wasn’t Coborn herself— She’d probably not keep it a secret, and how absolutely disgusted she’d seemed when he suggested they’d dated before was pretty telling how the two saw each other. Koko was not it. Maybe it was Annanyn. Did Annanyn seem his type? Maybe. Although … he couldn’t imagine Coff being able to look Sken in the eye if he liked Annanyn. Did he like Sken? Not likely. She was terrifying. And he was timid.
That was all the caravaners.
Was it even one of the caravaners?
He looked at Coborn, who stared back. After a moment of silence he sat on the log beside Coborn and clasp his hands tightly, trying to think.
Maybe it’s not a caravaner, he thought. If it was, would he be so nervous? Or would he just tell them. He’d know them well enough to tell them, wouldn’t he?
So … that left. … Dena, Distro, and Stars.
Dena was old. Like, in her fifties. And she looked old. And she acted old. And she was tired and grumpy and didn’t really talk to anyone much, let alone Coff. …
And his mother was also older. … Not as old as Dena. She was only in her mid-thirties. … But she was still way too old for Coff to be interested. At least, he hoped she was too old for Coff to be interested.
So that left Stars.
Ka’harja could see that. Stars was sweet. And considerate. And she spent a lot of time with Coff. It wasn’t surprising if he had feelings for her.
‘I think. … I think I know,’ Ka’harja muttered.
‘Oh, thank The Goddess,’ Coborn gave a relieved sigh and grinned. ‘It took a while, but you finally see it? It’s so obvious how much he likes—’
‘—I can’t believe he’s into Stars!’ Ka’harja exclaimed.