I hate winter. - I love autumn, beautiful colours, but autumn means that Winter Is Coming, and that is never a good thing.
I hate freezing.
Once upon a time there was a princess. Every morning she rode out, slew a dragon and came back around the evening to celebrate and spend time with her family.
One day another princess visited her and told her: "I am jealous of you. You kill a dragon a day, but it takes me a whole year to kill even one of them, and I can only do it if at least three people help me. How do you do it and how can I learn to do the same?"
The first princess answered: "You get to that point by attempting to slay dragons every single day for over thirty years, day in and day out."
"Oh," said the second princess, dejected. "That doesn't sound like fun."
"It isn't," confirmed the first one. "But it keeps my land clean and enables my people to flourish. That's what's makes it worth it: Life has become liveable here thanks to … to my dedication."
"It's a sacrifice, though," said the other. "A life for live."
"Exactly. No one is willing to do that. Will you continue, now that you know? Will you continue and sacrifice your life in service of your whole nation?"
"Maybe," said the second princess carefully. "Let me think about it."
When the princess entered her castle, she found it empty. The walls were bare, the floors were clean, the tables were gone, and the doors were shut closed.
There was a ball of fire in the middle of the main hall, and it said:
"Go to the left."
She doused it, kicked the ashes out, and went upstairs, not caring for directions.
Another fireball awaited her there.
She glowered at it, then teleported it a hundred feet deep into one of the great lakes.
What am I even doing here? she asked herself, now pissed off.
She went upstairs. Like, high up. Highest room of the highest tower, and such.
Then she went up the roof, too, and looked around.
Land. More land. Sunset.
Quite pretty, actually. If there were actual people around her, if the castle was actually livable, meaning, furnished, it might be nice, even. Nice to live here.
Or not. She went back into that room. It was empty, of course. Unfurnished.
So she built a bed from nothing, created it as black and red wood, with a nice mattress, with a pillow filled with feathers and with a colourful heavy blanket as well, and went to sleep.
She awoke to sunshine. Bright, light, yellow. (Why is it that you always wake up too late, and too early as well?) The princess got up and built a table from thin air; a heavy oak table with lovely ornamental stuff all over it. She smiled.
There was breakfast on the table and lunch as well. There were fruits and milk and a bowl with biscuits. So she ate.
Finally she looked into the morning sun. "Now what?" she asked.
She spend the day painting the walls and the ceiling and building a piano so she could play. She hung up some draperies and told the floor to get dressed. (A lovely carpet, of course. She's a princess, after all! Style is generally their middle name.)
And at night, she wrote a good book under candle light. She had built a nearly inhabitable little room for herself.
In the morning she awoke to the song of birds, and sighed.
"Did I tell you to come?" she asked the birds resigned, and they, like proper birds, ignored her. "Right. I'll build better windows next."
That day she stayed in her room, doing mostly detail work and filling her cupboards and treasure chests with books and jewelry, and her wardrobe with beautiful dresses. She didn't feel up to facing her empty castle yet.
But at night she went up, high, high up like a bird, like an eagle, up nearly as high as the moon, and looked at her world.
"Let there be life!" she wispered.
And there was life. (Most of it slept.)
The next morning a cat had found her way into her room (well, that had been unavoidable), and a birdcage with a canary stood on her dresser.
"Honestly!" she said, and shooed the bird out of the window. (The cat, though, was allowed to stay.)
It took a while until she was happy with how the castle looked. Then she finally opened the castle doors, and the doors to her world as well, and from that moment on travellers and settlers, merchants and attendants, farmers and pretty girls, grandmothers and many an adventurer found their way into her world and castle.
And they lived there happily ever after. (Hopefully.)
She had only wanted to bring the milk over to the kitchen table when she was suddenly back home among the other stars, her hair on fire, streaking through the universe — and after that moment she was in her kitchen again, frozen to the spot, eyes wide, and a painful longing and oh so much grief in her heart that she needed a moment or two to even realise what had just happened.
Then the star retraced her steps carefully, walking backwards, trying to find the exact spot where that had happened — and there she was:
Back home; in the palace even. She saw Ephaniel leaning against one of the columns, looking at her — waiting? For her? She tensed.
"Welcome home, princess!" Ephaniel said, not at all smiling.
The star looked around, waiting. She couldn't move without flashing right back to Earth anyway.
He walked over to her. The hallway seemed to be empty except for him and her, and he had kicked her out of the kingdom once before…
But Ephaniel didn't try to kick her out right now, he just stared at the pot of milk that she still held in her hands.
"I have chocolate powder on the table," she said quietly, "and freshly baked bread for breakfast."
Saying that brought her back to herself. 'Palace,' she thought, and then she pulled power all around her so that nothing would be able to touch her. Her hair burning brighter than ever she looked Ephaniel right into the eyes.
There was no ill-will in them.
"What is going on?" she demanded to know while putting even more power into her shields.
He shrugged; a typical gesture for him. "War," he just said.
The star waited.
"We can kick you out but we can't kill you", Ephaniel murmured. "We can limit you and play an illusion in front of your very eyes all day long, but it's still you who decides to burn and live, or to give up." He studied her. "I like it better when you fight."
There was no ill-will in his eyes! She knew she'd never seen any with him. There couldn't be any real danger with him, she felt. What's the secret then?
It was easy, actually.
Growing up was the secret. Having a purpose. There was more, then, and she had closed her eyes to it in accordance with her family's teaching.
But she was leaving that family, and Ephaniel was challenging her to grow up.
She hardened her shield, nodded to Ephaeniel, and stepped back. She put the milk on the table first, then she returned to that spot that had transported her between dimensions.
A crack as fine as hair was in that floortile.
It would help her to practice.
- Inspired by the prompt "Step On A Crack".
- See also: Part One and Part Two
The dreamer is dreaming. You might want to come back another time.
Or you could go explore the castle but be careful around the roots, watch out for anything that glitters, and follow the tiny lights; they're the doors to the other worlds.
Keys are in the corridor, the second door to the left leads into the night garden with the golden ladders.
Don't try the attic just yet, we need to arm you first.
Try not to fall into any books. You might not be ready for your own, personalized story. Blue sky is available at the right-hand side; the kitchen is two storeys up because otherwise the ice would have melted a long time ago.
The rainbow, though, leads back home again if you really want to leave already. And in the dining room the hatter hosts a surprise party for all the unexpected guests that have dared to show up.
Welcome to Otherland. Here all stories are already true.
Heads in the Clouds
That boy trudged home. He was thinking. In his hand he carried the invitation, golden letters and all.
He had waited for this a very long time. But now his application had gotten accepted and he was to go to that school - a warrior school.
That girl jumped up and down with joy. She'd gotten accepted into the Academy! She had been waiting for this for so long. Finally she was old enough, and they had indeed chosen her. Only the best got chosen, they said. She was one of them.
Back in the school preparations happened. Another new academic year would start soon. A new class of warriors to train. Many black clouds to disperse, territories to conquer and hold, and many new challenges to win.
It was going to be a fun new year, an exciting and most likely oftentimes exhausting one.
There was a war to win and battles to fight. Only the strongest survive.
12 courses would be taught over the whole three years.
Three years were never enough but hopefully they'd have gotten a bit of training from their parents already.
Some came from broken homes, though. Some had just now heard of this. Some had been training for this forever. - None of them would be prepared for the battles ahead, not a one.
This year was bigger than any before them. The Academy of Warriors, as old as it was (millenia), only now got traction and everybody, it seemed, wanted to be part of it.
They had chosen with great care. They had chosen against their better judgement. Yet they trusted the process - hopefully their new students would, too.
I grew up in a land that had no colours. It had a dictatorship and spies on every street corner, but it had no colours.
In that land there were no advertisements, because it had no wares. It only sold two kinds of chocolate, both tasting horrible according to my parents. I don't remember the taste of that chocolate.
I do remember how our notebooks looked, though: a greyish dark green, a very rough cover, no pictures, no different colours; the same booklet for all ten school years.
To this day my mother lowers her voice when they talk about political topics, a habit created from a lifetime of fear of the wires picking up such dangerous conversation.
I was a child when the Iron Curtain fell. I remember my father taking me to the big monday demonstrations that took place in all major cities of our little country, and my trousers getting splattered with candle wax that my mother then had to iron out again, every single week that autumn.
I remember the first time he drove with us through the checkpoints into West Berlin to go grocery shopping. (Once the wall was open my father would drive the long way over to Berlin every single week to buy groceries because he refused to buy and eat anything from that old, ugly system anymore.)
I had never been in such a big store before. It had bananas and kiwis and oranges as if it was normal. I had never before in my life eaten a kiwi; bananas and oranges at most once in a year.
I remember looking at rows upon rows upon rows of different brands of cornflakes in that huge store - I had never eaten cornflakes before and had no idea what that even was.
One summer day when my mother and I were on our way back home she spotted many people standing in line in front of a store. After she had found out what they sold she put me at the end of the line and said to me: "Talea, they're selling cherries. I will hurry home and get some money, and you will wait here in the line until I'm back, ok?" I waited obediently. I didn't have a sense of time but like every soul in that country I knew how to wait.
Back then the rule was: If you see a waiting queue you get in line first and ask what is being sold second. It might even be bananas (though cherries were amazing enough!), and wouldn't it be a pity if they sold out before it was finally your turn? (Yes, I remember that, too. But in this case we were lucky and got delicious sweet black cherries after a long, long wait that became more endurable once my mother had finally returned to me.)
But that was Berlin, a city big enough to have such special sales once in a while. When we later lived in a small town everything was way more rationed; I don't remember any special sales. I remember rough skinned, grey-green booklets to write in, and the weird political marches we school children had to participate in on May 1st.
In the summer after the Iron Curtain fell we drove to West Germany. Apparently we had family living there that I would get to know now.
It was a weird experience - there was colour everywhere. Everything glowed with advertisements; I didn't know where to look to keep my eyes safe from that much agressive glowing.
Everything was beautiful, too. Lovely even streets without any cobblestone at all. Clean streets, clean houses; flowers and colours, and everything was neat, tidy and prettier than in any picture book I had ever seen.
When we returned to our part of the country it was not its shabbyness and its grey houses I noticed most stongly, but it was the sudden return of a noise I had never before consciously heard: The highways clattered. [Image: Horrible Highways]
After having driven for a week on silent, modern streets without any holes and not anymore built from slabs of concrete like ours, it was utterly strange to suddenly begin to hear our car clatter again as we skipped from cement plate to cement plate: rattle, rattle, rattle.
Slowly our country changed. The school system changed first - at least from my pretty limited point of view back then.
Later new streets were build. Shiny, increadibly pretty cars could be bought - instantly, actually. Nobody had to wait for 15 years anymore before they could finally buy the car they had applied for, and be happy if it actually came in the colour they had ordered it in.
Berlin has changed so much. When I return there today everything looks wrong: Pretty playgrounds. Modern streets. Buildings made from gleaming glass and steel. A multicultural city. (It still smells the same way it also smelled in my childhood, though.)
Sometimes I recognise a corner, and the Fernsehturm still looks the same.
I was a child in a country made from shadow and dust.
Sometimes I am surprised to find myself in a world that back then even the Science Fiction novels could not imagine.
And sometimes I am surprised at all the greyness I remember. Really, was it really like this? But it was, wiretappings and all.
Once upon a time there was a very rich and very old man. He had a lovely wife and many, many children. He had powerful servants with gleaming swords, huge castles full of precious stones, secret caves and magical trees, and cattle on many, many hills.
And when time came the old man split the inheritance among his children to give a part to each one of them, and went into his most beautiful, gold-covered castle, to spend his last days on these treasured grounds with his wife, servants, and as many of his children who'd want to live in or near the castle.
There was only one condition on gaining the full inheritance, though: Each child had to stay in contact with him regularly so that the old man would have the chance to still be a part of their lives, to see them use his many amazing gifts, and so he could continue sharing his wisdom and great knowledge with them to help them in their own challenges.
But his children were adults now and did not appreciate any dependence on their father much at all. Wanting to live their lives freely, not bound to any rules, time-consuming visits and outdated morals, few of them tried to adhere to the inheritance conditions even just a little bit.
What their old father had worked for so hard and for such a long time seemed to vanish: The great family he had raised broke up and disappeared into all four corners of the world.
The old man sat in his glorious castle, nearly alone.
Empty rooms found and filled with childhood stories: 3
Being a hero: Doing the right thing in the right moment.
Heroism: Letting one's own life and goals behind to fight for a greater good.
A hero's reward: Surpassing all expectations.
Pages filled with decisions for doing that which is right instead of doing that which is easy: 2
There is only ONE correct answer to the saying: "This is impossible."
Impossible things done today: 3
One day it will be impossible to lie anymore. Everybody within hearing range would know.
One day a cut will heal instantly; death will only occur because of old age: When it's time to go. And going will be peaceful.
One day the trees will produce fruit in and out of season, just for us.
One day there can't be any discord anymore.
One day storytelling stops. It just won't be nessessary anymore: Living will be more original, adventurous and fulfilling than any made-up story could ever be. There won't be no drama.
Pages filled with untold stories: 5
… I am wondering, though. There is that dream of, that longing for paradies.
As if the knowledge of it is burned into our hearts even though we've never seen or felt or experienced it, not even in our dreams.
What is that paradies, though? So far we've failed spectacularly to create it ourselves, but how would it even look? I can only imagine…
The living gold that grew in this region was actually not too hard to find, only really hard to produce and to keep and maintain. These boys actually were not all that lucky, but rather hard-working and willing to go through
a bit of a lot of pain.
Precious gold like this was only produced rarely but could change the wealth of entire cities, or at least of whole regions if no cities were in them yet.
Living gold was one of the most magical substances we had on this planet, and definetely one of the most worthwhile materials to have around.
Buckets of gold mined today: 3
Three boys ran around the corner. Apparently they had found gold. … I wanted to find gold, too.
Buckets of gold found today: 4
I'm a God, actually.
Or pretty close at least. Superpowers, check. Amazing creativity, check. Able to look at the physical dimensions from outside of time, check, check, check.
Still, since I'm also human I'm somewhat limited by some of the human problems we still have on this planet.
That girl? She's none of your business. (But very much mine.)
You shouldn't get involved in this.
Pages hidden from me: 1
I am nobody. Really. Not important in the least. And I truly DON'T want to deal with this guy who's been after me since years.
I don't know what he wants - is it sex? is it friendship? does he just want to drive me crazy? I don't know, and I don't WANT to know. At all!
Still, about once a year he turns up in my life and profoundly chaotizes it. This time I had signed up for a kind of business retreat, with mentoring and pampering, with learning and relaxing in front of the fire, with special guests and fireworks in healthy fresh air with lot's of opportunities for long walks in pure nature.
Right. That's what I indeed got. Plus him again. Minus anybody else. I don't buy for one minute that simply nobody else had wanted to sign up. It was a trap designed to yet again catch and then spook me for a few days.
Congratulations, Mister. You've got me thoroughly pissed off — yet again.
Pages hidden under my pillow: 1
Okay, he's not my captor. I'm here by choice, even paid for it. I just feel tricked.
I could leave any moment, though. Which would be utterly dumb unless I can get a helicopter to collect me. Yes, this house is that remote.
I don't trust him one bit.
Pages secretly written and burned: 1
Thunder crashed through the valley. My captor made his eyes into slits and stared into the rain. He got up and started growling and murmuring under his breath while walking to the door.
"Wait!" I called. "You won't let me alone here?"
He turned, nailing me with his gaze. "You're quite safe in here. Stay!"
He was out of the door before I regained any wits.
Pages written next to the fireplace: 1
The bells toll. Snow glows on the mountain tops. We're alone.
Stories told around the fire: 1
Actually, levitating is not as hard as you'd imagine. In fact, you have to not imagine it as hard at all to be able to do it.
Me, I do it all the time, floating around in my little room at night, working on stories. So far a rather useless ability, though.
Currently I'm working on stopping gravity around me. I think it would make for better sleep.
Sheets of paper levitated so far today: 1