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 Cartoon Eyes chapter 4

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Raduvad

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PostSubject: Cartoon Eyes chapter 4   Tue Nov 23, 2010 6:01 pm

Ah, now this is a fun chapter. Again, the books quotes are in italics as are Jeremy's thoughts. Have fun. Oh, and I swear I'm going to get to your snake story soon. I tried to do it last night but for some reason the white screen was really hurting my eyes. Maybe it was just too late at night so I'll try one more time and if that doesn't work I'll just print it out. Should have some feedback on that one in the next few days. Have a good thanksgiving!
James

Episode 4: Pathways

“Kasane Castle has been a blight on this countryside for three generations,” the book said. “Since the castle’s completion, the rulers of that place have been trying to violently expand their holdings. Once there existed a number of peaceful settlements in the woods surrounding the castle, but many years ago they were invaded and destroyed by the monstrous forces of Hyaku the First.”
“Is that where you’re taking us?” Lauren asked, looking around, “to one of those destroyed settlements?”
“Correct,” the book confirmed, “to the most complete of those old villages. It is a place that many among Hyaku’s initial forces believed to be cursed, and so they only ventured across its border long enough to scare off the people and steal what they could. They never bothered to burn the place, as they did with so many others.”
“Cursed?” Sondra asked, glancing at the slowly passing scenery of perfectly spaced, colorfully shaded trees that had constituted the landscape for the last two hours. “So you’re taking us to some place that even the monsters are afraid of?”
“Correct,” the book said. “I see no reason that your group should fear the spirits as Hyaku’s armies do.”
“I think I might fear the spirits,” Kim mumbled, as Jeremy asked, “Why not?”
“Because they haven’t yet,” the book said, “and they’ve had ample opportunity.”
Everybody took a moment to think about that.
“So Hyaku’s forces are doing more than just looking for spies in this forest,” Arthur said. “Since the beginning they’ve been trying to branch out and conquer other lands. How close are they to doing that?”
“And how come nobody has tried to stop them?” Cameron asked.
“It used to be that somebody would indeed stop them,” the book explained, “some hero to form and army and vanquish the enemy horde, some brave soul in possession of strong magic to form a rebellion.”
“But not anymore?” Lauren asked.
“No, not any longer. Hyaku the Third has managed to assemble an army far outmatching in size and ferocity those created in the days of his forbearers. Many of the neighboring provinces have either evacuated their citizens or applied all their efforts to fortifying their strongholds. They wait in fear of the day when Hyaku the Third will unleash the full power of his forces onto the land.”
“Isn’t there a king or something?” Jeremy said. “I mean, can’t the neighboring provinces, or whatever they are, can’t they just get together an army and attack Hyaku’s castle?”
“For many years, believing Hyaku the Second dead and his reign ended, the neighboring provinces have invested their time in other pursuits, namely war with one another.”
“How come?” Kim wanted to know.
“The usual reasons,” the book reported, “Land, money, power. They turned from a very real threat once the last hero solved their problem and squabbled needlessly with themselves as Hyaku’s power grew. Now, with depleted forces, assets, and nerve, they call for a hero to do what they cannot.”
“But there aren’t any heroes,” Arthur said.
“No, no anymore.”
The voice sounded almost bitter.
Sondra’s face creased in concern and her eyebrows, somehow balancing over her hair, turned down to form a worried “V.”
“So what’s happens if there’s no hero?”
“Kasane Castle now holds one of the most formidable armies the world has ever seen. Once Hyaku is certain of his hold on Kasane Forest and its immediate surroundings he will open the gates to that vile place and spill forth a tide of chaos and carnage into the world that no one will have any chance of resisting.”
“Well that sucks,” Sondra said.
“Yes, yes it does,” the book agreed.
“I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t go to the castle,” Jeremy said, feeling ill, “no wonder that Toshiro guy was so afraid of the place.”
“He wasn’t afraid,” Sondra protested, “he was just-”
“He was afraid,” Lauren said, “but it sounds like he had a good reason. Doesn’t seem like somewhere I want to go either.”
Ducking beneath a low branch, she stood for a moment, scanning the endless horizon of broad, black-limbed trees that supported the great, endless curve of faded blue sky.
“So no neighboring kingdoms with enough power to stop this guy,” Lauren said, “what about the hero? What happened to the guy with the army or the magic?”
“Jeremy has a magic sword,” Kim announced, pointing at her brother.
She held up Charlie for the group to see.
“And I have a magical dog!”
Charlie, suspended from Kim’s upraised arms, made a happy chuffing noise and waggled his dangling lower half.
“It really does sound of like we’re taking over for the main characters,” Cameron said, “that ogre back there even thought Kim and Jeremy were the guy and his sister who protect the village.”
“Okay, so wait,” Sondra said, holding up a hand, “so if we’re the main characters now, and we’re supposed to be doing what they were doing, then we’re supposed to stop a guy who can open up some gates and spill a bunch of…”
She glanced at Arthur.
“Chaos and carnage,” Arthur supplied.
“…Chaos and carnage into the world? I mean, we were able to fight a couple of those big green guys maybe, but it’s not like we can fight a whole army. And I still don’t even have a weapon!”
“I don’t know,” Cameron said, ignoring her final point, “maybe we can take a whole army. They do all kinds of crazy stuff in anime. Maybe we are supposed to take down the entire castle by ourselves. You know, beat the heck out of this Hyaku guy and save the world, right? Me and Jeremy can get into a bunch of crazy sword fights and the rest of you guys can trash the place, tear down the walls or something.”
Lauren raised a critical eyebrow.
“Nice of you to let us help,” she said dryly.
Cameron self-consciously cleared his throat
Turning to Arthur, glancing at the book in the boy’s hands, he asked, “So how far is it to this village anyway?”
“Not far,” the book answered. “You will need to cross a river at the next quarter mile, and soon-after there will be an old, winding forest path.
“A river?” Kim asked, little worried. “Is it big?”
“No,” Arthur said, without thinking, “it’s more of a stream really. We shouldn’t have any problem getting across.”
Sondra gave her brother a questioning look.
“How do you know that?”
Arthur’s expression said he wasn’t entirely sure himself.
“I just have a feeling,” he said, with a noncommittal half-shrug.
The group continued in the direction the book had indicated and soon entered a shadow-filled corridor beneath a gentle overhang of heavily foliaged, tapering trees. Softly painted, lightly smudged, dark green bushes grew beside their trunks and specks of dust sparkled in thin slants of daylight, giving the impression of a thousand slowly drifting fireflies.
A smooth, nearly silent stream wound through the woods. Faint sparkles, like small, faded stars floated the length of the water, accompanied by the quick, silver flash of darting fish. The gentle, serene tones of soft chimes sounded from somewhere and grew steadily into an off-beat tune of both sadness and beauty.
“It’s amazing in here,” Lauren breathed, turning in a slow circle with her head drawn back. “Who knew anime could be so…?”
“I did,” Kim said, though her answer carried more than a hint of the same surprised reverence.
“The path should be just ahead,” the book informed them quietly. “I would advise forming a single file line after crossing the stream. The trees grow very close together before the village.”
“Come on, Charlie,” Kim whispered, holding her pet carefully with both hands “we have to go across the water.”
She took a small step forward, readying to make the relatively easy jump to the far bank, but Charlie flapped his wings and shook away from her grasp, flying to a hovering position jump above the center of the stream. After a brief, indecisive moment, he clapped shut his wings and plummeted to the water. Splashing in an excited circle, he waggled his antenna and made happy, rumbling noises to soft to be growls.
“Charlie!” Kim called, shaking her head, “you aren’t supposed to go swimming right now.”
She bent and stretched out her arms but couldn’t quite reach.
“It’s okay,” Jeremy said, “one of us can bring him over.”
“One of us with super amazing ninja skills,” Cameron agreed.
He waited until the rest of the group had crossed to the far bank before bent down, scooping up Charlie, and making the quick, easy leap.
“See?” he said, holding Charlie up as though he’d won a prize, “piece of ca…why…why is he looking at me like that?”
“Uh-oh,” Kim said, and before Cameron could even ask, Charlie, still soaked from his bath, exploded into a frenzy of wild shaking, spraying torrents of water in every direction as it flung from his soggy fur.
“Gah!” Cameron cried, lurching Charlie skyward with one frantic hand while the other flew up to cover his eyes.
Charlie, now resembling a furry, blow-dried puffer fish, peeked tiny, mostly lost eyes out from beneath his fluffily, pincushion body and barked exultantly at Cameron while the water from his shaken coat fell to earth like
“Yeah,” Kim explained, “he…um…does that. Sorry.”
“Not so great with those ninja skills now,” Sondra observed.
“I just didn’t expect it,” Cameron said, glancing at his clothes, which had already mostly dried, “or I would have done the whole super-speed thing.”
“Well, super-speed over here, then,” Lauren said over her shoulder, studying the tight row of trees that grew a short distance from the river, “see if you can find the trail that supposed to be here. I can’t see anything.”
“It’s a little to the left,” Arthur said, before Cameron could respond, “there’s an opening just big enough to fit through.”
“There is?” Lauren asked, searching. “It’s kind of dark, but it still seems like-”
“Say fire,” Arthur said, “only say it softly.”
Lauren regarded him for a long moment.
Returning to the trees, she whispered the word.
“Fire.”
The uppermost portion of her staff made a sound like two large rocks stuck together and a dazzling spark ignited just above the level of Lauren’s hood. It grew steadily brighter until it resembled a brightly charged fireplace ember, then sunk slowly to chest level and shone a way through the dimness created by the crowded trees.
“I swear there wasn’t a trail there a second ago,” Lauren said.
She glanced back at Arthur.
“How did you know to do that?”
“The sprits,” he started vaguely, “they…it just sort of…came to me.”
“Seems like a lot is just coming to you,” Cameron said.
“Maybe that’s your super-power!” Kim said.
She scooped up Charlie, now dry, and held him for Arthur to see.
“What else can you do? Do you know what food this new kind of Charlie eats?”
Charlie perked up at the mention of food, but Arthur looked doubtful.
“I don’t think it works like that,” he said. “I think something has to bring it up. To trigger it.”
“Oh,” Kim said, disappointed. “Well, okay then, let’s see if we can find that village. Lauren gets to go first because she has the light but me and Charlie are going next!”
She jumped into line behind Lauren, whose gaze remained solidly locked on the crackling ember floating in an alarmingly close orbit around her shoulders.
“I should probably go next, Kim,” Jeremy said. “We need somebody with a weapon up front in case anything happens.”
“No, that’s okay,” Kim said, glancing up at Charlie, who had climbed to her shoulder, “I’ll be all right. I control a mighty dragon. That’s what the book said.”
Jeremy took a patient breath.
“But you don’t know when he’ll turn into a dragon next,” he explained. “It’s like how Arthur knows things. It takes something to make it happen. Besides, all Charlie did last time was run away.”
“He was chasing the stick,” Kim said, scowling. “Dogs do that, you know. Sticks are their favorite things and-”
“Kim, just let me go first, okay?”
Kim pressed her lips firmly together and pretended to consider.
“Maybe if you ask really nice and say please.”
Jeremy suppressed a groan, but couldn’t help a plaintive look at the others.
“Can I please go first,” he asked.
Kim folded her arms and raised her chin.
“I’ll have to think about it,” she said.
Jeremy felt like strangling her.
“Come on, Kimmy,” Lauren said, jumping in, with a sly look at Jeremy, “let him feel like he’s doing something.”
“Hey,” Jeremy protested, “who saved you from those ogres?”
Lauren’s sly smile spread into a grin.
“Actually, I think that was me,” she said.
Jeremy groaned and felt himself blushing again.
“Okay, well, yeah. But before you did that thing with the-”
“Oh my god!” Sondra complained, turning in an impatient half-circle, “let’s just go already. Maybe this village will have somewhere to sit down. I’m sick of all this walk-”
“Okay, I thought about it,” Kim announced. “Me and Charlie think it’s okay if Jeremy walks behind his new girlfriend Lauren, since he asked so nicely.
She smiled sweetly at Jeremy and batted her eyelashes.
“I’m going to kill her,” Jeremy thought, glad the narration had ended.
Trying to appear noncommittal, he crossed to the trees beside Lauren and waited.
Kim watched him for a moment with sparkling, expectant eyes, pouting when she failed to get more of a reaction.
“I’m behind Jeremy,” she announced brightly, recovering, “and Arthur can go after me.”
Cameron inched a few steps closer to Sondra.
“I guess it’s just us back here, then,” he said, “maybe we should-”
“It’s not us,” Sondra said, raising a hand to keep Cameron at bay, “it’s just you. You smell like a wet dog.”
She followed after Arthur with a backward glance that suggested Cameron better leave at least ten feet between them. Cameron put up his hands in surrender and sighed. With a final glance at the faintly illuminated glade and its unhurried stream, he climbed the bank and followed the group into the trees.

The village, which the group found after only a few moments of stumbling amidst the dense, heavily shadowed tree line, guided by Lauren’s floating ember, looked to be in remarkably good repair. A solid tune, sounding of brass, but slightly muted, floated on a sturdy wind as they emerged from the woods.
“This is a destroyed settlement?” Lauren asked, running her eyes over the tight collection of long, square-sectioned buildings with sliding rice-paper doors, pagoda style roofs, and attached, raised wooden walkways. “It looks pretty nice.”
“As I said,” the book reminded, “this place was spared many of the damages that befell other settlements around the castle.”
“Because they thought it was cursed,” Arthur said.
“Correct,” the book said. “This place was once a favorite of the spirits, and it belongs to them now. It would not be wise to overstay our welcome, but one night of rest will surely be permitted.”
“Sure, okay,” Cameron said, moving cautiously to the first building, placing a hand on the walkway, and deftly hoisting himself up, “but what happens after we leave? Where do we go tomorrow?”
“To find your purpose,” the book said.
Sondra glanced over with an annoyed expression.
“To find our purpose? I thought that was the whole reason we had this stupid book,” she said, “so it can tell us what to do.”
“I can only set you on the path,” the book answered, with a hint of agitation, “the rest is for you to discover.”
“The path?” Sondra asked. “Does it go back home?”
“Ooh! I know!” Kim said. “Slippers! No, wait, yellow bricks!”
Charlie looked around eagerly as though one of the two might be edible.
“I don’t think it means that kind of path,” Jeremy said, with a gentle smile.
“So what’s it mean then?” Sondra asked, glaring at the book.
“That we need to ask better questions,” Lauren muttered.
“I think it means,” Jeremy said, “that we have to figure out why we’re here, what our purpose is, before we can find the way back.”
He glanced at the book for confirmation.
“Right?”
“Correct,” the book said. “Only when you understand your purpose, will you be able to return home.”
“Well, thank you, Mr. Fortune cookie,” Sondra said, rolling her eyes. “So, what? We’re just supposed to spend the night in some nasty, dirty old building and-”
“Actually, it’s pretty nice in there,” Cameron said, sliding the rice-paper aside and peering in. “There’re even a couple of beds. Well, mats on the floor. Futons I guess. But they have blankets.”
Lauren glanced around the group, counting.
“How many beds?” she asked.
“Three,” Cameron said, “but some of these other houses probably have more.”
“They do-” Arthur started to say, but Jeremy interrupted.
“We should probably stay in the same room,” he said, louder than he meant to, “we don’t really know anything about these spirits and…”
He couldn’t think of anything else to say. The prospect of Sondra and Lauren sleeping only a few feet away was too distracting. He felt his face begin to burn as Kim asked, “What? Like a sleepover? Awesome!”
“Fine by me,” Cameron said, trying to sound confident.
He leaned against the door and folded his arms across his chest, but the door slid back along its track and Cameron crashed to the boards.
“It’s okay,” Lauren said, ignoring Cameron’s antics, “we can just sleep in our clothes. Sondra and Arthur can share a bed, Jeremy and Kim can share one, and Cameron…”
“Can share with you?” Cameron asked.
“Can sleep on the floor,” Lauren finished, “or we could flip for it or something. But really, it would be the gentlemanly thing to do.”
“Gentlemanly?” Cameron asked, testing the word. “Yeah, well, I guess so. I’m already on the floor. Might as well stay here.”

Nightfall came shortly after the group arrived, and since nobody really understood the nature of the spirits, and had little desire to find out in the dark, they decided that their best course of action would be to remain inside until morning. They closed the sliding door, removed their shoes and boots, set their equipment in a pile, and got to work on the sleeping arrangements by the light of Lauren’s seemingly eternal ember.
“I can’t believe how tired I am,” Sondra said, blinking. “It’s like the second it got dark…”
“I know,” Kim agreed, yawning, forming an enormous “O” with her mouth and rubbing her eyes, “I wasn’t tired at all a couple of minutes ago, but then I got super sleepy.”
She yawned again and flopped onto the nearest mattress. Jeremy, seeing how much room his sister took up on the futon, realized that the two of them would never fit comfortably. He turned to see if Sondra and Arthur had fared any better and found Sondra awkwardly sprawled on the bedroll nearest the eastern wall, fast asleep. She made funny little hiccup and snoring noises while Arthur looked on from the corner.
“I guess the guys are getting the floor,” Jeremy said.
“Charlie can stay on the bed,” Kim mumbled, very close to sleep. “Mom says it’s okay.”
Jeremy smiled tiredly at his sister and lowered himself to the floor. Propping himself against the wall, he prepared for an extremely uncomfortable night of sleep. Lauren climbed onto the bed nearest him and stared at the slowly circling ember.
“Any ideas on how to get rid of this?” she words hushed. “I don’t really want to burn the bed down.”
“You can’t just tell it to go away?” Jeremy suggested. “Or maybe say ‘fire’ again? Like an off switch.”
“I’m kind of afraid to say it again,” she said. “What if that just makes it bigger?”
“Well, okay” Jeremy said, “then if it’s an element thing, maybe the reverse of…”
“Oh, of course,” Lauren interrupted, shaking her head, “WATER!”
“You should probably whisper…”
It was all Jeremy had time to say before a solid black rain cloud, four feet in diameter, burst into being above the bed and dumped ten bucket’s worth of water directly onto Lauren’s head.
“What the!?”
Lauren leapt off the bed, shrieking and sputtering with surprise, and crashed to her knees beside Jeremy, wringing gallons of water from her sodden robes and shaking her head like Charlie had after his bath in the stream.
A billowing ribbon of cloudy steam curled towards the ceiling as the ember faded and soon darkness filled the room.
“That is not what I had in mind!” Lauren called to the cloud, which stormed on briefly, creating miniature lightning storms, before dissipating.
“Hey, you got rid of the light at least,” Jeremy offered.
“Are you guys alright?” Cameron asked in the dark. “What the heck just happened?”
“Lauren found the off switch,” Jeremy said.
“And turned my bed into a lake,” Lauren added, sulking.
“So now you get the floor with us, huh?” Cameron asked. “So much for being gentlemanly.”
“It’s not as bad as you’d think,” Arthur said from the far corner. “These boards are almost comfortable. At least you guys don’t have to listen to Sondra making weird snoring noises all night.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Cameron said. “Want to switch places?”
“We better not,” Arthur answered after a moment, “She’d just freak out when she found you here in the morning.”
“Really?” Cameron asked.
Arthur didn’t answer.
“Well, whatever. Night everybody. Lauren, I think there’s some room over here if you don’t want to sleep in the water.”
“Thanks,” Lauren said, “but I’ll figure something out.”
Jeremy heard loud squishing sounds as Lauren plopped down next to him.
“I’m stealing part of your floor, okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, okay,” Jeremy said, feeling both wonderfully exhilarated and extremely uncomfortable by Lauren’s closeness.
“I wish we had a towel or something for you,” he said, just to say something.
“I think it’s mostly this robe,” Lauren said, her voice low and slightly strained, “once I get this thing off…”
“Once you what!?” Jeremy sputtered, sliding down the wall and bouncing his head off the floor.
“Relax,” Lauren said, trying not to laugh. “I’ve got on stuff on under this.”
“Oh,” Jeremy said, feeling his breath return.
“Jeez, try not to sound so disappointed. It’s not like I’m Sondra or anything.”
“No,” he said, “I just…I mean, look, it’s not like…”
He wasn’t sure how to finish the thought, and was afraid to try.
“Goodnight, I guess,” he said instead.
“Goodnight.”
She sounded sad.
“Goodnight,” Jeremy said a final time.
They sat in silence.
“Do you think we’ll find a way out of here?” she asked.
“Probably,” he said, trying to sound hopeful. “Maybe. At some point. I guess.”
“Really? You’re that sure? Wow, I feel better already.”
He had the unnerving sensation that she was watching him, smiling.
“Maybe tomorrow we can get some better answers from the book,” he said, “After it sets us on the path.”
“Whatever that means.”
“Yeah. And then I guess we have to deal with Kim’s thing. And Sondra. About that-”
“That whole, “they think they’re going to die,” thing,” Lauren said.
“Yeah, that.”
“Well, maybe in the morning. Maybe everything will make more sense.”
“I hope so,” Jeremy said.
“I bet it will.”
She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. A lock of her damp hair brushed against the side of his face.
“Goodnight,” she said.
“Goodnight,” he managed, though his voice sounded thousands of years old.
He felt like he should say something, do something, but his mind had frozen.
“We’ll figure all this stuff out,” Lauren said, turning over to lie on her side. “You’ll see. It’ll all be better in the mor…”
She was asleep before she finished the sentence.
“I guess,” Jeremy said again, and stared into the dark, wondering just what the crazy cartoon world had lined up for them.
Some time later, he thought he heard footsteps moving along the walkway outside. Half-rising from his position near the wall he tried to remember exactly where he had left his sword. When the rice-paper door began to slide open, he scrambled to his feet, but the door never opened more than a half-inch, and after a moment, it slid closed.
The footsteps retreated down the walkway and did not return. When Jeremy finally worked up he nerve to go to the door, sword firmly in hand, the walkway was empty. All that lay beyond the little house was a strangely heavy wind coursing through the nearly moonless night.
And the spirits, he thought, wherever they are.
After another minute outside, Jeremy returned to the house, found his way through the darkness, and reclaimed his portion of the wall near Lauren.
Fine, he thought, I’ll just stay awake and make sure nothing gets in.
He did stay awake, with one hand on his sword, for a few hours, but eventually exhaustion claimed him and he sank into a deep, soundless sleep, like the slow, mysterious fade to an especially long commercial break.
When he woke the following morning, Kim and Charlie had disappeared.
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes chapter 4   Thu Dec 02, 2010 6:27 pm

Chapter 4 Edited

There it be! My edit is fairly bare bones, but I caught all the grammatical whatnots I could find, as well as throwing in a few suggestions for certain passages.
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes chapter 4   Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:56 am

Hey, bare bones is fine. I'll really take anything I can get, but grammar is the most important thing. Anything else can easily be explained away as poetic license, but no matter how many new colors you claim to have invented, you still have to draw inside the lines.
....
...
And there's an example of a metaphor far too clunky to be used in a book.
You're welcome.
Chapter 5 coming right up. I've got it around here someplace.
Thanks so much for doing this by the way. I'm getting ready to farm chapters 1-9 out to other people and many are somewhat less than enthusiastic.
...I can't believe I just spelled that correctly. Sweet!
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes chapter 4   Fri Dec 03, 2010 12:35 pm

Okay, I just went though and did the corrections. Some good catches there. A few where I couldn't believe that I'd miss after going over it three times. Damn brain, work better!
And, man, I really thought plaintive meant more like "yearning, or soulful," not straight sorrowful. Damn. Really good catch.
Also, the line is suppose to be "because they HAVEN'T HARMED YOU YET, and they had ample opportunity. Apparently I forgot to include the very, very important verb. Oops.
I do kind of like the hanging line though, how the water falls to the earth like...
You know, earth-like, hippie speech for natural decline in hydro-power...or something.
Yeah, okay, I just screwed up there too.
Thanks for the fixes! My future readers will thank you.
I think.
Or maybe they'll be mad you've deprived them of their chance at mockery.
Cause....
people are mean.
you know.
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PostSubject: Re: Cartoon Eyes chapter 4   Sat Dec 04, 2010 9:27 pm

Aye, people are a right bunch of bastards aren't they? Which, with a certain amount of circumspection applied to that statement, we're also bastards. But I'm not a bastard, am I?
Hmm... Misanthropy ain't as easy as it would first seem.

I can't say I'm your best man when it comes to catching grammatical irregularities, but I'll happily do what I can. I also get these strange aberrations in my mind that seem to eye over the same mistakes in a draft without any of them consciously registering.
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