CC.004–5.L.2 | The Charismatic Augusto—Love Him Before He’s Gone!


This was one of the sections I wrote, in its entirety, during my PLAY 002: NaNoWriMo 2016. It came—surprisingly fast. Just flew right out of me. Forcing myself to write 1667 words (minimum) a day definitely helped, but it was interesting to compare my speed at completing sections before, and then during, NaNoWriMo.

I unfortunately never tracked how long a section usually took me, but based on the “average”-ish (I’m starting to truly despise the word, “average”) word count before / during, I probably completed this section 3x faster (i.e. this was done in a week, and not all of those days were dedicated to C’s J.) than any I have done before. There’s definitely something to be said for forcing a large word count upon yourself. Also of note is that I don’t think it was 100% the daily word count goal that did it. When I started NaNoWriMo 2016, I focused on a different project for the first week. I got comfortable with the daily rhythm of reaching my word count before tackling Charlotte, and in doing so, found Charlotte’s words—the idea, the story, that James and I have been working/thinking about for more than a year—came disgustingly easy. The lesson: the more you write, the more you can write…

Charlotte had read the phrase, “there was a sparkle in their eye” dozens of time in the Barbarian Queen saga, but had always questioned its legitimacy. She had been around for sixteen years and had yet to see anyone’s eyes “sparkle”, but on this occasion, as her teacher and mentor considered the future of Fort City negotiations, all Charlotte could see was a tiny glimmer, a little spark, burning in her eyes. She smiled. It wasn’t very often she saw Lucinda so openly emotional. This must mean that the Accord with the Cottonwood was big—I know it’s important, of course, but I mean big—so big it was bursting through Lucinda’s carefully constructed walls and exciting her.

“I look forward to future negotiations, professor.”1

Lucinda looked at Charlotte in that way that said, “I feel like you’re mocking me, but you are incapable of dampening my mood.” It was Lucinda’s version of an eyeroll.

Charlotte stepped closer and took her hand in hers, catching Lucinda’s eyes. “I mean it. You’re a great teacher, and if you’re excited, I am too.”

“Thank you, Charlotte. That means a lot.” Lucinda sighed, taking the moment in, then smiled once more at Charlotte before her control settled back into place. Lucinda Brubaker, First Ambassador to Fort City, negotiator of the Accord with the Cottonwood, straightened her back and looked around. “But there is still much to do. I should go see Augusto and go over the ceremony one last time. Then there’s the matter of the bakers…”

Charlotte’s ears perked up. “Bakers? What’s up with the bakers?”

“Hmm? Oh, nothing, but I have no intentions of missing out on crème brûlée2 tonight because the bakers couldn’t manage their makeshift forest oven.”

Charlotte slumped. Why did I think bakers would be the source of something exciting.3

“Come along then,” Lucinda said, leading the way at a brisk pace.

“If you’re going to be going over the ceremony with Augusto—a ceremony I have no part in save to watch, thus risking the potential distracting boredom that I so often am inclined to, which, I should add, annoys the piss out of you—”


“Anyways, do you think it’s a good idea to have me hanging around while you’re trying to finalize the details of something so important?” It felt like a longshot, but Charlotte had often snuck across the roof of the training yard, watching the soldiers at practice. She was familiar with the stance and elegance4 required for proper use of a longbow, and in the metaphorical comparison between archery and linguistic sparring, she deemed herself a master marksmen.

“Of course it’s not a good idea, you’re not even listening to me now,” Lucinda replied, stirring Charlotte up. “Which is why you’ll have nothing to do with that preparation. Still, you have not completed your daily lessons, so you will walk with me.” She hadn’t even slowed down.

Charlotte breathed a sigh and followed her teacher, who quizzed her on elements of state- and speechcraft as they walked, throwing in random bouts of history, geography, and, in one particularly odd case, maths. But where is the swordplay, the archery; the forest survival. When she was younger she had asked Lucinda about this lack in her education, and received a rather harsh reply. Harsh because she said no, Charlotte thought. Of course, Lucinda’s argument was a good one—if Charlotte, if any ambassador, knew the intricate workings of the violence skills, then it became a skill in their proverbial toolkit. As her teach5 had taught her early, every tool in the kit longed to be used, and when you’re across the table from a vicious thug hungry to draw blades and finish a negotiation in red, is it better to not feel tempted to reach for the sword or the bow, knowing you must rely upon words, and words alone, to calm the situation and turn it to your favour. Charlotte had reluctantly agreed, though she saw the merit, secretly wishing there would come an assignment when intricate knowledge of the sword was necessary to successfully complete the action of words, but to this day none had appeared. It didn’t stop her, from time to time, in attempting to manufacture such an occasion.6

“You know,” Charlotte said after reciting her knowledge of trig,7 thinking now may be such a time. “It’s rather convenient that all these—”

“No. Since it has come up already today, tell me about the Swampolgarcy.”8

The lessons continued as Charlotte followed Lucinda around the camp, first to the bakers, then to the clerks, back to the bakers, a brief stop at a strange tent riddled with obscure symbols—Charlotte was told to wait outside and not to eavesdrop, such an order making it so much more difficult to overhear everything that went on inside—and finally on their way to Augusto.9

Lucky for Charlotte these lessons were old, and she could repeat them by rote. This left her mind free, at least, to wander as she pleased. What she really wanted to do was return to her book and become lost in the epic battle of a skeleton god versus the Barbarian Queen, but for now her imagination would have to suffice. As they walked about the camp, Charlotte started paying closer attention to the people, noting when she saw Fort City people and Cottonwooders working side by side. Strange I didn’t notice it before.

Inevitably, her thoughts turned back to her words to Lucinda. “I look forward to the future.” They were good words and Lucinda had believed her, she was sure of it, and for that small mercy Charlotte was thankful. This was Lucinda’s big day afterall, and she had already sweat blood for it,10 with one more moment of bleeding to come. She deserved to be happy, and excited, for the future. Charlotte, on the other hand, could only worry.

She was excited too, she supposed, for the new challenges the Accord would create. She was interested in the intricate dealings that wove through an ambassador’s work, but regardless how involved she became she only felt further and further from herself. In fact, the more involved she became in the ambassador’s life the more this distance grew, until she felt like there was a giant chasm inside herself that not even Suzannah could leap.11

Swords and bows, monsters and fire; the trappings of a Barbarian Queen. These were what lacked in Charlotte’s world, and she feared without them she would be incomplete. But you can’t be the ambassador and the barbarian, she thought, kicking at the dirt beneath her feet. You must choose.12

“Now, if there13 isn’t a sight to make a man kneel before the Great Priestess and weep!” Charlotte was swept from her reflection by a booming voice. She couldn’t see him, but his voice has carried before him like a troubadour announcing his presence. Lucinda stopped, another flare of annoyance on her face, but this reaction was far different from when Vilnius approached them. “The First Ambassador of Fort City, mighty citizen of the Jeweled Cork of the mountains, come to humble the likes of me. Great day, m’lady, may the sun shine forever on your wit!”

Then, suddenly, he was there. Charlotte blinked and looming above her was a bear of a man, over six feet tall and broad, with the impressive potbelly of an aged drunk.14 Looming isn’t the right word. Before she could react he was bent at the waist, a grandiose swoop carrying his head all the way to the ground, his bristly beard sweeping the dust as he went. As formal bows go, it was impressive. Charlotte thought she heard Lucinda make a small grunting noise that couldn’t decide if it was a snort of disgust or sigh of resignation. Augusto completed the bow and stood tall again, crossing the space between them with his arms held wide. Rising above, perhaps? He paused, mid-way to an enormous bearhug that would have scooped up both her and Lucinda.

“Forgive my assumptions—may I offer you this hug?”

“Absolutely n—”

“Yes, please!”15 Charlotte spoke over her teacher, earning herself a legitimate glare. But it could only last a second.


In the next moment they were both scooped up, one for each arm, into the firmest embrace Charlotte had ever experience. Augusto leaned back and Charlotte found her feet rising off the ground. She kicked them futilely, but out of surprise rather than fear. In another moment she was back on her feet, Augusto had stepped away, and Lucinda was busy straightening her dress making a “hrmph!” with her throat.

“Ha ha! Is there nothing like a hug between friends?” Augusto asked, but the question wasn’t, apparently, rhetorical. “No, there isn’t! It invigorates the blood and brings people closer together.” There was a huge smile on his face—everything about him is big, Charlotte thought. Perhaps “Dawned above” is what I’m looking for16—and despite his size, there was something endearingly affable about him.

“Yes, quite,” Lucinda replied slowly to his comment. “Augusto, we need to go over what will happen at the ceremony. The ritual is rather intense and I don’t want—what?”

Augusto was elbowing Charlotte gently in the ribs and winking with a layer of obvious circumspect. “Funny, my dear, wouldn’t you say? Your delightful teacher hasn’t spent enough time with yours truly, she just must have a few moments alone with me too!”

Charlotte rested control of her face muscles away from the automatic response that welled inside her because she knew it would boil Lucinda even more to have her not react, but the smile and laughter were prodigious and it took every ounce of control she had.17

“Indeed,” she managed to say, barely holding it all in.

Lucinda inhaled a great deal of air as she rose to her full height. On anyone else it would be comical, but Lucinda’s presence was more than just the physical space she took up. Though more than a foot shorter than him, her presence rose up to meet him eye to eye, and the full haught of generations of particular breeding came out.

“Augusto, perhaps you are excited to risk the ceremony running afoul, but I for one will not see it destabilized and transformed into a mockery! The ___ monks18 are highly superstitious and demand precise movements to activate the ceremony. We will practice and that is all we will do.”

Charlotte felt her heart beat three times in the silence before Augusto tossed back his head and let free an outrageous laugh.

“Why yes, dear Lucy, we shall.” He made another sweeping gesture to the ground while Charlotte prepared for another outburst from Lucinda. Uh-oh, he called her “Lucy”…

But no outburst came.

“Good,” was all Lucinda said.

“Shall we plan in my tent or yours?”19 Augusto asked, turning to give Charlotte another wink. She barely noticed it. The last time someone had tried to call Lucinda “Lucy”, Charlotte had spent the next week learning the inner workings behind the existence of the stable shovel. Not as interesting a lesson as one would think, she thought, shuddering. Lucinda hated nicknames, Lucy most of all. But she just let Augusto get away with it!20

Charlotte stared at the man as the he spoke. He arms moved constantly as he talked, gestures as big and grandiose as himself. Most men his size, Charlotte conjectured, would become thugs and bouncers, perhaps a looming bodyguard if they had the right connections. But not Augusto. He hadn’t relied on his size, but his natural charm.21

She hadn’t had the opportunity to ask him about his conquering of the Cottonwood, but from the stories she heard, he had done so quickly, efficiently—and with minimal bloodshed. Shocking as an idea it was, he had united clan by clan through sheer force of will and, it had to be said, unlimited casks of beer.22 But watching him gesticulate to Lucinda, that broad grin still on his face, she actually believed it.23 She watched him say something to Lucinda, then wiggle his eyebrows suggestively. She turned her back on him and stepped away, but Charlotte was sure she was feigning the annoyance on her face.

Where does charm come from? Charlotte wondered.

“Ah, here he comes now. Raul, lad, join us!”

Charlotte tensed before putting on the same face Lucinda was faking, but this time for real. Not him

From among the crowd a young man appeared, decked out in full Cottonwood garb, but whereas most of them wore some sort of leather cap, his head was fully exposed, jet black hair standing magnificently high, a single, thick curl hanging forward over his forehead. That ugly coiff.24 Which was unfair of Charlotte, as it framed his face well, but she didn’t care.

He stepped up next to Augusto and the older man threw his arm around the lad. “Raul here was just showing some of your City guards the finer workings of a Cottonwood border patrol. No one shall sneak up on this camp tonight!”

“Not unless they know how to fall from the sky, and then, I have a few trick maneuvers kept firmly up my sleeves!” Raul said, receiving a large pat on the back from Augusto, who chuckled with—well, gusto.25

Charlotte stepped up next to her own teacher. Raul smiled at her, and threw a wink, but where she had laughed when Augusto did it, she felt her skin crawl when he did.26

Charlotte had a hard time determining what was Raul’s role.27 He had been present at meetings, following behind Augusto like a dog, but he rarely spoke at those meetings—thank any power you like!28 Was he Augusto’s student, as Charlotte was Lucinda’s? But if so, how to explain the…nature of Raul.

Charlotte’s interactions with him had been limited, by design, ever since the first time he had looked at her and attempted to regale her with the intricacies of wrestling. She had walked away from that encounter in disgust, sure that “wrestling” had been a euphemism. She still hadn’t decided if the truth was worse, when she walked into the next Accord talks and Raul had two guards completely immobilized, one in a headlock and the other with his legs wrapped around his face. He had smiled at her, and she had turned around and walked right back out.

Since then it was an illusion trick;29 he appearing, and she disappearing.

“Charlotte! It is grand to see you in the daylight! You must be enjoying your time in the Woods, it agrees with you well.” He was trying to beam his smile like Augusto, but it came out dull like a cloudy day.

“Quite,” she said, offering a sarcastic half smile. Lucinda gave her a quick, subtle elbow in the ribs, causing Charlotte to jump.

“Are you suffering from Hoppers Foot, Charlotte? I have an old family remedy that cures all ailments!”

“No, thank you,” Charlotte said quickly, “Just a random twitch, is all.” She stared back at Lucinda, who smiled benevolently.

“You must be careful, to be sure. A random twitch can be the sign of an even greater stress to your muscles. I am an expert masseuse, if you like, learned from the great Darby Foe from deep in the Stringlet Groves. I’d be happy to rub out the tension. It prevents future gripes.”30

Charlotte wasn’t sure if she kept the horror off her face. “No, thank you, I’m fine.” Sudden inspiration fueled by necessity. “I just like to jump sometimes.”

“Oh, of course! Jumping, an excellent exercise to strengthen the muscles and hone the balance. I have a jumping routine that I honour with the extreme prowess of my jumping skills. Why, I once cleared Scoop Pass in a single bound!” Raul proceeded to hop in place several times, before tucking his legs up beneath him as he went higher and higher and higher…

Charlotte continued to stare on in horror as Raul kept jumping, adding twists and turns to the ups, hops, and bounds. People continued to walk by as the tableau of the four of them stood still, save for Raul, content to make the space just above his head his home.31

Save me from fools and jumping forest men

“My dear Augusto,” Lucinda eventually cut in, a small smile on her face, “we have much to discuss regarding the ceremony still. Perhaps we should offer our pupils the rest of the day and get to business?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, of—Raul, you must tuck more when you raise, how will you clear the high branches when your boot is trapped in a fork?—course! The wise Lucy, always attentive to the business at hand. My boy, if you’d be so kind as to scrounge us up some delicacies for the ambassador and I for lunch, the rest of the afternoon is yours.”

“Consider it done!”

“There’s a good lad,” Augusto said, swatting him on the back again. Was it actually affection, Charlotte considered, or a pre-established control method invoked by the pressure of the slap?32

Lucinda, master of discourse, skilled stoic player, could hardly contain her expression as she said, “Charlotte, why don’t you go with—” But Charlotte was ready for that play.

“I have lessons to finish!”

Lucinda leaned back from the outburst, which was admittedly much louder than Charlotte had intended. Perhaps some animal instinct within her took over to ensure her speech was heard. Regardless, Charlotte was committed to not going anywhere with Raul.

“I can’t fall behind. Since the talks began, my maths have become atrocious.”

“Very well. I shall meet you in the main tent an hour before the ceremony. There is something I want to show you. But don’t spend too much time with your numbers.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, “It will be just as much time as needed.”

Lucinda gave her a contemplative look that said she knew all too well how much time was needed.

“Augusto. …Raul. Good afternoon to you both!” Charlotte said with a quick bow of her head, and without waiting for a reply turned and headed in the direction of her tent.

“Charlie.” She paused, and turned back to Lucinda. The grand woman stepped in close, practically whispering. “Do not forget what is happening here today. Remember, I understand your turmoil. But this is history.”

If only you did understand. Charlotte took Lucinda’s elbow in her outstretched hand and smiled. “I promise I won’t, teach.” Offering Lucinda her own wink, Charlotte turned and headed off.


Charlotte spent the next few hours finishing her Barbarian Queen novel, completely enthralled with the ghastly action, skeleton army, and violent problem solving that categorized Suzannah, Barbarian Queen. She voraciously consumed the book completely ignoring the world around her, which was surprisingly easy to do when she wandered into the woods several dozen paces, to the point where she could not see the camp anymore, though she could definitely still hear it.

The Fort City people had no interest in exploring deeper into the woods, afraid that any manner of crocodile, giant bug, or weaponized, self aware tree was going to come crashing through the underbrush to attack. Charlotte had no such fear. She, for all intents and purposes—in her mind—lived in the forest her entire life, ever since the first fateful day she stumbled across a discarded copy of the Barbarian Queen story, Deluge for a Demigod. She was not afraid of the tall trees, or the thick growth. The reaching branches were arms opened wide to invite her home.

When she considered her plan to finish reading the novel deep in the forest, for a while she rejected the idea, fully expecting to have a place this close to the camp overrun with Cottonwood people, desperate for a breath of fresh air from the encroachment of civilization into their home. But when she finally decided to go, it turns out her fear was empty. She saw no one, not even the most disdainful of Woods people. They were fascinated to see the Fort City people, and how they chose to live within the forest; apparently cutting down a huge patch of trees to make space was a novel idea.

Charlotte couldn’t quite comprehend it. She would never turn away from Fort City, her home, but she longed to be able to live in the forest, hunting and pulling ripe fruit from the trees to survive. Spend her nights by the fire and lay out under the stars, watching them flicker and wink at her, before she peacefully fell away into sleep. Just like Suzannah, she wanted the constant excitement of being on the edge, of having the opportunity to face her problems in a multitude of ways. Sure, Suzannah always draws her sword—it’s an adventure story, after all— but in the real world I would have options that include the sword or the bow, or negotiation, subterfuge, sneak, stalk, run, swim, or boat race. Charlotte smiled to herself at the thought of her uniting disparate groups of jungle people into an army to face off against an invading horde of demonic monsters, to protect this world and the chance for any others to come after. Charlotte, on a mighty horse snorting fire, flaming sword held high above her head as she charged into battle with a mighty battle cry that boiled the blood of her followers and stoked the chambers of fear in her enemies.33

The noise of the camp lobbed over the trees and landed about Charlotte, pulling her back from her glorious revery.34 She breathed in the smell of the forest for several moments listening to the cheer. They must have finally pulled up the central tent. She had watched how quickly the butler-force35 could work once the space they were tasked with setting up existed. She had an hour, maybe a half more, before the place was ready, and humming with everyone that would watch the final ceremony that would initiate the new partnership between Fort City and the Cottonwood.

It was probably time to head back into camp and get ready. Lucinda, to Charlotte’s dismay, had taken the liberty to have a new dress made for her, and if she showed up in the same outfit she was wearing now

there was no telling what form Lucinda’s bridled anger would take. Part of Charlotte longed to see it, for sure, but another part pictured Lucinda’s face and saw nothing but disappointment, and felt absolutely horrible for an event that had yet to happen and realistically would not. Lucinda had been working her entire life as an ambassador to Fort City. She had rose through the ranks36 on the merit of her abilities, securing herself in the First Ambassador spot and proving herself worthy again and again, each new assignment a feather in her cap that made her look like a bird. But the Cottonwood… This was her epic narrative. Dozens, if not hundreds, of separate factions to be considered, a new leader in Augusto the City had never dealt with before, over a land, though a vassal of the state, as mysterious today as it was when Fort City was first founded.

Charlotte, with her immense proclivity for play, nonetheless37 was not going to ruin this moment for Lucinda. She thought too highly of her for that.

Besides, she thought, recalling Augusto forming the words “Lucy” with his mouth, there will be other, more exciting mockery narratives upon which to embark after the Accord… In her chest, Charlotte felt a rising excitement.

She rose from her seat on the forest floor and, reaching out to touch the tree that had supported her back and thus imagination for hours, ran her hand over its bark, feeling the rough service defined by an ancient amount of years of growth. It towered over her, a mighty wooden giant, gently swaying in a breeze she couldn’t feel.

We tore up your sisters and brothers not two dozen metres away. Why was that okay? Charlotte suddenly thought. She and Lucinda rode out with the first entourage of soldiers, lumber-smiths,38 and workers; those tasked with the initial safety and construction of the camp, before the remaining clerks, administrators, and hangers-on arrived days later. This meant Charlotte was witness to the—destruction? She wasn’t thinking about it at the time, confined to their carriage during the aggressive, dangerous work, but now as her mind’s eye showed her those moments again as soldiers and lumber-enthusiasts cut away at the clearing they had turned into camp, she wondered if they had committed a horrible blasphemy. Yet, that was the land Augusto had recommended. His people had been there too, helping draw the line separating the acceptable destruction and must not pass. We know so little about the forest.

But not, perhaps, for long. With the ratifying39 of the Accord tonight, Lucinda and Augusto would usher in a new age of partnership. No longer just a vassal to be depleted by the City—not that the official relationship had ever been the actual one—the Cottonwood would become an active member of Fort City politics,40 and, in time, no one was willing to predict how their relationship would evolve. The only thing sure, despite the naysayers unsure of the Cottonwood people’s intents, was that things would change. Charlotte was glad. Her beloved Fort City41 needed an infusion of new life, and why not make it a magical forest? Beyond the end to the constant raids made upon the goods they shipped42 in, Charlotte was excited to see what the Woods people would teach Fort City, and what they would teach them in kind. It was hard to say what was going wrong with her City, and she had yet to say the words aloud,43 but there was a burden on its back that was slowly crushing the air from its lungs. The Cottonwood would share that burden and between them, remove it forever.

“Thank you,” she whispered to the tree, giving it a loving pat. She stood there, staring up into its branches for a lot longer than she expected to, unsure if she was just basking in the moment or was waiting for the tree to reply.

So very little, she thought again, then brushing off her skirt and casually scowling at it, turned and made her way back into the camp.

The distance of several hours hadn’t changed the hubbub at all, though it had intensified.44 Charlotte could see over the smaller tents that in the centre of camp the large meeting tent had finally rose.

She hadn’t been that far away, but it was like that line drawn in the forest did more than denote where it was okay to harvest trees. It was the line between the City and the Woods. Charlotte paused on the edge of camp, unseen to those worrying by in haste. She stood there watching her world mutter and rush past. It was everything she’d ever known while behind her, a great mystery breathed in and out, urging her to join it.

Come, she heard it whisper. Here there be Barbarians.

A couple of young women, only a few years older than Charlotte, marched by with their porters in tow carrying two extravagant dresses, so out of place in the foreground of the painting that was the Cottonwood.

Here there be Barbarians indeed, thought Charlotte as she crossed the line and headed to her tent, but today and forever more I’m needed as an ambassador.45

She weaved in and out of the crowd as she made her way to her tent. On some forgotten principle, she had asked for hers to be pitched nearby, but away from, Lucinda’s. She chuckled at her own ridiculousness. What did it matter where her tent was? But, only a few days ago, it had mattered the world. She had actually asked for it to be set up just past the invisible line, which had scared the Fort City smiths and received confused looks from the Cottonwood troops. In the end, the camp master had tossed her arms in the air, proclaiming Charlotte could sleep wherever she wanted to in camp, be it latrine ditch or other, but she must sleep in the camp. Charlotte had settled for a plot on the edge of the fancy quarters, as close to the trees as was possible.

Charlotte looked up at the sun, trying to gauge what time it was. Time shouldn’t matter in the forest. But, today at least, it mattered greatly. On the path back to her tent she recalled that Lucinda had asked her to arrive early to the evening’s proceedings, to be shown something of apparently great mystery.

I’m going to be late, and she’s going to think I’m messing with her. Still, so long as there was light to see, the actual time didn’t matter. People went about their business completing both the camp and the arrangements for the ceremony and—Charlotte shuddered at the thought—the party to follow afterwards. So long as she arrived in enough time before the butlers could finish polishing their cutlery, she should be okay.

Charlotte tossed back the flap of her tent and strolled in, hopeful that there had been some mix up along the road and wondering what had happened to ten gold pieces she had passed around to ensure it would happen, finding nothing but dismay at a long, fat box sitting on her cot. A note was attached to the top.

Dear Charlotte,

I know the proper trappings of diplomacy are not to your liking, and that you deign to commit to them purely for my benefit. You are young, thoughtful, prudent, and explorative. I know you will understand why it is necessary to assuage me on this point, even though you wish not to. I need not remind you of the impact of today’s proceedings, nor of the momentous history we are making.

Nonetheless, I shall—this is a great moment we are to witness this day. You will look back one day and tell this story with great pride… And would it not be best if, in your grandiose recollections to individuals young and old, when you paint this picture from your memory, that you at least looked the part?

Please wear the dress as it is. Don’t make any modifications. I worked closely with the seamstress to ensure it is your size.

Alas, I know you are also headstrong, cunning, adaptable, and slightly chaotic when urged to. Thus I have taken the, perhaps necessary, steps to allay your “fear” of any garment that opens below your waist. Under the dress you will find what I speak of. I do hope it helps.

Best Regards,


Ha! Charlotte chuckled in her head. She knew what “best regards” meant from Lucinda in this context. Make sure to do as I have so politely asked or I assure you there will be a special kind of torment to pay afterwards. Charlotte was tempted to not wear it anyway—she did say I’m “headstrong and ‘chaotic’”, after all—just to see the look on her face when she walked in. To make it work she’d have to wait until the last possible second to arrive, however, and Lucinda had told her to be there early to see something. Despite Charlotte’s prankster 46nature, especially when it came to Lucinda, her curiosity would win out and she knew it. What could Lucinda want to show her that Charlotte hadn’t already seen?

As she pondered that thought, she used the small belt knife she carried in her trunk to open the strings around the box containing the monstrosity she’d have to wear tonight. Slowly lifting the lid from the bottom, Charlotte took a deep breath, and pulled it off.

“Oh…” she groaned aloud.

The dress was beautiful, she wouldn’t deny that, and it was made of a deep green material that was stunning, and spoke to Charlotte’s tastes. But it also had lace, and a corset, and looked like it would poof out if she ever tried to sit. We’re in the forest, she thought. Couldn’t it have been a bit, more, forest-y? Charlotte assumed that’s why Lucinda had accepted green, rather than the blues or purples she usually chose for Charlotte. If only it were…

Charlotte dropped the box and stuck her head outside her tent, looking around for a Cottonwooder. Several were passing, and Charlotte studied their garments with delight. Pants, loose shirts, and sturdy boots, each piece reinforced with bits of leather armour. She could see pouches sewn right into the clothes that likely held flint and fire starter.47 Their knives were clearly visible on their belt sheathes. Everything was made in the greens, browns, and reds natural to the forest, and probably weren’t dyed at all. They were the natural flavour of the woods.48

What would Lucinda say if I walked in wearing that? Charlotte smiled. The joke was perfect. She pulled her head back in and walked back to the horrible box. There were limits, after all. Still—

She rushed back outside and hollered at the passing duo.

“Hey, you two, uh…” As they stopped an looked at her, she realized she hadn’t planned for this stage of the task. “Do you happen to have one of…that!” Charlotte pointed to one of their wrists, where what she could only describe as a leather bracer was worn. “What do you want for that?”

“Uh—you want my bracer?”

Ha, I was right, Charlotte thought while nodding profusely. “Yes. How much? Or, uh, a trade perhaps?”

The woman looked down at her arm, then back to Charlotte. “I dunno…”

But the other guy immediately spoke up. “You got a pair of those dainty night shoes?”

Charlotte and the woman looked at him. “You mean—my slippers?”

“Yeah, sure, that sounds like them.”

Charlotte nodded, and ran back into her tent, returning shortly with a bear of bright blue velvet49 slippers. “I’m not sure they’ll fit you though…”

“Meh, I’ll figure it out.” He nodded his head to the side at Charlotte, looking at his fellow Cottonwooder. “Give her the bracer.”

“What the damn needleback rush are you going to do with those things? They look like they’d fall apart in the first rain!”

“I dunno—they look cozy.” He smiled. “Give her the bracer, I’ll make it up to you when we get back to the trees.”

She stared at him with a blank look, but started to peel off the bracer, handing it to Charlotte, shaking her head. “I don’t think either of you have a damn lick of sense.”

“Probably not,” Charlotte said, “But at least we have style instead.” She nodded to the guy with her slippers. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” He rolled up the slippers and tucked them away in his pocket, then slapped his friend on the back as they walked off.

Charlotte returned to the box, slipping the bracer over her right forearm. She struggled to tighten the clasps,50 eventually switching the sleeve of leather to her left arm and tightening it with her right hand. There, she thought, now we can wear the dress and still see what Lucinda thinks.

Thoughts of her teacher reminded her of the note, and her curiosity kicked in. What was this “allay your fears” Lucinda was talking about? She started pulling out the dress from the box—which took many more moments than Charlotte rightly thought it should have—to find a small bundle underneath. Along with undergarments and socks, there was a folded piece of cloth. Slowly, Charlotte started to unfold it, unsure if this might not be a trick by Lucinda, who in her own right had developed some formidably pranking abilities since becoming Charlotte’s teacher.

It wasn’t a trick, though Charlotte wasn’t sure she understood. The fabric, fully unrolled, looked like a tiny pair of pants. Except the proportions were all wrong. It looked like they should fit her, but the material was not long enough to reach her feet. It’s almost like they made a pair of pants, and then cut them off above the knee…

Charlotte peered into the box to find another square of paper with Lucinda’s mellifluous scrawl on it.

Wear them under your dress, and be done with it.

Charlotte stared at the strange garment. Short “pants” for under my dress. Charlotte looked back at the beautifully ugly dress, and back to the cloth in her hand.

“Fair enough,” she thought, and set about getting dressed.

It took Charlotte nearly half an hour to get fully encumbered51 in the outlandish dress. The material was heavy, but once she figured out its secrets, she was able to shimmy and squirm her way into the material, but no amount of reaching or clever ingenuity involving a hanger, some twine, and a particularly sturdy hair clasp was going to finish the job of tightening the dress. In the end, she stuck her head out the doorway again and waited for a lady to walk by. She pulled in the next guard that rounded the corner without much warning and asked her to finish the weaving that would lock her into the beast.

When it was done, Charlotte tried stretching, running on the spot, and generally moving about in her usual manners, all of which were hindered, obfuscated, or just plain prevented. “Blast,” she muttered, when she realized she could barely lift her hands over her head.

“You look beautiful,” the guard said.

“Thank you, but I’d prefer mobile and warm.”

The guard looked over at her cot, a quizzical look on her face. “I don’t want to bear bad news, but… Haven’t you forgotten something?”

Charlotte didn’t bother looking to wear she was pointing. “I most certainly have not. Lucinda asked me not to modify it, but she said nothing about leaving parts out.” Charlotte paused for a moment. “Actually, she may have specifically said something about that too. But I won’t wear a corset. Horrible things.”

In fact, it was more of a running gag between Charlotte and Lucinda, who also never chose to wear the strange garments. As they became the rage for other ladies and men of the court, Lucinda had preferred to stay aloof from the matter. When finally Charlotte had pushed on it, Lucinda had said, “Why in any one of the insufferable hells would I want to change the way my body looks?” And that was it. Neither had even considered it again, though the garments themselves kept popping up repeatedly.

It was probably wrapped up by the dressmaker that refused Lucinda’s assurance that I wouldn’t need it.

Charlotte thanked the guard and sent her on her way, then spent a few moments trying to see herself in the tiny mirror she kept packed in her trunk. Eventually she gave up, due in no small part to it being no bigger than her hand, and accepted that this was her future for the evening.

Surprisingly, however, but much to Charlotte’s delight, the new garment Lucinda had included was comfortable and, for its part, made Charlotte feel as if she were an undercover operative, rather than a young woman stuck in a dress. If only she could ditch the dress herself, the—short pants?52—would offer a range of motion she was unfamiliar with. It had been a couple years since she had skirted across the rooftops, perhaps a revival of the practice was in order. Charlotte smiled at the idea, then silently cursed her teacher. The garment, for all its passive nature, was doing exactly what it was designed to do—distract Charlotte from what she didn’t want to do.

Thanks for small favours and big-hearted, stubborn teachers, I suppose.

Finally—late, of course—Charlotte stepped out from her tent and made her way to the centre of camp, where all the activity of the evening was trickling into. There was a definite change in the movement of the camp as they got closer and closer to the ceremony. Charlotte could feel the tension of passing workers rushing to put the last polish on all the moving parts. She didn’t envy all they had to do, but in that moment, as the dress swished back and forth over her feet, she didn’t much envy her future either.

Still, there was the minor mystery of what Lucinda wanted to show her to unravel, which hopefully would prove distracting enough.

To Charlotte, the ceremony itself, despite what Lucinda said, was going to be old hat. It was a binding ceremony performed by those mysterious monks that Charlotte had seen many times before. True, the ceremony for a binding of peoples upon an accord was new to her, but the basic principles remained the same. There would be a lot of talking, even more hand waving, and then some random object forged from their font of truth would be imbibed with a bit of magic forevermore—so long as the agreement was held.

On any other day, Charlotte acknowledged, she would have been at least a bit excited to see something new, but there was something melancholic in her mood that day that made all the old ways just a bit distant. It may have been spending so many days deep in the forest, and yet not feeling like she was really in the forest, that drove home the point that wherever she went, she would be an ambassador always.53

As she got closer to the tent, more and more people were scurrying around with their purposes. By this point, she was sure they were more planning for the party than the ceremony itself. Charlotte did her best to dodge left and right as more urgent folk crossed her path. She itched to stop one of them and ask a few unusual questions, but resisted the urge. She was already late to meet Lucinda, and this close to the ceremony, to this accord, it wasn’t a good idea to piss off her teacher.

Charlotte rubbed her left forearm where she’d left the bracer on. Well, not too much, she thought, suddenly concerned that the dress wouldn’t cover her feet enough.

As she arrived at the main entrance to the tent, she came upon a backlog of people, several carrying large casks, even more with chairs, and in one case a large woman holding a very dainty glass decanter. Every person seemed to be in every other person’s way, and any movement of one caused an immediate uproar from the rest. In all her life, Charlotte had never seen any part of an event balanced so precariously on a knife’s edge. She was suddenly concerned that an overeager fart might bring the whole camp toppling down.

Finally a head butler54 arrived and began calming everyone down by yelling abstract abuses, while simultaneously directing people piece by piece to untangle from the logjam.

Charlotte considered trying to duck her way through, but at that moment the fury of the butler felt more intense than anything she’d experienced from Lucinda. She’d have to wait it out, or find another way in.

Charlotte looked closely at the large tent, realizing for the first time how massive the temporary edifice55 was. She was considering whether she’d have better luck going left or right to find another door, when a loud “Psst!” interrupted her thoughts. She turned to find its source, and there, calmly leaning back on an assortment of crates, half hidden in the shade of two tents, sat Augusto. He waved to her, urging to her to join him.

“Quite the stunning mashup they’ve gotten themselves into, isn’t it?” he said as Charlotte stepped up. Augusto reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a shiny gold coloured flask, and with much ceremony unscrewed the cap before offering it to Charlotte. “One can’t really enjoy such a show without a nip of the fine stuff.”

Charlotte was about to decline, but the look on Augusto’s face, the way his smile curved just the right amount as if to say he knew the joke, and it was funny and certainly not at your expense, but if you just took one nip why you’d be in on it to, wouldn’t you, and oh the places we could go from there!

A layered smile, Charlotte thought.

She took the flask with smile, and a short nod, and considered it in her hand for a moment. She was no stranger to alcohol—Lucinda, much like Augusto, was aware of its magical properties when it came to loosening tongues and making difficult minds just a touch more pliable, had ensured Charlotte was capable of holding her liquour—but where her education had revolved around getting others to finish their beverage quickly, and you remaining on top of yourself, Augusto practiced from the school of, “Here, let me show you how to drink it, oh yes that’s great! Shall we have another? Now, what were we chatting about…”

“I know it’s a thing of beauty, madam, but will you be considerate enough to drink from the fine flask and fulfill its purpose by fulfilling your stomach? Or do you prefer to continue making eyes at it like it’s a schoolyard crush?”56

Charlotte felt the blush start from her stomach and begin creeping up. She upended the flask and allowed a large portion to flow into her mouth. It tasted like fire burns.57 She righted the flask as she tried to swallow, nearly spitting the flaming liquid out while simultaneously choking on it. The blush continued to rise and was the only reason she managed to force it down, rather than make a mess all over the ground at Augusto’s feet. She was coughing as she passed it back to him.

“Haha! Rightly done!” he said, taking back the flask and upending it himself. Charlotte, still coughing, watched his throat as he took several swigs, his neck bump58 rising and falling twice as the liquid cascaded down his throat. He finally lowered it with a satisfied grin, smacking his lips loudly. “I’ll admit, it’s an acquired taste, but once acquired, there’s few things sweeter.” He offered the flask to Charlotte again.

You can do this, she thought, taking the flask and trying not to let her hand shake. With one motion she accepted the gift, brought it to her lips, and with only the barest of hesitations hefted it again. The fire liquid coated her tongue and she tipped back the flask before she could drown in the stuff again, swallowing with as much composure as she could manage. She swallowed, feeling like rough bark was going down her throat, but this time, she thought she did notice just a touch of the sweetness Augusto had mentioned.

“Smooth,” she rasped.

Augusto took back his flask with a large grin and wordlessly raised it into the air, toast-saluting her before taking another large gulp himself.

“You’re Lucy’s mentee, no question about that. You’ve got the same enduring fire inside of you. Why, we could make a barbarian of you yet!”

The word caught Charlotte off balance. Her control slipped and she must have let something show on her face.

“Oh, don’t you worry, your secret’s safe with me.” He gave one of his Augusto winks, the over the top acknowledgment of delight and impropriety, that nonetheless eased all tension from a room.

“Do you consider yourself a barbarian then,” Charlotte asked, trying to keep her tone innocent.

Augusto sat back, his large hands crossing on top of his prodigious belly. “Well, I do live in the forest and conquer peoples, don’t I? I suppose you could call me a barbarian.” He half chuckled to himself, and looked around the camp. “One with aspirations to more, perhaps?”

Charlotte nodded, as if that made perfect sense. Of course. Why wouldn’t a barbarian’s dream be to give up the harsh life of the endless road for the comfort of society. That was called progress. One shouldn’t wish for the reverse.59

“Forgive me if I’m being too bold, Charlotte, but you seem horribly distracted by something that clearly isn’t sitting right in your gut. And it’s not the firebrand,” he said, wiggling the flask. “You stepped up here with the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Charlotte couldn’t think of anything to say to that just yet, so to stall for time she drew her attention back to the continuing chaos in front of the big tent. The butler was now yelling at couple of passing soldiers that had stepped in to help, but apparently messed up his carefully crafted plan causing a backup with the backlog itself. The poor man was red in the face, as the soldiers looked at one another dumbfounded. She heard Augusto chuckle.

“He doesn’t do well when people stray from the plan, does he?” she asked.

“No, no he does not. A person like that may even envy the quick-witted and adaptable, for their ability to flourish in chaos. Still, when standing on the edge with the whole world falling past you, I wonder if the chaotic wish for just a touch of that ability to plan….”

Charlotte considered his words while they watched the chaos unfold, two more soldiers appearing to hold back the butler from knocking the first two soldiers heads together. From twenty metres away Charlotte could see his spittle flying as he screamed. On the fringe of the unorganized mess more people started to arrive, some clearly with tasks to attend to inside, while others were clearly special dignitaries unconcerned with being too early if it meant a chance for the best seats.

“We may be here longer than expected. Is there a back way into the tent?”

“Give me some credit, young one!” Augusto blustered, managing to puff out his chest and give the appearance of rising without actually sitting forward from his seat. “Where would the fun be in that. Do you know how long it took me to trick the tent architect into removing the back entrance. Cost me two bottles of my finest stash just to get her to bring out the plans, let alone grab a pencil.”

Charlotte slowly turned her head to stare at Augusto. Was he joking?

“I find it strange,” she said slowly, “that a man so clearly concerned with plans and order would so colossally screw up his own directions to the staff causing this ruckus.”

“You’re not wrong.”

“I guess the pressure of today’s proceedings gets to everyone, eventually.”

“Undoubtedly! Think of what is being accomplished today. Why, without the right number of chairs, it could never happen. Magic prefers an audience, wouldn’t you say.” As if on queue, a new batch of workers showed up with more chairs, their eyes wide in confusion at the bedlam.60 Augusto’s grin, impossibly, grew even more.

“I bet even our friend the screaming butler,” Charlotte said, “would have found himself making a mistake of, I don’t know, leaving his master schedule—you know, the one with all the directions for today—unattended. And expecting it to be unchanged when he retrieved it.”

“Oh, a good bit of humour is never remiss to the invisible, helping hand,” Augusto said with a stoic face.

“I’m sure it isn’t.” Charlotte smiled.

“It’s a shame Raul’s missing this,” Augusto mused.

Charlotte couldn’t stop herself from looking around, as if expecting the young man to appear from hiding at the mention of his name. “Oh?” she asked. “He enjoys a good event setup frackus?”

“Not at all. If he were here, he’d try to help. Wouldn’t that be delightful.”61 Augusto turned to Charlotte with another stoic look on his face. She did her best to return it in kind, though felt she gave much more away than she intended to.

“Is he your sister’s kid?” she finally asked.

“Hmm? Who, Raul? No, I have no siblings, more the pity. He’s just a lad I found out there amongst the trees,” he said, making a grand sweeping gesture to the forest beyond the camp. “If you don’t know him, I’ll admit, he’s a hard lad to get along with,” Augusto said. “But his love for his fellows is universal.”

“Is it worth the buffoonery that comes with it?”

The words were out of her mouth before she could even consider stopping them. Charlotte’s face dropped open as she realized what she had said, and who she had said it to. Lucinda will have my backside for this…

But Augusto just laughed, a great, booming laugh that rolled out of him and across the ground. “Yes, Lucy chose you well, Charlotte Hargrave.” With one last, long swig on his flask, he screwed the top back on and tucked it into his vest. “Stay true to who you are, Charlotte, and know that the world cares not one drop for you, or me, or any of us. She’ll62 just keep on moving regardless of what we do. Which leaves it up to each of us.” He hopped down from his perch with a deftness that surprised Charlotte, especially for a man so physically robust.

“Also,” he said with a wink, adjusting his belt before wading deep into the evolving chaos before them, “never underestimate the power of a buffoon.”

Charlotte watched him drift through the crowd, seamlessly, but where people had parted to make space for Lucinda,63 they didn’t even know Augusto was there until he was passed. Laying a massive, yet gentle, hand upon the screaming butler’s shoulder, Augusto said a few words that Charlotte couldn’t hear, but everyone around him burst out laughing, and the shade of red of the butler’s face turned from strawberry to apple to brick.64 She watched Augusto gesture several times, confer with the butler twice, and suddenly the entire chaotic mess of people, furniture, and tasks was flowing smoothly again, as if a wizard had soared down from the heavens, waved a wand, and unbent the universe.

Perhaps, Charlotte thought, watching another round of laughs break out near Augusto, one did.65 She strode forward into the flow of people. Never underestimate the power of a buffoon indeed, she thought, taking one last look at Augusto before disappearing into the tent.66

  1. Luke: I’m going to try out some “special honorifics” throughout this piece. See if anything sticks.

    Luke: FYI: I don’t think professor did.

    James: doesn’t really make much sense, no.

  2. James: I’m not convinced the technology to make creme brulee exists in the forest, but that’s a very minor verisimilitude point, and really any complex baked good could work

  3. James: They are. They ALWAYS are! Unless they’re making Raisin Pie. Fuck that.

    Luke: Then they’re making ALL THE RAISIN PIES!

  4. Luke: Not elegance.

    James: Poise

  5. Luke: Honorific. (No…)

  6. James: This is interesting – I’m willing to buy it, but we should add in a little “swords were the job of the army – they were reached for when words failed” sort of thing or something, too.

  7. Luke: Or whatever.

    James: I like the idea of making it something directly related to archery, like projectile motion

    Luke: Change approved!

  8. James: With Baron von Crocodilerider?

    Luke: Yeah, sure, why not? He’s a baron with real von, they can ride whatever they want.

  9. James: something’s hinkey about the grammar here. Not sure exactly what. Just flagging, because its a good bit

    Luke: It’s probably because the dashed clause is long enough to disjoint the flow? Or, you know, bad writing.

  10. James:  ehhh, not the best use of the phrase

  11. James: This is still missing the mark. It suggests she does not want to be an ambassador, which isn’t true

    Luke: Interesting. I didn’t feel that this is her saying no to the ambassador life, but that in choosing ONLY the ambassador life, she’s missing something of herself (and thus not being herself).

  12. James: This is much closer to what we’re going for, but I’m a little concerned about the word ‘incomplete’ – it’s tough!

    Luke: We’ll chat more, find a word that works.

    This resonates for me, though. If I feel I should be two things, but thought I could only be one of them (and then chose one of them), I’d feel incomplete.

  13. James: that

    Luke: He’s referring to Lucinda, First ambassador, a person. Though “that” may be “grammatical” (is it? is “there” not? Hmm…), I have discomfort with Augusto referring to a person, in particular a woman, as “that”.

    You may argue “that” is actually referencing “a sight”, in which case, yes, you’d be right. But my discomfort still stands.

  14. James: not what I imagined, but now that I see it in my mind, well yeah, of course.

  15. James: yep

  16. Luke: Jeez, is that too meta? Does Charlotte know a fairly omniscient narrator is following her around… :-S

    James: heck yeah she does! She interrupts him and corrects him all the time. Its because she’s kinda bossy.

    Luke: Strong-willed, determined, and forthright. (She was definitely a bossy kid, but she outgrew bossy years ago.)

  17. James: perfect moment, needs some ironing

    Luke: “Charlotte took careful control of her face…”
    …and more better prose.

  18. Luke: Forgot the name. Font monks?

    James: I think it was Notary – like a notary public in law?

    Luke: That’s it!

  19. James: I think “your tent or mine” sounds better, but I’ll admit that’s a pretty minor thing

    Luke: Ha! Agreed!

  20. James: yeah!

  21. James: Charisma 20.

    Luke: Are you saying you want the story to actually say “Charisma 20”? (If yes, could be too D&D-y…)

  22. James: There’s room for a joke or a little world-building right here, but I can’t come up with anything good in the moment, so I’ll just flag it for now

  23. James: this sentence doesn’t follow well

  24. James: I feel like we could get more sass here, and also include the word ‘pompadour.’ Also, I just learned that coif can be spelled coif or coiff, but that coiff is probably more correct

    Luke: You doubt my spelling, sir? I shall bite a thumb at thee!

    Also, pompadour is GREAT!

  25. James: I’m so glad you used this!

  26. James: maybe a less visceral reaction? Make Raul not-quite get it?

    Luke: Of course! Yes, I like that a lot.

  27. James: word order

  28. James: the Great Goat

    Luke: …I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. Goats!

  29. Luke: I don’t want to say “magic trick” because, you know, they have real magic in this world. “They’re illusions, Michael.”

    James: just drop “trick” and it’ll sound normal

    Luke: *Luke sits there, stunned.* Of course. So simple, so elegant.

  30. James: great! if we want, there’s an opportunity to bring in elf shot here (long story)

    Luke: Elf shot? Sir, I shall require this story.

  31. James: a result of nanowrimo, I know, but clean up. Not a tableau is somebody is moving

    Luke: “…tableau of the three of them, as Raul jumped…”

    I don’t like the “space above his head” line yet.

  32. James: he he he he he he… I liked that.

  33. James: as balance, we could maybe also have her imagine how she would talk that army down across a negotiating table? There’s a chance for foreshadowing here, too – her imaginary summit collapses due to betrayal, then she leads he army

    Luke: If we don’t do it here, we should definitely do that somewhere.

  34. James: I don’t think sound works this way

    Luke:  Maybe you’re not doing it right…?

    (Besides, my poetic license was coming do, and I had to fill quota before I could get it renewed.)

  35. James:  heh… sounds like a pretty hilarious superhero team to me

    Luke: Done! Our next project—after Charlotte’s Journey.

  36. Luke: Oh bother. I just undid a passage from Rise of the Undead Fisherman. If there are ranks, i.e. multiple ambassadors, why would Charlotte become the next First Ambassador? Her training isn’t even complete! (Well, perhaps it will be by the end of the story?) Still, she wouldn’t be made First, not if there are others with more experience.

  37. James: unneccessary

  38. James: Your made up word doesn’t make much sense. Maybe you mean carpenter or woodcutter, or something inbetween?

    Luke: I prepared a whole long argument for this, but I’m not going to type it, because I didn’t think of “carpenter”.

  39. James: ratification

    Luke: Thank you! That one was bothering me.

  40. James: perfect

  41. Luke: We’ve told the audience she loves it, we’ll have to do something earlier to really show that, to warrant / make believable the moments in which we say she does.

    James: it should come out in her dedication to being an ambassador 😉

  42. James: 🙂

  43. Luke:  So I’m thinking in redrafts this section gets cut down significantly, and we wait until she and Raul are together in the Woods—or maybe on the plains—before she tells him about the stagnation.

    This here becomes a teaser to that moment. i.e. it sets up that there’s something going on in FC, but what does it mean!? the reader will think. What does it mean!?

    James: hmmm, I think there is a section set aside for exactly that on the Steppe! When the meet the unusual goatherd right after climbing

  44. James: intensification is change. Just sayin’

    Luke: You can’t see my face right now, and that’s a good thing. For…reasons…

  45. James: So you’ve succeeded by purging Charlotte of disdain for her position as an ambassador, but you’ve kinda replaced it with bald disappointment. She should express some excitement here. She just did, a short while ago, when considering how the agreement would change the forest and the city!

    Luke: Hmm, not sure I agree with you on that regarding this line. We’ll chat it out when it comes time for rewrites!

  46. Luke: Playful? Sarcastic? Puckish? …

  47. James: tinder

    Luke: Fuck me … *rolls eyes at self*

  48. James: ehhh, they’re probably wool and thus are absolutely dyed… dyed with natural stuff found in the forest

    Luke: Does Charlotte know that? The omniscient narrator would now if she knows, and describe it how she feels thusly.

    “My point, sir? I have none.”

  49. Luke: So, probably not velvet, but word count, you know? We’ll figure it later.

    James: Suede? uh-huh-huh, takin’ care of business, baby.

  50. Luke: Not clasps?

  51. James: this is a joyfully hilarious turn of phrase and I dig it a lot

    Luke: Thanks!

  52. James: the difference in the meaning of this word on either side of the atlantic ocean just keeps getting funnier over here

  53. James: there’s that disappointment again

    Luke: I’ll give you this one, yeah, that’s disappointment.

  54. James: i think butler is the wrong word, but I’ma let it ride

    Luke: Good. I did ;-P Whoa, look out, here comes the Word Count bus go zoooooomin’ by!

  55. James: this is a really weird useage, but its the best kind of correct: technically…. so…

    Luke: Is it even technically? I got hit by the word count bus a note back, I’m still seeing stars…

  56. James: Augusto’s word choice here is a little off, but i dig the sentiment

  57. James: no it didn’t. No alcohol does. The syntax is poor and its a cliche…. we can do better.

  58. Luke:  Would THEY call it an Adam’s apple?

    James: the laryngeal prominence of thyroid cartilage?

    Luke: Yeah. Did Adam score that one in their world, too?

  59. James: This is the attitude Charlotte should be embodying! good! gooooooood!

  60. James: chaos might be a less charged word here

  61. James: lol

  62. Luke: Perhaps another Goat reference.

  63. Luke: Hey, Charlotte tries to be all sneaky and move with stealth during the party (and fails), maybe we could have a moment later—when she’s marching through the castle—when people are parting ahead of her, just like they used to for Lucinda.

    “And as Charlotte rushed through the castle hallways the people parted, the wake of her passing leaving a space long after she left the room…” or something.

  64. Luke: What I mean is, he was VERY bright red, but it’s going back to normal (while acknowledging it’d still be somewhat red).

    James: not coming through. might need to be less showy and just say it.

  65. James: And that, children, is the real magic! But seriously.

  66. James: Bravo on Augusto my good man. Bravo. This last bit is everything I wanted out of the character and more

    Luke: Thanks. I was a little worried about it before sitting down to write it, but I feel good about what came out.

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