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The Turn of the Story, Part VII

unspoken k
I was SO SURE that I could fit all of the rest of fifteen into one part, guys. I was so sure. I was so wrong. But if brevity is the soul of wit, then I am a halfwit.

I am so sorry you guys have been waiting so long for this update!

Part I of Turn of the Story

previous part of Turn of the Story



Fifteen, continued

He didn’t know whether he had Peter’s educational manuals or Serene’s helpful instructions to thank, but Elliot thought the whole thing had all gone rather well.

He was lying amid tumbled sheets, looking up into Serene’s flushed face, when he finally had the courage to bring it up. Moonlight and starshine were growing faint behind her dark hair, diffused into the pale glow of morning.

“You know,” Elliot said, a little shyly, “I used to think that you… maybe liked Luke.”

Serene was levered up on one elbow, looking at him with pleased soft eyes. She liked it when he was shy: he’d noted that before, on the rare occasions that it happened.

“Luke?” she repeated blankly. “Our Luke?”

She started to laugh.

“Hahaha, I know, so silly,” said Elliot, greatly gratified. “Why are you laughing, exactly?”

“Luke and I have always had a relationship that was firmly platonic and based on our shared passion for honor and weaponry.”

“Oh,” said Elliot. “You were bros the whole time?”

“That’s a human idiom but yes,” said Serene. “Moreover I do not find golden-haired gentlemen sexually appealing. They remind me of Golden-Hair-Scented-Like-Summer, than whom there is nobody more infuriating.”

“This is awesome news.”

“Golden thinks he is so pretty, and so well-behaved,” Serene continued.

“Sounds like the worst,” Elliot contributed.

“He called me a rogue last summer, you know, in front of my poor sweet papa and his clique of snotty beautifully dressed friends, and everybody laughed.”

“Okay,” said Elliot. “I’m no longer worried about Luke but I am starting to be a little worried about someone else.”

Serene glanced over at him, an odd expression on her face. Elliot thought it might be simple surprise: it only lasted a moment, and then was gone, replaced with what Elliot was incredulously pleased to identify as an admiring look.

She leaned down, close enough to kiss but not quite kissing yet, and her dark hair fell down all around him so the dying night was veiled and the only starshine was her eyes.

“You have no need to be worried about anyone,” murmured Serene, and kissed him. Her mouth was warm and lingering, her hand tight around his arm. Elliot felt the calluses from bow and sword against the sensitive skin on the inside of his elbow. He shivered.

“Unhand me, you vile seducer, you virtue bandit. I feel sullied by your irresistible yet immoral touch!”

Serene’s eyes widened and her grip went loose.

“No, I didn’t mean it!” Elliot exclaimed hastily. “I was teasing. Maybe also role playing a little bit? I’ll tell you all about role playing. I read about it in a book.”

Serene’s eyes got even wider and she lunged at him. They went rolling across blankets and grass, her hair winding around his hands, him laughing helplessly and her murmuring amusement in his ear and in between kisses.

“Oh, you did, did you,” said Serene, rolling her eyes and smiling, so wide that Elliot knew in a human it would have been a laugh. She held him pinned down to the ground. “You are such a minx!”

“You know that’s right,” murmured Elliot.

“There is something I want to ask you. I was talking to your friend Myra,” Serene said. “I had a few questions for her, but as it turned out I find her company most congenial. She too is often puzzled by the strictly human way of doing things. She told me, though, about a facet of human romance, in which people are romantically involved not with the specific purpose of marriage but with the intent of providing companionship for each other. I must say that seems an efficient way to do things, in which everybody’s needs are met and neither party is in any way disgraced.” Serene paused. “She called it ‘dating’ or ‘being boyfriend and girlfriend.’”

Elliot hardly dared to breathe, in case it interrupted Serene’s flow of thought. He knew her better than that, though: knew her serious face when she was intent on a purpose.

“How about it?” asked Serene. “Do you want to be my boyfriend?”

Elliot smiled, and the smile drew Serene down to kiss him, so the smile might have been answer enough. Just in case, though, just to show her how much he meant it, he murmured: “Yes” just before their lips met.

Later, Serene slept through her morning archery practice. Elliot looked at the sunrise, golden rays caught in the treetops and sky catching fire. Warm light spilled over Serene as she slept, her skin illuminated and her shoulderblades golden crests and her back a valley, her bare skin a wonderful and strange landscape. Elliot rested a hand gently at the dip in her lower back, and felt both awed and scared.

He had been wishing for love his whole life, and if he’d had just one wish that wish would have been her. He was not sure how it had happened, or why: but the wish granted, he felt he had to prove he could deserve it. He did not know how to be grateful enough.

*

“This is my plan,” said Serene as they entered the lunchroom, and Elliot gazed at her with deep appreciation of her strategic mind. She steered him toward the table where Luke was sitting. “I will tell Luke of the newfound status of our relationship, for I wish to express that I am in no wise ashamed of you.”

“Thank you, Serene, excellent decision!”

“And then I will go get my nourishment and you two can have a longer conversation about feelings. I know boys like to gossip about girls and romance.”

Elliot’s squawk of protest was cut off when Serene pushed him forcibly onto the bench opposite Luke and said: “Elliot and I are dating now. You have four minutes to gossip about it. Goodbye, blossom!”

She pressed a firm kiss to Elliot’s horrified mouth and strode off. Elliot loved to watch her go, but he really really hated her leaving.

“We don’t have to gossip,” Elliot informed Luke. “We’re all done! Let’s be strong and silent. In a manly way. That would be awesome, right?”

“So you were… serious about… all that?” asked Luke Sunborn, secret gossip fiend.

Elliot was disappointed and then he actually listened to what Luke was saying and took a sharp left turn into being offended. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Luke fiddled with his pudding rather than looking up. “You were always so…exorbeetent… about it.”

Ex or bee tent? … Oh. You mean ‘exorbitant,’ loser. And as opposed to all the other reasonable well-balanced sides to my personality, you mean?” Elliot scoffed at the very idea that he might not have been serious. “Like you’d know anything about how I feel.”

“Fine,” said Luke. “I hope you’ll both be very happy.”

“Thank you,” said Elliot, graciously.

“You know, for about the one minute that it lasts,” Luke added, with a smug twist to his lips.

Elliot opened his mouth to say: hey, how dare you, it’s going to last forever, but then he shut his mouth. He had been bold when he knew, secretly, that there was no chance at all. Now he had a little hope, hanging in a fragile balance, and he was terrified that being overconfident would upset the balance and lose him everything. It was terrifying to have something: he wondered if other people lived their whole lives in this strange state between exultation and absolute dread. He’d never had anything to lose before.

“You think so,” he muttered, as Serene put her tray down, and then there was no opportunity to say anything else.

His feeling of panic eased as he looked at her: beloved and best, her eyes like water reflecting a morning sky and her eyes like water shadowed by trees, dark but with a sparkle of light through the leaves.

She smiled at him. “Did you have fun gossiping?”

“I can’t describe to you how much,” said Elliot. “But I missed you.”

He leaned in and kissed her. He hoped it never stopped being so sweet it was almost painful.

“You missed archery practice,” Luke remarked, his gaze on Serene. “You never miss.”

Serene almost smiled and Elliot was thrilled. “I was a little preoccupied.”

“That’s great, everybody already thinks we can’t obey regulations because of him,” Luke said. “Well, I’m going to practice archery some more. Someone ought to.”

He got up, pushing his tray aside. They stared at him in dismay.

“Luke, you have hardly eaten anything!” said Serene.

“I’m not hungry,” said Luke.

“Luke, please don’t develop an eating disorder,” Elliot begged. “We do not have any therapists in this world!”

“I said I’m not hungry!” said Luke.

Elliot paused. “Don’t eat any therapists. That’s not what they’re for.”

“Then I don’t know why you brought them up, other than the fact you always want to be talking about something stupid.”

Luke fixed Elliot with a look of definite dislike. Elliot reached for Serene’s hand, for comfort, but she was looking at Luke, who was now making his way out of the room.

“Okay, I know what’s going on,” said Elliot. “You said you were best bros with Luke, right? And obviously, as a supportive boyfriend, I respect your close bonds of platonic friendship. When one bestie starts dating and the other’s still single, conflict can occur. I read about this.”

Serene nodded seriously. “That makes sense.”

“Fortunately, I have a solution! You have to spend lots of time one on one with Luke and assure him of your continued platonic affection,” Elliot told her. “He just needs bro time.”

Serene regarded him with eyes that shone with what Elliot thought was tenderness. She shook her head. “I would never have realized all that. Masculine intuition is a wonderful thing.”

“I am pretty intuitive,” Elliot said, with beautiful simplicity. “And sensitive. And New Age.”

Serene leaned in, the light of admiration still in her eyes, and kissed him. Her mouth was soft and cool, and he felt warm all over.

“I’ll go now,” she whispered. “But I’ll see you tonight.”

Elliot’s brilliance thus left him alone at his lunch table. Many occupants of the room were staring. He sat smugly radiant until Peter cautiously approached.

“Whoa, you tamed an elf, good job, buddy,” said Peter.

Elliot eyed him with disfavor. “I didn’t tame her. She’s not a pet.”

“Oh, so she tamed you? I heard elves were into that.”

Myra was definitely Elliot’s favorite forever. “Nobody is anybody’s pet.”

“Um, I’m probably saying the wrong thing. Sorry, man,” said Peter. He put down his tray with a glum little thunk. “I don’t have much luck with girls myself. My dad says it runs in our family.”

“Er… how does he explain your mother?” Elliot asked.

“To tell you the truth, I think he means my mother. My mum’s family is from the Borderlands—generations of Waterwrits after generation—and my dad is from the world outside. It’s an adjustment, naturally… you’d know… but of course my dad couldn’t go back, after the Border camp. Things are always a bit strained at home.”

“I’m sorry,” said Elliot, after a moment, and forced out: “I know what that’s like.”

Elliot put down Peter’s reaction to his bad home life, but to his surprise, he found most people had a similar reaction: they either wanted to congratulate him or were condescending in his direction.

He was the significant other of an elf, but he hadn’t expected to be made into The Significant Other rather than being Elliot. He hadn’t thought he enjoyed it when people looked at him with exasperation, but it was infinitely better than being looked past.

*

Not that people had stopped looking at him with exasperation. That was made very clear a few days later, when the dust of battle had settled in the camp, and the bloodstains in the dust had faded until you might think they were something else…. Unless you knew better.

Commander Woodsinger had left word for Elliot to come to her office. He found Luke and Serene already there, both standing to attention. Their offensively military posture shamed Elliot into a half-hearted salute.

“Hey, commander,” he said. “Is this about getting medals? Because it’s not necessary, really, it was our pleas—”

Luke coughed pointedly. “Shh, my dear,” said Serene, and put her hand on Elliot’s arm.

Elliot sidestepped her. “I will not shush,” he said, frowning. “When have I ever shushed?”

“Can I see you alone for a moment, Cadet Schafer?” asked Commander Woodsinger. “I trust that I have made my position on this subject clear with both of you.”

Serene and Luke cast vaguely concerned glances in Elliot’s direction, but Elliot had already figured out that there were not going to be medals, and in fact that he was going to be told off for some cruel and unjust reason.

It was also possible that they were not concerned for him, but concerned about what he might say to Commander Woodsinger once left alone with her. They were right to be concerned about that, but there was nothing they could do about it.

Elliot smiled at them sweetly as they went out. They both looked deeply apprehensive.

Commander Woodsinger did not start scolding him. Instead she fixed him with dark eyes and barked out a weirdly personal question.

“What do you love, Cadet Schafer?”

“Serene,” Elliot replied promptly.

Commander Woodsinger closed her eyes and visibly prayed for patience. She did not reach for any weapons when she opened her eyes, so Elliot figured her prayer was granted.

“What else?”

Elliot sunk down low in the chair, hands linked over his chest, and kicked the desk. To punish the desk even more, he eyed it darkly.

“So long as this goes no further,” he muttered. “… Luke, I suppose.”

Commander Woodsinger breathed out through her nose. This sounded like an irate horse’s prayer for patience.

“What else?”

“Well, there’s Myra of the Diamond clan,” said Elliot. “I think I just like her a lot, though.”

“What more?” demanded Commander Woodsinger.

“I mean, I quite like Peter Quint, and Adara Cornripe, and the cranky medic who won’t tell me her name, and you,” said Elliot, “but meaning no offence, I don’t think that I’d classify any of that as l—”

“You’re misinterpreting the question, Cadet Schafer!” said Commander Woodsinger. “Fascinating though the complexities of your emotional attachments undoubtedly are. What do you hold allegiance to?”

Elliot frowned. “Well, Serene. And—”

“Do you love your country?”

“What, England?” asked Elliot. “Wow. Am I a poet in 1914?”

“What,” said Commander Woodsinger.

“What,” said Elliot.

“The Borderlands,” the commander clarified.

“I think I’m probably still British on my passport,” said Elliot.

“I hoped that after your years of training, you would have come to think of the Borderlands as your home.”

“It hasn’t been that long,” Elliot pointed out. “I’m only fifteen.” He chewed his lip thoughtfully. “Can a country be a home?”

“What do you think?” asked Commander Woodsinger.

Elliot tilted his head. “Clever.”

“I wish you were more clever,” said Commander Woodsinger. “I’d like it if you were even half as clever as you think you are.”

Elliot stared with his mouth open. He was ready to be disciplined, but he had not expected to be insulted.

“Are you aware that because of your reckless behavior Luke Sunborn left his squad—the squad that he was leading—in order to protect you, as an unarmed civilian?”

“Well, it’s not my fault Luke left his squad,” said Elliot. “I didn’t ask him to. That was his irresponsible decision and you should tell him off for it.”

“I have already disciplined Cadet Sunborn,” said Commander Woodsinger.

“How could you?” Elliot asked. “He saved my life!”

“Your position on this matter seems to be slightly contradictory.”

“It’s not,” said Elliot. “We saved the day and that means that I wish you to overlook any slight irregularities. I would like to complain about Luke, as it is my hobby, but I don’t want anyone to be punished. Least of all me.”

“I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed, cadet,” said the commander. “I want you to tutor some of the first year cadets in history and mapmaking.”

“Well that’s just ridiculous,” Elliot said. “We’re punishing children now? What have they done?”

Commander Woodsinger did not look amused. In fact, she had the stern countenance of someone who was determined to be oblivious to jokes, impassive as a tree stump or a toadstool. Or like a blank screen: Elliot might be forced to live without technology, but that didn’t mean that he had to descend to all nature metaphors all the time.

“Your ‘irregularities’,” said Commander Woodsinger, a woman who could imply quote marks with devastating clarity, “could have led to your own death and that of others. That it turned out well does not mean that you are exempt from the rules, which are in place for your protection and that of others.”

“It could be the rules need to be changed.”

“Or it could be there’s a reason I’m in charge, and not you,” said Commander Woodsinger.

It was on the tip of Elliot’s tongue to snap that without their support, she wouldn’t be in charge: but the alternative had been much worse. It wasn’t like Elliot wanted to be in control of a military camp, and he supposed since she did she did have to enforce some sort of military discipline. Not that he was a soldier, but he was a student here. He’d entered into an implicit contract: he knew the rules.

“Fine, I’ll teach the brats,” he said. “But it still seems cruel to them, if you ask me.”

The commander unrolled a map. It was a map Elliot was entirely familiar with: he knew it from geography class, from Maximilian Wavechaser’s book and hundreds more like it.

“These are the Borderlands,” said the commander. “This is a land of magic and mystery: this is our charge and our sworn duty to protect. This is a land to be loved and served, because nobody can understand it.”

“Well. Nobody has understood it yet,” said Elliot.

Commander Woodsinger looked as if her prayer for patience had not been answered, and she felt personally betrayed.

“Get lost, cadet, time’s wasting and I have reports of brigands in elven territory to deal with.”

Once he was finished with Commander Woodsinger, Elliot did not climb down the stairs. He climbed up, to the top of the brief tower, and he gazed down at the Borderlands. Like green silk spread as far as the eye could see, grey with mist and sea at the edges, embroidered with the delicate blue of rivers.

Nobody can understand it, the commander had said, and the challenge echoed in Elliot’s bones, as perhaps the commander had wanted it to. A challenge was more familiar to him than love, and felt close to the same thing, as though one led to the other. He felt his heart beat to the double time of two words.

Not yet.

*

Teaching was as nightmarish as Elliot had expected.

“I hate children,” he announced at lunch after his first lesson, flopping down on the bench and banging his forehead against the table.

Serene patted his back. “I know, sweetheart.”

“I hate them all,” said Elliot. “I especially hate Cyril, who became overwhelmed by my, quote, harsh tone, and began to hyperventilate. But I also hate Daniel, who asks stupid questions, and Miriam, who is a little know-it-all which would be fine if she knew it all but let me tell you—she doesn’t!”

“They will be less annoying soon,” Serene soothed, her voice balm. “Children from your world, I have noticed, are often immature and ill-acquainted with the realities of this one. But they grow up fast once transplanted to the Borderlands.”

They did seem about ten years younger than Elliot’s class, rather than two. It made Elliot uneasy to think about.

“I’m pretty sure all children are just awful,” he said. “Cyril also hyperventilated during a reenactment of Star Wars I was doing. And I remember that awful sticky creature who I fell off a cliff with. I never, ever want any.”

“I’m certain your tale of stellar combat was riveting,” said Serene. “And I’m certain you’ll change your mind. Most men long for children, due to their selfless and nurturing natures.”

“I don’t have one of those,” said Elliot.

“What about Smooth Jazz?” asked Luke meanly.

“What?” asked Serene.

Elliot was about to echo her, but then he recalled his conversation with Luke about the hypothetical names for his and Serene’s hypothetical children that he’d had before he was acquainted with any actual children and their horrors. He did not think Luke bringing up this evidence of Elliot being absurd in front of Serene was playing fair.

“Ix-nay on the abotaging-say of my lationship-ray,” said Elliot, kicking him, but that just made Serene and Luke both look at him as if he was speaking in tongues. He had so much to teach them about the other world: he’d forgotten the crucial aspect of pig Latin. “Anyway,” he said hastily. “Do you two have a selfless and nurturing natures? I mean, hypothetically: kids, yes or no?”

“Women have so many other things on their minds,” said Serene. “I’ll decide when I’m older.”

Elliot hoped she decided no. He really had not enjoyed Cyril’s hyperventilating.

“I obviously can’t,” Luke snapped.

“Uh, you obviously can, loser,” said Elliot. “We live in a military society frequently torn by conflicts and all. You’re telling me that somebody wouldn’t hand over a war orphan to a Sunborn and their life partner whose name might rhyme with Sail?”

Luke had looked thoughtful when Elliot started speaking, but by the time Elliot was done he looked only flushed and embarrassed.

“Shut up!” he said. “What if he heard you!”

He got up and stormed away to whatever physical activity he’d decided he simply had to practice at lunchtime that day. He might be onto the javelin by now. Elliot suspected the system was alphabetical.

As if Elliot had not already checked that Dale was nowhere in earshot. Elliot was sneaky and on the diplomatic track. He made a mental note to ask Dale about his opinion on children some time.

“You embarrassed me a little in the commander’s office,” Serene said, and her voice was soft: loving but chiding, and Elliot truly did appreciate how hard she was trying not to overstep the bounds of their new relationship, but he actually liked it better when she was being brash and open about her attitude toward men.

It was difficult, this way, to separate out affection and condescension, and he didn’t want to reject the affection.

“You know me, Serene,” he said, and pulled her hand away from his face, linked his fingers with hers instead. “I’ll be embarrassing you a lot soon enough.”

She took it well. “Probably,” she murmured, and kissed him. “I don’t mind it too much.”

They had a lovely ten minutes together, until Elliot sent Serene off to practice with Luke.

He found something to occupy himself with while they were being bros. For the times when Elliot was not teaching, there was the library and, surprisingly enough, Myra. The first time he went there outside his usual study hours and found her there, he thought it was a happy coincidence. The third time, he was fairly sure there was something going on.

“Never a bad time to get ahead on your studies,” she said when he asked, shrugging it off.

Elliot raised his eyebrows. “And yet.”

“Oh, fine,” said Myra. “If you must know—”

“I must!” said Elliot. “Because I’m nosy and have no consideration for the feelings of others.”

“I’m trying to avoid spending so much time with Peter,” Myra told him, a light flush creeping into her cheeks. “I think—he has feelings for me, and I don’t feel the same way.”

“Why, Myra!” Elliot was delighted, though a little sorry for Peter. “You heartbreaker.”

“I like someone else,” Myra continued, her blush deepening. “So it isn’t fair to lead Peter on. I’m hoping that if I put a little distance between us, he’ll get the message without me having to say anything.”

Elliot wanted to know who Myra liked, but the shadow of her mustache did nothing to hide the firm set of her mouth. He could tell when someone was not going to talk.

“Well, I’m happy to keep you company,” he said. “Serene’s spending time with Luke and I don’t want to get in the way of that.”

Myra frowned. “I thought you were all friends.”

“Not technically,” said Elliot. “I mean, not reciprocally.”

Myra looked even more confused. Elliot gave it up, even though he felt personally that it was perfectly clear.

“Anyway,” he continued. “Serene doesn’t want Luke to feel left out now that she and I are dating, so I am giving them a little space.”

“Aw,” said Myra. “I think that’s really nice of you.” She paused. “So, you’re really serious about Serene?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

Elliot’s tone was a little more snappish than he’d intended, but Myra didn’t seem to take offence.

“You know, you’re kind of a dramatic person, Elliot,” she said mildly.

“I am not, how dare you!”

“It’s not a bad thing,” Myra said. “But when a guy calls a girl the nightlight of his soul, other people might be forgiven for thinking he’s being intentionally over the top.”

“I wasn’t being over the top,” Elliot argued. “I was way under the top.”

Myra giggled. “Whatever you say, Elliot. And hey, it all worked out, didn’t it? You’re with her.”

Elliot looked out the window. “Yeah,” he said softly. “Yeah, I am.”

“And you were serious about her the whole time,” Myra said.

“Yeah,” Elliot said, even more softly. “Yeah, I was.”

“And she knew,” said Myra. “That’s what counts. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thought.”

She smiled at him, and Elliot knew it was an apology for making him feel doubtful and uncomfortable, and he smiled back. She hadn’t meant it. And it wasn’t her fault if Elliot had expressed his feelings wrong. He always did that, as if life was a dance where everybody else knew the moves but Elliot was constantly and fatally out of step.

Myra returned to her book. Elliot sat and looked out of the window, not dreamily this time but feeling a little cold.

He had to be careful not to drive off Myra. He realized exactly what he had said, earlier, even if she did not: that Luke was not Elliot’s friend. And in a way, since Serene was now his girlfriend, she was not actually his friend any more either. If—something were to happen, if he made too many mistakes and they broke up, Elliot would have nobody.

He had not thought about how dangerous it would be, to have all his dreams come true.

*

“Come with me,” said Luke abruptly one day, turning up at the library and grabbing Elliot’s wrist and hauling him out of the room.

Nobody protested this outrage but Elliot himself. Myra said “Hi, Luke! Bye, Luke!” and waved Elliot goodbye with her little finger, not even putting down her book as her friend was carried off. It was scandalous and heartless.

Elliot grabbed at the check-out desk as he went by.

“Uh, help me?” he suggested. “Abduction!”

“Don’t be a silly little thing,” said Bright Eyes. “Men don’t abduct people. Just boyish high spirits! You should both channel them into embroidery.”

“Maybe I would if I wasn’t being abducted!” Elliot hissed, but his grip on the desk proved futile as he was pulled away.

Sometimes Elliot worried that Bright-Eyes-Gladden-the-Hearts-of-Women disliked him intensely for being a hussy and always in the library until closing time.

“I don’t want to go with you,” Elliot declared. “You seem like a bad man.”

Luke glanced at him over his shoulder, and grinned. “That’s a shame. I was thinking—”

“I hope not unsupervised,” Elliot remarked.

Luke rolled his eyes. “The bandits problem is only getting worse. Their numbers are growing—”

“The bandits are banding together?” Elliot asked, smirking.

“You’re hilarious, please keep up your comedy routine until the bandits kill us all. If you insist on getting into trouble, you could at least make yourself less trouble than you currently are, is my point. So your girlfriend and I don’t have to keep getting disciplined for pulling your insubordinate ass out of the fire.”

“I won’t learn how to fight!” Elliot said, pulling out of Luke’s grasp with abrupt anger.

“It’s not that hard,” Luke said patiently.

“That’s not the point! You don’t understand anything.”

“As you constantly remind me. Apparently I should understand someone constantly putting themselves in danger but refusing to learn even the basics of self-defence—”

“Yes!”

“Sorry,” said Luke, grabbing him again and re-commencing dragging. “I don’t understand things that are stupid. All right, look, do you have objections to dodging?”

“What?”

“Sharp objects? If they’re thrown at you, would you dodge them?”

“Are you planning to throw them?” Elliot asked cagily.

“How about running away?”

“And back to the library? I am considering that.”

“No,” said Luke. “Come on. If all you’re going to do is dodge or run, you have to learn to do it faster.”

They had left the cabins, by which Elliot meant the buildings, by which he meant sweet sweet civilization, behind. Elliot eyed the variety of open spaces around—Trigon pitch, javelin throwing pit, archery section, combat rings, endless fields—with trepidation.

“I have really always thought of myself as a brilliant mind to be safeguarded by the physical efforts of others.”

“You should’ve thought of that before you left the library.”

“You kidnapped me!” Elliot protested.

“I meant that time you almost got yourself killed and did get all of us reprimanded by our commanding officer.”

So I could help us win, Elliot wanted to say, but going into exactly what he had done seemed like a bad idea. Luke probably wouldn’t think that blackmailing people was anything to be proud of.

“Oh,” Elliot said. “That time.”

He supposed that it did not matter if he’d been dumb or brave. He could have been stabbed either way, and he didn’t want to be. It was nice that other people didn’t want him to be either.

“We’re going to start by running laps,” said Luke.

*

Elliot got Serene a present for Christmas, even though neither of them celebrated it. None of them had ever given the others presents before. Luke and Elliot’s birthdays were both in summer and thus missable, and Serene said that birthdays were different for elves and telling anybody outside your family about the day of your entry into the world was considered dangerous. Elliot had always been glad about their presents rule, since getting Luke a gift would have been awkward.

Now that Serene was his girlfriend it seemed like he should give her a present at some point, however, and though Christmas had survived Valentine’s had not, so this was Elliot’s opportunity. He’d figured it would take up the time they usually spent watching Luke open his many presents from his family.

“I was thinking about why a land full of magic where the humans lead secular lives and there are no churches celebrates Christmas,” Elliot remarked. “I guess it’s a remnant of what humans bring across the Border with them. The ritual remaining, past belief.”

He didn’t know what the excuse for Christmas was in the story he’d read about the magic land with the important lion. Maybe it was the same deal. He was mostly talking because he was nervous.

Serene unwrapped the gift, and light touched her solemn face. It was a book of the treaties written and long history of cooperation between men and elves. Elliot found it idealized the history too much, but there were detailed and accurate sketches of the elven homeland that the writer had been privileged to see. He knew Serene missed home, sometimes.

“Thank you, petal,” said Serene, and kissed him. “I got you something, as well.”

She put a bracelet into his hand.

Elliot knew her first instinct had been to buy him adornments, but the woven leather bracelet was the kind of thing other boys at the Border camp would wear too. It was a nice compromise, and it was always nice to know Serene was trying, too.

“Thanks, snowdrop,” he said, and let her tie it on his wrist, then beamed. “Am I pretty?”

“You’ll do,” she teased, and put an arm around his shoulders. He snuggled up. “Perhaps next year we could incorporate some of the elvish winter festival into this time.”

“I would love to do that,” said Elliot.

“Yeah, okay,” said Luke, unwrapping a crossbow.

The table in front of him was crowded with weapons, but this one was from Louise and she had her current kill count engraved on it, with an encouraging message that said KEEP UP, LITTLE BROTHER! Louise was a terrifying person, and it made them all smile.

“We can do the thing with the funny lamp too,” Luke continued.

“Menorah,” Elliot corrected. “We don’t have to.”

He’d told the others about being Jewish, and tried to explain all that entailed, but he was not sure he understood perfectly himself. They had never practiced. His father had never celebrated anything with him. Theirs was not a house that ever had celebrations.

It was just something that Elliot had understood his mother would have wanted him to know about. He had learned all he could, hoping to please her, in the days when he still believed she would come back. But she had never come, and he had never done any of the things he’d read about. He had never believed in much, once he stopped believing in her.

Serene looked dreamily off into the distance, her fingers lingering on the embossed cover of the book Elliot had given her. “In the winter festival, my mother would wrap my father in a mantle of beautiful snow-white fur. And for that one day, the trees will respond to us and give us fruit once more, their colors like jewels in the frost. Also, of course, there is the blood ritual.”

“The blood what now,” said Luke.

“Maybe all traditions are overrated!” Elliot suggested.

Luke unwrapped his next present, which unlike all the other terrible pointed gifts of death was a soft blue jumper.

“My dad knits,” he explained as Serene nodded with complete understanding and Elliot beamed in astonishment. “He says it’s soothing to have something to do with his hands in between battles. When it was just him and me because Mum was on her three-year mission and Louise was in the camp, stationed out in the north, it was freezing. All the men wanted Dad to knit them something warm.”

It was a nice note to end the present-opening on, and Elliot did not find one particular tradition overrated. He arrived late to his next class due to mistletoe in the doorway of the lunch room.

“Oooh, is the elf giving her girlfriend jewelry,” mocked Natalie Lowlands, Adara’s best friend, as Elliot slid into the seat next to her.

Elliot gave her a big beaming smile, and pushed his sleeve down a little to better display the bracelet. “Sorry you’re lonely!”

In his imagination, being with Serene had been perfect. It wasn’t: people were constantly passing comments, insulting either to him or to Serene—and he preferred the ones insulting to him—even the teachers sometimes made comments, he hardly saw Luke, and he had to weigh every interaction between himself and Serene carefully, trying to get each one right.

Sometimes he got it right without having to try too hard, though.

Even in winter, Elliot and Serene spent most nights in the woods, in a tent: Serene made fires, which meant it was just as cozy as in the awful cabins anyway, and there was Serene under the heaped up blankets. That night they read through the book Elliot had brought, and Serene pointed out all the places she was familiar with from the pictures, and told stories of her childhood in those faraway settings. They laughed and whispered, legs tangling and exchanging kisses every time they turned a page.

Serene for a season: Serene’s warm skin, the growing-easy slide of his hands up her smooth back, the fall of her hair all around him, the low approving sounds she made as he kissed his way from the curve of her mouth to the curve of her neck down to all the curves of her slim body. Serene as the world edged toward spring, with moonlight turning her bare skin to pearl and her eyes to diamonds. Lying with Serene in the darkness when it was easiest to speak and murmuring secrets and dreams.

Serene eventually did go with just him to the Elven Tavern, where they wrote up detailed suggestions for how to improve the décor. Serene also accompanied him to the blacksmith’s, where the lady blacksmith also had the printing press, and Elliot dropped his old camera on the ground while making loud comments about how exactly it worked and how much the Borderlands would benefit from some sort of daily paper about current tidings.

Being with Serene was worth everything. He could only hope she thought so too.

*

The first time Elliot managed to run a four-minute mile he promptly toppled over onto his back in the scanty springtime grass. Serene and Luke were waiting for him at the finish line and Serene applauded.

“Thank you for your support, sunflower of my soul,” said Elliot, once he could breathe again. “As for you, I can’t believe you’re making me do this. I hate you, and I hate your face. I actually think I might be allergic to it. Or maybe that’s the lack of oxygen and hayfever talking, I don’t know.”

“I think you are much improved, my sweet,” Serene told him encouragingly.

“I don’t want to do this anymore!” Elliot wailed. “Can’t I do yoga instead? I could be good at that. I could take deep breaths and find my centre and achieve ultimate zen.”

“Serene’s right, you’re getting a little faster,” Luke conceded.

Elliot laid his arm over his face. “I wish only for death.”

It was pathetic, that he would actually participate in boring terrible physical activity in order to spend some time with Luke.

“Oh, hey guys,” said Dale Wavechaser, coming in through the gate in exercise clothes, looking fresh and fit and ready for anything. His hair was awesome. Elliot hated him too.

“Hello, Dale,” Serene said pleasantly. Elliot waved feebly. Luke went red and mumbled something.

Dale looked mildly puzzled. “I would’ve thought you guys would be with the commander and uh, Sure-Aim-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle. Did I get that right?”

“What?” Serene snapped.

“Uh, they arrived about an hour ago,” said Dale. “Expect the commander wants permission to foray into the elven territories to deal with the bandits. It’d be great to get chosen to go, wouldn’t it? Well, you have no worries there obviously, Sunborn.”

“Mmm,” said Luke, still red and looking away.

“I bet you get picked,” Elliot said helpfully, because Luke was hopeless. “You’re so great at… stuff, Dale.”

Dale winked. “Aw. Thanks, man.”

“My mother is here?” Serene asked. She was standing very straight, her face a shade paler than usual.

“Er. I guess you didn’t know,” said Dale.

He looked alarmed to suddenly be in an awkward situation. He stared wistfully at the track and the prospect of physical exercise. He and Elliot were just extremely different people.

Serene began to move, and when Serene moved, she moved like a storm: unstoppable and so fast you barely saw her until she was upon you. She went over the fence and not through the gate, and Luke went after her.

“Yes, ‘sweaty and disgusting’ was exactly the look I was hoping for when I met my future mother-in-law,” Elliot muttered, scrambling to his feet and following them.

*

They were drawing near the commander’s tower when the door was flung open, and the commander’s voice heard at rather a higher volume than normal.

“—it is the duty of the Border guard to protect the Borderlands, and where we are not granted entry, we cannot protect!”

It did not seem like negotiations for a foray into elven territory were going all that smoothly.

“It is my duty to inform you, Commander,” said a tall woman in a black cloak whose back was turned then, “that the elves can protect themselves very well. Any who dare doubt it can come and try us.”

She must have heard the sound of their running footsteps, her ears elven-keen, for she turned then before Serene had a chance to call out.

Sure-Aim-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle’s cloak flared as she turned, and her hair with it, dark as Serene’s but shot through with silver. She had a face like a judge’s commemorated in marble, beautiful but above all things stern. The very sky seemed to shine brighter behind her than anyone else, as if she was etched on crystal.

“Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle,” she said. “Greetings, kinswoman of my house and daughter of my heart. You look well. I trust you are training hard, despite the soft ease of your surroundings and studies.”

“Cadet Chaos-of-Battle is a quite exemplary student,” said Commander Woodsinger unexpectedly. “Nobody expected her to be able to bear a double workload of both council and war training.”

“And yet my daughter is excelling, are you not?” inquired Sure in elvish, deliberately cutting the commander out of the conversation. Her lip curled in satisfaction as Serene nodded. “I would expect no less.”

It did not seem like much, but Serene glowed.

“May I have the honor of introducing my comrades to my revered mother,” said Serene, recalling herself after a moment. She gestured to Elliot and Luke, and Elliot now saw where she had learned her graceful dignity from. “This is my swordsister Luke Sunborn, and my boyfriend Elliot Sch—”

“I don’t particularly care about the redheaded slut you’re amusing yourself with,” said Sure-Aim-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle. Her eyes were gray pools like her daughter’s, but Serene’s were the pools in spring and in Sure’s winter had come.

“Mother, how dare you!” exclaimed Serene.

Sure's icy eyes slid over Elliot as if he was not worth bothering with. They fixed on Luke.

“But claiming that a boy is—that a boy could be—your swordsister? That is obscene. That is spitting on the traditions of our house and our people. I wish to hear no more of that nonsense.”

Serene put a protective, possessive hand on Luke’s arm. “It’s not nonsense. And the traditions of my people are wrong. He is my swordsister. As soon as we saw each other, we both knew it.”

Sure made a noise that in a less poised and commanding person might have been called a snort. “What does a human know? Look at his pretty dimwitted face. He does not even know what we are saying.”

Everyone looked at Luke, who tilted his golden head and looked down at Sure for a moment with his arms folded.

In faltering, rough elvish, Luke said: “I got it, actually.”

Serene broke into a torrent of elvish so furious and rapid that Elliot had trouble following it himself, and Luke looked completely confused. Sure eyed Commander Woodsinger with an air that suggested the commander was intruding on a private family moment.

Commander Woodsinger eyed Sure-Aim-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle with an air that suggested that moment was happening directly outside her office. Then she rolled her eyes, went back into her office and slammed the tower door, just as Sure walked a few steps away, summoning Serene with a peremptory nod of her head. Serene came to her mother’s side, and because she still had hold of Luke, Luke had to go with her.

Elliot and Sure’s bodyguard, Swift-Arrows-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, were left staring awkwardly at each other. Swift was just as beautiful as ever, tranquil-eyed and chestnut-haired, but after Serene’s mother she looked totally normal and comforting. She also looked somewhat abashed.

“Nice to see you again,” Elliot said, smiling and looking up—no, actually, across, when had that happened?—at Swift through his eyelashes. “Thank you for all your letters. Elvish life is so fascinating.”

“I am glad to amuse you, my dear, though I am but a rough soldier who has no great readiness with a pen,” Swift said heartily. “Your charming prattling missives in return have cheered me on many a lonely night out on patrol.”

“Heh, really? Um… cool,” said Elliot, and looked around for help.

Serene had Luke’s arm in a death grip and was now screaming in elvish while her mother bellowed cutting remarks. No help there, then.

“I was saddened to hear Serene had launched a successful attack on the citadel of your virtue,” Swift said.

She sounded genuinely grieved. Elliot was grieved to be having this discussion.

“The citadel was totally into surrendering. Also I personally would not have referred to it as a citadel,” Elliot observed. “Like, ever.”

“No doubt you tempted her. Ah, a man’s morals are frail as they are, sweet silly creatures,” Swift said. “I do think it was up to Serene to control herself, though. She must have known I was considering you as a bride. Your humanity would not have mattered so very much, up in the wild north where I am stationed, but now you have been sullied, of course it is out of the question.”

Elliot gave a shriek that wavered between hysterical alarm and hysterical laughter, and tried to turn it into a coy giggle with very limited success.

“I’m very flattered!” he said. “And taken all unawares by this token of your esteem! But I think you might be a little old for me! No offence meant.”

Swift did not look offended, but she did look rather puzzled.

“The woman should really have an advantage when it comes to age in marriage,” said Swift. “So that she may guide and educate her blushing bride in the ways of the world. Besides which, men are at their most attractive in the first blush of youth, whereas women only grow more distinguished as the years pass.”

“Ha,” said Elliot, not terribly amused. “That’s so funny, because humans think the exact opposite thing.”

Swift chuckled. “I don’t see how humans can argue with facts? Do women get--” she used a word Elliot did not quite understand.

“Tureen… stomachs?” he said. “Oh! Pot bellies? Well, some women kind of have them? Less than men, I guess.”

Swift nodded triumphantly, her point made. “And men go—“ she almost whispered the word “--bald.” She shook her head, sadly. “The beauty of men is a sweet soft thing that passes all too soon, like a bird across the sky.”

“Um,” said Elliot. “Maybe both our societies are messed up, and they each only think one type of person is really a person. And the type of person they think is really a person is allowed to show imperfections and age… whereas the type of person they think is an object should show no signs of being a person. We’re socialized to see the imperfections in those objects.”

Swift chuckled. “You’re still a funny, taking little thing. I think it’s a shame of Serene. I hope she treats you well when you’re under her protection. I’ll ask her permission to continue writing to you.”

“Except I don’t need her permission to do anything!”

Swift continued blithely, as if Elliot’s opinion on the subject did not count, and Elliot knew that no matter what he said Serene was getting asked, as if Elliot was a book to be borrowed or a child taken out for an ice-cream. “And if she leaves you forlorn and weeping, remember you can trust me. These young rogues can be heedless, but I’d treat you well.”

Elliot stared. “I will remember that. In fact, I have a feeling this scene will come back to me again and again. And again and again and again.”

Swift reached out and touched Elliot’s cheek. “Ah, sweet soiled dove,” she murmured.

“I… actually don’t have a response to that remark,” Elliot said.

“Come on, Elliot!” Serene shouted. “I will not stand here and have my comrades insulted by a small-minded provincial tyrant! I would rather be cut to pieces!”

“We are two souls with but a single thought, baby,” said Elliot, and ran after her and Luke as they stormed away.

Serene’s mother was the one who got the last word. Sure-Aim-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle did not run after her errant heir, or raise her voice. She stood with her guard at her back, her arms casually crossed, her silver-and-shadow hair streaming, and she spoke clearly and calmly.

“Go and play with your humans, child. When the time for child’s play is past, I know you down to bones and blood. When the time comes, you will leave all this and come to my call. You will ride into battle at my side.”



As you may have guessed from my lamentation above, not long to wait this time around. The next and last part of fifteen will be along soon!

and indeed... next part of Turn of the Story

Comments

( 95 comments — Leave a comment )
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eavanmoore
May. 8th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, poor Elliot! He really, really hasn't been paying enough attention to what Serene's offering and what he's imagining, though.
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 07:23 pm (UTC)
You're right, they should both be listening more carefully for cues to avoid cultural conflicts of understanding, but--he knows what dating means, and they're fifteen, so...

*cagily* I am always pleased to see sympathies for my Elliot. ;)
sentientcitizen
May. 8th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
OH MY GOONESS
sentientcitizen
May. 8th, 2014 07:39 pm (UTC)
ahaha, got excited and accidentally typoed submitted a half-written comment. I AM VERY EXCITED, is what you should take from this. REALLY HAPPY AND LAUGHING BUT ALSO SAD AND NERVOUS. Which is kind of what I expect to happen when I read anything you've written, so. *grin*
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clockworknikon
May. 8th, 2014 07:52 pm (UTC)
THIS IS SO EXCITING!!!

I almost couldn't read it, I was that excited!!! In fact 'tis so exciting I cannot articulate a proper response and am using far too many exclamation points!!!
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 07:53 pm (UTC)
Hee, I'm glad! I worried that this bit is mostly Relationship Stuff and no Battles!
lusse_kun
May. 8th, 2014 07:55 pm (UTC)
YAY!! this is the best, truly, it always makes my day when I see an update for The Turn of the Story!
I love Elliot the most :D his comebacks are amazing and go him! finally getting together with Serene...and how I adore the way Elves look at men, so great!
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
He did finally get the girl. ;) And I am so happy you are enjoyin', and that you are fond of Elliot!
bloodbelieve
May. 8th, 2014 08:31 pm (UTC)
Elliot is my FAVOURITE. Also I originally thought this was the last part, and not the last part just of fifteen, and was incredibly anxious over how this could all be resolved in just one part! I am pleased to see I was wrong!
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 08:34 pm (UTC)
Haha. Oh God. Well, the last part has to be by September, so I do have a deadline of sorts. ;) The current plan is three more parts. But then... this part turned into two parts. SO NOBODY IS SAFE.

I am glad you like you some Elliot! I think Luke is the surprise popularity contest winner (life imitates art) but I am super pleased by love for any of 'em. ;)
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dancingxstar
May. 8th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
Sarah, you are amazing and this was so worth the wait!
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 09:06 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you! I feel super bad about the wait and worried everyone would be like 'what? who? tis but a distant memory...'
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(Anonymous)
May. 8th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
Now Luke needs to get Elliot since Elliot got to get the girl of his dreams(this sounds rather weird now that I actually type it out )

Also I am incredibly impressed with his four minute mile.If he ever decides to willingly run in a competition, Elliot would be going to state for sure.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write TotS,and I can't wait for the next part.:)
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 09:57 pm (UTC)
... So are you suggesting a threeway? (Some readers, I know, are indeed!)

Ha, yes: Elliot's four minute mile is REALLY IMPRESSIVE, and Luke and Serene are just such superhuman athlete babes they're like 'It's okay, dude... I guess...' Poor Elliot! I am so pleased you noticed. ;)

I like writing it, and am very happy to give pleasure to others reading it--I am so glad you guys have not totally forgotten about it, I gave you quite a wait!
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antimony_medusa
May. 8th, 2014 10:07 pm (UTC)
I am entirely made of worries.

Being 15 SUCKS. I remember this now.

(MY BABIES.)
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 11:25 pm (UTC)
Being fifteen is a complicated thing. And then there's fantasylandia to cope with. ;)

Worrying seems wise!
hokuton_punch
May. 8th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)
OH MAN, ALL THIS AWKWARD. DDDDDDDDDDDD:
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 11:26 pm (UTC)
Elliot vs the elves: no-one leaves un-freaked-out!
frabjouslinz
May. 8th, 2014 10:29 pm (UTC)
Yay new Turn of the Story! Yay more Serene and Elliot and Luke! I just want to hug them all to pieces. You're going to make me cry a bunch about them soon, aren't you? I'm pretty sure you are. It's your way.
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 11:38 pm (UTC)
Maybe only about some of them...? Better hug them all to be safe.
(Anonymous)
May. 8th, 2014 11:29 pm (UTC)
I love these stories. They are my favorite thing you've written, and maybe my favorite take on the portal fantasy genre ever.

I am appalled at whatever industry Powers That Be weren't interested in a novel around this premise. Thank you for writing the stories anyway, and for free, no less! I will be buying LL3 and Tell the Wind and Fire this autumn, and look forward to reading both.
sarahtales
May. 8th, 2014 11:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, I get it as regards the powers that be: ze industry fits stuff into slots--starting when people are kids means it's middle grade, but then we climb up to seventeen and that's YA (unless you keep everything down to only-snogging, which as you can see... I didn't...) and switching age brackets is tricky! Plus, very wrongly, having LGBTQ content is seen as sexual, and the more prominent the characters the more sexual. (Hopefully that will change, and the sooner the better.) Plus I have a lousy sales record. Plus... portal fantasy is not in vogue. So the several people I talked to were probably wise!

But I am so glad to have people reading and enjoying it. Writing it got me through a sticky time, and to have readers who do like what I'm doing is soothing and lovely. You are very kind! I do have so much more to say about portal fantasy than I ever knew I did.

I will have my fingers crossed that LL3 does not disappoint--Tell the Wind and Fire doesn't come out till next autumn, but I hope it won't either!

Edited at 2014-05-08 11:44 pm (UTC)
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wildpear
May. 9th, 2014 12:01 am (UTC)
Ooooo . . . Yay! I am so giddy and happy and I just missed this so much. I can't think of anything else that makes me belly laugh so much, even on multiple rereads. I adore them all; Elliot's my favourite, I think, but Serene is the one I like to crow about to others, and Luke is the one I most want to see made happy. They're all just so wonderful.

“Sharp objects? If they’re thrown at you, would you dodge them?”

“Are you planning to throw them?” Elliot asked cagily.


Oh, Luke, you really are a secret snarky bastard. *gleeful face*

And I love how you've taken the mirroring of human sexism in elvish sexism from something screamingly funny to something terribly serious. Sure is pissing me off just as much as a patriarch in her position would, which is awesomely appropriate. And even Serene's treatment of Elliott is making me kinda twitchy.

Swift nodded triumphantly, her point made. “And men go—“ she almost whispered the word “--bald.” She shook her head, sadly. “The beauty of men is a sweet soft thing that passes all too soon, like a bird across the sky.”

Okay, it's still awfully funny sometimes. Dark, but funny.
wildpear
May. 9th, 2014 12:03 am (UTC)
Also, moar fifteen soon? YAY!!!!
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elvenjaneite
May. 9th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
“What, England?” asked Elliot. “Wow. Am I a poet in 1914?”

Laughing and crying oh my lord this is so perfect.
elvenjaneite
May. 9th, 2014 12:46 am (UTC)
And now I have reached the end and everything is terrifying and awkward and I love it.
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(Anonymous)
May. 9th, 2014 03:04 am (UTC)
I think that Elliot is my spirit animal. I love him to absolute pieces.
Well, really I love them all, but Elliot has a special place in my heart, on account of all the sass.

Also, these kids are exceptionally accomplished. Like, Elliot being "un-athletic”? He can run a four minute mile! My poor darling suffers so much from comparison to supernatural beings and the sons of long lines of warriors. And Luke! He can understand conversational Elvish! And Serene is facing down her mother on behalf of her best friend and boyfriend, defying Elvish custom and her superiors.

They grow up so fast! *wipes away tears*
wildpear
May. 9th, 2014 03:46 am (UTC)
Yes, to all of this. I love seeing all of them step outside of their comfort zones in this chapter, and show off that they are so much more than their most superficial traits. And I love how obvious it is that they have all inspired each other to grow in areas they might not have otherwise. They really are growing up, beautifully.
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foxglove_chant
May. 9th, 2014 03:12 am (UTC)
I've been having a rough time, and this made my day IMMEASURABLY better. I really love these three. I can't even have a favourite, they are all so dear. Thank you thank you thank you.
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 11:26 am (UTC)
Aw, I'm so sorry you've been having a rough time and so glad to provide a panacea! Stories should do that, and thank you for telling me mine did. I hope the times get better and promise the story will keep coming.
psocoptera
May. 9th, 2014 03:33 am (UTC)
Oh, I heart them all so much. Yay new part!
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC)
*beams*
elena1701
May. 9th, 2014 06:36 am (UTC)
Oh, Elliot... The part about his memories of his mother was heart-breaking.

Am I the only person wondering about the parallels between Peter's parents unhappy 'mixed' marriage and Elliot's absent mother and distant father?
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC)
V. intriguing thought. ;)

Elliot's homelife remains a ghost that haunts him throughout his school life... but then it is for everyone, and it just depends whether it's a primarily happy or a sad ghost.
marici
May. 9th, 2014 08:18 am (UTC)
My babies, I'm so glad to see you growing up. I'm worried about Elliot and his possible soiled-dove future, but let's be honest: if he ever spends more than a few months away from both Luke and Serene, he's going to be too stabbed to worry about food. It's a shame that Elliot can't tell Luke loves him (platonically is... not my preference, but that they love is utterly clear) and Luke doesn't know he doesn't know, because poor Luke has totally lost a lot of his time with Elliot over this, and I think he can't work out how to make Elliot come bully him again.
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
I think Elliot's various accomplishments and not-actually-living-in-the-elven-lands will mean he can feed himself despite his sullied virtue. ;) The stabbing might not happen if he lived principally in the library... and annoyed nobody with a letter opener... maybe.

Luke did work out exercise time together. Cruel though that was! And it is fun to write them growing up--especially as due to their lives I imagine it happening fast, and thus being somewhat harsh but also awkward as growing up always is.
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greenfaeriedust
May. 9th, 2014 10:49 am (UTC)
Gah! *hysterical flutterings* Now I wish to go back and read this from the beginning, again. This story is wonderful, I love these characters so much.

Thank you so much for writing it and for this update. I've been thinking about this story for months, it's definitely one that stays with you. :)
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:22 pm (UTC)
Aw, I'm so glad that it's stuck with you. It's alarmingly obvious it's stuck with me, so I am pleased to have company!
cachinna
May. 9th, 2014 02:06 pm (UTC)
Aaaaah. I had to go back and reread part fifteen, not because I did not remember it but to delay this bit just a little more because I was so excited it seemed unhealthy. Rereading the previous part did not, uh, help at all, as I suppose anyone with sense might have expected.

These characters are so good! Elliot continues to be deeply my favorite, determined to do the right thing and also a bit horrible and just -- so perfect. And Serene is a darling, in spite of her societally-engrained misogyny misandry, and just so amazing. And Luke, poor Luke, with his worry and his exercise and his weapons as presents! I am ot3-ing all over this relationship, but regardless, I love them all so much.

The sweater! The complicated relationship dynamics! The struggles of being an independent thinker on a military base! Elliot tutoring poor innocent children! MYRA!!! Sigh.

Thank you so much for updating (and for posting this whole wonderful thing *for free* online for us). Your books are so wonderful, and then we get this extravagant bonus present. Such the best.
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:38 pm (UTC)
Elliot is getting quite a lot of love this part! I never predict which part will do what correctly, but I am always pleased to see love. ;)

Serene tries so hard and means so well! And Luke has at least got Elliot to a point where he could probably go to state in track if he was American and in normal school...?

Aw, I am glad Myra was noticed! More Myra is coming. Keep an eye on Myra. ;)

The struggles of being an independent thinker on a military base!

Very yes. I love it when my readers put these things so well.

It is a more extravagantly long present than I ever planned, but I am very glad people like it!
blackoakdreams
May. 9th, 2014 05:02 pm (UTC)
That Elliot. Breaking hearts and crushing hopes all over the Borderlands.
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC)
Poor Swift. She is but a simple soldier unused to the minxy ways of redheads.
Renee Melton
May. 9th, 2014 05:19 pm (UTC)
MORE OF THIS HURRAY.

I had just discovered the Mark Reads videos of this and was sort of vaguely wondering when the next part would come out. And you have answered my wonderings!

I am super excited for Monstrous Affections, btw.
sarahtales
May. 9th, 2014 05:21 pm (UTC)
I am so glad you are excited. ;)

The Mark Reads videos are wonderful. He is such a good reader, I'd like to pack him up and take him to events. (But that would be kidnapping or something...)
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blindmouse
May. 10th, 2014 03:13 am (UTC)
Apparently I was really determined not to miss Turn of the Story updates, because I got three different notifications, on two different LJ accounts, ahaha. Totally worth it, this continues to be the most delightful thing.
sarahtales
May. 10th, 2014 12:15 pm (UTC)
Aw, that is most flattering!
kannnichtfranz
May. 10th, 2014 05:55 am (UTC)
*happy sigh of total contentment* It's so good to visit these old friends again!

This is an excuse to reread the whole thing again, right? I think every new chapter provides that. Except I was too eager and reread this part first. ;)

I really liked the line about Serene and Sure's similar gray eyes but spring and winter. Awesome.

And I love that Elliott's missing Luke so much that he's willing to perform acts of physical exertion to spend time with him. Now that's impressive!
wildpear
May. 10th, 2014 04:46 pm (UTC)
That's okay. I read this bit first, and THEN reread the whole thing. I endorse this approach enthusiastically :)

I'm with you on the eyes, and the physical exertion = love things. Those were fabulous moments.
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(Anonymous)
May. 10th, 2014 05:50 pm (UTC)
how soon is soon? I need, physically need, to know more.
sarahtales
May. 10th, 2014 11:23 pm (UTC)
I thought Monday. ;)
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