I don't own Azure Dreams or Azure Dreams characters, places, or plots.
This is a rewrite of the story I wrote a few years ago that crashed into writer's block and died. Please be patient with updates, I am (surprisingly) busy with life right now. Oh yeah, read and review, please.
I mumble curses into my pillow and sigh, willing the unwelcome presence to stop torturing me. I just want peace… just one time…
The voice is stronger, more insistent. I whimper and hug my pillow tighter, as if I depend on it for everything. I squeeze my eyes tighter together.
"Weedy! Dammit, Weeds, get up! Get out of bed, you lazy bum!"
I attempt to yank the soft, warm comforter over my head, but I suddenly find myself coverless on the cold, hard floor, my stomach aching where it had been touched with a foot less than lovingly. I shiver and rub my arms.
"Curse you, Tila!" I slur sleepily, shaking my fist defiantly at her. "Curse…" I yawn and turn on my side, fully intending to go back to sleep. "…you."
"If you don't get up," she starts, and I can tell even in my senses-dulled state that she's irritated now. "I WILL tell everyone what Weedy is short for."
"I don't care!" I mutter.
"Really? Not even if I were to tell say, Timal?" she says slowly, mischievously. I shake a fist at her again, and then leap up to take a bath.
Her triumphant laughter rings through the house as I hurry to the bathroom. I sniff, my pride injured. Every morning for three years Tils had come faithfully to try and pull me from my bed, a task that had become too much for my mother.
I vow to one day defeat her. One day, I would stay in my bed damn well past noon! Past supper, if I so pleased. It would happen! Of course, I would have to try and do that before I turn fifteen; it would be awfully inconvenient to try and secure a day away from the Tower to stage my coup. I nod firmly, glancing up idly as I towel my hideous blue hair dry.
My heart feels like spontaneously combusting. Today is my fifteenth birthday! Immediately, simultaneously, both the thoughts 'Damn you Tila!' and a singsong 'I'monna go to the Tow-wer!' rush through my mind
I decide to let the Waking Wars go. For now. After all, becoming a Tamer is the family dream. Sure, I don't have my brother or father's red hair, nor am I male, but the same blood still runs through me. So I would just focus on the Tower. Maybe one day I'd even get up before noon.
Despite myself, I snort merrily at the thought and slip on a yellow tank top and white shorts. I tie a section of my hair into a knot, and go out to face the world.
"Why do you hate me, o Gods?" I bemoan under my breath, staring imploringly at the sky, which is admittedly obstructed by our ceiling.
Oblivious, the ancient priest Jorda continues on with his blessings. Tila catches my eye and shrugs, looking back at her nails. Miss Nico plays idly with my best friend's purple hair, looking just as bored as the rest of us.
I try to ignore Jorda's creaky voice, his bad breath, the white gunky spittle stuff forming at the corners of his mouth, the feel of his wrinkly dry hands on my shoulders, and the bruise that's surely forming where he's pressing his staff into my left shoulder, clasping it protectively while still grasping onto me. Occasionally he adjusts, and the staff hits me heavily on the head, and I try to stifle the hiss of pain and surprise.
"…and Ancient Father—" some name I don't know "—bless this girl, she who enters the Tower of your mighty creation. Make her strong enough in the body, mind, heart, and soul to brave—"
Blah blah blah. It's kind, I know, that Jorda would do this, and he is sincere, but I am seriously considering slipping back into the welcoming sleepiness that tugs at the corners of my mind. And as if Tila knows exactly what I'm thinking, she jerks her head up, purple braid flying from Miss Nico's grasp. She shoots me a dangerous look, and shakes her head slowly. I sigh.
"—and should she come upon danger, may You protect her with all of your generous kindness and be merciful enough—"
To strike me dead now? That was true mercy. As it is, I feel forsaken by the gods. I bite back another sigh. Even my mother, whose visits to the Temple had become much more frequent in the last three years, looks bored.
Three years. Three years ago my big brother, Koh, disappeared. He had gone into the Tower to try to find a Roche fruit, a special fruit that only my brother was strong enough or brave enough to get. He never came back.
I don't think he's dead, though. In the five years that my big brother had been visiting the tower, he had been to the top of the Tower multiple times. The only other one ever to make it to the top in our known history was my father, Guy. But Guy had been slain there when my big brother was barely eight and my mother was still pregnant with me.
In short, my brother is too strong to be taken down by anything less than a god, and even then, I would worry for the god's safety. Besides, his familiar, Kewne, hadn't come back to tell us of his death, and familiars never died, they simply returned to their homes. So I knew that my big brother was there somewhere, trapped on a floor with a collapsed elevator, perhaps. He was there. I would find him.
"Amen," Jorda finishes, trying to hide that he is gasping for breath. My mother hugs me and the others look on quietly. I notice that Miss Fur and Miss Selfi are bleary-eyed.
Even in our giant house (I refuse to call it a mansion) it is crowded with all who are attending. Nearly all the women between the ages of thirteen and nineteen had been in love with Koh at one time or another, and I had befriended almost them all as a child. Miss Vivian is the only one I am not too friendly with, and that is only because she has her head too far up her arse to ever talk about anything except her dancing career.
And Miss Selfi, Miss Fur, Miss Nico, Miss Cherrl, Miss Patty, Miss Mia, Miss Vivian, Mr. Ghosh, Tila, Timal, Kean, Bryce, Keili, Zeshel, and my mother all look at me expectantly, as if I am supposed to make a speech.
"Urm…" I say intelligently. "So I'm fifteen today. I'm old enough to become tamer—"
"Females are never tamers, young Angrim," Mister Ghosh interrupts. "Sorceresses, yes, treasure hunters, perhaps, but to be a tamer requires strength that only a—"
"I'm glad you finally admit my brother is strong," I respond, my voice strangely clipped with my anger.
"He was never a true tamer—"
"He IS a tamer, Rode," I growl back, surprised at my lack of courtesy, though the idiot deserved none. "A better tamer, and a better swordsman, than you could ever hope to be."
His face catches on fire, and his fingers on his right hand curl, like he longs to draw his sword. I continue, the words spilling from my mouth.
"How high have you gotten in the Tower, Rode? The second floor? Third, once? And my brother goes all the way up, then down, then back up again with ease! And you've constantly fought him, and haven't won once. Not once. Yet you still strut around like a Nyuel that's trying to hide the fact that it's been castrated!"
He sneers at me, then turns on his heel and flees. We stare at the door as it slams shut. I blink and shake my head, wondering about the mouthy girl that had appeared in the defense of Koh.
"I'm sorry, Weedy," Miss Selfi says sadly. "I don't know what's gotten into him lately. He never used to be like this."
"He's always been like this," Miss Fur responds absently, tucking her short red hair behind her ear. Selfi opens her mouth to respond, and Tila cuts in smoothly.
"Selfi, can we go work on that sleep spell now? I really need practice." Successfully distracted, the blue-haired sorceress nods approvingly at her pupil. With congratulations and hugs from them both, they disappear with a small 'pop'.
"Good luck, Weeds," the green haired twins, Kean and Keili, say in unison, before following a waving Patty back to the restaurant to resume their apprenticeship. Miss Mia, ever quiet, at least since Koh's disappearance, gives me a few gentle words of encouragement before returning to the library. Miss Vivian departs without so much as a backward glance. Miss Cherrl leaves arm-in-arm with Miss Nico and Miss Fur, talking about something that involved Awareness Days and Octopus Balls. Zeshel and Bryce, whom I was friends with since before I knew the difference between boys and girls, head off with teasing congratulations and smiles. Jorda touches my forehead reverently, and leaves without a word, his heavy staff knocking me down as he whirls around.
Just Timal, my mother, and I. Mom grins slyly at me and suddenly becomes interested in the making of beds in another room, shutting the door behind her.
"So," Timal says. "Miss High-and-Mighty Tamer now, eh?"
I shrug. "Not like you have ANY right to complain, boy! I remember your departing words before you went into the Tower. 'I leave now as a nobody, a boy—"
He finishes, a suggestive smile on his face. "'—And return as a sex god! Wait for me.'"
"And then you appeared outside of the Tower two hours later, beaten to a bloody pulp. With a pulunpa egg."
"More than you've gotten," Timal says defensively, holding up his hands. I whap his head.
"Just 'cuz I haven't gone yet, doofus," I snap playfully.
"Yeah, well, you remember: no one has ever gotten past the sixth floor besides the great Guy Angrim and Koh Angrim in the last forty years. I've gotten to the fifth. You see if you can beat that."
"I'll have gotten to the tenth floor by tomorrow night," I say, my tone much easier than I feel. He shakes his head and I wink at him. He groans.
"Women. They just assume they can do everything best."
"Men. They always make generalizations about women."
"Well, good luck, Weedy," he says sincerely. I nod, my voice mysteriously vanished, and he leaves. I sink to my knees in the middle of the family room, nerves and emotions attacking my legs.
"Wedenlia?" comes my mother's quiet voice from behind me. I stand up quickly and whirl around to face my mother. I immediately notice her cherry-red nose and bloodshot eyes.
"Mom?" I say cautiously. "Mom, are you okay?"
Her eyes flood, and I rush over to her and grab her in an embrace. "Mom! What is it?"
"I hate that Tower," she whispers, her voice cracking. "It's taken my husband and son. When will it decide that it's taken enough? Oh, Gods above, I don't want to loose my daughter too!"
"Mom," I murmur, feeling somewhat helpless. "We don't know that Koh's gone yet, and Guy only died because of a terrible man. You won't loose me. You'll never loose me, Mom."
She smiles pitifully. "I know I can't keep you away, anyway. You're an Angrim through and through. I just…" she stops, and sighs into my hair. "I love you so much, Weedy. Be careful, will you?"
"Of course," I say confidently. She bobs her head in approval.
"Good," she says, wiping her eyes. Here. Happy birthday, hon."
She's holding out a small package wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with a red bow. I yank the covering off to reveal—
"Oh… oh, Mom! Thank you." Now I want to cry. In my hands I hold something bright green and leathery. A collar.
"I love you, Wedenlia," she sighs. "Now get outta here. Have a Pita fruit, too. Just got it fresh this morning."
She morphs back into her normal self, cajoling me to get my bag and feed the Life Form. I finally slip out, and I almost melt into a puddle of anxiety at the door.
I am going to the Tower.