I'm tempted to go to Writercon. I really am. Mostly because it would be nice to talk to other writers.
But on the other hand, I'm not sure I want to go as a result of "shyness issues." (Shut up! I am so!)
On the one hand, it might be nice to talk about characterization and writing styles and mechanics.
On the other hand, I do want to make the attempt at writing something non-fandom and more original if I can figure out how to get from wordprocessor to publisher and I think I should try to focus on that.
I'm soooooo confused.
Also, I'm willing to donate something to the Auction, but don't you have to be an attendee? Anyone on my Flist know that answer to that? I've actually registered at the site, but I don't know if anything I offer will be tossed out because I haven't registered to attend.
Anyway, it's been a day of ambivalence for me as it is, so my brain isn't helping one bit. Doesn't help that I'm not a fan of Vegas (been there several times on business trips).
Anyway, new Living History.
Up to part 50 can be found here
Continued from here
Xander felt disorientated picking his way through the cavern and wondered if he was two-eye having if he’d be having this much trouble. He didn’t dare put a hand on his crossbow or load it. He was too afraid of tripping and sending a bolt flying through someone’s head.
Willow softly glowed in the lead, hands at the ready like the magical prizefighter she was, as Robin and Vi flanked her with swords drawn in a protective move. J’Nal was in the rear and Xander imagined that his stance was probably similar as Ruda and Barbara guarded his back. Dawn and Andrew walked slightly ahead, Dawn resting a hand on Andrew’s shoulder in an attempt to keep the other language expert steady. As for him, he was snuggled tight in the middle and wondered how the hell he happened to be surrounded by a warm cocoon of top-notch fighters.
The shadows seemed to leap and move as the multiple light sources picked out this detail and that, following the line of sight of everyone on their guard. More than once he felt his footing trip over things that weren’t there. Yet just as he felt himself start to stumble Faith somehow appeared from nowhere to place a light, steadying hand at just the right spot in a movement so small that it could be easily missed.
Why? Xander wondered, as he felt himself nodding a silent thanks to Faith for again catching him. Why the hell is she doing this?
He didn’t even want to consider that on some level Faith probably felt bad for him. Pity was the last thing he wanted or needed from anyone. God knows he’d been trying so hard to downplay the problems he’d had adjusting to one-eyed life to the point that he was laughing at jokes that didn’t strike him as remotely funny. Maybe he’d been trying too hard. Maybe Robin had a point.
Don’t do this, not now, Xander thought. But he hated feeling so…helpless. Not that he had never felt helpless before. It was feeling helpless over something as relatively minor as stumbling through an underground tunnel that bothered him.
“Looks like it gets wider up ahead.” Faith again providing commentary for the blind. Or near-blind in this case.
The group moved into an opening almost as large as the library back at the motherhouse. Xander felt pathetically happy that the ground seemed relatively free of rock litter, leaving the granular dark soil clear enough for him to run laps if he wanted to.
Willow whispered a word and her candlepower shot up, casting the area in a soft blue-ish light bright enough to fool his eye into thinking it was an overcast day.
“GE. We bring good things to life,” Faith nervously joked next to him.
Xander noticed Dawn putting on a brave face while Andrew cowered behind her. Hell, even Robin seemed off-balance and he didn’t see Willow when…
He snapped off the thought and strode over to Willow’s side. “Nice. Except I don’t see a grail. Do you see a grail?”
“Dead end,” Willow frowned as she slowly turned. “Maybe those three tunnels over there?”
“Except they lead away,” Robin countered as he tapped his compass. “Summers is in that direction and I see a blank wall with some rocks in front of it.”
“Maybe behind the rocks?” Catherine asked.
“Roll a D-20 to find out,” Andrew said.
“Worth a shot,” Xander agreed, pointedly ignoring Andrew. “Ladies?”
Ruda, Vi, Faith, Barbara, Lisa, and Sally got to work, shifting the rocks around with ample grunting punctuated by some colorful exclamations from Faith.
Catherine’s instincts were on the money. The Slayers shifted an especially large boulder that revealed a new passage beyond. Near as Xander could tell, the fissure promised more cramped traveling of the single-file kind. An icicle finger of warning ran down his spine, a sure sign of some major mojo in the area. Last time he felt that was when Willow cast the spell spreading the Slayer power.
Faith swiped a sweaty strand of hair out of her eyes. “Next time? You move the fucking rocks. Big strong men my ass.”
“You want me to open a jar of pickles and reach things off high shelves, I’m your man,” Xander said, mentally forcing the icicle away. “You want me to be Superman? That’s your job.”
“You two will be arguing about who should have the babies next,” Vi giggled.
“You mean the stork doesn’t send ’em?” Dawn interrupted with a joke. “Damn. Lied to by society again.”
Ruda shook her head in exasperation and zipped through the revealed the opening.
“Ruda!” Catherine shouted as she darted forward. She slammed into her Slayer just as girl reappeared.
“Ow!” Ruda complained rubbing a spot on her chest while Catherine bounced back a few steps from the force of the impact. She immediately brightened. “Hey guys! The passage isn’t that long. There’s an even bigger room on the other side and guess what? Graaaaail.”
“Now is the time for me to roll a D-6,” Andrew muttered.
Right on cue a low growl* echoed through the tunnels.(*Yaaaaaaawn!)
“Snake?” Andrew nervously asked.
Robin and Xander exchanged glances before agreeing in unison, “Snake.”
“Shit,” Faith commented.
“Teamwork that splinters the team…” Xander said quietly to himself. He added in a louder voice, “Okay, idea here: Catherine? Get your people inside. Dawn? Andrew? Go with them. Faith? Willow? You go, too. Rest of us will distract it.”
Catherine nodded. “You heard him, you slugs. Let’s get moving.”
“Ooooo, tough talk. Kinky,” Charlie waggled his eyebrows. Catherine’s bark of a laugh was obviously what he was looking for and he flashed a grin of triumph as he moved to Ruda’s side.”
“It’s coming together,” J’Nal agreeably nodded. “I can feel it.”
“Glad you can,” Tikri said. Every little noise resulted in yet another small hop from the nervous reporter, putting Xander in mind of a jumpy bunny. She suspiciously looked down at the dagger. “Should have gone for the sword.”
“You said you’d cut your own head off with it,” Charlie said.
“You were the one who insisted on me bringing the sword and you were right,” Tikri backed up, waving the knife in front of her as if she expected the snake to burst out of solid rock.
“Mostly because I was hoping you’d actually…”
“Charlie,” Catherine warned in a not-so-friendly-now manner.
A long, drawn-out hiss* seemed to come from everywhere. (*Who woke me up? I was having this great dream about this hot babe and just when I was about to…Ooo. Hate that.)
“Not a chance.” Faith got into fighting stance. “Sounds like you need all the help you can get.”
“You heard her mister,” Willow stomped over in resolve face.
“Between Robin, Vi, Lisa, Barbara, and Sally, we’ll be fine,” Xander argued back. He added in a lower tone as he watched Robin carefully approach the various entrances, listening intently for any telltale signs of movement, “Someone needs to watch Dawn’s back. Ruda’s got enough to worry about with her people.”
Faith blew a loose strand of hair out of her eyes. “You’re blowing steam up my skirt, aren’t you?”
“You catch on fast,” Willow agreed as her eyes narrowed.
“Is it working?” Xander asked.
Faith grimaced. “Looking at a ton of reasons why you’re wrong starting with the fact you’re supposed to be present and accounted for when they boost the grail.”
A lazy hiss* made it harder for Xander to think of a good reason why he shouldn’t retreat to relative safety of the grail’s location. Another icicle finger ran up his spine. Oh. Right. Big-time magic. (*Mmmmm, hungry…hey? Do I smell food?)
“Unh, guys,” Dawn said nervously.
“Now would be a very good time,” Ruda practically stamped with frustration.
“I can’t explain it,” Xander said as he nervously scanned the immediate area. “Gut feeling tells me to stay put.”
“Look, Xander, I can dig the whole ‘you’re-not-the-boss-of-me’ deal you’ve got going with the frigging book, but Jesus…” Faith began.
“That’s not…” Xander began his protest.
“Still can’t tell where it’s coming from,” Robin interrupted. “So if we’re getting into defensive positions, now is the time to do it.”
Andrew drew out the bag of walnuts from his backpack, threw it in Xander’s direction, and ran to Ruda’s side. “Ithinkweneedtogetgoing,” he breathlessly said.
Faith caught it in mid-flight and handed it off to Xander. “Gut feeling, hunh?”
“Gut feeling,” Xander agreed.
Willow threw up her hands. “I hate when you do that. There’s no arguing with you.”
“Do I have to like it?” Faith asked.
“No.” Xander reached out and grabbed Willow’s elbow, ignoring Faith’s slight start of surprise. “Willow? I’m getting a real bad vibe from the mojo around here.”
Willow’s eyebrows and drew tight. “Let me get this straight: You can sense the spell?”
“Unh, dunno,” Xander fumbled, surprised that Willow was surprised he felt something. The press of magic was so strong he thought sure everyone felt it. “I just have the feeling that something laid a real whammy down back there, so be careful.”
Faith’s eyes tracked back and forth between the two of them. “I don’t feel nothin’.”
“You’re not a witch, so why would you?” Willow asked as she grabbed Xander by his collar and pulled him down, staring intently into his face. “I don’t get a threat off it. Not sure what I feel, actually. So how…”
“Me. Magic. Not good combo,” Xander said. “I don’t know.”
“Could be a repel spell to keep you out,” Willow nodded.
“Unh, could be. Gotta be a reason, right?” Xander agreed, suddenly getting the idea that admitting he felt something similar on Kingman’s Bluff and during their battle with the First would be a very bad thing to admit. He let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when Willow seemed to buy it. Faith’s eyes narrowed to slits, silently accusing him of laying a whooper on her during dire circumstances. Great. Just great. When the hell did Faith even bother to learn figuring me out? Go glare at someone else Slaygirl, Xander thought as he gave Faith a who-are-you-looking-at face.
Something that sounded a lot like a snarl* caused the three of them to jump. (*You know? I could use a snack. How long have I been sleeping anyway?)
“We have to move right now!” Catherine shouted.
Willow grimaced. “Fine. Be careful.” She turned on her heel and joined Catherine and her nervous crew, Andrew, and Dawn.
“Faith?” Xander tentatively asked as the Slayer turned away. “Watch her back, too.”
Faith looked over her shoulder, gave a slight nod, and moved to Catherine’s group.
Xander turned, hefting the bag of walnuts in his hands. Unbelievable. This is not going to work.
Robin’s dark hand reached out, grabbed the bag, and ripped it open.
“You can’t be serious,” Xander protested.
A hiss* followed by sounds of slithering movement caused his heart to leap into his throat. (*Heeeeeere protein, protein, protein.)
Robin paused before drawing out a handful of nuts. “Right about now, I’d throw nasty thoughts at the damn thing if I thought it would work.”
“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition,” Vi agreed, holding out her hand for the bag.