Tag Archives: newYAproject

14 – Menace


[1000 words – Inspiration Monday]


Shield swam along with the current. He had done this most of his young life. The current embraced him. If he just let it do what it wanted to, he wouldn’t have to accept responsibility. If everything was predestined, then the Light of Joy was supposed to be damaged, and couldn’t have happened any other way.

He liked to think the same way the acolytes who worshiped the moon did. The idea of a celestial being being responsible for all the problems he had was equally as appealing as destiny. But he had never seen the moon. He believed the teachings, and he could see the results of the moon in the ebb and flow of his world, but to see it for himself…

But if everything was guided by the invisible hand of the moon, what was the purpose of existence? Shield scowled at his predicament. The acolytes could answer his questions, but was he even welcome to return to the city? Would his brethren accept him back into the fold after the destruction he had caused?

His eyes scanned the depths, and he felt, more than saw someone slowly descend through the dark world that matched his thoughts. He twisted and kicked a harsh angle against the current, propelling him toward the sinking figure.

As she came into view, Shield locked his eyes with strange woman. She had black hair, it seemed to be tied at one end, and the rest formed tight tendrils, attempting to escape with the current. She smiled, and tilted her head to one side as she studied him. Her skin wasn’t translucent like the rest of his people, but was a bronze color.


Shield felt the words in his head. Such power was limited to the Acolytes and the Dons. He knew he lacked the fortitude to reply to the stranger, so he tried to convey that thought with his eyes.

The woman kicked her feet to slow her decent. She twisted elegantly, and matched his trajectory. She reached hesitantly for his neck, and the apprehension was clear on her face. Shield nodded, and bowed his head slightly to signal acquiescence.

She held him tenderly by the back of his head, and he couldn’t help but stare at her dark skin. When their foreheads made contact, he was able to talk with her.

“Greetings,” he replied.

“What is your name child?”

“I’m not a child,” he retorted, “I’m a Shield.”
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Chasing Memories


Another friday, another flash fiction prompt from Chuck Wendig. I hit random on my music thingy, and “Chasing Memories” by Post Modern Disco started to play. Here’s another 1k for the YA thing I’m writing:


Joy woke, but did not leave her bed. She stared at the domed ceiling, watching reflection from the open window dance across the wooden beams. She rolled on her side and stared out the window. Her vantage point was odd, but she knew what was outside of the window: endless water. Regularly during the last four years, she would stare out the numerous windows and search for something, anything really that proved to her she was not alone with Madam Vess.

The other Dons came and went, each tutoring her in various specialties. Logic, history, critical thinking and mathematics were only a few of the lessons she learned alone in the tower. The sheer desolation and a feeling of alone were her constant companions. She didn’t have many friends before she became Joy, but to those that she did she was fiercely loyal.

Madam Vess was not her friend. Constantly pushing, constantly testing – the Don would not let her rest. Chores and studies had been the norm for four years now. But today… Joy smiled and stretched her arms and legs. Every seventh day, Madam Vess did not knock on her door just as the sun was rising. Madam Vess locked herself into one of the rooms along the great spiral staircase that rose around the walls of the tower.

It must have been three years prior – Joy ran up and down the steps endlessly looping along the spiral. Her math tutor had tried to tell her the importance of the repeating spiral – something about mathematical formulas and infinity. Joy didn’t care to learn that particular day and instead stared out one of the windows as her tutor droned on and on about sequences and formulas.

The next day, the window was closed with tight stonework. Her tutor had complained to Madam Vess who somehow turned the window into a wall before the next lesson. After that, the mathematics she ignored out of spite.

But, not today! No tutors. No chores. No responsibilities. Joy rolled out of her bed and padded across the wooden floor. She was supposed to cover her feet, but feeling the rough-hewn wood and carven stone reminded her of home. A home she hadn’t seen in four year and wouldn’t for another year to come.

If Madam Vess had any feeling toward Joy’s strong will, she kept it to herself. The day prior, they had an especially rancorous fight. Joy had perpetrated a trick on one of her tutors before he left the tower. Madam Vess threatened to confiscate Joy’s free day. Words were exchanged. Menacing words echoed in Joy’s ears. Madam Vess face contorted as Joy got in her final barb. Madam Vess crossed her arms and stormed out of the room. At the time, Joy felt smug with her victory, but this morning, she felt only regret. Some things could not be unsaid.

Joy stepped out onto the grand staircase and paused. Something wasn’t right. She heard noise from above. A door slammed shut and another creaked open. Sound didn’t travel as well as it did in the water, but with no competing sounds, the echo was easy to hear. It reverberated up and down the hollow interior of the tower.
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New YA Project

Hey y’all! I’ve been working on this YA novel thing for a couple weekends now. I slammed through the first 8,000 words, and then stalled. I skipped ahead in the story to another part I was excited to write, and I was able to write another 7,000 (about 1k short from what I planned.) That writing gave me the ending in true Gardner fashion. Now I have to figure out the muddy middle. By writing the end, I pretty much have a skeleton of what needs written, but I’m still floundering.

The crazy part is that I now have an idea for a sequel, but I’m terrible at writing sequels. I tend to lose interest in the story unless it’s super popular or someone wants to give me an advance for it. (Who wouldn’t, right?)

I’m going to struggle through getting some words down this weekend. I don’t know if I’ll finish the rough draft, but I’m hoping to be finished by the following weekend. This will be my third attempt at writing YA, and the furthest I’ve gotten thus far. If you haven’t already, check out the projects page an read what I’ve got so far.

I was hoping to make it novel length, but I suspect it’ll be around 25k. If I do manage to get a second story done, it’ll likely be the same length, so together they’ll meet the requirements for Kindle Scout. Heck, I don’t know what’ll happen. I so want to finish this novella, but it’s gonna be rough.

I didn’t meet my word count goal this last weekend, but I’m not crazy concerned, because I know I’ll eventually get something done, and then the editorial process will make the middle not terrible. I’m also not getting down on myself, because that’s defeatist behavior, and to reveal how ancient I am, I’ll throw the following quote out there: “Homie don’t play ‘dat.” A colleague of mine is doing a daily pod cast with writing prompts, and he addressed this very issue on his first broadcast. If you’re feeling down on yourself for your writing prowess, check out Jason Z over at thevictoriouswriter.com

Anyway. You’ve seen the art in thumbnail form. Long-time readers remember this art was going to be used for a now defunct project. I still love the cover by Clarissa at CT Cover Creations, so it’ll be repurposed for this project if I can think of a title for it. Here’s the high-resolution art for you to check out. Click on it to embiggen.

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04 – Prey and go Hunt


Another installment of 100 words for today. This obviously follows the chapter posted earlier today, and comes before The Sunken City.


The child ducked as a shell of some sort sailed over his head. He looked toward the direction it had come for his prey, but he saw only a murky cloud of silt.

Anything could hide in that cloud, he thought as he advanced warily.

He swam low to the ground, his chest scraping the sea floor. He navigated around the cloud as it settled and calculated the location of his target. This game was so simplistic; he barely had to put forth any effort. It was the only game he could find today. And he would not spend his last day as a child in solemn contemplation or whatever else it was the other children did.

His parents may have wanted him to follow their path as a Farmer, but the child felt the call of the Shield. As the son of Farmers, he would’ve had an advantage over his peers. It was a rare gift for two Farmers to mate, and to find the time to procreate… The boy shook his head and marveled at his prominent parents.

The silt had settled enough that he saw smooth translucent skin. The other boy was facing away from him, anticipating a frontal assault. The boy sneered and identified a spot on the back of his prey’s head where the skull met the neck. A well-timed throw of a rock…

The other boy spun and glared.

“Damn it,” the hunter cursed. In his excitement, he had projected his plans to anyone who cared to listen.

As the two boys closed the distance between them, the prey’s emotions became erratic. The hunter’s prowess, even at the age of thirteen, was more than enough to win this display of strength. They grappled for a few moments until the hunter in a decisive move, captured his prey in a headlock.

The prey flailed his arms and tried to escape, but it was futile, the hunter had won.

“You’re out,” whispered the hunter.

The prey flung his head back and made contact with the hunter’s nose. Pain radiated through his face and clouded his vision. The hunter scowled and readjusted his grip on his prey to cover one of his gills.

“Do you yield?” inquired the hunter.

“Never,” hissed the prey.

The hunter shifted his grip once again, this time both of his prey’s gills were covered. The flailing increased as desperation set in.

“Yield, and I will release you,” shouted the hunter.

The prey refused, and the hunter knew this game had only one outcome…
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03 – Tower of Light


I only got 1000 words written yesterday. I’m disappointed, but as Jason over at The Victorious Writer has reminded me, the simple act of writing is enough, and to not get bogged down with notions of failure. 1000 words was all I did yesterday then so be it.Writing any amount is still writing. This chapter immediately follows the second chapter. Please excuse the weirdness with tense.


“Come along darling, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

The child would turn thirteen in less than a month. She lay on a soft bed of kelp, without a care in the world. They had come to see a new Light of Joy take her place as protector of the Sunken City. The child looked up as the arch filled with more and more of her people. It was filled to the top, with people floating, facing the fading Light of Joy. The child nodded, and held out her translucent hand to her father.

“Are you certain this is the right time for this?” her mother asked her father.

“Chandra,” the father intoned, “Our child has been identified as the next Light of Joy. There can be no greater honor for our family.”

The mother nodded and they swam away from the ceremony that took place every five years when the Sun, Moon and Sunken City achieved some alignment that only the Dons knew of. The secrets of the ceremony was passed down to each Joy as she trained to become the next Light.

The child followed dutifully as her parents swam to the Protectorate’s central complex. No one could mistake the gleaming spire for anything other than the seat of power in the Sunken City. The family skirted arches and swam along grand staircases, shrinking the distance between them and the base of the tower. The child made note of the stairs as they were replaced by a flat expanse of stones. Intellectually, she knew what stairs were for, but only those unbalanced in some way actually placed their feet on them.


The trio paused and the mother was duty-bound to reply. “Hark, Shield! We answer the summon of her excellence, Don Vess.”

The Shield’s nictitating membrane slid aside so he focus his eyes unencumbered on the woman and the rest of her family. Only a family member, or those with a personal relationship would mention the Don by her name. To do otherwise was strictly taboo – their society was focused on jobs, and individuality was frowned upon. Each job had its own particularities, but championing those differences was simply not done.

But, a Shield’s job was to protect the citizens, even if it meant protecting them from themselves. He would rather die than allow acces to the Don without her prior approval. The Shield looked up along the tallest spire in the Sunken City. He closed his eyes and swayed with the tide slightly. After a few moments, his eyes opened, and he stood aside to allow the family admittance.

A woman the parents recognized, but the girl did not, descended from tower walls that disappeared above them. The immense structure was rumored to have existed before the Great Collapse. The child imagined a time when the spire walls were exposed to air instead of water. She dismissed the notion as a flight of fancy for a child several years younger than she.

The woman had hair growing from the top of her head and it billowed as she came closer. It waved as kelp did in the fields, but it was finer, and beautiful, the child thought as the woman slowed her decent. Her father subconsciously rubbed his hand down the back of his naked head and rested it behind his neck gills. As the woman gathered her tendrils of unkempt hair, the trio noticed her skin was a rich bronze.
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Life in Caveae


The future Joy chapter really worked, and I had ideas for the Shield one, but this feels more like an epilogue. I’m still having issues with my tenses, and these posts are still out of order. It’s gonna be crazy reordering all these chapters when I put these all together for a rough draft. This will put me at 2k into my weekend goal of 10k. I’m basically writing the third act now, so I think I’ll host two more first act chapters on Sunday. The family is going to see the new Pixar movie tomorrow, so there’ll be a three hour dent in my wringing time. I’m confident I can still make it. For these 1000 words, I used prompts from Inspiration Monday, The Victorious Writer, Sunday Scribblings 2 & The Writing Reader.


The last time I felt this way…

Shield watches everyone around him through half-closed eyes. When no one is looking his way, he shifts uncomfortably in the clothing they make him wear. It’s as if I can’t breathe wrapped in cloth, he thought.

Joy had taught him skills he wished he could utilize. Breathing air as a skill wasn’t useful in and around the Sunken City, but in the shallows, he would be unstoppable. Well, unstoppable if he could leave this place.

He rolled onto his side and stared straight up. The blue sky was breathtaking. And this wasn’t even the best sky there was to see! Joy told him about the sky where she lived in preparation of the changing ceremony. This sky was blue, but there was a grey overcast permeated with white wisps.

Clouds. He remembers the word Joy used. She told him they were wisps of water floating in the sky. It had even rained a few times during his stay with the Sky People. If he had learned anything during the encounter with Menace, it was that he needed to protect his gills from the rain. The rain was corrosive; it wasn’t suitable to breath, so he wrapped his clothes around his neck when he felt the electric jolts splay across the sky.

A slight wind blew through the metal bars, and with it a dingy feather. The presence of something so alien forced his charade of sleep. The cell next to him houses a sky person; his wings were mottled with dust and grime as his they dragged on the floor.

Shield sat up and rubbed his feet on the filthy stone floor. Tiny stones stuck to the webs between his toes. He reached for the feather and twisted it in front of his eyes. He didn’t really look at it, but studied the political prisoner next to him. When Altair was first imprisoned, he held his head and plumage high. It added beautifully to his height. His wings never touched the ground.

But now… Altair rocked back and forth on the floor, tearing out untamed feathers and flinging them toward the barred ceiling. It was sad, the man was so proud, and it didn’t matter that Shield wasn’t a Sky Person.

Altair, Shield thought. He allowed the name to float around in his brain. Unlike his people, the Sky People had unique names. Names that didn’t even tell who they were! It took a week for Shield to figure out Altair was akin to a cleric, but his acumen in politics was lacking. When he and Joy acted, they damned the Sky People. And they weren’t happy about it.
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Path and Fruition


As you already know I’m not writing this in chronological order. I’m gonna go with this sequence: Joy POV, Shield POV, Joy Flashback/forward, Shield Flashback/forward. I’m thinking this flash forward and the next come somewhere after the story last weekend, but before some story I’ve written, and haven’t seen yet. This’ll be the first 1k of my weekend goal of 10k. I’ve edited the other story chunks already revealed to indicate where in the sequence it falls. I’ve worked in prompts from Word-A-Week, Inspiration Monday, #3WW and went over the word count for #WOW555.


Where is he?

Joy’s head and shoulders breach the surface. She looked elegant, water lapping against her smooth skin. The scene, had anyone seen it, would’ve been serine. The sun appeared to perch on her shoulder, casting long rippled reflections on the water. The moon was just piercing the flat horizon. It was as if the sun’s reflection pointed to the sliver of the moon for any interested to behold its birth.

It may have looked serine from the surface, but below her legs kicked to maintain her position. Her fingers fluttered to keep her facing the moon. She shook her head, spraying water from her hair as she watched the moon slowly rise. She could feel the warmth of the sun wane as the two heavenly bodies performed their dance of death and birth.

The last five years were peaceful. She was able to bask in all that she and Shield had accomplished. Where is he? she thought again as her gaze shifted to the only other thing in the sky.

When she visited the Sky People a little more than five years ago, the spires gleamed in the sunlight. Brilliant white stonework adorned with intricate carvings astounded her. Winged people flittered from tower to the ground, and groups of young men and women fell toward the water before flying great arcs back to the floating city.

Then, she had lived with Shield not seeing it for himself. The glory of the Sky People was not something she felt he could not comprehend.

He barely accepted me, she thought. And I was only away from the Sunken City for four years.

The city she saw now made her sad. She knew the path she set in motion only five years ago had only a single conclusion. She now witnessed that path in fruition.

No longer did the towers gleam. No longer did the spires contrast, adorned with colors unseen below the surface of her world. Rust streaked the heavy chains linking the skyways from one floor to the next. Those who deigned to walk on the ground dodged a fusillade of debris. The massive base the city sprung from listed to one side. A pool, larger than the great arch, looking over the edge of the city now formed a lazy waterfall as the city continually pumped in replacement water. Hoses and other apparatus skimmed the sea replenishing the city’s water supply. The roots of the trees that decorated the city poked out of the bottom of the flotilla. It was all roots and wings, she thought, with sudden odium. It was as if the Sky People had given up. They needed the fresh influx of young women to maintain the construct, and without the promise…
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06 – Light of Joy

newYAprojectThis chapter was written yesterday, along with two others. Today I wrote four more, two immediately following this, but as with the last YA story I tried to write, I couldn’t figure out what to do after the 8k point. Last time, I just abandoned the story. This time I’m just gonna skip to the third act and start writing. Anyway, I wrote the first two chapters of the third act, getting my daily up to 4k and the weekend up to 10k. I’m rewarding myself by sharing these 1000 words with you all:


Shield advanced on the young woman with the strange skin. He kept stealing glances up, toward the Menace. It confounded him that she seemed unaware of it. As the Light of Joy faded, the Menace grew stronger. His sense of the young woman was fragmented at best. He had trained to be mindful of the thoughts and feelings of others. He seemed to have developed an extra sense – he could tell when someone was scared or lying.

This girl, though… She wavered between confident and scared. Visible and invisible. At times she was and was not there. For a young man that prided himself of knowing the width and breadth of his world, this anomaly needed further inspection. It also afforded him more time with the Light of Joy.

He wouldn’t admit it to anyone, not even the Don of Shields, but the bravery displayed by a girl of only seventeen shamed him. To give up her life, was so profound, but for only a reprieve of five years?

Shield was fearless. Well, fearless as a sliding scale. The Don of Shield could still frighten him, but that was nothing to be ashamed of. He frightened everyone. Shield strove to overcome that fear, but the grizzled Don elevated himself to a new level.

And that level birthed a lapse in judgment that doomed them all…

What is she doing? Shield stared dumbfounded as the girl stopped at a downed pillar. She stood on her toes and reached. That she had walked at all confounded him. He did it from time to time, but usually it was a ploy of some kind to confuse his enemies.

Shield looked away from the girl and ran his fingers over the raised green markings on his abdomen. Not only did he have to refine his own dye, he had to procure the spine and create his own tattoo. You couldn’t just find the spine of a puffer fish. No one could give you one. You had to…

Good girl, he thought as the young woman jumped over the pillar. That it had taken her so long to do something that the youngest child knew was just another addition that was the mystery of this intruder.

He smiled as she leapt and kicked her legs performing a sloppy barrel roll. She was lumbering at first, unsure of her actions, but she performed the maneuvers like she had simply forgotten how to swim. It was coming back to her. She kicked and contorted her body to maximize thrust. He marveled at the twin trails of bubbles as she even pushed air out of her nose to aid in acceleration.

Another trick he had used many, many times in the service of his city. He never forgot how useful it was the day he was accepted as a Shield. That this girl knew of, and used the ancient arts was amazing.

He followed her from above as she swam directly toward the great spire. They got closer and closer to the great arch and he felt light-headed. His brain was fathoms above them, but… Menace. He knew they would swim past the arch, and the influence from the Light of Joy would diminish.
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05 – The Sunken City


So the way I’m writing this story, I’m going to keep half of it hidden. If they were all 1000-word chapters, then Friday would’ve been chapters 1 & 2. The next 2k words I’ll post today I guess would be chapters 5 & 6. I think I’m only going to write this story on the weekends. If I can keep up the pace, I’ll do 2k on Fridays, and 4k each Saturday and Sunday. Anyway, here are another 1000 words:


Joy paused at the leeward arch, her hand feeling the stone. A flood of memories assailed her. She shook her head and forced those memories back. She had to find out what had happened to her people.

She stepped forward on shaky legs. The city screamed its wrongness. It was still bathed in warmth and light from the Light of Joy, but where was everyone? She followed the steps down another level, her eyes darting, trying to see everything.

She couldn’t see the Protectorate’s Spire, the light was too dim, but she knew where it was supposed to be. She made her way, cautious of silt, sand and debris. She started to regret leaving her foot coverings on the surface. Shoes, she thought as she cataloged everything she saw. Anything could tell her what had happened.

She advanced on the stairs until she came to a crumbled pillar blocking her way. Even lying on its side, it came to just below her shoulders. Her joints still ached from her decent, and she knew there was no way she’d be able to climb over it.

Idiot, she chastised herself. You’ve lived on the surface far too long. You’re still thinking of a world that no longer means anything.

Joy tensed her knees, filled her lung with air, and pushed off the stonework. She flailed her arms to keep herself upright, and she easily cleared the pillar in a single bound. She exhaled and landed gently on the other side. She was happy with her ingenuity, but her brief jubilation was usurped by her realization that her actions were incompetent. Down here, she was not limited to bipedal locomotion. She felt foolish, and kicked away from the stairs.

She performed a barrel roll, following a helical path, landing several paces away. Joy allowed herself to ‘fall’ and float above the ground. She kicked with her legs, and felt the sensation of flying through the water. The freedom was empowering. She was no longer held down by oppressive gravity. She couldn’t understand why she had to train on the surface, but she vowed to quickly unlearn the ways of the ancients.

Joy smiled as she kicked her legs and soared toward the great spire. She had traversed a great distance, but something called to her. She felt compelled to change course away from the great spire.

She travelled for a few moments before she realized she was heading for the great arch. The arch that housed the Light of Joy.

She imagined the arch filled with her people. Stacked row upon row, all facing the fading light. She saw herself swim proudly up to the crystalline form, and take her place as the protector of her city. As her skin crystalized, she would look down and see her parents gaze upon her magnificence with a pride they dared not act on, but everyone knew was there.
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02 – The Shielding Tide

newYAprojectOkay. I had so much fun writing The Burning Seas. Thaddeus Howze declared that the flash I wrote this morning was insufficient, and demanded more. Thaddeus Howze is a newcomer to the musings and writings of one Mark Gardner, and unaware of the depths of my depravity. I have granted Thaddeus Howze more of the story, but in a fashion you regular readers have come to know, love and fear. Here is a second tale to Chuck’s prompt, and I’ve worked in another Inspiration Monday prompt as well as Sunday Scribblings 2 and S.M. Cadman’s Margaret Atwood prompt. I chose a line on page three of Oryx and Crake. Here’s another 1000 words for all parties interested:


A burst of bubbles raced to the surface, disturbing a freshly shucked body. The hollow carapace was placed there as a warning to all other crustaceans. Death awaits those that… Shield sighed and released a bubble of air. He was so bored. Nothing ever happened since…

It’s been a year, he thought. No one could’ve seen it coming.

He tried to suppress the thoughts, but he might as well tried to hold back the tide. He should’ve recognized the signs. Granted, he didn’t train as long as a Joy or a Don, but he walked his own beat by the time he was fifteen. He doubted any of his childhood friends would recognize him now. His training under the Don was rigorous. He gained muscle mass in those two years.

He and the other Shields wrestled sea life to demonstrate their prowess. He was proud to have risen in the ranks. The Don had singled him out for this assignment. It wasn’t special treatment, but recognition of his skills. In three more years, his accomplishments would put him in an enviable place for attracting a mate.

Shield’s head popped out from the silt, and his translucent arm lashed out and seized a crustacean scuttling about. I’m the master of all I survey, he thought as he examined the crustacean in the low light. The multiple armored legs writhed, attempting to find purchase on Shield’s arm.

His other hand came out of the silt, the debris falling and forming what looked like a veil of mud. He wiped the silt stubbornly clinging to his arm on his chest and returned his attention to his prey. The rock came down on his dinner with precision, and the crustacean was cleaved.

Shield spent no time sucking the contents from the armored legs. He crushed the carapace between two rocks. His molars were perfect for grinding, but the baleen that occupied the front of his mouth was worthless.

Only the Shield of the Protectorate was allowed to kill lower species for sustenance. It was a taboo that Shield flaunted, his arrogance befitting a warrior of his position. Don had frowned when Shield gobbled up some invertebrate under the great arch.

Shield’s hand brushed the scars left by the invertebrate’s tentacles left as it tried to escape death. No one had believed he could do it, but he choked down the slimy tissue. Arch patrons were horrified by the violence and the fine mist of red diluted in the water around Shield’s face. Wispy tendrils of red followed Shield as he found the closest Healer.

Shield shook his head and focused on the movement of the water. Even as deep as he was, he could feel the tug of the moon. Not that he’d ever seen the moon. Just as his privilege of eating lesser species instead of straining krill or eating from the vast kelp and seaweed fields, only Joys and Dons ever swam to the surface. He felt the tide ebb and flow. Back and forth, back and forth. It cycled the same rhythm as his heartbeat.

The ebb and flow had been a constant in their great city. Sadness overcame Shield. He looked off to where the great city still stood abandoned.

It’s only been a year.
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