Nostalgia: down memory lane

Today I felt like going through some of my old pieces, see what lay there buried in the deep dark and forgotten dusty memories, and I happened upon a poem I wrote 3-4 years ago. It had been one of my favorites back then, and reading over it today, it’s become a favorite again. 
I thought I’d share it with you. Some of you may have read it years ago, but for others, it’s a buried treasure I thought I’d share, this rear day I feel like celebrating some of my pieces, starting with this humble piece, ‘Poem, Yours’.
My love of writing was what inspired it, and I hope somewhere, your own passions starts talking g to you as you read it. 
I give you….
Poem, Yours

Your voice speaks

With written words

Off tea-coloured pages
Visions, images –splashed

With characters

In spreading black ink
Your quill turns

With the slightest whiff

That the scribes are true
Freshness of verse engulfs

And dawn-colour steals across

The neon-blue heavens
Like a lover, your laughter floats out

Through the fibrous tangles

Reaching my longing ears
And I hear…
The paragraph that holds life

Sprinkled here and there

The words of love
You are the very poem

You compose in the twilight

You are my favourite creation.
And I read…
The words, the

Feeling behind the piece…

I read you.

Other-worldly (3)

Balan landed roughly upon the Whispering Reeds, several miles away from his intended target, The Hallow, one of the only few protected sanctuaries of The Keepers of Light left on Earth. He looked up at the waning moon, and sighed. Lucky it wasn’t a full moon. He was smack in the middle of the Southern Wolves territory. Had it been a full moon, he would have been shredded by now. Those nasty little buggers had a habit of hiding in the reeds as they approached the Quaint Town, hunting for those wayward teens out here on their Keeper training.
He felt something slimy and cold slither past his ankle and shivered. ‘Darned Nymphs!’ He dusted off his long leather coat and stomped his feet hard on the ground. The vibration rippling around him for a hundred meters or more, and he could hear the skittering of the beings. ‘That’s right. Keep away. Man on a mission here!’
By dawn, he knocked on the tall, wooden door, carved with centuries of history upon its face. A face whose carvings mysteriously moved up as new events took up space on the bottom. The older the stories, the higher up they went until the door disappeared with the air. Balan looked at the bottom most event, which was the coronation of King Antal, sometime a year ago. No major event had happened since that could change the course of the Veiled World. No event till now that was. He could see a new event beginning to take shape on the very bottom. A story that was vague and murky yet. 

Balan knocked again, harder this time and heard the faint vibrations run up the panel. 

‘Coming!’ A voice boomed from the other side. ‘What’s the impatience? You realize what time it is?’ 
The door swung open and there stood Monk Misser, garbed in nothing more than his pale gray shorts and shirt. It was a freezing morning but that didn’t seem to faze the old man. ‘What do you want Keeper Balan? What’s the meaning of this unholy hour’s visit?’

Balan quickly slipped inside the compound and the door swung closed silently. He always thought that was a weird thing, for a door as heavy and as thick as it was for it to be absolutely silent. 

He bowed to the Monk briskly. ‘Apologies my dear sir, it’s an emergency.’
The Monk stared at him. ‘I am no knight, Balan. And this isn’t the safest hour to be arriving.’
Balan looked around the courtyard they were standing in and a chill ran down his spine. The ancient trees were sleeping and he could hear them breathing. Eeriest sound he’d ever heard. He’d never much liked those trees at night even during his training as The Keeper of Light. 
‘Pardon me, Master Misser, I’ve travelled long to be here, and I would have been here hours ago, but I don’t know why I overshot The Sanctuary and landed at the Whispering Reeds. My compass must be off.’
Monk Misser faintly smiled. ‘So it’s working.’ Balan understood then that other wards must have been put up since his last visit. ‘Myra has been trying to conjure new wards for ages, and she’s been successful it seems in casting a deflection ward.’ He started walking off down the path, to the main entry of the building, and Balan followed. ‘Though it seems she wasn’t as successful in getting the ward to touch ground, otherwise you’d have never been able to get past the Reeds. I must tell her in the morning.’
Balan quick shuffled behind the surprisingly agile man, whose age must be nearing at least two centuries. 
‘Three,’ Monk Misser corrected as if Balan had said his thoughts aloud. ‘So what’s your emergency? The Keepers don’t normally come to us for help unless it’s for training, illness, or retirement.’
Balan took off his necklace and handed it over to the man as they walked through the main doors. 
‘Your Seeing stone?’ There was a hint of surprise in the Monk’s voice. 
‘I can’t not explain what I saw, nor how to report it. Best you watch it for yourself and advise me on the course of action, or even if caution is worthy. Though I doubt that would be the case.’
‘Who brings a Seeing Stone, Misser?’ the head of the Hallow walked out into the ante chamber from his chapel. ‘Ah, Keeper Balan. Long time.’
The man reached out for the stone and ushered the two men into his office further down the chamber. He looked like he’d been up for hours. But then again, Balan had always heard rumors that the Grand Monk did not sleep. He did not need to. 
‘What has you worried Balan?’ He put the stone on his desk in a small crystal abode. 
‘I believe it’s a Black Widow, Master.’
The two monks passed ever so slightly worried looks at each other before the Grand Monk asked them to pull up a chair and sit. 
‘There hasn’t been a Black Widow sighting in centuries.’ He mumbled an incantation and Balan’s stone began glowing a weak green. The Monks stared at it, their eyes flicking minutely as if they were watching something. No doubt the visions Balan had been gathering the last year as he followed the case of Mrs Bigum and her mysterious wealth and her equally mysterious home. 
It seemed a long while before the two men came out of their trance with measured looks.
‘We have a lot to do young, Balan. Send word to your hold. We need as many Keepers as the Red Fort can spare.’
Balan nodded, but his curiosity hadn’t abated. ‘What did you see, Master?’
‘Earth’s doom. Now go! Take the fastest wings and go. We have already lost so much time.’

Writing was always Easy. No more

It’s been a while since I Papermashed as it were. Talked to you, said hello, or just dropped a line or so of poetry even if I were too tired to write anything else. Guess writer’s block does exist, just not in the way you and I expect. I haven’t really had a mental block, more a physical one where time seems to run away from me. Or I come home too tired to write, even though all it requires is that I sit there. Time seems to wind up fast these days, one day turning into two, then three, and so forth, and before I know it, months it seems has passed and it’s as if writing regular is like a foggy memory. Something distant that I once used to do. A little slice of tranquility in the noise. 
I’m aware there are a tonne of emotions running through me on this topic. I’m frustrated that I haven’t written much. I’m sad that I miss those days I could grab my notebook and starting as if I never stopped. The strongest however is the feeling of guilt. Guilt for not writing. Guilt for having no time. Guilt for absolutely vegging out on the couch on the rare days instead of using that time to write. Guilt for taking time for myself. Guilt for letting work take over my life, seep into all my days and hours that I’m awake.
Today I was asked if I’ve had a chance to make progress with my novel. The answer was a simple no. No I haven’t touched pen to paper in months. No that when I try, I sit there staring at the page wondering what now. Never thought I’d be here, wondering. Writing has always come easy. I’m not one to plan, I’m not one to fret and outline. I simply sit there and the words string out, the story spilling out of its own. I’m just a conduit. 
What do you do when writing is no longer easy, no longer pouring out on its own. How do you plan? For someone who has never had to worry about that, now I’m wondering… I’ve got to learn how to write again. Where do I begin? 
For now, this entry will have to do… till the words begin flowing once more. 

Other-worldly (Part II)

RECAP:  

‘What’s it doing this far out of its territory?’ 
‘Whatever it is, it bodes ill for that human.’ The sprite slunk back into the tree. ‘Last time one of these came out was almost 300 years ago. The most demonic thing I’ve seen all my life and that’s saying something. Almost killed them all off, those stupid humans.’
Balan stood by the edge of the footpath and studied the strange green gossamer tendrils whistling about the property, snaking out of windows and doors, and floating up from the chimney. ‘And how did they stop it?’ 
‘I have no idea. Seeing how I’m rooted to one spot, I can only tell you what I heard, and this far out, I wasn’t hearing much back then.’
Balan crossed the street and looked up at the facade of the double storey house. The lights had been off for a while now and he assumed they’d gone to bed. He took a few more steps towards the house only to have one of the tendrils flick him away viciously. He flew across the road and crashed into the bush at the front of the house there. The wind knocked out of him. It took him a while to catch his breath and get back up on his feet. 
He glared at the house sickly aware that those tendrils of gossamers were nothing akin to spiders, but a rather strong ward against the other side. His side. The Keepers of Light. As he came to once again stand under the sprite’s tree he couldn’t help but notice a figure by the top window, it’s slightly glowing eyes set on him with a mischievous grin on its black face.
‘Whatever magic that is, it’s not from our…’
‘Realm.’ Balan finished in awe. 



Part II 

For the next two days, Balan followed the Black Widow where ever he could. He changed disguises, put up wards to keep her from seeing him come a mile away. He made no ‘noise’ as this master had taught him, no lingering magic left behind, no stealth spell sent her way that she could smell. For all he knew, none of these mattered when dealing with a Black Widow. He knew so little of them. As far as he was aware, they had been exiled into the monster realm. They were the things even monsters feared. In fact, from how his ward tingled around its edges just mere feet away from his body, forever feeling like his skin prickled, the omens were bad. Horrendously bad. He knew a storm was coming. He could tell from the deepening darkness in the night sky. Energy swirled above that house, slight wind forever pushing down at him as if there were a swirling storm right above it. 

At the midnight stroke on the third night, Balan jumped off the tree branch with a sigh. ‘I got nothing.’


‘I got nothing either. My vision can’t get past the third layer of its ward.’


Balan turned. ‘Third layer?’


The sprite floated out and intently stared at the house. ‘As far as I can tell, that thing is wrapped up like an onion. I can’t tell how many layers it has up.’


This information startled and unnerved Balan. He’s never known anyone to be able to cast two wards with ease. Those skills were left for the Maestros, who are rumored to be able to put up at least five layers with not too much trouble, but no one had seen a Maestro in a millennia if not longer. The only thought that was left in his head was ‘What is this thing and how do I get rid of it?’ After all The Keepers weren’t just your regular fairies humans frumped them up to be. They were the last line of defense against countless demonic realms that eyed human realm as desired realty. The Keepers were the Sword-swingers, the bond breakers, and the annihilators of dark energies. The things that protected from the things that go bump in the night.


‘What do you see? In the other layers?’ He finally asked, goosebumps coursing through him. A semblance of fear lurking deep. 


‘Blood. I see blood. And a sense something coming.’


Balan could sense it too. He’d never mastered the Art of Sight, but he had mastered the Art of Energy, and he could sense the dark heavy ooze spluttering slowly underneath. He eyed the sky above the house and could just imagine the hole building. ‘I have to go.’ He blurted. 


‘You better hurry. You have a month, tops, to find out how to rid it. Once it anchors, I have a feeling it has bigger plans than just marrying a widow and and growing old with him. A storm’s coming.’


Balan nodded. That was an understatement. ‘Keep an eye on it for me.’ He placed a small ball of lapis lazuli in his palm and with an utterance fused it into the trunk of the tree. ‘For…’

‘Communication, I know. Not my first rodeo. You just go find a Maestro before the month.’


‘I don’t even know where to start,’ Balan muttered. 

With a brisk nod and a blink, Balan was gone. All that was left was a sliver of gold smoke the height of him, lingering but for a fraction of a  second. 


‘If Maestros exist anymore.’ The sprite turned its attention back to the house. It had a job to do, and he was going to do it. The green ward rippled taunting. Flickering like an innocent candle flame. 



Writer’s Process: How Stories Evolve Over Time

Writer’s Process: How Stories Evolve Over Time

I know what you’re thinking. I haven’t done an anecdote piece in a very long time, perhaps a little more than a year since my last piece on the writer’s process. There are as many writing styles out there as there are writers and narrators. Our job is to bring you a story, the best way that that story can be portrayed, but by no means should you think that the purity of that story has always been the same as the final product. I don’t mean the multitudes of editing we do. I mean the entire story itself, changing, morphing into something far removed from the initial stories that pop into our heads, or even the one that gets written down by first draft. Even at this point, the likelihood that the story has already changed somewhat from the initial story, or even drastically, depends on the story. 
So how do these stories evolve? In many ways, it all depends on the outline process. When writers obsess over a story, we usually think of the big picture, what happens to start the story off, point A, to what moves the story along, point B, to how the story ends, point C. It’s not so simple once the writing process begins. I’m not an outliner technically. I don’t sit there and write out point by point what the story is and how it progresses, there are other writers out there like myself. The others, the organized ones, will often have few pages of the story outlined from point A to Z, because frankly speaking a story isn’t as simple as A, B, C, it’s much more complex than that. Writers like myself, we will rethink and rethink the story several times in detail in our heads before we feel comfortable enough to actually start writing the first draft. As I’ve said before, we are the seat-of-our-pants kind who write instinctually. It’s odd to say this but, that’s exactly what I do. I write instinctually, free form. I write chapter by chapter, a bit like how other writers look at their outline and follow a bullet point, I start off knowing where I want the chapter to go, but I have no idea how I’m going to get there, I just know that once I start writing, the rest will flow. Bit risky but it works, maybe not for all, but it still works. 

In this process of outlining, whether in our heads or on paper, this is the first hurdle the story passes. This is the first checkpoint where the story has the potential to change from the original piece we think about. Why? Well, simply put, our minds are very good at abstract thoughts and making connections, however it’s another matter of putting it down on paper in a legible and easily understood manner. Or even something that makes sense. So the story that looks silver screen ready in our head may show kinks in it that needs modifying at Checkpoint 1. 
After this comes a gigantic Checkpoint 2: the writing of first draft. An entirely long and draining process in itself, not without its own problems and challenges. This checkpoint is constantly working itself through the writing process. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of how many little minute changes the story goes through because we are so engrossed in writing it, getting that story on paper first. This is the hardest step. This is the step where several chapters in, we may suddenly find huge problems in story, character, relationships, or dynamics, scenes and settings that simply do not gel. The main thing here is to focus on getting that entire story down on paper and not get bogged down by sandpit of problems. As we write this bit, we may discover new directions the characters take, leading the story entirely in a different direction from what you intended. At this point a writer has come to a fork in the road: do you stick to your outline, which by all means is simply a guide, or do you take the lead the character is giving and go into unchartered territory? It’s a matter of choice. In most cases either one of the paths will lead you to finishing the story and not being happy with it, or unable to finish it and give up entirely, or at least put this story on a back burner. If your are wondering what I myself would do at such a junction, then I will let you know I usually follow the character. After all, it’s their story and if they take you down a certain path, it’s most like for a reason that will show up later in the story. After all, you are the boss. Just because you follow a character for a little while doesn’t necessarily mean you have handed over the reins. 
When that first draft is done and you’ve got the bare bones with a little bit of flesh hanging off it, then you can pat yourself on the back and take a break. It’s well deserved. 
Sometime, we are so engrossed in the whole process that our minds stop working properly and we give into character whims that don’t necessarily need to be there nor benefits the whole story. This is Checkpoint 3. Even if we don’t re-write or even go over our first draft, as writers we have the entire story now etched into our minds. After a few days break or weeks, or sometimes months (yes, I’m guilty of this), we usually work out in our head how to iron out some rough edges, where we need to truly focus on working extensively during the editing process. This is where we are making the next lot of changes that gets put into place when we start editing. Sometimes the changes will only be minor, to small sequences, scenes, or chapters, or characters and setting, and other times you will find that a huge chuck of the story needs to be thrown out and written again from another story point. This happened with my first novel, In Strange Company (on Kindle and paperback through myself). After a long hiatus away from the first draft, when I went back to editing it, I realized most devastatingly that I needed to write the entire first quarter of the book from scratch. It didn’t fit in with the style of the rest of the book, the characters had changed and evolved so much in the end that that needed to be addressed in the beginning, and so a long trudge began. For a writer working on her first novel, this was the hardest time. The time when you question the vocation, question if you are right for the calling, etc. This Checkpoint 3 is by far the most challenging to writers and the gentle egos. 
Stories also change during editing. Time and time again, we will go over the book, and minor things are constantly changing and shifting slightly, honing that story. At this point, Checkpoint 4, stages of editing, your story might have drastically changed from where you began. For example, Charming Mr Stewart (also on Kindle) changed drastically from where the story began, about a widow running away from possibility of love, only to have it chase her in turn, to something more evolved, about a widow who gains her power and her right to heal the old hurt. Not exactly the same story is it?
Checkpoint 4 is as far as a writer can go alone on this road. Up until this time, our journey is lonesome, but no more. Checkpoint 5 requires us to push down our fear of criticism and the premature nature of the final product and invite expert opinions and scrutiny. This is where external editors come into play, and if you are extremely lucky to be affiliated with a publisher, then I’m sure they have been involved from an earlier stage. They may ask you to consider changing some plot points in the story, or character personalities, or given you a heads up on all your strengths and weaknesses in the story. Tell you what’s working and what simply will not do. This is a healthy stage for us. It forces us to take a step back from the story and look at it from a reader’s point of view, which after all is why we are writing in the first place, for the readers. This point may again see various changes through various stages of reading and re-reading and proofing. Ironing out those final little kinks in the story. Making the transition from point A to point Z as smooth and as indecipherable as possible, so that readers like yourself and I can not even sense the difficulty the author may have gone through, from initial point of origin to the final product. 
The final checkpoint in a way is you, a selected group of beta-readers, the genuine pigs or test subjects who get to read the final product and give feedback. This point may prove very valuable to how the book is being received, and if there are any problems, a last change to make the change. 
What you read, is not what always was. What you read is a result of an incredible effort and devotion at various stages. What you read, is an accumulation of faith and self-doubt used well. What you read is simply fascinating, because it started life as a single thought in someone’s gray-matter. A simple thought. And thoughts are powerful. They can suspend us into someone else’s imagination and propel us forward, make us lose hours, or regret reality when we re-emerge.

Epilogue: for those who requested

Epilogue: for those who requested

I don’t normally go back to a novel and muddle with it once published. But this time, I don’t see know I thought why not, an epilogue may be added, perhaps. 
Recently published, Charming Mr Stewart is already getting reviews from around the world from readers and I’ve had a one or two request, or express curiosity of ‘what happened next’.  So for those who have read the book and weren’t ready for it to end, here is a slice, or glimpse into the ever after. If your enjoy it, let me know, so I may be able to add this to the online version available on Kindle. 
Here we go. 
CHARMING MR STEWART

Epilogue: A Quiet Word

Elle stared at the pile of folders waiting for her attention. It grew inches taller every day she swore. Clients and potential clients applying for her to fit them into her busy schedule. Who would have thought that a year and half ago, as she covered one of the biggest weddings of her tiny career, that she would find herself amongst the elites. Whatever happened to Dean wanting to keep a low profile and family privacy? Guess he didn’t care anymore, and frankly neither did she.  


It had been close to a year and a half since her spontaneous trip to Paris to woo the man she kind of loved. After hours of restlessness and extended nausea, a handful of false reading on expired pregnancy tests later, Elle had managed to get in a room alone with Dean in one of the poshest hotels she’d ever seen, and what did she do? She stood there like a silly little girl who had no idea what she was even thinking. 


Fast forward to the present, and she’d moved back to her home town for now, living in her old room with Maya, who had wonderful grandparents to watch over her while mummy dearest was busy transitioning her business into a tiny empire, boutique that attracted all of Dean’s own circle and clients. 


‘You have got to centralize yourself, El. You’re only gonna burn out this way.’ Dean had frowned at the state of her ‘office’, a tiny room at the back of another shop front. ‘Move to Sydney. That’s where all the clients are. Get a bigger office, I can help you with that, and set up a proper studio.’


‘No.’ 


‘No?’


‘No.’ Elle had stood on her tip toes and kissed those gorgeous lips playfully before strutting away in an outfit she was already not comfortable wearing, a pencil skirt with heels. ‘You keep your money and your charms, Mr Stewart, and I shall keep my pride.’


Dean chuckled. ‘Is this about all those bloody awards pumping your head big? Chloe warned me.’


Utterly scandalous, Elle turned around and lowered her voice, for fear her newly hired secretary would hear. ‘I’m making something of myself ok. Do you know how hard I’ve worked for this? I don’t want to be that trophy thing that hangs around your arms. I’m not a trophy.’


Dean laughed his heart melting laugh. ‘Great, and now you get feisty.’ He leaned in and kissed her cheek. ‘You know I love you, but seriously, you pack up like a grandma.’


Elle returned his kiss. ‘So I’ll see you there then?’ He nodded, walking away. ‘Tell them I won’t be too long.’


Dean waved vaguely as he went. ‘Just makes sure you come before you miss everything.’


‘Of course, I’m the bloody photographer!’ Elle yelled off, watching his figure disappear through the front of the shop. ‘Right, Maureen, where’s my camera case?’



‘What a milf,’ Dean whispered into her ears as she cheerfully snapped away at the family. 


‘Excuse me,’ she turned around with a smile. ‘That’s my cousin you’re talking about.’ Elle spied Chloe and Peter from the corner of her eyes, little baby Symphony held loving in Peter’s arms, mingling with their guests in the garden.


‘I wasn’t talking about her, was I?’ He winked, eyeing her head to toe. ‘How about it?’


‘How about what?’


Dean pulled something out of his pocket in that moment and Elle’s heart began to ran. In the hubbub of people, no one seemed to be noticing and no one cared as Dean quietly slipped a ring on Elle’s finger. He leaned in with the sweetest smile on his face. ‘Can I have you for a wife? Say yes.’ 


The ring felt odd in her finger, somewhat home too though. It fit. They fit. 


‘Maya already said yes, in case you are wondering.’ He squeezed her hand in his, nervous as ever. Elle looked around the gathering, people in their own worlds. Her gaze skimmed over how happy a Chloe looked. 


Elle turned to him, and nodded before Dean leaned in for their first kiss that day. ‘I almost thought you were about to get down on your knee.’ Elle laughed. They had talked about it before, perhaps once or twice, and she had been adamant no one should go down on their knee in public. It puts pressure on the whole thing. She wanted quiet. Quiet meant no noise could interfere with the biggest decision in your life. 


She kissed him once more, and squeezed his hand with her newly adorned hand. ‘We’ll tell them once the guests leave.’


Dean nodded and slipped out to mingle with the guests and let Elle get back to her photography.  



The Keeper (19)

Three whole days and nights had passed since Mona retuned home from her father’s funeral. Three whole days and nights had passed since she stayed in her bedroom, barely coming out to do chores her siblings demanded of her. They cursed her and called her lazy, everything they could do to get her to do the chores they’d rather not do, which was pretty much all the chores really. Mona didn’t care, not anymore. Her father had been right. They didn’t care about anyone other than themselves. No wonder he had wanted her to leave, to get away from the ‘leeches’ as he often referred to them in their absence.  It so happened one afternoon, Mona was called a ‘disgusting and selfish being’ for not attending to their every whim. She could barely believe they even realized or cared that their father was dead. From the moment they had come back from the funeral, they were far too busy dividing, fighting and bickering over who gets what. Belle had simply just grabbed her father’s favorite cap and walked in to her room, closing the door behind her and shutting out the hurt. 
Three days later, sitting there on the floor, she caught a glimpse of light skimming on something below the bed and fetched it, cutting her finger sharply on the broken glass of the mirror she’d missed when cleaning up her room. She stared at the sliver and broke down crying. Why had she even left the castle? Why had she left the Beast? Her father was happy and healthy when she was away, knowing she was finally free. Her coming back had caused him illness. 
She cried, gently stroking the reflection on the piece. ‘I wish I had never come back here. I wish I had never come back here!’ 
‘Belle,’ she heard the gentle, yet deep rumble of the voice she’d learned to love, though it now was filled with an unknown pain. ‘My dear, Belle.’
She looked up, half expecting that he were standing in front of her in her tiny room. In stead, she found herself in a dark, barely lit hall of some sort, all but a small candelabra on the mantle. She could feel a draft of cold icy wind sneaking in, and could barely see his outline against the dark. ‘Oh Beast, how I missed you!’ 
She pushed herself off the floor and ran to him. ‘Truly missed you, despite myself!’ She threw herself at him as if he were the closest thing she had. He winched as she did. ‘You’re hurt?’
He shook his head. ‘Just tired.’
‘I don’t believe you.’ She glared through the dark, unable to judge. She reached for the candelabra and brought it to closer to him, and watched him slink away. ‘Come into the light. Let me see you.’ And as he did, a gasp escaped her. ‘What have you done? You look different.’
‘He is dying.’ A voice beside her said, catching her with fright. She turned, suddenly to see the candelabra come to life in her hands. ‘But master is too proud to say this to you.’
Belle let out a squeak. She had heard that voice before, always thinking it belonged to ghosts that haunted the castle. ‘You speak?’

‘We all do.’ Lumiere said, wriggling out of her hands, and within his lights reach, more tools and ordinary objects began to come to life.

‘You must save our master, Belle. You must save our master.’
Belle could only stare in disbelief.