Tag Archives: fangirl

This is a fangirl post about Dr Strange

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And there will be SPOILERS! You have been warned! I finally watched it amidst a horrible cold that left me with the mother of all scratchy throats and slightly feverish. It was all very much worth it in the end!

I’m not gonna lie and say I haven’t been twitching impatiently about this movie since it was first announced on the rota. I’m not gonna lie and say I did not love the posters. I’m definitely not gonna lie and say that when this scene played on the trailer I didn’t cheer.

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για dr strange trailer screenshot

-looks around- Ok, I think this is enough to hide the spoilers from showing up on any thumbnail-sized previews or whatever. Now on to the proper stuff. My only actual contact with the character before this was the (admittedly meh) animated movie which -ironically- handled the exact same storyline. So basically going in on the theatre I knew the bare minimum about the character, that this was an origin story and that they had shamelessly whitewashed the Ancient One. I had this pipe dream of seeing him being played by Mako but unfortunately the film was made a few years too late. But let’s be real here. Uncle Iroh mentoring Dr Strange to the mystic arts would have been a gift. Not that Swindon was not badass on the role, just a pet peeve of mine I suppose. The character of Steven Strange (Doctor! Must not forget the title!) initially reminded me a little of Sherlock but I’ll have to rewatch the movie (what a tragedy, indeed!) to tell if that was character bleed or just me being used to seeing Benedict Cumberbatch as a detective. Although, with Martin Freeman officially on the MCU boat I am hoping for at least a reference joke at some point!

Other than any hypothetical character confusion, I liked Strange’s character. His arc was believable as a man of science thrust head-deep to the mystical and I liked that he kept his pragmatism and flexibility of morals (not sure if that’s the right word choice but there’s a French film playing in the background here and it’s hella distracting). The majority of characters were believable in the portrayals, except for Mordo’s Heel-Faced Turn in the end was a tad (ok, a lot!) out of nowhere. Especially accounting for the end-credit scene… I liked that the romance, what little was there, was not the central focus, and honestly I see these two more as friends than lovers. Also anyone who can receive surgical instruction by the astral projection of her patient without having a full-blown panic attack is a person worthy of admiration in my book.

Speaking of side characters that are full of win, I’d like to spotlight the Cape. Not only it looks awesome and it makes you fly but that thing has an attitude. And seems to be insanely protective of its owner. I’m really curious to learn who was its creator, but my money’s on Merlin. He just seems to be the type to enchant the leaving daylights out of a piece of fabric…. Favourite scene had to be after the Ancient One dies at the Hospital where it looks like the poor thing was actually trying to comfort him!

I’ll leave the discussion of special effects and the like to those who can offer more feedback than “That looked cool!” In my case they were, indeed, cool. And surprisingly not-migraine-inducing. Unlike Inception that my brother likened the film to. I resent the comparison! Leonardo diCaprio wasn’t nearly as charming! (My personal opinion, I don’t why I don’t like that guy but I just can’t!) Anyway, what else is there to talk about? The Cameo was awesome as usual, definitely top 5-worthy, and the mid-credits scene, oh the mid-credits scene!

—quick author’s note: I nearly fell off my keyboard from sleepiness at that point last night so I’m continuing now—

Now where was I? Oh yes, the mid-credits scene! The internet is already going on and on about a potential bromance between Dr Strange and Thor, and yes their chemistry was pretty cool. But here’s what I want to see:

My though favourite British actors (and Marvel characters), together, on screen, in character, snarking about their more hit-first-ask-later companions or geeking over some spell or other. The Avengers -Thor included- in a corner in various stages of shock because this is their supposed archnemesis and he’s conjuring floating cups of tea and talking multidimentional travel and the fine details of spellcraft with their newest member like it’s last night’s football match. And then Tony is like, “Screw this, I’m curious” and jumps in the conversation and next thing you know they need to be convinced that lightsabers are probably not a good idea against Thanos.

Anyone know any fics like this or do I need to dust my typewriter?

In which I reminisce past loves

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I’ve been in a bit of a fandom kick lately but my holidays are almost done so I thought I’d do one last fan-post before I become distracted by the new academic year. I’ve been mentioning Yu-Gi-Oh! on and off lately (and re-watching it for the matter) so I figured it was about time I did a post on it. What’s my history with the show that teaches kids that any problem can be solved with a card game? To start, I was in a strange age when I first watched it (miraculously catching it from the first episode). I was just hitting puberty and although I was never really a tomboy it appealed to me more than Winx Club (which was the only other cartoon airing at the same time). Looking back I can’t explain what it was that captured my attention. I was watching a re-dubbed version of the 4Kids dub, so it wasn’t like the dialog was riveting or anything. Even then I thought some of the lines over-dramatic and perhaps it was exactly that that I liked. At least the show sounded like it was taking its story and audience seriously. How many kids’ shows today do that? There were stakes -bizarre stakes no doubt, but still- and even us kids understood that the words “Shadow Realm” carried a certain weight to them.

I’m not ashamed to say that this was the show that gave me my first character-crush. Yes, folks! While other eleven and twelve-year-old girls were sighing over Orlando Bloom I was crossing my fingers and hoped that my favourite, standoff-ish character would be in this weekend’s episodes. No, I’m not gonna say any names. I will only say that he wasn’t the main character. Whether it was my flair for the dramatic or my newly-emerging, loving-all-things-fantasy side that spurred me on, I was devastated when they stoppe0d airing the show one season short. Life moved on however and for a few years Yu-Gi-Oh! remained in the back of my mind as the show I used to love back in grades 6 and 7.

In the meantime the internet took off big time and with it Youtube and all those other wonderful places where you can watch your childhood’s obsessions armed with Nostalgia Goggles and lots of Ben&Jerries. I was looking for somewhere to watch Naruto when I stumbled across a website that had the entire 4Kids’d version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, including the elusive season 5. I watched the entire thing in two weeks (I had school) and from there moved to the manga (which was delightfully violent if not poorly scanned at times). To my disappointment I couldn’t find the subbed version of the anime anywhere (I’m still looking in fact) but I made do with what I had. And what I did have was good headphones and an ever-increasing familiarity with fanfiction.net and its curious ways. It didn’t matter that there were only two hundred and something episodes to watch and that I had already screenshot all my favourite scenes in the manga because the available fanfics -even narrowed down to not including the more…disturbing ones- numbered the thousands. -fangirl glee-

I watched and read and shipped and searched for interesting AUs and had a new favourite every other week. Not character, mind you, but ship, which is kind of strange for me. I’m usually pretty solid on who I ship with whom. Of course my OTP was, is and will be Azureshipping but I don’t really rage against other pairings. Except for the really weird ones and Peachshipping. It reminds me FAR TOO MUCH of Kataang…. (Mum, if you are readig this ask me before you google them!)

But surely, you say, something had to change with the passing of years. I wasn’t the plucky twelve-year-old anymore, surely my understanding of the show had change. In a way it had. I was more interested in the subtleties of character development than in the question of which monster would blow which up. And that was in part what led to a slight rearrangement of my list of favourite characters. Sure, Seto Kaiba was still in the top five (shoot! I gave myself away here!) but the number one spot was claimed by somebody else: Yami Bakura. Big shock, I know. And before anyone makes any assumptions, no, it wasn’t his ability to make the freaking Joker look tame by comparison. It was something really small that many people probably missed. In episode 84, Dark Spirit Revealed (part 3), Yami B. is faced with the choice of letting his  host take a hit and possibly win the duel in progress or protect Ryou and watch his plan crumble…again. So far the character has been presented as a Bad-To-The-Bone so this should really be a no-brainer. But it isn’t. While the conundrum is being presented, the animation does a short close up to his eyes. For those who have not spent as much time as I have browsing trope pages and/or analysing books/movies/plays/whatever, a short explanation is in order. To my experience, this short of close-up is usually reserved for when a character is going through an internal clash of morals or other similar conflict. It is a very important clue to character motivations, especially when it is a character whose inner thought process is hardly explored.  It is doubly important when one considers that this short clip was kept despite 4Kids’ habit of removing clips left, right and center…

Where am I going with this treatise? It excited my curiosity at the time. Then I watched Season 5 and a lot of Yami Bakura’s actions made a looooooot more sense. And before anyone goes off at me about the whole “I am Zorc” line, I would like to point out that at the original timeline (not the Memory World arc) Thief King Bakura and Zorc were both sealed inside the Millennium Ring. After three thousand years living in close quarters with the Master of All Evil (in-universe) it would be no surprise that they would feed off each other. And there was certainly enough of the Thief King left to rage against the Pharaoh’s court in episode 202…I believe. Fangirl soapbox moment over. What I’m trying to say is that there was a serious story being told under all the cheesy one-liners. Perhaps it wasn’t delivered quite the way I wanted (Bakura being the only main villain in the show not get a chance for redemption even though he was the one most deserving in my opinion…) but they managed to deliver a high-stakes game in a way that showed they understood what they were writing. There was no easy solution and the tension was rising with every episode until the rather deus ex machina resolution. And even that didn’t bother me. Zorc was a villain that required this sort of ending.

So here is why I still like Yu-Gi-Oh! even after all these years. Nostalgia aside, 90s cheese aside, there was a good story being told. There were likable and sometimes even relate-able character (and how often can you say that in a manga where people have magical artifacts at their disposal?). And, all things considered, it was a rather gentle introduction to the mad, wonderful world that we call anime. Am I glad to have watched it. Definitely.

In which I talk fandom again

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It’s been a while since I’ve done this, hasn’t it? Just ramble about things that I like. Not anymore! So what’s up fandom-wise on my little corner of the world. Some old things, some new things, some unreleased things….Gods, I hate it when I find a cool trailer for something that is not even out yet! The trailer in question? This little nugget:

I am soooo pumped for this one! Maybe they will make Good Omens next! A girl can hope. And that’s not the only thing I am E.X.C.I.T.E.D. about. There’s Inside Out, Macbeth, Crimson Peak, Doctor Strange… Am I all over the place? Yes. Do I care? No!

I also finally listened to Cabin Pressure and wasn’t that a revelation! I’ve been meaning to give it a try for the past couple of years but couldn’t seem to find it anywhere. So I went ahead, took the plunge and bought the complete show in CD format. Did not regret it, I tell you.

And finally I’ve been revisiting one of my most loved shows from my childhood and early teenage years: Yu-Gi-Oh! I’m not even kidding. I’ve seen the show, I’ve read the manga, I’ve laughed with the parodies, I’ve browsed through Gigabytes’ worth of fanart and fics and videos. This was the show that actually inspired me to start writing in a more structured manner rather than winging it and hoping the end result would be coherent. (That was more the mange, mind, where there was a lot better build up than the anime…) So if you like my prose now you know who to be thankful to. I could go on and on about why I like this (very cheesy if you’ve watched the 4Kids’d version) show and maybe I will at some point in the future. For now though I will just sign off. And remember!

In which I ponder shipping

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A while back I wrote a post in defence of fanfiction. You might want to consider this one the whacky sequel. You see, shipping and fanfiction go hand-in-hand. And yet we don’t really pause to consider what compels us to assume that two characters would be a match made in Heaven? Is it that we see ourselves as one of the characters and want to give them the happy (aka perfect) relationship we might lack in real life. Is it that we believe that such a relationship would be beneficial to their character development? Is it plain and simple fanservice? Something else? All of the above? For me it would be all of the above. I have shipped characters because the relationship I saw developing between them was one I would like to experience in real life. I have shipped characters because I considered a romantic relationship between them an inevitable conclusion (coughAvatarcough). And yes, I have used the justification “But they look ADORABLE together!”. Fan wars aside, one of the cardinal rules of shipping is that if you can think about it, then someone out there is probably shipping it. (Of course that implies the existence of some rather disturbing pairings, but when you’ve hung out Fanfiction.net for as long as I have you learn to ignore them. Besides, I’m told Tumblr is scarier.)

Immature as it might be, I love shipping. I enjoy mapping out character interactions in general (which is why I cannot abide movies/series/books with more gunfire than dialog) but there is something about romance and the Molotov cocktail of contradicting emotions it causes that opens up so many possibilities. You know that scene in Moulin Rouge where they describe the premise behind El Tango de Roxanne? Yup, that at least partially sums things up for me. Even when considered through the cold lenses of science love is the product of a chemical instability. Well, to me, instability = chaos and chaos = interesting plot points. Why are romantic subplots casually inserted? Because it is an easy way to provide conflict and thus get the story going with new momentum if you hit a lull.

But I’m moving away from my topic: why ship? It’s easy if the pairing you support is considered cannon. Your actions then can be seen as building up to pre-established events. Heck! Implied pairings (you know the drill: long, longing looks, more shared screen time than what might be the norm, use of tropes usually reserved for romantic interactions…) get more respect than fan-made pairings. Fannon is what receives the heaviest fire. After all, if Word of God says two people are meant to be together, then who are you, the lowly fan, to say otherwise. Um…a fan? Besides, how often did you see a canon pairing and went “THE HECK?” I remember the first time I watched Big Bang Theory. It was a Season Two episode, I think, and I basically walked in on a scene between Penny and Sheldon. Something about their interaction immediately filed them under established pairing/will-they-won’t-they-situation. Imagine my disbelief when my brother, who had been watching the show for a while, informed me that Penny ends up with Leonard. I’ve watched the show on and off and I’m sorry, I don’t care what Word of God says, I stick by my initial assessment.

Romance has a different meaning for everyone. We carry over our experiences, our dreams, our expectations, and we project them on the characters. In a way (if you are not scared of giving your psyche an honest look) shipping helps clearing up what we do and don’t want out of a relationship. Granted, it’s also fun to speculate, especially in much-loved shows, but when it comes down to it even the most mindless of activities can teach us something if we actually bother to think it through.

In which I contemplate literature degrees

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Sorry guys. Looks like picking up speed for my uni assignments has left my creativity rather low. So I really don’t know what to talk about today. I suppose I could speak about my “aha!” moment. What is an “aha!” moment? It’s when you find yourself in a situation that you feel is absolutely perfect. Like all the tiny little cogs of the universe are -for once- oiled and you are perfectly in sync with them. I had a moment like that during my Chaucer seminar today. We were talking about the Monk’s Tale (which is a collection of paragraph-long, super-depressing stories) and suddenly it was like somebody had flicked a switch. The conversation went from lukewarm to brilliantly blazing and were jumping from linguistics, to theory of tragedy to theology to philosophy to classics like there was not tomorrow. And in the midst of (loudly) arguing the difference between hamartia and hybris I found myself thinking: This is why I picked this course. This is what I love doing. Finding all the little nuances in a text and analysing them, trying to see behind to what the author was thinking, what his time was like, how people think. It was beautiful. I wish I had more moments like that more often, but sadly studying something is not synonymous with being passionate about something and I’ve had my fair share of awkward silences in seminar groups because most people picked the module to fulfill a credit requirement and went bumped down to their second choice or whatever. And I’m not exempt from that. There have been books I was entirely unwilling to talk about because I disliked them so much I could not be asked to even slam them (I’m looking at you, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man). I don’t expect people to like everything. Frankly, I would not be able to take seriously a literature student that claims to have “just loved, becauseohmygoshitwassooooolush*” every reading they were given ever. Critical thinking people. It’s not just a mode of dreaded assignments. It’s also a very healthy approach to books. Use it!

So yeah, not much else to say. I’ll probably be going on a rant on the subject of literature degrees at some point in the future, but for now I’m gonna make some tea and start with my next Chaucer reading. See ya soon!

 

*honest-to-goodness reaction of a fellow student regarding compulsory reading. I made sure not to bump on them in the library. The gleam in their eyes was too scary even by my -admittedly skewed- standards.

In which I consider fanfiction

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Went to watch the Imitation Game last night with a few friends. While we were waiting for the movie to start we got talking about fanfiction and how there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground on it. You either love it or hate it. (Conversely, there is also only very good or very bad fanfiction.) I’m a fanfic writer myself, so I think it’s rather obvious with which side I’m marching but it got me thinking. Why is it that people hate fanfiction? A quick google search yielded this result.  Yes, I bookmarked it on my laptop. Yes, I will be printing it out and checking out at least some of the books mentioned if only for solidarity’s sake.

I suppose people look down at fanfiction because of its fantasy-fulfilment element. I mean, the concept at its most basic is: How do I get these characters I love and place them in a different scenario? What would happen? How would they react? Writing good fanfiction is hard. Sure you already have established characters and backstories and in-universe rules (unless you go down the AU rabbit hole). Looks like the only thing you need is an original plotline, right? WRONG! Trust me when I say there is nothing harder than twisting a pre-existing scenario to fit your own ideas. That is, assuming you have any respect for the source material. And I include AUs on this generalisation. The best AUs out there are the ones that manage to subtly reference the original. It doesn’t have to be a big, neon-bright sign. But it needs to be there.

Although it is probably incredibly narcissistic of me, I will use my own fanfic as an example. I started writing it when I was fifteen. Why? Because I had just finished watching Avatar: The Last Airbender and was raging about the end pairings. Not a noble motivation, I know. But it got me thinking. Was there a way to change that without completely disrupting the flow of the original storyline? I read a lot of fanfiction (some good, some bad, some atrocious), rewatched the episodes most of them seemed to focus on an insane amount of times and pulled the Literature card. What is the Literature card, you ask? I did what every Literature student has done at some point: took something that was not a piece of literature and analysed the living, breathing daylights out of it like it would be my main coursework assignment. you can read a revised version of the result every Monday.

I had never written anything that long before. There had been short stories and bad poetry (and a couple of attempts at novels). I didn’t know how to go about shifting character motivations without completely giving them a retcon. So I used a proxy, an OC character, someone who could interact with the canon characters from the point of view of an outsider (there’s a reason why she is older and not-mortal) but at the same time be bound by the same rules as them, thus being assimilated to the story. Did I succeed? I like to think, yes. It took a lot of work, a lot of scraped scenarios, dialog scenes, characters that might have been included but weren’t. I didn’t want a whole new Avatar story, that had nothing to do with the original. (That’s why we have this cinematic nightmare…) I just wanted a small change in the last couple of scenes. Why didn’t I write just those scenes differently? Because unless you want utter fluff or PWP (no judging, they’re good in their own right), then you need to provide backstory. Let’s be rational: the whole hero-gets-the-girl concept is not only tired, it’s also more often than not downright contrived.

Of course this doesn’t always work out quite the way you thought it would. For every good fanfic there will be three following a similar vein but being downright atrocious. And you know what? I’m okay with it. Yes, I will my eyes and skip them when I’m looking for something to read. But that’s the beauty of fanfiction: that anyone, anyone, who loves a story can make it their own, show their understanding of how that world works and what the characters motivations are. There always be flops, coughTwilightcough50ShadesofGreycough, but there will also be beautiful pieces of work like Wide Sargasso Sea, the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (yes, I went THERE), Mists of Avalon and Euripides’ Helen.

So love it or hate, write it or read it, it’s up to you. Just please, for the love of all that you believe in, stay away from the Mary-Sues.

 

P.S. And go see the Imitation Game! It was AWESOME!

Pages flying everywhere…

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Last day in London and I am tireeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed! And if I were a more reasonable person that would have meant finding somewhere cosy and spending most of the day there. Did I do that? No! Bookshops to see, museum exhibitions to gawk at and, busted ankle or no busted ankle, the day was fine and I’d take advantage of that. Which is why this post will be fairly short. At this point I am too tired to even put some shoes on and walk to the corner takeaway from some dinner. Nope, it’ll be a bubblebath and early night for me, thank you very much!

My day was fairly uneventful at any case. I had breakfast at this fancy place downtown, called Kahve Dunyasi. As someone who takes her chocolate seriously I can give them my seal of approval and a double thumbs up. Plus they serve hot drinks with chocolate spoons. Chocolate spoons! How cool is that?

Not my best photo, I admit.

Not my best photo, I admit.

From then it was round two of my bookshop spree and I discovered this tiny, tucked away place, Cecil Court. Less than 50 metres long but every other shop sold books. Glee! Joy! Money spent! I regret nothing! Haha!

Cecil Court and its many bookshops.

Cecil Court and its many bookshops.

From there it was back to the tube and all the way to South Kensington for a coffee break before my ankle gave away from right under me and then off to explore the Victoria & Albert Museum. No photos taken there, sorry to  disappoint. I was too busy gawking at medieval and renaissance works of art. So I’m a sucker for all things past-1789. Sue me! Unfortunately the museum was too large and interesting. I skipped some of the collections and figured it was time for lunch when I realised that I had to sit down and rest every ten minutes. -sob-

Back to Piccadilly for me then and off to Fridays because it’s been a while since I had a proper burger and I was craving it. Luckily kitchen was slow so by the time I was done eating I felt secure walking as well. I had been meaning to have a quick look around Regent Street, not for shopping, heck I half expected to be asked to pay to look at some of those shops, just for the experience. Last time I was in London and in that area I headed straight for the H&M but this time I took my time. (And limited myself to buying only one bath bomb from Lush.) Made it all the way to Oxford Circus and then it was back to the hotel and a well-needed rest.

And on a side note addressed to the guy that tried to chat me up outside the Trocaddero today: Asking for my phone number and offering to give me a ride to the airport (not my fault he assumed I was flying home when I mentioned leaving tomorrow), while STILL not having given me your name is not going to win you points buddy! In fact it will firmly place you in the creepy-category and it will definitely NOT break my heart to tell you I’m busy tonight. Jeez! Why is it always the random guys on the street that do this and not a nice guy at my uni that I would actually been willing to date?

uuuuum...why? Just why?

uuuuum…why? Just why?

Oh, hello there! Isn't he cute?

Oh, hello there! Isn’t he cute?

Avatar: The Spirit of Fire – The Waterbending Scroll

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Author’s Note: In which the author ships, the main characters discover that they are, in fact, teenagers and all that entails and Iroh probably knows a lot more than we think.

Last chapter: link

Next chapter: link

***The Waterbending Scroll***

As a rule, firebenders draw their power from the sun. That is not to say that they are helpless at night, but they certainly prefer to sleep the night’s hours away. Armed with that knowledge, it would certainly amaze the casual observer to see that on the ship of young prince Zuko this wasn’t the case. Fire was erupting in every possible direction as two forms battled silently under the moon’s pale light. Suddenly one figure kicked out to the side, catching his opponent on the ribs and sending them flying. The other figure twisted in the air and landed perfectly before bowing.

“You have really improved my young student,” Lia said, wincing as she checked the bruising forming on her side.

“Young?” Zuko asked, walking up to her, torn between exasperation at her ribbing and concern. “You don’t look that much older.”

“Perhaps. It’s not as if I’m aging. What you see is what I looked like when I left this world.” She paused thoughtfully. “But,” she continued, “counting in mortal, years I’m old enough to be considered an artefact!”

 

Zuko raised an eyebrow. Ever since they had admitted to seeing each other as brother and sister, he noticed a wall coming down between them. Lia was more teasing, less aloof, as if she knew that his anger would never really be directed at her. But his own change was what he found most strange. He let his guard down around her. While for everyone else he was the uptight prince, for Lia he acted, to use her own words, “his age”. He had found himself joking with her a few times, even teasing her back! Small changes, one might say, but Zuko suspected that they were not over yet and he wasn’t sure if he wanted them to be.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by a loud cough. He jerked and saw Lia looking at him with an amused look.

“I wanted to ask you; do you plan on ever telling your uncle about me?” she asked, leaning against the railing.

“I hadn’t thought about it. Why?” he answered surprised.

“You’ve heard about his little trip to the Spirit World, right? Well, you can’t leave this place without souvenirs. In his case, I heard it was the ability to see Spirits. He might be able to sense me if I keep hanging out here.”

Zuko looked worried. “Do you think I should tell him?”

“Not if you don’t want to. Just don’t be surprised if he asks you sooner or later. Now I think it’s time you got to bed.” She told him, glancing up towards the moon. “It’s getting late. Goodnight Zuko.”

She hugged him briefly and heard him whisper “Goodnight sister,” before she faded away.

 

The next morning Zuko was sparring with a soldier, when that week’s long overdue share on unexpected disturbances came. Without warning the ship changed course, throwing the two combatants off balance. Zuko rushed at the helmsman seething, ready to yell at the poor man.

“What is the meaning of this mutiny?” he demanded. “No one told you to change course.”

“Actually someone did.” He turned, noticing his uncle for the first time, sitting there playing Pi Sho with one of the sailors. “I assure you it is a matter of outmost importance prince Zuko.”

“Is it something to do with the Avatar?” Zuko asked anxiously.

“Even more urgent.” His uncle answered gravely. “It seems I… I lost my lotus tile,” he explained, moving another tile on the board.

“Lotus tile?” His nephew stared at him surprised.

“For my Pi Sho game. Most people think the lotus tile insignificant, but it is essential for the unusual strategy I employ.”

“You’ve changed our course for a stupid Lotus Tile?” Zuko asked, refusing to believe it.

“See, you like most people underestimate its value.” Iroh berated his nephew lightly. “Just give me ten minutes to check the merchants at this port of coal. Hopefully,” he continued brightening, “they’ll have the lotus tile in their stock and I can get on with my life.”

Don’t kill him, he has done this before. Don’t kill him. Zuko thought trying to keep himself calm. It wasn’t easy so he resorted to a trick he had learned recently, the Dragon’s Breath. Through the fire sprouting from his mouth he could have sworn he heard his uncle saying: “I’m lucky to have such an understanding nephew.”

 

Zuko stormed to his room, nearly tearing the door from the hinges when he slammed it shut. He couldn’t believe his uncle. He acted as if he didn’t understand the importance of their mission!

“What’s wrong with shopping?” a voice asked. The prince huffed. Not her now!

“Seriously, what’s wrong with shopping?” Lia insisted.

“For you maybe it’s okay.” Zuko snapped. “For me, with my uncle tagging along, it’s torture. I’d rather have another run in with Zhao!”

Lia winced. “That bad.”

“If he was just browsing through the port it would be sufferable. But he buys everything he sees in front of him! Sometimes I feel like I’m the adult on this ship.” He threw himself on the bed next to her. Lia looked at him compassionately.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked.

“Could you plague the entire seacoast?” Zuko muttered gloomily.

“I could try…” Lia said thoughtfully.

In an instant Zuko shot standing looking at her horrified. “I was joking!”

“Me too!” she answered calmly. “I can’t believe you fell for it.”

Zuko scowled. “Thanks. You are worse than uncle Iroh.”

The redhead didn’t answer at first. She had a distant look in her face as if she was remembering something long gone. “Worse than Iroh…”she said absentmindedly. “This will be a revealing trip, in more than one way, for more than one person.” Her gaze cleared. “I’ll be around if you need anything. Just call out for me.”

 

She left Zuko to ponder her words. The next day, at sunset, he was still thinking of them as a way to distract himself from his uncle’s antics.

“I checked all the shops here. Not a lotus tile in the entire marketplace!” Iroh was aghast.

“It’s good to know that this trip was an entire waste of time for everyone.” Zuko snapped, his patience long gone.

“Quite the contrary,” his uncle assured him, “I always say that the only thing better than finding something you are looking for is finding something you weren’t looking for, at a great bargain!”

Zuko couldn’t help but feel sorry for the soldiers enlisted to carry his uncle’s collection of bargains. That is, until the last man passed. He turned surprised to the older man.

“You bought a Tsungi Horn?”

“For music night on the ship! Now if we only had some woodwinds…” Iroh began walking again. They were approaching the end of the port, where a pirate ship was docked.

“Oh, this place looks promising!” Iroh exclaimed in the excited voice of a six-year-old on too much sugar.

 

Inside there were all kind of strange merchandise. Zuko followed his uncle feeling more and more depressed. Iroh approached a horribly carved monkey with ruby eyes.

“Oh that is handsome! Won’t it look it look magnificent in the galley?”

His nephew rolled his eyes, wishing for a miracle. It came. One of the crew approached the captain pirate looking disappointed.

“We lost the Water Tribe girl and the little monk she was traveling with.”

Katara? What was she doing here?  Zuko halted realizing he had thought of the girl instead of the Avatar. He shook his head, ordering his stupid mind to Focus, and turned to the pirates.

“This monk, did he have an arrow on his head?” he asked.

 

That was indeed quite a revealing visit, Zuko thought smugly as he left the pirate ship, rather pleased with himself. He didn’t like the idea of working with their sort of people, but he had learnt the hard way that the Avatar was not to be underestimated. He played absentmindedly with the girl’s necklace, still wound securely around his wrist. She had stolen a waterbending scroll. So she was a waterbender. He had suspected as much but dismissed the thought. It was commonly assumed that there were no waterbenders left at the South Pole. Now he really couldn’t wait until their next encounter.

 

At sunset he took the smaller boat that normally functioned as a lifeboat and, along with his uncle, a few of his crew and the pirates, began searching the river.

“Shouldn’t we stop to search the woods?” the pirate captain asked.

“We don’t need to stop. They stole a waterbending scroll right?” The pirate nodded. “Then they’ll be on the water.” Wasn’t it obvious?

 

By night time they still hadn’t found the Avatar and his companions. The pirates were losing their patience, judging by the dark looks Zuko was getting. Suddenly they heard splashing. Katara was standing at the riverbank, trying a move and obviously not getting it right. She tried again and again, still with no success. Zuko absently motioned to the pirates to move first, almost too lost in observing her motions and half-muttered exclamations. She was even cuter when she was angry, he decided.

 

Katara of the Southern Water Tribe was mad. A day’s worth of frustrations were piling up, her inability to master the waterwhip, jealousy at Aang for getting it right in the first five minutes and a healthy dose of unjustified anger directed at the pirates for having the waterbending scroll in the first place. Overall, Katara decided, the whole stupid universe seemed to be against her at this point. Her dark musings were interrupted when she heard rustling nearby. Tiptoeing closer, she barely stifled a gasp at the sight of prince Zuko’s boat along with the pirate ship.

I need to tell the others she thought, turning to get the scroll, only to smash right into one of the pirates. He took hold of her with one arm, reaching for the scroll with the other.

“Let go of me!” Katara shouted, her arms going through the motions for the waterwhip. The man released her with a curse, cradling his stinging face, and she ran away from him, only to fall right into prince Zuko’s arms.

 

Zuko couldn’t believe his good luck. Not only it was Katara practicing by the river, but she was now his hostage. She had flown away from the pirate literally into his arms. He grabbed her wrists carefully, holding her close as he whispered to her:

“I’ll save you from the pirates.”

The moment the words came out his mouth, he regretted them. Why the hell would he say such a thing? And why was he holding her like she was made of glass when he had just seen that she was anything but defenceless? Zuko let go of Katara roughly, ordering his men to tie her to a nearby tree.

“Tell me where he is and I won’t hurt you or your brother.” He promised her.

“Go jump in the river!” was the only response the waterbender gave him before resuming her steely glare. Zuko looked at her from her head to toes. Even in a situation like this she looked… beautiful, his treacherous mind supplied. He had only seen her in her winter attire and he had to admit that he liked her better like this. Suddenly a thought crossed his mind. Am I checking her out?

 

Unbeknownst to him Katara was thinking along the same lines. Did this guy just check me out?  The thought confused her. Why would Zuko of all people do this? She had expected yelling, threats, maybe even violence but he had done none of that. He had even promised to let her and Sokka live. And now he was approaching her…

“Try to understand,” he pleaded, hoping to reason with her. “I need to capture him to restore something I’ve lost. My honour.” He was standing next to her now and the feel of him so close sent her heart racing. But why? She turned her head to the other side, half-wishing to banish these new thoughts. “Perhaps in exchange I can restore something you lost.” He offered taking out her necklace, acting as if he was going to place it on her neck.

“My mother’s necklace!” Katara gasped.

So that’s why it was so important! Zuko thought. He felt a twinge of guilt for using something so personal to bribe her but he didn’t have much of a choice. He shuddered at the thought of what the pirates might do to her if she didn’t comply.

“How did you get that?” Katara asked him accusingly.

“I didn’t steal it if that’s what you’re wondering.” Zuko answered curtly. “Tell me where he is!”

“No!”

 

“Enough of this necklace garbage” the pirate captain interfered. “You promised the scroll!”

Zuko and Katara looked at him surprise, having nearly forgotten that there was an audience to their banter. Zuko just about refrained from rolling his eyes in exasperation. Didn’t the man understand how hard it was for this girl to even consider betraying her friends? That he enjoyed their back-and-forth, the prince decided resolutely, had nothing to do with it. As for the pirates… He took out the scroll.

“I wonder how much money this is worth?” he said acting as if he was going to burn it. The pirates looked horrified at the mere thought. “A lot apparently.” Zuko smirked. “Now, you’ll help me find what I want and you’ll get this back and everyone goes home happy. Search the woods for the boy and bring him back here.”

“Fine.” The pirates grumbled and disappeared in the woods.

 

Night progressed steadily but the pirates didn’t return. This probably meant they hadn’t found the campsite, where Aang and Sokka were sleeping, yet, Katara thought. Unfortunately the exhaustion from her long day was finally catching up with her as the adrenaline left her system. Not that she could do much about it seeing that she was still tied to a tree. The old man who was accompanying Zuko, as well as his soldiers had returned to the boat, probably to sleep, but the prince hadn’t moved from his standing place a few meters away from her. Her eyes closed once again, tiredness finally pulling her under. Katara desperately tried to fight the sleep, knowing it was pointless, when she felt a pair of strong arms holding her. She opened her eyes surprised to see Zuko loosening her ties and helping her sit in a way that she could sleep comfortably, even if she could not escape. She met his face, shocked to see him looking at her with care.

“I’ll bring you a blanket.” He told her softly. “Just promise not to run off, okay? And you’ll have to be standing like before when they return.”

“Why are you doing this?” Katara asked him sharply, torn between suspicion and disbelief.

Zuko looked at her surprised. “You’re tired and you’d hurt yourself if you fell asleep like this. I don’t want that to happen.” He answered, the last part escaping without his meaning to. He stood and stalked back to the boat to fetch a blanket, hoping that the burning he felt in his face was not a blush. Katara could just about keep herself from gasping aloud when the prince lowered himself next to her to tuck the blanket around her crouched form.

“Sleep well,” he whispered, almost reluctantly, before retreating back to his previous position.

 

Despite the confused thoughts running through her head, Katara managed to sleep soundly for a few hours. Her dreams were interrupted suddenly, when she felt someone shaking her.

“Katara wake up!” she heard a boy whispering. She opened her eyes to see Zuko’s face inches from hers. Before she had a chance to protest he stood, helping her up in the process. “My uncle will be coming out of the boat any minute now. He can’t see this.”

At the sound of his words Katara tensed. She saw Zuko hastily fixing the rope, not really paying attention on what he was doing. The blanket was already gone from sight. His uncle must be terrifying, if he acts like this, she thought nervously.

 

On that note – and as Zuko was jumping away from her – the old man exited the boat. Seeing Katara standing still tied and half-asleep he shook his head disapprovingly at Zuko.

“Really prince Zuko, couldn’t you have been a little more hospitable with the lovely lady?” he berated the boy. His nephew didn’t answer, merely looking away. Katara listened to the whole exchange, astonished. So Zuko didn’t want his uncle to know that he cared. Why?

 

She didn’t have time to ponder the ins and outs of a firebender’s thought process as the pirates chose that moment to reappear, dragging Aang and Sokka along.

“Nice work” Zuko praised them. He moved to give them the scroll when Katara’s voice rang out.

“Aang I’m sorry. This is all my fault.”

“No Katara, it isn’t” the Avatar reassured her.

“Actually it kind of is…” his uncle jumped in.

“Give me the boy.” Zuko ordered.

“You give us the scroll” the pirate leader shot back.

“You’re really going to give in the Avatar for a stupid piece of parchment?” suddenly the Water Tribe boy exclaimed, disbelief coating his words.

“Don’t listen to him. He’s trying to turn us against each other.” Zuko hastily said.

“Your friend is the Avatar?” the captain asked.

“Sure he is!” the boy assured them. “And I bet that he will fetch a lot more in the black market than a fancy scroll…”

“Shut your mouth you Water Tribe peasant!” Zuko erupted.

“Yeah Sokka, you really should shut your mouth.” Aaang warned him. Sokka obviously didn’t get the message.

“I’m just saying it’s bad business.” He shrugged as best as he could with his arms tied. “Just imagine how much the Fire Lord would pay for the Avatar. You guys would be set for life.”

“Keep the scroll,” the captain told dismissively Zuko. “We can buy a hundred with the reward for the kid.”

 

The pirate crew turned to leave.

“You’ll regret breaking a deal with me.” Zuko muttered angrily. He and the soldiers sent a massive wall of fire towards the pirates. They fought back and soon the whole battlefield was covered in concealing smoke. Katara took the chance and tried to loosen the rope. Surprised she noticed that it gave way with almost no effort. Zuko must have forgotten to tighten it, worried as he was for his uncle. She darted to the pirate ship, trying to push it back into the water.

 

Meanwhile Zuko was pulled out of the smoke. He took a moment to secure the scroll in his belt, freeing both his hands. The captain saw him and tried to attack. Zuko quickly took hold of both the man’s wrists, but before he had a chance to do anything else he felt the scroll leaving his belt. He turned to see a pirate sending it flying. He returned his focus on his opponent, not much caring for the parchment anyway. Suddenly his uncle came between them.

“Are you so busy fighting,” he berated them, “that you don’t notice your own ship has set sale?”

“We have no time for your proverbs uncle.” Zuko told him

“It’s no proverb.” Iroh answered motioning at the ship leaving, having been commandeered by the Avatar and his friends.

“Bladed hog-monkeys!” the captain exclaimed, running after them. Zuko burst out laughing, until he saw the pirates seizing his boat.

“Hey!” he yelled, running after them too. “That’s my boat!”

“Maybe it should be a proverb.” Iroh said to himself.

“Come on uncle!” Zuko called him.

 

The two firebenders stopped in shock as both boats, carried downstream by the strong currents, were taken down at a nearby waterfall none of them had noticed. Zuko’s thoughts came to a screeching halt, denial covering every single one of them like a fog. Then the Avatar’s bison appeared seemingly out of nowhere and Zuko breathed a sigh of relief and promptly dismissed any inkling of worry he might have felt. Now he only had to worry about…

“My boat!” he said furious, as he leaned over the edge and saw its remains on the rocks below. His uncle finally approached him panting.

“Prince Zuko you’re really going to get a kick out of this,” he said with a breathless chuckle. “The lotus tile was in my sleeve the whole time!”

Zuko turned wordlessly and grabbed the stupid tile. If it hadn’t been for that none of this would have happened. He threw it as far as he could – which was quite far –in an effort to calm himself. “Come on.” He grumbled to Iroh. “We have quite some walking to do.”

 

They finally arrived at their ship long after the sun had set. Zuko waited until everyone else had retired, before getting out of his hiding place on deck. He was so lost in thought he didn’t see Lia materialising on his side until she shook his shoulder. He jumped surprised.

“I need to ask you something.” He told her in the tense tone of someone questioning their own sanity.

“Sure!” she answered casually, hopping lightly on the railing and sitting on it.

“Yesterday, with the pirates, I don’t know if you were there…” Zuko trailed off, looking at her helplessly. He didn’t have the slightest idea of how to explain his actions even to himself.

“I was. And I have an explanation for you but I don’t know if you’ll like it.”

“I probably won’t,” Zuko shrugged. “But tell me anyway.”

“Very well.” Lia took a breath. “You like Katara. As in like-like her.” Zuko looked at her blankly for a moment, before her words registered.

“What?” he sputtered in disbelief. “How can I? I don’t even know her and besides! She’s just a Water Tribe peasant!”

Lia rolled her eyes. “I’ll save you from the pirates.” She mimicked. Then she smiled. “It was a bit romantic, you know. Besides you did propose to her in a way.”

“H…how?” Zuko paled. Of all the things, this was not what he had expected to hear. Lia pointed at the necklace he had been absentmindedly playing with during their conversation.

“This is a Water Tribe betrothal necklace. By offering it to her, well, you kind of asked her to marry you.”

“Spirits help me!” he groaned.

“Be careful what you wish for… However, if it makes you feel better, Katara doesn’t know the significance of it either. For her it’s just a memento from her mother.” Her reassurance didn’t seem to work.

“What can I do?” Zuko asked her desperately.

 

A noise from the door leading below deck interrupted them.

“For now?” Lia whispered. “Hide because someone’s coming. I’ll see you soon.”

When Iroh came out he just saw prince Zuko sitting alone, gazing at the moon, the waterbender’s necklace still at hand. The old man smiled. The trip on the market was a very good idea indeed.

Spring Trip 2014 – Day 3 – English version

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Breakfast with the Mayans

Recently I read Chocolat by Joanne Harris and her description of a chocolaterie resembled a dream. A dream that, to my immense happiness, came true in York in the form of the York Cocoa House. Everything served there has cocoa included in some way, and their variety of hot chocolates is enough to make anyone drool –excuse me while I wipe my keyboard- I sincerely recommend their Spanish hot chocolate. It’s bitter and thick and just missing a dash of chilli to make you think you’re in Mexico and hanging out with Montezuma.

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Lists and priorities

The main reason behind this trip was to check out the universities I’m considering applying on for my Master’s degree. When one makes such a list, one ought to consider things like the quality and reputation of a university, what is offered on campus, how safe the city is, the fees and so on and so forth, Practical stuff that ought to take the lead.

These are NOT the only criteria for a successful choice. A city might be safe but five minutes breathing its air and you’re ready to go. A university could have amazing professors but horrible amenities on campus. It might sound silly, but think about it! You would spend a lot more than a couple of days at this place; you need to be certain it works.

Which is why I spent my day just walking around the city. The weather could not make up its mind, one moment it was drizzling, the next it was sunny. I really like York although it’s certainly bigger than Norwich. It has that mix of old and new, fantasy and reality, city and countryside… I can’t describe it. But I have always gone with my gut instinct, and if it’s telling me I’ve struck gold here… well I’m not about to argue the point!

King’s Manor

My stroll was not completely without purpose. I did visit the King’s Manor, where the university’s Medieval Department is housed (along with a few others). Needless to say, I believe, how incredibly awesome it would be to study medieval literature in an equally old building.

The diamond on my crown

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a friend about good ol’Shakespeare and how much I would like to get my hands on one of the original editions of the First Folio (or the foul papers, I’m not picky). Imagine my happiness when I came nose to glass case with one such copy at the Yorkshire museum. I couldn’t touch it of course, but even to see it… I dare say that would have made this whole trip worth it even if nothing else here had stricken my fancy.

Spring Trip 2014 – Day 3

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Πρωινό με τους Μάγια

Πρόσφατα διάβασα το Chocolat της Joanne Harris και η περιγραφή της σοκολατερί θύμιζε όνειρο. Προς μεγάλη μου χαρά ανακάλυψα ότι το York έχει κάτι παρόμοιο, το York Cocoa House. Καθετί που σερβίρουν περιλαμβάνει κακάο σε κάποια μορφή, και η ποικιλία σε ζεστές σοκολάτες είναι αρκετή για να κάνει οποιονδήποτε να τρελαθεί από την λιγούρα. Συστήνω ανεπιφύλακτα την Ισπανική τους ζεστή σοκολάτα. Πικρή και πηκτή, της λείπει μόνο το τσίλι και θα νόμιζες ότι είσαι στο Μεξικό παρέα με τον Μοντεζούμα.

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Λίστες και προτεραιότητες

Ο κύριος λόγος για αυτό το ταξίδι ήταν να τσεκάρω τα πανεπιστήμια στα οποία σκέφτομαι να κάνω αίτηση για το μεταπτυχιακό μου. Όταν φτιάχνει κανείς μια τέτοια λίστα, πρέπει να λάβει υπόψη του πράγματα όπως την ποιότητα και φήμη της σχολής, τις παροχές του πανεπιστημίου, την ασφάλεια της πόλης, τα δίδακτρα… Πρακτικά πράγματα τα οποία οφείλουν να πάρουν προτεραιότητα.

Αυτά όμως δεν είναι τα μόνα κριτήρια για μια επιτυχημένη επιλογή. Μια πόλη μπορεί να έχει καλή φήμη αλλά πέντε λεπτά αναπνέοντας τον αέρα της και δεν βλέπεις την ώρα να φύγεις. Ή το πανεπιστήμιο μπορεί να έχει εξαιρετικούς καθηγητές αλλά φρικτό campus. Ίσως να ακούγεται ανώριμο, αλλά αν πρόκειται να μείνεις κάπου για περισσότερο από δυο-τρεις μέρες πρέπει να είσαι απόλυτα σίγουρη.

Με αυτό το σκεπτικό πέρασα την ημέρα μου απλά τριγυρίζοντας εδώ κι εκεί. Ο καιρός δεν μπορούσε να αποφασίσει τι ήθελε: μια έβρεχε, μια είχε ήλιο. Το York μου αρέσει αν και είναι μεγαλύτερο από το Norwich. Το μίγμα παλιού και νέου, φαντασίας και πραγματικότητας, πόλης και εξοχής… Δεν μπορεί να περιγραφεί. Πάντα εμπιστευόμουνα το ένστικτο μου, και αν το ένστικτο μου μου λέει ότι το York είναι η χρυσή επιλογή… ε, δεν θα διαφωνήσω κιόλας!

Kings Manor

Η βόλτα μου δεν ήταν εντελώς χωρίς νόημα. Επισκέφτηκα το King’s Manor, όπου το Μεσαιωνικό τμήμα το πανεπιστημίου (και μερικά άλλα) στεγάζεται. Περιττό, φαντάζομαι, να περιγράψω πόσο απίθανο θα είναι μελετήσω μεσαιωνική λογοτεχνία σε ένα εξίσου παλιό κτίριο.

Το διαμάντι στο στέμμα μου

Πριν κανά δυο βδομάδες συζητούσα με μια φίλη για Shakespeare και πόσο θα ήθελα να μελετήσω μια πρώτη έκδοση των έργων του. Φανταστείτε λοιπόν την χαρά μου όταν βρέθηκα μύτη με προθήκη με μια πρώτη έκδοση του Folio. Δεν μπορούσα να το αγγίξω βέβαια, αλλά και μόνο που το είδα… Τολμώ να πω ότι και τίποτα άλλο να μην μου είχε αρέσει εδώ, αυτό και μόνο θα έκανε το ταξίδι να αξίζει.