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Entry #2

Discussion in 'Q4 2019' started by Xiph0, Nov 19, 2019.

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  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

    Dec 7, 2005
    West Bank
    "The Luna Lovegood Guide to Making Babies"

    Luna Lovegood went to China under the premise of following up on the sighting of an unknown half-bird looking for its other half. The real reason for her trip was because Neville Longbottom couldn’t get Hannah Abbott pregnant.

    The Fertility Crescent was in the Southwestern region, Sichuan. It was aptly named, with lush forests curving gently around a mountainous range. Luna briefly checked on lodging prices before her visit, and confronted with the cost, decided that spending a few nights splayed on moss carpets beneath the stars would be perfectly delightful.

    Abundant tourism from vacationing muggles inflated prices in the area. Publicization of “miraculous stories” made it a popular destination: An American couple went on to have triplets after three nights there, a forty year old woman became pregnant after ingesting a bowl of duck blood (and a tumble with her husband), breeders produced larger litters of prized crosses. If it was something to do with procreation recreation, somebody had done it. Likely many times.

    Hannah had hopelessly told Luna they tried many times.

    Where rumors fly, odds are, one of them hits the truth, so Luna packed her subtropical climate survival bag and set forth on a journey to find help for her friends.

    The village itself was bustling with activity. Tourists in khakis and polos strolled the streets, gawking at exotic goods hawked by vendors yelling in broken English.

    “Come buy, come buy! Love tonic will give long night.”

    “Guarantee baby in two month if eat one pill a day.”

    “Dry rabbit will help produce like rabbit.”

    Multi-story hotels designed to mimic pagodas were scattered amongst dilapidated cement buildings. Shirtless men reclined in doorways, leisurely smoking pipes and chewing tobacco. The stench of incense mingled with the musty scent of wet clothes that hadn’t been laid out to dry.

    Luna was soaked with sweat. She paused to purchase a cup of winter melon juice. The lady behind the stand winked at her, faux whispering, “I give you two dollar discount. You have nice, plump, baby boy soon.”

    Would she become a modern day Virgin Mary? Surreptitiously, Luna poked her stomach. Mary always had a gorgeous, deep blue wrap in the pictures. Luna hummed thoughtfully, and imagined draping a cloak embroidered with Delphiniums across her shoulders.

    Taking a sip of her juice, Luna said, “I certainly wouldn’t mind being a saint,” thanked the lady for her generosity, and carried on.

    She was engrossed in admiring an impulse purchase, a fuchsia chamber pot, when a cry from behind caught her attention. A glance explained the situation. Wooden fortune slips were scattered on the ground, spilling out from a woven basket. An extremely sunburnt but well-dressed man towered over a girl who could not be older than ten years old. He was bristling, neck bent forward and down like a disturbed bicorn, his arm pawing uselessly at the air as he raised his voice.

    “You think you can rip me off by selling mangled wood chips? Is that it? You can’t tell my future, but I can tell yours.” The man sneered. “Abandoned kids like you decay in piles of sh—”.

    “Excuse me,” Luna interrupted, tapping on his shoulder. She hadn’t realized she had stepped so close. “Might I suggest you carry this to ward off the rain?” The chamber pot was smoothly tucked into his outstretched hand.

    The man stared, flabbergasted, at Luna, at the pink monstrosity, then at Luna again. All his anger from before gathered to a single point of confused fury and he hissed, “Are you out of your mind? It’s clear skies out.”

    Luna nodded vigorously. “Yes, it’s very important to stay dry. Unless you’re trying to have a baby. They need a wet environment.”

    She peered at his beer belly and furrowed her eyebrows. “Are you trying? I’m so sorry if you are—it must be so frustrating. Perhaps you shouldn’t avoid the rain after all.”

    Slowly, eyes wide and mildly disturbed, the man backed away. “You’re mad.” He glanced around quickly. “Stay the hell away.”

    He dropped the pot, which shattered into pieces. Then he ran, haltingly, watching over his shoulder to see if she followed. Silly man. Only curupiras ran like that. Perhaps he was in disguise?

    Smiling slightly, Luna turned to the girl, whose eyes were even wider than the man’s had been. Bending down, she picked up one of the wood chips, on which was written an English phrase in messy calligraphy, and returned it to its owner. Appearing to read the words, the girl seemed to be suddenly shaken out of her stupor.

    She fumbled to sweep up all the chips. Luna bent down to help. Basket once again full, the girl glanced shyly at Luna through her fringes. Standing, she bowed low from the waist, and reached out to tug on Luna’s wrist.

    Without a word, Luna was pulled past the onlookers, through the crowds, and away from the street stalls. She lost track of the number of alleys they cut through, but onward they sped, left, right, left, and left again, until they stood in front of a small, wooden hut. The girl pushed open the door and glided in. Luna proceeded without hesitation.

    The room was dimly lit, and deathly quiet, but the sweet smell of marinated stew was unmistakable. An iron pot was being heated by a low fire. Luna closed her eyes and inhaled anise, cinnamon, ginger—and the telltale tingle of magic brushed across her neck. She was instantly on alert.

    An old woman sat in a shadowed corner on a bamboo stool. She was dressed in rags, and appeared to be covered in long brown-orange fur. With one clawed hand, she held one of the girl’s fortune chips. Neither the woman nor the stool had been there before. The girl was nowhere to be seen.

    Rasping, the woman spoke. Her voice didn’t have a clear pitch, alternating from baritone to the high whine of a girl child’s. “We don’t get many like you around here. Especially sensitive ones. What do you want?”

    Luna clasped her hands behind her back and leaned on her toes. She recognized the being before her from researching folklore. “Hu Gu Po, thank you for having me in your parlor. I’m here because my friends can’t have a baby, so I was looking for a way to help.”

    The old woman barked out a laugh. “You won’t find the means to aid a magical conception in the village! Those vultures sell at noon the first thing they scramble together in the morning. The gaudier the better. And the magical bleed off in this region is enough that everything is seeped with fertility to affect even the ungifted.”

    Her gaze turned sly. “The deep wild, on the other hand…few venture in. You will find what you seek there.”

    “But what do I seek?” Luna asked. It was always best to make sure.

    At this, the old woman narrowed her eyes. Her gaze was so heavy, Luna wanted to check if she was hiding another eye. Crones often had multiple.

    Several minutes went by. Finally, the old woman opened her mouth. “Everything comes from something, no? To have effect, you must have cause. Good food comes from good ingredients. If we eat hot foods, we become inflamed. Toxins lead to poisoning. To have wisdom, you must first have knowledge. Do you see?”

    Luna did. “To have a baby, you must eat a baby.”

    The woman nodded. “Indeed.”

    Having just heard the importance of cause and effect, Luna posed a pressing question. “Thank you for the advice. I am grateful, but why are you helping me?”

    That ancient gaze shifted to the wooden fortune chip in her hand. “You picked this one.” And then she vanished.

    Luna blinked to make sure. Sometimes things that disappeared came back. She had regained lost items this way, but Hu Gu Po stayed gone.

    There is a Chinese tale told to children in order to keep them from venturing too far from home. A she-beast emerges from the deep forest that can take the shape of anyone she eats, mimicking the victim’s tones and mannerisms to lure in a circle of acquaintances. Hu Gu Po could take over an entire village.

    Luna lowered her pack and reached inside for the raw piece of lamb meat she kept for occasions like this. She knew it didn’t substitute for human flesh, but symbolism mattered. A sacrifice in her place. Laying it in the corner the old woman had occupied, Luna felt a brush across her neck. Calmly, she turned around, only to see the girl hovering in the doorway. She pointed outside, towards looming mountains partly obscured by mist that hadn’t been present before. With another blink, the girl vanished.

    Humming as she hiked uphill through brush, Luna pondered potential potion components. With a grasp on the theory, she could’ve gone back to England for the project, but she decided to stay. The land had history, and magic had a way of conforming things to history, which in turn made history more set in stone. Ingredients harvested in this specific region would be more potent.

    Luna wouldn’t be surprised if the forest had a creature overpopulation issue. Or had the forest itself also grown at the same rate to keep up? But then why wasn’t the region expanding to cover more ground? Or maybe it was?

    Bending to pluck a motherwort sprig for Hannah’s health, Luna made a note to measure the circumference of the Crescent. She could compare her recordings the next time she returned.

    It began to rain. The thicket grew thicker and thicker, the magic denser. Ferns towered unnaturally high, blocking out the sun. She began spotting glow bugs and cobra lilies.

    It was getting difficult to see ahead and the sun had set, so Luna hunkered down beneath cypress branches and prepared to spend the night, albeit without the stars.

    The rain had lightened the next morning, though it was still a challenge to navigate the forest, so Luna reached into her pack for her favorite scented headlamp. An “excitant” turned on the light, and lavender wafted from her forehead.

    It wasn’t long before she heard buzzing. A curious bamboo sprite with opal wings hovered over, attracted by the scent and light, and settled by her ear. Gathering a few glowing hair strands, it began weaving a golden braid.

    Luna slowed her pace. “Hello there! You have lovely wings. Would you mind guiding me to the nearest plum tree so I can admire them from behind?”

    The sprite dawdled indecisively, gripping tightly to the weave, so Luna reached up with her wand and neatly sliced it off. “Have this boon as an expression of my gratitude. I’m flattered you love it so.” Buzzing contently, the fairy zipped off, and Luna jogged to keep up.

    The pair travelled for hours and the slope was steep, so she was panting when the plum tree came to view. The fairy rounded the tree twice, buzzed loudly, and then flew away. Deftly, Luna plucked a ripe fruit from the tree and carefully placed it in the preservation pocket of her pack. Grabbing one more, she took a bite, letting the juice dye her hands.

    Plum should pair nicely with the motherwort. The Chinese character for plum was made up of the characters for wood and child, and the prolific fruits produced by the tree symbolized fertility. Plus both plants were tinted purple, her favorite color.

    Casting an extra charged supersensory charm, Luna focused her nose…and promptly sneezed. She’d forgotten to inactivate her scented headlamp. Sniffling, she cast a lumos and headed west. Or east? She’d reach the same place, really.

    Passing an ancient, enormous camphor tree, she stole a leaf and crushed it into paste. It was a natural insect repellent.

    Luna allowed her nose to lead, until she finally found the Osmanthus fragrans she scented miles back. The Chinese had a saying: “breaking the osmanthus twig and mounting the dragon.” It meant sex, so Luna snagged a few for good measure.

    After a few more wandering hours, she identified the decaying stench of a swamp. She followed it for awhile, and waded through muddy waters to reach a lotus flower, fanned open in full bloom. In Buddhist teachings, the holy flower represented purity emerging from primordial muck. Its delicate pink petals had the same tint as a baby’s cheeks.

    The easy part of her task was done, so Luna redirected her focus towards baby characteristics. They were young – that was important. Cute, because Luna loved monkeys. And as curious yet quick to react to danger as a newborn clabbert. But Luna was fairly certain that these things would develop naturally. What was really important was the characteristics of Neville and Hannah’s baby.

    Just thinking about it was a little stressful, so Luna crouched and activated her headlamp to calm down. Because it was a lot of responsibility to make a baby, and one had to be careful with symbols. It would be disastrous if she accidentally made an adult. Kindness, empathy, and loyalty were choices, and there were no shortcuts to growing up.

    Luna loved her friends. They weren’t perfect, and they sometimes clashed, but when you took their separateness and cohered them together, you got a collective able to defeat the scattered pieces that were Lord Voldemort.

    Dear Neville was brave, true, but that bravery had started as something else. A seed watered over seven years. What had been the seed?

    Remembering that Hu Gu Po had pointed at the mountain, Luna decided it would be best to keep climbing up. She gathered goods as she walked. Bundles of wild green onion and a head of cabbage. A few fruits from a persimmon tree.

    It took three more days, but her surroundings got brighter as the elevation increased. The rain never stopped. Sometime between this and that step, a thick, roiling mist had set in. It must’ve been mid-afternoon, but the space above her was a dreary, impenetrable gray. The air was thin to inhale, yet gooey to touch, like the sticky ends of creeper vines. Her clothes stuck fast to her wet skin.

    A meter ahead, she thought she saw a humanoid shape and her heart skipped a beat. Static crackled just under her skin, as her magic churned to the surface.

    It was a dead tree. Luna let out a breath and stepped around it.

    She froze.

    There was skeleton peering at her, except it wasn’t a skeleton, because its bony hands were trying to groom its face though it had no fur. It stood on hind legs and matched her height, but as it noticed her attention, its vertebral column lengthened until it towered a meter above her. A rattling moan echoed in her skull.

    It lunged forward.

    Luna lurched to the side and cast a cutting curse at its neck. Her magic passed right through and left no mark. That extensively narrowed down possible culprits. The thing flicked its bony tail at her and she threw up a shield. It whipped right through.

    For a moment, everything was black, and then Luna was in pain. She knew she was rolling down the slope and items were falling out of her pack but she couldn’t see anything—

    Blindly, she lashed out with her wand and transfigured her target into a hedge. It stopped her momentum, and she lay there, gasping. She could hear the rattling of bones, approaching with terrifying speed, and she thought of other dark, deathly creatures that magic didn’t seem to work on.

    Expecto patronum!” Luna declared, and the familiar wispy hare jumped out of her wand just as the creature came into view. They collided with force, and the thing screamed on contact except nothing came out of its mouth it was just in her head and she wanted to throw up and then it exploded, dispersing into black particles that floated without falling to the ground.

    Luna cast a bubblehead charm. She didn’t know how long she sat there, but slowly, her thoughts came into order. She knew what that had been.

    It was called a Baigujing, a skeleton spirit, and they didn’t die. As far as Luna knew, the particles would slowly coalesce and reform the monster, so long as ambient magic was strong enough. How long did she have? She couldn’t recall, but she forced herself to stand and briskly accessed her wounds. They seemed mostly superficial.

    The saving hedge looked like a massive cabbage, which was odd, because Luna hadn’t been picturing anything…Ah. It was her cabbage. And cabbages had a lucky connotation. Symbolism was so important.

    Rapidly, Luna recovered her things, and pushed forward once again. Healing small cuts and bruises as she stepped over dried brush, she was reminded about Hannah’s decision to pursue a future as a healer.

    An unexpected, but familiar surge of grief overtook her, because Hannah was also so brave. She had gone back to school despite everything, and had fought in the war not for revenge, but because she believed it was right. Despite everything she had fought, and everything was really everything because even now Luna still missed her mum. And she was certain Hannah missed hers.

    In a flash, she knew what the baby needed. If there was anything of Hannah’s that needed to be passed on, it was her perseverance. Luna didn’t know what she would use yet, but she was suddenly absolutely confident it was on top of the mountain.

    Sometimes tomorrow felt like today. That was to say, sometimes when tomorrow came, Luna felt like she had already lived it. She had the same feeling now, as her feet unwaveringly found stable rocks to support her weight. It made her weary, because this task wasn’t something that should fall into patterns. Making babies was a game of chance.

    Reaching a sheer cliff face, she pulled a self-extending grappling hook out of her pack and began her climb.

    It was a long way up, and Luna felt like Jack climbing the beanstalk. Or was it Jill? She always got muggle stories muddled. Jill and the hill, perhaps? The rain didn’t let up. Inexplicably, she missed the broken chamber pot. Drying charms were useless.

    Despite having cast a water repelling charm, Luna progressed slowly, pausing on ledges to re-lodge her hook. She spent a night on a ridge. The top of the mountain remained obscured.

    A brief detour was required when Luna encountered a nest of shangyang, or rain birds. Their ancestors had danced long ago in the Qi royal court, warning of heavy, destructive rains to come. Luna made sure to cast extra sticking charms on her apparatus after that.

    She had been in the wilderness for seven days. Exhausted and wet, she laid down on the widest ridge she’d encountered yet and promptly fell asleep.

    In her dreams she saw Neville. He was animatedly explaining to her why he loved his wife. Suddenly, he stood up and pulled the Sword of Gryffindor out of a mandrake flowerpot. Pointing it at the encroaching nargles that wanted to steal her grappling hook, he shouted, “You shall not hurt Harry Potter!” and then he killed the snake.

    Luna woke up groggily. It was still dark and her grappling hook was nowhere to be seen. The fog had lifted, and though the rain continued pouring, light from a third quarter moon still pierced the clouds. What she had thought was a wide ridge was actually a grassy plateau. A herd of creatures was surrounding a fatally wounded compatriot. They did not scatter as she shifted closer.

    They looked like horses but had an extended dragon-like snout with a single whisker on each side. Shimmering blue and silver scales protected their bodies from neck down, and instead of hooves, they had claws. Feathered wings were held furled against their backs.

    The wounded horse had been torn open but was somehow still alive. She could see its gigantic, beating heart through its ribcage. It neighed weakly.

    She remembered the dream…and comprehended what was to be Neville’s gift to his child, for Neville had always possessed the biggest heart of them all. While Neville’s heart had chosen to do good, a large heart could be turned towards vengeance and rage as easily as it could chose to embrace and have compassion. The choice would be, must be, the child’s to make.

    Her hands felt very cold, because there shouldn’t have been a dying tianma here. They were celestial beings. She hadn’t wanted to cause any deaths to make a life, but this was too dramatic to have been a coincidence. Above her head, the star of Fuxing shone brightly. She had chosen the dates of her trip to capitalize on its auspiciousness, and while she hadn’t meant it, a convenient death could be categorized as fortuitous.

    The wounded celestial horse’s eyes peered into hers, but they weren’t fearful or accusing. She held its gaze, apologized anyway, and sat down to hold vigil until it passed.

    It wasn’t until morning, after she had carefully removed and preserved the enormous heart, that she remembered horses symbolized perseverance in this country. There were far too many patterns falling into place.

    Having politely asked the tianmas for the quickest way off the mountain, Luna jumped off a waterfall. Her pack doubled as a parachute, made from the skin of a balloon bug, which could expand a thousand times its size.

    Just before she hit the Yangtze River, Luna threw out the green onion bundles she had gathered, transfiguring them into a log raft.

    The waters were teeming with life, as were the banks. Imperial dragonflies flitted through the air, dodging carps the size of retrievers that leapt out to catch them. Alizors watched from dove trees, amongst white flowers bunched like nesting birds. She even spotted a baiji, a pearl white river dolphin muggles believed to have gone extinct, playing in the shallows. She used her expanded parachute to take cover from the rain.

    None of the rivers of England had the same abundance, though the Crescent was known for enhancing proliferation. None were quite so pristine, either. Muggle and magical pollution had been destroying life for ages. Not for the first time, Luna prayed the blibbering humdinger wasn’t lost to history forever. She spent her eighth night on the raft, dreaming of long dead beings immortalized in the constellations above.

    She felt the compulsion before recognizing it as one. Scanning the banks yielded nothing out of place. The compulsion to approach its source intensified, and it was obvious that whatever it was, it was on the river. River turbidity had increased with the heavy rains, so though she tried to hunt for a creature in the waters, it was obscured by murkiness.

    The raft turned a corner, and abruptly Luna was speeding towards a gigantic rock jutting out of the river. Smaller but equally sharp rocks were haphazardly scattered everywhere, generating a deadly labyrinth.

    Luna frantically searched for a route, but the currents were too strong, and she couldn’t see their paths.

    The compulsion came again, warm like lavender cocoa and and peaceful like meadows and familiar like mum. Luna sobbed.

    “Come to me,” sang the gigantic rock.

    Luna went, because it felt good, and she believed in the goodness of things.

    Just before she was to crash into irrecoverable pieces, the magic wrapped around her raft and lifted it into the air. Up she went, until she reached the top, and came face to face with a giant softshell turtle. Except it was ruby red.

    “Hello,” it said extremely slowly. “Welcome to Kongling Shoal. I was told to save you a shell.”

    Luna didn’t ask who, because she knew who. She didn’t ask why, because soft turtle shells were incredible potion stabilizers. She didn’t ask how, or when, because that was second year material.

    “What?” she croaked. It repeated itself again, extremely slowly.

    Giving in, she asked where she should go next. Fate wrapped hands around her neck and squeezed.

    “The outskirts of the village, towards the north,” the turtle intoned. “The baiji will guide you there.”

    Indeed, the white dolphin was back, and when the magic had lowered her and the raft down to the river, it sped off, splashing its tail occasionally to broadcast its location.

    Making a baby should’ve been hard but joyous. Luna hadn’t felt this terrified since the Battle of Hogwarts.

    Stepping onto dry land, Luna waved farewell to the dolphin. The forest here didn’t have the weighty echoes of magic she’d felt closer to the mountain, but it was there all the same. She found a small patch of chrysanthemums and snagged orange blossoms. Hopefully they would enhance Neville’s vitality.

    Muddy footprints followed wherever she walked, for the rain was still falling. After hiking for awhile, she heard squelching, and when she looked back, she saw two sets of prints. Before she could react, an owl-eyed, silver haired demiguise turned off its invisibility. Luna’s heart sank, because it was undeniable that she had been embroiled in a plot of precognition.

    The demiguise padded forward and silently pointed under a decaying log.

    Luna turned it over to find a patch of wild ginseng, said to be extinct in China. The Chinese characters for ginseng contained the symbol for “person.” The root had forked legs, and with its small size, was shaped like a child.

    Producing a spade from her pack, Luna dug deep, under the plant. Sobbing came from the ground. Luna scooped up, and the crying grew louder. As the root surfaced, the sound of confused wailing pierced her ears.

    An image of St. Mungo’s maternal ward flashed in her mind’s eye. Luna cradled the crying root in her palms and began walking towards the village.

    The hut was empty. So was the iron pot. Luna set up the potion preparation kit she kept in every one of her bags and got to work.

    The ginseng went first, to define the end goal. She kept it whole for its shape and boiled it, plugging her ears to ward off its screams. Then she added the Osmanthus twig, snapped into small pieces, and crushed chrysanthemum, stirring with the turtle shell five times clockwise and nine times counterclockwise for Neville and Hannah’s birthdays, based on the Chinese calendar. Swiftly she added the seed of the plum, then diced motherwort, for conception and carriage.

    Luna crushed the turtle shell and sprinkled it over the concoction. Carefully, she lowered the tianma heart whole. Capping the pot, she splayed on the floor to wait.

    Hannah’s perseverance and Neville’s heart. Conveniently combined characteristics in a single ingredient for their union. Guidance from creatures she had never seen before. And…the demiguise, which was notoriously avoidant of humans. She had started something, and she knew she didn’t have all the pieces, but she had to finish it anyway.

    When the heart was soft enough to mush, Luna dropped the lotus petals into the cauldron to counteract its fleshliness. Standing over the mixture, she let her magic flow and pushed down. She thought of her friends, of how much they deserved to have what they wanted, of babies and cuteness and crying roots. Of the blessing of life and the presence of death in the wilderness, of mothers and fathers, Hannah and Neville. She pressed forth with all her intent, spreading her thoughts as evenly as she could, and pushed and pushed. The potion congealed to a pudding-like mass.

    Fatigued, Luna scooped her creation into a jar, and began cleaning up. She reached for her cutting board and picked up a wooden fortune chip.

    It read, “Mary had a little lamb.”

    Chills shot up her spine. She remembered the juice stand, the spilled basket, and her offering in this hut, nine days before. When she turned around. Hu Gu Po was standing in the doorway.

    “That’s an English song,” Luna whispered. The monster replied, “Then it has an English meaning.”

    Luna steeled herself. “I’m not sacrificing my firstborn to you. I won’t have children.”

    It sneered, “Who said you haven’t already?”

    The hand holding the jar trembled. She had pursued a labor of love, carried disparate parts for nine days, made them into a whole, and it had been raining the whole time. What had she said to the angry man? Symbols mattered.

    Hu Gu Po chortled. “Do not be afraid. This is not a prophecy, and the meaning of words are easily muddled. The child need not necessarily die.”

    “Why now?” Luna inquired desperately.

    The beast bared its teeth. “We have foreseen that the child will be great, and he will sacrifice on behalf of us magical creatures. Even here, the carelessness of invaders is leading to destruction of the shallow forests. Soon the devastation will spread to magical lands, as it has in so many places.”

    Luna couldn’t say anything.

    Narrowing its eyes, the monster considered her. Then its skin rippled and shrunk, and the young child she had helped stood before her. “Parents naturally protect their children. Don't you trust your friends to fulfill their instincts? If not, you should not have gone so far for their sakes.”

    Luna swallowed, because that wasn’t it. Magical history repeated itself. Her mum, Hannah’s, Neville’s…

    “Will the child’s mother die?” she asked softly. The girl shrugged. “Will you let her?”

    Luna had always been fighting invisible monsters. She remembered Neville and Hannah’s circle of friends. How working as one they had defeated the Dark Lord. And something eased in her chest.

    Really, how silly she was! In addition to two mothers, the child would have the best family of all. Reaching into her pack for another lamb slice, Luna handed it to the waiting child and looked west towards home.

    Nine months later, the Longbottoms had a healthy baby boy. The only problem was that he looked Asian, and his parents didn’t.
  2. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

    Aug 31, 2011
    Cyber City Oedo
    High Score:
    I liked this a lot, but I've got some quibbles. It's easier to elaborate on those than to sing praise, though, so forgive me if this next bit comes across overly caustic.

    First is that you're applying some of the symbolism a little too literally, and on another hand some things Luna finds are a bit of a stretch? For an example of the first, it feels a little gauche to say Neville has a big heart, even using a flashback-as-a-dream to state that, and then literally providing Luna with a big heart. But on the other hand she goes looking for plums because of the meaning of the chinese characters, which should have little symbolic meaning to Luna, let alone Hannah.

    In general a lot is made of Luna's sense of symbolism, which I definitely approve of. I like a more personal approach to potions, in that they take the symbolic and turn it literal. But I feel as if you'd have been better off if Luna had come for a potion of her own, not for someone else.

    It'd also add to the ending, which is at the moment kinda weird in terms of tone. Oh, the kid's gonna become some sort of messiah to magical creatures because of this potion? Neat. Just promise me you won't kill his mum, yeah? I'd have expected some more emotional turmoil and whatnot. Although the absence of such is rather in character for Luna, so I dunno.

    In terms of technical errors I can't recall any straight off the bat. Pacing could've been better, but that's basically always the case so it's not like I can judge that harshly. I'll give this a 4/5.
  3. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

    Nov 16, 2009
    High Score:
    The title seems a little off kilter with the wider tone, although it's certainly accurate.

    Random point, but the early scenes, meeting the Hu Go Po, reminded me of the start of the first Artemis Fowl book, which is no bad thing.

    I really liked this, on the whole. You've got a good grasp on Luna as a character, I think; her voice feels right, and she's got the right sense of whimsy about her without becoming a caricature of herself. I especially liked her little thoughts about symbolism, and the sprinkling of details about flora and fauna around her. There's a good sense of place as well, probably the best in that sense of the entries for my money. The shift in atmosphere from somewhat fairytale-esque to something a bit more sinister was mostly well done too - although the actual ending fizzles out a bit.
    I wasn't entirely clear on the logical leap between 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' and Luna being worried about having to sacrifice her first born, for a start, and then it all just sort of...finishes. I get the sense that the deadline/total wordcount was getting a bit too close for comfort at that stage, and maybe another round of editing would refine it. Oh, and the final line felt a little off in the same vein as the title, although not to the same degree.

    All in all though, an impressive piece. Nicely done.
  4. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    Luna ain't done dirty here. You well capture a likeable protagonist. I don't think it's easily done, but Luna's quirkiness doesn't create a barrier between her and the reader. Despite her peculiar conclusions we well follow her reasoning. I enjoyed watching her take this journey, and the gradual understanding of the outcome, well, I wanted to root for her.

    I enjoyed the antagonist of the mountain and the setting. I may have missed it, that the plain was the top, but I didn't realise that on the first pass. I felt that she'd never quite surmounted it. However, I did enjoy it, the classical structure and symbolism, the progression from muggle village to magic. I enjoyed how the mountain pushed against her and the challenges that it made her face. I enjoyed the more personified antagonism of the baby-snatcher. She was a good fake opponent-ally at the end. With the way you introduced her, and the way Luna sacrificed to her, that she could turn on Luna and eat her, or take the baby for her own. There was a tenseness there. It felt like you'd laid a possible gun and I wasn't sure if it was going to go off. She made the climax suspenseful. It was good, there should be danger in a childbirth.

    Plot and prompt-use:
    As said, I enjoyed the classic quest structure. I enjoyed the progressive collection of items and how they tied together. I feel that the structure lent it good pacing, and that it had a quickly intuited expectation of where certain beats would come and go, while not revealing what those beats would be. It was well thought out, well constructed, and well-executed.

    The prompt use is wonderful. You've chosen a very magical setting and stuffed it to the gills with unique fauna and flora. You've chosen the right character to appreciate such an otherwise unpleasant journey, and it facilitated the reader's wonder in seeing it.

    The way you built this around family and childbirth, and the progression of pregnancy and the excitement and trepidation really worked for me. It felt like something you could hang a hook off. A close personal friend just had a labour that was problematic and troubled, everything has worked out, but this hit home and tapped into something in me that resonated and the story connected in a deeply personal fashion. I enjoyed it. The aspect of pollution, new life and eco-protection worked but was the less impactful. It was clear though, why she succeeded. The animals and the forest was saving itself through this birth, and I think it helped. It was worth having.

    The climax was reasonable, but I think as satisfying as the crisis was, the actual resolution was a little bit unexpected and a little bit perfunctory. I feel if there'd been one additional twist or revelation - for example, that Hannah and Neville were long dead in the war - it would've added that extra kick. In particular, the final line about the little Asian baby didn't work for me.

    There isn't terribly much. And with your Luna, you're able to reign yourself in. That's a real strength. Where we see most of it, in the village, I enjoyed the conversation with the magical beggar girl and particularly the cruel muggle.

    Setting and narrative:
    The fertility forest and the town at its foot were well realised it. As said above, I enjoyed the various creatures that we see, and I enjoy how you guide Luna through different symbolisms and explain it to us. It didn't feel forced. Following the classical mountain climb quest lent it a vividness that I think lived inside the form and allowed you more room to play around. The strength of this story didn't lie in its description, so it was a useful crutch. You excelled more at fascinating creatures than conveying the geography and sensations of Luna in this place. That's not necessarily a bad thing. A detached Luna is a more 'real' Luna.

    Copy-edit and prose:
    I didn't spot any particularly egregious things reading through. I do think that you need to try and put some more flair in your prose and it might be something to work on. To start throwing in more purple and more graphic description of environs. Something to try and match what else you already have down as more than serviceable.

    General Opinion:
    It's a strong fifty heckles from me, right in the front audience.

    You did a good Luna story today, and it'll be a really hard decision to decide what podiums and where for this round.
    Good job, really well done. I enjoyed it a lot.
  5. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator

    Jun 17, 2008

    I like this. It has a strong central theme and goal. Every aspect of the story bends towards that. It has a steady pace that keeps things moving and the magical setting you created contrasts well with the mundane beginning.

    Using Chinese myths and medicine as a base really made the 'other culture' aspect shine through.

    Luna is written well. I like her logic, though just why she is the one on this quest is not terribly clear.


    I do think the end was a little weak. The position of it in the story is good. Everything had been relatively straightforward up to that point so it needed some tension. However the twist you went for had no foreshadowing and it was resolved incredibly quickly. Their child is destined to save magical creatures? Also Hannah may or may not die? It didn't quite land for me, nor did the throw away line that they had a Asian baby.

    I think the prose was serviceable but it lacked a certain flair. There is a lot of Luna going somewhere finding thing and going somewhere else. I would imagine magical scenery to be a bit more magical.

    This is not what I would have expected from this prompt, it is inventive and a refreshing read. Well done.
  6. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    I found this to be quite the charming piece.

    Luna is well-written here, being both likable while maintaining the quirky aspects of her personality beyond mentioning RANDOM ANIMALS LUL. Rather, she keeps being whimsical and feeling very her, without falling into the common pitfalls of fanon when writing Luna. Very impressive overall given how difficult it is to write this character well.

    The story has a clear and distinctive central theme, there's a goal that we understand from the beginning, and everything is in service to seeing that goal accomplished.

    The pacing of the story is pleasant. Neither too fast, nor too slow, but juuuuuuust right.

    As for the setting, tis quite enjoyable. Tapping into Chinese mythology as a base helped set this apart as "other" to our typical HP world. Well done on the use of the prompt to craft this world and it's written vividly that I never had trouble imagining what was going on.

    The climax was alright, but I think the weakest part to this story overall. Especially the line about the little Asian baby. I didn't quite get how it leapt to that conclusion. There was no foreshadowing there. The jump too between Mary had a little lamb and Hannah potentially dying didn't land with me, as well as the baby being some kind of magical messiah to staph teh evilz pollution.

    Despite all my quibbles with the story, it remained very much an enjoyable read.
  7. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Slug Club Member DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Dec 4, 2018
    This is a strong story and it has a lot of elements that I loved. The main drawback is that I found the ending really confusing. I think if you edit the ending for clarity and ensure the meaning shines through, it'll bring the story to a 5/5.

    I will say, I think part of the reason it was confusing at times is because you executed Luna's voice so well. She was sweet, she was insightful, and she was bonkers. Very true to canon, lol. Sometimes I couldn't follow her line of reasoning at all, and maybe that was what you were going for.

    In some cases, it works, because I'm able to gradually figure out the meaning. Here are some lines that I loved:
    • "To have a baby, you must eat a baby."
    • Sometimes tomorrow felt like today. That was to say, sometimes when tomorrow came, Luna felt like she already lived it.
    • "That's an English song," Luna whispered. The monster replied, "Then it has an English meaning."
    However, for most of the climax, I'm no longer able to follow what Luna and Hu Gu Po are talking about, so the moment isn't as powerful as it should be. I think I was first lost here:

    I liked the callback to the "symbols mattered" line (I loved Luna's cabbage hedge), but I was lost reading that passage. Is she saying that this potion is, in a sense, Luna’s first-born, and therefore Hu Gu Po is entitled to it?

    I continued to be confused from that point on, and I didn't understand why Luna was terrified and then suddenly everything was fine. Luna's kooky brain was making connections that I wasn't able to follow.

    One reason I know you'll be able to edit this climax effectively is because Luna's interaction with Hu Gu Po at the beginning of the story is so strong. It's chilling, it's mystical, it's mysterious. I loved all of these lines:

    • Rasping, the woman spoke. Her voice didn’t have a clear pitch, alternating from baritone to the high whine of a girl child’s.
    • Her gaze was so heavy, Luna wanted to check if she was hiding another eye. Crones often had multiple.
    • That ancient gaze shifted to the wooden fortune chip in her hand. “You picked this one.” And then she vanished.
    • There is a Chinese tale told to children in order to keep them from venturing too far from home. A she-beast emerges from the deep forest that can take the shape of anyone she eats, mimicking the victim’s tones and mannerisms to lure in a circle of acquaintances. Hu Gu Po could take over an entire village.
    Lastly, I'll add that your descriptions were top-notch. This is a phenomenal imagining of wizarding China, and you engaged every single one of my senses throughout the story. I could hear Hu Gu Po very clearly, I could smell the stew in her hut, I felt the rain in the forest (to the point where I was getting very concerned for Luna, lol), and I could picture the lovely image of the sprite plaiting Luna's hair.

    Overall, it's very well-done. I enjoyed being stuck in Luna's brain in such a magical place. I'd be very interested to see a second draft of the ending, because I desperately want to better understand how this all ends.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2019
  8. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

    Jun 26, 2018
    Behind you
    I liked it. Evocative, original (at least to a dirty westerner such as myself) and well written, with a fantastic characterisation of Luna. Overall very strong yet I feel there is room for improvement, particularly in regards to plot. It's a tad confusing and it doesn't work all that well at the end. I'm not a very imaginative person, so flowery prose and descriptions are on a lower rung compared to narrative for me. And I see two issues with it; encapsulated in two, admittedly quite facile, questions.

    1) Why is Luna going through the trouble of handcrafting her friends a baby?
    2) Why is the baby Asian?

    First, even if after Canon Luna and Neville/Hannah had become the best of friends, no amount of closeness justifies someone other than you genetically/magically engineering you baby. It's just a step too far. Now, Luna may not have intended to do this when she went there -maybe - but she ends up doing just that, and by her own admission. Someone mentioned that the story would have worked a little bit better if it were her own child, and I agree. I understand you like your Christian references (more on this later) but there a slight sense of misplacement throughout.

    And then there is the conclusion, after Luna comes down from the mountain (another cheeky reference?), where all the threads come together and we understand all there is. Except we don't. So this Gun ho fellow chooses Luna's friend's unborn baby that she is in the process of making to be their saviour, from pollution (!?). Just stating that out loud is already confusing enough. Also I can't follow her reasoning at the end. She jumps from being scared that she has inadvertently (or advertently) made a deal with some entity that now demands a sacrifice, and then is suddenly ok with it for no apparent reason (two mothers? wut) and then nine months later the baby is born Asian. The heck? I've re-read a couple of times to make sure that it wasn't my own stupidity getting in the way and I think I know what you are hinting at, but it definitely could be clearer.

    Only other general criticism I can offer is that of tone/theme. I'm not 100% sure that mixing Christian allegories with Chinese myths/legends works all that well, especially in an HP story. Too many discordant themes I guess its the problem, but it did take me out of the story at times. Also I think that Luna's personality clashes a bit with the more serious (and even sinister) happenings later on . There are some moments of levity at the beginning, making me think that the fic was going to be a borderline humorous one, but it wasn't to be. I wished you had stuck with that tone a little more. The turn towards the heavy (prophecy, sacrifice, etc.) just doesn't do all that much for me, and Luna is a poor Dumbledore.

    Also, if I were a bad person, I would have written an omake where Neville begins to suspect Hannah to have cheated on him with Cho Chang's elder brother, and starts to become abusive. Seriously that last line tho.

    Anyway rating:
    4/5 (it good)

    I couldn't find any typos or grammatical mistakes (and I looked) so I'm going to put on my nitpick glasses and give you my thoughts on a few passages instead. Don't take them as corrections, merely as someone jotting down thoughts as they read (which is what they are, full disclosure).

    Mingled is an active verb, but are smells really actors as such? Unless particularly egregious maybe. To that point, can incense really be strong enough to be considered a 'stench' when you are outside?

    Yes Luna might be a bit odd, but I don't think she merits a full on 'flee for your lives' reaction from a grown man.

    A tad inelegant. Children are pretty androgynus so I think you can cut out the girl and be fine. ('to the high whine of a (young) child'). Also why is a possesive used? (child's instead of child)

    And as curious and quick to react to danger as...? (I stumbled on the 'yet')

    Ah uppercase?

    Magical pollution? Do Dragon's fart methane as well?
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2019
  9. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

    Jan 6, 2009
    The South
    What? I mean, lmao, what? Luna went to China looking for a half-bird (?!) but really cuz Hannah couldn't get pregnant. Just ... well done on that opening, sure got my attention!

    Love the bit about lodging prices and how delightful staying outdoors would be given what they were. And when Luna arrives I can see/hear/smell the scene.

    Luna's voice is solid too, and her thought processes are more or less how I imagine hers to be.

    For instance, your conversation early on went like this, devoid of context:

    Vendor: I give you two dollar discount. You have nice, plump, baby boy soon!
    Luna: I certainly wouldn't mind being a Saint.​

    That is the type of WTF comment Luna is famous for because it makes no effing sense... normally, anyway, but since we're in her POV it makes perfect sense. She's not planning to have sex any time soon so if she got pregnant she'd be like a virgin Mary, which led on to her comment about being a Saint.

    Regardless, this is a very fun story so far with a clear setting (which quickly moves from the muggle to the magical with Hu Gu Po's appearance) and goal.

    “But what do I seek?” Luna asked. It was always best to make sure.​

    Damn, Luna is so Luna and so awesome... and then, her logic. To have a baby you must eat a baby... just, lol. The advice, the meat (followed by the pointing), just well done in general.

    Fun potions logic, in terms of which ingredients, why, and the fact she's doing it here rather than England.

    Great fight scene - it was both sudden and violent, which felt realistic, and Luna's choice of spells made sense as did her needing a minute to catch her breath afterwards.

    I'd read more stories like this. The little touches of magic are everywhere in this, and it really emphasizes how convenient magic is for wizards who just want to travel the world.

    Her first born? Is there something I don't know about the "Mary Had a Little Lamb" poem/song? But freaking love Luna's realization about what could really be going on here and how things were all tying together.

    The ending felt rather abrupt given the implications that came about at the very end, but that's the only minor criticism I have here. I'd have enjoyed another paragraph perhaps exploring what Luna thought about all of this and/or objecting/accepting more clearly.
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