You are not at the Pond today.
With you not around, your friends are doing their own thing: Varian is working on their latest costume, Cuddle is in the water on her back and reading a book, and Sprout is communing with the trees and plant-life.
All seems well.
Xiaolong often begins her mornings with a good stretch and a deep breath. As she exhales, she expands her reach, feeling with her mind (and her little gills) for weaknesses in the Pond’s magical boundary. In the past, Xiaolong had a difficult time holding all the pieces of the boundary intact, but with Varian around to help now, the responsibility of making sure that the barrier is strong and healthy isn’t as hard as it used to be.
The boundary usually shows slight signs of wear – nothing to be concerned about, as barriers do weaken over time, especially with those pesky curious plants growing into the Pond, drawn to its magic.
Xiaolong feels it. Something that isn’t quite right. There, by Gen’s garden, she can feel that the barrier is… wrong. She was sure that before she went to sleep last night, the barrier felt whole. When Xiaolong peers closer, pulling herself closer to the boundary, she sees it – a fracture in the boundary.
Xiaolong feels worry creep into her chest.
She does a slight jog to Gen’s garden. She doesn’t want to run too fast; the other Pond friends are accustomed to her bursts of energy, but seeing her dart around, especially so early in the morning, would worry them. And the last thing she wants is for them to worry.
When she steps foot into Gen’s garden, Gen himself is standing by the barrier, his back facing her. Xiaolong exhales her worry, puts herself together enough to do her usual Big Xiaolong Grin, and struts over to Gen.
But when she sees what Gen is looking at, her smile falls.
Gen’s bromeliads by the boundary, usually healthy and spritely, have wilted and are sapped of its usual bright colour. Xiaolong knows that Gen would never let the plants under his care fall so ill – and a heavy feeling of foreboding slithers up her back. She approaches Gen slowly, and places a consoling hand on her friend’s shell. He turns slowly to her, his face says it all: He is devastated. And confused.
“Xiaolong, I think something is wrong.” But before Xiaolong can offer words of comfort, Gen nods at the ground. “Look.”
Xiaolong didn’t notice it before, but when she sees it, she feels something she hasn’t felt in a long time: she feels scared. Tendrils of darkness have crawled through the fissures in the boundary, trailing like a parasitic vine, creeping into Gen’s garden. More horrifying, is that the darkness has wrapped its fingers around Gen’s bromeliads, choking the life out of them.
Xiaolong examines the darkness with her mind; never touching it, never letting her magic intertwine with its. She can feel that the darkness is a living thing, and in such close proximity she can feel its cruelty and malintent – it is made of hate, apathy, and a terrifying desire to consume and ruin.
Such wickedness has no place in the Pond.
Concentrating all the magic in her gills and with a swish of her staff, Xiaolong drives the darkness from the Pond. She is surprised to find that the darkness resists – it is powerful and its will to cling to the Pond’s magic by the wisps of its hold douses her with an icy panic.
Suddenly, Xiaolong feels Gen’s magic coil around hers – her magic the spearhead and his magic the armour. With their joint efforts, the darkness loses its grip, and is thrown through the cracks of the boundary. With a final and breathless push, Xiaolong closes the boundary, repairs it, and reinforces it for good measure.
There is silence, except for Xiaolong’s pants and Gen’s deep breathing.
“Gen,” she whispers. “I think you’re right. Something is wr-“
Varian bursts into Gen’s garden, their eyes wide and scared.
“Varian!” she runs over to her friend. “What’s wrong?”
“No time to explain. Come!” they shout. Without waiting for a reply, they turn around and hop back in the direction of the Pond.
When Xiaolong and Gen reach the clearing – the place that you often meet Xiaolong and sit with her when you read together – are three forest sprites (odd little creatures who mimic their favourite part of the forest, whether it be leaf or twig or rock) huddled together.
“Their magic is fading,” Varian whispers. And indeed, they are correct. Forest sprites, to the trained magical eye, should glow; the brighter the glow, the healthier they are and the healthier their homes. But the glow of these forest sprites is dim, and Xiaolong’s mind is racing to put together why and how and what.
One of the forest sprites – one with a leaf on its head – hops forward and speaks in a language that humans cannot understand. Xiaolong’s ability to understand the forest sprite isn’t perfect, and after a little back and forth, Sprout is called from their tree stump to translate. Cuddle, hearing the commotion, joins the Pond friends, and clutches Party to her chest as the sprite’s story turns dire.
When the sprite finishes what they have to say, the Pond friends all look at each other, at a loss for words.
“Friends,” whispers Xiaolong. “The forest needs us.”
Friends of the Pond!
Welcome to the Pondathon readathon! This readathon has been my heart and soul’s project, and I’m so excited for you all to take part and have fun! I’ve been working on this readathon a little bit every day for the last three months, and I am so excited to show you all what I’ve been working on.
This is just the first chapter of the Pondathon — and a greater story will unfold as the readathon progresses. Although the readathon won’t officially start until the 24th of January, if you are interested in participating, here is some pretty important information:
Pondathon Readathon details
Welcome to the The Quiet Pond’s first Pondathon, a story-driven readathon!
- The Pondathon is a co-operative and narrative-driven readathon where you read books and collect points to protect your friends from the darkness beyond the Pond.
- By ‘co-operative’ readathon, this means that all participants in the Pondathon will work together rather than compete against each other.
- Join a team to fight and defend the Pond alongside the Pond friends! Each team will have a unique way to collect points.
- Collect points and contribute towards the total points earned by all participants in the readathon!
- During the readathon, optional challenges or ‘sides quests’ will be available to collect extra points.
- Join one of the Pond friends and be part of a team that fits your reading style or how you would like to be challenged!
- You will get to create your own pond character! Character creation will be available on the same day as sign-up day. Here is a preview of some premade characters that you can use — or, you will be able to create and customise your own!
- On sign-up day, character cards will be available which you can show off to all your friends! They will look a little something like this:
- Worried about keeping your progress? Don’t worry, we have you covered. Each time you read for the Pondathon, fill out a short Google form to record your progress – and we will run some data-magic on your behalf. (The form will be available once the readathon officially begins.)
- Note: All dates mentioned during the Pondathon will be in accordance to NZT (New Zealand Time).
- The Pondathon readathon will begin on January 24th 2020 and will end on March 7th 2020.
- Information about the teams that you can join for the Pondathon will be posted on January 16th.
- Sign-ups will open on January 18th and will stay open until the end of the Pondathon.
- Have a question? The Pondathon tutorial (F.A.Q.!) will be posted on January 21st.
- There will be 8 side quests available for you to complete all throughout the Pondathon. There will be a new side quest available every 5 days.
- Be sure to visit The Quiet Pond and check in with the Pond friends on February 14th 2020. Varian doesn’t know what will happen, but they trust their gut – and their gut is telling them that something bad will happen.
If you sign-up and participate in Pondathon, you automatically go into the draw to win one of the following prizes:
- A small ‘square’ plushie of one of the Pond friends (Xiaolong, Gen, Varian, Cuddle, or Sprout), handmade by CW.
- A forest sprite felt coaster, handmade by CW.
- A bookmark, made by Skye.
If you are an author or publisher who would like to donate a prize to this readathon, please contact CW at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends, I’m so excited to finally unveil the Pondathon to you all! I’m thrilled that you all will be able to band together, read together, make new friends, and feel the bonds of our community.
- What are you looking forward to the most in this readathon? What are you hoping to see or achieve?
- What books do you think you’d like to read for the readathon?
- Do you have any questions so far? Ask away below, just in case we’ve missed something!