A note from Balr0g

From Natalia's point of view to get a sense of depth and history from her. It also shows where her desire to play a singing/dancing bard originates. 

Chapter 3

Ballerina Shoes

Dancing Through Life


Natalia Summers - Bard, Dancer, Musician, Singer

20 years prior to launch


  “Hey,” Natalia exclaimed.

  She hadn’t been watching where she was walking and looked up just in time to see someone loom in front of her. Her books flew everyone-

  “Natalia, S-s-sorry,” she heard Aaron say.

  She jerked her head up and looked at Aaron, say something about last night, she urged herself.

  “You played great last night,” she said.

  Aaron looked uncomfortable, and he glanced away to pick up her textbooks. He handed her books back and opened his mouth to say something-

  Please ask me to homecoming, she thought.

  “R-r-ring,” the school bell chimed.

  She watched Aaron glance at the speaker in the hall and emotion swept over his features. It looked like frustration or anger. She didn’t wait around and instead hurried away to her next class.

  Is he mad at me? Did I say something wrong?

  Throughout the rest of class, all she could think about was Aaron's face when the bell rang. It seemed like he wanted to tell her something and then the bell interrupted. She wanted Aaron to ask her to homecoming so bad and wished she could will it to happen.

  I know, I know… it’s not a real homecoming, she chided herself.

  It wasn’t the same thing as a high school homecoming. Normally, a nearby high school in the district would allow junior high students to join their homecoming, but Thomas Heights was in its own district. To celebrate the end of junior high, the school threw their own version. That day was right around the corner and Aaron still hadn’t asked her. Maybe they could talk more at Tristen’s on Saturday.

  “Dungeon Quest…,” whispered Natalia. 

  She couldn’t wait until the weekend to play. It was the only time she dropped her carefully constructed facade. Yes, the quiet personality and meek demeanor was not her true self. When not playing Dungeon Quest, the only other times she could be herself was at home or during her music and ballet lessons

  She loved to sing, dance, and play music and those passions always inspired the characters she created. A songstress or bard was her preferred class type. Only her family, closest friends, and teachers knew about her passion for the arts. Part of the reason for the secrecy was she feared performing in front of an audience. She kept it a secret and stayed away from school programs.

  Her current plan involved participation in high school programs and eventually college. It was her dream to one day dance on broadway. It seemed like such a scary prospect when she considered her irrational fear of public performances. Her parents suggested she get involved in some school drama programs in high school next year.

  It scared her to death, but that was the current goal. She planned to start small with a small role in a school production or as an extra. She thought it would be okay to dance in front of other people, but singing was out of the question until she overcame the fear. Fear or not, it was her dream and no matter how long it took, she would push toward her goals.

  Natalia’s mother picked her up from school and dropped her at the Thomas Heights School of Arts. She recognized a few others kids from her school in the group classes, but she had private lessons for violin, piano and voice. Ballet lessons were semi-private. She had group exercises, but for some more advanced techniques, she had a private tutor.

  The first lesson of the day was the piano. Her teacher assigned a very complicated composition a few weeks ago, and she struggled to master it. It was a beautiful composition if she could ever play it without making a mistake. She’d practiced the music for the past few weeks at least an hour every day and still mistakes persisted throughout.

  If Natalia hadn’t heard her teacher play the music, she’d have thought it designed for someone with two brains and four hands. Her hands needed to dance independent of each other to play the chords and the melody at the same time. It frustrated her when she reached the last part and then missed notes. Her teacher explained that it would become muscle memory; she hadn’t achieved that level of skill yet, apparently. When she reached the private room, her instructor was already there.

  “We will take a break from the usual lessons today. Instead, we will walk around talking with some other students that have been in the same place as you. Hopefully it will give you some inspiration as you work on your assignment.”

  “I don’t know if that will help,” Natalia said timidly. “I’ve been practicing every day and I can’t get through the piece without messing up.”

  “Sometimes we all hit a plateau and we need to look for inspiration or try a new tactic to break through the barrier.”

  For the next hour, they walked around to other lessons and chatted with everyone about their methods for getting past barriers. One senior explained a technique that appealed to Natalia.

  “When I’m working on a hard piece, I start with one sheet of music and put the rest away and out of sight. Once I’ve gone through the piece dozens of times, I look away from the music sheet and recall from my hand positions from memory, how one movement felt, and let the music flow through my fingers. I dislike relying on just my eyes to translate the music and then instruct my fingers because it feels too rigid. Feel the music and the best way to achieve that is through muscle memory. After I get through the one sheet of music with no mistakes, I put it away and end my practice. The next day I do the same thing with the second sheet and continue the process until I can play using muscle memory.”

  “That sounds much more achievable than trying to play the whole thing at once like I’ve been doing,” replied Natalia. “Thank you for your advice!”

  “All right, that’s all the time we have for today.”

  “I appreciate you taking me around to talk to people today. I think it will help me in my lessons more than just playing through it over and over,” Natalia thanked her teacher and made her way to violin lessons.

  Violin was a new endeavor for her; she’d wanted to pick it up after one of the recent characters she created used a vielle as part of her bard kit. A violin is the modern version of the vielle. Because she was new to the instrument, practice comprised finger positions, scales, and theory.

  Piano lessons had prepped her well, and she knew drills like this were necessary before you progressed. She continued to build the foundation through lessons and practice. She couldn’t wait to play more duets and chords with her teacher. All she could play right now was “Old McDonald Had a…” and other such children songs.

  After violin, Natalia moved to vocal lessons. She looked forward to these lessons the most and loved to sing. She preferred to sing classical and jazz music, but her instructor insisted that she work through a lot of different styles. The different styles required different voice like “chest”, “throaty” or “head”. The different voices caused the sound, intonation, and pitch to change. Different voices also complimented different music types, and it was an art form.

  Everything about vocal lessons intrigued her, and she always tried to learn more. She wanted to expand her range enough she can sing any style well. Her current project involved extending her vocal range up and down an octave. It was a ton of work and required content work. Every class began with warm-ups; the first exercise was a vocal slide starting in her upper vocal range and sliding down to the lowest. She repeated the motion several times and then moved into additional exercises to loosen the vocal cords, lips and larynx. Before she knew it, class was over and she received her next assignment; a classical piece that forced he to work on vibrato, modulating her voice up and down on long notes.

  She walked outside and saw her ride waiting. On a normal day, her parents picked her up from school, but sent a driver after lessons. The lessons often went longer than the designated time and they kept a very strict schedule, meeting with clients every day. Natalia didn’t mind they weren’t always there to pick her up from lessons. She knew if it were a recital they would be present to support her. It helped her get past the fear of performing in public.

  Her parents supported all of her hobbies despite their busy schedule. They ran a very successful real-estate business. They started the business from Thomas Heights, but had several satellite offices all over the country. Any high-profile clients or celebrities her parents handled, and it required them to travel often. However, they always made sure one of them was home. If there was ever a time both of them needed to be away, they brought her along for an impromptu family vacation.

  Natalia had little to complain about and she loved her parents. They always took care of anything she needed, supported any extra curricular activities, and let me pursue hobbies they didn’t quite understand, like Dungeon Quest. They even drove her all the way across town on Saturday’s to play with her friends.

  Some kids at school thought she was a spoiled rich kid. She wore the latest fashion and designs clothes, but that was her only splurge. Natalia’s parents didn’t just give her anything she wanted; she had to earn it. She didn’t have many chores at home so they set goals for her music and ballet lessons. They often called her teachers to see how she’d progressed. The rewards were usually extravagant, but at least she’d earned them.

  Her parents had told her they wouldn’t be buying a car when she turned 16, and could drive. She needed to get a job over the summers, earn enough for a down-payment, and then take out a cosigned loan for the car. She would keep the car clean, pay for gas, and handle monthly payments over the summers. Sometimes Natalia hated them for it, they could easily afford it, but she grudgingly admitted it her appreciate it more.

  Home from school and lessons, Natalia saw both her parents cars in the drive. It had been almost a month since they were all together.

  “It is a buyer’s market,” her mom and dad would say

  They had been out of town selling and closing deals for a month straight and she hoped they could spend the night together.

  “Mom, dad!” Natalia exclaimed after seeing both in the study.

  “Hey sweetie,” her mom said and gave her a hug.

  “Are you both going to be home for a while?”

  “Yep! We finished out the month and have no other deals lined up for a few days,” explained her dad.

  “Yes!” replied Natalia happily.

  “How were your lessons today?”

  "They were great. My piano lessons were a little different today. I’ve been struggling with my last assignment so my teacher took me around to talk…"

  Natalia explained everything she’d learned at lessons and also what she’d learned in school. She told them about the football game last night and how Aaron had scored the winning touchdown. As she talked about Aaron a forlorn expression crossed her face. Unbeknownst to Natalia, her parents exchanged knowing glances. She ended her recount of the past week and expressed her excitement for this weekend and the surprise that Tristen promised.

  I wonder what he has up his sleeve this time, wondered Natalia.

A note from Balr0g

Thank you for taking the time to read Dungeon Quest Online! If you are enjoying reading this adventure as much as I am writing it, I encourge you to let me know by leaving a review and following the story as it progresses.

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Bio: This is the section where I'm supposed to write how I have always dreamed of writing books and that there are dozens of five star books out there with my name on them. Reality? I am brand new to writing, and worse, I'm not a creative writer. Most of the stuff that I have written is technical, cyber-related stuff. So, how in the world did I start down this path? The best way to sum it up is D. Rus and Vasiliy Mahenenka. These two Russian authors created books in a new genre called LitRPG, which falls under a more broad category called Gamelit. I devoured any and every book created by these two authors and quickly realized they were not alone in their endeavor. The series they created were translated from Russian to English, but it wasn't long before American authors started pushing their own series. Since starting with the Play to Live series (D.Rus), I've read hundreds of books and dozens of stories on Royal Road. I started posing questions and conversations about plots and book directions in various groups and forums. Eventually, I got the idea to start keeping track of my ideas and instead of giving them away, write my own story. Herein, is born a writer (or at least a wannabe writer)... not a writer to grab a paycheck, and not even for the sake of a job. I am putting this first story together purely for my enjoyment and it has been a fun ride so far.

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