Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Jimbo Strikes Back

The squadron followed the swirling current of air riding the wind in a loose formation. Commander Jimbo “Skeeter” Jackson led the way; visibility was good; the target visible directly below.
“Okay boys, we make our run the next time around,” Jimbo called out. “Stick to your assigned targets. No playing around.”
“Buzz, you’re with me,” Drac Singleton chimed in. “Stay on my tail. We’ll draw his fire away from the others.”

“I’ve got your back—Drac,” Buzz said with a chuckle.
“Cut the chatter,” Jimbo broke in. “Here we go!”
The squadron banked hard left leaving Buzz and Drac in the holding pattern overhead. Drac dove into a strafing run left to right with Buzz tight on his wing.
“Afterburners!” Drac shouted.
The enemy saw them coming and fired a rapid barrage that went low. Drac put into a steep climb to safety. Buzz, caught in the turbulent backwash of enemy fire, went spinning out of control.
“Pull up,” Drac ordered. “Hard right! Hard right!”
Buzz regained control inches from the high wall. As he banked right, he lit up the afterburner and turned head on into the flak. The enemy fired again. Buzz rolled beneath the incoming blow; running straight up the face of the enemy.
“Fool kid,” Drac muttered.
Buzz’s gamble paid off. His diversion gave the others extra time on target.
“I got him; I got him!” Toby “Big Nose” McClanahan pumped a victorious arm skyward.
“Get out of there, kid,” Jimbo warned Big Nose.
As Big Nose blew by Jimbo, the two exchanged a salute. Big Nose turned for home giving Jimbo a clear run at the target. The commander turned into a dive that hit home.
“Take that you lousy…” he wasn’t able to finish.
Movement at nine o’clock. Jimbo banked left under the incoming hand. He yanked into a climb, barly avoiding a stall, but evading the surprise flanking movement.
You’re old and slow,” Jimbo shouted back at his receding adversary.
“Boom,” Buzz called out. “Lancelot just nailed him!”
“I’m going in,” Drac said.
“Right behind you,” Buzz told him. “This is for you, Ray.”
The pair launched a perfect run; splitting up at the last second. They landed direct hits on the enemy’s hands.
“Break it off,” Jimbo ordered. “Let’s go home. Well done, team.”
The enemy was a smoking hulk; burning with anger and scratching insanely.
“Damn mosquitoes,” he cursed still scratching furiously at the hits he’d taken. “I wrote that story; now they won’t leave me alone.”
“I’m fine. They haven’t touched me,” his wife said. “Maybe you ought to write about something else next time.”
“This ain’t over—not by a long shot,” the man promised. “It’s on, mosquitoes. You got that, it’s on.”

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Chapter 5 Byrn Leaves Home




 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬There is a time to every purpose under heaven.‭ ‬As he drifted off to sleep,‭ ‬Bryn Bou was only dimly aware that his time had come.‭ ‬His meeting with Coryn the Seer shocked and excited him,‭ ‬but as he headed for the treetops,‭ ‬the implications of this particular truth was far from his mind.‭ ‬Not that it mattered,‭ ‬the times appointed by the Creator wait for no one‭; ‬least of all Bryn Bou.‭ ‬Destiny stalked him,‭ ‬but he had yet to understand the shadow that dogged his steps.‭ ‬His was a simple errand.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬if he were caught he would be throw in prison or banished.‭ ‬The way was difficult,‭ ‬but what he had to do was simple‭; ‬deliver a message and return home.‭ ‬He could not imagine that what lurked beyond the Boubouja would do all in its power to keep him from that goal.‭

Bryn rested in the fork of a giant bouja.‭ ‬Morning was still a few hours away.‭ ‬He needed some sleep before he tried the leap.‭ ‬The soft lapping of the water‭; ‬the chorus of peepers‭; ‬the throaty croaks of the viaths played the song of the river.‭ ‬The sound floated up to him lulling him to sleep.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬From the canopy,‭ ‬Bryn watched as the sky.‭ ‬He held his breath‭; ‬waiting.‭ ‬Rising before the sun and climbing to the top of the forest to watch the day’s entrance was his morning ritual.‭ ‬His reward was an arc of red that peeked over the treetops far to the east.‭ ‬A new day touched his skin and chased away the chill of night.‭ ‬Somewhere nearby a Poct shook its emerald wings and launched into song.‭ ‬Bryn let go a sigh.‭ ‬He breathed in the morning.‭ ‬It was fresh,‭ ‬clean and cool as always.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬He dropped from his perch,‭ ‬caught a branch and let his weight carry him to the next.‭ ‬Hand over hand he passed through the branches until he found the highway.‭ ‬The highway branch was really a network of wide horizontal branches that served as the main path across the canopy.‭ ‬Bryn touched down and broke into a jog toward a stand of ripe fruit he discovered while hiding after his meeting with Coryn the day before.‭ ‬The sweet scent grew with each step.‭ ‬He slung his pack from his shoulder and licked his lips in anticipation.‭ ‬He drove from the highway threading through crisscrossing lower limbs.‭ ‬As he neared the place,‭ ‬strong hands caught branch after branch slowing his decent until he reached the tree he sought.‭ ‬A quick twist and he landed on his feet and somehow managed it without knocking over Aryn.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬What‭? ‬How‭?” ‬he shouted.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬he thought that he knew what and he knew how.

‭“‬Oh,‭ ‬hello Bryn,‭” ‬Aryn smiled at him.‭ “‬You’re awake early.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Not early enough,‭ ‬it seems.‭” ‬He forced a smile in return.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Don’t mope.‭ ‬There’s plenty for everybody.‭” ‬She laid a soft hand on his arm.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬Bryn forgot why he was there‭; ‬forgot about fruit‭; ‬for a moment,‭ ‬he forgot everything.‭ ‬The feel of her hand‭; ‬the deep,‭ ‬soft,‭ ‬golden pools of her eyes‭; ‬the sight of her lips red with the juice of bouja fruit had that effect on him.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Will you be the talk of the village singing tonight.‭” ‬Her voice was soothing as the streams of the deep Bouja.‭ “‬Uncle sent me.‭ ‬He said you would need this.‭”

When she kissed his cheek,‭ ‬his mouth fell open and the pack slipped from his hand.‭ ‬Was there a singing tonight‭? ‬Would he be there‭? ‬What was his name again‭? ‬His jaws closed with an audible click.‭ ‬He nodded.‭ ‬At the moment,‭ ‬it was all he was capable of doing.‭ ‬The sound of approaching giggles brought him back to reality.‭ ‬Aryn’s eyes held his a moment longer.

‭“‬My sisters are coming.‭ ‬I’ve got to go,‭” ‬she called back over her shoulder.

She was gone before he could answer. ‭

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬But,‭” ‬he began.

His voice drifted away.‭ ‬She was already out of sight.‭ ‬He picked up his pack and began stuffing it with fruit.‭ ‬Even if he had the time,‭ ‬he could not tell Aryn about his quest.‭ ‬He could not tell anyone.‭ ‬He was sworn to secrecy.‭ ‬The council had forbidden travel to Salem.‭ ‬They had decided that too many Valir were lost to the problems of men already.‭ ‬His eyes scanned the surrounding trees.‭ ‬Sure he was alone,‭ ‬Bryn climbed toward the highway and headed east.‭ ‬Once across the river,‭ ‬the safety of the branches would be gone.‭ ‬His feet would tread open spaces amid strange,‭ ‬untrustworthy men.

‭“‬Once I cross.‭” ‬Bryn laughed to himself.‭ “‬More like,‭ ‬if I cross.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬The Hiddekel was no forest stream swollen by the rain or the finger of a bayou winding between the bouja trees.‭ ‬It was a mighty river.‭ ‬There was nothing like it in the western world.‭ ‬The Hiddekel was the great divide between the swamps of the Boubouja and the Edge of the World,‭ ‬a sheer granite wall where the kingdom of men began.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬He reached the Hiddekel as the day drained away.‭ ‬Bryn sat under cover of the branches and watched the river flow slowly by on its way to the Great Sea.‭ ‬He knew the glassy surface was a lie.‭ ‬The Hiddekel teemed with creatures all to ready to make a meal of the unwary.‭ ‬The only peace those waters carried was whatever peace lay beyond this life.‭ ‬Unseen below the surface,‭ ‬hungry and waiting,‭ ‬lurked the viath.‭ ‬The river carried death just as it brought life.‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭

“Two things are never full,‭” ‬his grandfather told him.‭ “‬The Great Sea and the belly of the beasts within the waters.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬The forest that was his home stretched its arms over the water seeking those of the far shore and never finding them.‭ ‬Downstream was a tram to take travelers across the river and to the top of the Edge.‭ ‬The tram was guarded by soldiers enforcing the Council’s ban.‭ ‬The soldiers would turn him away and be alerted to his crossing if he tried the tram.‭ ‬He had no choice but to dare the leap.‭ ‬The Hiddekel was a mile wide at the old crossing.‭ ‬Ages ago,‭ ‬the bravest warriors dared the leap between the branches.‭ ‬Only the strongest lived to look back from the far shore.‭ ‬Bryn felt neither brave nor strong.‭ ‬He felt trapped‭; ‬a prisoner of his words.

He inhaled deeply‭; ‬blowing out in a long,‭ ‬slow breath.‭ ‬He was oath bound to leap no matter how he felt.‭ ‬Feeling calmer,‭ ‬he reached the only conclusion worthy of the name.‭ ‬It was better to die in the jaws of viath or drown in the waters than to fail one’s oath.‭ ‬Bryn slid one foot,‭ ‬then the other forward as he worked his way along a high branch.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Don’t look down,‭” ‬he told himself.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬The feel of the branch beneath his feet was more important than how high it was or how far it reached out over the river.‭ ‬If he went too far along,‭ ‬the branch might not bear his weight,‭ ‬snap and dump him in the river.‭ ‬Fail to go far enough and he would not have the recoil to reach the branches on the other side.‭ ‬The branch began to sway beneath him.‭ ‬At first it had the slightest give‭; ‬a feeling of softness beneath his feet.‭ ‬A few steps further,‭ ‬the branch began to bounce with each movement he made.‭ ‬Bryn measured the distance with both his eyes and his heart. ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬He began to coil and release the muscles in his powerful legs.‭ ‬The branch began to move in a growing arc.‭ ‬Satisfied the branch had given its all,‭ ‬Bryn launched himself into the air.‭ ‬Propelled by the upward swing of the branch,‭ ‬he climbed higher and higher.‭ ‬At the peak of his climb,‭ ‬he opened his wings.‭ ‬The great glossy sails caught an updraft carrying him still higher over the open water.‭ ‬The strong wind under his wings brought a sigh of relief to Bryn’s lips and renewed hope to his heart.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬All the Valir had wings but none could really fly.‭ ‬Trusting winds and thermal currents,‭ ‬they glided on wings too weak and fragile to lift their heavily muscled bodies.‭ ‬Why,‭ ‬in the name of the Creator,‭ ‬there existed such creatures made no sense to Bryn.‭ ‬Then,‭ ‬neither did the sightless guides of Deutero who led pilgrims across the lava fields of the Pietra.‭ ‬Tettias was full of paradoxes.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Accept the world as it is,‭ ‬not as you would have it,‭” ‬Grandfather always said.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬The world at that moment had an ominous feel.‭ ‬A shadow followed him‭; ‬a shadow not of his own making.‭ ‬This shadow was not on the water,‭ ‬but under it.‭ ‬The surface rippled.‭ ‬A long row of black armor plates broke the surface and disappeared again.‭ ‬Bryn’s blood ran cold.‭ ‬He was descending.‭ ‬The branches reaching out from the far shore were still thirty yards away.‭ ‬He pulled his legs and tail tight against his body.‭ ‬Trembling lips whispered a desperate prayer to the Creator.‭ ‬Below him,‭ ‬the river exploded.‭ ‬Huge jaws lined with teeth the size of daggers rocketed up to meet him.‭ ‬Bryn screamed.‭ ‬His bladder let go as the sound of jaws snapping shut reverberated in his ears and echoed through the trees.‭ ‬The viath’s entire body cleared the surface of the river,‭ ‬but it was not enough.‭ ‬Bryn sailed into the safety of the branches.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Creator be praised.‭” ‬He held a hand to his thundering heart.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬He made it.‭ ‬He was across the Hiddekel.‭ ‬High with self-congratulations,‭ ‬he glided through the branches to the top of this new world.‭ ‬He was unprepared for the sight that greeted him.‭ ‬Since childhood,‭ ‬he heard the stories of the land across the river.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬words could not describe the sight of sheer granite rising upward across his path and blocking the morning sun.‭ ‬The old stories called it the Edge of the World‭; ‬the name paled in comparison to the sight,‭ ‬but the name stuck just the same.‭ ‬What lay beyond the wall was the stuff of legends told around campfires. ‭


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chapter 4 ---- Bryn and the Seer

         ‭ ‬Byryn and Sharyn climbed the stairs to their bed‭ ‬knowing that neither would be able to sleep tonight.‭ ‬Their future,‭ ‬which always seemed so secure,‭ ‬was disappearing like the morning mists.‭ ‬They waited so long for a child.‭ ‬Bryn was the answer to their prayers and more.‭ ‬The boy was strong,‭ ‬intelligent,‭ ‬and‭ ‬mature beyond his years.‭ ‬Their sense of his being destined for great things was more than parental pride.‭ ‬They decided,‭ ‬before going to their room,‭ ‬to look in on Bryn.‭ ‬Sharyn opened the door.

         ‭ ‬The bed was empty.

         ‭ ‬Sharyn buried her face in her husband‭’‬s shoulder and wept.‭ ‬A single tear crept down Byryn‭’‬s face.

         ‭ “‬God speed,‭ ‬my son,‭”‬ he whispered.

         ‭ ‬Bryn always thought best in the open air of the forest.‭ ‬After leaving his father,‭ ‬his room seemed to close in on him.‭ ‬He opened the widow to keep from suffocating and without another thought stepped out into the night.‭ ‬Though every Valir valued his private place,‭ ‬very few enjoyed a place as exclusive as Bryn.‭ ‬He did not hold with traditional Valirian taboos concerning the dead.‭ ‬This departure from the faith made his place special.‭ ‬The way was etched into his subconscious and it was that way he followed.

         ‭ ‬He dropped from the gnarled branch of a joba tree to the forest floor.‭ ‬Valir avoided the floor of the Boubouja only slightly less than its swamps.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬it was not the floor created his solitude‭; ‬it was the trees around him.‭ ‬Overhead,‭ ‬stretching for miles was the Forest of the Dead.

         ‭ ‬Bryn had been here at night before.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬experience did not make being here easier.‭ ‬One never quite got used to this place.‭ ‬The forest swallowed sounds turning the air into a dried husk that brushed against him as he passed rank upon rank of smooth skinned tree trunks,‭ ‬some as wide as a small house,‭ ‬that march into the dark.‭ ‬Three hundred feet above the tree tops fanned out to hide the sky.‭ ‬Nothing grew between the trees‭; ‬no vines wound up their trunks‭; ‬leaves grew only on the top branches.‭ ‬The forest floor was hard‭; ‬devoid of the usual litter of leaves and creepy crawlers.‭ ‬Having neither cover nor forage,‭ ‬animals refused to stay in the forest.‭ ‬Mourning was the only fruit that grew here.‭ ‬From branches,‭ ‬great and small,‭ ‬hung large teardrop sacks of woven leaves suspended from silken fibers---the burial pods of the Valir.

         ‭ ‬Bryn wound his way between the trees.‭ ‬His eyes irresistibly climbed up to the pods.‭ ‬Less than a quarter mile into the forest,‭ ‬he stopped to rub his hand over the name Bou carved into a tree.‭ ‬This was the place where his clan rested in silvery shrouds.‭ ‬Sighing with the load carried on his heart‭; ‬he sat with his back against the cool bark‭; ‬closed his eyes and was lost in thought.

         ‭ ‬What did the seer want from him‭? ‬For the first time in a long time,‭ ‬Bryn thought of himself as a boy.‭ ‬He trained as a warrior,‭ ‬but the Valir had lived in peace for ten generations.‭ ‬He was untested in battle.‭ ‬He did well in school,‭ ‬yet he was no scholar.‭ ‬He was not the strongest,‭ ‬fastest or toughest among his circle of friends.‭ ‬He was simply plain old Bryn Bou.‭ ‬He sighed again.‭ ‬As he continued to ponder the peculiarities of seers,‭ ‬his legs slowly stretched out in front of him and his head came to rest on his chest.


The hooting of a nearby owl interrupted his soft snores.‭ ‬Owls were uncommon,‭ ‬but not unheard of in proximity to burial places.‭ ‬This one had a particularly doleful quality to his voice.‭ ‬Bryn left his place to go in search of the noisy bird.‭ ‬He found a snow white owl no more than nine inches tall perched in the lowest fork of a burial tree.‭ ‬Swiveling its head this way and that,‭ ‬the owl watched him draw closer.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬it did not fly away as Bryn expected.

         ‭ “‬You‭’‬re a bold one,‭”‬ Bryn said.

         ‭ “‬Not really,‭”‬ replied the owl.

         ‭ ‬A gasp flew from Bryn‭’‬s lips.‭ ‬He stumbled back a step‭; ‬shook‭ ‬his head and stared at the bird.

         ‭ “‬You‭’‬re not that intimidating,‭”‬ the owl said.‭ “‬Kind of ordinary really.‭”

         ‭ ‬Bryn took another step back.‭ ‬He lifted a trembling finger in the owl‭’‬s direction.‭ “‬You spoke,‭”‬ he said.

         ‭ “‬So did you,‭”‬ answered the owl.

         ‭ “‬But owls can‭’‬t talk,‭”‬ Bryn protested.

         ‭ “‬They can‭’‬t‭?”‬ The owl ruffled his feathers.‭ “‬Maybe,‭ ‬you‭’‬re dreaming.‭ ‬Pinch yourself and see.‭”

         ‭ “‬Ouch,‭”‬ Bryn cried.

         ‭ “‬No,‭ ‬not dreaming,‭”‬ said the owl.‭ “‬Remember what you see.‭”

         ‭ ‬Without another word,‭ ‬the owl flapped his wings and flew into the darkness.‭ ‬Bryn thought to call after him but pinch or no pinch he had to be dreaming. ‭ ‬As if to confirm his suspicions,‭ ‬a mist came creeping along the forest floor.‭ ‬Soon,‭ ‬mist wrapped the entire forest until he could see only a few feet in front.‭ ‬Bryn felt eyes on his back.‭ ‬A chill made its way up his spine.‭ ‬Bryn shivered and strained to see.‭ ‬He reached out to steady himself against the family tree.‭ ‬It was no longer there and he remembered the owl.‭ ‬No dream,‭ ‬he had indeed walked away from it deeper into the forest.‭ ‬There was nothing but the mist and the watcher.

         ‭ “‬Who‭’‬s there‭?”‬ he called out.

         ‭ ‬No one answered.‭ ‬The mist pressed upon him making it harder to breathe.‭ ‬Bryn fought the growing urge to run.‭ ‬He had only a vague idea of where he was.‭ ‬Where would he go‭? ‬He slipped the knife from his belt.‭ ‬He spun towards the sound of footsteps behind him.‭ ‬A curtain of mist slowly parted.‭ ‬Bryn‭’‬s mouth fell open.‭ ‬He wanted to scream,‭ ‬but no sound came.‭ ‬Glowing with an eerie light,‭ ‬his grandfather stood before him.‭ ‬The old one‭’‬s face was as it had been when Bryn helped wrap the death shroud over it.

         ‭ “‬Beware the little horn,‭”‬ unmoving lips spoke.

         ‭ ‬Everything went black.

         ‭ ‬Bryn opened his eyes to find himself lying on the hard ground staring at the treetops.‭ ‬The mist was gone.‭ ‬The faint glimmer of new day spread across the sky beyond the trees.‭ ‬He was not sure exactly where he was.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬he had an appointment to keep.‭ ‬Bryn worked his way to his feet and began to head in the direction of his village.

         ‭ ‬Bryn swallowed hard.‭ ‬He tried to spit,‭ ‬but his mouth was too dry.‭ ‬That was more than could be said for the rest of him.‭ ‬Sweat beaded on his forehead and trickled down his back.‭ ‬He jogged all the way in hopes of reaching the seer before the village awoke.‭ ‬He made it‭; ‬just barely.‭ ‬Now that he was here,‭ ‬his legs did not seem to want to go any closer.‭ ‬A summons to the seer‭’‬s house was not‭ ‬the kind of thing he ever expected to happen.‭ ‬A parade of possible curses played repeatedly in his head.‭ ‬His hands were trembling.‭ ‬After last night,‭ ‬he was not certain a curse was not already at work.

         ‭ “‬It would be best if no one sees you call,‭”‬ his father‭’‬s voice reminded him.

         ‭ ‬What lonely fate worse than death awaited him inside that house‭? ‬Bryn felt sick to his stomach.‭ ‬He reminded himself that the only thing worse than being summoned by the seer was failing to show up.‭ ‬Would the seer hunt him down if he turned and fled‭?

         ‭ “‬Have mercy Creator,‭”‬ he whispered and stepped up to the door.

         ‭ ‬He reached for the door and abruptly snatched back his hand.‭ ‬If only he could stop shaking.

         ‭ “‬For the love of the Creator,‭”‬ the‭ ‬seer‭’‬s voice said from within.‭ “‬Come in Bryn Bou and be quick about it.‭”

         ‭ “‬Get in here,‭”‬ Coryn snapped as Bryn slowly pushed open the door.

         ‭ ‬Bryn jumped inside and slammed the door behind him.‭ ‬The room was not the diabolical realm of torture he imagined.‭ ‬There were no shelves lined with disgusting ingredients for magic potions or books of spells.‭ ‬He suddenly felt disappointed that the room looked like most of those in the village.‭ ‬Sitting atop the table was a pitcher of water and a plate‭ ‬of food.‭ ‬The seer sat across the room.‭ ‬Coryn motioned him toward the table.

         ‭ “‬Have something to eat,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬Then,‭ ‬come sit here by me.‭”

         ‭ ‬Bryn helped himself to some figs and a cup of water.‭ ‬He tried to stand tall as he crossed the room.‭ ‬He was sure that he was being measure by Coryn‭’‬s piercing green eyes.

         ‭ “‬Are you frightened‭?”‬ the old one asked when Bryn settled into a chair.

         ‭ ‬Bryn drew himself up and straightened his shoulders.‭ ‬His first thought was to deny the charge,‭ ‬but he found himself confessing.

         ‭ “‬Almost out of my mind,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬It‭’‬s been a long night.‭”

         ‭ ‬The seer chuckled and nodded.‭ ‬He patted Bryn‭’‬s shoulder.‭ “‬I‭’‬m sure it has,‭ ‬but once you get to know me you may feel differently.‭ ‬Familiarity breeds contempt,‭ ‬you know.‭ ‬Who knows,‭ ‬you may leave he feeling about me as does our king.‭”

         ‭ “‬Bryn Bou,‭ ‬son of Byryn of the RedFlower clan.‭”‬Bryn bowed.

         ‭ “‬Ah,‭ ‬yes.‭ ‬Coryn Kel,‭ ‬son of Sethryn of the BigTree clan,‭”‬ the seer replied.‭ “‬Now that the formalities are taken care of,‭ ‬let‭’‬s talk.‭ ‬You are well spoken of by my neice.‭”

         ‭ ‬Color rose in Bryn‭’‬s face and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

         ‭ “‬Don‭’‬t be embarrassed,‭ ‬my boy.‭”‬ Coryn smiled.‭ “‬She‭’‬s a very discerning young one.‭ ‬I trust her feelings about people.‭ ‬Besides,‭ ‬I know your father as I knew his father before him.‭ ‬I see them in you.‭ ‬I suppose that is why I asked you to come here.‭ ‬I seek a Valir of honor to carry a message.‭”

         ‭ “‬To whom would you send me that you cannot already command to appear before you‭?”‬ Bryn asked.

         ‭ “‬A good question,‭”‬ Coryn said.‭ “‬You‭’‬ve thought about this.‭ ‬That means you have probably discerned the task is not an easy one.‭ ‬How to proceed is the problem.‭ ‬Once I have told you the mission,‭ ‬my life in your hands.‭ ‬If you accept,‭ ‬your life and that of your father are also at risk.‭ ‬I trust you because I had‭…‬er,‭ ‬shall we say,‭ ‬time to think it over.‭ ‬I cannot offer you that luxury.‭”

         ‭ “‬You‭’‬re asking me to accept blindly‭?”‬ Bryn asked.

         ‭ “‬No,‭ ‬I‭’‬m asking you to swear an oath,‭”‬ Coryn said.‭ “‬Not blindly,‭ ‬but on the faith of your father and me.‭ ‬You will have to have faith that we have chosen according to the Creator‭’‬s design.‭ ‬You asked His help outside the door.‭ ‬Our trust is all He offers‭; ‬for now.‭”

         ‭ ‬ ‭ “‬My father would not have sent me here if what you say is untrue or unworthy,‭”‬ Bryn stared straight ahead.‭ “‬I swear by the Creator that I will not betray your trust or that of my father.‭ ‬What will you have me do‭?”

         ‭ ‬A tear‭ ‬trickled from the seer‭’‬s eye.‭ ‬He did not trust his voice and cleared his throat before trying to speak.‭ “‬My faith is restored.‭ ‬The Creator has chosen you indeed.‭ ‬This is what you must do‭…”

         ‭ ‬ ‭“‬My father agreed to this‭?”‬ Bryn asked when the seer finished speaking.

         ‭ “‬Your father knows that I asked to see you,‭”‬ Coryn said.‭ “‬That,‭ ‬and my intention to defy the Council.‭ ‬Anything else he may know,‭ ‬he has deduced from those two facts.‭ ‬If we are found out,‭ ‬you and I will go to jail.‭ ‬It will be embarrassing for your father,‭ ‬but he can truthfully deny everything else.‭”

         ‭ “‬No one will believe him,‭”‬ Bryn said.

         ‭ “‬You‭’‬re right about that.‭”‬ Coryn agreed.‭ “‬However,‭ ‬believing it and proving it are very different things.‭ ‬Secrecy is our best defense.‭”

         ‭ “‬How do I find Eeryn‭?”

         ‭ “‬Ah,‭ ‬there‭’‬s a new trouble,‭”‬ Coryn cautioned.‭ “‬You must not ask after him in Shiloh.‭ ‬Eeryn is banned from the palace.‭ ‬Finding him,‭ ‬even being in his company is dangerous for you.‭ ‬If your presence comes to‭ ‬the ears of the ambassador,‭ ‬you will not be able to come home.‭”

         ‭ “‬I hadn‭’‬t considered that,‭”‬ Bryn said.

         ‭ ‬The two silently stared into the fire.‭ ‬Coryn broke the quiet by reaching into his robe and producing a neat packet of folded paper tied with coarse twine.‭ ‬Bryn slipped the papers into his tunic.‭ ‬Without a word,‭ ‬they rose and went to the door.

         ‭ “‬I‭’‬d like you to spend the rest of the day thinking this over,‭”‬ Coryn told him.‭ “‬You can still be free of your oath.‭ ‬If I don‭’‬t see you‭ ‬in the morning,‭ ‬I will know you are on your way.‭”

         ‭ “‬May I ask a favor‭?”‬ Bryn asked.

         ‭ ‬Coryn cocked his head to study Bryn‭’‬s face.‭ ‬Satisfied with what he saw,‭ ‬the seer spread his hands inviting Bryn to continue.

         ‭ “‬I spent last‭ ‬night in my private place.‭ ‬I didn‭’‬t say goodbye.‭”‬ Bryn‭’‬s voice cracked,‭ ‬but his eyes never left the seer.‭ “‬It‭’‬s best I don‭’‬t go back.‭ ‬They can say I ran away.‭”

         ‭ “‬I will make sure to send your love,‭”‬ the seer assured him.

         ‭ ‬Coryn watched‭ ‬Bryn move through the branches as he headed away from the village.‭ ‬Coryn watched until he was out of sight.‭ ‬Bryn did not look back.‭ ‬As the seer turned to go inside,‭ ‬a flash of sunlight on metal caught his eye.‭ ‬Someone on the Council wasted no time setting‭ ‬a watch on his house.‭ ‬With only a slight pause in his step,‭ ‬he spotted the sentry hidden in the braches of a large bouja at the far side of his dooryard.

         ‭ “‬You need not be a seer to see that coming,‭”‬ he thought and smiled to himself.

         ‭ ‬The wheels were in motion.‭ ‬Coryn knew the boy would not disappoint him.‭ ‬What bothered him was his own role.‭ ‬Had he just stopped an apocalypse or had he started one‭? ‬It seemed only the Creator knew and He was keeping the answer to Himself.

         ‭ ‬In the shadows above the seer‭’‬s house a pair of village deputies watched Bryn leave his meeting with Coryn.

         ‭ “‬It‭’‬s just a kid,‭”‬ the short one said.

         ‭ “‬Do you want me to follow him‭?”‬ the other asked.

         ‭ ‬The short fellow scratched his head.‭ “‬No,‭ ‬let him go.‭ ‬He‭’‬s not who we‭’‬re looking for.‭”

         ‭ “‬Well,‭ ‬who‭ ‬are we looking for then‭?”

         ‭ “‬You heard the captain.‭ ‬We‭’‬re looking for someone whom the seer might send to Shiloh.‭”‬ He pointed at the path below.‭ “‬For someone like that.‭”

         ‭ ‬Vulryn bounced through the branches toward the seer‭’‬s house.‭ ‬His big heart was light as a feather.‭ ‬His long legs stepped smartly to the tune the blacksmith whistled through his smiling face.

         ‭ “‬I remember him,‭”‬ the short one said.‭ “‬He was at the‭ ‬Council meeting yesterday.‭”

         ‭ “‬Everyone was at the Council meeting,‭ ‬but he is hard to miss,‭”‬ the other replied.‭ “‬My wife‭’‬s cousin was standing in the doorway with him.‭ ‬She told the wife that the seer passed something to him.‭”

         ‭ “‬What was it‭?”

         ‭ “‬She couldn‭’‬t see clearly,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬She thought it was some kind of talisman.‭”

         ‭ “‬Looks like we‭’‬ve got the right one,‭”‬ the short one said.

         ‭ ‬Vulryn knocked on the seer‭’‬s door and was surprised when the seer hurried him‭ ‬inside.‭ ‬Coryn poked his head back through the door.‭ ‬He looked left and right making sure no one was watching and then disappeared inside.‭ ‬The big blacksmith fell on his knees and through tears of joy kissed the seer‭’‬s robe.‭ ‬Coryn strained to lift him,‭ ‬but‭ ‬the blacksmith was too heavy.

         ‭ “‬Please stop that,‭”‬ Coryn commanded when his efforts to pull the robe from the blacksmith‭’‬s hands proved as futile as trying to lift him.

         ‭ ‬Vulryn obeyed.‭ ‬Still wiping tears from his eyes,‭ ‬he rose to tower over the seer.‭ “‬My Maryn,‭ ‬she‭’‬s healed,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬You healed her.‭”‬

         ‭ “‬No,‭”‬ Coryn corrected before the blacksmith could go on.‭ “‬The Creator healed her.‭ ‬I was only the messenger.‭ ‬A messenger with an agenda,‭ ‬I might add.‭ ‬I need a favor.‭”

         ‭ “‬Anything,‭”‬ Vulryn said.

         ‭ “‬Don‭’‬t be so hasty,‭”‬ Coryn cautioned.‭ “‬I might ask for your first born son.‭”

         ‭ “‬But I don‭’‬t have a first born son,‭”‬ Vulryn answered.

         ‭ “‬You will,‭”‬ the seer assured him.‭ “‬But,‭ ‬for now,‭ ‬I‭’‬d like you to go home.‭ ‬I want you to take your bow and go down to the Hiddekel.‭ ‬Camp to the south of the lift and return in two days.‭”

         ‭ “‬That‭’‬s it‭? ‬A camping trip‭?”‬ Vulryn said.

         ‭ “‬That‭’‬s all,‭”‬ Coryn said with a shrug of his shoulders.‭ “‬That,‭ ‬and trust that everything will work out for the best.‭”

         ‭ ‬Coryn steered the blacksmith toward the door.‭ ‬The two stepped out into the morning sun.

         ‭ “‬Now,‭”‬ Coryn said loudly with another sly look left and right.‭ ‬Go quickly and don‭’‬t let anyone see you.‭”

         ‭ ‬Back inside,‭ ‬Coryn rested against the door to catch his breath.

         ‭ “‬That should satisfy Raryn,‭”‬ he said and settled into his favorite chair.‭ ‬It was a busy morning for the seer.‭ ‬Coryn was sure he deserved a nap.

         ‭ ‬Vulryn was almost home when it occurred to him that the seer said he would have a son.‭ ‬He doubled his pace eager to tell Maryn the news.‭ ‬The one thing that never occurred to the blacksmith or Raryn‭’‬s spies was that they had been expertly played.

         ‭ ‬Bryn spent the rest of the day fishing in Bonaire Bayou.‭ ‬There was little chance of meeting anyone who knew him.‭ ‬People from his village avoided the bayou this time of year because the fishing was so poor.‭ ‬Bryn had not caught a fish all day.‭ ‬That was fine by him.‭ ‬All he was interested in was looking busy while doing nothing more than thinking.

         ‭ ‬It turned out there was more to being Coryn‭’‬s messenger than he first imagined.‭ ‬Now that he had time to think about it,‭ ‬he was not sure the seer hadn‭’‬t put a curse on him after all.‭ ‬He could not cross the river to the top of the Edge in the public lift.‭ ‬That meant---well,‭ ‬he didn‭’‬t like to think about what that meant.‭ ‬Nevertheless,‭ ‬his mind could not stay away from the problem for very long.‭ ‬His thoughts insisted on tap dancing around it.‭ ‬Perhaps this was because the idea of flying over open water and scaling granite walls was better than the loneliness gnawing at him when he wasn‭’‬t thinking about those things.

         ‭ ‬The cane pole began to tap out a message.‭ ‬Dinner was on the line.‭ ‬His practiced hands worked the fish onto the bank.‭ ‬A three pound shirk usually generated more excitement in him.‭ ‬Today,‭ ‬neither his heart nor his head cared much about fish of dinner.‭ ‬He worked the hook out of the fish‭’‬s mouth meaning to throw it back.‭ ‬The sudden rumbling in his stomach changed his plans.‭ ‬He had not eaten since he left Coryn‭’‬s house that morning.‭ ‬His belly remembered that even if his mind did not.‭ ‬The fish was soon turning over a small fire and filling the air with the scent of aren‭’‬t‭ ‬you glad you didn‭’‬t throw it back.‭ ‬The shirk‭’‬s flakey orange flesh tasted like buttered cashews.‭ ‬He found a comfortable branch on which to savor his catch and watch the sky turn from gold to violet.‭ ‬When night fell,‭ ‬he would go back to the village one last time.

         ‭ ‬Night brought a visitor.‭ ‬A small,‭ ‬snow,‭ ‬white owl glided on silent wings to perch on the branch next to Bryn.‭ ‬It looked like the same little owl he had seen the night before at the cemetery.

         ‭ “‬Of course,‭ ‬they all look the same to‭ ‬me,‭”‬ Bryn said as the owl landed.

         ‭ “‬I was thinking the same thing,‭”‬ said the owl.

         ‭ ‬Bryn‭’‬s smile vanished and he shifted uncomfortably on the branch.‭ “‬This is crazy,‭”‬ he said.

         ‭ “‬You‭’‬re telling me,‭”‬ the owl answered.‭ “‬I was so hoping to work with someone a bit more understanding.‭”

         ‭ “‬Go away,‭”‬ Bryn ordered.

         ‭ ‬The owl didn‭’‬t move.‭ ‬Instead,‭ ‬it cocked its head to stare at Bryn.

         ‭ “‬What do you mean‭ ‬‘work‭’‬ with‭?”‬ Bryn asked.

         ‭ “‬W-w-w-o-o-o-r-r-k ‭ ‬w-w-w-i-i-i-i-th,‭”‬ the bird slowly drawled.‭ ‬As in cooperate,‭ ‬join forces,‭ ‬labor together.‭”

         ‭ “‬I know what it means,‭”‬ Bryn snapped.‭ “‬Just what do you think we are going to work on together‭?”

         ‭ “‬Life in general,‭”‬ the owl replied.‭ “‬And your mission in particular.‭”

         ‭ “‬I don‭’‬t know what you‭’‬re talking about,‭”‬ Bryn said.

         ‭ “‬Very good,‭”‬ the owl replied.‭ “‬You have playing dumb down pat.‭”

         ‭ “‬Who are you‭?”‬ Bryn glared at the bird.‭ “‬How is it you can talk‭?”

         ‭ “‬Calm down.‭ ‬I‭’‬m on your side,‭”‬ the owl said.‭ “‬My name is Otero and we have a mutual friend.‭”

         ‭ “‬Coryn,‭”‬ Bryn said.‭ “‬So,‭ ‬I‭’‬m not crazy.‭”

         ‭ “‬Well,‭ ‬we‭’‬ll see about that,‭”‬ Otero replied.‭ “‬Meanwhile,‭ ‬isn‭’‬t there someplace you want to go‭?”

          ‭ ‬A short while later Bryn looked down on the firelight playing in the windows of his home.‭ ‬Would he ever see his mother and father again‭? ‬He shook his head to chase the thought away.‭ ‬He could go down there now‭; ‬end all this‭; ‬just say no to Coryn‭’‬s scheme.‭ ‬That would be selfish.‭ ‬It would do more than endanger his parents than to help his aching heart.‭ ‬Besides,‭ ‬if he went home now,‭ ‬he might never leave.‭ ‬He‭’‬d sworn to do a job and he would do it.‭ ‬There was no going back‭; ‬not now.‭ ‬Otero fluttered down onto Bryn‭’‬s shoulder.‭ ‬He turned a measuring eye on the bird,‭ ‬but did not chase it away.‭ ‬It occurred to him that more than a small bird now rested on his shoulders.

         ‭ “‬It‭’‬s time to find shelter for the night,‭”‬ Otero whispered in his ear.

         ‭ ‬Bryn nodded and climbed up to the high branches.‭ ‬He carefully picked his way east toward the river.‭ ‬There would be a late rising moon.‭ ‬Bryn knew the way well enough,‭ ‬but a mistaken handhold in the dark might end his mission before it began.‭ ‬He would make better time after‭ ‬moonrise.‭ ‬He knew a place near the river where the trees were heavy with ripe fruit.‭ ‬He would make camp there.

         ‭ ‬A mile before reaching his destination,‭ ‬Bryn caught sight of lights moving in the dark up ahead.‭ ‬The lights were moving closer.‭ ‬Bryn climbed higher and moved away from the highway.‭ ‬He took shelter in the branches of a banyan tree.‭ ‬Voices drifted in on the night breeze,‭ ‬but were still too far away for Bryn to make out the words.‭ ‬He hunkered down a little more and waited.‭ ‬Soldiers followed‭ ‬the light into the clearing.‭ ‬Bryn‭’‬s heart hammered so hard he was sure the soldiers would hear.‭ ‬He recognized the two leading the way.‭ ‬They were two years ahead of him in school.‭ ‬Behind them was someone else Bryn recognized.‭ ‬It was Vulryn,‭ ‬the blacksmith‭ ‬and he was in chains.‭ ‬The blacksmith was followed by two village deputies armed with spears and bows slung over their shoulders.

         ‭ “‬Our trails of trouble begin,‭”‬ Otero said.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jimbo and Ray

“Whaddaya think?” Ray asked. “Wanna go for it?”
“Hmmm, I don’t know.”
“Ah, c’mon Jimbo, just look at him.” Ray’s stomach rumbled.
“Okay, but we don’t tarry,” Jimbo cautioned. “We’re in, out and gone--got it?”
“Yeah, yeah; in and out; like we was never there.” Ray nodded agreement. “I got it.”
“We only circle once.” Jimbo traced a path with his arm. “Pick a spot on the edge.”
“Let’s gooooo,” Ray jumped into the air; wings beating the air as he picked up speed. “Try and keep up.”

Jimbo glided off the edge behind Ray. Wingtip to wingtip they dropped out of the sky in a tight formation. Their target; a slow moving hulk of pulsing flesh thousands of times their size remained oblivious to their approach. Half way through their circle, Ray pointed to a hairless appendage that lay open and unprotected. He tucked his wings going into a steep dive. Jimbo followed working down in a tight zigzag pattern; waiting until the last second before breaking off to the right.
They hit the landing zone more than a dozen wing spans apart. The landing was perfect; soft and silent. Jimbo shot home the long, slim probe. The cutting edge hit home. Sticky, warmth seasoned with the bright tang of copper and salt filled his mouth. This was what he lived for. But, he knew life relied upon speed as much as stealth. Jimbo gulped a final mouthful; the tank was full. He slammed on the throttle and lifted off. Banking hard right, he headed for home. He went into a steep climb. He was still pushing into the climbing turn when he caught sight of Ray. His buddy was still perched atop a fat, pulsing river of blue. Ray hit a vein--the mother lode and he was gorging himself.

“Break off!” Jimbo screamed as he buzzed close to Ray. “Get out of there!”
Ray broke the connection. It was too late. Loaded down, he rose slowly. He couldn’t avoid the mountain of monster moving in on him.
“Noooooo,” Jimbo screamed in horror as the trap closed.


A streak of red and black goo smeared the spot Ray occupied only a moment before. Ray was history. Jimbo turned away for home trying desperately to hold on to his stomach contents. As Jimbo climbed for safety, the air around him thundered with a voice as big as the heavens.

“Whoa dude, that skeeter really nailed you,” said the voice.
“Ugh gross,” a second voice filled the air.
The monster’s hand wiped Ray’s remains from its skin.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tettias---Chapter 3---The Envoy

         ‭ “‬Are you coming,‭ ‬Byryn‭?”‬ Magryn asked after the crowd was gone.

         ‭ “‬No.‭”‬ Byryn heaved a sigh.‭ “‬I‭’‬m going to sit here a while and think this over.‭”

         ‭ ‬Magryn laid a hand on his friend‭’‬s shoulder.‭ “‬Don‭’‬t brood too long.‭ ‬We did the right thing. The Council could not go on record as sanctioning‭ ‬whatever he is planning.‭”

         ‭ “‬Here,‭”‬ Byryn tapped his head.‭ “‬I know you are right.‭ ‬In my heart,‭ ‬I‭’‬m not so sure.‭ L‬osing his temper didn‭’‬t help his case at all.‭”

         ‭ “‬No,‭ ‬it didn‭’‬t.‭”‬ Magryn shook his head.‭ “‬You did the right thing. Now, go home.‭”

         ‭ “‬Did I, Magryn‭?”

         ‭ “‬Of course you did,‭”‬ Magryn answered.‭ “So ‬go home.‭ Find a little peace while you can. ‬I fear this affair is far from over.‭”

         ‭ ‬When Magryn looked back from the longhouse door,‭ ‬Byryn‭’‬s beak was in his hands; his elbows propped on the table.‭ ‬He was far away. The Chairman of the Council closed the door and left him to his thoughts.

         ‭ ‬The sun was going down when Byryn finally pulled the longhouse door closed behind him.‭ ‬The warm,‭ ‬humid air felt good on his face.‭ ‬Orchids bloomed on the branches overhead.‭ ‬It was a beautiful day yet‭ t‬he village square was strangely‭ ‬deserted.

“Guess I’m not the only one troubled by the path we’ve chosen,” he thought. ‬The weight of all Tettias came rushing back to perch on his shoulders. For the first time in a long time, he felt old.

         ‭ ‬The heat of the day gave way to dark clouds and a clap of thunder. The evening rain filled the sky.‭ ‬Byryn ambled aimlessly through the downpour.‭ At least that is how it looked‬ to those who glimpsed him from behind their curtains.‭ ‬Byryn was wandering with a watch on his back trail.‭ ‬He had a destination in mind; a private destination if that was possible.‭ ‬He was sure Magryn was right.‭ ‬This affair was not finished.‭ ‬Thunder rolled again in the distance.‭ ‬The rain was beginning to send a through chill.‭ ‬Byryn quickened his pace.‭ ‬Near the outskirts of the village,‭ ‬he came to a thick wall of liana.‭ ‬He squeezed through a small opening and was lost to watching eyes.‭ ‬Long strides took him‭ ‬up a large branch and to the entrance of a ramshackle tree house.‭ ‬The branches supporting the house were strong and healthy‭; ‬the wooden walls were a different story.‭ ‬There were no carvings on the door posts as was the fashion.‭ ‬The owner had not even craved‭ ‬his name into the door.‭ ‬The banana fronds that covered the lattice overhanging the door were brown at the edges.‭ ‬Byryn the Elder knocked on the door and went inside without waiting for an invitation.

         ‭ ‬Inside was another world.‭ ‬The house was simply,‭ ‬but exquisitely,‭ ‬furnished.‭ ‬A fire crackled on an ancient stone hearth.‭ ‬A pair of craved bouja wood and wicker chairs flanked the fire.‭ ‬A bright red bouquet centerpiece and flickering coconut candles graced an ironwood table on which laid slices of mango‭ ‬and a steaming cup of tea.

         ‭ “‬You were that sure I‭’‬d come‭?”‬ Byryn said pointing at the tea.

         ‭ “‬Rumor has it I‭’‬m a seer,‭”‬ Coryn replied with a smile.

         ‭ “‬What confused soul told you that‭?”

         ‭ “‬I believe,‭”‬ Coryn scratched his beak searching his memory.‭ “‬It was your father.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬yes,‭ ‬I‭’‬m sure of it.‭”

         ‭ “‬So it was.‭”‬ Byryn chuckled and took a sip of tea.‭ “‬He was senile at the end you know.‭”

         ‭ ‬Coryn waved the comment away and motioned for Byryn to take the empty chair beside him.‭ ‬The two drank tea watching the fire in silence.

         ‭ “‬I‭’‬m sorry about the Council‭’‬s vote,‭”‬ Byryn broke the silence.

         ‭ “‬Don‭’‬t be,‭”‬ Coryn replied with a wave of his hand.‭ “‬It went as I expected.‭”

         ‭ “‬You expected to be denied‭?”

         ‭ “‬Of course,‭”‬ Coryn looked at him.‭ “‬The High Council was in no position to reverse the ban on travel to Shiloh.‭ ‬Besides,‭ ‬they would never agree to some cockeyed mission of which they knew nothing.‭”

         ‭ “‬Then,‭ ‬why‭…‬?” Byryn voice trailed away.

         ‭ “‬The High Council deserved to be consulted if for no other reason than that they are the High Council.‭ ‬Honor to whom honor is due,‭ ‬remember‭?”

         ‭ “‬But; oh hell,‭ ‬Magryn is right,” Byryn cocked his head to look at his friend.‭ “‬You are going to do it anyway, aren’t you?‭”

         ‭ “‬Yes.‭”

         ‭ “‬I knew it,‭”‬ Byryn said.‭ “You know ‬Raryn and his cronies will be on guard hoping to catch you defying the Council.‭”

         ‭ “‬Oh,‭ ‬I‭’‬d wager he is salivating with anticipation right now .‭”‬ Coryn leaned closer to his guest.‭ “‬I promise,‭ ‬they will not succeed.‭ ‬That is why I am glad you‭’‬re‭ ‬here.‭”

         ‭ “‬You mean me‭?”‬ Byryn was on his feet.‭ “‬Coryn,‭ ‬you‭ ‬are crazy.‭”

         ‭ ‬Coryn laughed and slapped his knees.‭ “‬Sit down,‭ ‬dear boy.‭ ‬It‭’‬s not you.‭ ‬You would be missed.‭ ‬I‭’‬m not sure why,‭ ‬but you‭’‬d be missed just the same.‭”

         ‭ “‬Surely you know that I cannot openly help you.‭”

         ‭ “‬I would not ask it,‭”‬ Coryn said.‭ “‬However,‭ ‬since you showed an interest in my intentions,‭ ‬perhaps you would do me the favor of contacting the envoy on my behalf.‭ ‬You have only to say that I‭’‬d like to see him.‭”

         ‭ “‬Okay,‭”‬ Byryn agreed.‭ “‬Who is it‭?”

         ‭ ‬Once again,‭ ‬Byryn found himself staring into a fire.‭ ‬He wondered why prophets must be so difficult.‭ ‬The visit with Coryn had not ended as he expected.‭ ‬The old seer was still full of surprises.‭ ‬Today‭’‬s surprise reigned supreme.‭ ‬All the way home he‭ ‬puzzled over the magnitude of what he had gotten himself into this time.‭ ‬He was still trying to wrap his mind around the enormity of it.

        ‭ “‬Somehow,‭ ‬I don‭’‬t think the answer is burning in our fireplace.‭”‬ Sharyn laid a soft hand on his arm.

         ‭ “‬No.‭”‬ He sighed and turned to look at his wife.‭ ‬She knew him well.‭ “‬Actually,‭ ‬I know what I must do.‭ ‬It is just hard to accept it that this is where my duty truly lies.‭”

         ‭ “‬Can you tell me‭?”‬ she asked.

         ‭ “‬No.‭ N‬ot yet anyway,‭”‬ he said.‭ “‬You‭’‬ll know soon enough.‭ ‬I fear everyone will know.‭”

         ‭ ‬The arrival of‭  their son ‬Bryn,‭ ‬their only son,‭ ‬balancing heaping plates of food while trying to navigate between the kitchen and the table interrupted the conversation.‭ ‬The boy dropped down into a chair and began stuffing food into his mouth before looking up at his parents.

         ‭ “‬Why so glum,‭”‬ he asked through a mouthful of bouja fruit.‭ “‬Does it have to do with the seer‭?”

         ‭ “‬Strange you should ask about him,‭”‬ his father said.‭ “‬Dear,‭ ‬would you get me some more tea‭?”

         ‭ ‬Sharyn knew he did not want more tea.‭ In that instant s‬he knew his secret.‭ ‬She gave him a weak smile. In the kitchen,‭ s‬he busied herself shuffling pots and pans making noise so neither of them would hear her cry.

         ‭ “‬Come sit over here,‭”‬ Byryn said.

         ‭ ‬Byrn shrugged his shoulders.‭ A‬ half-eaten plate of food in one hand and tea in the other,‭ ‬he started toward the fire.‭ ‬A shadow like the one on his heart fell over Byryn‭’‬s face as he watched his son.‭ The change was not lost on Bryn. ‬A finger of cold touched Byrn’s heart.‭ ‬The darkness that fell on his father worked its way into Byrn as well.‭ ‬Sorrow as deep as the sea filled him.‭ ‬Bryn returned his plate to the table before sitting next to his father.

         ‭ “‬Is it trouble‭?”‬ Bryn asked.

         ‭ “‬What do you know of today’s Council meeting‭?”

         ‭ “‬Only that there was a huge crowd,‭”‬ Bryn answered.‭ “‬I did hear Coryn the Seer was there.‭ ‬It was nice having the forest practically to myself.‭”

         ‭ ‬Byryn smiled for the first time that evening.‭ “‬Son,‭ ‬I swear you are the least curious being in all the Boubouja.‭ ‬Perhaps,‭ ‬your love of solitude is the reason that I have a message for you from Coryn.‭ ‬The seer has invited you to his house tomorrow.‭”

         ‭ “‬What‭? ‬Why‭?”‬ Bryn sputtered.‭ “‬Me‭? ‬But he doesn‭’‬t even know me.‭”

         ‭ “‬Son,‭”‬ Byryn said.

         ‭ ‬Bryn jumped out of his seat and began to pace.‭ “‬Right,‭ ‬he‭’‬s the seer.‭ ‬He knows everything.‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬this cannot be good.‭”

         ‭ “‬Any confessions you need to make‭?”‬ his father asked.

         ‭ “‬What‭?”‬ Bryn‭’‬s started to speak,‭ ‬then stopped.‭ “‬No,‭ ‬no,‭ ‬no,‭ ‬no,‭ ‬no,‭ ‬nothing like that.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬it must be something like that.‭ ‬Why else would the seer want to see me‭?”

         ‭ “‬Perhaps,‭”‬ Byryn started again.‭ “‬I can explain.‭”

         ‭ ‬Bryn returned to his seat.‭ “‬Sorry Dad.‭ ‬It‭’‬s just that,‭ ‬well,‭ ‬you know this kind of thing‭ ‬doesn‭’‬t happen every day.‭ ‬It never happens.‭”

         ‭ “‬Never say never,‭”‬ his father told him.‭ “‬At least that‭’‬s what my father told me.‭ ‬It is true that a summons from the seer is rare.‭ ‬In your case,‭ ‬it is more so.‭”

         ‭ “‬Do you know his purpose‭?”

         ‭ “‬A small part of it,‭”‬ Byryn said.‭ “‬For your mother‭’‬s sake,‭ ‬the part I know I cannot tell.‭ I’m certain that ‬Coryn will ask the same silence of you.‭ ‬Go,‭ ‬listen to what he has to say and trust your heart.‭ ‬The Creator will not lay upon you more than you can bear.‭”

         ‭ “‬I don‭’‬t feel so good,‭”‬ Bryn said.‭ “‬I‭’‬m going to go lay down a while,‭ ‬if that‭’‬s okay with you.‭”

         ‭ ‬Byryn nodded his consent.‭ ‬He closed his eyes and lowered his head against the back of the chair.‭ ‬A mountain of questions jostled one another for his attention‭; ‬each question riddled with more danger than the last.‭ ‬Duty and faith kept him anchored to his chair.‭ ‬He trusted Coryn and prayed that the seer was better able to protect his son than he was.‭ ‬The door softly opened followed by the sound of footsteps‭ ‬and the soft touch of a familiar hand on his arm.

         ‭ “‬What are we going to do‭?”‬ she asked.

         ‭ “Live with s‬orrow.‭”‬ Byryn sighed.‭ “‬And pray it does not consume us.‭”