Friday, September 30, 2016

Touch


One flesh meets another. One set of keratinized, dead, nerveless cells slides along another mass of the same lifeless cells. A barrier pressing to emptiness. Except it is a miracle.

It is the universe; the meaning of life; the meeting of souls; the gift of God. Human touch imparts courage to the fearful; comfort to the sick; faith to the hopeless all because it is more than a collision of skin. It is mercy, hope and love of one living being reaching for another. Words cannot banish worry, but arms wrapped around a troubled soul can.

There is no magic here. It is that we are more than the sum of radom amino acids. There exists within every being wrapped in skin something apart from flesh and blood. It is something eternal; something of the divine that inhabits the very least of us. Who has held a baby and not felt new life? Who has embraced and not felt love? Or who has laid a hand on the dead and not felt an empty shell.

Telephones don’t reach out---hands do. Touch someone. To touch one another is why we exist. Breathe, feel, touch.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chapter 10 --- Climbing the Edge


The crack of Codryn’s whip split the air. Vacation was over; the porters leaped to their feet. Time to move; time to climb. Bryn’s legs screamed in silent protest. He had to go on. If he were free, he would have to move. He could not spend the night on these stairs. Climbing in the dark was infinitely more dangerous. One step above him Fedryn shrugged into his pack; missed a strap and stumbled. Bryn caught the pack and steadied his partner.
“Here let me,” Bryn said.
He took the pack, taking care to work his arms slowly through the straps before bouncing it on his back to distribute the weight. Fedryn gave him a grateful smile, then quickly looked over his shoulder in Codryn’s direction like a frightened pup. Bryn pointed up with his beak. They began to climb. It only took Bryn a few steps with the pack tugging on his shoulders to gain a new respect for the little guy.
The caravan stopped once more before before the final push for the top. Fedryn offered to take back the pack, but Bryn refused to give it up. Hard as it had been to restart the climb last time, this was worse. Bryn prayed for his legs to hold him. After a brief argument; they obeyed. They climbed for another hour to a chorus of groans and whispered prayers for strength to take one more step.
“Almost there,” Codryn shouted from the lead. “Make the top and we rest for the night.”
No one cheered. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Nevertheless, Codryn’s words had the desired effect. They ignited a spark of hope up and down the line. Bryn dug deeper. One foot at a time; one step at a time; Bryn climbed on.
“Rocks,” a voice cried. “Lookout below.”
Loose rocks tumbled down the steps sending a ripple through the climbers. Unable to see the reaction of the climbers above Fedryn hands went up to shield his head. He glanced up through his fingers looking for the danger when his foot hit the loose stones underfoot. His left foot rolled outward sending pain shooting up his leg. The ankle gave and he went to his knees; over balanced and went over the edge. Fedryn’s weight ate up the slack in less than a second. The rope snapped taunt. Bryn was snatched off his feet. Bryn’s fingers dug at the unyielding stone step. Blood burst from his fingertips as he was pulled toward the precipice.
One Eye dived for Bryn’s bleeding hands. He missed; scrambled and caught Bryn by the collar. One Eye’s face twisted into a a mask of pain as he strained to hang on. Releasing his grip with one hand, One Eye took Bryn’s hand in his. His grip improved, but One Eye was being carried to the edge. Two porters below One Eye shed their packs and fell across their leader’s body stopping the slide for a moment.
“Hold on,” Codryn yelled as he shouldered his way by the porters. “I’m coming, hold on.”
One Eye looked over Bryn’s shoulder at the floor over a thousand feet below. Vertigo rocked him. He quickly shut his good eye and dug his fingers deeper into Bryn’s collar. Farther below, Fedryn worked his feet against the cliff face desperately trying to gain a foot hold.
“I can’t hold on,” One Eye said through his clenched beak.
Codryn dropped beside him catching Bryn with both hands and easing the strain on One Eye’s arms. The two partners in crime pulled in synch. They moved Bryn half a foot higher and could go no further. There was no room on the stair for more hands and the ones that held the fallen porters were fading fast.
“I’ll hold them,” Codryn said. “Cut the gimp loose.”
“No,” Bryn yelled up at One eye. “We can do it.”
“Cut it,” Codryn ordered when a second attempt failed. “Cut it or we loose everything.”
One Eye drew his knife and flicked it across the rope at Bryn’s waist. Fedryn dropped into space. The force of Fedryn’s wings snapping open sent him into a spin. He hit the rock face and his right wing crumpled with a sickening snap of bone. Fedryn’s clawed at the sky; turned over and went headlong into the rocks below with a wet slap. One Eye vomited. The vile rain splattered on Fedryn’s broken corpse in a parting shot of degradation. With the aid of his captors, Bryn climbed back to the safety of the stairs. The shakes hit him seconds later.
Bryn finished the climb in a fog that memory would never penetrate. Somehow, he arrived at the top with all the others. There was no celebration. No one looked back over the edge to see how far they climbed. No on took in the spectacular view afforded from the Edge of the World. There was only the mental vision of Fedryn dropping away and the sound of him hitting the ground----and soldiers everywhere.

The sudden realization they weren't alone that brought Bryn back to the present.‭ F‬orty yards‭ ‬from where the tired porters lay,‭ ‬two rows of armed men stood in front of a circle of white tents.‭ ‬On either side of the soldiers,‭ ‬great horned beasts wearing armor pawed the ground and strained at their reins. A human voice barked and the ranks of soldiers parted. A tall man dressed in a linen shirt trimmed in gold stepped from one of the tents.‭ ‬The man moved toward the smugglers with quiet ease,‭ ‬head erect,‭ ‬shoulders squared.‭ ‬His dark hair fluttered on the breeze.‭ ‬His soft clothes, smooth features and the purple sash tied about his waist were‭ ‬a sure sign he was no soldier. He carried no weapon, but clearly commanded all he saw.‭ ‬Codryn rose to meet him.‭
‬"Lord Zett,‭" ‬Codryn raised a hand in salute.
‭"‬Welcome Codryn,‭" ‬A smile creased his regal face. A manicured hand returned the salute.‭ "‬I trust all went well.‭"
‬"As always,‭" ‬Codryn replied.
Codryn left his charges with the soldiers. He fell into step with Zett. The two of them disappeared into one of two large tents in the center of the camp.‭ ‬The soldiers ordered the others to their feet. Packs were shouldered and the weary porters escorted to the tent adjacent to the tent occupied by Codryn and Zett.‭ ‬The big tent was empty except for two tables piled high with fruit, stacks of smoked fish and pitchers of water.‭ ‬The weary travelers‭' ‬empty stomachs surprised them with new found strength.‭ ‬Following One Eye's lead,‭ ‬they snatched up armfuls of food and dropped down on the hard packed ground to eat.‭ ‬Bryn shoveled handfuls of overripe fruit into his mouth; swallowing huge chunks and chasing them with gulps of water.‭ Bryn‬ told himself that he would chew them later.‭ Before that happened overfilled‬ bellies presented a new misery.‭
‬One by one the smugglers were allowed outside to relieve themselves under the watchful eyes of the soldiers.‭ ‬When the last Valir returned to the tent,‭ ‬a new group of soldiers arrived. These men carried iron shackles.‭ ‬The porters legs were shackled together and a long chain was wound through the band on each porter's right leg.‭ ‬The chain was then staked to the ground on the ends.‭ ‬One Eye and his men remained free.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬they were told not they could not leave the tent until Codryn came for them.‭ ‬Soldiers and smugglers settled down to wait.‭ ‬The porters, their situation largely unchanged, fell instantly asleep.‭ ‬One Eye whispered orders for his men to stay alert. One Eye pulled a pipe from his tunic; stuffed it with brown leaves from a pouch and waited.‭ ‬The tent filled with the sweet scent of burning banana leaves carried on a thin cloud of blue smoke.‭ ‬The soldiers retreated outside coughing and holding their noses.
‭"‬Our hosts don't seem to appreciate a good smoke,‭" ‬One Eye said.
Laughter broke out among the tiny group of Valir.‭ ‬It was to be short lived.

The tent flap flew open. The guards leaped to attention as a platoon of lancers marched in. Their officer pointed to One Eye’s little group. Lances prodded the smugglers to their feet. A tall, thin silhouette appeared against the morning sun streaming in through the opening. Zett strolled into the tent. He was followed by yet more soldiers.
“There’s been a change of plans,” Zett announced with a casual wave of his hand. “You have made your last delivery. Captain, chain these...these... creatures with the others.”
One of the smugglers drew a knife. A blue arc jumped from a lance and he fell to the ground twitching and jerking uncontrollably.
“Codryn will have something to say about this,” One Eye said.
“Oh, yes Codryn.” Zett smiled at them. “Bring him in.”
Two soldiers dragged in the smugglers leader. Codryn’s right eye was swollen closed; his crown feathers were gone. He seemed to be bleeding everywhere. Shackles adorned his feet. The soldiers dropped his body to the ground at Zett’s feet.
“As you can see,” he said. “Codryn has agreed to join you in the market. I’m not sure he will fetch as much as he once would have, but...”
Zett shrugged; turned on his heels and walked slowly from the tent. The soldiers dragged Codryn into the line of prisoners and fixed his shackle to the chain. His still twitching partner was chained beside him. One Eye and the rest offered no resistance.
‭                                                                                                                                        

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chapter 9 Vulryn’s Defense




While Bryn Bou sat on the stairway dripping sweat and trying hard to breathe,‭ ‬Madryn Kel pounded on the door of Coryn the Seer.‭ ‬Tears streamed down her face as she pleaded for someone‭; ‬anyone to answer.‭ ‬The soldier standing guard grew tired of listening and started for her,‭ ‬but she was saved by the appearance of Coryn’s diminutive,‭ ‬white crowned maid.‭ ‬The maid was draped in a heavy black shawl from under which two gnarled hands held the door.‭ ‬The bright eyes that shone from the maid’s worn face smiled at Madryn.
“‬Come in dear,‭” ‬the old one said pointing a crooked finger.‭ “‬Master Coryn will see you.‭ ‬He is just over by the fire.‭”
Maddie dabbed her eyes with her apron as she followed the maid across the room.‭ ‬She had heard of the seer,‭ ‬but this was her first actual glimpse of the mysterious prophet known and feared through all the Boubouja.‭ ‬He wasn’t much to look at really.‭ ‬He certainly wasn’t the giant of lore.‭ ‬He looked rather small,‭ ‬especially in comparison to her Vul.‭ ‬His plumage was a soft chestnut color mixed with large flecks of white.‭ ‬A single patch of white lay just above his eyes as if someone had brushed against him with small paint brush.‭ ‬A scar ran down the right side of his beak where the tip missing.‭ ‬She couldn’t help but wonder if the rumors about his age were false.‭ ‬The scales showing above the cut of his cloak were the bright,‭ ‬smooth green of a young man.‭
The maid steered Maddie into a chair beside her host and slowly disappeared into the next room.‭ ‬Maddie slumped down into the offered chair and waited for the seer to speak.
“‬You’ve been crying,‭” ‬he said at last.‭ “‬Are you ill‭?”
As she searched for her voice,‭ ‬the maid reappeared clutching a rattling cup of tea between her twisted claws.‭ ‬Maddie accepted the cup‭; ‬a sip of the hot brew helped the words to flow.
“‬They’ve arrested my Vulryn,‭” ‬she said.‭ ‬The tears were back,‭ ‬but her voice remained steady.‭ “‬They won’t let me see him.‭ ‬They won’t even tell me why he’s been arrested.‭”
“What would you have me to do‭?” ‬He asked.‭ “‬I’m just the seer.‭ ‬I have no authority to set him free.‭”
“Please,‭ ‬you’ve got to help him,‭” ‬she pleaded.‭ “‬Tell them he’s done nothing wrong.‭ ‬They’ll believe you.‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬please---please help him.‭”
“All will be well,‭” ‬He patted her arm with a weathered hand.‭ “‬I will go and speak with Councilor Byryn and the others.‭”
“But you must hurry,‭ ‬seer.‭ ‬My poor Vul needs you.‭”
“Hurry is the one thing I cannot do,‭ ‬my dear.‭” ‬Coryn leaned back in his chair.‭ “‬Dry your eyes.‭ ‬Vulryn is a big,‭ ‬strong Valir.‭ ‬He will be well until we get there.‭”
“But,‭ ‬I don’t understand,‭” ‬she replied.
“‬The authorities believe Vulryn was carrying a message from me to a seer in Shiloh,‭” ‬he began.‭ “‬Of course,‭ ‬he wasn’t.‭ ‬Nevertheless,‭ ‬I need for them to go on thinking it a little longer.‭ ‬Your husband will be free in due time.‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬finish your tea and go make ready for his return.‭”
“You’re sure he will be alright‭?”
“Absolutely,‭” ‬he said.‭ ‬A wry smile touched his face.‭ “‬You trust me,‭ ‬don’t you‭?”
“Yes,‭ ‬of course,‭” ‬she replied.
“‬Then go and do not be afraid,‭” ‬he said.‭ “‬All will be well.‭”
Coryn’s maid let Maddie out and waved at the soldier before shuffling back across the room to claim the seat Maddie vacated.
“‬What are you going to do now‭?” ‬she asked.
“‬The hardest thing of all,‭” ‬Coryn said with a sigh.‭ “‬We wait.‭”

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Chapter * -----Pursuit of Vulryn Kel

Tomryn Zee knocked on the door to the tiny house behind the blacksmith’s shop.‭ ‬The house was not much to look at.‭ ‬It looked like every other house in the neighborhood.‭ ‬The wonder of the house of Vulryn was the elaborate ironwork.‭ ‬The heavy bouja wood door was set into a metal frame that wound around its perimeter in a curious series of loops and whorls.‭ ‬Large iron hinges held the door to a similarly wrought casement.‭ ‬A single piece of iron forming the name Zee was inlaid in the wood.
‬When no answer came,‭ ‬Tomryn knocked a bit harder.‭ ‬He was careful to avoid the usual pounding trademark of soldiers.‭ ‬He was rewarded with the sounds of someone moving inside.‭ ‬To his surprise,‭ ‬the blacksmith’s wife answered.
“‬Oh,‭ ‬hello Tomryn,‭” ‬She smiled up at the uniformed cousin of her husband.‭ “‬It’s so good to see you again.‭”
“Is Vulryn in‭?” ‬he asked.
“‬I’m afraid he’s gone fishing,‭” ‬she said.‭ “‬Is there anything I can do for you‭?”
“You mean he left you all alone‭?” ‬his voice jumped up a notch.‭ “‬Are you sure you’re well enough‭?”  
“Don’t fret Tom.‭” ‬She smiled and turned a neat pirouette.‭ “‬As you can see I’m perfectly fine.‭ ‬Please,‭ ‬come in.‭”
Tomryn followed her inside to a small nook tucked into a corner of the kitchen.‭ ‬A small table simply furnished with a pair of pewter candlesticks.‭ ‬A single cup was set before one of the chairs.
“‬Can I get you some tea‭?” ‬she asked.
“‬That would be nice.‭”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat as she busied herself with the tea.‭ ‬Her light and effortless movements kept time with the tune she hummed.‭ ‬Though he was in a hurry,‭ ‬he thought her sudden good health might be important to his mission.‭ ‬The last time he saw Madryn Zee she couldn’t get out of bed without help.‭
“How is it you’re feeling so well‭?” ‬He asked when she returned to the table.
“‬Isn’t it wonderful‭?” ‬A musical lilt filled her voice.‭ “‬The seer gave Vul a talisman.‭ ‬As soon as I took it in my hands I was whole again.‭ ‬It’s a miracle.‭”
“It is amazing,‭” ‬he admitted.‭ “‬Did Vul say how‭  ‬it happened the seer gave it to him‭? ‬Did he do some work for Coryn recently‭?”
“I don’t think so,‭” ‬she thought a moment.‭ “‬No,‭ ‬he said the seer just handed it to him and said‭ ‘‬This is for your wife.‭’ ”
“How strange,‭” ‬Tomryn said.‭ “‬Seers don’t usually do things like that without a reason.‭”
“But,‭ ‬Tom,‭ ‬it made me well.‭”
“Oh,‭ ‬I didn’t mean it like that,‭” ‬he said.‭ “‬I meant only that seers often want something it return‭; ‬something for their own profit.‭ ‬Did Vulryn say if the seer asked for anything in return‭?”
“Come to think of it he did,‭” ‬she answered.‭ “‬He asked Vul to go fishing and bring him some fish.‭”
“When did this happen‭?”
“Why,‭ ‬just this morning,‭” ‬she said.‭ “‬Vul went to thank him for the talisman.‭”
“Did he say when he would be back‭?”
“No,‭” ‬she said with a shake of her head.‭ “‬And that’s not like Vul at all.‭”
“I’ve got to go,‭” ‬he said.‭ ‬Tomryn pushed his cup away and stood to go.
“‬But you haven’t finished your tea,‭” ‬she called after him.
“‬When he gets home,‭” ‬he said from the doorway.‭ “‬Tell Vulryn he must come see me right away.‭”
“Males,‭” ‬she huffed at the closed door.‭ “‬Always rushing about.‭”

Tomryn hurried away from the blacksmith’s house torn between two emotions.‭ ‬He was proud to do his duty,‭ ‬but the excitement he ought to feel was missing.‭ ‬Instead a heavy foreboding lay on his heart knowing he was about to destroy the life of his kinsman.‭ ‬There was no hiding what he knew from his superiors.‭ ‬They knew Vulryn met with the seer before leaving the village.‭ ‬Even if they didn’t,‭ ‬Vulryn was too big and the village too small to mask his absence.‭ ‬His job was to confirm where the blacksmith was going.‭ ‬His success was rewarded with a nagging sense of betrayal.‭ ‬Sergeant Gadryn waved him into a clearing where a small knot of soldiers waited.
“‬Something wrong private‭?” ‬Gadryn asked as he approached the group.‭ “‬You look like you have a beakful of sour fruit.‭”
“As you suspected,‭ ‬he’s headed for the river,‭” ‬Tomryn said.‭ “‬He left almost immediately after leaving the seer.‭”
“Did she say why‭?”
“No,‭” ‬he replied.‭ “‬She gave me a story about the seer sending him on a fishing trip.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬there is something.‭ ‬Vulryn’s wife has been sick for more than a year.‭ ‬Most of the time,‭ ‬she can’t even get out of bed.‭ ‬Today she’s dancing around like it never happened.‭ ‬She told me the seer gave Vulryn a healing talisman.‭”
“Sounds like he owes the seer a favor,‭” ‬Gadryn said.
“‬That’s exactly what it is,‭” ‬a voice announced.
“‬Councilor Raryn.‭” ‬The sergeant jumped to attention.
“‬At ease,‭ ‬men,‭” ‬Raryn replied.‭ “‬I have here a signed order from the High Council for the apprehension of Vulryn Zee.‭ ‬He is to be apprehended before he can cross the river and brought back immediately for trial.‭”
“Yes sir,‭” ‬Gadryn said.‭ “‬What is the charge‭?”
“You need not concern yourself with that,‭” ‬Raryn snapped.‭ “‬Just do your duty and bring him back.‭ ‬You will also post a guard on the home of the seer.‭ ‬I want to know his every move.‭ ‬Do you understand me‭?”
“It will be done Councilor.‭” ‬Gadryn turned to his men.‭ “‬Tomryn,‭ ‬you’re to watch the seer.‭ ‬The rest of you get ready to move out in ten minutes in full gear.‭ ‬Move.‭”
Vulryn,‭ ‬unaware of the trouble rushing to meet him,‭ ‬felt more alive than he had for a long time.‭ ‬Madryn’s illness weighed more heavily on him than he realized.‭ ‬He didn’t like leaving her and the shop.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬the idea was beginning to grow on him.‭ ‬A little vacation would do him good.‭ ‬Surely,‭ ‬the seer knew it before he did.‭ ‬He skimmed over the branches with long easy strides.‭ ‬If the Creator continued to smile on him,‭ ‬he would reach the river in time to do a little fishing before dark.‭ ‬If it seemed strange that the seer sent him fishing,‭ ‬well,‭ ‬seers were strange creatures.‭ ‬Their world had its own odd set of rules that nobody really understood.‭ ‬Madryn was healed.‭ ‬If the seer had asked for one of the moons of Tettias,‭ ‬Vulryn would give it.‭ ‬What was a fishing trip but blessing on top of blessing‭? ‬He had never been devout in his faith or the power of the prophets.‭ ‬He promised himself that would change.
‬He reached the river an hour before dark and dropped a line into the water while he hurried collecting braches and fronds for a shelter.‭ ‬His little errand for Codryn held yet another blessing.‭ ‬Twice during construction he had to stop building to pull in fish.‭ ‬He would eat well tonight.
‬A suitable shelter came together in no time.‭ ‬Vulryn gathered up his catch and slipped inside to enjoy his supper of mangos and arowana.‭ ‬The fish had a slightly tart taste that played well with the sweetness of the fruit.‭ ‬He especially liked the crunch of the gold and red metallic scales.‭ ‬Lying there in his shelter,‭ ‬his belly full,‭ ‬and his wife whole again,‭ ‬he began to dream of a future filled with good things.‭ ‬Hope for a son was rekindled in his heart.‭ ‬Vulryn patted his stomach producing a resounding belch and settled down to listen to the lullaby the jungle sang just for him.‭ ‬Falling quickly to sleep was never a problem for Vulryn Zee.‭ ‬Tonight was no exception.‭ ‬In minutes he was sound asleep his snores joining in the night song.

‬The Valir say that the Creator gives His beloved sleep.‭ ‬They also hold the higher truth that there is a time and a season for all things.‭ ‬Vulryn’s season of sleep was done.‭ ‬It was time to awaken to the Creator’s service.‭
The soldiers came out of nowhere.‭ ‬Pain stabbed at his chest.‭ ‬Vulryn’s eyes flew open.‭ ‬Sleep fled from him.‭ ‬His hand closed on sharpened iron.‭ ‬An angry soldier pressed a lance against Vulryn’s chest.‭ ‬The blacksmith tried to squirm away from the point digging into him,‭ ‬but the lance remained pinned to his skin.‭ ‬Torches burned behind his tormentor revealing more uniformed shapes gathering around him.‭ ‬Vulryn was surrounded with nothing but a fishing pole for a weapon.‭ ‬The fire in their eyes argued for his quick surrender.‭
He had nothing to hide‭; ‬he had broken no laws‭; ‬he had done no one wrong.‭ ‬Vulryn lay motionless.‭
“Let’s see your hands,‭” ‬the soldier ordered.
‬Vulryn slowly raised his hands.‭ ‬The soldiers circled the blacksmith wary of his size.‭ ‬The soldiers circled the blacksmith wary of his size.
“‬Are you Vulryn Tek son of Tarryn‭?” ‬A soldier asked.‭
The voice sounded Gadryn Kul.‭ ‬Vulryn told himself that could not be.‭ ‬What would the Sergeant of the Guard be doing here this time of night‭?
“Stand up,‭” ‬the voice commanded.‭ ‬It was Gadryn.‭ “‬Are you Vulryn Tek‭?”
“You know I am,‭” ‬Vulryn answered.‭ “‬We’ve lived in the same village all our lives.‭”
“Just keep quiet and do as you’re told.‭”
“What’s this all about‭?” ‬Vulryn asked.‭”
“Very slowly,‭ ‬just turn around,‭” ‬Gadryn commanded.‭ “‬Private tie his hands.‭”
The private threw a loop of rope around Vulryn’s right wrist.‭ ‬With a jerk,‭ ‬both hands met behind his back‭; ‬were bound together and fastened with rope to his waist.‭ ‬The soldier put a hand in the middle of Vulryn’s back and shoved him toward the village.‭ ‬The blacksmith didn’t move.‭ ‬He tried again,‭ ‬harder this time,‭ ‬but the giant still didn’t move.
“‬Let’s go Vulryn,‭” ‬Gadryn ordered.‭ “‬Don’t fight us on this.‭”
“Tell me what this is all about,‭” ‬Vulryn insisted.
“‬Treason,‭” ‬Gadryn’s voice was flat and hard.
“‬Treason‭? ‬That’s crazy,‭” ‬Vulryn said.‭ “‬Since when is fishing treason‭?”
“You’re under arrest,‭” ‬Gadryn told him.‭ “‬We’re taking you back to Vix.‭ ‬As your friend,‭ ‬I advise you to say nothing until we get there.‭”
Flanked by Gadryn and a corporal of the Guard,‭ ‬Vulyrn fell into step behind a pair of armed lancers.‭ ‬A second pair of lancers brought up the rear of the procession.‭ ‬Vulryn still didn’t understand what was happening,‭ ‬but if six armed soldiers were sent to get him,‭ ‬it must be serious.‭ ‬If what Gadryn said was so it was certain because treason is about as serious as it can get.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬he kept quiet.‭ ‬It had to be a mistake‭; ‬it had to be.
‬The long march back to the village held none of the joys of the outbound trip.‭ ‬Vulryn plodded steadily along his head down‭; ‬eyes on the path lit only by the torches carried by the soldiers.‭ ‬He passed under Bryn’s watching eyes thinking—hoping they would get back to Vix before daylight.‭ ‬He had no wish to be paraded in bonds through the streets while his neighbors watched.‭ ‬His mind played the day over again and again vainly trying to make sense of it all.‭ ‬Knowing the answer would be supplied in time was no comfort at the moment.‭ ‬What would Maddie say‭? ‬What would she do without him to take care of her‭? ‬And what of the shop‭? ‬Without his hammer and‭ ‬anvil,‭ ‬he was just a big clumsy goof.‭ ‬Living forever locked away from his craft was horror beyond imagination.‭ ‬For the first time in his life,‭ ‬Vulryn Kel earnestly began to pray.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Chapter 7----Across the River

Bryn scurried along the landing branch to lock the trunk in a fervent embrace.‭ ‬Above him leaves rattled in time with his trembling body.‭ ‬When his shaking stopped,‭ ‬he dared to look down at the huge shadow resting just beneath the surface of the water.‭ ‬He released his hold on the trunk and slipped down to rest.‭ ‬His breathing returned to normal a few minutes later,‭ ‬but his reprieve was short lived.‭ ‬Someone was moving in his direction.
‬Bryn jumped to a branch on the north side of the tree and began to climb‭; ‬moving away from the approaching footsteps.‭ ‬It was one of the border patrols that routinely prowled the eastern bank of the river.
“‬It was near here,‭” ‬a lean Valir wearing sergeant stripes told the pair of soldiers following him.‭ “‬Sounded like a big one.‭”
The patrol came to rest on the branch vacated by Bryn.
“‬Look at that.‭” ‬One of the soldiers pointed at the shadow in the water.‭ “‬I've‭  ‬never seen anything that big before.‭”
“They're out there,‭” ‬the sergeant told him.‭ “‬Now spread out and check for signs of a leaper.‭ ‬That thing didn't jump out of the water.‭ ‬It was after something.‭”
The patrol scoured the nearby trees,‭ ‬but didn't see Bryn or evidence of his leap.‭ ‬After about ten minutes,‭ ‬they broke off the search and returned the way they came.‭ ‬Bryn watched them go until they were out of sight before leaving the safety of his hiding spot.‭ ‬He began to move east toward the escarpment keeping his progress as quiet as possible.
‬There was no worrying that he would lose his way.‭ ‬His destination could not be ignored.‭ ‬It was the huge granite wall looming up from the forest floor and climbing the sky to the plains of Ermam two thousand feet above.‭ ‬Most Valir had only seen it from the western shore of the Hiddekel.‭ ‬From that distance,‭ ‬it was an imposing sight.‭ ‬On holidays the Valir brought their children to the river just to stand and stare at it.‭ ‬Bryn found that up close words lost their power to describe this geographical monster of a wall.‭ ‬Stones the size of a house littered the base of cliffs that ran to the horizons.‭ ‬Bryn thought he now understood why it was called the Edge of the World.
‬The wall of stone before him appeared from the days before the lift to be the Creator's way of saying to the Valir and their beloved Boubouja,‭ '‬this far and no farther.‭' ‬It was an idea reinforced by the many Valir who ventured beyond it into the land of men and never to return again.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬the wall was also a defense against the encroachment of men.‭ ‬The abrupt uplift of the Edge held the clouds over the forest watering it and blocking out the sunlight needed by man's war machines.
‬Bryn glided to the foot of the wall and rested a hand on the cool stone.‭ ‬The summit was blocked from view by a thick layer of clouds.‭ ‬Coryn assured him there was a series of steps and handholds cut into the stone from the days before the lift was built.‭ ‬The staircase was in a horseshoe shaped bend in the wall.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬for a five-foot-tall Valir accustomed to life in the trees all that stone looked the same.
“‬What I need,‭” ‬Bryn said.‭ “‬Is a sign saying‭ '‬This way to the secret pathway.‭'”
His attempt to be lighthearted failed.‭ ‬The truth,‭ ‬hard as the granite,‭ ‬hit home.‭ ‬He was alone in a strange land that could only get stranger.‭ ‬He could not call for help even if it existed.‭ ‬The strength he drew from the prophet's faith in him quickly withered away.‭ ‬A dark hole of sorrow swallowed him.‭ ‬Bryn fought to keep from drowning in dispair.
“‬Send me a sign,‭” ‬he pleaded to no one in particular.
‬No one answered.‭ ‬No one at all seemed to hear.‭ ‬Moreover,‭ ‬no sign appeared in the heavens to save him.‭ ‬He was alone.‭ ‬So be it.
“‬The lift is to the south,‭” ‬he told himself and started moving north.
b The jumble of stones,‭ ‬splintered and fallen trees made travel near the wall difficult and slow.‭ ‬Bryn retreated to the tree line where travel was easier.‭ ‬Keeping as close to the wall as possible,‭ ‬he pressed ahead to find the staircase.‭ ‬In some places the forest grew thin forcing him to leap between stands of trees.‭ ‬Night came quickly in the Boubouja.‭ ‬The sun was already inching down the sky.‭ ‬He would have to stop soon and wait out the night.
‭ ‬Was perched in a bouja tree just ahead.
“‬Otero‭?” ‬he called.
‭ ‬disappeared into the stone.‭ ‬Bryn scrambled to the place where the bird sat.‭ ‬It had not disappeared into the stone at all.‭ ‬It had gone around a sharp salient in the wall and into a depression in the escarpment.‭ ‬It was Coryn's horseshoe.‭ ‬He followed the curve of the stone for about a half hour stopping only when darkness hid the way.‭ ‬Bryn constructed a rough shelter of small branches,‭ ‬palm fronds and large waxy leaves.‭ ‬He crawled inside minutes before it began to rain.‭ ‬The patter of the rain on his shelter lulled Bryn to sleep.‭ ‬As he drifted off,‭ ‬his thoughts turned toward home and it was there that his dreams carried him.

‬Bryn awakened to the clamor of a band of passing pocts.‭ ‬Sleep had washed away most of the weariness.‭ ‬Rain captured by depressions in nearby bouja leaves provided a cool drink.‭ ‬He splashed water on his face to wash away the remnants of sleep.‭ ‬Light was creeping into the sky,‭ ‬but it would be hours before the sun reached the shadow of the Edge.‭ ‬Bryn didn’t need the sun to tell him it was time for breakfast‭; ‬his rumbling stomach did the job.‭ ‬A quick search of his rucksack produced a large mango to quiet his belly.‭ ‬The golden pulp was sweet.‭ ‬He licked up the juices running down his fingers savoring every drop.‭ ‬He finished by rolling the pit in his beak to clean away the remaining bits of fruit.‭ ‬His plans of a second mango were interrupted by the sound of a group moving through the trees.‭ ‬Bryn moved off the path and climbed out of sight.
‬This time it was not the soldiers of the border patrol.‭ ‬They wore no uniforms and there was no talking.‭ ‬They were moving quietly on purpose.‭ ‬The leader was a big Valir,‭ ‬not as big as Vulryn,‭ ‬but close.‭ ‬He wore no pack.‭ ‬Bryn thought that odd for someone so far from any villages.‭ ‬He was armed better than most soldiers.‭ ‬A crossbow was slung over his right shoulder.‭ ‬The quiver at this waist was full of short Valirian bolts cocked with poct feathers.‭ ‬A pair of daggers were tucked into his belt from which hung a wicked looking leather cord studded with sharp pieces if sharpened bone.‭ ‬His equally sharp eyes swept the trees ahead.‭ ‬Ten pacing behind him came a string of a half dozen smaller Valir roped together at the waist and loaded down with huge baskets of woven bamboo.‭ ‬Dust puffed from the packs as the bounced against the backs of the porters.‭ ‬As they passed under Bryn,‭ ‬he was assaulted by a noxious odor wafting from their packs.‭ ‬He felt his stomach lurch and began to breathe through his mouth in an effort to hold down his breakfast.‭ ‬Walking in the wake of the stench were two more armed Valir.‭
“There is just one kind of merchant who avoids the lift,‭” ‬Bryn thought.‭ “‬Smugglers.‭”
They would head for the old staircase.‭ ‬Bryn smiled‭; ‬looked skyward and nodded‭; ‬he had a guide.‭ ‬He fell into line keeping their rear guard in sight and below him.‭ ‬He kept to the larger braches whenever possible.‭ ‬A branch cracking underfoot now would be dangerous.‭ ‬Near the deepest part of the horseshoe valley,‭ ‬the smugglers left the trees and moved along a dirt track that wound through the mountains of debris at the foot of the cliff.‭ ‬His feet protested being subjected to the hard packed ground.‭ ‬He stepped on a sharp stone nearly buried in the track and had to quickly clamp a hand over his mouth.‭ ‬The smugglers finally stopped to rest in a clearing.‭ ‬Bryn ducked behind a boulder well back of his new found guides.‭ ‬He felt exposed,‭ ‬if they didn’t move on soon he would retreat back into the trees.‭ ‬He waited a bit too long.
“‬What have we here‭?” ‬The deep voice behind him came with a vise closing on his shoulder.
‬Bryn struggled to break free,‭ ‬but the fingers only dug deeper into his flesh.‭ ‬He turned to face his attacker and was thrown back against the boulder.‭ ‬His head met the stone with a dull thud that sent spots dancing before his eyes.‭ ‬He clenched his jaw fighting back the pain.‭ ‬When his vision cleared a single bloodshot eye glared back at him.‭ ‬One Eye’s shoulder a second band of smugglers moved toward them.‭
“What are you up to boy‭?” ‬One Eye growled.‭ “‬Don’t you dare lie to me.‭”
“Nothing,‭” ‬Bryn said.
“‬Nothing‭? ‬Way out here‭?” ‬One Eye drove an iron right hand into Bryn’s midsection.
‬Bryn’s breath exploded from him with a loud whoosh.‭ ‬As he lay on the ground gasping for air,‭ ‬One Eye followed the blow with a kick to Bryn’s stomach.‭ ‬Breakfast exited Bryn in a hot,‭ ‬golden stream.‭ ‬His world began to lose focus.‭ ‬A second before darkness swallowed him‭; ‬Bryn was on his feet again.‭ ‬He was almost thankful this time for One Eye’s iron grip.‭ ‬He was certain his own legs couldn’t hold him.‭ ‬Bryn was relieved of his dagger.
“‬Let’s try this again,‭” ‬One Eye said.‭ “‬What are you doing here‭?”
“I…I…I,‭” ‬Bryn gulped down air.‭ “‬I ran away.‭”
“That’s more like it,‭” ‬One Eye’s voice took on a congenial tone.‭ “‬Now,‭ ‬another easy one.‭ ‬Why are you following my partners‭?”
“The stairway.‭” ‬Bryn took another deep breath.‭ “‬I was hoping they would lead me to the stairway.‭”
“Well why didn’t you say so,‭” ‬One Eye shoved him along the path.‭ “‬Right this way.‭”
Bryn stumbled into the clearing ahead of the team of smugglers.‭ ‬His presence brought the trio of armed smugglers in the clearing to their feet with hands on their daggers.‭ ‬In the midst of these rough edged Valir,‭ ‬Bryn felt small and alone.‭
“Codryn,‭ ‬seems you boys had a shadow,‭” ‬One Eye told his companions.‭ “‬Says he’s a runaway,‭ ‬but take a look at this.‭”
Codryn was the big leader of the gang that Bryn was following.‭ ‬He looked at the dagger One Eye handed him.‭ ‬He lumbered closer to Bryn and bent over until they were beak to beak.‭ ‬His sharp eyes burned into Bryn.
“‬Bou is it‭?” ‬Codryn’s breath stunk of rotten fruit.‭ “‬How long have you been following us‭?”
“Since you passed under me this morning.‭”
“Said he was following you to the stairway,‭” ‬One Eye said.
“‬The stairway‭?” ‬Codryn rubbed his beak.‭ “‬How does a little pinger like you know about the stairway‭?”
Bryn’s mind raced for an answer.‭ ‬He needed the confident sound of the truth,‭ ‬but not too much truth.
“‬I heard the village seer talk about it,‭” ‬he said.
‬Codryn looked at One Eye who shrugged and smiled.‭ ‬Codryn cocked his head and stared at Bryn trying to read the truth.‭ ‬Bryn refused to look away.‭ ‬His face remained a mask of indifference.‭ ‬Codryn backed away making it easier for Bryn to breathe.
“‬Could be,‭” ‬Codryn said.‭ “‬Byryn Bou is a big name in Vix.‭ ‬He probably rates with the seer.‭ ‬Our little pinger here must like to listen at doorways.‭ ‬Tie him to the gimp.‭ ‬He may come in useful later.‭”
One Eye lashed Bryn to the last member of his gang a small Valir with a withered left leg.‭ ‬Bryn helped his new companion struggle out of his pack and get settled against the stone.
“‬Fedryn Rad,‭ ‬son of Bedryn,‭” ‬he whispered to Bryn and held out a calloused hand.
“‬Bryn Bou,‭ ‬son of Byryn.‭”
Bryn shook hands taking time to look him over.‭ ‬Fedryn had the light skin of the northern Boubouja villagers.‭ ‬His beak lacked the sharp hook characteristic of most Valir.‭ ‬Bryn wondered if this,‭ ‬like the withered leg,‭ ‬was a happenstance of birth.‭ ‬The only remarkable thing about Fedryn were his eyes.‭ ‬They sparkled with an intelligence and strength of spirit.‭ ‬Despite his small size,‭ ‬he carried the same packs as the others.
“‬What are you carrying‭?” ‬Bryn asked.
“‬Not so loud,‭” ‬Fedryn warned.‭ “‬Codryn doesn’t like a lot of talk among the slaves.‭”
“Slaves,‭ ‬but you’re Valir,‭” ‬Bryn whispered.
“‬Captured Valir,‭” ‬Fedryn corrected.‭ “‬Captured by Codryn and his band and destined to be sold in Shiloh along with the rest of the goods.‭”
“Sold to who‭?”
“Men.‭ ‬I’ve heard them talking.‭ ‬Apparently,‭ ‬there’s a big market for outland slaves in Shiloh.‭ ‬At first it was just the purple mills,‭ ‬pray you don’t end up there,‭ ‬but now rich men are buying slaves to work their farms.‭ ‬That’s why the king has banned travel to Salem.‭”
“I’ve got to get out of here,‭” ‬Bryn said.
“‬Good luck with that,‭” ‬Fedryn countered.‭ “‬I haven’t seen a way yet.‭ ‬They keep a sharp watch on the merchandise day and night.‭”


Codryn let the second gang rest for another half hour before getting them all started again.‭ ‬The waddling gait and bobbing head in front of him played havoc with Bryn’s queasy stomach.‭ ‬He focused instead on the ground in front of him and plodded on.‭ ‬Small stones strewn along the path gouged at his feet.‭ ‬Soon Bryn was limping in time with his companion.‭ ‬An hour later,‭ ‬they began to climb.
‬The stairway was wider than Bryn imagined.‭ ‬He guessed it was about three feet wide‭; ‬each step rising nine inches to the next section of stone worn smooth by many travelers.‭ ‬The stairs wound back and forth across the face of the cliff.‭ ‬Each set of stairs identical to the last,‭ ‬but headed in the opposite direction and upward,‭ ‬always upward.‭ ‬The sun appeared over the rim at midday.‭ ‬For the first time in his life Bryn groaned at its arrival.‭ ‬The muscles in his legs were on fire.‭ ‬A stitch of pain bit into his side with every step.‭ ‬The heat of the day beat on his back adding to his misery.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬they climbed higher.
‬Bryn lost track of time.‭ ‬Every movement,‭ ‬every thought centered on taking one more step.‭ ‬Somewhere in the midst of all the steps,‭ ‬Codryn signaled for a halt.‭ ‬Porters and guards alike collapsed onto the steps in a chorus of huffing,‭ ‬puffing and gasping for breath.‭ ‬Bryn sat with his head between his knees forcing the air through his burning lungs.‭

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Chapter 6 First Night

‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬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.‭

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Poem

Dawn is “hello”
“Night” day done
On words that flow
A heart is won

From darkness called
To day so bright
From prison walled
To starry night

Dreamed a dream
That carried afar
On sunlit beam This wand’ring star

Chanced to find
Clouds as sails
O’er heart and mind
On winding trails

In silent talk
Shared by two
On pleasant walks
Alongside you