Sunday, October 30, 2016

Coin


Double mind, single heart,

Unstable every way.

Lies told in parts

That only love can say.

 

 

Call me to the looking glass

That I once forsook

Know thyself, Alas,

I need another look.

 

 

What sort am I?

I do not know,

Nor the how or why

To love is to cry.

Coaster




 

Climb the sky,

Heart to fly

Plunged to depths,

Soul to cry.

 

Bid me come,

Hold me some.

Let me fall,

To dark succumb.

 

Rise then fall,

Surge and stall.

Love the ride,

Through it all.

 

No ride made,

No game played,

Compares to love's

Undulating pulse relayed.

 

 

 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Chapter 14 -- Ripples


          Coryn stood in his window watching the moon rise. The night wind moaned through the village. Rustling leaves carried its message to the seer. Ripples were spreading from the dream dropped into the sea of his people. He sighed beneath the weight of responsibility of words he could not take back. As sure as the wind blew, events were in motion that he could not stop even if he had the desire. He had done his duty. There was nothing left to do but live with the consequences. Consequences that forever seemed to strike near home.      Across the village the restless wind carried the seeds of duty into sleeping souls waking the called a new time and season.

 

          Faryn sat upon the edge of her bed silently wondering about the dark hole opening where her heart used to be. She stared at the floor while cold, hollow loss swallowed conscious thought.

          "Don't give in," she told herself.

          She could not give in; would not give in. She slammed a fist into her thigh. She was free. Bryn was gone. She could handle the separation. Not well enough to be alright with his abscence, but well enough to function. Fear of losing him forever; that was another matter and one that increasingly haunted her. That particuliar fear was a black hole that opened without warning; threatening to carry her away into its depths.

          She jumped to her feet and began to pace. A shaft of silver moonlight broke across her path. Drawn to the light, she went to the window. The village lay sleeping outside. It would go on sleeping if he died by the hands of men. It would sleep without mourning if her heart died with him. Going after him made no sense. Finding him would be next to impossible. Dying with him would profit no one. The note she scratched out to her parents said none of this. It only said the goodbyes she dare not risk saying in person. Throwing her cloak about her shoulders; with bow and dagger, she took her leave.

          Keeping to the shadows, she skirted the village square taking cover where she could until she reached the big house on the edge of the village. She climbed into the branches overlooking the courtyard and waited for the guard to pass. She dropped into the empty courtyard without attracting attention. The cook alaways left the kitchen window open at night. Following her nose, she felt her way along the wall to the window. A quick peek confirmed the kitchen was deserted. Faryn levered herself through the opening and padded softly across the room. No one in the hall. No lights shining beneath the doors. She paused for a moment outside her grandfather's door and was rewarded with the sound of his deep snores.

          Slower than a porcupine snail, she slipped the key from her tunic into the lock. It turned easily and, thank the Creator, soundlessly. She pushed open the door; stepped into the room and pulled the door closed behind her. She dropped to the floor crawling the length of the room to the curtain that separated grandfather's sleeping quarters from his study. She brushed back the heavy material with one hand and pulled herself through the doorway with the other. Once inside the study, she stood and moved to the desk. She would have to be quick. The desk was in front of a window and she would be outlined by moonlight.

          She found what she was looking for in the lower left corner drawer. She stuffed it inside her tunic and pushed the drawer back into place. Fayrn's heart stopped. The drawer hit home with a thud like thunder. Her grandfather stirred in the next room, but resumed his snoring. Another prayer helped the window open and close after her without further sound. She watched the guard turn the corner of the house and sprinted for safety. She climbed well into the cover of the branches before resting against the bouja's big trunk. Her breath returned to normal slowly. She was a thief, a rebel, and in the eyes of her grandfather, a tratior. It occurred to her that breathing might be the last thing she would ever do normally again.

          Keeping the moon to her back, Faryn ran along the highway. There were still two or three hours before the moon dropped out of sight below the treetops. The dark would slow her down, but not by much. She knew the way too well for that. She needed to reach the Edge before her theft was discovered. Once her grandfather alerted the guard, her prize would be worthless.

 

          Faryn was not the only restless soul in the village. While she paced in her room, a candle burned in the village blacksmith's shop. Vulryn was freed from his jail cell. Still, he could not escape the feeling that his job was not done. His fishing trip had allowed Bryn to escape Vix undetected, but the mission was far from over. Even if the boy made it to the top of the Edge alone, he had a long way to travel. The seer did all he promised. He healed Vulryn's wife, made his heir possible, and freed him from prison. Didn't Vulryn owe it to him to see that the envoy made it all the way to Shiloh? The longer he pondered the idea, the more convinced the blacksmith became of his duty to see the mission through.

          He hung his leather apron on the anvil. Taking the candle, he let the shop with one last look back at his life. He had no doubt that would be back just as he had no doubt he must go and finished what he started.

          Vulryn stood by the side of the bed watching her sleep. He wanted to stay by her side forever. She was so beautiful. She had always been beautiful, but sickness had stolen so much from her. Now, she was whole again. He knelt beside the bed and laid a hand on her shoulder.

          "Wife," he whispered and kissed her softly on the cheek.

          She looked up at him through half open eyes that read his sadness. She caressed his face and smiled. She laid a single finger on his beak.

          "I know," she said. "Do what you must. We will miss you every minute. Kiss me and go."

          Their kiss linger until she nudged him away. He backed away from her, his eyes never leaving hers, then he was gone.

 

          Vulryn had no idea how he would cross the river, get over the Edge and travel to Shiloh. He only knew he must go and hope the Creator made a way. In his heart he was sure the seer would help him. Long strides carried him quickly along an all but forgotten path his father showed him years ago. He continued to glance back over his shoulder until the village was out of sight.

          An hour before sunrise, he heard the sounds of the river up ahead. He slowed his pace looking for a secluded perch from which to watch the ferry. He wasn't sure exactly what he was watching for; he just hoped he recognized it when he saw it. Circling to the north side of the ferry, he climbed as high in the boujas as his size allowed and built a screen to conceal his position. He laced his fingers together behind his head and settled back against the trunk when something sharp bit his ribs. He knew it was no soldier. Whoever held the knife to him was positioned all wrong. He could catch the person's throat and throw them before that blade moved more than an inch. He planned to excatly that when his assailant spoke.

          "Don't move," a female voice whispered in his ear.

          "If I do you will be extremely sorry, miss," he whispered in return. "That's no way to hold a knife. Since neither of us are soldiers, let's talk this over."

          The knife moved away from his ribs and Vulryn breathed a little easier. He motioned his would-be assailant to a place beside him. The cloaked figure stepped around his legs and sat. Long thin fingers reached out and pulled back her hood.

          "I know you," they said in unison.

          "What are you doing out here?" Vulryn asked. “Does your grandfather know where you are?”

          Fayrn stared at him, but said nothing. He returned the stare; each one trying to read the other while revealing nothing. Vulryn cracked first. The smile began in his eyes and spread slowly over his face.

          "Okay," he said. "So we both know the other is up to no good, but neither of us wants to confess. I don’t think silence is going to help. But, I do think we can help each other. What do you think?”

          “I suppose you’re right,” Faryn said. “I couldn’t possibly be in any more trouble than I am already.”

“I’ll go first,” Vulyrn volunteered. “I need to get over the Edge to help a friend. I have no idea how I'm going to do that. More than that, I have no idea where he is. I only know he is headed for Shiloh. What’s your story?"

          "I'm trying to help someone too. I think maybe it’s the same someone," she replied. "I can get us across and over the Edge. However, a female traveling alone is going to look suspicious. If you're willing to pose as my body guard, we might pull it off."

          "How will you get us across?"

          Fayrn pulled a gold colored bag from her tunic. A bright red Valirian crest was stamped on the side of the bag. Vulryn gave a low whistle when he saw it.

          "The diplomatic pouch of the High Council," she said. "It's not supposed to be questioned. A lady alone, who knows? A body guard would sell it as legitimate."

          "Did you steal that?" Vulryn struck his forehead. "Of course, you stole it. What am I saying? Does your other grandfather know you stole it?"

          "No, but he'll figure it out. He is a seer, you know."

          "Yeah, I know," he said. "That's why I'm here. I owe it to him to keep his little messenger safe. It’s the other grandfather that worries me."

          "Did you know about Bryn before you were arrested?” She asked.

          “No,” Vulryn admitted. “I didn’t find out what was going on until I was in jail. Even then I didn’t know who the seer sent. I owe your grandfather a lot. He healed my wife. I figured the least I could do was try to help get his message delivered. I guess I know why you’re doing this. You love him, don’t you?”

          “More than life,” she said. “Here’s what I think we should do.” 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Chapter 14 --- The Hideout

Bryn moved away from the river in search of shelter. They both needed to rest. More importantly, One Eye need time to heal. That meant at least a day hidden from their pursuers. Bryn longed for the dense of home and the safety of the giant bouja trees. Finding a suitable refuge among the rocks and scattered trees that lined the stream wasn't going to be easy. Half way up the hillside, the feathers of his crown suddenly stood on end. Bryn ducked. A small white blur passed within inches of his head. Whatever it was circled a large oak tree and started back toward him. Bryn drew his stone blade, but the bird landed on a nearby branch.
"Hoot, hoot," the owl said.
"Oto? Bryn blinked trying to focus. "Is that you?"
"How many white owls do you know? Oto replied. "Of course it's me."
"Must you always be a pain in the tail feathers?" Bryn asked.
"No, not always," he replied. "But it is more amusing that way. I think I've found what you are looking for. Follow me."
"Wait," Bryn said. "I have to go back and get One Eye."
"Leave him," Oto said. "He'll never make it."
"Then leave," Bryn snapped. "I'm not going on without him."
"Just checking," Oto replied. "Calm down and go get him. I'll wait for you here.'

Half dragging, half carrying the larger Valir up hill from the stream sapped his strength. An hour later, Bryn dropped down beneath the branch where Oto perched. He tore a piece of cloth from his tunic to replace the one he'd packed into One Eye's wound before starting up the hill. Rested, he followed Oto along aweaving path throught he woods to the foot of and immense boulder. The boulder turned out to be three boulders of roughly equal size the had fallen together in such a way as to leave a small hollow surrounded by three solid walls. Bryn found a small opening and crawled through dragging One Eye behind him. Blood still oozed from his wound, but One Eye no longer seemed to care. Bryn checked and found a strong pulse. There was time to rest. Bryn whispered a prayer for the Creator's protection before stretching out beside his friend and drifting off into a dreamless sleep.

When he awoke the stars were shining in a black sky. Beside him, One Eye's chest rose and fell in a steady rhythm. The only sounds the breeze rustling the leaves outside and the songs of creepers along the stream somewhere below. Movement overhead drew his eyes up to where Oto perched atop the boulders keeping watch on their back trail. A sense of security crept over Bryn. He closed his eyes and let sleep reclaim him.

Hours later, he opened his eyes again. This time to a washed out sky of gray greeted him. Bryn shook a heavy dew from his face as he stretched the kinks from tired muscles. He was unfamiliar with the woods surrounding their shelter. Here and there along the way he passed by trees and plants that looked lke those of his homeland, but he couldn't be sure they would have the same effect as those he knew. One Eye needed to rest for now. When Bryn returned the dart would have to come out. The bleeding needed to be stopped and the wound closed up. Bryn's mouth was dry, his muscles ached. It felt like his eyes were packed with sand. But, there was no time to waste on complaints about how bad he felt. His friend needed help. Bryn squeezed through the cleft in the rocks and crawled out into a dense stand of round top pines. He started out through the dim light. If his luck held, he would find what he needed.

Working through the trees, he searched the litter and the branches gathering leaves here and pulling up roots there. He soon struck the banks of the stream which he followed to a snagnant bit of backwater surrounded by cattails. The spot looked promising. Bryn pushed through the reeds and dug his hands into the mud near their base. He worked his fingers through the mire until they brushed a cluster of soft round objects. Burrowing deeper, he felt the stalk securing them to the stream bed. He wrapped a finger around the fiberous stalk and pulled. The cluster of seraphim eggs came freein his hand. He wrapped the gelatinous eggs in some broad burrtree leaves collected earlier and tucked them inside his tunic.
"Now to get back before he bleeds to death," Bryn thought.
Why he felt duty bound to a felon who planned to sell him into slavery, Bryn couldn't say. But, there it was. Duty, the supreme virtue of the Valirian cosmos; was a much a part of him as his arms and legs. Duty ran in his veins and held together every joint and sinew of his being. He could no more neglect his duty than he could self mutilate. Granted there were those Valir like One Eye who had turned away from the true faith and lived for selfish consumption. Bryn was not one of them. That One Eye abandoned his true sense of duty did not permit him to do so nor did it permit him to leave One Eye to die alone or at the hands of men. Bryn willed his weary legs to keep moving. The sun had passed overhead some time ago. Now, the fading light threatened to disorient him in the unfamiliar woods. There was no time to rest. He had to keep going; both their lives depended on him.

Bryn reached there refuge as twilight gave way to the dark. Hidden away in the shelter of the rocks, he kindled a small fire and dragged One Eye close. The wound had finally clotted off and stopped the bleeding. He knew that wouldn't last long. Removing the cloth bandage and getting out the dart would have One Eye bleeding again. If One Eye tried to walk, the result would be the same. Better to have it done with. They were safe for now, but he didn't think that would last long either. He slowly worked the cloth from the wound in One Eye's shoulder. The smuggler groaned as the dried material stretched the wound and tore at the clot. There was no as much bleeding as he expected. He hoped that wasn't because One Eye had lost too much already. Bryn poured water from a pouch he fashioned from burr leaves over the open wound. The dart pierced One Eye's wing pod; passed through the right wing and buried itself in the flesh of his shoulder. A Valir who managed to live with one eye could probably get along with one wing, but he was going to need that shoulder. The dart had to come out and the wound closed. The sooner that happened the better. There was no time for delicacy. Bryn pulled back the broken bits of pod and wing from around the dart. One Eye hardly stirred. Encouraged, Bryn grabbed the dart and pulled. The smuggler's songle good eye flew open. So did his mouth, but the sound that escaped was more muted grunt than scream. The bleeding started afresh. Bryn washed the wound once more and quickly pressed the seraphim eggs into the wet hole in the shoulder. He covered the eggs with crushed roots and covered everything with a thick bandage of burr leaves. That done, he propped his back against the stone and laid both his legs across One Eye's shoulder to add pressure to the dressing. Bryn had only two options left; wait and see.  

Bryn awaked to a washed out gray sky and the feeling of something cold, wet and slimy crawling on his right leg. One Eye shifted beneath him and Bryn lifted the weight from his companion's shoulder hoping he would come around.
"Get those damn things out of me," One Eye ordered.
The command lacked strength. Nevertheless, he was speaking coherantly and that was definitaly a good sign. Bry pulled off the bandage releasing a small army of tiny six winged slugs that promptly flew off in the direction of the stream from which they came.
"Where are we?" One Eye asked.
"You're welcome," Bryn said. "As for our location, I thought you were leading the way. If it helps, we are about a quarter mile south of the stream and a mile or so east of where we struck it."
"East?" One eye turned to focus his good eye on Bryn. "You're going the wrong way, kid."
"Not wrong; unexpected," Bryn corrected. "I'd like to keep free of human chains, but I mean to go to Shiloh one way or the other."
"You can not be serious."
"Oath bound serious," Bryn replied. "Although I don't expect you to understand."
"Don't get all uppity with me, boy," One Eye said. "Don't forget who pulled you back from the Edge."
"To save the pack on my back and a slave to sell," Bryn replied. "It's not the same."
"Keep telling yourself that. I gave an eye for duty, honor and all the lies the Elders tell. I'm paid up. I don't any more."
"You're wrong about that," Bryn said.
His eyes had narrowed into slits and the feathers of his crest standing on end. The words were Bryn's. The voice, as if from miles away, was only partly so. Bryn's eyes skittered skyward.
"Don't go betting your life on that," One Eye told him. "My duty is to myself."
Bryn didn't seem to hear. His eye shifted from the sky to a study of the ground between them. A strained silence stretched out leaving each lost in his own thoughts. The spell was broken by the nearby hoot of an owl. One Eye picked up a stone an threw it in the direction of the sound. The owl hooted retaliation.
"Get out of here." He threw a second stone in the bird's direction. "Damn you and your master."
"Take it easy," Brtn cautioned. "Be still and let that shoulder heal."
"Death bird that is," One Eye said. "Owls are a bad omen. They'll call the death angel right down on you if you let them."
"I'm going out for a look," Bryn told him. "Be still. I'll try to find something to eat."
"You just make sure and chase that owl off," One Eye said. "Mind what I say it's bad luck."

Soft Words







She brings me kisses, sighs against my chest,
Lying against me she feels small and helpless.
It is an illusion I entertain, for she is strong and steadfast
My arms fold around her and we are lost in one another
She yields to my touch and I am transported to magical places
Her eyes look into my soul and I am at peace.
The world cannot hold the love I feel; it fills the sky, reaches to the stars
She is moonlight, her beams soften all she touches
And with her I am soft and tender
She carrys me to heights, soothes me when we descend
All with but a whisper of my name.



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Chapter 13--- Escape


Moonlight washed the neat row of tents tucked into a tree ringed meadow where silent sentries walked their posts. Shiloh was a week’s march to the east and the feeling of a mission accomplish worked a quite peace through the camp. A warm breeze danced in the grass under the watch of a bright half moon sitting atop the swaying treetops. A sentry softly snored in the doorway of the large tent near the center of the camp.
One Eye worked open a link in the large common chain that held the Valir captive. He soundlessly feed the chain through the shackle on his right leg. He was free. A nudge of his elbow told Bryn to do the same. Bryn slid free and followed One Eye on hands and knees towards the door and the sleeping sentry. The crept along the line of the tent until the were directly behind the guard.
One Eye pressed a finger to his beak signaling Bryn to be still as he fished a sliver of sharp stone from the lining of his tunic. The sharp edges caught the moonlight flashing out One Eye’s rise to a crouch. The strike was swift and sure.
“Practiced,” the thought jumped unbidden into Bryn’s head.
One Eye’s right hand fastened over the human’s mouth; his left drove the stone upward in a single powerful thrust. The man’s body collapsed in on itself as the blade severed his spine where it met the base of his skull. Bryn closed his eyes to banish the image of the man’s lips working to take air into lungs that no longer moved. It didn’t work. The imaged tattooed his memory. One Eye dragged the sentry back into a seated position in the doorway; stripped him of weapons and signaled Bryn to follow him outside. Bryn stayed as far from the body as the door allowed sure the body would jump to life if he touched it. Sightless eyes watched him pass into the camp and a chance to flee. The compound outside the tent was as empty as the body Bryn crawled around. Watching the men night after night told Bryn there were two more sentries walking the perimeter. They stayed close to the tents taking advantage of what little cover they afforded.
One Eye stopped a the northern edge of the camp and pointed across the meadow to a line of trees. Twenty yards of open ground separated them from freedom. No sign of the sentries. A second before they broke from cover, a light flared on the far side of the camp. The sentries were briefly silhouetted in the light of a match. One Eye acknowledged their presence with a quick nod of his head. He dropped into a low crouch and launched himself into the open. Bryn followed at his heels; legs churning furiously for the safety of the trees. Steps from safety a human voice shattered the night quiet.
“Halt!”
The warning was punctuated by the sizzle of an atlatl launched dart passing inches from Bryn’s ear. One Eye startled by the sound shot upright. The dart hit his wing pod with a loud crunch. He cried in pain, but kept running.
Alarm echoed throughout the camp. Soldiers began pouring from their beds. There was no time to stop to check One Eye’s wound. Bryn snapped a small branch from an oak. He threaded the branch through his belt letting it drag the ground behind them in hope he could cover the trail of blood and footprints they left in their wake. Two miles from camp, One Eye stumbled and fell to his knees. Bryn wedged his shoulder under One Eye and lifted him to his feet.
“Stop fighting me,” Bryn scolded.
“Leave me,” One Eye’s voice was reduced to a harsh whisper.
“I’m not leaving you,” Bryn said. “Now, come on.”
“Don’t be a fool, boy,” One Eye said, but he was moving.
“Too late,” Bryn said.
A mile further along the game trail they followed, they were greeted by the sound of running water. Bryn steered them toward the sound. The stream was no more than a dozen feet across and shallow enough to wade. Bryn was struck by an idea that might by them some time. He helped his wounded companion a little further up stream until they came to a large downed tree. He laid One Eye in the shelter of the tree and worked the bloody tunic over his head. Curses escaped from One Eye’s clenched beak with each tremor of the dart in his shoulder. Bryn carried the tunic back to the place where they first struck the stream. He waded out into the water and released the bloody rag in the direction of a limb hovering just above the surface. His prayer to the Creator was answered when the cloth snagged the branch. He crossed the stream; climbing the far bank making sure to leaving his prints. Walking backwards he re-crossed the stream and headed for his downed partner.
“We’ve got to move,” he told One Eye.
One Eye struggled to his feet, this time letting Bryn support him. The two continued to push their way up stream for two hours until they dropped down exhausted.
“I can’t go on much more,” One Eye said when he caught his breath. “You’ve got to leave me.”
“We’ve been through that already,” Bryn said. “I’m not leaving you. But, you’re right you can’t go much further. I’ve got to find us someplace to hide while I see about that shoulder.”
“Go,” One Eye told him.
“If you try and run out on me

Friday, October 7, 2016

Chapter 12 -- Road to Shiloh


After seeing Codryn secured with chains, Zett was escorted to a waiting hovercraft and whisked away at a speed Bryn thought impossible. Through the open door he could see the horizon ablaze as the sun worked its way into the sky. Soldiers were moving about in the predawn twilight. A few were busy at the cooking fires, but most were occupied securing their possessions. After a breakfast of hardtack and bacon, Bryn and his fellow prisoners stood around watching the soldiers brake camp. Tents were folded and stacked atop their riggings. Once the last tent was down, the Valir loaded them onto a pair of large hovercraft.
There was no speedy transport for soldiers or slaves.They would travel to Shiloh on foot. The long chained that linked the Valir together was removed and their packs laden with crushed shells hoisted to their backs. The Foot soldiers led the way, followed by their captives. The armored cavalry plodded along at the rear of the column which headed toward the sunrise at a leisurely pace. The soldiers called this lonely, open stretch of nothing the Sawnone. They said the word came from a language long dead and no one knew what it really meant. It was jokingly said the first inhabitants came there looking for hope and "saw none." The baked, red clay permitted little growth. A few patches of scrub grasses and sagebrush dotted the low spots on roadsides where what little rain fell collected before the sun turned it back to vapor. The soldiers seemed content not to add to the trials of the march. As long as they kept moving, the Valir were allowed to talk among themselves and move about within the column.
However, shared misfortune was not enough to bridge the old gap between captors and captives. The one-time smugglers remained aloof. The others were content to let them as long as the smugglers bore the burden of caring for Codryn. The old chief was not faring well. His right eye was swollen completely closed. The left was no more than a slit that for all practical purposes left him blind. When Codryn could walk, he held to One Eye's arm. At times he grew so weak from loss of blood and the effects of the cruel sun that he had to be supported on either side. More than once his accomplices picked him up from where he collapsed in the dirt.
The Sawnone was without mercy.There were three constants; the sun; the dust and the unbroken horizon that never drew closer. The soldiers did what they could to protect the Valir from the first two. It wasn't that they cared for the Valir. Their reason was more practical than alturistic.The Valir needed to fetch the best price possible on the auction block. Lord Zett demanded it. However,even Zett could do nothing about the elusive horizon. The only solution was keep marching. One Eye estimated they marched about thirty miles a day. If he was anywhere close to correct they wouldn't reach Shiloh for two months.
This news weighed heavily on Bryn's heart. He wasn't prepared for the intrusion of reality into his mission. He never imagined a trek covering so much time and distance. The seer had to have known. Why didn't he tell Bryn all that would be required of him. He wasn't sure he could hold out. His feet ached from pounding the hard roadway. His tongue spent the hours of the march glued to the roof of his mouth. It was often an entire days march between water hole. All the while the sun beat down mercilessly. Like the climb up the Edge of the World, he would do it or die. Then, on the tenth day his spirit lifted. Shilouetted on the horizon was a town.

It was more a collection of adobe huts arrange into two rows along side the road, but compared to the rest of the Sawnone, it was a busy metropolis. The people of Concho Flats were squat, square shouldered men with dark leathery skin. Thick black hair covered their heads and faces. In Vix a caravan this size would generate a celebration. Not so in Concho Flats; few of the townspeople bothered to look up at the newcomers. They went sullenly about their business as if the column didn't exist. The soldiers steered them to a well on the eastern edge of town where the supply hovercraft waited. There, they made camp. The ground was the same hard, red clay that they walked day after day. The camp's sole saving grace was the circle of cottonwood tress that crowded an artesian spring. There was shade; glorious shade at last. The Valir dropped their packs and for a moment the soldiers,the slaves and the smugglers were one. They drank until their bellies were full. They smiled and clapped one another on the back. When the tents were erected, they lounged in the shade side by side.
The moment could not last. The sun set. The Valir returned to their chains. The soldiers returned to their weapons. Life went on. Bryn found himself chained next to One Eye. The smuggler never seemed to sleep. He was always the first to rise and the last to rest. Even now, with those around him sleeping, he was busy. Bryn pretended to sleep. In truth he was fasinated by what One Eye was doing. He had been suspicious of the smuggler for the last three days.
"What are you doing?" Bryn whispered.
One Eye jumped like he'd been shot. He shot daggers at Bryn; stuffed something inside his tunic and turned toward Bryn.
"Go to sleep, boy," he replied.
"I want to help."
"Then, shut up," One Eye hissed.
He lifted the chain for Bryn to see. One Eye had worked apart two of the links in the long chain that held them at night. He handed a small serrated blade to Bryn and made a sawing motion. While One Eye pretended to snore, Bryn sawed away at the weak links.


Bryn's arms felt like lead. He tried to scrub the sleep from his eyes, but his hands didn't want to go where he told them. One Eye was looking at him with a hurts-don't-it smile. It hurt alright; a good kind of hurt. His father called it freedom pain. He said freedom pain was the hurt beings of conscious suffered in order to face a mirror. A shadow of understanding passed across Bryn's mind.
"Yeah," he told himself. "It's a good hurt though."
A cheer went up throughout the camp when the captain announced they would be staying in Concho Flats another day, maybe two. Bryn found out later that they owed their good fortune to the cavalry. Their mounts, worn out by the harsh conditions of the Sawnone, needed to rest. A few scattered sentires were posted. The rest of the soldiers napped in the shade; played cards or spent time lying about their exploits. Around mid-morning Bryn found One Eye sitting alone. He wandered over to sit down beside him.
"Tonight," One Eye said. "Find a place on the chain away from me."
Bryn's sidelong glance brought a chuckle from the smuggler.
"Look around, boy," he said. "I'm not going to desert you. If we tried to escape now, we'd die out there."
"When?" Bryn asked.
"Soon enough." One Eye looked to the east. "Another day and the march starts downhill to the sea. There's plenty of bumps in the road, but it gets easier. we'll find a place where there's food and shelter."
"Some of the others are in bad shape," Bryn said.
"So?"
"So, how will they keep up?"
"They won't," One Eye said. "This is just you and me boy. They'll chase us for a wile, but in the end they'll settle for the rest. We try to take everybody and we'll all end up like Codryn. You keep your beak shut, you hear?"
"I hear," Bryn answered.  

Bryn didn't like the idea of leaving his companions behind. He liked the idea of being sold into salvery in Shiloh when Coryn was counting on him even less. Bryn decided that he would follow One Eye's advice for now. He avoided One Eye's company throughout the day; picking out a spot in the middle of the chain that night. Lounging in the shade of the cottonwood trees made another day in the Sawnone tolerable. Best of all was the news that they would soon leave the barren, parched land of the Sawnone behind.

Sunrise brought the familiar routine of breaking camp. Soldiers packed the tents. The Valir loaded the hovercraft and, after a hurried meal, the march resumed. They had made five miles when the first twisted cedar tree appeared along the road. The dark green cone shapes began to rapidly multiply as the day wore on. The midday meal was hardtack and water served on the march. Few seemed to mind because, at last, the horizon dropped as the track began to slope downhill. The change infused the column with energy. The soldiers claimed the worst was behind them, but the Valir weren't buying. They were headed for slavery. The lucky ones might avoid the purple mills and the salt flats, but that wouldn't change the fact that they were to be bought and sold. Life, as they knew it, was over. No one in the Boubouja would ever know what became of them and they would never rest in a woven shroud with their ancestors.
The sawnone gave way to the crests and troughs of rolling hills. Green grass grew where the boughs of full grown oak trees let the sun through. Springs and small watercourses followed the road. The surrounding countryside came alive. Fields of golden grain swayed in the breeze. As the land grew richer, the soldiers increased the night guards. Bryn spent hours watching them make their rounds. He and One Eye studied the routine, but everytime they thought the riddle solved, the guards changed routines.
"This isn't their first march," One Eye observed. "But our chance is coming. There's a place up ahead where the woods move in close to the road. We should make camp near there."
"How do we get back across the Sawnone?" Bryn asked.
One Eye crossed his arms and sighed. "We don't," he said."There's no going back."
 
 
 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Night Wind

Fear not, ‘tis but the wind,
Making peace a lie.
Galloping heart send
Trembling heart; fear filled sigh.

Gusts a savage crying,
Tearing at the window,
Shrieking as the dying,
Whom the banshee know.

Wail ‘round the eave,
Groan upon the tread,
Whispered word leave me,
Wondering what is said.

Fear not, ‘tis but the wind,
Soon a calm is come,
Death, the terror ends,
Touches once and done.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Chapter 11 -- Innocence and Guilt

Coryn Kel strolled along the highway branch. It felt good to get out and stretch his legs after three days of self-imposed confinement. Never had he felt so safe while walking outside the village. He didn’t need to glance over his shoulder to know Raryn’s spies were behind him. They were soldiers; subtilty was not their strong suit. His circle of the village nearly complete, Coryn left the big branches and headed for home. The wait was over. Time to stir the pot.

He pushed through the curtain of liana that separated his house from the village. He had company. Leaning against the doorpost was Byryn Bou. Of all those he planned to confront today, this was the one meeting he dreaded. He took a deep breath; straightened his shoulders and cleared his mind. There was no way to relay bad news except to be straight out with it.
“Old friend,” he hailed the waiting Councillor with upraised hand. “You’re out early today.”
“Is it early?” Byryn rubbed his beak. “For some reason it feels late. Is it?”
“Time and season agree,” he said. “Come inside. We will drink tea and I will tell you what I know.”
Byryn followed the seer inside. The table was spread with bouja fruit and cups of steaming tea. Bryryn slowly shook his head. The seer cocked his head; an amused look in his eyes.
“Trouble?” Coryn asked.
Byryn pointed to the table. “Will I ever find you unprepared?”
“When you find me dead, know I was not prepared,” Coryn said. “Sit here with me.”
The two friends sat silently sipping tea. One knowing the other would speak in time. The other pondering one last time over what he must say. Coryn turned to his friend.
“It is my duty to inform you,” Coryn began. “That your young son, Bryn, has chosen to become my envoy to Eeryn.”
“No,” Byryn feigned shock. “How can this be? He is only a boy.”
“I know you truly believe that.” Coryn laid a hand on his friend’s arm. “Believe me, he is more a grown Valir than anyone knows. I suspect even more than he himself realizes.”
“Is he safe? Have you seen a vision?”
“I have not seen it,” Coryn said. “However, I know it is so.”
“How?”
“Let’s say a little bird told me.” Coryn smiled. “It is both the truth and protects my source. You may take it as the word of your friend. Bryn has left the Boubouja and travels in the company of men toward Shiloh.”
“Thank the Creator,” Byryn let out a long sigh. “His mother worries.”
“Yes, I’m sure she does.” The seer smiled again.
“You old swamp rat,” Byryn scolded and returned the smile. “I’m in this as deeply as you. A little worry might serve us both well.”
“Then, let us talk of the day,” Coryn said. “The time has come that we set about the task of freeing an innocent Valir from prison. That means, of course, my defiance of the Council will be known. I may assume Vulryn’s place in the prison. After today, Bryn’s mission will be exposed and your duplicity suspected. Your Council seat may be in danger.”
Byryn nodded. “That’s the price we agreed on from the beginning. The note had to come due sometime.”
“Exactly so,” Coryn agreed. “We must have faith that what we have purchased will outweigh the cost.”
“May I walk beside you to go see Raryn?”
Coryn nodded, sat down his cup and stood to go. “Together into the furnace, eh? I am honored.”

Coryn threw his cloak around his shoulders as he led his freind out the door. Well into the clearing outside his door Coryn raised his staff barring Byryn’s way and held up a single finger. The seer surveyed the forest to the left, then the right. His shrill whistle forced the councillor to cover his ears with his hands.
“Stop lurking at my door,” Coryn shouted. “Come out and walk with us like Valir. The Counsillor has done his duty. We are on our way to see your master.”
Slowly, soldiers materialized on the branches in front of them. Byryn wasn’t surprised the seer was aware of them. He was relieved to see they were unarmed. Raryn had some common sense after all. Coryn turned his head toward Byryn.
“That is a summons in your pocket, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes,” Byryn’s shoulders fell. “Thank you.”
“Duty deserves no thanks,” Coryn said. “It is appreciated none the less, my friend.”
Coryn waved for the soldiers to follow. Head high, he led the way to the magistrate.

Raryn’s office inside the the Ministry of Justice was meant to impress. His desk was adorned with golden trinkets from Ophir, the walls hung with intricate tapestries from beyond the Gishon; and carvings of the door posts inlaid with silver and blue. Members of the High Council flanked Raryn’s ironwood desk. Calryn was suspiciously absent. Coryn closed his eyes long enough for a cleansing breath.
“Well,” he said. “I’ve caused a stir once again.”
“What did you expect?” Raryn glanced left and right. “Are you arrogant enough to think you can ignore the Council with impunity? No, wait, of course you are. But, not this time seer.”
“You make seer sound like a dirty word,” Coryn replied with a smile that drew an involuntary snicker from hsi friend.”
“You would do well to walk softly Byryn Bou,” Raryn snarled. “Your involvement in this requires some explanation too.”
“Let us get to the heart of the matter,” Coryn interrupted. “I, of my own free will, did send an envoy to my fellow seer in direct violation of the Council’s order. I further state that no one knowingly shared in either the planning or execution my duty.”
“Duty?” Raryn roared. “Your duty is to obey the rulings of this High Council.”
“Since when has duty been dependant on any council, but that of one’s own heart?” Coryn met Raryn’s glare. “You are not the Creator. You decide no one’s duty for him. And while we are on the subject, the Valir in your jail is guilty of nothing except returning a favor for a friend. I asked him to catch some fish. That is all. So, Councillor, you have failed in your duty because while you were chasing a blacksmith on a fishing trip, the true envoy eluded you. He is now well beyond the Boubouja on his way toward Shiloh.”
Gasps escaped the Councillors. Raryn dropped back into his seat to stare at his desktop for several moments. Byryn stepped into the silence.
“Brethren,” he began in a voice soothing as a salve. “Since the beginning the Valir have held duty as the highest virtue. Duty to our Creator and duty to our fellow, this is the creed we have lived by for a thousand generations. Do we abandon it now for one who has readily confessed his devotion to duty? I cannot. I say this as one who has discovered his own son is the seer’s envoy.”
“As to impunity,” Coryn told the stunned Council. “Duty know none. I am ready to accept the consequences of my actions.”
Magryn stood; scribbled on a paper he found on Raryn’s desk and handed it to Coryn.
“Take this and free your blacksmith,” he said. “Then go home and, for the Creator’s sake, stay there. The Council will send word of our decision.”