Sunday, January 29, 2017
Bryn Bou's rocking, thumping transport came to a halt two miles outside the walls of Shiloh. The way into the city was blocked by three soldiers wearing gold braid on their collars. As the wagon drew closer, the leader ordered the driver to stop. Immediately the other two soldiers began chasing away the crowd. Their leader and the driver locked wills a hushed discussion with vigorous head shaking and both men pointing; usually in opposite directions. Bryn couldn't hear the conversation, but their gestures told him the officers wanted the wagon off the road. After a short time, the driver threw up his hands in defeat and steered the wagon off the highway and through a narrow gap between the shop of a rug merchant and a tobacco shop.
Bouncing along the pot marked road made Bryn's head throb with pain. Rolling across the open field behind the row of shops was sheer torture. Bryn held his head in his hands trying to ward off the jolts of pain shooting through his brain. His right eye had swelled completely closed and his face was caked with dried blood. The driver reined in his ceros in an open field about twenty yards short of the woods. The guards began to pitch camp.
"I don't see what difference it makes," one of the soldiers groused. "Whether we throw him in the dungeon now or in the morning."
"Yeah," said a tall, thin man wearing corporal strips. "I could be in my own bed tonight; snuggling up against my wife. How come we got to wait until morning anyhow?"
"Because, Lord Zett says so," their sergeant answered. "I'll write you out a pass if you want to go discuss it with him. If not, keep your yaps shut."
"Ah Sarge, the first man said. "We was just complaining like good soldiers do."
"Well you lot may want to wash behind your ears tonight," the sergeant said. "We're gonna be part of a big show tomorrow."
"Zat so?" the first soldier replied. "Well, la-di-da. But, I'd rather have a cold beer. Hell, I'd settle for a warm one."
"You go looking for one tonight," the sergeant said. "And you're liable to end up next to him on the block. You mind what I say."
The soldiers built up the fire and somehow managed to cook dinner without any more complaining. They were used to doing what they were told. In the end that’s what they always did. Their complaining was an season of brief autonomy that made following those orders more palatable. After dinner they settled in around the fire swapping lies that grew bigger as the night wore on. Bryn was given a sip of water, but no food and no opportunity to lie down. There was nothing to do but listen and sleep in short, nodding spurts when exhaustion won out.
Midnight rolled by and carried away his ability to sleep without disturbing his desire. He listened to the snores coming from around the campfire and stared up at the stars. How was it possible to feel so small when the Creator committed so much to his care? Did the Creator know how weak he was? Wounded and shackled to the bed of a prison wagon was not the picture of victory he imagined when he started out for glory. Right now, all he wanted was to be free; free to run back to his father’s house and the safety of home. But, it wasn’t just him anymore, was it? True, the people of his village depended on him. They were on his mind in a far behind kind of way that made them, if not less important, at least facing less peril. One Eye, Wynn and Elryn escaped capture. Where were they now? As much as he wanted to be free, he prayed One Eye wouldn't do anything as foolish trying to rescue him. His mind occupied with mixing hope and the safety of his friends; he slept.
A river of blood bubbled from a headless body and flowed down the sides of a huge chopping block. The blood ran along the edge of the raised platform and dripped down onto a churning mass of humanity. Men and women jostled one another fighting for position; wanting to see the blood, to bathe in it, to taste it. Against a wall at the edge of the crowd a pile of leaves stirred. Whirling on itself the leaves rose. A bow materialized from the leaves. Arrows flew. From above a figure glided onto the platform. It was One Eye. He snatched up the severed head and jumped into the crowd. Screaming spectators opened a path for the smuggler waving the foot long dagger and a severed head. The walking leaves fell into line behind One Eye; sending arrows flying in their wake. Wynn, tightly holding onto panic stricken horses, met them at the edge of the square.
Safely away from the crowd, One Eye took shelter in the smoking ruins of what was once Jaryn’s tavern. Faryn and Elryn were seated among the ashes at a table with a headless body. One Eye put the head on the table and turned it to face the body. His own slack, lifeless face looked up at him---and smiled.
Bryn awoke with a scream. Flailing arms and legs rattled the chains that held him. A pair of lances appeared at his throat. At the other end of the lances, angry faces glared at him. The sergeant stepped between the guards for a look at Bryn.
“That’s nothing compared with what’s waiting for you tomorrow,” he said. “And it will be here soon enough. Let’s all go back to sleep.”
“What do you think is happening tomorrow?” Bryn asked.
The sergeant’s smile disappeared.
“Tomorrow,” he said. “You are going to ride the wheel.”
Saturday, January 21, 2017
The smuggler was already moving out the back door; bow in hand; Wynn at his heels. Elryn took a step toward her father before Wynn grabbed her collar and dragged her out the door. The soldiers covering the rear entrance were still moving into position when One Eye kicked open the door. His first shot caught one of the soldiers in the neck. As the soldier when down, he heard the snap of Wynn’s bow over his left shoulder. An arrow sprouted from the soldier’s abdomen. The soldier dropped his disrupter and clutching his bleeding belly, staggered away. One Eye sent a second arrow that hit the man between the shoulder blades and he went down in a heap. One Eye led them out of the pub at a run. No one looked back until they reached the safety of the woods.The smuggler’s heart sank. Bryn was nowhere in sight. The kid saved him again. He vowed to return the favor. Before that could happen he had to get to Shiloh and find the kid’s seer.
There was no saving Jaryn. The best Bryn could do was hold off the soldier’s advance until the others got away. He threw his bow through the door and stepped out hands held high. The soldiers crowded around him. One of them greeted him with the blunt end of a disrupter applied to the right side of his head. Everything went black.
Two men dragged Jaryn’s body from the pub. The old one’s blood mixed with the dirt in a damp trail to the road. The blackness receded from Bryn head in halting steps leaving in its wake a dull roar that throbbed with his pulse. Bryn looked up at the soldiers through the slit that was his right eye. He could hear glass breaking inside the pub. Moments later, he saw a soldier with a torch pass by. A huge whoosh was followed by waves of heat that rolled across his face. Rough hands stripped him of weapons. Bryn felt himself lifted to his feet. The world began to spin and darkness closed in again. Somehow his legs held and the world slowed. The same could not be said for his stomach. Beer and breakfast spewed from him. Ropes bit into his wrists denying him means to wipe the puke away.
Anger flashed. Bryn fought back the instinct to fight. He slowed his breathing swallowing the rage building inside him. He closed his eyes withdrawing from the destructive edge of his emotions. He let himself be led to a waiting transport. With each step, a strange peace began to fill him. It was a peace not born of accepting defeat, but assurance of victory. It was like nothing he had felt before. The heat of his outrage was slowly replaced by cold, hard determination. There was no helping Jaryn. However, he would live to deliver his message and see havoc wrecked upon his enemies. He vowed it.
A crowd gathered to watch the bloodied Bryn be led from the tavern. Whispered word traveled, mouth to ear, through the watchers; the one responsible for the Manitou Massacre was prisoner. He was stuffed into a six foot by four foot metal cage atop a wagon. His hands were fastened to a O ring bolted to the floor. He sat slumped, shoulders hunched in an attitude of defeat. Satisfied, the soldiers backed out of the cage. The wagon, pulled by a single ceros, began a lumbering march down the highway followed by a growing crowd. Anticipation of a gruesome spectacle at the end of their journey seemed to lighten the mood of the travelers.
One Eye and company watched flames climb up the walls of the tavern and through the roof. The sight brought a fresh round of tears from Elryn. One Eye knew from experience that being of age was no barrier against the pain of being orphaned and homeless. Elryn would replace the pain with something. Revenge was the most likely replacement and, on her own,that would likely get her killed. One Eye had no choice but to take her with them.
The decision turned out to be a good one. The tears ebbed away. The strength he knew was buried inside emerged from her. Her steps grew stronger, more determined. Best of all, she knew a way through the woods and into the city of Shiloh. Jaryn didn’t get all his supplies from legitimate sources. Elryn knew not only the routes; she knew his contacts including a bar owner in the city who liked to brag about the seer that frequented his establishment. Beautiful, resourceful, and mad as hell at mankind; he liked the combination. The trio puts their backs to the sun. Shiloh was waiting.
They reached the city walls as the sunset behind them. Elryn offered a subdued wave to a couple of the soldiers on duty who pretended not to see the gesture or the trio of strangers passing through the gate. The houses near the walls, struggling to stand on their cracked foundations, leaned against one another for support. The constant attacks of salt air long ago convinced the peeling paint to abandon the rotten wood of their sagging walls. The creatures shuffling along the filthy streets wore matching suits of neglect. They clung to life buoyed by the knowledge that they lived inside. Existing against the outside of the city wall, miserable wretches wiped at flowing sores; dragged twisted limbs and begged at the gates.
Elryn led them through the maze of streets without hesitation or misstep. Long before the life around them grew grand, she turned down a dark street. They dodged and splashed through puddles in the cobblestone street until they came to an open door. The smell of stale beer, smoke and unwashed patrons drifted from beneath a familiar sign. A raven, like that on her father’s pub, graced the sign hanging from an oak beam. Elryn led them inside.
It’s been a while since I’ve taken time for some chatter. Cold and flu season has been a killer so far this year---literally.
New chapters are being written this weekend. Some are about Bryn Bou’s troubles in the world called Tettias. Others involve the man behind the curtain. A taste of tragedy, heartbreak, joy and love have come to both of us. How well we weather the emotional storm and forge a new life will be revealed in later chapters. For now, things are new and raw. My writing may not change the world, but it has changed my world. I’m not sure whether I’m writing a mystery, a thriller, a romance---God, let’s hope it’s not a horror story.
The future is new and uncertain with each turn of the page. Facing such uncertainty, I’ve decided to invest time and money into some formal writing education. We will have to wait and see if the old dog can still learn new tricks. One change I anticipate is to do more on the blog in the way of pub chatter and maybe book and movie reviews. The Dragon and Dove poem is turning into a fable that I hope to get illustrated and published in 2017. A sequel to Hatchlings is also a real possibility. I’m kicking around the idea of calling it Fledglings. Both of these are dependent on Bryn. His adventure is front burner for now.
You may have noticed I’ve started an author’s page on Facebook. Thanks to everyone who have liked the page thus far. TTFN
Sunday, January 15, 2017
Comes a lowly man, to walk upon the earth
Weary, broken, railed on, esteemed of little worth.
From whence he comes, wither he goes, none but he cares
It is because he walks alone, none his burden shares
Through fields of doubt, through clouds and rain,
He moves with limping steps, carrying his pain
And when his eyes close their last under shining sun
No soul gives a damn for the silent one
A chaser of rainbows, who failed and schemed,
A lowly man who said,I lived, I was, I dreamed.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
One Eye crawled through the berry vines to lay beside him. Wynn materialized on his other side a minute later. Day dawning behind the city held them captive. It was still a day’s journey off, but to have their goal in sight gave a much needed lift to their dampened spirits and tired bodies. The sight reluctantly eased it’s grip. As the sun climbed higher, wonder faded into thoughts of new troubles ahead. The others followed Bryn’s gaze over the edge of the precipice.
“Long way down,” Wynn said.
“Any ideas?” Bryn asked.
“Two,” One Eye answered. “And neither is a good one.”
“Let’s hear it anyway,” Bryn said.
“We climb down,” One Eye began. “In which case, we fall and die at the sudden stop at the bottom. Two, we make our way to the highway and march into the city like we haven’t got a care in the world.”
“Which gets us arrested and hanged or worse,” Wynn finished for him.
“Right,” One Eye agreed. He gave Bryn a pat on the shoulder. “Show us that leadership ability of yours; you choose.”
“Let’s take a walk,” Bryn said.
Inside the walls of the great city, another trio pondered a decision of their own. The Valirian Embassy looked like a fortress under siege. The soldiers of King Zedek filled the walk outside the gates and spilled into the street. Inside, the Valir stood tall behind the iron bars; hands on their weapons. Their bravado was real. They would die if the men stormed the gates, but that was why they were there and no one inside or out doubted that they would do their duty.
“Trust me on this,” Eeryn said. “I’m a prophet, you know. I have a feeling that going back to the embassy is no longer an option.”
“You really think so?” Faryn said.
“Oh, yeah,” Eeryn answered. “Come on. I have one last idea.”
They moved away from the window and down the stairs. Vulryn waited at the bottom. The story was written on their long faces. Faryn shook her head and motioned him to follow them into the parlor. The house belonged to an old friend of the seer, man named Roque. Rich fabrics of blue covered carved chairs and a long couch grouped for quiet conversation. Gold and blue draperies hung from a series of tall widows that opened onto the wide avenue just beyond. Roque had taken care to close the drapes and provide candle light against the soldiers milling about the street.
“It is as I said?” Roque asked.
Eeryn slowly nodded.
“What will you do?”
Eeryn aware of the eyes on him, took a last deep breath in which to consider his decision. Up until now, this had been a little game of cat and mouse. Eeryn knew the soldiers had no chance of finding him in this city. He had been dodging them for two years and had too many friends like Roque who were more loyal to him than their own king. These two presented a problem. Every Valir and human alive would be looking for the granddaughter of a member of Valir’s High Council gone missing in the city. If that weren’t enough, she was accompanied by a giant. Neither of them seemed the kind to sit by and do nothing. Their being here was evidence enough of that. Desperate times called for desperate measures. What choice did he have?
“I’m going to see the Prince,” He said at last. “Can you hide us until tonight, my friend?”
“Of course,” Roque answered. “My home is yours.”
“Just so we’re clear,” Eeryn said. “You two will stay inside and out of sight until I tell you to do otherwise. I must have your word on that.”
Shielded from the road by a stand of pines, Bryn watched the surge of men mixed with species from the outer kingdoms move along the highway. This was the main highway to Shiloh; the king’s highway. In Bryn’s estimation it lacked just one thing---Valir. They were going to stand out no matter how they tried to avoid it. He hoped One Eye was right and they could hide in plain sight. The thought of stepping out beyond the tree line made Bryn cringe inside. A small detail of soldiers appeared from the west moving toward Shiloh. The soldiers were laughing and joking as they passed by totally oblivious to their fellow travelers. Instinctively, Bryn moved back into the trees. He took a deep breath and watched until they disappeared into the moving masses. Anger flashed in him. He was Valir. He did not cower in the shadows.
“Well, boys,” he said. “Shall we go?”
He took another breath and pushed his little band of felons onto the highway. No shouts of alarm; no charging soldiers; just the passing mob. One or two heads turned slightly before ignoring the newcomers altogether. Slowly, as they walked on, Bryn began to relax. His shoulders lifted and he realized he was slouching in a vain attempt to hide. His face grew warm as color flooded his cheeks. He hoped the others hadn’t seen the fear on him. He shook the lingering remnants away and picked up his pace.
The highway sloped steadily downhill toward the sea. The walls of the city grew as the road leveled out and the sun climbed higher in the sky. Toward midday, samll businesses crowded the the highway pushing back the woodland and the fields. Farmers with makeshift stalls appeared first. Melons, apples, wild berries and vegetables of every sort decorated the beds of hand carts and small wagons. Legions of ragged children dodged in and out among the travelers hawking their parents wares and picking pockets. A family of wolven sold ironware beneath a blazing red awning that stretched from the top their wagon. Nearby a human woman nurses twins as her man offered passersby the “finest hemp rope in the kingdom.” Opposite them a cloven footed Orrus with powerful arms and tawny fur beneath its dark mane pointed out stalls of wheat and corn with his serpentine tail to a dwarf with a single eye in the middle of his forehead. Bryn punched One eye on the shoulder and pointed out the dwarf.
“Friend of yours?” he asked.
“No,” One Eye said and pointed down the road. “But, that is.”
Bryn eyes followed the directions of his friend’s finger. He was pretty sure what attracted his partner’s attention. A second later, he saw it; a low slung building of rough cut pine logs set back from the road. In front of the building a mismatched collection of unoccupied tables and chairs called travelers to stop; rest and have a drink.
“That didn’t go so well the last time,” Bryn reminded him.
“All the more reason to try again,” One Eye shot back. “You’re not a quitter, are you?”
“No,” said Bryn. “Not dumb enough to be baited either, but I am thirsty.”
One Eye beamed and slapped him on the back.
“You have potential, son,” he said.
“We stay outside,” Bryn shouted after him and jogged to catch up.
They sat at a table half way back from the road on the east side in case they needed another quick getaway. The pub door was open to the warm day. There was no sign above the door; only the carved image of a large black bird. No music or barmaid chanced to venture outside. Bryn decided the tavern was not yet open for business. One Eye did not give up so easily. He disappeared inside emerging moments later with a scarlet crested Valir maiden of impressive proportions.
“Look what I found,” he said. “This is Elryn. Her father owns the place.”
“Please, come inside,” she said.
Without waiting for a reply, One Eye caught her by the hand and started for the pub with the giggling girl in tow. Wynn and Bryn exchanged glances, decided not to fight it and followed One Eye inside. The pub was as empty inside as it was outside. A short, bowlegged Valir in a spotless white apron came around the bar to greet them.
“Jaryn, son of Eldryn,” he stretched out a hand to Bryn.
“Bryn Bou, son of...,” he didn’t finish.
“It’s alright here,” the barman said. “But be careful among men. I’m glad to see you whoever you are.”
“How is it a Valir runs a pub on the human king’s highway?” Bryn asked. “Not many of our kind travel through here.”
“None of our kind,” Jaryn said. “Not for a long time.”
“It looks like business is off today,” Bryn said.
“I like this kid,” he said with a wink at One Eye. “Doesn’t miss trick.”
Jaryn pointed them to the bar and took up his place behind it. He poured tall glasses of beer from the tap and set it before them. Bryn sipped, started to set down down his glass, returned for a second taste. The dark liquid was cold and smacked faintly of boubouja; a little taste of home for weary travelers. The barman smiled and gave Bryn a knowing wink.
“Now that we’ve discussed my folly,” Jaryn said. “Let’s talk about you. What sort of foolishness has brought you to Shiloh?”
“A what makes you think us foolish?” Bryn said.
“You don’t clack when you walk,” Jaryn replied.
Bryn gave One Eye a puzzled look. The smuggler shook his head. Wynn shrugged. Bryn turned his eyes back to the barman.
“You either have balls of iron,” he explained. “Or your the world’s biggest fools. The entire king’s army is looking for you and you’re marching straight down the king’s highway. Since I didn’t hear them clack together...well.”
One Eye exploded with laughter sending beer from his nostrils and flying the length of the bar.Wynn fell on the floor holding his stomach and roaring with laughter. Bryn smile and flushed for a moment before pausing to look down.
“Clack, clack,” he said with a bouncing gesture at his crotch.
Jaryn couldn’t hold back. He burst into laughter of his own and Bryn joined in. It was one of those golden moments when cares of the world are rolled back. Like all of those moments, it ended with a crash as the world rushed back in. A long shadow fell over the bar. Silhouetted in the doorway stood a large man with a weapon in his hand.
I just finished reading Hollow City. This is the second novel of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children. Once again Ransom Riggs blends his storytelling with intriguing photographic images. This episode follows the peculiar children as the escape from Cairnholm in two tiny boats on their way to London in an attempt to save Miss Peregrine and the other ymbrynes. Passing through time loops, and the dangers of world war, the children evade wights and hollowgasts looking for Miss Wren. Their hope is that the last free ymbryne can free Miss Peregrine from being forever locked in bird form. They need their old teacher restored to set up a new loop for them to live in away from the world of normals.
All of the other peculiar children return for this novel. Hugh rescues the rest of the peculiars at great personal cost to himself. Bronwyn’s strength is put to the test on several occasions. Millard relives the emerging of his own peculiar childhood. Emma and Jacob’s love grows through triumph and heartbreak only to be thrown into a strange reversal of time. The conclusion has some nice twists that keep everything exciting and leave you hungry for volume three.
Try it, you’ll like it. But first, join me tomorrow for the next chapter of Trails Of Trouble.
Sunday, January 8, 2017
I’m haunting the early hours of the morning again. It seems to be my most productive time. About 700 words into Chapter 25 of Trails of Trouble. Shiloh’s only a day away; trouble is a little closer than that. Had a good time at Panera Bread in Tukwila yesterday with the Southside Writers. Got a great writing prompt and started a new story that I have big hopes for. I have a feeling, in the end, it will be therapeutic. God knows I need help, right?
It seems word has gotten around the Sound of the flu/cold outbreak in Kitsap and Pierce counties. Nice to know it wasn’t all my imagination. I still think people should grow up and realize there’s not a magic solution to their every discomfort. I sometimes worry that we damaged our children by insisting on them taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. I must not be too worried though, I still find others their age that require spoon feeding deplorable. I remember when Phil Gramm caught hell for calling America a country of whiners. He was being charitable. I’m getting too old to keep doing Emergency nursing. It’s not really the physical part of it. It’s the psychological weariness brought on by the helpless.
But, what do I know? I’m a hick from the sticks. I ain’t got sense enough to know how wrong I am. Hell, I still value love, loyalty, forgiveness and duty above correctness. Worse, I’m damned proud of it. Well, time to take my rebel flag and ride into the sunset.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
The flickering string of lights winding it way down the hill opposite them began to slow. Midway down the slope, the lights came together. A pool of shifting, circling flame formed on the hillside. Then, the dam broke. One by one the lights started back up the hill. Bryn smiled at One Eye, who returned a knowing smile of his own.
“Officially, it’s too dark to track us any further,” One Eye said.
“Unofficially?” Bryn asked. “How did you know?”
“We’re armed,” One Eye said. “And it’s too dark to be picked off and die out here. Men are not cowards, but they’re not stupid either.”
“Okay,” Bryn said. “But you said they would give up when they reached Manitou.”
“They couldn’t,” Wynn broke in. “Not after what happened. They have orders to kill you both.”
Bryn and One Eye stared at him. Their blank expressions confirmed Wynn’s suspicions.
“You don’t know,” he said. “You really don’t know.”
“Know what?” One Eye snapped at him.
“Two days after you left us at Manitou,” Wynn began. “Soldiers came, lots of soldiers. They tortured some of the people there until they told where Iko and the others were hiding. The soldiers rounded up everyone; those from Gotebo and the villagers in Manitou, herded them into the center of the town and killed them all. Then, they burned the village. I was on my way to join you when they came. I saw the smoke and turned back, but there was nothing left.”
“What’s that have to do with us?” Bryn asked.
“They, the army is saying renegade Valir did it,” Wynn explained. “Only the heads of your fellow prisoners made it to Shiloh. Now they want yours.”
Bryn and One Eye sat in stunned silence. The story was absurd; just right for human consumption. True, they killed men, but soldiers, not innocents. It didn’t matter, the army obviously did not plan on there being any other story. Bryn noticed the tear on Wynn’s cheek.
“It’s not your fault,” he told the boy. “You couldn’t have stopped what happened.”
“I could have died with my people,” Wynn said.
“Pardon a practical fellow,” One Eye said. “But, to what end? Dying would not have help them and wouldn’t have done you a great deal of good either.”
“He’s right,” Bryn added. “But by living, you saved us tonight.”
“We’ll fight on together,” One Eye offered.
“Any idea where we are?” Bryn asked.
“None,” One eye said.
Wynn shook his head.
“I’m not sure which direction we’ve been running,” Bryn confessed.
“Away,” One Eye said and slid from his perch to the ground where he stretched out his hands locked behind his head.
Bryn and Wynn dropped to the ground to join him. Bryn bit back the urge to tell One Eye it wasn’t nap time. He needed to think, not argue. They sat in silence studying the landscape. It was still the same coastal forest of firs, oak and laurel they traveled through all day. The shape of the land held no clues. No lights shone in the distance. There was nothing but dark forest. The idea of waiting for dawn went down like acid, but wandering in the dark was worse.
“We go that way,” One Eye announced and pointed over Bryn’s shoulder. “I’ve been watching the moon. It’s moving this direction; that’s west. We put it to our backs. Let’s go.”
They started east, Bryn knew choosing the right direction was not their biggest challenge. walking through heavily forested hills with only occasional glimpses of moonlight made for slow going at best. Traveling at night was dangerous. Staying put was deadly. They had to keep moving. Daylight would power the human’s technical wonders. Disruptors, hovercraft and communicators would give their pursuers a huge advantage, especially now that they had the scent. But, moving itself was dangerous. Obstacles hidden in the dark could break a leg. If they avoided physical injury, without a fixed landmark, there was still the natural tendency to wander in a circle. They could travel all night and go nowhere.
Moving air rushed along Bryn’s cheek. Ahead, an overhead branch dipped. Bryn rolled his eyes up searching for whatever was moving in the dark. A pair of large eyes dropped down from the branch to meet his.
“Oto,” he said.
The owl hopped down onto Bryn’s shoulder. They had eyes.
Oto guided the trio through the trees at a steady pace. No one was actively pursuing them at the moment, nevertheless a sense of urgency drove them to their physical limits. They stopped only when exhausted and returned to the trail only when they could force their bodies to stand again.
The eastern horizon melted through a deep indigo to a dusty blue. Bryn’s legs were on fire. He dropped down against the trunk of a tall pine. The others followed his lead, sucking down breath through pursed lips until their muscles quieted. It took a few minutes before any of them was aware of the wet saltiness hanging in the air. They were near the coast. Oto flew to the top of the tree where Bryn rested. He returned a minute later to light on Bryn’s shoulder.
“Get some rest,” he whispered. “What is ahead is far more deadly than what’s behind. Take a look.”
Bryn crawled through a thick mass of huckleberry. Thirty yards beyond the bushes he found himself on the edge of a steep cliff. Below him a wide highway stretched to the walls of a city like nothing Bryn had ever seen. The walls of the city spread across the horizon seemingly as vast as the sea that lay beyond. At the center of the city a golden dome, set like a jewel in a field of azure, glistened in the rising sun.
Shiloh. At last.
Well, it’s after 0200, the pub is closed, and I can’t sleep---again. Even watching a cheesy 70‘s horror flick isn’t helping. The up side is that chips and spiked coffee banished the blues that brought on this late night sense of melancholy.
I have the Chapter 24 written. I should complete typing it and get it ready to post later. I just need to talk myself into it. I was saving that chore for my meeting with the Southside Writers Group, but really should spend that time on something new. Something like fleshing out the Dragon and Dove would be a good choice. Someone told me yesterday that my writing wasn’t a chore, that it was what I love to do. That’s true for someone who doesn’t write. Writers know that sometimes doing what they love is a chore. Starting a story is easy; finishing it is work. Meeting the page when it is a chore is how books get finished.
I guess it’s the same for most things in life. Any thing of value takes work. That’s the Curse at work and the doom of those who have no depth of feeling. The real rewards of life are not in starting well, but finishing well. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
A tsunami of infected people has crashed upon our shores. They are riding waves of dripping snot, puke and and diarrhea spreading disease as they wash by. Their coughing and sneezing billows clouds of viruses around their heads like dirt around Pigpen. These people look like the walking dead, but this is no zombie apocalypse. Cold and flu season is here. If you haven’t been sick---get ready, your time is coming.
This public service announcement isn’t meant to burst any bubbles. Well, yeah maybe it is. If your head aches, your throat is sore, you are coughing, sneezing and cannot breathe through your nose, you have a common cold. And yes, even if you are a man---it’s still a common cold. Antibiotics won’t help. Your local Emergency Room has no cure. Put on your grown up drawers and send someone to the store to buy the over-the-counter crap that eases symptoms. Take the stuff and stay home. Being generous with your germs is not appreciated by anyone.
While you are sitting at home bored out of your mind with television, remember there’s always my blog here at incawhoots.blogspot.com. We’ll keep you informed and entertained.
Sunday, January 1, 2017
They would reach Shiloh soon; not soon enough to suit Bryn, but the end was in sight. They had been traveling steadily down hill for days with the blue horizon to guide them. This morning they reached the foothills. They spent the day tramping up and down the rolling hills careful to avoid the roads. Since they left the refugees in Manitou, the roads were alive with soldiers. Bryn didn’t think they were still looking for them, but he wasn’t taking unnecessary chances this close to the goal.
The sun was sinking into the trees behind them. They dropped to the ground; keeping low behind the crest of the hill to prevent being silhouetted against the sky. They watched the village from the cover of a wall of huckleberry vines that wound between the madrone and laurel. They needed water. A hot meal at the inn would be a bonus.
The village rested in the trough between two hills. Terra cotta tile and redwood shingles formed a checkerboard laced with a dozen streets radiating from a central square. A fountain bubbling in the square would supply water and a clue as to the safety of the inn.
“We’ll wait until dark,” Bryn said.
One Eye nodded in silent agreement. He crawled back through the huckleberry into the shelter of a tall oak. He propped himself against the wide trunk and closed his eyes. It was still two hours until dark. Bryn took up the same position on an adjacent branch. He let One Eye sleep. The smuggler had a real talent for it. Bryn, on the other hand, found sleep difficult. It was especially true since the dreams started. One Eye told him that was the price he paid for having a conscious.
Bryn shrugged off the assessment and let his mind wander to the problem of how to find Eeryn if and when they reached Shiloh. The tales he heard of the size of the city defied imagination. He would know the truth soon enough. Whether that would be a help or not, he could only speculate.
Twilight crept up the hill toward them. Dark followed on its heels. Tonight there would be a late rising moon. Bryn tapped his friend on the shoulder and with a jerk of his head in the direction of the village, dropped from the tree. One Eye dropped down behind him. They moved silently among the trees using the undergrowth for cover when the could. The woods played out two hundred yards from the village. Abandoning any pretext of stealth, they moved onto the road becoming two more wearying travelers looking for a place to spend the night.
The square was deserted when they arrived. Bryn saw a few fires burning inside homes, but the town was oddly dark and empty. They passed two pubs; both were closed. That was odd, especially for humans. So too was the lack evening foot traffic. One Eye sat beside the well. Bryn drew up the bucket and filled their canteens.
“Let’s get out of here,” One Eye said after a drink of water. “It’s too quiet. Gives me the creeps.”
“Okay,” Bryn agreed. “We’ll find a place to make camp on the other side of town.”
They found a street leading east and started down it planning to join the highway outside of the town. A few people scurried by them on the dark street. They seemed to be rushing home to waiting dinners and families. None of them paid much attention to the hooded figures of strangers. They traveled only a few blocks when One Eye pulled up to listen. Bryn trusted the old smuggler’s instincts. He cocked his head straining to hear whatever had his attention. Seconds later he heard it; the tramping of feet moving in unison.
The ducked into the shadow between two dark houses and knelt behind a stack of firewood. The sound grew louder. peering over One eye’s shoulder, Bryn caught a glimpse of the passing patrol. He counted at least a dozen men. The patrol continued by unaware of being watched. A short while later, he heard the officer call a halt.
“In the square,” One Eye whispered to him.
Bryn followed him back to the street and away from the soldiers. It was not long until another sound drew their attention. This was a much different sound; one they expected and appreciated---music. The sound was coming from an isle of light on the edge of all the darkness. The sound and light up ahead had to be a highway tavern. There was life in this place after all.
The sign above the door declared this oasis of merriment was the Travelers Rest. Bryn chanced a look in one of the windows. There certainly were plenty of travelers inside. The only one that appeared to be at rest was a smallish man face down at the far end of the bar. Bryn turned to One Eye, but the old smugglers was already stepping through the doorway.
“Let’s go in,” Bryn said; nodded to himself and headed for the door.
A cloud of blue smoke rolled by Bryn as he opened the door. He could feel the beat of the music on his skin. To his left, couples gyrated on a wooden dance floor. Beyond them the band rocked on; something about the value of three steps that Bryn found especially fitting. One Eye had taken a position at the bar not far from the resting patron. He hoisted a bottle of amber liquid and motioned Bryn over. Bryn joined him at the bar where beer appeared in his hand.
“I don’t mean to be a drudge,” Bryn said. “But, don’t we need money for this?”
Just below the level of the bar, One Eye dangled a small pouch for him to see. The smuggler was also a talented pick pocket. He smiled at Bryn’s surprise and took a long pull on the drink in his hand. Bryn tossed his hood back on his shoulders. The move caught the barman’s attention. He stepped close pretending to wipe a spill.
“Put that back up,” he whispered to Bryn. “I don’t care who drinks here. Money is all the same to me, but your kind ain’t good for business right now. I don’t want any trouble. Drink that and get out of here”
“What do you mean right now?” One Eye asked.
“What? You been hiding under a rock?” the barman asked. “Valir wiped out two villages back up the road. Probably still be at it if the army hadn’t caught them.”
“What villages?” Bryn asked his hood back in place. “Where?”
“Place called Gotebo,” he answered. “Another called Manitou.”
“That’s a lie,” Bryn said. “We were just....”
One Eye was hauling him for the doorway before he could say more. Bryn resisted for about two seconds. His words echoed in his mind and he pushed ahead of his partner.
“Stop them,” the barman shouted.
He had a strong voice, but not strong enough to overcome the band. Unfortunately for Bryn and One Eye, their sudden bolting for the door and the barman’s gestures were enough for a pair of very large men sitting near the door. They filled the doorway with a speed and agility men that large should not possess. Bryn pulled up short. One Eye turned to face the advancing barman who had armed himself with a club. The appearance of One Eye’s dagger slowed him considerably.
What happened to the music? Why was everyone staring at them? This wasn’t good. The room felt too small and quickly shrinking. One of the big men guarding the door reached for Bryn. The man’s eyes grew wide, his hand froze in midair. The man at the end of the bar had come to life and he had a crossbow.
“That’s right,” a voice from behind Bryn said. “Everyone just stand still.”
“I’ll be damned,” One Eye said.
“This way,” Wynn said.
One Eye pulled Bryn’s cloak. They backed out of the bar followed closely by their savior.
Happy New Year, Y’all
I had planned to sleep the New Year in, but you know how fickle plans can be. So, my cold and I are welcoming in 2017 by trying to write something. This little exercise in distraction hasn’t worked all day. God only knows why I think it will work now. What’s that saying about doing things they same way and expecting different results? That’s me---all I need is a good solid wall to bash my head into and I’m good. Actually, stubbornness saved my life yesterday and that gives it a free ride tonight.
My world certainly looks to be very different now that it is officially, 2017. I am not sure where the changes will lead me. The immediate outlook is for cold and lonely. However, long term freedom is on the rise and carrying all kinds of possibilities with it. I’ve even made a few resolutions.
1. Get something published this year.
2. Take a shot at starting a writer’s group in Gig Harbor.
3. Spend an outrageous amount of money doing all the health screens I should have done 10 years ago.
4. Drink more beer.
5. Attend more sporting events.
6. Fly to Vegas for a weekend of fuzzy memories.
7. Find a co-conspirator.
The list is slightly abbreviated. There was this fantasy thing (not my fantasy, but I was willing to help) that had to do with a huge cake and a swimming pool, but that one died an early death.
Wow, the fireworks outside only lasted a couple of minutes. Must have been a guy thing.
I want to close with a word of thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings. Come back for 2017, and let’s all have a better new year.