Thursday, March 31, 2005

 

the child, forty-six


More days. More walking. More arguing. More pain. More circling the mountain.

More getting nowhere.

And then came a day when, as the group was descending a particularly rough and ugly passage, Starr's foot slipped, sending her slithering through rock and grit, skinning her shin from ankle to knee. A bush - prickly one, of course - broke her skid, and she sat for a moment, silent, too shocked even to cry.

Looking around, she saw that the main part of the group was still descending the slope, having not even noticed what had happened to her. The only ones who had noticed were those behind her. Stone, and the angels.

Stone just stood there, looking at her, as she sat there in her pain, clutching at her oozing leg. The angels stood watching Stone, to see what he would do.

He drew a long breath. Frowned.

Glanced at Maccabees. Gave a jerk of his head towards the girl.

And then turned away. And walked on.

And now came the tears. The skinning of her leg had not been quite enough to start Starr crying. But this was. Hot tears stung her eyes, spattering down her cheeks.

He... he walked on?

A hand reached down to her. Knees bent and rested by her. A canteen uncorked, and the cool water within was sent cascading over the long wound. Maccabees.

Starr looked up into his face as he brought out a cloth to clean away the grit and to bandage her leg. The two other angels paused, but Maccabees gave a wave of his hand to let them know he needed no aid. They walked on as well then, following Stone.

And so the pair of them were left behind for a time by the rest.

Starr winced a bit at the washing of her wound, but the real hurt was in her heart. 'He... he didn't stop!' she said, incredulous. 'He just... went!'

'I am sorry,' the cherub replied.

Starr's whole face twisted in anguish. 'I don't understand,' she whispered - a whisper, but yet with the intensity of full-throated yelling. 'What is with him? How can he just... walk away like that? I...' She shook her head. 'Is this why his name is Stone? Because that's what his heart is made of? I thought he loved me! Has he thrown all of that away? Do I mean nothing to him anymore?'

'Starr...'

'Don't defend him!' she hissed back. 'This is ridiculous! He doesn't feel a thing anymore - not one thing! Isn't that so?'

'Starr. That is the hurt talking. And I do not mean the hurt in your leg. But do not, in your anguish, make accusations without proof.' Maccabees' own face was full of pain. 'He saw. He ached. But he thought... that you would prefer my company to his.'

'But...'

'But he doesn't know that? Any more than you know what is going on in his heart. Be at peace, Starr. Trust. This is temporary. That is the word I hear ringing in my ears: temporary. Do not worry.'

She cast down her eyes, watching as he finished wrapping her injury securely. 'Are you sure?' she whispered. And this time, her whisper was only a whisper.

The angel smiled. 'Yes,' he said. 'Now. Let's get you upright.' And he stood, taking her hand, helping her to stand as well.

She tested putting her weight on her leg, and found it didn't bother her as much as she might have thought it would. She did hold on to the cherub's hand, though, as they started out after the rest.

They still had the remainder of the slope to clamber down, and Maccabees diligently made sure Starr did not fall again. It was only after they reached the flat land at the bottom and had walked a few yards on that Maccabees stopped and pointed back to the right of the rough way they had just come. 'Do you see it?' he said.

She looked. There, snaking in from the side of the other mountain, there was a second valley. Smaller, with many stunted trees and brambly bushes studding the way. She frowned.

'Recognize it?' he asked.

Vaguely, she did. 'Isn't that... isn't that the way we came in? It leads back to the start of the valley, and beyond that, to the Mountain of Spices?'

'Yes.'

Well. That explained how they could keep circling and circling, with no one noticing what was going on. A bit more thought and then she asked, 'If that is the way we got in, where is the way we get out?'

Maccabees smiled. 'When it is time to get out, then will you see. All of you will.'

And turning after the rest, he helped Starr to hurry and catch up with the others.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Monday, March 28, 2005

 

storyblogging carnival XV


Donald S. Crankshaw has the XVth Storyblogging Carnival up at Back of the Envelope. Some entries from the regulars, as well as from some new authors.

Go and enjoy!

 

the child, forty-five


He stopped, hesitated, then came closer. 'Starr?'

'Good, good evening, Stone,' she whispered.

His eyes were bouncing back and forth between her and Maccabees. It wasn't hard to guess what he was thinking.

'Good evening,' said Maccabees. 'Thank you, Stone. I hope you will be able to sleep after your watch. I will go now.' And he walked towards the camp.

And stopped, Starr noticed, close enough to keep an eye on what would transpire between her and Stone. If Stone noticed that the angel had not gone all the way back to the camp, he gave no sign of it. He just stood there, looking at Starr, his eyes moving restlessly from her face to the ground to her face to the sky...

'Mac's not married, is he?' Stone asked at last.

'...No...' she answered slowly. Nor could he marry, she knew. But Maccabees had asked her to not reveal that he was an angel, so she didn't say the rest of what she was thinking.

Stone was silent for a very long time.

'Do you want me to go?' Starr ventured at last.

'Yes - no! Starr...'

She waited, wondering.

'Starr...' His face twisted, miserable. 'Look... If you'd... rather be with Mac than with me... I can understand that.'

She stared at him. Rather...! But she hadn't been with Stone in ages! He had thrust her away. How...?

She said nothing. There was nothing she could think of to say, that wouldn't just make things worse.

'...I need to walk, do this watch...' he added. 'So I need to go.'

She nodded.

'You get right to bed?' said he.

Another nod. She held the tears in till she was far enough away from him that he wouldn't hear her.

Maccabees met her, escorted her back to the camp.

'He thinks I'm interested in you now!' she whispered.

'I am sorry,' the cherub replied.

She shook her head, mopping the tears off her face before she entered her tent lest anyone within see that she'd been crying. That was all she needed, for one of them to start asking awkward questions!

Could it possibly, she wondered, get any worse?

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Friday, March 25, 2005

 

the child, forty-four


'Yes.'

'Why?' she asked.

'Why circles? Why walking round and round this mountain?'

'Yes.'

Maccabees looked her now in the eye. 'You yourself already know the answer,' said he. 'This group is not ready.'

Not ready. James and Forest arguing flashed into her mind. Lucy and Linda's squabbles. Her own anger - yes, anger - with Stone. All these things. And more besides, things that she had not seen. Yes. Maccabees was right. This group was not ready.

'How long?'

He stood, took her hand, walked on. 'Until they are ready,' he said.

'But how long will that take?'

He all but laughed. 'The group will decide that.'

On they walked through the silent woods. 'But...' she said slowly, 'what if the food runs out?'

'It will not,' he replied confidently.

'You're sure?'

'Did not the Master say it? All you will need, will be provided you. His word stands. He has provided, and that provision will not run short for this journey.'

Again they walked on, in silence. At last, Maccabees added, 'It is not good, Starr, for you to be angry with Stone.'

She nodded miserably. 'I know. But... we were so happy before. We were in love! And now... Oh, Maccabees! I could almost wish it was you I was supposed to be in love with, instead of him. At least you seem to like being around me!'

He said nothing, waiting till she looked at him. Then he answered gently, 'You know, little one, that I am not one who can marry.'

Yes. She knew. But it didn't make her a bit less miserable.

They walked on, her hand in his. Round the camp, keeping the watch. Round the camp again.

'Hi, Mac,' came a voice through the darkness. 'I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd go ahead and take over the watch and let you go rest. Didn't figure you would mind. I left a note for James, to let him know I was swapping watches with him.'

Starr froze. Guiltily, she realized she was still hand-in-hand with the cherub. She dropped Maccabees' hand quickly and hid her hands behind herself.

For the voice, and now the figure looming up from the night, from the direction of the camp -

Was Stone.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

the child, forty-three


It hurt. Daily, it hurt. To see Stone, walking with Morgenstern, talking, laughing, seemingly carefree. Oh, it hurt.

She took to walking with the others. Sometimes with Joy, sometimes with Jack. Now with Lucy, or Linda. Or even Forest, or James.

And sometimes... sometimes Maccabees sought her out and walked at her side.

Days passed. Weeks.

She learned much, walking with the others. She learned that Linda was as shy as she looked, and was quite puzzled that she had been given this new name when she was brought from the dungeons to the Master's house. Linda meant pretty, something the woman was sure she wasn't.

Starr learned that Joy had a problem with the deep gloom. It seemed to curl into her brain, she said, and she had to keep remembering how Josh had told them, that last day as they stood before that little house, to be filled with joy. How joy was their strength. To meet melancholy with the Master's joy. How often, Joy said, she had to keep reminding herself of that! How long this road was! And how wearying!

It was long... Days had stretched into weeks, and they were still passing through this same valley? How long could this valley be, anyway?

Starr thought about that one for some time, long after Joy had planted the question into her mind. Really, she should have noticed for herself! Starr thought. And then a few nights later at supper, Forest pointed at Maccabees and said, 'You have first watch tonight.'

Maccabees. If any of them would know how long this way through the valley was, surely one of the angels would know. And so, as she had done that night weeks before when it was Stone's watch, so this night Starr waited and sat herself in the cherub's path, to talk with him.

He did not sit by her, when he came to the place where she awaited him, but instead held out a hand to her and had her join him on his slow watchful walk round the camp. 'Yes, Starr?' he said.

Funny. She found it hard, now, to frame the question. 'We've been walking for a long time,' she said at last.

'Not so long,' he replied. 'We've barely gone halfway round the camp.'

'I don't mean tonight,' she said. And then realized - he was smiling! His too-many eyes were all crinkling in amusement. He was teasing her!

'I know,' he said. 'The journey itself. Yes, it has been long. Very long. And shall be long still.'

'But... how far could it be, to reach the enemy's fortress? We've been on the march for weeks.'

'Not far at all,' he replied.

She stopped walking and stared at him. 'I don't understand.'

He took her hand again and walked on. Shortly, they came upon a fallen tree, where he sat and had her sit beside him. And then, to her surprise, he unfurled a great wing and held it over her head.

'Why are you doing that?' she asked. 'It isn't raining.'

'You remember the day I did this. Because it was raining.'

'Yes. Of course.'

'Look around us.'

She did, still puzzled. Woods... What was she supposed to see?

And then, slowly, it dawned on her. Oh! 'This... this log! This is...'

'Yes.'

'...this is where I was crying that day. Crying in the rain, and you came to find me and lead me back to the camp. This...'

'Yes.'

She looked the angel in the eye. 'We've been going in circles.'

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Saturday, March 19, 2005

 

the child, forty-two


Maccabees had said she should ask Stone for herself what had happened. It was not that easy to do, though. When they continued on the march the next morning (for the rain continued through the night), Stone walked with the three companions - the three angels - at the rear, and did not acknowledge Starr's presence or include her in the conversation.

She was apart. Not part of the group ahead, nor part of the group behind - just apart. Tears sprang up, and she tried diligently to swallow them.

And no one seemed to notice. James and Forest were, as usual, bickering over which way was best through the valley - as if there was much choice. Lucy and Linda were sharing sharp words. Jack and Joy were walking along, he by the arguing men and she by the arguing women, both of them looking quite miserable at the endless, endless squabbling.

And Starr was alone.

That day, and the next, and the next. And then the next night they made camp. And over supper, Forest pointed across the fire to Stone and said, 'You have first watch tonight.'

Oh! That hit Starr hard. The knowing that, where once he would have come to call her away to watch with him, now he would not call her at all. Would perhaps even be angry with her should she ask to watch with him...

And as she thought these miserable thoughts, she saw from the corner of her eye - Maccabees. He looked at her till she returned the look, then he glanced towards Stone, then back to Starr, his expression plainly saying, 'Ask him.'

And so she did. After the clean-up from supper, after all the others had gone on to bed, after Stone had started his slow walk round the perimeter of the camp... she slipped out from the women's tent and went to sit in a spot where Stone was sure to pass by.

And here he came. Walking slowly, looking all about. And then slower still, when he spotted her. Still more slowly, when he recognized her. In fact, stopping dead in his tracks.

'Starr. You shouldn't be here,' he said.

'What happened?' she asked.

'What do you mean, what happened?' he said, drawing no closer.

'I mean...' and she dropped her eyes. '...us...'

'Oh.' And now he came closer. With a sigh, he sat down beside her. Not closely beside her, but close enough that her throat tightened as tears tried to creep up on her. 'Starr, I don't know what happened.'

If he didn't know, surely she didn't know! she wanted to cry out. But she kept silent, as Maccabees had told her to.

'I...' he said. 'Aw, Starr. I fell in love with you quickly, thinking you were the answer to that dream I had. You remember, the star falling into my hand?'

Mutely, she nodded.

'I wanted to be in love. I wanted a wife. I wanted that to be the meaning of the dream. But...'

She started to repeat the word 'but,' to prompt him on in the conversation. Well, the monologue. But there was no need, for he went on talking anyway.

'But then, I learned something.' He looked down, his mouth twitching a bit. 'I learned,' he said, 'that you are not the only 'star' in my life. Morgenstern...'

'Morgenstern?' she cried, unable to keep her silence.

'...means morning star. Yeah, I know - obviously he cannot be my wife. But... maybe that's not what the dream was talking about after all. Maybe... maybe the star dropping into my hand wasn't a wife, but a partner. A partner, for the assault on the dungeons. I started thinking about that, and then... And then I thought that maybe I was... jumping into things too quickly. When I fell in love with you. Maybe... maybe I was wrong. So...'

She remembered to keep quiet this time.

'...so... I think it's better for me not to... not to... be so close to you. For now, at least. Until I'm sure.'

Are you also going to back off from Morgenstern? she thought heatedly, but did not say. She knew already the answer. His actions already were the answer. He wasn't walking with all the companions; he was walking now with Morgenstern. And that made her angry.

Yes, and jealous.

'Do you understand, Starr?' he asked.

She jumped up. She had to literally bite her lips to keep from yelling at him, 'Does it matter?'

Without saying that or anything else, she turned and stormed away.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

 

the child, forty-one


The rain poured down. She stood there, stunned, the closed tent door before her face, her stomach feeling like it had just been sucker-punched. What had happened?

Stone had said for her to go to the women's tent and get out of the rain. Starr did neither. Gasping with tears, she instead spun away and ran off through the woods, blindly, till she came on a fallen tree trunk. She threw herself down on it, crying, choking, nearly sick with the shock of it all. She sat there a long time, huddled within herself, barely able to think.

The rain rained down.

What had happened?

Slowly, she began to remember the Master's warnings that this would happen - that she would feel as if her heart was being torn in two. 'But what changed?' she asked the pouring rain. 'Why did he do this?'

'You must ask him that.'

And suddenly, though the rain continued all around her, it no longer fell upon her. She looked up, puzzled...

And saw a great white wing poised over her head, shielding her from the rain. Her eyes trailed over the wing, following it back to the shoulder it was attached to, and then to the face - 'Maccabees!' said she.

His face was calm, unperturbed by the hard and chilly downpour. 'He told you to go back to the women's tent,' he said. And now the many-voiced aspect of his words was plainly heard.

'You are one of the cherubim. Like Mathilda. You, and Malachi, and Morgenstern. I thought you were.'

He gave a tiny smile. 'Yes. We saw you, that first day, trying to decide who and what we are. You have told no one your suspicions?'

'No. What point is there, to say there are angels among us? No one else ever notices.'

'Some notice. You are not the only one with such sight. But very few have that gift. Please - continue to say nothing.'

'Why?'

'Because people begin to act differently when they know there are angels about. Meaning, they begin to put on an act. This company must learn to walk in reality, in honesty. As well as in unity.' He looked away, off through the surrounding trees. 'Only then,' he added, 'will they be prepared to take on the enemy. So long as there are factions and hidden realities - such things the enemy can and will exploit.'

Silence then for a bit between them. She sat on the log, and he stood by her, sheltering her still from the storm.

At last, he said, 'You should go back now. As Stone told you to.'

She got up, and he took her hand, his wing still protectively over her head. As he led her through the woods back towards the tents, she realized how reckless she had been, running off like that. She would have never found the camp again on her own.

'You must ask him,' he said again, as they came into the circle of the camp. 'Only he can tell you what has happened. Ask, and keep silence once you have asked, that he may tell you all.'

'Thank you,' she said meekly, as he brought her right to the door of the women's tent.

'You are welcome,' Maccabees replied. And, as a flash of lightning sizzled across the rain-soaked sky above them, he turned away to return to his tent, while she opened the flap and entered her own.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

 

rosie writes again!


More about the talking cat, from my almost 7-year-old daughter Rosie.

~~~

The Cool Cat 2

by Sheya's kid Rosie

My cat could talk but my brothers and sisters did not believe. My cat came with the mail.

Thanks.

The cat said what does it say?

Maybe Mom could read it to you.

Yeah, sure.

Why are you mad?

Your brothers were kicking me like a ball.

Come, Ben. We're gonna buy a new dog.

But the cat? What about the cat? He or she will hurt him.

Yeah.

Who said that? said one of my sisters.

My cat.

It can't be.

No, I'm telling the truth.

No, bye.

Man, Mom, the cat will get hurt.

Ok. A cat.

Yes, yes!

Cat, did you say that?

Yes.

But when they got there, it had no cats, so they got a bunny. Mom said the bunny will not hurt anything. And when they came back, the bunny said please treat me good.

Ok.

The cat said I said to get a cat!

But there were not any.

Ok. A bunny will not hurt.

Will you hurt me? said the bunny.

No.

Good.

All of my brothers and sisters came back.

Who are they?

The bunny talked just like I said all along about the cat. But they ran off.

THE END

(the previous 'cool cat' story)

Monday, March 14, 2005

 

storyblogging carnival XIV


Donald S. Crankshaw of Back of the Envelope has the latest Storyblogging Carnival up, number 14. Doc Rampage has a new scene from 'Meating of the Mines,' Andrew Ian Dodge has a new 'Sage of Wales' tale, Donald Crankshaw has a new chapter of 'Eyes in the Shadow' - and there are some stories by new contributors. Good reading; check it out.

(And, yes, some of my stuff is in there. My daughter Rosie's story, too.)

Saturday, March 12, 2005

 

the child, forty


When they made camp before sundown that second night out, they found that it was just as well that they hadn't attempted to set up the tents the night before. They would never have been able to do so in the dark; it was nigh on impossible to figure out how to put the tents up in the daylight.

And, of course, Forest and James were knocking heads over it, each of them sure that he knew the right way to do the job, and that the other knew nothing about it. To Starr's horror, the pair of them kept on and on, wrangling over which of them knew best how to set up the tents.

Until at last the two turned around to find that, while they had been arguing, the others had, through trial and error, managed at last to get all the tents up.

There were three tents in the company. After a brief discussion, it was decided that the women should have one tent together, Malachi and his companions the second, and the remaining men the third.

Then, following Forest's suggestion, they set a watch for the night. There were seven men, so each one would take a shift each night. Lucy started to protest the women not being included in the watch, but Linda and Joy quickly hushed her.

This night, Forest said, he himself would take the first watch.

The group fixed and ate supper and cleaned up afterwards. A time of talking round the fire, and then one by one, they retired to the tents to go to bed. Stone and Starr said their sweet good-nights to each other.

And so to sleep.

Two nights later, it was Stone's turn to take the first watch. Taking Starr by the hand, he invited her to watch with him. Quietly they walked round and round the camp, talking softly together under the wheeling stars till it was time to go to the companions' tent and call Malachi to take the next watch.

And so it went. The days hiking along the valley soon became routine to the group. The rest breaks were soon fewer and briefer, as their muscles grew more used to the exercise. It would be nice to be able say that the arguments among themselves also grew fewer and briefer - but that was not the case. Especially between James and Forest. But soon between Lucy and Linda as well.

Starr walked at Stone's side, grieving inwardly at every quarrel. How she longed for the real unity the Master had called for them to walk in!

And then there was the rain. It did not come often, but when it did come, it poured buckets. They soon realized, the first time it rained, that there was no point in trying to press on through such a downpour (although Forest argued long and loud to press on anyway). And so they stopped and set up the three tents - a task they had well learned by this time - and huddled within them. The women in theirs, the men in theirs, the companions in theirs.

Well... not quite. For Stone drew Starr aside and led her to the tent of the three companions and asked to be allowed to come in. And so they spent a delightful afternoon, that first rain, talking back and forth with Malachi, Maccabees, and Morgan.

Morgenstern, actually. At last Starr heard his name aright. She sat by Stone's side, mostly listening, all that long afternoon. Stone and the others were so caught up in their conversation, they didn't even notice the end of the rain. Till Jack came and called that the rest were packing their tents to get on the march again.

It was a fine time for Starr, those first few days. Walking at Stone's side, watching with him if his watch was an early one, listening in on his conversations with the companions...

And then there came a hard rain again - the fourth one of the journey. Everyone scrambled to get the tents up quickly. Stone, as usual, went to the companions' tent to wait out the rain in conversation. But when Starr followed...

Maccabees opened the tent door and looked at her. He turned to speak a word to Stone. And, to her utter shock...

Stone frowned at her. 'This is our conversation,' he said. 'You should be in the women's tent.'

And when both Starr and Maccabees stood there at the tent door, stunned, Stone got up, came over, took the flap of cloth from Maccabees' hand - and said to Starr, 'Go on quickly before you catch your death of cold.'

And he closed the tent door in her face.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

 

the child, thirty-nine


They made camp quickly. It was too dark to gather firewood, so they made a short cold supper of some of the rations from their packs. Then, after a brief discussion (and a cordial one), they decided not to try to set up their tents in the dark, but to simply have the four women sleep in a group together, with the six remaining men making a circle around them for safety's sake.

And soon they were all asleep.

All? Or not? For as Starr drifted off, she opened her eyes more than once to see if in fact Malachi and his companions would sleep. They did lie down like the rest. But if they slept, she did not discover. For she fell asleep herself first, before she could find out.

Dreams she had none. Morning light awakened her. As did a sound.

She stirred, sat up. Rubbed at her eyes. And heard the sound again. A rattling sound, like... pebbles? One pebble, falling among others?

She looked. Yes, there! Even now, a little rock came bouncing into the camp, making that slight sound once again. And then a handful of pebbles, making a bigger sound.

And then, a voice.

'Man! It's a good thing no one wanted to attack you lot in the dark! Didn't you even think to set a guard?'

Starr gasped and turned towards the voice. The rest of the company awoke as well. It was Joy who said it first.

'Forest!'

A clamor then, as they all hopped up and mobbed the boy. Questions, so many questions! Where he had been, how he had fared during the night, how he had found them. And whether he would, uh, forgive them...

He scowled. 'Forgive, huh? Those were some pretty nasty things you said. But,' and he grimaced, 'I guess I'd be a skunk, wouldn't I, if I didn't forgive. So, yeah - I forgive you all. James, Jack, Lucy.' And he shook their hands, each of them. 'Stone...'

'Yes?'

'You were, uh, right. And I was wrong. I'm sorry. I'm sorry to you all.'

And solemnly, they forgave him as well.

'How I fared last night... I climbed a tree and slept like a squirrel. No problems.'

'Really?' said Joy. 'Weren't you afraid you'd fall out?'

Forest gave a lopsided grin. 'I'm never afraid,' he said. Then, glancing at Starr, who had seen him the day before when he had been hard-pressed by that demon, he amended it to, 'Well. Hardly ever. Now. That other question, about how I found you.' He shook his head. 'A five-year-old child could have found you lot in the dark. You snored like a herd of elephants!' That brought a round of denials, before the boy added, 'Besides - there was a full moon. No one noticed that? It was so bright when it rose over the mountain, it woke me right up. So I used the light of it to backtrack up the valley. And here you were, right in the middle of the road. Who wouldn't have been able to find you, eh?'

Sheepish glances, back and forth.

'But I say it again: didn't any of you think to set a guard during the night? Two-hour shifts, one awake watching while the others sleep, then get the next one up? No one thought of that?'

'Um - no...' said Jack slowly.

Forest shook his head. 'Pitiful,' he said. 'Josh warned us the enemy knows we're coming. Don't you suppose he might try an attack in the dark of night?'

Lucy started to object to the word pitiful, then thought better of it. Really, the boy was right. Their actions the night before had been pitiful, and in more ways than one.

'Well,' said James, 'daylight is wasting. We should go.'

'Yes, you're right there,' said Forest. And James resisted mightily the urging to ask the lad sharply if that was meant to imply that many other times, James was not right. Let it go, the man told himself. Give the boy the benefit of the doubt.

They made a sketchy breakfast, then started out. After about an hour's walk, Forest pointed to a tree partway up the leftward slope. 'There,' he said. 'That's where I spent the night. And just a bit farther up here...' he added, leading the way off the path.

He led them to a spring of fresh water, where they were all glad to drink and wash up a bit. Then they refilled their water bottles and so were soon on their way again.

The terrain this morning was no better than it had been the night before, the only improvement being that they could see it better in the daylight. And even that was not a great improvement, for the high mountains to either side blocked direct sunlight for most of the day, keeping the valley for the most part in a state of perpetual gloom.

Gloom. It was like a living beast, stalking them. Like a poison, trying to seep into their bones. It tried continually to worm its way into their hearts, from whence to spring forth out of their mouths, and so infect the next person.

The Master had warned them not to let melancholy attach to them. It was a subtle and constant danger, here in this valley. And one they often forgot to be on their guard against.

Only Malachi and his companions seemed unaffected by the gloom. They generally brought up the rear of the little group, their swords loosened in their sheaths, ready to be drawn on an instant at the first whiff of danger. Starr had finally learned that one of the companions, the shortest of the three, was named Maccabees. And the third - she wasn't quite sure, but she thought she heard his name as Morgan.

And while those three regularly brought up the rear of the band, Forest and James generally took the lead. Stone liked to walk behind the rest, just before the three companions, where he could keep an eye on the rest of the group. And Starr was at his side.

She was not yet aware of it, but she was now entering her own personal dark valley. One that would test to the fullest her promise, made so long before in the sunshine on the Mountain of Spices, to ever trust the Master, no matter what.

And it wasn't as if the Master had not warned her of what was coming. For he had warned her, and that with tears. But in the light of Stone's smiles, and in the comfort of his loving arm about her - she had quite forgotten the warnings.

She was about to be painfully reminded.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Friday, March 04, 2005

 

a story by rosie - 'the cool cat'


Hi. Today I am going to be a proud momma, and post a story my not-quite seven-year-old daughter wrote. Two of the older kids were writing stories as school assignments, but Rosie just wrote hers because she wanted to.

I typed it up for her. She had used no quotation marks. Possibly, being in first grade, she hasn't learned to use them yet. Wanting to keep the story as much like she wrote it down as possible, I chose to use paragraph breaks (she had written it as a single paragraph) instead of quotation marks to make the dialog easier to follow. I only fixed her spelling and punctuation, and broke up some run-on sentences. Just had to make two actual edits: once, where she had changed from 1st person to 3rd person, and the other, where she had left out a verb.

In my totally biased opinion, I think her first sentence is a great 'hook.' The ending could use some work. But this is a pretty good first story.

Ok - I'll shut up now and let y'all read.

~~~

The Cool Cat

by Sheya's kid Rosie

Only my Mom believes that my cat can talk. When I pull my cat's tail, he said leave me alone and when I pick him up, then he said put me down and now we are not good friends. Mom said be friends and my brothers and sisters laughed and I tried to make them believe that it was true. And how is by talking like him but they did not believe. So I took my cat and pulled his tail but they ran off and now I do not know what to do.

My cat said can you just leave me alone?

You mean to never feed you?

NO, I MEAN FOR YOU TO STOP PICKING ME UP AND PULLING MY TAIL. And can you give me water?

Ok.

Thanks.

I smiled and looked at the cat.

What?

I'm just smiling.

I know, but why are you looking at me?

I just love you.

The cat was confused.

Why are you confused?

Because you are pulling my tail and now you said you love me.

Then my brothers and sisters came back and they said what are you doing?

I'm talking to my cat.

You're talking to your cat. That is crazy.

Maybe to you but not to me.

Come on, let's just go.

THE END

(next)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

 

the child, thirty-eight


James swallowed hard on the pride stuck in his craw. Stooping, he took up his pack and shouldered it. 'Come on,' he said. And he started up the slight incline that led into the dark valley.

'Come on where?' said Lucy. 'I thought we were camping here.'

'Not till I - we - apologize to Forest first. Come on!'

Slowly, Jack chose to follow him, then the other women trailed along as well. Lucy looked around at the others, then followed James also. The three men waited till Stone and Starr moved out, then brought up the rear.

Starr was leaning heavily on Stone's arm. 'Tired?' he asked.

She nodded. The vision, curiously, had sapped her strength.

'Tell me,' Stone added as they neared the top of the incline into the valley beyond. 'The pack of wolves. Was... Was I... one of the wolves...?'

She looked up into his face, read the uncertainty there. 'Why would you be one of the wolves? You weren't ripping up anyone.'

He sighed, gave a slight smile. 'Thanks. I really wasn't sure. I'm never sure if I should speak up. I'm never sure if I'm being a peace-maker, or making matters worse.'

'You weren't making things worse, dear,' said she.

He smiled deeply then, and chuckled.

'What?' she asked.

'Oh, I just like that. You called me dear.' And his arm around her snugged her just a bit closer.

They topped the incline. The others had stopped here, just over the top, and so they had to stop as well. Malachi and his two companions came up and halted behind them also. And they all stared into the deep valley opening up before them. Such a bleak place it was! Had any of them ever before seen such a place of, of hopelessness?

'This is the way?' said someone. Which was simply voicing what most of them were already thinking.

The path ahead of them ran down the incline, down in to the valley, winding round great dismal grey boulders and stunted, twisted, dead-looking trees. A pall seemed to lie over the whole area between the two mountains; a chill deadened the air. The little company could see only a short distance ahead of them into the valley, for the path soon made a bend to the right and disappeared.

Heads turned as they looked at each other, seeing - most of them - their own dismay mirrored on their neighbors' faces. Only Malachi and his two companions seemed undisturbed by the disheartening look of this valley.

James hitched his pack a bit higher on his shoulders. 'Well,' he said, 'come on. Let's go find Forest.'

He led out, and the rest slowly followed, down, down into the valley. They passed by the boulders and reached the corner where the way bent to the right. And then they went on around that corner.

Oh, it was not a pleasant way. There were thorns to tear at their clothing and skin, and rough ground - even holes in the ground - to cause them to trip or stumble. It was exhausting, trying to make any headway that evening.

And then it got worse.

Oh yes, it did. For the sun set. The last rays of its light were abruptly cut off by the high shoulders of the mountain to their right. Sudden dark took hold of the valley, so that when they turned, as they had a few minutes earlier, to look at each other with dismayed faces - they now could no longer see each other in return.

'What do we do now?' said a quavering female voice. That was Linda, both Stone and Starr guessed.

'I think we should go back.'

Was that Jack?

'Back!' cried a voice that must certainly have been James. 'Are you crazy? You want to go back?'

'Well, I don't mean back back - as in all the way back to the Mountain of Spices. I just mean back a little ways, far enough that we don't have to spend the night here in this awful valley.'

'It's not a bit better over there than it is here,' James argued back.

'Not saying it is. It just - feels better back there than here.'

A snort. 'Maybe Forest was right about us.'

'Meaning?' There was a dangerous edge to that word.

'Oh please!' A younger, lighter female voice spoke up now - Joy, likely. 'Are we going to do this again? Is Starr going to be seeing more wolves?'

That brought an immediate silence. And in the silence, Starr began to realize that it wasn't quite as completely dark as she had thought at first. Her eyes were adjusting to the lack of light. And so were everyone else's.

James sighed. 'Look - I'm sorry. Stone is right: there is a way to disagree, and not be disagreeable doing it. Jack. I shouldn't have said the word crazy. And I shouldn't have implied that you were being a, well...' Slowly, he brought forth the word, '...coward. What I meant by what I said - what I should have said instead of what I said - is that there's not that much difference in being here from being back there beyond the ridge. And, that it's a bit dark to go trying to make a move now anyway. Let's just sit down where we are and camp here. If that's agreeable to everyone?'

'Well,' Jack replied. 'All right. I accept the apology. I'm sorry I was starting to argue too. No hard feelings?'

'None.' And the two managed to see each other well enough to shake hands on it.

'Besides,' James added as they all began to lay down their packs, 'we came into the valley to find Forest and apologize to him. We haven't done that yet.'

'Yes,' Joy put in. 'Where is Forest, anyway?'

It was a very good question, and one that none of them seemed to have the answer for. Peering about in the dark for him would do no good. They were just going to have to wait for morning light to look for him now.

'I sure hope he's safe,' Stone whispered to Starr as they too laid down their packs.

'Me too,' she agreed. And wondered - without saying anything aloud to anyone, not even to Stone - if it was possible that Forest perhaps did not want to be found.

~first~ ~previous~ ~next~

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

 

storyblogging carnival XIII


Dave Gudeman at Doc Rampage has the latest edition of the Storyblogging Carnival up online. Eight entries this time around, including the latest chapter of Donald S. Crankshaw's (addictive) novel-in-progress, the Eyes in the Shadow.

Go read!

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