Tuesday, May 31, 2005

 

the child, sixty-six


The wolves had not crossed the stream - yet. The one to Stone's left was snarling, growling, drawing the man's attention. While the one to the right - Stone saw it out of the corner of his eye - was slowly and quietly beginning to slip further to the man's right, into the stream, so softly, so silently.

Well. It wasn't hard to read their plan; that one was obviously trying to circle round Stone to attack him from behind, while the other was trying to keep Stone's attention to the front. That wouldn't do! He would have to act swiftly, Stone thought, before the pair of them had the chance to come after him from two directions at once.

Another prayer to the Master who had brought him safely out of the dungeons of his youth - and Stone, with a savage yell, lunged at the wolf that was trying to circle him. The weapon he held on that side was his sword, so he slashed at the wolf with it, catching the wolf by surprise. Catching himself by surprise as well, for he actually hit the wolf!

It howled, and at the same moment the other wolf, seeing the trap had fallen apart, leapt forward to the attack!

Stone was already turning towards the second wolf. He swung the walking stick, smacking it with a dull thud into the second animal's belly. Once again, a wolf went flipping through the air and landed in the underbrush.

Stone turned back to the first wolf. It was stunned and bleeding, but still with the savage gleam in its eye. It rose, snarling.

Stone swung the stick, smashing the side of the wolf's head, blooding it anew. Pinning it with the heel of the walking stick, the man once more slashed with the sword...

...and the wolf lay still, the light winking out in its eyes.

Minor relief. Stone turned again to see the other wolf coming right at him in a dead run. No time to think - on instinct, the man threw up the stick in front of him to ward off the blow, at the same time pointing the sword straight forward at the onrushing enemy.

There was a sickening sound as the wolf impaled itself on the sword. Momentum carried it onward still, and Stone had to twist the stick sideways to prevent the awful head from possibly biting him in its death throes. Wrenching the sword free, Stone jumped backwards and let the huge body fall to the ground before him.

Stone was trembling from head to toe, his stomach churning, his heartbeat pounding in his ears. He thought he would be sick.

He was right.

Wading into the stream, he washed the blood off his sword, drying it on the tail of his shirt, then sheathing it. Then he began scooping up large double-handfuls of water, splashing it over his face and head, washing away the horror of the battle and the remnants of the bout of nausea. And then he stood there, for a long time, thanking the one who had preserved his life, thanking the Master.

At last, when his heartbeat had calmed down till it no longer echoed in his ears, when the stream around his feet was no longer stirred up from him being in it, he squatted to finish filling the other canteens. He worked this time with his walking stick in his hand, looking all around, no longer focusing on the sight of the water going in or the air coming out of the canteens.

Who knew if perhaps there were other wolves about?

And when he was done and the last canteen was corked and slung again over his shoulder, he stood up to go, taking one last look about at the scene of the battle.

And froze once more. For the wolves - the two wolves he had just now killed with his sword -

Were gone.

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

 

the child, sixty-five


Stone froze. The canteen was full, but the man was frozen. He had never seen a wolf up close like this before. He had no idea how big this one was, compared to other wolves. He only knew that it looked big, and that was enough.

For someone who was fetching water, Stone's mouth was suddenly completely dry.

Slowly, the man drew the canteen out of the water. Slowly, he moved to put the cork in - fumbled it - nearly dropped it - finally got it in and tight. Slowly, he slung the strap over his shoulder. Then, carefully, he turned his eyes to the right - and now to the left - looking to see if there were any more wolves about. Stone had heard the phrase 'lone wolf' before, but suspected it was more likely that, where there was one wolf, there would be more.

He didn't see any more.

He moved his fingers onto the walking stick, taking a firm grip. Shifted his feet slightly, getting them under him. Getting ready...

He threw a prayer Heavenward, a desperate silent cry of, 'Help me, Master! I don't want to die!'

And then - Stone sprang. Planting the walking stick firmly, he used it to vault across the spring, heading straight for the wolf. His feet landed, and for a heartbeat he was staring right into those savage eyes, right into those slavering jaws. The jaws gaped wide, right in his face...

Without slowing down or changing direction a whit, Stone brought the end of the walking stick that had just been on the ground up, with all his might, sending it smashing directly into the wolf's chin. Sending the animal flipping through the air and crashing into the underbrush.

And again without slowing down or changing direction a whit, Stone took off at a dead run. Well, maybe the word 'dead' isn't the best choice to use, for someone running for his life.

Stone ran.

With the walking stick clutched fast in his hand, he ran. With the canteens jostling together, dangling from their straps over his shoulder, slapping against his side - he ran. And it did occur to him to drop the walking stick. But since he could use that again as a weapon, he held on to it. And it did occur to him to drop the canteens. But the thought hit his brain that they too might be used as weapons. That if worst came to worst, he could fling the canteens at the wolf, possibly beaning it, possibly tangling its legs in the canteens' straps.

He ran.

Through the woods he ran, dodging trees, using the stick to spring over small bushes. And something else occurred to him - that it would be easier to run along the path at the bottom of the valley. Well, marginally easier, what with the holes in that path, and the brambly bushes along it. But if taking that path would be easier going for him, he wondered - how much easier would it be for the wolf to follow after him there?

And so he continued on, pelting through the woods as fast as he could, not looking back, his ears straining to hear a sound he really did not want to hear - the sound of pursuit.

He wasn't even sure if the wolf was pursuing him. He had smashed it so hard with the walking stick, it was possible he had broken its neck. And he fervently hoped he had! But in the meantime - he was going to keep running.

The way was rough, the trees thick about him. He was growing weary, and a stitch was starting up in his side. Ah, he wanted to stop!

When a sound began, that put wings to his feet once again. The sound of footfalls behind him, and heavy breathing.

He ran. Keeping his eyes looking straight ahead of him, knowing that looking back could slow him down, slowing him just enough that whatever was back there following him - the wolf, surely - might be able to catch him, to leap on him, to bring him down.

He ran faster.

Worse - it could get worse? Oh yes, it could! For suddenly - not only were there the footfalls and heavy breathing rapidly gaining on him to his right...

But now he heard the same sounds, coming from his left!

Swiftly, trying not to break his pace, he took a glance over each shoulder. And his heart sank. For now there were two wolves!

He ran even harder, if that was possible, his arms and legs churning, using the stick in his hand to help him dodge swiftly past tree after tree. Oh, Master! his mind cried out - for he had no breath for talking now - I do not want to die!

And then he noticed something. Two somethings. One was that the trees suddenly were more spread out just ahead of him - and before he could wonder why, he learned the reason. For his feet suddenly splashed right into a stream.

And the second thing he noticed was that, along with the canteens slapping against his side at every stride, there was also - how had he forgotten it? - his sword!

His feet gained the far bank of the stream, and he turned. Slapping the walking stick into his left hand, he brandished it against the wolves as he swiftly snatched forth the bright and glittering sword with his right. Something welled up within him, and he cried out, 'Come on, you wolves! Let's end this!'

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

 

the child, sixty-four


On Stone went, hiking along the path through the valley. It wasn't long before he began to feel a strange - something - a tickling perhaps - at the back of his neck. A feeling that something wasn't right.

But what?

The day was beginning to be far spent. How far had he come? He didn't much want to be caught out here once night fell. Which was an odd thing for him. Why should dark bother him? He was used to making fifteen circuits round the camp every night, keeping the watch. So dark didn't bother him.

Usually.

Maybe it was the fact that he had emptied most of the company's canteens into the pot, so that the others now had precious little drinking water left. Hmm - maybe that was what was bothering him. That could be it, something that simple.

The tingling at the base of his neck kept on. And increased.

Maybe... maybe he should turn back. Maybe while he had gotten caught up in searching for the new tent pole, he had overlooked a stream back there. Maybe?

Annoyed with himself, he shook his head and pressed on.

This was getting to be a very long way from the camp, he thought, and the way was getting rougher - full of thorny bramble bushes now, and holes in the ground. Not at all pleasant. And where could there be water?

And then he began to hear something - a small and thready sound, very light, very soft.

Very wet.

Water! But not a stream. For he could see no stream here, not on either side of the path, not up under the trees. So where...?

He stopped, closing his eyes, letting his ears take over. Hmm. The sound of water seemed to be stronger in his left ear...

He turned aside to the left then, following the sound. Following, picking his way through the thorns and the ankle-twisting holes, following the sound to... Ah!

And there it was. A spring, bubbling up from the ground, splashing over a handful of rocks into a tiny pool. Water at last!

Stone knelt by the spring and uncorked the first canteen, letting a small amount of water bubble into it, then swishing the water around inside the canteen to rinse it before pouring that water out on the ground. Now he plunged the canteen into the little pool again, watching the bubbles dancing out of the spout as the canteen grew heavy and sank.

And then it was full. He drew it out, corked it, and slung it back over his shoulder. Now for the second canteen.

Hmm - that was curious. As he filled the second, Stone noticed something odd about one of the rocks beside the spring. It looked like - he came around to the far side of the spring to take a better look - yes, it looked like someone had taken a knife and scraped a letter F onto the surface of one of the rocks. Strange...

The second canteen was full now. He corked it and slung it on, then started the third. And as he was watching the bubbles flow out of the spout as the water flowed in, a sound caught his attention. A small sound, soft and thready. But growing, growing rapidly.

The tingling at the back of Stone's neck turned suddenly into full-fledged alarm bells. For now the sound became plainly... a growl!

Slowly, slowly, Stone lifted his head to look. And there, across the spring from him, standing maybe twice the length of his walking stick away - there, between him and the camp, blocking his way of return -

There was a wolf.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

 

storyblogging carnival XIX


Welcome to the XIXth fortnightly edition of the Storyblogging Carnival. We have eleven entries this time, from some new faces, as well as from some of our seasoned veterans. So please enjoy the following:

We begin with Jason Pomerantz of Fiddle and Burn. He submits the first part of his ongoing daily blogfic, 'The Can.' This is the first 220 words; when finished, 'The Can' will be approximately 3,900 words long. Rating is PG.

Author's blurb: What came before the Big Bang? How do you describe a sunset to a blind man? Could God create an object so heavy He couldn’t lift it? We can’t help you with any of those great paradoxes. But we can address another mystery, just as important: How do you throw out a rusty, old garbage can?

Jason also notes: I describe Fiddle and Burn itself as “A Daily Comic Strip in Prose”. I am trying to adapt the rhythm and pacing of the best daily newspaper comic strips, but in a purely textual form. The stories follow the staff of Fiddle and Burn Magazine, and particularly, the Circulation Director, Rantz. I’m committed to posting every weekday. Some episodes are standalone, some are parts of longer story arcs.

[This is an interesting concept, a daily comic in prose. A very good beginning. Looking forward to reading more.]

~~~~~

Next, Elyas of Ablogistan has entered the story 'The Adventures of Acinom.' This is a brief story, about 600 words, with a rating of PG.

Author's blurb: Ablogistan.com's unpaid intern, Acinom, recently took a trip to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, and he found out there's a lot more to the Derby than horses. Mainly, lots of alcohol.

[Funny story. I used to live in Louisville, and I can sure see this happening at Derbytime...]

~~~~~~

From Danny Carlton of JackLewis.net, the story The Rose Leaf. 1694 words, rated G.

Author's blurb: An allegory for those feeling stomped in the mud.

[This is an absolutely beautiful story. I really enjoyed reading it.]

~~~~~

Ben Schumacher from Zeroth Order Approximation offers The Date of Armageddon. This story is about 1750 words long, rated PG.

Author's blurb: A melancholy story written late in 1999, but only posted recently. Three humans meet with a robot emissary at a time not long before the end of the world.

[Very interesting story. One of those that when I finished, I went back to the start to read it over again.]

~~~~

Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium has entered Vanish Village. A 1923-word short story about the Sage, rated PG.

Author's blurb: A small town postman has an interesting tale to tell...is there any truth to it?

[You can tell Andrew enjoys writing the Sage of Wales stories.]

~~~~~

Donald S. Crankshaw of Back of the Envelope gives us More Mysteries, Chapter 14 of Eyes in the Shadow. This is a 2,134 chapter of his 43,142 word continuing novella. Rating is PG-13.

Author's blurb: Just when Ryan thought things couldn't get weirder, new information changes everything he thought he knew about the psychotic mutant demon named Red-eyes.

[More twists and turns. What could be next?]

~~~~

D.M. Molloy (a.k.a. “Bakerman") of Passing Trains gives us 'The King of Greenwich Village.' This is a slightly fictionalized, real-life, first-person account. 2,860 words; rated G.

Author's blurb: Greenwich Village during the 1960's, and a brutally cold February night at a strange, rundown, last-stop hotel. And it was here that I encountered Greenwich Village's most fearsome street-character of this or any known era.

[Bakerman uses language like you would not believe. I'm very glad to have met him.]

~~~~~

Eric R. Ashley from Tales of Tadeusz has the beginning of 'Death of a Blogger.' The prologue and half the first chapter of a modern-day mystery novel focusing on the blogosphere. The first 3070 words of a 67,110 word novel. Rated PG-13.

Author's blurb: In the world's first mystery novel about blogging, a troll decides to deal with his political opponents by deleting them. Will he escape undetected? Will he evade the hounds, or can the Blogosphere defend itself against a madman?

[And a very good mystery novel is it, right from the start. I have a bad feeling about what will happen next...]

~~~~~

Here at 'tales by sheya' I've been posting a bit more than usual. The following new chapters are all up online now: 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, and 63. This adds 3232 words to my 49,726-word novel-in-progress.

Author's blurb: The aftermath of a terrible accident - and the foreshadowing of another terrible event about to occur.

~~~~~

Darleen Click from Darleen's Place offers Pacific Sunset & A Date with Death. A 3,361-word short story, rated PG-13 (mostly for language).

Author's blurb: Joy is poised, literally and figuratively, on the edge of her life, confronting her past and reaching for some inner strength. But it is it the strength to continue or just let go?

[Riveting.]

~~~~~

And finally, Dave Gudeman of Doc Rampage has entered the next two chapters, 3 and 4 of his science fiction novel Scale 7 Artifact. The beginning chapter is found here. These two chapters add 3404 words in his as-yet 5900-word work-in-progress. Rating is G.

Author's blurb: Humankind's first intersteller explorers have made an incredible discovery. But something odd is going on aboard ship.

[I like the character developments he is introducing. Also the description of looking over the planets.]

~~~~~

So there you have them. I hope you have enjoyed this edition of the Storyblogging Carnival. If you would like to enter a story for an upcoming carnival or are interested in hosting, you can contact me (email address listed in side-bar), or get in touch with Donald S. Crankshaw at Back of the Envelope.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

 

the child, sixty-three


The first section of the small valley, the part nearest the camp, hardly looked like a promising place to find a stream. Stone pressed on, moving quickly. And it felt good, getting to stretch his legs and walk at his own pace for once, instead of having to slow down to accommodate the others.

The valley made a bend and plunged into woods. Hmm. If he had only come this far earlier, he thought, he would have easily found some sticks to make the splints from for Forest. Then Morgen and his friends wouldn't have had to give up their tent.

He felt bad about that. But - hey! Maybe he could do something about it.

And so Stone began searching for a replacement tent pole as he walked along. It would have to be a long stick, maybe a foot longer than he was tall - strong - sturdy - but easy to carry - something about as big around as, say, Starr's arm...

Starr. He chuckled at himself. Imagine thinking of the dimensions for the stick in terms of Starr-girl!

And then he smiled. Starr-girl...

It took quite a while and a long way walking, but at last he found a stick that seemed just right. He hefted it, leaned his weight on it. Tried hard to break it. Yes, sturdy and sound!

And not bad as a walking stick, he decided. Hefting it once more, he turned back towards the camp...

Water! He slapped himself on the forehead. How could he have forgotten? He had come looking for water, not a new tent pole!

Hmph. Well, press on then.

And using his new walking stick, he strode on up this small valley, determined to keep his mind on the task and find fresh water as soon as possible.

Did he notice anything out of the ordinary? Not yet, he didn't.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

 

the child, sixty-two


It was Stone.

'Oh!' said Starr. 'How's Forest?'

'Chafing.'

'Excuse me?'

Stone chuckled. 'I mean that Forest is ready to take off hopping on one leg all the way to the dungeons, and leave the rest of us behind in his dust. And the boy can't understand why James is having us make camp so early in the day. You know,' he added seriously, 'we're going to be here for a long time, until Forest's leg heals up.'

Starr nodded soberly. She had been upset at having to go around the mountain once again. But now she wondered which was worse - going nowhere by circling the mountain again and again, or going nowhere by, well, going nowhere?

'About to make supper already?' Stone asked, nodding at the cooking pot she was just picking up.

'No,' she replied, and explained briefly about how much water Malachi had said they would need to cleanse Joy's many wounds.

'You can have mine then,' Stone volunteered, unslinging his canteen and passing it over. 'In fact,' he added, and he emptied the water into the pot, 'let me take the canteens and go look for a stream, while you go back and help Mal take care of Joy.'

'Will you?' Starr beamed. 'It's not that I didn't want to go look for more water. I just want to get back to Joy."

Emptying more canteens from the pile into the cooking pot, Stone gathered up the empties and said, 'No problem. Be back soon.' And he set off, heading deeper into this small valley, his long legs carrying him over the ground in an easy, distance-eating pace.

Quickly Starr returned with the water to the women's tent - to find an argument in full boil within.

Lucy and Linda, of course. It wasn't enough that they had squabbled over who got to spread the blanket for Joy to lie on; now that they had finally arrived in the tent to find the injured girl already lying on a blanket, they had begun to fling accusations at one another over who had snuck the other blanket in here.

Hugging the pot of water protectively, Starr sidled past the angry women and passed the pot to Malachi. A glance at Joy showed just how badly the noise of the fight was affecting the wounded girl. 'Do you want me to get them out of the tent?' Starr asked.

'Do you think you can get them out?' Malachi asked in reply.

'Umm - I don't know. I could try, I guess.'

'Here.' The angel pressed a cool cloth into Starr's hand, and stood and went to the arguers. To Starr's amazement, he spoke but a few words, and the two quieted, then left the tent entirely. Once they were outside, though, the sound of fighting started up again. But then quickly moved away.

Starr dabbed at a long ugly scrape down Joy's arm. 'How did you do that?' she asked Malachi admiringly.

'I asked them to find me a certain small plant that has medicinal qualities.'

'And if they find it, it will soothe Joy's wounds?'

'Whether they find it or not, the time they spend searching for it will soothe Joy's ears. And ours.'

Starr gaped at the angel. 'You sent them on a wild goose chase?'

'Not exactly. I sent them on a wild geranium hunt. And if they find the plant, I will be pleased. And if they do not - at least we will have had some peace and quiet in their absence.'

'I'm so tired of their arguing,' said Joy as both Malachi and Starr gently bathed the wounds on her arms. 'Isn't there any way to get them to stop?'

'There is,' Malachi replied, looking at Starr's face. 'But the question is, will either of them ever open her heart to hear it?'

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Monday, May 16, 2005

 

upcoming - storyblogging carnival XIX


I will be hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival on Monday, May 23rd. If you would like to enter a story from your blog, please contact me at sheyajoie~at~yahoo~dot~com. Entries are due by midnight, Saturday, May 21st.

Rules follow (copied and pasted from the founder of this Carnival, Donald S. Crankshaw of Back of the Envelope):

Please include the following information:
Name of your blog
URL of your blog
Title of the story
URL for the blog entry where the story is posted
(OPTIONAL) Author's name
(OPTIONAL) A suggested rating for adult content (G, PG, PG-13, R)
A word count
A short blurb describing the story

The post may be of any age, from a week old to years old.

The story or excerpt submitted must be posted on-line as a blog entry, and while fiction is preferred, non-fiction storytelling is acceptable.

The story can be any length, but the Carnival will list them in order of length, from shortest to longest, and include a word count for each one.

You may either send a complete story, a story in progress, or a lengthy excerpt. By lengthy excerpt, I mean that it should be a significant portion of the story, at least 10% of the whole thing. You should indicate the word count for both the excerpt and the complete story in the submission, and you should say how the reader can find more of the story in the post itself.

If the story spans multiple posts, each post should contain a link to the beginning of the story, and a link to the next post. You may submit the whole story, the first post, or, if you've previously submitted earlier posts to the Carnival, the next post which you have not submitted. Please indicate the length of the entire story, as well as the portion which you are submitting.

The host has sole discretion to decide whether the story will be included or not, or whether to indicate that the story has pornographic or graphically violent content. The ratings for the story will be decided by the host. I expect I'll be pretty lenient on that sort of thing, but I have some limits, and others may draw the line elsewhere. Aside from noting potentially offensive content, while I may say nice things about stories I like, I won't be panning anyone's work. I expect other hosts to be similarly polite.

The story may be the blogger's own or posted with permission, but if it is not his own work he should gain permission from the author before submitting to the Carnival.

If you'd like to be added to the e-mail list, please let me know. Also, feel free to advertise the carnival on your own blog. Finally, let me know if you want to host a carnival in the future.

 

the child, sixty-one


It looked, strangely, like a game of tug-of-war, with Forest's leg for the rope. Stone was anchoring the boy, holding him under his armpits, while James was wrenching on the boy's leg with all his might.

'What are they doing?' Starr exclaimed.

'They are setting Forest's leg,' Malachi replied calmly from behind her.

'That's what setting a leg looks like?' she asked. 'But why are they pulling him like that?'

Malachi brought both hands up in front of himself, his hands rolled loosely into fists, the knuckles end to end. 'When Forest leg broke,' he said, 'the two sides of the break did this,' and he pressed the knuckles together till one fist slipped off and landed side-by-side with the other. 'So that his leg does not heal like that, healing weak and short, they must pull,' and he strained his arms, as if they were being pulled like the boy's leg, 'until the two ends lie together properly again.' And suddenly his fists popped over, knuckle to knuckle again.

'Why is it so hard to pull the bones back right again?' she asked.

'Because the muscles surrounding the bone are strong, and are pulling the other way.'

The awful choked screaming cut off suddenly, and Starr saw all three of them - James, Stone, and Forest - relax. James set to work splinting the boy's leg with the poles then, and Starr and Malachi turned away to see about Joy.

Poor girl - she really was a mess. Starr had such tremendous sympathy for Joy! Stone had been right; the scraping her own leg had taken had been nothing compared to what could have happened - and what could have happened is what had now in fact happened to Joy.

'What do we do?' Starr asked Malachi.

He had knelt and brought out some cloth and was now wetting the cloth with water from his canteen. 'All her wounds will need to be washed. And this much water,' he shook the canteen, 'will not be nearly enough.'

'You can have mine,' Starr said immediately.

'Thank you,' Malachi responded, 'but that will not be enough either. We will need four or five canteens of water, at least.'

'All right,' Starr said, thinking rapidly. 'I know. I'll go get the cooking pot, and collect all the canteens I can. Then we can pour the water into the pot for you, and I'll go find a stream to refill the canteens.'

'I would rather have you to help me with Joy,' said Malachi. 'But go and bring the pot and the water. We can ask someone else to find the stream.'

She nodded and went out. As she hurried to the place in the middle of the camp where most of the group had piled their backpacks and canteens while they got the tents up, she noticed Stone and James supporting Forest as they walked the boy to the men's tent that was now ready for them. Two tents up, and how would they set up the angels' tent with one pole missing? she wondered. But then she was busy finding the cooking pot among the backpacks, and forgot everything else.

'What are you doing, Starr?'

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Friday, May 13, 2005

 

the child, sixty


When James had told Jack to get everyone started on setting up the tents, Starr had turned and followed Jack to the work. She was surprised to hear James single out Stone and Maccabees to help him, and wondered what sort of help he needed, and why he had chosen those two in particular.

She was soon deeply involved in the tents and had no time to dwell on what James, Stone, and Maccabees might be doing. Jack decided to get the women's tent up first, so Joy could be moved inside. The four poles for the four corners, the long ropes, the stakes - there was much work to stay busy with! Linda was pulling one of the ropes tight while Starr used the blunt back of the ax to pound the stake into the hard dry ground - when Stone appeared at her side. 'I need to borrow that for a bit,' he said.

Startled, she handed the ax over. And stood in shock watching as Stone used the ax to cut one of the tent poles in two!

'Why did you do that?' she asked as he handed the ax back to her.

'Splints for Forest's leg,' he explained briefly.

'But - the tent!' she cried. He was already hurrying back to his work with James, so she was left to wonder how they would set up all the tents with the lack of one pole.

They soon had the women's tent up and ready. Linda rummaged through Joy's pack and pulled out the girl's blanket to make a bed for her. Suddenly Lucy was there, laying hands on the blanket, insisting that she should make Joy's bed.

An argument ensued - of course. Shaking her head, Starr quietly pulled out her own blanket and took it to the tent to spread for Joy's bedding. As she finished, the tent flap opened and Malachi carried Joy inside. 'How you doing, girl?' Starr asked softly as the angel placed Joy on the blanket.

'I've been better,' Joy replied. She sounded exhausted.

A strangled scream echoed through the camp just then. Her heart in her throat, Starr sprang to her feet and bolted from the tent to see what was wrong.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

storyblogging carnival XVIII


I am horribly late in linking to this, and apologize. Donald S. Crankshaw of 'Back of the Envelope' has the latest Storyblogging Carnival up online. Please go and have a read!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

the child, fifty-nine


It was every bit as torturous as James had warned it would be. It was only the fact that Forest's pride was even greater than the pain, that kept the boy for screaming for the belt to bite on after all. Stone was stunned at how much effort it took to get the leg pulled straight again.

So was James. Sweat was pouring off his forehead by the time he felt the bone click over into the place it had snapped out of when the boy landed. Quickly, James took up the two halves of the tent pole and Mac's cloth strips, and bound the splint into its place. And then he sat down and mopped at his face with his palm.

'I'm glad that's over,' he muttered.

Stone was glad too. He felt exhausted, as if they had just hiked all night and day for a week.

And Forest... To the amazement of everyone who happened to be watching, the boy began to try to roll over to get to his feet.

'What on earth do you think you're doing, Forest?' said James.

'Getting ready to move on. Tell them to take the tents down. Why'd you put them up? It's time to get moving.'

'Moving!' James gaped at Forest as the boy continued to try to get his injured leg under him to stand up. 'You weren't listening to me earlier, were you? As usual! I said you weren't going to be going anywhere on that leg for weeks - and I meant it. You are going to rest that leg and let it heal. You hear me?'

'Yeah, yeah,' muttered Forest. He was still trying to get up.

James shook his head, incredulous. 'Stone!' he said at last.

'Yes, James?' said the big man.

James waved a hand at Forest. 'Pick him up and carry him into our tent. I don't want him coming out for two weeks.' He glared towards the boy. 'Clear?'

'You can stay here if you want to. I'm heading for the dungeons to carry out our mission. Alone, if I have to.'

'Forest!' Stone was almost certain he saw steam coming out of James' ears. 'You aren't getting it, are you? We are staying here for you. You are the one with the broken leg. You are the one who isn't going to be able to walk for weeks. This is for you, buddy.'

Buddy? Stone and Mac both shot a sharp look at James. Where had that name come from?

Even Forest quit trying to force himself upright and instead stared at James. 'Buddy? You've never called me that before.'

'Well - you've never nearly died before.'

'I didn't nearly die!'

'For all we knew, you had. Or could have. Forest, you went over a cliff. The least you can do now is, well, humor me. For now. Stay in the tent, rest up your leg, give it a couple of weeks to heal. All right? And then after that, if you're feeling up to moving on, we'll move then.'

Forest went on staring at James. Stone was staring too. Who was this? This didn't sound like their usual James.

'In fact,' James went on, 'tell you what. Instead of Stone carrying you, he'll get your one side and I'll get the other,' and he did so while he was saying it, 'and the two of us will help you walk into the tent. All right?'

Still stunned, Forest nodded.

'Good. At least two weeks' rest, all right? And then we'll see how things are going from there.'

'All... all right,' Forest stammered, astonished at the way James was acting towards him. He couldn't have been more amazed if James had suddenly sprouted wings and offered to fly the whole group one by one to the dungeons.

'Good,' James replied. 'I want you to rest now. It's while you're resting that your body can put all its energy into healing.' And with that, he and Stone helped the boy into the men's tent, where Jack had already laid out a blanket for Forest to lie on.

That done, Stone came out of the tent and went to see what Starr was doing at the moment.

He had no idea what he was about to walk into, just because he wanted to see Starr.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

 

the child, fifty-eight


Starr turned and followed Jack to help with the tents. Stone, for his part, hesitated a second, wondering why he was being thrown together with Mac of all people, before he hurried to James' side. 'What do you want me to do?' he asked.

'Let me think,' James replied. 'All right - to set the leg, we're going to need two sturdy sticks to hold his leg immobile from his ankle to above the knee. So we'll need to make a search for suitable sticks... Hmm. Not much here...' he added, looking about at the sparse scrub vegetation surrounding them. 'Stone, you go up the valley and see if you can find the kind of sticks we need. I'll backtrack the way we came in. Mac?'

'Yes, James?'

'You stay here and watch over Forest. Make sure he doesn't try to get up. Sit on him if you have to.'

As the angel nodded, Stone started to lope off in the direction James had pointed out for him. First, though, the big man cast a glance back at Starr. There she was, doing as James had said, helping the others to set up the tents. The tents - hmm...

'Hey, James?'

James was trotting off in his own direction, and didn't hear him at first.

'Hey, James!' Stone shouted.

That caught the man's attention. He turned. 'What is it?' he hollered back, frowning.

'I think I found the sticks we need!'

'What? How'd you do that?' The man started back.

'Tent poles!' Stone called to him. 'We could use a couple of tent poles.'

'But...' James waited till he had come all the way back to finish his sentence, 'if we use tent poles to splint Forest's leg, what will we use to set the tents up with?'

'My companions and I can contribute poles from our tent,' put in Mac. 'It will not harm us to do without our tent for a time.'

James blinked. 'You'd really do that, Mac?'

'Yes. I will go and consult with them, but I am sure they will say as I have.'

'Wow,' James muttered as the angel walked over to speak with Mal and Morgen. To the man's amazement, the two of them nodded their assent.

Mac returned quickly with two tent poles. James put his hand to his chin, thinking hard. 'Let's see... Here. I won't need this one after all,' he added, handing back one pole. 'We'll need to cut the pole in half to make it short enough to go along Forest's leg,' he said to Stone, 'so the one pole will be plenty long enough to make both sticks.'

'All right,' Stone replied. Setting to work with the group's ax, he soon had the pole cut in two. A bit of trimming to bring both halves to the proper length, and that part was done.

'Now,' said James. 'We need some strips of cloth to tie the sticks alongside his leg.'

'I have those,' said Mac. And he produced a piece of cloth from his pack, and began tearing the cloth into strips.

'Fine,' James nodded. 'Now for the fun part.'

Stone's eyebrows arched. 'Fun?'

'Not really,' James answered. 'Sometimes Jack rubs off on me. This isn't going to be fun a bit, really. We'll have to pull on the boy's leg till the bone snaps back into its proper place, and then tie the splint on. So you, Stone - you hold him under the armpits while I pull his leg straight. I just need... hmm...' He unfastened his own belt, folded the leather in two, and offered it to Forest.

'What is this for?' the boy asked.

'For you to bite on. This is going to hurt tremendously, so you'll want something to bite on.'

'What? Not me! I'm tough.'

James all but laughed. 'Tough - right. Suit yourself then. All right, let's do this.'

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

 

the child, fifty-seven


The first ones to the bottom of the slope did not wait for the rest; they made the sharp left turn and charged up that small valley alongside. As Starr had predicted, this way gave them a safe (if brush-strewn) passage straight to the fallen pair.

James sprinted along, dodging among the many stunted trees and brambly bushes, with Jack and Lucy right behind him. And in just minutes, they came to the spot.

Here was Forest, lying upon a pile of rubble. And near him was Joy, lying partly under the rubble. Both young people painfully turned their heads at the sound of their rescuers' approach - and Joy began to weep.

'Thank God,' she whispered. 'Thank God you're here!'

James threw himself down at Forest's side and grabbed the boy's hand. 'You all right?' he asked.

'I'll be fine. Just get me up,' said Forest.

'No, he isn't!' put in Joy. 'He's been trying to get up since he landed there. And he can't. Someone better tie him down, before he really hurts himself!'

'What about you?' Lucy asked, kneeling next to Joy.

'I'm not sure,' said the girl. 'All this stuff landed on me when Forest fell, and I couldn't get it off me.'

'You barely tried,' Forest muttered.

'She fell off a cliff! What do you expect?' exclaimed Jack.

And cliff it was. It towered above them. Looking up, the first three rescuers got queasy knots in their stomachs, to see how far this pair had fallen.

Lucy began pulling at the straps of Joy's backpack. 'Let's at least get this off you, so you don't have to lie on top of this bulky thing,' she said.

'No!'

Everyone turned at that shout of command. It was Linda! Mousy, shy Linda - but she came roaring in now. 'Don't move her!' she ordered. 'Don't move either of them! They need to be checked for broken bones first.'

Lucy scowled. 'I'm just trying to make her more comfortable!' she argued.

'Your making her more comfortable could make any broken bones she might have even worse - including maybe leaving her paralyzed. So don't touch her!'

'I'm not going to hurt her!' Lucy fumed.

'Then don't move her!' Linda retorted. 'We've got to check her for broken bones first!'

'I'll do that,' Malachi volunteered quietly. He and his companions had just arrived, with Stone and Starr not far behind them. Morgenstern and Maccabees moved to check Forest, and there was silence for some time as the three cherubim worked. Lucy and Linda continued to glare at each other from opposite sides of Joy. Stone and Starr stood hand-in-hand, softly praying.

Malachi sighed and sat back on his heels. 'She is badly scraped, and those scrapes need to be cleaned and bandaged. And what isn't scraped is bruised. But nothing is broken.'

Many sighs of relief. 'Let's get her up then,' said Jack.

Lucy shot a smug smile in Linda's direction as she now finished releasing the straps and took the girl's backpack off. Linda snorted in return and helped the girl to get up. Joy leaned heavily on Linda, tears slipping down her cheeks as she gingerly attempted to put her weight on her feet.

'Now get me up!' Forest demanded.

'No hurry,' said Morgenstern. He laid a hand, gently but firmly, on the boy's shoulder to prevent him from stirring. Maccabees was still checking Forest thoroughly. He had begun at the young man's head, checking for any fractures of his skull, and had made his way down, till now he had reached the level of Forest's knees. As the cherub's gentle fingers probed Forest's left shin, the boy suppressed a sharp hiss, closing his eyes lest anyone see the tears of pain that overbrimmed in them just then.

But they did see. Morgenstern and Maccabees exchanged glances, and Maccabees checked further.

'What is it?' said James, who had been watching closely and had also caught the tiny signs Forest had tried to hide.

The boy was gritting his teeth to keep from crying out now, as the angel continued to inspect his leg. Shortly Maccabees finished the exam and looked up.

'His lower leg is broken,' he reported. 'We'll have to set it.'

'Broken...' James closed his eyes. Starr gasped and turned to Stone, who looked ashen. Jack's face was drained of color as well.

Forest only looked impatient. 'Well?' he said. 'Let's set the leg and get moving!'

Moving! James actually laughed. 'Boy, you're not going anywhere for a long time. Weeks, I would say. Jack, you get everyone started on setting up the tents. Stone, Mac, you help me.'

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

 

the child, fifty-six


He had his fingers to his mouth still, ready to blast them with another whistle if the first one wasn't enough. 'Got your attention now? Good! Because Starr has something important to say.'

Seven faces swiveled to look at her. The slope was so silent now, they could hear plainly the light wind blowing all about them.

'Well?' said James.

Starr had been catching her breath. 'I know how to get to where they are to rescue them,' she replied. 'Safely, so no one else gets hurt.'

James was saying, 'How?' - but his question was drowned out by a much louder voice demanding, 'And just how on earth would you know anything of the sort?'

Eight faces swiveled now. Lucy! To everyone's surprise, the woman was glaring at Starr, livid. 'There is no way on this earth,' the woman proclaimed angrily, 'that you could possibly know more than the rest of us what's over that cliff! You didn't come down here when the rest of us did, and you certainly couldn't see over this edge from where you were cowering up there.'

The word 'cowering' brought out a ripple of murmurs - and Stone's angry response that Starr had stayed where she did out of obedience to him.

'Little know-it-all!' Lucy's voice went on, raging above the rest. 'Trying to tell everyone else what they ought to do! I...'

'Will you just listen to Starr?'

Silence fell. For that last voice, floating on the breeze like a leaf - that voice was Forest's!

'Forest?' James called, going as close to the edge as he dared. 'Forest? You all right?'

'Listen... to Starr,' the boy's voice replied. 'She's got this way of knowing stuff.'

'Are you all right, Forest?' James asked more sharply. 'And Joy - how is she?'

'Just... get down here,' came the reply.

James bolted straight for Starr, grabbing her arm urgently. 'Tell me what to do,' he said grimly.

She pointed. 'Down to the bottom of this slope first,' she said. 'There's a small valley to this side that joins up at the bottom of the slope. We can follow the small valley up and reach them safely that way.'

'But how can she know that?' Lucy objected. 'It's just not possible!'

'Doesn't matter,' said James. 'Let's go. Now.'

'And hurry!' added Jack.

With a venomous glare in Starr's direction, Lucy turned and swished away after the brothers. Linda hurried off as well, while Maccabees gave Starr a nod of encouragement as he and his companions followed the rest.

Stone gave another whistle, this time low and private. 'Man! What's eating her?'

'She's not very... happy with me lately,' Starr whispered.

Stone looked at her, first in puzzlement, then in realization. 'She's still upset over you trying to tell everyone to be more loving? Is that it?'

Starr sighed. 'Oh, yes.'

'Hmph. Well, don't let it worry you, Starr-girl. The truth has a way of coming out. Right now, though,' and he took her hand once again, 'we need to catch up with them.' And keeping himself just below her as before, the man carefully guided her the rest of the way down the treacherous slope, to follow the others to rescue Forest and Joy.

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