Category Archives: loyalties

How I got from There to Here

[  ~burning woman~   explains herself]

In which I explain myself because I sense the necessity of doing so.

To begin: Lo those many years ago, in a different age, (well, about 4 decades ago actually!) I became the recipient of information from a world quite other than this one. I got visitors from far out, outer space; indeed from outside the confines of this universe. These people, there were eventually three, took on the task of helping me change my mind about many things, including how things work here on earth. Most of what they taught me I already knew, but not in ways that were empowering, or could be of much use to anyone else. I only knew how to propagate ideas through channels acceptable to the powers that be. The death trap of all change agents.

Such methods, as we all know them so well, consist of getting together a group of like-minded individuals and registering such group with the proper authorities, usually under the societies’ act. That done you would then proceed to the most important task of fund raising through your ways and means committee. Bottom line, if you wanted to do anything of any significance within the system, you had to be an adjunct of said system or you were anarchists and if you ruffled the wrong feathers, you were considered enemies of the state. To guarantee you stayed within the acceptable bounds, you were held to account by your need for money and recognition, either from notoriety or celebrity.

One thing you could be sure of, there were no “independents” operating within the hegemony of the system because even “independents” so-called received money from entities who had their own agendas, and who operated as part of the greater system. They wanted to be sure their donations were to a registered party to claim their tax credit. That’s how the system stays in power.

That by way of introduction to the following, which may, or may not, be of interest to many but which explains the “method” I have been using to communicate a single idea. That’s right: one single idea.

The first thing I had to learn was, nothing is ever truly accomplished through collectives and organizations. By “nature” all groupings, from the husband/wife/nuclear family to an empire, belong to an umbrella power organization called variously, the Matrix, the Establishment, the Illuminati, the Military Industrial Complex, the Status Quo and more commonly, the System. Therefore whatever these groupings or organizations seek to accomplish, if it goes contrary to the goal of the umbrella organization (UO) it will never, ever, attain its goal. If the group is powerful enough, driven enough; it will be allowed to proceed with its revolution until enough corruption has been inserted in it that it can be turned 180 degrees to serve the UO once more.

The Teaching was straight-forward. If I would be a change agent, or agent of change, I would have to divest myself of all connections or attachments to any organization, from marriage and family, to religious, political or other organizations. Divest completely. Stand alone. Become an individual and if it comes to fighting, fight alone. That means self empowerment. That means thinking my own thoughts. That means bootstrapping myself from the ground up. That means reshaping everything I had been taught; everything I knew or thought I knew and bringing it to bear upon one single purpose for my life. Complete detachment, no compromise.

No compromise. I wasn’t sure at first what that entailed but three times in divorce court certainly made the concept perfectly clear: a self empowered individual is not a comfortable person to hang around with, let alone sleep with. I did learn. I discovered that what I had grabbed by the tail was real enough whereas what I had been living before was one of millions of soap operas people live comfortably (or not) with because they cannot conceive of a different life, or way of life. I had been asleep.

The point of the exercise was simple enough: become an agent of change; a catalyst for change, without the corruptible format of any collective aggregation. Simply put, only the “go it alone” method has any chance at all of creating real change within the all-encompassing UO. Only a self empowered, completely detached single individual can penetrate the workings of the machine undetected, unobserved, and bring about totally unexpected change.

The UO doesn’t usually acknowledge an individual working alone. It only gets alarmed when such individual takes the fateful step of creating an organization of her or his own shaping; makes the decision to “form a power group” that would oppose the working of the machine, the status quo.

The Teachers (YLea, El Issa and Phaelon as principal three) had no difficulty convincing me of this. I knew enough religion, politics and other aspects of history of earth to realize the fallacy that power units or collectives can force ever-positive change within any greater system. It had never happened. When something has a one hundred percent negative result for accomplishing what it was supposed to accomplish, it’s not difficult to say, “Well, that didn’t work, did it.”

For example, one of the greatest fallacies of all time: World War I: the war to end all wars. Imagine the amount of collective force and organization that went to fight that war. Imagine the level of propaganda used to convince millions of the absolute necessity of fighting that war. So pervasive was the propaganda that “Armistice” is still celebrated to this day. That so many died isn’t a joke but to celebrate such useless carnage and such a blatant lie… really!

I knew the “why” then. What I did not know was the “how” and that, the Teachers pointedly avoided giving me. It was something I would have to work out for myself, based on some seriously “deep” thought and successful completion of a few difficult assignments. I have written about those before so won’t repeat the history here, just the highlights.

There were three major assignments: Forgiving enemies without equivocation; offering my life in exchange for that of another, a total stranger I would never meet; having my “soul implant” legally removed.

Upon completion of these tasks I then had to choose a single life purpose to which I would give myself unreservedly, irrevocably. There were many tempting choices. I went through the mental market of interesting goodies a change agent could use and having learned some of what works, what doesn’t, I rejected all of them.

The catalyst I needed had to be incorruptible and one that had never been seriously tried. There was only one: compassion. I didn’t find it in the market place of catalysts; I found it in my own mind quietly waiting to be awakened. I began exploring the concept and saw that it had never been considered as a force, or power that could change a world and over which the Matrix or UO had no power at all.

It was the Force that sustained and changed a self empowered individual. That would suit me and I gave myself to this Force, much as a Jedi gives itself to the Force in Star Wars. The difference between compassion and the Force of Star Wars, as I have alluded to before, is that compassion does not have a dark side. It does not emanate from the duality principle that rules this universe. Therefore it is correct for the compassionate to speak of “no compromise” because all of duality operates through compromise.

Perhaps that is a perfect ending. No compromise. No dalliances with any aspect of the Powers or the UO. The goal is to become.  Having lived long (enough) without compromise, what use then is one’s dualistic human nature? I will become compassion, of that there is no doubt. I will not know myself in any other form. That is both, the price to pay, and the gift to receive.

And that pretty much explains me and my choices.

Thank you for reading this.

~ burning woman ~ 



The Sword, the Bow and the Staff -Part I – Chapter 18

 I was going to reblog a couple of worthy posts I have read the last couple of days but, like rush hour traffic, it seems that blogs can only accommodate so much. So I’m being selfish and posting my own stuff today. I know there are some people reading this developing tale with interest and I don’t want to make them wait any longer than necessary. Enjoy this chapter. More to come!

The gold rings; Deanna spies on the Betrayers some more

A dark cloud soon rose again over Giles’ innocent hopes. Ian MacGruder called a general meeting after their noonday meal to discuss Nal and Lo’s upcoming wedding in Glowmere kirk. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he brought out two small blue linen pouches and gave them to Lo.

“Well open ‘em mon, open ‘em!”

The assembly cheered when they saw two smooth, plain, gleaming gold rings, a man’s and another so small it would fit a small girl’s finger. The rings fit perfectly and Nal wondered how they’d managed to get her size without her knowledge. She looked at Lo and he winked.

“Old trick Nal. I twisted a grass stem around your finger to size it while you were sleeping and gave the grass ring to Ian. We did the same for my finger, then in the following adventures I forgot all about the rings. Now Ian, what do we owe ye for such beautiful rings?”

“I fear the cost is quite high Lo. I demand the right to walk this lass down the aisle in exchange for the rings.”

“Oh Ian, you wonderful, wonderful man,” exclaimed Nal throwing her arms as far as they could reach around the large man’s midriff, “ye do me such an honour… such an honour…” and once again she found herself crying freely, unashamed, tears flowing from her eyes and running down her face. “Such friends, such good friends I have met here; I will be so loathe to leave.”

“Come lass, we won’t speak o’ leavin’ yet, one day havin’ enough trouble of its own. Now lydies o’ the house, this girl is in need of some sort of weddin’ accoutrements as I heard such called by an English gentleman when I was tradin’ in the south. No girl is so pretty that she can’t be made even prettier an’ a weddin’s the time for that. Jen ‘n I are agreed to  take care o’ the costs, so have at it lydies, have at it.”

Poor Giles was devastated on hearing about the wedding. Though he knew it had been mentioned before there was always the hope that Nal would choose him over Lo, him a property man and all. What did Lo have to offer her? But then, thinking of himself as of the truly noble sort, he squared his boyish shoulders and entered a realm of lofty thoughts befitting a true knight.

‘I shall become a knight and I shall go with her as her champion, though never mine yet always in my sight. I shall give myself to the worship of her and save her from her enemies, that I shall and my eternally broken heart shall be the token of my love for her.’

He went about his chores imagining scenes of mortal combat where he charged into the fray on a big white war horse, slashed through the enemy as blow after blow fell upon his helmet, his armour, his shield. He saw himself fighting and holding off the evil knight who had unhorsed her and would have taken her, and giving him the mortal blow. Bending down, he grabbed her and swung her across the war horse in front of his saddle, once more slashing his way through the press of men at arms and screaming wounded horses, his sword awash with the blood of the enemy…

The chores were completed in record time but his daydream, that was just beginning.

The next day, Nal having been measured for her wedding ‘accoutrements’ and having had quite enough of the fussing and comments on her diminutive size, her unusual tone and satiny smoothness of skin, her straight black hair and almond eyes, it was decided by MacGruder that he, his woman Jen, their grown daughter Genti, Nal, and Lo would walk down to Glowmere, visit with the priest and arrange for the time of the wedding ceremony and settle the costs.

“I thought o’ invitin’ the priest to the cottage to perform the ceremony but then I thought better of it. We’ll have the proper ceremony the Church demands, aye, but we’ll return here to our own an’ then we’ll have our ceremony as performed by our ancestors. We are goin’ t’ have a full pagan weddin’ ceremony right here with our own daughter priestess o’ the clans presidin’ an we don’t want any meddlin’ crow from the Church in it. The walk back from the Glowmere ceremony ‘ll do us all good, put some appetite in us by t’gods! What do ye all say to that?”

Lo spoke first,

“I like the idea immensely.”

Nal added,

“Yes that is a famous idea. Let us be pagan; let us experience the wild abandon of the old traditions!”

They set out from the cottage with a proper retinue of
“arms-men.” These consisted of the shepherds, Giles whom wild horses could not have kept out of this, Lil’ Cos and the the head man Cedric – all of whom were readily available as the sheep were safely in their pens and the two pit bulls on duty.

Guy was chosen to remain at the cottage to finish some needed chores, help the women in whatever they needed done in preparations for the coming ceremony and to pacify the nervous pit bulls who had been smelling the presence of both wolf and werewolf.

As they were crossing the lower field taking the usual shortcut to the village road, Deanna emerged from the woods, properly dressed though flushed with excitement and her hair in a toss of wild disarray.

She and Nal threw themselves in each others’ arms, kissed shamelessly under the intrigued but approving gaze of MacGruder and his male armed retinue and Deanna said,

“If I may join in? Wolf and I got your message Lo. Wolf will escort us as well, just in case, but we’re quite certain there is no danger. We tracked a couple of poachers yesterday but took care of putting the fear of Satan in them. We left them alive, they were not the murderous or raping kind, just beggar thieves, but they won’t be seen in these parts ever again, and the stories they tell will ensure none should venture this way at least for the duration of winter. In case anyone wonders, we did hunt down some hares to give them so they wouldn’t starve in the woods.”

“Well done Deanna,” replied MacGruder with a raised fist for emphasis. “On we go then.” With Giles close by and nurturing a pain-filled jealousy, Ian took Nal’s hand and led her over the ladder built into the fence and down the path to the village. Holding back, Lo and Deanna engaged a long and serious talk using strictly the inner language.

‘I taught wolf to speak the human tongue Lo. At first he could only do it in his werewolf form but now he can manage it any time. Very difficult for him but a very effective tool for deception. He can also project severe abdominal pain to an enemy without being seen so when the enemy is doubled over, he can pounce on him. We tried it on the poachers and yes, it works. My own power of projection has grown too. With one hand in Wolf’s mane I can project a force that can topple over a cliff if I so desired. We tested that effect far from here in a wilderness where the collapse would not cause hardship to those we stand guard for. I can collapse defences, walls, buildings and also set fires from at least a quarter mile distance. I could demonstrate when we reach the village if you want to see.’

‘Oh, no thank you Deanna, that won’t be necessary, I believe you.’

He wondered how far she’d gone from human now that she saw nothing amiss about setting some house on fire or destroying fortifications “as a demonstration” just when their group was entering the village.

‘Cause and effect, Deanna: can you see how such activities would turn the whole village against us? That we would be immediately blamed for the events and labelled sorcerers?’

‘It would? Ah, yes, of course I suppose it would. What about Nal? Has she demonstrated new powers to use against our enemies?’

‘Nal has been busy in many ways. She has taught some swordsmanship to our armed guard here and I’ve done some sparring with the staffs with her myself. She is greatly improving but remembering her full Alaya self is taking its toll. She still gets tired easily, requiring almost five or six hours of sleep every night. She is still much too human but growing and remembering. How long can you remain shape-shifted into the she-wolf before you can no longer change back, or is there a limit?’

‘I think there might be a limit unless I develop some other method of shape-shifting. It was very difficult to leave this time and putting clothes on, why I could hardly remember how to do it. All I remembered was Nal insisting I do it, so I did. At first I was almost blind and when I tried to stand, I fell against wolf to gain my balance. Walking on two legs is so irritatingly clumsy and energy consuming! Good thing I did not know about any of what I do now when I was growing up in Torglynn or I would have gone insane with longing and frustration.’

‘Critical point, can you use your combined Human, Elven, Alaya powers when you are shape-shifted into the she-wolf? Can you be the powerful wizard in any shape, or state of mind, Deanna?’

‘I know I can project the tear-up and fire energy, using my nose and ears to focus and I can sense unusual forces from great distances. I have been guardedly following the movements of our enemies to the south in, what did you call that land?’

‘I figured you meant the land of France.’

‘Yes, that land beyond a narrow sea? They’ve been involved in wars and there has been problems between the sorcerers, they ended up on opposite sides and there’s a stalemate in a main battle involving a large castle. There were canons brought to bear but your Tel’Madan wizard knows how to muzzle them and cause them to explode when fired. If we could be there now, we would take them individually and destroy them!’

‘Beware, Deanna. It’s a trick. They know someone’s been tracking them and this is a very complex but obvious trap. They want whomever to fall for their apparent disunity. That would never happen, particularly knowing of the rise of one or more Alaya in the world. They’re baiting while recouping their energies and planning.

‘Good that you tracked them in your she-wolf form rather than your human one. If they can sense that, they will be confused and wary. Any confusion will weaken them, not knowing what to expect. They must be aware now that their long years of unopposed evil are ending and they are going to have to fight to hold on to their power. They don’t have any problem sending hundreds of thousands to their death in their endlessly manufactured power wars but it’s been a long time since they had to personally fight against an enemy.

‘Long ago they killed nine of us, including their own wives because these refused to join in their evil deeds and plans for this world. After that, except for my rather pathetic ventures and overtures to them they’ve had no one of consequence to worry about. That is all about to change.’

Deanna continued with the inner language conversation,

‘But since you and Nal are mates from before, why go through this human wedding ceremony? I don’t see a point to it.’

‘There are good reasons. One is to defuse some of the suspicions that may arise from the local representatives of the Church. They are sure to sense that not everything is as it seems with us. We do this also for the people, to let them know that we are with them, though we be different. The other is to demonstrate to Nal’s previous close male friends and hopefuls that she is indeed in a marriage relationship, thus preventing at least some heartbreaks and possible hotheaded challenges.

‘But the greatest reason is, I sense an alignment taking place, an ordained shuffling of forces, a great alliance never before seen to bring men, women, Elves, Alaya, Alay and the wolf clans together to destroy a great evil. We have more, much more to organize and bring about before we engage the final part of our mutual quest, but the pieces are coming together. Soon the board will be set and the game will begin in earnest.’

‘Will we have to cross that sea to challenge the sorcerers, or will they come to us on this land?’

‘We must find a way to bring them here and ensnare them. They have built too much of a force on the mainland; too many blinded and willing to die for them. We neither can take so many on, nor do we want this to turn into a long drawn-out bloodbath. We don’t want a war so we must endeavour to keep the numbers small on both sides and settle it quickly, ideally in a day or two. We will guardedly thought-touch them and dare them to meet us in the wilds to the south of here.’

Thus they exchanged information and finally reached the outskirts of Glowmere. They were challenged by a rag-tag but suspicious retinue of a dozen guards. Ian and his lady greeted them loudly and being recognized as neighbours and allies, they and their following were allowed to enter the fortified town.

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff Part I The Calling

Start section 11 (eleven)

As the three exited the place, leaving the bodies for whatever predators roamed these dreary places, Lo, somewhat relieved at the grisly discovery knowing that an ambush on the trail was now less likely, mentioned the need to prepare their camp for the night.

“I sense our good fortune in weather is about to change. It will get wet and perhaps it will snow. We need to find suitable shelter where the two of you can stay and keep a fire while I walk to the village and get us provisions and suitable clothing for you, Donna. You will need warm underclothes and your own shirts, a pair of leather pants and an overcoat, certainly better shoes.”

“I ain’t complaining with this attire. Better ‘n going naked. What became of my own clothes, wasn’t I wearin’ any when ye found me?”

“Actually ye weren’t and there were none to be found. We think it was faerie work. They were about to take ye into their world, they were, and no human passes there with clothes on. Faeries don’t wear human clothes, goin’ naked most of the time or wearing leaves ‘n twigs ‘n grasses ‘n bits and pieces of birds’ egg shells and snail shells too, ‘n flowers a plenty if they want to decorate their bodies or hair when havin’ a gatherin’. Can’t have clothes interferin’ with the wings and dance flight, can we.

“True Donna, ye’re certainly pretty enough to attract the faeries’ attention, ye are. No surprise there. Maybe t’was ‘em that took you from the battle an’ brought ye up in these parts, then when we showed up, they left you and vanished. Can’t trust faeries, they be even less trustworthy than humans.” Nal delivered that story without hesitation, convincing Donna that that was exactly what must have happened. Even Lo was mesmerized by her story telling, half believing what she was saying.

The explanation satisfied Donna for the time being. She was too excited and happy to question deeply what was going on. She had two new friends who were the most amazing people she’d ever believed could exist, let alone meet! Soon she would be dressed in the brown leathers of the woodsmen and women who lived much as the faeries did, wild and independent in the fastness of the northern highlands, or so she’d been told and liked to believe. She’d be travelling to lands she could only have dreamed of.

Oh yes, accept, enjoy, feel, experience and throw worry to the winds. She wanted a new life and this was the way to it. ‘I’ll be a reed by a wild mere in the late days o’ spring bending gently in the soft, scented breezes’ she thought to herself as she followed along the trail behind Nal and Lo who were conversing in their strange harsh tongue she understood hardly a word of. She didn’t care, she wouldn’t care. ‘I’m like a new-born an’ my life is just begun,’ she added with a satisfied ‘huh!’ and ‘So be it!’

It was Nal who discovered the cave, high off the trail and partially hidden by clumps of twisted pines. The opening was blocked by a large boulder but all three could easily enough squeeze past the entrance to take stock of their temporary home. The brightly burning branch torch revealed an empty cavern, quite dry, with a flat sandy floor. The narrow entrance had ensured that no large predator would use the cave for its lair. Even a wolf or a wild dog would find it almost impossible to negotiate the entrance as it was a long tapered shape that widened as it rose. A four-legged animal would fall in the v and be immediately trapped, unable to move forward or back.

A perfect abode for the three adventurers and they were delighted, particularly so when Nal discovered that the cave, as it sloped back to the far end, had a small opening that she could squeeze through and it opened to the outside, hidden among a tangle of thick shrubbery. So if they needed to make an escape they weren’t trapped in a box, but would be able to slither out unseen. Another tactical advantage of the cave: the walls weren’t smooth but spaced with large fallen boulders and rocks that provided perfect cover if arrows were shot in or spears thrown.

Fire, of course, was more of a problem since the tell-tale smoke was unavoidable. It was decided to have it near the main entrance so that if anyone tried to enter they would have to negotiate the fire and smoke, possibly causing a delay in any attack. Otherwise it was the best they could hope for and certainly Nal and Lo had been in tighter circumstances.

“Since there’s only room enough for two at a time in the bedrolls, who’s taking first watch?” asked Lo. He got a wry smile from Nal and then Donna offered to do it.

“Well it seems safe enough as we’re not being sought or pursued, and if I did sense something I can just slither back in and give the alarm. You two haven’t been together since you found me and that isn’t fair to any of us. I makes me feel guilty and deprives you of loving. Can we eat if there’s any food left? I’m starving. Oh, is there water up here? That’s one thing I can’t sense. Nal? Do you sense water? Lo? See, I’m also dreadfully thirsty…

“There is water nearby but we all have to go to it… unless we use Nal’s boots to carry it but I think we’ve already vetoed that idea?”

They went out in search of a stream and found one in a rock cleft. No way to reach it except with a boot, so it was Nal’s boot that went down on the rope to dip for the water. Lo took a sip and declared it good. Then Donna sipped and sipped until her thirst was eased. Then it was Nal’s turn. She scraped around in the shoe, dumped what remained and dipped her shoe once again in the stream below, bringing it up almost full. She sipped some then said,

“If we’re careful not to shake this too much, we’ll take it back to the cave for a back up. Anyone thirsty enough will not mind a bit of foot taste. This is war after all. But why did I listen to MacGruder? Stupid, stupid. At least I should have packed an empty skin, obviously.”

“Equally my fault. Let’s go eat and Donna, I gratefully accept your offer of guard duty. First time on guard?”

“Yes it is and I want the experience. When you’re gone it will be but Nal and I, so it will be long stretches. I do wish I had something to defend myself with though.”

They ate quickly and again, sparingly. When finished and re-packed, Donna slipped out, taking Nal’s staff when it was offered. Nal and Lo undressed and slipped into the roll, happy to be together once more. About halfway through the night, Nal came out and after taking back her staff, asked Donna to join Lo in the bedroll.

“I need to ask,” said Donna before she went to settle beside Lo and cuddled with him, “Don’t you mind your husband in bed with another woman, a very young and according to things I’ve heard, sexually desirable girl?”

“Do you want to make love to him, or just cuddle with him? He will give you whatever you desire and no, I won’t mind at all. Our relationship is not the usual human one. We are indeed wizards and this bedding thing isn’t that important since we will never have children of our own. We cannot form families you see?”

“Oh, but I cannot lose my virginity, not before I marry!”

Quickly, Nal stifled a stupid reply and instead said, “True that. Then don’t. Sleep well and know you are safe and loved. Yes, Lo does love you. If you made love to him he wouldn’t treat you as just a casual thing. You are with us now, a part of us. Go ahead, go to bed! Do whatever you are prompted by your mutual natures. It is always the best thing to do when thus pushed, knowing it is not harming or hurting any others.”

Under the partial cloud cover with stars still twinkling coldly in the distant eastern skies, Nal pondered her current life, the twists and turns in it, and the coming challenge of a lifetime. She didn’t remember much of the Alay of the days before she had been killed but she sensed the very real danger of coming face to face with such powerful entities. They would possess many of her own powers and skill, plus they’d had millennia to develop some of their own, likely hidden from Lo’s scrutiny. Who were they, really? What were they doing, right now, wherever they were? How could she find out without Lo knowing so she’d have a few surprises of her own to throw at them and surprise him?

In the dark, she stood up and began pacing, moving her staff slowly at first, then faster and faster until she knew it was as much of a blur as was Lo’s when he fought with his. ‘I have the speed now, but I need the mind, the mind. I need the power to travel space and time to see things, things that were, things that are, things that will be. I must do this.’ Still the staff whipped about as she soliloquized.

Then she saw something on another rock, a movement, a shadow, and she felt the animal: a wolf, no doubt of that. The distance between the cave mouth was farther than the distance between herself and the wolf. She reached for her bow and realized she’d opted to leave bow and sword in the cave. She had her staff, not even her dagger as she was barefoot, one of her boots being used as a water pitcher! ‘Oh, how wonderfully stupid’ she thought.

Well, she was good with a staff and this speed thing needed testing. She faced the wolf, crouching in a sign of attack. The animal responded predictably, charging for her throat, for a sure and quick take down and kill. She parried the heavy blow from the animal’s rush and jump but was thrown off her feet. Spinning wildly to face the returning charge she spun her staff in windmill fashion, forming a shield in front of herself. The wolf jumped into the spinning arms of the staff and was neatly knocked off. She debated if she should kill him but realized this wasn’t a human being, just a hungry animal. Defeated, he would just slink away and not return.

She waited, touching him lightly, healing his deep cut from the blow of the staff. When he came to, she backed away, but did not stand. She chose a kneeling posture indicating submission and placing the staff between them on the stone, she opened her hands to the animal. He looked at her, sniffed her hands, then slowly dragged himself forward and laid his big head in her lap. She touched him again, then gently massaged the head behind the ears. The animal whimpered and lifted his right paw which she took in her own hand, then she bent down and placed her own head on the wolf’s. After a while the big animal stood up, looked down at Nal, rolled and lowered his head in a ‘thank you’ motion and slowly walked away to disappear in the night.

‘Yes! Yes I have the power now; I have it back! She looked around at the dark world and said, ‘thank you also!’

She did more introspection then, going deeper inside her mind, testing her spirit. She saw herself as twins more clearly now. She decided to name her fighter twin, Nah-La F; her healer twin Nah-La H. The letters glowed in her mind and meant many more things to her. The F meant Fearless and Forward and Forever; the H meant Helper and Honour and Happiness.

Then she heard him so clearly in her mind. “Nal? Did you say something?” “Lo? You can hear me in your mind?” “Yes, but you woke me up!” “I’m really very sorry but I’m so excited! We can talk without talking. I can hear you in my mind!”

“Please Nal, shut it down, right now! Don’t ask why, wait until I’m with you to explain. Shut it down!”

Crestfallen, she waited almost in tears. Why was he so cruel to her when she was having another of the greatest experiences of her life?

She heard him sliding through the tight entrance and stepping towards her. He came and sat beside her, took her hand in his and whispered gently,

“Nal, what you just did is truly marvellous, indeed it is. I thought you could do it, but of course there’s always those doubts. But now listen. These others? They can not only hear such talk as we were doing, they can pinpoint its location if it goes on long enough. I don’t know how proficient they remain at this, whether they’ve gained or lost, but we cannot chance it. We need this for emergency communication but I must teach you how to misdirect it so even if they can understand what we’re saying they won’t know where it is coming from.

“But no matter what we do, no matter how careful we are, they will realize that there is a new Alaya and that she is with me. This will set them hunting in earnest and they will do it together now, or as soon as they know for sure that you exist. If they realize you are Nah-La they will move fast and furiously because they will know that any reincarnation of an Alaya and partnered with a living Alay means they will both have much greater power, combining the old powers with the chaotic, dangerous and murderous energies of the Earthian species with their own mutual understanding and trust. They will seek to prevent your powers from having a chance to grow, develop and you learning to use and control them effectively. They are sure to come on the attack. So the longer we can keep them seeking and confused, the more time we have to develop our mutual powers to effectively confront and defeat them.”

“I understand now. How do I misdirect this mind talk?”

“That is not so difficult. Before you communicate, think of a place far away, somewhere, anywhere, it doesn’t have to be real but you have to make it real. There’s a wide prairie in front of you, or you’re on a ship, or in a building in a city and there are noises in the streets. These images you place in with your thought forms you’re sending me. You could even be flying, it doesn’t matter as long as you are not sending images of where you actually are. They can trace that through the earth, I know because I can.

“Now one more thing. If they use this communication, either between themselves, or trying to contact one of us, never, ever, respond but listen and watch and learn. At the beginning when I still believed they could be brought back I did respond and tried to meet with them. Each attempt was a death trap from which I barely escaped. After three attempts I stopped, realizing they were lost and eventually either I would kill them or they would kill me. They left no option.”

“Thank you, Lo. I know what to do now and I will, faithfully. You can rely on that side of me anyhow.”

They spent the next hour just holding each other and watching the faint glow of daylight begin to break in the east. From their vantage point it was a glorious sight even if by now most of the sky from the west was darkened by clouds and fog had risen in the lower vales. It wasn’t terribly cold and they didn’t seem to notice in any case. Love, it would seem, is more than blind.

End section 11 – (eleven)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part I – Section 10

Moving right along,  and dragging you along with it, here’s another section of the growing (hopefully not growling or grating) novel.  The game’s afoot, it’s but a question of discovering where that foot is stepping, or on whom.



“I am surprised you speak my tongue, sir. I thought Nal had to translate for you?”

“I listened carefully while you and Nal spoke earlier and I recreated the syntax in my mind. The pronunciation is a bit rough yet but I think that by Thursday afternoon when we reach your village of Torglynn, I will have that under control.”

“No one can learn a new tongue so quickly. There’s sorcery here, there be!”

“You may call me ‘Lo’ and I’d prefer that. Would it trouble you if I told you there is indeed sorcery hereabout, or rather, wizardry?”

“Oh no, not at all… hum… Lo. I like the way you and Nal make me feel. I have so much energy and I can sense things better than ever before. There’s good power coming from you.”

Her thought was interrupted by a sharp whistle from Nal who had wandered off the trail on some personal quest, or need.

Lo replied with his own whistle and he heard her call: “Water, if anyone is needing a drink!” She called back. With a careful look around, Lo pointed down the dirt embankment Nal had gone down and Donna dropped out of sight. Lo followed and at the stream Nal had discovered they drank their fill, then with Nal leading, she being the shortest and providing the smallest target, they returned to the trail by another route that by-passed the crumbling embankment.

Again, Nal led the trio, picking the proper trail from among an increasing number of lesser trails that branched out left and right only to quickly peter out among rocks or undergrowth. These were mostly hare and fox trails, probably also used by quail and grouse or even pheasants in the warmer seasons. There was silence on the trail for a short time. Then after asking if talking was permissible, and been given permission to do so, Donna continued her comments and questions.

“How did you and Nal attain to this sorcerer’s power you have? Aren’t many sorcerers or witches an’ the like left since the advent of the Christian church in these parts. The priests and monks that come this far are determined to eradicate all aspects of our previous “pagan” way of life, they are.”

“How does that sit with you, Donna, this eradication of your traditions?”

“Oh well, I dunno. Truth is, it hasn’t made much difference at all. We’re treated no better and maybe worse, but our clan confrontations, that hasn’t changed at all. Once our Druids blessed the men going into war with blood sacrifices by killing donated animals. Now the priest does it an’ collects gold fer it. The dead and wounded; the captives for ransom and the enslaved, it’s all the same. The new God doesn’t protect any better than our old ones, so say the old people. I can’t say such things in the village of course, but I think ‘em, I do. I hate subterfuge and lies an’ this new God I pray to, he’s no better ‘n the old ones. He favours rich and powerful men too and is more dangerous to women and children.”

“You’re a great observer and somewhat of a philosopher, ye are Donna. How old would ye be then?”

“I’ve seen fourteen summers already, my fifteenth coming up. I’ll be old enough to be given as bride come the middle o’ summer an’ t’will be expected I’ll be livin’ with a husband in our own home come the winter next.”

Lo sensed her despair in her voice and felt sorry for her, but what could he and Nal do? They were on a serious and deadly quest and surely they could not saddle themselves with a girl they’d be cursed for taking and hunted down with a vengeance to get her back. Or would they? He thought about that and realized they’d seen nothing of humans since the disappearance of the bandits. Should there not have been some sign that trackers were searching for the three captured girls?

Lo called to Nal for a stop. “We’ll eat here, now. I need to speak to both, you and Donna about our situation.”

“We have a situation, have we?” Nal was in a lighter and happier mood and not afraid to throw some of it around. “Good, I love situations. Should I pull my bow and some arrows to counter it?”

“Funny Nal, very funny!” and Donna was laughing too. “But I was only trying to be serious myself. Maybe I’ll just make all the decisions. After all, I’m the man here, and what do women know anyhow?” This he spoke mockingly and lightly, but there was a sting in it for Nal. She immediately stopped, frowned and gave him a piercing look.

“Thanks for that reminder, Lo.” Her face was dark now.

“Oh, so I do have your attention then? Good. While we eat I want to share something that bothers me some.”

The packs were opened and the food was shared carefully. They would have still liked some cool water to go with the dry bread but there was nothing they could do about that, having nothing to hold water in.

“Water would be good here,” Nal said. “Ye know, if I could go barefoot again, we could use my boots for water skins.”

“Gawk!” exclaimed Donna. Lo followed up with, “What a thought that. Imagine the fine toe aroma to spice up that plain, clear mountain water. I’m surrounded by geniuses, I am!”

The following laughter was much needed as all of them had had several very tense days, and if Donna didn’t remember her ordeals, her body did just the same. Unknowingly, she was also no longer a virgin, and that weighed on Lo’s mind, knowing how promiscuous girls were treated in her society – or almost any society he had been through in recent years. Would Nal have to re-instate Donna’s memories of horror, and could she even do it? Or, could Nal repair Donna’s hymen and had she perhaps already done it? He’d have to speak to her in private. For now there was the problem of the village itself, and of them returning Donna to it.

“We need to decide how we’re going to approach Torglynn in a couple of days, that being the time I’ve calculated it will take us to reach it – Thursday afternoon it will be – and well, we need a consistent story to tell whomever in authority we must confront. There will be suspicions all around, of that I’m sure, and we will be treated as spies, or worse. I don’t fancy just walking up to the portcullis if there is one and demanding admission. This is war time.”

It was Nal who spoke her own thoughts next. “What bothers me in all this is the fact we haven’t encountered any search parties this way although the trail is quite clear and obvious. I’m already thinking that something is seriously amiss at Torglynn. Now here’s what I think has happened. Our two bandits went back there with a story of having encountered bandits on the trail. They had been attacked and in defending the girl they had freed, they lost one companion and the girl herself, barely escaping with their own lives. They would have made a generous addition to the gang of bandits now numbering a dozen or more and cautioned the locals from engaging the trail in search of the girl. They’d have insisted that she’d be dead by now.”

Donna looked quizzical. “What are you talking about? What bandits? We haven’t seen anybody since you found me wandering about. I still don’t know how I got into these parts all alone. I would never do this and I know I wouldn’t run away from a battle when wounded people needed me desperately. What am I doing here?”

“We’ll try to explain that if possible,” said Lo, “but I must speak to Nal privately, and use the common tongue of the south. Will you mind?”

“No, I don’t mind.” So he and Nal moved away a little and he spoke, “Nal, she was supposed to remember some things but you wiped out all of her ordeal’s memories. How do we work with that? How do we explain it?”

“Sorcery Lo. She believes in Sorcery. She believes that we are both sorcerers and have all kinds of powers she doesn’t understand but has an affinity for. Don’t worry, she knows the dangers of mentioning any of that. So, she has amnesia from the fear her capture gave her. That is all to our advantage, she can’t speak what she can’t remember.”

“But what if they do not believe her and put her to the torture for the truth? You know those priests and how they hate the young women they can’t have. If torture is the only way they have to justify stripping a girl naked to look at her, or possibly to rape her, it’s what they do, all the time, Nal.”

“What you are saying is, we can’t return her to her village. Is it because you care about what will happen to her, or have you fallen in love with her?”

“It’s both. I care more about her situation, but physically she is irresistible to a living healthy male body. I can beat this, of course, but for now it may be something we need. And I know you understand fully and that you have no jealousy in you, even to the sharing of a husband with another woman. I know because I know who you are now and that is the thing I meant to tell you some days ago. I meant to tell you who you really are.”

For a long minute, Nal looked directly into Lo’s face. “I love you Lo. I love you enough to know that if you share your love with another it will take nothing from mine and I will lose nothing of you. In fact man, I made you sleep beside Donna last night so those feelings would surface and be set free. No dissimulation. You know I enjoy sex too and if I have opportunity as you had last night you wouldn’t find me keeping my clothes on! We’re part human Lo, and we don’t lie to our nature. All is as well, perhaps better, than it should be for us. Now, who am I?” She said it with a twinkle, but she was also very serious as well as curious, and he knew it.

“Oh, thank you Nal. Who you are is quite simple. I did some “testing” with a secret instrument I possess, and it never lies. It told me that you, my loving friend, are the actual reincarnation of my first and previous wife: Nah-La. You are, in fact, an Alaya, though you need to reawaken many, many memories that hold and nurture the gems we call our powers.”

“Oh… Lo, Lotharic, my husband, my husband! How long I have waited to be with you again. I remember, I think, some of our past… Oh, the joy of this moment, Lotharic. It has been so, so long.”

She threw herself in his arms and motioned to Donna to join her in encircling “their” man. Though unsure as to what was happening, the girl came forward and threw her own long arms around Lo, and felt her heart beat very, very loudly. Then she began to cry without even knowing why. She too was now irrevocably caught in Lo and Nal’s web of wizardry or sorcery. She also realized with her own great joy that these moments were changing her forever; that there would be, could be, no returning to Torglynn and its dead-end survivalist ways in pointless hope of some nebulous salvation by a God of blood and gore who hated women. No more. Then she had to yell it out, “No more!”

“Shhh…” Both Nal and Lo admonished her. “There could be ears about other than those of animals and birds. We need to be ever more vigilant as we approach Torglynn.”

“Why go there at all?” asked Nal.

Lo switched to the common tongue of the south, “Several inescapable reasons. We need supplies. We need to find out if the bandits we talked about actually did what we think they did, and where they went. We need local gossip. We also need to find a good escort for Donna, to accompany us back to the Cottage. What say you to a double wedding ceremony, should we find the fellow we think would suit? Convincing him will not be a problem, choosing him will. So what say you?”

“It’s necessary, but I can’t leave Donna out here alone and go in the village with you. You’ll have to do all that on your own. I wish, I wish, I had my power of telepathy functioning fully now! I need this to stay in touch with you.”

“By tomorrow, with the kind of energy you put into remembering, you should have it but you won’t be able to use it. We’ll talk about that later. By the way, while I’m gone, it could be a couple of days, perhaps more, what do you intend to do with Donna?”

“I intend to teach her to become somewhat of an Alaya. She has amazing gifts already. Also, I must teach her weaponry. Will you see if you can buy her a good, light sword and a long dagger? Oh, and a pair of high leather boots to fit her feet comfortably with a built-in sheath for the long dagger? She has long legs, it should be no problem. Don’t forget the swain! On second thought, why not forget the swain? There are some very eager boys at the cottage and they impressed me with their courage and fighting skills in that melee, particularly Roland. What say you to that?”

Back in local dialect, “Wonderful! Truly. Let’s carry on towards the village, but with extreme caution now. We can’t be seen, for if we are we will be duty bound to eliminate all witnesses. You know what that means, Nal?”

With a sigh, “I know what it means, Lo. I will never, ever fail you in whatever you have need of me for. I am Nah-La your wife. You know me.”

“Yes, but I only know half of you intimately. The human half cannot be known by anyone, not even the gods. That needs constant reaffirmation and can never be trusted. Accept that as I accept this same chaos in my own mind and spirit.”

“I accept it, Lo, as you do. We are both, what we are, and what we think we are.”

She turned abruptly, ran past Donna and started leading again, mindful of her place, pace, and the people trusting her… or not. The trail still beckoned although the sun was quickly dropping into the high hills in the southwest. An orange glow began to fill the sky as the distant sea, wherever it was, reflected the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere. A deeper silence now fell upon their surroundings and all three wanderers were keenly aware of the change.

It was Donna who spoke first. “I feel uncomfortable, as if something painful is taking place nearby. I feel its pain, I do. It’s over there!” She pointed to a copse some distance from the trail.

Carefully, they worked their way in the direction she pointed them in. Then Nal picked up the energies also. “She’s right, it’s nearby. Something is hurt and can’t move.”

Even more cautiously they entered the small wood and heard a noise, like a groan, or moan, then a throat rattle of someone in the throes of death. Moving forward, they came upon a grisly scene. It was two men, their two bandits in fact, lying on the ground. One was quite dead, the other caught like a deer in a weighted trap, beyond any physical help, not that he’d be given any. Nal looked at Donna, a look that said, ‘watch this’ and pulling out her dagger, pierced the bandit’s heart, putting him out of his misery.

“I might have been able to heal him!” whispered Donna quite loudly. “Why did you kill him?”

“I knew this man, and the other. They are vicious murderers, thieves and rapists. Be thankful that you never met them.” Nal spoke harshly to impress her words on Donna by her tone. “You cannot trust human beings, Donna. Not ever, not in any circumstance. Remember this scene and remember my words. They will save your life soon enough.”

Lo had inspected the scene to discover what killed the other bandit. It was easy for him to figure that out. The log, held by a small chain, had swung out when the trap was sprung. The chain broke under the strain and one end of the log broke the one man’s neck, killing him instantly; the other end dropped on the second man, breaking his back and trapping him so he could not move. A fitting end to a very sad story. Five dead for nothing: two innocent young girls and three utterly despicable men, all as if there were no difference between any of them; pigs to the slaughter.

So it was why the village remained ignorant of what had happened to their three disappeared girls. No one had any idea how the girls disappeared or were taken, nor in which direction to search if indeed a search was a wise move considering the number of dead and wounded of able bodied men in the village. Perhaps some opportunistic bandits eager for ransom money would return the girls if a bit the worse for wear. That hope however dwindled day by day and the upset parents were advised to go to the kirk and pray and stop pestering the local magistrate. ‘Look at the dead here. Your girls are likely alive, consider that a gift from the Lord.’

O, earth, thou place of life veiling such misery and death!
O, faith, thou fickle companion for them that trust in thee!

End Section 10 – (Ten)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part 9

To  go on with the story then…

While Nal was thus lost in her deep thoughts, yet not unaware of the world around her, morning came. The pink glow spreading softly across distant bare rounded hills promising another beautiful sunny day contrasted sharply with the retreating darkness of night in the west.

Lo woke up from his much needed sleep, got up and stretched in that feline way of his. He turned and greeted Nal. She stood up also and they walked to each other to hug and kiss. There was a groan from the sleeping roll and the girl Donna pushed herself out also. She looked around confused as her thoughts slowly came together but she could not remember the strange events that had brought her to this place.

“Do you know this place, Donna?” Asked Nal.

“No, I have no idea where we are. I’ve never been out of my village!”

“We think your village lies somewhere to the south. We saw a smoke haze in that direction yesterday and we thought maybe it was from the many wood burning fireplaces.”

“It could be, I don’t know. How did I get here? What am I doing here?”

Lo looked over at Nal and winked. He whispered, “Your ‘imparting of alternate realities’ may need some fine adjustments! She doesn’t remember anything at all of the vicissitudes of her ordeals and journey. You’re going to have to explain to her how she got here, huh? Make it nice.” His tone should have warned her he was being quasi-serious, too intent on enjoying her presence and the day to become serious, but she was still in her sombre mood. She replied:

“I will Lo. I will create a plausible scenario that will suit her situation, but only if I must. It may not be necessary to go back to yesterday.”

“I sense some sadness and deep seriousness about you this morning Nal. What happened during your watch?” He suspected he knew, but he wanted her to say it.

“Remember the other day when you made me see my own innate evil? I’ve been thinking about that. I am growing in all kinds of new ways, discovering powers of mind and body I had no idea could exist. Do you have any idea what an evil minded person could do with such powers?”

“Oh, I know that only too well, Nal and so will you very soon. Those two remaining Alay I told you about, the ones we are both training ourselves to meet and defeat, they are the embodiment of what you said. Empowered evil. They are probably the two most powerful evil entities alive on this world. But now is not the time to discuss this, we need to feed our friend here and get her back to her village. Priority one. And we need to develop a strategy to hunt down and kill her assailants. Priority two that cannot be avoided.”

While they were talking they had been aware that Donna had climbed down the rock and walked away to relieve herself, then down to the pool to drink and wash her hands and face, using the fine sand at the bottom as an abrasive cleanser. They noticed her looking about, searching among the spiky gorse and other weeds. She pulled out some roots, broke off the stems, washed them in the pool and brought them back.

“This is a kind of camphre, or camphor,” she told Nal who then translated for Lo. “and around our village most of these small laurel plants have been taken or destroyed by our sheep. I would like to make a small bundle and bring it back with me. In winter there are many uses for this healing plant.”

“Ask her how she knows the name of that plant, Nal, please?”

Nal asked. “A traveller from far places noticed me grinding my roots when he passed through our village. He said he noticed the strong scent and recognized it as belonging to a family of trees called laurels. He said he didn’t think such grew in our part of the world. So he taught me more of what the plant extract can do. Oh, I so want to be a healer! I have the gift for it but they won’t let me. If only I could escape that place, go somewhere else, somewhere they would let me be what I choose to be!”

They were all silent for a time while Lo pulled out their travelling rations and laid out breakfast, such as it would be. Then, after chewing on the dry bread and hard cheese, it was Nal who spoke first.

“Donna? There is no such place for us girls. Everywhere we go, men control us. They fear us because we know things about nature and life they cannot access in their brains, so they persecute us, keep us from education and knowledge. We cannot stand against such madness, we must flow with it somehow, like a snake through grass, moving silently, unseen, and striking only when it is a sure thing.”

“Oh! But the snake is the symbol of evil! How can you compare us to snakes?”

“But we are snakes, Donna. Men believe that about us. The snake symbol, the Devil that crawls on its belly, that is how they picture us. We crawl, powerless and they jump on us, mount us, use us to amuse and satisfy their sexual lust and to make children for them and to take care of them.

Angrily now: “We are seductresses, irredeemable. We have no soul. We are but slaves of men, always and forever. We can never be preachers, priests, teachers or healers or hold any political power for everything we touch turns to evil. It is totally our fault that there is evil in this world, you see? That is how men see us because that is how their “God” has labelled us from the beginning. I can read, Donna, because I was brought up to understand these great double standards of this patriarchal society – don’t worry about the big words, I’ll explain later – and if even in your village they knew this about me, I would be immediately branded a sorceress and tortured to death in an effort to eradicate that great evil from me. That is called superstition and it is deadly for us women.

“So we exist among these male dominated worlds as would snakes in the grasses. Feared, dreaded, hated, yet a necessary part of the whole process of life. They cannot exist without us and at times they lust after our bodies and claim to love us even. But make no mistake Donna: it is never love, it’s lust. But in our misery we want to believe them and we let our own feelings get twisted so we fall in love with them, our greatest enemies who will always remain so for we are helpless to change them.”

“They are all thus, Nal?”

“Exceptions prove the rule, Donna, always. Yes, it is better for you, and much safer, to always remember that even the boy you love dearly and hold in a naked embrace remains your deadliest enemy.

”Let me explain it to you this way. You are this beautiful nubile young girl living in a fortified village. You are in love with a swain and he’s in love with you, a wonderful boy you want to spend you life with. Flip to the next chapter: you are the same, in the same village but now the boy is not your lover, he’s part of a detachment of soldiers who have defeated your people and are overrunning you village. He comes upon you and you are taken as spoils of war. They strip you, mock you, gang rape you and otherwise abuse you. If they are not too rough you survive and heal. He takes you as his rightful slave and you become his servant. He can abuse you, beat you, and use you as entertainment for his soldier friends. Same boy, but from a different side of the fence. Instead of love, despair and hate.”

“If that is so then I wish never to marry. But how can I avoid it?”

Lo, who had been intently listening to Nal’s explanation and knowing she had seen such a thing, interrupted.

“If you lydies will excuse me, I’ve packed and it’s time to get on our journey. Please continue your discussion as we walk. I’ll bring up the rear again, and keep a lookout for any possible ambush or trap. We’ll follow that trail from the old cave we saw yesterday.”

Lo was careful to couch his language in words that would not raise questions, even though he was certain Donna could not understand him. He sensed there was much more to the girl than they realized as yet but would discover soon.

As they walked down the first hill heading for a low wood, and the trail proved easy to walk, Donna and Nal continued their discussion.

“If you would escape a forced marriage and a life of drudgery as I’m sure you’ve already observed of other women, then you must escape somehow, run away and make a life on your own.”

“How could I ever do that? The first men to find me would take me back for a ransom, or sell me as a slave, is that not so?”

“It is so, if you are trusting and unprotected. You need certain things for a successful escape. Self empowerment, my dear, and if you are good at seduction, which I think you can be, you can develop a friendship of love with a man who will actually think he loves you beyond just desire and will protect you as you both go on a journey of discovery. An older man, not too handsome whose chances with younger women are limited. Easily seduced and keener to the needs of women than the younger ones.”

“As you and Lo?” She wasn’t ridiculing or mocking but intent and innocent in her statement.

“Yes, though we are more than the exception that proves the rule. We have a vow of eternal love that cannot be broken by any known force. Do you believe that?”

“Yes I do. I have sensed it in you and in him when he slept beside me and held me last night. It was so gentle and clean, filled with trustworthiness. Do you think I could find my own Lo?”

“Every woman in love and feeling secure in her own relationship with a man would be quick to say, ‘of course you can’ but if it is true love you seek, know that such men are very rare and a woman needs all her skills of discernment and must ignore her feelings, to discover one. She needs all her powers of seduction to bring him into her field of love. Then she needs to be certain he knows, inside himself and without any prompting, that he remains free, ever free, while she loves him completely. That is the other side of love. We are the real givers, men are the takers even when they are convinced it’s the other way. It is a kind of faith; a belief system the seductive snake slithering silently through the grasses seeded by men learns to work with.”

“Your words sound strange to my ears, yet I thrill at them. I realize now that I do have to escape from Torglynn and make my own way in the world. That excites and frightens me.”

“How much do you know of fighting, Donna? Do you think you could develop what I call ‘the killer instinct’ when confronted by deadly enemies and if you were trained in sword, dagger and bow skills?”

“There have been times when I have felt a deep desire to know such skills, but then they interfered with my chosen purpose, that being to become a healer and I would get terribly confused.”

“What if I could teach you something totally alien to your upbringing, completely at odds with your religion and faith in your God, so dangerous that one whiff of it in your possession would immediately result in your condemnation as a witch to be burned alive at the stake? Would you want to know about such a terrible thing?”

“I believe you can do this for me but I have to think! I have to think…”

“Take your time. It is a very dangerous and difficult power to have at your disposal and I will tell you a truth: I only discovered it for myself early this morning, while I was on watch and deeply troubled also for you see, you and I are very similar creatures. Let me tell you a bit of my own story, that may help you in the decision you must make.

“My first and greatest desire is to be a healer, and that I am, as you are. But because of circumstances beyond my control, I had to become a fighter. I trained, endlessly and fiercely. I have killed men with this bow, this sword, this dagger, and this staff.”

Deliberately, she fingered each item, handing the dagger to Donna to hold and wonder at. Taking her precious bow out, she strung it and notched an arrow in it with such speed Donna saw a blur of movement where Nal’s hand was.

“I can bring down a falcon on the wing with this bow. I never miss and that has been a source of pride I’ve had to fight hard against many times. Everything has a price.”

“Many times it can be said that when I killed men or beasts it was in self defence, but equally, I have entered into games of sword play to the death. Obviously, since I’m here, the men, and much more rarely the women, who challenged me are dead, Donna. I killed them… for money.

“It was all about a young girl, alone in a patriarchal and violent world, learning to survive by challenging and using powers that were intent on subduing and enslaving her. I never thought about the wrong of it until Lo made me see that part of me some days ago. The revelation of this deep evil inside me was so hard I blocked it from my mind until last night.

“Then I let it surface so I could look at myself, and I saw two of me. But we weren’t enemies, just twins walking parallel paths that had different obstacles to overcome in each. At the end, the two paths would come together and the twins would merge into the real, the full, me. That is my hope at this time for I know without a doubt that I must be both, healer and killer and that one cannot be allowed to overcome or violate, the heart and purpose of the other. I am two people, Donna; two completely separate people who can never meet until their mutual quest is over.”

“Your story is sad, yet full of hope. It reminds me of a tale my governess was fond of telling. There was a prince, who was also a knight and he loved a princess but an evil bishop who was also a sorcerer desired the princess for himself. She spurned him and in anger he cursed her and her knight. At each sunrise, she turned into a hawk and at each sunset he turned into a wolf. Only in the moment of their changing could they get a despairing glimpse of one-another yet never able to touch or speak.

In the daytime, the heart-broken knight watched the beautiful hawk fly about. At night, the heart-broken princess walked the woods to listen to the wolf give his stricken howl. But in the end, after many trials, the spell was broken when the knight with the help of distraction caused by the frantic hawk, was finally able to confront the evil bishop and kill him. Then they were married and of course, lived happily ever after.

“In the end of your story, Nal, I see two such evil sorcerers to be destroyed and both of you must combine your forces to defeat them. Is that not what you made me see?”

“It is. What wisdom can you give me then, on my quest? How can the healer twin be of any help to the fighter one?”

“That is why you have paired up with Lo. Your healer self must join with the man Lo to protect him and heal him should he be wounded in your final battle. Knowing that Lo is safe, your fighter self will be free to do what she knows best to to, and that is to kill her enemies without qualms or regret. Thus empowered your battle is much more likely to turn in your favour. Three against two are pretty good odds.”

“You’re a very wise and perspicacious woman, Donna. That will take you far if you put your mind to it. I may as well admit right now that I am feeling a very strong bond developing between us. Maybe we can make something of that.”

For answer Donna sighed, then took stock of her surroundings as if she’d just awakened from a trance. The landscape way still much the same although there were more trees now and the air was warmer as they were crossing a low area where the wind didn’t penetrate except during violent storms, a rare occurrence in these parts. She could hear sounds she’d never heard; smelled scents of earth moving under the weak rays of the sun and of small animals scurrying among rocks and between shrubs hunting for food. Suddenly and for no reason, it seemed to Donna that the entire world was in a feverish quest to satisfy an insatiable hunger. Everything and everyone, it seemed, was chasing about and the bottom line of it, it was all about food.

“That is so strange.” She said this aloud and Lo who was closest to her at the moment, overheard.

“’Tis strange indeed,” he answered her in her own tongue, “this endless quest to satisfy some hunger. And t’isnt only for food ‘tis done, but for many other hungers, all equally insatiable. There’s hunger for things, for security, for love, for sex, for power, for control, for health (well, at least that one is understandable), recognition, either by fellowmen, or by some god, for conquest. But the basic hungers which all have in common are for food and sex.”

End of Part 9 – (Nine)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part 8

(Another section of the growing novel.  Enjoy)

“They’re running away down the side of this hill to who knows where. Let’s check the inside of this cave and see what is alive in there.”

After lighting a resin torch from fallen branches they slowly entered the cave. A smell of retching and feces filled their nostrils. Then they saw another horror. A young woman was chained to a rock, naked and unconscious, not dead, covered in filth and blood. While Lo continued to check the depths of the cave for any other living creature, man or beast, Nal went to the woman. She was just a young girl, no more than fouteen years. She’d been raped and abused viciously but was alive. ‘Now I need my healing powers’ she thought to herself. She passed her hands over the girl’s body, touching it gently wherever there were cuts and bruises. The girl moaned, woke up and screamed. Nal touched her face and she went quiet, her one good eye wide open and staring at Nal.

“Shhh, we’re here to deliver you from those monsters. We’ll help you get better. Are you hungry?”

The girl nodded, ‘yes’ and despite a swollen lip, was able to take some of Nal’s cheese and the soft parts of her bread. Lo returned from making certain nothing else lurked around and looked at the girl’s chains. Simple: the straps holding the chains were of horse harness leather.

“Can your sword cut through this thick leather without harming the girl, Nal?”

“I’ll use my dagger, it’s made of the same steel and safer.” She pulled a deadly looking dagger from her boot top and proceeded to hack away at the leather straps until she’d cut through, one after the other, freeing the girl’s wrists and ankles. They brought her out into the afternoon sunshine and laid her down on their bedrolls. The girl was still small enough to fit into Nal’s spare shirt and trousers so these were laid out for her. Lo returned into the cave after making up another torch to see if he could find more clothing for the girl.

“I think I found her shoes, and maybe some more clothing though it appears torn.” Lo emerged with his discoveries while Nal was busy passing her healing energies over the girl’s body until she appeared at least physically, quite recovered from her ordeal. Her mouth was almost back to normal and she could speak but only Nal could understand what she was saying. It sounded like a similar language he’d heard around the cottage and hadn’t had time to focus on learning it.

“I’m thirsty, please, water.” Nal translated for her.

“Unless I can find something to hold water we’ll have to take her to the pool. Might be a good idea, then you can help her wash also.

Nal explained to the girl about the water and the pool. Despite the coolness of the air, the girl was eager to go, drink and wash, obviously.

“I’ll keep watch while you help her and continue to ministrations. I am very impressed with your powers, Nal, very impressed indeed, and thrilled. Can she walk or should I carry her to the pool?”

Words passed between Nal and the girl who held her arms crossed over her breasts.

“Her name is Donna. She says she will still need you to carry her if it’s not too much of an imposition considering her physical state.”

“Tell her it’s fine. I will carry her.” And it was done. Lo wandered about a bit, making sure no one was creeping up on them. After a time, Nal whistled and he went back to pick up the girl and bring her back to the bed rolls. Washed and almost completely healed now, she looked very pretty with her dark red hair and green eyes. With some grunting and tugging she was finally attired in Nal’s leathers and her own shoes.

“Where are you from, Donna?” Nal asked her in her language.

“It’s a place called Torglynn. We were attacked some days ago, I can’t remember how many days it was now, and in the commotion and burning houses, three of us were captured, three girls. They took us with them when they escaped. There were only three of them left alive then and they each took one of us. They raped and tortured us. The others are dead…” She began to sob loudly and again Nal placed her hands on her head and immediately calmed her down.

“It’s fine, Donna, fine. Listen to me, no one ever really dies, they just leave and travel for some time then they come back again. It’s how it is. Your friends aren’t really dead.”

“I’ll see them again, then?”

“That is not the same thing. Whether we meet people we used to know, care for or love in those other worlds has not been determined or proven. Some do, yes, but not everyone. You need to learn the rules to move things in those other worlds. Just know that your friends are alive, wish them well and let them go.”

“I know I was dying when you rescued me. I had a knife wound that said ‘death’ in its throbbing pain. How did you do this,” pointing at her healed body, “hardly a mark now and I’m feeling better and stronger by the minute. How is that possible?”

“Do you pray, Donna?”

“Oh yes I do. I have always prayed to God, of course.”

“Should you then need to ask me how such things are possible?”

“Are you a divine healer then? How could you be, you’re a woman!”

“Ah, I see. Only a man could represent God then, is that it?”

“It’s what I’ve been taught. I’ve wanted to serve God the way you do but I was told it was impossible that a girl should even think of such things. Women are unclean.”

“I’d like to have a word or two with those teachers of yours,” said Nal. “I’m sure I could make them change their minds.” Inside, Nal was trembling with indignation and righteous anger. There would be no end to it. Girls would be raped and denied justice. Women would be used and abused and denied education or any sort of power that challenged the authority of a male.

“No woman could ever make them change their minds. There was a woman healer who lived alone in a wood not too far from Torglynn. I was only maybe five then when they brought the women into the square, chained her to a steel post and set her on fire. I can still hear her screams in my nightmares.”

“So, what do you think now that you are grown up. Was that woman wrong in helping to heal people, or are those who tortured her to death, murderers?”

“I never thought of our priest or councilors as murderers but then I never thought it was right either. The woman deserved praise, not what they did to her.”

“Well let me tell you this: your priest and councilors are murderers, Donna. Now let’s change the subject. Try walking around a bit, see how you feel.”

She got up and after walking around, up and down the trail, she exclaimed: “I feel wonderful, wonderful! Are you going to take me back home?”

“That we will, but it’s already quite late. We will camp for the night, resume our journey tomorrow.”

“Please, let’s not camp near this place, it frightens me so.”

“No, we were not going to stay here, it would be too easy for those bandits to find us in the night. My husband Lo has found us a suitable place. We’ll meet him there.”

“How do you know? How do you talk to him? Are you a sorceress?”

“Never, ever, use that word around us, or about us. If people find that you were healed by a sorceress and they can’t capture me, they will burn you at the stake, don’t you realize this? And if they did capture me, they’d burn us together!”

Then Nal had a different idea. “Now listen,” and she raised her left hand over the girl’s head, bringing it down slowly until it just touched her hair, “When we return you to your home, you will remember only that you were captured, then you were rescued by two soldiers of the guard. You were not hurt. You will remember only that you do not know what happened to the other two girls who were taken with you. You will not remember us except as a young girl’s dream. Now come, you must be dead tired and famished.”

“That I am, sir.” Nal was pleased with her growing skills at imparting of alternate realities. The girl now saw in her mind only two soldiers who were going to protect her and return her to her home. I really am an Alaya, she thought with a shiver.

The day continuing to be clear, as the orb had predicted, Lo chose the top of an exposed boulder as their sleeping area. It had a dip in the center that had filled with loam over time and would make an excellent place for the bedrolls. The place was easy to defend, and he could see a long way in every direction though he doubted that the vicious and cowardly bandits would return to face the owner of the bow that had pierced their mate’s wrist. Anyone who could shoot a bow like that was not to be trifled with. No, they’d do their best to disappear from the area.

Unfortunately for them, Lo had another Alay trick he was about to pull. Though he had not seen the faces of those men, Donna had, and would remember them clearly. All he had to do was approach her in the night, set her to dreaming some nightmare sequences of her capture and pick out of those whatever images he needed to identify her tormentors and the murderers of her two friends. There was one thing he knew: these two men had to be hunted down and destroyed and they would provide more of the training that both he and Nal needed as he plunged them both inexorably into the deadliest of encounters with their arch enemies and the completion of their quest.

While both Nal and the girl Donna slept together, Lo approached the girl, touched her cheek lightly and set her to dreaming of her adventures. What he saw made him sick and furious, but he controlled his feelings and began memorizing the faces of her assailants. When he was sure he had his memories completed he released her into a dreamless state and slowly walked away.

He stood tall and motionless on the edge of their dome rock, listening, searching, watching. There was much more movement here than there had been the night before but everything was of small animals and hunting owls. Once he heard what sounded like the rattle of a shrike and he thought it might have been a signal as these hunter birds are not known to be nocturnal but nothing else followed. Still he remained fully alert, uncertain as to the moves of the bandits. Sometimes in the middle of the night, Nal joined him and suggested he get some rest.

“The girl is sound asleep and the bedroll is warm. Go ahead, I’m not the jealous type plus she needs you to hold her; she’s still very much afraid of being abandoned.” She kissed him warmly, hugged him and pushed him towards the sleeping roll.

It was now Nal’s turn to watch but for her it was second nature. How many nights had she spent alone, along roadways, in ravines, in trees, in straw stacks and in hay-filled wagons, half sleeping, ready to defend herself if discovered? How many times had she had to jump up and defend herself against starving wolves, wild dogs and sex-starved men who saw her as easy prey?

To her the night sounds were pure music, soothing and filling her head and heart with romantic thoughts and feelings. How much had life suddenly begun to shine on her! She had found a man she considered as perfect in every way. She was developing strange new powers that promised her the things she had dreamed for herself when a little girl: the heroine who would walk upon a battle field and heal the wounded, give water to the thirsty, speak fearlessly of peace to hardened and bitter men who had never thought such a world was possible.

Now here she was, sitting wide awake under the stars, listening to the land singing to her, aware of her healing powers, aware that just a few feet away from her was a young girl she had saved from certain death and healed so well that when she felt the girl’s skin there were no scars anywhere. ‘If I continue thinking this way my heart is going to explode’ she thought to herself.

But what else could she occupy her thoughts with? Perhaps it would be that other side, the one she dreaded, the deeper human self where her evil dwelt. She felt cold then, remembering that when she had said to Lo, “I’m evil” he had replied, “Yes.” ‘I’m evil’ she thought. ‘Inside me resides this great and terrible darkness and death. I’m not a beautiful young woman and lovely bride, I’m a monster. I can kill without regrets, take another’s life and think of it as a score in a game. Place me there, I kill without any qualm. Put me here, I heal and give life. What am I? I have no word for me, just disgust. I’m a patchwork woman, made up of pieces others have thought up or placed inside me. No, this cannot continue. I have to recreate myself. I have to give myself a true identity that nothing can change.’

She looked up into the sky and across the great milky sea of stars a meteor streaked and disappeared on the horizon.

End of Part 8 – Eight

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part 7 – (Seven)

(please note that I’ve changed the spelling of Allay and Allaya to Alay and Alaya.  I always knew there was something ‘off’ there but didn’t clue in until today.  Also please note that as I post these segments of the story, I am deleting contents from previous entries, leaving only one or two as a means of locating for those who are just jumping in.  Any entry needed I can supply if you email me at  All this means is, it’s a sort of “playing it safe” as I intend to actually publish this one.  I know, I hate copyright but publishers have rules too.  So, intent is good, right?  Enjoy the adventure!)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part 7 – (Seven)

Despite the victory and the number of people filling the great room, the meal was a subdued affair. No one could forget that in a side room used to hang meat at butchering time were three cold bodies waiting to be taken down to the village for proper burial. As to the bodies of the attackers, as was the custom, they had been piled between small logs, branches, grass and leaves and set afire. The body remnants had been hauled out to the lower fields to be cleaned up by wolves, foxes and ravens. No one would mourn them or regret their passing. Any valuables found on the bodies, or which they had hidden in the woods before the attack, were more or less equally distributed among the defenders, a greater share going to Magruder for repairs to the barn and cottage. That was the way of things in that land, and at that time.

There would be an interim of several days after this before Nal and Lo could leave the cottage and continue their journey to the coast, not least of which would be their official wedding in Glowmere. To pass the interminable hours and days, they volunteered to search the area for any more bands of potential attackers.

At first Magruder was reluctant as he feared something could happen to his charges and he felt personally responsible for their safety. The alternative however didn’t please him either. It meant that Nal would be constantly underfoot, pestering everybody connected with the cottage, meddling in the cooking and even suggesting changes to the window layouts to prevent attackers from lobbing fire bombs or torches in. She complained about the poor quality of the defenders’ arms and to Magruder’s horror, went so far as to suggest spending money on new swords and teaching any who wanted, some of her skills. Then she had more suggestions to eliminate the danger of wolf attacks upon the sheep.  And…

“Pestilence!” Magruder said aloud.   “Three days of this, I can’t stand no more!” He took Lo aside and suggested that they should indeed go out through the woods, perhaps as far as a small fortified mansion to the south west “no more’n three days hence” to catch some news and gossip. After being severely admonished as to their personal safety, Magruder let them go, making sure they were well provided in food. Water, he said, is never a problem in these parts, t’would be foolish to burden oneself with such.

“And ye be sure and bring the lassie back safe and sound; there be a weddin’ ta perform in Glowmere kirk.”

The “lassie” smirked at those words but didn’t say a word though several retorts came to her mind, one being, “Chauvinist!”  Likely Magruder would have thought she meant his religion.

After crossing the low stone wall between field and trees, they found a trail leading deep into the dark forest. They walked on in single file silently for some time, listening to the woods talking with small animals, birds, rubbing branches from a slight afternoon breeze. Again they took off their heavy shoes and tied them to their packs, walking barefoot, feeling the earth, listening now with their feet also. The trail meandered some but mostly held to the direction they intended to go in: south east.

The day grew old and the forest darker. They began to look intently for some sort of safe and warm shelter for the night. They found a cave on the edge of a ravine and after lighting up a resin torch and walking through it without encountering anything more dangerous than a resident small owl who seemed to question their right to his place then flew off to answer the call of hunger, they made it their abode for the night. As of absolute necessity in such situations, they would have to sleep alone, taking turns on watch.

It was a long and uneventful night that finally ended with a bright orange glow above the trees in the eastern sky. Nal who had taken fourth turn on watch, woke Lo up by jumping and spreading herself on him and giving him a long and satisfactory kiss. After sharing some of their very basic supplies of travellers’ food, they resumed their journey through the forest. By noon they had gradually emerged into a rough land full of boulders scattered helter-skelter. Here they were forced to put their shoes on again for now their path became strewn with sharp broken stones and the ubiquitous gorse that threatened to shred anything without thick leather shoes and leggings with its inch long spines.

They stood on a small hillock to take stock of the landscape, particularly in the direction they were heading. There saw no sign of human life anywhere but in the far distance they could see a spreading haze of bluish smoke, indicating a wood fire, or fires. A village of wood burning chimneys? Or the results of an attack? They couldn’t know until they got closer or encountered either hunters, shepherds or fleeing villagers. They listened intently but the only sound was the soughing of the wind in the shrubbery. A lonely, empty land. Nal moved against Lo and sought the comfort of his body and both felt the great satisfaction of having each other’s company in such a desolate place.

They continued on, following a now quite distinct well-used animal path. Nal led, being the shortest and Lo had no difficulty scanning the jagged hills over the top of her head. Neither liked how the path meandered but under the circumstances there was little choice. Without the path to follow they would have been greatly slowed by the difficult and clinging colourless shrubs. At least had it been summer they could have had the pleasure of their golden flowers and scent with the additional insect and bird songs. Today, though the sun shone, they saw no song birds, only some ravens and what was probably an eagle circling high in the skies. The smoke haze didn’t seem to get any closer either. Then the path plunged down between two sharp rock faces, forming a narrow canyon. For about two hours they could see nothing but what was in front, behind, and the narrow opening to the blue sky above them. Had they been seen entering the canyon it would have made a perfect trap: no escape. Both ends could be blocked and rocks could be dropped on them from the top. Lo cursed himself for taking the easy way and whispering, urged Nal to a trot, though she felt the same eagerness to escape the canyon. They began to run.

Suddenly Nal realized she was moving much faster than she had ever done in her entire life. The canyon walls whizzed by. She turned and saw that Lo was doing the same speed, able to keep up to her dizzying velocity. While running, she found herself able to project ahead, “seeing” obstacles of fallen rocks and turns or narrowing. They ran on, jumping and dodging until the end of the canyon was reached and left behind.

They stopped and looked at each other. Both were smiling until their smiles turned to open mirth and they laughed, their laughter echoing back from the way they had just travelled.

“I’m picking up speed, Lo. I’m developing my Alaya skills already. I never ran like that before, not even at my best. I feel so hungry now, I must stop and eat.”

“These energies, or powers, the Alay possess burn much energy. In these earth bodies that can be a serious downside. We have to use them sparingly, though I fear we will not often be given that luxury. The canyon, I see now, was a self-imposed test to gauge how well we function together. We are beginning to communicate without the use of language, an important skill for what we are on the way to engage.  Now we need to do it with thought forms, or words.  Later.”

They found a comfortably flat stone and after scanning their surroundings and using their keen sense of hearing, sensing no danger, put down their packs and weapons and eagerly engaged their noon meal.

“’Water won’t be a problem, t’would be foolish to carry that burden’ said Mister Magruder. Well, I could use some now.” snorted Nal.

“Until we do find water, and we will because there is water all over in these rocks, try resetting your feelings. Think, ‘I am not thirsty’ or ‘I just drank water and I’m satisfied.’ Let’s see what that does.”

Nal continued chewing her food, but more slowly and focused on the idea. I have water, I don’t need water. For a few moments nothing changed, then it happened.

“I’m no longer thirsty, Lo! How does that work?”

“You are projecting a reality that your body accepts as fact. It has its costs, but it is very helpful in tight situations. Again, not something to overdo, or rely on too much, but something to always keep as a back-up option when there is nothing else. Let me show you something. Just watch, do nothing, say nothing.

Lo sat very still for about half a minute, then extended his arms in the direction they had come from. Suddenly a half dozen men could be seen coming down the path in single file. All were obviously soldiers and well armed, with shiny helmets and even shields. Lo made a “stop” motion and the men stopped. He bent his right arm and the men turned. Then he made a dismissive gesture and they vanished.

Nal clapped. “Amazing! We could fool people with that trick. Can these men actually do anything?”

“Not now but when we learn to telepathically combine our forces I know we can give them much more substance. We can make them yell and run, perhaps even strike blows, or make the enemy believe he’s being actually hit. We can also blend in with our imaginary troops and by striking the enemy from their ranks, add a great deal of reality to the illusion. Nah-La and I did it in our last days together. It almost… almost… saved her. Trouble was, we were not very good fighters then and Nah-La was primarily a healer. She used her bow with deadly accuracy but it made her sick; killing weakened her too much. I think sorrow more than the torture she had to endure is what killed her. And I wasn’t there… I couldn’t find her in time. She signalled me one last time as she was dying, I don’t know where that was. That was the day everything changed for me. I made a vow. Until that day I had made only one: to love Nah-La forever. That day I vowed that I would kill both of the Alay who had turned and betrayed us.

“Perhaps I should have made it clearer, but in case you are confused about this quest, that is the quest we are on. Your presence now as a new Alaya has evened the odds for me. Two on two. But there is more to this that I must share with you soon.”

Nal understood they could not stay in such an exposed place and they needed to find water soon. She got up quickly and gathered their belongings, handing Lo his pack and staff. She set off at a much brisker pace than she had used earlier. There was a strange spring to her step and she was sure she could hear farther. She heard the light gurgling sound of a tiny stream and focused on it as surely as a hawk focuses on a mouse from an impossible height.

“I’ve found water up ahead, behind that large boulder.”

Lo grabbed her and pulled her down. A well aimed arrow whizzed overhead. They crawled off the path behind some rocks and waited.

“Why didn’t I sense that, Lo?”

“You were too excited with your new-found powers and too focused on the water.”

They slowly put themselves into a position from which they could defend themselves even against three or four attackers. Nal pulled her faithful bow and prepared her arrows, all the while focusing on the direction the arrow had come. Two more arrows flew over their cover. Either this was one stupid idiot, or there were several and they didn’t mind wasting a few arrows. She tried to “see” the attackers but all she got was blurred movement and confused thoughts.

“Lo, what can you see?”

“There’s three of them. No Nal, this isn’t a game or an illusion. Sorry but these are real. We need to decoy them, I don’t want to stay here until dark. Suggestions?”

“How good’s your throwing arm?”

“You want me to throw rocks at them?”

“I’ll do it, it’s a trick.” She picked a good rock, gauged her distance, then lobbed in in a high arc. The stone flew high then losing velocity, dropped suddenly behind the rock the attackers had chosen for their attack point. There was some commotion behind the rock, some swearing. Lo grabbed another rock and did the same thing, lobbing it high so it would drop on the attackers. More swearing and this time an arm with a sling showed up beside the boulder. Nal’s arrow skewered it through the wrist and that was followed by a scream of pain.

“Now they’ll know they’re not dealing with amateurs. Should put a bit of fear in ’em.” She kept looking, hoping for more movement but except for more cries of pain, nothing ventured from behind the boulder. Lo kept on lobbing more rocks, stones, even pieces of roots until finally they heard running and a pleading voice, “Don’t leave me here!”

“Let’s rush it, Nal.” Staff ready and arrow notched, both rushed to the boulder then carefully peered behind, one from each side. All they saw was the wounded attacker running away.

“Let him go for now Nal. We’ll follow their footprints and find them, never fear. They’ll have some explaining to do then. Let’s refresh ourselves, here’s your stream.” Down among the rocks a silvery streak of running water could be seen. They followed it down until it came out into the open and flowed into a natural pool. They drank their fill, washed face and hands and returned to retrieve their packs. Nal walked around until she’d found the miss-spent arrows, checked them over to ensure they were still usable and slipped them in the same band that held her own staff. Then she carefully inspected her bow, put three arrows in her belt and kept the bow in hand as they proceeded to track their attackers.

They advanced with extreme caution. If they set a trap for them once, they could do it again. Once in a while they saw or smelled blood. The wounded bandit was obviously following his mates. Then they saw something that shocked both of them: the “mates” had killed their wounded comrade and left his body on the trail.

“This is monstrous,” said Nal. I’ve seen things, horrible things, but this to me is completely sick, inhuman. We’re dealing here with rabid animals, Lo.”

“I agree, but I think we’ve arrived at their lair. I smell something odd here. There must be a cave. I see a dark opening in the rocks.”

They approached the opening, smelling, listening, focusing. Both knew there was life inside the cave, they could sense it, but it felt wrong. A large animal perhaps?

“Watch this entrance, I’ll walk around and see if there is another exit.” Lo crept around the rock mound that he’d mistook for a cave. He saw a glimpse of the two bandits running away and disappearing in the tumble of rocks. He let them go and returned to Nal.

End Part 7 – (Seven)