Tag Archives: love

When you Die then you Live

[a poem by   ~burning woman~  ]

When you die
(I said to him)
matters not how many are around you
in your hospice bed
or none
as you perish in the storm
you die alone.

Then why
(I said to him)
when you live
can you not be equally alone
however surrounded by insistent motion
or in the stillness
of a moonlit snowscape?

But how can I love you
(he said to me)
when you wish to be alone
when you go away
leaving no note
when you stand so still
under the moon in our yard
and neither touch nor word
you acknowledge?

When you leave
(he said to me)
with no word of farewell
(as in that old song)
I die inside
but when you turn your eyes
to look into mine
I come alive again
Why
(he said to me)
do you do this?

Don’t you know?
(I said to him)
Don’t you see it’s because
I want us both to know
what matters
and whom it is we truly love?
Love is a trade-off
where there is no pining
where there is no loss
there is no desire awakened
there is no gain

Would you know life
(I said to him
the last time I left us)
learn how to be alone
with your eyes wide open
with your mind on everything
except us.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Redemption

(a short story, by Sha’Tara – part 3 and last)

Morning came, and the noise of a truck backing out of the driveway woke me up.  It was clear and cold, I could tell.   I dressed as warm as I could in my sweats, my coat and wool hat and after wishing Pete a good morning as he busied himself with a couple of shopping bags dropped by the door, walked outside to stretch.  Everything was frozen, grey white, sparkling like fairy land.  The first thing I did was slip off the steps and land painfully on my butt.  But the beauty and freshness of the morning made me quickly forget my bruises.  My car was covered in ice but I realized the sun would soon melt it off – seeing it’s a dark blue and would attract the heat.  The dog was nowhere to be seen so I assumed (I know, bad idea) she was in the old van in some warm nest she’d made.  The food was all gone but something made me look closer at the ground and I saw small animal tracks.  So it had been taken by wild animals and I wondered what made such small tracks, and would not be afraid of the smell of a watch dog?  Did they have raccoons up here?

I walked around the cement foundations, now half covered in drifted silt and weeds.  How many years had it been since that dream had shattered?  I did something unusual then: I reckoned it from my own age.  I am thirty-two years old.  Those foundations must be thirty-three years old, maybe thirty-four.  According to the orphanage records I was born in 1975.  So these foundations were laid by Pete and Sally in 1973.  And that’s another thing that hit them: the Hippie era when young people suddenly left everything in search of something better than what they’d known, even if they had known the best life anyone had ever had on this world since history began.  They were an unhappy lot, and moved as such a lot, as cattle perhaps, or lemmings, following some path, some will o’ the wisp, with no real purpose to look forward to.  So they created a myth of peace and brotherhood, a mantra, a ‘mission statement’ and proceeded to screw it all up with drugs, irresponsibility and wanton lust.  Then they woke up one day, the lot of them except those too far gone to wake up, or those few who still believed, and went back to Big Daddy and his Big Machine.  Now they run the world and what a place they’ve made of it.

So Sally became a sort of Hippie.  Probably experimented with drugs, perhaps even when she was pregnant, drank too much, lost her sense of personal value, dumped her own kid and disappeared.  Was she still alive?  Physically, maybe, but spiritually, mentally?  Seems like whatever was done to her as a child had turned her into something a little less than human.  Some would call it karma.  I just call it sad, terribly sad.  If such a person ever wanted to, could she redeem herself?  How do you redeem yourself?  I can’t answer that.  Only if I get there and I have to make such a choice can I truthfully say, “I know.”

My shoes must be wrong for this world.  Not only do I find it almost impossible to stand, my feet are now freezing, although I have an extra pair of socks on.  I had to force my feet into these boots with those socks.  Why am I cold?  I’ve got more clothes on than I remember ever wearing at any one time.  I walk towards the sunrise and stand at the abrupt edge of a deep ravine, or as Pete calls them, a coulee.  I can’t hear any water running and it seems to me very strange that such deep clefts would not have rivers of water in them.   A pungent smell comes from some bushes I disturbed in passing as the sun is just beginning to melt the ice from their branches.  I see what I recognize as stinging nettles and foolishly avoid them thinking they would sting me.  Frozen, and through all these clothes?  Ah well, much to learn, and much that will never be learned due to more pressing matters.  I must conclude my interview with Pete today and start back.  I don’t like this weather and I’m suddenly afraid of this land and the strange dirt roads my car was never designed to drive on.  Edward was right.  I should have rented a real prairie dirt road vehicle in Prince Albert.  Stubborn.  But I like my car, it’s personal, private, an extension of me, especially when I’m far from my own home.

I smell cooking and I realize I’m past hungry.  I return to the house, being careful to stand relaxed on the icy steps.  My boots slip but I manage to stay upright, grab the door handle and walk in.  I hear eggs frying.  And bacon.  A steaming pot sits on the side of the stove and there’s a percolator chugging away on one of the burners, or covers or whatever.  A real percolator!  I lift the lid on the steaming pot and it’s porridge.  I’ve never eaten porridge.

Pete is busy tending the eggs in a large cast iron frying pan.  He seems to have dropped twenty years from his face since yesterday.  ‘What’s the occasion, kind sir?’  I ask him, smiling my widest and most natural, unfeigned smile.

“You,” he replies, smiling in turn.  He has a beautiful smile, a perceptibly familiar smile.  Where have I seen that smile before?  Somebody I know, know real well, but whom?  Not Edward, not even close.  That priest who “advised” me when I left the orphanage and got me my first job as a copy editor and helped me find an apartment?  No, not him.  Ah well, never mind.  I’m starving.

“Can I help Pete?”

“We’ll need plates for the porridge and the bacon and eggs.  We’ll need to slice some bread and toast it.  There’s a couple of loaves in the fridge and a bread knife in the drawer to the right of the sink.”

I slice the bread and look for the toaster, feeling foolish.  Probably some too obvious contraption I should know about.  I see nothing, and no plugs above the counter either.  “Sorry, where’s the toaster?”

For the first time he breaks out laughing.

“What’s so funny?”

“Your question.   I’m currently using the toaster, but in a few seconds, as I move this frying pan over, you can have it.”

“The burners?  You want me to just lay the slices of bread on the top of the stove?”

“Sure.  I’ll tell you when to flip them.”

So we had a wonderful breakfast.  I began to think that maybe that’s what he ate at every meal, or that maybe he only ate breakfast.  No matter.  I felt great after, drinking the strangest tasting, but hot and strong coffee from the percolator.

“Where’d this food come from, Pete?”

“I should have told you, I have an old CB radio here.  I called Webster’s and they brought some supplies.  It’s been a very long time since I had company, Reed.  I spent the night wondering how I could express my gratitude for listening to my story, and for staying over last night, so as not to cause me worry.”

“Oh!”  I exclaimed, suddenly feeling very young, very childlike.  “Well, thank you.  I’m glad I stayed, I can’t imagine driving through this stuff.”

“The roads will be fine during the day except for the bottom of the coulees where the sun doesn’t shine in winter.  If you’re careful to drive from side to side of the road and not on the icy tracks, you wouldn’t have any problems.  Of course most people with those  modern 4×4’s don’t know how to use ’em properly and frequently end up in the ditch.  Too much power to the wheels at the wrong time, in the wrong places.  You have to feel the road, let it talk to you, tell you what you’re doing wrong.  And you have to feel your car or truck as well.  An empath should know that, hm?”  He winked at me and I laughed.  Then, in between mouthfuls and sips of scalding coffee, I began the questions again.

“So, you never ever thought to look up Sally’s child, not even out of curiosity?”

“Oh yes, many times.  But what stopped me after my initial bout of anger was that she’d remind me of Sally every day.  I’d be raising a part of her, but would never have her.  I looked at my life, what it had become and after a few years I convinced myself that the girl was much better off in the city, among people she knew, surrounded by opportunities completely unavailable here.  If I went to get her I’d just cause more harm and grief.”

“Don’t you think that maybe that was selfish thinking on your part?  That this girl needed a father of sorts in her life, especially knowing she had been abandoned by her own mother?  How do you think that affects a child?”

“I don’t know Reed.  I’m no psychologist.  I’m a farmer with a grade nine education.  I don’t know much about people.  And in the state I’ve been in, I couldn’t even help myself.”

“Well there’s another point.  This girl, maybe, being of Sally, she could have given you the love you never got from the mother.  This girl could have been the necessary filler your heart needed.  Don’t tell me you’ve never read of such things happening.”

“I don’t read much, but I have.  I just don’t believe it.  Just stories, Reed.  Feel good stuff.  Happy endings.  Not for us, just for writers and those who for a moment believe their inventive trash.”

“I’m a writer, Pete.  I’m going to write a story about our encounter and my trip here.  Will you read my ‘inventive trash’?”

“Oh, so sorry… so sorry Reed.  Please forgive me.  My bitterness is quite used to have me for itself anytime, anywhere.  I’ve never practiced the discipline of hiding my pain from others.  Probably why there are no ‘others’ in my life anymore.  I prefer to be alone so that I can give vent to my feelings without having to worry about the effect I’m having on others.”

“That’s all right.  I’m a journalist, a reporter.  I’ve got tough skin.  I too was raised in difficult circumstances and I’m a survivor and over-comer.  I could tell you some stories about my own upbringing in an orphanage.  It was a priest who helped me get out of that life and find a job and a place to live.  I suppose, depending on how you look at it, I got lucky.  And have been ever since, if you discount the sleepless nights working on a computer and the loneliness.

“But lately I’ve been questioning that.  I want something better than that animalistic instinct to survive and beat my competitor to the prey.  I’ve been seriously thinking it’s time I became a different, a better, person.  It will definitely hurt my career, maybe end it, but what’s left of my life I want to dedicate to me.  To myself.  I have a dream, a vision, of what I want to become.  It frightens me, Pete.  It frightens me because I’d be so alone in doing this.  No one can really share in it.  I see a great similarity between us.  You changed after Sally left you.  You dedicated yourself to nurturing your grief, to never let it ease or heal.  You became your grief and it grew to control you and in turn, it became you.  In it you have been intensely and utterly alone.  You could not share that with anyone without hurting them.  So you detached from all of them and kept only the suffering you.  And wasted over thirty years of your life to date.

“I want the opposite, but just as intensely as you pursued your own dream of living in heart-mind agony and grief because you lost something that was never yours to start with.”

“Oh yeah?  Hmmm.”  Long pause.  His voice lowers a bit:  “You’ve thought about this a great deal I sense.  How will you accomplish this dream of becoming better than yourself, of becoming a better person in your own eyes, assuming you intend to be extremely tough on yourself in this?”

“Yes I’ve thought about it a great deal.  I’ve looked at the world from my journalist perspective.  We’re taught and encouraged to dig deep into the human psyche, to look for reasons, causes and to make value-judgments about everything.  We are supposed to be experts at uncovering what makes people do what they do.   So that’s the method I used to look at myself; at my motives for everything I think, say and do.  Who is the person behind it all?  And I’ve decided that perhaps that person needed to be what she was for a time, but no more.  She is past all that now.  She’s too young to give up the idea of positive change and too old to play the games people play, of seduction, money and popularity.  She’s at a crossroads that comes but a very few times in one lifetime.  Choice.  So she chooses change through self-empowerment.  That means the tough reporter bitch makes herself vulnerable, exposes her soft underbelly to those who would beat her.  She chooses the path of compassion.  And hopes she is strong enough to accept the inevitable.”

“Doesn’t that make you a sort of fatalist?  That doesn’t suit you, somehow.”

“I prefer to think of it as being pragmatic.  I’ve seen some of the world, perhaps using my life as a microcosm of the macrocosm.  I’m basically middle aged.  I have enough past to be able to surmise, or hypothesize my future at least.  I don’t want to live in the world I’ve come to know.  So if I can’t just leave it for greener pastures provided by someone else, then I’ve got to create change right here.  And there’s nothing else I can change but myself.  That’s what the people who chase after leaders do not realize: that nothing changes until they, themselves, become that change.  The change I propose to put myself through is going to cost me much.  I have no problem accepting the fact of those costs, but can I pay my debts?  Can I ‘take it’ to use the vernacular?”

He sighs deeply and stares straight into my eyes.  “You’re goading me, aren’t you.  You don’t mean any of this, you just want me to react, defend myself, or admit I’m a total failure and tell you I’m not sorry; that I choose to be where I am and I’m staying here, then to prove you are right, to ask you to leave and not write any story about me, but forget you were ever here.  You are pushing me into some kind of admission.”

I stand up and pace across the small kitchen, careful to avoid several empty cardboard boxes and a stack of firewood partially blocking one side of the table.  I’m feeling anger coming and I need to let it out carefully.  I don’t want to use that sort of energy in an interview.

“You’re wrong Pete.  Sure, I came here for a story, that’s what I do, write stories, do documentaries and spout off on talk shows.  But primarily I am using this trip to find myself.  You can help me.  I see many similarities between us, our lives.  We had it tough, both of us.  But here’s the interesting difference.  I chose to overcome my problems and rise above them.  You chose to use yours as an excuse to cop out of life.  Now, I don’t know.  You show me courtesy and treat me as your guest.  You order special groceries and cook for me.  You let me sleep in your shrine, knowing that no matter how careful I am, my presence in it will forever desecrate a part of it and it will never be the same to you.  You are taking chances with me, exposing vulnerable parts of yourself to me.  Showing me the Pete who wished he could have a chance at life again.  Why?”

“Good question Reed.  I don’t know.  You’re making me think back over things I’d stopped thinking about long ago.  You’re making me look at my miserable life… and maybe, just maybe, to question my place in it.  You’re making me think that maybe I can make the pain stop and I can change.  You’re a witch, Reed.  A very powerful witch.  I’ve always been scared of witches, you know.  They are unpredictable.  Sally was a witch, that’s why she attracted men who abused her and grew bored with me because I let her be, happy to just love her, or as near to love as I knew how to give.  I think witches have a death wish but have so much of life’s power they get stuck in places they grow to think of as prisons.  A witch must have her broom, Reed, always ready to fly off to some place where no man can go to.

“Tell me about your priest.”

I have a sudden vision of my own mother riding on a big black broom, holding me in her arms until she finds a suitable place and dropping me to fall through black clouds, then down towards a city and into my own prison.  I imagine she just wanted me to find my broom, learn to fly on my own, and leave my prison as she had done.  Which I did, to a point.  His question startles me.  “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“Your priest who helped you leave the orphanage life and found you a job.  What was in it for him?”

“Pete, that was the Nineties already!  We were lovers!  We met in the confessional.  I’d been baptized Catholic and had to follow through on the rituals, or else.  I had so much anger and hate then, I can’t believe it myself now.  So I confessed stories I made up of erotic and terrible sins.  I think my confessions turned him on.”

“So this priest seduced a young virgin from an orphanage, is that it?”

“You’d sooner find a virgin in a whorehouse than in that orphanage!  Shit man, we were regularly ‘farmed out’ to certain people for ‘domestic labour training’ if you get my drift.  But that came after the in-house fondling and other stuff.  Women and men used us: we were nobody’s property, so we may as well be theirs.  Father Logan, Bertrand Logan, was my out from that life.  If it hadn’t been for him, I’m pretty sure I would have been sold to some pimp, oh, excuse me, an employer who had a very legitimate job for me.  I’ve met some of my former mates on the streets, even did stories about them, but I never saw the point of taking it to the law, that’s not my thing.  Probably some day, when it’s too late to do anybody any good-as if this sort of thing ever does-someone will spill the beans and a battery of lawyers will make a killing, as will the Media sharks and the courts.  The orphanage will have to shell out some insurance money, maybe close down and re-open somewhere else as a new and improved institution.  Some old man or woman who worked there will be dragged out of obscure retirement, put on display for the public to vent its outrage upon and die in jail.  That’s it.  Nothing will change for the victims of these systems, not until the systems themselves are destroyed.

I could see the white knuckles as he clenched his fists tightly.  Was he upset because of what happened to me, or was he thinking that maybe the same thing had happened to Sally’s daughter and he could have prevented it?

“But you asked about Bertrand?  We met in my apartment on a regular basis for a while.  Then he had second thoughts.  He chose his vows over me.  I’m no fool and I wasn’t surprised-angry, oh yes, but not surprised.  He may have been a Catholic priest but he’s a man.  There’d be other, younger girls to choose from if he kept his profession.  Sure wish I’d a known I was a ‘powerful witch’ at the time.  I’d have revved up that broom to the max and rammed it up his ass.  I certainly was angry and very confused then.  What was I, Pete?  What purpose did I serve?  Everybody else seemed to have it so together, from my point of view.  I thought I couldn’t do anything right.  But then I found out, through my job as a copy editor, that I could write, and I could listen to people and remember, maybe selectively, but remember, what they said.  The rest, as they say, is history.  My history.”

“I’m sorry, Reed.”

“Why?”  Now I knew I was deliberately goading him.

“Because of Sally’s daughter; that girl who should have been ours, to be raised in a loving environment by us.  Because I realize now I was so wrong not to go and get her and get us a new life.”

Suddenly he was old again and his head dropped in his hands.  And just as suddenly I went to stand behind him and I hugged him.  And when I bent my face down to rub against his, noting he had shaved and smelled better, I felt that electric shock go through me again.  And I knew, without a doubt, as if I was seeing it happening in a docu-drama; as if someone else was explaining it to me.  I knew because my name is Redemption.  But more than that: I knew because I recognized the connection.  This was not just some man who had been married to my mother.  This was my father.  She was dumped by the surveyor when he found out she had been pregnant by her husband before she left with him… and she had known it.

“I’m your daughter, dad.  I’ve seen some of the records and it all fits.  My real name is Redemption.  I’ve come home.  Let me in, please?”

Redemption

(part 2 – a short story by Sha’Tara)

“Let me show you something, Reed.”  He got up and led me from the kitchen down a short hallway.  A closed door I knew hid a bathroom, I could smell it.  He opened the next door and reaching up, pulled on a string, turning on a light bulb also hanging from the ceiling.  I was amazed.  The bedroom had a clean, fully made double bed in it and the walls were painted white.  A crucifix hung over the headboard and a bible was on its shelf.  One small closet and a set of drawers completed the room.  He opened the closet and there were a few dresses and a couple of what were called ‘maxi’ coats, terribly out of style as were the two pairs of small shoes on the floor.  I smelled the mothballs that must have been in the pockets of the garments.

“After she left I moved out and kept it as ‘ours’.  This is all I’ve got left of her.  I got rid of the pictures, they were too painful to look at.  But this, I thought, was OK.  It was an invitation for her to come back.  Then it just became a shrine.  I come here to pray.  I read from that Bible, the only thing she insisted on bringing with her when I took her away from her folks.  But I don’t find any consolation in it.  I’m not of those who believe they re-encounter loved ones in heaven.  If she didn’t want to be with me in this life, what would have changed her mind that she’d want anything to do with me in the next?  I don’t know the rules there, but I don’t think I’d be able to court her all over and make her fall in love with me for the rest of time.  I’ve thought about that a lot.  It doesn’t add up.

“Anyway, if you want, you can have this room.  Just leave everything the way it is, if you can.  If you must move something, please let me know.  I want everything back the same after you leave.  I know I keep the house a bit chilly but I’ll make sure there’s a good fire in the stove tonight.”

I agreed to staying the night and we returned to the kitchen table to talk.  I wanted to hear the details of his story, why Sally left, how she left, alone or with someone?

“Except for her folk, mainly her dad and her oldest brother who were what you’d call assholes, the people around here are quite open and trusting.  We don’t think bad of any stranger until they give us cause.  So after we’d been here three years and eight months,  May came around and spring was in full when a government surveyor came by.  He offered us some money if we’d put him up.  We had the extra room then behind the house-kind of collapsed now-and he said it’d be fine.  We certainly could use the extra money.  He’d come back after each day out surveying and putting those steel markers at the corners of each section.  He had bundles of those in the back of his government pickup truck.

He talked to Sally a great deal; I was too tired to talk much, after the field work and the chores.  But Sally couldn’t get enough of his stories, and she looked through all his magazines.  He gave her a transistor radio and she was happy to be able to hear what all was going on while she worked around the house.  I never paid much attention to it all.  Up here, a man’s married, no one bothers his wife.  She’s safe with any stranger.  And women know to stay with their men, that’s our way.  You don’t worry they’d ever leave for another man.  That’s city stuff, Hollywood stuff, not what real people do.

“But one day I come home from the fields to do the chores and there’s no one in the house.  The dishes are done and in the drying rack, but there’s no cooking.  The table’s not set.  I get worried thinking she went out and got herself hurt.  I call her and I look everywhere.  Then it occurred to me that Jean (that’s the surveyor) isn’t there either.  Now I think maybe he’s taken her into the city and maybe she thought she’d be back in time, so didn’t bother with a note.  I waited a bit, made a sandwich, although I wasn’t hungry.  I milked the cows and fed the pigs, going through the usual chores, trying to figure out what had happened.  Finally I took the old Chief and drove to Webster’s Corner.   She’d been there, and left a note.  I could tell the store keeper, Mr. Jameson, was very upset when he gave me the unsealed envelope.  I guess Sally’d told him what she was doing.  He’d tried to talk her out of it but she had gotten really angry and left.   She’d gone off with the surveyor.  I read her note.  It was a terrible thing.  I remember it, although I tore it up then, then burned it later.

“Dear Pete,  Thanks for taking care of me and taking me away from my folks.  I never really loved you but I felt I owed you for helping me.  So I didn’t know what to say when you proposed marriage.  I really had no choice: either you, or them.  You were nice to me.  But that wasn’t the life I’d been dreaming about.  Jean’s taking me to Toronto, or maybe Montreal, he speaks French and knows people there.  I won’t be coming back.  Find yourself a proper woman, Pete and forget about me.  Take care of yourself, Sally.”

“I didn’t know what to do then.  I went to the police and tried to enlist their help to find her.  The RCMP were very sympathetic but there wasn’t much they could do.  Although Sally was a married woman, she had the right to leave.  Legally, there was nothing they could do, except to try to find out for me where she’d gone, or was staying.  They traced her in Toronto.  I sold our four cows and the pigs for the money and went there to find her, sure I’d talk her into coming back; that she’d have seen through it by then.  But that was already two years later, two years it took for the police to trace her from an employment bureau.  By the time I got there she’d moved again.  Again they traced her, in another part, where she’d worked in a hotel.  But she quit before I got there.  Three years now.  I traced her again to a slaughter house.  Four years.  I took odd jobs, lived in low-rent areas and sent just enough money to my folks to pay the taxes on the land.  Five years, and finally another break.  She was working for the CN as janitorial help.  I tried to locate her but that company was reluctant to help me.  Not our policy, they said.  So I had to hire a private detective.  It was him who found out she’d had a baby.  Not only that, but she did the one thing that made me stop looking for her: she’d abandoned her child in a department store.  I don’t know how these people find these things out, but I believed him somehow.  I suppose because I figured he knew it would mean the end of that job for him.  He told me to go home, forget her, and get my life back.  But all I heard was ‘get your wife back’ and isn’t it amazing how those two words are so much alike?  He told me the little girl’s name was ‘Redemption’ – that was the tag they found in a  pocket of her coat when they picked her up.  Even the police could not find her after that: she must have planned it carefully.  Maybe she knew by then I was after her and I’d take the child.  Only I didn’t.  She wasn’t my kid.  I wanted my Sally, not some bastard kid by some hated surveyor I would have gladly killed at the time.  I could have found the kid.  She’d be in an orphanage.  The police would know.  I could lay some claim to her and adopt her, most likely.  But I chose not to go that route and I came back home.

“But it was never the same again.  If you’ve ever considered the meaning of the phrase, ‘a broken heart’ well, that’s what I mostly suffer from.  Some people heal and some don’t.  I suppose it’s like other diseases that strike people, it seems, at random.  Cancer, heart attacks, that sort of thing.  I love Sally, Reed.  I know I always will.  Even if there’s a heaven, I’ll love her there just as much even though I have no hope inside me that I’ll find her there either, as I mentioned to you before.  It seems as if I’m under some strange spell that nothing can break.  Do you know how many times I’ve thought that maybe it was because I just didn’t want to stop loving her; that I was in love with something I’d made up and all I had to do was just stop?  Stop, then start again fresh.  ‘Get a life’ as the young people say now.  Yes, wouldn’t that be easy, simple?  Just change my mind about that part.

“Fine, except it’s not in my mind, it’s in my heart.  It’s in every aware part of me.  I guess you could say that half of me is, or was, Sally.  It was that good and great half of me that left me.  How could I deal with that?”

He started sobbing heavily, and tears ran down his face unto the old blueprints.  I walked over to stand behind him and I put my arms around him gently, then hesitantly I put my cheek against his stubbly one.  I was surprised at my own feelings.  I held him tighter and when he calmed down I asked him to tell me about the blueprints.

“Mr. Jameson had been an architect of sorts before he bought the store at Webster’s.  He knew how to make blueprints and everybody knew this.   Some of the richer folks around had hired him to draw buildings for them, and make blueprints of the plans.  One day while talking, Sally and I laughingly said, ‘Let’s get Mr. Jameson to make us a set of blueprints for our new farm house!’  Well, it was something we could laugh over together-we’d been drinking dandelion wine she’d made and feeling silly-but she decided on her own to ask Jameson how much he’d charge us for a house plan.  ‘I’d be honored to do it for you as a Christmas present’ he’d said.  We were shocked, but we accepted.  The plans arrived on Christmas day and we pored over them through that long winter.  We were able to scrape just enough money from the sale of our pigs to pour our foundation for the new house.

My folks and her two younger brothers (they were the decent ones in that family) came to help.  It was the happiest time of our life together.  When we’d taken off the shiplap forms, pulled the nails and stacked the lumber, we sat in what would be the living room and we drank her wine with our help.  She’d also made egg salad sandwiches and bowls of fresh vegetables from her garden.   Simon, her youngest brother, brought his fiddle and we danced to his scratchy music but no one cared.  It was the best of times.

“Give us two years,”  I said to Sally, “and we’ll be raising the walls and maybe put the roof on.  In five years we’ll have our new home.  You’ll see.”  And she smiled and sighed and kicked one foot against the other from behind as she always did when she wasn’t sure how to deal with a situation.  So, she smiled again.  That was her answer:  we’ll see.  But she meant more than that.  She was becoming restless again.  She’d always been restless as a kid but I thought it was because of her home life.  I didn’t think-didn’t know, even-that such people remained restless all their lives.  Join up with a loving partner and everything changes, right?  You know Reed, us humans, we’re a naïve bunch.  We don’t know anything about each other and yet we assume we know it all.  And that’s where we go wrong.  We should never assume we know what the other person is thinking, or thinking of doing, at any moment.  All of us, we’re liked cocked guns just waiting for something to pull that trigger.  Of course we have all sorts of safeties we could use to make others safe from ourselves, but of course, we don’t believe we are the dangerous ones, only the others are.  Our downfall is thinking that we are either better, or worse, than others and living within that constant judgmental attitude.”

I watched his head droop lower and I felt I’d heard enough for one day.  I too was dead tired.  The house was cold and I wanted a hot bath, which I would not get, so I wanted to get inside my sleeping bag on top of the nice clean double bed, pull my comforter over my head and cry myself to sleep.  Yes, me, tough Reed, the girl who survived the orphanage, was never adopted because she was too strong willed-was returned twice!-now feeling like crying over some vague thought, idea, wish, dream.  I’d come all this way in my own way to find a story-no, to find myself, or rather, to find a me that would be more real than the one that was raised in that horrible orphanage and who clawed her way to the top of her profession simply because she kept burning her bridges as she moved forth.  There had never been any turning back for Reed.  Her life was lived from a one-way ticket to another.  When she left the orphanage with the help of a visiting priest, she closed that door.   When the affair with Edward cooled, it was over-the end, that’s all she wrote.  Now here I am, all emotional over an old man and his rather pathetic story.

I’d been warned in college not to get involved with the people in my stories, or with my sources.  It was just business and you used your feminine attributes to get into places no one else could get into, and to get the answers that made great copy.  You bargained with the chips life handed you.  A female body was a great asset if you knew how to use it without getting slammed.  If you got caught, your career could be over in a day.  Found out.  Exposed.  A slut, cheat and liar.  Men could do it, of course, but women, while giving the impression they were doing it, could never afford the possibility they’d be caught actually doing it, not if they held any kind of professional status in a man’s world.  And journalism is a man’s world, make no mistake about that.  As is publication.  It’s a man’s world because it is a money world.

“Uh, Pete?  I’m sorry, but I’m dead tired.  Could we continue this tomorrow morning?  I notice there’s a bathroom next to my room.  Is it OK for me to use it, or… do I have to use the outhouse I saw out there?”

“Oh, sorry about that.  I didn’t think to ask you.  Sure, use the bathroom.  Everything works, but there’s no hot water.  It’s not the cleanest place in the house, I’m sorry.  If I’d known sooner that you would be staying overnight I would have cleaned up…”

“That’s OK, thanks.  See you in the morning then?  Say around eight?”

“Anytime.  I’m up around six anyway, don’t need to sleep much.  Today’s the most excitement I’ve had in years so maybe tonight I’ll sleep more.  Good night.”

I watched him for a bit but he didn’t look up.  So I went out to get my stuff.  It was raining, cold sharp needles that hit the skin and felt as if they were drawing blood.  I shivered, grabbed my bag, sleeping bag, comforter and ran back in the house.  Pete was stoking-that’s what I think it’s called-the fire in the stove and putting more wood in.  The smell of dry wood burning filled the house and I suddenly felt really warm, good, safe.  ‘Thank you’ I said to no one in particular, but if I’d been pressed to say, I would have said, ‘to the goddess’ and been none the wiser as to who I meant. Emotional shit is what.

(end part 2)

In Love Again

[a poem, by Sha’Tara]

Did I really say
I’ll never fall in love again?
Never marry someone truly special?
Did I say that?
Oh but I lied didn’t I?
I didn’t know I was lying,
of course not.
I was sure,
I meant what I said that day
When I walked out of that office,
the lawyer had pronounced,
‘You are officially divorced.’
what did I feel
but an overwhelming a sense of relief
and we laughed in the restaurant
over a quiet dinner.

The years went swiftly by
afterwards,
in my big empty house.
I hardly noticed
the fading paint;
the heater making more noise.
Some lights burned out
I left them
I didn’t need them, did I?
There were so many other rooms
where the children had been:
I just needed to dust
and change the sheets
on one small bed.

But now I must confess
I’ve fallen in love again
and I’m going to marry.
This time I’m sure
it’s not a mistake.
This time I give up
everything;
this time I don’t look back;
this time
when I say, ’till death do us part’
I won’t be lying
my new lover,
and I do love him,
is death.

 

 

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff

Part I  – The Calling
Start section 13 (thirteen)

After a short time searching among copses of green wood Donna found what she needed and borrowing Nal’s dagger, she peeled some bark and sat down, nimbly bringing the pieces together into a very neat basket that included a handle made from a flexible branch.

“There, and yes, it will hold the water.”

They walked down to the stream and Nal remembered that she had no rope, it was in Lo’s pack. Oh well. She took off her shirt and with the sleeves stretched, it was just long enough to reach the water as long as she slid head first down the crack between the rocks and Donna held firmly onto her ankles. She brought up a full basket of the clear and sweet liquid and they both drank their fill. Another dip and they had a full container to take back to their cave.

Before she put her shirt back on, Donna remarked, “You have very cute little breasts… I like them.” Nal looked at her, then slowly slipped her shirt back on, while Donna reached and pulled the centre holding thong and tied it. She gave Nal a look that could not be misunderstood.

By the time they returned, Donna’s blisters were completely gone and Nal insisted they continue with her training. Never, thought Donna, had she worked so hard. How do they maintain this in a battle, she wondered, it’s crazy! The same lazy men she encountered daily in the village would go on a campaign and do this for a whole day just to get killed most of them? Men are crazy, she thought.

When Donna was completely exhausted, she asked, “Can’t we use that Alaya energy to ward off our exhaustion?”

“I don’t know if that can be done. It has to do with something called entropy, a kind of energy you expend that doesn’t come back to you no matter what you do. Lo could explain and I too, when I remember me completely. We should continue.”

Nal insisted she grab the staff and come at her while she defended herself with only the short stick representing a sword.

“Oh but that’s unfair. I could hurt you with this even if I’m dead tired!”

“Yes? Then go ahead, hurt me. Hurt me hard, I give you permission!”

Donna hefted the long staff, felt its wonderful balance even if it was a bit short for her stature, and charged at Nal, swinging the staff to her midriff. She was surprised when she hit only air and Nal was at her back, holding the sword stick at her throat.

“That’s more sorcery, that is!” she exclaimed. “No one can move this fast.”

“The point, the only point, is that with or without sorcery, it can be done. You must therefore learn to deal with it and I mean to teach you that. Can you appreciate the necessity of such a lesson?”

“Yes I can. Yes, I understand. It doesn’t matter how it’s done, whether it seems impossible, only that it can be done. Therefore I have to be aware of such things and learn to parry them; to protect myself from them and eventually, even to defeat them. Yes?”

“Yes, so it’s not just weaponry, it’s also trickery, and speed, speed and more speed. Now that we have a Watcher in the wolf, we don’t need to spend time on watch in the night. Instead we will sleep together, tight together, and I am going to do all I can to pass on whatever I have of my “sorcery” into your body and mind in the night. I will attempt to make us as one so you will become a human Alaya. Have I told you already what an Alaya is, or an Alay?”

“So much to remember that I can’t remember now. Sorcerers? Wizards? Tricksters? Faeries? You are Alaya? I’ve never heard of such people.”

“You have met two now. Lo is an Alay. According to him, I am the reincarnation of his long lost wife, Nah’La, a full Alaya. She was killed, oh, thousands of years ago, and eventually became me. Or, I became her. So, I am Lo’s wife of thousands upon thousands of years ago. I am Nah’La or Nal for short, and I am rediscovering my powers. It is those powers I wish to share with you; to bring you, a human, if indeed it is what you are for I sense something else in you, into the world of the Alay and Alaya, plural, the Alas.

“I would that as I grow, so would you, side by side, spiritual and mental twins, you the healer and perhaps a bit of a fighter, myself the fighter and perhaps also a healer of sorts. Twins of Alaya powers; with Alaya powers. If it frightens you or repels you, tell me in the morning and I will remove all the powers from you, allowing you to function once again as a normal human. I wish to only do this by your permission.

“I’ll bank the fire while you slip in our bedroll and start warming it up – you have more body heat than me after all!”

They laughed. Donna stripped naked and performed a little erotic dance in front of Nal which Nal took the time to admire. Donna laughed and slipped in the bed. Soon Nal joined her, naked also and they clung tightly and happily to one another in the darkness of their protective cave. Nal could feel energy flowing between them and she knew it was much more than sexual attraction. It was Alaya energy and Donna’s body and mind were soaking it all up without any hesitation. ‘How much of me is going to pass into her tonight, and what am I doing?’ she thought. ‘How do I know this is the right thing to do? But I know, I just know it is. It’s how it was always done on our past. I’m only following the ancient pattern, I know that. What I don’t understand is how this human girl can take in so much of my energy and still seems able to absorb so much more. She must be more than human.’

For a while their hands eagerly explored each other’s bodies in a purely lustful and sexual way, then gradually they fell into a deep sleep filled with dreaming. The wolf prowling near the cave opening, having smelled the sexual excretions of the two females in the cave gave a loud howl to vent his own frustration and aroused desires. He too had fallen “in love” with the Alaya’s.

Morning came late in the cave. The two girls spent some time making love then got up, dressed and took care of their fire. They ate slowly, drank the strange tasting water now mixed with some of the bark’s sap run off, then planned their day. Simple enough: more training of sword play and staff work. In between, Nal planned to awaken Donna’s new powers with the making of illusions and whatever else came to mind or got thrown their way.

At noon the wolf appeared and they went to him. This time, as he lay down on the ground, they both lay beside and against him, passing their arms and hands over his thick fur, pulling his ears gently, rubbing his face and kissing him on the nose. A beautiful intimate, quasi-erotic scene which few Earth people would have appreciated but which the Alaya’s perfectly understood the need of. Afterwards they went their own way but the lone wolf, from a short distance, stopped, turned and watched them for a time then disappeared once again.

It was Donna who observed, “He’s lost his mate, Nal. He’s so sad and so alone.”

“I didn’t realize but of course you’re right. We can love him but we can’t replace her and we have to be careful he doesn’t become too attached to one of us either. We are different species and unless one of us became a lone sorceress with powers to transform herself into a she-wolf, this cannot be. I do not have, nor wish, for such power. Do you?”

“I don’t know yet. I do love him in a strange, I suppose ‘unnatural’ way, but if I could choose such a life, would I? Too soon to say. I need to think about this. Me, a sorceress? A shape-shifter? Arch enemy of the Christian religion to be hunted down, captured and tortured as befits a demon? A companion of wolves, to lead a pack, bring down prey, tearing at and eating raw bloody meat? Killing those who hunt us? I can see these possibilities ahead of me in the future but as of this moment I am not ready for such a thing.”

After their meal of dry bread and cheese now flecked with blue-green mould, they continued with their sparring in earnest. Donna had greatly improved in skill and speed, particularly in speed. When she didn’t take a clean shot and would have been hit she moved out of reach in a blur. This pleased Nal enough that she thought it would be time for the illusion lessons.

“You know what an illusion is, Donna?”

“Seeing something that isn’t there.”

“Exactly. From those powers I shared with you, there is one that is used to create such illusions, except that you are in control of them and only those you intend to fool, or confuse, believe they are real. You can do much with such images. You can even make them look as if they were ghosts, or demonic entities. Would you like to see how well we can work with such things?”

“If it means a break from this gruelling sparring, most certainly.”

“Come, stand beside me and hold my hand. Lift your other arm, open your hand and visualize something not too big but obvious. A hawk in flight, maybe? Let’s try it.”

They both raised their arms and opened their hands, pointing at the sky. Suddenly, a large brown hawk, a type of buteo with talons outstretched and open yellow bill, came swooping down from the sky, passed by the two women and disappeared again.

“That was good! Now something on the ground.” They manifested a majestic stag standing on the same rock the wolf had stood on. The animal held his head high, holding his stack proudly and looked around, sniffing at the air. He gave a snort of alarm and bounded off into a tangle of shrubbery. They heard the wolf give chase and smiled as the chase ended in a discomfited wolf when his prey vanished in the air.

“We’re doing well, I think. Now just you,” said Nal. “Manifest a couple of woodsmen dressed in leathers coming towards us and actually seeing us.”

Donna found the exercise quite simple. She brought the men up and they came towards the women, smiling as they approached. She made them stop a couple of yards away and introduce themselves. ‘I am Lance’ said the one. ‘My name is John’ said the other, ‘we’re passing by and didn’t expect to meet two lovely lassies in these parts. We are after a stag that we saw nearby. Did you see him?’

Donna lowered and closed her hand and the illusion disappeared.

“That was amazing, Donna. For a first time? Unbelievable. Your mind truly absorbed the gifts easily. You will go far, very far, with such powers.”

Donna was pleased with the results and beginning to plan how to use her powers to greater advantage. ‘Push’ she thought. ‘Push and always expect more for we are made of greater expectations.’

“I ‘heard’ what you thought, Donna. I agree, we need to push ourselves more and more, for our time is short. Three of us now? Surely our enemies will become aware of such an event and will come searching for us. How I wish I could penetrate their disguises, locate them, learn all there is to learn of their plans in dealing with us. I hate a fight with an enemy I cannot know. Can’t fight with the unknown! It’s like slashing at the air in the dark, you don’t hit anything.”

“We need a subterfuge, Nal. A decoy, perhaps? One of us pretending to change sides, to join with them?”

“That would make sense with ordinary people, they may fall for such a stratagem but I don’t think these fallen Alay would be fooled. They’d pretend to accept, then kill either one of us once they had us in their power. You would be the only one who would even have a slim chance of fooling them, but you’re just awakened. They’d test you in ways you cannot begin to understand.

“Oh, I remember more and more how things work in that world. The abilities to read thoughts, and even thoughts within thoughts. Too late, Lo and I discovered these energies, much too late. Having never needed them, nor ever needed to hide our telepathic communication we were not even aware these things could be used against us. But the Betrayers did and activated them against us. They learned our most intimate thoughts; our plans; our moves, everything. We were open books to them and they eliminated us, one by one until only I and Lo were left, and finally, only Lo.”

End section 13 (thirteen)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff

(Well, here goes another section of the fast growing novel. If you have been following and reading, then hopefully you will enjoy this next “installment”)

 

Part I The Calling

Start section 12 (twelve)

Lo said goodbye to Nal and Donna and refusing to eat any more of their remaining victuals, told them that he intended, by his “super” speed to gain the village before nightfall and conduct his business in the shortest of time. He’d be back, he said, in a couple of days, three at the most. If something went wrong he’d contact Nal and try to explain. And he added, only to be mocked, “If food runs out, you’ll have to do some hunting, Nal.”

“Oh really? O master, thank you, I would have never, being no more than a silly woman with a deadly bow, been able to think of such a brilliant solution to hunger! I abase myself before my lord.”

“Now that was a truly idiotic thing to say on my part wasn’t it. I apologize to you both for my patriarchal hubris.”

Like a ghost he disappeared down the side of the hill. They heard nothing more.

“Oh, Nal, what can I do now? I love Lo! I love him with all of my heart! What do I do when he returns? How can you even look at me and not hate me?”

“Donna, listen. I love Lo for eternity. I have eternity with him, you do not. You cannot hurt me by loving him. All women love Lo, Donna. It’s something in him that calls to them. All women want a Lo for a husband, and you, a nubile fourteen, how could you not? Of course you love him and desire him. I want you to love him. Give yourself to him while you can, be a gift to him to thank him for delivering you from Torglynn and other things you will some day realize. Come, let us hold each other and pretend we have him between us.”

So they did. So they also professed an undying love for one-another as only some women can do with each other and also some too-few men. Or the kind of women who truly share a common lover. The kind of love that, it bears mentioning, the Christian God who recently entered these lands, ostensibly abhors. And no wonder, for in such love there grow fields of acceptance, understanding and peace. No God of lightning, thunder, bloodshed and fiery condemnation could tolerate such weakness, nor wimpy followers and disciples who allowed it to be and turned a blind eye. ‘Death to them! Death to their corruption! Death to their families too! Death, death, death! And then hell for eternity!’

O, do you hear the thunder play across the darkened skies? Tremble!

“Are you ready to start learning swordplay, Donna?”

“How can we, there’s only one short sword for us.”

“Sorry girl, but that sword is never used for training! That sword is alive; it has a spirit in it that guides it. It is a killer sword. If I used it you would die instantly, even if I tried to hold the blow, I couldn’t. When I handle that sword for a fight, I become the sword, quite mindless, not human at all. I become a killing machine. No one has ever been able to beat me when I’ve used my sword, even in the two-on-one events when I am the ‘one.’ I always win. The same as with the bow, I cannot miss. When I use my own weapon I become the weapon, even with the dagger if I use it in a fight.”

“How do you keep them so sharp? I saw you pull your sword and pass a piece of cloth over it and the cloth parted so cleanly of its own weight, just by passing over the blade.”

“I have a stone tucked away in another part of the scabbard. I was shown how to use it properly, sparingly. That blade is made of a steel no longer in use on this world. It hardly ever needs touching and does not get used up. That is important. Many people destroy good swords by running their stones too harshly or much too often on the cutting edges. Swords so treated die; they lose their temper and become useless. Never buy a used sword from a street vendor, Donna. They come mostly from returned or retired Guardsmen and they are dead swords. Now let’s go and cut ourselves some short sticks of green wood and do some serious sparring. There is no more time to waste. Oh look up there! See that wolf on the rise over there?”

“Oh yes. He’s so big! Shouldn’t you get your bow? Will he attack us?”

“No, he’s a friend of mine. Let’s go see him.”

Saying that, Nal put down her staff and tucked her dagger in her sleeve, then walked deliberately towards the big grey animal who stood stiff, waiting. She approached him to within a yard, then indicating to Donna to imitate her, she got down on her knees and once more opened her hands to the wolf, as did Donna. The animal realized that Donna was a part of Nal and he bowed to both of them, walked stiffly to Nal, went down and again laid his head in her lap, waiting for the pleasant healing touch and the ear massage. Donna very gingerly approached on her knees and having gained the attention of the wolf, offered to caress his pelt. He acquiesced by closing his eyes and letting out a loud breath through his nostrils. Then both healers went over the wolf’s body, pulling out thistles, burdocks and devil’s claws from the lustrous fur. When they had finished, they indicated to their new friend that they had to go by slowly standing up. The wolf stood up also and gave his head nod for thank you, turned around and proudly walked away.

“Oh, Nal, that was so wonderful, so amazing. How did you meet him?”

“Last night. At first I was just a convenient prey for him, but I taught him otherwise. He’s quite young, no more than three years I reckon, so he has much to learn yet. I do hope he’s not foolish enough to trust humans after this though. Now to work girl, we’ve wasted much time.”

She found a thicket of reasonably straight green shoots and slashed through four of them, cutting them sword length and limbing them as they walked back to the cave. Then began Donna’s training. After about an hour she had enough. Her hands were blistered as she used both hands or either hands in trying to parry Nal’s endless attacks. She was covered in sweat and her legs and arms were aching and shaking.

“I never thought using a sword was such hard work! How do you do it?”

“Years of training since I was a child. My mother insisted and our master agreed though she was his legal slave as he loved her in his twisted sort of way. He got me trainers to teach me, and my mother knew a thing or two about sword play also. The master enjoyed watching my mother and I sparring. He often made us do it naked and after, when she was covered in sweat he took her down to the floor and had sex with her. I had excellent training in more ways than can be imagined and after my mother died, I continued on my own or sometimes with another slave girl, doing much the same for him until finally I escaped.”

“Oh? Why would you leave him?”

“Well, he owned my mother and me and naturally after she died he declared I was now his servant and would become his number one concubine. His wife of course hated me with an unbridled hatred and beat me as often as she dared though he’d beat her severely if she bruised me. He liked undressing me and looking at me, feeling my skin, fondling my small breasts as they developed, testing their growth, pinching my nipples. Then his hand would move down slowly over my stomach and down, caressing my pubis. I wasn’t for that sort of thing and I’d get all stiff which made him angry and he would slap me. I knew what would soon come, I’d certainly learned as he did it with my mother. It excited me but I didn’t want it with him, he’d been with my own mother and there was evil in him. I had a temper and I knew for certain I would kill the wife and if he went beyond the touching, I would kill him. Then I’d be hanged, after being publicly whipped first. I knew the rules, but what could they do if I disappeared? How much of a search would he pay for?

“So I packed as lightly as I could, taking only my bow and some arrows, sword and dagger, all having belonged to my mother. I also took enough food for a day, all of which of course being a slave would be considered stealing. If caught I would be subjected to even more terrible physical punishment than a whipping, involving cutting and burning, probably dismembering.

“I slipped into an ox cart filled with hay and thus began my life as an independent fourteen year old girl, alone in a violent man’s world, essentially an escaped slave, something I never allowed myself to forget. I was a runaway slave, a fugitive from justice. How I loath that word! Tricks of survival came quickly and easily to me. I learned how to steal purses while distracting men with my body. I learned how to enter archery contests, making sure always that I lost some shots if it meant the bets would rise and competitors didn’t suspect I was a sharp shooter. Eventually I found a man whom I stayed with as long as he could teach me staff work. He insisted on bedding me which didn’t matter, I wasn’t a virgin, I’d had that taken when I was only eleven summers.”

“Only eleven? Did you look older then?”

“No. A Lord Bishop came to the master’s house to transact some business for the Church, the master dealt in precious stones and very high priced jewellery, and part of the transaction included me.

“I know your reputation, that you like them pure, fresh and young. This one,” he said taking me and making me stand in front of the Bishop, “is from my personal stock and guaranteed to never having been with a man. You can have her for the night, per our agreement.”

My mother, horrified for me, tried to intervene. “She’s my daughter, master, please don’t…!” He hit her so hard she went flying and lost consciousness. I would have rushed to her but that bishop held me by the upper arm so hard I had a large black bruise for weeks thereafter.

“These female slaves tend to forget their place at times and need to be reminded of their status. Sorry about the fracas.”

He clapped his hands and two of our male slaves came and carried my mother away. She never really recovered completely from that blow.

The Bishop looked me over then ordered me to strip, which I did, trembling with fear and hatred. He fondled me then ordered me to walk him to the bedroom where the very painful rest followed. I swore if I ever found that priest, I would kill him. I still hold that vow. I know the city and which cathedral he’s from. I won’t forget to avenge my mother.

“When I’d learned all that Zachary, that being the man’s name, seemed able to teach me of staff work and he became more demanding and abusive I left him also, travelling to another town with a detachment of the guard by pretending I wanted to join up and seducing a couple of the other volunteers.

“I got bolder as I enjoyed my freedom and gained a reputation for being deadly with the sword. I entered two-on-one contests and won those. Contests to the death I already mentioned and obviously won those. Two years I was on the road, just surviving, then I met Lo in a situation where things could have gone very bad for me, but between the two of us we got out of it by doing some necessary culling of some very creepy nobility. Then, both of us disguised, he as an old man, and can he ever do that trick, and I as a little girl, or small boy depending, we left that place and I just went along with him, or maybe he enticed me, I still don’t know for sure, but we hit it off in a sort of strange off-hand way and had some fun for a short time. Then life got away on us, giving us a series of adventures and here we are! Let’s get those blisters healed and eat.”

“You’re only sixteen years old? I thought you were much older, not by the way you look ‘cause you look even younger than I, but by your ways and your understanding of the world. You sound like a very old person to me, so wise. I need to know, since you could not have been a slave around here, how do you know our tongue and ways so well?”

“Simple enough. I wandered up in these parts some eight months ago and made friends with many. I have the same ability as Lo to learn languages, and I made a fast reputation among the locals with my sword and bow skills. In four months I had learned enough to pass as a native but for my face and skin colour, but for that, I told my story that my father had been a faerie lord and my mother a slave from the lands beyond the great deserts. This explained many aspects of my nature and skills and satisfied most. I was never accused of being a sorceress or a witch and if the priests had tried anything the local swains would have hidden me. Before I returned with Lo from the southlands, I had many in love with me and many hopefuls among the older unmarried boys. This kind of life, Donna, is like living on a fast stream, it never stops. I learn and grow and discover but I’m always trying to catch up to myself, never quite succeeding. It’s wild and exciting but also tiresome. I must find a place where I can slow down or this earth body will wear out before it sees its fortieth summer!

“Anything else you want to know? I’m hungry and thirsty.”

Donna just smiled and shrugged to indicate that yes, there were many more things she wanted to know but they would wait. They ate and fed their fire, then tried the water in the boot and thought better of it after tasting it. ‘Eewwww, disgusting!’ they both exclaimed. They drained the boot and put it by the fire to dry.

Donna brightly said, “If you want a water container, I can easily make one out of bark you know. We do this all the time when we go berry hunting in the wilds. All the children of the village know how to made water tight baskets…”

“Well, thanks for that information, Donna. We could have used it yesterday you know.”

“But that’s what so funny. Yesterday I couldn’t remember that I could do this. Everything I remembered was so fuzzy, as if I’d gotten kicked in the head by a horse. I’m sorry but I really didn’t know you needed a container yesterday. I’ll make you one.”

End section 12 (twelve)

The Sword, the Bow and the Staff – Part IV

CONTENTS DELETED.  If  you need this section for reference, please contact me at

shatara@telus.net

(Continuing with the story of  “The Garbage Man”.  The title has changed as you can see, likely to change again and my two main characters have changed their names again, as you will also see later.  I find that it’s becoming an intriguing story, and whoever is actually moving the writing is quite a bit of a romantic.  I don’t mind it, actually, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the main story… whatever that’s going to be!!!  Enjoy.)


“Let me go. I will put my sword away.”

Lotharic released her and she slowly, reluctantly, put away her sword. Then she faced him.

“You manipulated my thoughts, twisted my mind, made me act in unnatural ways I would not normally?”

“Are you happy then, with your new name, and new choices, Nal?”

She couldn’t answer; she just burst into tears and loud sobbing. So much goodness in so short a time and for once she did not block it; did not insist that it was just another trick. For once she fully accepted it and through blinding tears, revelled in her joy.

End of Part IV –