"I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands, that I still possess." -Martin Luther

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spring Break Serial VI: Interlude

The rain poured down around them with a steady hiss, mocking their attempts to hear which way the queen had ridden.
"How did she get loose?" asked Grizzly.
"Stuck the ropes in the fire, looks like," said Benjamin.
"No way," Belian shook his head. "That would hurt so much!"
"But the ropes are burnt."
"It doesn't matter," said Grizzly. "She got away."
"There's no way we can keep up with her by tracks; it's too dark," said Benjamin.
"And without the spice, the plan ends. Here. Sorry guys, I should have stuck around to keep an eye on things," Grizzly mourned.
"One of us should have," Belian looked around.
"Well, if we're not going after her, I'm going to get some sleep. Enoch climbed under one of the tarps they had spread across some trees.
"What about the prisoners?" asked Belian.
"They can wait," muttered Enoch.
"I'm going to talk to them now, " Belian disappeared into the dark. Grizzly faced Benjamin. He stretched out one hand to the side and looked at it.
"Sleep?" he stretched out the other, "or interrogating the prisoners?" he looked back and forth, then stopped on the hand representing sleep. "Ah!"
Benjamin chortled and walked away as Grizzly bedded down. He was curious what the prisoners would have to say. Some of Enoch's men were gathered around them already.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Break Serial V: Artemisia Absinthium, Angelica

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

The cool, open evening drew in around them into a dark, taught night. Finally, squeezed beyond their ability to bear, the clouds opened and it was in a freezing rain that the travelers huddled. Some of Enoch's men were asleep, but the four friends and the queen were wide awake, hands stretched out underneath Enoch's shield, which now covered the fire.
"That's three dents," remarked Enoch merrily. "Not sure how many Trisha's armor turned. I think that last one would have made for a bad day, though. Thanks for the help, Belian."
"No problem; just sorry you didn't save any more for me."
"Looking for ways to advance your chivalrous standing?" Grizzly Bear teased in a shivering voice.
"Why not? Nothing else to do around here," Belian scooted closer to the fire.
"He thinks it would be great to tell somebody he's been knighted," Benjamin joked. "Oh, that's right, the French are all about chivalry, weren't they? I bet you're right; she'll really like that."
"Don't know what you're talking about," but Belian was almost smiling.
"It's been," said Grizzly, his voice sober now, "two years since we last thought we might really be able to get home."
"About time, huh?" laughed Enoch.
"It should work!" Benjamin gushed. "We've got the spice; it has to be the key. I just wonder exactly what we're going to do with it."
"Take it back to Chulsey and make burritos," Belian grumbled.
"I don't see what else we would do," replied Benjamin, "but that seems a little...unlikely, anyway."
"So, queen Chastagne," said Grizzly to the queen, who huddled silently between Belian and Benjamin, glowering daintily into the fire, "I'm awfully sorry about this. We're not exactly kidnappers...ok, ok, I guess we are...but we certainly aren't going to hurt you. It was just that you had seen us with the spice, and we couldn't have them knowing about it any earlier than possible. We'll be letting you go just as soon as we can."
Chastagne did not acknowledge him.
"About our conversation earlier," Enoch's voice never lost its merry edge. "I do know what you've done; a pretty good job of being a princess, I guess. You rule a lot of happy people. But why not share the spice with them? I don't buy all this 'just dues of rank' dung."
She turned a bitter face towards him, lower lip slightly twisted, "Read it."
"What?"
"Read the spice."
Grizzly took it from his sack, unwrapped it, and held it under the cauldron lid so that it was illuminated in the flickering orange light. Gold lettering shone, etched in the white ivory.
"That's not nutrition facts," said Belian.
Grizzly read aloud, slowly, as he made out the words:

"To he who does not have, having
To he who has, lacking.
Thus through not, much
Thus through much, emptiness.
So to the wise, peace to others,
So to the fool, justice."

"A riddle!" said Benjamin.
"Taste it," she said, "and..."
"Somebody's here," said Belian, jumping to his feet.
"What?"
"Listen." leaning away from the fire, they heard muffled gasps and a buzzing sound through the sound of falling rain.
"Wake up! Get'cher swords!" Belian darted over to Enoch's wounded man and took his sword while the others climbed to their feet, confused.
"Oh!" Benjamin's clouded expression cleared as he pulled on his sword-glove, "That's what you were doing while we set up camp.
"Yup. Good thing, huh?"
The watch slipped into the firelight. "Three or four. One of them is in pain. A strange sound I do not know.
"It's the generator," Belian explained to Enoch and Grizzly, "I stretched a wire around the camp and charged it. Perfect security system.
Putting pots over torches, the travelers slipped into the dark towards the source of the groanings, which had redoubled. Tossing the pots away, they found two men holding onto a humming metallic wire, twitching and moaning. The sounds of two others were fading away into the distance. The archers shot after them and there was a loud cry and a thump.
"That'uns mine, I should think," cried Chester Burley.
"Nonsense," slender Tomas murmured. "Twas my shaft or a weeks wages to you."
"Let's find out!"
"Careful! Step over the wire. Don't touch it." Belian ran off into the dark, "Got to shut down the generator."
A few moments later the buzzing stopped and the two men collapsed to the ground, gasping as if they had run a marathon, bright burns on their hands. "Mercy, mercy!" they gasped, as Enoch's men bound them.
"Wounded another," said Tomas, walking in front of Chester Burley, who had a man slung over his back and looked like someone who had just lost a week's pay on a bet.
"What does that make, five prisoners?" said Benjamin.
"Maybe these will be able to talk," said Grizzly.
"Heh," Enoch laughed, "it's not my fault that one put his jaw on my mace. I would have been glad to hit him somewhere else."
"Somehow I feel like you could have managed..." Grizzly shook his head and swung up his lute and sang as they walked back to the light of the campfire.

Enoch the Red, knocks 'em dead!
Enoch the Red, the Warrior!
Swings his mace, with a bushy red face!
Adventures like Tom Sawyer!
Got a toothache? Or a heartache?
He'll work on your jaw, or sweettalk...to y'all?


"...anyway," Grizzly chuckled to himself.
Belian was waiting for them in the camp. "She's gone; she took a horse," he said.
Where the queen had been there were only a few pieces of rope.
"She took the spice."



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Break Serial IV: How Enoch's Mace and Belian's Spear Meant Trouble

Part I
Part II
Part III

Having driven the newlywed king almost to violent rage, and his queen to a rather enlivened state of argument, the travelers withdrew after breakfast to their chambers.
"Everything's set here," said Benjamin, rolling up some odd instruments in a leather pouch and tucking them into his shirt, "is the signal up?"
"Yep!" Belian withdrew his head from the window, "I think we're ready."
"Gentlemen!" Grizzly Bear held his lute straight out like a sword, "take up your weapons. We go to...uh..."
"To war!" rumbled Enoch mildly.
"War!" mimicked Belian.
"Or something," laughed Benjamin.

Noonday

"Warrior!" the soft voice of Queen Chastagne froze Enoch and Benjamin in their tracks as they walked surreptitiously down a side passage.
"Lady?" Enoch's voice sounded almost weak.
"I'm so glad I found you. Lokely speaks well on my behalf, but perhaps even he cannot entirely exonerate me. Your words lodged close to my conscience. Lokely assures me that the good I do well merits the advantages that the spice affords to me. Yet I hold a somewhat less exalted view of myself."
"Oh, well!" Enoch seemed torn. "Tell you what, let's get together sometime and...no, uh, let's say that maybe you should share the spice a little more, or just be nicer to the peasants." Benjamin had been edging down the passage away from the princess. Now Enoch began walking backwards as he spoke, still facing Chastagne but moving directly away from her.
"Done! It worked!" Belian burst into the passage by Benjamin, some sort of wrench in one hand, a fistful of mud in the other. "Oh," he said, seeing the queen.
"Ta-da!" Grizzly Bear danced his way into the passage, holding the spice in both hands, singing along with his rhythm. "I got the spice (oh yeah!) I got the spice..."
Then he saw the queen.
"What are you doing?" she asked harshly. Enoch glared at them.
"Sorry, miss Queen, but you'll have to wait until you catch us to share the spice!" In the time it took Chastagne to fill her lungs for a scream, Enoch had caught up to her and clamped a huge hand over her mouth.

Evening

A yard of wood appeared in the tree in front of Belian with a sizzle and a smack, so close in front of him that his chest snapped it in two as his mount rode under. The horse of the man next to him let out a terrific scream and bolted, struck by another arrow. Shouting out in surprise and command, the party turned their horses and galloped to the center of the cluster of trees they were passing. Grizzly Bear was the last to enter the relative safety, on foot, yelling madly, holding his lute behind him as some sort of shield. Two arrows narrowly missed him.
"How many? How many?" Enoch's voice drowned out the others.
"Five, I'll say," murmured slender Tomas, tying his bowstring with total disregard for the falling shafts.
"Naaoow," replied Chester Burley, shaking his head and his fat lips, "jus' four or I'll give me week's pay -- little though it be." He drew his bow taut, let out a "humph" and drew a shaft from his quiver.
"No time to talk about pay!" piped Belian from behind a tree, tightening his hat down "I need a weapon!"
"Why didn't you bring your own!?" Grizzly Bear shouted, jostling with a horse for cover beneath an oak.
Another horse screamed, struck by an arrow. After a few moments of thrashing, his rider let him go. They watched the horse thunder out through the cool evening air. Benjamin shivered.
"We've got to get out of here before they hit any more horses," he said, "we can still make a run for it right now, doubling up on a few, but if we wait any longer we'll have to leave our gear if we want to get very far."
"Just four. we can take'em." said Belian. Enoch's men murmured grim but rowdy agreement.
"They want us to run for it," said Enoch. "That's just what they want. If we bolt in the other direction we'll run straight into the other four. The scouts saw eight. These jokers could have hit us in the open, not right next to these trees. It's the perfect shield for a geta..."
This time it was a human scream, as one of Enoch's men rolled over, an arrow in his leg.
"Boss?" asked Tomas, peeking around his tree, "I've spotted one. Up in some branches in yonder oak, no less. Poor pigeon. Nasty place to be when the arrows fly!"
"Get him then!" Enoch urged. Tomas and his fellow bowman Chester leaned out and sighted.
"For'y-two yard?"
"Forty-five."
"Naaaoooow."
"Forty-four."
"'ere. I'll test it. Two branches a'bow 'im, the big'un. See if we can hi'it."
The two bows twanged.
"See, Fort'y-four."
"That what I said!"
"Fine. Let's get'im."
Again the bows twanged. Benjamin, peeking around his tree, had spotted the bowman they were sighting, a good ways off in a tree, clothing barely distinct because of the gray tree branches against the backdrop of the orange sunset. He saw no change.
"Did you get him?"
Tomas stared at him blankly. "We sighted it first."
"But he didn't fall."
"Sorry."
"Aye, what did you expect?" droned Charley. "for'im to throw i'self outta the tree after 'e was already dead? Don't see how you can expect so much out of him in that state!"
More bolts thwacked their way through the branches around them, burying themselves unnervingly close to their hiding spots.
"All right," Enoch said, and he pulled off his shirt.
"Here we go!" yelled Belian.
"Think I'll take my horse," said Enoch, "and go for them. Trisha here has enough armor, I think. And I," he heaved something out of his sack, "have a shield." It was a huge cauldron lid, with metal handles bolted to the inside. "Multi-purpose," he laughed. "Who's comin' with me?"
"I'll go if somebody gives me a weapon!" Belian was practically dancing, while still trying to stay protected behind a tree. One of Enoch's men handed him a light spear. "I'd better come behind you; I don't have a big enough pot."
"We'll keep them busy, boss!" said another of Enoch's men, stringing his shortbow.
"I'll stay in case the other four show up," Benjamin smirked, "and because I stink at riding."
"I'll stay back here and scare the living daylights out of them with my battle cry," said Grizzly Bear.
"Someday, Grizzly Bear," said Enoch as he mounted again, "I'll put you in front of me on my horse, put a battleaxe in your hands, gallop into the middle of a battle, and you will own!"
"Someday. Just not today!" replied Grizzly.
"Ha!" Enoch galloped out of the clearing. Four arrows zipped out from his men to keep the attacker's heads down. Belian sat astride his dancing horse.
"Come on, come on, come on..." he too galloped out of the clearing as Enoch neared the tree where they had seen one of the archers.
Grizzly, true to his word, walked out of the cover of the trees, played a strangely aggressive series of chords on his lute, and then leaned back with his arms stretched wide, screaming a weird, wild battle cry. Benjamin watched Enoch. The warrior was bent low over his mount, then suddenly rolled off and somehow landed on his feet running, dropping the wrappings from his great spiked mace. A human figure separated itself from a rock, bow in hand, and walked backwards, until Enoch caught up with it and struck it down. Another figure had jumped up behind Enoch and clearly loosed an arrow at him. Whether it struck or no, Enoch turned now to the second foe and charged him, his bellow audible to all in the grove. The archer pulled out a short blade, ducked the first swing of Enoch's mace, and rushed into the red warriors arms.
"Bad call!" yelled Grizzly Bear, shaking his head.
"Epic fail," laughed Benjamin.
Indeed, whatever transpired inside of Enoch's burly grasp, it was he and not the archer who turned away. A last man had popped up from the rocks, bow ready to shoot Enoch if he bested his man. But even as they watched the bow grow taught, Belian's mount eclipsed their view, and they saw Belian twirl his shaft in his hands before lofting it towards its target, who fell out of view, struck solidly by the spear.
"That was short," said Benjamin.
"What can you say?" Grizzly Bear turned back towards them, shrugging, palms up. "Don't mess with Enoch and Belian."
"How's the queen?" asked Benjamin of Enoch's men.
"She's fine," came the reply.
Benjamin and Grizzly re-entered the grove to see the queen lying against a tree, her court gowns muddied, her arms tied and mouth gagged.
"Good. Let's see about the other hurt, then, and keep a look out for the rest of those bandits!"

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spring Break Serial III: Cumin to the Castle

Dear Readers,

Sorry for a long one; perhaps I should set a time limit. I'm getting excited about the story, but I don't know where all the threads are going yet. Just 4-5 more entries!

Part I
Part II

"Since the Spice War, Princess Chastagne has been sought after by many suitors," explained Lokely, as the two parties rode on together as one, the dark cloaks and rugged features of Enoch and Grizzly's woodsmen fading into the shadows in the light of Lokely's well-gilded, well-kept men-at-arms and horses.
"Many," murmured Grizzly Bear, mournfully plucking at his lute. Enoch chuckled, but said,
"Is that then your news, sir Herbert? That at last the princess is to be matched? To whom has the honor of the spice come?"
"Well you surmise, and well you ask the pertinent question, although I would that you give more thought to the worth of Chastagne in her person, not merely her dowry."
"No," Enoch replied casually, shaking his head with a laugh, "She let her people fight a war to bring back the spice for her own personal use. I can't think highly of her character."
"You would do well not to slight her;" Lokely turned to look at Enoch, his brow knit and his voice firm, "neither your knowledge of her nor mine ought to merit it."
"Well, we'll see," Enoch shrugged and laughed, mouth open in a big smile behind his bushy beard.
"So, fine," Grizzly broke in, "Enoch doesn't like the princess because she let thousands die fighting for her spice. But what about it? Has she found a man?"
"Indeed, and despite a dearth of higher rank in all the land of Glen-del, she has, I believe found one who may at least aspire to maintain her station, if not in fact advance it."
"A good guy, then," Grizzly smiled knowingly at Enoch.
"The king of Lox, Lord of Summa and Protector of Therra and Brynie," replied Lokely with some gusto. A murmur ran through Enoch's band.
"Oh," said Grizzly Bear. Enoch was silent.
"M'lord!" a pair of scouts thundered up, "the hill we seek is only a mile ahead. Two fellows are already upon it."
"Yes," Enoch said, in answer to Lokely's questioning glance, "that's them."
"Something more m'lord," piped the second scout, "we surprised a small band -- eight in number -- creeping through the bracken at the foot of the hill. When they laid eyes on us approaching, they flew back to tethered horses, hidden in a grove, and rode to the south."

"C'mon, we've got to cover it before they get here!" Belian danced about the now assembled contraption, tugging at the corners of the over-spread blanket. Benjamin laughed. "They wouldn't know what it is if we gave them the manuscripts."
"Still!" Belian grunted and mumbled as he adjusted the corners of the blanket, covering his master-work.
"This is why they'll never knight you, not-lord," said Benjamin. "Prince ColeCule was reaching for his knighting sword after the skirmish of river Tholley, when you started going on about automated alert systems to prevent an ambush like that from happening again," Benjamin's thin chest began to bounce with merriment.
Belian smiled broadly. "They would work, too. You wouldn't even have to post sentries!" the timbre of his voice wavered with disappointment.
"Here they come...speaking of not having sentries," Benjamin pointed. From the northeast, a band of perhaps thirty men broke from the trees and sped their horses towards them. The gold-flecked blue banner of Lokely rode next to the red and black pennant that unofficially marked Enoch the Red Warrior's party.

"So, Chastagne is marrying King Terryl of Lox? Benjamin boomed out the name in a stentorian voice, to the visible displeasure of lord Lokely.
"Aye," he replied emphatically, "and tomorrow, at that, if all goes as when I left the place. I dare say you should follow me there; the hospitality of the king and queen, would, no doubt, be extended to you."
"We mean no disrespect," Benjamin replied, "but why should we linger there? Our business in this place is as a meeting-point of convenience; we have business to attend." Turning slightly so Lokely couldn't see, he winked at Grizzly and Enoch, who smirked back.
"The spice has come to bide at Lox Summa," replied Lokely. "And I may perhaps not have the wisdom of Enoch in the ways of the world, but I dare say that if ever the fate of men was bound to an item of the dust, it was the four of you, and to the spice itself. Have you no curiosity?"
"Well, when you put it that way," Enoch and Grizzly spoke at the same moment.
"Anyway," mused Benjamin, "if the scouts really saw people trying to sneak up on us, we might do well to be in a safe place for a few days."
Belian, reclining against a tree, raised his cap from where it shaded his eyes.
"Let's do it! We'll need some way of carrying my package though..." he indicated the covered heap.
"We brought you a horse, Belian," Enoch cried merrily, "'twas Sleepy Bears, but he and she did not agree!"

Two Days later...

Castle Summa was a fortress. The city of Summa herself was a good twenty minute trek away, down a steep, jagged gash in the vertical protrusion of dirt and rock that served as foundation for the castle. So even the dungeon of Summa had windows, peeping out from a quarter, or three-quarters of the way down the mount. The four commoners were housed in a grand chamber only one or two floors underground, a place of no prestige but much comfort. Enoch's men had elected to remain in the city, where two of them were constantly on watch over Belian's package. It was only after a good night's rest after their arrival that they were summoned into the court of King Terryl of Lox and his new Queen Chastagne. Lokely, fresh from some no-doubt glamorous upper chamber, nodded curtly to them as they entered the court and took their places at board. They smiled at each other as bacon, pork, and lamb circled the table, accompanied by eggs, leeks, pies, and fresh bread, and the smiles faded into intense stares as the Queen, for the first time in Summa, took the white ivory cylinder with golden lettering from a bejewelled platter and, ever so carefully, dispensed a few sparkling beads of the Spice onto her breakfast. The silence that had fallen now shifted to a rising murmur of awe and joy, growing until the lords and ladies of Lox arose in cheer. When silence fell, Lokely remained standing and spoke for them.
"My lady, my lord. The courtiers of Lox no doubt embrace in their hearts and express in their cries what I, a nobleman of Mynolry have for years known well: we rejoice in the knowledge of your happiness, and the happiness that the spice will no doubt bring through you to the people now not only of Mynolry, but of Lox. To the queen Chastagne! May she long be her husband's crown and the joy of two lands!"
Even before the new round of cheers could die, the queen herself spoke, her mild tone barely audible. Instantly, the cheers died, and all ears were attentive.
"Yet," she repeated, "here are four travelers of your party, men of Mynolry, no doubt, who sit somber at your toast. Have they too tasted your joy; and yet are dour?"
"My lady," Lokely's voice was tight.
"No, Lokely," she said pleasantly, "bring them up, that they may speak for themselves."
"Hi, well," Enoch said, when the four were rather embarrassedly seated at the king and queen's own board. "We didn't cheer because..." Lokely's look of terror at the lack of formality in the address cut him off. He laughed freely, but said no more. Grizzly Bear spread his arms wide and, although in awkward tones, wound his words well. "My lady, we are travelers from a distant land, brought here by the spice itself at the intake of Chulsey three years hence. We have wandered since, citizens of no land, and of no great aquaintaince with any person of rank but sir Herbert here, to whom we owe the debt of our freedom (which he sometimes perhaps regrets undertaking)" here Grizzly could not help a laugh. Some of the tension fell from Lokely's face. "But our silence was not from a lack of joy for your glad day, but rather of wonder at the spice. Long has it been since we four have laid eyes on it; and we were taken up in wonder at it."
"You speak well, dark traveler," quoth the queen. The other three travelers covered their mouths with their hands and grunted while Grizzly Bear eyed first the queen, then his dark skin, then the queen again. "Tell me, then, how came the spice to bring you to Chulsey on that fateful day of our victory? Did not the thrice-cursed Bryn, Lord of Briston and Chulsey, maintain it under lock and key once he had unjustly claimed it from my house at the cost of much spilled blood?"
The travelers knew Lokely had, no doubt, told her their story long ago, but they repeated what had happened.
"So my war has led you to a merry adventure," she cried softly at the end of their tale.
"Yes," Enoch laughed slyly, "as many another."
"Lokely told me yester-eve of your disapproval for my war." Lokely coughed uncomfortably, but she shook her head without looking at him, "No, Lokely, I can read the meaning of your words, what'ere the face of them, and certainly after you have had your wine. We have known each other long enough I dare say." Grizzly Bear noted with some amusement the jealous glower that King Terryl tossed in Lokely's direction.
"Yes...queen..." leaning forward in earnest, " Maybe I'm wrong, but I've never thought it was kosher to start a war for your own personal happiness. If it had been so you could give the spice to your people, then fine, y'know? But if tales be true, you've never shaken one golden particle of it onto any platter but your own or your family's. And," he continued, "If you had done whatever you could to stop the war, then I wouldn't have anything against it either. But from what Sir Herbert has told us, you started it."
King Terryl was visibly enraged, hands working the table in indecision as to whether to call the guards or draw his sword on Enoch at that moment. Lokely, distressed but calm, spoke before anyone else.
"It was Bryn, former lord Briston, who started the war, not Chastagne, and it was by cunning deceit and blood-bathed treachery that he enacted his rebellion. No King of Mynolry would have let such defiance go unanswered; and if the king's daughter regained the just due of her rank, character, and conduct towards her people, who can say it was not just?"

Monday, March 08, 2010

Spring Break Serial II: The Passage of Thyme

For Part I, which I hereby retroactively name "Burning Oil"" click here.

It was four, not three confused college students who stood before Lord Lokely shortly thereafter. The soldiers seemed most concerned about Enoch, another inhabitant of student apartment #1, who now stood smiling unsettlingly about him, tall, bulky, and bald with the exception of a circle of red hair running around the base of his skull. He had woken to find armed soldiers around him, and submissively accompanied the soldiers outside, limping on his bad knee. He hardly remembered those few moments before he truly woke up, when he had been grabbed roughly while his face was still pressed against the cold stone floor of the castle dungeon. So he hardly remembered why two of the soldiers were also limping. They watched him carefully. They were surprised when Lokely questioned the prisoners so gently, were greatly surprised by the incoherent answers, and were ultimately flabbergasted when, taking the spice from the prisoners and slipping it carefully into his saddle, Lokely waved his hand at the guards "set them at liberty!" then, to the squire beside him "ten gold pieces from my purse to each of them; it will not repay what I have taken from them, but it will see them a few days on the road."

Three years later...

The forest Kyn stretched out many arms to embrace the high hills of Lox Thera, leaving hilltop and glade in relief. The winter had been hard here; the robins searched with some desperation among the pale stalks of grass, sifting through husk and kernel and the occasional weed that still stood tall, somehow overlooked by the sheep. The hardwoods of Kyn watched on dispassionately, already having given all but their bones to the forest floor. The streams bore host to sheets of ice. The call of shepherds drifted from somewhere far off. The crags of Lox Summa jutted up in the distance, the crown of the hills. Benjamin, son of Dobb, rode through one of the clearings, one brown glove on the reins, another casually resting on his sword-hilt. But his trek was almost over. He could see his destination through the next grove -- four oaks, one of them blasted, atop an empty hill.
"I thought you'd like to see this," said Belian, dropping out of the lowest branches of one tree as Benjamin arrived, and, without ceremony, he whipped a huge blanket off a mis-shappen hulk that leaned next to one of the trees. "Finished it last week."
"Belian!" Benjamin beamed. "That's just what I needed." he unstrapped a heavy pack from his horse's haunches and carefully lay it down beside Belian's contraption. "do you think we can get them hooked together by sundown?"
"We'd better," said Belian grimly. "I can't imagine you aren't being followed."

"Play me another song, Sleepy Bear!" called out Enoch the Warrior from his charger, and he and his men laughed loudly.
"I like to call this one, The Ballad of the Lost Love of not-Lord Belian," replied Grizzly Bear from where he walked beside them with his lute. He had a strong dislike for the back of any animal his size or larger, and wasn't so happy to be surrounded by them either. But he sang well despite his lack of ease.
"Oh she, the fair, of the famousest hair,
(So fair, so fa-ir, to see)
Oh she did wonder, of what? I will share
Oh wonder of Belian did she
For Belian he left her, nobody knows why
Not even he could that tell
One day he fell through a hole in the sky
and ended up here in Glen-del.
For years he has missed her, His heart always true
He speaks to her memory by day
Will she ever see him? Or will that day rue
That he last from her wal-ked away."
The applause from the merry band was full and powerful.
"Talked about her day and night and anytime betwixt!" cried one man.
"Poor lad, not a day goes by he didn't make us all feel sorry for him," said another.
"Sorry for him?!" shouted Enoch. "Why, you are the ones he keeps up day and night to listen to him talk about her!"
Another round of laughter circled them men, this time led by Grizzly Bear and Enoch.

"When will the others get here?" asked Benjamin, applying the adhesive to the joint between two tubes, one from his and one from Belian's machine.
"Who, Grizzly Bear the Bold and Mighty of Voice and Enoch the Red Warrior?" Belian and Benjamin laughed.
"Yep, them."
"Not soon enough."

Belian's prediction was fated to be true. For although Enoch and his band were not an hour's ride away from the intersection of forest Kyn and Lox Thera, they would find their way blocked by another party, this of lordly leadership and fine livery and arms: Lord Lokely himself raised his visor and hailed them.
"I bring news of the Spice," he announced.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Spring Break Serial: Part 1

Dear Readers,

Instead of the recent long silences, and the less recent long and overly-prepared pieces I've treated you to, I am going to experiment over Spring Break with the serial. No, not honey buzzers or chocolate puffs, I mean where I write a little bit of a story every so often. In this case it will be every day. It will also be made up pretty much on the spot, piece by piece. As in, I have no clue what I'm going to write when I finish this introduction. Finally, each section will be blissfully short. I was inspired to this by a friend who did a serial story for the school newspaper. To prevent this introduction from becoming the majority of the first installment, I shall now immediately present to you...

The King of Cajun: A tale of breakfast and breakable plates...of steel armor

The smell of burning oil was heavy. Sir Herbert of Lokely watched the beautiful swirling patterns of smoke twine themselves around the orange sunbeams shooting in low across the western hills, highlighting where Griswold's men had emerged from the pass a few hours ago to cement the day's victory. Herbert watched his squires tending to his fatigued warhorse, stripping the barding from its still heaving, dirty, wet mass of limber muscle. Sir Herbert wished the squires were patting him down with cool, moist clothes, but he would remain in armor, his longsword cleaned and sheathed, but still at his side, until the break of the next day. It would take at least that long to secure the city, and the men needed their leaders to keep them organized and alert. Who knew what might slip through their fingers in the dark, and cheat them of the victory for which they had paid so dearly?
Lokely stepped past the blackened heap where the boiling oil had been poured, and called to a lookout on the wall above, "man of Lokely, tell your master what you see within the city. How goes the search? See you any hint that the treasure has been found?"

The smell of burning oil was thick in the air. Benjamin leaned against the back of the couch and closed his eyes, letting time slip past faster than usual in his half-sleeping state. Belian was a few feet away, through the door into the apartment's kitchen, muttering occasionally when oil splattered onto his hands, but staying at his post nontheless, flipping potatoes zealously. Grizzly Bear was still in bed. It was a typical Wednesday morning in student apartment #1. Benjamin smiled to himself, glad, as he always was, that he had gotten up and made the walk over for breakfast. He began to drift off to sleep, and time rushed past.
When he came to again, it was to hear Belian's abrupt, pleased announcement that breakfast was ready. Calling in as annoying a way as possible to Grizzly Bear in an effort to end his friend's hibernation, Benjamin sidled into the kitchen and, taking a plate from the cabinet, set to work. By the time Grizzly Bear entered, Belian and Benjamin were each carefully arranging potatoes on top of eggs and onions on his tortilla.
"Morning" they all said.
Benjamin took the large, white container of cajun seasoning from the table, turned the rotating white lid until about half of the sprinkle-top was aligned with the opening, and layered his potatoes with the rich red powder.
"Mmmmm," they all said.
"Orange juice?" asked Grizzly Bear.
"They have the spice! Seize them!" shouted the soldier at the other end of the dungeon passage, pointing with a gauntleted hand, and a mass of men, armor, and swords rushed towards the three breakfasters, who, for their part, sat dumbfounded at the board, torillas forgotten in their hands.