Saturday, November 17, 2018

2018's Nanowrimo novel excerpts # 1

For those who do not know November is writing a novel month. A number of years ago a group of people got together because they thought everyone should write a novel and that everyone has at least  one novel in them. So they came up with a plan. Convince and encourage everyone to do at least a 50,000 word novel in November. It has grown so thousands, if not ten thousands of people at least try each year. Some of those are long time professionals, some of whom write out the next book in a certain series each November. The web site, , has many types of helps to get people through this. Some humorous and some serious.
Oh, I didn't use a lot of names here-called one guy the strongman-because even though I named them in the first chapter I forgot what name I used in some cases. One of the revising things I need to do.
So I have done this six times-I think-five years in a row and one somewhere around 8-10years ago. I have written mostly Science Fiction but also Urban Fantasy, steampunk, and now what I think of as classical fantasy.  Two of those books I have revised and formatted so they are for sale. A third one is waiting for a cover then it will be published. And yes, this year I am doing it again.

This is an excerpt from the prologue of what I am now calling "The Paper Key"

A half-elf spy steals a key that could rise a war-god. The worshippers who owned it are better organized than he thought therefore he has to hide with a troupe of performers. Before he can extract himself from them, the war-god is raised, now he has to stop it. 

Excerpt of prologue 

First excerpt from my ’18 NaNo Novel. Because it is the first I decided on starting at the beginning so this is the first 2,660 words. I tried to find a cliffhanger within a good number of words. All I did was run it though a spell checker-okay, I did some slight revising but only on a couple of sentences. I also did some revising while writing. I think I am, as some people call it, a slinky writer for I go back to fix something or add then forward again. I usually work on the last two to five paragraphs I did in one sitting and the next sitting of work.

This is a more or less a classical fantasy: A half-elf spy steals a key that could rise a war-god. The worshippers who owned it are better organized than he thought therefore he has to hide with a troupe of performers to get it to his boss. Before he can extract himself from them however, the war-god is raised, now he has to stop it.

Part of the Prologue to The Paper Key

A shadow moved on top of the ten foot tall stone wall. It joined other shadows, for the moon shone down and a breeze blew. Branches moved, as did night birds and cats on the hunt. Torch light flickered on the outer streets and inside the house he had come to rob.
His black with dark gray panels, trousers and tunic faded into the dark as easy as a snow leopard hid in snow. Already he felt warm which would increase throughout this event but he had experience that many times and knew what to expect. The climb up the outside of the wall had gone without a hitch. The class and sharp metal embedded into the top of the wall did not prove to be a deterrent as the owner had probably thought.
The air carried scents of trees, tended flowers, fresh mulch, dogs and guards who didn’t seem to care how much they sweated on duty. Two of which just went by so he better get moving. The guards that worked for this house patrolled by twos in a pattern that moved in a strange way. So it would be possible that another two would show up in seconds or in half an hour.
He looked down then with quick short steps, ran to a tree limb that hung over the wall. The shadow had seen it earlier when he came by to check the security. He smiled with humor. He had dressed in black and white finery just like those who kept track of money and who managed estates for those too rich to do it themselves. He knew of one religion who sent out young men dressed like that. He went only by himself instead of with a partner but no one seemed to notice.
But he saw the humor of the idea of one religion going to the door of another to talk about their god and book. He managed to get in by just not taking no for an answer and by pretending to be a new believer with a fire inside. They had chased him out of the house with sharp bladed weapons. It hadn’t been his fault that in his fear induced hurry he had taken a wrong turn and ran along the wall until a dog chased him back the right way. Just because he yelled didn’t mean the dog had bit him as everyone seemed to think. His clothes had been ripped by then and the guards may have seen a spot or two of blood but even injured and yelling curses down on them he somehow made it out of the gate and on his way. Everyone saw him leaking blood and yelling.
Now his clothes were still made from very fine cloth and silk but none were white and these would not tear anywhere near as easy as those special garments.
He half ran to the spot under the limb and hopped upward. He caught the rough bark with the first attempt. First with one hand he let go and reached higher before he could start to fall. The second hand went up further. When both hands settled over the top of the branch he pulled himself up. Somehow he got a leaf in his mouth. Chewy. He didn’t spit it out like most humans would have done. Half of him came from his dad’s side and his dad’s people liked greenery of many types.
Once in the tree he stood up and ran across the limb. He knew it would hold his weight. The same with the next one, on the other side of the tree. He spotted a branch from the next tree and leapt to it. It gave a bit when he landed but didn’t break or even crack.
Dogs barked down the way almost as if they could sense him this far away. Maybe they had heard something or as well trained animals they just knew someone who shouldn’t be there was. Of course no one but their handler was supposed to be there. That included other dogs, squirrels, birds , etc.
The Shadow moved from tree to tree. Something else he had noticed while here a few days ago. The tree were old and needed trimming for their branches reached each other. A nice trail for someone who knew how to run over narrow “trails” and who could see well at night.
A dog came near under one tree just as he landed near the trunk. It looked up, might have smelled him, but didn’t see him. He left a tiny bit of scent from a bottle then leapt to the next tree.
He cursed on his way through the sky. In his hurry and distraction, he had jumped to the wrong branch. The one he landed on bent, jiggled and creaked. The dog must have heard it but it gave him only a glance before it resumed its surveillance of the tree he had been on. It knew something was up there. The scent confused its thoughts though for it still searched the tree he had been on when it saw or smelled or heard him.
The guard though came running and called for the dog. He is used a name from a language the Shadow was not familiar with. It sounded guttural and angry. A further confirmation that he had chosen the right estate after all.
The dog took its time responding so the guard turned his attention to it for a moment. While he said something else in that tongue the Shadow moved through his tree and launched himself through the air to a last one in this row. If the guard, or anyone else, had looked they would have seen something block the lights from the house for a moment. But he figured no one looked. From the last tree he checked out the guard and dog who had finally lost interest in that tree. Maybe that had been its favorite tree to fertilize since the guard cursed in the town’s language.
He took advantage of that to leap high and to gab hold of an ugly face in a bias relief on the corner of the house. He held onto the guy’s head-he figured no woman would be that ugly-and pulled himself up. Sweat rolled down his back. The clothes had gone passed warm but he knew how to live with that too. So he did. He licked his lips and got sweat off his upper lip. Quite a bit too.
Once his feet rested on top of that head, he looked around and noticed more heads. He had seen them earlier but hadn’t been able to get a good enough look to know what they were.
Lights from distance windows made his climb a bit easier but they also would allow someone to notice him better. They still may not know what he was, maybe a trained Kull spider sent to kill someone, or a lost monkey in search for food, but they would sound the alarm anyway.
Up he went, his hands became slippery with sweat but because of his gloves they could still grip protrusions and more of those heads. But not all of the bricks he used as footholds were of the same quality.
When he pushed on one with the pad of his right foot, the edge crumbled. His foot slipped. He looked down in time to see small pieces of brick fall. They would land near that guard. He would look up. His right foot hit his left and knocked it off of its perch. Now he hung like a Christmas goose ready to be sold by just his hands. He managed to swing to one side where it was darker.
Even though he lost sight of the brick pieces he knew when they landed. The guard turned to look. Sweat dripped down The Shadow’s back. His shirt had come untucked and some of the sweat dripped out from under the shirt before it could be absorbed. He saw the drops twinkle when it reflected various lights. If any hit the guard he would look up.
The fingers of one hand started to slip. The guard couldn’t help but notice when The Shadow landed on him. It would not matter though for both of them would be dead.
He let go with the hand that had begun to slip, held his breath and reached up again with it. It landed to hard and bounced. His second hand trembled. He quickly threw the free hand back up. He managed to catch the head again. The thing’s ceramic hair helped to keep his hand in place.
The Shadow managed to get his feet back in place. He looked down. The guard was walking away, at a sedate speed. So he hadn’t been seen. He didn’t know if the man had looked up or not but obviously he hadn’t seen anything or thought the movement of shadow around the head was bat.
After a short rest he continued on. After a few still fast heartbeats he stopped to listen: the very feint rustle of his clothes, a guard talking in a soft voice, a slight breeze curving around the corner of the building.
Even up this high he could smell the scent of the trees and mulch, bird droppings too. Nests were built over in that direction. They really should check on that more often.
Another minute of climbing and he found the right window. Nice of them to place one in a good position for him. He held onto one of the heads with one hand. Even though his flexible glove he could feel the spikes of the man’s hair. Jar wiped more sweat off of his upper lip. This time dirt and grim had gotten mixed in with it. Must be from the dust he stirred up or when he brushed a bit too close to the materials the house had been built from.
A click sounded. He froze for a heartbeat but he knew that sound. The window’s lock now lay in the open position. Most house owners skipped on the locks and security of upper windows. Some even left windows open all night: for air or for a romantic visitor.
One foot slipped when he swung it to the open window but he hopped for one jump and managed to get through the open space. His second foot hit something but the thud wasn’t loud.
Once he stood on the floor inside, he made sure the window was closed. He even hooked it shut without locking it. He may be in a hurry to leave later.
The hallway he found himself in had no lamps, but a trace of light came from the stars and another bit from various lights on nearby floors.
One room, two rooms and finally at a door that looked ordinary. He slipped a small pouch out of an inside pocket, sewed to be just wider than the pouch. One small button kept them in that pocket. He flipped open the cloth and studied the objects in the pouch. He picked one, placed it in the keyhole and fiddled with it. Nothing.
He tired the shorter one. Still nothing: oops, it caught. A twist of his hand and the tumbler moved. Not far though. He tired it again to mixed reviews:It turned more but the door still wouldn’t open. A third try and the lock turned two tumblers. A jiggle on the door handle and it opened. As he thought it would.
A fast move inside, made quicker when he heard a footstep from around a corner. He closed the door and listened through it. The smooth wood made pressing his ear against it feel comfortable. Most be waxed too. The footsteps continued on. He stood there for a minute to make sure than turned to look at the room. A den or office. A large desk close to the door, carpet on the floor, shelves with scrolls and six tall cases with glass fronts filled with the new books and small statues and other ceramic, marble and wood items. One larger one on the desk sort of looked like the guy whose head adorned the house. He moved closer to see it better. One ugly man with short hair except in the middle where a strip looked over two inches. In real life that had to be close tall as the length of the Shadow’s foot.
He moved around while he looked for a hidden compartment. While he did Jar picked up various pieces and made sure they were not put back in exactly the same spot. Three that looked gold or had gems he placed in his pocket.
He found what might be an alter in front of the desk near where the tall statue of the ugly man stood. Various small statuettes had been placed in various positions. They all sat in a case that looked like the inside of a cave. An obvious alter but to whom?
The Shadow moved on. Touched and moved more of the cups, statues, and curved animals just a touch. Not every one but enough for them to notice. He pocketed another cup, a sliver one this time. They would get that one back though. His back had stopped sweating and he kept his nose alert for scents that would give away a hiding place or someone in here.
Every time he moved over his eyes went back to the small alter. After the sixth time he moved back there. He reached out and touched one of the figurines. It didn’t move. When he tried to lift it he found it was somehow connected to the floor of the cave. Why?
Even his eyes could not see anything in the darkness around the cave. Was it that way on purpose?
Jar took out a small, special lantern. It burned unscented oil, it held only enough for ten minutes of light. The box that held the tiny flame had only one clear side and that only in the center. Carefully crafted mirrors direct the light through that clear spot.
He set it down and used the built in flint to light it. He shone it on the crafted cave. There on the edges of each side a very tiny line. That could explain why the statuettes were sealed to the floor. He moved to the back of the desk and slid in as close as he could get. He reached for the cave but something sparked. Instinctively his hand pulled back before he realized it needed to. So it had protections. Another reason to get into it.
The Shadow mumbled some words in ancient elfish and reached again, slower. Same reaction. This time though a tiny star appeared for half a heart beat next to the larger statue on the desk.
Okay, that was interesting.
He placed an invisible shield around it that kept all magic inside the shield. So no alarms could be sent or an order sent to the cave. He managed to reach for the cave through an invisible wall that made his hand tingle. He touched the closest wall and felt around. There had to be a latch somewhere.
It felt rough like real rock. Someone could have carved it out of rock. It would take a lot of work but it could be done.
The Shadow found a tiny hinge under an outcrop of rock in the back.
Good, now to find the method to lift the top.
He reached further back but at the moment he decided no one would make it this hard to get at a latch when they would want to get it often, his foot slid forward. His side touched the magic wall there. He had been too eager and stretched his body too far.
Something snapped. When he pulled back, his body did not move.

end excerpt

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Set of five very short tales in different lands

Been a while since I have posted anything new. As some of you may now I post stories each week on Google +, part of an ongoing event every Saturday with other writers there. Any genre is possible. And if you are on G+ they are posted in a Collection called something like SaturdayScenes 2018.  

This week I decided to post stories that take place in other lands. Each one is a flash tale, or a bit longer, based on a picture. Lately I have been doing a lot of those and hopefully this year I will publish an anthology of around 22 of these stories. But with these stories I considered stories that take place on spaceships or another planet, but I wanted other lands here, not in space.

The first takes place in Africa and was written many, many months ago. The last takes place in Japan and was written not that long ago. The others are in-between. I revised them all today so they will be a bit longer and, easier-hopefully-to read. In case you have read them before. They are 3,069 words long totally. They are historical, general fiction and science fiction. Two take place in Africa, one around Norway but more North, one in the Middle east three or four centuries ago and is part of my Dark Castle series-which are posted on G+, and the last one in Japan. One takes place during the War of Roses or one of them.

So without further adieu here is story one:

The Tower
The boy and girl, tall and lanky, even though in their early teens, walked toward the end of the hills. For now they were called Esiankiki and Loiyan, but that would change as they grew.
Both felt not right for the mountains they were leaving were strange to them. Not at all like the Savanna. They feet ached from the hard rough surfaces they had walked on.
They stood the beginning of one side of the part of the Savanna where they came from. The trees they knew still grew here and some of the animals they killed or competed with came here too. The air felt warm as it should. The scents of grass, the droppings of lions, and desert air all grew as they walked closer to the natural border. Loiyan thought he heard the cough of a lion far in the distance, but little of any other sounds.
It would be good to get back to the foods they knew, bread made from the grains they had grown with.
Before going home though both had wanted to see the Tower. It looked manmade shape under many and many years of grime, but very few stories passed down to the next generation told of it. No one knew when it had been built or why. To worship the Red god or the Black one maybe. Loiyan thought it was something the evil Red god would like. Esiankiki wasn’t sure. It had different levels, each one with what looked like walls that swooped up to a sharp point. The oi-boni had never restricted the Masai from going there but he had given warnings, as far as they knew no one had climbed to the top-fear maybe or that it was just different?
Both had some honey to eat so they did not worry about food. Water might be a problem later. It took them two hours or more to get to the tower. Up close it looked both man made and natural. Neither knew how that could be but each agreed on that.
Loiyan placed the palm of his hand on it: rough like the huge rocks they had just climbed over but warm. Esiankiki placed her ear to it. She thought she heard something but so faint she couldn’t be sure: she said that she didn’t like the roughness against her ear’s skin. She pulled Loiyan back when he wanted to taste it with his tongue. Too rough for that she said.
Around the other side they saw a way in, or up. What could be very old steps, worn smooth by feet and weather. With very careful steps they went up. The first level had a place to walk but they couldn’t see over the edge of the wall even as tall as they were. The same with the second level. As far as they could find there was no way in, and no places to sacrifice offerings mixed with grass. Maybe that was on the top. But once they reached as far as they could go still nothing. The inside of the walls looked and felt smooth. The bottom had smelled of age and something neither one liked. But up here only air. They saw lions and tall grass further on, for the walls had grown shorter on the way up.
No blacken areas with very old ash so no sacrifices up here either. So what was this used for? To watch the lions, to see if any enemies were coming? The People did sometimes fight.
They examed the walls carefully for long minutes. Loiyan found lines in the inner wall like a doorway, The People used curtains over doorways, but they knew others had wood and metal doors, some with metal and what was called glass. They both had been to cities, ridden in cars and a train. They had seen a helicopter land. That had been noisy, worse than a very large pride of lions Loiyan had been trapped in when very small. All of the beasts roaring at once had deafen him. The helicopter’s noise had been louder than a big rain storm with lightning and thunder. But if this was a door he nor Esiankiki had seen any way to open it. He tried to slide his fingernails into the cracks but something stopped them. Esiankiki noticed the indentations near waist level on one level, but they didn’t seem to do anything. Loiyan who had the hearing of a warrior thought he heard clicks from inside when he pressed then indentations, but nothing happened. Both felt tiny vibrations in the door but they did nothing. Esiankiki thought she tasted in the air something like what flavors the air when lightning strikes. The space in-between the lines grew warmer but only a little. That made no sense.
After a while they gave up and walked down. Back at the bottom they saw more lines in the tower but they were shaped wrong for a doorway for any person. And they all went into the ground. So they knew the Tower went deeper like a huge rock. These doors looked like something that slid out maybe. Esiankiki stated that she wasn’t sure why she thought of that. Loiyan thought it would be something larger than a hut if so. With a final shrug-that the People had picked up from the shorter white visitors-they left and finally headed home. The People or someone else had lived in the Tower many many ages ago, they were now sure of but who? And how did they get the doors to open? They would never know. Maybe The People had climbed those steps and but they came away with more questions that could not be answered so they either forgot them or decided not to bother others with unanswerable questions. Maybe when Loiyan became a warrior he would ask and come back with others who knew more than he did. For now though they would just go home, it had been too long since they had seen family.


The Last Viking

The Viking looked over the side of his ship. The mountains rose out of the ocean, higher than he would want to climb anymore. The day looked cloudy and cold even though he was viking and therefore used to cold. While not as deep as in some places the water here was still deep enough to hide monsters, or even an angry whale.
Askell glanced along his longship. The wood looked aged, it had nicks, claw marks, and blacken areas. That last fire they barely got out in time. He supposed he could get one of the new style of ships with multiple masts but he, and his crew, were too old to change that much.
He stroked his grey beard, looked down.
"To port now!” He shouted
Something scraped the hull as the longship turned too slowly.
So this ocean was not deep, those rocks were hard to see. Movement under the water, Oh oh, something huge lived down there.
It neared the surface and before he could cry out for them to raise oars, three of them hit it. It thrashed, caused water to splash into the longboat. Cold water that soaked their footwear. The oars didn’t break, thank Odin.
He snarled, spat bile out. Nothing would sink them in this cruise.
Once the water settled again he ordered them to head for the distant bit of land. It had what looked like a strip of land they could beach the longship. Further in lay the base of a tall cliff They might be able to build housing right next to the cliff and have fish, birds and seals and maybe even smaller whales to eating and to use for tools and clothes.
He looked around. No one would be chasing them this far, but if they did they would pay for that with their blood, for his crew still kept their weapons sharp.
Askell double checked the depth and for any other movements. He would have to be on his toes to make sure nothing else hindered them.



Jacob snarled, he wouldn’t let them smash him into the mud. He shoved against one man the same age as himself. That worthy went “ufff” as another two bodies jumped on top of the others. Some of them let out exclamations too. His lighter brown skin could easily be identified among their black skin. They all were from around here while he came from somewhere different.
He twisted his body one way then another, kept his legs moving so they couldn’t be grabbed. He sneezed: someone wore an awful cologne. Probably Kensu.
Someone used both hands to shove him harder, forced his face toward the mud patch on the parade ground. The whole area was plain dirt, not even grass. Mud holes were not rare even though most of it was dry dirt. Light metal bleachers filled one side. But they would be of no advantage to Jacob, nor would the various light and speaker poles around the area.
Jacob surged his back upward to flip off whoever was on his back. It didn’t work. He thought it was time to start punching and jabbing. A second thought, no one used fists, hands or feet as weapons. They all depended on brute strength, and their weight, to get his face into the mud.
Their grunts and heavy breathing filled his ears, but no name calling or obcentaites, which surprised him. He managed to get his feet and hands on the ground: one hand and knee splashed the mud around. He shoved upward and managed to stand as his attackers fell off. However his victory lasted one-second for someone tackled him and rolled with him toward the mud. Kerrich, he thought for. Sweat matted his hair, the clothes of those that touched him were clammy with it. He spat out the mud in his mouth-at least they used fresh water and mostly clean dirt.
Again he tried to get his hands under him so he could shove off the ground, but two more joined in the, what was still called, a dog pile. His face inched closer to the mud. No! These guys weighed a lot even though he had proven himself the better, stronger fighter.
With a snarl he surged upward, but only moved an inch, more poundage landed on him. He could smell the mud, at least it seemed to be just water and dirt. Before he could take a breath his face smashed down into the mud. It filled his mouth when he breathed in, splashed up his cheeks, got in his ears and hair. A roar of victory followed that and with a suddenness that surprised him all of the weight vanished.
He jumped up, turned to face them. Eight young men stood in badly formed semi-circle. Their formation instructor would not be happy with that a part of his mind said.
Half of them looked unsure, would he attack them?
The leader stepped forward but only so close.
He said, “Congratulations, you will be the first cadet to become Captain.”
Jacob blinked, they knew that?
“We honor you with our traditions.”
He nodded, for he knew of this one where they congratulated another cadet to raise in rank, but never expected to have it done to him. They had never really excepted him.
He spat though, to get the taste of the mud out of his mouth.
Jon-Wel said, “The commissary has a new batch of Mars Malt beer. You can wash out your mouth with a bottle. I will buy the first one.”
Jacob didn’t know if that was part of the tradition or because Jacob didn’t usually have much money unlike them. But…
He smiled, “I would be happy to wash the mud out that way,”
Some of the men looked relieved.
The leader nodded and motioned toward the store.
Jacob thought, He may never be one of them, but he had their respect and well wishes, that was good.


The Way Stop Castle

Jounn turned in his saddle to face his friend Brock. He felt glad they had stopped. The horses hoofs had been stirring the sand dust. It made his mouth dry when he breathed it in, not to mention making him cough.
“There is the castle I told you about.”
After he spoke he looked back down from the small dune they both had stopped on. Night covered the desert which is what they wanted. It cooled quickly here after the sun went down. But the dark made it better not to be seen.
The castle, a ruled by a neutral Duke far from England, sat on a hill. The neutrality though will probably have to change to one or the other roses, he thought. The structure looked gray tall and narrow with a full moon behind it. A village in front of it. Guards walked the wall. The gate looked still open even this late.
Brock said, “That wall, most be a good ten feet hight and what? Three feet thick. It would hold an army for a while. If one came here at all.”
“I am not fearful of armies, but of sudden changes of neutral Dukes. Or of an assassin.”
“You think they would really send one after us?”
Jounn shrugged, “They have done it before. During the last bit of fighting, which I can barely recall, my cousin was challenged to a duel by someone who turned out to be en expert swordsman. After the duel the man disappeared but left a rose. I have heard of that all my life with warnings to be watchful.”
“But if you don’t trust the Duke, why stay here?”
“We are not staying here. We present ourselves and the Duke gives us a suite of rooms. He knows me so will not think it strange that I would come here. We say we need to mediate over the conflict so we need to stay in the rooms without being disturbed. Once settled we change to less conspicuous clothes, bathe and be rid of traveling odors then head down to the stables. In my last two visits I learned that there is a back gate through the wall. It is small but a horse can get through. We get our horses and leave that way. Even if a guard sees us and if he should report it the Duke would be still able to say that he gave us rooms and then we left without even a proper thank you or good bye. That he knows not when, or where we went. Or even if we left the castle. We could be hiding among the vassals and others that live here.”
“Do you think that will work?”
“I believe it will, but we still need to be on our toes and watch. We will be able to get supplies for a long trek through the desert, but we hide our trail and head South, which might further confuse anyone that is sent after us.”
“Well, that plan is better than no plan, or just running.”
“As I said we will watch and keep our hands close to our swords and daggers. If he portrays us we will sell our lives dearly. If he is still neutral than we go as I said and leave him with an excuse.”
His friend nodded and said, “Than we should make sure we have no roses on us then he can say he did not realize we had chosen sides.”
Jounn nodded, picked off a brooch off of his chest, while his friend ripped off a fastener on his cloak, and started his horse down the dune.


Way of the Samurai

“You are late.”
“I know, Father, I have no excuse,” even though I did-saying good bye and finding my round hat had not been easy. I had tied my waist long hair into one braid. My long dress would be help against the cold. I wore a lighter outfit under it, if it warmed. I suspect that my Father had on something under his armor. His helmet with the grimace face hid his face as it should. He wore his two favorite swords and I am sure a third. He stood between the posts of the gate as the sun sank. He looked magnificent.
He grunted and nodded once.
Our road led between two tall strands of bamboo over a rough surface. No one had come this way in years so they had not kept it up. The wind blew leaves around.
Father was a hard man, but a tough, experienced, brave and honorable warrior. He showed his love in training me well so I would be able to defend myself and in teaching me honor. I have only the one sword though. I am not a Samurai so can not wear the armor but I am not sure I would want to.
The air smelled strongly of bamboo and growing things. Maybe we should take some of the shoots to eat later, but Father is ready to leave now.
I sighted, I have already defended myself. That group of three thieves had shown surprise when their heads rolled to the ground. The last one had been a fair fighter-he lasted five swings. And months later, the first man I had killed for trying to dishonor me-he had been someone important. Later when questioned Father acted like he didn’t know who had killed him.
Now we go-to somewhere else. He has not told me where but I trust him. Maybe it was to protect me, or because he was tired of this place and just wanted to go to some place new, or he knew of something bad coming to this area soon. He would train me more in the way of the Samurai as we go. Maybe I would be able to make my own armor by the times we get there-if I decided to wear some.
I am glad I had brought two skins of water and two bags of nuts and cooked rice, they would last if we found nothing else to eat later and didn’t collect the shoots here. He would have something on under his armor too.
I kept my eyes on him and did not turn for one last look.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

New story "Into The Mountain" from a pic.

I have done a series of stores based on a series of Pictures: drawings, paintings etc. that Charlie Hoover puts up. He shows the artist's name and all details. Many of the stories are very short mini tales. Some are flash and some are much longer-a regular short story-like this one. Charlie has a web site now where he shows those pictures. So I include a link there after this story. I describe the setting of the picture in the story but I am trying this to show you the picture that inspired me for this story. All of these stories are free and are here or on Google+ and on FaceBook.

This one took me a while, but I am working on other pic tales, including one not of Hoover’s Collection, stories to send out to markets, and a set of Western stories I still need a pic of a Marshal’s badge in good shape. I have tried two picture sites. 
   Anyway, this is 3358 words long and tells of why the man in the picture found himself there and why he took the trip. Not to mention how cold that water is. All of the details of the artist is on Hoover’s site.

Now to the actual story:

Joshua had made it. The Crack existed. The hike had been so very long and in some places dangerous and hard. Some of it had been rather easy too. He still held his ski poles he had used to make the steep slopes easier. Hikers in some countries love them. He wasn’t sure he did though. 
       His breath still came hard for until about five minutes ago the angle of the sloop that led here had been very steep. They had warned him about that though. 
       The high, wide, smooth cliff he studied really had been split, so many ages ago no one could know for sure. When he had first seen the various sizes of rocks that rose here and there from the water and on dry land, he had known he made it. That included one to his left, not far from that opening, that looked three times higher than him and in wild imagination, looked like a giant alien head with a helmet that had been worn down.
           Once up here on the flat rock, he had rested for a few minutes until he looked up and saw the crack. He hid his stuff in a small hole behind a large rock out of sight of anyone, except for the pack on his back and the poles. Then he had hurried into the water. They had mentioned that too. 
      Now he stood before his goal. A thrill filled his heart. He couldn’t help it he just stared at the crack in the cliff wall. Well, his first goal, anyway. He would have to go inside to get to his second one.  
      The water in the river he stood in just reached the tops of his well worn boots-they had started brand new. Cold water ran down his ankles and feet. Behind him no sandy beach existed, the water just started after quite a few feet of mostly flat rock. Rain, no doubt, ran down this very slight sloop and joined the water in the river that flowed by here. Or could it be a very large creek? What the case it looked like only smooth granite existed here. 
      A soft noise made him look up and to one side. A flock of small, white birds made their way high above the water. They followed the river when it curved around and went though a much wider crack. The only other sound came from the raven behind him. It let loose a slight caw every few minutes. It may want food, or it came to bring luck or to warn of death.   
      Joshua studied the crack and the water at its base. He wasn’t sure if what he saw was a reflection on top of the clear smooth water at the base of the crack or if he could make out the base of the crack in what looked like chest high water. The flat rock he stood on may continue its slant downward which made the water much deeper at the base of the cliff.  
       A motion made him look down. A fish swim by. That would make sense for those birds lived here some place. Therefore there must be insects, berries and tiny fish for them to eat. Maybe for him too, for his food was low after that long journey. 
       He stared at the crack again. Part of him hadn’t believed it was real and another part doubted he could do it. But he had. He had become motivated when he realized his life went no where. Memories of stories he had heard of this place had to his mind. In his early years he had talked to no fewer than four people who had been here. That included two Native Americans, and one who surprised him. An old asian man who had served with the 442nd during WWII. Joshua never could be sure if the man had come here before his stint in the military, or after he came back home, but his descriptions fit what the others had seen. He said that it had changed his life. They all said that. That had made him determined to go see what lay inside the crack. 
        The journey had been dangerous, a bear had chased him for an hour. A day later a beaver of all things, had wanted to attack him. He hadn’t realized they were so big and fast and angry looking. Those teeth looked very sharp. He still wasn’t sure why the bear had stopped. Maybe he had reached the end of its hunting grounds or more disturbing that he had chanced into the territory of something that even scared large bears. He didn’t see any sign of anything but hadn’t spent much time looking either. The beaver had come out of no where. It could be that it had experienced humans before and didn’t like them or it thought it was some strange bear who would steal his food and destroy his dam or something else. He had noticed the dam and wanted to take a picture of it but that beaver changed his mind fast. No one else had mentioned bears or any type of animal. Could they be some form of test, he shrugged? Or they had set up home after the last of the four had been here. 
       Before the bear he had walked a narrow strip with a long drop on one side and a short cliff on the other. That had taken over an hour to navigate. Only inches on one side even as his other side brushed up against a short cliff.  Days later and he had one day of heavy breathing, walking up that very steep incline. He had been warned about those two sections though, and even more. 
     At night he had made himself as secure as possible. The way the older of those Native Americans had taught him. His fires had always been in hole that had been cleared for two feet around it. When possible he used a rock as a back drop. That helped to reflect heat his way. The first few nights had been hard. He had awakened at slight nosies and once overfed his fire, which came close to jumping out of the hole. 
     Joshua looked around: at the water, at the flat rock, back at the smooth cliff. A frown formed on his lips. If the animals had been tests maybe that deep water was one too. 
    He walked closer, the water came up to his knees. The men he had talked thought this place appeared to be a museum of creation. It showed how the earth had been made and perhaps why. They had not been so clear about that. That is what changed them evidently, he thought. His path through the water seemed louder perhaps because no other sound, except for the birds flapping their wings, could be heard here. 
     Very cold-another test? At least the water looked pure enough not to worry about drinking it, unless something died up stream of course. Its scent filled his nose, not much else up here to cover  that scent either, he found he liked it. 
      Joshua thought about the water. He could swim if it went over his head, but he would have to with his backpack on, it still weighed quite a bit. It might protect his lights and food from getting wet. He walked to one side to study it. Maybe he could approach from another angle? He moved over about ten feet, and walked toward the wall. 
      Oops, if he saw correctly the water might go under the cliff right here. He didn’t need to slip under it with the water. 
      He moved over to the other side. Could he move some of the larger rocks and step on them? His legs would still be in the water but he could handle that since they were wet already. Joshua moved one rock lager than his head, with a flat top. He found another and slid it down by the first one and one that had sat near the crack already. 
      He used his feet to get another one. 
      Joshua’s foot slipped, even with his hiking boots on. Cold water covered his head. The next thing he knew his back side touched the rock bottom. Taken by surprise air had rushed out of his lungs, so they burned already. His heavy boots, now soaked with water, pulled his feet down. His back sunk deeper with the pack on it. His eyes had opened in shock. Now with water in them he couldn’t see beyond a blur. Which way was up?
     Of course, it hadn’t been that deep. He sought purchase with his feet. They slipped, again and again. His lungs ached and burned. Water seeped into his mouth.
       He commanded his mind to slow, he could do this, with slower yet rushed movements he managed to get both feet under him.
      Joshua leapt upward, shattered the surface, hard enough to create a sort of waterfall upward. He stumbled back, breathed hard, gasped, coughed three times. Bile and clear water filled his mouth. He spat it all out. He managed to stumble to where he had left his stuff. He had two towels there in a second pack. He unzipped it and took out one towel, rubbed the cloth over his face and hair. Then he hurriedly slipped off the one he wore. He almost tore the zipper getting it open. Joshua felt the inside of the pack, and various flashlights. 
     Good nothing was wet, except the clothes he had on. They still dripped water. He sighed and gathered drift wood. Not as much as he wanted so he walked back half an hour and picked up fallen branches of various sizes. He kept an eye out for snakes. He had seen four on this journey but none had threaten him, but he knew some were poisonous in these mountains, so he checked while he picked up wood. 
     Once back at where he left his stuff he cleared as much of a  small hole as he could, on one side of a larger rock uplift. It would help to reflect the heat back at him. He didn’t have to worry about burning the forest down here. He used some of his surelit and got a nice fire going.    Then he stripped-everything for even his underwear had been soaked all the way through. He even took off his socks. He had another two pair and shorts and a thicker t-shirt. He put them on then draped the wet clothes on rocks and on the ground near the fire. It helped keep him warm as the sun went down. He had a small dinner: jerky, a cereal bar and freeze dried rice-that water made good food too. The bar had veggies in it so he had every thing he needed. 
     The morning sun woke him. He had moved twice, once to empty his bladder and once to add wood to the fire. On the way he had religiously checked his chosen spot to make sure it really was safe. He always kept the fire going through the night in its hole in the ground and his brightest light near at hand. He had brought some stuff that supposedly would repel any animal handy too. But so far nothing had come near him-that he knew of. Had the small fire frighten them? Or had he lucked out? He didn’t think anything would come his way here, but best to make sure. So he kept this fire going too. It still burned at a low level. His clothes were mostly dry. One area of his shirt though still held water and the back pockets of his pants still felt soaked. His towel still produced water when he rung it.They smelled of smoke too. But that would not matter.      
     He dressed and had a bite to eat. Then entered the water again. 
     Maybe he had the wrong crack, or it had changed in the decades the last of the four had come here. The water was still cold. He shook his head. He would go. At least his clothes had been cleaned a little. If this was a museum of Creation better to wear clean clothes. He thought. 
     As he walked the water came up to his stomach. He would have to take off his backpack and carry it higher. His flashlights would be safe. Two windup ones, six small ones and three medium ones, and five emergency candles with wax covered wood matches. That included one extra set of batteries for each, except the windup lights of course. They were all LED lights, supposedly lasting longer while producing more light.
    Maybe this crack would finally close with him inside, or a wild animal had moved in. With this water? He didn’t think so. Joshua shook his head again. He had come all this way so he would continue. He needed something in his life.
    When he entered the crack he thought, Hopefully a beach would show up soon, though. 
    Hours later he came back out, shock on his face. The water still felt cold, but it didn’t slow the sweat on his face and hair-not from the heat even though places inside had been hot, and not from fear-he could still fear the fear he had felt in certain sections. The heat had dried his clothes, but then he was amazed-and shook. Lava, crystals filled with what appeared to be images of the earth at various stages. 
     Earth crushing anger too-large rocks split, and broken down to dust. Yet that hadn’t happened-something else had taken place instead, and he had seen a whole lot more. 
     Damn, no pictures, he hadn’t even thought about taking any. 
     He looked around and blinked in the sunlight. He better set up camp. No dinner tonight, he didn’t feel like eating after that. 
     The possibility existed that it was all a natural occurrence, especially the ones that looked like the early stages of the Earth. Lava had been there when the crystals formed after all, but, he shook his head, that would have to be at least half a dozen large coincidences. But why here? It would seem Africa or the Middle East would be a better location. Then again, maybe they each did have one. Possibly all continents, including Antartica, had one. Just because he had never heard of one, didn’t mean they didn’t. It was chance that he had found this one.  
     But that rose another question. If made then, why? And speaking of why. Why wasn’t the Earth destroyed at that last stage? He looked around, and nodded when a memory from years ago came to the forefront of his mind. He had the answers at home. One Native American and the other guy had mentioned that. He would go home, read and find out the answer to that perplexing question. 
       He cleaned up his mess,filled his two large and two small canteens, even though it meant pouring out some older water. He started down that steep slope. He hoped that bear wasn’t around. Maybe he should take rocks with him. He could throw fairly well. A couple of small rocks in the bear’s mouth might distract it enough for him to get away. It would could chew them to pieces and spit them out-hmm,could bears spit? And if it swallowed the tiny pieces they probably would not do it any real harm-like bones it ate.
     If need be maybe a fist size rock in an eye. He would hate to blind it and it would make it even angrier, but again it might distract it enough for him to get away.  
    It took him a little less time, only seven days, to get back to signs of civilization. That still left him another four days to get back to his car. No bear this time. However he did see the beaver.  
    He had to walk by the lake the beaver’s dam had made. A trail showed that others had come and gone this way. Maybe they had been deer and other smaller animals, though. 
    Just about the same time he thought about refilling on canteen, since he had seen no sign of the beaver. He thought the water looked as clear and clean as the water by the crack, so it would be as good. 
     It popped out of the water. He pulled a rock out of his pocket and then walked outward away from the lake, and through some trees that grew close to the edge. He could smell sap and freshly cut wood. Or probably freshly chewed wood. The ground angled here, so he had to almost walk sideways for a minute or two. But he came back near the lake. The beaver growled and hissed at him. He threw the rock at it, but not to hit it. It landed in front of it and bounced toward the animal. It just looked at it and started his way. He hurried along and slid passed the dam. It stopped when it came to the dam.
     This time he thought it looked like it just wanted to warn him away. Last time he thought it wanted to attack. Joshua continued on, back on level ground. When he approached where he thought he had left the bear behind, he took out one of those pouches. It may or may not work as advertised but he would try it. However no sign of the bear. Maybe it was gone to another part of its hunting grounds. The area he had thought about going to. It would have taken him three more days but avoiding the bear would be worth it. Now, though, here was where there was no bear. He hurried through where he had seen it before. Once clear-or so he hoped-of its area. He paused. What would scare a bear? A larger bear? A Bigfoot? Not a lot but there had been sightings here over the years. They were supposedly larger and stronger looking than even a bear. But than again maybe it was a skunk. Even a grizzly would not enjoy being spayed by one. However they must get eaten too, or there would be tons of them around. He shrugged with no answer.
      That night, however, something sniffed around his camp. Something small.  A skunk? A raccoon? They can be thieves, but he refrained from turning on his light, in case it was a skunk. The glow from the fire didn’t show him anything. The next day, he found that nothing had been disturbed. No teeth marks on his packs , etc. Of course he slept with one of them under his head but still. 
      A day after he ran out of his food he saw the small group of cabins that mean he was near people again. The place had a small restaurant so he could buy a meal. He double checked to make sure he still had his wallet. It had gotten wet twice. Not so much the second time but still dollar bills were winkled-yet still spendable and his cards looked in good shape. 
    He looked back the way he had come. There that mountain range there with the rock side. It looked like the right one. He took three pictures of it and one of the cabins. He still needed to walk to his car but he was no hurry. 
    The book still waited for him at home, but because of previous readings and what other people had said about it, he had an idea of what saved the Earth and the people on it. 
    He looked around, felt his mind, his spirit, his mind set-they all had been correct he had changed, but maybe not in the way he had hoped. Still, he smiled, not bad. 
    Now, he started down toward the cabins, for lunch or early dinner, whatever time it might be.


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