Tag Archives: writing

Chapter 3 – Rise of the Dragons – Rewrite

See chapter 1 here
Then see Chapter 2 here

 

 

Seth was still asleep when David got up the next day. He had barely spoken to his son over the last two days as he had been working longer each day and noticed Seth had been staying up later each night.

He wanted to help his son get through this dark time but he had no idea what to say. He wanted to tell him things would get better but he knew enough people had already said that and he also knew it wouldn’t mean anything because he didn’t believe it himself most of the time.

He got dressed and looked in on Seth before leaving. Drake lifted his head and looked at him as if to ask, ‘you want me to wake him up?’ David grimaced at the thought of trying to talk to his son again and softly said, ‘it’s ok boy. Keep him company for me, ok?’ Drake cooed in response and then rested his head back down on Seth’s leg.

David then grabbed a biscuit from the bowl of bread on the counter and headed out the door. The sun was shining and his eyes squinted and worked quick to adjust. He secured the door behind him and then headed around the house towards the center of town where Crazy Joe’s garage was located.

As he walked he looked down over the Rahn Valley forest below. They lived on a plateau located above the tree line up the side of the northern part of the Dorahn mountains. The Dorahn range created a horseshoe around the Rahn Valley with it’s open end facing the west coast of Agnos. This made it a remote place to live in spite of being one of the largest areas of land. If you were here, you probably lived here and if you didn’t, you were probably lost.

Thus, living on a plateau on the side of a mountain range in such a remote location meant they basically lived in a remote portion of the middle of nowhere.

Their village was actually quite large for being so difficult to get to. Over thirty people lived up here although that was made up of mostly a few big families. But they were also a fairly wealthy village as villages in the Rahn Valley goes since they had a cave system that connected them to Forge. Any savvy traveler could head to Forge, pick up needed supplies, and sell them in the valley to people who got out even less than they did.

“Morning Joe,” David said as he entered and started to organize his tools.

“EGGS!” Crazy Joe replied from inside a large wooden contraption in the middle of the garage.

Crazy Joe had always been called Crazy Joe and he didn’t mind, or at least he never said that he did. Most people were unable to talk to him for more than a minute or two before deciding there was nothing inside his head worth digging around for. David, however, had figured out that he was more of a crazy genius rather than just being crazy.

Even if people could understand his riddle-esque, condensed speech habits they would still immediately think he was crazy thanks to his signature introduction.

While any other sentence he said would be two or three words long at most, his introduction was a full sentence and always the same. “Hi, I’m James. Some people call me Jimmy, my friends call me Jim, but you can call me Joe.” This would be repeated over and over the first time he met someone.

No one was actually even sure if his name really was James or Joe, but they all called him Joe and he seemed to be fine with that. Every so often David would wonder if he should call him Jim, since he considered him a dear friend, but Joe was content with Joe and it was simply the way it had always been.

Everyone was also in the dark as to how Joe came to have the vast wealth of gold pieces he did as well. There were speculations of varying degrees of probability. Some thought his parents may have been rich but no one had ever met them since Joe had moved here alone fifteen years prior. Others thought he had gone searching for gold in the Mines of Madness in the south. They were said to be rich in gold but would drive miners crazy coming out and telling stories of odd sounds and visions of ghosts. Others assumed he had begged for the money and just simply never spent any of it.

David was the only one who assumed he had worked for it. He was always building something and had invented several machines over the years he had been on the plateau.

One machine he had would bring eggs in from his chicken coop outside and crack them open into a skillet, starting a fire underneath it in the process. There were rarely any shells left in the egg. Another machine would pick up dirty dishes from the counter, wash them, dry them, and then place them on the other side of the counter.

The newest creation looked to be the most ambitious even though David questioned whether it would really work.

“What would you like me to do today, Joe?” David looked towards where Joe was hunkered down as though playing hide and seek. There were a few clunks and bangs from his area before he jumped up smiling a big one tooth grin. “SCREW!”

“Sure thing, Joe.” David picked up a wrench and started at the front of the big machine tightening every bolt he could find.

It was busy work, he knew that much. He was done doing what Joe needed help with a few days before but Joe kept telling him to come back. Joe knew that they wouldn’t have much money anymore as Nita had brought made most of it. Before Seth had been born David would go with his wife when she was called away and help anytime he could. If he couldn’t help he’d often take odd jobs wherever they were to stay busy and make extra money.

After Seth came along there was a long discussion as to what they would do. Nita had decided to quit taking jobs anywhere more than a half day away but David knew she wouldn’t be happy. He took on taking care of Seth and started taking repair jobs around town. This was when Joe started hiring him since most people took their repairs to him. Despite thinking he was crazy everyone knew he could repair anything better than anyone else around.

The only thing he had been worried about early on was growing apart from the love of his life. That idea had quickly faded the first year, however, when they would have long talks often lasting all night when she came back. He would make her dinner and she would rock Seth to sleep in her arms and then he would ask questions about every part of her vacation.

And then, when Seth was older, he started to see pieces of his wife come out in him. Seth was smart and picked up on things very quickly. He had the same love of animals as his mom and same love of reading. And then there was the thinker. That’s what David had always called it when he saw Nita doing it. Anytime she would be lost in her own thoughts her face would scrunch up and her mouth move over to one side while her head tipped the other way. Seth had started doing it when he was eight which looked even funnier if they were ever sitting next to each other doing it at the same time.

Now, though, David’s heart had a huge hole in it. His fear of losing his wife a reality in a way he had never imagined and now he was worried of losing his son emotionally. He felt even worse that his son didn’t have anyone to talk to. While others might think it silly David loved talking to Joe about his issues. Joe was wise beyond what anyone realized and knew that most of the time, when someone opened their heart, they just wanted to have someone listen. Other times, he knew exactly what needed to be said with just a few words.

The day David came back to work for Joe after Nita died he poured out his heart and all his troubles. Not much got done that day as Joe just sat there and listened with intensity as David spoke through tear covered eyes. And when David ended with, “I just don’t know how we’ll get through this. She was the backbone of the family,” Joe finally spoke and said, “Son of mom.”

David looked at him and agreed, “he is strong like his mother, isn’t he?”

Seth, however, had no friends like Joe. In fact, Joe was a closer friend than any of the kids his age that lived in the village. Most of the kids weren’t concerned with reading or learning about animals and that was all Seth really knew to talk about. Anytime they played together he was more content to sit and read. And after he got Drake, when he did want to play, he played with his new friend. He had been fine being alone and really still was, even though David knew he needed someone to talk to.

David knew this because he was finding it hardest to cope at night when he lay in bed alone. His wife had had a tendency to try and annoy him any chance she got. She would tickle him and poke him and pinch him and anything else she could think of to get a rise out of him. She was the playful spirit to his practical ways. He never got mad though he did occasionally actually get annoyed which she seemed to enjoy more than anyone should.

He often thought he’d enjoy her time together more if she didn’t do those things but now he realized it was those little things that he missed the most. In fact, he missed all of her habits that he had once found annoying.

Sometimes she would suck on her teeth after dinner while she read. She didn’t mean to do it nor did she ever really realize she was but it bugged David to the point that he would sometimes head

outside after dinner having been unable to concentrate otherwise.

She also whistled random tunes at random times. This he actually didn’t mind much as she was a fine whistler however when she was alive he would have never told you it was something he adored about his wife. Now, however, it was something he not only missed but hated that he would never hear again.

To make it worse all his thoughts like these caused him to feel sick to his stomach. He would be ok doing the little busy work routines that Joe gave him and then a random sight or faint smell would trigger a distant memory and the pains would return. This would be his life over the next few months and a still regular, if not

occasional, routine after that.

“Joe, all the bolts are tight, what else do you need done?”

“BRIGHT!”

“Alright, sir,” David acknowledged as he walked to the back of the shop to grab the paints. Painting was something he had always enjoyed as a hobby. He had been doodling on a piece of paper during lunch one day when Joe had saw it and immediately set out to have him ‘brighten’ everything he could see. At first David just painted things normal solid colors but it didn’t seem to appease Joe as he would give a one tooth inquisitive look and ask, “brighter?” Now David paints whatever images come to his mind and they both enjoy it.

The breakfast machine has pictures of hens laying eggs while the dishwashing machine has pictures of people scrubbing pots and pans. Now though, he could think only of angels and that’s what he painted. One after another he covered the new contraption with angels. Some flying above clouds and some playing little instruments while others just stood there, looking over all the work, but they all had a resemblance of Nita in one way or another. David became so engrossed that he worked the rest of the day without thinking about anything else but making perfect looking angels.

“INTRUDER,” Joe yelled and startled him back to reality.

“What? Hey I’m no intruder, I’m looking for David Baker.” Joe was already ignoring him and had gone back to work as the man tentatively walked in.

“He didn’t mean it like that. I’m David, do I know you?” David started washing so he could shake the strangers hand.

“No, no I’m afraid you don’t. I was asking around looking for your wife, actually.”

David’s smile faded and his hand unconsciously pulled away and went back to wiping the paint off. “I’m sorry fella, but I’m afraid you’re too late.”

The man wiped his hand on his coat and continued with a bit of a stutter, “Ye..Uhh..Yeah, so…so I heard. I must say I’m sorry to hear about your loss. She was an amazing woman.”

“Thank you… so you knew her then?”

“I’m sorry to say I only had the pleasure of meeting her one time. I had a problem with some wolves killing off my sheep and she helped me out.”

“Yeah, she was good like that. So you are having more pest problems?”

“Huh? No, uhh, well yes, maybe, I don’t know. Honestly I don’t know what it is.”

“I’ve heard that before. Unfortunately I can’t help you in this situation. Creatures were my wife’s thing.” David looked at one of the angels he had painted. His hand traced it’s face.

“Your wife spoke highly of you.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Almost as highly as she spoke of your son.” David smiled for just a moment. “Some of the people around here seem to think highly of him, too.”

David’s smile waned. “You must not have been talking to the kids around here.”

The man ignored this and continued on, “They seemed to think he might be able to help me.”

David contemplated this for quite some time, shifting his weight from leg to leg and breathing deeply at each silent concern. “I must say I’m honored that others in the area thought he’d be up to it, but he’s never had any real experience. He’s learned a few things around the village which is probably where they saw him doing good but he’s never had to deal with a real wild creature.

“I understand.”

“And he’s only 14. AND his mother just died.”

“I understand, I really do. I had to ask, just in case. The next creature handler is in Forge and this would save some travel time.”

“I know. And I wish we could help I just couldn’t even guarantee that he could actually help you.”

“Well, I would be willing to give him that first chance, if it were the case. Everyone starts somewhere, right? I know he’ll be a great creature handler if he’s anything like his mother.”

“Yeah, someday.”

“… Well, I’ll leave you to your work then.” The man straightened and bowed just slightly before turning on his heels and walking out. David went back to looking at the angels and Joe came around and sat next to him.

“He’s just too young,” David defended words Joe hadn’t said. “He could get hurt,” he continued arguing to no one. “It would be too much for him right now.”

Joe looked him over and David looked back wanting to be reassured. David had many fears, though concern over whether Seth could actually be a decent creature handler wasn’t one of them. He not only knew he could do it, he was sure he could do it now. He did fear losing his son, though. He worried that if he went and he was good he would keep going.

He wanted to believe that Seth would always want him around on his trips but they simply weren’t that close. He also knew his son needed to find himself. Nita had left home when she was 15 to train as an apprentice. The plan had been that she would train Seth but now there wasn’t a handler anywhere near them. Seth would have to move and the house would be empty. David knew this and didn’t want any of it to happen. He didn’t want to be alone.

Joe knew this, too. He watched David and felt for him. He knew what David was going through more than David would ever know. Joe gummed his lips and licked grease off of his one tooth before offering his advice. “Fly little bird.”

David looked at him and then chuckled. “So you think I should let him go?”

“Fly birdie fly,” he said with his almost toothless grin while flapping his arms and starting to jump up and down in his seat.

David stared at him for a few moments before jumping up and running out the door yelling, “SIR! WAIT!”

 

 

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Chapter 2 – Rise of the Dragons – Rewrite

Check out chapter 1 here

 

He was up late four nights later as rain pounded the roof of their home. Outside a drip was keeping an awkward beat on a metal bucket and inside Drake was restless and would nervously pace at every clap of thunder.

Seth, however, was shaking for other reasons. He had read through almost all of his mothers journal and was up to the last few entries. He had learned that most of her jobs were in the north and the one time she had gone south she had troubles dealing with King Agnos, in spite of the fact that he had called her down there.

He had also learned that the goo creature was known as a gellaco which his mother had learned from Wise Willie whom apparently lived in Forge.

Forge was just north of where Seth lived though he had only remembered being there once. In spite of it being relatively close it was still hard to get there, being on the other side of the mountain range he lived on, even though there was a set of cave systems that led to it.

He also learned about other creatures, some that his mom had tamed for people to keep as pets and others that his mother had learned to just stay away from. One of which, a large bear creature with spiky quill like poisonous fur known as an ederentian, was apparently located in the forest valley of Rahn that his mountain range surrounded.

He flipped the page in the book as another clap of thunder rocked their home and Drake walked around before finding a ‘safe’ spot under Seth’s blanket. He found a one page entry about trying to buy gear in Forge for another trip up north. She states she wasn’t sure what she needed she was only told the trip would be dangerous.

He had learned that anytime someone told his mom something was dangerous she normally didn’t think it would be, so when she made any comments that she thought it would be dangerous it usually indicated that she was going to encounter something fantastically bad, like the ederentain bear.

He flipped in anticipation to the next page and read what would be the last entries she would make.

Jan 21 – 476: I have arrived in Anchorton and met with Tiny Tom who has filled me in with some exciting yet scary news from the caves to the west. It appears someone reported seeing a dragon.

There has not been mention of dragon sightings in more than two hundred years and the thought that one is possibly still around has me more excited than I could ever imagine. But of course, the other side of that is what will be done with it.

The talk of dragons has already spread across the entire village and many people are already calling for it’s head. The last mention of dragons in this area were those that constantly attacked the town and ultimately destroyed it so many years ago that it wasn’t rebuilt until 402.

But I’m not so sure. If a dragon had survived this long without causing any harm who’s to say it would do anything now? Of course rushing in and attacking it would set it off anyway so I wonder if attacks did take place originally, who started them? Just as any creature is prone to attack if provoked, maybe it was our own hubris that caused us to prematurely fear something large, scary, and misunderstood.

On the other hand, I have to remember to keep my own feelings aside. I have to curb my deepest wishes and desires that want this to not only be real but also friendly. I have to remember that while I want this to be the discovery of my lifetime it could be a nightmare and quickly turn into my demise.

Still, I wish Seth were here. He has wanted nothing more than for dragons to be real since he was able to say the word. The experience that this would be for him would make my own pale in comparison. I know my decision to start bringing him along next year is correct and I wonder if I should even bring him with me next time. With work keeping me away more and more often I feel I barely know him anyway.

Seth sat the journal in his lap and cried for a few moments at the lost opportunities. She had wanted him to be with her and he would never get that chance. What would his life have been like had she been able to? And what would he do now that he couldn’t?

He had never been handy with tools like his dad, which was because he never really took an interest in it. It wasn’t that he wasn’t impressed by the things his dad and Crazy Joe made, he was, but the act of actually creating them just didn’t get him excited.

Creatures, however, had always interested him. Being in such a small village the idea that there types of creatures in the world that had not even been discovered yet made his mind spin. It was an even sweeter thought since he had a natural talent for it. He wiped his face, attempted to push away the thoughts, and read on.

But for now I need to stay focused on the current task at hand. What to do if it really is a dragon? Tiny Tom has agreed to go with me and I feel safe with him as he is a skilled warrior, even if he is afraid of a ball of goo. I also trust him to not run in attacking without giving me a chance to learn how the dragon might behave.

I have also gotten various herbs and potions from the local apothecary. A lot of the normal items for healing wounds and sedating animals, but also a drink that is supposed to calm aggressive animals without knocking them out. I have never used anything like it before and even the apothecary admitted it was pretty much untested however I know her to be very talented and have faith that, if needed, it will work.

I have also looked through what few books I have with me on the subject of dragons which, of course, are basically useless. These are the same stories I read to Seth when he was growing up and it is hard to tell if any of them actually happened. Most were written anonymously and the one that I know to have been written by someone who had been a creature handler is vague on what he did to try and tame the dragon, only pointing out that he ultimately failed.

It is really just down to my own instincts at this point and what I know about how dracons behave. I can only hope that dracons behave in any way similar to their distant relatives.

 

Jan 22 – 476: Tiny Tom and I have arrived at the mouth of the Lacerta Caverns where the reported dragon had been seen. This cave system is immense and believed to be two thirds larger than the most detailed map we were able to buy. We are sleeping just inside the mouth of the cave entrance today and have decided to go down the right fork first. Even it forks a number more times on the map we have however it appears most of them are dead ends. We have chosen to explore a path that has been only partially explored.

Tom is making a stew right now which makes me think of David’s everything stew he makes when I’m not feeling well. I miss my husband and son and want to take time off when I get home.

Tom has also insisted that I wear some sort of protection which, while I resisted, I have appeased him by wearing the lightest armor mesh he had. Even that is weighing me down and slowing our progress but I can appreciate that he wants to keep me alive.

Jan 23 – 476: We made it to the unexplored portion of the tunnel system we had chosen however it did not get very far before it also dead ended. It took us a day to get here and will take us a day to get back to the entrance to head down the other forked path. Then it will be a toss up deciding which paths to take from there as many of them seem to be unmapped.

One note on today’s journey is that we saw no signs of life on our way down. A few bugs, yes, but no rats or snakes or anything else you might expect to see living in here. Did something eat them all or scare them all out?

Jan 24 – 476: We are once again camping at the mouth of the caves. It is raining outside and we got to clean ourselves up a little. Leftover stew and stale bread for dinner. Going to bed early as I’m already exhausted from navigating these burrows.

 

Jan 25 – 476: We spent a day exploring various forks and paths and have gotten nowhere. Most were dead ends and we are sleeping at the mouth of the cave yet again. We both noticed how warm it was down that side of the caverns. When we had gone down the right side it had been cool and damp, however today every path was dry, muggy, and hotter than the last. It was easy to see why that side was largely unexplored as it made travel slow going. We were happy to see that it was still raining outside and have cooled off.

I’m starting to lose any hope that a dragon was actually spotted and wonder if the whole thing wasn’t a hoax. This whole trip has been a bust so far and I’m more and more ready to go home with every step. But we are getting paid well so we need to have a definitive report when we get back, hopefully we can finish exploring these caves within the next couple of days.

Jan 26 – 476: We are now deep in the caverns and have yet to find an end to the current tunnel system. It was the first one we chose and have been walking it all day. It has gotten so warm that we are having trouble breathing and have had to remove most of our clothing outside of undergarments. Even our armor has now been set aside as it is too much to bear and we are contemplating leaving some of our things in this spot tomorrow when we continue on.

Which also has us discussing just how far we can continue in such conditions. If we are having this much trouble enduring these caves it is highly unlikely anything would actually live here, let alone for hundreds of years. There are not even any bugs to be seen anymore and we are running low on food. If we don’t find a water source tomorrow we will have to turn around and head back lest we run out.

My head is starting to hurt so I am going to lie down. I pray for an easier day tomorrow.

Jan 27 – 476: We have yet to find an end to this tunnel however we have found a water source. It is a bubbling lake in the middle of a vast open area. Around it walls ramp up from our level to another tunnel exit high above us. If we are to go on we will have to climb up to it however we are not sure we will be able to go on.

While we have found water we are as of yet unable to even try to drink it for it is just too hot. Tom has put a large amount inside his helmet where we hope it will cool however after what we think has been an hour it is still bubbling. We are also wondering, if it does cool enough to drink, will it be safe?

Beyond that we are also almost out of food. We have some dried meat and old bread left that may get us through tomorrow. With so many things against us, how can we keep going? Who could have even come this far to see a dragon if one even is down here? With our spirits all but broken and everything against us, we will most likely be heading back up tomorrow.

Jan 28 – 476: We awoke this morning and found the water in Tom’s helmet, while still warm, was cool enough to try and drink. I told him I would try it but he insisted that he do it instead as he had no family to go home too. While I argued that that was no reason to be ok with dying he eventually took a drink anyway. To our benefit he did not get sick and to our surprise, he felt a lot better.

He told me to try it and upon the water even touching my lips I felt stronger immediately. We have not eaten anything today and do not feel hungry. The heat has not bothered us and we have stopped sweating. Whatever is in this water it is unlike anything I have ever encountered. We have set more aside to cool so that we may fill up our water skins and head deeper into the caves tomorrow. If we can carry enough of it we may just make it to the bottom of this cave system. God willing, we will find that end tomorrow.

Jan 29 – 476: Another day traveling this winding tunnel has gotten us another day away from the entrance and no closer to an answer. The one bright side is that the water we retrieved from the lake yesterday has not only kept us going but made us more optimistic than ever. We have strength to keep going and the heat, in spite of making anything metal we carry too hot to touch, has not bothered us at all. I look back at what I wrote over the last few days and can’t even remember why I ever wanted it too end.

 

Jan 30 – 476: Today we encountered our first problem and it is again something neither of us have ever seen. We reached a tunnel that narrowed to the point where Tom had to hunch over and walk sideways to even fit through. It then opened just enough for us to stand next to each other however the path was covered with what looked to be a set of vines. They were covered with red and yellow leaves and some kind of dark fruit was growing on them. We immediately decided not to try the fruit however when Tom went to slash a clearing for us the vines fought back.

From the wall beside him a vine rose up and grabbed at his sword before he could swing it forward. From my side a vine grabbed my arm and another went for my leg but I jumped out of the way. Tom took a dagger and cut his sword free before getting me.

We have back tracked to the last open area we had been through and are resting before deciding what to do tomorrow. We have come so far I am not ready to give up but I don’t know what Tom is thinking. He’s never been much of a talker and has been less so these last few days. Still, the idea of seeing any life down here at all is exciting and gives hope that something could survive.

Feb 5 – 476: I am back in Anchorton and apparently have been unconscious for a few days now. When we woke up the next day I was able to talk Tom into trying one more time to get past the vines. While he was concerned of what may lie beyond the vines if we did get through I was very adamant about at least trying since we had come so far.

When we got to the opening where the vine lay in our way it seemed there was less of it than the day before. We thought this was in our favor and he swung at the portion covering the opening.

One vine snapped apart and we looked to make sure nothing was trying to grab us again. He then took another swing and yet more vines snapped apart. At that point the ground shook and a loud roar filled our ears. From beyond the vines we saw the tunnel light up with flame and my skin began to tingle with excitement.

I told him to keep going as I could almost fit through the portion he had cleared but before he could take another swipe the vine suddenly grew and doubled in size. It quickly recovered the tunnel and Tom started to back me away.

Yet when we turned around to head out we saw the vines had covered our exit and all the surrounding walls. We were trapped.

He started swinging at everything that came towards us while attempting to clear our exit in between. That’s when vines started to come towards me. Tom handed me his dagger and I swung as best as I could towards each one. One grabbed my wrist and I cut it free. I ducked under another one as Tom struck it.

With my heart racing I started swiping at our exit with him until a new vine appeared. It was at first as black as night before showing itself the same red and yellow color of the leaves that adorned it. At first I just thought it was another vine with different colors however as it got closer I saw it had a tiny mouth and little eyes.

I stood, a bit stunned by what I was seeing, and then tried to hit it. I missed and it lunged at my stomach where it met the light armor mesh that Tom had convinced me to wear again today. Then Tom attempted to strike it down but failed and it this time came for my arm.

It bit in hard and I felt a sting run up into my shoulder and then my neck. I dropped our torch and the lights went out, for me at least, and I was left unconscious.

Tom says he was lucky to cut us free and then carried me out over the next few days. He says we are lucky to be alive and I have to agree with him on that one.

While I wanted to confirm there was a dragon Tom was quick to point out that as hot as it was it simply could have been a volcano. With no other evidence to say otherwise that is what we’ve told everyone here.

I still hold hope that what is down there is a dragon however I don’t know how we could ever prove it. All I know is I am heading home tomorrow morning and I am excited to see my family. Tom has agreed to work with a map maker to update the cavern maps and we told them all about the magical water yet we had none left to show.

I have seen things on this trip that I have never seen before and while that is all exciting, I just thank God I am alive.

 

Feb 5 – 476: I’ve made it to Forge but I’m afraid I’ve had more problems. The bite on my arm has become infected and I feel very weak. I am going to have a healer observe it tomorrow.

Feb 8 – 476: I have felt too weak to continue home over the last few days. The healer has cured the infection and it is almost completely gone. Hoping I feel better tomorrow so I can get home to my family.

Feb 10 – 476: Feeling much better today, heading home. Can’t wait to see David and Seth. I have decided to never leave home again without Seth. It is time he followed in my footsteps as he has always wanted to do. But mostly, I don’t want to die with us being as apart as we have been. I miss my son. I am so happy I will be able to hug him in a couple of days.

I also want to share with him the graces that God has shown me through this whole ordeal. I could be gone now, but I’m not, thanks to Him.

Seth closed the journal and shut his watering eyes. These had been the last words she had ever written. Two days after this she had gotten home and was already feeling worse again. She hadn’t gone into details over what had happened only that she had run into trouble and she just wanted to sit in her chair by the fire. By the second day she was back she was too weak to speak. A week later and she was gone.

Seth felt the anger at losing her rise up again. Everything he had just read about her last trip swirled around in his mind. He wanted to scream at her for going in the first place. He wanted to scream at Tom for not protecting her. He wanted to scream at God for letting her die. In his head, he did the last one.

His mother had often spoken of her faith and he had always felt that he also had God on his side. When she was home they often went to the temple in their village and prayed and she would read scriptures at meal times.

Now though, after she thanked God for keeping her safe He had let her die and this made Seth angrier than anything else. If she could have so much faith in God and get betrayed what was the point?

He wanted to curse God for letting this happen but instead he simply asked over and over until he fell asleep that night, “Why?”

Routine Wars: Chapter 6

The smell of gun powder wafted over the battlefield and filled Nelson with visions of a history he had never been a part of.

This battlefield was more a battlefield than any he’d encountered yet. The main reason is it actually WAS a battlefield. They had entered Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where a Civil War battle had taken place hundreds of years before. Nelson had visited once or twice but could not now remember who had won the original battle or how it had started, he only knew how this one had started and that, for a moment, his side was losing.

For weeks they’d been coming across tents and campsites outside of small towns which made it easy to determine where the defectors were staying. Today, however, was much different as they came into the valley and there were no tents and no campsites. The only sign of life was a decrepit building from the Civil War era with smoke coming out of its chimney. He had his men spread out just to be safe and sweep an entire side of the hill they had arrived on but there was no one else. Finally he sent in a small squad of ten soldiers to check out the building which turned up empty.

His senses were immediately heightened at the news and as soon as he ordered everyone to be on the lookout they were ambushed.

The first sound he heard was a cannon from across the valley when he then sensed a number of his men being knocked down. Gun fire then started filling the quiet air and several more of his men started to fall. He scanned all the area he had access to but could not yet see more than the people loading the cannon.

Once he told his men to spread out and watch for gun fire it didn’t take him long to realize that finding his attackers would be quite easy as almost every weapon they had appeared to be civil war era. The cannon that was firing along with several muskets to its south were very easy to point out and he started having men head to flank around their back as he and another group stayed to provide suppressing fire.

This, too, was a mistake though as the men he sent to flank were also caught by surprise by various booby traps and another group of defectors that had remained silent until needed. A couple of soldiers were tripped by wire while another one fell into a camouflaged hole. A couple more were knocked over by a swinging branch leaving the rest to be stabbed by men with bayonets.

The massacre continued to deteriorate as Nelson tried to follow the new group of enemies with one of his fallen soldiers but was quickly blinded at that end when the runners removed all the spinal implant pieces protruding from the backs of the fallen.

He called his men to retreat back up the hill a short ways and called for backup which he was immediately aware that there was none. He relayed the current status to his superiors who relayed back to him how his situation was remarkably similar to numerous other groups around the country. The only groups not having trouble were the urban soldiers and pulling them would mean losing position in the most vital parts of the country.

They were not to lose ground; that was the only real order. Retreating now would mean large groups of defectors like this one could meet up with other large groups and combine their power and organizational skills along with their knowledge of all Wartines goings on.

‘Stay put. Fight or don’t fight, but do not leave your current position and don’t let any defectors get past you.’

He relayed this message, minus the fight or don’t fight, to his men. He wasn’t sure if he was going to send them to fight or not. He needed more information on their numbers and positions and tried hard to think of how to get this.

He asked for airbus fly-over for intel gathering. He was immediately placed on a waiting list. Currently they could guarantee they would have an Airbus to him by late tomorrow.

This was too long and not knowing how many people were standing against him made sticking around and doing nothing one of the worst options he could consider.

Continuing to scan the area he looked on top of the ridge to the south, behind the cannon brigade that was still firing shots. He thought he could make out another group of runners on top of it. This made sense and had he been able to come in from the south there would have been no ambush.

He only wondered for a few minutes how they could have known which way his troops would be coming from since just over a thousand troops walking across the mountains of Arkansas were bound to raise a few eyebrows. Still this was the most organized any resistance group had been and it seemed to be coordinated across many areas of the country.

This was not his concern, however, and he had to push it out of this mind. The less he concentrated the more he lost control of what thoughts were fed to him from his men. If he let his mind wander for a second it could soon be filled with hundreds of random thoughts that may or may not be his.

He gripped his cane tighter and considered his options. His cane was the new toy he’d purchased the night before. It was made of a shimmering black metallic substance with tiny waving lines etched throughout. The bottom had a tiny needle sticking out that one might think were to get better grip in wilderness terrain if one didn’t know any better. The only other feature on the cane was a tiny silver button just under the handle.

Leaning on the cane made Nelson think of what he’d given up to be here. He couldn’t actually remember anything specific but he was sure it had to have been pretty special. Then he considered the option that it could have easily been a pretty horrible situation he’d been in which had pushed him to join the military in the state it had been. If only he could remember…

His mind raced again and a headache instantly formed. Someone, or many someone’s, were hungry and it made his stomach growl. Someone else wanted to shoot the people who had shot at them and it made him angry. Someone else was cold and he shivered.

Nelson regained himself again and straightened up, as though a superior officer had just walked onto his battlefield. He had not had a rush of thoughts like that since he’d first tried the router programming, and that had only been with five soldiers.

He started making a list of their weapons they had with them. Mostly rifles and only a couple of snipers, more of which would be helpful but most of the talented snipers were kept on duty near the White House. He had no rocket launchers or artillery as they were heavy and cumbersome to keep on the move. They had also been deemed as unnecessary.

They did have grenades, though, and lots of them. He started looking around to see what other features the land might offer. There were broken, worn, and burnt buildings scattered here and there. He had some of his men search them for any other usable items that may be around and to ensure there were no more surprises waiting on this side of the ridge.

It took a few minutes and more shots from the opposing cannon to get what would make him reconsider whether to fight back or not, a cannon of their own.

It was beside one of the buildings and though it had no cannon balls of its own but there was some old gun powder and the barrel looked to be in good shape. He began considering his options for projectiles and quickly came to one grizzly conclusion.

In just under fifteen minutes they were ready to test his plan. There was a rag filled with a dozen grenades stuffed into the canon and a string attached to each of the pins, tied at the other end to the bottom of the barrel. Their first test at this was rather unsuccessful as the pins did not come out cleanly and threw the explosives in every direction but the one that could have hurt some enemies.

This test did do one thing, however, and that was getting the attention of their opponents. The cannon fire from the other side stopped momentarily as they watched these explosions occur all around the valley in front of them.

After the smoke had cleared they went back to firing only this time they were firing from multiple directions. Another cannon set atop the ridge was now firing down at Nelsons brigade and getting much closer than the one directly in front of him. He quickly rethought his plan and instantly his men jumped to action.

Two men filled the barrel with more gun powder and fuse and then stuffed another rag down the barrel. This time, however, they lit the fuse before putting the grenades in as Nelson timed it out. Just before it was about to go off another twelve men pulled pins on grenades and threw them down the barrel before it went off sending them towards the ridge.

A couple of the grenades exploded in the air above the runners’ cannon which drew the people operating it out from behind their cover, giving snipers behind Nelson just enough time to pick them off.

The rest hit the side and front of the ridge causing rock and dirt to plume up over the area. This was the perfect distraction and all of Nelson’s men charged towards their enemies.

Most of his group, including himself, went up the ridge and rushed the bulk of those who had been firing at them while a few went to secure the lower cannon and ensure there was no one else hiding out there.

Before they made it to the runners the smoke had cleared and they were being fired upon again yet the old muskets were no match for modern semi-automatic rifles once they could see their attackers. People started falling on both sides and then rushed into close combat.

To his right, Nelson saw a runner stab at one of his routines with a bayonet before it was swiped away and a knife was dug into the runners chest. Another runner ahead of Nelson snapped the neck of a routine and made a bee-line for him. Nelson started fighting the runner, using his cane to block blows dealt by an old civil war sword the runner had procured and sharpened.

The sword came down above his head and he raised the cane to stop it as he turned his body and elbowed the defector. He swept his leg in a circle and his opponent jumped over it, however as the attacker touched ground again Nelson touched the pointy end of his cane to the man’s chest and gently squeezed the button under the handle.

A loud ‘whoosh’ filled the air and Nelson’s arm was shoved back violently. His attacker, however, was less fortunate and was thrown back ten feet and knocked unconscious. Nelson kept fighting a few men around him until he was surrounded. At this he pushed the cane hard into the ground and pushed the button again. This time a loud thud moved the earth beneath him. He was quickly lifted as though starting a jackhammer while the people around him were knocked down and stunned.

He turned and knocked a woman rushing him across the head and she fell in a short scream as he moved the cane under his arm and pushed the button again to take down another man behind him.

He tensed and turned but no one else was coming. In fact, no one else seemed to be left. He scanned the area and found they had killed and/or captured 33 people.

It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t near enough and he knew there were more somewhere. His men scoured the ridge and farther south but could find no one else. They did find a few abandoned guns and another cannon that had been prepared yet never fired.

He reported the outcome to his superiors who congratulated him on a well fought battle with a bonus 200 credits. They then deducted 100 credits for each of the 11 routines that were killed in the battle.

He also let them know about the small number in the end and advised they could probably catch up with anyone else that had fled. This was denied, however, as new orders were quickly issued. His brigade and 4 other larger brigades were to meet at the Oklahoma border and await further instructions. A more important battle awaited them.

The next day, President Hope would think over all the results from various battles across the states. He would note that the intensity of each of these had risen dramatically and the Midwest was being more of a pain than he had anticipated.

A few days before he had been wondering which city to bomb however now it was simply a matter of when. “How about now?” He chuckled to himself.

Turning in his desk he pushed a small hidden button which produced a small hidden number pad. He entered a sequence of numbers which then opened a small hidden drawer with a hidden compartment which in turn opened to a hidden control panel. He entered the destination, thanked God for the wisdom he had been given to see clearly what needed to be done, and turned a key.

Somewhere, in the middle of a desert in New Mexico the earth moved and opened up revealing a missile smoking and shaking, itching to be fired. When President Hope saw a green light he pushed a red button which started a dark day. The missile zipped into the air and headed for its destination.

NaNoWriMo Update

If you’ve been following along with my NaNoWriMo posts you’ll know a lot has happened. I still plan on writing today yet may not post until later tonight or tomorrow so I thought I’d do a quick synopsis and let people get caught up who may enjoy Science Fiction/Dystopian stories.

Here’s links to each chapter followed by a short synopsis.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

–          President Hope took office over 9 years ago and through some clever law enactments was able to seize control of America in the name of Homeland Security.

–          Nelson is a War Routine/Router in charge of a brigade of more than 1000 troops. He’s from a rural part of Arkansas which is where he has been assigned to clear out any runners who may be defecting from the government or have refused to give up their guns for the new laws that were enacted. His troops recently raided a large camp of runners around a lake and learned they were looking for a man named Jonah who was leading this group of dissidents.

–          Sarah is a Medical Routine and is stuck in the same small town Nelson was from. She, and some locals, respond to the raid at the lake and find 2 children alive. One of them is a 12 year old boy named Jonah that doesn’t speak and has a routine implant that is said to have been made before the technology even existed.

–          Kimberly is the daughter of Echo Corp CEO Kendrick Keys, whose company first created Routines. She was the first ever routine to be created by the company but has moved away since the government take over. She lives in a neighborhood full of other private citizen routines who tell her they have heard of a group in Oklahoma City who is building an army to fight back against the government. They need her help to get into Echo Corp to speak with Mortimer, the original designer/programmer of routine implants and friend of Kimberly.

So there we have it. Some good questions so far, I think.

–          What more does the president have in store for his new America?

–          It’s hinted that Nelson is headed in the direction of Oklahoma, will he find the underground resistance?

–          Is this boy Jonah that Sarah found the same Jonah that Nelson is looking for?

–          Will an entire neighborhood up and leave without raising suspicion?

These are questions I’m asking and I’m the WRITER! It’s an exciting adventure and any comments are welcome. Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Are you reading along? Are you just glad it’s Friday.

Me too… Happy Friday everyone.

Routine Wars: Chapter 5

When the sounds of gunshots echoing through the valley below filled the air around the small town, Sarah initially didn’t give it a second thought. When she was growing up the military, the real military would use parts of the mountain on the other side of the valley for training exercises.

They would shoot up this bit or bomb that bit and the sounds of it would liven an otherwise boring weekend afternoon. And while that had not happened in years, the sounds were still familiar enough to not only fail to faze her but also soothe her nerves on some subconscious level that a psychologist could have a field day with.

But in those days there were no airbuses, so when the sky above was covered by a slow moving object and darkness covered the town for a few seconds, people started talking and watching. They saw it land on the other side of the lake for about 10 minutes before taking off again and trailing off over the mountains.

Airbuses were called so not because they looked like an oversized Greyhound bus with two propellers attached to it, which it did, but because they could actually be a bus. Once on the ground, their propellers would collapse vertically in line with the bus roof and the tiny back propeller that looked, relatively so, like a toy piece on the back of the large bus would fold up making it look like a cat with its tail in the air.

Its doors could then open and close and a steering wheel replaced the sticks. This made airbuses versatile and very useful in transporting people, usually runners, from here to wherever, though wherever was usually an education camp.

The airbuses were the brainchild of some faceless and nameless engineer at the request of President Hope who then took all credit. He wanted something big enough to transport a large group of people but versatile enough to quickly get in and out of places. Large planes needed runways and buses needed time to get over mountains while traditional helicopters were too small to carry two hundred people.

Sarah jumped up from her desk in time to see some other citizens running to the edge of town that looked down over the valley. When she got there they were speculating exactly what it was they were seeing. The crystal blue water twinkling in the sunlight below was being mixed with a darker color.

“Oil?” Someone asked. “Nah, it’s mud.” Another person offered.

“It’s blood.” Sarah said this more to herself than those around her. One person dismissed her saying that’s crazy while others started realizing it was true. “We need to get down there and see if anyone needs help.”

“Daniel’s got some four-wheelers, I’ll go get him,” a lady next to her ran off and came back quickly riding a four-wheeler joined by two other boys doing the same. She got off hers and offered it to Sarah who jumped on and started for the trails leading to the lake. It had a small trailer hitched to the back that would bounce off its wheels on bumps because it was empty. One of the two boys, Daniel, who was behind her also had a small trailer but it had some tools tied down to it which weighed it down enough to remain somewhat stable. The other boy was Daniel’s older brother Dennis who used the fact that he didn’t have a trailer to his advantage and zipped ahead of both of them.

Their engines rang through the valley and caused hundreds of birds to fly out of their warm tree houses, fill the sky for a moment, and then go visit their neighbors.

They arrived at the campground and chose to split up to cover the whole lake. Daniel and Sarah headed north with the lake on their left while Dennis went west along the bottom of the lake to the other side.

The first few campsites Sarah and Daniel came across were still filled with tents and food but void of any life. It wasn’t until they got to the biggest campsite that they found bodies lying on the ground.

Sarah rushed over to the nearest one, a man, and confirmed he was deceased. She went to the woman next to him, and she was dead as well. Six bodies in all and none survived. She looked up at Daniel, “Do you know any of these people?”

“No,” he looked a cross between sick to his stomach and shocked with a dash of forlorn. “There had to have been more people here, these six didn’t use up all these tents.”

“Agreed, and the same for all the other tents we passed. We should head on around. If we haven’t found anyone alive we can carry these people back to town.” Daniel nodded back at her and they continued along the lake checking each site then around the top where they found Dennis standing over some lumps on the ground.

“Sarah! Hurry, these kids are still alive.” Sarah immediately jumped from her four-wheeler which kept rolling another twenty feet before slowing to a stop. She pulled a medical kit she’d stuffed into a backpack and thrown on when they left. She started checking them for wounds but quickly realized there was no actual blood.

“These kids weren’t shot. This is ketchup.”

Daniel looked around the campsite and saw that all the condiment bottles were in pieces. “There had to be some kind of explosion, but nothing is burnt.”

Dennis didn’t look up but offered an answer, “Concussive blaster. A weapon made to knock people down but not kill them.”

“But why wouldn’t they have used them at the other campsite? We found dead people back there,” Daniel was shaken and panicky.

“Who can say why those implants do anything,” Dennis said and then looked at Sarah, realizing what he’d said. “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything.”

“It’s fine. I agree. Glad you aren’t still lumping me in with those mindless brutes. Help me get these kids on the trailers and strapped in. We’ll need to go slower so they aren’t shaken any worse than they have been. It will be easier to check for injuries at the clinic.”

“Yeah, and those guys might come back.”

“If they haven’t come by to check on us yet they are probably half way up the mountain by now,” Dennis assured him as he started to pick the boy up, “This kids an implant.”

“What? Kids aren’t allowed to get implants.” Sarah rolled the boy over and saw the familiar spinal implant just below the bottom of the neck. He was newer than she was. “Who would do this? How would they know what routines he could handle?”

“Can’t you guys just learn any program you want?” Daniel had never been out of the small town and Sarah had been the first routine he’d ever met.

“No, well, you can but it wouldn’t do you any good. It is only truly useful if already know a great deal about what you are getting programmed for. Let’s get them back to the clinic. We aren’t going to learn anything here.”

“Would they have left such a young routine behind, even if they thought he was dead?” Daniel was scanning the trees, ready to get out of there at the first sign of trouble.

“Doubtful. They obviously missed it. I wonder if they are always this careless.” Dennis placed the child on the trailer of his four-wheeler and strapped him in tight. He waited for Daniel to get the girl on the other trailer before they set back towards town. It was getting colder and the sun was starting to go down as they got back to the clinic after an uneventful yet anxious ride back.

“Put them up there,” She pointed to a couple of beds in an exam room that normally waited for emergency patients. She struggled to not immediately look at the boys implant. She had so many questions about it and what it was doing on him. Besides it being impractical for programming as he grew the implant would start to come apart. She remembered hearing that in one of those lectures.

She went through her exam routines on each child, checking their vitals which seemed to be fine. One of the only pieces of large equipment they had in the clinic was an old X-Ray machine which she used to conclude the girl had two broken ribs while the boy was fine. She continued to try to wake them up fearing possible concussion. Eventually the boy woke up and stared at them.

He didn’t sit up, or scream, or ask where he was, he simply stared at them.

“HI! My name is Sarah. What is your name?” She asked but received only silence. “How long were you living at the lake?” There was more silence. “Do you remember what happened?” She looked closely at his eyes, they followed her movements and he seemed awake, just silent. She started to check his pupils when a voice behind them crackled to life.

“He won’t talk to you.” They jumped having been so engrossed in trying to get the boy to speak. “He doesn’t talk to anyone.”

“So you know him then?” Sarah turned and then backed up so she could see them both. Daniel and Dennis sat down on chairs against the wall when the girl gave them a bit of a frightened look.

“Well, yeah he’s my brother.”

“Oh, that’s very nice. What are your names?”

“My name is Faith and I’m 10 years old and he is Jonah, he’s 12!”

“Faith and Jonah, my name is Sarah and they are Dennis and Daniel. They are siblings too, they are brothers.”

“Are you their sister?”

“No, but they helped find you and bring you back here.”

“Well that’s very nice of you all, but we should get back to camp.” At this Jonah looked at her with a soft glare. “Oh, right. Camp was raided wasn’t it?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

“Our parents were with us at our tent, did you find them?”

“No, we found no one else by your tent.”

“They were taken by the war-tines. They will be going to camp.” She looked towards her brother who seemed to consider this.

“It’s pronounced ‘ROU-tine’ there Faith.” Daniel couldn’t contain himself.

“No, it’s WAR-tine. He’s a routine and doesn’t hurt anyone. War-tines go around carrying guns and kidnapping people taking them to camp. You’re one, too, aren’t you Sarah? I mean a routine, like my brother.”

“Yes, I suppose I am like your brother in that respect. Say, you don’t know what type of routine he is do you? I’m a medical routine; do you know what he is?”

“Yes, he’s a knowledge routine.”

“Knowledge of what?”

“Everything important in this world,” Faith said without any irony and then glanced at her brother again who was now playing with the stethoscope that was setting next to him. “He is the key to a mystery no one yet knows about. He is the solution to a problem no one talks about. He is the hope when hope has turned on us.”

“Wow, sounds like he’s pretty special,” Sarah said with a smile making Jonah blush.

“Wait, key? Solution? What does all that even mean?” Dennis leaned forward to get another look at the young child.

“I don’t know. It’s what my parents always tell us.”

“How long has it been since your brother said anything?”

“I’ve never heard him talk. Mom says he’s just a good listener.”

“I bet he is. Do you know how long he’s had his implant?” Sarah pointed at his back.

“He got it before I was born.”

“Didn’t you say you were ten years old?” Dennis asked.

“Yes sir.”

The three adults exchanged glances and Dennis continued, “But how would that be possible. There weren’t any routines 10 years ago. The technology didn’t exist.”

“Maybe you mean just as long as you remember. You would have been very young when I got my implant; maybe it just seems like that long.”

“No ma’am. My mom told me he got his before I was born. It’s changed a little but it has always been there.”

“Changed?” Sarah looked at him again and then asked him to sit up. She lifted his shirt and examined his back closer. There were tiny scars dotting up and down his back on either side of his spine where a full spinal implant used to lay. “This is impossible. Implant removals, changes, upgrades; it’s all untested. No one has ever done it. How could he have gone through this?”

“Is that why he doesn’t talk?” Daniel asked.

“It’s possible. It would take brain scans and a host of other tests to be sure but we don’t have any of that equipment and going to a hospital with him would be dangerous. There are routines, or WAR-tines, I should say, all over every hospital.”

“We have to get back to our parents.”

The adults looked at each other again but with a look of despair. “Honey, if your parents went to a camp, we can’t help them.”

“Well of course YOU can’t. You have to take us to the one who can.”

“Who could possible help you get inside?” Dennis asked with a great deal of doubt.

“I don’t know his name. But he is the one who can unlock the key.”

“Ok this girl is crazy,” Daniel stood up and waved his hands about as though mimicking craziness. “You can’t UNLOCK a key, Faith; you use a KEY to unlock a door.”

“I’m just telling you what my mom used to tell us every night before bed. ‘If ever unable to find me, there is only one man to see. No matter what he does or where he be, he’ll use the back door to unlock the key.’”

“Ok, Daniel’s right, she’s starting to sound a little crazy. Actually, her whole family is starting to sound crazy.” Dennis joined in making crazy faces with his brother.

“Maybe she’s not. She’s called her brother the key earlier.”

“So we need to unlock him.”

“In a sense, yes; he doesn’t speak and he has a routine full of knowledge. Maybe that knowledge needs to be released. If they were runners it could be information about the War-tines they were running from.”

“Well then we need it unlocked like we need a whole in our head, which is what we’d have if any of them drones found out we might even possibly have secrets on them. And we don’t even know who could unlock him anyway. It could be a trap to begin with.”

“Whoever put an implant on him did it before Hope even took office.”

“So she says, you don’t know that you’re just basing it off of one ten year olds word who just survived a concussion blast. You say she has two broken ribs yet she hasn’t cried once. Doesn’t this all seem a bit odd to you?” Dennis had raised a valid point and Sarah looked at Faith with intensity.

She finally bent down between the girl and the boy and took a deep breath. She shook her head realizing what she was about to say and where she was about to go. “I think I know someone who can help us. We’ll leave in the morning.”