Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Road to Fell

Menar stood with his back against a tree and listened. The forest around him, which should have been filled with the sounds of birds and squirrels, was deathly silent. Something had startled them and Menar would be a fool if he did not find out what it was before it found him!
More bandits?” he thought. It was certainly possible, he hadn't seen any since he escaped from the pit several hours earlier. He had checked his back trail carefully, and had hidden his tracks where he could. Deep in his gut he felt this dread must be from some other source.
Menar had been traveling the forest road from Thaymite to Fell on an errand from Lord Eastbrook, who had gone into hiding after escaping the siege upon his castle. Menar had taken up with the merchant party to hide his movements, but somehow the bandits had found him anyway. He felt sure now that the black clad bandits were under direction of Earl Tragmore, the King's nephew.
He glanced around trying to find any clue, a movement in the underbrush, a noise, a footprint, anything to indicate what had disturbed the animals. But the forest remained silent, still, and humid. He quietly ducked off the road behind a large tree to see if he could spot whatever it was that was lurking in the forest. He found a large stick he could use as a club and began stalking quietly along the side of the trail.
He heard the crack of a twig away down the left side of the trail in front of him and began dodging from tree to tree in an effort to stay hidden, which was not an easy feat in partial armor. After dodging for the third time, behind a large rock, he came face to face with a troop of five orcs.
They were nearly as startled as he was, but one of them managed to get off a shot before he had time to lift his club. The crossbow bolt slammed hard against his breastplate and knocked the wind out of him. Menar staggered backward against the boulder as the bolt glanced off his breastplate into the brush.
Catching his breath, Menar raised the club and the dull thud of metal against wood filled the air as his makeshift club met the twisted iron swords of the orcs. The crossbowman didn't dare fire a second shot with the rest of the orcs pressing in hard on him. But even without the additional covering fire, Menar had his hands full as he bravely fought the small band.
Menar slammed his club across the head of one orc who slumped to the earth. He quickly grabbed the orc's sword and went to work against the rest of the band. Menar slashed at another orc and left a great gash in both the orc's armor and flesh. Yet another orc growled in anger when he saw his comrade fall and swung at Menar in a blind rage. He slammed his shoulder into Menar, bashing him brutally against the stone. Menar fell to the ground stunned and heaving for breath. The orc raised his sword in triumph and swung it down for a final blow. Menar braced for the impact, but it never came.
An elven arrow sang through the air and caught the orc, turning him on the spot. He crashed to the ground next to Menar and moved no more. The other orcs in the raiding party turned to see where the arrow had come from, but their eyes were not accustomed to the woodland, and two more fell before they could spot their assailant.  


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Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Pit

Menar awoke laying face down in a large pit. The smell of damp, rotting leaves assaulted his nose along with the taste of putrid mud. He lifted his head to spit and immediately regretted it. His neck screamed out in pain as he tried to move and he wondered what other injuries he might have. He tried to open his eyes, but the bright sun was too painful to endure.

He took a quick inventory of his body and found his arms were sprawled out in front of him. His knee hurt and he felt as though he had been pummeled in the chest and stomach.

Finally he convinced his eyes to open, and just about jumped out of his skin.

He was face to face with a skull that had been blanched white in the sunlight. As Menar forced himself into a sitting position, he saw the scattered remains of several skeletons along the floor of the pit. The pit itself was twenty feet square and had sheer edges. He could see places occasionally where other captives had tried to climb their way out, but none of them looked promising. Here and there a root protruded through the side of the pit wall offering a potential foothold, but these were so few and far between he knew they would be of little help to him.

He took stock of the skeletons and found they still had bits of clothing and armor stuck to them, but other than these few adornments they had nothing. No sword, or weapon of any kind to speak of.

"Anything they could use to escape," he thought grimly.

He found, to his dismay, that he too was unarmed, and he tried to recall the events that had landed him here.

Above him he could see the tops of many trees, a forest maybe? Yes! He had been traveling through the forest with a caravan of merchants on the famous Mander Way when they had been attacked by a band of thieves. He had been one of the few of the company who were armed and was quickly overwhelmed by the charge of the bandits.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps above and behind him. Menar turned to see who was coming and debated calling out for help, but was quickly deprived of any hope by the masked vigilante who stood a full ten feet above him.

"So," the figure spat, "You've come around at last!"

Menar didn't know how to respond, being in such a reduced state, so he just looked his captor over to see if he could identify any discerning feature about him.

"I see you are not the talkative type, so I'll make this simple for you." The bandit crouched down, as though speaking to a young child. "Tell us where the King is hiding and I will let you out of this pit."

It all came flooding back over him now. The civil war, the siege on castle, the King's nephew, Tragmore, challenging his uncle's rule. And he, Menar, was the only one who knew how the besieged King had escaped and where he had gone into hiding. A bead of sweat began to trickle down the side of his face.

His captor studied him carefully, taking note of his change in expression.

"I'll give you some time to think about it, hopefully the wolves won't cut that time short!" He gave out a high pitched laugh and walked off the way he had come.

Now plainly out of the haze that had clouded his mind, Menar analyzed his surroundings once more. The footsteps had faded completely now, so he knew wherever his captor came from was some distance off. There were plenty of bones scattered about, and he knew the threat of wolves was real.

He had once seen the body of a soldier who had wandered into the woods one night. The wounds were deep and precise, it would be foolish to be out in these woods at night, especially in this trap of a pit.

Menar quickly gathered the thicker bones that were scattered about and picked a section of the wall that had multiple roots sticking out. He jammed a femur into the earth and found it more difficult than he had guessed. It took him less time to use the radius and ulna to make footholds at chest height. He had made a pretty good attempt at a ladder about half way up the side of the pit when he ran out of usable bones.

The ribs had decayed and fell apart in his hands. Desperately he looked around for anything else he could use to finish climbing his way out. At the lip of the pit tree roots dangled over the edge, if he could just get two more footholds he felt he could easily grab them and climb out.

He searched every corner and even dug into the muddy floor in a few places that looked like they might have fallen branches underneath. In the end he had to concede that what he had built would have to do. He gently put his weight on the first foothold, and it shifted slightly under his step.

"That could not be helped," he thought, he had already burned precious daylight hours in it's construction.

His legs were sore and once a dirt clod broke loose and struck him full in the chest, knocking the wind out of him. It took several minutes for him to recover and move on. He moved up the wall at a painful pace, moving as quietly as he could and always keeping an ear out for the return of the bandit.

When he reached the top rung of his morbid ladder, he was still too far from the top to reach the overhanging roots. It was then a crazy idea struck him, and he knew it would be his only chance.

He pulled one of the bones loose and reached as high as he could with it, then jabbed it hard into the earthen wall. It felt solid, so he transferred his weight to it, both feet still firmly in the rungs below. He then pulled the other bone loose and pulled himself up as high as he dared and rammed it into the side of the pit. It too felt solid. He continued this procedure three more times before he found himself within reach of the tree roots.

With the last of his strength he pulled himself up, onto the forest floor. He gasped for air and felt his ribs twinge with each breath. He waited as long as he dared before getting to his feet and stumbling off into the forest as quickly as he could.

Nearby in the undergrowth, two yellow eyes peeked through the bushes unseen. The creatures ears had perked up at the sound of heavy breathing and when it got closer smelled the sweat of the human climbing up the side of the pit. It was a curious sight to see a human perform such a feat, so it had simply observed.

Now that he was loose, the creature wagged it's long gray tail in anticipation of the hunt. It did not howl just yet, that would be for later. Right  now he needed to track, and so he followed the human's scent through the trees as he trotted along on his large, padded paws.


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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Goeffry the Dragon

This short story was written as a family activity using story dice. The words we rolled were: dragon, magnifying glass, bridge, bubbles, happy, fish, foot print, beetle, bee, fountain, fly, and flower. Here is what we came up with, enjoy!

Goeffrey saw a dragon. The dragon was so small he had to look at it under a magnifying glass. Goeffrey and the dragon walked across a bridge. They blew dragon bubbles to each other, and they were happy. When they were done blowing bubbles they went fishing. The dragon fell into a footprint that was two feet deep. The footprint was made by a large beetle. While he was in the footprint, a bee stung the dragon. Next to the footprint was a large fountain. The dragon started to fly away. He landed under a flower where he could rest from he day's adventures.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

“Mom, are House-Elves real?”

I was sitting in the kitchen when I heard one of our sons ask this question:
“Mom, are house-elves real?”
For those who do not know, house-elves are fictional creatures from the Harry Potter series. They are essentially slaves or indentured servants who can only be set free if they are given clothes. If that does not happen, they could end up serving the same family for eternity. They are tasked with everything from washing dishes, to cleaning rooms and shining shoes, to preparing dinner for the entire family.

In the fourth book in the series, Hermione discovers what she sees as the unjust treatment of house-elves and starts a political campaign to give house-elves more rights and liberties. Most people don't join the campaign, because that is how it has been for so long. Most also agree that house-elves would find themselves out of place without a master to serve.
One notable exception is the character named Dobby, a house-elf Harry frees by some trickery in the second book. We see Dobby later in the series working as a free house elf at Hogwarts, the wizarding school, under the direction of the headmaster. He receives wages, can wear clothes, and he can move about as he pleases for the most part.
So, with this background we return to the question: “Mom, our house-elves real?”
I immediately stepped into the room and answered his question.
“If you are asking if there are little creatures called 'house-elves,' then no, they are not real. However, there is someone who makes clothes magically appear in your dresser, and food magically appear on the table. And, like house-elves, they do not get thanked nearly enough for what they do. That person is your mother.”
My son looked at me with a strange expression on his face, and my wife gave a somber nod. So I went on to explain to him that we need to be much more thankful for Mom, and all that she does for us.
I work a 9 to 5 job, and am not able to go grocery shopping the majority of the time. So for all intents and purposes, my food magically appears in the refrigerator or on the table. I try to pitch in as much as I can on the weekends with the house work and the laundry, but I too am guilty of not giving enough thanks to my wife for all she does.
So this mother's day, I would encourage you to set your house-elf free. Buy her some clothes, (Dobby preferred socks, your house-elf may prefer shoes) and set her free! I might even go so far as to wish her a “Happy House-Elf Day,” but most importantly I'm going to help out with the housework a lot more, and not just for the weekend.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Walking Home in a Suit

I will never forget the time I walked home from work in a suit. It was early in our marriage and we had just purchased our first home, and so did not have money to buy a second car. Fortunately our house was exactly one mile from where I worked, so I was able walk to work for the better part of a year.
During that time I received offers on occasion from coworkers for a ride either to or from work, but these were few and far between. The day I wore my suit, however, was a different story.
As I prepared to leave the office, a coworker offered me a ride home. I told him that I could manage but “thank you anyway.” As I walked downstairs and out into the parking lot another coworker offered me a ride. I once again declined, “thanks, it's only a mile I can manage.”
That alone was uncommon. But as I walked home, a van pulled into one of the parking lots and rolled down a window, and a complete stranger offered me a ride home. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Again I declined and said “no thanks, I got it.” They offered once again, and I told them I was almost home anyway.
This got me to thinking about how appearances change the way people behave towards us. And I was reminded of a story my father use to tell when I was a kid, again involving a suit.
He had been doing some home repairs and ran into town to drop some garbage at the transfer station. It was then he realized he was almost out of gas, so he stopped at a gas station. This was before the time of "pay at the pump" and for whatever reason he had his driver's license but no money to pay for the gas he had pumped.
He went into the gas station in his torn up jeans and his shirt that was covered with paint and sheet rock dust. He offered to leave his driver's license as proof that he would come back and though the clerk was skeptical he agreed.
That evening my father was headed to a religious meeting and was dressed up in his suit and tie. When he went into the gas station to pay the bill, the clerk did a double take and scrutinized the driver's license carefully. Once he realized that the man in torn jeans and the one that now stood before him were the same person, he handed the driver's license back to my dad who then paid the bill.
What is it about a suit that makes people respect you more? It is interesting to me how much our behavior towards other people hinges on appearances.