Monday, February 21, 2011

I walk a night in the valley...

Good news, llamas.

Webcams were on sale at work for super cheap so I picked one up. We are taking our maiden voyage right now. I have plans for this little camera... big plans... vlogging... I think is the word??

But not tonight. I think I will post my first video blog tomorrow!! For now I'm going to listen to Eisley and curl up in bed. I have had the most exhausting couple of days. Today has been pretty good though.

Let me count the ways.

-Opening manager was 45 minutes late, so I sat in my car and read John and "The Walking Dead"

-Been thinking about getting a webcam... webcams were on sale today.

-Toy Story 3, wonderful movie, was also on sale.

-New Eisley album came a week early. A WHOLE WEEK. I love Eisley.

-Pwned noobs with my bro in Call of Duty... won a ton of capture the flag matches for the first time. Yesssss.

-Came home just in time for pizza with the fam

Sadly, most of my reasons for being thankful for the day are pretty superficial, but as tired as I am, I will take it. Didn't get anything much done as far as writing, but I hope to repost chapter three very soon!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Child of Thunder (Chapter Three)

Child of Thunder

Chapter Three: Strange Coincidence

When the scattered stars fled, I awoke in a haze, chained to a mossy stone wall. Vague dreams filled my head, all of them revolving around the life, and the world, that I came from.

I tried to move and was rewarded with limited success and a sharp stab of pain. I had an awful headache like nothing I'd ever experienced in my short life. There were times when I'd gotten knocked around accidentally, and I knew how to take my lumps. But I was Rex Rennington's son. Everyone had always tread carefully around me, afraid of raising the ire of their boss.

Not so here.

Not one bit.

I sighed and took a deep breath. I yanked at my bonds as hard as my slender arms would allow. It was a useless gesture. The heavy chains held fast. I was pinned to the wall, my arms hung slightly above my head. I could barely pull them from the damp rock. My legs were a different story. I had a little more give, but not much, maybe an extra foot.

It was hideously uncomfortable. Were it not for the mercy of sleep I could have lost my mind in that place. Trying to take my mind off my dire circumstances, I decided to study my surroundings. I appeared to be in some sort of dungeon. All was darkness. I tried to peer out into the gloom, but I could make out almost nothing. There were maybe some bars to my right, and possibly I saw a door in front of me, but the light was so faint I could not be sure.

I closed my eyes, attempting to use my other senses. I could hear voices, maybe even singing, but it was beyond my understanding, either because it was a foreign tongue, or simply very far away. I was also certain I could hear screaming.

I tasted blood on my tongue.

I did not like it at all.

When I breathed in deep to ascertain what I could smell, I immediately regretted it. The cell reeked of death. It was a sickeningly sour aroma, the pungent odor of rotten flesh. I gagged, struggling not to vomit all over myself. I couldn't help wondering if things could possibly get any worse.

As I hung there feeling miserable, I noticed that the sound I'd heard was growing louder. It seemed it was indeed singing. I could hear a deep, sonorous voice singing in low tones.

I couldn't make it out at first, but the words became clearer as the speaker grew nearer. I also noticed that the sounds I'd heard beyond my cell, the wailings of other captives, had ceased. It was as if the whole dungeon was listening to that voice.

"In a realm where white flowers bloom,
o'er grassy knolls lost in time,"

I could hear footsteps now layered beneath the beautiful singing. The words carried on, closer and closer.

"we found a place where hope can dwell,
so lament no more,"

I heard a clattering not far in front of me, where I thought I'd spied our a door in the gloom. Keys rattled. Was I being freed, or were my captors coming for me? I had to assume the latter. My heartbeat began to quicken.

"...when all is darkness,
do not a shed a tear
we have a place where hope can dwell."

As the song reached it's conclusion, the door opened. The faint firelight of a teeny lantern cast its glimmer into my cell, which I quickly saw was nothing but a little box. Bars on either side led to other cells, other little boxes filled with the dead and the soon to be dead.

The figure holding the lantern was nothing but a great shadow. A bear wrapped up in a woolen black cloak. When the bear walked nearer, I saw it had a scar on its cheek. The prince? The prince of the whole ursyne kingdom was here?

The bear prince stepped forward. His mouth stretched wide in what could have been a grin, but all I saw were dozens of wicked looking teeth. He spoke in a gruff whisper, which seemed odd to me, since he'd just been singing for all the world to hear. Surely he was here to eat me... right?

"Better get you out of those chains! We must escape this place at once!" A ring of keys appeared in one hand, and he immediately went to work freeing me. I pitched forward the moment my arms were unbound. My body was so stiff I could barely move. In spite of the immense strength he no doubt possessed, the prince caught me with surprisingly gentle arms.

"Why are you helping me?" I asked, mumbling around the wound in my mouth. I was pretty certain I'd bitten my tongue at some point.

"Because I know where you come from. Others, when they see you, they don't realize what you are, but I know a human when I see one. Your kind has always been a sign to our world, a signal of history turning a new page." The words were spoken while a foul-smelling salve was applied to my wrists, which were raw and red from the chains. The prince's claws, I noticed, were filed down. The bears of this world did not seem to have such different hands from my own, once they were trimmed.

"There is a legend, a prophecy some say..." the bear continued as he pulled out a black cloak from a satchel at his side. It was similar to his own but much smaller. "That one called the Child of Thunder will come, a boy that will rid our world of war and chaos." He wrapped me up in the cloak, pulling the hood down so it obscured most of my face. I nearly retched when I took my next breath. The cloth stank like wet animal fur.

"But perhaps that is best discussed at another time. Now, listen to me. This is very important. If anyone sees you, you are going to die. If anyone hears you, you are going to die. If anyone smells you, you are probably going to die. Got it?"

When I nodded solemnly I was ushered out in the dark, narrow hallway beyond my cell. It was a long corridor, filled with all the remnants of its captives anguish. The piteous crying and tormented screams I'd thought I heard grew in volume now. Moans and shrieks echoed off the walls, seeming to come from everywhere.

"Delightful place, isn't it?" The prince snarled. "This is my father's legacy." I couldn't see much with my hood pulled down low and nothing about my surroundings gave me much reason to change that. Even as it was I still saw furry hands reaching through cell bars, grasping after the freedom that was now mine. It made me uncomfortable. I didn't want to think about all the animal eyes trained on me, eyes more used to darkness than light.

In that moment, I could not have been more grateful to have been freed so quickly.

As the prince made to leave, I stopped dead in my tracks. "Where is Needha?" I asked stubbornly. "I don't want to leave her."

"She's been sent to a labor camp," the bear replied. "You'll have to leave rescuing her to me." I wasn't so sure I wanted to do that, but I decided for now the best thing for me was to do as I was told.

We moved up a dank spiral staircase that seemed to climb forever. We passed doors that led to other levels, other cells filled with misery. The two of us bypassed it all, however, to wind up in a surprisingly cheerful foyer. A desk sat to our right, occupied by a scrawny white bear.

Further off, several bears in uniform were playing cards at a dining table. Weapons sat on the floor near their feet. Other than the warm hearth glowing near their table, and a wider than usual door straight ahead there was not much else to say about the room. The prince removed his hood. "Checking out prisoner 0-5-2-1," he declared, turning towards the beast he was addressing but not really looking at him.

"Yes, majesty," the bear behind the desk replied stiffly. "Mackanjaw, rabbit, designation 0-5-2-1 has been checked out to his royal higness Daale. Sign here please." As "Daale" leaned over the paperwork on the desk, the littler bear's eyes seemed to be glowing in admiration.

"S-sorry to h-hear about your loss at Gryndyr Hill, majesty." The bear's added nervously. "You'll get 'em next time." The prince grunted at this and said nothing. He moved towards the far door and I followed. I was wondering how a boy like me could pass for a rabbit, and what that said about the rabbits of this world, when one of the bears at the card table called out.

"Ho there, prince!" I recognized that voice. "What's the rabbit for? Was it not your own initiatives that made stewin' em up illegal?" I could see a silver stripe across the outspoken creature's left eye. This was the very same bear that had mocked Daale when Needha and I had been captured.

"I need a new servant, Basson, not that it's any of your affair." The prince turned once more to leave, reaching back to tug impatiently on my arm. I stumbled towards him, nearly lurching to the floor.

"I'm hurt, Daale!" the bear replied with an injured tone that rang false. "I thought we were friends." He turned to train his eyes on me. I was certain "Basson" couldn't see me but I still had to resist the urge to squirm under his studious gaze.

"I'll let you go, just let me get a good look at the fellow's face. Knew a rabbit once... owes me money. Just want to make sure it's not the same scamp." A mischievous grin crossed the monster's face. We were trapped now and he knew it.

Basson nodded and waved toward me with a casual flick of his long, untrimmed claws. Suddenly my hood was ripped back, exposing my face.

Exposing me.

A bear I hadn't seen had slipped behind me. A chorus of gasps filled the room. "The prince... a traitor." Daale asked without sincerity, faking surprise. "The emperor will want to hear about this!"

Before anyone could react further, Daale snatched me up with one arm and threw me onto his shoulders. Lowering himself to all fours, the beast plowed right through the door, turning it into splinters. Once more, all I could do was hold on for dear life.

We exploded onto a busy street, little flecks of wood raining down around us. Above ground, the prison we'd fled was nothing but a small tower. It's stature here belied the depths hidden under the earth.

"What is that guy's problem?" I asked as we hit the cobblestone road, surrounded by bears going about their everyday business. I wasn't sure what normal was for a bear but it looked like my world's version of normal.

"He wants to be me!" Daale replied. "Basson wants me to lose favor with my father so that he can get closer to him!"

The bears for their part reacted exactly the way I would have expected any city back home to. They looked on in surprise but did nothing. Behind us I could hear the commotion as the prison guards scrabbled about, crying "Seize them!" and the like.

Daale's paws hammered a steady beat against the road as we ran. The city we were in seemed to rise and fall in waves. Every street rose sharply only to plunge into a steep drop. Buildings stood on either side like walls of a canyon, hemming us in. I would realize soon enough that the city was carved into the face of a mountain. Every street had been formed following a quarrying process that ripped out enormous veins in the crag. It was a fortress unlike anything I had ever seen in my own world.

In an effort to disappear we seemed to following some invisible path I could not discern. We whipped around corners, slinked down back allies, zigging and zagging here and there. Most of the time the bear prince stayed on all fours but sometimes he walked on two, causing me to almost tumble to the ground.

When we emerged into a marketplace so crowded we could barely walk, I began to feel safe. The prince, lungs heaving with the exertion of our escape, stood and shrugged his shoulders to shake me off. I was afraid our black cloaks would give us away, but there were many in that crowd dressed in black cloaks. I pulled my hood down as low as I could, afraid a stray gust of wind would knock it back unexpectedly.

Strange coincidence was our undoing. Trying to slip through the crowd of mostly bears without getting trampled, I bumped into a skinny figure wrapped in his own darkly colored cape. A ram with spiraling horns pulled back his hood to look down on me with frightening red eyes. The creature fixed me with an unblinking, uncomprehending stare.

"What sort of whatsit are you?" He asked, his voice high and bleating, exactly like a sheep's, or a goat's. Before I could shrink back, he pushed the cloth back from my head, revealing me to the world.

"I'm a rabbit," I replied, despite the fact that I was clearly nothing of the kind. I petulantly flipped my hood back over my face, noticing that I was about to lose Daale in the crowd.

A strong hand gripped my bicep tighlty before I could walk away. "I think... I think you're that prisoner who just escaped." My blood went cold. I didn't know how he knew who I was, only that I needed to escape.

I fought against the creature, but he didn't let up. Reaching into my pocket, I grasped the claw that surprisingly never been confiscated. Another strange coincidence, it seemed. I slashed at the goat-thing's arm with the wicked talon, securing my release.

The ram cried out, grasping at his injured arm. He took a deep deep breath and screamed "GUARDS! GUARDS!" As I fled into the crowd. More and more passersby were beginning to take notice of me. And not all of them bears. I could see panthers, cheetahs, wolves, and some creatures I didn't recognize.

Space was beginning to surround me. Everyone was keeping their distance, not wanting to get between me and the bears that would come for me. I could only hope the prince could get to me first.

And then I heard the scuffle begin. Far off, I could see Daale caught up in a battle. He was wielding a mighty sword against at least a dozen beasts, too preoccupied to be able to come back for me. Rescue was not coming.

I was surrounded by enemies on all sides, and there was no one who could help me now. That thought kept repeating in my head, over and over. I couldn't seem to erase it.

Rescue was not coming.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Child of Thunder (Chapter Two)

Child of Thunder

Chapter Two: Slack-jawed and Stupefied

When the darkness gave way, I was laying on my back on dry ground. For a moment I wondered if it had all been a dream. Maybe I'd simply fallen from the wagon. Surely my parents were nearby, searching for me.

As I looked around me, however, I quickly found that was not the case at all. The bison lay beside me, its great chest heaving. It slowly opened one big brown eye and trained it upon me. Suddenly that strangely intelligent eye narrowed, sharpening its focus on something behind me. The eye went from slit to wide with fear.

The bison shot to its feet. "We have to get out of here!" It cried in a gruff but distinctly female voice. "This is a battlefield!" Too stunned yet to register a that an animal had just spoken to me, I stood myself and looked to the horizon that had startled the bison. I spied out dark figures like a moving forest. Tall and spindly creatures with a complex array of antlers growing from their heads.


Deer walking on two legs.

Every one of them was armed to the proverbial teeth with swords and bows and spears. "Hurry!" the bison cried. "Follow me!" She didn't run in the opposite direction like I expected but straight out. I wasn't oriented yet, but if the deer came from the east, we ran not west but north. Too bewildered to be ready to think for myself, I followed the bison, struggling to keep up with her from the start.

I was confused as to why she was running perpendicular to our apparent attackers, then I looked opposite to their approach and saw something even more fearsome than the odd sight of the deer. Thick black shapes were ambling from that direction. If the deer were a forest granted the ability to move, then these were enormous boulders sprang to life.


Every one of them was armed even more fiercely than the deer and dressed in silver armor that shimmered in the sunlight. The army of bears carried axes, maces, and broadswords as long as my skinny frame.

I could only stop and stare, even more stunned by the sight of the enormous creatures flying up the hillside. The ground sloped subtly upward towards the charging deer, lending their sprightly legs incredible speed. It wouldn't be long before they overtook us.

"Come on, boy!" The bison cried over her shoulder. "Are you just going to stand there slack-jawed and stupified or do you want to live?"

As the two hoards of onrushing figures loomed ever closer like two waves about to crash together, I ran hard after the bison. It was a losing fight, however. Every time I looked to the left, the bears were a little closer, and when I looked to the right, the deer were considerably nearer.

Finally the bison grunted with frustration from several yards ahead of me and stopped, lowering herself so that I could climb on. Panting with exertion I closed that last bit of distance between her and I and threw myself onto her back. Mere seconds later, the deer swept past. We'd only barely managed to get clear in time.

I could see a few heads turn to look our way, but the bears commanded far more attention than a stray boy and bison could. The sounds of battle soon began to resound, grunting and screaming, and clashing of weapons.

The bison hastily sped away, continuing towards what I guessed was north, but wasn't sure about it. But then, I'd woken up this morning convinced that animals couldn't talk, let alone carry weaponry, so I wasn't sure about anything much anymore.

I turned to watch the fight behind me. Indeed, I could scarcely tear my eyes away. "Face forward, child." The bison commanded. "That is no sight for young, innocent eyes." She ambled on, moving at a steady pace. I had no idea where we we going, but I hardly even noticed that we were moving, save to note that the details of the struggle were growing more difficult to make out.

I looked away for a moment, but my eyes were drawn back to the spectacle. I hardly saw it for what a strange battle it was, deer and bear in opposition. I saw brute strength crashing against lithe agility. The deer-like creatures were an economic poetry in motion, shifting and sliding from foe to foe. The bears however had bone-crushing power on their side. Their attacks did not connect as often, but when they did manage a hit, that deer did not rise again.

We slowly, subtly began to move in an arc. North became northeast. I could soon spy rank upon rank of deer-men who had not yet joined the battle, waiting at the ready to swarm the enemy.

Even further than this we went, till we came upon scores of brightly colored tents set up in neat rows. An encampment. Due no doubt to the battle being waged not far off, it looked sparsely populated. I saw one very young looking deer from around the corner of a pale blue tent, but he quickly disappeared from sight.

The bison strode right up to a tent that looked to me almost like a small, portable castle. It was over fifteen feet tall and looked as though it had two levels. Two deer stood with pikes crossing over the entrance. They looked even taller and more imposing than most of the creatures I'd seen on the battlefield. Both had swords at their waists and a quiver of arrows strapped to their backs. They were dressed in dark leather armor embossed with red trim.

"Business?" One of them intoned severely. Neither of them so much as glanced at us. They just kept staring straight ahead as if nothing had changed. The bison knelt, twitching her back a bit. Evidently my ride was over. I slid off to one side and stood in my bare feet.

"My name is Needha. I am here on behalf of Queen Eleanor, to speak to your king. It is of the utmost importance." So Needha was her name. I decided for the time being not to question anything I saw. I felt like if I pulled at that thread in my mind, it would unravel and drive me insane.

"The king is not granting audiences at this time." The deer opposite the the first speaker declared. Like his comrade, he did not look at us. It was meant to unnerve, and it was working. On me, at least. Needha was a different story. The bison did not budge an inch.

"I cannot leave until I deliver my message." She sat her rump down on the ground, looking a bit like an overgrown dog waiting for its master. "I'll be right here. Waiting. Till the sun goes black if need be." When a creature of that bulk makes up her mind not to be moved, she isn't going to be moved.

Finally the guards gave in first. The one closer to us sighed and flipped his pike around, driving it into the dirt. With a swish of cloth he vanished to the interior of the tent, and the other shifted so that he was blocking the entry to the tent with his body rather than his weapon. He eyed me strangely as he shifted positions, but said nothing.

And so we waited, just as Needha had said we would. She was prepared for this, but I was not. I was feeling increasingly vulnerable as time passed, not least of all for my long lost shoes and shirt. When the day crumbled up into starlight, I was going to freeze.

After several minutes of standing around, the deer-man emerged with a scowl plain to see on his features. "You may enter." Was all he said, jerking a hand towards the tent flap that led within. It was clear it irked him that we'd been granted an audience.

Needha turned to me. "Stay close, child," she told me as she barged past the surly warriors. We stepped into a lavishly appointed but very empty room. The carpet was soft beneath my bare feet. A plush rug of intricate design, all purple and blue.

An apparently female deer in a red dress emerged from behind a partition that apparently led to yet another room. She had softer eyes than the others and seemed friendly. "The king is through here. He will see you now." She waved a hand in the direction we were to go and curtsied gracefully in one motion. Needha nodded and ambled on. I followed, feeling it might be best if I stayed quiet. "What are you? The lady deer asked me. "Some sort of giant mole rat?"

"I'm a boy," I replied indignantly. The deer giggled and we kept walking. The next room was just as luxurious as the last. Only, instead of trunks and couches, this one contained an enormous bed. A great silver-furred stag was its only occupant. He coughed fitfully and waved us close.

The old beast looked at us with haggard eyes. One was as milky white as freshly fallen snow, the other an eerie pale blue that seemed to shimmer. "Needha? Is that really you?" His voice was raspy, but kind. "Come close so these wizened eyes can get a good look." We did as commanded. "It is you!" The king cried. "But your form has been altered!"

Needha's voice was dappled with bitterness when she spoke. "I was cast into the dark world. Mine is a long tale. Have you patience enough to hear it?"

"It has been too long since I heard your voice. I think I can manage. Though not too long, dear. I may fall asleep." An eyelash batted over his useless white eye in a wink.

"Long have I served Queen Eleanor as messenger, as you well know. Our people had come across terrible information about the emperor's plans, and I came to inform you. However, I was intercepted by a squad of ursynd, and I never made it. They had a wizard with them. Some sort of goat thing. One of them stabbed me so hard his claw broke off, and then I was thrown into a pool of water to drown.

"When I awoke, I was in the dark world, and I could no longer stand on two legs. And that claw, the one stuck in my side, somehow it sapped my strength. This child," she titled her head towards me at this, "found me. He pulled out the claw, and I regained my vigor. I had a... feeling about him. A feeling he was too important to leave behind, so I brought him with me."

Needha'd used a few words I didn't understand, but I felt I comprehended most of her story now. Except for the claw. If it was merely the broken talon of a warrior, why had it hurt her so? It had been little more than a splinter to a creature of her size.

"A marvelous tale, I assure you," The king rumbled. "But you left out one important detail. What is this message you so direly raced to deliver?" The stag had yet taken little notice of me. I couldn't decide whether to be offended or elated at this.

Needha dropped her voice, speaking low and quiet as a graveyard whisper. "The ursyne... the bears. They're raising an army in secret, one of the largest our world has ever seen. The emperor has decreed that all of your kind will be wiped out, your head mounted on his wall. All they do not already control, they intend to destroy or enslave."

The king did not react to the dire news in the way I would have expected. He threw back his head and laughed. "If that old fart wants my head he knows where to find me! I'm not afraid of the ursyne. In fact, my troops are out there right now, slaughtering his beasts!"

"Yes, yes, no doubt," Needha responded impatiently. "But it's different this time. The queen feels that we must create an allied response. This could be our last chance to work together!"

"And join forces with your kind?" The old stag coughed and laughed again. "I would sooner die!" I was beginning to rethink my former assessment of the deer. Perhaps he wasn't what he appeared.

"Then you're a fool." Needha replied. "A fool of the worst sort. You're convinced you're not a fool at all and that you've got the situation under control. I'll see myself out."

"Excellent! It saves me the trouble of having you thrown out!"

Needha stormed away, fuming with barely controlled rage. I followed the trail of her angry exit like a diver caught in a riptide, helplessly pulled along. We emerged into waning sunlight, the day nearly spent. Needha sounded like a bull, breathing heavily through her nose. I reached out and stroked her shoulder, the way I would any animal that needed calming in the rodeo.

"Come child," she said after a moment. "Let us leave this place. There is nothing more we can do here, having failed."

"Where are we going?" I asked. "I need to understand." It was the first time I had given voice to my confusion, and once I said the words, the floodgates opened, and I was overwhelmed in the rush of my discombobulated thoughts.

"Climb on my back, young one. I will explain on the way. This has been a fool's errand, and I would just as soon waste no more time. We must make haste so that I can report to my queen." As the bison knelt, I did as commanded, situating myself as comfortably as I could.

I was such a small thing to Needha that she never seemed to take any notice of my weight. As we rode I began to ask the questions that were burning in my mind. In this way I learned that much of the world was in the control of the bears, or ursyne, as they were often called. These ursyne controlled a massive empire, and had enslaved many whole races and forced them into labor.

I did not understand some of the words she used, but I gathered that freedom was a scarcity and war terribly common. Only creatures with the might to defend themselves could thrive. Of these, the deer were among the most powerful. There's was a race of warriors, lithe and well trained like the Spartans of Ancient Greece.

The bison commanded an island kingdom that remained a place of safety due to its inaccessibility. The queen there garnered much admiration from Needha. She seemed a just ruler, protecting all who came to her shores seeking safety.

The prairie we strode across could have easily passed for the grassy endlessness of the Kansas I'd left behind. The hills began to reach higher though as traveled, soon reaching a point where they plunged into ever larger cliffs. The grass grew interspersed with more and more rocks.

After I had learned as much as could be gleaned from Needha about her world, she asked me about my own. I spoke without a hint of regret, not yet missing the traveling circus I'd slipped from. I illustrated it in mildly disparaging terms, casting it all in a negative light.

I was describing how wagons worked, to Needha's horror, when a howling pierced the night. The sound immediately caused both of us to lapse into sudden silence. "Well then you... you hitch the oxen to the uh, the wagon and..." My voice trailed away. The howl came again but it was cut off abruptly, as if the beast from which it had originated had fallen harm.

Needha slowed her pace to a crawl. The bison tilted her head a bit to the side, listening. Then she turned to face me, and said in a whisper. "Whatever happens, try your very best to stay alive. I really do think you're important."

Things began to happen quickly after that. A half dozen large shadows materialized out of the night air. Six bears with features obscured by flowing black cloaks. "Look here, prince!" One of the shadows called out. "It seems fortune has favored us after all."

The ursyne spread out quickly, surrounding us and drawing weapons that caught the glimmer of the moonlight. "Fight or die, little cow? What'll it be?" The first speaker taunted. He had black fur, but there was a curious silver stripe across one eye.

At once, the six mighty bears moved in with weapons at the ready, blades and maces that could probably take off my head without even slowing. Needha lowered her head and charged forward. Our attackers might have anticipated this, but they could not expect her to veer right, twisting at the last second. The bison ducked under a blow from one of the creatures to plow into him. The impact was hard enough to stagger the enormous beast. It was all I could do to hang on during all this, gripping Needha's fur for stability.

Before any more blows could be traded, a bear a bit larger than the rest dropped his weapon and swooped in. I gasped, bracing myself as best as I could. I felt helpless and I hated it. Our attacker caught Needha under her legs as she moved in for a second strike and flipped her onto her back. I would have been crushed beneath her bulk but another of the monsters snatched me out of the air, catching me with sharp claws as I flew by.

The pain was so sudden and sharp I was momentarily disoriented, too disoriented to know what to do. I dangled upside down from the bear's enormous paw. Its talons dug deep into my flesh, and I could feel blood creeping down my leg. As the blood began to rush to my head, I struggled dizzily, kicking my foot in an attempt to free myself. The beast only squeezed all the more tightly.

"We got ourselves a lively one 'ere!" The bear called to his fellows as he let me hang there, wriggling desperately. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Needha was being bound, all four feet lashed together. This surprised me, because I had expected them to kill both of us outright. I realized then that neither of us would die just yet.

We were captives now.

We would be prisoners to these creatures, alive and well only at their mercy.

"What is that?" A sonorous voice called. "A mole rat? Can we eat it?" I twisted to look, but I couldn't tell who had said it.

"Not by the breath in your lungs!" Came the confident voice of the bear who had knocked Needha on her back. "These two are prisoners of the emperor, and as such they're under my protection." The bear was a massive specimen with chestnut brown fur. He had a scar across his cheek where no fur grew, and one of his ears was missing. I noticed then that all six bears were bloodied and battered, as if they'd been in battle just recently.

The bear who had spoken first laughed derisively. "What's that, prince? Hoping Daddy will forgive your failure if you give him a little gift?"

"But 'e won't quit his squirming!" My captor cried.

"Well bash him on the head then, if you can't handle one little boy." The confident bear, their apparent leader, replied. A prince? Was he the emperor's son? I could only assume so.

"Oh. Alright." Before I could resist, I was quickly flipped right side up. A large furry face appeared before me, all slavering jaws and greedy green eyes. "Night night." The bear told me. And then a fist crashed down on my skull, and all the starlight and blackness of the evening filled my head.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Because I usually write poems in twos for some reason...

I wrote a poem based on "Child of Thunder", the story I am currently working on. I think it turned out pretty decently, but I am not always the best judge. Now, it may seem like commentary of a sort, but it isn't really meant that way. It's based on a central theme in the story.

"A World Without a King"

I found a well to another world,
where I drowned to live
and all was made plain,
to my unseeing eyes
a world without a king?
what is that to me?

A world without a king,
the creatures here are savages,
nothing but animals slowly
tearing each other to shreds
A world without a king,
what is that to me?

If a ship can sail without sails,
and a rowboat can row without oars,
can a land divided stand on its own?
If the sun can burn without heat,
and rain fall without water,
can a people last forever,
when they hate each other?
A world without a king,
what is that to me?

If lovers can embrace without love,
can a kingdom survive without a king?
If all we do is preach peace,
and make war,
how long will we survive?
A world without a king,
what is that to me?
The terrifying,
the eve of destruction.

New poem

New poem. This one is admittedly a bit odd, but the meaning should be clear. In the usual style of my poetry, the first couple sections address the world, the last is about God (Actually... my last poem was the exact opposite). I've never really explained that before I guess. Let me know what you think.

"Untitled #8"

There's a whiteness hiding out,
slipping to the edges of my blurry vision,
I gave up on myself and lost it all,
now I can't tell,
nor remember,
the color of my eyes,
don't know blue from brown,
hazel or gray,
don't know myself anymore,
when I look in the mirror

But whatever the color,
I know one thing is true,
they're all black at the center,
our pupils open our world,
exposing us to the darkness,
rods and cones interlaced with deceit
the gray has slipped into my bones,
now I can't tell,
can't recall the sight of you,
the color of your eyes,
blue like the sky perhaps,
or green as the ocean,
but black at the center,
That I know.

bloodshot and red, my eyes slip closed
shut tight against all this world has to show me,
I can't embrace the colors here,
can't hold tight the thoughts
that run like rivers
back to the sea,
but with my eyes shut tight,
I can see the whiteness,
the light that's been waiting for me,
the light that shines from eyes,
that will never look away.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Orange Farmer's Daughter

"The Orange Farmer's Daughter"

Once upon a time, there was an orange.

It wasn't just any orange, but the king of all oranges. Now now, don't be so quick to scoff. This orange grew in a secret grove filled with golden trees. It grew among its peers into a fruit without peer, the most delicious orange to ever live. This amazing orange's tree grew near a brook that babbled like no other brook had ever babbled. If this were a story about a little brook that babbled, you would no doubt be moved to tears in an instant, but it's not. So please hold your kleenex to the end.

One day, a squirrel was leaping through the trees, trying to find a decent meal. It sniffed at each and every orange in the tree, finding none to its liking. He was about to give up when it caught the mouth-watering scent of that most special of oranges.

The squirrel plucked the orange and took a deep whiff, snuffling with its snuffler. Immediately its mouth began to water. If that squirrel did nothing else with the rest of his life, he had to eat that orange. He was about to claw his way into the little fruit's tender flesh when the orange cried out in protest.

"Wait! You musn't eat me! I taste like poo!" It cried in a surprisingly shrill British accent.

The squirrel was convinced that the orange would not taste one bit like poop, but there was something about the orange's voice, the quality of its globular body. The squirrel melted dreamily into the citrus' lack of arms.

"I can't eat her! I just can't do it!" The squirrel cried in his inner monologue. But the allure of her scent was too much for him to bear. At once he knew there was only one to save the little orange's life. He threw her into the brook.

Down the river the orange floated, surprised at this sudden turn of events but happy to be alive. She floated from river to lake to sea and finally all the way to the ocean. The orange lost all track of time as she drifted, making shapes out of the clouds by day, and constellations out of the stars by night.

Finally ocean became sea once more, and sea became lake. Soon the orange was floating down another quiet little river. She drifted right near a farm that had been down on its luck for the past decade. The little farm was mere weeks from foreclosure and ruin.

When the orange saw the state of those dilapidated buildings, scrawny farm animals, and withered orange trees, she knew this was where she belonged. It's important for you to understand this, that the orange had a tongue. Why, you ask? Naturally because this tongue was the only way the orange could control her destiny. She used her tongue to paddle her way right to the shore, where she became trapped amongst the rocks.

The orange's plan was simple. She would give her life to become a tree with beautiful oranges that would save that failing farm. The farmer did not have much help left to him in those days, only his daughter Ruthy.

Ruthy was ambling along the path beside the river with bucket in hand, eager to collect M&Ms from the nearby M&M tree. When she saw that glint of light in the water she stopped, wandering if her eyes were playing tricks on her. There lay the orange, waiting to sacrifice itself.

Ruthy eagerly dropped her pail and ran to the river, snatching up the fruit whose seeds were as valuable as gold. Without hesitation, Ruthy's fingertips ripped the orange's flesh apart, and she ate it in one enormous bite.

The orange screamed all the way down.

Child of Thunder (Chapter One)

"Child of Thunder"

Chapter One: Worlds of Storm

You may think being a part of the wildest show in the west might make for an exciting life, but through my thirteen years I had learned to grow bored with everything about it. I sat atop a wagon piled high with supplies and equipment, hauled along the endless prairie by four broad-shouldered oxen. They were enormous beasts of burden that to my young eyes were surely as great as dinosaurs from the history books my mother insisted I study.

I was sprawled upon a dingy brown tarp that had represented home for all my life. I watched from the caboose of a wagon train that had weathered wind, rain, sleet and snow, fog, and even sand to deliver a performance that had been lauded as one of the best rodeos in America. "Rex Rennington is perhaps Buffalo Bill's only true rival," they said.

Rex Rennington, my father.

He would be on the opposite end of our merry caravan, leading the way across that infinite sea of green grasses. I'd learned to hate how the plains stretched to every horizon, probably going all the way to the edges of the world. I was idly convinced that the grass I looked at on my right was related to the grass on my left, not because they were so close but because all the world was wrapped in continuous prairie.

I let myself plop forward onto my stomach, uninterested in both the world around me, and the worlds of thought ruffling through my mind. Slater Portkey, one of the clowns, let his horse slow enough to draw even with my perch atop that supply cart.

As I heaved a sigh, he spoke. The clown's voice startled me, even though I'd been expecting it, having seen Slater coming out of the corner of my eye. "You feelin' all right, Master Riley?" The clown's quiet rasp startled me because the man was famous for the rarity of his words. If words were as precious as gold, to be stored up and saved like a dragon's treasure, then Slater Portkey would be the envy of all his dragon friends.

"There's a storm brewin' out there," he continued, waving a hand at the northern sky. "Don't feel right, don't feel right at all." I raised my head and took a glance for myself. He wasn't kidding. Tall purple thunderheads were gathering like grumbling bison, ready to conquer the infinite prairie.

I nodded, grunting noncommittally. I didn't like any of the clowns, and Slater Portkey was my least favorite clown of them all. I buried my head in my arms and waited, hoping he would go away. When I took a peek, once more from the edge of my vision, he was gone.

I raised my head and took a look around. The storm had crept a bit closer. On the rolling hills beneath it I noted a little black speck I hadn't seen before. It was something like a rock, only its surface seemed to ripple in the wind, as if it had overgrown with grass like the land all about it.

And then the creature, for that was what it was, turned its great shaggy head. Perhaps it was regarding our caravan. As I watched, the dignified beast stretched one enormous hoof and pressed it to the dirt, seemingly attempting to stand. It's unsuccessful efforts made me wonder if it was injured.

I looked to the west, the direction we were headed. There sat Old Gustav, a German man as ancient as his name implied, at the front of the wagon. He was clucking his tongue at those four brawny oxen pulling us along.

I slithered backwards and fell with a jolt from the back of the wagon, landing in between two wheel ruts. The caravan rambled on, heedless of my escape.

That animal... I wanted to see it.

Close up.

I would be back before my mother and father ever knew a thing. I slipped off my shoes, reveling in the feel of the soft fronds slipping like whispers between my toes. I ran quickly, hurrying to see the monster that had caught my attention.

We'd been traversing a rise in the land, which dipped to the north into a little depression. When I grew near enough that I was walking downhill, I saw more of the creature. It was bigger even than an ox, with a wise head crowned by two small horns. I could tell that even sitting it was taller than I.

A bison.

Standing there with shoes dangling in my hand, I was tempted to think myself a fool, having run away for something that roamed the world in enormous herds. But there was something different about this particular bison. Firstly, it seemed far bigger than the ones I'd seen before. And second, it looked like it was regarding me with uncommon intelligence, a look I'd never seen among my childhood friends, only my elders.

Certainly not a bison.

As I neared, the animal took another stab at rising. This time, it was almost successful before it stumbled back to the earth with a mighty crash. I walked a bit closer, feeling courageous in spite of the monster's titanic size. It was this daring that allowed me to spy a bloody gash in the bison's flank.

I took another step closer, letting my shoes fall to the ground. There was blood spattered about. Apparently the monster had been quite seriously injured. The bison stared at me, then lowered its head as if resigned to a terrible fate. It didn't seemed to care one bit about my arrival.

More brazen by the second, I leaned in to inspect the wound that was troubling the bison. There seemed to be something stuck in its side. Something sharp and bone white. I grasped it with both hands and yanked it free.

At once the bison's entire body trembled. A flow of blood began to gush out, released by my thoughtless prying. I dropped the object that had stuck the bison and tore off my shirt, using the garment to staunch the wicked laceration.

I could feel a bit of a heartbeat beneath my hands, but it didn't take long to fade away. The wound seemed to have healed. I let my ruined shirt drop as heedlessly as I'd let my shoes go. When it fell, I noticed the sharp something lay glowing in the dirt and blood next to it.

It was an enormous claw, as long as my hand. It looked like something a dinosaur would pick its teeth with. No wonder the bison had been laying so helpless. The claw had a subtle blue glow when I picked it up, but it faded in my hands. The creature was rousing itself now, getting ready to stand. I found myself eying the heft of its shaggy shoulders and feeling wild.

I wanted to ride it. Was that odd?

The bison stood, and then turned so that we were face to face, its great brown eyes staring deep into mine. The creature lowered its head, tucking it momentarily behind one forelimb. An approximation of a humble bow, it seemed to me.

Then, as if this were not strange enough, the bison did something even stranger. It nuzzled my chest, then turned and knelt in the dirt again. Now I was facing the beast from the side. It nudged me a bit with its nose again, as if prodding me to climb onto its back. Could this be? It really wanted to let me mount its back?

Preparing myself mentally, I slipped the claw into my pants pocket. I didn't want to allow any second thoughts to creep in, so I leaped onto its back and hauled myself up, digging both hands into that thick brown fur. The bison hardly seemed to mind my weight, as if young boys taking it for a ride was as common as you please.

The monstrous creature stood, making me feel as though I'd mounted a true giant. Perhaps an elephant, or a whale more than some mere cow-like brute. One hoof churned at the dirt for a moment before the bison took off, quick as a pistol shot across the land.

Out of the world I'd known we ran, straight into the worlds of storm waiting on the Northern horizon.


I clung with a vicegrip to the back of the bison as it tore across the plains. We moved with such speed the wind burned my eyes and ruffled my hair. I had never experienced anything like it. The bounding gait of the bison was a rhythm unto itself that I quickly adapted to.

In the back of my mind, a little niggling doubt told me I ought to be worried about my parents, and everything I'd left behind, but I couldn't think about anything but the next hillock coming up. The infinite prairie rose in dark, bounding curves like ocean waves in the rapidly expanding night.

We came to the top of another rise and I could see below us a herd of wild bison roaming and grazing, heedless of the storm growling overhead. My bison slowed, ambling at a much slower pace. I didn't understand this at all. I wanted to fly again. I was caught up in the rush I'd just experienced and I wasn't read for my adventure to end just yet.

The bison began to move among the herd, and I remained sprawled on its back. It seemed as though it was trying to talk to the others of its kind, but it was clearly getting nowhere. Not a single one of the bison seemed particularly interested in its frantic head shakery and nearly comical mewling.

Finally as fat raindrops began to plop to the earth around us, my bison steed gave up its attempts to communicate and continued north once more. I shivered as water began to pelt my back, chillingly cold against my bare skin.

The land undulated no more. Instead it stretched flat as a tabletop. The bison moved slowly at first, then began to increase in speed. We hadn't gone far however when a little pool of water appeared not far ahead of us. It looked odd, however. Not like a pond at all but more like a hole punched into the earth and filled with blackness. It looked dark and deep as a cavern leading to the center of the Earth. If I hadn't seen water rippling at its surface I would never have taken it for water at all.

The bison didn't slow or hesitate a bit. It increased our speed and coiled its mighty legs as if preparing for a jump. I expected it to leap right over the pool but instead we landed right in its center.

We sank like coins in a wishing well, for apparently there was no bottom to this strange tarn. I floundered, trying to cling tight to the bison's wet fur. I found no purchase and lost all sight of the creature as we slid deeper. It was all I could do to hold my breath. This was not normal water, I was certain of that. It made my skin buzz strangely like electricity, only it wasn't painful at all.

I could see nothing in the blackness at first, but as I fought against my empty lungs, bright spots began to dance before my eyes, cavorting through the dark like shards of sunlight. Then they began to transform into far stranger shapes. I saw ghoulish specters, pigeons on a church rooftop, and ladies dancing. I saw a bear dressed like a man, and an deer-like creature holding a sword.

Last of all I saw my mother, tenderly singing me a lullaby when I was ill once long ago. I opened my mouth for air, but I never tasted either oxygen or water, for I blacked out in that exact instant.