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Thread: Fit for Life

  1. #151
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    That was a great installment. Very extensive, descriptive in all aspects - building, hunting, tanning, healing, food prep.

    And some more intimate thoughts as well.

    Thanks for continuing to work so diligently for us.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  2. #152
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    Re: Fit for Life

    The next chapter might take a while. It depends on how long it takes me to compile and/or update my "Who's Who", "Herbs", and "Gear" compendia.

    I just started going through the chapters on page 2.....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  3. #153
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Take your time - you're writing a great story here.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  4. #154
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    That was a great installment. Very extensive, descriptive in all aspects - building, hunting, tanning, healing, food prep.

    And some more intimate thoughts as well.

    Thanks for continuing to work so diligently for us.
    I did a LOT of research to be sure I remembered my primitive tanning and glue right, along with herbs and their properties, a lot of which I learned in Botany. The food prep is all Indian lore I picked up mostly when working with Scout troops. The building is from a summer at Scout camps and tours of old western forts turned historical sites -- again with research to confirm my memory.

    All in all, I think nine hours went into that chapter. The nice thing is that all that research won't have to be done again....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  5. #155
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    Re: Fit for Life

    BTW, in reading the whole thing again, I found two glaring errors and a minor one. I wish I could get mod authority over my own story....

    But I now have my compendia: Who's Who, Herbs, Gear, and Animals. So I can start on the next chapter!

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  6. #156
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I am most impressed by your in-depth research! Knowing that what you are presenting has true factual elements is most commendable!

    "Inside" your story you are giving us information that could prove most useful to our survival, should we ever find ourselves in a situation that would require it! Then again, the overall story itself is also quite captivating!

    To say that your efforts are appreciated would be an understatement!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

  7. #157
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I am most impressed by your in-depth research! Knowing that what you are presenting has true factual elements is most commendable!

    "Inside" your story you are giving us information that could prove most useful to our survival, should we ever find ourselves in a situation that would require it! Then again, the overall story itself is also quite captivating!

    To say that your efforts are appreciated would be an understatement!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    Survival hint: only what I present about plants or animals for which I give scientific names will be useful. the others are either legendary or fictional.

    Oh -- and making natural glue is a bit more labor-intensive and complex than I presented. this is called "artistic license" -- I didn't want them to be sitting in Fort Tree until the leaves started falling from the oaks.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  8. #158
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Well, folks, here comes another one that ran off somewhere I hadn't planned. It also decided to stop far before my outline called for, but it was a good spot, so there it is. And the new bit fits the overall structure, so it stands.

    Now, to copy, past, edit, add graphic, and post....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  9. #159
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    Re: Fit for Life

    damn installment teasing sicko


    j/k...at the rate I'm learning patients (sic) I'll be a DR. before this story is done..ok/

  10. #160
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Is it "soup" YET???

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Happy New Year, everyone!


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  12. #162
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    Re: Fit for Life

    II


    Hill and Forest


    “Hey, Morsel – over here!”

    Oran heard from fifty meters away, and went to join Chen. “Whassup?”

    “Tell me what this looks like”, Chen requested. Oran bent to look.

    They were eight days west of Fort Tree, following the edge of the hills. Avoiding the flat savanna kept them mostly out of the way of gr’venstut, and if they met any they could retreat into the forest, which the massive beasts shied away from. But the forest itself made slow going, especially along the line between savanna and hills, where some creeks couldn’t be seen until a hiker had almost fallen in.

    The hardest day had been the first. Casey and “Cat” had led the way to a path down the scarp. It followed a landslide nearly two kilometers into the forest, which sloped down into the bed of the stream which flowed near Fort Tree. They hiked the stream bed, a wide channel covered in gravel carved away from the landslide and spread by storm rains. It was smooth, but damp, with one or two centimeters of water flowing across most of the surface. If there ever had been, there were no fish now, not with a channel filled nearly level with gravel. It was hardly without life, though: frogs, salamanders, huge crickets, moths with color patterns that looked almost like camouflage. Ryan fell to muttering about impossible mixes of species and creatures that didn’t fit any taxonomy – like the ‘flying’ tree lizards with suction feet and fangs plus a tail with a poison sting. Ocean let out cries of delight from time to time at the sight of some plant or other, and once over a type of slug. Samples went into pouch after pouch of the grass leaf sheets. A few – four, precisely – went very carefully into greased leather pouches. These Ocean collected herself, carefully, touching them only with thick leaves which she then buried in the stream’s gravel bed.

    But for most it was just a hike through woods different than they’d ever seen. Their experience so far, of dangers faced and conquered, kept any fear at bay. Besides, the glow on the tip of Anaph’s staff when he looked at something, wishing to know if it meant danger, brought its own level of confidence. Even so, it was slow: They descended the landslide one at a time, a process that took half an hour with everyone whole – they could never have done it bearing a stretcher. They walked the creek carefully, for even though they had warning of dangers and confidence to face them, a creek bed of gravel isn’t the best walking surface, and they had to meander back and forth to keep their feet dry. Then there was the climb out the other side, up a dry creek channel into ground still dotted with tumbled rocks and boulders. By the time they reached the rolling hills on the other side, almost four hours of daylight had passed.

    Of course they had to visit the lake, to see the water Ocean had said was ahead, the water they’d turned aside from to escape the swarm of gr’venstut. Rigel had turned them loose for a swim, with the provision that no clothing or gear get wet, then in a burst of playful enthusiasm he, his squires Austin and Chen, Oran, and Anaph had swum across to touch the cliff. They found a crack that let them ascend, and took turns climbing and diving, always going a little higher – until Chen launched badly and landed worse, stunned enough that Oran propelled him back across with a rescue stroke. Then Rigel had to wait until their bonded trio returned from a little visit to some deep grass.

    So when they’d finally camped, they could still see the lake, and hadn’t gone more than five kilometers west in the entire day.

    Since then they’d made good progress, going over forty kilometers one day and even exceeding that another. Rigel had no complaints this time about their speed!

    Chen had decided that the most important scouting was along the edge of the forest. He couldn’t explain why in any reasonable way; it was his certainty on the matter that had convinced Ryan to approve the idea. Casey and Cat scouted the open territory ahead, only once ordering a detour – a place where something had taken down a gr’venstut, and carrion birds surrounded the carcass. Meanwhile, Chen and Oran found nothing interesting along the edge of the woods.

    At least, until now. Chen wasn’t trusting his judgment on this; he wanted his fellow scout’s opinion, too.

    “Holy shit”, Oran breathed. “It’s like a patio!”

    Chen nodded. “That’s what I thought – stonework, level and flat on purpose.” He grinned with excitement. “Somebody built this!”

    Oran pulled out his bronze sword and began chopping at the thorny vines – another species Ryan couldn’t categorize – carefully, to avoid damaging the blade. Chen joined him, carving back the edge of the vegetation, pausing now and then to sweep away the debris with a fallen branch.

    Chen’s sword was the one that went “chink!” “That was stone!” he exclaimed. Quickly they peeled away the thick greenery, to discover a rough stone face a meter and a half above the ground. Industrious chopping over the next few minutes revealed a large stone, over three meters in height, nowhere as much as a meter across, standing upright in the middle of an oval area paved in stone. They stared at it, then without a word went to chopping more clear, until they’d uncovered all the paving stone, and then cleared away all the debris.

    “That’s too weird”, Oran declared after they put their swords away. “Just standing up a stone out in the middle of nowhere!”

    Chen held up a hand for silence. Something about what Oran had said tugged at something in his mind – but he couldn’t pin it down. “There’s something familiar here”, he told Oran. “But ‘in the middle of nowhere’? Morsel, there could be a whole village under all these vines!”

    Oran looked at the mass of vegetation with a few leafy trees poking out the top. “Right”, he said. “You look for a village, I’ll tell lord Rigel.” With that he spun and was off. Chen looked after him, chuckled, and started carving a path back toward the closest tree.

    “A standing stone!”, Ocean pronounced when the rest had arrived. Ryan nodded, and said, “Definitely.”

    “A what?” Rigel asked.

    “A standing stone”, Ocean repeated. “A menhir, a monolith – different names for the same thing. They’re found all over western Europe, almost always in areas where there was Celtic culture.”

    Tanner frowned at that, but Devon had a question. “So what’s it for?”

    Ryan started to answer, but Ocean was faster. “Sometimes they were markers fro gathering places. Sometimes they were places for nature worship. Sometimes they were artificial landmarks. Sometimes they were all three.” She was slowly going around the stone in a clockwise direction. “Anaph, can you tell anything?”

    Anaph had been staring at the stone; now he moved up and touched it lightly with the middle finger of his left hand. He shook his head, and touched it with the tip of his staff. “If it ever had power, there’s nothing here now. But there’s a sense of something....” He frowned, tossed his staff to Austin, and placed both hands on the stone. Slowly he turned, step by step moving around the stone, hands always in contact. When his back was due west, he nodded, and then again when it was due east, and again when it was due north.

    “It’s a signpost”, he announced. “It means, ‘Turn here’.”

    “Turn where?” Devon asked.

    “North. It doesn’t matter which way you’re going, east or west, it says turn north.”

    “What, a spell that tells people to turn?” Breeze inquired.

    “No spell. Just a lot of people turned here. A lot of them left some kind of offering. It left a sense of what the stone meant.”

    Rigel felt a tickle run up his neck. “What do you mean by ‘lots of people’?”

    “Hundreds”, Anaph replied. “Hundreds every year, for a long time. But fewer and fewer, until none... a long time ago.” He fixed his eyes on Rigel. “No, I don’t know how long ago.”

    Chen looked at the path he'd hacked to a tree. "So there's no village..." he muttered.

    Ryan had squatted down, balanced on the balls of his feet, and was tracing contours on the rock’s surface. “It fits”, he said to no one in particular. “Monoliths were stone age and bronze age. We found bronze weapons. Monoliths are associated with Celtic culture – and so are torcs. Somehow, there were Celts here, long before we were.”

    Rigel licked his lips. To him, that meant that the Snatcher had grabbed people before, people with technology just as good as they currently had, and better at using it – and those people had failed, obviously failed because they weren’t around any more. But they’d been around long enough for hundreds of them to go by this spot every years for... what – hundreds of years?

    “Anaph, Ocean – heck, anyone: why would they turn here?” he asked.

    “To get home”, Ocean offered.

    “To meet other people”, Anaph ventured.

    “To get to a central place of importance to all their people”, Ryan said slowly. “This wouldn’t just be a marker for the way home; they were better at keeping track of where they were than we are – lots better. And it wouldn’t mark any ordinary meeting place, either; it takes too much effort to put one of these up. No, it marks a turn for people not entirely familiar with the area, to tell them where to go to the center of their people.” He stood and looked at Rigel. “We have to go north.”

    Rigel had already made that decision, but wasn’t going to risk Ryan feeling insulted by hearing that, so he nodded. “Definitely. Casey, you’re with the group again – take point. Oran, Chen – scout, but close. Everyone, eyes and ears alert, weapons ready.
    “Gear check, first.” They’d paired up so each person had someone to check to see if all gear was hooked snugly. Silence meant all was properly rigged.

    Rigel counted to three after everyone had stopped moving. He'd found it was a good idea to be certain no one needed to make any final adjustments. “Okay – scouts, lead off.”


    By late afternoon they were badly banged up: there wasn’t any trace of whatever path had been there, whenever the stone had been stood up. They followed game trails which disappeared, walked fallen trees, crawled through brush, hiked an old stream bed, and sometimes resorted to just plain hacking and slashing their way with axe and spear and staff. Rigel felt like quitting for the day, but the forest was too thick for any kind of safety. He called a break anyway.

    “Lumina, please check wounds and bruises”, he requested. She’d shown she could close and heal minor scratches and cuts almost effortlessly; now that had become important.

    He was about to order a resumption of their hiking when Oran came squeezing through the brush ahead. “Rigel, we found a spot to camp. It’s a hilltop – you can see all over.” He started to turn back to his path. “Oh – almost forgot”, he added over his shoulder. “It has another standing stone.”

    By the time they reached the hilltop, Chen had a fire going. Hurry had set the pace, because everyone was curious to see this new stone. But hurry carries its own penalty: there were so many scratches, cuts, and punctures that Lumina just told them all to strip so she could find all the spots in need of healing. Tanner frustrated her, standing nowhere near the others and with his back turned when he finally did comply.

    Melanie and Rita needed Ocean’s attention: they had puncture wounds that Lumina couldn’t do anything with. “That means a poison”, the Healer said, and sent them to Ocean.

    “Lord Rigel, we should stay a day”, Ocean recommended when she caught him alone. “Melanie and Rita got stabbed with something. I’m not sure what kind of poison it is. I gave them some heal-all tea, but mostly they need to be calm and drink a lot of water for a while.”

    “‘Heal-all’? Does Ryan have a name for it?”

    Prunella Vulgaris. It’s good for so many things it got called heal-all. I gave them a strong dose.”

    “Is it a bad poison?”

    “They’ve got a mild case of the shakes. That’s getting worse, though. I don’t know what the poison is, so I’m not sure. It isn’t one of the two I found today–“

    Rigel rounded on her, his face dark. “You collected poison?!”

    “They can be used for other things, lord Rigel. Like digitalis – it can help with your heart, but at a different dose it can kill you. Plus for one of them, a bit of the poison is part of the antidote.”

    For a minute, Rigel watched everyone setting up camp. “Al right. We let them rest. The rest of us will do chores.”

    The standing stone on the hill was different than the first: it was much taller, over three meters; it had fire pits on three sides, making an equilateral triangle; there was no pavement next to it, but there was a paved ring two meters out, just inside the fire pits.

    “It’s a way marker and signal”, Anaph decided after examining it. “It’s up here to be seen as a landmark. Don’t ask what it signaled, but the fires were the signal.”

    Chen looked up from where he was setting cooking wood on the bed of coals he’d gotten built up before the rest arrived. “So I’m signaling someone?” he asked mischievously.

    “I don’t think there’s anyone left to signal”, Anaph said honestly. Chen’s playfulness faded before that abrupt answer. And Rigel wondered again what had befallen a people successful enough to have had a central meeting place for... well, for tribes or clans, if Ryan was right. If their technology had been insufficient, how would he and his House cope?


    Morning found them sleeping in huddles, deer hides under and over. Waking, they found frost on the ground. In common psychological form, some who hadn’t felt cold before they opened their eyes shivered at the sight of frozen dew around them.

    Anaph, often early to rise anyway, had taken the fourth watch, the one right before dawn. He saw Rigel sit and rub his eyes, and approached. “Lord Rigel – come look.” Rigel made a detour to rotate briefly by the fire, and toss a few chunks of wood on. He looked where Anaph pointed: a gray plume rose in the cold morning, somewhat east of north of them.

    “Smoke?” he asked.

    Anaph shook his head. “Sometimes it’s almost white. And it’s thicker close to the ground. It’s never brown. I think it’s steam – actually vapor; you can’t see steam.” He flashed a grin. “Now that the Snatcher isn’t trying to make me into something else, learning is fun. I knew steam was invisible, from science class – but now I understand it.”

    Rigel nodded. He couldn’t claim to totally comprehend Anaph’s point, but he’d had a familiar experience or two, when he just memorized information in school, then run into it in real at summer camp or someplace, and suddenly it actually made sense. “So what does vapor mean?”

    “It means hot springs”, Ocean asserted, stepping up to stand by Anaph. “Lord, the ancients thought hot springs were special. They must have known about these–“

    “Unless they’re new”, Rigel responded.

    Ocean frowned. “I suppose that’s possible. But if they knew about these, they’d have built there. And it would be nice to have a building, a real building, to stay in for a while!”

    A building would be nice, but it’s not on our route
    , Rigel thought. Though really our route is what I say it is. And a good hot soak would be so awesome....

    “It may be on the route the others took”, Anaph suggested. “From here, to the springs, to the gathering place.”

    That was enough to tip Rigel’s decision. “All right. I’ll send the scouts to mark a way, clear some crap out of the way. Anyone who wants to help can do some near here. Anyone who wants to just chill can kick it and rest.”

    “What will you do?” came Austin’s voice. His squire stood clad in just his sandals.

    “I’ll burn your cute little butt if you don’t get some clothes on”, Rigel told him, his voice teasing just a bit. “You don’t have to attend me so diligently you come naked.”

    “I like being naked”, Austin averred. He did a little sensuous dance that aroused Rigel and Anaph alike. It frustrated Rigel, but he knew Anaph suffered worse: there was no privacy at all on this hilltop, for satisfying temptation and urges.

    “Any more of that in public and I will burn your butt, Squire.” Rigel’s tone this time was firm and a little cold, showing clearly he would take no nonsense on the point. He stepped over and put an arm around Austin’s shoulders, walking him back toward his bedroll. “And please stop tempting me”, he said quietly. “You have Anaph, when you get horny – I don’t have anyone.”

    “You could”, Austin assured him, offering.

    “I’m not changing the rule – clear, Squire?”

    Austin squeezed his eyes shut. “But I want you!”

    Right then Rigel wanted him, too, badly. “We’re nobles, Austin. That requires discipline. Discipline means we follow the rules. The rules keep us knowing who we are. Knowing who we are keeps us united. Keeping united lets us survive.” He couldn’t manage any longer; he reached down and arranged himself, wondering if he should break his self-discipline and go beat off.

    Austin thought it through. “I get it”, he conceded, “but I don’t like it.” He started to lift his arms, but dropped them. “I’d like a hug, but prolly a naked squire doesn’t hug his lord.”

    Rigel chuckled. “I think you’re right.” He squeezed Austin’s shoulders hard. “Some other time.” The lord of his House watched fondly as Austin turned and with a hop was at his bedroll, and clothes. With a last lick of his lips, he turned to look for Chen.

    The scout was up, dressed, gear hung and strapped on – and watching his lord. “Wanting something tasty before breakfast?” he teased, pointing at the tent in Rigel’s pants.

    “Blow me”, Rigel snapped, then wished he hadn’t put it that way.

    Chen started to bow towards Rigel's crotch, but sudden;y froze. “I’m not old enough”, he teased, standing again. He looked at Rigel and put on a mournful face.

    Rigel laughed. “You’d don’t have a gay bone in your body, First Scout!”

    “Sometimes I have a gay boner, though”, Chen confessed, all serious. “Or one that doesn’t care – girl’s mouth, guy’s mouth, whoever’s good.” He moved his hips and put his hands down, miming guiding a blow job. “And whoever... swallows.”

    That thought made Rigel uneasy. He’d engaged in oral sex with friends, on dares, but it hadn’t been anything he actually enjoyed. If Ryan had wanted it, he would have done it out of friendship, but it would have been just something like waxing his friend’s motorcycle or doing his laundry, something done for a friend in need, not for pleasure. But since the day Anaph had sent green rippling across turf and up walls, especially since his promise to Austin, he’d been getting urges. Chen teasing now got him to wondering: maybe he should seek someone out for a blow job. Rita would do it, as a friend, I think – but did he want to do that to their relationship? Lumina might have, before, but she’s changed some since the Healer thing happened. Breeze... she might do it out of a sense of duty, but that would sort of ruin it. Tanner might try to kill me. I can’t imagine Antonio even thinking of it. And the rest are too young, he concluded. It never occurred to him that he hadn’t even considered Ryan.

    “You look like you’re ready for business”, he said to Chen, deliberately getting back to business himself. “Didn’t I say this would be a rest day?”

    Chen shook his head, smiling. “Scouts don’t get rest days. Oran and Casey and I talked last night. We figured you’d have something for us to do today, so we planned to be ready.” Oran was in fact ready, coming up to stand beside Chen.

    “Casey has... something to take care of”, he reported with a little smirk.

    “With Melanie and Dmitri, I suppose.” Rigel sighed.

    Oran shook his head. “Just Melanie. Dmitri’s arguing with Tanner.”

    “Again” was what he didn’t add, Rigel knew. The alliance of right-wing evangelical and Russian Orthodox was both odd and shaky. He knew Tanner was having some influence with the Christians in the group, and Dmitri was trying to mellow that with doses of traditional, ancient Christianity, but Tanner was resistant. So far there hadn’t been any complaints, though, and so long as things remained that way he would let it be.

    “Casey can follow”, he decided, “with... Dmitri and Antonio. We’ll see how well you leave a trail for them. When they catch up, Dmitri and Antonio can come back.”

    Casey delayed almost half an hour. He arrived looking harried and annoyed. Rigel didn’t want him in that mood when he was going on the job. “Spill it, Squire”, he ordered.

    “I needed to get off”, Casey admitted. “I saw Austin... and you. It got me hard.”

    “So you went to Melanie?”

    “Yeah.” Casey looked unhappy. “She wouldn’t settle for just helping me out – she wanted to come, too. So it took a while.”

    Rigel squashed a smile. “You’re bonded – you have to attend to her wants and needs, too. Anyway, it’s no big deal -- except in the future, you do not go off into the bushes unguarded! Now you’ll follow....” He described his plan, which he’d already told Dmitri and Antonio about. Two minutes later the three were down the hill and off into the woods.

    That left him unoccupied, again. He looked around, examining the hilltop more closely than he had in the bustle of setting up camp the night before. The hill was rounded on top, the slope below concave but the top almost a perfect hemisphere – except that the very top was flat. His consideration of that brought his gaze to Anaph, Ocean, and Breeze, all kneeling at the edge where flat met hemisphere. They were discussing something animatedly, so he thought he’d go find out what.

    The moment he moved, his shadow, Austin, attendant and squire, was at his side, one hand on his sword, the other carrying his short spear. Rigel felt silly with a bodyguard, but didn’t say anything.

    “It comes up”, Ocean was insisting to Breeze’s scrunched-up face. “It’s a wall.”

    Rigel cut in, as lords are allowed to do. “What’s a wall?”

    Anaph, fully the Druid just then, answered. He pointed with his staff at a flat stone surface in the ground. “Ocean and I both saw part of this. It runs full circle. There are three places where the stone’s different. This isn’t paving stone, like around the menhir, it’s stone blocks. There’s power in it. Ocean says it’s meant to rise up out of the ground and be a wall.”

    “What do you think?” Rigel inquired.

    “I think... she’s probably right. But I don’t know how to raise it. It has to be a Druid thing, but I don’t know enough.”

    “The staff isn’t telling you?”

    “I think there’s things the staff doesn’t know”, Anaph replied earnestly. “I think the people who were here before got tired of having the Snatcher trying to change them, and they started hiding things from it.”

    That fit Rigel’s view of things, and he admitted it. “But could they?” he asked.

    Anaph looked pained. “I don’t know. I hope so. I don’t like having something knowing everything I do.”

    “Or everything you think”, Ocean added softly.

    “Well, if they can, they can, and there’s nothing we can do about it”, Rigel said firmly. “So let’s not worry about it. Right now, Ocean, go see what fresh food and supplies you can find.”

    “Rita says we have just enough to reach the springs if we don’t gather”, Ocean responded. “If we gather today and on the way, we should have a two-day supply when we get there.”

    “So we stay there awhile”, Rigel decided. “If there really are buildings, maybe we stay a long time.”

    Anaph looked at him, querying, at that. Rigel decided to answer. “We had a frost. It still feels like summer, but a frost means the end is coming. If we can stay the winter in real buildings, we should.” They all nodded.

    “Then we shall gather”, Anaph declared. “Austin, will you come with us?” Austin looked at Rigel.

    “Your call, Squire”, Rigel told him.

    “I’ll stay with you”, Austin said – which turned out to be a very good thing, because less than ten minutes after the gatherers had gone down the east side of the hill, a scream came from the north. Tanner was helping Lumina with something, talking to her fiecrely the while, and that left Rigel – and Austin – to respond.

    They raced down the hill, slowed only by Rigel’s slight detour to grab his long spear/staff. Rigel didn’t see the mark where his scouts had gone into the forest, but Austin did, so the young squire led. Another scream came, not far – they sprinted.

    In a small clearing they came on Dmitri and Antonio. Dmitri was down, his left thigh slashed deeply. He swung one of Antonio’s blades against what to Rigel looked like a cross between the “R.O.U.S.s” from the movie Princess Bride and wolves. A line from a history class popped into his mind, and it seemed an apt description: “nasty, brutish, and short”. Antonio stood with his calves against Dmitri’s back, wielding his knife-tipped spear like a legend, slicing a neck or tearing out a gut with almost every swing. Blood poured down his calf, too, but his wound wasn’t enough to have him down.

    Rigel’s mind shifted into pure objectivity as one, then three, then six of the beasts, the size of a friend’s Alsatian dog – though lower to the ground – turned and rushed him. I can only get one, he realized, wishing for a sword, and set himself to kill the leader.

    Beside him, Austin dropped to the ground; Rigel almost yelled at him. But the kid, he realized, knew what he was doing. From somewhere Austin had produced the Ruger, and he methodically picked off the charging wolf-rats. Bright red spots blossomed in foreheads, and animals tumbled.

    Six animals; five shots – Austin had left the leader for Rigel, correctly deducing that his lord would go for the foremost threat, reasoning further that Rigel would have an easier task if the leader of that little pack didn’t know there was some other threat. But from farther than either of them had suspected, the animal launched itself toward Rigel. Its arc would have intercepted his abdomen, and his balls shrank in fear. His mind knew none, though; it saw the wolf-rat’s path, and commanded his arms. Spear tip met gut, and pierced through and out the back. Weight stopped at the cross-piece, but Rigel was already lifting, dropping back to let his weight turn the spear into a sort of catapult. Guts trailed behind, blood spattering bit squire and lord, as the beast flew off the end, still bound upwards.

    There were five empty brass cartridges on the ground when Rigel turned around. Two shots rang out – how had he not heard the others? And Austin smoothly flopped the cylinder out, dumping the brass even as he brought up another quick-loader, slapped the rounds in, and with a double twist had the cylinder closed again. The next wolf-rat was right at the gun tip when the Ruger spouted fire – blowing out the back of the beast’s head, blinding two of those following it. Rigel killed one, Austin shot the last attacker, which could still see, and Rigel was fast enough to skewer the remaining one as Austin rolled out of the way.

    The attack on Dmitri and Antonio was still going on. Now Austin stood, firing down so he wouldn’t hit their companions. One, two, three wolf-rats dropped, ones close to the besieged pair. That sudden demise of their fellows got through to the vicious creatures what the noise of the shots hadn’t: they’d met their match, and then some. Bloodied, the final few – nine, Rigel guessed – turned and fled to the east.

    Antonio reacted first, turning to Austin. “Eres un guerrero bastante valiente, chico”, he said.

    Austin knew enough street Spanish to guess. “I’m a valiant guerrilla?”

    “A brave warrior”, Antonio corrected. “Kid.” Austin might have taken the last word as an insult, but Antonio filled it with appreciation, even affection.

    Austin just shrugged. “I was here. They had to die.”

    “I can’t get up”, Dmitri informed them all, having tried. “This leg won’t hold me, and the other one won’t lift me.”

    Antonio tossed his bloody spear to Rigel, then squatted in front of Dmitri. “Grab on – we shouldn’t wait for a stretcher.” To that, Rigel firmly agreed.

    Rigel waited while Austin, looking worried, collected his brass and loaders. “I started with two-hundred and forty rounds”, Austin said. “I’ve got two-hundred and two left. Rigel, when they’re gone....”

    Rigel slipped his arm around his young friend. “By the time they’re gone, we’ll have a safe place of our own, and won’t be wandering around in the unknown wilderness.” He gave a squeeze. “Oh – Antonio’s right: you’re one brave muchacho.” Austin blushed.

    “What if the Snatcher doesn’t let us settle down?” Austin responded.

    Rigel had pondered that question before. He kept walking until the were on their way up the hill before answering, though. “It’s like this, buddy: they brought us here to do something. It looks like they brought people before. Those people failed. Maybe it’s because the Snatcher rushed them – I don’t know.
    “What I do know is no one is going to rush us. We’ve been moving unprepared because we had no choice. But we’re getting more prepared every time. We’ll keep doing that – this time we’ll settle awhile at the hot springs.” A memory of a trip to Idaho hit. “Think about what most hot springs smell like.”

    Austin frowned in concentration. He’d never been to any hot springs, but there was the Discovery channel.... “Sulfur?” he asked finally.

    “Bingo”, Rigel confirmed. “And what’s sulfur good for?”

    “It burns, I think.”

    “What if you add charcoal to it?”

    “It burns hotter?”

    “It does, if I remember right. Then there’s one more thing we need – Ryan will know.” Excitement swelled in his chest as Rigel began to believe they could do it.

    “Need for what? Rigel, you confuse me”, Austin complained.

    “Gunpowder, kid – gunpowder.”

    Austin’s eyes lit up.



    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  13. #163
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Okay, impatient personages -- there you are.

    Now I need to make some dinner!

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  14. #164
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Thank you, hope you enjoy(ed) the meal as much.

  15. #165
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Thank you, hope you enjoy(ed) the meal as much.
    I'm currently meditating on dessert, and the next chapter.

    I've run into some tough going -- there's a point ahead I need to reach, but the story doesn't seem to want to get there very directly.

    I may have to resort to the writer's brute force approach: just start a chapter with them where they need to be, and forget the details. Trouble is, the journey's been/being fun, and I'd rather get events to flow where they're supposed to go, in the fashion I've been doing.


    Comments?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  16. #166
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Happy New Year, Kuli.
    Another fine installment.

    I don't think the chapter was short at all.
    And I think you covered a lot of ground, including some of the perfunctories of needs - met and not.

    Poor Rigel, at this rate, he's going to wind up with blue balls, poor lad!

    Very Noble, however.

    Thanks, again, for continuing to entertain us with your story.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

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    Re: Fit for Life

    As to comments, Listen to your inner muse - he's been guiding you well so far.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  18. #168
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Happy New Year, Kuli.
    Another fine installment.

    I don't think the chapter was short at all.
    And I think you covered a lot of ground, including some of the perfunctories of needs - met and not.

    Poor Rigel, at this rate, he's going to wind up with blue balls, poor lad!

    Very Noble, however.

    Thanks, again, for continuing to entertain us with your story.
    "Poor Rigel" hasn't had any sex since... well, the Grove Camp, when many of the guys came in response to Anaph's working.

    I've lost track of the days.... anyone feel like counting?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  19. #169
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Not counting but, it's been long enough, with invitations from uneligible partners enough, that I wouldn't be at all surprised if our dear leader woke up after sleeping one night soon, to discover that he'd had that night visitor of our youth called a Wet Dream.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  20. #170
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Not counting but, it's been long enough, with invitations from uneligible partners enough, that I wouldn't be at all surprised if our dear leader woke up after sleeping one night soon, to discover that he'd had that night visitor of our youth called a Wet Dream.
    Hmmm... maybe.

    They hiked for maybe a week before Grove Camp. They were there a week, I think. Then it was like another week till they reached Fort Tree. I think it's been about ten days since then.

    That's a month and a few days. I suppose a wet dream is conceivable.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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    Re: Fit for Life

    I know my fluid levels would be over the top, even with part of the flow having been snipped several years ago, as it were!


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  22. #172
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Hmmm! Most interesting, and quite entertaining, too! The more we get to know, the more the suspense, and wonder, Intensifies! Previous people? New creatures? An increase in "Urges"? A coming change in Seasons? Possible alterations in the "balance" of the group dynamics? Fascinating!!

    Like it's been said, let your Muse take you where it wants to go! If it takes longer to get to where You want it to be, I certainly won't be complaining!!

    You have NO idea just how much I look forward to new chapters!!

    But, please, take your time to let it flow! I'm not that impatient to want to rush such a "Good Thing"! (Well ... don't take TOO long! )

    THANK YOU!, beyond words!!

    And, yeah! ...

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

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    Re: Fit for Life

    A night vision, a succubus comes to him, relieves him of his 'tensions' and directs him the fastest way to the springs what to expect. The succubus could be druidic or celtic in nature and possibly reappear from time to time to drain him of his excessive testosterone laden fluids and help guide him as well. hey, just an idea.

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    A night vision, a succubus comes to him, relieves him of his 'tensions' and directs him the fastest way to the springs what to expect. The succubus could be druidic or celtic in nature and possibly reappear from time to time to drain him of his excessive testosterone laden fluids and help guide him as well. hey, just an idea.
    The first syllable of that word stirs me......

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  25. #175
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Murphy


    Why is it
    , Rigel demanded of the universe, that just when I’m looking forward to something nice, something goes wrong? The universe didn’t answer, not that he’d expected it to – and he wondered for a moment if Ocean would have expected that. The prospect of a long, hot soak in some hot spring had made him eager to be on the trail again, but the attack of the wolf-rats had smashed that down hard.

    “Lord, it could be worse”, Austin said, attempting to comfort him. He didn’t look up from his bowl of stew, a new venture in food by Ocean, Breeze, and Crystal. They’d been told to eat quickly, because there were only five of the gr’venstut-hide bowls, so someone else would be waiting.

    “Worse?” Rigel responded, more out of habit than interest.

    “Yes, worse. Lumina closed Dmitri’s big wound already. She says she can close the smaller one in the morning. So we just stay an extra day.” He spoke a little louder then. “If we didn’t have a Healer, we’d be digging a grave – again.”

    “Okay”, Rigel agreed. “It’s nice to know Murphy has enemies.”

    Austin stared with a frown for two seconds, then grinned. “Murphy’s Law -- ha. I know another Murphy enemy.”

    “Who?”

    “Dude named Ruger.” He patted his front, almost his crotch, where the revolver rested, then pointed a finger at their fire and said, “Bang!” Rigel shook his head as Austin lifted that finger to his lips and blew.

    “You’ve seen too many westerns”, he accused.

    Austin shrugged. “I know. They teach bad habits. Some of the things they do with guns in those movies would get you dead.” He switched subjects. “Rigel, if we can make gunpowder, can we make guns?”

    Rigel sighed; it was a dream he shared. “First we need iron ore, then we need to smelt it and refine it, then we need a way to roll it into barrels... Maybe our kids will have rifles”, he concluded despondently. “On the other hand – we’ll have grenades and maybe cannons.”

    “Grenades”, Austin repeated softly. “Boom!” He mimed pulling a pin and throwing.

    It sounded attractive, all right, the idea of grenades against hordes of the wolf-rats. But the real problem, Ocean had explained earlier, with Ryan’s confirmation, was that the beasts had no fear of humans. Humans were outside their experience, so they treated people like just another food source. “This bunch learned to be afraid”, Antonio had said. “We killed twenty-nine of them!”

    “If we were staying here, that might be important”, Ocean had countered. “But we’re not.”

    So they would want grenades, if they could make them. It was sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter – Ryan and Ocean both knew – in certain proportions, a matter that hadn’t even occurred to Rigel, but made sense. Ryan knew those proportions: two parts sulfur, three parts charcoal – softwood charcoal was the best, Ocean said – and fifteen parts saltpeter. That was by weight, so they were going to have to come up with scales. Antonio had pulled trivia out of his head and told them that a silver quarter weighed six-and-a-half grams, and now Ryan was fiddling with ways to come up with thirteen items of identical weight, whose weight together matched that of a silver quarter. Then they’d have half-gram weights. Rigel was content with Rita’s sensible notion that they could just make a quarter be their unit for measuring the chemicals – when they had those, and when they had scales, or balances, to be precise.

    The hard part would be the saltpeter: the ancient method of getting it had been by composting a dung heap, with straw and ashes, keeping it damp by urinating on it, then rinsing out the chemical – Ryan hadn’t specified how. That would be disgusting enough, though not difficult; the difficult parts were that the pile had to sit for a year, and then they had to handle the stuff to actually get what they wanted, a process that was labor-intensive.

    That meant they had to sit for a year. It also meant they had to have a dung heap; Ryan wasn’t sure that human “manure” would work. But there was another process, using just urine – lots and lots of urine, and straw. Ryan thought it was faster, but said he was going to have to work through the chemistry of it to figure out how it worked.

    So Rigel put off his dream of gunpowder for at least six months. First was to find a safe, strong place for winter; then they could begin whatever they decided to do.


    The stew was good, most agreed, especially the second night. Ocean had found, to her great delight, wild carrots and a leaf that tasted vaguely like a cross between lettuce and parsley. Boiled together, with chopped meat and herbs added later, with some bland roots to thicken it, the two discoveries had greatly improved their food supply. The downside was that after scouring the area, they’d found only enough for three batches of stew. Ocean had packed some whole plants of each in dirty damp moss, hoping to get them to grow and make seed wherever they settled. Rigel had been dubious, but then there was their Druid....

    “I can make it work, lord”, Anaph had said, and that was that.


    Morning came, the day they were to leave if Lumina pronounced their wounded warriors healed enough. Scouts Chen and Oran had cleared a route long enough for one day’s travel, to the extent of dropping a tree over a gully and limbing it, and finding a good camp spot at the end.

    Their original guess for time to the hot springs had been three days. Considering Dmitri, Rigel decided it would be four – but first it was up to Lumina. So after breakfast he joined her and Ocean, Melanie, and Casey for the examination.

    All that examination consisted of was Lumina closing her eyes and running her hands slowly and lightly over the area she’d healed. While she did, her torc seemed to glow ever so slightly, but it was so slight Rigel was never sure – nor was anyone else. “He’ll do”, she pronounced. “But no running or heavy loads.” Antonio and Tanner shouldered Dmitri’s water and food, then, Austin and Casey put out the fires, and they were off.

    Chen and Oran had left much earlier, after a hurried breakfast. Evidence of their passage abounded: a path slashed through brush here, a gap carved in a log farther on, branches bent to show the way through light brush, and on three occasions before the group reached the tree bridge, dead animals of some sort tossed to the side.

    Casey, again at point, started the cheer when they reached the tree bridge. They came out of the forest to a clearing that ran along the side of the gully on their side, and into the distance heading due north on the other. Blackened tree stumps stuck up from grass-green ground, some reaching eight meters, with a clear path running among them and the bushes that dotted the opening in the forest.

    "No brush to push through!" Breeze cried ecstatically.

    “Well, if we really had to, I guess that would be one way to make a path”, Austin joked. “Just set the woods on fire.”

    “Then wait a week while they cool off”, Dmitri countered. Anaph gave him a dirty look.

    Open territory after all the hacking and ducking through the woods energized them all. The old burn ran kilometer after kilometer through patches of ripe late-season berries and an abundance of herbs. Without those, they would have gone faster, but the diversion was good for Dmitri’s sake, who needed to take it easy.

    Their camp that night was on the corner of an old riverbank terrace. Ryan wandered about trying to figure out the fate of the river, because two terraces down was a dry bed, dry long enough for huge trees to have grown there – and get burned. With Casey’s help he counted 180 rings, added ten for the burned outer layer, and another ten since the fire. But Douglas fir weren’t a pioneer species; a forest had thrived there at least twenty years, Ryan said, before they grew – and besides that, there were long straight mounds covered in moss and ferns and even huckleberries that spoke of trees at least as old as the one he’d examined, trees fallen, rotted, and providing nutrients for another generation. So at least five hundred years since water had flowed, perhaps much longer. He finally decided it must have been related to the uplift that made the cliff by the lake, and let it go, preferring instead to catalog familiar species: Douglas fir, both Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii and Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca – coastal Douglas fir and Rocky Mountain Douglas fir; red huckleberry, Vaccinium parvifolium; blue huckleberry, Vaccinium deliciosum; evergreen huckleberry, Vaccinium ovatum; licorice fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza, with edible roots which tasted like licorice; salmon berry, Rubus spectabilis, with edible berries mostly out of season now; and more. He determined Ocean’s carrots to be Daucus carota, but threw up his hands at the plant with the edible leaves – seven pistils, five stamens, and twelve petals on a tiny flower with a triangular didn’t fit anything at all.

    Frost struck again that night. The sun came up strong and intense, though, dispersing the frost on contact, warming them thoroughly – Anaph, Austin, and Ocean greeted the sun in bare skin, singing the “Lifegiver” section of the Nicene Creed. That sent Tanner and Dmitri into yet another argument.

    “At some point you’re going to have to deal with church and state”, Rita remarked over a breakfast of fresh rabbit garnished lightly with red huckleberries. “Those two will have you in a whole religious war all by themselves.”

    Rigel frowned. “State stamping on church is a bad precedent.”

    “Church vs. church dividing your people is a worse one”, she admonished.

    “I’m watching them.”

    “If they start swinging, it will be too late.”

    Rigel heard the warning, and sighed. Why can’t we all just get along?, he wanted to yell, and bash some heads to make them. He was still chewing on it fifteen minutes later when Chen came to say he was off.

    “Okay, what’s eating you, big man?” Chen asked.

    Rigel decided to be forthcoming. “Tanner and Dmitri.”

    Chen nodded. “Austin, Oran and I talked about that – Casey, too, but he’s not a Christian. You leave it alone – we’ll knock some sense into Tanner.” He grinned. “If he keeps it up, he’s gonna be a one-man church.” On that note he spun and trotted off, Oran falling in beside him.

    Their easy movement was hypnotic, and held Rigel’s attention longer than the puzzle of what Chen had meant. He counted on his fingers: Chen and the two he had mentioned, Dmitri and Tanner, Antonio, and himself were the Christians in the group. Three of them had talked about the situation, and had something in mind. They probably meant to get Antonio in it with them, and spring their solution on the arguing pair as a unified front.

    What would they have that would bring pressure on Tanner? Isolate him? He’d been leading a “Bible study” many mornings in quiet time, with up to seven people in attendance – Crystal and Breeze both joined in occasionally, but he never had. Would they tell Antonio that if he didn’t settle down, there’d be no one coming? Would that work? He put it out of his mind and just watched Chen and Oran disappear ahead.

    The way got thick again – not a surprise at all. After a couple of kilometers – nasty, brutish kilometers – they came on another burn, where Oran waited.

    “Path’s not obvious”, he reported to Rigel. “I’ll lead you – we’re not following this burn all the way.”

    “We rest first”, Rigel answered. “We had some pretty bad scratches., and Lumina needs a little time.” For a moment he marveled at how comfortable he’d become at the things Anaph and now Lumina could do. He realized he’d long since accepted what Chen and Oran could do, too – heightened vision, scent, hearing, endurance, and all-around alertness seemed an ordinary part of them now, regardless of how those abilities exceeded anything he’d ever heard of from a human.

    Oran led them a little over halfway along the burn, sticking toward the west side. They came to a towering Douglas fir, scorched and burned spottily halfway up, but still alive at the top. Oran stopped and leaned against it, shading his eyes with a hand. In a second he nodded, and started off again.

    The path led up a fallen tree, from the tip toward the base. The trunk had snapped off leaving a ragged stump two meters tall, and a ragged end with pieces sticking out to provide a rude stairway back to the ground. That walkway had brought them through an area of dense brush with vines, vines with tiny, nasty thorns. Then they pushed through a tangle of salmon berry and other brush, crawled under a stand of something that looked like vine maple, and emerged along the side of another burn, near the south end.

    “This one we follow, “Oran announced, “at least until I find Chen’s mark.”

    Chen’s mark turned them off through a tunnel in the brush, and to another burn. They repeated that three more times, crossing from burn to burn. Anaph came to Rigel to comment how odd it was for all these separate burns to be the same age; they went to Ocean, who agreed.

    “I’d say someone set them”, she said, “except that they’re pretty recent. It’s strange.”

    “Could a volcano do this?” asked Rigel, speculating wildly.

    Ocean shook her head. “Maybe, but what volcano? Look around – all these mountains are old. There’s heavy erosion, but no evidence of volcanoes.”

    In a way that was comforting to Rigel: it was one natural hazard they wouldn’t have to worry about. Flash flood, wild beasts – those were enough for him already.

    In the last of those burns, Chen and Oran both came back to meet them. “You’re not going to believe this”, Chen said, looking grim.

    “Try me”, Rigel replied.

    Gr’venstut – or their smaller cousins”, Chen reported. “A herd.” Rigel and a few others hiked forward for a look. On closer inspection, the animals did look like the great beasts from the savanna, but they were definitely smaller.

    “If we can spear some, I could sure use the hide”, Chen whispered as they watched from behind a large log thirty meters from the nearest beast. “If their hide’s like the big guys, I mean. We could make more bowls – and some greaves.”

    Rigel didn’t recognize the word. “What are greaves?” he whispered back.

    “Armor for shins and calves. That’s where we’re mostly getting scratched and cut.”

    Rigel thought about it. “That’s true, I think. And it would be nice to have my own bowl. How many do you want to get?”

    Chen thought for a moment. “One would be enough for all the bowls. I think seven more for the greaves. I have some other ideas for the scraps, too.”

    Rigel watched the nearest beast. It had three companions, and the rest of the herd was another fifteen or more meters away. “Think you can kill one with an arrow?”

    “Probably.” Chen moved right and whispered with Oran, then Antonio and Tanner. They crept closer, taking cover behind an overgrown rotten log. Antonio hefted his throwing spear while the other three readied bows and arrow. Each nocked one projectile, and stuck two more in the ground, easy to reach.

    Chen counted. “Three... two...” – archers rose and drew down – “one” – arrows locked on targets – “Loose!” One spear and three arrows flew. Chen’s weapon killed an animal outright, going through the throat, bringing forth spurts of blood. Tanner’s thudded home into the neck of another, which screamed and ran a dozen steps before collapsing. Oran’s target spooked, maybe hearing them, so his arrow took it in the body, high on the shoulder. Faster than Rigel imagined possible, a second arrow followed, a hand-span below the first. With that impact, the beast let out a gurgling sound, and fell.

    Antonio’s target wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t going anywhere, either: his spear had gone right through the body and pinned it to the ground. It thrashed, screaming in pain, but despite gouts of dirt flung up it got nowhere. Antonio, on the other hand, calmly walked toward it, belt knife in hand, and from two meters threw the knife right into the thing’s gut. It screamed louder, freezing for just a moment, but that’s what Antonio had wanted, and in that moment he dove forward and plunged his big hip knife through the side of its head and into the brain. He jumped up quickly. After experience with his hunters now, Rigel understood why: a dead animal let loose bladder and bowels quite often, and close was not the place to be.

    The rest of the herd was gone. “Not gr’venstut”, Anaph pronounced. “Those would have either attacked or charged around looking for the threat. These are real herd animals – they all ran away together.”

    Rigel looked at him closely. “Are you getting pompous again?” he queried.

    Anaph laughed. “No. But I think my sentences are getting longer and stuff. Rigel, I’m learning. I think the Discovery channel would be boring almost, with what I know now!”

    The hunters were already busy with their kills. First they cut to get their weapons back, then began the process of gutting: starting back near the genitals, they sliced open the body cavity, then carefully reached inside and cut away connections until all the guts fell free. “A true warrior drinks the blood of his kill”, Oran intoned with a grin. He scooped a handful of blood and swallowed it, then stuck his tongue out at Chen.

    “You’re not a Klingon, second scout”, Chen admonished. “Now let’s get these carcasses away from the guts.” Tanner and Antonio had already done so; now Chen and Oran grabbed the rear legs, the body behind them, and began to walk.

    “This is a good spot”, Chen said, pointing with a nod to a raised area bounded by two fallen trees. “Let’s– shit!“

    Oran had suddenly dropped his beast and bent double, crying out in pain. Anaph was beside him in an instant, Rigel a moment later, then Chen. The scout clutched his middle, trying to say something, then screamed.

    Anaph ripped off Oran’s shirt, ruining it in the process, and ran his hands down to lie beside Oran’s own. His eyes got big with alarm. “Squire – bring Lumina, faster than light!” Austin dropped everything loose and sprinted toward where the rest of the group was waiting.

    Oran crunched up again, then vomited blood. His scream that came after was so penetrating Rigel had to let go and plug his ears, he doubled over himself, trying to imagine what could be hurting like that. When the scream stopped, Rigel wrapped his arms around Oran and held him. The boy was shaking, writhing, and when Rigel caught his eyes, there was horror, pleading, and terror in them. Again Oran tried to say something, but another convulsion hit, and he screamed.

    Unknown terrors, Rigel thought. That’s our enemy: our own learning curve. We’ve been lucky so far.... Or have we?, he asked the universe. Is it luck, or is the Snatcher helping? His thoughts died as Oran curled up even harder, his chin slamming into Rigel’s shoulder like a hammer.

    Then Lumina was there. “I kinda dragged her”, Austin told Rigel, a bit apologetic. But Lumina didn’t seem to care: her hands moved over Oran’s body, coming to displace Anaph’s. Her teeth clamped together – in anger, it seemed to Rigel.

    “Strip him”, their Healer ordered. “Druid, ward us if you can.” She was shedding clothes as she talked, down to just sandals. It was harder with Oran, but with Antonio pinning him with his knees and holding him under the armpits, and Rigel and Austin pulling from his feet, they got Oran’s clothes off him. Anaph got up and began tracing a line around them all with his staff.

    “Keep him stretched out!” Lumina snapped, and knelt straddling Oran. She put her hands on his abdomen and pressed. Oran screamed. Her hands moved to the side; she did a move something like a push-up, and slid forward to land stretched out on top of Oran. Her torc glowed brightly, then took on a green tint, a dirty, angry green tint, as Austin described it later. Lumina’s hands came to rest on top of Oran’s head, and began to slide slowly down the outside of his body. When they reached the bottom of his ribs, she moved so her tongue touched the big toe of his right foot, and ran it upward, keeping her hands where they were. She skirted his crotch with her tongue, moving it up to Oran’s navel. Then slowly, very slowly, she moved her tongue upward, and her hands downward.

    When those met, Oran jerked, tearing loose from all the hands and knees restraining him. His back, his whole body arched until it seemed he would bite his own toes, then violently he doubled over again and vomited. Blood came again, lots of blood – and it lay on the ground and writhed.

    “Again”, Lumina ordered, touching Oran’s abdomen. At her touch, he doubled over and threw up more. “Again”, she demanded, and he retched a third time. Not much came up. “Again!”

    “Give him water first”. It was Ocean’s voice. “It has heal-all, and lemon balm – and a touch of slime of dhroguth.” Lumina’s eyebrows rose, but she nodded. “Quickly”, she commanded.

    Austin pinned Oran’s head between his knees to hold him still, because he’d started shaking badly. Oran swallowed the herb mix eagerly. When he stopped for breath, Lumina immediately said, “Again!”

    She had him throw up twice more. Once she reached out without even looking and slapped Chen’s hand away as he reached to touch the writhing blood. “Don’t!” she snapped.

    “Ocean, give him the antidote”, Lumina instructed. “He’s too weak to fight that on his own.”

    “I have to make it”, Ocean said. Lumina looked alarmed. “Don’t worry, Healer – I set the ingredients to soaking before I came. Breeze is boiling water – so I’ll be back in just a few minutes.”

    “Good enough”, Lumina told her, then turned to the hunters and their companions. “Now – why was he foolish enough to drink a beast’s blood?”

    “It – it was a joke”, Chen stammered. “From Star Trek, with Worf, the Klingon. Once he said–“

    Lumina’s glare could have melted a standing stone. It made Chen want to be an inch high and hide in someone’s pants. “I know the episode”, she snapped. “A Klingon is smart enough to know his prey – only a stupid warrior drinks the blood of an unknown!”

    Austin had Oran’s head on his thighs, and was stroking the scout’s forehead. “So what happened?” he asked.

    She pointed back the way she came. “Everyone get away from the blood and vomit, and I’ll tell you. If you got any of that blood on anything, throw it in the puddle. And someone go tell the others to gather dead wood and bring it. We’re going to burn the mess.”

    They moved as she said. Antonio had blood on a legging; he peeled it off and tossed it. His spear was coated, too, so that followed. Chen’s right sandal was soaked; he tossed it on, with a dead branch from near at hand, then stuck his foot out over the bloody mess and poured all his water to wash it off. Lumina put her hands on each of them briefly, nodding in satisfaction each time.

    “Good – no one else is invaded”, she said. Austin started to ask; she silenced him with an outstretched hand. “I mean ‘invaded’, not ‘infected’. Those beasts have creatures in their blood, creatures they’ve adjusted to living with. The creatures live off their blood, and in turn provide a defense for the beasts: anything that tries to eat them gets invaded.
    “In the creatures, they’re benign, because they’ve made a partnership of sorts. Oran, when you swallowed the blood, you swallowed millions of them. The first thing they did was reproduce – fast. Then they started eating you, from the inside out.”

    “You couldn’t just kill them?” Oran asked weakly.

    “I could have. But their dead bodies would have released a poison that would have paralyzed you – if you were lucky. I had to force them out.”

    “So the thing with licking me – that was using magic to push them?”

    “There is no magic”, Anaph and Lumina said together. They looked at each other and smiled briefly.

    “What I did was tell their... brains that the areas behind my touch were deadly”, Lumina explained. “They fled. When they were all back in your stomach, I had you throw up. Well, not all”, she conceded, “But most – some were still fleeing back. So I kept you vomiting to get more and more of them. I wasn’t sure how to get them all out; I thought I might have to do this every day to keep you alive.” Oran looked at her in horror.

    “Ocean... got them out?” he asked, his face – his whole body, in fact – white.

    “She killed them.” Lumina’s voice was hard. “Some things should not be allowed to live.” Now she looked to Anaph. “Druid, if our skill ever encompasses it, we will return here and do what is necessary to eliminate this infestation from the planet.” Anaph locked eyes with her, and after a moment bowed slightly.

    “What’s... throguuf?” Rigel asked quietly.

    “Dhroguth”, Lumina corrected. “Really, really hard ‘th’ sound, harder than in ‘though’, roll the ‘r’ a little, and a very soft ‘th; at the end. Dhroguth.” She paused. “It’s a sort of slug. Also the name of the poison – a deadly poison. Mixed right, it’s antibacterial. Mixed right, it kills anything it touches. Sorry, Oran”, she directed at the “stupid warrior”, “but your stomach lining is going to be flaking off for the next couple days. You’ll stink a lot.”

    “So the dhroguth” – Rigel said it carefully – “killed all the parasites? He’s clean now?”

    “He’s clean”, the Healer confirmed. “But that poison is still killing his cells. Oran, if you were strong, it wouldn’t really be a problem; she didn’t give you much. But now–“

    “Here”, Ocean said, arriving at that moment. “Oran, drink – slowly. This will make you burp a lot.” “Burp” turned out to be an understatement; he belched, near-violently the first time, then belched again with each swallow. Finally one came when he didn’t. Ocean smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Now you just have to get strong again.”

    Chen had another question. “So can we even use these beasts? And should we wash with your poison?” He held up hands that still had some blood on them in spite of his scrubbing with dirt.

    “Do that”, Ocean replied. “And I can make enough to wash the skins once you’re done.”

    “But we have to touch the bloody carcass to skin them”, Antonio objected.

    “I’ll mix some herbs with fat, and you can smear yourselves with it.” She frowned. “First I need some fat.”

    Anaph smiled. “I can call some fat rabbits. You get the fat, we all get dinner.”

    They left the carcasses in place and started picking up dead wood. The three bronze axes came out and fragile burned skeletons of forest giants began toppling. Breeze brought coals from the fire she’d started for boiling water, and dumped them on a curved slab of wood Austin had found. As once before, a small but vigorous fire was built on a platform and then slid under the growing heap over the pool of blood.

    Oran huddled, bare skin to bare skin, between Chen and Austin, the three wrapped in their own and the few extra deer hides. He was so weakened that he’d slipped into hypothermia, far enough he couldn’t heat his own body. After eating – Rigel had decreed they’d camp there – they shifted so Chen was behind Oran and Austin in front. Oran, though, continued to eat, because all he could manage was nibbling: digestion takes blood from the stomach, and with hypothermia, that’s not a good thing.

    Antonio built another fire, and then another, making a triangle around the sleeping area. When he started building a fourth, Rigel was puzzled. When bedtime came, the point was revealed: Antonio swept all the coals and ashes from that spot, stretched out a sleeping hide, and directed Oran and his warmers to the spot to sleep. Rigel remember something Oran had told him, that the most warmth is lost from a body through the ground. This way, the ground was already warm.

    “How long will that stay hot?” Rigel asked Antonio.

    “Long enough. Before it fades, he’ll be warm himself.”

    Rigel settled himself right next to Austin. There was something he wanted to ask, but sleep took him before he got the words out.


    The next morning Rigel awoke late. Oran slept next to him, snuggled close.

    “I thought you needed the sleep, lord”, Austin informed Rigel, appearing with a bowl of tea. Rigel took it gladly.

    “It’s sweet!” he exclaimed.

    Austin grinned. “Casey found a hive. It’s been cold nights, and there weren’t many bees. Antonio stuck a spear in and hardly any came out. I was greased up to help with the skinning, so I just walked in with my sword and sliced out a chunk of hive. Ocean is getting the honey out and packing it.”

    Rigel closed his eyes and enjoyed luxury. “Luxury is relative”, some teacher had once stated in class, and now he understood that.

    Austin had meant that information as the start of a report, it seemed; now he continued. “We got the beasts skinned, and the hides rinsed in Ocean’s brew. Chen made us rinse them after that. He said a poison would mess up the curing. And they’re good hide, too – not as tough or thick as a gr’venstut, but good enough. Chen and ocean are gonna smear them with some mixture with pee in it – that’ll start them while we’re hiking.
    “Casey’s been bringing back branches he thinks we can make arrows from, since Lumina made us burn the ones we shot into the gurvenpigs – that’s what Crystal called the things. We made another fire, and rolled the carcasses into it. Then we made other fires where the guts were. There weren’t many guts left, but Lumina was determined.
    “So we’re all ready to go, just waiting for you and Oran. Lumina said let him sleep.”

    “So you come and talk lots?” came Oran’s mutter. “That lets me sleep?”

    Austin blushed, embarrassed. Rigel patted him on the calf. “Don’t sweat it, Squire”, he admonished. Then, to Oran, “How do you feel?”

    “Like they just ran the Daytona five hundred in my gut. And a demolition derby with Army Humvees in it. And like I’ve been fasting for three days. And my balls hurt.”

    Austin laughed at that last. “I can take care of that!” He licked his lips.

    “It’s not that kind of hurt”, Oran replied. “I wish it was. This feels like needles got stuck in.”

    Rigel winced. “I’ll see what Lumina or Ocean can do”, he said, getting to his feet. First, though, he finished his tea.

    Lumina took care of that lower pain, though Oran got terribly embarrassed when she cupped his genitals in both hands to do so. The measure of his weakness was that there was no response from his flesh.

    For Oran’s sake, they moved slowly when they got going, not quite two hours before noon. Rigel decided not to chew anyone out for letting him sleep in; he felt refreshed enough he agreed that he had in fact needed it. As they hiked, he wondered if that was a curse of leadership, to worry over things and end up needing more sleep. He played with the notion that kings who slept late were mis-maligned as lazy, when in reality they’d just been taking care of their bodes. It might have been a fun thing to toss out on a discussion board back home, and see what the vultures did with it; here it was just good for self-amusement, or maybe a rousing, silly fireside discussion to take their minds off things – sometime.

    To his and everyone’s great relief, their biggest difficulty that day was Oran’s constant need to nibble, and go off to squat – that, and his farts that Chen swore violated the Geneva Convention. There was a spring along the way, a great relief because thanks to Lumina and Chen's needs, each person carried barely a half-day’s water. When they camped, it was on a hill Chen had chosen – and from the top, they could see the hot springs, steaming as the evening cooled. It was a great rambling assortment of pools, some green, some red, most a hazy yellow. And in the middle, on a sort of peninsula sticking into the array of steaming spots, was a stone building; nor was it alone, because on the far shore three more stood.

    “That one’s like a stone igloo”, Austin commented. Dinner was in progress; he’d just brought Rigel the second course – the first had been vegetables washed with honey-water; the second was fresh venison. Rigel was getting tired of venison, but since there was little choice – unless he wanted to depopulate the area of rabbits – he kept silent.

    “I’ve never seen a building like that”, Rigel responded. “Funny – the one among the hot springs is like a gazebo, the two on the sides over across look like they had roofs that fell in, and that one’s – yeah, a stone igloo. Weird.”

    “We’ll get that one”, Austin declared. “‘Cause you’re the lord.”


    The next day’s hike was a simple one, though not brief. Oran sat with Chen on the edge of camp in the evening, arguing over what route to take. They reviewed it in the morning before setting off.

    Since Oran wasn’t able to scout – he was hardly able to walk fast – and Chen insisted on staying with him, Casey and Antonio led. They stayed in sight, in fact in earshot, so Chen and Oran could guide them from memory of the course they’d chosen from above. Anaph walked up front as well, eyes and senses the rest lacked both alert.

    They rounded a sharp bend. Anaph called to the scouts. “Come back!” It was a command; they came. “Wait here”, Anaph instructed. He went ahead alone.

    Casey, though, wasn’t to be denied. He convinced Antonio to let him stand up on the hunter’s shoulders, discovering happily that he could see, mostly, from there. “Anaph’s yelling at something... he’s raising his staff... now he’s twirling it – I didn’t know he could do that! Hey – he threw it, and it’s still spinning!” They all heard the squeals and screams that followed. Several nervous heartbeats later, Anaph reappeared.

    “We can go”, was all he said.

    What Casey hadn’t been able to see was that Anaph had confronted a bunch of gurvenpigs. He’d gotten their attention, somehow frightened them motionless with his staff, and then sent that weapon spinning among them, killing every one it touched. The tracks where the rest had fled in panic were plain.

    Anaph stopped briefly and set his hand on one for a few seconds. Lumina watched him, disapproving. With a frown he left it and jogged to catch up to the front again.

    “Why’d you touch it?” Oran asked, disgust in his voice.

    “To learn. Now I have to think about what I learned. Maybe I can figure out a way to kill the parasites so we can use the hide and maybe the meat”, Anaph replied.

    “Yuck. If it’s like gr’venstut meat, you can have it”, Oran swore.

    Anaph shook his head. “I think it’s... sweeter. I won’t try till I can kill the parasites, though.”

    The thought of eating that meat hit Rigel like a blow. Maybe that was what had killed off the people who made all these things! Maybe they’d depended on the gurvenpigs for their meat, and then the parasites showed up, and they died from their own meat! He was sure there was a hole in his theory, but he felt it was partly right.

    That evening they reached the springs, after hiking an hour breathing the fumes. They’d hiked an hour and a half longer than usual, but Rigel had made that decision for an easy reason: there were buildings ahead, and if two lacked a roof and one lacked walls, it was still a lot more than they usually had.

    His one worry had been that some sort of vermin might infest the place. All they found, though, were some colorful snakes in the stone igloo, snakes Anaph assessed, after touching one with his staff, as harmless, and even useful: they fed on small rodents and insects that would otherwise live there. So the snakes were ushered out in friendly fashion by those who didn’t mind snakes – only Rita, among the girls, helped – and provided with a portion of a log that Antonio and Tanner dragged over for that purpose, Tanner muttering the whole while about serpents in the garden.

    Austin’s opinion proved popular, so Rigel ended up in the igloo with his squire. He decreed that all his squires would share it – there was room enough for six or eight. Oran came with Chen, so there were five of them enjoying the comfort of a real roof. Oran slept between Chen and Casey; Austin stretched out beside Rigel. As they drifted to sleep, they could see Antonio at the fire pit under the “gazebo”, taking the first watch.

    The last thing Rigel remembered before drifting off to sleep was Austin musing: “I wonder when the moon’s coming back?”




    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  26. #176
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    This was an epic installment. A super long journey, a lesson that you can't play Klingon, just because you've had a "blessed" journey since you were taken just prior to the auto accident.

    Now, at a settlement near hot springs that can provide protection, heat during cold weather, and perhaps healing properties - not to mentions sulphur towards gunpowder.

    You continue to captivate our imaginations.

    Thanks for all your hard work.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  27. #177
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    This was an epic installment. A super long journey, a lesson that you can't play Klingon, just because you've had a "blessed" journey since you were taken just prior to the auto accident.

    Now, at a settlement near hot springs that can provide protection, heat during cold weather, and perhaps healing properties - not to mentions sulphur towards gunpowder.

    You continue to captivate our imaginations.

    Thanks for all your hard work.
    Most welcome!

    Chunks of that one wrote themselves -- I just had to type fast enough to keep up with the action.

    I had no plan to introduce two dangerous animal species in one chapter, but there they are!


    While proofreading and editing I realized I also opened up some questions which will have to be answered in the future -- I just have to wonder if my readers caught them, and whether to answer soon, or later.

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  28. #178
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    Re: Fit for Life

    better than good

    thank you

    please continue

  29. #179
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Are you really fans, or did the Snatcher bring you?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  30. #180
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Well, we came from her snatch but were not part of the post partum depression that became the omni obsessed Snatcher, We are benign succubus with only your pleasure in mind

  31. #181
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Is the plural of Succubus like Deer, or like Cactus?
    i.e. SuccuBI? lol


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Dear Succubusses,

    get off the cactus, and have some tissues handy for this one....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  33. #183
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Rejoined


    Something was crawling across his leg. Rigel shifted and wiggled, and it fell off. But it came back. This time he brushed at it with his hand – and found a hand. He started to snap at Austin – except Austin was to his right, and this hand was coming from his left. So who....?

    The hand returned, fingers dancing across his skin with such a soft touch he tensed – and started getting hard. It danced its way up his thigh, along his hip, then flattened and caressed his abs. Fingers played with his pubic hair, slid into his bush, parted to each side of his erection and squeezed. He expected stroking to start, but it didn’t.

    Instead, his deer hide got pushed aside. He felt breath on his hip, and a second later lips on the tip of his achingly stiff penis. The lips parted, and a tongue moved around on the head, as if uncertain. Suction teased him; involuntarily, he thrust upward. The reward for that was teeth scraping sensitive areas, but while his hips were raised hands slid under and grabbed his buns.

    When the mouth returned, Rigel thought he was going to come, but it didn’t quite happen. Whoever it was – had Ocean sensed his need? – was definitely inexperienced. Passion made up for a lot, but–

    “Ow!” He kept it to a whisper. “Less teeth!”

    There was no reply, except the mouth retreated. A hand slid back up and started stroking him – hips, crotch, erection, abs, balls, erection. Rigel tried not to moan. His desire was so great he wanted to grab that face and pound it, but was certain that would be wrong.

    The lips came back. They slid hesitantly down the length of his erection, no teeth in evidence. There was suction as the lips slid back up. They reversed, and the tongue joined them, pressing itself flat and wet against the ridge of his urethra. He wanted to thrust, but held himself back, pushing only slowly, because what he wanted more was for this to keep going until he came.

    After three more slow, careful trips down and back up, the mouth began to move more confidently. Saliva flowed, the slick tongue moved all around, and gentle suction came every time that mouth slid back upwards. Whoever it was, was learning fast; at this rate, Rigel was sure he was going to come in mere seconds. He reached out and ran his fingers through the hair of his... benefactor.

    That turned out to be a mistake. Apparently it touched off serious desire, because the next downward stroke of the mouth kept going, slamming his throbbing head into the back, almost into the top of the throat. He felt teeth again as his pleasure-giver gagged, then felt nothing as the mouth withdrew. There was heavy panting now, accompanying the smooth, expert stroking of that hand still gripping him. He reached out in the dark, found a knee – firm, smooth, hairy, not that the latter meant anything any more, with more than a month without razors. He stroked it, playing with the fine, straight hair, massaging what he could reach. The hand giving him pleasure froze when his own fingers slipped inside the thigh and up as far as he could reach; then it gripped hard, and the mouth was back.

    Whoever it was seemed desperately thirsty now. His erection was sloppy wet with saliva, and more was dripping from the lips that enclosed him. An occasional tooth scraped him as the unknown person’s speed increased; he sensed urgent desire, need, demand...

    Rigel was certain he’d awakened everyone in the domed stone shelter with his little cry and gasp as he came. The pressure was so great it felt like someone was tugging strings out of his balls and into the waiting, slurping mouth. He couldn’t help it; he clamped onto that neck and thrust, ignoring teeth, pressing into the top of the throat and erupting a second time.... a third... a fourth. The fifth was a trickle, his whole body shuddering with the task of getting it out. As his thighs and butt and hips collapsed into relaxation, his hand on that neck pulled the head it belonged to up toward his face, where he pulled the forehead against his lips and delivered a loving kiss.

    The visitor’s body moved in and slid against him. That’s a big dick! was his first thought, then, and wow, really smooth skin above the thighs. Then he corrected himself: the dick wasn’t so big as long, it seemed, so he reached down to feel it and found he was right. Rigel held his hand still as powerful thrusts pumped between his fingers, the head brushing his leg. But his visitor moved again, breaking loose from his light embrace, licking his throat, his neck, his chest, his abs, his bush. Lips sought and found his not-so-hard penis, encircling it and sucking, not so gently this time but vigorously. The hard penis against his leg, in his hand, slipped away, but he didn’t care; he surrendered himself to the pleasure, stroking the shoulders and neck bobbing over him, moving his hips slowly to get the feel of thrusting, willing his visitor to find just the right spot....

    Whoever it was tried to take him past mouth and into throat. It hurt, but only briefly because the effort was quickly abandoned. Lips and tongue, saliva and suction became the instruments of his torture. Rigel was having trouble concentrating; the pressure was building again, and he didn’t want to wait.

    That dancing, seeking tongue hit him just right, covering the opening at the tip and the soft scar tissue where he’d been circumcised. “Right there!” he gasped. The tongue had wandered, but it came back, applying pressure just the way it had before, moving rapidly, as the cheeks added a little suction.

    Rigel wanted to cry out, “I’m coming!” Wary of the others in the shelter, what he did instead was squeeze the shoulders his hands gripped, squeeze them hard. And he came harder than before, so hard he felt like his balls were getting turned inside out – he found it pleasure like he’d never imagined. That tongue didn’t stop what it was doing, either, but continued stimulating him, continued adding pleasure to pleasure.

    But he had to pull away. Three times he shot a load into that friendly mouth, but the sensation of that busy tongue sliding around with his own cum as lube was too much; the fourth time he didn’t know where his shot went – until it splattered on his chest.

    It was followed quickly by another chest, smooth and muscled, settling down on his, slipping on the cum. A tongue slipped into his ear, then licked his cheek. That long, hard erection made a soft landing in his crotch and started moving. Rigel wrapped his arms around his visitor and held him close, enjoying the rhythm of the movement, paying attention to the way the other’s soft public hair brushed his sensitive head, starting to get him stiff again.

    “Oh, god, Rye”, came a moan in his ear. “Get hard, bud – I want it again.” Rigel started moving counter to the thrusting in his crotch, working to get hard. That took a couple of minutes, during which they kissed – really kissed, something Rigel had never done with a guy before – and let their hands roam over each other.

    Rigel’s own desire was rising. When his visitor swung to suck him again, he pulled until he could do the same. It wasn’t something he’d ever done sober, but something in him was crying out to receive what he was giving, or to give what he was receiving, to have whoever was having him. So he concentrated on what he was doing, being very conservative in his efforts, and working very hard to ignore the bursts and waves of pleasure from between his own legs.

    His visitor tried to take him into the throat again, and failed another time. Rigel knew he wasn’t excessively thick, but the erection in his mouth was more slender. That comparison made, he immediately set to trying to accomplish the feat himself. He was aided from something a girlfriend had once told another girl, not knowing he overheard: “Relax your throat, and slide it. Get your throat open like you’re chugging a beer, and it’ll go in.”

    It did, too. He, Rigel Stefanos Fitzhue-Winchester, had another guy’s erection down his throat. It feels good, he thought, pushing until his nose bumped into something soft and hairy, and he could go no farther. I wonder what it would feel like if he came. He didn’t find out just then: he had to come up for air, and his own personal pressure was rising to explode again. He let go of will and gave himself to sensation, and came for the third time that night – in fact he came, and came, and came, seven times total, and when it was over he lay trembling and spent.

    The body stretched out on top of him again, and the thrusting in his crotch renewed. “Rye, I want you! Roll over!”

    Alarms went off in Rigel’s head. He grabbed an ear and whispered, “No penetration!” A groan gave him reply.

    There’d been a game of Truth or Dare once in summer camp, where a junior councilor was watching and setting limits. One kid had dared another to fuck a third. The councilor had vetoed that, but had an alternate suggestion. Rigel turned to that now. First he rolled over; second, he spread his buns; third, he guided that hard slender organ between them – but not penetrating. Then he squeezed his butt tight. “Go for it”, he whispered.

    The pumping action against his rear end was strangely thrilling. The hands gripping his shoulders brought a feeling of belonging, being wanted, of connection. Rigel relaxed and gave himself over to enjoying feeling like a piece of a whole.

    Cum landing on his back was kind of like someone squirting on sun lotion that had been sitting outside, so it was warm. But he didn’t get aback rub with lotion this time, just a body collapsing on him.

    Rigel managed a push-up. “Off”, he whispered. “Let’s go wash.”

    “Close your eyes.”

    Something in the voice turned Rigel's confident guess into ceertainty. “Rye, just get up and let’s go”, he requested quietly. His visitor froze a moment, then relaxed, finally slipped off and headed outside. Rigel followed, fast. He knew his friend was going to try to run.

    The moment Rigel grabbed an elbow, they both stopped. Rigel sidestepped around until they were face to face. “Ryan....” At the tortured look in his best friend’s eyes, he sighed. “Come on – we can be the first in the springs.” That drew a weak, wry smile. They’d arrived at the hot springs tired, spent time settling in, eaten, and headed for bed, so no one had had a good soak yet.

    “Not till daylight, you said”, Ryan replied.

    Rigel held in a smile of triumph: From Ryan, in this situation, that was capitulation. “Okay, we’ll splash each other clean. Then you can tell me about... what you need to.”

    They were scooping water out of a warm pool and wiping each other off near the path to the watch-gazebo. Ryan’s mood went from glum to nearly playful. Once Rigel judged them clean enough, he pulled Ryan into a tight embrace and just held him.

    “Nice to see you two getting along again.” Rigel and Ryan both jumped; neither had heard Rita walk up to them.

    “We got to where we needed a taste of each other’s company”, Rigel responded with a straight face. Ryan stiffened.

    Rita chuckled. “You’re two perfect a set of friends to stay apart. Whatever got you together, I’m glad.” She came near and planted a kiss on each of their cheeks – their face cheeks, that is; she gave a little squeeze to each butt-cheek. “I’m going to walk a bit”, she said. “Why don’t you go sit by the fire?” Rita pointed to the gazebo.

    They took her offer. Someone, they saw on reaching the place, had set chunks of broken log as seats by the fire. Rigel’s impulse was to toss a smaller chunk in from the pile there, but Rita had just fed it, and the wood needed to last. He let Rigel choose a seat, pulled another close, and sat looking into his friend’s face.

    Finally Rigel couldn’t handle the silence. “Okay, stud – how long have you been planning this?” he asked softly.

    Ryan wouldn’t look at him. “Since Fort Tree.”

    “Why didn’t you do it there?”

    “Not enough privacy.”

    Rigel didn’t stop to ponder the twisted logic; he’d slept high up in the tree, which put them above almost everyone – to him, that would have been more private than in a stone igloo with other people within arm’s reach! “So you waited this long with that desire?”

    Now Ryan looked at him. “Desire? I wanted you a lot longer than that!”

    That admission rocked Rigel back. “Like, at school?” he asked, unsure.

    Ryan laughed quietly, bitterly. “Not that long. It was just an idea, here, since we started being naked so much. Then when Anaph turned the grass green....” He shuddered. “I was on fire. I joked with you, but I wanted you. I can’t stop wanting you. Your cum tastes horrid, but I still want more – in my mouth, down my throat, on my face. Shards, Rye, I want it in my butt!” Panic rode those last words.

    “Well, stud-bud, that last isn’t gonna happen. But you can have the rest, just ask.”

    A sob burst out of his friend. “Rye, don’t! I hate myself already! I’ve never been like this! I’ve never even got a twinge of a hard-on from another guy! I never wanted to hurt anyone, and now I... I raped you!”

    Rigel slipped to his knees, between Ryan’s feet, and looked up at him. “Bullshit!” he whispered fiercely. “I could have pushed you away, but I didn’t! I cooperated! Frak, I helped! And I liked it – all of it. I liked me in your mouth, I liked you in my throat, I liked you thrusting between my buns!”

    “You didn’t like my cum on your back”, Ryan argued, angry and bitter.

    “I didn’t not like it”, Rigel countered. “It was kind of interesting. I just wanted”, he continued, trying to understand Ryan’s perspective, “to make sure none got on our furs. And I didn’t want anyone to sleep in a wet spot.”

    Ryan smiled weakly at that; it was a sort of standing joke from a fraternity party: he’d spilled a beer on the bed they would be sharing, and told Rigel he’d have to sleep in the wet spot. But he said nothing.

    They were still sitting silently when Rita returned. Rigel glanced at her face, seeking an idea of what she thought. All he saw was a smile. “You two should go back to bed”, she admonished. “Try not to wake anyone else up.”

    They got halfway back to the shelter before Ryan spoke. “She knows!” he hissed.

    Rigel grabbed him and looked into his eyes. “So what if she does? Rita can keep secrets. And she’s happy we’re talking again – and so am I. And I want to keep talking. You’ve been ‘way the hell far away from me, and it had everyone worried. If I have to swallow your dick and cum every night from now on to keep us together, I’ll be happy to. If I have to let you suck me till my balls start bleeding inside, I’ll be happy to do that, too. Because you are the best friend I’ve ever had, and if this is how you are now, if these are the urges you have and need satisfied, well, that’s what this friend” – he tapped his own chest – “is here for.”

    Ryan stared at him dumbly. Finally, he said, “You’re not mad?”

    Rigel grinned. “As a hatter. But you my friend – you want such dick, we suck dick.”

    Ryan laughed at Rigel’s movie-Indian accent. Tears ran down his face. Rigel felt a tickle on his thigh; looking down, he saw Ryan’s penis rising. He pulled his friend close, and it slipped into his crotch.

    “Rye, I’ll go down on that right here, if you want. I’m serious – I’m not mad at you, except for waiting for so long. We’ll figure this out. But I’m no Bible-thumper like Tanner; I don’t use it to hit people with. It says no man has greater love than giving his life for a friend – well, I don’t think that sucking your dick or letting you suck mine, or letting you come all over me, is even close to giving my life. So even if I didn’t like it, it would be yours. The thing is, I do – and I needed that, tonight, I needed it bad.”

    Ryan’s left hand slid up to the top of Rigel’s head, and pushed down. Rigel was shocked, but he dropped to his knees and reached out with his tongue, licking a glistening drip of pre-cum off the rising erection. Ryan gasped; Rigel planted his lips where his tongue had been–

    Ryan pulled him to his feet and hugged him hard. “I wasn’t sure I could belief you”, he whispered.

    “Silly”, Rigel whispered back. “Now, if you’re through teasing me, let’s go back where I can finish that.”




    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  34. #184
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    VERRRYY Nice! And proper and fitting, too.

    The Best Buds are back, Better than ever, even if they do have a little emotional logistics to work on.

    And, who knows, mayhaps down the road, they will take it to the next level.

    As I said, a very nice chapter, my arousing author.

    Thanks for bringing us this much needed bit o' stress relief, not only for Lord Rigel, but for his Right Hand, too.



    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  35. #185
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Thanks for bringing us this much needed bit o' stress relief, not only for Lord Rigel, but for his Right Hand, too.

    Who told you Ryan is Rigel's right hand?!?!?!

    WHO?!!



    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  36. #186
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I see you're cheesy grin! Think you're having a bit o' sport with me? Shall I take the High Road, and play your "straight" man?

    YOU - They're BEST Friends, who else would be?

    The other's have their specialty roles, but only his most trusted Bud would be his confidential advisor.

    Now that they're getting back on track, I expect he'll be joining the "igloo gang", lol.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  37. #187
    In Loving Memory Lefty's Avatar
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Aw shittikins, now its hurry up and wait time again.

    Yeoman effort Kuli Yeoman effort

  38. #188
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I see you're cheesy grin! Think you're having a bit o' sport with me? Shall I take the High Road, and play your "straight" man?

    YOU - They're BEST Friends, who else would be?

    The other's have their specialty roles, but only his most trusted Bud would be his confidential advisor.

    Now that they're getting back on track, I expect he'll be joining the "igloo gang", lol.
    Oh, sure, try to pretend you weren't throwing in a double meaning with the "Right Hand" bit!

    BTW, there's no apostrophe in that use of "others" -- it's just a plural. And that "you're" should be "your".


    I know, stop proofreading the fan mail and get back to writing, huh?

    I'm about two hundred words into the next chapter, and it's proving to be real work. I hate it when that happens!



    p.s -- "bit 'o sport".... would some one of Chinese/Indian-British ancestry whose parents immigrated from Hong Kong use that phrase?

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  39. #189
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Ooooh.

    I didn't see that coming at all! Though I had a guess that the visitor was Ryan from the beginning of the chapter. I'm glad to see they're talking again! It never occured to me that confusion was the reason Ryan was being so distant!

    And for the record, the plural of Succubus is Succubi :]

    And the male form of a Succubus is an Incubus, plural: Incubi. Just some fun facts, haha.

    Thanks for the chapter! This is one of the best stories I've ever read!

  40. #190
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    1. NO, I didn't have any double entendre at the right hand comment - I say that in all sincerity - I'm a South Paw, so I don't think in quite those terms.

    2. Yes, I am human, and My tired-ass mind does sometimes flip to the wrong words but, I caution you, beware what you start. Autolycus cautioned me early on not to criticize works over typos and such in public posts, to use PM's, because it can embarrass and/or upset authors - I had done it early, innocently trying to help many people by gentle example. So, if I find a preponderance of typically graphic errors, I will quietly send a PM.

    HOWEVER, as my dear departed mum-in-law used to say, "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander" lol.

    I could turn my critiquing skills on to Hi for you, if you'd like, lol.

    I don't catch everything but, if you were to ask Tantiboh and Autolycus, they'd be able to tell you just how nit-picky I CAN get - of course that was at Tantiboh's request. . . .

    So, has the gauntlet been thrown? Spelling, homonym choice, and grammar at 20 paces?!

    Or, shall I ask Lefty to turn his torquier side at you for a bit?

    And, ah, yes, the Incubus/Succubus thing. Isn't our language just loverly?


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  41. #191
    HUGS! ;-)
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Guys, Guys, Guys! Please, Please, Please!! We've just gotten to this Beautiful make out/make up "moment" between Rie and Rye! So ... let's not start splitting atums ovar gramur, spelin', homonymphs, n stuf!! Geesh!!

    And, if DQ already got you going, Lefty, you can torque away on Me!

    Now ... Let's all have some nice hot tea, and get on with hurrying up to wait for More STORY!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    (I didn't mean to leave you out, Anon., but you were kindly contributing, and not getting feisty! )
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

  42. #192
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    Re: Fit for Life

    So KY you want a little twist and tension in your life? Best be aware of what

    you are asking for, I'm the best but sometimes forget to rachet down my

    incredible skills to a level mere mortals can handle.

    Kuli, you just keep typing the atory not ascerbic jabs at readers (save those for

    breeders) and DQ, any errors you note on Kulis' work you tell

    me. Leave our sensitive artist free to create.

    Believe me boys, if you think my wit is sharp...you wouldn't survive my sarcasm

    tipped and caustic tongue......lashings (no animal, not the fun kind)

  43. #193
    HUGS! ;-)
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    (no animal, not the fun kind)


    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

  44. #194
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Awe, gee, guys, spoil all our fun! lol.

    As we read a tale of Medieval proportions, complete with its own Chivalraic code, and you won't even let me defend my honour when it is sullied.

    Where's the sport in that? lol

    How am I supposed to work up a good appetite for some of their fresh roasted Rabbit?

    I suppose, in the spirit of camaraderie, and letting bygones be bygones, I will hold my pen.



    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  45. #195
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    homonymphs
    Now THERE is a concept to tweak an author's mind!


    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Now ... Let's all have some nice hot tea, and get on with hurrying up to wait for More STORY!!

    )


    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    How am I supposed to work up a good appetite for some of their fresh roasted Rabbit?
    How to Work Up an Appetite for Rabbit:

    First, kill a gurvenpig.....

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  46. #196
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    Re: Fit for Life

    And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming? ? ? lol


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  47. #197
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I have a chapter I thought would get posted this afternoon. The bloody thing doesn't want to end!

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

  48. #198
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    DonQuixote's Avatar
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    Re: Fit for Life

    If it gets way too long, you can always split it randomly and close the first part with a " To be continued . . . ."

    But only if it brings you a modicum of peace.


    And I know, if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest . . .

  49. #199
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    And, ah, yes, the Incubus/Succubus thing. Isn't our language just loverly?
    Yes, English is quite loverly :]

    Of course I'm in college studying so I can teach it, so I have to know these things. But everyone makes mistakes!!

    I, myself, am prone to tense shifting and comma splicing in my papers. My professor eventually got tired of looking for them and told me to find them my own damn self

  50. #200
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    Yes, English is quite loverly :]

    Of course I'm in college studying so I can teach it, so I have to know these things. But everyone makes mistakes!!

    I, myself, am prone to tense shifting and comma splicing in my papers. My professor eventually got tired of looking for them and told me to find them my own damn self
    I know all the grammar stuff. But this is artistic prose: I watch tenses enough to keep the time relations clear (for example, I use a common writer's convention that once you've used the past perfect forms enough to indicate you're in a "prior to this" mode, I go ahead and stop using all those repetitious occurrences of "had"), and I put commas where they help the words come across the way I want them to.

    Liberace once said that what's on the paper is for beginners; the true piano player uses it merely as a foundation. A professor of mine, one of those guys who collects doctorate (law, philosophy, education), said that grammar and punctuation, sentence structure, and especially words limits, were all tools to the real writers -- "tools, not rules", he emphasized.



    Anyway, what I dropped in for was to report that I finally discovered where the chapter was heading, and before I got there decided that there were just too many little strands marching that direction that all needed to be read in one swell foop for the proper effect, so I didn't chop it in two as was suggested by a certain helpful fan.

    And now it's done -- except first editing will have to wait for morning, and second editing till afternoon, and I might not get to cutting and pasting and final editing till tomorrow evening.

    And I have no clue what image goes with this one.....


    I think it's worth the wait, but I'll know better after first edit. Something is nagging at me that the flow sucks, but.... well, if it's rough, that may suit the chapter.


    As the Sidhe said to the wizard, "Patience!"

    "Thirty-one* states allow all qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons. In those states, homosexuals should embark on organized efforts to become comfortable with guns, learn to use them safely and carry them. They should set up Pink Pistols task forces, sponsor shooting courses and help homosexuals get licensed to carry. And they should do it in a way that gets as much publicity as possible. "

    --Jonathan Rauch, Salon Magazine, March 13, 2000

    *the number is now forty

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