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Thread: Fit for Life

  1. #251
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    Re: Fit for Life

    FYI

    I've lost track of where the moon is. That info is essential to where I am in the next chapter, so....

    more story will be delayed until I utilize the nifty chart provided by our local conquistador to make a timeline.

    Sorry...

    "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

    HA! I did go back and re-read! And, you know what? It was even Better the second time around!!

    I did figure out the Celtic name pronunciations ... though I was a "bit" off. SO ... Pedhrûánåg is the "source" for Patrick, hmmm? BTW ... does he have red hair, green eyes, and freckles?

    Another "thing" struck me along the way ... Aren't most of the Guys heavily bearded by now? Or, did they find a way to shave? Not really a big concern. Still ... just curious ... for some reason, my inner vision of them is without beards ...

    And, I also discovered that the big crystal is not what I thought of, at first, at all! It was more like a big glazed window! Interesting!

    However, I'm still not all that sure why Anaph isn't along ...

    But, Hey! ANY reasons for MORE chapters is More than Fine by Me!!

    THANK YOU!, my Dear Kuli, for this most Excellent Adventure!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    Also ... nice to see that Casey healed up so quickly!!
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Oh! Another thought/question ...

    Is Cat, and company, still with Casey and the "House of Rigel"? And, if so, what do the "Servant People" think of that??

    I know! I shouldn't still be awake at this hour coming up with "stupid" questions! But ... I have to go into "The Kingdom" toNIGHT, so ... have to try to stay awake so I can sleep during the Day!

    Funny what that can do to the mind! (With a bit of Brandy! )

    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

    Tried to rate the thread in case I had forgotten, but it told me I can't do it again so I guess I already did.

    Wonderful chapters, as always, Kuli. I do wonder about those horses-- are they actual horses or just horse-like? The other animals in the tale so far have been weird hybrids or had features we aren't accustomed to seeing on Earthen animals.

    And whenever I see Messer Pedhrûánåg's name, I've set my mind to say Peter, hehe. I have the pronunciation down pat (I'm good at pronouncing foreign words, once I have a guide), it's just hard to memorize is all. I'm glad I didn't grow up in that society!

    Keep up the great work!

  5. #255
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Oh! Another thought/question ...

    Is Cat, and company, still with Casey and the "House of Rigel"? And, if so, what do the "Servant People" think of that??

    I know! I shouldn't still be awake at this hour coming up with "stupid" questions! But ... I have to go into "The Kingdom" toNIGHT, so ... have to try to stay awake so I can sleep during the Day!

    Funny what that can do to the mind! (With a bit of Brandy! )

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    Not a stupid question at all. I was thinking of that last night as I drifted off to sleep: I of course know what Cat & Co. are up to, but you, the reader, don't. Thanks for the reminder!

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    Tried to rate the thread in case I had forgotten, but it told me I can't do it again so I guess I already did.

    Wonderful chapters, as always, Kuli. I do wonder about those horses-- are they actual horses or just horse-like? The other animals in the tale so far have been weird hybrids or had features we aren't accustomed to seeing on Earthen animals.

    And whenever I see Messer Pedhrûánåg's name, I've set my mind to say Peter, hehe. I have the pronunciation down pat (I'm good at pronouncing foreign words, once I have a guide), it's just hard to memorize is all. I'm glad I didn't grow up in that society!

    Keep up the great work!
    Pedhrûánåg is closer (as Ky noted, though the actual Irish version is Padraig) to Patrick than to Peter. The hard part of pronouncing it for me is rolling that "r" raight after a hard "th".


    Working through the timeline this morning I noticed a problem.... see below.

    "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. #256
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I have a serious problem, and an apology to make: there are things in the story Ky wondered about, and I told him the answers were in the previous chapter. The problem is a bad one:

    the previous chapter didn't get posted.


    Now, you may find that frustrating, but it's got me upset enough to want to take and AK-47 and some RPGs and go slaughtering gr'venstut. See, I remember the painstaking effort it took to edit, copy to JUB, edit, add graphic, and final edit! and now the polished version isn't there.


    I'm going to have to ask a mod if it can be inserted, and, if not... I guess put it in out of place.


    Like the Sidhe told the wizard.....

    "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

  7. #257
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    1. I knew they were horses, not cattle. My Rawhide reference was more an allusion to work/pack animals headed their way. Labor saving help. Yee Haw!

    2. You aren't the first author in recent history to discover that there's a chapter MIA. Send a PM to Autolycus and ask his help.

    I believe he handled it by inserting the missing chapter at the end of the chapter that it was supposed to follow (or maybe at the beginning of the one it is supposed to precede, depending on how it flows with the story - with "---" in between and maybe a quick line explaining, perhaps, or not as you see fit (Only plus to mentioning would be to explain why the reader posts immediately following only reference the first half.) The mods can edit or delete existing posts, but I don't think they can insert new posts.

    This is fairly quick and easy - you e-mail him the chapter you want inserted with a note ahead explaining the situation, exactly where it needs to go.

    Autolycus is great at helping authors out. But, I guess you know that, from your "can I or can't I" pre-screening requests regarding certain "off screen" activities that might or might not be happening among the young 'uns, LOL.


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

  8. #258
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    1. I knew they were horses, not cattle. My Rawhide reference was more an allusion to work/pack animals headed their way. Labor saving help. Yee Haw!

    2. You aren't the first author in recent history to discover that there's a chapter MIA. Send a PM to Autolycus and ask his help.

    I believe he handled it by inserting the missing chapter at the end of the chapter that it was supposed to follow (or maybe at the beginning of the one it is supposed to precede, depending on how it flows with the story - with "---" in between and maybe a quick line explaining, perhaps, or not as you see fit (Only plus to mentioning would be to explain why the reader posts immediately following only reference the first half.) The mods can edit or delete existing posts, but I don't think they can insert new posts.

    This is fairly quick and easy - you e-mail him the chapter you want inserted with a note ahead explaining the situation, exactly where it needs to go.

    Autolycus is great at helping authors out. But, I guess you know that, from your "can I or can't I" pre-screening requests regarding certain "off screen" activities that might or might not be happening among the young 'uns, LOL.
    Part of the frustration is that I know I added a lot of text during on-line editing, and don't know if I back-edited to my file copy.

    This does, though, give me a chance to back-edit to solve an oversight.... but it's going to make it a long chapter.

    BTW, the next chapter upcoming is called "Horses"....

    "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

    Dearest Kuli ...

    I am truly crestfallen, though not nearly as bad as YOU are, regarding your recent "discovery", and dilemma, of the missing chapter! So much so that I will gladly go gr'venstut hunting with You! (Even Naked! )

    But, as DQ has pointed out, I'm sure that "Auto" may be of great help!

    The "Silver Lining" here, at least for us readers, is that not only is there a "hidden" chapter to look forward to, but, also, a new one coming, too!!

    If there were ANYTHING that I could possibly do to help out with this, I would gladly jump in with both feet!, Lord Kuli!

    But, alas, I can only wait, patiently, for the result of your Much Appreciated Good Work!

    I know it ain't always easy, but I'm most sincere when I say ...

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

  10. #260
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Dearest Kuli ...

    I am truly crestfallen, though not nearly as bad as YOU are, regarding your recent "discovery", and dilemma, of the missing chapter! So much so that I will gladly go gr'venstut hunting with You! (Even Naked! )

    But, as DQ has pointed out, I'm sure that "Auto" may be of great help!



    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    No one in his right mind goes gr'venstut hunting naked, unless it's with a .300 caliber rifle from three hundred meters.

    Yes, here in the stories forum we have "Auto-help".

    "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

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr View Post
    No one in his right mind goes gr'venstut hunting naked, unless it's with a .300 caliber rifle from three hundred meters.

    Yes, here in the stories forum we have "Auto-help".


    The "Naked" part was just trying to show how Sincere I was about how I was feeling about Your/Our current pre-DICK-ament! (Missing chapter-wise!)

    And, BTW, I really am a pretty damned good Sniper! (No kidding!) And, a pretty good, even when naked, Archer, too!

    ("Animal" even has this delusion of being an Arrow! )

    As for "Auto" ... God Bless Him!! (And YOU, too!)

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

  12. #262
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Okay, here goes... I'm posting the missing chapter for Sr. Auto to move. Look for it at the start of post 247.

    "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

    Well, now that I accidentally blew away the window with the PM I was typing up to you . . .

    I started reading this on lunch(late), but ran out of time, kept screen active on my laptop as I packed it up to go back to work, read the rest after 5, then got busy at home, just remembered I hadn't posted.

    Now that I've babbled - Nice Feast and interaction. And, yeah, it's more of what I expected to see than the chapter I did at the time - while the bouncing back and forth discussion on all the action going on was nice, it seemed like you skimmed over the feast, itself, after all the buildup, lol.

    I enjoyed to discussion on creating the bone vessels and why they were safe to use, and the meal/drink pairing caveats.

    I also enjoyed the healing session, and the discussion of the bacteria that was, unfortunately, working through the populace, currently.

    Interesting customs, taboos. Makes you think.

    Thanks for continuing your efforts at crafting this tale for us.


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

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Now that I've babbled - Nice Feast and interaction. And, yeah, it's more of what I expected to see than the chapter I did at the time - while the bouncing back and forth discussion on all the action going on was nice, it seemed like you skimmed over the feast, itself, after all the buildup, lol.
    Okay.
    They ate and ate and ate and ate and ate and belched and drank and ate and ate and ate and drank and belched.



    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I enjoyed to discussion on creating the bone vessels and why they were safe to use, and the meal/drink pairing caveats.
    That was fun to write. I asked myself what a people without pottery would use for cups. Since bones are hollow, it seemed simple enough to saw them off near the end, flatten the round end so they'd sit level, and voila -- cup! (or mug)

    The question then was just how to keep them from getting gross from bacteria living in the pores on the inside of the bone. So I invented an antibiotic that can survive boiling temperatures, and dredged up hot clay filling tiny cavities, from volcanology, and bing-bada-boom, I had sanitary cups -- and a tiny step toward grasping the idea of clay-made pottery.

    Then all I had to do was forge an opportunity to bring it up and get it on paper, after all that effort. I asked, "What character has a personality this would fit?" Breeze is a little flighty and insecure, someone who likes things tidy and clean, so she was perfect.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I also enjoyed the healing session, and the discussion of the bacteria that was, unfortunately, working through the populace, currently.
    Wasn't that a nasty thing I came up with? I won't take credit: someone on the TV was blathering about microorganisms that snitch DNA from each other and sometimes from their hosts. Lumina was obviously doing something in the village, so I grabbed one of those microorganisms from the TV, made it a disease, and slapped it in -- except I tweaked the principle from accidental acquisition of host DNA to active acquisition.

    Then of course I'm stuck wondering how it would be possible to stamp out such a disease -- antibodies would be worthless as it picks up host DNA. So I made it basically topical as a restraint.

    Now I have to ponder where it came from before it hit the Servant People, i.e. what other vectors it has out in the wild.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Interesting customs, taboos. Makes you think.

    Thanks for continuing your efforts at crafting this tale for us.
    I'm pulling out a lot of my sociology and anthropology here. Customs have to be balanced, or a society will self-destruct. So when you get things like girls throwing themselves on visitors to have sex on the one hand but a concern for the safety and purity of others transferred to a foreign lord's service, there's a unifying principle behind it.

    The hard part there is that in just writing along I may inadvertently introduce or imply a custom or taboo that isn't there. I did it by accident in an upcoming chapter and only noticed it on review. After contemplation, saw how it fit in the society, and made it a settled custom.

    Anyone getting desperate for more story could wade through and make a list of customs and post it. Y'all could then see if you could identify underlying principles of Servant society.

    "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

  15. #265
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    Re: Fit for Life

    BTW:

    "Horses" isn't up next. Something intruded and took over the opening. I guarantee it will twist your tails.

    "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. #266

    Re: Fit for Life

    WOW Great story I wish i would have read it earlier lol. I Just sat and read it all the way thru in one sitting, I just couldnt stop reading it. Amazing.

  17. #267
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Excellent "missing" chapter, Lord Kuli!!

    Filled in a lot of "loose" spots! (Wish I could have been there! )

    Looking forward to what is now coming before "Horses" ... and, of course, "Horses", when it arrives, too!!

    THANK YOU!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    (Doesn't mean I'll be reading with my clothes on, though! )
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

  18. #268
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Endlessnight500 View Post
    WOW Great story I wish i would have read it earlier lol. I Just sat and read it all the way thru in one sitting, I just couldnt stop reading it. Amazing.


























    that's "many tanks"

    "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. #269
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Wow -- I just realized that there's no new chapter on this entire page of the thread!


    Can't be tolerated, not at all....


    Off to my secret workshop!

    "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

  20. #270
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    Re: Fit for Life

    “They aren’t human”


    While everyone else was staring, Casey acted: he shed his gear and kilt, then ripped off his shirt – an irreplaceable Earth shirt from The Gap. He didn’t stop at ripping it off, but ripped it into strips and tied them around his boxers like an external jock strap. With a final tug he was satisfied, and began to jog down the slope, not toward the horses, but on a course to end up between them and the rest of the valley when they inevitably turned at the falls. He held a wad of extra strips in his left hand.

    “What in the frak is he doing?” Austin asked, tugging at Rigel’s shirt.

    Chen laughed. “He’s going to catch one!”

    “No way!”, Crystal objected. “Horses are lots faster!”

    Rigel didn’t care about that at that particular moment. Austin was a step ahead of him though: he had the Ruger .357 out. “Oran! Here”, he said, and handed over the revolver and all three quick loaders.

    “Make sure that idiot doesn’t get himself killed”, Rigel ordered. “You watch out for him while he’s watching out for horses.”

    Oran tossed his kilt and tucked the weaponry in his belt pouches. He kept his axe and bow, checked his quiver of arrows, and set off.

    “Can he catch up?” Crystal asked.

    “Sure”, Chen replied. “Right now, he has the advantage: he knows Casey is going to turn and follow the horses up the valley, so Oran just has to head right up the valley.”

    “Besides”, Rita added, “Casey is a bit out of shape from resting with that jaw. Oran is strong because he’s still been running every day. And on top of that, Oran is farther along in the Scout gifts. He’ll be shadowing Casey before long.”

    “But how can Casey catch a horse?” Crystal demanded.

    “Easy”, Chen answered. “Horses are sprinters, human are endurers. Horses run fast, but not for far – that’s why the Belmont is the killer in the Triple Crown: most horses can’t cut the distance.
    “They’ll run from him, and he’ll just keep chasing. He’ll get close, and they’ll run again. He’ll do that over, and over, and over, and every time they’ll be a little slower and run a little shorter way. Eventually some will give up because they’re tired, others will give up because they’re tired of it. Then he just has to show he’s not a threat.”

    “And get on one, and not break his silly neck”, Ryan cut in. “Does he even know what he’s doing?”

    “Probably”, Rita responded. “Or he wouldn’t have gone. He tore his only shirt to rig support for himself. He has a long strip left to use–“

    Chen, his eyes still on Casey, laughed. “Look -- he’s making a bridle while he jogs!”

    Rita smiled with that vindication. “If he knows how to make a bridle from a ripped-up shirt, he at least thinks he knows what he’s doing.”

    There’s nothing we can do about it from here, anyway”, Rigel said. “He took water, so he’s thinking ahead. Chen, how long will he keep chasing?”

    “As long as it takes. Lord, he can run down a horse without a problem. Wild horses... if there are predators, a newborn horse may have to move even twenty kilometers the day it’s born. They develop endurance. But without training, that endurance has a limit, because they only run enough to escape a threat.
    “Casey is something new to them, if they’re really wild. They’ll never have met something that doesn’t give up, doesn’t hurry, doesn’t challenge, but just... keeps... coming. At first they won’t take him seriously; it will be like a game. Then they’ll get nervous, because he isn’t treating it like a game – he’s after them, and not giving up. He won’t seem like a threat until they’re starting to get tired and he plainly isn’t.
    “The herd stallion might challenge him about then, but Casey’s move is simple: just keep running. He won’t answer the challenge, he won’‘t back off, he won’t do anything but what he’s been doing: relentlessly pursuing. But by that time he won’t have much to worry about, because the herd stallion is going to be a lot more tired than Casey, and isn’t going to charge an unknown that isn’t actually threatening his mares. Challenge will change to fear of something completely strange. Then they’ll run again. They might run really hard, and not be able to do it again – then Casey just runs in and picks the one he wants and plays the same game: he pursues it and it tries to get away, until it totally gives up.” He shrugged. “Then it’s up to Casey’s skill – to get a bridle on, to get on its back, to hold on.”

    “Hold on?” Crystal asked. “When the horse is tired?”

    Ryan laughed, but Chen answered. “No horse is ever so tired that it won’t respond to an attack. If it’s never known a saddle or rider, any weight on its back says ‘I’m under attack!’ It will bolt, rear, buck and stuff until it really is out of energy. That’s when Casey has to switch from attack to making friends. If he pulls it off, he’ll come riding back to us.”

    “When?” Rigel insisted, irritated. “How long do we wait?”

    “Sorry”, Chen responded. “Fifty to a hundred kilometers. Casey’s moving about nine k-p-h.”

    “So tomorrow – between dawn and dusk. Fine”, Rigel decided. “Chen, get your ass back to the camp. Pedhrûánåg, go with him. You bring our people here. Chen, keep going back to the village. I want ten of those young men of ours to get out here with supplies for another three days. I want ten more to set up where our first camp was, with supplies for themselves for six days and for us for three.
    “Got it?”

    Chen snapped a very serious salute. “Sir!” He kept only what gear he’d need for the trip, then selected Pedhrûánåg’s for him. With another salute, they were off.

    “Well, let’s check out the building”, Rigel said a few seconds later.

    “Lord, I’m staying to watch how our runners do”, Rita stated. “With Crystal.”

    Rigel smiled. He felt like saying “Whatever”. But he said, “As you would, Wise Woman.” He knew she really didn’t want to climb around old buildings, so he didn’t object.


    “Nothing”, Ryan said, coming back out of the room he picked to search. “Rotten wood, leaves and twigs, a big rat’s nest. But the walls are sound, and no sign of water getting in.

    “Ditto”, Rigel said. They grinned together.

    “Like old times, huh, bud?” Ryan asked.

    “Well, in old times we didn’t wear dresses”, Rigel dead-panned.

    “But you look so good in one!” They laughed together, linked arms, and turned down the hall.

    Austin was still standing in the doorway of the room he’d picked when they entered the ruin. They saw him lick his lips. He was breathing slowly, stopping and swallowing a lot, and just staring into the room.

    The two friends split apart and flanked him, Rigel on his left, Ryan on his right. “Holy fucking shit”, Ryan breathed, putting a steadying hand on Austin’s shoulder without even thinking.

    Not even two meters away a creature with a body the size of a cantaloupe sat on a drug-crazed version of a spiderweb gone three-dee. It looked like a spider, but none of them had ever seen a spider with a mouth that irised open and closed, little digits like pincers serving as the door, or with a tail that curved up and over its back.

    “It’s got twelve legs”, Ryan noted. “Definitely not on the tax charts.”

    “I think it doesn’t like me”, Austin whispered.

    Rigel acted on impulse. His right hand snaked into a belt pouch and pulled out a bit of pemmican. He tossed it forward, not at the creature but to its side. “Back out”, he commanded. The bit of food hit a web strand and stuck – the creature didn’t dash to it, but flung itself, hooking another strand with its tail to sling it in a curve and land beside the pemmican. The trio of explorers didn’t see what came nest; with the creature’s attention gone, they ran.

    “There was a skeleton in there”, Ryan gasped out when they stopped, fifty meters away. “Rigel, it looked like Spanish armor, conquistador-style.”

    Rigel stopped breathing as he looked up at his friend from where he’d sat on another of the ubiquitous round boulders. He swallowed hard. “Fifteenth century?”

    “Or early sixteenth. Breathe, Rye”, Ryan admonished.

    “Celts, and us – and the Spanish in between”, Rigel said after gasping for breath.

    Ryan gasped out a laugh. “That’s where the horses came from! Spaniards got here, died, and their horses ran free!”

    “Houses – did the Spanish do things in Houses?” Rigel asked.

    “Yeah. Shit, Rye, the Houses were Spanish! The clans were Celtish. Something united them.”

    “The Others. Frak, I so hope the Others aren’t still out there!” Rigel got up. “Let’s go rejoin Rita.”

    “Back so soon?” Rita asked a few minutes later.

    “Yeah”, Rigel answered. “Listen to this. Rye, you’ll tell it better.”

    Rita nodded thoughtfully when she’d heard their story and speculations. “You know what’s worst about this? The conquistadors had gunpowder. And it seems they lost to the Others anyway. If the Others indeed won, they’re still around. If they’re still around, they’ve probably gotten stronger. And they probably aren’t going to be friendly to any newcomers, any more than they were to the Spanish. And we’re definitely outnumbered.” Her pause was scary; Rigel thought they always were when she was talking really seriously and paused before delivering some incredible line.
    “Your ‘spider’ creature is an interesting piece, Rigel. It doesn’t match any of the wildlife we know from earth or what’s here. The odd animals we’ve seen are still a lot like what we know. This thing? It sounds like a mutant arachnid on steroids. It’s got too many survival characteristics – right, Ryan?”

    “Yeah. I was too freaked to think of that, but you’re right. It’s got the web to catch prey. It has that tail to maneuver with, faster than running the web. So it thinks in 3-D. The web says that, too; it goes all over, not just in a plane. And the bloody thing can jump, which is both attack and defense. The mouth is weird, but just scary. I’d bet that the mouth pincers are poisonous, though, and that’s also both attack and defense.
    “That thing evolved in a place a lot nastier than here. Rita, you’re thinking it came from where the Others did?” She nodded. “That means the Others are as much nastier, person for person, than we are as that thing is nastier than our spiders.”

    “You skipped over the important thing”. Rita asserted. “Rigel, put these pieces together, and what do you get?”

    “You tell me.”

    “The Others aren’t human.”






    "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

  21. #271
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Great, Kuli. Thanks.
    The "missing" chapter certainly made more sense in the story!
    Are the "horses" sentient beings ??
    The computer appears to go into overload from time to time ! Is it this " Intelligence" that is driving the whole story ??
    Look forward to the next chapter ( with or without horses)
    Hugs
    Harry

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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by harry113 View Post
    Great, Kuli. Thanks.
    The "missing" chapter certainly made more sense in the story!
    Are the "horses" sentient beings ??
    The computer appears to go into overload from time to time ! Is it this " Intelligence" that is driving the whole story ??
    Look forward to the next chapter ( with or without horses)
    Hugs
    Harry
    Now that the "chapter which was going to be called Horses but isn't because something else stuck its foot in" has been posted, the next will indeed be called "Horses".

    Regrading the computer, it's appeared in the Prolog and Interlude... "from time to time" seems a large generalization from two data points!


    And now, back to my secret workshop.... -=-=-=- [/QUOTE]

    "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

  23. #273
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Horses



    “Aliens?” Austin asked, after their hearts started beating again.

    “Yeah”, Ryan answered. “Aliens. Shards, Rigel, what have we gotten into?”

    “We have to rescue the princess, subdue the dragon, ride to the ends of the earth, and save the world.” His tone was hollow. “So they don’t just Snatch people, they reach out and grab aliens, too. And do they consider that, when they decide if we’re worth Snatching? So they think we can succeed against all this? What will there be next – giant ant colonies with psychic queens? Intelligent robots programmed to destroy intelligent life? Birds that shit dynamite on our heads? They could at least have given us a tank or two to work with!”

    “Easy, big guy”, Rita urged softly. She marked off points on the fingers of her left hand. “Consider this: we know the Others exist. We know they aren’t human. We know something about what they defeated before.” She held up the three fingers. “Information is power.” She pushed one finger back down using the index finger of her right hand. “Forewarned is forearmed.” Another finger down. “And we know a lot more than any of their foes last time did.” No fingers left, but she stuck up a thumb and said, “We can come up with weapons they’ll have no defense against.”

    “We don’t even have gunpowder yet!” Rigel blurted out.

    “We will”, Ryan told him. “Trust me. All we need is a place to settle. Remember what we weren’t sure about? We have a sulfur supply, we can make charcoal no problem. What we needed was a way to get saltpeter. We could get it with urine in straw, but what did we really want?”

    “A dung heap.” Suddenly Rigel got it. “And now we have horses! Rye, if it’s twenty-four days walking to that place Elder Crûánåch told us about, how long is it with horses?”

    “Now you’re talking, best bud”, Ryan said, slapping Rigel on the shoulder. “Did I ever tell you some of your best thinking is when you just almost gave up?”


    “I see them again!” Austin called. Rita, Rigel, and Ryan came to look. “He did it again – he got them to turn back toward the falls!”

    “If his skill at catching one is as good as for chasing them, he’ll come back riding proudly”, Rita judged. “He gets them to run from him, and then he cuts back the other way, running hard, before he turns to get between them and the upper valley again. By the time they stop running, he’s out there waiting, and the moment they see him he starts jogging right at them again.”

    “Oran’s helping, too”, Austin reported. “He stays behind Casey, on whichever side has the biggest gap. I watched the horses run that way, and he started jogging right at them – they turned and ran away, and there was Casey again!”

    Ryan grinned. “That’s one smart squire you have, Rye. He knows we’re all going to worry, so he’s helping keep the herd down here so we can watch the two of them and know they’re safe.”

    Rigel felt proud of his two squires, and of the third that stood with him. “You know”, he said, “the Others don’t know about us at all. They don’t know we have a herd of horses, they don’t know the Druids are back, they don’t know we have people who aren’t just followers but can think on their feet. Rye, Oran’s not chasing horses down there, he’s fighting a battle.”

    “I see it”, Ryan replied. “With just two squires, he’s keeping that entire herd stymied.”

    “Chen would have something to say about strategy and tactics”, Rigel said with certainty. “What I know is that when we face the bastards, we’re not going to have just one general. We’ll be mobile, with multiple forces.
    “We just have to be prepared. We need to know which way the Others are, or at least were, from here – and we don’t go that way. If they’re between us and where the Snatchers want us, tough; the Snatchers can wait. We build up our strength here, find any other human survivors, tie them all together. When we have good defenses, then we scout, and find these aliens, without letting them know we’re here.
    “We meet them when we’re ready. And if they’re hostile again, we go for the throat.”

    No one said anything else as they finished the hike back across the valley. On the way, they rendezvoused with Oran. Rigel let Austin stay to help the other two squires. “I’ll send fire wood when we get some”, he promised.

    Firelight met them when they reached the cave. Pedhrûánåg had gotten their helpers there in a hurry, so camp was close to ready for them. Rigel saw bruises and scrapes, but everyone was working, and they all looked happy at being there and helping, so he let it go. These were, after all, he remembered, the misfits of a village where the essential occupation was maintenance man or janitor or maid, judging from the excellent care of the Gathering Place – and all the jobs it took to feed those kinds of people. These were the ones who itched for adventure, ached for something different.

    “You work fast, squire”, he told Pedhrûánåg. “Now I’ve got a different job – your fellow squires are out there tiring out the horses. I left two of them on a little ridge about three hundred meters from here. Get a few of the men here and haul some firewood out there, to wherever they want it – enough to last all night.”

    “Lord, may I my squire fellows... help, there?” asked Pedhrûánåg.

    Rigel considered, weighing his wanting one squire with him against the benefits of all four young men working together. He chose the latter. “You may. In fact, haul enough wood for two fires, then. If you have two fires out there, maybe Oran and Casey can keep the horses at this end all night.”

    Pedhrûánåg bowed, then saluted fist to chest, and was off on his new assignment.

    “You know what this camp lacks?” Ryan asked an hour later. They were sitting around one of three fires after an excellent supper.

    Rita took the bait. “What’s that?” she asked.

    “A hot tub. Rye, when we get to that castle – and it is a castle; the Spanish must have built it, so it’ll be a castle – we have to put in a hot tub”, Ryan recommended.

    Rigel shook his head. “No hot tub.” He held up a hand to hold off Ryan’s protest. “You think I’m going to say it’s a luxury, right?” he asked with a grin. “Sorry; you lose. What I say is your dream is too small: what I want is Roman-style baths, with cool and warm and hot and really hot pools. A hot tub would end up being for just us. I don’t want that. If a soak and being clean is good for us, it’s good for everyone.
    “And in the baths, everyone will be equal. It will be our training in ‘all men are created equal’.”

    “Naked swimming school!” Ryan declared. “And a love shack on the side!”

    Rita favored him with a withering gaze. “No love shack. We need warrior virtues, not wastrel vices.”

    “I concede your point, Wise Woman”, Ryan said, teasing just a little. “So if we’re after warrior virtues, so we raise up the right to keep and bear arms?”

    Rita’s mouth went wide in an O as she stared at Ryan. She turned to Rigel. “We have another weapon the Others won’t expect”, she told him. “Think: in Celtish culture, warriors were a large minority; the rest were easy prey. In medieval Spanish culture, warriors were a tiny minority, supported by a large population which was easy prey. But we can arm and train absolutely everyone – and there will be no easy prey! Imagine the first time some force of theirs gets around ours and attacks a town – and every last resident turns out to fight, instead of cowering or fleeing!
    “‘The great object is that every man be armed’”, she quoted. “Patrick Henry. However much people may argue back home that times have changed, there’s no argument here. If we can produce the guns, we train anyone who can lift one to aim it.”

    “Ooh, warrior woman!” Ryan teased. “I salute you!” He raised his bone cup with its red drink. “Come to my place later, and we can have a mutual inspection of weapons!”

    Rita laughed. “You’re incorrigible!”

    “There has to be a reason to fight, my lovely Wise Woman”, he declared. “Why not fight with one kind of weapon for the freedom to wield the other?”

    “Don’t say it, Crystal”, Rita ordered. Rigel chuckled; Crystal was back into a phase of wanting “everybody [to] fuck Crystal!” He’d made clear to her in no uncertain terms that she was to avoid getting pregnant no matter what she did with the village boys – until they had a place of their own, probably that castle.

    As they watched the stars come out, a fire sprang up out in the valley. “That’s the ridge where we left Austin”, Ryan guessed. Rigel nodded, watching the flames get brighter.

    “Someone’s got the horses still running”, Rita commented a bit later. “I heard the herd’s thunder.”

    Rigel had to listen hard. “So do I.” Suddenly he sat up very straight. “How many of us know anything about horses?” he asked.

    “Fearless leader has an idea”, Rita observed.

    “No idea”, replied Ryan. “Are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?”

    “If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking that I’m thinking, then what I’m thinking is what you think I’m thinking”, Rigel teased.

    “You think if they really wear out that herd, we can capture us more than one horse.” Ryan grinned at Rigel grinned at Ryan.

    “Bingo. At least, anyone who feels confident about catching one can. Even a half dozen hor–“

    Ryan burst into laughter. “I think we’re doing this wrong”, he exclaimed. “Couldn’t Anaph just walk up here and call them?”

    Rita laughed then, too. “Probably. But let’s not tell our scouts and squires, all right? Let them have their accomplishment – and let Anaph help with the taming.”


    Dawn revealed fewer horses near the falls than before. “Looks like some got away”, Ryan observed.”

    “Still nearly a hundred down there, though”, Rita estimated. “So what do we do today?”

    Rigel had thought that out. “We think of anything we can to help with those horses when they get here, and do it. Hitching posts, water, food, ropes, bridles, whatever.”

    “Stalls?” asked Crystal.

    “Not for ones they’ve just caught, I don’t think”, Ryan answered.

    Rita greed. “Confine them, they might panic. We need to be able to hold them, and that means bridles, ropes, and something to tie the ropes to. They have to know we’ll provide for them, and that means food and water. Then they have to know we can provide safety. So we just have to decide who does what, and get to work.”

    “Let’s figure on them catching a half dozen”, Rigel decided. “I hope they’re thinking of the work it will be to take care of them, so they don’t try to prove how good they are at capturing the beasts.”

    Mid-morning brought the sight of a very weary Pedhrûánåg leading a wearier horse toward them. He called in his own language – Rita thought it was a really distorted form of Old Gaelic – and two of his fellow villagers jogged out to meet him, carrying ropes. Two others carried a rude bucket of water and a heap of gathered grass and placed them beside a huge stake that had been driven deep into the ground. The horse shied some at the newcomers, but Pedhrûánåg calmed it. Just a few minutes after they’d been able to tell it was Rigel’s newest squire bringing a horse, the animal was tied securely and snuffling at the heap of grass.

    “I go back”, Pedhrûánåg informed them. “Other horse to bring. Austin, too.”

    Rita tossed him a bag. “Bread. Meat. Fruit”, she told him. His catch was uncertain, as was his stride as he trudged back to his chosen task.

    Lunch was winding down. Rigel basked on a jury-rigged cot, soaking up rays, munching an apple. A yell awoke him. “Lord Rigel!” The voice was unmistakably that of his squire Austin, so he rolled to the ground, stood, snapped on his kilt and went to investigate. I’m going to have a really weird tan, he thought, looking at his legs – his sandals were the only things he hadn’t ditched for his sun-bath.

    The sight that greeted him made him whoop: Austin was riding, a beautiful blue roan... stallion, he saw. His squire looked quite triumphant. “Lord Rigel! I caught him myself!” Austin wobbled a little when he waved, and the horse skittered sideways – and bumped into the next horse, where Casey sat with a look of intense concentration. Behind them, Pedhrûánåg led another animal.
    Ryan was running to meet them, and Rigel gave chase. Behind them, young men scrambled to bring up food and water for another horse; they were only ready for two more, not three. Ryan got to Casey and reached up a hand to steady him. But when Casey turned, opening his mouth to say something, he tumbled. Ryan caught him, grabbing the improvised reins as he did so. The absence of tension was brief, so while the animal bucked a little, it gave up quickly.

    Rigel switched destinations and went to Ryan. “Hold this”, Ryan requested, handing over the reins while trying to keep Casey from falling. When Rigel had the horse – it didn’t seem to mind the hand-off – Ryan shifted his hold on Casey and shoved him back up.

    “Wore himself out”, Rita observed. “But he did catch one.”

    “He caught three”, Austin corrected, proud of his fellow squire. “I caught this one – lord Rigel, can I call him Titanium?”

    Laughs can be hard to suppress, but Rigel managed. “Why that?”

    “‘Cause his coat reminds me of the way one of my dad’s bodyguards’ gun looked, and it was titanium.”

    Rigel grinned. “Works for me. And I dare say Titanium has a much better master than that bodyguard did.” He mimed a hug for Austin, who sat up even straighter and prouder. “So, who else caught one? How many more are coming?”

    “Oran caught one, and Cro... one of the guys is holding it. He’s chasing another one right now. Pedhrûánåg was too... nervous about them, ‘cause he’s never seen any, so he just holds them when someone catches one.” Austin grimaced. “I wish these names weren’t so hard!”

    “So that’s... three for Casey, one for you, and so far one for Oran. Why’s he after another one?” Ryan inquired.

    “It’s hurt. And it’s a beautiful mare.”

    “Breeding stock, and aid”, Rita noted. “Does a Healer do animals?” No one knew for certain.

    Six horses were staked, the last arriving, limping, while supper was being prepared. Crystal had befriended all of them in age-old fashion: they loved apples. Rita had suggested staking them in an arc so they could get together in huddle in good herd fashion; that seemed to reassure them.

    So they had no horse troubles at all – until after dark. Chen arrived, three of their young village men in tow – and Anaph. The light rising out of the tunnel spooked the wounded mare, whose jolting and whinnies roused the others. Casey, who’d slept till supper, eaten, and slept again, was too deep in sleep to rouse, but Oran awoke to the whinny sound. “Ryan, help!” he called to the first other person he saw awake.

    Though the rest calmed quickly, the blue roan Austin called Titanium broke free – but Ryan had the rope, which was still fastened to the stallion’s nose. He wrapped the rope around one arm and watched for something to grab with the other. He hadn’t been pulled far when he saw a boulder about the size of a microwave in his path. He rolled to meet it, grabbed with his free right arm, and held. Titanium slowed, fighting the weight on his nose, unable to make the connection between it and the noise behind him. Twenty scraping, bumping meters later Ryan encountered another boulder, more the size of a washing machine. He had to roll to get to it, and lost his first boulder in the process, but his timing was good: he reached it with feet leading him, and landed. He put his back into it; Titanium came to a halt. The horse reared, screaming his frustration, but Ryan’s position was solid; though his back hurt, he didn’t budge.

    Light came his way. Ryan wasn’t going to take his eyes off his prisoner, not for a bit, though. He waited until another hand grasped the rope to look. “Anaph! Thanks.”

    “Hold him a moment more”, Anaph instructed. “I’ll walk up the rope to him.”

    Titanium didn’t know what to make of this news apparition, one with a bright spot of light on its chest, one which had planted another bright spot of light above his determined pursuer. He watched warily as this being with no place in his understanding of the world came closer and closer. His instinct was to flee, but there wasn’t anywhere to flee, unless....

    Anaph held on stubbornly when Titanium cut left, keeping the rope tight and threatening to pull Ryan sideways and off his boulder. “Oh, no you don’t!” he muttered as he gave up trying to stay on his feet, and resorted to climbing hand over hand up the rope. When Titanium tried to rear again, all it did was lift Anaph off his feet for a moment.

    But the damage was done: Ryan had been pulled off his boulder. He dug in his feet, but started picking up speed. Rocks were coming up, and his light was falling behind... Then Austin came racing by to join Anaph on the rope. That reinforcement gave Ryan time to choose a pair of rocks ahead to plant his feet on. Just like rappelling, he told himself, except sitting down “Ow!” which is just like riding the rapids on your butt. Left foot, right foot; he stopped.

    “Bad horse!” Austin scolded. The young squire glared at his stallion until its head hung, a sight Ryan found hard to believe. Titanium remained that way for several seconds, but looked up, sniffing when Austin pulled an apple from a belt pouch. “Hold still”, Austin ordered. Anaph took the apple Austin handed him to hold, and let the squire used his knee to boost himself up. Then Austin too it back, leaned forward, and offered Titanium a bite. Anaph thought he was going to lose a finger or two, but the horse missed, and Austin pulled the rest away.

    “Lead him, please”, Austin requested. Ryan got up and led, working his way to the horse’s nose where he had more control.

    “Why so early?” Rigel asked Chen, as the re-capture of Austin’s stallion wound down.

    “I happened to mention the giant crystal in the cave”, the scout confessed. “Anaph whipped people into action like you never saw! And he touched each of us with his staff. We just kept moving and didn’t get tired. The rest are where you wanted; we just kept coming.” He grinned widely. “We would have been an hour sooner, but Anaph actually wormed his way down that crack to get close to the crystal.”

    The Druid himself called a comment. “I didn’t dare touch it! There’s so much power in it.... Lord, that’s why the valley is so rich in life. Call it a ‘lifegem’; it holds Druid power like I can’t imagine.
    “I learned something, there”, he continued as he joined the two, Ryan right behind him. “Rigel, the Druids’ people never got beyond here. They ran up against something terrible, and retreated. Well, they got a little beyond, and fled back. This was their base of power. They had a plan.”

    “Let me guess”, Ryan requested. “They were going to build up their strength and resources until they could attack.”

    “Yep. Then some other humans showed up, with a strange language. These had horses, and metal armor. They clashed. The Druids wanted peace, because they knew of a greater danger. But the new ones–“

    “Spanish”, Ryan interrupted.

    “Anaph nodded. “The Spanish wouldn’t make peace. They never even learned to talk to each other. Then the Others showed up. The Spanish and the Druids managed to work together. They were holding – until somehow some Druids started fighting for the Others. Druids fought Druids. Clan fought clan. Villages got burned to the ground. The Spanish took it that the Druids were evil after all, and Spanish fought Druids.
    “The Others burned most of the castles; the black Druids finished the rest. Then the Others got here. The last few Druids put the last of their knowledge in the Stone, and went to meet them. The Druids were all killed, but the Others learned a lesson: every one of them that got into the valley dropped dead within minutes.
    “The valley soil is rich from bodies. The Servants dragged all the Others’ bodies far up into the marsh – it isn’t there any more. Lord, there were thousands of them! Maybe over ten thousand. I think it was everything they had. And hundreds of Spanish, and thousands of clan warriors. They all got buried in the valley, too.
    “The horses up here were a secret. One of the Druids knew the Spanish were going to hide some, and that was it.”

    “That was stupid, sending out the last Druids”, Ryan said scornfully.

    Anaph disagreed. “I think they had to, to win. I think they were what made all the Others die when they got into the valley. Every one died by a stone, and I think they put their power there before they died. I bet Others would still die if they came here.”

    “They had honor”, Pedhrûánåg declared.

    “They laid down their lives for their friends”, Chen added. “It was the only thing they had left to offer: themselves.”

    “I guess it worked – the valley is still safe”, Rigel concluded. “But what about the side valleys, where the orchards and flocks are?”

    “Those were protected somehow – I don’‘t understand it”, their Druid admitted. I think there’s other stuff I have to learn first.”

    “You’re learning fast”, Austin said.

    “I know. I think my visit to the Stone did something. I don’t remember a thing, but I see things now and... just understand. I thought I was learning before, but this... I feel like... I don’t know what I feel like. It’s like the Universe whispers me its secrets whenever I need them.”

    “The Universe?” Rita queried. “Not Life?”

    Anaph thought for a while. “The Universe is Life. Everything is made of Life. The Life-Giver gives that life every moment.”

    “I think physicists would have something to dispute about that”, Rita told him.

    Ryan chuckled. “No comment”, he said.

    There was silence again. All were tired, and in no hurry to do anything. Then two of the young villagers who’d come with Anaph– a boy, barely a teen, and one in his early twenties – came and sat on the ground next to Anaph. Anaph put a hand on each head. “Lord Rigel, these are Eraigh and Hedraing. They have the idhrûd spark. Hedraing aspires to be a warrior, though the Servant People don’t have any.”

    “Can he be a Druid and a warrior?” Rigel asked.

    Anaph grinned. “Yes. There haven’t been many, but Elder Crûánåch agreed that there have been. The youngest Elder did too – Elder Dainéal. He made his trip to the Stone just a few weeks ago.”

    “If they go to the Stone, doesn’t that mean they have the idhrûd spark?” Rita asked, curious.

    Their Druid shook his head. “There’s a similar spark, but it doesn’t bring talent. It just allows learning. Anyone who has it is automatically important. They become elders or Wise Women or Herb Women or something. All that knowledge is in the Stone, too.”

    “Wait a minute!” Rita exclaimed. “Can you tell if I have this spark?”

    Anaph looked sad, then laughed at the disappointment on Rita’s face. “Gotcha! I can. Elder Geróanåch about had a heart attack – when I found out Elder Dainéal had this spark, I asked to examine him. He said sure. After that Elder Crûánåch offered to be examined, too. Between them I thought I had it, but they took me to a Wise Woman, and an Herb Woman. After that, I was sure.
    “You want tested, huh?”

    Rita swallowed hard. “Yes”, she whispered. “If I don’t...”

    “Hush”, Rigel admonished. “If you don’t, you’re still a darned good Wise Woman. Anaph?”

    Once again the Druid did the mind-boggling trick of leaving his staff standing all by itself, not falling despite a breeze. Rigel refused to look. Anaph took his time, one hand on each side of Rita’s head, breathing slowly enough Rigel almost wondered if he’d fallen asleep. “Yes!” he said at last, sounding like the eager kid on the first day, all excited at hearing trees talk. And now I believe him, Rigel thought in wonder.

    “So I go to the Stone when we get back!” Rita exulted.

    “Another Wise Woman will take you”, Anaph informed her.


    In the morning Anaph looked at the mare’s leg. “Nothing broken”, he reported. “But she’s got a chipped bone and a torn ligament.”

    “Can Lumina take care of that?” Casey asked worriedly.

    “I can do a little right now”, Anaph told him. “It will speed the natural healing some. But she’s not going anywhere for a while.”

    Rigel sighed. “I was going to establish a base here anyway. I guess we start now.”

    “If we’re staying, I had an idea”, Ryan announced. “Go back to the ruin. But we take fire, and see if those webs will burn.”

    “And I take my Ruger, and see how it like bullets”, Austin declared.

    “It would be nice to finish exploring”, Rigel agreed. “But first we lay out where our base will be. Look around, and find a good spot.”


    The spot they chose was on the side of the great cavern farther from the falls. The cave wall there was nearly vertical anyway, plus a landslide had dropped an immense heap of six-sided stones. “Basalt”, Ryan announced. “Stack them sideways for a wall, fill the gaps with mud.”

    “The villagers have a form of mortar”, Rita told him. “I’ll get the recipe.”

    So for a day they labored to build an outer wall, and move the gear they’d be leaving behind. Rigel appointed Casey Horse Master, and let Pedhrûánåg choose a half dozen of the young men to stay with him and Casey. Anaph gave Pedhrûánåg another language “lesson”, and then they left, with four of the horses.


    When they rode into the village three days later, Rigel, Ryan, Austin, and Casey rode Tornado, Equisetum, Titanium, and Scout. Behind them each rode one of Rigel’s young Celts. Austin led, bearing a long lance made under Chen’s direction; with no stirrups, he had to balance it on his foot. Rigel followed, wearing the Spanish armor found after they burned out the rooms of the ruin; it was hardly a decent fit, but it looked grand. Ryan rode next to him and just slightly behind, wearing a polished breastplate. Both lords bore swords nestled in the crook of their arm – they didn’t have any scabbards.

    Villagers stared; boys ran to find Elders. Rigel swore it was the first time Elder Geróanåch did anything but scowl at him.

    “The promise is fulfilled”, the Eldest pronounced once the rest of his fellows had arrived. “Sons of the Servant People ride with the lords.

    “Now tell us: when do we go to war?”




    "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

  24. #274
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    Our epic saga continues, unabated.

    A lot of time and energy went into all these details.

    It was a heady read.

    The Conquering Heroes return to the village - on horseback.
    The trip back through the cave/waterfall with horses must have been a trip and a half.

    Or was there an alternate route I didn't pick up on?

    Thanks, again, for taking all this time and energy in developing this tale for us.


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

  25. #275
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    Re: Fit for Life

    I don't care how fat your ego gets,

    just keep those typing fingers working to the bone.

    Just keeps growing and growing. Ok, breaks over...quit horsing around...back to work



  26. #276
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    Our epic saga continues, unabated.

    A lot of time and energy went into all these details.

    It was a heady read.

    The Conquering Heroes return to the village - on horseback.
    The trip back through the cave/waterfall with horses must have been a trip and a half.

    Or was there an alternate route I didn't pick up on?

    Thanks, again, for taking all this time and energy in developing this tale for us.
    No alternate route. Just painstaking, achingly careful leading.

    You'll learn more about that in the next installment.

    "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

  27. #277
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post

    A lot of time and energy went into all these details.

    Thanks, again, for taking all this time and energy in developing this tale for us.
    When I write now I have Firefox open with three tabs for research, and a half-dozen WordPad documents open to keep track of the world that's a-building.

    I may take a break in the near future and produce a Compendium of Details, which would have all the people, places, and things in the story thus far.

    "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. #278
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr View Post
    When I write now I have Firefox open with three tabs for research, and a half-dozen WordPad documents open to keep track of the world that's a-building.

    I may take a break in the near future and produce a Compendium of Details, which would have all the people, places, and things in the story thus far.
    I'd offer to do it for you but I have a feeling I'd miss things you'd want in there, hehe.

    The idea that the conquistadors brought the horses is interesting. I guess the Snatcher figured they'd need them back then. It's nice that they're finally getting a glimpse of what happened on whatever world they're now on, and, perhaps more importantly, why THEY are here themselves!

    Also, just the thought of that spider-esque thing you described induces severe arachnophobia in me

    Thank you so very much for the latest chapters; perhaps next time I can get a chance to comment before you post two up! Haha.

  29. #279
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    Re: Fit for Life

    O.K.!! Several things going on here ...

    First of all, though least important, I'd like to apologize for the salacious tone of my last few replies. We're experiencing a "January Thaw", and, as usual, "Animal" has it confused with the beginning of Spring! And, "his" buddy, "Brandy" (which is "Randy" with a "B"!), is only encouraging this delusion! Therefore, this False start to "Spring Sap Surges" seems to be seeping through my finger tips in the words that I'm typing! (Sorry about that! ) (Which also attempts to explain my infatuation with "Patrick's" physical features! )

    I'm intrigued with the Horses, the Spanish Conquistadors, and the idea that the "Others" are not Human, at all! This is definitely expanding anything that I was expecting! The thot continues to plicken!! And, your multi-tab research is deeply evident, and greatly appreciated!!

    I would also like to acknowledge Your prolific production!! !!! You are pouring SO Much of your mental energies, in such a short time, into our eagerly awaiting imaginations!! And, I, for one, couldn't be more Pleased with the results!! I'm surprised I'm having the time to catch up, and absorb, this continuous ejaculation of excellent enlightenment of extraordinary intellectual enhancement!!

    In short ... Lord Kuli ... YOU F'in' ROCK!! THANK YOU!!

    As usual ... Looking forward to "Next"!! And, Yeah! ...

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    Also, pleased to hear/see that Anaph has managed to catch up with the main group!
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

  30. #280
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Ky, thats not just (b)randy....you been smoking again...I can smell....erm I mean tell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Ky, thats not just (b)randy....you been smoking again...I can smell....erm I mean tell.
    Actually, my continued smoking of legal tobacco, has impeded my enjoyment of partaking of natural "herb"!! It tends to close up my throat too much!

    That is, IF I have any idea what you're talking about!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

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

  32. #282
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    Re: Fit for Life

    You know what I'm talking about. Don't try to make me COWer in fear over your present location.

    I worked in the Blue Grass State of KY for 6 years and I know why it "ain't" called Marlboro country






    uh...uh...uh...was you referring to ky jelly? if so, my bad

  33. #283
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    I'd offer to do it for you but I have a feeling I'd miss things you'd want in there, hehe.
    I'll think about that.
    But if I ask, it will be via PM; no point in letting everyone know about something that's coming up (no matter how far in the future).

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    The idea that the conquistadors brought the horses is interesting. I guess the Snatcher figured they'd need them back then. It's nice that they're finally getting a glimpse of what happened on whatever world they're now on, and, perhaps more importantly, why THEY are here themselves!
    Isn't it, though? Seems the Spanish came with a lot more than our heroes did....

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    Also, just the thought of that spider-esque thing you described induces severe arachnophobia in me
    Ah -- someone to sympathize with poor petrified Austin!

    I got chills describing it, BTW.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anonymous View Post
    Thank you so very much for the latest chapters; perhaps next time I can get a chance to comment before you post two up! Haha.
    Well, I'm almost four chapters ahead of you guys, in draft anyway -- if something comes up that needs wrapped up soon, I'll guestimate how far ahead the resolution will be, and whip out a rough chapter to contain it. And while I waited to get the "lost chapter" taken care of, I polished some. So this won't happen often.

    "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. #284
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    You know what I'm talking about. Don't try to make me COWer in fear over your present location.

    I worked in the Blue Grass State of KY for 6 years and I know why it "ain't" called Marlboro country






    uh...uh...uh...was you referring to ky jelly? if so, my bad
    HA!

    I happened to have been born in KY, and I also LOVE K.Y.! (the jelly! ) In addition to that, I also happen to have a "thing" for the name KYle! Not sure why ... I just DO!

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

  35. #285
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    O.K.!! Several things going on here ...

    First of all, though least important, I'd like to apologize for the salacious tone of my last few replies. We're experiencing a "January Thaw", and, as usual, "Animal" has it confused with the beginning of Spring! And, "his" buddy, "Brandy" (which is "Randy" with a "B"!), is only encouraging this delusion! Therefore, this False start to "Spring Sap Surges" seems to be seeping through my finger tips in the words that I'm typing! (Sorry about that! ) (Which also attempts to explain my infatuation with "Patrick's" physical features! )
    No worries (hey, maybe I should spin some Aussies into the story....). But you've given me the urge to work in another "encounter" between the two Lords Best Buds.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I'm intrigued with the Horses, the Spanish Conquistadors, and the idea that the "Others" are not Human, at all! This is definitely expanding anything that I was expecting! The thot continues to plicken!! And, your multi-tab research is deeply evident, and greatly appreciated!!
    That was a bit of work: I was tired of them having to walk everywhere, but I didn't want the whole world to be running around on horses. Also, I didn't feel like dreaming up some other/new-world beast of burden for hauling loads for them. Lastly, they needed a source of dung for getting saltpeter for gun powder. So I had to tug at the main story line to fit them in. That did indeed thicken the plot, and I have to keep the new twist in mind as I go.

    Of course if these are the only horses in the world, it will give them a distinct advantage in making the Others extinct. But right now it just lets them get around faster, .

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I would also like to acknowledge Your prolific production!! !!! You are pouring SO Much of your mental energies, in such a short time, into our eagerly awaiting imaginations!! And, I, for one, couldn't be more Pleased with the results!! I'm surprised I'm having the time to catch up, and absorb, this continuous ejaculation of excellent enlightenment of extraordinary intellectual enhancement!!

    In short ... Lord Kuli ... YOU F'in' ROCK!! THANK YOU!!

    As usual ... Looking forward to "Next"!! And, Yeah! ...

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    Also, pleased to hear/see that Anaph has managed to catch up with the main group!
    The main group is sort of split, if by that you mean the House of FitzWin: some in Servant Village, some up chasing horses and running away from nasty nassssssssssssty spider-type creatures.

    You may, or may not, find out just what Anaph was doing while Rigel & Heroes were up past/through the waterfall (which is not quite a Looking Glass, though I was sorely tempted to throw in a March Hare).

    "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. #286
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post





    That looks like me about fifteen years ago!

    Except my beard has never been that nice, and I've never gotten around to smoking a pipe, never owned a bong, and would never EVER drink straight out of a bottle.



    Except there was the time I went streaking in college and swigged from a bottle of peppermint schnapps and got invited by a carload of sorority girls to hop in.....

    "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

    Damn it kuli...your posts are almost as enigmatic and almost (but not quite)

    as fun to read as this SciFi adventure novel...Go my man, go.

  38. #288
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Ok Kuli

    Head thumping is on hold...not put away...just on hold..Mind your P's and Q's.

    Did you find the comment I alluded too?
    Oh, go thump your head on a Stone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Damn it kuli...your posts are almost as enigmatic and almost (but not quite)

    as fun to read as this SciFi adventure novel...Go my man, go.
    The possibility of aliens sure jerked it back toward sci-fi, didn't it? I was starting to feel like I was writing a fantasy novel.

    "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. #289
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    Re: Fit for Life

    III


    Beginnings


    Rigel sat that night with the Elders. Elder Geróanåch didn’t keep anything from him now: he was a fulfillment of a promise made by Lord Escobar, the only lord to arrive for the battle at the valley mouth, that one day the Servant people would ride with the lords, and together they would make war on the home of the Others.

    They didn’t consider it prophecy, that promise, just the final promise of a man of honor who had helped hunt down renegade Druids, who had given the Others far better than he’d received from them. When word came that the last castle had fallen to the common enemy, the Servant people knew it was Escobar’s, commanded by young Escobar, since his father had fallen at the battle for the valley.

    Anaph considered that in this world, promises might have a potency of their own. In his arguments and discussion with Ryan, the latter had given up on any sort of technological explanation for Druid powers – or Healer, or Wise Woman, or Herbalist, as those were added to the ledger. He knew that he commanded energies merely by the power of his mind; his explanation was that his mind commanded his aura, and his aura interacted with these other energies, and the Universe responded. He wished to the Universe, to the Life-Giver, that the promise would aid them.

    They were quite serious about waging war. That was when Rigel learned just how much of the labor around the village was make-work: young men patrolled the streams, to see that they didn’t clog and overflow; young women kept clothes in perfect repair; huts were replaced whenever anyone felt like it – and more. So they had a work force at their disposal, and a larger one than they would have guessed: there were two side valleys with orchards, another with pigs, one where herbs were encouraged and harvested, another for certain spices, another just for lumber. Each valley had at least one village, and each village had at least fifty young men eager to serve.

    Then there was the Valley of Misfits, higher up and toward the west. It didn’t connect to the main valley, though it seemed to be under the protection of whatever killed any of the Others who entered. There dwelt all those who just couldn’t conform to the ways of the Valley; there they learned arts not practiced in the main village. In the main, those were the arts of war.

    “We’ll focus on horses right now”, Rigel decided. “Casey is Horsemaster, so he’s in charge. Ryan, I want that fortress we talked about in the monster cavern, too.”

    “Gotta clear a good path first”, Ryan replied. “We’ll have too many injuries if we don’t, and our Healer still can’t deal with broken bones.”

    “Fine. Elder Geróanåch, we’re going to have to establish a village up that way. There’s a shelf–“

    The Elder held up a hand. “I know it. Young people sometimes use it for forbidden matters. It will serve you well; there is water and wood.”

    “We didn’t find any water!” Austin protested.

    “Squire....” Rigel warned. “He’s right, though, Elder.”

    Geróanåch chuckled. “Elder Dainéal, do you know this secret?”

    Elder Dainéal blushed. “I do.”

    “Good, for I have no longer the strength to show them. Lord Rigel, you may build as you will, there: the shelf is not under the proscription.”

    “I’m relieved to hear that”, Rigel replied honestly. “In that case... let’s send Casey fifty young men. Um, wait – send a hundred, to start the shelf village. When it’s got a good start, fifty will go up to help Casey. Ryan, take charge of that village. Try to keep it from looking like a fortress.”

    “Um, which do you want – village or cavern? There’s only one of me”, Ryan pointed out.

    “Get the village off to a good start. Then the cavern.”

    Elder Dainéal raised a hand. “I will send to village Créach. There are those who know the building with stone.”

    “Five such”, Ryan requested. “And two helpers for each. Two at the village, three at the cavern”, he explained for Rigel.

    “Orders for Casey”, Rigel told Austin. “We want big, blocky horses if there are any. There are loads to be hauled.”

    “Lord, mount all your people first!” urged Elder Geróanåch. “They are lord’s people!”

    Rigel slapped the table. “No!" he declared adamantly. "I’ll get my squires and scouts mounted, then our Druid and Healer. We need horses more to get things done than because of rank. My House has succeeded so far by paying attention to needs, not to privilege. I’m going to keep on that way. If you stick to your privilege, and ignore needs, you pull out the foundations from under your house. But my people don’t just owe loyalty to me; I owe it to them ‘loyalty for loyalty’, it says in the oath, and if I can’t do that I’m no lord, just a fake. And since you’re my allies, it works there, too: I won’t slight your needs just because of privileges of rank.”

    Elders Dainéal, Crûánåch and two others slapped the table in approval, while Geróanåch was taken aback by Rigel’s vehemence. “I... hear”, that Elder said.

    An Elder Rigel didn’t know much about, Elder Maitiú, spoke up. “We have too long been accustomed to ease. We have more than enough food, more than enough of many things. Rarely do we face need, so we are not practiced in thinking in such a term. You have faced what we have not: you know of hunger, and thirst, of comrades at risk of life, at battling vicious beasts, of providing protection from attack, and of attacking. In this, we must bow to you: you must be Warmaster.”

    There was an intake of breath around the table. What did he just make me? Rigel wondered. Aloud, he said, “Until we actually go to war, I command my House alone, and we work as friends and allies. Let’s not speak about Warmaster until then.” Sighs, both of relief and worry, he thought, followed this pronouncement.

    “I bet that’s like Dictator in ancient Rome”, Ryan told Rigel quietly, in English.

    Elder Dainéal cleared his throat. “We shall need to plant more crops, and fodher?”

    “Fodder”, Ryan supplied.

    “And fodder for the cubaihos – the horses.”

    “That’s for the spring”, Rigel replied. “For now – anything else?”

    “Lumber for the village and fortress”, Ryan responded. “Mortar for the stone. We teach the ‘misfits’ to make bricks. We teach the villagers pottery. Ocean gives them the plants she’s found for food.
    “And we need to go to that castle.”

    Rigel had struggled with that. “I think we have to wait. There’s snow in the mountains already, and we had another frost. And going that way might expose us to the Others. I might send scouts, but we’re not going to move.
    “And if there’s nothing else...?”

    Anaph sighed. “For the ears of those in this room only. I have learned some things we all should know.” Elders leaned forward.
    “The druids’ power reaches to places beyond this world. They forged a link to a power beyond imagining, one which can move things between worlds – living things. Using this power, I may be able to bring to us certain useful things.”

    “Like what?” Ryan asked, interested.

    “Sheep, for wool. Cotton, for cloth. Corn, for food. Chickens, for eggs.”

    “Cows for milk?” Austin asked.

    “Cows are large”, Anaph replied. “Actually, I’d be bringing lambs, cotton balls with seeds, corn cobs with seed, and eggs or chicks.”

    “Watermelon seeds”, Rita suggested. “Strawberries. And apricots.”

    Rigel chuckled. “Okay, don’t make the list any bigger. Anaph, can you really do that?”

    “If what I learned is correct, the old Druids learned how to turn this power to their bidding. I would use it to snatch things and bring them here.”

    Rigel froze, cold inside at the implications: if they could grab a machine shop, they could do anything! Then he recalled the limitations Anaph had implied, and sighed mentally.

    “If these things are helpful, I say bring them!” Elder Dainéal declared. A few other Elders nodded; none objected.

    “All right”, Rigel said. “We need our sleep. Tomorrow we start to prepare to get ready for war.” He bowed to Elder Geróanåch, who as eldest had precedence in departing. One by one the Elders left. Elder Dainéal stayed to usher them out, because an Elder had to close the Lodge.

    “You can control the Snatcher?” Ryan queried eagerly.

    “Just for this. And only small things”, Anaph replied.

    “Alfalfa”, Rita said. “Oats. Clover. We’ve got horses; they have to be fed. For a war, they need food they can carry; for pasture they need food to make them strong.”

    “The grass here seems to make them strong”, Rigel pointed out. “But I see your point – grass hay is bulky. And having the traditional foods will feel right. Anaph, can you grab that much?”

    Anaph laughed. “I’ll have to grab from a ruined farm store!” He turned serious. “I think I can’t make a lot of grabs. I’ll try for a lot of it from one place – and I’ll start with things for the horses.”

    “Count cotton in that, and wool”, Rita recommended. “We need saddle blankets.” Anaph nodded.

    “Anaph’s right”, Rigel agreed. “For now, it’s all about the horses.”


    “Rigel?” Austin called softly as they settled in next to each other.

    “Yo, bud.”

    “You know what day it is?”

    Rigel thought. “Thanksgiving?” he guessed.

    Austin laughed and poked Rigel. “No. I don’t mean old calendar, I mean here.”

    “Okay, don’t torture me – what day is it?”

    “Tomorrow afternoon is a hundred days here.”


    The next day, Rigel gathered them all for lunch, apart from any villagers. “One hundred days today, everybody. We got dumped here, we’ve been through the borderlands of Hell, and we’ve survived.”

    “Better than survived”, Rita corrected.

    Rigel nodded to her, accepting the emendation. “Last night Austin said something I think is very important: we’re not on the calendar we grew up with any more. We don’t have months, now – the best we have is the passage of that darned slow moon over our heads.
    “But a calendar is important. Having days to celebrate and remember is important. So as lord of our House, I’m making this day our Thanksgiving Day. We already had a feast; let’s call that our celebration this time around. But next year we’ll mark this hundred-day Thanksgiving with our own feast.” He sat down.

    Ryan stood and acted like he was holding a microphone. “Lord Rigel, would you say that the first hundred days of your administration have been a success?” He pushed his hand toward Rigel.

    In good humor, Rigel played along. “Well, we’ve had some close calls, but we’re still here. We’ve made friends, too, so I definitely call it a success.”

    “Do you see the honeymoon ending soon?”

    “That’s always a possibility, but I don’t dwell on it. Getting the job done has to come first.”

    “Looking into the future, could you give us a hint about your foreign policy?” Ryan went on, for all the world – two worlds – like a reporter trying to corner a politician. Half the group was laughing so hard that tears flowed.

    “That’s an easy one. Our enemy is an outfit called ‘The Others’. My policy toward them is simple: we will prepare, and then we will hunt down every last one of them, and exterminate them. We will find all their kind of creatures that seem a threat, and track them down, and kill them.” Laughter trickled to a halt.

    Rita stood. “Rita de Luca, with the PartTime Rag", she improvised, holding her left hand like it had a notepad and her right like she was ready to write. "Lord Rigel, what if some of the Others want peace?”

    Her question got everyone’s attention. “I’ve actually thought about that, Miss de Luca. My position on that is simple: we find the Snatcher, and make a deal – we do what it or they want, if they’ll send the peaceful Others back where they came from. But we’re not going to share the world with them, not after they slaughtered the ancestors of our new friends.
    “But enough of that. Right now, my administration is going to concentrate on anything we can manage, to make travel and living conditions better for everyone in and around the Valley. Now that’s all.” He waved Rita and Ryan away pompously, then sat again with a grin.
    “Someone pass some more redberry, please!”


    It took two days for the distant villages to respond. All the workers went to what Ryan had dubbed Shelf Village, rather than gather at Servant Village and spend another day traveling to their destination. A messenger came back from the lumber village with word they would select trees needed for village and fortress and begin cutting immediately. Knowledge of how the Spanish built had been preserved against need. They also had a better mortar, and devices for lifting heavy loads. And if Casey brought horses, with the help of the Misfits, they could build wagons.

    While his plans started into motion, Rigel had a talk with Anaph. “Do you think you could grab a book?”

    “I’d have to know it well”, was the answer.

    “It’s called ‘How Things Work’. I only heard of it.”

    “A title isn’t enough, Rigel. I need more than that.”

    “Maybe someone else knows it.”

    In fact someone else did, though she’d forgotten. Rita had made her trip to the Stone, with no difficulty. “I have a strong sense of identity”, she’d confided to Rigel. One effect of the Stone for her was that everything she’d ever read was there for her when she needed it. What little Rigel knew was enough to trigger her memory.

    “How Things Work”, she said, “In three volumes. Volume one gives everything up to basic steam engines. That’s the one we need.”

    “What’s all in it?” Rigel asked.

    “Levers, ramps, screws, simple hydraulics, wells, windmills, gears, gunpowder, cannon, fuses, beer – Anaph, get hops if you can, too – trusses, arches and bridges... lots of stuff. Rigel, with that book, we could reach for a colonial period tech level, and more.”

    “What about the second volume?”

    Rita shook her head. “Anaph says he can only grab one – it has to be the first one. Rye, it will have refining of ores, how to find them – it’s a big book!”

    “How well can you describe it?”

    “I can recite it and describe the pictures. Anaph, how much do you need to know?”

    “How long would you need to recite it?” he asked.

    “Hmm. Ten hours, maybe. Add eight more for the pictures.”

    “Reciting is enough. But first I need to do the stuff for horses.”

    He did that the same night. Standing naked in the middle of their camp by the village, his staff standing by itself beside him, Anaph reached out, first to the Stone, then to the great crystal in the falls. Linked with those, he touched his staff.

    The markings at the tip flared, brighter than Rigel had ever seen them. Rita gasped but covered her mouth; Anaph had requested silence. Austin took an involuntary step backwards.
    Anaph held in his mind the images of what he wanted. It felt as though he were roaming vast distances, feeling his way.... suddenly energy flowed; he almost lost his contact with the staff, so he grabbed it with his other hand. He kept his mind calm, open. Then the energy vanished, sucked back from him and ripping at his own power. With sheer will he severed the connection, then dropped to his knees, leaning on the staff.

    On the ground were small packages, larger sacks, and loose materials. When Anaph looked up and motioned them forward, Rita and Ryan rushed in to see what they’d gotten.

    “Alfalfa, enough seed for an acre field!” Ryan crowed.

    “Corn – white and sweet”, Rita announced.

    “Clover – white and red both!” Ryan said. They took turns.

    “Sweet peas?!”

    “Cotton!”

    “Yellow clover.”

    “Oats.”

    “Peas!”

    “Scarlet clover.”

    “Yyyes – watermelon!” Rita practically jumped into the air right from her knees.

    “Sweet onions!”

    Rigel interrupted their inventory. “Anaph, why so many things you didn’t aim for?”

    Their Druid got to his feet and came to look at the haul. “Two reasons. One is that there’s a proximity deal. Things really close to things I aim for can come along, too. Second is when I found what I was after, I realized there were a lot of other things with them. I figured, hey, what would be with all the seeds besides other seeds? So I put energy into the proximity effect and grabbed.”

    “Garlic!”

    “Chives!”

    “Omigawdraspberries!” Rita licked her lips.

    “Radishes!”

    “Tomatoes!”

    “Potatoes!” Ryan burst into laughter as Rita started doing the “You say toMAYto, I say toMAHto” bit.

    “What’s so funny?” Rigel asked.

    “Potatoes and the Irish”, Ryan told him, still laughing. “Irish are Celts, our new friends are Celts...”

    It didn’t strike Rigel as terribly funny, but he did chuckle. “Just hope we don’t have a famine”, he commented. That killed Ryan’s laughter.

    “Beans, as in beans and franks.”

    “Celery.”

    “Ginger.”

    “Zucchini.”

    “Are those eggs?” Austin asked, pointing at white things barely uncovered by a sliding packet of pea seeds.

    “Anaph, you are a prince!” Rita declared. “You did get eggs!”

    “I think they’re fertile, too”, Ryan stated. “They’re not packed like food eggs.”

    The eggs were the last discovery of something new. Rita rushed them into her hut, where, she declared, she would keep them between her breasts till they hatched, if she had to. As things turned out, she didn’t: the village Wise Woman helped theirs turn a bread over into an incubator.


    The day after their villagers started work on Shelf Village, Ryan had Devon take twenty of them and start turning the passage through the falls into a road. His view of the situation was that removing rock would just make a flooded path for water, so he got rakes and baskets from Servant Village, and started tearing up the ground at the edge of the pool below the falls. Once through the turf, they hit gravel. Ryan gave him twenty more workers then. Soon a line of workers started trudging from gravel pit to falls. Each one dumped his basket at the first spot he found uneven to walk on; the returning workers made a second line. Progress was slow; Devon hollered for more workers.

    Dmitri, Antonio and Tanner were part of the effort two days later, when a hundred villagers were laboring away. Devon wanted the leading edge tamped, after earlier sections started disappearing between the larger rocks below. So Antonio was the first to see Casey carefully leading a huge gray horse through the rocks beyond them.

    “Oh, nice!” were Casey’s first words. “Leading horses through this crap is scary.”

    “You could start from the top”, Devon told him when he and horse got out into the light. “Haul dirt and pack the upper end of this rocky stuff.”

    Casey laughed. “We’re hauling away some of that rocky stuff”, he told them. “There were some soft spots in the cavern floor where the wall is going – we dug out the dirt and threw it back in as we filled the spots with round rock.”

    “There’s an idea”, Dmitri volunteered. “Use stone workers, mortar rocks together. Make slope better where is steep.”

    “I like that”, Devon agreed. “Right now though, we just want to be able to get horses through. Evening like that means filling, which we can do later when we’re not hurrying.”

    Expecting horses, the Misfits and lumberers had already made a small wagon. With it, progress picked up incredibly: instead of single digit meter measurements in a morning and again in an afternoon, they went into low double digits. The wagon bogged down sometimes; Devon’s solution for that was simple. “Back it up”, he said the first time it happened. “And throw part of the load in the bad spot.” For a while, barely a quarter of the wagon load was getting to the cave, but that started to change as soft places were filled, and changed more rapidly when Devon told the workers to dump every other basket they carried in a low spot on the track the wagon was using.

    The next day Casey brought another work horse; the carpenters of the two villages had another wagon ready. This horse turned out to not like pulling over uneven ground, so its loads were devoted entirely to improving the road from the gravel pit to the cave. Things picked up again, because the first wagon could move more easily, and thus faster, on its trips.

    Rigel journeyed to the top to see the fortress. To his surprise, there were workers at the ruin across the valley. He rode Tornado across, Austin on Titanium at his side. His legs, especially his thighs, hurt every time after he rode, though less and less. So he walked unsteadily when he dismounted.

    “I know the feeling”, Rigel shared. “So what’s up?”

    “That’s what I was going to ask you”, Rigel replied. “You’re supposed to be building a fortress.”

    “It’s getting done”, Ryan assured him. “But this building is too good to go to waste. When we finish repairs, it’ll be a base for horse chasers on this side of the valley.”

    “Okay, that makes sense. Have you seen the road down below?”

    Ryan shook his head. “Too busy. I’ll see it when it’s done and I can ride down.”

    “If you mean all done, you’ve got a wait ahead of you – Devon’s talking arches to let water flow freely from those little falls.”

    “I don’t mean that finished”, Ryan responded. “I mean when Casey says the trip isn’t a pain in the ass just leading a horse.”

    Inspiration struck Rigel. “Hey! You want a wagon up here?”

    “Shards, yes! Ten would be nice!”

    Rigel laughed. “They’re working on the third one now. I’ll see if they can bring it up in like kit form.”

    Next morning when he went back down, something new greeted him: lumberers were making temporary plank bridges over the really bad spots. That gave him another idea, so he rode straight to Devon when he reached the bottom.

    “Devon, I’ve got a job for some of your people: make a rail road for wagons. Ryan kinda needs a couple up top. We’re into harvest time, and cold weather is coming. And that fortress is where we’ll be spending the winter.”

    Devon was ready to object until he heard Rigel’s last statement. “Gotcha. The lumber boys say they’ve got beams ready for Ryan – I’ll just ask them to send some, and keep a bunch of the haulers here.”

    “Good deal. Later, Master Foreman.”

    Two days later, a thunderstorm with hail hit. They were trapped in the cave for shelter for three hours, but the work went on. Two dozen lumberers had gone above; these sent firewood down That trip was easier, now; the road of rails, actually a road of slotted rails, reach nearly to the steepest point. A wagon behind one of their horses, which now numbered five, could go up at a slow walk. Coming down was harder; the horses wouldn’t even start down the slope pulling a wagon, so men had to let them down, holding them with ropes and walking slowly, a dozen per wagon.

    Two weeks passed. Harvest was over, and the Elders sent those workers to help. Shelf Village burgeoned as some decided to settle there with their families. Borderline “misfits” moved from Servant Village to settle there, while others went on up to the fortress. They had ten wagons by then, four above, four below, and two running supplies from Servant Village for storage at Shelf Village and Castle Cavern. Ryan had tried to tell Casey that it was hardly a castle, built inside a cave, but Casey’s appellation stuck. In his mind, Ryan added battlements, with crenels and merlons on the walls. He dreamed of a wall clear across the opening, but knew for the moment he had to focus on shelter.

    Rigel got a call to come to Servant Village. Thanks to Tornado and Titanium, he and Austin made the trip in a day.

    “We started with forty-eight eggs”, Rita reminded Rigel. “Thirty-seven of them hatched. Six chicks died in the first two days – Lumina says that same critter that was infecting the villagers and gobbling their DNA was at work. Can you believe we inoculated the chicks with a serum made from villager blood? The thirty-one survivors are doing fine – I thought you’d like to see them.”

    She led the way to a new building at the edge of the village. It was wooden, almost a log cabin. “The chicken house”, she announced proudly. “It’s got ovens inside made of the Misfits’ new bricks. You’re gonna be warm!”

    Rigel didn’t mind the warmth; his eyes were on the pen full of grass and chicks. His mind’s eye envisioned eggs for breakfast and chicken dinners. “How long till eggs?” he inquired.

    “Ninety to a hundred days. And we’re not eating the first ones, we’re making more chickens.”

    “Change that: we eat half and use half for hatching. Keep that up for a while. Come spring, give chicks to villagers.”

    “As you wish”, she replied. “Now I wish Anaph could get some sheep – I’m getting cold, nights. Oh – he has something for you. Now that you’ve seen the chicks...”

    Anaph looked weary; he was pale and bent. He perked up some when Rigel arrived. “Sit”, he instructed, then went into his back room, separated from the rest of the hut by a woven grass partition. He returned with something wrapped in thin, supple leather, which he set down on the table in front of Rigel.

    Rigel hesitated only a moment before beginning to unwrap it. He was careful, both for the leather and the contents he suspected. When the last fold fell away, he found he was right. “You did it!” he breathed.

    “He passed out and didn’t wake up for a day, when he did”, Rita informed Rigel. “He thinks maybe he got caught.”

    “I’ll try one more grab”, Anaph offered. “Just one item.”

    “Two”, Rigel disagreed. “Recover first. Then get a pair of breeding lambs. Rita, you won’t have wool this winter, but you’ll get your saddle-blankets. For now, we make do with – what cloth comes from flax?”

    “Linen”, Rita replied. “And what they make here is terrible. Though that book has some info that will help.”

    Indeed the book had information to help, and they started putting it to use. Winter was when flax got beaten into fiber and spun into thread, a time-consuming process by hand. Rita worked with Chen, and in four days, with the help of two wood workers and their shop, had made a simple spinning wheel. A week later, they had their first, very basic, mechanical loom.


    “Blast it, we need metal!” Rigel fretted one cloudy gray day. “We need tools, and tools mean metal.”

    “The book shows basic laminating”, Ryan told him. “We can even make laminated armor – I asked Ocean, and she knows what wood to use and how to mix the laminating glue.”

    “A new profession is born”, Rita noted. “Laminators. We can make wooden bowls, too. Though if we had a lathe, we could make them faster – so you’re right, Rigel.”

    “Can a Druid find metal?” Rigel wondered.

    “Not while he’s up taming horses”, Rita teased.

    “Or checking eggs to see if they’re fertile”, Ryan added.

    “Huh?” Comprehension dawned. “That’s why you’re getting almost a hundred percent hatched – you screen them!”

    Rita grinned at him. “Okay, now you know my secret, too. Anaph shouldn’‘t have to do it much longer, though – he’s teaching Eraigh and Hedraing the trick.”

    Ryan’s eyebrows lowered slightly in thought. “‘Hedraing’ – that sounds like ‘Hadrian’. I’m surprised any Celts would name their kids after a Roman general..”

    “If they thought of him as a great warrior, they might”, Rita suggested. “Then the name would just get passed down.”

    “‘Eraigh’ sounds like ‘Eric’”, Rigel said.

    “And ‘Dainéal’ is ‘Daniel’”, Rita noted.

    “What’s Geróanåch?” Ryan asked.

    “‘George’”, Rita declared with a straight face.

    “Ha”, Ryan came back. “So what’s Crûánåch?”

    “Craig?” she ventured.

    Rigel caught on. “You’re making those up!”

    “Yes, but ‘Maitiú’ really is ‘Matthew’, ‘Eammon’ is ‘Edward’, and ‘Daithi’ is ‘David’.”

    “Learning the Elders names, are you?” Ryan queried.

    “A Wise Woman has to know these things.” She put on a fake expression of superiority.

    Ryan tilted his head and looked at her a moment. “Girl, you don’t do smug very well”, he commented.


    The village Wise Women were moving symbols around a map of the valley, Rita saw when she entered their hut. She waited to be recognized. “Ah, Rita”, said Aidanna. “These crops – you know them better than we. Lord Rigel has assigned Servant Village one-third portion of the seed. We are discussing where planting shall go in the Spring.”

    Rita wedged herself in between Aidanna and Frangagh. The map was on thick flannel, easy to store. Regarding it, she decided to be bold. “I would start with something else”, she stated. “There are six paths in and out of the village. From each one, send out a road. It could be gravel or planks. Out here” – she put a finger at a point where a circle around the center of the village would enclose most of the existing fields – “I’d put a circle road. Where the spoke roads” – she had to stop and explain what a spoke was; they knew only of solid wheels – “meet the circle road, put a work hut, for tools, mid-day food, and water. Six spoke roads” – Frangagh had marked those with pieces of something like yarn – “so six huts. Then outside the circle road, put new fields.
    “You rotate the crops, don’t you?”

    Aidanna nodded. “Thus the ground keeps health.”

    “Clover is good to plant in years when you leave a field alone. It makes the soil rich, and horses can graze on it.”

    Frangagh giggled. “Horses will make rich the soil also.”

    Rita chuckled. “That they do. They also like to eat anything that looks good. So any crops they might want to wander into and nibble on, plant away from the road from the valley mouth to the magic falls.” Which really is magic, she thought, whatever Anaph says. “Are any of the fields failing?”

    Maolmin, a Wise Woman so old and bent Rita thought she must be a hundred years old, nodded. “This, this, and this”, she croaked. “These lack from when I was beautiful.” That was a joke with the Wise Women; Maolmin had been gray when the next oldest was born, and that one, Bebhin, maintained that Maolmin was really the first of all Wise Women, who refused to die until the whole world was as green as the Valley – and had never been young.

    “So plant them with clover”, Rita recommended. “Forget the rotation you had; move what would have been there, farther out.”

    “Too far, and the girls will tire from walking”, declared Bebhin. “Girls today are lazy.”

    “Build them two bunkhouses”, Rita suggested, “on the main road. The ones who stay there can do the outer fields.”

    Aidanna looked around the circle with a smile, ending with Rita. “A simple question of crops, and she rearranges our lives. No, child, that is no accusation. Too long have we done things always the same. Now there will be war. War brings change. You are our teacher in change, as we have never seen such.”

    “I have”, Maolmin cackled. “Oh, yes, I have! Three years, we had no rain, and in the third fire swept across the Valley. Half the village burned! Oh, yes, that was change!”

    “And you rebuilt it all just the same as before”, Frangagh accused.

    “Oh, not all”, Maolmin croaked. “No, we moved all outward, even as this child says. We made more room.”

    “All that’s filled now”, Rita responded. “You need more space. Just don’t make the Village bigger; make small villages among the fields.”

    “This is wise”, Aidanna judged. “Servant Village is crowded. Ritagh, we will do as you say. But this is not why you came.”

    “No, it isn’t. I have a question: do you know where there are metals to be dug out?”

    “To make weapons”, Bebhin pronounced sadly.

    “Right now, to make tools”, Rita responded. “Lord Rigel tells us many things that must be done. If we had the right tools, metal tools, they could be done faster.”

    “As with the spinning wheels and looms”, Aidanna said with approval.

    “Also pulleys”, Frangagh added.

    “Pulleys?” Bebhin pronounced the word carefully.

    Rita jumped in. “I think you should all make another trip to the Stone. You’d know al these things, and would probably see uses I don’t. I’m used to having things like looms that run themselves, and stoves that don’t need wood, so I don’t always see the things that will help you right now.”

    “Yes, girl”, Maolmin cackled. “You have the right of it! When new knowledge comes, the Wise Women go again to learn of the Stone. We must go soon, lest we need struggle through snow.”

    “Lord Rigel would lend us horses”, Rita told them. “You could ride.”

    “No horses”, Bebhin said. “Wise Women walk when they are not sitting.” And that gave Rita an idea: a wagon not for freight, but for people to ride in – sitting.

    Aidanna had been looking at maps. She found what she was looking for, and brought it over. “Here”, she said, rolling it out atop the one of fields. “Here the Valley is small, the Village like a thumbnail. These marks in the hills and mountains show where the clans dug metals.

    Rita looked. As she stared at the symbols, they suddenly changed from being strange to quite familiar. Iron. Copper. Silver. Nickel! “Lord Rigel will be more than pleased! Lord Ryan, as well – he knows the making of weapons, as Lord Rigel knows the ways of command.” A thought popped up and waved at her. “Do your Misfits know of these?”

    Bebhin answered. “They may. They know the working, they may know the places.”

    “Then I will go to their village. Custom calls for a maid, to vouch for me, a lad, to do chores, and two spear-bearers. I’ll call for horses, too.”

    “A Wise Woman does not ride!” Maolmin snapped.

    “I don’t plan to – but I don’t have to carry all my supplies, either.”

    Maolmin cackled. “A sly one, she is! Girl, go to the Misfits. Find your workers of metal.”

    “Life go with you”, Aidanna added, the others joining in.

    “And also with you”, Rita responded.


    Rigel was happy to provide horses. “That’s a silly rule about riding”, he said.

    “It’s about dignity”, Rita told him. “But I think I have a way around it.”

    “Really?”

    “The Eldest says the rule is that a Wise Woman walks when she isn’t sitting. I want a wagon to carry people.”

    Rigel considered. “How many travel with a Wise Woman?”

    “A maid, a lad, two spearmen.”

    “Okay... a coach for five, and baggage. And a driver. I think we can figure that out. Meanwhile... enjoy your walk”, he said, teasing.


    “Show me the place!” Rita demanded of the Master metalworker.

    “What do you know of digging for metals?” he countered. “What could you learn?”

    “Enough to tell you how to do it better”, she snapped, patience running out. “I can tell you how to do better right here!”

    Master Korrûnos took that challenge. “Done! If you speak truly, I will show you.”

    First she had to show the brick makers how to make a different kind of brick, one that could line a smelter or forge. Then she had to sketch the design. Some couldn’t think in three dimensions, so she ended up building a model with pieces of wood – about one-third scale.

    The Master metalworker grunted. “We need a new shed. Send to the lumberers.”

    Shed, smelter, and forge finished about the same time. The roof had to be last, but they started without it. Rita had spent five days just getting ready for her challenge; she chafed at the time. On the other hand, they needed the new smelter and forge anyway, she rationalized, so the time wasn’t altogether wasted.

    Ore went into the smelter, along with hardwood and charcoal. The chimney warmed and started sucking air – once the cool bricks weren’t sucking up warmth, all that heat rose, and as it rose it drew air more quickly across the fire; the fire grew hotter, moving the air faster, a process feeding itself until the equilibrium point was reached.

    “Master, it’s hotter than anything!” a journeyman – they didn’t formally have those designations, but they had ranks that were similar. The result was a more complete recovery of the metal – in this case iron – and a quicker one as well. When they moved on to the forge, that success was duplicated.

    “Why a Wise Woman has such knowledge, I grasp not”, the Master conceded. “Yet I am not one to reject it for coming from a woman. Wise One, I will show you the diggings.”





    "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

  40. #290

    Re: Fit for Life

    Again, absolutly brilliant. Thank you for this. I am at awe with this story progression. You could make a fortune with a story like this! It would make an amazing book or even series! You could be the next Robert Jordan!

  41. #291
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Endlessnight500 View Post
    Again, absolutly brilliant. Thank you for this. I am at awe with this story progression. You could make a fortune with a story like this! It would make an amazing book or even series! You could be the next Robert Jordan!
    If I wanted to be Robert Jordan, right about now I'd split them all off in different directions, so by the time I got to Book 14, it would take most of the book to describe one day.


    Though if I wanted to be Robert Jordan, I'd have to leave out the sex scene....

    "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

  42. #292

    Re: Fit for Life

    lol true, altho i was was disapointed that he died befor he was able to finish up the series. I would have liked to know how he would have had the story end.

    I like your story for the plot and the character progression, the sex scene I will admit was a nice bonus. At first I did hope for them, but I kept your warning from the begining in mind. Now I'm captivated by the story itself and honestly if there wasn't another sex scene , altho I hope more will come when your ready for them, I would be happy haveing just read this amazing peice of literature you so graciously shared with us.

  43. #293
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Endlessnight500 View Post
    lol true, altho i was was disapointed that he died befor he was able to finish up the series. I would have liked to know how he would have had the story end.

    I like your story for the plot and the character progression, the sex scene I will admit was a nice bonus. At first I did hope for them, but I kept your warning from the begining in mind. Now I'm captivated by the story itself and honestly if there wasn't another sex scene , altho I hope more will come when your ready for them, I would be happy haveing just read this amazing peice of literature you so graciously shared with us.
    Jordan's notes and outline are still there, and work is being done to get the ending published. The two things that stick in my mind are the master that got killed, who was excited about something -- I think he found that the age was going to end with the actual casting of the Forsaken into the darkness, not just sealed away, and that the things Rand had started there would bring back the Age of Wonders; and that Egwene was in almost exactly the situation she'd met in her test for Accepted -- and would end up killing off the Black Ajah and becoming Mother in reality for both groups.


    Anyway....


    The sex scene was integral to things -- things not yet known to the characters, or of course to the readers. I don't know how I would write the story without it! even though I did manage to wrok around some important encounters between younger members.


    BTW, I've almost got another chapter ready to stick on JUB and begin "post editing", which is finding errors, putting in formatting, and inserting an image at the end which expresses something about the chapter, followed by "preview editing", where I read it all slowly and make sure everything looks and feels right.

    "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

  44. #294

    Re: Fit for Life

    There are some things about Rand's character that I didn't like. How he lost touch with who he was at the beginning. I also really want to know how they are going to handle the internal conflict he is having with his past life, I could have sworn the forshadowed him being able to overcome that. I havent read the books in years. LOL but i still check the book store every time I go and periodicly check to see if his editor has drawn a conclusion to his work. I will admit it was getting hard to keep up with who was doing what where in the world. There were so many plot lines left open.

    Thats another thing that is amazing about you and this story. It just flows out of you so quickly but is still so descriptive. The speed at which you type is probly insane. You did mention you had already written a version of this story in a previous manuscript. If I may ask, did you previously finish the story or come to a place you comfortibly see it ending for now? Or are you coming up on where you stopped progressing in this story befor? And when/if you reach the point that you have no previous material to work with do you forsee the progress slowing? Sorry if im being too invasive. Im just curious. I'd be happy with a chapter every 1-2 weeks at this quality. I'm just dumbfounded by this speed and quality of your writing. Its like seeing a great novel at work.

  45. #295
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Endlessnight500 View Post
    Thats another thing that is amazing about you and this story. It just flows out of you so quickly but is still so descriptive. The speed at which you type is probly insane. You did mention you had already written a version of this story in a previous manuscript. If I may ask, did you previously finish the story or come to a place you comfortibly see it ending for now? Or are you coming up on where you stopped progressing in this story befor? And when/if you reach the point that you have no previous material to work with do you forsee the progress slowing? Sorry if im being too invasive. Im just curious. I'd be happy with a chapter every 1-2 weeks at this quality. I'm just dumbfounded by this speed and quality of your writing. Its like seeing a great novel at work.
    I type about 150 wds/min when composing directly. When I have to use notes and references, cut that in half. Of course it isn't very legible sometimes, even typed, because speed = errors. But since I wrote it, I generally manage to figure it out. Had a crzy one today, though; I hammered out a big section and went back to clean it up, and here was a section that went kujw rgua, jubs id NWAA.... the sudden switch to caps clued me that I was typing one key to the left -- the shift to caps came where I meant to type "a" but hit my caps-lock instead.

    Compared to the this, the previous version was hokey. Odd as it may seem, I think my writing style has "grown up" since I came out (I should tell my psychologist that and see what he makes of it -- he specializes in coming out issues as one aspect of his practice).

    To get to this point in the story last time, I'd written less than a third of what I've done here. I also had some really cheap concepts that I've tossed out, and a bit of a deus ex machina stunt -- ditching which seriously changed the flow and required a lot more work. The changes I've had to make have taken me so far from that original line about the only things left are the basic concepts.

    The characters here have gotten more depth than the last, too. Reading back over to catch some aspects I wasn't sure about showed me development even where I hadn't worked on it -- in the process, I fell in love with Oran!

    So I'm beyond anything I'd written earlier, and 'WAY beyond in depth, but still within, if I can describe it this way, the basic vector. I've got another twenty chapters or more to go before I leave that. We'll see what happens then!

    Though there are a good number of elements in the chapters already written that aim directly at the end, so at least the road is running to the same destination.

    "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. #296
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    A great continuation - Go West, young man, Go West.

    They seem to be spreading out in just about every direction.

    Instead of the lethargy of waiting, they now are purpose driven.

    And, Anaph is a mini-Snatcher? Wow.

    Thanks!


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

  47. #297
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post

    And, Anaph is a mini-Snatcher? Wow.
    I think a more appropriate term would be "hacker".





    BTW, I'm working on an image...

    "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. #298

    Re: Fit for Life

    Oh yeah another thing Don reminded me of it, What did they mean when they said Anaph thinks he might have been caught? What did that mean?

  49. #299
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    Re: Fit for Life

    Forging


    Hammer rang on steel. The high-pitched bell-like tones made Rigel wince. He told himself yet another time to get another door put in for the smithy, or some windows, to allow greater air flow – with three forges running, the place was like a sauna.

    “Master Kinneagh”, Rigel shouted. “You didn’t come to give your report!”

    “One minute, lord”, a journeyman Rigel didn’t recognize yelled. Smiths knew their business, so when one told a lord to wait, that lord waited.

    “Outside”, shouted Kinneagh, waving Rigel back the way he’d come. He scooped up a linen rag on the way, dipped it in a barrel of water and wiped his face.

    “Apologies, lord”, the master smith said outside. “I were attending at a problem with the smelter of this morning. Here I then did hurry, but to find journeymen these resorting anew to the old formula. Must we then to cast the steel into the smelter to bring forth the alloy.”

    “I understand such difficulties”, Rigel assured him. “But you are here now, as I am. So what’s your report?”

    “The new saws do flex, not breaking; with them are the lumberers quite pleased. Send they old axe heads also, for replacing from the new ones. Shovels break still, and we replace. Slow that, making all the days new ones. Of now knives we make for kitchens, pots also. Being lastly, says squire Chen heads for arrows excellent are being.” The master’s report conveyed pride.

    “Any progress on cannon?”

    Kinneagh shook his shaggy head. “Hammers more did the stonecutters of need did be having. Lord, more men I be needing.”

    Rigel sighed. “I know. All the forges need more men. I asked master Fergus if he was filling all requests for metal. He told me that the new smelter Lord Ryan helped with can get metal from the ore they used to throw away, so he’s actually got ingots stacking up unused. But his people are weary, and he said he needs more, too.”

    It was snowing again. Four inches covered the ground, and more was on the way. That had its good side, Rigel remembered: the Others, according to lore, never went out in freezing weather. Celts did, though, so he had small parties scouting in every direction. Ten days out, ten days back was the order, then put what they’d found on his growing map of the area. Ironically, the Wise Women had helped immensely with that project: Aidanna, one with a gentle manner and a sense of humor, had delighted him when she unrolled a length of linen to show a map of where all the clans used to live, and all the nearby castles. Once the local area was scouted, those were his next goals, because if he could find any clans alive, his resources would increase – and with Anaph to come with him, he had no worries about rejection.

    “Help’s on its way, though”, he assured Kinneagh. “Two dozen lads from Servant Village will finish their lore-learning next week. “Master Tynan gets the best six, you’ll get five. Master Fergus gets two. The other forges will have to make do with just one. Is it any comfort if I tell you the potters make the same complaint?”

    The massive smith snorted. “Not being one to take comfort of the troubles of others, am I. Comfort I give you in this, yet: of iron stoves have we corrected the making.”

    That was good news! “You can cast those; you’ll get to cannon.” Rigel flashed a grin. “Still training the apprentices on horseshoes?”

    “Aye, lord, and on the great chisels for the stone digging.”

    Rigel almost laughed at his problem: too much success. But Kinneagh was too serious to understand. “You’re doing well. Everyone you make tools for is complaining they don’t have enough – that means you’re being fair.” The humor slid right past the smith.

    Rigel walked over to Tornado. “I have to meet Lord Ryan – he’s supposed to be back today.” He waved and rode off – Kinneagh wasn’t one for goodbyes; when business was over, it was over.

    The road down from Cavern Castle was entirely different. Where a treacherous steep part had been, the route meandered back and forth, stretching the distance to decrease the slope. But the biggest change had come from the bottom up: long before the tight turns and steep slope, a rock wall held by the Misfits’ best mortar started to climb. Behind it was earth fill, hold in terraces by rock rip-rap carved from the walls of the tunnel. Packed earth and gravel on top provided a firm surface. By the time the road reached the first tight turns, the first of those was buried and the next two smoothed. Devon and Master Graeme, the Misfit stoneworker on the project, insisted they weren’t done – but since the road was working for the time being, they weren’t pursuing it.

    Thought of Master Graeme reminded him he out to stop at Shelf Village on the way. Two of the Master’s journeymen had come up with a form of concrete, with Rita’s help, and he wanted to see it. With concrete, they could build stronger – though not in the Valley. Another reason to stop was that one of those journeymen was the Master’s own daughter, Bidelia, unique enough in just being female in such a role, but said to be lovely as well.

    Austin was waiting for him by the Gem Cleft, in an alcove carved from the rock. It was a place to rest horses on the way up as well as a spot to stop and look through the gap at the massive gem. Anaph had used that gem to draw power for commanding the Snatcher to bring them numerous seeds, as well as eggs. That thought brightened his outlook: there would be a small group for supper welcoming Ryan back – a chicken dinner.

    “Do we have cannons?” Austin asked.

    “Sorry”, Rigel replied. Austin was close to fanatic on the subject of progress in replacing the single firearm they had. The ammunition supply for the Ruger was down to one hundred ninety-eight rounds, a quarter of Austin’s original supply used – well spent, but still gone. “But they’re casting iron stoves now without cracking, so they’re getting closer.”

    “We could still use brass.”

    “There’s no way through to the copper mine yet, and we just don’t have any zinc at all.”

    “We can use tin.”

    “That makes bronze, not brass.”

    Austin laughed. “Just testing you. Aidanna says there’s no zinc on any of the maps, and she looked at them all. Maybe lord Ryan will find something at that castle.”

    “Oh, I’m sure he’ll find something”, Rigel responded, “but I doubt it will be zinc.”



    “Lord, we can’t even see!” Oran complained to Ryan. “How are we supposed to keep going?”

    Ryan was grim. “We don’t have a choice, Morsel” – Chen’s name for his fellow scout had caught on – “If we stay put, we freeze to death. Are we all linked?”

    “Double ropes, just in case. Except me.”

    “And you can’t get lost. So – get to the front. Rope your horse to scout Ewan. Lead him – feel your way by foot and spear. And make those bloody scout talents work for us!”

    Shards! he cursed silently. Just two more hours, and we would have been out of the rough part! But the snow had come when it had come, and there was nothing for it but to keep trying. It was useless for igloos; wet for a while, then dry and drifting, the differing layers made it subject to collapse. Horses were bleeding because of that snow, as the wet layers froze. Equisetum had learned to high-step, but none of the other horses had figured it out; they just plodded ahead, leaving smears of red along the way.

    I could crawl faster than this, Ryan complained many minutes – he’d lost all sense of time – after Oran got them moving. If he didn’t think men would get lost, he’d tell them to walk the horses. But he wasn’t going to face Rigel and confess to losing anyone, so they stayed up in the wind.

    He counted Equisetum’s paces. They were uneven, but based on a guessed average he estimated distance. Without any way to measure time, it didn’t do much good, but after a while the feel of their movement led him to guess they were moving two kilometers per hour at most. They’d passed the crumbled, burned-out watchtower at the top of the rough stretch just as the snow started... We’re three kilometers along, Ryan estimated. Over halfway. If we keep this up, we’ll be out of this craziness in an hour, maybe hour and a half.


    Oran cursed the snow. How was a scout supposed to know anything, or find anything, in a white-out? His sense of direction was working; he knew exactly which way the valley mouth and Gathering Place lay, along with Servant Village and Cavern Castle. Such knowledge was worthless, when what he needed to know was if there was a boulder or drop-off ahead, or a blind canyon they’d dead-end in and waste time retracing that path.

    Farther back in line, Casey rode with his eyes closed. He could feel where Oran was; he could even feel the zig-zag, wandering path his fellow scout was making. That he ignored: what he wanted to feel was the ground underneath, the ground beneath Scout’s feet. He thought he did, but wasn’t sure; it was fuzzy and uncertain, where he thought it should be clear like his sense of where Oran was, and the Gathering Place.

    Casey drifted in a half-asleep, half-awake place. The snow under his feet felt soft and cold, but not biting though he had no boots. He padded along, silent as the snow, hidden from view, only his tail giv–
    Jolted awake, he sat up straight. Tail? I don’t have a– I was padding along, no boots. He thought his heart would stop beating, but it didn’t. Breathing was another matter; he had to remind himself to start again.

    Setting aside orders, he urged Scout ahead, pulling the two behind him along. Beside Dugal, a scout in training, he slowed again. Turning in the minimal saddle, he unhooked the trailing rope, reached over and fastened it to Dugal’s Gilroy. Then he unhooked his lead rope from Gilroy. It took him out of the line, and got a worried look from Dugal. That itself startled him: the snow had thinned, enough he could actually see his friend.

    He moved ahead anyway, careful because he wasn’t in the path Oran was forging. Twice he felt that touch which brought a sense of having a tail. Each time he opened himself to it, hoping to keep it... but it faded. Counting horses, more heard than seen, told him where he was. When he neared Ryan’s horse Equisetum, he swung wide, willing Scout to find firm steps. He guided by feel, unable to say what he was feeling or how – but they made it past safely, boy and horse, and reached the front. There he slid off and hooked Scout to Oran’s Apache, named for the horse of Kit Carson, a legendary scout in the American Old West. He walked alongside, hand on Scout’s neck, eyes closed....

    It came again, this time stronger: padded feet, a tail, a path followed, a path not to take.

    But they were on that path! Oran had taken a wrong branching and not known it. In four strides Casey was beside Oran, shaking his sleeve. “We have to backtrack. This canyon turns into a landslide. The river on the other side of the ridge cut through and collapsed it.”

    Barely able to see even a foot, Oran pulled Casey where he could see him, which meant they were breathing in each other’s faces. “How do you know?”

    “It’s Cat – he’s out here. I can feel him. He knows the path we’re on is wrong.”

    Oran looked at his friend. Casey was one to daydream, but not to make things up. And where Cat was concerned.... “All right”, he decided. “Walk along the line and tell lord Ryan. Wait!” he called as Casey started moving away. “How far do we have to backtrack?”

    Casey felt the distance in cat terms, and guessed. “Third of an hour”, he called back.

    Oran swore; Ryan was going to be pissed.

    Casey didn’t say a thing about Cat. He claimed he remembered where they were from the feel of the land, and knew that the canyon they were in wasn’t the way they came, so he’d gone up to tell Oran. “I thought he’d figure it out, but we kept going, so I went and told him. He agreed.”

    “What will this cost us?” was Ryan’s concern.

    “We wasted like twenty-five minutes. It’ll be faster going back.”

    Ryan did swear then. He couldn’t feel his toes, and he had the best boots of the bunch. “Is there anywhere soon that we can get out of this for a while?”

    Casey never could explain how it worked, but all at once he had a mental picture: twenty minutes back, fifteen ahead, cut right; an overhang. “There’s a spot, but we won’t be able to get many horses in. Maybe four.”

    Ryan nodded, forgetting Casey could hardly see him. “You don’t get lost in this, do you?” he asked.

    “Nope. I can point to Oran, I know where Dugal is.” And I know where my other... eyes and ears? Is, too.

    “Awesome. Go along and pass the word. And Casey?”

    “Lord?”

    “You deserve a medal for making everyone balance their loads with firewood. That may save our lives.”



    Rigel paced in the Lords’ Lodge erected at Servant Village. It had the largest iron stove Master Kinneagh had yet made – something allowed only when Rita convinced the Wise Women that rust would destroy it over time, and the Wise Women convinced the Elders. It was the warmest place in the village – more of a town, now, with wooden cabins replacing huts, wooden roofs replacing thatch, and the expansion to include the area where his House had camped. The fire may be delightful, but the weather outside really is frightful, and Ryan’s out there in it! He worried, he fretted, he made plans and threw them out.

    His anger at the weather and fear for his best friend reached a tipping point; he could stand it no longer. “Austin”, he called softly.

    “Lord?” His squire got up from the low table where he’d been working to repair a backpack.

    “I want a dozen men. Tents, supplies for a week – no, ten days. Ready in an hour. Have everyone get dinner once the horses are ready.”

    “We’re going after Ryan?” Austin asked eagerly; to him, it would be an adventure.

    “We might. I want to be ready just in case.”



    The overhang was just the way Casey had felt it through another mind. Everyone could dismount and get under it, but only four horses could, along the outer edge. They provided some shelter from the wind. He decided they needed some more, at the low end of the place, in the direction of the wind. “Dugal! Come help me!” The two scouts grabbed the expedition’s only two shovels and started clearing snow that had blown under the cliff. It cut well, and when stacked made a fine wall. They raised that until they couldn’t reach any higher.

    “Here, lad”, a man offered. He was still a stranger to Casey, who was too tired to remember a name. The man boosted him up, Dugal handed up blocks, and they closed off another two meters, holding out the wind.

    Their reward came in retreating to the fire Oran had blazing. He’d built it in the shelter of their wall; that made the smoke circle around, but kept in more warmth. Ryan already had his boots off and was warming his feet. Others were squeezing in, but Ryan ordered room made for the two youngest members of the company.

    Someone handed Dugal a pot filled with snow. Dhugal sat it by the fire and watched it melt. When everything was liquid, he dug out a packet of herb tea and tossed it in. The water turned color slowly, then finally started to boil. Casey counted to sixty with Dugal; when they reached that number, Dugal pulled the pot away from the fire and dropped in a bit of snow to cool it.

    “One swallow apiece”, Ryan ordered. “Remember you’ll feel warmer, but you won’t be. Remember that and use the energy it gives you, and you’ll stay alive.” I hope – but the wind is picking up, and the snow is getting heavy again.



    Rigel kicked Tornado to a trot. At least the wind is at our backs
    , he comforted himself. Though that means it’s in Ryan’s face! In the Valley the wind wasn’t too bad, either, though it was getting stronger, but in that canyon, it would be focused and howling.

    He’d been ecstatic when Chen rode into the Village; his first scout always knew where the others were. But Chen had been so tired on his horse he had to be lifted down. Lumina did what she could; Ocean mixed the right teas, but Chen was still woozy. Rigel had decided not to wait any longer; Chen could sleep in the saddle to recover. Their starting direction was easy anyway; the valley mouth they needed to hit was wide enough missing it would take some really bad luck.

    They’d been out three hours, and the snow just kept piling up. He thought of Elder Elder Geróanåch’s question when the road from Shelf Village to Servant Village had been completed: “The road is wonderful, but why are there poles along the sides? Snow, he’d said, because when it starts drifting we won’t be able to tell where the road is. Those poles were certainly useful now – he earnestly wished this route had them, too.

    Above, a hole in the clouds let a shaft of late afternoon sunlight through. He shaded his eyes; after the muted light coming through the snow clouds, that brilliance hurt. The light came with a brief respite from falling snow, so for a time they could see where they were. Rigel nudged Tornado to speed up. Austin and the rest matched his speed: while they had a clear path in plain sight, the sensible thing was to make the most of it.

    When after a minute the clouds closed in again they slowed back to a trot. Chen caught up with him then. “Shift a little left”, he advised.

    “Can you feel them?” Rigel inquired.

    Chen frowned a puzzled frown. “I feel Oran fine. Casey – not so well. Something odd is happening there.”

    “Maybe he got smacked on the head somehow”, Rigel guessed, “so his brain is messed up.”

    Chen shrugged. “Maybe. It feels like he’s in two places at once, though. I don’t know how a blow to the head could do that.”

    “Thus has never happened before?”

    “A scout getting a blow to the head? Nothing bad. Feeling like he’s in two places at once? Never.”



    “Lord, do we move on? Everyone’s feet are warm”, Oran reported.

    “Are their boots dry?”

    “Not all of them.’

    “Wait, then” Ryan decided. “Maybe we’ll get lucky with the snow.”

    On the way back to the fire, Oran passed a man on his way to Ryan. “What’s happening?” he asked.

    “Something’s spooking the horses”, he replied and went on by. At the fire, Oran delivered his news, then got out his bow and went to where the horses were being rotated to give them each some time out of the wind and snow. Something was bothering them. The snow coming down was light again, but he couldn’t see anything.

    Casey came up beside him, from calming his own steed. “It’s Cat”, he said. “He’s waiting for us to move again.”

    “You’ve seen him?”

    Casey shook his head. “No, bow else would I be getting the feeling I have four padded feet and a long tail? He asked. “I don’t know one.”

    “Doesn’t mean it’s Cat”, Oran pointed out, playing devil’s advocate.

    “Sure. And when it stinks from your butt, it doesn’t mean you farted.”

    Oran laughed at that. “Right. So you’re darned sure. I’d better go tell Ryan.”

    But Ryan was coming to the horses, Oran saw, before he’d gone two steps.

    “They look jittery”, Ryan observed. “Have you seen what’s out there?

    “It’s Cat”, Oran replied before Casey could say anything, and perhaps too much. “Casey thinks he wants to lead us.”

    “Nice time for him to return”, Ryan commented. “Except the horses don’t like it.”

    Oran was looking at Casey’s chest, where a figure of a great cat hung. “Where’d you get that?” he queried.

    Casey looked guilty. “At the castle.”

    “And you didn’t report it?” Ryan snapped. “You were supposed to report everything!”

    “I know, but it looked so much like Cat...” Squire or not, Casey was near tears,

    Ryan relented. “I'm sorry I yelled. You can keep it. Did you think I’d demand it from you?”

    “Kinda.” He wouldn’t look at Ryan.

    “Never worry about something like that”, Ryan assured him, with a squeeze to the shoulder. “I’d only demand it if I thought you were being greedy.”

    Oran was still staring at Casey. “Put it against your skin.”

    “Huh?”

    “You’ve had it over your shirt and under your tunic, right? Put it against your skin.”

    “It’ll be colder than snot in Antarctica”, Casey objected. But he was already complying, thinking to humor Oran. When it touched the bare skin of his chest, he gasped.

    Sitting in the snow, blended into the snow. Horses and men. Cold nose. Getting warmer as he sat, where the snow nearly buried him. Hunger... prey. But not prey since he’d found this human, his human. Snow heavy above. Slide? Humans must move...
    .

    Casey pulled the amulet away from his chest to where he could look at it. It didn’t look special, but then it was dirty and needed polishing.

    "Casey?" Ryan was shaking him. “What happened?”

    It jarred him from his reverie. “We have to move! I saw what Cat was seeing! He looked at the cliff above us and says a landslide of snow is starting!”

    “Avalanche”, Ryan said grimly, then turned and yelled. “Grab gear! I don’t case if it’s yours or not, just get everything! Then mount up and we move!” He was already running to grab things from by the fire.

    Men scrambled, horses shied. Casey hadn’t unloaded anything, so he started hooking ropes to saddles, getting them ready to go. When one of the men arrived with an armload of gear, Casey stowed it for him while he mounted. Oran threw a bag of gear up on his horse, and started helping as well. They left both fire and unloaded firewood, preferring speed.

    “I don’t see an avalanche”, Ryan said, looking over his shoulder. “I don’t see Cat, either. Well, we needed to move soon anyway – let’s go.

    Casey popped the amulet back on. The feeling of being Cat came back. He fought to remember himself, but the feeling was too strong. He pulled it off again. “Cat’s out there, lord.” The scout pointed. “That way.”

    A small rumble came from behind them. Everyone turned to look. A small ledge of snow high in the slope above them had collapsed, landing on the slope below. A crack appeared in the face of the snow; it widened–

    “Ride! NOW!!!!” Ryan commanded. But their speed was hampered by the ropes hooking them together.

    – and started to slide. As it cascaded over the snow below, other cracks appeared from the increased weight and vibration–

    Casey hadn’t tied either his or Oran’s horses to the others. He wheeled, Scout protesting, and headed back along the line. His knife came out, and he cut the ropes linking horses. One, two, three took off at a gallop.

    – and the entire mountainside of snow came loose. A huge white wave rushed at them like a churning wave on the beach–

    Dugal’s horse reared. It heard the avalanche, and feared. Dugal slipped, almost falling. Casey got there and grabbed the bridle, jerking on it. “Get on Scout!” he yelled.

    – a ledge of rock, which could be seen from the lack of snow beneath it, gave way before the eight-meter high wall of rushing snow, and tumbled, vanishing as the flood of frozen water whelmed over it–

    Casey felt Dugal’s weight settle behind him. Dugal’s arms snaked around him and gripped snugly. Dugal’s horse was panicked, and there wasn’t time to get it under control; he let go and kicked Scout once, twice, three times.

    – but the rock was doing its damage, smashing more loose as it moved, splintering trees in the way, and then it bounced into the air–

    The others were far ahead. Casey was terrified; if this caught them, there’d be no way out. But avalanches go straight, he thought, and there’s a little canyon up ahead....

    – snow poured over the lip of their overhang; the giant rock flew through the air, the mass of avalanche just behind it–

    Suddenly Scout ran even faster, the burst of speed so hard that Casey barely held on. He made a guess. “Dugal! Put my amulet against my skin!. He didn’t dare do it himself; he had the reins to hold on a horse that was terrified. A cold hand slipped inside his shirt, and he felt the cold metal against his skin – and laughed, receiving a mental impression of racing after a horse with two riders. “Cat’s chasing us!” he exulted, “making Scout run faster!”

    Now he saw the opening to the little canyon. The ground was shaking; he was sure the wave of snow was on their heels. The scream of a hunting cat sounded from behind, and Scout leapt ahead even faster. Casey swung him into the canyon mouth....

    – the avalanche hit the ground and shot forward. Faster than any wave on a beach, it rushed forward at two hundred kilometers per hour–

    In the canyon, Casey slowed, thinking they were safe – but Cat was behind them, and he didn’t think so at all. Scout screamed and launched himself away from a real attack, which took him up the sloping side instead of farther into the canyon.

    – passing the canyon, snow along the edge whirled, a whirlpool of white. The rush of snow, channeled now into a small space, found that opening and surged in–

    Snow churned around Scout’s legs. Casey felt terror, but focused on the job. Up they went, the snow around them moving slowly, but it had moved ahead and they couldn’t see.

    Scout stumbled. To save his horse, Casey threw himself clear, landing badly, landing in deep snow. Something grabbed the back of his coat and dragged him upwards.

    – shot along the floor, hit the end of the canyon and shot up like a storm breaker smashing into a cliff on the coast. On the bottom of the canyon things grew quiet.

    Casey stopped moving. He rolled over, and there was Cat, a bit of Casey’s leather jacket in his teeth. He looked around: higher up, Scout stood trembling, out of energy from the mad dash; below, there was just snow. The terror returned: there was no sight of Dugal.

    Of Dugal’s gear, though, there was plenty, a trail leading to the edge of the settling snow. Casey got up and followed it. A short spear lay halfway to the snow; he scooped it up. Cat padded along with him, and when Casey started probing into the snow with the butt end of the spear, Cat joined him, digging paw-wide trenches.

    The spear-butt hit something that wasn’t rock, something that gave a little. He dropped the spear and dug. Cat saw and joined in. In half a minute they found leather; a little more digging revealed it as a hip, where coat met belt. Casey estimated where his friend’s head had to be, and dug frantically. Cat obligingly dug snow from Dugal’s torso. The digging infuriated Casey, because the snow was so loose it flowed into his hole almost like sand – and he was certain it was just as suffocating. So when he found Dugal’s neck, he dug right to find a shoulder, and when he had it, he levered the young scout-apprentice up. Dugal was lying on his back, though. With Cat’s help – head-butting upward under Dugal’s left shoulder – he got Dugal flipped over. He was too tired to drag him out of the snow just then, so he dropped to his knees. Check breathing, he told himself, and did by putting his cheek almost on Dugal’s mouth. Warm air hit him, weakly, though, Check pulse. That was done with his two middle fingers at Dugal’s throat, where the big blood vessel flowed to the brain.

    Casey sank back and let himself rest. Dugal was breathing and had a pulse, so he was alive. But they were separated from the rest of the group.



    Ryan screamed at the snow which buried the canyon they’d been riding through. The tail end of his column was gone: No Afal, no Casey, no Dugal. “Rest the horses”, he ordered. “Airein, look to shelter. Dallaen, with me. I’m going to look for them.”

    No, lord”, Dallaen said. “If they were caught by the snow, they’re meters deep. If they weren’t, they’re safe somewhere. Neither matters: if we try to walk on that, we’re dead men.”

    Ryan prepared himself to deliver a scathing rebuke, but the good sense of it got through. Then he remember had a way to check on one of his men, anyway. “You’re right”, he conceded. “Here – take Equisetum for me”. He slid down and went in search of Oran.

    “He’s there”, Oran whispered when he saw Ryan. He’s alive.”

    Ryan went weak with relief. “Where?” His knees gave way and he fell beside Oran in the snow.

    Oran pointed. “Not in our canyon.”

    Ryan sighed with relief. “He found a side canyon! But the others...”

    “Afal was with us at the last bend. Rye, he’s under all that.”

    Lead hit Ryan’s gut. “Dugal?”

    “Wasn’t back there then. And Casey wouldn’t have left him.”

    “Two safe, then”, Ryan judged. “But no way to get to them.”

    “I don’t see one”, Oran agreed.

    “So the question is how long they can last. The men are tired, and we can’t ride in that mess anyway.”



    Rigel fought another white-out. He couldn’t even see Tornado’s nose! But they were in the Valley, so they knew the footing was firm, and they kept going at a fast trot. They’d heard a rumble and a roar, which worried him.

    “Three kilometers to the canyon”, Chen reported. He hadn’t really trusted what he thought he’d felt that last few weeks, but he was trusting his new distance-sense now. That sense let him know how far it was to the canyon better than if they’d had a clear sky and sunlight – and it let him ride an arm’s length from Rigel so they could talk.

    “Oran and Casey?” Rigel kept it simple so he wouldn’t have to breathe the cold air any more than necessary.

    “Oran’s fine. Casey almost wasn’t, but he is.” Chen concentrated. “He’s nowhere near Oran, though – a little over a kilometer... not in the main canyon, either.”.

    “Side canyon, then -- he ran sideways... Chen, could it avalanche out here?”

    His scout smiled wryly. “On some of those slopes, with all this snow, it could avalanche if you farted.

    “That’s it, then”, Rigel said. An avalanche separated them”. He refused to say the logical words.

    Chen did it for him. “But how many survived?”

    “We go until we know.”



    The snow cut into blocks nicely, Casey discovered, at least the stuff above them. He had two rows of them around Dugal. The third wasn’t going as quickly, because he had to walk farther for snow. But he persevered, slicing and carrying and stacking. “I’m an idiot!” he said suddenly, remembering that he, too, had a sleeping fur in his gear. Belatedly, he dug it out and went up to his snow ‘quarry’. He got eight blocks on it, and dragged it back down.

    The wall grew more quickly now. He checked Dugal, found that his pulse was stronger, and that he was out of the wind now. Once again to the ‘quarry’...



    “How much firewood do we have?” Ryan asked Oran.

    “Two days, if we keep the fire small. I can build a curved snow wall on one side, too.”

    “Do it. When it’s going, I need some tea.” Ryan turned and went to show the men how to build a wall of snow. To his great relief, he found that two knew how better than he did.

    “Young into the snow sneak, for play”, one told him. “We build snow huts, to hide. When the snow is deep and buries the hut, it is warmer than home hut. Here, we can make great hut, cliff against, there.”

    “Big enough for the horses?” Ryan inquired.

    “For men first. Fire have we?”

    “Yes. A small one.”

    “I show squire place.”

    Oran was happy to oblige. He cut snow away – thirty centimeters deep! – to get to the ground, and stacked the blocks for his windscreen/reflector. The screen would become part of the big dome others were building.



    “The canyon!” Chen yelled back to Rigel. He’d known right where it was, but had ridden ahead because while he knew where the canyon was, he didn’t know the ground.

    “Wind’s shifting, and it snows again”, Someone said, and another man cursed. But Rigel ignored complaints, as he was ignoring everything that might slow him.

    “Woot!” Chen hollored, and came to a halt. We sat grinning still when Rigel caught up half a minute later.

    “Well, well”, Rigel said. A mostly snow-white cat sat on a large boulder from which the snow had been brushed – by paws, Rigel presumed. “Are you our guide?”

    The cat jumped down and went along the base of the hill, not into the canyon. Ten meter away from them was a dead tree. The cat went straight to it, stood on its back paws, and pulled. A branch broke off.

    “We need more wood, I think”, Chen ventured as an explanation. Rigel nodded.

    “All right. Chen, where’s the travel lodge?”

    Chen pointed. “Over there. We could see it if the snow would go away. Maybe three hundred meters.” Rigel nodded, and gave orders; they changed direction and went to the lodge. There, they packed each horse with six chunks of wood.

    “Have to remember to resupply that”, Rigel said. “Now let’s go.”

    The clouds above still had that odd yellowish tint that meant snow, but they were growing darker. Night would soon fall, and they’d go slower still. It wouldn’t leave them in darkness, though; Rigel, Austin, and Chen each carried one of Anaph’s druidic ‘flashlights’.


    Casey sighed. His dome was lopsided, but it stood. He hated leaving Scout out, but he lacked both the skill and the energy to build more than he had. The only thing he’d been able to do was make a wall that connected to his dome and served as a partial windbreak for his horse.

    Inside, he examined Dugal. His friend had a broken arm, and since there was no bleeding, he took the time to set it and splint it. His jacket back was shredded; Casey wished for Gorilla tape, but had nothing even remotely similar. All he could do was put Dugal’s sleeping fur under them, and his over them, and stay warm. He couldn’t do anything for the dent in Dugal’s skull, either.

    He was drifting to sleep when he wondered if he should block the door more. He’d remember to build a platform for them to sleep on, to stay up in warmer air. Since he wasn’t sure, he slid out from the covering anyway, went out for snow, brought it in with him, and packed it to lower the top of the door some fifteen centimeters. When he got back to bed, sleep came swiftly. He missed Cat crawling in to add warmth to them.



    Oran heard it first, of course: horses were coming up the canyon. He’d known Chen was out there, but hadn’t known how many there were, or if there were others at all. From the sounds–

    “How many?” Ryan asked.

    “Six or eight for sure – maybe more. Chen’s with them.”

    Ryan let out a sigh of relief. “If Chen’s there, that means it’s Rigel. Rigel means Austin. And Rye would bring either a dozen men or twenty.”

    “It isn’t twenty”, Oran said with certainty. “So it must be a dozen, plus Rigel, Austin, and Chen.”

    “How far?”

    “Two minutes.”



    “Almost there!” Chen exulted. “Oran’s waiting.”

    A moment later Rigel had his own evidence. "That glow's a fire. I see it, so they must see us."



    They saw the lights first, eerie in the falling snow that was almost dust. Ryan and Oran went out to meet them. Rigel and Chen and Austin jumped down, the two lords embracing and pounding each other on the back, the two scouts doing the same, Austin wondering if any of the younger guys from the two groups – one, now, as Rigel’s men dismounted and unpacked – would be interested in being a bit frisky that night.

    Rigel looked around. “You lost men in the avalanche?” he asked.

    “Casey's cut off, not lost. But we can’t get there in this crap”, Ryan reported.

    “We’ll get there”, Rigel assured him. “Chen – can you make snowshoes?”

    “Crappy ones, but they’ll work.”


    Rigel awoke with the dawn, to find Ryan already up. “I sent Kailan, Jaryan, and Parlan back to Servant Village with word of what’s happening. They’re small and ride fast.”

    “And the tents won’t be as crowded”, Rigel noted. On one hand, crowded tents meant more warmth; on the other it meant someone was going to be against the windward side and have heat sucked away. “Wow – people already working on the wall!” What had been a wind barrier of snow blocks half as high as a tent had already, in the pale gloaming, been raised one block for its entire length, a length which now extended an extra three meters to connect with the bluff where they were camped,

    “Keeping warm while waiting for breakfast”, Ryan replied. “Oran has some made notion of arches to hold a curving roof over the tents.”

    Rigel snorted; he couldn’t envision that. “If it keeps him happy....”

    “That’s not what’s keeping him happy. He says Casey is cold but otherwise fine.”

    Rigel’s eyebrows rose in mild surprise. “He can get that through the link?”

    “Yep. Not much more, though. Chen thinks that what they’re feeling isn’t how Casey feels, but how Casey feels compared to them. He even did an experiment: used a tent as a heat shield and he sat by the fire. In a minute he was shivering, but he wasn’t the one who was cold – it was Casey. So Oran decided to go out into the snow – it was snowing then – in his bare skin, and sure enough, Casey seemed to feel warm, to him.”

    “Crazy! All I care is they know where he is. Did Chen get started on snowshoes?”

    “Come look”, Ryan told him.

    Chen had a structure of twigs and branches up in the air, and slammed it to the ground. “I need cord! Small cord”, he told a young Celt lad. “It has to wrap around the – oh, hey, lords R and R”, he said. The young Celt dashed off in the falling snow. “I’ve got two, but... well, look.” He reached under a piece of deerskin and drew out two snowshoes.

    Rigel and Ryan both started to laugh. “Those are huge”, Ryan choked out. “The abominable snowman could wear those!”

    Chen shrugged. “I had to make some that actually worked. That’s why I need smaller cord – well, partly. If I had some glue... But really, what I need is three or four helpers who can sit here and not move. Well, and a pile of good branches.”

    Ryan nodded. “Dunreagh and Senach can sit still. Konan, go find them”, he told the teen acting as his gofer.

    Rigel made his own contribution. “Austin, grab three men. Ask Chen what he wants for branches, and start hunting.” Hunting was the right word: trees were scattered along the canyon where they were camped; the best were a kilometer back and into the hills.

    Ryan turned to Rigel and pulled him into a tight hug for a dozen heartbeats. “Did I tell you last night how glad I was to see you?” He held on like a drowning man.

    Rigel felt the hard ridge against his hip. “You didn’t, but you’re telling me twice now.” He reached down and squeezed briefly.

    The pressure against him increased. “Rye, I’ve never faced that before. I thought I’d screwed up and gotten Casey killed. I still don’t know if I got someone killed. I don’t think I can handle that!”

    Rigel stroked his friend’s back. “You will. If there’s anyone you want comfort from, I’ll even lift the age rule.”

    “No, you wouldn’t – you know better. Besides, I just want you. Well, and a hot shower.”

    “Well, you can have me, but I don’t know where there’s a hot shower. But if you find one, I’ll scrub your back”, Rigel quipped,

    Ryan let go. “Tease.”

    “Shut up and get on your knees”, Rigel joked. “I have a question, though: Oran said there’s a man under the snow.”

    “Until I see his body....”

    “Then you can pretend it didn’t happen. Ryan, I can see that mess over there just as well as you. Your last horse in has cuts and bruises from the leading edge. Anyone who was more than two meters behind him is dead, and your man was eight or teen meters back, according to Oran. He’s under a ton or two of snow now and there’s no way to get there till spring.
    “The best you can do is mark the place. Except you won’t have to: Chen’s been here now, and he doesn’t forget where he’s been. It’s a new scout talent–“

    “Oran, too”, Ryan said, his voice empty.

    “Okay. Buck it up, and don’t dwell on it. You’re a lord, and your job is here and now. You have men here counting on you, living men, and your commitment is to them. They know you did your best. They know that shit happens. If you act like things out of your control defeat you, your men will fall apart. You got that?
    “It’s like I told the Elders: duty works both ways. Your duty to them now is to be the lord who knows what to do next, who had something go wrong but takes it in stride and keeps going. If you want to get drunk later, or whatever, you do it – but right now you’re the mighty Lord Ryan, my right arm. Okay?”

    Ryan stood with his eyes closed for a long time. A deep sigh marked when he stopped holding his breath. “Yeah. I guess I cry later. Shards! You know what I miss right now?”

    “A sauna?”

    Ryan shook his head. “Satellite weather maps.”

    Rigel nodded. He’d just begun to grasp why people in the bronze and iron ages didn’t fight wars, or do much else, in the winter. “No kidding. Well, for now – what did you learn?”





    "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

    Quote Originally Posted by Endlessnight500 View Post
    Oh yeah another thing Don reminded me of it, What did they mean when they said Anaph thinks he might have been caught? What did that mean?
    Heh.

    That ties in with what I said to Don. All I can say is go back and read very carefully -- it's there, and there's no "lost chapter" this time.

    "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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