JustUsBoys.com gay porn forum

logo

Page 7 of 32 FirstFirst ... 267812 ... LastLast
Results 301 to 350 of 1555

Thread: Fit for Life

  1. #301
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    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

  2. #302
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    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

  3. #303
    On the Prowl
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    94

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Oh, do I detect another lordly "meeting"?

    Haha. Again, great chapters... now, I've got some work to do...

  4. #304
    In Loving Memory Lefty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    43,836

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli, I got stoned as per your request. That was fun, may have to do so again...lol

    Writing is terrific as always, the illustrations are almost even better...not sure Santa at the forge was my mental image but still.

    Sorry I wasn't first to read the latest installment but had to attend a 78th birthday party on the reservation...man those red skinned people can have a good time...even at 78.

    Thx, keep type-type-typing, its all good.

  5. #305

    Re: Fit for Life

    Another great chapter!

  6. #306
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    WOW! I go off-JUB for 24hr. and TWO Great Chapters materialize! And, there was only a 6hr. window between them! Talk about a Prolific Author!! ZOOM!

    I'm surprised at how far things have advanced! The "pace of revelation" is certainly picking up, too! This story has shifted into a higher gear! Zoom-ZOOM!

    SO ... it would seem "The Snatcher" isn't a "them", as much as an "it", that Anaph is learning to use. I noticed that what he managed to "snatch" landed where he was. But, I'm also thinking that as he gains more mastery, he may be able to make things "land" in other locations, according to his wishes. Of course he's going to have to take it easy. The attempts he's made are taking their own toll on him.

    Which means ... whoever it was that "snatched" our group, and it probably took more than one of "Them" to "snatch" so many People, isn't necessarily "There".

    It would also seem that "The Snatcher" is an alignment between the Stone and the Crystal. But, is it the only one? Could it be part of a network? Could there be more on other worlds? SO ... whoever "snatched" our folks could be on an entirely different planet! Maybe even Earth! Maybe our Guys, and Gals, weren't "snatched" as much a "sent"!

    But ... WHY?? Now I'm thinking they are meant to protect "The Snatcher" in their new world. The previous groups, that we know of, were Celts (with their Druids), who were warriors. When they were being overwhelmed by "The Others", along came Conquistadors (with their horses), who were also warriors, and also used to fight "The Others".

    And, if Anaph is learning how to use "The Snatcher", couldn't the other (previous) Druids do likewise? What if it was Them who "snatched" the Conquistadors for help??

    All of which leads me to think that "The Others", the Aliens, were not "snatched" to this world at all! What if they are native to this world, or arrived on their own? I'm thinking they are after "The Snatcher", for their own nefarious purposes, and those from Earth are being used to prevent them from getting to it!

    Another thing ... if there are descendants of the Celts, where are the descendants of the Conquistadors? Maybe they arrived without any women? Then again ... would they not mate with the very hospitable Celts?

    Sorry for my meanderings. But, I have gotten "snatched" deep into this story!!

    THANK YOU!, again and again, Lord Kuli!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz

    Oh ... given the description of the snow storm, I'm also thinking I know where they are! Northern Wisconsin/Upper Michigan!!
    WISDOM is the Knowledge you've gained ... After you could have used it! _Me

  7. #307
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    WOW! I go off-JUB for 24hr. and TWO Great Chapters materialize! And, there was only a 6hr. window between them! Talk about a Prolific Author!! ZOOM!
    If you read back a ways in the 'fan mail', you'll see I explained I had a few in the incubator already. So it's not as amazing as it seems.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I'm surprised at how far things have advanced! The "pace of revelation" is certainly picking up, too! This story has shifted into a higher gear! Zoom-ZOOM!
    What did I reveal? Huh? Where?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    SO ... it would seem "The Snatcher" isn't a "them", as much as an "it", that Anaph is learning to use. I noticed that what he managed to "snatch" landed where he was. But, I'm also thinking that as he gains more mastery, he may be able to make things "land" in other locations, according to his wishes. Of course he's going to have to take it easy. The attempts he's made are taking their own toll on him.
    Or it's a "them" that built an "it", or an "it" that represents a "them", or an "it" that captured a "them", or a "them" who turned into an it, or....

    "Toll"? Is it a toll Snatcher, kind of like a toll gate?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Which means ... whoever it was that "snatched" our group, and it probably took more than one of "Them" to "snatch" so many People, isn't necessarily "There".
    Hmm... that's an interesting hypothesis. Stay tuned for further data.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    It would also seem that "The Snatcher" is an alignment between the Stone and the Crystal. But, is it the only one? Could it be part of a network? Could there be more on other worlds? SO ... whoever "snatched" our folks could be on an entirely different planet! Maybe even Earth! Maybe our Guys, and Gals, weren't "snatched" as much a "sent"!

    But ... WHY?? Now I'm thinking they are meant to protect "The Snatcher" in their new world. The previous groups, that we know of, were Celts (with their Druids), who were warriors. When they were being overwhelmed by "The Others", along came Conquistadors (with their horses), who were also warriors, and also used to fight "The Others".

    And, if Anaph is learning how to use "The Snatcher", couldn't the other (previous) Druids do likewise? What if it was Them who "snatched" the Conquistadors for help??
    Those are some mighty fine conjectures!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    All of which leads me to think that "The Others", the Aliens, were not "snatched" to this world at all! What if they are native to this world, or arrived on their own? I'm thinking they are after "The Snatcher", for their own nefarious purposes, and those from Earth are being used to prevent them from getting to it!

    Another thing ... if there are descendants of the Celts, where are the descendants of the Conquistadors? Maybe they arrived without any women? Then again ... would they not mate with the very hospitable Celts?
    That's why they haven't found any Others yet -- they ate the Conquistadors and it gave them indigestion, and they've been recovering for the last several centuries.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Sorry for my meanderings. But, I have gotten "snatched" deep into this story!!

    THANK YOU!, again and again, Lord Kuli!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    So long as it's ME-ander-rings, and not YOU- and-der-rings....

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Oh ... given the description of the snow storm, I'm also thinking I know where they are! Northern Wisconsin/Upper Michigan!!
    I didn't think there were mountains and valleys and ridges up there, and especially not avalanches!

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

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

    *the number is now forty

  8. #308
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr View Post
    If you read back a ways in the 'fan mail', you'll see I explained I had a few in the incubator already. So it's not as amazing as it seems.
    Aw! Knew that! But even the fact you have a "stash" just waiting for us (the knowledge of which gives me Great Pleasure!), and obviously created since you started this, and given the time, and care, you take to "final edit" before posting, that's still VERY IMPRESSIVE!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    What did I reveal? Huh? Where?
    Didn't necessarily "reveal" anything as much as launch a "dormant" society several years into the future, in only a month, or so, of work, in just a chapter! Accomplishments are coming hard and fast ... much quicker than before! They're building on their gains, and quickly realizing vast improvements!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    Or it's a "them" that built an "it", or an "it" that represents a "them", or an "it" that captured a "them", or a "them" who turned into an it, or....
    HA! Thanks for the Republican Response!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    "Toll"? Is it a toll Snatcher, kind of like a toll gate?
    It's certainly a Gate of some kind ...



    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    Hmm... that's an interesting hypothesis. Stay tuned for further data.
    Always looking forward to "More"!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    Those are some mighty fine conjectures!
    Sometimes the ol' brain still works, and sometimes ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    That's why they haven't found any Others yet -- they ate the Conquistadors and it gave them indigestion, and they've been recovering for the last several centuries.
    WOW! Talk about some Serious Heartburn!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    So long as it's ME-ander-rings, and not YOU- and-der-rings....


    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    I didn't think there were mountains and valleys and ridges up there, and especially not avalanches!
    Well ... there are "little" ones. Some mighty fine ski slopes! But, yeah!, they do get that kind of snow!

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

  9. #309
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr View Post
    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 ... THAT'S why you've had them call him "Morsel"!!

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

  10. #310
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Didn't necessarily "reveal" anything as much as launch a "dormant" society several years into the future, in only a month, or so, of work, in just a chapter! Accomplishments are coming hard and fast ... much quicker than before! They're building on their gains, and quickly realizing vast improvements!
    Ah -- yes, there is that. But think -- could just those few really launch that whole little society forward so fast?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    HA! Thanks for the Republican Response!
    You lost me there......

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    It's certainly a Gate of some kind ...
    Well, I suppose a vacuum cleaner, or a toilet, could be considered gates of some kind, too......

    A
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    WOW! Talk about some Serious Heartburn!!
    Yeah, they'd need an antacid the size of Texas.

    "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

  11. #311
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    So ... THAT'S why you've had them call him "Morsel"!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    No, but it works!


    trivia: where was Oran first called "Morsel", and by whom?

    "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

  12. #312
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr View Post
    No, but it works!


    trivia: where was Oran first called "Morsel", and by whom?
    I believe (and, no, I haven't "cheated", and gone back to check), that Chen gave him that name when they were out scouting for G'rvenstut. Perhaps when they were at "Fort Tree"??

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

  13. #313
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    I believe (and, no, I haven't "cheated", and gone back to check), that Chen gave him that name when they were out scouting for G'rvenstut. Perhaps when they were at "Fort Tree"??

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    You're in the ballpark!

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

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

    *the number is now forty

  14. #314
    In Loving Memory Lefty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    43,836

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Chaz,

    Keep smiling but shut up and let our master taler get to work.

  15. #315
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kyanimal
    HA! Thanks for the Republican Response!

    You lost me there......
    Well ... their usual response, these days, is ... Since "they" said that, they could also mean this, or, actually this, which is so completely against the interests of ...

    The politics of the moment seem to be grab something out of context, stretch it a bit, and then "pounce" on what was never actually said! Just for "points"!! And, it's not just one party, but, nearly Everyone!

    And, since the Dem's are currently "in control", it's the Repub's that are usually "responding".

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

  16. #316
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Chaz,

    Keep smiling but shut up and let our master taler get to work.
    Excellent point!

    Taken!!

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

  17. #317
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    You're so prolific, and your installments are so epic, I'm afeared that I'm falling behind - by the time I get home and can sit down to read, it's getting late, and my tired ol' eyes and head start to noddin' off, even with the captivating creative cursive confronting me.

    Throw in actually trying to interact with my family, eat, and it's now 1:47AM - at least it's Friday night/Saturday morning, so I don't have work in the morning - but I do have to get new lenses for my reading glasses installed - they're in.

    But enough of my tired ol' arse bemoaning your powerful saga. Tragedy, separation, CAT! to the rescue, and a little "can we snuggle up and warm the cock(les) of each others hearts?!

    A lot of bronze age technology working hard, and an adaptive, work with nature mindset always.

    Loved the Cat Pendant for Casey to be one with "his" Cat.

    It was a great chapter. Well executed.
    Now I have to crawl upstairs and get in bed before I drop this laptop on the floor and crash the HDD, again.



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

  18. #318
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Chaz,

    Keep smiling but shut up and let our master taler get to work.
    Yeah, Chaz. Or he'll sic those seagulls on you.

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

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

    *the number is now forty

  19. #319
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Loved the Cat Pendant for Casey to be one with "his" Cat.
    Don't know much about cats, huh?

    That pendant is so Cat can keep track of his clumsy, fragile 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

  20. #320
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Master Metallurical Craftsmen, those Cats.
    Even w/out opposable thumbs and a healthy disdain of fire, lol.

    I'm well aware of who owns whom in a cat human relationship - we've got an 18Lbs fur ball permitting us to reside with him.


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

  21. #321
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    We recently lost a wonderful kitten who moved in to be king of the house. He was great friends with the dogs, even -- he thought they were his doggies, like we were his human.

    But when he got into the dog run outside, the relationship changed. I buried him a few days ago.

    Now we're looking to get or borrow a cat who's big and nasty and will give a dog a bloody nose and/or shredded ear, to teach the dogs some respect. Sure wish I could borrow Cat for a while!


    p.s. -- I slammed out the latest chapter fast, trying to keep up with the film rolling in my head. Now it's taking forever to edit: in a lot of places it's so thin and rough it almost doesn't make sense. It could be hours before I get it to flow.

    "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

  22. #322
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    I remember you telling me about this sad tale. Our "indoor only" cat got out one day, brought back a dead fox - we knew he was in the area for years. We assume he was sick or already dead but, he is a BIG kitty.


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

  23. #323
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kulindahr View Post
    p.s. -- I slammed out the latest chapter fast, trying to keep up with the film rolling in my head. Now it's taking forever to edit: in a lot of places it's so thin and rough it almost doesn't make sense. It could be hours before I get it to flow.
    Uh ... is it (almost) "soup" yet???

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

  24. #324
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Efforts


    “Learn?” Ryan grinned. “Come on – there’s someone you should meet.” Rigel’s puzzled look doubled Ryan’s grin. He led Rigel past tidy tents of linen and hide to one that looked like a cross between a dome tent and a teepee. “Pablo!”

    A man dressed the way Rigel imagined an Old West trapper crawled through an opening made by overlapping flaps. He was covered in fur, every inch of him except his face, and that changed as he stood: he lifted a sort of scarf of rabbit skin up to cover his nose and lower face, leaving only his eyes visible. Rigel’s gaze went to the man’s hands: there, too, only fur met the eye, mittens with pairs of fingers and a thumb making the appearance of a three-fingered beast.

    The furs weren’t just put together randomly, nor were they whole skins hooked together as they happened to fit. Fur of white dominated, carefully cut and interspersed with pale browns and grays. All the lines it made ran roughly parallel to the ground, except on the sides, where they ran vertically. Flat on the ground, Rigel thought, he’d be almost invisible, in winter.

    “¿Es usted el caballero señor Rigel?" the man asked. Rigel could tell it was a question; he recognized a couple of words, too.

    “Is ‘caballero’ ‘horseman’?” he asked Ryan.

    “More like ‘knight’.”

    Rigel turned back to the man. “Si.” He pointed to his chest. “Lord Rigel.”

    “Yo tengo muchos se preguntan por usted, señor.”

    “Rye, why does he know my name?”

    Ryan shrugged. “We told him. Talking with him isn’t easy. But he’s a message all by himself, isn’t he?”

    Rigel nodded. “Definitely. How much Spanish do you know?”

    “Enough to tell him to wait till we saw you. I didn’t expect that to be out here.”

    “Yeah, well, here we are. Frak – we’re going to have to get Anaph to copy Spanish from Antonio and paste it in our heads. Anyway”, Rigel went on, “now you can tell him my translator isn’t here.”

    “Great. I’ll try”, Ryan responded. “Um, el señor Rigel no... um, no hay uno que... que usa tu lengua”, he managed.

    “Ah – es que no tiene a nadie para traducir. Está bien. Puedo esperar. Tengo paciencia” Pablo bowed and went back into his tent.

    Rigel stared after the man for a moment, then shook his head in amazement: a Spaniard! “Okay, friend Ryan – let’s find breakfast, and you tell me the story.”

    Austin joined them, bringing the suggestion that they sit where Chen could hear, too. So they got to watch the snowshoe factory working out the kinks in production. Despite the firewood they’d brought, Rigel shivered; he had the terrible urge to throw all Chen’s branches on the nearby fire.

    “We got to the castle – that’s another story”, Ryan began. “We got a late start heading back, though, because of a hailstorm with balls the size of mine.” Rigel rolled his eyes. “So we started out on a trail covered twenty centimeters deep in balls of ice. Rye, it was naaaassty! That wasn’t the worst – well, maybe it was. But we were a day and a half along, on snow now, the ice balls behind us. Then Ewan – he was scouting then – comes riding back and says there’s a landslide across the path. It was a landslide, too, rock and dirt and trees and everything, not just an avalanche – it left a monster scar on the mountain.
    “Well, we had to go around. South was uphill, so the only choice was north – north by northeast, really. Oran joined Ewan to look for a route. They found one down into a kind of strange valley – it looked like someone had taken a valley with steep sides and poured something in that just totally leveled out. I was worried it was a frozen lake, but my scouts said it wasn’t. It ran southeast, so they went to look for ways out the other end. The rest of us made good speed on the level surface – kinda made up some lost time there.
    “So we get up out of there, and Ewan comes and says he can see where we’re supposed to be, so we head that way and he heads back. We were cutting along this ridge...

    Oran rode up beside Ryan and reigned in. “Hey, we’re being watched.”

    Ryan glanced around without turning his head; he knew Oran didn’t like it when he reacted to reports. “Where? And who could even be out here to watch us?”

    Oran shrugged. “I can find out. I can catch him. Them.”

    Ryan’s decision had been made before the offer. “Careful. No big risks. Don’t get yourself hurt.”

    “Me? Half of the famous Morsel and Morsel?” Oran rode off with a laugh, just like he was going back out to scout after making an ordinary report.

    “Now, if I was Casey’s Cat, how would I sneak up on that guy?” Oran asked Apache. He let the question simmer while he rode to intercept Ewan, and let him know he was on his own for a while. Then he was off again patting Apache on the neck. “Let’s hunt, boy.”

    Over one ridge, down the slope halfway, easy walk... skirt the boulder, along the slope – game track; looks like deer -- into the patch of trees... up the little landslide overgrown with some kind of white-barked tree, cross behind the monster fallen log, cut downhill along a creekbed... up another ridge, slogging through drifted snow, down to a narrow little valley and around the edge, up into a long stretch of trees, wind carefully through them.... Why aren’t there any little animals? ... stop and think; Apache, do you see where we are?. Okay, sharp lopsided peak is there, the pair that look like boobs with one nipple cut off over there, so... Let’s walk, Apache... down the other side through the trees, easy, easy – blast; a talus slope! ease back into the trees, circle over the top of the talus, down around the other side... Blast! Too exposed!... hoping, crossing fingers, holding breath... We’re invisible, Apache, invisible! ...into more trees, loop around the burned-off hump... there’s the end of the valley, yeah, it’s the one I want....

    The man moved too late. He was good, Oran judged, but not good enough: him with a horse, and them unmounted, and Oran had himself positioned so they – he was right; the man wasn’t alone! – they couldn’t escape, because he could cut them off no matter which way they moved. So he rode slowly toward them, letting them assess the situation.

    The man he’d originally become aware of signaled his fellows; he put his left hand out, palm down, and pushed it toward the ground. “Stand down”, Oran guessed it meant. When he rode up, the leader offered his hands, wrists crossed, like he expected to be tied up. Oran thought fast; he asked if they would just come along – they showed no sign of understanding a single word.

    His knife shortened his loop of “just in case” rope by forty centimeters. Oran worked without looking, keeping his eyes on his prisoners. The rope was braided; undone, it gave him three strands. One by one, he accepted the offered wrists, tying them tightly enough they couldn’t just pull their hands out, but loosely enough to try to communicate that he trusted them not to run. When he finished, they bowed to him. He nodded back, and waved for them to move.

    It was just a matter of catching up, because the valley they were in was where they’d been riding by when he’d realized they were being watched. He made them lead; when one hesitated he drew his sword – a crude thing, Master Fergus had said, but at least it was a sword, and it didn’t look crude – and set the blade across his lap. Their eyes locked, then the man bowed and cooperated. He pushed them hard, but it still took two hours to catch up.

    “So I tried to talk to them, realized they were Spanish, and decided I had to bring them back to you, where Antonio and Anaph could help us out”, Ryan finished.

    “Wow.” Ryan wanted to lean back, but the camp stool had nowhere to lean. “So the Spanish weren’t all wiped out. Hey – how did they react to the horses?”

    “I think Apache was why they surrendered”, Oran volunteered. “I think he scared them as much as my sword. Well, not scared – but... like, respected.”

    “Huh. So they might be surprised by even seeing horses, or they might be surprised at seeing someone they didn’t recognize, with horses.” Rigel took a deep swallow of the herbal mix that substituted for coffee. “I don’t know if I should be more worried if they do have horses or if they don’t!”

    Ryan laughed quietly. “Yeah – if they do, they could be great allies, or obnoxious enemies. If they don’t, they’ll be sad as allies, but no threat as enemies.”

    “Either way, they’re close by. They must have seen something and come looking.”

    “Our fires, probably”, Ryan sighed. “That’s what I figure, anyway. We were pretty quiet.”

    “Well, they can sit tight till we get back. What else did you find?” Rigel inquired.

    “That’s not enough?” Ryan teased. “Let’s see: a couple of working crossbows, a whole heap of mangled, melted, rusted armor, a dozen of those demon spider things; and something that made master Chen here very happy.”

    “What’s that?”

    Chen didn’t look up from his work, but he answered. “About ten thousand good arrowheads. We brought a thousand or so back.”

    Rigel whistled. “They were besieged, and there were arrowheads left over?”

    Ryan offered a suggestion. “Maybe the enemy broke in before they got used. Kill the archers, and you don’t face many arrows.”

    “I can buy that”, Rigel agreed with a slow nod. “And that tells us something.”

    “Yeah?” Ryan asked, staring into his empty cup.

    “Yeah: the Others – assuming they were the enemy – know how to get into castles like that pretty fast. What are the defenses like?”

    “They looked pretty tough – before one whole side collapsed, anyway. For keeping out enemies coming up the walls... well, the walls were vertical all the way up. Tilt them out at the top with holes so you can fire down or dump oil or whatever, and that would help. Two towers were square, which leaves corners that are easy to knock off. It’s back from the cliff edge, which means enemies can get around it. No moat, either. Um... the ground on the inside was the same level as outside, and the gate was a straight shot in. Then the keep was part of the outer wall, which lets attackers come right at it if they gain the walls.
    “For Spaniards of that period, I guess it wasn’t a bad job. But if the Others are related to the demon-spiders – well, it was kinda easy for them to take.”

    “Okay. So when we build a castle”, Rigel responded, and began ticking points off on his fingers, “it has to have a moat, the gate shouldn’t come in straight, the ground inside should be a bunch higher than outside, the towers should be round, and the walls should tilt outward at the top. What did I miss?”

    “Fixing it so no one can get all the way around, if you can, and putting the keep away from the outer wall.”

    “Okay, remind me: what’s a ‘keep’?”

    “Well, the earliest castles were a building with a wall around them. The wall got stronger, the building got bigger. The building was where everyone went for safety if anyone got over the walls”, Ryan explained. “That’s the keep: the strong place of refuge. Connecting it to the walls isn’t brilliant.”

    “Okay, smarty, how would you do it?” Rigel challenged.

    Ryan hollered for more ‘coffee’ first; Dallaen came running, and filled all their cups.. Ryan took a sip, and sighed. “Well, I’d pick a place for my castle where the outer wall sits on a cliff or close to it – or by a lake. If you can’t build right to the edge, or into the lake, you stick walls out that do, so no one can get around there.” He illustrated, holding his right arm, with the ‘coffee’, level, and standing two fingers from his left up next to it. “That’s your outer wall. Then you decide how big you want your keep to be, and sit it so it leaves room for a defensive wall between it and the outer wall. You connect the walls to each other with bridges that are easy to pull down with a mechanism controlled from the keep, and connect the keep to the inner wall the same way. You want the keep high enough defenders can shoot down past the inner wall, and where it’s close to the side that can’t be attacked, close enough to hit the outer wall.” At each step, he sort of mimed with his hands what he was saying.
    “Outside you want a moat deep enough horses have trouble in it, but not so deep the enemy can launch a barge with an attack tower. Or you can stick sharpened stakes up from the bottom. By the castle wall, have a steep slope of soft dirt that will crumble and slide if anyone tries to climb.
    “The gate would come in straight for ten meters or so, then turn sharply enough a galloping horse can’t make the turn. Another eight or ten meters, turn back the other way, and go five or so meters into the inner courtyard. The outer section slopes up just a little, the next section pretty steeply, and the last section just a little. Curves would work, too, but the big thing is that horses shouldn’t be able to charge in. If you’re on a hill, you can make it even worse: wind the road back and forth, with switchbacks, and deep ravines between them. You want the last two switchbacks in range of the gate towers. If you want overkill, you put towers in the ravines, connected to the castle by bridges, and no openings except those. Then anyone trying to attack up the road gets shot at from two or three, even four directions at once. And you rig those towers to collapse, again controlled from the keep. While you’re at it, stack barrels of oil and tar and stuff in them, so when you collapse the tower it spreads burnable crap around and you can roast some enemies for being naughty enough to nearly capture your tower.
    “You want to be able to do that with your moat, too – have places you can dump oil and flood it, then torch it. That way if they do get ladders or towers in somehow, you just light it off and all their work is wasted.
    “Um... okay, the outer courtyard: you want that pretty clear; it’s gonna be where visitors leave their horses, unless they’re really important, where you get your men together to ride out wherever, where supply wagons come, all that. But you’re going to put some solid buildings in the way, so if someone does actually get up the road and through the gate, they can be shot at from those building while everyone is evacuating the outer courtyard.
    “The inner courtyard should be even higher, but the gate here doesn’t have to be as kinked – just one bend is enough. Two or three gates would be good, even, so if an enemy does get in and start attacking a gate, you can sortie – that means charge out – and attack his ass from the rear or side. And you want a clear area between your buildings and the middle wall, so invaders won’t have any place to hide. The inside of the middle wall can be the back wall of buildings like a smithy and stuff, just a lot thicker.
    “Then comes your keep, even higher. If you want it to have any gardens or anything, the ground level for those should be four meters or more higher than outside, so they’re hard to get to. Of course you can have basements, but they shouldn’t go even as low as ground level outside the outer wall. That’s so no one can tunnel in.
    “All your walls tilt out at the top so you can shoot down. If you have metal to spare, you put high crenels every so often – oh, a crenel is the high spot; you know how castle walls go up and down on top? Yeah, those, and the gaps are merlons. Anyway, you put pillars back behind your tall crenels, and use them to support an iron or steel roof. And the roof slopes out” Ryan stopped for breath.

    “Wow – and what’s the budget for this?” Rigel asked jokingly.

    “A thousand slaves and four years”, Ryan answered. “And abundant rock.”

    “How ‘Other-proof’ would that be?”

    “Well.... I think the Others have two arms and two legs like we do, or they’d be remembered as monsters. If they’re like that demon spider-thing, though, they could be good at climbing. I can’t think of much more we could do with a castle design to keep them out.”

    “Grease the walls”, Chen said, without looking up, just steadily carefully wrapping slender cord around slender branches..

    “Do what?!” Rigel asked incredulously.

    Chen set down a completed horseshoe. “I’m serious. If they’re like that spider thing, they might be good at rock climbing. Maybe suction cups like Spiderman, or pincers like some reptiles, but if you grease the wall, it won’t matter – they’ll slip. So you have a big container where you save gobs of kitchen grease, and some way to spread it all over the castle wall.”

    “Just the upper wall”, Oran contributed. “So if they reach the wall they’ll feel it and start to climb. Then when they’re like two-thirds of the way up, it’s slip-plop! Into the moat.”

    “You have a very twisted mind there”, Ryan told him with a nasty grin. “I like that.”

    Oran shrugged. “We got real serious about ‘Capture the Flag’ sometimes.”

    Everyone else burst into laughter after a second of staring at each other and at Oran.

    “Any other ideas? Rigel asked after a minute.

    “Sure”, Oran replied. “On your road up to the castle, have bridges – rigged to collapse. If an enemy actually gets to your walls, you pull down some bridges, and there he is – can’t go back, can’t even get his forces together. Then you sit in your towers and slaughter them. If you’re tricky, you fix the bridges so you can pop them up again – that way, when you wipe out the bad guys close by the castle, you pop a bridge up and charge, and shove the next batch over the edge. Oh – you want nasty carnivorous poisonous critters in those ravines.
    “Make the keep walls hollow, and use them to store your grain and stuff. Don’t wash the grain before you store it – so if an enemy knocks a hole in the wall, dust pours out, and you drop a torch from above. If you’re lucky, you get a dust explosion and they all fall to pieces.”

    “I thought dust explosions only worked in confined places”, Chen objected.

    “Generally, yes”, Ryan confirmed. “If the air is really calm so the dust is just hanging there, you can get one. Oran, I don’t know if that would work – but if you had a way of spilling dust into the gate tunnels, you could seriously ruin someone’s day. I like it”, he told Rigel. This kid’s got a vicious streak! “ He gave Oran a thumb-up sign. “The collapsible bridges rock, too – though instead of totally collapsing, you could rig one side to cut loose and the other to rotate, so the bridge would swing like a hinge and send everyone on it sliding off. I think it would be easy to make. That way you could put it back up”, he explained.

    “Hinge it from one end”, Chen said.

    “Or from both”, Rigel offered, “So it opens in the middle. Now – of all the places around here, where would you build it?”

    “Easy”, said Oran, Chen, and Ryan together. Ryan pointed at Oran.

    “When you leave the Valley, there’s a big hill on the right. Sit it up there”, the young scout recommended.

    “Bingo”, Chen agreed. “The little ridge on the right could be the road up.”

    “Same thing I thought of”, Ryan told Rigel. “This is the only path we know of that heads toward Other territory. It also seems to head toward Spanish territory. So we need something to guard the Valley, and that spot is awesome.”

    “The hill is all rounded”, Rigel objected.

    “No problem”, Chen stated. “It’s probably rock underneath. Just use one side for a quarry and turn it into a cliff.”

    “Or two sides”, Oran agreed.

    “Well, since the impromptu committee on fortifications has spoken unanimously, that’s what we’ll do”, Rigel announced. “Now, though – Chen, how hard is it to make those things? We’re all going to help.”

    Making snowshoes wasn’t as easy as Chen made it look – and watching him, it didn’t look very easy in the first place. When Dallaen came bringing Ryan and Rigel’s noon meal – rabbit jerky softened by soaking and boiling, with re-hydrated fern tips – Rigel had just finally managed to get his double-branch rim and two main pairs of cross-pieces to stay together. Ryan was ahead of him, with that much plus the diagonal weave of foot support in place and the loop to stick a foot in begun. Austin had given up on anything past the rim itself, and was starting his second of those. The two lords accepted their shallow bowls gratefully.

    “You know what we rally need?” Ryan asked as he picked up a strip of rabbit and looked at it.

    “Whassat?” Rigel mumbled around his first bite.

    “Silverware. A fork would be a wonderful thing.”

    “Surely you don’t have trouble eating with your knife!” Rigel exclaimed in mock dismay, after swallowing.

    “Define ‘trouble’.” Their eyes met, and they both laughed. Men around them looked, and were heartened by their lords’ good humor in the situation.

    Rigel looked around at the camp he hadn’t had spare attention for all morning. “Wow – that wall is high!” Ryan looked, too; he’d been vaguely aware of snow blocks being carried by, but hadn’t really paid attention. The upper edge was higher than any of the tents. It had started to resemble a row of overlapping domes with the intruding points – and they were points, V-shapes with curved sides – supported by pillars. The sides of the pillars towards the wall also curved, making a row of arches with their bases between the evenly-spaced tents. That put the tents themselves mostly under a roof, besides giving them protection from the wind.

    On the other side of the camp, away from the wind, a row of igloos rose. The space between the igloos was filled – the two best friends got up and walked over to look, and saw that “filled” was correct: a wall halfway back from where the igloos’ walls overlapped paralleled a wall more like two-thirds of the way to the front, and in between was snow just dumped in and packed. Where work had gone farther, that outer wall curved up and in while the inner wall curved less as it rose to meet the outer. Near the bluff, the start of a pillar was in place.

    As a result of all this effort, the camp area was almost completely free of snow.

    “Suddenly I feel like a failure”, Ryan said. “They’re building a bloody snow castle, and I can’t even finish one snow shoe!”

    Rigel shook his head in amazement. “This is incredible! They can do all this, but they don’t know how to make snowshoes?”

    Ryan snorted. “They do all this, they don’t need to make snowshoes! Why would you want to go anywhere if you could do this?”

    “Sledding”, came the answer from Austin.

    “Skiing”, Oran added.

    “You two spying on your elders?” Ryan asked, putting on a fierce scowl.

    “No, just bringing your wrinkled half-dried-up apples”, Oran quipped. “Here.” He did in fact have some dried fruit.

    “Skiing.... Rye, do you think we could make skis?” Rigel mused.

    “If It’s in that book, why not? Why, don’t you get enough exercise?”

    A laugh was his answer. “Funny. No, think about it: if we could train a force of men on skis –“

    Ryan got it. “The Others don’t move in winter. If we can–“

    “Major advantage”, Austin declared, interrupting.

    “We could scout them out, and if we make clothes like Pablo has, they wouldn’t even know we were there!” Oran exclaimed.

    “And knowledge is power”, Austin added.

    “Thank you, Colonel de Lambert, Major Templeton”, Ryan said with two small bows. “I see you’ve been doing your homework.”

    “We just listen a lot”, Oran responded piously.

    Chen came over. “Spy a lot, you mean”, he teased. “Lords, there’s one set of snowshoes ready – I tested them. Want to wait for more, or have someone scout a trail?”

    “Wait”, Ryan said, while Rigel said “Scout”. They stared at each other, grinning, knowing neither one would give in.

    “Start scouting”, Austin suggested, “but stay close to the camp. Get a trail started, and get practice.”

    They all looked at him. “Well, Rigel, your squire here is a diplomat. So... who scouts?” Ryan asked, looking at Chen.

    “First scout stays here and works on more snowshoes”, Chen declared. “Second scout goes. Oran – toward the valley, around the bluff, up the ridge?”

    “Or up the bluff on top of the wall”, Oran half-joked. The top of the wall did look like a stairway, low away from the bluff and high near it. “No, if I tripped or something I’d ruin the wall. I think you’re right – I go up where I can see, and try to count the ridges between us and Casey. Rigel, what if Dugal’s hurt? What if we need Lumina?”

    Rigel felt like an idiot for not thinking of that himself. “Good point. Austin, pick three men to go bring the Healer.”



    Casey might have cheered at that decision. Dugal still slept, while his friend wondered if it was a coma. He didn’t know what to do except keep him warm, and make him drink. They’d had two chunks of firewood with them, which Casey hadn’t wanted to waste all at once, so he’d spent time carving off pieces a little smaller than his wrist, then broken them in two by smashing at them with the back of the axe. Four of those pieces gave enough heat to make three cups of tea. Two of those, with a bit of honey, went to Dugal; he drank his plain.

    There was no way to know how long it would take Oran to lead Ryan to him. That meant preparing for a long stay, and that meant staying warm, and having tea for Dugal. So with deep worry about the decision, Casey had set off toward a batch of trees that ran down a ravine about seventy meters away. To his delight, fifteen minutes of searching not only uncovered dead wood, but among that wood were two slightly curved, smooth pieces about four inches thick and four feet long. He’d made his way back to their igloo with an armload of small stuff, dug out the length of rope that Dugal had managed to grab when he had to change horses, and began unraveling it. One rope became three strands. Before he went back, he used two pieces of their precious seasoned firewood and a handful of the bits he’d collected to make another small fire, and tea. He set the cup – copper, with a wooden handle – back on the coals with a small handful of snow and a fatty piece of rabbit jerky inside, before he left.

    Oran had taught him lashing. While Casey hiked back to the trees, he worked on design: crosspieces out at the ends of the runners, so they don’t drag in the snow? That didn’t seem strong, so... notch the runners for the cord, and put the crosspieces lower? He decided to do both. Next would be diagonal braces, a big X between the inner two crosspieces and a narrow X between the pairs of crosspieces at the ends. Three ought to be enough, he decided, if I lash the platform pieces to them, too. The platform would have to be high so it wouldn’t scrape snow, so it would go between the two inner crosspieces – flexible branches for that, so he could run them right up the top of the runners and lash them tight.

    Casey had his design almost complete in his mind by the time he reached the two curved pieces he’d decided would make a sled. Right away he found that expecting one of his runners to stay still while he lashed a crosspiece to it was foolish. He solved that problem in two ways: buried the runner in packed snow, and chopped a notch in the runner to rest the cord in, and another for the crosspiece. By the time he’d gotten two crosspieces on he was sweaty and tired, and had been away from Dugal far too long. He cursed himself for getting sweaty, all the way back with another armload of wood.



    Oran moved slowly, steadily. He carried a long pole Chen had cut from the pile of branches; too thick for snowshoes, it was almost too thin for the work of a probe. But he dutifully stuck it down through the snow ahead of him as he went. Rounding the bluff to reach the ridge was the work of nearly an hour – but he knew it was a dependable path, a fact he demonstrated by returning in ten minutes to get something warm to drink. Then it was back up to tackle the ridge.

    Getting started was the difficult part, there: dry snow drifts, and piles up. They’d had plenty of that the last day! But the wind hadn’t been constant, so he wasn’t sure which side of the ridge it would be on. Oran tramped back and forth for twenty minutes before he decided where the ridge crest actually was. Then he set off, slowly and steadily as before, up the ridge and closer to Casey. He tried humming songs to help the time go by, but no matter what he tried, the old song with its line “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” kept creeping in. Since he most definitely didn’t want more snow, he gave up humming; instead, he reviewed the making of arrows, and bows.



    Dugal didn’t seem worse. Casey checked the scratches he’d found and treated; none looked red. Just in case though, he wiped each one with a little of the disinfectant powder Ocean had given them – just a pinch in a half-cup of water was the recipe, but he wasn’t going to waste wood heating it. He just spit in his hand, added the tiniest pinch he could manage, put a pinch of snow on top, and rubbed it around hard for a couple of minutes, then added more snow and mixed it around. A finger worked to apply it, and what Dugal didn’t need went on his own scratches – new ones, on his hands, from struggling to make his sled.

    He decided he’d better do something about the sweat, before it chilled him into hypothermia. The sun was out, strong, so he stripped, hung his clothes on Scout’s tie-line, and rotated in the sun for a bit. He’d leave his clothes to dry as much as they could – a thought that led to him going to turn his shirt and tunic inside out.

    Then it was time for something to drink. His broth was cold, but there was still a pair of bright red coals. Casey set the cup to one side and carefully scooped up the coals with his axe. Earlier, he’d split one of their wood chunks in two. One of the halves was curved inward on one side, and that had given him this idea: he settled that piece down, carving it a hole in the dirt – mud now, from the fire on top of it, once he broke the crust – so most of it was below ground. Then he carefully dumped the precious coals on top and started putting little shavings of wood around them. Little-finger-sized sticks followed, then a square made by four more of the short pieces he’d made, to frame it. He was proud of the result; with wood underneath, he figured the coals would last longer. When the shavings caught, he quickly held the cup over the flames, patiently adding twigs with his left hand until the broth was steaming.



    The mountains looked magnificent from his perch, but Oran wasn’t interested in views. The only thing he wanted to see was a path to get to Casey, and this dead-end at the top of the ridge wasn’t it. He closed his eyes and thought back: had he missed seeing this? He didn’t think so. He scooped up snow to make a ball, meaning to throw it in frustration, but the stuff wouldn’t pack. He settled for peeing off the edge, then turned around carefully and went back down. Now he had to pick a place to go cross-slope around that outcrop, then back up to the crest of the ridge, and onward.



    Chen set down the snowshoe he’d nearly completed. “Rigel”, he said quietly, “Oran hasn’t moved for like ten minutes.”

    “Resting?”

    The first scout shook his head. “Too long. Sit that long in this weather, you get stiff.” Chen looked around, thinking.

    “So we go after him.” Rigel made it a declaration, not a question.

    “Yeah, but I don’t have any – hey! Kailan”, he called, “Go get me one of the bread bags.” The moment it was in his hands -- Kailan had correctly inferred Chen wanted it empty – he slit the seam with his knife and ripped the resulting sheet of linen in two. “Hold this”, he told Rigel, who took one of the pieces with an interested expression.

    “We don’t have any finished snowshoes”, Chen explained as he worked, picking up a shoe finished except for the tight weave that would let it ride on top of the snow, “But we have some with the cross-pieces and foot supports. So I cover the bottom with a piece of cloth, then sew the edge. He worked quickly, and in under a minute had a functional snowshoes. He repeated the process with another. “Okay – I’m good to go.”

    “You’re not going alone”, Rigel told him. While Chen had been focused on the snowshoe, he’d signaled Austin to get their horses. “If you got stuck out there, I wouldn’t even know where.”

    “Follow the trail to where it – Rigel, you can’t take horses up there!” Chen had just seen Austin riding up, leading Tornado.

    “Watch me. Austin, we lead them”, he called over his shoulder. “Now first scout, are you going to check the path for me, or are Austin and I going?”

    Chen sighed in disgust. “You are stubborn. Fine – stay five meters behind me, five meters apart.” He looked at the metal-shod hooves. “And walk lightly.”

    Rigel chuckled at that.



    Oran decided to enjoy the view. There wasn’t much else he could do; the snow wouldn’t even stick together, so he couldn’t make little snowmen to amuse himself. There weren’t any shadows to mark time with, so he couldn’t place bets with himself on how long it would take Chen to figure out he wasn’t moving.



    Rigel fumed. Chen was being careful, but it was slow – slower, he was willing to bet, than Oran had been in the first place. He’s just making sure we’re all safe, he lectured himself. You could have let him check the trail ahead, and ridden up when he signaled. So, who do you blame for this?

    Once on the ridge, they made better time. Chen was confident that Oran had followed the crest well, so he proceeded at a slow walk instead of the stop-poke-step rhythm that had been driving Rigel crazy. Of course, he knew it had been driving Rigel crazy, and took a perverse pleasure in that, a sort of revenge for Rigel’s unthought urgency. He hadn’t gone any slower than necessary, and knowing that Rigel knew it made the revenge all the better.

    The path went along the ridge side, cross-slope, instead of up the crest. Chen stopped to look: Oran had plainly gone up the crest, returned, and gone the lower route. Once he was certain of that – his pause was all of two seconds – he continued on the more recent path.

    Rigel was just passing the split in the path, Austin ahead of him – his squire had insisted that it was his duty to test the path before his lord traveled it – when he heard Chen laughing. “Stay, Tornado”, he commanded, dropping the reins in the snow. He made his way ahead, past Titanium – also standing still, reins in the snow – to join Austin, who was also laughing now.

    Oran looked up at the three and sighed. This story would never die....

    “How did you manage that?” Rigel got out.

    “I’ll get some rope”, Austin said. Rigel’s question had helped him stifle his laughter enough to get businesslike.

    “Tell thoroughly, second scout”, Chen requested.

    “I was walking along, testing with my pole. Everything was fine until my left foot sank through where the pole told me it was hard underneath. I had the pole in my right hand. On instinct, I leaned on it. It hit something solid, but I was like rotating, and it slid, and cut this big slice in the snow. I had to let go. I was up to my crotch in snow on my left leg, and the snow I was in was turning and tipping. I pushed with my right foot and left hand, and both of them broke through and went under. Snow from above me was spilling down, and me and this block of snow went sliding. It stopped here. More snow slid down. I brushed a lot right on by, but I only had my right hand free so I couldn’t get it all. My block of snow started to slip backwards and I started to tip, so I stopped brushing snow. That balanced things, and... here I am. Now are you going to get me out of here? My toes are frozen clear up to my balls.”



    It didn’t look appetizing, but Casey remembered someone saying once that fat is energy, so he wanted to get it into Dugal. He added a pinch of lemon balm and one of heal-all and held it back over the fire again until his hand couldn’t take the heat any longer. It was too hot to drink, then, but it had to get hot to get the best benefit of the herbs, Ocean had explained more than once. Impatient, he added a bit of snow, then another, until he could drink without having to stop to cool his mouth. Then he steadied Dugal’s head between his knees, and slowly trickled his brew into his friend’s mouth. Dugal swallowed easily this time; that gave Casey hope.



    Ryan tried to concentrate on making snowshoe rims, without much luck. Rigel shouldn’t have taken the horses up there; he couldn’t get rid of the image of a hoof slipping and Rigel getting crushed under Tornado’s weight. The sky wasn’t encouraging, either; it had been sunny earlier, enough that a few little icicles had grown on some of the spots of bare rock on the bluff, but now the clouds were closing in, and they were that same yellowish color they’d been the day before when the blizzard started. But he couldn’t think of anything helpful to do, so he worked on snowshoes.



    Chen checked his improvised rappelling gear’s fit on Austin. The measure of the squire’s seriousness was the total lack of teasing or flirting when Chen’s hand felt the fit in Austin’s crotch. “Okay”, Chen told him, “review.”

    Austin nodded. “I go down ‘way away from Oran. If snow slides, I just close my eyes, hang on, and wait. I get down a meter lower than even with Oran. I watch for your signal. Then I work my way across, real slow so I don’t start a slide. If you yell, I throw the second rope to Oran.”

    “Good. Why don’t you throw it from above?”

    “‘Cause the slope’s unstable and it could make a slide on him.”

    “Bingo. Okay, go for it.”

    Austin leaned back against the harness and walked backwards in small steps. His breath came hard and fast as he backed over the lip, his body going vertical to the slope instead of the pull of gravity. “Slow and easy”, Rigel called softly. He saw Austin nod in response. His squire stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, slow in, slow out. Chen squatted at the edge, all his attention on the snow covering the slope. Rigel stood with his left hand on Titanium, the anchor for his rider who half-rappelled, half snow-plowed down the slope.

    “Pause”, Chen called out. Austin stopped moving. “Eyes!” Chen hollered then, as snow above and to Austin’s left let go and cascaded down the slope. For several long seconds Rigel held his breath as the figure below vanished in that cascade of white. His fear now was hypothermia: to reduce the weight on the rope, Austin had shed coat and tunic, so he wore only a thin shirt against the cold – a shirt now almost certainly wet.

    But Austin made no complaint. He waited for Chen’s call to resume, and started his backward walk down the slope. Each step was a half-step, half the length of a shoe; each step came with a breath... an agonizing pace, but necessary.

    The hardest part for Austin was resisting the urge to just jump out and bounce downhill. Once he got over the edge, and got used to the tilt, it had become fun, and he really wanted to try the sort of bouncing leaps he’d seen on TV. Rational thought won over playfulness, though, and he stuck to the task. But when he was done, Austin decided, he was going to talk with Chen about making proper rappelling gear.

    Finally he was even with Oran. He looked over and grinned, and got a grin in return. Now he just had to get lower than Oran’s feet – that almost made him laugh, because there was no way to tell where Oran’s feet were, with the crazy way the slab of snow he was stuck in tilted against the slope. In fact, from his own position, he couldn’t figure out why Oran hadn’t just slid right on down.

    “Now the tricky part”, Chen told Rigel softly. “Bring Titanium this way, real slow.” He waved at Austin, the signal to move sideways. Rigel had to make himself breathe; one slip here could send Oran tumbling. Austin made no slips, though, just moved steadily sideways, lifting his right foot as far as possible as stepping into the snow instead of pushing it.



    Snow had begun to fall, dimming the already failing light. Ryan held back all the swearing he wanted to do, because the men needed to see a confident, calm lord. He was anything but confident, though, and if he didn’t do something soon to help he was going to lose it. Seeing Senach set a piece of wood on a fire gave him an idea to grab onto.

    “Senach. Dunreagh. Get two others and find some torches, or make them. When it gets darker, hike out the path Lord Rigel took, to light his way back”, Ryan ordered.



    Austin handed the end of his rope to Oran. Oran flipped it around behind himself and back around front. “That’s not going to help much – I can’t get it under my other arm”, he pointed out.

    “Hold it in your teeth”, Austin told him tersely. “And don’t distract me.” Oran heard the nervousness even through the joke, and fell silent.

    Centimeter by centimeter, Austin moved closer to Oran. The rope was a precaution, one he didn’t want to need, because he didn’t have confidence that Titanium would be able to hold them both, not without his master and rider there with him. It was nothing against Lord Rigel, of course.

    Suddenly he slipped. He almost grabbed for Oran, but Chen’s lecture about caution turned his hand’s course to grab the rope. Looking down was a bad idea, he knew, but he couldn’t help it. What he saw sent his eyes back up fast; he fixed them on Oran: below him, all the snow had slid away, piling at the bottom, leaving a clay and rock slope bare of anything but ice. But Oran was still there, so that didn’t matter, even if he had almost peed his pants.

    “Don’t try this at home”, Oran quipped, but his voice was tense, too.

    “Don’t worry; I’m an expert”, is what Austin wanted to say. Instead he pulled his feet up to his butt as Chen had told him, used his hands to turn himself so his feet were against the slope, and started to stand up against it again. He changed his mind, though, and put his knees and feet both against the slope.

    “I’m moving over closer”, Austin said. Walking sideways like that hurt his knees, but he ignored that, too. It seemed like forever before he was where he couldn’t see Oran’s face any longer because he was lower and actually under the scout’s slab of snow. “Hey – I see a snowshoe!” he called. “Oran, hang on tight.” Carefully he tugged on the rope once and held up his hand with finger a thumb barely separated. Above, Chen hauled in a few centimeters of rope.

    Austin missed on his first try; he overreached and nearly spun off the slope. Before trying again, he walked a hand’s width closer, then started brushing snow away. Some fell in chunks, but none were large. The sight of leggings told him the snowshoe was still attached, “You’re still wearing it”, he told Oran. “I have to get it off you.”

    “Don’t lose it!” Oran admonished sharply. Austin had no intention of losing it, but didn’t say so; he just took out his knife and used the tip to cut the tie holding Oran’s foot in, then stabbed the webbing to stop a fall. Gently he lifted, and got the snowshoe where his other hand could grab it. It went on a cord on his belt.

    The sky was turning darker. Looking at the situation, Austin decided to take a risk: if Oran’s other leg was where it ought to be, then if he could get his head in the right place he could get between those legs– Shut up! he scolded his lust, but he couldn’t stop an erection – and catch Oran on his shoulders. “Oran”, he called softly, because he didn’t want Chen to hear his idea, “can you wiggle your left leg?”

    His answer was a wiggled left leg and a face full of snow. He sputtered and brushed at it. “Oh, thanks – you owe me!”

    “Blow me.”

    “Don’t tease.”

    “No tease – get me out of here before dark and you can have it.” Austin heard the fear in Oran’s voice, and figured it wouldn’t be fair to take him up on that.

    “Can you feel anything with your left hand?” he asked.

    “Something hard”, Oran answered.

    “Okay. I’m gonna count to three. When I hit three, try to turn to get your face to the wall.” Austin didn’t wait for an answer. “Okay – one... two... three...!”


    “What are they doing down there?” Rigel asked in frustration.

    “I don’t know”, replied Chen. “Rigel, the only one who knows what’s happening right now is Austin, because he can see what’s under Oran. We just have to be ready for whatever he has to do.”

    “Hope he warns– oh, frak!”


    Austin jerked on the rope hard and moved sideways, counting on Chen. Above, the first scout had no idea what was happening, but he was counting on Austin, so he hauled on the rope. Rigel pulled the slack through the loop on Titanium’s saddle, so if Chen slipped, the rope wouldn’t – much, anyway.

    Oran had a guess about what Austin had in mind. He pushed and tried to turn the way Austin had asked; as snow broke apart and fell around him, he couldn’t tell if he was accomplishing anything at all. Just don’t let my balls be squashed, he wished as he started to slide.

    Something hard hit Austin’s head. He had a hand up just in case, and what hit it felt like a muscular butt cheek. Instinct more than anything made the choice of which way to move, and in another second he felt thighs around his head, followed by weight on his shoulders. The thighs clamped tight, but the pressure was off balance.

    The rope swung toward him; Oran missed his grab. But his left hand was free of the snow, now, so he shoved hard at the rock and got the rope back in range of his right. This time he didn’t miss, but the fright made him unable to pull up until he’d taken a half dozen deep, slow breaths; then he got the rope with both hands and sat up straight on Austin’s shoulders. He let a bit more snow fall past before he opened his eyes fully to see how Austin was doing.

    “I’m good”, Austin called, once Oran was sitting right and he was sure he was stable. “Just one problem – I’m on my knees. Can you push yourself out some?”

    “Yeah. Here goes.” As Oran pushed, some of the tension holding Austin against the slope eased. He scooted his feet up, and with a big push got his feet under him.

    Rigel’s mouth was open, and Chen was shaking his head, at the sight. Austin’s feet were on the wall of the ravine, while Oran sat on his shoulders. Oran had his feet out to fend off the surface, and was hanging onto the rope himself. “If that kid pulls this off that way, he can blow me”, the first scout said to his lord.

    In the end, Chen didn’t quite have to pay up: two meters from the top, a rock gave way under Austin’s foot. Austin slammed face-first into the slope, but Oran’s quick reaction saved him from being smashed: Oran’s knees landed on either side of Austin’s neck, and he walked on them right on up the rope to Chen’s waiting hand. Once up, he turned, and the three on top hauled in their hero.

    “Look – torches!” Oran exclaimed as the four of them, Oran and Austin riding, passed the Y in the trail.

    “Good ol’ Ryan”, said Rigel. “I think I owe him a fun night tonight.”

    “I owe Austin one”, Oran noted. “And squire, don’t worry about me – I won’t hate you in the morning.”

    Austin’s trembling intake of breath left Rigel wishing he were already in the tent, alone with his best friend, nothing between them but sweat.



    The sled still wasn’t finished by the time dark came, but Casey had made four more trips over and back, each time with another armload of dead wood. He was happy enough, then, with his day’s work: other than the fact that he didn’t wake up, Dugal seemed fine, and they had enough wood he could slowly feed the fire all night. So he dragged all he could into the igloo, blocked the door some, and – suddenly realized he’d suffocate them if there wasn’t a way for the smoke to get out; an occasional little fire was one thing, but all night was different. A hole in the ceiling would work, but it seemed to him that would just suck the warmth out. Too tired and sleepy to decide, he just snuggled up to Dugal and fell asleep.






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

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

    *the number is now forty

  25. #325
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Awesome chapter! Very Intense! These "boys" are Maturing SO quickly! "Hard Times make Good Men!"

    And, I think Austin, though he might not take "advantage" of it, Deserves a 3-way with Chen and "Morsel"!!

    So ... Pablo, and company, hmmm? And, a "Spanish" Valley? More people? Oh, yes!

    Very impressed with the Castle design, with a few "new" tricks to the "Moat and Bailey" concept of yore! But, why do I think they are not going to get the time to build it before they need it?

    And, "Cat" is not with Casey? Where did he go?

    In short ... I'm breathlessly waiting for MORE Story!!

    THANK YOU!!!

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

  26. #326
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Awesome chapter! Very Intense! These "boys" are Maturing SO quickly! "Hard Times make Good Men!"
    And hard men make good times?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    And, I think Austin, though he might not take "advantage" of it, Deserves a 3-way with Chen and "Morsel"!!
    All things are possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    So ... Pablo, and company, hmmm? And, a "Spanish" Valley? More people? Oh, yes!
    I used Pablo because it's a name that has remained stable in form in Spanish for a very long time. I didn't feel like "devolving" and Spanish at the time, because I didn't feel like reviewing the principles of linguistic deterioration (if that's the right term -- been too long...).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Very impressed with the Castle design, with a few "new" tricks to the "Moat and Bailey" concept of yore! But, why do I think they are not going to get the time to build it before they need it?
    What tricks do you see as new?

    OTOH.... they might build it and not need it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    And, "Cat" is not with Casey? Where did he go?
    He had to go to the Galactic Sector conference on the Future of Sentient Races.



    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    In short ... I'm breathlessly waiting for MORE Story!!

    THANK YOU!!!

    Keep smilin'!!
    Chaz
    I always await your posts -- you provide ideas that sometimes help enrich the tale.

    "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. #327
    In Loving Memory Lefty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    43,836

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    And then...And then....and then, along came__SAM________.

    slow walking...smooth talking ___SAM____.....hell thats all I can remember right now.

    Great Job Kuli, now I'm really edging the seat of my chair.

  28. #328
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Lefty View Post
    Great Job Kuli, now I'm really edging the seat of my chair.
    Is that all you're edging, Lefty??

    I know! "Cheap Shot"! Just couldn't help but take it!

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

  29. #329
    In Loving Memory Lefty's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    43,836

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    ok Mr KYanimal....

    kin uew show me bettah. I'sll meat cha 'hind the privy in 15 that is iffin you can lick this larruping big issue of mine.

    Ah'll be edged over by the hedge awaitingin yo seff ... Might wanna bring some of that Jack Daniels fellers mout worsh wit chew.

  30. #330
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    Now that the minor technical difficulties w/ the DataBase seem to be fixed, on with the post!

    Another epic chapter. You started it in an interesting place - I keep thinking I'm missing things - like, I don't remember reading about the spiders, then they were in the posts - so I need to go find where I missed them - must have been after a long day at work when I read that section. Now Pablo. But I KNOW I didn't miss the preceding chapter, so it must just be your Gomer Pyle moment to us - "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise" in that hayseed back country good ol' boy accent he did so well.

    Wow, where to begin. Still caught out in the freezing weather, but quite the industrious crew they have with them - monster snow castle of sorts to protect them from the elements - and they don't need micromanaging - oh to have such a work force - cooperative, collaborative, a little creative tension, but TEAMwork.

    Finding residual descendants of Los Conquistadores, although it will be interesting to find out their minds once they are all together and the urgent crises of the moment - like saving Oren from having a frozen popsicle and other parts. Great, exquisitely detailed rescue - complete with sound practical advice for anyone who decides to "try this at home".

    Where is Cat - he brought Rigel and company to Ryan, now he's off somewhere, but where - trying to find a safe passage back to Casey and Dugal?

    They say necessity is the mother of invention - Casey needs to get out of the valley they're trapped in, with an injured Dugal so, see curved branches, think sled runners.

    This storm came upon them awfully quickly and harshly. And another's on it's way from the sounds of it.

    You are building so many segments to this story - the personal interaction and growth of the core team, the caretakers, now the residual conquistadores stock;
    The technological sharing and rapid advancement to maximize their opportunities against the others; the sharing and disbersement of the knowledge of the Druid repository of knowledge - and within each other, too.

    You pack so much into each chapter.

    Thanks. Now if we can get our board kids to play nice, lol. Then again, they might wind up playing too nicely at the rate the current quips are being thrown back and forth, LOL.



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

  31. #331
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    Now that the minor technical difficulties w/ the DataBase seem to be fixed, on with the post!
    That was frustrating; I was doing a tad of research at the time and couldn't reference past chapters!

    So I took a nap.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Another epic chapter. You started it in an interesting place - I keep thinking I'm missing things - like, I don't remember reading about the spiders, then they were in the posts - so I need to go find where I missed them - must have been after a long day at work when I read that section. Now Pablo. But I KNOW I didn't miss the preceding chapter, so it must just be your Gomer Pyle moment to us - "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise" in that hayseed back country good ol' boy accent he did so well.
    The first 'spider' is found beyond the waterfall, discovered by Austin.

    Yeah, I kind of felt I was hiding Pablo, but then he wasn't important until he met Rigel. So I exercised an author's right of telling his capture as a sort of scouting report.

    "Gomer Pyle moment", huh? Kewlz.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Wow, where to begin. Still caught out in the freezing weather, but quite the
    industrious crew they have with them - monster snow castle of sorts to protect them from the elements - and they don't need micromanaging - oh to have such a work force - cooperative, collaborative, a little creative tension, but TEAMwork.
    Think about the Servant People culture and that industriousness makes sense -- it would be hard for them to NOT be doing something.
    I'm almost afraid to mix in Spaniards.....

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Finding residual descendants of Los Conquistadores, although it will be interesting to find out their minds once they are all together and the urgent crises of the moment - like saving Oren from having a frozen popsicle and other parts. Great, exquisitely detailed rescue - complete with sound practical advice for anyone who decides to "try this at home".
    Some of that is from personal experience, exaggerated by inclusion of tales from a rock climber, so to speak.
    If you're referring to the igloo part, well, I went reviewing and found some web sites with egregious errors, the most common of which was "Make all your blocks the same size...."!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Where is Cat - he brought Rigel and company to Ryan, now he's off somewhere, but where - trying to find a safe passage back to Casey and Dugal?
    As the Sidhe said to the Wizard.....

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    They say necessity is the mother of invention - Casey needs to get out of the valley they're trapped in, with an injured Dugal so, see curved branches, think sled runners.
    Actually, laziness is the mother of invention -- necessity is an awkward nanny. And Casey didn't want to carry wood back and forth, though he ended up moving a lot that way after all.

    BTW, the sled design there is sound -- but moving such a home-made job isn't all that easy.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    You are building so many segments to this story - the personal interaction and growth of the core team, the caretakers, now the residual conquistadores stock;
    The technological sharing and rapid advancement to maximize their opportunities against the others; the sharing and disbersement of the knowledge of the Druid repository of knowledge - and within each other, too.
    The technological situation is an interesting one. I'll give you two concepts to ponder WRT it: "ceiling", and "tools to make the tools". Those are intimately related.

    My problem with the Druid repository is restraining myself from playing Deus ex machina... Part of that problem is going to be eased by something inherent in the story, happily for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    You pack so much into each chapter.
    Sometimes I find my writing too terse. Maybe at some point I'll go back and "unabridge" this version.

    "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

  32. #332
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Coping



    Casey awoke feeling warm and cozy. He really didn’t want to move, but his bladder was sending urgent signals. But that wasn’t what had pulled him out of sleep, he realized – something was upsetting Scout. He sat up and fumbled for his stick light that Anaph had made. As he moved, the sleeping fur fell away and his amulet touched his bare chest.

    »silly two-leg | four-leg fears«== >amusement<== »wake, two-leg«

    Casey laughed in relief. No shirt, no shoes, he still needed to service his bladder. He was glad he’d put his coat down on the snow in the little entry tunnel; the snow would have killed his knees, crawling out.

    “Hey, Cat”, he called softly as he emerged into the night air. The clouds had gone away, leaving the night sky in all its glory, stars so plentiful he could hardly remember the dim, impoverished sky of his birthplace. He stood and walked to Scout, soothing his horse as he let loose in the snow.

    Cat came near enough that Scout trembled, but didn’t so much as slow to sniff the air.== »silly four-leg«== The great feline ignored the horse, just walking on by and into the igloo.

    »mate has harm«== “Yes”, Casey called softly, giving Scout a final pat and checking his blanket. He crawled hurriedly back inside. There, Cat had climbed up on his raised platform and squeezed between Dugal and the wall. “Not much room for me”, Casey observed. “I’ll be back.”

    Outside were three blocks of snow he’d meant for a windbreak at the igloo entrance but hadn’t used. He shoved them inside, one by one, crawled in after, and used them to widen the platform. When it was done, he looked at his skin and noticed that some people really do turn blue from cold. Quickly, then, he crawled in under his furs and snuggled against Dugal. He reached across and stroked Cat.

    “Your fur is really soft”, he said quietly. “It’s nice.”

    »snow coat«

    Cat’s response, though not actually in words, set Casey into almost hysterical laughter, as images marched through his head of Cat covered with that roofing product, of the igloo covered with it, of putting it on every roof in the Valley. Cat’s deep purr from the other side of Dugal made a steadying counter-melody that slowly brought him first to quiet, and then to sleep.



    Rigel didn’t give Ryan any warning when he slipped into the tent. He’d made an excuse about checking on Oran, then stripped outside the tent and crawled in, dragging his clothes, not stopping at all but slipping right under the furs and wrapping himself around his friend. After a quick hug, he began a thorough massage.

    “Is this going to have a happy ending?” Ryan asked quietly.

    “A very happy ending. A duet, I hope”, Rigel answered just as quietly. He was straddling Ryan, and he dragged his balls along the back of a bare thigh.

    “You have the nicest touch”, Ryan replied, and sighed. “I think a duet would be perfect.”

    Somewhat later they wiped sweat from each other.

    “Hey – where’s Austin?” Ryan asked. “You send him off, for privacy?”

    Rigel grinned in the darkness. “No, he had an appointment with Oran – something about a reward.” Ryan laughed into Rigel’s neck.



    At that moment Austin was, in fact, with Oran, but not just Oran: Chen had decided to give the squire his reward anyway, and the two scouts had decided to give Austin a challenge: they’d left the tent and come back in while Austin covered his eyes, and now he was supposed to figure out which was which – without a light, and without using his hands....



    Rigel’s first thought on emerging In the morning was that he must look really ragged, after all the sleep he hadn’t gotten. His second was that he couldn’t possibly look as beat as Oran, or as radiant as Austin – who kept glancing at Chen’s mid section and licking his lips.

    But he couldn’t let any of it distract him. Breakfast was already being served, and he wasn’t waiting; he went over to a fire like anyone else and served himself. He got a few disapproving looks, but when he stuck his tongue out at those faces, scowls broke before laughter’s advance. Though the Servant People had their traditions, they weren’t so accustomed to lords as to really take offense when he behaved in an un-lordly fashion.

    He was sitting when Ryan crawled from the tent, a mellow grin on his face as he looked at Rigel eating. “Go ingest some edibles”, Rigel told him, “and stop trying to decide which sauce to serve me with.” The mellow grin became a big one, and he got a kiss on the cheek as Ryan went by.



    When he went out in the morning the first thing he saw was the pair of rabbits Cat had brought them, lying frozen and stiff in the snow. Casey discovered that frozen rabbits don’t skin so easily. He got the fire going and set them by it, wondering again how to do a fire in an igloo so heat wouldn’t go out with the smoke. An idea for that came while he sat looking at the ridges off toward the north: they looked like stair-steps.

    Before he implemented his inspiration, he checked the rabbits and made tea. Cat lay between Dugal’s legs, huge front paws resting on mere human hips, eyes watching Dugal’s face intently.

    »head cracked«

    “I know”, Casey said. “But I can’t fix it. He needs Anaph or Lumina.”

    »Life-bearer | Life-weaver«

    “Yeah, I guess. Okay, I need him to drink this.” Casey scooted over to the platform. He couldn’t hold Dugal’s head with his knees this time; Cat filled too much of the platform. He set the cup down and stuffed Dugal’s shirt on the far side of his head. “Hope that’s enough”, he commented. He got Dugal’s mouth open with one hand and poured slowly with the other. Maybe a quarter of the tea trickled down onto the fur. A sudden urge made him lean down and slurp it up.



    Rigel heard someone mutter, “Lords!” as Ryan moved on by. Let them mutter, he thought. After yesterday, we earned the privilege of kissing on the cheek in public – and Austin certainly earned his reward!

    He assessed the snowshoe situation: both of Oran’s needed repair. Chen had one more finished, and another almost so. Eight partially-finished ones were lined up, ranging from just having cross-pieces to ready for final wrapping and trimming.

    Chen came and joined him. “I’ll finish that one first”, he decided, taking a seat by Rigel. “But no one’s wearing them till I test them. And I’m not going to do that until I have Oran’s set repaired. Then, I do that” – he pointed with his chin – “pair, and we’ll have three sets.”

    “How soon?”

    “Mid-afternoon.”



    Casey stepped away from the entrance to his igloo, now stripped of its entrance structure, until the short staff he’d cut – about the length of a ski pole – touched the igloo at its base right next to the opening. Then he turned in place, drawing a line in the snow to mark a circle. If he but his blocks outside the circle, the new dome would be huge; if he put it inside, it might not be big enough.

    Scout whinnied, and that sent Casey’s thoughts in a new direction: if the wind came up again, his horse would have no shelter. Maybe there was something he could do about that. A moment with his eyes closed let him recall the direction of the storm winds. With a sigh, he scuffed out the circle and moved around the edge of his igloo about sixty degrees. Have to move the door, he told himself. Once he’d drawn his new circle, he did that first. It was easy enough; just carve an arch with his knife, knock the blocks out of the hole, and use them to fill the original entry.

    He cut the new door lower, digging into the snow. Then he began slicing blocks just inside of his line, setting them along the outside of it. When he finished, he had a new wall about fifty centimeters high. Since he had more time for this new dome, he decided to go with the spiral method. First he drew a line on the inside of his blocks, starting at the ground where he wanted the door and rising slowly to the top of the block on the other side. He adjusted it in three places. Satisfied, Casey cut carefully along his line, not level but with a slight inward slope.

    Break time, he decided, and went to check on Dugal. Cat was gone, snuck away silently, but he’d left evidence he’d been there: the hair around the wound on Dugal’s head had been carefully licked away in all directions. What that revealed made Casey feel sick: there was a dent in Dugal’s skull.== »strong« ==came Cat’s ‘voice’ in his head. Casey couldn’t decide if Cat was telling him to be strong, or meant that Dugal was strong. He decided to believe both. Since there was nothing else to do – he was no skull surgeon! – he set to turning one of the rabbits into food. His hunger had fled at the sight of Dugal’s injury, but Dugal needed whatever Casey could get into him.



    Rigel rode with Ewan to some fresh snow, to practice with snowshoes. Oran and Austin both were back in bed, getting needed rest after their ordeal the day before. Neither scout nor squire had said anything the night before, but Austin had been hypothermic – nothing that a tangle of naked bodies hadn’t been able to handle, though – and that had left his body weary. Until they were back up and about, Rigel meant to go with Ewan to push their trail closer to Casey.

    Ewan took to snowshoes like born to them. They drove Rigel crazy, though; he couldn’t manage to walk without banging his ankles when he lifted on shoe over the other. It was easier when he followed Ewan’s path, though, so he settled for that much. Ewan was the scout, anyway, he reasoned.

    So they set out on Oran’s path, which now had a light coat of snow on it. After a while Rigel got a rhythm going, and found himself humming “Oh When the Saints Go Marching In”. Having a tune helped him settle into the lift-swing-down pattern, almost like it was a dance. All at once, the whole thing got easier, and he found himself not quite enjoying it, but not hating it any longer.



    Casey realized he’d made a mistake in his design: the two igloo domes shouldn’t be just touching, they should be overlapping. But he wasn’t about to redo the foundation and the row of blocks on top of it. While he thought about that, he crawled in and gave Dugal some more tea, and had some himself. Crawling back out was what gave him the idea he needed: he could build a midget dome between the two, or, better still, just an arched passage, like a half-pipe upside down.

    It would be stronger, he decided, if he integrated his connecting crawl tunnel with the new dome. That required a little extra thought, and some tricky carving of blocks each time his spiral came around. The work did give him the idea of making the same sort of tunnel as an entrance to the new dome. That slowed the pace some, but by the time he ran out of snow inside his new wall he had a good start on both crawl spaces.

    Thinking about hauling snow from farther away reminded him that he hadn’t finished his sled. He checked on Dugal – and could have kicked himself for an idiot; his friend had wet himself, and the igloo reeked. Well, I was thinking about ventilation anyway, he told himself, and proceeded to carve a hole in the side of the dome, right at the level of the sleeping platform. Then it was off to the trees.

    Casey felt like he nearly jumped out of his skin when Cat dropped down beside him. “Hey!” he hollered. “Don’t do that!”

    >amusement<== »two-legs poor use two-eyes«

    “Okay, I should have been looking. Lousy scout, huh?”

    Cat’s reply was a smack across the butt with his tail.

    Finishing the sled was the work of twenty minutes. He began to worry about Dugal. The moment he looked back toward the igloo, Cat stopped ambushing clumps of snow and streaked off that direction. He was back faster than Casey could have crawled into the igloo.

    »mate rests well«

    “Thanks, Cat.” Casey looked at his unexpected friend. “I can’t just call you Cat. Do you have a name?”

    >blur-streaking-over-hill-catching-rabbits<

    “Wow – that whole thing’s your name? Um... shall I call you ‘Streaker’, or ‘Catcher’?”

    Casey blushed brilliant scarlet as two images came into his mind: the first was himself, naked, running along a dry streambed; the second was clearly one of the Celt lads offering his rear end to someone else. “Um, I like ‘Streaker’ better”, he stammered. The image of him running returned, but now with Cat running with him. Then the Cat-image’s fur vanished – plainly his feline friend had grasped the concept of “streaking”. Laughter took away the embarrassment.

    “Okay, you’re Streaker now.” Carefully, he scratched his friend under the chin, watching out for the spines.

    >hairless-happy-hunter<== The image Casey got was himself, naked, stalking through tall grass, bow in hand and arrow nocked. “Is that my name?” he asked. The only reply he got was a rough lick on his elbow. Right then he really wanted to hug Streaker, but the spines were intimidating. So he tried to send an image of himself hugging the big cat. Streaker wriggled and purred.

    Casey tossed a bunch of wood on his sled, tied a rope to the front corners, and set off to the igloo. When the sled bogged down, Streaker put weight on the back so it rode up high. The trek exhausted Casey. Before he crawled into the igloo, though, he stripped and let the sun dry him. Then he went in to curl up with Dugal – except Dugal was in wet clothes, so first he had to carefully undress him. By the time that was done, he felt energetic again, and went back out to work, first unloading the wood, then getting dressed.



    Ewan went straight up the crest for a look at the situation. Rigel caught up with him three seconds later. “Oran’s way was shorter”, Ewan said, “but the other side is more level. I like safer over shorter.”

    Rigel agreed. “Oran was in a hurry to get to Casey, I think.”

    Ewan nodded. “Being in a hurry is a mistake, so says Master Chen. Can you turn in one spot?”

    Rigel realized he didn’t have the slightest idea how to do that, and said so.

    “Don’t start till I say”, Ewan instructed. “You lift one foot, turn all the way around on the other, set the first foot down, then lift your other foot and straighten out. Try it.”

    For his first try, Rigel thought he didn’t do too badly, except for the part about almost slipping down the side of the crest. But it worked, and that was good enough, so they set off down, and turned right at the bottom. Rigel waited at the Y. Not even five minutes later, Ewan came back. “It’s lumpy in there. And the snow above looks like it could slide.”

    Rigel looked where Ewan had been, then up the crest. Inspiration struck. “Let’s go back and get axes”, he told the scout.

    Ewan laughed. “Brute force”, he said. “Did I say that right?”

    “Perfectly” Rigel replied. “Come on, brute, let’s go do some force.”

    Chen had another pair of snowshoes almost done when they got back to camp. Rigel decided to grab something hot to drink and a nibble to eat, and told Ewan to do the same. Austin and Oran were up, feeling better for having had breakfast and then slept again, though the way Austin kept glancing at Oran told Rigel that they had done a bit more than just sleep. Oran caught Austin looking at him once – at his crotch, actually – and shook his head. He was grinning a little, though. No trouble there, Rigel thought. Maybe Oran can make Austin happy any time he gets too horny, now. The two were kneeling, working on more snowshoes, and only looked up and nodded at him. Oran blushed when Rigel looked down at his crotch and raised an eyebrow. Rigel grinned, and after a moment Oran grinned back. Rigel felt a moment of jealousy, till he remembered he was getting the same pleasure from someone off-limits to both of the younger pair. Then he wondered if it was going both ways with these two; he thought not, though, it just didn’t seem like Oran.

    When Ewan took the lead back up the trail, Oran was bringing up the rear on the newest set of snowshoes. All three had axes. Up on the crest, they set to chopping limbs off trees. Only when they had a big pile did they set the plan to motion, pitching the branches over the side to make any loose snow slide down now, so it wouldn’t when they were below. All three were laughing by the time they ran out of branches.

    “I’ll go check it out”, Ewan announced after they’d waited a minute to be sure nothing more was going to slide.

    “We’ll watch from up here – it’s a better view if you roll”, Oran teased.

    “I couldn’t do it for him”, Oran said quietly when Ewan was gone. “I know you were wondering. You do it for Ryan, don’t you?”

    Rigel thought his face would set his collar on fire. “Um, yeah, I do, and don’t tell anyone.”

    Oran shook his head. “Lord Rigel, you don’t get it, do you? No one cares! No, that’s wrong – we do care, and we’re happy that you two share each other and make each other happy, okay? Just like you’re glad I made Austin happy. Well, he made me happy, too – he’s really good!” He turned his head and looked into the distance, blushing.

    “You’re right – I am glad. There’s a difference with me and Ryan, though. Neither of us was ever like that till we got here. And still, what I really want is a gal.”

    Oran nodded. “Yeah, me too. I would have hit any guy who tried doing that, before. My mom said they weren’t fit to live, but my dad was in Afghanistan and shared a hole in the ground with a gay guy, and he always told mom that was just her opinion, because his gay buddy saved his life more than once, and half their unit once, and got four Purple Hearts, and anybody like that is a man no matter what he likes in his mouth.”

    “No kidding!” Rigel looked off into the distance. “But here, I keep wondering what could happen if we run into some people who think Austin should burn at the stake.”

    “Like the Spanish.” Oran kicked a clump of snow and watched the crystals sparkle as they drifted through the air. “Well, I think that armor wouldn’t stop a .357 magnum round, even if they are hollow-point.”

    Rigel laughed lightly. “Probably true. But I hope it doesn’t come to that. Austin’s had enough hell in his life. I swear, if there was any way to get back and tell his dad what I think....”

    “I’ll bring the dhroguth-tipped arrows”, Oran responded. Rigel saw nothing of humor in the scout’s face.

    “Too easy for him.”

    Oran grimaced. “Yeah. Better to get the Snatcher to drop him among some cannibals who take a month to eat him. Rigel, before here I sort of ignored gay guys. I mean, I talked to them, but thinking about what the two at the Project did off in the store room and stuff made me sick. But knowing Austin... I was so stupid! They’re just people with different urges. And besides, I knew guys who ‘went in both doors’ with their girlfriends, so it’s not like it’s all that different.”

    “I never thought of it that way”, Rigel said slowly. “You’re right, though – a lot of guys in college who said ‘fudge packers’ as an insult were doing the same thing with their girlfriends.”

    “Double standard. Like swim suits”, Oran responded. “At the Project, girls could wear itsy-bitsy bikinis and that was fine, but let a boy show up in a speedo and he was on detention.”

    “One of my – Oops, let’s go!” Rigel told him. “Ewan’s waving for us.”



    Casey’s biggest problem in hauling blocks of snow on his crude sled was they stuck together sometimes. A few broke as he unloaded, but he put the pieces to use making the wall where crawlway met dome thicker. As he shaved pieces to fit snugly, the shavings went there, too.

    Streaker came and went. Once Casey saw him chasing a deer; after that he was gone quite a while. When he returned, Casey had finished the outer crawlway and had a row of blocks above it, and was carefully setting the last roof blocks on the inner crawlway.

    “Hey!” cried Casey as Streaker came running and jumped right over the wall of the new dome. The big cat just grazed the top of the wall – with a flick of his tail that sent a small cloud of snow crystals into Casey’s face. “Rascal – you did that on purpose!”

    >amusement<

    A flood of love for the big creature welled up in Casey. Cat had been so serious; now he was playful, and caring, not just a guide, but a partner who brought food, kept Fugal warm, even helped with moving the sled. Speaking of which.... He set the last two blocks from the most recent load on the ground. “Hey, Streaker!”

    »less teeth«

    Casey almost choked. Streaker had a very earthy sense of humor! But the meaning had been serious, in spite of the playful phrasing: the image was of keeping his teeth together, not out of the way as the common use of the phrase suggested. Cat, what do you mean? he wondered.

    »better«

    Casey’s knees went weak and he tumbled into the snow. His right elbow punched a hole in the new dome, but he didn’t even notice. Did what I think just happened just happen?!

    »silly two-leg«

    Casey cried out as he suddenly looked through Streaker’s eyes at Dugal. Streaker was again licking the hair away from the head wound, then tugging the sleeping furs up more snugly. Streaker came out of the dome; Casey saw himself looking at Streaker saw Streaker looking at him. Oblivious of spines, he threw his arms around that neck with a massive hug, and cried.

    »no stone path here | no bullies«

    Memories of hiding on the streets when his father and mother argued, getting beat up by bullies at school, being shoved off the path into the brambles at a cross-country race by a bigger guy, of having to constantly back down because he was small, bubbled up and erupted like a geyser. But as a metal figure of a great cat touched human flesh, touched cat flesh, the memories changed....

    Streaker slinked into the house ahead of him, hissing and cowing his father into abject terror, his mother up on the kitchen counter, retreating, pushing herself into the corner under the cupboards »peace be in this house for cub!« The words pounded into all their heads, again and again, until Casey knew he’d never have to be afraid of home again.

    Gage came around the back corner of the gym. “Hey, weenie – gonna run again? You’re good at runnin’, huh?” Casey knew George would be circling behind him, to dive and knock him over so Gage could kick. He started to run; the only way out was past the trees at the corner, but Anton would be there. Then they’d catch him, because they were sprinters but he was a distance runner, because they always caught him. All he had to do was get away....
    But Anton burst from the trees, pants torn in the rear. Casey dove out of the way as a monstrous cat erupted from the trees, shedding branches as it sprang. He spun to watch in wonder as the great beast rolled through George, the same thing George always did to him. The bully didn’t just fall, though, he flew, tumbling through the air while the cat rebounded and rammed Gage in the gut just the way Gage did to Casey when the others held him. Words, or images, pounded in his head. »Never ever ever never!«

    The tightest spot on the run was coming up. Casey could hear the hard breathing of the guy behind him, a guy who’d been trying to pass him for two hundred meters or more, who’d tried to trip him once. He knew it was the sort of guy that considered skinny people to be targets. He pushed hard, kicking into high gear, remembering the spot ahead in the blackberry vines, a spot with just enough room to maybe pass, knowing he was going to get clobbered.
    The cat from home and school dropped out of the tree above, hissing like the air brakes on a Peterbilt, but louder, ten times louder, and sinister. Behind him there was a scream, the sounds of slipping feet, and another scream. He didn’t have to look to know the guy who’d been dogging him had gone down, fallen into the brambles. Joy lifted his feet and he spurted ahead, while the words, images pounded at him from behind: »let the runner run! let the runner be!«



    Rigel was last to the top. Ewan had steadily led them ahead, confidently leading them along, first around the outcrop on the ridge and back to the crest, down switchbacks to cross a narrow valley floor, up gradually to the top of another ridge and along it. The ridge led them down, down to the canyon filled now with the remnants of an avalanche, deadly treacherous under its coat of new snow. Ewan didn’t get within fifty meters of that bottom. Instead, he turned back cross-slope, heading into the side canyon and along it, until he found... well, found something Rigel couldn’t see was any different from the rest of the hillside, though Oran gave his approval, and up they went again.



    Casey woke up inside the igloo. From the way his shirt rose up high, he figured out that Cat – no, Streaker, had dragged him there. It was cold. Stiff, he sat up; his left hand landed on a piece of wood he didn’t remember bringing in. Yeah, he thought, the fire goes out here, so we can get warmth, but not suffocate. But I have to finish the roof....

    He checked on Dugal, shook himself to loosen up, and hauled the sled out for more blocks of snow. That load got him almost to the top. The rest he’d have to do from inside, sticking small blocks up and setting them down carefully, but he only needed six, or maybe four if he was careful.

    Fatigue hit before he finished. He stumbled and dropped the last block. It broke in two at his feet. Casey stared at it for a while, then picked up the biggest half, spit on it, and stuck it in place. Good enough, he decided when it stayed. It may not be dark, but I’m tired. Light the fire, make tea, feed Dugal.

    Of course a fire built right on frozen ground, no matter how thin the snow, smokes a lot. Casey didn’t care. He fell asleep by Dugal, heat from the fire in the other dome warming them without bringing that smoke to them. The last thought in his head before falling asleep was Where’s Streaker?



    Ewan tapped Rigel on the shoulder and pointed as Rigel came up on the ridge crest.

    “Smoke”, Oran whispered. “Rigel, he’s only one more ridge away.”

    Rigel ached inside. He could see their destination, but had to call it off. “We cant get there today, can we?” he asked. But it wasn’t either of his companions who answered. Instead, a familiar form came padding along the ridge, silence in a deadly capsule.

    “Hey, Cat”, Oran whispered. “What...?” Streaker flowed forward and got hold of Oran’s sleeve with his teeth. “Um – Rigel, I guess I’m going”, he said.

    “Then I am too”, Rigel decided.

    “No”, Oran said, “You’re not. You have to go back to the camp.”

    “I’m your lord–“

    “And that’s why you’re going back to the camp”, Oran pronounced firmly. “Rigel, you say loyalty works both ways. I say it outweighs you being a lord, sometimes. Like now. My loyalty says the lord has to go back to his people, so they know he’s with them. I’m your scout, and it’s my job to go out into crazy places for you. So you’re not coming.”

    “Ewan can gui–“

    “No, Ewan can’t. He’s good in the daylight, but that’s fading, You barely have enough time to get back to camp. So go – Ewan, don’t even help him come after. Take him back to Lord Ryan. Rigel – I gotta go.”

    "Wait!" Rigel undid the clasp and pulled off his cloak. "Take this." He added his pouch of trail snack, and a water bottle. "And these."

    Oran nodded. "All right." He threw the cloak over his own smaller one and hung the pouch and bottle from his belt.

    Cat led off, scout following at a jog, fading into the darkness.

    Rigel laughed once. “Home, Ewan”, he said wearily.





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

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

    *the number is now forty

  33. #333
    JockBoy87
    Guest

    Re: Fit for Life

    I was approaching 1000 posts and I thought to whom should I dedicate this special number?

    I thought about all the friends I've made here, and couldn't think of one I admired more.

    So I came to read the story you wanted me to read all this time, and I have to admit that I'm simply enamored by this enrapturing fantasy! Way to go Kulindahr!

  34. #334
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by JockBoy87 View Post
    I was approaching 1000 posts and I thought to whom should I dedicate this special number?

    I thought about all the friends I've made here, and couldn't think of one I admired more.

    So I came to read the story you wanted me to read all this time, and I have to admit that I'm simply enamored by this enrapturing fantasy! Way to go Kulindahr!
    Welcome aboard, Matt! Wonderful to see that you found this amazing story! It's good to know that You're "here"!

    Kuli! What can I say?? This latest chapter was so Moving, in so many ways! The bonds between these Guys, and "Streaker", too, are truly from The Heart! You nearly managed to bring tears to my eyes in several places, here!

    We also learned a bit more about Oran, Casey, and their "past". The additional depth given to your characters is Much appreciated!

    I am now, even more than before (if that's possible), very much looking forward to More!!

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

  35. #335
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by JockBoy87 View Post
    I was approaching 1000 posts and I thought to whom should I dedicate this special number?

    I thought about all the friends I've made here, and couldn't think of one I admired more.

    So I came to read the story you wanted me to read all this time, and I have to admit that I'm simply enamored by this enrapturing fantasy! Way to go Kulindahr!
    [in an alternate reality....]


    "You honor us by your presence, Lord Jockboy", Aidanna declared.

    "Beyond doubt", Ocean affirmed.

    The Eldest among them, bent and stooped, looked him over as though seeing through his clothes. "Honored, indeed!" croaked Maolmin. "And such a fair form!"

    Franagh giggled and gave JockBoy a second look, speculative.

    "Mind your manners, girl", Bebhin chided. "Keep your dignity."

    "Dignity?" Maolmin cackled. "Send this one to lords Ryan and Rigel of a night, all in their bare skin, and then speak of dignity!"

    Aidanna chuckled. "Perhaps so, Eldest. Should his presence bring pleasure, that, too, is honor."




    "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. #336
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Welcome aboard, Matt! Wonderful to see that you found this amazing story! It's good to know that You're "here"!
    Ditto that, and more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyanimal View Post
    Kuli! What can I say?? This latest chapter was so Moving, in so many ways! The bonds between these Guys, and "Streaker", too, are truly from The Heart! You nearly managed to bring tears to my eyes in several places, here!

    We also learned a bit more about Oran, Casey, and their "past". The additional depth given to your characters is Much appreciated!
    I had to deal with tears, writing that about Casey's past. I should give acknowledgment for the source of the concept, there; it arose from C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia -- I'd specify which book, but it's been too long. It also owes some to certain counseling concepts.

    "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

  37. #337
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Kuli,
    Another great installment. The duality of the chapter - bouncing back and forth between Casey, Dugal, and Streaker and Rigel/Ryan and the Rescue party was extremely interesting - seeing the progress of both camps.

    I really am enjoying the interplay between Casey and Streaker - the "Earth Scene" images was surreal - I think I need to re-read it to totally grasp everything - Casey seems to know that there will no longer be a problem at home if he ever gets back there - could Streaker image himself to his parents, and the neighborhood assholes?

    The comments about Austin ~ and the possible reactions of the Spaniards is a bit disconcerting.

    Casey is certainly working hard to keep them as comfortable/safe as possible.
    I hope Scout doesn't freeze to death - or have a heart attack from Streaker.



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

  38. #338
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Kuli,
    Another great installment. The duality of the chapter - bouncing back and forth between Casey, Dugal, and Streaker and Rigel/Ryan and the Rescue party was extremely interesting - seeing the progress of both camps.
    Something that struck me during the three re-reads involved in editing was how the stranded seem to be having more success than the rescuers....

    BTW -- isn't it nice that Cat actually has a name now? I'm not sure I managed to illustrate the nature of his name well enough, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    I really am enjoying the interplay between Casey and Streaker - the "Earth Scene" images was surreal - I think I need to re-read it to totally grasp everything - Casey seems to know that there will no longer be a problem at home if he ever gets back there - could Streaker image himself to his parents, and the neighborhood assholes?
    Oh, goodie -- I was sufficiently insufficiently specific, and left questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    The comments about Austin ~ and the possible reactions of the Spaniards is a bit disconcerting.
    Well, the story does seek to address gay issues... and just remember one of the things for which Spain is infamous at the period of history!

    On a secondary level, it's a statement that rarely are there unmixed blessings.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Casey is certainly working hard to keep them as comfortable/safe as possible.
    I hope Scout doesn't freeze to death - or have a heart attack from Streaker.
    I'm a little worried about Scout, too, though Streaker is really more an annoyance than anything.

    BTW, there's another reason Casey is working so hard.

    "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. #339
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Responses


    Rita and Lumina sat together at a table in the cabin Pedhrûánåg had gotten constructed for use as a sort of office for any of Rigel’s House who might need one when in the Village.. Their tea cups were empty, the fire was low. Anaph sat alone in a corner, seemingly meditating on a piece of bloody linen which Lumina had brought him.

    “So I’ll see the children first thing after breakfast”, Lumina agreed. “Rita, is there anything else the Wise Women want? This is wearing me out.”

    “I know”, Rita sighed. “They want everything fixed overnight. But I’ll tell a secret: it’s not the women so much as the Elders. If they’d stay out of it, I could handle the women.”

    Lumina stared at here, then snorted. “No one can ‘handle’ that old magpie Maolmin.”

    Rita sighed again. “She doesn’t need handled, Lumina – she sees better than the rest of them combined. Life! Sometimes I think Bebhin is right, and she’s the original Wise Woman.”

    Lumina nodded wearily. “Six months ago, I would have said that was pure fantasy. Here... I have no problems entertaining it as a hypothesis.”

    “Or pure science fiction”, Rita responded. “Ryan still mutters about scientific explanations. Heard his latest?”

    “Hit me.”

    “We’re in a different universe and there are some different laws.”

    “Will that get me a hot tub and back rub?”

    The two looked at each other and laughed.

    “I have notes to make”, Lumina said.

    “Don’t get chilled.” Rita draped a cloak over the back of the high chair facing the fireplace and hooked it around the Healer’s knees. She spared a glance for Anaph, who didn’t even appear to be breathing. She doubted he was aware of the world at all, unless something passed the threshold of his.... She shook her head, at a loss for how to explain the way Anaph was suddenly back, dealing with the world fully when a microsecond before you could have dumped tea in his lap and he wouldn’t have reacted.



    “We need the Healer!” Daly called out as he, Conal, and Gustus rode into Servant Village. Cold and wet, they hadn’t slowed since reaching the floor of the Valley. “We seek the Healer!”

    Anyone on horse drew attention, even in the failing light. Hoof beats alone brought inquisitive looks; when a rider was yelling, a response was certain.. A door opened, and a figures in long skirt and long shawl stepped out. “Who seeks the Healer?”

    The three lads sent by Austin rode closer. “Wise Woman, I’m Daly, of Lumberer Village, now of Lord Rigel. Squire Austin bid us ride swiftly to bring the Healer.”

    Franagh turned and spoke with someone inside, then closed the door behind her. “Healer Lumina is with the Druid Anaph. Come.” She lifted her skirts and set off at a brisk walk. The was no need for her to look back; when a Wise Woman spoke, Servant People heeded. She wended her way through the random clusterings of huts, finally passing out of the village proper and up to a cabin of log walls, brick pillars, and wooden shingle roof. There, she walked up and slapped the door three times. It swung open.

    “Ah, Ritagh”, Franagh said, greeting Rita with a kiss on the forehead. “Squire Austin has sent lads to bring the Healer, and that swiftly.”

    Lumina jumped up from the seat where she was writing on a thin sheet of leather. “Is Rigel hurt? Where’s this messenger?” Franagh waved to Daly, motioning for him to get down and enter. Lumina repeated her question as the young rider looked about wide-eyed at a room very different from anything he’d ever seen.

    “Not when we left, Healer. But he was setting out to rescue a scout cut off by an avalanche.”

    What Daly had taken for a cloth thrown over something as a cover stood and turned. The Healer inspired respect in him; the Druid... awe that was almost fear. “Who was killed?” Anaph demanded in a soft voice.

    “A... Afal, lord Druid. M...m... maybe D...Dugal.”

    “I’m not a lord”, Anaph informed him. “And you don’t have to be afraid. Afal – a rider?”

    “Yes, l... lo– um, sir.” Lumina put a hand on Daly’s shoulder and smiled at him; he visibly calmed. “He was last in the column as Lord Ryan and his men fled the avalanche. Dugal is a scout -- well, he’s training. He’s a friend of Scout Casey.”

    “Casey’s missing, then”, Lumina concluded.

    “I – yes. And Dugal, if he isn’t dead.”

    Anaph turned to Lumina. “Do you have a horse yet?”

    She nodded. “LifeWind, a strong mare. But I can’t ride at night.” She glanced at Daly, nervous about his reaction, but there was none.

    “That would be foolish anyway”, Rita declared. “We’ll leave at first light.”

    Lumina shook her head. “I have children to heal at first light. We can leave after that.”

    Anaph nodded his agreement, then turned to Daly. “Please find Hedraing for me. Bring him right here. He and the three of you should cras– um, sleep here tonight.”

    “Leave your horses at the stable by the Lodge”, Rita instructed.

    Daly bowed. “Wise Woman”, he answered, spun on the ball of his foot and left at a run.

    “Ritagh – you may not go”, Franagh reminded the newest Wise Woman. Newest usually meant youngest, but Rita was slightly older than Franagh. Aidanna had explained that since Ritagh was not of the Servant People, this wasn’t a problem, but Franagh still oscillated between treating Rita as higher, then lower, than herself.

    Rita chuckled wearily. “I know, sister. Besides, while I might enjoy riding, I don’t enjoy that much snow. A few snowmen, balls tossed with the children, and then back to a warm fire is how I prefer my snow.”

    “You said ‘we’, Ritagh”.

    Rita sighed. It seemed to be an evening for sighs. “Habit, I guess. I’m not used to being a Wise Woman enough. Franagh, Rigel’s House was my family, my people, my world for – well, it seems like forever. Everything was ‘we’, everything had to be ‘we’, or... or we wouldn’t have lived. I’m not – Life! none of us is used to being apart. Lumina, Ocean, master Chen, we all get uneasy when we’re apart like this. Rigel doesn’t show it much, but he’s torn in every direction that any of us goes. Anaph probably doesn’t feel it as much, he’s so tied into everything alive, but I know he suffers, too.”

    Franagh led her to a chair and took one herself. “You come to me as Wise Woman?”

    Rita did a double-take but quickly grinned. “Yes, I do.” Franagh had just offered to put the conversation on a basis like being under the seal of the confessional for a Catholic priest. “And that’s a good idea – thank you, Franagh. I haven’t been able to talk with anyone about this. Maybe I need to talk to Rigel.... I think what he’s doing, all the work here, is trying to keep us together, trying to make a place where his care extends to his House no matter how we get spread apart. We need him, but he needs us. That’s why he rode out like he did – he’s terribly afraid he’ll lose any of us.”

    “Yet if it helps bind us all, and make us strong–“

    “But that’s the trouble! If he worries about us, that’s a weakness!”

    “But if he does not worry, would not that mean he does not care?”

    Rita sighed yet again. That made her giggle. “I’m too tired. Winter....”

    “Not enough light. Life suffers. Yet is not winter necessary for life to thrive again?”

    Rita knew Franagh wasn’t talking about plants and animals. She closed her eyes, squeezed them shut. “He needs to know there will be winters... yes, he needs to be able to care without needing to be our... our guarantee of no harm. Living things have to face winter, and so do we.”

    “You understood already”, Franagh said. “This wisdom came from you.”

    It was the standard Wise Woman summation, but it didn’t sound trite at all. She really had understood, Rita knew, she just hadn’t been able to articulate it just talking to herself. “Thank you”, she responded.


    Hedraing, Pedhrûánåg, Daly, Conal, and Gustus lay in a row near the door. Though wrapped in sleeping furs, they weren’t asleep, but whispering back and forth. Lumina lifted her head from her cot by the fire and sent them a withering glance.

    Anaph, in a chair on the other side of the fire, set a finger to his lips and winked at the Healer. As silently as Chen might have managed, he stood and crossed the room. None of the five by the door noticed him at all until he squatted by their heads. “You need rest”, he told them softly but firmly, tapping each on turn on the forehead, “so unless someone comes to the door, you should sleep.” At the word “sleep”, their eyelids fluttered, they yawned, heads rolled and settled, eyes closed, and they slept. Grinning like a teenager who’d just won the lottery, Anaph strutted back across the room to his chair.

    “How’d you do that?” Lumina asked in amazement.

    “If you were a Druid, I could show you”, Anaph semi-teased. “But... watch some people fall asleep. There’s a difference between the... waves of their life flow when asleep and awake. I... sort of added and subtracted from the waking waves to get the sleeping waves. Mostly subtracted.”

    “You sound like Ryan”, she told him. “He thinks in waves and particles, for energy.”

    Anaph shrugged. “Life is energy.”

    “Maybe he’s right, and this is science.”

    Anaph laughed. “Of course it’s science.” He paused, grinning, and she joined in the next line” “There is no magic.” “Now, do you need help sleeping?” he offered.

    “What about you?” she countered.

    He shook his head seriously. “I sleep faster than you do. I have some more thinking to do.” The Druid picked up his bloody rag again, for her to see.

    “It’s blood, Anaph, and a dead disease. What can you learn from a dead disease?”

    “Healer, you deal with life. Once things are dead, you’re like blind. I see them... like one pic taken from a video. I learn from the parts.”

    “I thought Druids dealt with life”, Lumina objected.

    “Everything’s alive”, he asserted. “Now sleep.”

    “Just don’t tap my forehead”, she teased.

    So he got up, bent over, and kissed her there instead. Lumina fell asleep immediately.

    Anaph put a chunk of oak on the coals, picked up his piece of rag, and sat down again with it on his knee. If anyone had stopped by to see, he would have looked like a statue.



    “More tea, girl!” Maolmin cackled, as though having Rita serve her breakfast was sheer entertainment. Placid, Rita complied. “Now, you say the Healer is getting worn out, do you?”

    “Eldest, you know she is! And Ocean, too. These mothers hear the remedy they need from an herb woman, but they insist their children just have to see Lumina anyway, or won’t believe the prescription unless it comes from Ocean!” Rita replied.

    “But the Healer won’t say no, will she?” Maolmin shook her toast at Rita’s face, close enough Rita could smell it.

    “She’s too new to this. She still sees every injury in the village as a personal insult. Now she’s going to be gone, and Ocean will face them alone. She’s about ready to just go up to Cavern Castle and hide from them all.”

    Maolmin sighed. She’d watched the same thing over and over, with herb women and Wise Women and anyone else eager to help others. She knew what Rita wanted, but she also knew it was the wrong way to do things. “Ritagh, I will not speak to the mothers for you. The girls must do that for themselves.” She nibbled at her toast, washed it down with tea, and hiccupped. “Perhaps we Wise Women ought hear about the new herb knowledge your Ocean brings us”, she said as though musing over a new thought. “Perhaps we ought bid her join us – for we Wise Women ought to know what our herb women can do, eh?” Rita stared, not immediately following this change of thought. “How long do you think we ought ask, for this hearing? Might three days suffice?”

    Rita laughed. Three days without Lumina or Ocean? The mothers would go mad – or remember that they had managed with their own herb women many years before she and the rest had all arrived with Rigel. “Three, or perhaps four – and I think having the Healer’s comments, once she returns, might be helpful, too. We should know clearly what needs a Healer’s attention and what can be done with herbs.”

    Maolmin cackled. “Ah, so we ought, so we ought! Now go, girl, and bring our sisters. We must decide this together!” The eldest of all the Servant People was still cackling when Rita shut the door behind her. No, she said to herself, no one can manage Maolmin – but she can manage anyone and everyone, once she decides to.


    Snow was falling when Lumina finished with the children mothers had brought. Ocean looked unhappy about being left without the Healer to share the load of demands, so Lumina took her aside briefly. “Don’t worry – as the Sidhe said to the wizard: patience.” Ocean looked at her with a puzzled frown; Lumina just smiled back; Rita hadn’t told anyone but her, though even she had no details, just the word that things would be “taken care of”.

    Much of the village was gathered around the ‘office’ when she got there. LifeWind and her gear were all ready, and a village lad stood holding the mare, his eyes wide with awe at the privilege – and at the horse. Anaph stood on the porch, intent on conversation with Eraigh, who looked quite serious about whatever Anaph was telling him. Hedraing stood holding Gloaming, Anaph’s stallion, as well as his own steed. Daly, Conal, and Gustus were re-checking all the packs under Pedhrûánåg’s detailed and thorough supervision.

    When people started making a path for the Healer, Maolmin, Bebhin, and Aidanna walked up onto the porch. Anaph turned to see what was going on. Slowly at first, then quickly, silence spread through the crowd at the unexpected appearance of the Wise Women. Lumina noticed that no Elders were there; Anaph made the same observation and caught her eye, a raised eyebrow asking what she knew. She grinned quickly and winked.

    Aidanna tended to be their spokeswoman, but it was Bebhin who stepped up after Maolmin had banged her cane against a post for attention, as though her mere appearance barely after dawn on a freezing day in winter wasn’t demand enough. “So many of you are here to see our Healer off”, the second eldest Wise Woman began. “We wished to take counsel of her, but she is needed by the good lord Rigel. While she is away, we shall take counsel of herb woman Ocean, and then hear from the Healer when she returns. While we hear these words, make no requests of either.” That bluntly, Bebhin turned and walked with Maolmin off the porch, followed by Aidanna. Franagh and Rita, meanwhile, had appeared at Ocean’s side, and took her by the arms to follow the Wise Women. Village mothers stared in shock as Ocean was taken from them at the same time that Lumina – doing her best not to laugh – swung up on LifeWind.

    Pedhrûánåg mounted last, a bare two seconds after Lumina. With a flick of the reins, he led off, leaving no one any chance to ask questions.


    Anaph rode beside Lumina. “You have to learn to tell them no”, he said without preliminaries, a minute away from the village. “They’re wearing you out.”

    “I can’t refuse to Heal”, she protested.

    The Druid took her elbow and squeezed till Lumina faced him. “Does Rigel do everything himself? all the hunting and scouting and building?”

    “What does that have to do with it?”

    “Everything. You’re trying to do that. Rigel would be an idiot to do things that way, and so are you. If he tried to do it all, we’d feel dissed, right? Well, you’re dissing Ocean, and you and Ocean are dissing all the village herb women. I may be a kid, but I’m not blind: gobs of those kids you take care of only need Ocean. And most of the ones Ocean takes care of only need their own herb women. When you do what they should be, you dis them hard.” Lumina didn’t answer, just set her lips firmly and jaw more so. “I bet my staff the Wise Women are telling Ocean the same thing. They’ll be telling you, too, when you get back. If you could learn to sleep faster like I do, you’d still get worn out.
    “Your job isn’t to do everything for everyone, it’s to do the things only you can do. My job isn’t to do everything, either – I could tell crops to grow well, and tell weeds not to grow in the fields, but those aren’t my jobs. The farmers have that job. If some weed comes along that they can’t pull or kill, then it’s my job. Your job is to take care of the same things, the things you can do and no one else. If I tried to do all the crops and weeds, I‘d get worn out, and end up useless. And if you keep trying to Heal everyone when Healing isn’t needed, you’re going to be worn out and useless.”

    “You’ve been talking with Rita”, Lumina said, like it was an accusation.

    “I’ve been listening. There’s a difference.” He pulled out his bloody rag again. “Now, I’m going to study this, which is something only I can do.” Anaph’s concentration fell on the piece of cloth, and he was gone to the world. It ended the conversation as effectively as hanging up a phone.

    Lumina rode in silence, unhappy; she didn’t like what Anaph had said, and she really didn’t like that he was right, and she really, really, really didn’t like that she’d already known it but had ignored herself.


    Snow fell heavily, huge fluffy flakes that came down more like wood chips than feathers. Anaph’s outer awareness pulled him from his study; he tapped into the reach of that other set of senses, then sent Gloaming a command. They galloped forward to Pedhrûánåg.

    “Squire, this is going to get bad. If we run a while, we’ll be through it faster”, he told their de facto commander.

    Pedhrûánåg frowned at Anaph. “You can tell the weather?”

    Anaph grinned. “No, but many of the animals can, and I listen to them.”

    The Celt squire looked startled for a moment. His glance over at Gloaming told Anaph the young man was recalling how the stallion got orders from the Druid without words or touches. “Then we shall hurry”, Pedhrûánåg said a moment later.” He gave a hand signal; those who understood it moved their horses faster, and the rest followed their example. Shortly, the monstrous wet flakes were slapping them all over as they galloped into the squall.

    Pedhrûánåg eased off the speed slowly, even before they were free of the sudden flurry. Soon they were riding calmly again; soon after, the sun emerged and began to dry them. Yet soon enough he switched from a walk to a trot again. No one objected; his sense of urgency was also theirs.

    They broke at noon for a quick, cold meal and rest. Anaph went around to all the horses, touching each with a finger and whispering to it. Lumina made the rounds of riders, dealing with sore throats and incipient blisters and skin rubbed raw. She attended to Conal’s mount, which had started favoring its left hind leg, after Anaoh mentioned that to her. Then it was back to walk, trot, gallop, trot, walk, trot, gallop....

    The closer they got to the hills, they more snow fell. It was never constant, just flurries. Each one brought snow that was drier than the one before, so after the fourth they were galloping through them more to get back to the sunshine, and to enjoy the flakes streaming past, than to avoid them, since snow had stopped meaning getting soaked. But the clouds to the northwest grew ever darker. Pedhrûánåg pushed the pace harder.

    As darkness came, Anaph dropped to the rear and set his staff on his knee.. The markings at the top glowed, aiming forward. Its brilliance grew as the sun’s light faded, leaving them with illumination like that of late afternoon.

    Lumina dropped back to ride with the Druid. “Those shadows are getting dangerous”, she pointed out. “It’s hard to see what’s right ahead.” Anaph nodded, thought for a moment, then moved to ride alongside the little column. Sideways shadows were possibly distracting, but at least they didn’t hide the ground in front of the horses.

    After a time Anaph didn’t bother to measure, he sent Hedraing to tell Pedhrûánåg they were close to their goal. “I can feel all the life in one place”, he explained. “When you come back, you try.” Only when his apprentice vanished into the falling snow did the Druid realize how heavily the white stuff was coming down. Much more, and his light would be troublesome – and in fact, when he dimmed it and limited it to a more downward beam, Hedraing became visible again, talking to Pedhrûánåg. He saw the squire nod, then lift a hand to signal to shift to a slower walk.

    Moments later yellowish glows ahead told them of campfires in the snow.






    "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. #340
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Good Morning, Kuli.
    Another fine installment.
    The healers take a lesson from the wise women, and really from their inner selves.

    How many of us have made the same mistake at one point or another?
    Trying to do everything possible ourselves, instead of performing triage on "an event" and doling out responsibilities to others.

    Many hands make light work as the saying goes.
    We may be better at something than someone else, at least in our own minds, but that doesn't mean that someone else CAN'T do it, and Shouldn't.

    Valuable life lessons for our young friends who find themselves servants of those in a servant village.

    What did our Lord say, "Let you who would be first, be last," as he knelt to wash the feet of His disciples . . . .

    You continue to craft Life's message in all of the actions of the players in your epic story.

    Thanks, again, for devoting so much time and energy to this project.



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

  41. #341
    JUB Addict
    harry113's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Deepest rural Devon
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    2,534

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Hi Kuli, You are a prolific author
    At last I have caught up, I hope!!
    I was away from JUB for a while after my last post.
    When I returned I was amazed to find back-to-back chapters of this wonderful story. Thank you Thank you!

    This is a marvelous (Computer?) Quest. A Classic .... collecting Wisdom, Torcs and Stones and the rest in order to make our group more powerful to meet the enemy.
    Your editing and proofreading make this most enjoyable to read.

    Look forward to the next installment
    Harry

  42. #342
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Many hands make light work as the saying goes.
    This guy is getting a tour of a resort where he's thinking of buying a condo. They go by the swimming pool, and there's a Native American up in the rafters, following a cable.

    The guy asks his guide, "Who's that up there?!"

    Guide says, "Oh, that's Many Hands, our handyman."

    "'Many Hands'?"

    "Yes, Many Hands makes lights work."

    "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

  43. #343
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Good Morning, Kuli.
    Another fine installment.
    The healers take a lesson from the wise women, and really from their inner selves.

    How many of us have made the same mistake at one point or another?
    Trying to do everything possible ourselves, instead of performing triage on "an event" and doling out responsibilities to others.
    Some of the worst situations in my life have come from an inability to say "No". I think that runs rampant in our society with its emphasis on sharing, helping, and all, where there's nearly a concept that the more talented you are, the more of a slave you should be.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Many hands make light work as the saying goes.
    We may be better at something than someone else, at least in our own minds, but that doesn't mean that someone else CAN'T do it, and Shouldn't.
    I once had a boss who said that if I can do something better and faster than someone else, my job was to show them how and go find something else -- because if I could do that better and faster, there were probably things they couldn't do at all, and those were what I should be doing.

    "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. #344
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Questions


    Davis Davis scowled at the pile of paperwork his secretary had arranged tidily on his desk before he got to work. He wondered, once again, why he’d ever caved in and accepted this job. The governor had been happy with his work, until the governor’s race for the Senate had resulted in a re-count; for a week, Governor Templeton hadn’t been happy with anyone’s work.

    He knew the governor’s reasons, of course: having him as special investigator in the capital meant he was under the governor’s thumb, easier to keep silent about that strange automobile accident. His wife Cora had been thrilled at the offer, and he supposed that was why he’d taken the job. The salary was almost double, the health coverage was just astounding, and whatever he set aside for Randy’s and Christina’s college was matched by the state. So they’d gotten a simple house, and a thousand dollars a month was going into each of his children’s college savings accounts – two thousand, once the state matched it. By the time they finished high school, Randy would have a sweet one hundred twenty thousand plus interest for college; Tina would have one hundred forty-four thousand.

    He picked up the first file of the day: suspicion of misdirection of funds by state Senator Howard Marcai. That was the sort of thing for which the office of special investigator had been established: to conduct discreet inquiries into allegations against politicians, so there wouldn’t be anything in the public eye unless and until the special investigator decided there was enough to take to a grand jury.

    In this case he suspected the allegations were true: Marcai’s grandfather had been a local mob figure, running everything from protection scams to brothels to embezzlement from a firm the family had acquired under suspicious circumstances. The father had taken the family wealth legitimate, but had been indicted three different times for embezzlement – though never convicted. Davis suspected that the legitimization of the family “business” hadn’t been as thorough as advertised, and that a third generation was now implementing a family tradition. If it was true, then the tradition had gone a bit too far: embezzling from the state just wasn’t too bright.

    A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. “Come in”, he called, expecting Pela – an Indonesian name, he thought – with yet another file for him. He was surprised when two men in dark suits and dark glasses walked through the door instead. He rose and came around his desk to meet them. “Assistant chief special investigator Davis”, he said, extending his hand.

    The shorter of the tow men accepted the offered hand and shook. “Special Agent Franz Mbutu”, he said. “This is Special Agent Schwartzentruber.”

    Davis was privately amused at the names: a German first name with an African – Zulu, maybe? – last name, and the longest last name he’d heard in his life. “FBI”, he noted as the two special agents proffered their credentials. “Does one of my cases deserve such attention? Oh – just a moment.” Turning, he pressed the intercom button on his desk. Pela, hold all calls and any other visitors. And bring the coffee and donuts in here. Thanks.
    “So – what can I do for the federal government today?”

    “Nothing to do with anything on your desk”, Special Agent Schwartzentruber assured him. “This involves a different case, one you were involved in before your, shall we say, fortuitous advancement in the world of law enforcement.”

    Davis knew immediately exactly what the agent meant. “The Monument Circle incident.”

    “Precisely”, Mbutu agreed. “Where seventeen young people were dead before impact. We want to know what killed them, and how. So we’re questioning everyone who was at the scene in any official capacity.”

    “May I ask how you learned about this?”

    “An anonymous message left on the Bureau’s website. We have a service where people can leave information on cases in progress or cases they feel deserve the Bureau’s attention. In this case we traced it to the half-brother of one of the victims.”

    Davis Davis nodded. As weird as the case had been, he understood quite well why a relative would want more investigation. And under the governor’s heavy hand, there hadn’t been much activity looking into it. “So what’s the Bureau’s angle?”

    “Homeland Security sifts through our cases to see if they find anything suspicious that we didn’t. They red-flagged this immediately and tasked the Bureau to learn more. They suspect some terrorist weapon.”

    “That’s–“ Davis had been about to call it ridiculous, but so were all the hypotheses anyone had ventured. “That’s scary”, he said instead.

    “Indisputably”, said Special Agent Schwartzentruber. “Now – tell us, in the best detail you can, everything you remember about the incident.”



    Three blocks away, chief state medical examiner Alicia Switzer was at her computer, finishing notes on a case she’d been dealing with for two days. The coffee on her desk, a Spiced Orange Monterrey Cider – where they got these names, she’d never figured out – was nearly cool enough to drink, and the lovely maple-frosted donut with coconut cream filling next to it was just begging to be bitten into and savored. Then the door opened, her young secretary Marc – Italian-Portugese, absolutely beautiful, and definitely available (she’d fantasized about the two of them on the elk-skin rug behind her desk) – ushering in two men in dark suits with dark glasses.

    Oh, shit, she thought. Templeton’s been caught in something, and they’re going to haul me in as a witness. And there goes the week’s schedule.

    “Ma’am, they were just going to barge in. I told them like hell they would, and there are two state troopers just down the hall. They have badges....”

    “Thank you, Marc. Round up some more coffee, and cups, please.” She turned to the two intruders. “Tell me who you are, show me your credentials, or I’ll be the one calling those troopers. I’m weeks behind schedule, and I don’t grant visitors time unless there’s a damned good reason.”

    “Very blunt – I like that”, the taller man answered. “I’m Special Agent Paul Orcuña; this is Special Agent Richard York.” He motioned to his companion. “Here are our badges and credentials, and if you wish to verify them–“

    “I already know the state FBI office’s number, gentlemen; I call it often enough.” Switzer examined the proffered items thoroughly. “Looks genuine enough. So, sit – that’s not an invitation – and talk to me.”

    “There’s a case that was passed to your office, which has caught the Bureau’s attention”, Orcuña told her, taking the chair his colleague slid up behind him.. “A very odd case–“

    “Monument Circle”, she interrupted. “Seventeen dead before impact. No explanation. And going nowhere because it’s too weird, and nobody wants to touch it.”

    “That’s from your side”, Orcuña responded. “But from our side – Homeland Security has tasked the Bureau with finding out what really occurred.”

    “They think it was terrorists?” the medical examiner asked incredulously. A knock on the door came, and Special Agent York held up his hand. She nodded. “Come on in, Marc.” Her secretary backed in, pulling a cart with coffee, donuts, carrots, and grapes.

    “I grabbed what looked tasty”, he said. Alicia though he looked quite tasty from behind, his well-muscled buns flowing as he walked. Then he turned and pushed the cart to the desk. “There you are, ma’am.”

    “Thank you”, she responded. “Now, hold all calls. Oh – cancel the meeting with Calvin; he can reschedule if he wants.” She decided in that moment if this meeting got stressful, she was going to get into Marc’s pants when her visitors left. Marc bowed slightly – she liked that about him, his little touches of chivalry – and left, shutting the door firmly behind him.

    “I suppose you’re questioning Lucius Dominguez as well?” she inquired then.

    “Not today. Today we’re in the capital. Now – we want to hear every detail you recall about this whole deal.”

    Switzer knew right then that she was going to be getting into Marc’s pants, and getting him into her, because handling this without breaking her promise to not-quite-Senator-elect John Templeton was going to be the most stressful thing she’d faced all year.






    "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

  45. #345
    Defender of Downtrodden
    DonQuixote's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Western New York
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Curious
    Status
    Married
    Posts
    41,966

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, . . .

    Homeland Security and the Fibbers, huh?
    I guess I can see that - a rather mysterious mass death, as it were.

    Things are gonna get hot in the old town tonight, at least for a medical examiner and her assistant! lol.

    And how hot will it get for the Senator elect, I wonder?

    I suspect that he would much prefer the accident fade to black and be forgotten.

    I suppose we needed to check in back on the homefront.

    Hmmm, Austin and his snatch and run technique - I wonder if the missing seeds and such will wind up in the hands of the FBI?

    We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast - ?

    Keep it coming, sir.


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

  46. #346
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, . . .

    I suppose we needed to check in back on the homefront.
    Oh, this was no gratuitous visit.

    All will become clear.... eventually.

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    Hmmm, Austin and his snatch and run technique - I wonder if the missing seeds and such will wind up in the hands of the FBI?
    LOL Cute idea. Didn't I mention in the story where Anaph snatched from?

    Quote Originally Posted by DonQuixote View Post
    We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast - ?

    Keep it coming, sir.
    I'm disappointed that no one bothered to boo my lame joke above....

    The next piece is ready for editing. This one came a tiny bit sooner than planned because I didn't feel like editing -- the return view to Earth was simple.

    "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

  47. #347
    On the Prowl
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    94

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Hmm, I have been wondering for a while what's been happening with "Squared" back on Earth.

    Didn't I mention in the story where Anaph snatched from?
    I believe you only said that it was all from around the same place. Except maybe the book.

  48. #348
    HUGS! ;-)
    Kyanimal's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Milwaukee
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Gay
    Status
    Open Relationship
    Posts
    17,498

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Hmmm ... back to good ol' Earth, hey? I'd nearly forgotten that "We" are actually still "Here"!

    And, no, I don't believe you revealed "where", exactly, Anaph had "snatched" from, just that he had nearly gotten caught, though we also don't know by whom.

    I am glad, though, that we've "returned". The duality of seeing both sides of "The Looking Glass" bring quite interesting added dimensions to this epic Story!

    Now, please stop dilly-dallying around, having "Fun" in the rest of the Forums, and get to !!

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

  49. #349
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Maybe I'll get around to mentioning where Anaph got the stuff from -- or maybe he doesn't even know.


    "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

  50. #350
    Bammer's Papa
    Kulindahr's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    on the foggy, damp, redneck Oregon coast
    Gender
    Male
    Orientation
    Bisexual
    Status
    Single
    Posts
    104,098
    Blog Entries
    78

    Code of Conduct

    Re: Fit for Life

    Aid


    Snow was falling before Ewan started back up the final ridge. Rigel wondered what the glow ahead was; surely they weren’t burning that much wood! But the wind was in their face, and if it was fires, he would have smelled wood smoke. When the glow faded all at once, he was puzzled. “Ewan, hurry”, he urged. “Something’s happening.”

    Ewan picked up the pace. They were almost in range of seeing the camp when he stopped, though, holding up his hand to signal Rigel to do the same. That’s when Rigel heard it: horses! “Go, Ewan!” he hollered, but Ewan had already started moving. Rigel didn’t find the pace fast enough; the moment they passed the point where the path met Oran’s failed one, he pushed past the scout and tried to run. Run became jog in short order; it takes a different skill to run on snowshoes, and Rigel didn’t have it.

    Even so, soon enough he saw seven horses and riders coming up to the camp. The glow was from Anaph’s staff, and beside him rode Lumina. Rigel laughed: If I get hurt now, she can fix it! he thought, and almost stopped to take off the snowshoes so he could run. But what came to mind was the possibility of a broken bone – and he knew already that bones were no easy thing to Heal. With a sigh, he continued his jog, slowing to a walk when the way grew steeper as it circled down the bluff by the camp. As things turned out, he got there only heartbeats after Anaph and Lumina.

    Ryan headed to meet Lumina’s party – or Anaph’s, depending on how one looked at it. He stopped and turned at the sound of his name.

    “Rye! Ryan!” Rigel called. In camp, he ditched his snowshoes, and ran. “Oran – Cat took Oran to Casey. Who all came with Anaph?”

    “How about we go find out?” Ryan asked. He sniffed. “You stink.”

    Rigel sniffed himself. “Ugh – stress smell. I used to get like this during finals.”

    “Yeah, but during finals you could take a shower.”

    “So we need a bath house – I know. I just wish we weren’t going to have to burn wood to heat it.”

    Ryan grinned. “Maybe Anaph can manage solar heat plants.”

    Rigel groaned when he finally got it. “That’s terrible. Come on – I’d scrub with snow, but they’re here, so let’s do this.”

    Lumina dismounted the moment she saw Rigel, and went straight to him. Her hands became a gentle clamp holding his face. “You’re not eating enough. Go grab something.”

    “I’ve been out all day....”

    “Excuses won’t help your body – go eat.”

    Lumina then turned to Ryan and took his head in her hands as well. “You have a mild fever”, she declared.

    “Fever? I’ve been out in the snow!” Ryan objected.

    “I don’t look at where you’ve been, I look at you as you are. You have a mild fever, and unless you get rest, it’s going to get worse. Go to bed”, Lumina ordered. Ryan started to say something; with his mouth open he looked to Rigel, who shook his head.

    “Do I get to take a drink with me?” he asked. “I’m thirsty.”

    “Fluids are good for you – of course drink.” The Healer proceeded to go around the camp from one person to the next. Rigel had Austin bring him a sandwich – thin-sliced venison with pickled düringh and half-dried mushrooms – and followed along. Anaph came with him. Before they were halfway through the camp, he pulled Rigel aside.

    “Separate your group from Ryan’s”, the Druid urged. “It may be too late, but it may not.”

    “None of my riders are sick....” Rigel nodded and sent the nearest Celt for Austin. “Squire, I want the camp re-arranged: get the ones who came with us in one area apart from Ryan’s people. Say it’s to keep distinct commands, or something.”

    “You got it, lord.” Austin saluted in the fist-to-chest style that was becoming popular, nodded to Anaph, and left.

    “Where’s Oran?” Anaph inquired, the moment Austin was gone. Rigel started to answer briefly, then backed up and gave a summary of the whole affair.

    “He has one of my stick lights, doesn’t he?”

    “Casey should, too”, Rigel replied. “Unless he lost it.”

    “One’s enough.” Anaph went to the nearest pile of wood and sat. His staff tip began to glow the moment his eyes were shut, not brightly as to light a path, but still intensely.

    Rigel took the opportunity to really look at the staff while it glowed. It wasn’t really the staff glowing, he realized, but the markings on it, the fine, intricate markings that he’d first thought might be some sort of letters, but now looked more like finely detailed geometric art. Nor was the glow even on all of those; in fact it shifted from moment to moment in a way that reminded him of the lights on old computer banks. All in a flash, his view of the staff as some arcane item he’d never understand changed, as his mind understood those lines as manifestations on the outside of circuitry within, circuitry installed by the Snatcher for its purposes with Anaph, circuitry turned now by Anaph to his own purposes – but circuitry by which, he was suddenly certain, the Snatcher was tracking them and their activities. The realization left a bad taste in his senses – but what would Anaph be without the staff? Now the reaction of the Snatcher to the suggestion of tossing the staff in a fire made sense: he’d been threatening its very ability to work through them... and perhaps aid them, he admitted. So much for being free of them.....

    An urge came, to engage the Snatcher in conversation, like he was talking into a microphone or something. They had to speak English by now – if they were smart enough to grab people from another world and put circuitry in a staff, they must be good at languages. But, then, what did he really have to say to them, if he didn’t expect an answer? For that matter, if they could speak English, why hadn’t they just explained to Anaph what they wanted? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier that way?

    Or did they maybe regard humans as not bright enough to understand? Maybe we’re just pawns, and the only thing that matters to them is putting us in a certain place on the board. Maybe they got the Celts and the Spanish in their places, and we’re just a new piece in the game. Maybe we’re not really important after all, all by ourselves – just a piece of the puzzle.

    “Oran’s with Casey.” Rigel had been waiting for Anaph to say something, but the words came from Chen.



    “Cat, wait!” Oran called. He dug into his belt pack and pulled out the miniature staff – the didn’t think of it as a stick – Anaph had supplied. With a thought, he made it glow, then shift its light to a small beam up front. “Flashlight mode”, he declared. “But too bright.” Another thought reduced the intensity; another it he liked the result. “Okay, let’s go – I can see enough now.”

    He trusted the big feline totally for finding a path he could jog, not just walk. The cat’s size made him an excellent trail-breaker, if he wanted to be, and for the moment he wasn’t bounding ahead, but forging through like a bull. Cat, you rock! Oran thought, expecting no response, and getting none. They were moving at least five times as fast as Oran could have by himself.

    The slope steepened, and Streaker took off downhill. “If you say so....”, Oran muttered, launching himself into a stride that was half-fall, half-run. His momentum was enough that he though it would carry him halfway up the ridge ahead. Instead, he nearly ran over his guide, barely pulling to a stop, and dodging at the last minute.

    “Right – watch where I”m going, huh? Lead on, wonder-cat!”

    Streaker seemed to look him over and size him up, then set off again, making a sixty-degree turn to the left. Unseen obstacle, Oran decided. So we’re going ten times as fast – or I could be stuck in the snow again. His personal snowplow pushed on straight ahead, even when they met the slope of the next ridge. Oran flashed his beam around, thinking it longer and stronger. On their current course, they were going to come out right at a bunch of trees about fifty meters, he guessed, from the source of the smoke.

    They didn’t just reach the trees, but went in among them. For an instant Oran was terrified that Casey had had an accident and was here somewhere, hurt; his sense of just where his fellow scout was washed that away in a heartbeat. When, moments later, they came on a small clearing where someone had been chopping and breaking wood, Oran understood: this was Casey’s wood source. “And I’m supposed to take him some more”, he concluded out loud. Streaker sat down by a pile of medium-sized splinters; responding to impulse, Oran looked. “Pitch wood – to get the fire hot quick. Okay, Cat, but I want some solid stuff, too.”

    Oran found a flat piece about half a meter long and a third wide, for stacking pitch wood on. A bit of searching found three chunks he set together, then put the flat piece on top before loading up with pitch wood. A few finger-sized bits wedged in here and there stabilized the stack. The scout stuck his light in his mouth, knelt down to carefully scoop up his wood, and as carefully stood. Streaker led off.

    “Huh – looks like Casey made himself a sled”, Oran mumbled around the light in his mouth. “Nice.” His guide took off and disappeared. “So I just follow these”, he concluded, and did so.

    Whoa – nice igloo, kid! he thought. Bored a little, waiting? Oran gave the jumbled heap of wood one look and rejected it; his tidy load went by the entry. When the pitch wood settled without spilling, Oran dropped his mini-staff from his teeth into his hand and sucked in a hefty breath. A look up told him the smoke wasn’t rising fast. “More wood”, he decided. He didn’t take what he’d brought, though; that was to be quickly available later. Instead, the scout picked three pieces from the jumble, added one to his stack by the entry, and took a handful of his pitch wood.

    Once he could get off his hands and knees, Oran went immediately to the fire, which had only a bit of flame, and a lot of smoke. Casey had been in a rush when making it, he decided; it was sloppy. He added some of his pitch wood to the spot of flame, then more as thee first ones caught. Pushing the coals and pieces of wood together helped rejuvenate the flames; then he boxed it in with his two chunks. More could wait; he wanted to see Casey – though he suspected his friend was asleep, since he hadn’t come out to investigate, or awakened when Cat had gone in to the next chamber.

    Admiration was his first response to the sight beyond the next crawlway. The sleeping platform was high, to stay in the heat – and he realized why the double dome: the first one provided heat to the second because it was lower, but its roof was up enough that smoke from the fire didn’t spill in through the crawlway. It took a lot to heat the inner chamber, that way, but it wasn’t a bad idea at all – better than having the fire just draw in a cold breeze from the outside!

    Casey was asleep, Oran saw, and his fur had fallen off him. Oran reached to give his friend a squeeze – “Fuck! He’s burning up!” He’d left his belt pack in the other dome, and he’d need the fire anyway, so he dove back through the crawlway. Cup, herbs, some water.... He set the cup with water in some coals along the edge, then swore at himself for not crushing the herbs in the cup first. Where was Casey’s cup? He didn’t see it in this dome, so it had to be in the other, so back through he went. He finally found it near Dugal’s head – he felt Dugal’s forehead; it seemed a bit warm but not fevered. When he got back to the fire, his cup of water was boiling, so he had to pull it back.

    Closed eyes helped Oran bring instructions to mind: for fever, lemon balm, heal-all, bronaigh leaf. But should he add a tiny, tiny crumb of dhroguth, in case it was a bacterial thing? Uncertain, he decided to put in the tiniest bit he could find; he got just a touch of powder from the little pouch, and touched it to the water. He added two dried red huckleberries for flavor, then set to grinding the dry herbs. In his worry, he couldn’t remember if he was supposed to strain the mix. He couldn’t recall any warnings of bad effects from bits of any of the leaves he was using, so he decided to skip the straining.

    Next: scrape the crushed leaves into the water and set it boiling again. After a minute, he could add some honey to sweeten it. Oran counted, more to give his mind something to do than anything else, since he could tell the passing of a minute almost to perfection. Minute gone by, he pulled the cup from the heat and added a lump of crystallized honey. That helped cool the tea, since it takes heat to melt honey crystals. A piece of icicle from the dome’s inner surface cooled it a bit more, enough for drinking. He took a sip. Tastes okay; if I can handle it, Casey won’t spit it up, anyway.



    “Yes, Oran’s with Casey”, Anaph agreed. “And Casey’s sick.”

    “Say what? How can you tell that?” Chen wanted to know.

    “He’s holding his light stick”, Anaph replied. “I can sense his mind because of it.”

    Rigel looked interested. “You can tell where the sticks are?”

    “Of course. Want to know if I’ve been keeping track of you?” Anaph taunted, chuckling.

    “Not really. How do you know where they are?” Rigel persisted.

    “They’re part of my staff”, was the answer. “Did you think I just whipped them up?”

    Rigel blinked. “I didn’t have any idea. How can they be part of your staff?”

    Anaph closed his eyes a moment. “Watch.” He set his staff across Rigel’s knees and his own, with the top end not quite in his lap. His left hand cradled the staff; his right hovered above the tip, which began to glow softly. Slowly the tip bulged, and over the space of ten minutes or more budded off a stick like those the Druid had given to others. He caught it as it came free. “Here – you decide who needs it.”

    Rigel took it, shaking his head wonderingly. “If you keep doing this, won’t your staff get smaller?” he asked, without looking away from the new light stick.

    Anaph shook his head. “I sit it on oak, and it restores itself. Don’t ask how -- I don’t know. I couldn’t figure out how to make something give light, either. But since my staff did, I tried making a smaller version of the staff. That was frustrating. Finally I thought maybe I could make the staff make me little sticks that glowed. I didn’t really expect what happened.”

    “I thought you knew everything the old Druids knew, now”, said Chen.

    “Yes, but no”, Anaph replied. “It’s all there, but I only remember things when I need them. Sometimes I know there’s a way to do it, but I don’t understand things I need to learn first, so I can’t figure it out. And I keep trying to do things that just don’t fit.”

    “Like what?” Chen asked.

    “Like trying to make metal things glow. Druids have power over living things, and gold isn’t very alive.” Chen laughed at that, but Rigel remembered Anaph saying that everything’s alive.

    “How many of these have you made?” Rigel inquired.

    “Um... eighteen, now. Most of us have one, Hedraing and Eraigh have them, Aidanna and Franagh each have one. Elder Elder Dainéal has one, too.”

    “Wow. That’s enough to be half your staff. Okay, get one to the rest of us. Then you can make one for each Wise Woman and one for each Elder. Pedhrûánåg has one, right?” Anaph nodded. “Bud, do you realize how important this is?”

    “Being able to see at night is pretty important”, Anaph ventured.

    Rigel chuckled. “That’s just a little thing. Chen, I bet you can guess.”

    Chen nodded slowly. “Yeah. Anaph, you can know where each stick is. You can know who has it. Well, when you fight a war, it gets really important sometimes to know exactly where each piece of your army is. Sometimes you want more than one army, too. Generals have lost battles because they lost track of where their pieces were.
    “With the sticks, we can know where all our people – our pieces – are. If the enemy can’t, we have a serious advantage. If the enemy already can, we just made up for a serious disadvantage.
    “That reminds me – do you guys think we could manage hot air balloons? If we could see what the enemy is doing, it could win some battles.”

    Anaph thought. “The only cloth we have is linen. I don’t know how we’d seal it tight enough. Then I don’t know what we’d use for heat. If you solve those, we could.”

    Rigel agreed. “One more reason we need to explore. On earth, silk grew in warm climates, right? So in the spring, I want to go south exploring – maybe we can find something to make a nice fine cloth. Maybe we’ll find other things, too.”

    “We need to find the Spanish, lord”, Chen submitted respectfully.

    “Ryan can take Antonio and do that.”



    Getting Casey to drink while he was asleep wasn’t working. Oran set the cup down carefully. “Casey!” he called, shaking his friend. “Wake up!”

    Casey opened crusty eyes and saw light. It took several seconds for him to recognize it as the light from one of Anaph’s sticks, and two more to grasp that there was a face above his, and another to recognize it as someone he knew. “Oran?” he croaked. “How did you get here? Ow – my throat hurts.”

    “Sit up and drink this”, Oran ordered, picking up the cup again. “You’ve got a fever, your fire was dying, and you were half out of your covers.” Casey’s hands were shaking, so Oran leaned his friend’s head against his shoulder and held the cup for him.

    “Uck. What is that?”

    “Lemon balm, heal-all, bronaigh leaf, a couple of red huckleberries, and the tiniest touch of dhroguth I could get in.”

    Casey concentrated. “For fever and an infection? Did I cut myself? I can’t remember.”

    “I didn’t look for cuts. But the dhroguth is for bacteria. I don’t know what you have, so I added some. If you have a virus, it won’t help.”

    “Okay. I want to lie down.” Oran eased him back, then remembered the extras Rigel had given him.

    “I’ll be back.” He crawled out and brought back Rigel’s cloak and water bottle. “Casey, get up. I’m going to put my cloak under us. We’ll cover all three with Rigel’s cloak – he had me bring it. While you’re up, here” – he offered the water bottle – “kill half of that.”

    Casey discovered he was incredibly thirsty once cool water was available. He finished two-thirds of the one-liter bottle without stopping. As the cool liquid hit his gut, he shivered. “Hurry up – I’m cold”, he pleaded.

    “Wait – I’m putting my fur down. Yours is soaked with sweat – I’ll dry it and bring it back.”

    “‘K.” Casey lifted the bottle again, but found his stomach was churning. “Do you have any prigidhae?”

    “Yep. Ocean made sure we had all sorts of herbs. Bad tummy?” Oran finished straightening his own sleeping fur.

    “Yeah. The water made it feel bad.” Trembling, Casey stumbled to the platform and sat down. “Forget tea – gimme a leaf.”

    “Not as effective–“

    “It’s faster! I don’t want to heave!”

    “Okay, okay!” Oran dug into his belt pack again and found the right packet. He didn’t have a lot, so he broke off half a leaf for Casey. “Chew that. I’ll make tea with the other.”

    “Casey chewed, then let the leaf sit and get moist before he swallowed it. “The platform’s gonna be crowded”, he declared.

    “Okay, I’ll fix that”, Oran promised. “Now lie down, let me get the tea going, and I’ll be back with some snow blocks.”

    Cutting blocks of snow was quick work; the harder part would be getting them to fit once inside. On the way, Oran added a bit more fuel to the fire and blocked it from the third side, away from the sleeping room. He shoved all three snow blocks ahead of him. When he was in, he checked the tea and decided it was good enough – he’d added heal-all to it as well – and added another bit of honey, then handed it to Casey. “Drink fast”, he instructed. Casey did, gulping it, then pulled Rigel’s cloak over his head.

    Oran got out his knife and started shaving his snow blocks to make the platform bigger.



    “Oran gave Casey something”, Anaph announced suddenly. “Crap – he dropped the stick.”

    “We can’t take Lumina there until morning, anyway”, Rigel pointed out. “Oran knows what herbs to give, if they apply. So let’s head for bed.”

    Before he turned in, though, Rigel checked with Lumina. Once she’d separated sick from well, she’d gone around through the well ones and checked to see if any were infected. “Rigel, I don’t know what this is. It’s strange.” Frustration filled her voice.

    “It’s only hit my people”, Ryan said. “And not all of them.” He looked grim.

    “Spit it”, Rigel commanded. “What do you know?”

    “Only the ones who went into that castle have it. And only the ones who went into the tower that was barely burned.”





    "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

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | About JustUsBoys.com | Site Map | RSS | Webmasters | Advertise | Link to JUB | Report A Bug on this Page

Visit our sister sites: Broke Straight Boys | CollegeDudes.com | CollegeBoyPhysicals.com | RocketTube
All models appearing on JustUsBoys.com were over 18 at the time of photography. The records for sexually explicit images required by U.S. 2257 are kept by the
individual producers of the images. The location of the records is available by clicking the Custodian of Records link at the bottom of each gallery page.
© 2012 JustUsBoys.com. The JustUsBoys.com name and logo are registered trademarks. Labeled with ICRA and RTA. Member of ASACP and The Free Speech Coalition.