Check it out! Saturday morning and I'm at my computer typing up my blog post :)
I'm also pre-coffee, so this is gonna be real short lol.
It was a good week in the battle against house chores. I think I figured out how to balance productive days with the current amount of spoons I have, and have trusted physiotherapy exercises to fall back on as needed. Likely to be living with chronic pain for, I guess, ever... but I'll take the improvement I got this year of the pain being down in the 1-3 range and no longer in the 3-5 range (out of 10). The days in the 3-5 range still happen, but not consistently and not for extended periods.
12. Learning to Walk
Tam finished the first set of snowshoes and handed them to her brother with some of the heavy leaves. He measured Justin’s boots with his hands and then cut the leaves into strips, weaving them into the nets to make outlines that quickly turned into caps which fit snugly over each boot’s toe. He reinforced the caps with cord but didn’t leave any laces, and wove shorter sticks from side to side to better support the weight of a person. Justin did as he was requested and stood as well as he could in the burrow to test the fit of the caps. Tor made a few adjustments to the cords so the caps fit tighter.
“Come outside,” Tor invited, already moving toward the entrance.
“Why?” Justin asked, kicking the snowshoes off so that he could sit down again with new icicles.
“Because you need to learn how to walk all over again,” Tor called over his shoulder with a smirk. Tam nodded without looking up when Justin glanced at her for confirmation. Justin picked up the strange, netted shoes and followed the scout outside.
“You have to keep your legs further apart, and take longer steps,” Tor instructed as Justin came out of the burrow. “Otherwise you’ll step on one shoe with the other and you’ll trip yourself. The back will drag a bit, remember that because it means you can’t step backwards. Sideways is always leading foot first, same reason as why you have to take wider, longer steps forward.”
Justin nodded as he got his boots fitted into the caps. That all made sense.
“Just keep going around the tree until you stop falling every few steps. Try not to break the caps or the nets,” Tor added as Justin stood up. “Once you have going forward figured out, we’ll work on turns and going sideways.”
Justin looked at his feet and readjusted his thinking for what Tor had just said about tripping. Usually he learned things quickly, but this already felt awkward and he hadn’t even taken a step yet. He sighed and looked around at the falling snow, still showing no signs of stopping, and started re-learning how to walk. Tam emerged with another pair of snowshoes for Tor as Justin was learning how to step sideways, and the scout built toe caps and added reinforcement sticks while offering Justin even doses of chiding insults and coaching.
“You keep working on that,” Tor stated, stepping into the caps of his own snowshoes and adjusting the cords to fit snugly. “I need to remember how to do this myself,” he admitted, grinning.
“Why?” Justin asked, surprised.
“Scouts use skis,” Tor said, sighing as he took his first few steps. “I haven’t snowshoed in years.”
“What’s a ‘skis’?” Justin asked. Tor stopped walking to look back.
“You’re so foreign,” Tor said with a laugh. “Skis are long planks the width of your boot that have a curled up front like a sled,” he explained, drawing the shape in the air with his hands. “You wax the bottoms and then just slide over top of the snow with them, rather than walking. It’s faster than snowshoeing,” he added with a shrug. “A sled is like a tiny barge that you can ride over snow with, pulled by people, dogs, or horses. Or you can just ride the sled if you’re going down a hill,” he added with a grin when he saw the next question forming on Justin’s face. “The fronts of skis and sleds curl up so the snow doesn’t come over the top.”
“Like the bow of a ship?” Justin asked, getting only a confused look from Tor in reply. “The front of a ship,” Justin clarified.
“I’ve never seen a ship.” Tor grinned, laughing out loud when Justin stared at him in shock. “I’ve seen barges, and I was on a fishing raft once but I didn’t like it”– he made a face –“everything smelled like week-old fish.”
Justin huffed out a laugh and went back to practicing side-stepping. Tor was almost out of sight around the tree the first time he fell, laughing to himself as he pushed back to his feet to start striding again. They worked at improving for the rest of afternoon, exchanging insults and practicing moving, the activities eventually leading to a snowball fight which quickly elevated to a mock wrestling match that was exponentially harder than it needed to be due to the amount they were both laughing. Once they couldn’t hold off the hunger anymore, they banged the snow off of – and out of – their clothes and hair, still chuckling as they exchanged friendly insults. It was going to be a long, hungry night, so they decided to rest through it rather than staying busy and getting hungrier.
Tam was humming when they came back into the burrow. She lifted a single eyebrow at their matching grins and went back to stirring the little pot on the fire. Justin’s stomach rumbled loudly when the smell inside the burrow hit his nose.
“What is …?” Tor loomed over the pot, frowning sharply when Tam elbowed him back.
“It’s my surprise,” she said, pointing with the spoon at where each of them was meant to sit. “I found some squirrels and their cache this morning while I was looking for branches,” she told them once they were seated.
She poured the mix into each bowl. It was a thin stew of meat, nuts, berries and sweet grasses, but it tasted good and there was enough for everyone to eat until they were momentarily full.
“You’re amazing, Tam,” Tor complimented, leaning back and burping after finishing his last bite.
“Agreed.” Justin was already washing out his dish with a handful of snow so that it could be dried and packed away.
“It wasn’t –”
“Shut your mouth, little sister,” Tor interrupted. “You can depreciate yourself privately in your head. Out here,” he pointed at the burrow in general, “the consensus is that you’re amazing. Now agree with me,” he demanded, grinning. She rolled her eyes and shook her head, about to say something different. He nudged her knee with the toe of his boot. “Agree with me because you know I’m right,” he pressed, his smile widening. “Tell me I’m right.”
Justin chuckled at the two of them, making her blush. Tam heaved a sigh and started washing out the pot.
“I did a good job making a surprise dinner,” she finally conceded.
“That’s not what I said,” Tor argued, nudging her knee with his boot again. She smacked his leg so he nudged her a third time. “Say it,” he drew out the words and she sighed again.
“I’m amazing,” she mumbled at the pot in her hands.
“Yes, you are,” Tor agreed, sitting forward so that he could catch and hold her stare. “Never let anyone force you to believe different,” he stated, his tone and features suddenly serious.
Hello! The day one-more-thing'ed me all the way to after dinner without realizing all the hours were almost gone. Saved by the global time zone! It's still Saturday here lol.
The past couple of days have been a rush for getting things done. Mostly because I've wanted to, and also because I've had the spoons lately. Tomorrow will be another story (three busy days in a row is about my maximum), but the points tally of me against chores has been a clean sweep for me this week. Vacuuming, bathrooms, tidying, and some much needed wall patching and painting on the back landing are my wins this week. Not a bad score considering both kids are home on Fall break.
I didn't get too much writing done, but had a few hours here and there I was able to dedicate to my keyboard before the chore days happened. A much needed scene was added to my big manuscript (in both senses of "need" because I needed it out of my head and the story sorely needed to have it), plus I got in some time on a couple of scene expansions and some editing.
Overall it's been a good week for me, and I hope you're staying safe and healthy too. Have a good weekend!
11. Making Steam
“What are you trying to do?” Justin asked when her brother’s encouragement left Tam silently fuming.
“Usually we make these in the spring when the branches are green so they’ll bend.” She drew a curve with her finger around the wide end of the triangle. “But with them being frozen… right now they’ll just break if I try.” She huffed a sigh and dropped the triangle so she could stretch her hands.
Justin picked up the dropped branch and peeled back some of the bark. Ice inside proved it was wet enough for bending, if he had a steam box. He untied the branches from their triangle as he thought about the supplies he had. They had water and fire, so he could easily have steam, but no way to evenly contain it. The branches were saturated from the wet winter, and only as thick as his thumb at most, so maybe heating them over steam would work well enough that they wouldn’t dry out and break for what Tam was saying she needed. They were small, so he could probably manipulate them without clamps once they were softened…
“What are you thinking?” Tam interrupted his thoughts. Tor was watching him, too, when Justin looked up from where he’d started peeling the bark off the branch in his hand.
“I can try bending these, if you want?” Justin answered her with a question. “I think it could work if we steam them. If not, at least we’d have tea.”
“Was that a joke?” Tor asked before Tam could reply. “About the tea – did you just make a joke? As in, you actually are capable of humor?”
Justin stared at him, suddenly self-conscious, and Tor beamed a smile back.
“Ouch!” Tor exclaimed, his tone mocking, one of the smallest of the branches Tam had brought into the burrow bouncing off his shoulder after being thrown into the side of his head.
“Get the blanket unravelled,” she ordered her brother. “Don’t you need a box for steaming?” she asked Justin.
“Yeah,” Justin replied, grinning at their ongoing fighting as he turned back to peeling the bark. “We don’t have time to make one. Steaming just the part for the bend might work, though.”
“What about these?” she asked after a glance around the burrow. Justin and Tor both looked to where she was pointing at Justin’s two straight swords nearby. The blades were wide and flat, as were the scabbards. Unfortunately, the branches she’d brought back were all longer than the full lengths of the swords.
“Too short,” he said, dismissing the idea. Even using both her swords to square the box to steam one or two branches at a time, and wrapping it all in a blanket to insulate, it wouldn’t work properly if they couldn’t get an open box at the end opposite the water to allow steam on the full length of the wood.
She reached over and turned one sword to face the opposite direction, then pulled each blade three quarters of the way out of the scabbards. “Would it be long enough now?”
The wolves left as the steaming started. It took a couple of tries to get the bending pressure application and finished curve right, and Tam had to go back out in the storm for more branches, but they were able to eat their small, final meal as the last branch was cooling. Justin spliced the bent pieces like tiny masts, and Tam bound them in place with the unwoven cord so the branches couldn’t spring back while they were cooling.
After eating, Tor took apart the impromptu steam box, hung the blanket to dry, and then started drying and cleaning the blades and scabbards. Once she finished eating, Tam went back to weaving tightly strung nets into the frames she and Justin had made. When Justin was done his meal, he picked up the icicles that he’d been holding before eating.
“Those burns starting to feel any better?” Tor asked after a few minutes.
“They’re starting to feel numb again,” Justin replied. Rather than focusing on himself and the few small burns on his palms, he turned to watch what Tam was doing. “Why a net?” he finally asked, actually curious.
“If it’s solid, the snow gets on top and weights your steps,” she shrugged, her fingers moving almost too quickly to see the individual motions of the twists and knots. “That makes it just as hard to walk as it would be without the snowshoes, or harder. A net lets the loose snow through but still packs the snow underneath to hold enough weight to keep us on top. Sinews work the best – the snow doesn’t stick as badly as it will to these cords – but these will work for the two hours we’ll need them. They’ll have good snowshoes at the mine.”
As had been the topic of conversation whenever they had time to converse, Tor began listing off the details of the mine’s layout. Half of it was an open pit, and the other half was made up of tunnels bored into the base of a mountain with their entrances on one side of the pit’s bottom. There were guard posts set in a ring around the top of the pit – one at about every ten draughtsides – and a small town for the guards and their families was on the opposite side of the valley from where the trio would be approaching.
The slaves and criminals who worked the mine, when they weren’t laboring, were kept in two long rows of steel cages on the same side the trio was approaching from. The cages were inside the ring of guard posts, one on top of the other, and it was a sheer drop from the rim of the pit to the tops of the first row of cages of at least five idlesides. The drop from the cages and the single road leading to and from them was to the bottom of the pit.
Justin focused on the conversation more than usual as now he needed to have it memorized. Every word – every spoken thought – that Tor could provide, Justin committed to memory.
Election week in the USA... coronavirus cases on the rise to record breaking for daily new positive tests in Alberta... and out in public I see people force-smiling the holiday spirit early due to how rough 2020 has been in general... My little corner of the world has been having a lot of negative external forces shoving at it this week. I'm guessing everyone's little corners are feeling the external pressure. I really hope, for all of us, we can find a calm spot inside our little corners to just breathe for a few minutes before going back to dealing with all our pressures.
As for happenings inside my little corner, last week was pretty good. I called my kids in absent from school on different days so we could have one-on-one time together, the oldest on Tuesday and youngest on Wednesday. That made for two days in a row of freaking awesomeness. Out for lunch, a bit of shopping so they could blow the last of their Christmas money from last year, and a lot of laughs.
Plus, my husband is happy at his new job. For the first time in many years, his hours are based on a 40-hour working week and he has evenings and weekends off. He's also doing things that compliment his existing skill set while still being refreshingly new, for a company that seems to reward and retain good employees. For both of us, it feels a lot like he's working with and for unicorns at the moment lol. I know eventually the glow should wear off, but all the employees are treated like living people and they like working there (even the long term people pushing 20 years there)! After a 30-year career where he was treated like a numbered and disposable wheel cog, I feel like he's got the right opinion that this new place is downright amazing.
I got a couple rooms in my house cleaned, did a bit of writing, watched a couple movies I've been wanting to see but never gave myself the time to watch until now, and overall had an above-decent week. Giving myself permission to take a break improved my mental health by about a gajillion percent... and post-Halloween "sale candy" is probably a treat I'll still be enjoying after this Christmas rolls past lol. (Seriously, two mini chocolate bars and I'm done... my sugar tolerance is sad and very low.)
I hope you're safe and well this weekend!
Justin saw two rabbits were curled against Tor when he woke up. Tam snatched them up and broke their necks with practiced hands the moment she looked over to see if her brother was awake yet. They spent a quiet day under the branches and shared a pitiful stew that afternoon, using up the last of the wilted vegetables without any seasoning. The luxury of a hot meal was worth it.
Their burrow was completely enclosed by snow now, and the heat from the tiny fire warmed the space to the point of being only cool. Tam had initially been worried about the smoke from their fire being spotted, but Tor assured her they were close enough to the mine to look like hunters from there, so it wouldn’t draw attention. And it was still snowing, so the likelihood of anyone seeing smoke through the storm was impossible. They curled back to sleep for another full night once it was dark again, hoping for the snow to stop falling while they slept.
There was laughter. The quiet chuckles merged with good childhood memories that formed soft dreams to wake up from. Justin blinked awake, nearly happy, and looked around the burrow as he tried to orient himself for where he was. Tam was gone and Tor was laughing and… Justin blinked, scrubbed his eyes with his knuckles, and looked again. Tor really was gently wrestling with three young wolves as the she-wolf slept nearby. The cubs were lanky and lean, but their coats were just as shiny and full as their mother’s, and each young wolf likely already weighed the same as Tam.
Justin glanced at the she-wolf as he was sitting up. He froze half-way through the motion when her yellow stare snapped awake in his direction. Tor reached over and scratched her neck roughly. She grumbled happily at the affection but otherwise didn’t move.
“I met Ki in the spring before last,” Tor stated, the she-wolf’s gaze shifting to him as he spoke and freeing Justin to finish sitting up. “She’d been caught in a snare for what looked like a week or so. Her leg was raw and she was starving.” He picked up the leg in question and showed Justin the heavy scar circling above her foot. “Her cubs had been too little and had starved around her. There were a lot of tracks from a man nearby, and a few other wolf tracks that ended in blood. The rest of the loops in the line were empty, so we figured the rock-mind who set the snares was just leaving her to die slowly while using her as a way to lure in the rest of the pack,” he explained. “It was cruel,” he added under his breath.
Justin looked at the healthy wolf laying a few palmsides away and tried to imagine her being as sick and weak as what Tor was describing.
“Jin and I cut her loose and I carried her back to our camp. It took the whole summer for her to get healthy again, and she stayed with us for most of the fall and winter. She had gotten really fat when this Spring started,” he said, grinning at Justin. “Which explained why she only spent most of her time with us. Now she’s a happy mam, with three big sons, and I only see her when our patrols cross this valley.”
The sons in question tumbled across the burrow, deciding they wanted to play harder than Tor would play with them. Justin chuckled at the cubs, impressed at how well they dodged the small fire, earning him another wary stare from Ki.
“Most people think wolves are terrible,” Tor said. “They’re really not. Their packs are families and all the adults puke up meals they’ve eaten to feed cubs who aren’t big enough to hunt yet.”
Ki snarled a bite toward her cubs when they tumbled too close to her and all three contritely stopped playing. Tor laughed at them and scratched Ki’s neck again.
“You’re a good mam, Ki, to be able to keep these boys in check,” he praised her.
The young wolves noticed Justin was watching them and, curiosity filling their yellow stares now that they saw he was awake, each tentatively approached close enough to sniff at him. He held out his empty hands, chuckling when two went behind him and tickled the back of his neck with their noses. Their curiosity satisfied, one returned to play with Tor and the other two piled into a knot on top of the remaining warmth where Justin’s torso had just been lying.
Playful growling and quiet chuckles followed when Justin crawled outside the burrow and relieved his bladder a short distance away. He turned to go back and noticed Tor’s rope tied to one of the trees at the furthest edge of the copse they were camping in. Tam’s steps were barely dimples under the fast-falling snow; the trail left behind aiming away in the same direction that the long end of the rope was stretched before disappearing completely under the new snowfall. He thought about following the rope, worrying about her being alone after the failed ambush at the shed, but hesitating due to how relaxed Tor and the wolves had been. He instead crawled back inside the burrow. If he was going to go after her, he at least needed to be fully armed.
“She didn’t go far enough to get into any trouble. She only took one rope-length,” Tor stated as Justin was reaching for his swords. “We’ll be out of food today, so we have to get moving again in spite of the storm. The mine is about two hours away in this weather, but we can’t walk through the snow because it’s too deep now,” Tor said, still shoving the young wolf around as he was talking. “She knows the right things we need to make snowshoes for walking on top of it.”
“Snowshoes?” Justin asked, completely unfamiliar with the term.
Tor only smiled wider and continued play fighting with the cub. “You’ll see.”
Tam returned not long after and they rationed out the last of the food to eat later – a stale bun and small strip of salted meat each – before she started organizing the things she’d brought back. Three piles of variously sized branches, some fibrous plant leaves, and a few peelings of bark were set up around her when she was done.
“I need the cord the blanket is woven from,” she said, handing one of their blankets to Tor. “Do not cut it,” she added, seeing him first grab his knife. “Undo the weaving.”
“Why not just use the rope?” Justin asked.
“It’s a waste of good rope,” she shrugged. “This cord will work fine for the short time we need it. We can steal better supplies from the mine.”
Justin watched her lay out a few of the branches in an elongated triangle shape and then lash the intersections together. As soon as she started looping the initial length of cord from the blanket tightly over and under the triangle, two of the sides collapsed. She huffed in frustration after half an hour and four attempts.
“You’ll get it figured,” Tor encouraged her.
Whoops! Halloween happened and I forgot about my blog lol. Good thing I have the reminder for updating Wattpad, today it reminded me to update everything!
This weekend, my writing update and my wee life blurb are one in the same. I’ve been thinking about / worrying about / stressing over my writing-life balance a lot these past few months and I’ve finally come to an internal decision about it which I feel comfortable with. This decision, and the factors leading to it, isn’t something I’ve blogged about until today. The high levels of Impostor Syndrome and self-created guilt I have around failing to write, edit, and query consistently during much of this past year have been chipping away pieces of my mental health. Adding this to the rest of 2020’s stress load and, I can say with sincerity, inside my head hasn’t been a great place to live lately.
My husband and I have been going through another round of life upheavals these past weeks and… we’re tired. Our kids need us, we have side hustles that need attention, and much of our social network has disappeared in the past years due to deaths, falling outs, blocking toxic from our lives, and the fact that everyone left is running ragged and just as tired as we are. We have outside supports, and we have each other, but outside supports are limited (again – everyone is tired) and we’re tired.
So, with all of real life going on and going sideways (and, for some things, flipping upside down), I’m choosing to step away from chasing professional writing. Running after vapors as dreams fly further away isn’t always a good thing. Chasing after My Dream of a literary agent and publishing my books through “the big houses” isn’t healthy for me right now. Feeling like I’m not doing enough to “prove” I should be awarded My Dream is really unhealthy right now. In five years from now, maybe it’ll be healthy for me to start the chase again. Maybe it’ll take ten years.
I don’t know.
I do know queries and pitches and submissions – plus beating myself up for not doing them all – are bad places for my mental health right now. Plus deadlines (even self-imposed ones) aren’t helping me get where I want to be. What does feel healthy is deciding it’s okay to release the expectation of “making it” so I can get back to viewing writing in a healthy way. Honestly, throughout bad times and bouts with crappy mental health, writing has always been – and continues to be – one of my favorite activities. Realigning the activity so it fits my life in a healthy way again feels friggin’ great!
What does that mean for you? Well, my blog will run weekly updates and story parts, my Wattpad account will continue as it has been, and my website will offer my books and info just the same. If all goes well you might not even notice a change. And, maybe, I’ll get noticed by someone in the right place at the right time and that dream of “making it” will come true for me. Maybe it won’t. Either way, my words will be out in the world to read as much of (or as little of) as you like.
For me, this decision means I’ll stop packing around unnecessary guilt and pressure so I can focus on real life. I don’t have to be sad for missing out on Twitter Pitch Parties, be angry about losing writing days to migraines and physical health issues, and be crushed when my wanted time frames get blown to smithereens by universe-created, mandatory participation, real life events. Overall, letting go of driving toward My Dream means I can dream quietly while still being present in real life.
Enjoying my writing, sharing my stories, and actually being present for my important people and events adds up to a fairly huge win I think. Plus, who knows… right place and right time and all that ;)
I hope you’re safe and well this weekend!
9. Finding Shelter
Tam went first, Justin following warily behind. There were no other footprints in the fresh snow, but he didn’t trust the windowless building. Tor and Tam were the only things inside – it really was just a shed – and Justin hesitated at the threshold. From outside the little building looked solidly built, the gaps in the vertical exterior walls showed only the horizontal interior boards, and the sloped roof fit tightly enough that it was dry inside. Letting his eyes adjust to the dimness, he could see the planks of the interior walls were packed with plaster and sap. He reached around the door frame and settled a palm on each side of the wall, testing the thickness of the planks. Together, including the space between for the framing, the rough plank walls totaled about ten fingersides wide.
“It’s a summer shed the scouts use,” Tor said, setting down the pack he made out of his blanket before each run. “There are panels in each wall that drop inward, same on the outside, so that it’s easier to fill and unpack when needed,” he unhooked one of the seemingly random latches and a large section of one inside wall dropped toward him, leaving only the vertical slats of the outside wall. “We’ll sleep here for the night and get a decent rest.”
“What about your troop?” Justin asked, still in the doorway.
“I’m the only one from these mountains,” Tor said with a shrug. “Jin can keep up on the roads, and will guess this is where we went, but he won’t be able to find it. For him, all the trail markers either are or will be hidden in the snow.”
Justin frowned back at the knee-deep trail that they’d left behind as Tor relatched the wall. He looked at the shed more critically than before. He didn’t like being boxed in, and this building in particular left his skin crawling.
“We kept a pace they can’t because they have to double back and check in with reports to the General,” Tor explained. Justin stared hard at the interior, seeing nothing out of place, and then shook his head to the negative and backed down the few stairs so he was resolutely standing on the ground outside. Tor watched with growing confusion as Tam strode out to stand beside Justin, both men equally shocked at her actions.
“You weren’t with him on the road for getting past your rope traps,” she stated calmly. Tor bent to pick up his bundle with a sigh.
“We’re not going to find anything half as good with this storm moving in,” Tor cautioned as he straightened.
“That’s fine,” Justin replied.
Movement beside the door grabbed Justin’s attention as Tor took his first step. A knothole had shifted. Not a knothole, an eye! Justin drew his sword and lunged forward in one motion. Suddenly two of the vertical planks by the door’s hinges broke along almost invisible cuts and the person wearing them stumbled out onto the small porch. That person was bleeding badly from having Justin’s sword embedded high in his torso, but he was still gurgling to form breath and words. He fell away from the wall into the snow, leaving a hole right through to the interior, a column of horizontal planking affixed to the entire back of him.
There was a metal-on-metal clang behind him as he dropped beside the body to retrieve his sword, and Justin turned to see Tam deflect the attack of someone in white clothing that blended perfectly with the snow they’d been lying in. Tor leapt from the door to defend his sister from the three people springing up to their feet around her as Justin pulled his sword clear of the wood-wearing man and spun to face the two white-clad attackers bursting from the snow nearest to him. Two more came out from the trees and joined the short fight, staining the snow around them as they also fell, their ambush ruined by only having had surprise in their favor instead of skill.
“Are there more of you?” Tor demanded, scanning the tree line.
“Not that will come out while we’re awake,” Justin muttered. “We need to go. I still don’t want to be here,” he added after a glance at the hole in the wall of the shed. He cleaned the blade of his sword with snow and then dried it as best he could on the clothes of one of the bodies before sheathing it. Tam did the same.
“We’re being hunted by scouts because he deserted,” Tam stated loudly toward the forest in general as Tor cleaned his sword. “If you’re thinking of following, our path is the pass through Meek Valley.”
She nodded at Tor and he set off on a direct route around the shed to a narrow trail that had a definite down slope to it. Tam followed, and Justin took up his usual place at the back of their small line as Tor finished tying on his blanket bundle and started to jog again. No one tried to pursue.
The trio stopped a couple of hours later, the sky was darkening and the snow was getting too thick to see through. The place Tor led them to was near a cliff that rose as a black shadow against the grey evening. A few evergreen trees at the base had branches thick enough to provide shelter.
“This is better?” Tam asked Justin after checking under the branches of the largest tree to be sure they weren’t barging in on any animals. Justin nodded, too tired to bother speaking, and they all started pushing snow to form burrow walls under the spread of branches Tam had chosen. He ate the food and drank the water Tor pushed into his hands once they were nestled by the tree trunk.
“How did you know there were bandits at the shed?” Tor asked as they wrapped in their blankets.
“I didn’t,” Justin replied. Tor curled back-to-back with Tam, how they usually slept. “You didn’t set your chime clock,” Justin stated, yawning.
“I don’t need to,” Tor answered, his voice just as tired. “Sleep until you wake up. It’s going to snow for at least a whole day. We’re not going anywhere until the storm stops.”
Is it over? Did the week actually end? For really real? I need to ask because WOW it was "a week".
Possibly two, although for my hubby taking the brunt I think he'd agree to saying it was a month crammed into seven days. As an undetailed summary of mostly unrelated occurrences, I can say that toxic work environments suck, finances in 2020 are a wild and unpredictable thing, so-called colleagues can be real jerks over the phone, and deaths in families are never feel-good moments (even when it's not close family).
But, this week must be over because Sunday is tomorrow. For some of you reading this, it's Sunday right now and that means the new week is already starting in a lot of places. This is a bonus I have from living in one of the globe's final time zones: I get a sneak peek from you future dwellers into the happenings of the next day before it even gets to me. Sometimes that can be a comfort.
As an added bonus, nobody in the house was sick this week. (Aside from mental health, ya know?) We've been having colds circulate though since reopening started and the kids have been doing in-person learning. This week, however, was snot-free! I claim that as a win simply because I can ;)
The writing side of things was quiet due to the real life happenings, but I did steal a couple hours for reading and editing in my big manuscript. Those characters are talking to me again and I needed to get reoriented in the story. I really like this world, so hopefully real life settles down and I can schedule the needed time to write.
Hope you're staying safe and well this weekend!
8. Running Conversations
Tor stopped at the very edge of the fire’s light, Tam pausing to look back a step later when she noticed her brother wasn’t beside her. Justin stood, looking back and watching a few freed prisoners help each other down, then he looked around at the bodies of the guards scattered around the camp before turning to stare again at the man who’d helped him escape. Who was still helping him. Tor only shrugged and invited Justin to follow with a silent gesture. Justin swallowed his reservations and started walking the way he’d just been invited.
They paced at a jog for the rest of the night and well into the next morning, eating lightly as they went rather than stopping. Tor called a halt as midday was nearing, taking a fold-up chime clock from his pocket and setting it to alarm in four hours as Tam rolled into her blanket to sleep. Justin wrapped into his blanket, but forced his eyes to stay open in spite of exhaustion. Tor chuckled as he wrapped up and lay down back-to-back with his sister.
“I still need you to take her safely out of Opat with you,” Tor stated, yawning behind his mask. “You’re safe from me as long as she’s safe.”
Justin still waited for them to fall asleep before he allowed himself to.
When he woke, Tam was melting snow in a metal pot over a pocket flame and Tor was jabbing him in the shoulder with the sheath of his sword. The scout was sitting up and had his mask off, but was still wrapped in his blanket. And he was grinning.
“Tam stole my clock and made us oversleep by a half-hour,” he stated quietly, rolling his eyes as he pulled his arm back to hang his sword on his belt. “She’s a brat,” he added, loud enough that she threw a hard bun at him rather than handing it to him. He winced as if the stale bread had caused injury, catching it easily before it hit the ground, and the two of them bantered through the quick meal.
Justin ate his bun quietly, mostly ignoring the conversation. Tor included him as if he was participating anyway. It was the same every time they stopped for the next three days. Justin tried hard to find Tor irritating, or at least mildly annoying, but was constantly confronted with the engaging personality of the scout being too similar to his younger cousin, Bernard, and found himself listening to the conversation more often than not. He shocked himself almost as much as Tam when he laughed at one of the gearblocked jokes Tor cracked as they were jogging on the third day.
“What was it you were arrested for?” Tor asked directly on the fourth day as they were eating before cleaning up and starting the night’s run.
“I wasn’t,” Justin answered.
“What do you mean?” Tor pressed, making a face at the limp carrot in his hand before starting to eat it.
“I wasn’t arrested,” Justin repeated around a mouthful of stale bun. Both siblings stopped eating to stare at him. “You were right when you said you’d overheard that I’m a sailor. I’m a bosun. I build and fix ships,” he added when they looked confused at the title. “We were ashore to resupply. I needed a new drill because mine broke. I got hit with some kind of dart and woke up tied up in the wagon with three others from my crew.”
“You’re serious?” Tor asked. Justin nodded in reply and pushed the last bite of bread into his mouth. Tam looked down to stare at the bun in her hand and swallowed the bite she’d just taken as if only now noticing how bad it tasted.
“There were only two of you at my village,” Tam stated quietly, still not looking up.
“Renden and Lark had already been killed,” Justin told them. “Renden by the sword in one of our first escapes. Lark was too old for wearing the heavy chains.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you and your friends,” she said, making eye contact and holding it.
Justin looked away to pick up his jacket-made satchel and sling it across his shoulders as he stood. “We should get moving,” he stated.
They joined him quickly. He expected that Tor would remain as uncomfortably quiet as Tam but, just like Bernard would have, he starting chatting again almost immediately as if there’d been no interruption to the usually friendly conversation.
The jog that night was quiet as they all saved their breath for running at the pace Tor set. The widening moon provided extra light and, after midnight, Tor took advantage of the visibility and they parted with the road. It clouded over and started snowing as dawn began to lighten the east, around the same time that Justin realized they were dropping in elevation. They ran for long after midday, hours past when they usually stopped, and got to the place that Tor had been aiming for when they would have been waking up on a typical day. Justin eyed up the little cabin from the edge of the trees, not wanting to get too close.
“It’s a summer resupply shed,” Tor explained in a whisper. “It’ll be empty right now, or occupied with people or animals that aren’t supposed to be in there,” he added, pulling his mask on and straightening out his uniform. “Just wait here,” he ordered them. He jogged over alone and unlocked the door ratchets, pulling the door open and then ducking inside after a quick glance at the interior. “It’s empty,” he called out from the door, pulling his mask off again. The assurance didn't make Justin feel any better about the shed.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!