Well, the news this week has been either a circus story or a horror story. I'm not going to hazard a guess as to which genre the story will continue with, but I do hope there's a happy ending worked into the plot somewhere in the near future.
It was disappointing (to say the very least) that the city where I live had a public white supremacy hate gathering. Sadly, though, it wasn't a surprise after our premier and his party members have been publicly awful and racist for the past few months. The 2023 provincial election looks really, really far away right now. It's a terrible feeling to see how far-reaching into the future the damage from the UCP having power in Alberta for four years will be, and I really hope there are legal consequences in the future for hurts caused by this sham of a governing body.
As for my small circle close to home, things are going decent at the moment. Family and friends are staying mostly healthy, our finances look awful but are finally predictable, and I might just be able to etch out a routine for my day-to-day requirements and get a lot of the wild cards out of my anxiety deck. How cool would that be, right? Actual mental healthiness. (Finding that would be like finding a unicorn that grants wishes lol.)
Writing is still on hold as my anxiety and depression spirals run around my thoughts like twisters, but the calm periods in my brain are getting longer and my characters are starting to whisper again. I do have the focus for editing and reading on a regular basis again, however, and getting back to those favorite activities has been lovely.
Yes, I like editing. No, really, I actually do! I love picking through my stories and smoothing off the rough edges and bad wording until they're polished and presentable. My initial drafts are like a meal that tastes good, but got slopped onto a chipped plate and put out on the porch. Editing rounds put that same tasty meal on a pretty plate and set it in the middle of a place setting on a clean dining table. Same food – ie: same story – but now it tastes and looks ready to devour. Hope you're having a good weekend!
The footprints suddenly branched suspiciously, continuing beside the road without looking like there was a break, but with a double-stepped path leading up to and away from the nearby trees. Justin jerked to a stop, Tam knocking into his side as he pulled her back, and looked at the other side of the road to find a similar double-stepped path over there. He didn’t see anything close to the snow so… there it was. Chest height on him, neck height on her. Not the bladed rope he’d heard some scouts carried, but still a black strand of silk rope that would knock over anyone coming this way.
Justin ducked under and continued. The yelling behind them wasn’t getting closer, but it also wasn’t getting further away. When he glanced back, torches were bobbing down the road. It looked like about half the guards were following. With his own weapons, that wouldn’t even be a challenge. With only a knife and the scout’s younger sister… he snarled as he looked forward and stared running again, pulling her to do the same beside him.
There were three more ropes. Justin was past the second one when he heard the guards chasing him run into the first one, and he was looking for the fourth when he heard them run into the second. The second had been at tripping height. The third had been creatively tied across a bend in the road to match the angle of a fallen tree on the side of the road; it was next to impossible to see, and would knock some men backwards while tripping others forwards.
Then he found the fourth one. Something was wrong with it. Justin felt the wrongness because he couldn’t see it, but it was wrong. He didn’t want to get close to it, and he didn’t want to put any extra tracks in the snow that showed how to get around it. Holding Tam’s arm to force her behind him, he took out the knife and snapped open the blade. Nothing happened when he pressed the flat of the blade down in the middle of the rope. The snow to his right twitched when he pressed the flat of the blade up under the middle of the rope. He released the tension, and the packed snow settled. He lifted the rope slowly, and some of the snow pack moved at the same place and then settled back when he let the pressure off the knife.
The fourth rope was tied across the road at just below Tam’s waist. Too high for her to climb over and too low to easily crouch under. The expectation would be for whoever came along to lift it or run headlong into it, which would trigger whatever hasty trap was waiting in the nearby snowbank. Justin checked with the knife to be certain there wasn’t anything tied under the rope, then dragged Tam down to crawl under, using the churned up snow of the wagon’s passing earlier that evening to cover the change in their tracks.
They were nearly a minute past where he expected a fifth rope to be when he started to feel like something was going even more wrong. The increased yelling as the guards encountered the third rope was barely enough to slightly lift the feeling. Justin slowed to a walk and started watching the trees to either side a lot closer than he had been, and returned the knife safely to his pocket. He was better at fighting with bare knuckles than with only one knife.
The scout was standing in the road, his back toward Justin and his mask up, held in place by the tip of a curved sword held by another man in the same black uniform. Tam sucked in a breath with a hiss. Justin looked down and saw recognition etched in her face, and the absolute opposite of welcome. Justin tucked her behind him and kept walking forward.
“Jin, she’s my sister. I had to do something,” Tor’s voice was conversational and even. Justin felt the gaze of the masked scout, Jin, run over him.
“Your sister needs a shave,” Jin replied. Justin saw Tor stretch taller, Jin’s sword tip pressing up into the soft skin where his jaw became his neck.
“I needed help getting her out of the cage,” Tor answered. “And help getting her out of Opat.”
“Then you should’ve asked, Tor,” Jin actually sounded disappointed.
“You wouldn’t have come.”
“You’re right,” Jin sighed. “But I could’ve slowed down the discovery that you’d left. I could’ve delayed the army diverting from patrol to come directly here because desertion is counted as an act of treason. Stones and mortar, Tor, I could’ve still helped you before it was a death sentence!”
Justin stopped walking when he felt Jin’s gaze land on him again. The sister peeped around his arm but stayed planted behind him. Jin scoffed and flicked his wrist, slapping Tor in the side of his head with the flat of the sword before Jin turned it back and sheathed the blade.
“If you hand them over now, and we go back to the –”
“No,” Tor interrupted.
“They’re criminals,” Jin stated.
“It’s Tam! She stole bread so she and Grams wouldn’t starve!”
“And what about him?” Jin jabbed a finger to point at Justin. Tor looked in the direction the finger was pointing, his assessment almost gentle, and then turned back to look at Jin with a shrug.
“He just wants to go home,” Tor said.
“What happens when you stop being useful for getting him home? What about if Tam stops being useful for him?” Jin crossed his arms at his chest, asking the questions that had been plastered on Tam’s face since before Justin had first opened the cage’s lock on the wagon.
“I’ll cut that stone when I have to,” Tor said and started pacing backwards toward where Justin and Tam were standing.
“You know I can’t let you leave,” Jin warned him.
“So give me time like you said you would,” Tor said, stopping beside his sister and pulling down his mask to cover his face. Jin shook his head and sighed, muttering under his breath. He walked over and stood in front of Justin, undoing his sword belt and clipping another of the fold-over knives to it before dropping his hand to hold it at his side.
“You owe me so much,” Jin pointed an accusing finger at Tor, and then he tucked his hand into a loose fist and tapped Justin’s shoulder. “There,” he stated, his tone petulant behind the mask. “I hit you first.”
Justin glanced at Tor and the scout nodded. Jin stiffened and tilted his chin up slightly. Justin shrugged and punched, knocking Jin unconscious before he even hit the ground. Tor picked up the weapons belt, hesitated for a moment, then reached inside a clever pocket that took up the entire back of Jin’s shirt. Tor pulled out a winding of black, silk rope. He tucked it into a similar pocket in his own shirt before thanking his friend and standing up.
“How long will he be out?” Tor asked.
“Until he wakes up,” Justin rasped, realizing after he spoke that it had been over a week since he’d said any words out loud. Tor nodded and strapped on the extra weapons belt.
“We’ll be better off going back toward –” he paused as the nearby boom of a small, black-powder demolition blast was followed up with screams and shouts. Justin stared at the scout, reassessing what he’d thought was a somewhat nervous and very young man. Apparently Tor had definitely only been cold when his sword was shaking earlier. “The camp,” Tor continued, finishing his sentence. “It’ll be easier to get through the guards than the army.” Tor nodded in each direction as he mentioned each enemy. “Can you fight or just brawl?” he added the question to Justin.
“Both, as required,” Justin answered, eyeing up that Tor now had both swords. The scout was watching him when Justin’s gaze lifted to the eyes behind the mask.
“Tam prefers straight blades. I’m assuming you do, too,” Tor stated. “We can get those from the guards.”
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!