For a moment, hope
Greener pastures lay ahead
Hidden by the moon
For a moment, hope
Greener pastures lay ahead
Hidden by the moon
I am a puzzle piece.
Born to fit with those like me
to form a masterpiece.
While young we accept this serenity,
But maturation brings separation.
Those who fit into our very being
don’t connect like they once did.
In desperation we fight this feeling,
To no avail, the puzzle is broken.
Stray pieces hope to find another
Place where they can fit.
But what most desire they will not get.
Only the lucky ones find some pieces
that fit better then they did before.
I was startled to wake up to the campsite being entirely empty. Even my tent had disappeared. I stood up and stretched while scanning the surrounding area. I heard a faint giggle from behind a hill, and headed towards it. I soon discovered resting at the bottom of the valley, were Eddie and my uncle holding back some laughter. I threw some dirt at them and slid down the mossy hill.
“You must’ve had a real scare there,” said my uncle, holding back tears of laughter.
I sighed, and looked at Eddie who seemed to be growing tired of the joke.
He looked at my uncle. “Come Daniel, you’ve had your fun, let us keep moving. Only the Silky Steps remain to be ascended before the peek.”
It wasn’t long before we were back on the trail, waiting for the most dangerous part to appear before us. The Silky Steps were so dangerous because the stones that formed the steps were notoriously slippery. Uncle had told me that he broke his spine while climbing the steps. And although I never had an accident on the steps, the possibility always rested in the back of my mind when climbing them.
To think that a man, old and blind like Eddie was to climb the steps made my stomach turn. Trying not to give offence to the man I back handedly commented on his health.
“A man your age would have to be pretty fit and agile to climb these steps Eddie.”
I heard a hearty laugh come from his chest.
“Aye, he would.”
Only the birds were heard until we came across the start of the steps.
My uncle handed me his pick axes.
“It’s your turn to lead son.”
I had never been the lead on the steps before, but I was certainly ready. I began the ascent followed by my uncle, who was followed by Eddie. I put my full focus and attention into climbing the steps carefully. My uncle and Eddie on the other hand seemed to be having a boisterous laugh in the back. No doubt reminiscing about the battle on the peak. Although all my focus was on the climb, I heard bits a pieces of the conversation every so often.
“You sliced him straight across the ankle!”
“They found me retching at the bottom of these steps.”
“Elyse gave most of herself to the cause that day.”
“It all ended here.”
That was the last morsel of memories past I heard before gazing upon the vast country that lied before us now. We had reached the peak.
To be continued
Engrossed as I was in the story, it seemed that old Eddie had entirely forgotten that I was there. It seemed as if he was telling the story to himself, rather than to me as a listener. None the less, I sat content by the fire, propping the shield that had been attached to the pack against a large rock, and got as comfortable as I could. Eddie paused before continuing with his tale. He put his lute down and took a sip of the broth from his bowl. The fire crackled as Eddie re positioned himself, and he looked at me.
“How much did Daniel tell you about the Battle of Fredrickstead, young man?”
His inquiry was accompanied with a look of concern. I replied,
“Only that thirty two men died at his hands that day.”
Eddie for no reason apparent to myself, looked relieved.
“Aye, he did. Most did not die by his hand or sword though.” He chuckled.
“How did he kill thirty two men then?” I asked, having already assumed the answer. The millstones were probably a majority of his kills, but I felt it necessary to entertain the old man.
Eddie took a breath of preparation, “To answer that, I will continue where I had left off.”
He continued the tale.
“The sun had fallen, and most of the men were armed and ready, waiting atop the hills surrounding the hamlet. Daniel and his scouts scurried along in the darkness to a collection of torches which lit up the pitch darkness only slightly. This mass of light in a dark place was the one of the two war parties, the other taking the opposite end of the town, lead by Elyse and Gerald. Your uncle and myself took charge of the one at hand, and Daniel had news of the approaching army. It appeared as if the size of the army had been cut in half, which we later found out to be because that idiot David thought we had gone East and taken shelter in the woods of Wergen. David took his best soldiers and left the rest to search the south, where we were. David’s decision was not entirely misguided though, as some of the men who fled Fredrickstead upon arriving, had been sighted near Wergen. Although they were cowards, they did not deserve to be butchered as they were during David’s fury upon realizing he had made a mistake. But I digress.”
“Upon hearing the news of half the expecting opposing force, many of the men rejoiced quietly. This angered myself slightly, and I took it upon myself to remind everyone that most of us would still die her tonight. “Less than three hundred fifty farmers, workers, and young men, against four hundred skilled and trained soldiers” I reminded them. The war party grew silent and went back to brooding in the darkness. An hour passed, and the marching of David’s men could be heard. The entire plan rested on the assumption that upon seeing a deserted hamlet, the enemy would spend the night, and then loot in the morning before leaving. Luckily we assumed correctly as four hundred soldiers poured through a small break in the hills and into Fredrickstead. Thanks to our friend Gerald, who had the bright idea to wait until most fell asleep to begin the attack, we waiting until what was most likely three in the morning. One of our men lit the signal, the other war party responded and it was on.”
“If you were impressed by the thirty two your uncle killed, then Gerald’s death count would make you faint son. To start the battle, Gerald and his band of archers had arrows lit by some magic of Elyse, and let loose the fiery birds of the night. The fire that was born of those arrows engulfed the town quickly, which we had made certain it would with kindling and coal placed in precise locations. At least fifty of their men died in those flames. From the tips of the hills, it felt as if we were staring into a massive campfire, and all the enemy soldiers were small anchovies caught in the heat, roasting alive. As we heard the screams of dozens of burning soldiers, our men prepared the millstone for its descent into the blinding light. The enemy had caught on and began to climb desperately and frantically up the hills. They were met with a hard crushing death. Your uncle crushed at least thirty of the thirty two men with his millstones. It wasn’t long before we ran out of the massive make shift weapons, and we began our climb downward into the still hot embers of a town that was alive and well earlier that week. ”
Interrupting the old man I asked “How many men do you think remained when you entered the town?”
The old man pondered for a minute.
“Well, I would say we lost less than ten men at that point in the fight, and upon arriving at the village, we outnumbered them quite a bit, so most likely they had less then two hundred and fifty. The fight in the embers was the most costly for our cause. By the end of it, We had a count of one hundred and seventy nine men, with forty enemy soldiers taken as prisoners. Unfortunately Gerald had perished during this fight, along with countless other great men. Elyse, Daniel, and myself mourned greatly the following day, and we did not find respite until we arrived at Fort Magen after a weeks journey south.”
Eddie became silent briefly, then quickly added,
“My… our first real victory.”
I had become entranced with his tales of swords, stones, and war. I sat patiently anticipating him to continue his story at Fort Magen. He looked at me and yawned.
“Perhaps you will hear the rest of it if we make it to tomorrow night young man.”
He stood up and got into his tent. Shortly after snores from his tent were heard in addition to my uncles. I sat there for a while, imagining the horrors of war. I was grateful to have not known those horrors, but found myself wanting the same glory and achievement that these older men had earned. I could always dream about war in my sleep I realized. It was not long before there were three men snoring in harmony.
To be continued 3/8/16
The summer heat was sweltering and it was only midday. I slowly trudged out the door of my uncle’s cabin, pack on my back, reluctant to start the task at hand. My uncle had been my caretaker ever since my parents both died during one of the many uprisings against the king. I was too young to remember any of it happening, and my uncle refused to tell me about any of it, citing his weak heart as the reason. He raised me at the foot of the great Mount Hubris, aptly named after Lord Davis and his forces were subdued on its peak. Every now and then loyalists to the crown, historians, or curious tourists would pay my uncle a fair sum to guide them up the mountain. It wasn’t much money, but that and the food we grew on our own was enough for the both of us. My uncle had told me that morning that we would be guiding an old friend, who had grown blind in his later years, and could no longer make the journey on his own. My uncle looked impatiently at me as I shuffled towards the gate to his cabin.
“Hurry, our client is not somebody we should keep waiting.”
I grimaced, “Sorry, it hasn’t been this hot in years.”
My uncle smirked at me and took off towards the meeting point at a pace brisk for someone as old as him. Although I had never directly asked my uncle his age, he had to be somewhere in his late fifties. Yet, on this day where the sun poured molten waves of heat on one’s skin, he had seemed more agile then myself at seventeen years of age.
“It’s been years since I’ve seen Eddie,” he looked back at me struggling to keep up. “Hell maybe even decades!”
Uncle seemed genuinely excited, more than I’ve seen in years. As we approached the small stone bench were Eddie was seated, my uncle began to tense up a little bit. He slowly walked up to Eddie and extended his hand,
“It’s been too long friend.”
Eddie looked up at where he supposed my uncle would be. His face was old, weathered, and beaten, but somehow still maintained some spark of youth. I almost fainted when I saw he was wearing a thick mail of shiny metal and some fancy looking greaves underneath that. I was surprised he had not collapsed from heat exhaustion. As he looked up at my uncle, his expression began to change from one of contentment to one of mild disgust.
“Even after all these years, your terrible sense of humor has not changed Daniel,” Eddie scolded as he pushed my uncles had away. “Extending your hand to a blind man might top the list of bad jokes you’ve made over the decades.” He began to chuckle, as did my uncle who sat next to him on the hot stone bench.
“What kind of madman parades in their old uniform on a day like this Eddie? And during a journey like this one, you must really miss being on the field.” My uncle patted some dirt off Eddie’s shoulder.
Eddie stood up and started to wander, poking at various things with an old oak cane he carried.
“I don’t miss the field as much as I miss those who fought alongside us Daniel.” My uncles face grow solemn, “Come now, lead an old blind man to the top of this mountain.” He pointed his cane directly at me. This startled me a bit, but I none the less took the pack off my back, and removed some rope which I tied to myself, my uncle, and Eddie in that order.
“Come non now, I thought only louts and losers used ropes on this hike,” chuckled Eddie. My uncle looked back with a grin on his face. “Aye. Louts, losers, and now old men.”
At the end of the day we were all exhausted, and we had not even reached the most treacherous part of the journey yet. My uncle started to build a campfire has I prepared the tents. Old Eddie sat in the dirt and took a pipe out from his pack, loaded it with a neon purple herb. My uncle looked concerned “I can’t believe you still smoke that garbage.” Eddie sparked the bowl by snapping his fingers. “Witches and wizards know how to have the most fun, do not let Daniel tell you otherwise.” It had been a couple years since I had last seen magic. My uncle found the stuff to be abhorrent and unnatural. Although Eddie’s magic seemed tame, my uncle still seemed perturbed by it. “No nephew of mine will spend his time with those charlatans. I haven’t spent the past eighteen years of my life training him with a sword and shield, just so he can go and learn some fancy tricks.” Everyone fell silent as Eddie continued to blow a shimmering purple dust out of his lungs. A few minutes of this silence fluttered by, until Eddie finished his pipe.
“You never called Elyse a charlatan when she mended your broken spine.”
My uncle, who was collecting stick around the camp at the time, stopped dead in his tracks.
“Let’s just get this meal ready, I’m sure we’re all hungry.” He muttered.
My uncle had no kids, and never brought any ladies to the cabin, at least not while I was there. He did once mention a woman he knew back during the War of the Lords. His stories never went on for too long though, as he worried his heart would give in from the pain of remembering.
The fire had started, and my uncle was boiling some venison stew in a small cauldron. It was a beautiful night out. The owls, crickets, and wind all sung in unison, creating a blissful melody. Eddie pulled a small lute from his pack, and began to strum along with nature. “Reminisce with me, Daniel.” My uncle smiled from the side of his mouth, “I think I’ll pass, dinners ready anyhow.”
We all slurped our stew furiously. Uncle decided it would be best if he went to bed early. It wasn’t long before we heard snores coming from his tent. Now it was just Eddie and I, sitting next to the dying fire. As I swallowed a chunky piece of venison, I noticed Eddie staring at me blankly. “I hope that you are more willing to entertain an old man who wants to recount his glory days.” I wasn’t tired enough for sleep yet, so I nodded and got comfortable.
“Good! Would you rather hear about when your uncle and myself were stranded on an island of cannibalistic women, or the Battle at Fredrickstead?” He stiffened up with excitement.
I had heard bits and pieces of the story of the battle. My uncle claims to have killed thirty two men in one day. While it interested me, who would miss an opportunity to hear about cannibalistic women? Before I could express my interest in the former tale, Eddie started.
“Fredrickstead was a small little hamlet south of the capital, but not as far south as Mount Hubris. No more than eleven lived there at the time I believe. Lord David’s forces had routed our men underneath the Dreary Peaks, so we fled under the mountains’ shadow towards the south. Five hundred, give or take, tired and beaten soldiers all stopped and rested in the tiny hamlet of Fredrickstead. It was almost too much for the town elder to comprehend. She had not seen war since her childhood, and was mortified at the thought of one coming to her home. With General Bergus slain under the Peaks, no one was willing to step forward and make a decision. Some spoke of fleeing, others cried for their mothers, and a good number darted for the hills. By the next morning less than three hundred and fifty soldiers remained. To make matters worse, your uncle had taken a couple scouts to see if Lord David had caught up. He was a days march away. Panic gripped those who remained, and the hamlet’s elder, Maxine, begged us to leave. Daniel, our friends Gerald and Elyse, and myself decided to take action. We gather the men and the towns folk and devised a plan. It was soon discovered that the main function of Fredrickstead was stone carving. The people of the Hamlet would take massive slabs of stone from the surrounding hills, and create works of stone from them. Their most popular export being the millstone gave me an idea. After generations of carving the hills around the hamlet, Fredrickstead was at the base of a rather sizable valley. We would lure David’s men to the center of this Hamlet, set it on fire, and as they fled up the hills we would crush them with millstones we rolled down. The remaining men should be no issue, considering they would be fighting an uphill battle. The villagers protested, one even going as far as to try and kill Gerald. After being subdued, they accepted their fate. Daniel gave them the option to join our cause and receive reparations after the war, or flee south to safety. Only two remained, and alongside the army, we all prepared for the battle to come.”
To be continued on 3/4/16
It’s been about thirty minutes since my little brother James got up to use the bathroom. I wouldn’t be too surprised if he hopped the fence to be with his girlfriend for the big show. That leaves Mom, Dad, our cat Badger, and myself, all crowded around the television. Badger was the only one present whose eyes were not fixed on the images shown on the television. In one corner of the screen in a small box were three anchors, waxing poetic on the matter at hand. The focal point on the screen though, was the gigantic rock engulfed in flame, burning a hole in the seemingly endless blackness around it. This meteorite was headed straight for planet Earth. Our best and brightest all came together months ago to combat this foe, and only recently was it made public that they had failed. Six days ago if I remember correctly. Most of the world had already put this impending doom to the back of their minds, like myself. We had all assumed that they would find a solution, and we were all put in shock by the news that they had not found one. The events that ensued were predictable. Mass riots, looting, world powers bickering and threatening to end it all just a bit earlier. All that settled down yesterday though, as people realized that there wasn’t much time left, and spending it on that nonsense was fruitless. Right now many families just like my own are all watching their televisions final newscast. Obviously the anchors and crews all deserve to meet the end with their families too. As the newscast drew to a close, a timer came up that read “12:00.” It began to count down and we sat still, watching the screen with blank expressions.
After the countdown started, my mother called James, telling him that although she wished he would be here right now, she understands why he left, and that she loves him. My father took the phone as well, hand trembling, fighting back some shaky demon from within. “I love you James.” He handed the phone back to mom, who looked towards me. I looked down, motioning my disinterest to her, “Tell him I love him too.” She relayed my message, hung up the phone and proceeded to lay down on the couch next to my father. They looked comfortable, and content. I was not. The true weight of the situation was not hitting me, and it annoyed the fuck out of me. It’s like my mind refused to accept that there would be no tomorrow. Grabbing my favorite shoe box, I headed outside and unpacked a small pipe and some marijuana from it. I smoked that weed in the hot midday Texas sun, scanning the pale blue horizon for a burning stone. To no avail, I ashed my pipe, and pulled out my phone. I figured social media would be dead, considering this should be time spent with your loved ones. I can’t say I was too surprised when I saw more activity on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat then I had in months. People posting pictures and videos of them and their loved ones smiling, laughing, acting like the world was not ending. Who were they posting these pictures for? No one would be here to see them in a days time. As I scrolled through Facebook’s feed, I came across my most recent ex. She was with her family, and seemed happy enough. That’s when it really hit me.
I now realized the weight of the situation staring at Veronica’s pictures. In less than a day, I would no longer see her face. The goofy smile she had as we laughed at the people walking past our table at the food court. I would no longer remember her scent, which was never too powerful or loud, but it was distinct. I would no longer miss her curling up in my arms at night. It had been weeks since our breakup, but I still yearn for her warmth. I guess it is not entirely bad, seeing that I would no longer have to deal with her lies. Like when she told me time and time again that her friend Pete was gay. He wasn’t. Those multiple slumber parties sure sounded fun. I would no longer have to deal with her hurtful comments and observations. Like when she told me I was the worst looking boyfriend she’s ever had, followed by a swift and insincere apology. It’s true she was a pretty awful person, but the time we spent together was magical. The true cost of the leviathan to come was now apparent to me. I do not believe in a God, so to me, this is it. After tonight, I will cease to have memories, feelings, and thoughts.
My last few hours consisted of me finishing “Lost” finally, eating mass quantities of food, and crying, mostly because of I disappointed I was with “Lost.” When the final five minutes finally came, my family and myself gathered on the porch. My mom watched the approaching meteorite, my dad laughed at Badger playing with the insects, and I looked at my parents. Three minutes remained. My brother came scrambling up the fence. He wanted to spend the last three minutes with us. He handed me my phone, asking why it was in his girlfriends yard. I shrugged. Two missed calls from Veronica. I unlocked my phone, and sent her a message that read, “Hope you had a great last day, good luck in the future, I’ll always love you.” One minute remained. The read receipt came on, and I saw her start to type. Thirty seconds remained. She had stopped typing. I smirked, knowing she did not want to respond with another lie like “I love you too.” It was close now. My family got closer. I closed my eyes.