Category Archives: Writing

On the road home

barleyAs the sun set, the last dregs of the draught went pouring into Ged’s throat. With a smack of his lips and a loud belch he stood up and spun round addressing the general area, “Right then! I’d best be off!”

“Best be off what? Your head?”

Raucous laughter accompanied the jibes as they found their way into his head and he snarled a little before a broad smile spread across his weather beaten face and he dipped into a formal bow and spread his arms as he dipped

“I’d love to be off my head but alas, I have important things to do”

Peals of laughter sounded in response to his mock display of court charm and warm comments followed him as he made his way off the terrace and through the building towards the road.

“Sun’s going down Ged, don’t you want to wait for Anburt to leave so the two of you can share the road?”

The barman’s grim look said far more than his timid words.

“I’m not afraid of children’s tales, nor is it far to go to the farmstead and if I wait any longer I’ll have reason to be afraid when I get home. You know what Renda’s like!”

Ged loved walking at night, he found that he could walk for hours without thinking about the weariness that usually crept over him during the day and he loved to listen to the creatures of the night as they played out their drama’s in the theatre of the night.

He had promised Renda that he would be home before it got too dark. With the sun now fully set, he had only a short time left before her good humor would evaporate and he would find the sharp end of her tongue threatening to eviscerate him.

With a sigh of resignation he pulled his knapsack tighter onto his back and started a long loping stride that would surely get him home before Renda had reason to be unhappy with him.

As he was thinking about his time with Renda, their children and how amazingly single minded she could be, he heard an unfamiliar noise from the path ahead. A definite chink, the sound of metal on metal and his blood froze.

With all the recent talk of bandits on the road, he had held to the belief that they were in such a rural backwater that bandits would soon grow weary of putting themselves in harm’s way, only to be rewarded with the slim pickings available from the rustic folk of Shentzalayin.

He immediately stopped and listened harder, directing his attention to the darkness ahead.

With the sun only recently set, the moon waning and almost no clouds in the sky, his eyes had long ago adjusted to the lighting around and he could make out much of the scene ahead but could see nothing out of the ordinary.

As a precaution, he stepped off the road, moving into the scrub on the side of the road and heading deeper into the field adjacent to the road. Barley, a decent crop, young and green, silent.

He crouched close to the barley as he made his way quietly forward, hoping to get an idea of what he was afraid of, what he was hiding from.

His breath quickened and his senses became tighter, more focused, he hadn’t felt this alive since the last time he and Renda had… well since the last time they had had a few too many drinks.

The last effects of the beer he had had earlier was washed away in a flood of adrenaline and he remembered his days as a footman in the Duke’s army. The fear of dying, the sweat of a thousand men, the muttering of prayers and the ever constant presence of death had been his companion in those miserable months, how he longed for his rusty old blade now.

He lamented the fact that the little training in committing violence that he had had involved shouting and running straight at a wall of spears and hoping that he would live to see another day. He had, he supposed, and so he should remember that while he was no born warrior, he was also not someone who could easily be beaten down, after all, his hands were responsible for farming the land, for coaxing the oxen, for hauling the heavy barley sheaves. He was not a big man, but he was not the smallest man in town.

With his resolve set, he moved on a little faster and the distance to where he thought the sound had come from was quickly covered.

He could see nothing in the gloom ahead. He could see nothing on the road and for fear of stumbling into an ambusher on his side of the road he moved very slowly, very quietly towards the road again.

As he went he felt the sweat forming on his brow and felt the pull of his clothes as they stuck to his damp skin. He knew he would have to move swiftly if he came across someone, fast enough that the advantage of surprise would help sway things in his favor.

He quietly removed his knapsack and held it in one hand, ready to use it as a weapon, albeit a soft one, or something to catch his opponents off guard.

As he drew closer to the road he heard the sound of footfall on the path and he crouched down, his breathing labored but quiet.

As the footsteps came nearer he burst from the scrub, waving his knapsack like a heavy iron mace, shouting in a lordly voice “I command you to lay down your weapons and prostrate yourself before me!”

With a shriek, the man fell backwards to the ground and Ged leapt forward, looking for the weapon he knew he carried.

“Ged you fool! You scared the life out of me! What’s gotten into you?”

Anburt’s relief was clear in his voice, so too was his fear and his face, such as could be seen in the gloom, betrayed the anger at this unwanted surprise.

Laughing hysterically, Ged quickly told Anburt what had happened and helped his friend up. As the two men dusted themselves off, they both started when they heard the distinctive sound of a sword being drawn from its scabbard.

“Well that was a laugh, don’t think I have ever seen that happen before!”

The man holding the sword advanced on them menacingly as his three accomplices surrounded Ged and Anburt.

“Give us everything you’ve got then, and we’ll let you on your way”

As the bandits rode away, Ged and Anburt walked on towards their farmsteads, naked, cold, angry.

Ged knew that Renda would be angry that he had been robbed, but also that she would be grateful that he was unharmed.

He headed towards his home with a smile in his heart.

Forget me not

wineThe buzzing started to quiet down and the haziness that seemed to blur my vision cleared away slowly, leaving behind a mild curiosity, a feeling of bewilderment at where I was and what I was doing.

I stretched lazily and stifled a yawn and blinked as I took in my surroundings and shook the fog from my mind.

Acrid smoke, musty bookshelves, burnt leather apron, glass vials and tubes… the laboratory.

Still more than a little confused as to why I was so sleepy and seemingly unaware of how I ended up in the lab, the serenity that followed waking was rapidly replaced by a rising panic that sharpened my senses and brought me to my feet with a resounding crash as the chair I had been sleeping on was thrown backwards into the wall.

Fully alert, wide-eyed and in in control of my faculties I stared around the lab for clues as to what had transpired before I woke. There was nothing to indicate anything unusual on the desk where I had clearly slumbered, stretched over various parchments and little paper sachets of various mineral and other content.

“What day is it today?” I wondered as I took in the labels on the little paper sachets, salt, willow bark, potassium, wheat germ?

“What was I working on?”

As I trailed my gaze over the workbench I started to see obvious patterns that had escaped me before, the willow bark sachet was mostly empty and was not properly sealed, the potassium sachet was clearly crumpled and there was an empty beaker with some dried scale remnants still clinging to the sides.

I decided to stop worrying, that it would all come back to me and headed out to the dormitory.

As I walked I took in the sights and smells, allowing them to permeate my senses in a way that seemed more real than I had ever noticed before. I seemed to be infused with a healthy dose of life, seeing vivid colours in everything I looked at and hearing with an alarming clarity.

As I neared the dorms, I saw Jeune sitting on the steps, head in hands.

My cheerful greeting is met by a blank faced stare and then a wide smile spreads of his face as he leaps up and throws his arms around me.

“Where have you been? We’ve all been so worried about you!”

“Where have I been? I was actually going to ask you something similar! I woke up in the lab in section 4 about an hour ago with no memory of what I had been doing to get there.”

“In the lab?” Jeune’s raucous laughter startled me and I stepped back confused.

“What’s so funny? I am having a bit of a panic because I have no idea how long I slept or how I ended up there!”

Jeune looked me full in the face with a broad smile and said simply “Come with me.”

With that he turned and raced back up the steps shouting for Thoom and Gandy who were likely milling about somewhere close.

As I started up the stairs I saw them emerge from the dormitory, looking for who had called them and locking eyes with me they both immediately started towards me. They were a few steps down when Jeune went bounding towards them jabbering away, too far for me to hear but clearly about me as he kept pointing at me and they started walking towards me again.

We met on the steps and Thoom and Gandy were clearly happy to see me though the frenetic excitement that had Jeune beaming all over the show didn’t seem to have them in its grasp.

Gandy grabbed me by the shoulders and said “You don’t remember anything? Not a single thing?”

I told him that I could remember everything, just not what had happened in the lead up to my waking in the lab. I told him I remembered everything from the previous day, going to class, reading from the old tomes in the religious studies section of the library, I just couldn’t remember where I couldn’t remember from. There didn’t seem to be much missing…

All three young men started chuckling and Thoom started talking in his gravelly voice – “Yesterday, the yesterday you are talking about when you went to the library to study old gods, that was two days ago!”

After that they all started talking, leaving me more and more amazed as the events unfurled.

It seemed that I had been trawling though ancient literature about long forgotten religions and I had stumbled across a god who was worshipped through drinking huge amounts of wine. The prospect of a god who had permeated the very seat of cultural acceptance had intrigued me and as my friends and I had sat having our evening meal, we had started to speak about the ancient deity.

The more we spoke, the more wine we drank and the more wine we drank, the more we spoke until at some point in the evening we had all been so drunk we had been unable to do much more than pour more wine.

At that point, the wine had begun to pour itself and I had called out to the ancient god to see if he still endured and then everything got weird.

Jeune told me that the wine casket we had been pouring from had started to glow, Gandy said that the whole room lit up and Thoom told me he could hear women singing gay ditties, all the while I was encased in a sparkling nimbus that had them wondering if there had been some of those red cap mushrooms in the meal we’d eaten.

The god, as it turned out, had not been dead and had in fact remained fairly powerful and had been overjoyed to hear his name spoken so many times and had chosen to come and bestow a great gift upon me for bringing his name back to the light of day.

“It would be a great gift if I knew what it was!” I said miserably.

Thoom reached out and passed me a wineskin and told me that the god said that I would have to drink wine when I returned.

I took the skin, put it to my lips and pulled a draught into my mouth and everything that had happened came back in a howling, powerful rage of ecstasy…

[important]Please help me improve my work by letting me know what you thought! I really do value feedback, especially at this early stage in my writing development as this is the first non-work related fictional piece I have written in over 20 years![/important]