Well, in case you missed it, the first “season” of The Golden Lands finished yesterday. The nine episodes of Volume 1: Shadows in the Sunlight were pretty successful, over all. I hope you guys enjoyed Volume 1. Soon, I will be releasing episodes for Volume 2!
If you missed anything from Volume 1, go to my page “Embark on the Journey: Volume 1 Episodes” to see a complete list of episodes. Just being honest: The Golden Lands is the best story I’ve ever written. Please just give it a chance. The episodes aren’t long either! If you don’t want to read my books on my blog, you’re welcome to download the free eBook here at Smashwords, here at Barnes and Nobles, or on the iBook store.
Thanks for all of your support. More blogging is coming soon!
This is the finale of Volume 1!!!! I hope you guys are enjoying these. If you missed any episodes, click here to see a complete list of episodes with episode descriptions!
EPISODE 9: THE BATTLE OF TWO BEASTS
“Malam!” I shout as loud as I can, my arm raised to protect my eyes from the smoke in the air. I stumble forward, leaning against the stone wall in the sitting room, and shout again, “Malam!”
It’s a good thing the people of this village built their houses out of stone. The fire sprayed into the house through the windows and caught the roof on fire, but overall the building is unharmed. I run towards the stairs to see if Faith is all right, but she is already at the bottom of the steps, arrows on her back, bow in hand, and boots on her feet. “Come on!” I say, leading her towards the door.
We reach the threshold when Faith says, “Wait! What about Kirk and Laura?”
Frustrated but determined, I reply, “I’ll get them. Don’t go anywhere!”
Franticly, I run up the stairs, coughing as the smoky air burns my lungs, and I hurry down the short, narrow passageway to Kirk and Laura’s room. I fling open the door, fearing that a piece of the roof might have fallen on them, or for some reason they got cooked alive.
I stop in their doorway and my jaw hits the floor. They are both heavily sleeping, each of them snoring loudly. I shout, “Get up! We’re under attack and the house is on fire!”
Both of them snap awake and sit upwards, and Kirk yells, “I didn’t do it!”
Then the couple looks at me, and their confusion is evident. I hold my hands out in a hopeless gesture and say, “What the heck is wrong with you!?”
Seemingly, a pang of understanding courses through the couple, and they scramble out of bed. I expect them to come with me out the door, but then my eyes widen with surprise when both Kirk and Laura leap out of the room from a window beside their bed. I shake my head and run down the stairs out of the house.
When I reach the streets, my heart starts beating rapidly. I don’t see Faith. I told her to stay here. Would she really go off by herself, amid all this chaos? “Faith!” I call worriedly. I look down the road but don’t see her anywhere.
“I’m down here!” I suddenly hear her say, her voice strained and tight.
I look down and to my left in the direction of her voice, and I see her beneath the giant body of Kirk, who is being squashed by Laura. I feel relief. “Oh, there you are,” I say.
Faith reaches for me and gasps, “A little help!”
I step forward and push Kirk and Laura off Faith. “Thanks,” she breathes.
“No problem,” I say. I feel comfortable knowing that Faith is with me and the fact that this town is full of large, burly men. This is not a desolate, helpless village. I feel confident that we can handle this band of Evil.
I turn towards the center of the village, and that’s when I see it. My head lowers and my brow narrows. I face it with determination and anger, my courage unfaltering, at least as I watch the beast walk slowly into the main intersection. A mere black shape against the background of blazing fire, the dragon spreads its wings, searching for new prey. I have never seen a dragon, and I never expected to run into one. But I can see why they are so feared. I guess I should count myself lucky; this dragon is only about twenty feet tall. It’s only a little taller than the houses, which stand at about eighteen feet. I look over at Faith and say, “I’m going after the dragon.”
“I’ll keep people away from the dragon,” she says. I can tell she’s feeling nervous, maybe even scared, but we both start forward in the direction of the dragon. I am already developing a plan when I come to a halt, seeing the dragon corner a family against the side of a house. The father holds a pick, and he charges the dragon. I start forward to help him when the beast rises on its hind legs, and it opens its mouth. From within the depths of its belly, a bright yellow glow runs up through the dragon’s throat, and a huge burst of fire erupts from its mouth. I stop, and my eyes grow wide. The beast aims at the man, and with a loud scream, the father is engulfed in flames. I want to look away, but I can’t tear my eyes from the sight. I feel tears form in my eyes, and I watch the black, lifeless body of the man fall to the ground. His wife and children shriek, and they start crying. Then the dragon turns its gaze upon them, and with a swipe of its paw, the voices of the family fall silent.
I grip my sword as tight as I can and hiss through my teeth at the dragon, “Damn you!” Then I run off, ready to initiate my plan. I hear Faith call to me, but I ignore her. I know what I need to do. I know that the dragon deserves death, and I will give it the punishment it deserves.
I rush down the street, my arms out behind me, and I shoulder my way into a house that is not burning. I ignore the family huddled together in their sitting room and rush up their stairs to the second floor. Raising my head, I strike at the ceiling repeatedly, marking out the shape of a square. Then I breathe, preparing myself, and then I bend my knees and jump. I burst out onto the roof, landing on my feet, with my left hand placed out in front of me on the roof for balance. I stand and sprint away.
Leaping from house to house, I near the center of the village. Every few seconds a blast of fire erupts from the center of the town, and I hear screams of pain. I run faster. I am only three houses away when I see the dragon rear on its hind legs and watch as the fire builds in its throat. I leap one house, then another—
—the dragon aims—
—when, crying out, I jump from the top of the last house before the main intersection. I slash as I fall, and my sword flashes in the firelight. I land on one knee and listen as the dragon grunts. There’s a pause, and then a spray of blood bursts from the wing of the dragon. The beast arches its back and roars, releasing its flames toward the sky. His would-be-victims, a pair of small boys, run away. The dragon turns to face me, and I rise from the ground.
I take up a stance, beholding the dragon with hatred, even as the beast claws at me. I jump away and up, and the monster’s paw strikes the ground, earth and ashes flying into the air as a result. I land on my feet, but the beast came after me without hesitation, and I duck another blow right before it hits my head. It feels like only an instant passes, yet already I see fire building up in the dragon, and I run to my right as a torrent of flames blow towards me. There’s no real cover I can get to without getting torched, so I run faster, circling the dragon, barely outrunning the flames. When they stop coming, I seize the chance to rush forward and slice the beast’s tail. I don’t know where my courage comes from, but I am determined to make this dragon suffer.
The dragon roars and its tail lashes in response. I try to jerk away, but the monster’s tail strikes me in the chest, knocking me into a house bordering the main intersection at the center of the village. I notice a cluster of people running down a street at my left, and some of them stop and look. I wish they would leave, but at the same time I like having an audience.
I charge the dragon, but it sweeps its wing through the air and I am hit off my feet. I tumble backwards, groaning with pain, but I quickly rise. The dragon stands tall for a moment, approaching me, and then it bites. I sidestep, and almost dodge the attack, but the tough, scaly temple of the beast rams into my shoulder. I stagger away, but not before I cut the beast’s face. The monster screams, and I see its belly begin to glow, when an arrow pierces its stomach. Casting my gaze behind me, I see Faith standing atop the roof of the building at my back. She shoots another arrow, this one bouncing off the dragon’s shoulder. While the beast is wounded, I shout to Faith, pointing at the villagers behind me, “Get them out of here!”
Faith nods and loads another arrow, turning in the direction of the villagers. I note with dismay that a group of Evil is about to attack the villagers, but the men of the crowd step forward and clash with the Evil, attacking with picks, hammers, and swords. I turn back to the dragon.
I shout with fury and run at the monster. This dragon burned a man to death and killed his wife and children. For this I want to make the beast suffer, but just because it is alive and evil, I want to give it a miserable death!
The dragon strikes at me, slamming its paw down in an effort to squash me. I duck under the blow and keep on running, my heart racing as I narrowly escape the attack. I am right in front of the dragon and running at top speed. Gripping my sword with two hands, I slash the dragon’s leg off. I run until I am a safe distance away, and then turn around and smile. “That’s right,” I say as I watch the dragon scream and thrash. “Writhe in pain, you monstrous bitch! Cursed be your soul and cursed be your fate, that you would ever act evil in front of John Hedekira!”
The monster rises from the ground and claws at me, its eyes full of malice and rage. Yet my sword flashes upwards, and I cut the paw of the beast from its arm. The dragon falls onto its back and wails. “Scream!” I shout. “Scream as the pain burns you!” I see the tail of the dragon whip towards me, and I lunge forward and slice the tip of the tail off. The monster cries all the louder.
I know I have won. Bounding forward, I leap atop the dragon’s chest and stab. The beast gurgles, and I grin. It gurgles as I gurgled when I was bleeding out, drowning in my own blood in my own home. I stab twice more, and the dragon finally ceases moving. I jump off the beast, satisfied with myself.
Then I hear Faith’s voice call, “John, come on!” She is standing in the road where the villagers clashed with the Evil. I join her, jumping over dead humans and beasts alike, and she explains, “The Evil are trying to capture the villagers. They headed for the front of town.”
“They’re trying to leave,” I say, angrily, “Are you hurt?” I ask her.
She shakes her head, “No, you?”
“Bruises,” I say, “that’s all. Thanks for helping me.”
“Thanks for killing the dragon,” she returns.
We run together to the front of the village. Two squads of grim men join us, their breaths falling heavily with exhaustion. Ahead of us, I see a cluster of Evil running towards the gate of the town, which has been broken down. As we grow closer, I can distinguish, on the backs of many beasts, large bumps. I peer harder, and I realize that the bumps are the women, children, and even men that the Evil are carrying off. “Why are they capturing them?” I wonder. “Are they hungry?” I think of Soror and Frater, and remember how Faith said she had seen my siblings with the band of Evil that invaded our home, alive and uneaten. I grimace, determined to figure out what the Evil intend to do with the humans they are trying to capture.
We catch up with the beasts, right as they reach the gate. I can’t stab any of the Evil in the back, lest I hit one of the unconscious humans they carry. So instead I sprint forward past a beast carrying a tall woman. Once I am in front of the monster, I jump and turn in the air so I face the Evil, and I stab it in the chest. Around me, the men of the village fall upon the beasts, and they easily subdue them since the Evil are carrying their fellow townspeople.
One Evil charges me, holding his axe high. I parry the axe and growl as I fight against the weight of the beast’s blow. At my left, I see another Evil attack me, swinging his sword for my side. I grunt, franticly trying to think of a way to dodge both attacks, when Faith suddenly jumps in front of me and blocks the sword with her knife. I sigh with relief. We both push our foes backwards; I kill my foe with a stab in the gut, she kills hers with a stab in the throat. I am looking for another opponent when Faith points and pulls me forward, saying, “Come on!”
I see who we are chasing after. A lone Evil is running away with a little boy on his back, out of the village towards the forest. We follow him, weaving past men and beasts alike, and we rush out into the field that precedes the forest. We are gaining on the beast, and next to me I see Faith draw back her arm and throw her dagger. It pierces the Evil’s leg, and I rush forward and hastily remove the boy from his back. Faith pulls free her knife, blocks the dagger of the Evil, and cuts off his hand in a swift uppercut. She draws back her dagger to kill the beast, but I quickly say, “Stop! I have a question for this Evil.”
Faith steps away, and I transfer the boy to her. Stabbing my sword into the Evil’s shoulder, I ask stiffly, “Why are you capturing humans? Tell me if you don’t want to die a slow death!”
The beast looks at me and says, “I cannot tell—”
I twist my sword and the Evil grunts. “Damn you, tell me!” I shout.
The beast hisses through his teeth and growls. I make as if I am going to twist my sword again, when the beast says through clenched teeth, “Fine. I will tell you. But only because the answer will bring fear into your heart.” The Evil smiles at me, and then answers my question. “We are capturing humans and taking them to the Gray Lands.”
I’m confused. It doesn’t make sense. “Why?” I question, “Why the Gray Lands?”
The beast gurgles, and then replies, “We must obey our master. You do not understand; you could never comprehend his power!”
“Who?” I question. “And why are you taking the humans to the Gray Lands?” I don’t know if I can contain myself any longer. Who is he talking about? What’s going on?
The beast coughs, gagging, and then in a hoarse voice he says, “The Gray Lands have become an altar.”
“An altar?” I hear Faith say behind me.
“An altar for what?” I urge.
The Evil breathes deeply, and slowly says, “An altar upon which all Knights and Beloved will be offered as a sacrifice…” he pauses and smiles, staring right into my eyes, and he finishes, “…to the God of Death.”
Miss any earlier episodes??? Click here for a complete list of episodes with episode-descriptions!
EPISODE 8: A CALL UNHEEDED
The five Evil that ran away after we attacked the group of thirty seem to have vanished. Faith and I don’t care to follow them specifically, but we travel in the same direction that they went. I feel like, while we are still struggling with our wounds, there is an unspoken agreement not to talk to one another unless necessary. We are both rather grumpy, or at least I am, but, by virtue of the fact that we don’t talk to each other very much, Faith doesn’t have to suffer from my mood. We press on, the sunsets growing darker and the climate getting cooler.
We come upon a town two days after our encounter with the band of thirty beasts. The village is small, but well fortified by a short stone wall. Even the houses of the village are made of stone, and they have thatched roofs along with heavy, dark brown doors. We are staring down at the village from atop a tall, rocky cliff. I hear a loud crack and the sound of tapping, and I peer down the cliff, seeing a group of men hacking with picks both at boulders and large chunks of the base of the cliff that are bulging outwards. The men are sticking medium-sized pieces of stone into large wheel-barrels. I suppose this is where they get all of their stone. “Do you want to go into the town?” I ask Faith. I personally do, but I want to know what she wants.
“Sure,” she says. I can tell she’s tired. “We don’t have anything to trade, but maybe someone will let us stay at their house for free.”
So we start down the side of the cliff. I jump past sharp rocks and dodge past trees. It’s almost sunset, and I’d prefer to be within the safety of the village. I don’t know why I feel so anxious. But I do. My wounds flare with pain as I quickly move downhill. Faith moves at a slower pace, and I understand why; she doesn’t want to be reckless with her leg-wound.
When we exit off to the side of the cliff, the men hacking away at the boulders look over at us. I nod towards them and raise my hand in greeting. They do the same. “Should we ask them?” I ask Faith.
“I don’t know,” she says.
I cup my hands over my mouth and shout over to the men, “Hey! Mind if we stay at one of your places?”
The men stop in their work and look at me. Faith says, “Couldn’t you have been more polite?”
I open my mouth to reply when one man with a bushy beard, long, curly hair, and hard eyes, shouts, “Come on over here!”
Faith and I shift uncomfortably, but walk over to the man. He is huge, with enormous muscles and a stubborn, gruff look. We come to a halt in front of him, and he turns to us and crosses his arms. “So you want to stay at my home, eh?”
“Well, not necessarily—” I start to say.
“What have you got to trade?” the man asks.
“Well, nothing,” I say. We really don’t.
“And do you know any kind of trade so I can briefly employ you?”
“Actually, no,” I say.
“Then you’re really just a no-good, beggar of a teenager?”
I open my mouth to retort when Faith smiles and jabs me with her elbow, saying, “Pretty much!”
I toss her a look, and then the big man laughs. “My name’s Kirk Lumberhead. I’d love for you two kids to stay at my house.” Then to me he says, “You wouldn’t mind giving us a hand with towing these stones back, would you?”
“Not at all,” I say.
It takes two men to haul one of the wheel-barrels. I team up with one man, and together we transport the rocks to town, Faith walking beside me. When we reach the village, Kirk calls out from behind me, “Kirk and crew returning from the cliff!”
Before us is a large, tall wooden gate. It croaks loudly as two men open it in response to Kirk’s words. We pause while the gate gradually swings inwards, and I get to relax my grip on the wheel-barrel. Although I’m not showing it, hauling the rocks has placed plenty of stress on my shoulder, causing it to throb, and I am happy to cease pulling. When the gate is fully open, my partner gestures towards the village, and I grip the handles on the wheel-barrel and move forward. We enter the village.
Once inside, I hear the gate close behind me with finality, an unexpected reminder that we are here to stay for the sunset. I grimly remember that the last time I entered a village, things didn’t go so well. Remembering my fight with Tarsh, however, reminds me that I should ask around and see if anyone has seen the band of Evil that almost killed me and took my siblings.
We drag our wheel-barrels to the left of the gate and dump them into a large mound of other rocks. “Thanks for the help,” my partner says. We shake hands.
I join Faith and Kirk in the middle of the main street. “Come along now, youngsters!” says Kirk, his deep voice loud and hearty.
As we walk down the street, I notice that few people are about, probably because it’s sunset and it’s getting cold. I like the look of this village. It’s a mixture of a rocky and green complexion; walls and foundations made of stone, roofs made of mud, from which grows different types of greenery. The homes and shops are all placed close together, making me feel secure, and smoke rises from the chimneys of several homes, giving the village a comforting and homey appearance. The air is cool and crisp with a touch of smokiness.
“So,” Kirk says as we walk, “that’s a pretty fine sword you’ve got there. Every Knight of age is supposed to have one.”
“Uh, thanks,” I say politely, even though I know my sword is far from impressive. I look at it from where it dangles on a belt-loop I made for it.
“Mind if I ask what a young man like yourself would need a blade for? Surely you’re not just traveling with it to show it off.”
So maybe he does understand it’s a piece of junk. “Actually,” I say, looking over at him, “I need a sword more than most Knights. I was attacked by a band of Evil. They stabbed me when I wasn’t looking and also kidnapped my younger siblings. I’ve been tracking them ever since.”
Kirk turns to me and stops walking. “Well then,” he says, in a serious tone, “sounds like you do need that sword. I hope you get them. I’ll be sure to have my wife prepare a nice, big meal for you two.”
I grunt and say, “Thank you!”
“Yeah!” Faith says.
We keep on walking, entering into an intersection. Sitting on his front porch, a man whittling a stick looks up at us and nods. “’Evening, Kirk,” he says.
“’Evening, Drinny,” Kirk nods back.
Suddenly, I hear a frustrated groan. Out of the road to my left, a blonde-haired girl quickly paces out across the intersection. She is in a yellow dress, and she is stunningly beautiful. She is a little older than me, I think, and behind her follows a boy also a little older than me. The girl turns to the boy and says, slashing her arms, “I told you, enough! We shouldn’t—”
The boy traps her against one of the houses bordering the intersection and kisses her, cutting her off. When he stops, he says, “But you said so!” He begins necking her, and I look away, feeling awkward. Faith and I exchange a glance.
Drinny rises from where he is sitting and shouts, “Darrel, get your hands off her!”
“Come on now, Drinny,” Kirk says, “let the lad have some fun!”
“It won’t be very fun for her if—”
“We did the same thing when we were younger,” laughs Kirk. “Boys need to act on their passions once in a while.”
I clench my fist and look thoughtfully at Darrel and the girl, who are now kissing on the lips. Kirk walks ahead, and Faith slowly—and perhaps unsurely—follows. I don’t know why I don’t follow after them. I just stare at the two teenagers. I don’t know what I’m feeling. I see the girl release the embrace, and she says, grinning shyly, “Okay, just as long as no one figures out…”
“Don’t worry,” Darrel says, leading her down an alley.
As they start to walk away, I glare and stare after them. “I know this is wrong, but—” I think, gritting my teeth. The boy is downright seducing the girl. He’s pushing her into this. Kirk calls to me. I walk forward towards him, but my eyes never leave the teenagers. As I step, I see the girl hesitate. Darrel turns to her and urges, “Come on!” I keep on walking. But my mind is in an uproar, my anger rising, along with my uncertainty. “Come on!” I hear Darrel say again.
The moment seems to slow down. I hear it grow from a hushed whisper into a loud howl, and the wind sweeps up around me. I don’t know if it is just the wind, or if it is in my head, but I hear a voice, and it says, “Draw your sword.”
I stare after the teenagers once more. Darrel says, “Don’t worry, no one will ever know.”
I stop walking and place my hand on my sword, prepared to act. I still don’t know why I should act, though. I still don’t know what I’m feeling. I tighten my grip on my sword, but then I shake my head and let my hand fall from the handle. “It isn’t my place to act, nor my problem,” I think. I watch as, after another kiss, the girl consents, and the two teenagers vanish down the alley. I am still angry and confused, but I allow myself to relax. “If the girl agrees, then how is it my fault?” I think. “She can make her own decisions.” And I turn and follow Kirk and Faith, jogging to catch up.
“Something wrong?” asks Kirk as I join him and Faith. It is not said unkindly.
I frown and look at the burly man, “Kirk, don’t you think you have an obligation to intervene in those types of situations?”
“Kids need to express themselves,” he says, cheerfully—too cheerfully, I think.
“But that was someone’s daughter,” I say stiffly. “Do you think it’s okay to just sit back and watch a girl be seduced by a guy up to no good?” He looks over at me curiously…maybe even suspiciously. I continue, “You’re a married man! Do you have a daughter? Would you let someone do that to your daughter?”
Kirk turns to me and says, “Look, first of all, I don’t have any kids. Second of all, no, I wouldn’t let someone do that to my daughter, but that girl’s own father should look after her, not me.”
I stare down at the ground, and building up courage, I venture to say, “And you said you did the same thing as Darrel when you were younger. Does your wife know that?”
I gasp and look up at Kirk, who glares and takes a step toward me. I know that, at least insofar as Kirk is my host for the evening, I have overstepped my boundaries.
“Mind your own business, kid,” says the big man, “or you can sleep outside tonight.” And he turns and continues down the street. Faith glances at me, and then follows. I say nothing. I won’t apologize, but, with as much composure I can muster, I follow after the duo.
We reach Kirk’s home, which looks just like all the rest, and he beckons us inside. “By the way,” he says as we cross through the open doorway, “what are your names?”
Supper is already on the table when we enter into Kirk’s home. We meet his wife, Laura, a portly, loud, but silly woman, and sit down to eat an outrageously thick stew. I eat like a pig, accepting whatever they give me. The stew is fantastic.
After dinner, Kirk leads us upstairs to the guestroom. “There’s only one bed,” he says, “but I’m sure you mind being a gentleman, John?”
“Not at all,” I say.
“You two don’t mind sleeping in the same room, right?” our host asks. “I mean, you are brother and sister, correct?”
I don’t know why, but my heart jumps at the word, “sister”. I stare at Kirk, lost in thought, everything seeming to grow slow. My mind, it’s endeavoring to discover something. I’m trying to formulate a connection—a connection to the word “sister”, and…what? I barely hear Faith laugh, “No, we aren’t!”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kirk says, “I just assumed. In that case, John, you can sleep downstairs next to the fire. Of course, you might try to sneak back up later.” He smiles down at me.
I return from my thoughts, the moment broken by Kirk’s words. In response to the big man, I refuse even to chuckle. Politeness doesn’t seem to matter. “No, I wouldn’t count on it,” I say grimly.
Kirk laughs, “You’re one uptight youngster, you know!” Shaking his head, he bids us “goodsunset” and goes to bed.
“Goodsunset, Faith,” I say to my friend.
She nods back, but doesn’t say anything. Something is bothering her, I can tell, but we are both tired, so I don’t question her.
I lay down in front of the fire with a blanket Laura gave me. I can’t sleep. I stare up at the boarded ceiling, insulated with what I think is wool, and I frown. I don’t know why, but I can’t stop thinking about what I saw in the village. I can’t seem to dislodge the memory of Darrel imploring and seducing, and the beautiful, innocent girl giving in, allured by the affection he showered over her. I stiffen and grip the floor beneath me, my eyes growing wide. “Dammit!” I think. “I know what he was doing was wrong, but—” I replay the scene of them walking down the alley in my mind. For some reason, the word “sister” keeps on coming into my head. I think and think why the word has any significance to me, but I can’t understand why. “I know it was wrong,” I think to myself, “but that girl made her own decision. Whatever happens to her, it’s not my fault. And why don’t I face it? What reason or right did I have to interfere?” I sigh and grow calm, coming to a conclusion, “If two people start doing what they know is wrong, it’s not my fault if I let that happen. They knew what they were doing, even the girl. Whatever consequences come, I shouldn’t be blamed.”
I roll onto my side, when I also remember the words I thought I heard. The command to draw my sword. I chuckle to myself, “I probably just thought I heard something. It was windy. Or maybe I just imagined it.” I remember how I was so angry, “Heh, or I said it to myself.”
With that, I close my eyes. I try to think of something else, but the two teenagers’ faces won’t leave my mind. I grow frustrated.
I don’t hear them immediately. Not at the lowest possible time they could be heard. But I am not as lost in thought, in anger, in my emotions, as I was that sunset. When I do hear the cries, I perk up and stiffen. I stand and grab my sword, even as a new sound strikes the air. I pause, unsure what to think as the new sound mixes with their eerie, unnatural screams, and then I ascertain what it is. I open my mouth to shout a warning, when right outside I hear an enormous roar—
Okay, so you know how I’ve been talking about high-school romance and friendship over the past couple weeks? Well, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about high school romance within those healthy friendships that we form. I mean, boys will be attracted to girls, and vice versa, whether their relationship is romantic or not.
I wanted to share in particular my thoughts about how friendship can be tricky with a person you love, especially if you’re head over heels for someone.
Before I get started, first recall everything I talked about in my two previous posts “Satisfying the Urge for Teen Romance”and “Why being ‘Just Friends’ is Stupid”. To summarize, I stated that dating in high school isn’t always smart. Yes, we have intense desires and emotions, but when it comes to actually loving the person that we claim to love…well, love might require that we do NOT date that person. Then I went on to say in another post that friendship is an awesome alternative to dating in high school. In fact, it’s such an awesome alternative that I thought people should stop reducing its value. Being “just friends” is stupid. Because the “just” shouldn’t even be there. Be friends.
However, there is still the issue of being friends with a person that you love. Just because you’ve decided to be friends—and close friends—, the desire to date is definitely still there. So what do you do? How are you supposed to respond?
Let me try to break some things down for you, based off of personal knowledge and personal experience.
If you’re going to be friends, you need to keep things in perspective. Namely, keep everything in “friend”-perspective.
What does that mean? I mean that, even if you’re deciding not to be romantic with each other (like telling each other “I love you”, or holding hands, or even flirting, etc.), it’s still EXTREMELY easy to view that person as a boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe your relationship is under control because you’re friends, but sometimes we have the tendency to expect certain things from each other that we would also expect if we were dating. For instance, a lot more goes into a dating relationship than just romantic/physical stuff.
Take for example that when two people date, they tend to make their relationship exclusive. They treat each other as #1. Or consider how when people date, they want to be at the center of each other’s time? They think that they deserve each other’s time and attention over everyone else.
Now, what happens when you apply this to your FRIENDSHIP with the person that you like?
Uh, bad things.
This kind of relationship can gain a sense of obsessiveness. We elevate our relationship to the level of a romantic/dating relationship under the name of friendship. We tell each other that we won’t be romantic, but then we expect things from each other that places a sense of exclusivity or obsessiveness on our friendship. It makes friendship confining. It can even make it selfish.
And that’s not love.
Love is freeing. Love gives. Love is all about “the other”. Do I need to quote Corinthians for you? Okay!
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated,5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So keep everything in perspective. Realize and be content with where you are in your relationship. You can still feel a desire to love someone in a deeper, more physical way. That’s a good thing. It can even be holy, especially if you allow God to purify your desires. In fact, it’s even okay for you to allow your desires to drive you to love that person. That’s how God designed it.
There’s nothing wrong with being friends with a member of the opposite sex and still being a man and a woman for each other. Guys, you can still be friends with a girl and hold doors open for her; girls, you can still be friends with a guy and let/even expect him to pay for you when you go to a restaurant or see a movie. There’s nothing wrong with men being men for women, and women being women for men. Romance doesn’t need to come into the picture (even though it probably will). I hope all of that makes sense.
Okay, I’ve given you a mentality: keep everything in perspective. But if I can give you some more practical advice…
So let’s say you feel this desire to form an obsessive friendship with someone. Or let’s say you tend to view this person that you like as more than a friend, even though friendship is where you are in your relationship…and where you should be at your current stage of life.
What if you’re making your life all about this ONE person? What if you’ve made them the center of your life? Your thoughts revolve around them, around the next time you see them, about what you will say when you see them? Maybe your thoughts can be centered on love: you really care about them. But what if…for your current stage in life, for the current state of your relationship with this person, you’re just being a little obsessive?
What do you do?
My advice: use your relationship with this person to raise all of your relationships.
Raise your other relationships how?
Well, if you tend to be centered on just one person, branch out. Don’t allow yourself to slip into exclusivity. Make your life about even more people. Reach out and try to develop a deeper relationship with all of your friends; don’t focus on just this one relationship. And strive for balance.
For example: let’s say you’ve made a habit of texting your friend (whom you actually really like) before every important event or competition in his/her life. Every time he or she has a game, or a concert, or something, you text him/her “Good luck!” You do it to show that you care…and you actually do.
Well, start doing that for all of your other friends.
It can be that simple. I’m not saying be obnoxiously obsessive. But just try to be more involved, more balanced with all of your friendships.
Do you see what I mean when I say that your desire for a deeper relationship with this one person can be used to deepen your relationships with your other friends too?
Flee from unnecessary exclusivity in friendship. If you always tend to hug the person you like whenever you greet him/her, hug your other friends too. If you’d hold the door open for this girl that you like, why not hold it open for your other friends-that-are-girls?
I understand this might seem complicated…maybe not even convincing. I guess I’m just asking you to trust me. Make it about everyone. Make it about love. Don’t be obsessive. If you’re like me, and you’re in high school, chances are your life isn’t meant to be completely dedicated to one person right now…
…but, of course, if you really want to dedicate yourself to one Person, He’s always waiting 😉
If you have any questions, or if you’d like me to write about something in particular that relates to the topic of dating/friendship/other, please let me know!
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EPISODE 7: OPENING HEARTS
We decide not to hunt down the remaining Evil immediately. I’m too wounded, and Faith wants to collect all of the arrows we can find. So we look for a good half-hour, and we successfully find fifteen arrows, twelve of which we pulled out of the bodies of beasts she shot. We find more jutting out of an Evil here or there, but not all of them are intact. We find a total of sixteen out of twenty-two.
Over an hour has passed since we woke up that morning. We return to our campsite, pleased to find everything is still there and unharmed. Then we begin the process of inspecting our wounds. “We should find a stream so that we can get some water to clean ourselves up,” I state.
“Yeah,” Faith agrees, wincing and grunting as she probes the cut on her thigh with her fingers.
“I’ll go,” I say, although I make no motion to rise from where I am sitting against a tree.
“No, it’s okay,” she says, rising. “You’re hurt more.”
“But your leg—” I begin.
“It’s fine,” she cuts me off.
I don’t say anything; I’m in no mood to argue, and I’m thankful for a moment to relax. She leaves taking one of our canteens and her knife. “Scream if you’re being attacked,” I call after her.
“I will,” she returns without looking back.
I sigh as I listen to her footsteps fade away, and I look up at the sky, squinting because the sun is so bright. I can tell this is going to be a warm day.
There are no seasons in the Golden Lands. We have no calendar that helps us to predict when the days will grow colder. That’s because, in the Golden Lands, the climate is only determined by where you are. The more north you are, the colder it gets, the more south you are, the warmer it gets. At the end of all four directions, North, West, East, and South, there is a beach, and after the beach there is a sea, and after the sea is the end of the Golden Lands; an endless, watery—and even sunny—abyss. Only the bravest of explorers ever see the end of this world.
Faith returns a half hour later with the canteen full of water. She is sweating, more than I think she should be, and I ask her, concerned, “Are you okay?” I stand up.
“I’m okay,” she says with a heavy breath falling from her lips. “I’ve never been injured like this before, that’s all. I need to get tougher.”
“Here, sit down!” I say, motioning to the blanket she slept on last sunset.
She sits and I help her clean the cut on her leg. I’m relieved that the wound isn’t very deep. I think she’s right; she’s not used to enduring pain. We bandage it, and although she seems to relax, I can tell she is still hurting. I feel bad for her.
Then we work together to clean and bandage my shoulder. It feels good to have it washed, but over time my wound reduces to a constant ache, which is just as annoying, if not as painful, as the hot, sharp pain I was experiencing.
Once we have finished tending to our injuries, we sit across from each other, my back against a tree, hers against a rock. The heat of the day is too overbearing for my taste, but after a while I find it relaxing. Faith and I sit in silence for several minutes, each of us seemingly content to rest.
A half hour passes. I finally stir, leaning forward, and I cock my head at Faith, “You know, you have to have had some experience fighting. It’s pretty impressive that you were able to kill so many of them.”
She shrugs, “I just taught myself.”
There’s a pause, and then I smile, “Hey, it’s pretty good that just the two of us can take on so many Evil. I’ve been worrying that we’ll be too outnumbered and we’ll have to rely on some impossible stealth mission to kill the leader of the band that almost killed me and rescue my siblings.”
Faith snorts, “And now you think we can get your brother and sister back using force alone?”
I frown, “I guess not. Still, all I’m saying is that we’re pretty good.”
“I guess,” she concedes with a smile.
After a moment, I say, “Tell me about your childhood.”
Faith takes a deep breath and then begins, “Well, before I left, I lived with my parents and three siblings; two brothers and one sister. We all got along really well, and we played with each other every day. As time went by, our parents, who were farmers, began to shoo us away as we got older. They always encouraged us to marry and do what we wanted to. My two older brothers left when they were about eighteen and got married and started lives practically identical to my parents. When I got older, I felt like there was nothing keeping me home; even my little sister had grown distant, my brothers were married, and my parents were starting to pay closer attention to the farm, and not us. I wanted something more than just the average life. So I left.” She smiles and looks at me, “Then I ran into you…”
I smile, “And I bet you wished you stayed with your parents.” It was a half-joke.
She shakes her head, “Nah. I’m starting to think this is what I wanted.”
“Interesting,” I think, “for a Beloved.”
We sit in silence for a moment, and then I hear her say, “Tell me about your childhood.”
I pause, and I feel a host of different emotions rise in me; anger, fear, confusion, love, nostalgia. “Well,” I scratch my head, starting to feel hot and uncomfortable, “when I was really little, I was really close to my parents. We lived alone at the neck of a forest, so they were all I had. Then came my sister, Soror, and I took on the role of big brother. For some reason, after the birth of my sister, I noticed my parents begin to grow a little more distant. Maybe they were just focusing a bit more on Soror. But we still shared happy times, and nothing changed when my brother, Frater, came along. My dad showed me how to hunt, and my mom made toys for me and my younger siblings.”
I pause, and I start to grow grim, continuing, “My parents told us every sunset that they loved us. We said the same to them. And my parents always told me I loved my siblings, that I should always care for them, and that this was an irrevocable duty I had. They told us to beware of Evil, and never to be evil ourselves, or otherwise it would find us. I partially believed them. I mean, I thought it could’ve been a bedtime story. But I did everything they said zealously. They were everything to me.” I pause and stare at the ground.
My shoulders droop, and I sigh, depression and bewilderment washing over me. “But then one morning, I noticed they hadn’t come out of their bedroom. When I checked their room, it was empty. I ran out into the woods, calling for them, but there was never a reply. I never knew what happened to them.”
I meet Faith’s eyes for a moment, and then look away, uneasy. She is listening closely, and her eyes are full of concern. I go on, “So I started looking after my siblings at age thirteen. I don’t exactly know what happened to them, but my siblings stopped talking to me, and they stopped acknowledging me too. It was like they didn’t care…” I shake my head, remembering how stubborn they could be, “…like they didn’t care about living. Then one night, a band of Evil attacked us. And that’s why I’m here with you today. I realized that all Evil must be punished and I also have to fulfill my duty to my siblings.”
I finish and swallow, a lump in my throat. “John,” I hear Faith say. I can tell she’s trying to speak with confidence, but she really doesn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I had no idea about your parents. That must have been really hard.”
I feel a tear forming in my eye. Why am I getting so emotional? Am I really about to cry in front of her? “Yeah,” I say in a thick voice. “It was.”
I snort and smile after a moment. Leaning back, I look up at the sky towards the sun. It has grown darker, for a group of clouds have gathered around the sun, but they are not covering it. The light has just become darker; more golden.
I laugh and say, still looking at the sky, “My parents used to tell me about this person. I never knew who ‘he’ was, or even his name. They just called him ‘he’. They said that ‘he’ was some mysterious warrior who would always be there to help me, no matter what I was going through. For a long time, I believed them. For so long, I wanted to go find him. I wanted to see this awesome, mysterious person. But I was never able to. And as time went on, I figured it was just a bedtime story. Something just to believe in. Something that would keep you going. But that’s all it is; that’s all ‘he’ is. An idea. Because,” I lower my head and stare at the ground, “if ‘he’ is real, I don’t think ‘he’ has ever helped me.”
My words bring about silence between us. My words seem to hang in the air, forcing us to dwell on their gravity. “That’s funny,” Faith breaks the lull, “because my parents told me about the same person. I only told you a part of the truth about why I left. I also left to find him. I thought that maybe ‘he’ would be able to give me what I’m looking for.” She looks down and says thoughtfully, “But I haven’t found him.”
I think of a reply to her words, but I don’t want to offend her, and I’m in no mood to argue. So I just grunt, and slowly silence falls between us.