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TGL Episode 8: A Call Unheeded

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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?”

“John.”

“Faith.”

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—

—and the whole building is engulfed in flames.


TO BE CONTINUED…

Obsessive Friendship: Who’s at the Center of Your Life?

Rin and Emiya
Who do you keep at the center of your heart and mind?

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.

Seriously.

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, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.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!

Stay awesome!

Dominic (Aul)


Like me as a blogger? Like the way I write?

Believe me, my books are way better than this post. If you really want to see the best I can do, check out my fantasy/anime series “The Golden Lands”. The first volume is free as an eBook, or you can just read it in the form of “episodes” right here on my blog! Go to my page Embark on the Journey: Volume 1 Episodes for a complete list of episodes. I also post episodes every week, so look for them if you really want to experience the best I’ve got!

TGL Episode 7: Opening Hearts

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If you missed earlier episodes, click here for a complete list of episodes with episode-descriptions!   I hope you guys are enjoying Volume 1!!!

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.


TO BE CONTINUED…

rain

Why we love anime

It pours all around me.  But not only around me: I’m covered in it.  Unceasingly it falls, plummeting and erupting on my skin in the form of cool, misty micro-explosions.  It’s so dense, so persistent, I’m hardly able to keep my eyes open.  This rain…it’s as if it wants to drown me.

I’ve been alone all my life.  The lonely city streets are all I’ve ever known.  Even though I’m surrounded by people, that doesn’t mean I’m not alone.  Because I am.  And even though some days I’m dry and warm, it still feels like the rain is always falling.  It never stops falling.

The city lights glow with hazy, tilting rays of light that shift in the air as I squint.  Car lights flash around me, seeming so surreal in my world of water and wetness.  My feet slosh loudly in the water amassing on the street, and I hear someone honk at me.  But it sounds as if the noise came from afar, from a world where people actually acknowledge that I do exist.  A world where people realize that I am a person.  Wherever that world is, it’s not this one.  It’s not my world.

As I enter onto a sidewalk, I hear something purr, and before I can react, I feel something brush warmly against my leg.  It’s a cat.  A black cat.  Just my luck…

But the cat doesn’t stop embracing me.  Maybe the animal is cold.  Maybe it’s wet, just like me.  I disengage from the little creature, and acting purely on my emotions, I squat down in front of the cat and offer it my hand.  We aren’t so different, I realize.  The rain is falling on us both.

The cat seems afraid of me at first.  Maybe it’s going to abandon me like everybody else.  Maybe it’s going to run away.

But it doesn’t.  Pressing it’s forehead against my hand, it purrs loudly, even over the rain, and I’m surprised to find that I’m happy.  I’m happy that I found this cat, or that it found me.  I’m happy that we could share this moment together, in the rain.  I’m happy that there’s someone who understands me.  Although I’m sure it’s a silly feeling, I find myself thinking, “Maybe I’m not alone.”

And that makes me think of You.  And that brings me back to the rain.  It’s so persistent, the way it falls around me.  It doesn’t stop trying.  Maybe it’s trying to drown me.  Maybe it wants to fill me.  Maybe You want it to fill me.  And maybe that’s what I should be letting it do.  Because this rain isn’t really rain at all.

It’s grace.

And it doesn’t stop coming.  It doesn’t stop trying to wash me.  It doesn’t stop trying to fill me.  Because it’s from You.  And You know what I need.  You know how I feel.

I was right.  I’m not alone.

Thank You for this rain.

“If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”-David Crowder Band “How He Loves”


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Stay awesome!

Dominic (Aul)

TGL Episode 6: A Knight’s Rage, a Beloved’s Mercy

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If you missed any episodes, go to my page Embark on the Journey: Volume 1 Episodes for a complete list of episodes!

EPISODE 6: A KNIGHT’S RAGE, A BELOVED’S MERCY

 

“What direction again did you see the Evil heading in?”  I ask Faith once we are outside of Aran, entering into the woods.

“North,” she answers.  She walks to a tree that is surrounded by several fallen trees.  Hopping on top of one, she points, “I was standing here when I saw them.”  I turn around and follow her finger.  Together, we rush to the area where she said she saw the Evil.  We look around, searching for trampled weeds, broken twigs, or footprints.  After a few minutes, Faith calls to me from where she is crouching on ground.  “Here,” she says.  She points to a cracked branch atop a clump of fern.  She slowly raises her hand, keeping it low to the ground, and she indicates a nearly imperceptible path.  But I can tell she’s right in believing she’s found the trail left by the Evil.  The direction she’s pointing in contains plants, soil, and brush that I can tell has been disturbed.

“I’m glad I brought you,” I say.  Hefting my sword, I start down the path left by the Evil, growing grim as I think to myself, “We’re not too far behind.  Ready or not, here we come!”

For three days, I follow Faith as she uses her knowledge of hunting and tracking to help me, or both of us, catch up to our prey.  She’s very good at noticing things that I’m sure I would have missed.  Not only do her skills of tracking prove invaluable, but her companionship also means a lot to me.  I’ve never had a friend.  I’ve never known someone who cares to listen, or who trusts you enough to tell you things.  Faith and I are not at this level yet, but at least I can feel an underlying desire to reach that point.

My wounds have begun to heal quite nicely by the end of the third day.  That sunset—since it is cold—, we make a fire, and as usual, position ourselves on opposite sides of the flames, so that we are facing each other, but there is a boundary between us so as to permit privacy for each other.  In the fire, Faith is cooking a squirrel, an animal I am very used to eating.  That’s another reason why Faith is so helpful; she is good at procuring and cooking food.

When she sits back down, I comment, “You’re pretty good with that bow.”

Her mouth twists and she says, “Not really.  I can only hit things if they’re standing still or not moving very quickly.”

“That’s better than I could do,” I snort.

“Hah, maybe,” she replies.  Then looking at the ground, she frowns and says, “I don’t know why I’m not as good as I think I should be.  I’ve been using my bow for years now, so I know it as a tool really well, and I’ve had so much practice, but I still struggle.”

I grunt thoughtfully, and then suggest, “Maybe you just haven’t had the right kind of practice.”

“Maybe,” she concedes.

After a pause, she asks, “Do you think you’re a good swordsman?”

“Well,” I chuckle, “I don’t think so, considering how many times I’ve almost died in the past week.”

“How many times?” she inquires.

“Twice,” I say.

“Oh,” she nods.  Then she adds, “That’s not too bad…”

My eyebrow twitches and then I yell, “What the heck does that mean?”

“I’m just kidding!” Faith says over and over again, laughing.  Eventually, I start laughing too.  Maybe it is funny.

We eat the squirrel and then put out the fire.  I fall asleep gradually, watching the rays of the sun grow dim.

The sound of a cracking branch wakes me.  I push myself up into a sitting position and look around.  The light is very gray and the air is very cool.  I can tell that earlier it was misty out, because the air seems to be shimmering and the ground and trees are damp.  I stand up and stretch, seeing nothing among the woods, and I go to grab an apple from one of the bags Faith brought.  Then I hear a crack again, and footsteps.  My heart starts beating faster, and I clench my fist.  “Should I wake Faith?” I think.  I listen to the footsteps, and I can tell that whatever or whoever is making them, they are not small in number.  Crouching next to Faith, who appears to be sleeping quite peacefully, I give her a gentle shake.  She stirs, and then opens her eyes.  She looks up at me, seeming sleepy and confused, and I raise my finger to my lips and say, “Shh!”

Then I can tell she hears the footsteps.  Her eyes widen and she rises from where she slept on a blanket.  She slips on her boots and gently picks up her bow and arrows.  I also slip on my boots and grab my sword.

Together, we walk quietly in the direction of the footsteps.  Ahead of us, the ground slopes steeply to a part of forest where there are only trees, and the woods are spaced very tightly.  When we reach the edge of the slope, we both separate and position ourselves behind a tree.  Then, we slowly peek down towards the cluster of trees.

I gasp silently and feel a wave of fear wash over me.  It’s hard to tell how many there are, the way they move through the closely-knitted trees, mere black shapes disappearing and then reappearing within the thicket of woods.  I try to count; ten, twenty—“No,” I think, squinting, as I stare furiously at them.  “Thirty.  No less.”

“John,” I hear Faith’s shaking voice.  I look over at her, and she is breathing heavily.  She is scared.  So am I.  But as I watch them, my anger, my past feelings of depression, of uselessness, all come back to me.  The way the Evil made me want to die, to give up, and left me to die—it all makes my blood boil.  And if they have anything to do with the disappearance of my parents—

I remember Tarsh’s taunts concerning my parents.  At least for the moment, I don’t want anything he said about my parents to be true.  And if my parents didn’t walk out on me and my siblings as Tarsh endeavored to claim, then the possibility of the Evil having something to do with their disappearance would have to be greater.  And that means they deserve punishment.  For all they put me through, they deserve pain!

“You take the ones on the right,” I say to Faith.  “I’ll come around from behind.  Just stay focused on your Evil; I’ll take care of the rest.”

Anger making me confident, I turn away to proceed with the plan.  I pretend not to hear Faith’s hushed protests.  I rush as silently as I can down the left side of the slope, stopping behind a tree every few seconds and peeking out to see if I have caught the attention of any of the beasts.  The contingent of Evil are moving to the right of the slope, opposite of me, and so far I have gone unnoticed.  I am already sweating, and I am struggling to control my breathing.  And my grip on my sword is so tight, my palms are wet with perspiration, and I can feel the handle of my blade grow slick.  I keep moving though.

Finally, I reach the trees that the Evil are moving through and approach them from behind.  I pause behind a tree and stop, staring at one of the bulky beasts thudding ahead of me.  Do I really want to do this?  Is it really worth it to risk my life to kill these Evil?  I feel so small next to them.  My fear is growing, pounding away at me like my heart is pounding.  I am shaking.

Then I hear a high-pitched scream behind me.  Whirling around, so tense and tremulous, I move quickly enough to block the knife that would have pierced my back.  I cry out, thinking, “So once again you tried to land a cheap-shot on me!”  I strike without cease, backing the Evil up against a tree, and he holds his arms up in a pathetic attempt to protect himself.  I knock his arms away from his face and batter away, glaring with hatred as I land blows on his head.  The beast falls to the ground, and when he stops moving, I stop attacking.  I don’t have time to delight in my victory.

I turn around, seeing four Evil rushing after me.  I shout, my own anxiety and erratic fear driving me, and I knock one of them into a tree.  The next one runs into my blade, and pulling my sword free, I cut the next one across the throat.  The fourth Evil swings his blade at my face, and I block, shoving him back, and I return with an under-handed slice that severs the beast’s throat.  The Evil I knocked into the tree runs at me, but my sword flashes as I cut, and his arm falls from his body.  Around me, the cries of pain, along with the cries of battle, ring in my ears.

As I engage more of the beasts—most of which have noticed and located their attackers—, I see a group of them commence running up the slope towards Faith.  She shoots and reloads with decent speed.  I only hope she can be fast enough.  Her aim, I note, is very good; none of her arrows miss their mark.

I am forced to look away as I begin fighting an Evil with a tall, thin neck, and a long, bony face.  The fingernails of the beast are noticeably sharp and bizarrely red.  Without hesitation, I step forward and slash through her chest.  Her blood sprays and she seems to pause in the air, shocked at the feeling of my sword slicing through her.

That’s when I pause too.  This is the first female Evil I’ve seen, and my heart jumps.  As I stare into her queer, disoriented eyes, an image of my mother as an Evil—the one from my dream—flashes in my mind.  This Evil looks so much like her.  I have to stop and think, I have to stop and consider—

A beast lunges at me without warning, shattering the focused, confused, and uncertain disposition of my mind.  The Evil tackles me to the ground, and I feel his sweat and grime begin to soak through my clothes.  I grunt as the impact of landing on the ground causes my wounds to ache, and then my eyes widen with alarm as I feel the Evil bite my left shoulder.  Shouting in pain, I clench my sword, driving it into the beast’s side.  He tenses and grows motionless, and I pull myself out from underneath him.

I expect a great multitude of Evil to be upon me, but instead I am only faced with six beasts.  They growl and thrash as they rush at me, but in the moment I have before they reach me, I look up to see if Faith is okay.

She is not.  A weaponless Evil has her by the arm and swings her into a tree.  She grimaces at the impact but quickly turns around and faces her opponent.  Her bow is not with her, and I see that she only as a few arrows left.  The Evil charges her and I’m afraid he’s going to grab her throat, when she suddenly pulls a dagger from her quiver and ducks under the Evil’s hand, stabbing him through the chest, the tip of the knife sprouting from his back.

That’s all I can see before I glimpse a sword coming for my head.  I franticly duck down and to my right, and bite down hard as I feel the inside of my shoulder get cut.  I leap back, putting distance between myself and my attackers.  I glare at them, and one of them laughs, “Too slow!”

My breathing becomes unsteady, and it grows harder to grip my sword.  I feel warm blood run down my arm and drip off my wrist.  Scowling, I think to myself, “I have to end this quickly!” I take a deep breath, “But there are so many…” I see a group of four Evil running toward me, about a hundred yards away.  “Time to get started!”

I attack ferociously, hitting again and again at the first of the beasts.  Two more swing at my right, another at my left.  I jump away from the sword coming for my left, my injured side, and block both attacks coming from the right.  I uppercut, cutting off the hand of one Evil, and then stab another under the arm when he raises his sword to attack.  The remaining four drive me back.  Behind them, the other four Evil coming this way flinch as one of Faith’s arrows strikes the ground in front of them.  She did say she struggles to hit moving targets.

I stab one beast in the throat when it comes after me and block another two blows.  I duck and cut another across his stomach, and next I meet the club of an Evil.  My sword vibrates when it meets the Evil’s wood, and I’m surprised when my sword strikes my head consequently, forced into me by the strength of the beast’s attack.  It was only the flat side, but my head aches, and my vision blurs.  I see the beast raise his club—

Faith appears beside the beast and shoves her knife into his side.  The Evil falters and falls.  Relieved and grateful, I take a moment to endeavor to restore my vision, shaking my head.  My eyesight slowly returns.  I crouch on the ground to steady myself, feeling dizzy, and I look up at Faith.  “You okay?” I ask.  I notice that she has recovered her bow.

She frowns and says in a strained voice, “Mostly.  I got a cut on my leg.  How about you?”

“Shoulder has felt better,” I say.  I nod at the dead Evil in front of us, “Thanks by the way.”

“No problem,” she says.

I look behind her.  Five of the Evil are running away into the forest.  The four Evil that had been charging me are nowhere to be seen.  I stand.  “We should follow them,” I state, indicating the five Evil fleeing into the woods, “they need to be killed, or maybe they’ll lead us to the Evil we’re after.”

“Right,” she agrees, a bit reluctantly.  I would almost be of the same mind, but my anger is too great, and I know better than to let the monsters escape.

We start moving after the beasts who are now vanishing within the trees, when Faith stops beside me.  “Wait,” she says, drawing her bow and placing an arrow to the string—she only has four left.

She faces a beast on the ground, the one whose hand I cut off.  She aims her arrow at the Evil when I say, “What are you doing?”

Faith looks at me, “He’ll die a slow, painful death.  I’m finishing him off.”

“No!” I retort.  “He deserves to die slowly.  And besides, you only have a few arrows left.”

She frowns at me and cocks an eyebrow, but ignores my words and starts to pull back her bowstring.  An image of Soror flashes in my mind when I asked her to get me a pot for supper.  “Who cares?” I say, raising my voice, frustrated.  “He deserves to die like his kind kills.  And you need your arrows.”

She looks at me and sighs, and I think she might concede.  Then she shakes her head and seems frustrated but grimly amused with herself.  Drawing her dagger, she walks up to the Evil, who is moaning and breathing hoarsely, and she cuts his throat.  She steps back and says, “Should’ve thought of that sooner.”

I roll my eyes as she turns to continue in the direction of the fleeing Evil.


TO BE CONTINUED…