Monday, July 21, 2008

An Epic Tale - 4. The Old Man

When he was seventeen, Jerek decided it was time to kill himself.

He had had enough - enough of his so-called parents and their constant, lazy bickering; enough of the small-town gossip at Riverbend; enough of spending every day with the cows, who never changed. Most of all he was tired of the butcher, whose leering, guilty face made Jerek confused, and then angry.

That was all there was in Jerek's life, and so he had had enough of life.

It was winter when Jerek decided to kill himself. That made planning easy. He would simply walk into the forest, and never come back. People did it all the time, lured by fairies, or strange lights, or, Jerek supposed, the very same impulse that drove him.

The One God would be unhappy, Jerek thought as he trudged through the snow. But then, if the stories were true, the One God spent most of his time unhappy - wasn't that why he was always striking down enemies of His people? Jerek supposed that the One God would just have to deal with it.

It wasn't long before Jerek came to a stream - a small tributary of the mighty Thiago River, for which the town of Riverbend was named. It was frozen over, being the dead of winter, but the ice looked thin enough in the center that Jerek could simply step through it, crash through into frigid water, and die more or less instantly. He decided it was worth a try.

With his first step, Jerek slipped on the ice and fell flat on his face.

For a moment he simply lay there.

He felt the coldness of the ice.

He felt the wildness of the waters beneath.

He felt the strength and living power of the woods all around him.

For a moment, he considered returning to his home, where it was warm, and safe.

Then he remembered Amanda.

"Take me," whispered Jerek, a prayer, not to the One God, the God who never listened, but to the stream itself, directly. "Take me," Jerek prayed, "I am yours."

And he got up, and he took a step, and he plunged into the icy water.

Just before he fell, he thought perhaps he caught a glimpse of a man - or was it an animal? If it was real, it was running toward him.

Yes, Jerek thought, in the last few moments before he died. It was an old man. His long white beard made him look like a wolf.

I wonder what he wanted.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Epic Tale - 3. Caesura

A year went by.

Jerek never tried to run away again. He felt that he had missed his chance. And besides, where would he go? The whole adventure began to seem like a silly, childish dream.

Not to say that he was satisfied. The strains of boredom and responsibility wore at him. Occasionally he would lash out at his mother or his father. He was swiftly punished on each occasion. Jerek's father, the war hero, old and wounded though he was, could still kick Jerek's ass.

Amanda had drowned in the river. What she had been doing there no one could say. What was certain was how costly her passing had been to the butcher. He could barely conduct business without a mention of his poor girl, so like a daughter to him, and so tragically passed before her time.

Her body was left in an unmarked grave. Two weeks later the snows came, and the wolves dragged her out of the ground and away into the woods, piece by piece.

Jerek was left alone with the cows. Someone had to watch them, after all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Epic Tale - 2. The Girl

Amanda was the butcher's daughter. She didn't want to be, but she had very little choice. The butcher had paid good money for her.

She saw Jerek occasionally, but more often than not she was sent to the back when he came to sell a cow. The butcher was wary of his merchandise, and would never part with it for any less than top dollar. The best Amanda could hope for was a glimpse of the boy's sandy hair through the slits in the back room door.

How she loved him!

In her mind, they were already betrothed; very soon he would find her, and whisper, Come with me, and they would be off, the two of them, to a world of adventure. Never to look back.

Once she even defended Jerek against the butcher's most vigorous tirade. The butcher was taken by surprise. He had never been stopped in mid-tirade before, and it made him uncomfortable. He locked Amanda in her box for the next month, and dropped food to her only once a day.

Jerek, for his part, knew nothing of Amanda's life, or her plans for adventure. He only knew her as the butcher's daughter: beautiful - or at the very least, attractive - but retiring, shy, and unknowable.

He was happy, however, to see her after a month's absence. She looked bruised, and thinner than before, but somehow that did nothing to diminish her beauty - or at the very least, her attractiveness.

At that moment Amanda decided to run away. So she said to Jerek, "I've decided to run away."

"Oh," said Jerek.

"You can come with me if you'd like," said Amanda.

Jerek thought about it. "I would," he said.

"I'm glad," said Amanda.

Amanda wanted Jerek to kiss her at that moment, but he was too confused.

They were to meet by moonlight. Jerek didn't have much, so instead of preparing he spent the day talking to the cows. They didn't understand what was happening, any more than he did.

Moonlight found Jerek at the appointed meeting place - the well at the crossroads, two miles out of town. He had a few crusts of bread in his pockets, as well as the knife his brother had given him. That was all.

He waited for a long time. Eventually he became tired, and fell asleep at the well.

Morning came.

Jerek became very angry at Amanda - who was she to fill his head with ideas, and leave him waiting? And then he became confused - had he misunderstood? Surely there must be some explanation.

It was not until that afternoon that he got one - Amanda had not come because by moonlight, she had been killed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

An Epic Tale - 1. The Hero

Jerek was in charge of the cows. He did not want to be in charge of the cows - in fact, it was his contention that cow-chargery was the single dullest occupation in the whole of existence. Yet Jerek's father had a bad leg; it was injured during the war, as he told everyone who would listen. And Jerek's mother had to be home at all times so that she could pray for Jerek's older brother Joseph, who had run away from home some two years before.

So it fell to Jerek to watch the cows. The cows stood, and chewed the grass. Sometimes they stared at other cows.

Characters for an Epic Tale

Have you seen this?

I'm going to go for it. Starting now, once a day, this blog shall contain a little story featuring one of those characters, in sequential order. I shall start with The Hero.

I wiped all of my old posts and now I kind of regret it

So it goes.