The last of Wedi’s story

Goa Vollar and beyond

The wages he received at Goa Vollar were disappointing. The owner of the barge charged the polers for their meals. The workers feeling cheated raised such an uproar that the city guards became involved. Then the magistrate of the docks impounded the barge.  The magistrate insisted that each of the workers count out in his presence what each had received as pay. He was setting the court fees when Wedi walked away. The legal battle that was ensuing would delay his rendezvous with the blade.

His anticipation of the effects he expected once he grasped the blade was growing. His hunger for violence was increasing, as well. Yet, without holding the blade, he dared not act upon it. He worked on a fishing boat as it crossed lake Vollar. The old man, who owned the boat, lived near Utroor. He related how each morning, he caught the breeze coming down the mountains to sail across to Goa Vollar. He fished as he went. His constant prattle irritated Wedi. Despite the distraction it was, they had a good catch when they reached Utroor. Enough in fact that the old man gave Wedi a silver for his help.

Wedi walked the trail that followed Laek Gritter out of Utroor. The path was fast becoming a road. Boar Akarn was the center of a new landskap. Several times travelers on the trail asked him where he was headed.

“Did he have a job waiting?”

“Would he consider working with them on one kind of project or another?”

One vanir was staking out a planned tavern a half day’s journey from Boar Akarn. The number of interruptions to Wei’s fantasies of the blade irritated him. So, when the trail turned away from Laek Gritter toward Boar Akarn, Wedi followed the stream. The few people fishing in it were too busy to disturb him.

The third day up the Laek Gritter, a large black bear blocked his path. The bear was sitting on the edge of the stream, watching fish swim past him. Suddenly the bear jumped into the water. His head emerged from the water holding a large fish. Wedi thought it best to detour around him. He climbed up the hill to try to circle the bear and then return to following Laek Gritter. Those plans soon went awry. Wedi found himself lost.

That is all I’ve written of Wedi. After meeting a dragon, there is still the sad ending for this character in my head. Who knows he might appear in another book.

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More of Wedi’s adventure

The barge

Returning to the blade was taking longer than Wedi remembered the journey down to Arnarhvall taking. Wedi had been concerned that his money would run out before he reached Utroor. Thankfully, there were many calls for day labor on the river. Most provided enough for a meal or two. The spring wheat needed harvesting, and the wages for that were better than most. But, that would take him from the river and away from the blade. Wedi could not tolerate moving away from his obsession. The job he got next fit what he desired. The labor required took him upriver, what he believed was the most direct route to his beloved knife.

He and others walked beside the barge, being tolled upriver. Four oxen provided the power to move the barge against the current. The twelve or so laborers were divided into two crews. Half of them were on the barge and half on the trail that followed the river.

The job was simple. Keep the barge away from the bank of the river while the oxen pulled it. The ones on the bank accomplished that by pushing against the sides of the barge with long poles. Those on the barge pushed against the riverbank.

If he stayed with this job, he would be in Goa Vollar in another 40 days. He could walk faster than that, but the first miles of the journey had depleted his funds. Working with the barge provided three meals each day and a tent to share if it rained. And once they reached Goa Vollar, wages. Those wages would pay for someone to take him across Lake Volar to Utroor.

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Wedi’s background

For those who have not read “In the Shadow of the Dragon’s Spine.”  Wedi is one of the Pryis infected by the dagger Fyorendir.  (Fyorendir means the life ender)  Our heroes met him and his companions traveling down the mountain. His contact with the life ender crippled his lorki, and he no longer has the innate healing that seems built into those who dwell in the Dragon’s Spine’s shadow. The residents of Midgard. The King’s Scouts had brought him to Arnarhvall.  The Pyris magistrate in Ritsker deemed him not a threat and released him to make his way in the world.

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Wedi’s Adventure

In working on the sequel To “In the Shadow of the Dragon’s Spine. I decided this bit added too much distraction from the main line of the store. (Somewhere in the depths of my mind there is a story line) So I took it out and am sharing it here.

On the Ritsker docks

“Hard, thankless work. That’s what it is.” Wedi complained to himself. Complaining to the other laborers would be useless. “Dumb sheep.” He thought. Not much different than the pack beast he had been before. They gave him coin at the end of the day. “humph” That was to buy him food and a place to sleep. And not much more.

The only good difference that he saw was he could walk away from this job. That’s what he intended to do soon.

He knew that there was more to life than to work and eat. Females were a waste of time. He did not court the free females. Did not pay for the use of those who sold themselves. No. What he wanted. Needed was something else entirely. He hungered to once more taste the power of the blade. He was sure he could find his way back to where the green man hid it.

Once there, he would be the one to hold the blade. He would decide who died and who served him. He could almost taste the terror he and his followers would ravage the world with. Another day or two, and he would leave. He had the coin to travel upriver. He could work on the way to the mountain. Even with the taste of the blade denied him, he knew he could find his way back to it.

Wedi helped lower the last crate of the day. It was labeled “Win of Valdres.” Bits of hay peaked between the boards that made the crate.

“I could use some wine.” He thought as he walked out of the warehouse. Wine would not satiate the craving he endured daily, but it would blunt its force, at least a little. He walked up to where the foreman was handing out the day’s wages.

He headed for Clem’s. There he had a room. To call it small would suggest more than a bed could fit into it. The door opened out and blocked the hall that allowed access to the room. Two people could not pass at a time, forcing the occupants to take turns entering and leaving their rooms.

Soon that would no longer trouble him.

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Stone Soup

The story of stone soup has been told all over Europe. Details change with location. I tell the story this way.

Andy and Grayson trudged down the dusty road. Grayson had found a dry, stale bit of bread at the bottom of his pack that morning.  With a drink from their canteens, breakfast, such as it was, was complete. The Canteens were empty now. Thankfully, they saw a small village not far away, just down the hill and across a bridge. As they paused before continuing down the road, they heard what sounded like a muffled horn. What could that mean?

Daniel, the shepherd, had seen the two strangers walking down the lane toward Mill Creek. He blew his horn so the others would know to hide what little food they had. To Daniel, the two young men looked like ruffians. The village has experienced many such travelers since the troubles had begun. It seemed like it was one king or another marching to some forgettable battle or another. They had passed through here several times. They took what little the village had managed to store each time. Last time they took Alison’s cow. Since then, she had hoarded her cheeses. Daniel knew where Alison had them hidden. He didn’t use that knowledge to steal a bit of cheese, well, at least not yet. His sheep gave a little milk, but the lambs took the most. The herd was small, with only three ewes and two lambs. The last time a foraging party had passed through, he had managed to hide the sheep. That was until Buck, the old ram, decided that he needed a drink from the stream. So, after breaking through the blackberry briar fence, he trotted down to the creek, followed by Daniel’s three best ewes. He had sauntered up to the soldiers as they were drinking from the stream. Needless to say, old buck and the foolish ewes who had followed him had become a meal for the army that was passing not far away.

Daniel’s belly rumbled. He hadn’t eaten a good meal for days now. No one was willing to share what they had. So, Daniel had to content himself with barley and the little ewe milk he could gather. He was sick of barley. Sick of sheep milk.

Much the same could be said of all those who lived in Mill Creek. Each had what they had been able to hideaway. Each had only one or two items of food.

Tim had his potatoes, Amos and his wife their onions. Thomas had the best of the lot. He had a few ham hocks secured where he hoped no one would look. The Sydoriak boys, Jason and Mike, knew where to find purslane and other greens. Everyone was sick of what they had, but no one would share or even consider trading. Daniel had tried. It was true that he had only barley and sheep’s wool. He had thought half his barley and what wool he had would have at least secured a piece of ham, but no, Thomas would not consider it.

Andy and Grayson stopped at the walled-in spring that fed into the babbling stream. The water was clear and cool. Before they traveled on across the bridge into the village, they quenched their thirst and filled their canteens. They felt like their luck had changed. Surely, they thought someone here would have a bit of work for them to do. Enough work to earn a meal. They noticed a woman closing the door to her house. In front of that house was a stack of wood that needed chopping. Across the way was a wagon load of hay sitting in front of a barn. That would be a good half-day of work by itself. With those obvious chores, they were sure they could earn a meal.  They were returning to their mother’s house. They could almost taste her home cooking. They even looked forward to their father scolding them for so foolishly joining the gypsy band those months ago. Well, never again. They had promised themselves. Home was where they intended to stay. At least until the next pretty gypsy maid flirted with them.

Thomas peeked out his window. Well, those ruffians could look all they wanted. They would never find where he hid his ham hocks. He had them hidden away where no one could find them. Some days Thomas wished he had something more than those ham hocks. He was tired of eating them. At first, he had been overjoyed that the last band of soldiers had left with only the moldy old ham he had hanging in the smokehouse. They never thought to look under the floorboards. That where he had hidden the ham hocks and the best pieces of ham he had had. Now the ham was gone, and all he had left were his ham hocks. Even the best meal in the village got old after weeks of eating the same thing. He had thought about the trade Daniel had offered him. Barley would make a change in diet. But, no, if the others found out, he had enough to trade with one of them, they would want him to deal with them. Thomas kept by the window to see what the strangers would do.

Granny Bare was watching as the two young men walked into the village. They looked like nice boys to her. The other villagers might think her wrong, but she wasn’t. She thought about sharing a meal with those hungry looking boys. But they probably wouldn’t appreciate the small loaf of bread she had made yesterday. Most didn’t appreciate how she flavored her bread. She had grown tired of the plain sourdough bread, so she had added a few cloves of garlic and some of her peppers. She had shared some with Daniel the other day. He took one bite, and tears sprang into his eyes. At first, she thought it had been in gratitude for her kindness. But, no, Daniel, like so many others, didn’t appreciate the spiciness of her bread. He handed what he had back to her. Then ran to the spring to try and drown the heat.

Grayson Knocked on the door they saw the woman walk through. Alison opened the door just a crack. “What do you want?” She asked with a trembling voice.

“My Brother and I are hungry. We thought if we chop your pile of wood and stack it for you, we might earn some bread and perhaps a bit of cheese.” Grayson told her.

“I’ve no bread and barely enough to feed myself. Leave me be.” She said as she shut the door.

Andy and Grayson had much the same experience with every door they knocked on.

“I guess we should just travel on,” Grayson said to Andy.

Andy shook his head. “I may have an idea.” He told his brother.

He walked up to Grannie Bare’s house. He had spied a large kettle leaning upside down against her home. “That’s what we need.” He thought.

“I’ve been waiting for you to knock.” Grannie Bare told him. “I have a few crusts of bread you can have. But you better take just a small piece. I like my food spicy.”

All it took was a smell for Andy to know that as hungry as he was, Grannie Bare’s bread was much hotter than he would be able to eat

“Thanks anyway.” He told her. “Can I borrow that kettle and some of that wood instead?”

“Whatever you want,” Grannie Bare told him.

Andy had Grayson help him wrestle the heavy kettle to where they could build a fire under it. Grayson made several trips with Grannie Bare’s water buckets to fill the kettle with water while Andy chopped the wood and built a fire.

With the fire heating the water in the old pot, Andy reached into his backpack and brought out something wrapped in a cloth.

The villagers had slowly come out of their houses to watch these strangers perform their strange ritual.

Andy unwrapped a stone about the size of his hand. It had a hole through it, almost in the middle.

Andy carefully lowered the stone into the heating water. It made a dull clunk when it hit the bottom of the kettle.

Daniel’s curiosity overcame his hesitance. “What are you doing?” He asked.

“He’s making stone soup, of course,” Grayson told him with a smile. “The stone has to boil for a while. But in the end, it makes the best soup.”

Andy added wood to the fire. He appeared to be ignoring the conversation.

“It needs some garlic,” Grannie Carrie said as she broke two bulbs into the soup.

Andy touched her arm and stopped her from adding a bundle of hot peppers. “I think we can use only one or two peppers,” he told her.

“You know,” Andy suggested, “Some potatoes would help moderate the peppers.”

“Last time we made this, I thought it needed more body. Perhaps some oats or barley would help.” Grayson suggested.

“I’ve got a little barley I can spare,” Daniel said as he ran over to his house to get it.

Tim walked over and, without saying a word, dumped some sliced potatoes into the pot. Amos’s wife followed him and added three big onions to the boiling pot. “Who ever heard of a soup with no onions.” She told them.

Andy took a wooden spoon, dipped it into the pot, and brought him out a taste. “Hmm.” He gave his head an approving nod. “It’s coming around nicely. However, a little meat would make it better.

Thomas had been edging closer, trying to get a smell of what was cooking. He thought to himself, “Yes, a couple of my ham hocks would improve the mixture.” So he walked back to where he had hidden his ham hocks. Being careful not to let anyone see exactly where he had them hid. It wasn’t long until he dropped two ham hocks into the pot.

Jason came up and said, “Mike and I found some young dock this morning. A soup like this needs some greens.”

Before long, the villagers were milling around the kettle as it boiled. After the Sydoriak boys’ contribution, it seemed like everyone wanted to contribute. Someone added a few more potatoes. And Alison brought out the heel of a round of cheese to put in it. “I always wanted to try this,” she said.

The pot boiled, and Andy stirred. It wasn’t long past noon that he tasted it one more time. He looked to Grayson. “Find some bowls and spoons. The soup is ready. I think the stone’s magic has outdone itself this time.”

Everyone rushed home to find a bowl and spoon for themselves. Andy and Grayson took turns ladling the soup into the bowls. The fire went out as the soup disappeared from the kettle. Grayson was becoming concerned that perhaps he and Andy might not get any of the soup when Grannie Bare tapped him on the shoulder and handed him a bowl as she took the spoon from his hand and dipped him a bowl full. Andy gave her a big grin as she ladled his bowl full and handed him a piece of her spicy bread.

Thomas leaned back against a stone wall and patted his belly. “Best soup I’ve had in a long time. That sure is a wonderful stone you have.”

Everyone agreed that the fantastic stone made the best soup ever.

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Leaving this world

I’m having a hard time exploring the world of the Dragon’s Spine. This world has been too much of a distraction. Too much drama here and now. Midgard calls. The characters Eric and Drew want to be drawn in more detail. Jae and Catherine are pursuing their relationship. Cu Lain and Ceri are discovering that the culture that appeared so welcoming and egalitarian is not.

Crow and Bait are once more pursuing information. They hope this time the pay is better. And the factions of the huldra are jostling for position.

I haven’t read the next letter from Catherine’s father. What secrets will it reveal? I have some hints, but she hasn’t opened it yet. That world calls. Perhaps tomorrow, I’ll find a thread to tug.

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Winter is defeated

Winter has been defeated. The snow may fall, and cold winds may blow. Still, winter has been defeated. As it always has been and always will be. Once more, we look forward to spring. You may say, “winter will come again. It is not defeated.” And that is true. Winter will come again. Life and love always win. Seasons pass, and life goes on. Love continues. Even in the midst of the storm, life and love have won.

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A little something I found.

On the trail back to Utroor.

“Jaernleik Tygeson from Hver Landnam?” The courier quizzed as he walked up to where Jae and Catherine were sitting. Jae’s ears reddened as he stood and acknowledged that he was indeed Jaernleik Tygeson. The packet had to be from his mother. She was the only one who insisted on calling him by his formal name. The one his grandpa Ingle had insisted he bear. “I have a packet for you. I thought you were in Boar Akarn. I probably passed you on the road on the way there. When I got there, they told me that you were escorting with the king’s party on the way to Goa Vollar.” He handed a small packet to Jae and began to turn.

“Can you take one I’m sending home?” Jae asked. The man was a military courier and might have orders preventing him from carrying it to the next station on the way back through the web of couriers that made Alfheim’s military’s communication network. In peacetime, they also took private letters between the various towns and villages. The small fees charged helped defray the king’s expense.

The man nodded his head that he could, so Jae reached into his shirt and pulled out the letter he had written to his family. He passed the courier a halfpenny as he entrusted the letter to him. With any luck, it would relieve his mother’s distress from the tales of the yetann raid that would have reached their village. She would recognize that he was in the area of the attack and be worried.  

“So, your real name is Jaernleik?” Asked Catherine.

For once, Drew did not attempt to redden Jae’s ears more. Jae knew his given name as well. He considered Dureast. How his mother derived that from dugr and oestr was beyond his keen. Naming a child “courageous noble” was by far worse than play of iron any day.

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Cu Lain and his problems

I’ve been considering Cu lain. our half-breed. He is a Konkur unacceptable to both side of his family tree. Most of is life has been spent in a drug induced haze. Does he have a place in the unfamiliar world he has found himself?

Does he have any real friends or is he a dispensable pawn? Can he hope to be the hero of his own story?

I hope to discover the answers

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I got a text from my sister last week, with a picture of her holding my book. I knew my acknowledgment at the end of my book was missing some people. Carrie, my wife, commented on how supportive my family is. And she is right. I live in an amazing support network. I hope I fill my part as much as all of those friends and family do in my life. How do I mention them all?

You see, I realize that this network stretches far beyond what I can see. There are my sisters, Anita and Patti) My children (David, Jenni, Lynette, Alison, and Tim), My wife (Carrie), My friends, their friends, and friends of friends I’m not aware of. Each person in this network strengthens it and helps each person extend themselves to offer that support to those around us.

Thank you! All of you. Despite the storms that may pass over each of us. We have those in our lives who form a shelter for us all.

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