Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A sense of renewal

The morning passes quickly as my walk has taken me across rolling fields of nature's bounty along the foothills of my prison. But, to look upon these bars from the outside is a different feeling altogether. In the days gone by of my youth they were no more than an adventure to one-day explore. But to the life that I had come to live, these mountains became my prison, a barrier to what was beyond.

It is the sneaky passage of time that has hemmed in my world. The glorious days of youth are carefree and playful. As time marches on and childhood fades to ages of companionship, the work of a day begins to take hold. The times spent running through potato patches are replaced by the struggles of chores that need doin'. Dreams of adventure fade to those moments that are held in the twilight of the day and then all at once, are gone. Only ones dreams then hold the promise of a far-away land. And then, even those thoughts buried within our nightly conscious are stolen away.

I look skyward as the sun falls upon my face and washes these thoughts away. I bask in the warmth of light, and thoughts of a new world now open; a world filled with all the adventures my youthful self could imagine. The line of the Sirris marches on. To what end shall they take me? I have only to place one foot in front of the other to find my way.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


My morning awakens as the sun again begins its journey above the horizon. My night was wrapped in solitude as I quickly realized how alone I have been on this short journey. Only a few weeks out and I now understand the value of companionship. Though I have always lived alone, there was naught for lack of conversation, always a neighbor or friend at the ready. A casual conversation by the fire was a pleasant reminder of my life. It is, however, the reason I began this journey in the first place, as that was the substance of my life.

 I look above as the light of day is humbled by the mists that snake their way through the high passes of the Sirris. I feel the warmth of the coming day upon my shoulders and know I shall bathe in warmer nights as I move south and near the end of the Dream Valley. But for now, the mornings are alive still with a gentle embrace of cold, all the more necessary that I awake with a warm breakfast. The fire ebbs low as the small amount of fat that remains crackles in the pan above the dieing flames. My luck was with me this morning as I trained my weapon upon a hare, feeling the recoil as my arrow takes flight. As I have practiced little; luck was my aim this day.

I slide my cooking pan back into my pack and take stock of my belongings, thankful for the handful of eggs from Clarisa. They have made my breakfast complete and renewed my legs for the journey ahead. Three now have I crossed paths with, and I am the better for all. It is now that I begin to wonder not only what I shall come across in this journey, but who.

As I hike my pack upon my shoulders, my eyes follow the line of the Sirris as the mountains march toward the south. That is my direction, toward the end of their line.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Far Wilderness

My day of excitement draws to a close, a rather mundane experience as it turns out. The world of night settles in against the Sirris, my back up against the mountains as my view extends yet again across the fields and plains of the Far Wilderness. An interesting name, my people have given this. It is said long ago when Sheimas came to these lands, these three valleys they now call home, they could have chosen a different path. The valleys of the Chrystum were nurturing and protective, their spires sentinels against the outside world. The view from atop the tallest of the tall, Mount Khourne was an expanse eastward into the unknown; a far wilderness.

I reflect back on the one word, Khourne. It is nearly magical to my people. I rest my back against the dirt of the mountain that juts skyward above me. It is tall yet pales in comparison to that mountain that calls to nearly all who are Sheima. Its spire towers above all else, dwarfing those who shall challenge its summit. Someday I would like to challenge its heights, but that will come at a time of my choosing. I am but a babe in the woods.

The sky above blackens as the sun falls below the Western Sea on the other side of my world. The rains I braced for scampered to the east along with the high clouds that held them, blown by the uppermost winds that trail from the nostrils of the gods. The dampness I feel from them however sends shivers deep into my bones. Would that Clarisa would stoke the small fire before me with the warmth of her hearth. That thought alone brings a smile to my lips. The rock against me feels not like the sturdy chair beneath me a day ago.

Night settles in and a new day will be on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

High Song Pass

The morning sun has long since passed, its light swallowed by the blackening sky. I feel the chill breeze as it snakes through the mountain passes to my right. The gathering clouds signal a storm chasing its way across the upper reaches of the Dream Valley.

Such a sight I recall from years ago, my first visit upon the heights of High Song Pass. The memory still stirs my soul as for the first time, I put behind me the mundane farmer's fields of the Middle Valley of the Chrystum. Before me lay the valley that truly holds the beauty of my lands; the Dream Valley. I stood that day on the precipice that began my journey of self-discovery. The endless lands of summer that day took hold of my heart and pierced my soul. Had I not discovered the scenic beauty that day, I would likely not walk the paths before me now.

The wilderness to my left, though scenic holds not the untouched timelessness of the Dream Valley, a land held near sacred in the lore of my peoples. It is the last vestige of what we were, of what it means to be Sheima. My first night, my own dreams touched the lore of that landscape as its world unfolded to me in my sleep; truly a dreamland.

I take in the peaks before me and may only imagine their views into that valley. Though beauty is fleeting, none could hold the mesmerizing quality of the lands below High Song Pass. It shall ever be emblazoned in my memories.

The wind whips down upon me through a cleft between the mountains and I pull my cloak up tight about me. I feel the first drops of the coming rains. I now wish for one more day in my friend's cottage. It is not to be. I must look ahead; only ahead.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Past the threshold

Breakfast now finished, I offer my services yet am again, politely rebuffed. The more I linger, the more I feel the pull of their cottage wanting to keep me from my journey, but my journey I must now renew. I feel the warmth of the hearth which kept away the damp airs as the night's storm traveled through. I feel the warmth also of the home itself and those who took me in, offering a stranger, kindness. One last time I walk to the stone hearth and reach for my pack and cloak.

"I have enjoyed your company, Mr. Clancy."

"As have I, yours, Clarisa." I hear the softness of her words and the gentleness of her heart. I long to stay, but that is not an option.

"Where will you travel too?"

"I have no particular direction in mind, Reenie." I wrap my cloak around my shoulders and hike my pack  upon my back. In my mind, I know I will miss this place.

"The Valley of Rivers is passage north along the coast. Should you travel in that direction, you will find it both challenging and worthwhile."

Reenie slips into his chair as he stares into the dying fire, the flickering embers revealing the wrinkles hidden within his face. It is a hard life he has led. Or is it simply a life that is passing? We shall all face that time when we have fewer years ahead of us than behind. I reach to lay a hand on his shoulder but pull it back. He has given of himself and his home this night and I am grateful for the respite. It is time I find my way along.

As she walks me to the door, I find myself ready to travel. An hour past, I would not have said the same, yet now that threshold is no longer a barrier. She lays her hand upon my arm and smiles, her warmth sending me into the world again with renewed vigor. I watch as the sun climbs to meet the growing clouds as the western winds push against the eastern sky.

South. I shall go south.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Window on the world

The storm that has rolled up against the back of the Sirris does little to keep me awake. A time or two I'm stirred by the light of the heavens, though I quickly slip back into my unconscious world. The morning light now fills my space as dawn has broken the surface of the world. The first beams of the new day wash across my face and I feel its warmth upon my skin. As I roll, I see the flames crackling brightly. Tis the mark of a sturdy hearth to keep its charge alight.

As I rise I feel refreshed with the coming of the morning. My window to the new day is filled with scenes from my own memories. The fields are awash with golden hues from the rising sun. A gentle breeze sweeps softly above the towering crops as they sway beneath its touch. The clouds above creep closer to the horizon, pushed by the breeze from behind the mountains. It is a beautiful day to behold, though like the crops soon to fall to the scythe, the darkening clouds will surely snuff the glory I behold.

A whisper turns me, my attention now taken from the new day. She is there, her cloak tightly snugged about her. She is radiant in her own way even in the morning hours, her smile soft and comfortable. I have never felt so welcome in all my years.

"Good morning, Clancy."

I nod, a gentle smile upon my lips. I take a deep breath, realizing my time in this place is nearly over. I look again as the sun creeps above the plains, the morning shadows shortening with each passing minute. I turn again and already her work has begun as the sounds of the kitchen come alive. Another day starts and her routines begin anew. I peer out the window one final time as it calls to me, a new day and a new step in my journey as I wonder what my day will hold.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A pensive night

As the flames ebb and night has fully taken hold of the day, we retire for the evening. I again feel as an intruder to their world. Their cottage is not structured for visitors; though small and cozy I believe it has been many a year since they have received overnight guests. As I watch, a proper-looking bed is quickly assembled for me next to the hearth. The next crack of thunder sends a shiver down my spine as I begin to feel the dampness of the storm invading. The fire will be a welcome friend this night.

As I lay I take in my surroundings and think back on this night. My thoughts see their life through different eyes than I once did. Their lives are entwined like no one I have come across in my life. Their home is filled with love, but I sense there is something missing, something my eyes have not revealed. I comb each foot of their world; nothing. Now it is time to sleep, time for a renewal of my own. As the fire warms my back and my eyes slide down for the final time, my thoughts awaken me.

Family. I sit straight up in my bed and look about. They are a family of two. Absent are any signs of children or grandchildren. My heart sinks as I feel their loneliness. Yet, perhaps it is my own absence of family that tugs at my soul. I lay again and listen to the sounds of night intrude. The storm that sweeps in from the east across open plains lashes its full fury upon the mountains surrounding us. I think back to the first night he spent in the mountains and the soggy beginnings of his new adventure. What will my next night bring?

This fire gently holds me in its warmth as my thoughts carry me into my dreams.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Night of decision

I sit back and relax believing I will hear a wonderful tale of adventure. I look into my glass, the spirits coating the sides with their amber hue. Its aroma rolls up and fills my nostrils. It is a heady brew indeed. I watch the flames dance in the hearth as we hear a faint rumble coming across the Siris.

"Sounds like a storm is coming in, dear."

"Much like that night in the mountains." Reenie rocks back, then stops. "Aye, that night," he says as he rocks forward. "The first was like any other night I had escaped to the mountains, calm with cool breezes coming off the peaks. I was sure my decision was the right one. The second night was much the same. I looked forward to seeing what was on the other side, but felt the comfort of familiar surroundings. Then as I looked out through the final passage, that last tunnel that hinted at what was on the other side, I remember shuddering. I stood on a precipice; the biggest decision I ever faced was before me."

"Decision?" I am lost. What decision is it he will make?

"Aye, to turn back." I watch as Reenie leans forward, the chair not moving beneath him. "I felt the pull of the safety of home. I could go back and shrink before my father, though he would have simply shrugged it off to the rebelliousness of youth. He would have doubled my work for a time, but that would pass, I was sure of it. It was then a vicious storm blew in from the sea. I was not prepared for the onslaught. I had found no cave to take refuge, not even so much as an overhang to shield me from the relentless rain. I curled up behind a boulder and tucked my cloak around be. It was one of the longest nights of my life."

I watch as the memory sinks in and he lifts his glass to his lips. The light of the flames dance along the rim of his glass as he sips one more memory.

"Then, as the light broke across the peaks, the storm subsided and the sun shone upon a world I had never seen. As I looked across the last peak the distant rumble of the shore rode in on a fresh breeze. For the first time I could taste the world where the salt of the sea met the dirt of the land. What greeted me was not the pounding of rain and thunder that kept me pinned behind a rock, but the distant sounds of life. Below was a most magnificent collage, a painting of valleys and rivers and forests as seen from above that ran out to the Western Sea. Just then, the first beams of the new day rose enough to touch the waters and filled them with the deepest of blue."

He sits back again, partially obscuring him from my view behind Clarisa.

"It was then I knew I had chosen the right path, a path of discover."

A crack nearly sends me from my chair. Perhaps that night, all those long years ago has a memory. As the storm burrows in, it is time to retire, for tomorrow is another day; another dawn.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Full circle

'Dead'. The word itself causes me to take notice. Surely this person who seems the master of his world could not have faced a situation so dire. What lies within the world of men-folk that could do such harm? The warmth of my drink calls to me and I take a larger swig. I again feel the burn as my chest warms to its touch.

"It was only my father's teachings that kept me alive in that world." My host looks towards me as he rises from his seat. He raises his glass and nods his head. I nod back. Another glass would be a fine addition to the conversation. I drain what is left.

"Be careful with that," Clarisa notes. "If you are not used to these spirits, it may come back to haunt you."
Her smile touches me, her manner so at ease.


"Aye, that is what they call this in their world."

Reenie refills my glass, then his and again takes his place before the hearth. He pauses, again tasting his past. I can almost see the memories filling his thoughts. He pushes his feet against the floor as his chair begins to rock slowly.

"I longed for adventure. The life of a farmer was not for me." He pauses again, looking around his cozy home. It would seem he is what he would never have wanted to be. "Then, one day I said goodbye to my father and set out into the hills.

"What did your father have to say?

"I think he understood, though he did not send me off with a smile. Although the lessons I learned in my foray are what makes me what I am now, my one regret is I never saw my father again."


"Reenie's father died that winter, dear." I am surprised to hear Clarisa's voice, though I could see the pain in Reenie's face.

"I spent the first night in the mountains, as I had a hundred other nights. The mountains is what I loved, what pulled me away from the fields of my youth, my father's work; not mine. I wished for only new horizons, new vistas which the mountains stole from my eyes. The only way to see them, was to cross them. In two days, I reached the Valley of Rivers and my adventure truly began."

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Looking Away

I look at the fire and the half-filled glass within my palms. I raise it to my nose, tentative. I can nearly taste the earthy smells as they escape the rim of the glass. I pause and glance to my host. He seems lost in thought, then suddenly the glass kisses his lips and its contents flows freely.

"Yes Clancy, the Choale is a more formidable range than the Sirris, higher and rugged. Its peaks are ragged from the pounding weather that blows in from the Western Sea. The continual storms that ravage there dump their load on the Valley of Rivers." He leaned forward letting the light from the hearth caress his face. "That is where I spent my youth, Clancy, in the darkness of the Choale, as you say."

"Oh, I have been to the Choale, but my time there has been brief." I raise the glass to my lips and gingerly sip. I feel a burn as I let it slip across my tongue. It stings, but in a good way. I swallow and feel its bite as it slides down my throat. "I have never fully explored its vastness."

"Vastness." Reenie leans back into his seat once again. "In all its glory, with all its rugged features, they pale in comparison to the ranges of Ostergaul; the mountains of men-folk." He sits quiet for a moment, Clarisa's slight hand coming to rest on his arm. It triggers a smile, a smile of memories.

"My life was ordinary and I wanted more. I searched for adventures such as young lads will always seek. It was a desire my father could not understand. He was a fellow of the earth, a farmer and woodsman. His life was what was before him, his work. Much of what I knew, I took from him." Reenie lifts his glass again and drains it. "Without him, without his earthly knowledge, I would not have returned to the Chrystum. I would be dead."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A name to a place

As Reenie begins his account of the world of men, I am riveted. In the days of my youth, not that I am old, mind you, I heard the tales of men. The stories told 'round the fire at night as we camped in the dark were enough to make us want to run back home and sleep in cozy beds. I lean back into my chair and try not to stare at him.

"There was a time that I, like you," Reenie began, "wished to see what was beyond my own horizon. I lived on the other side of the Middle Valley in a small cove that was perched against the Choale Mountains."

"I have traveled some to the Choale side of the valley. It is a darker place than most."

"Not so, Clancy. Not so." Reenie got up from his chair and looked thoughtfully at the fire. Without a word he made his way to the small kitchen. I could hear some fumbling behind me as doors and drawers opened and closed. Clarisa looked my way and smiled her charming smile, setting me as ease. I could feel the tension building again. Within minutes, he returned with two glasses and an old, half-filled bottle. He hoisted it, letting the light dance about its dusty surface.

"A remnant, or a memory if you will, of my time in Ostergaul."

He handed me one of the glasses, the other to his bride. With ease he loosed the plug, pulling it directly out. I could immediately smell its contents; the aroma heady. I watched as the thin liquid slid gently into my glass. Its amber color almost glowed from the light of the fire. I nodded as he finished and filled the second glass, but to my surprise, took the glass from Clarisa's hand.

"This is not quite to the liking of my wife, you understand." He returned to his seat and now stared into the amber glow. "I will tell you of men-folk, Clancy. Do with it what you will."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Of men-folk

The outside world seems to have taken hold of our fire-side chat as it takes an unexpected turn. My heart feels like it skips a beat. I sit straight up in my chair anticipating his next words. Reenie remains unmoving in his rocker, his face a blank canvas as he stares into the fire, the colors of the flames embracing his face, making him seem older than he likely is.

"The world of men-folk is a queer one," he says. "They have strange ways."

"You have been there." I am awash with a stirring emotion. I begin to perspire at the news; my skin feels clammy.

"As I say, I have been there." He leans back and begins to rock again. His bride remains quiet as he begins his tale.

"The world of men is far above us, above the Flatlands, north of your valleys."

"My valleys? Are they not your valleys? You are Sheima, are you not?"

"I am a Sheima by birth, yes, though the valleys are no longer part of my world. I no longer claim that heritage." He continues as his chair finds the ruts in the floor. "Your world is small and peaceful by their measure. That is not the world of men. Theirs is chaotic, ritualistic. It is filled with legends and sorcery, not the simple rituals of farmers like yourself."

"You have seen this yourself?" I stammer. I have now asked the same question three times. I do not know what else to say, so striking and unexpected are his words. My nervousness shows through as Clarisa lays her hand upon my arm, a calming smile directed my way.

"It is a world I knew long ago; a world I struggle with during the night. It is a world that invades my dreams and keeps a peaceful spirit at bay. Yes, I have seen it, and I will carry it with me to my grave."

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A past life

We stayed in front of the hearth for a time. It was quiet as I sat mindlessly staring into the flames. There is nothing so calming as fire. I think it harkens back to antiquity. It is safe, it is warm, it protects. It's primal nature is possibly the most calming thing I know. My solitude is unexpectedly interrupted as Reenie's chair comes to a halt.

"What adventure is it you seek, Clancy?"

"I have not thought about it." I clear my throat, wishing my own chair were a rocker. "I suppose it is a new horizon that I long to see."

"Every hill crossed offers a new horizon. That is a simpleton's way of looking at the world." My eyes widen at his blunt words. His chair starts up again, the rockers finding their groove. "Adventure is a new way, or at least a change in your ways."

"I suppose you are correct. It is new experiences, new places I wish to find."

"You will not find them here, Clancy. We are simply on the other side of the mountains."

"There are places I have heard of which I would like to see."

"Places? What places"

"I hear tales of men-folk and lands that are far away. Far from the valleys of my homeland." I blink, my thoughts beginning to come to the fore. What kind of adventure I seek I have never considered. "I do not know where to go."

The rocking stops and Reenie leans forward, his hands coming together as his finger entwine. He stares into the fire, the flames adding color to his face. The room darkens as the world outside is as black as it will become. Night has fully taken hold of the landscape outside these walls.

"The world of men in not for the fool-hearty."

My eyes widen as my heart nearly comes to a stop. The time between beats seems as an eternity.

"I have been there."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A distant memory

We sat by the hearth, a warm and inviting fire crackling before us. It was obvious this was their custom after the evening meal. Their conversation began as they seated themselves, nearly forgetting I was present. It was their habit, their ritual. It was here they recounted their day, hers at home within and his work in the fields. My mind began to wander until Clarisa's voice brought me back.

"And what brings you to our parts, Mr. Clancy?" Her smile was as warm and inviting as the fire. Her face beamed with every word.

"I am simply exploring."

"An adventure, I believe you called it," Reenie replied.

"Of sorts, I suppose." I leaned back into my chair and stared into the fire. "I have been a homebody, I suppose, most of my life."

"Well, there's something to be said for that," she answered."

"I live in the upper valley beyond these mountains." I smiled as I replied. I was hoping not to offend her, but a homebody's life was not fulfilling. "I have been there all my life. I am content within it's confines."

"I sense that is not enough for you." She reached out her hand laying it on my arm. I reveled at her touch.

"Adventure is for young 'ins." Reenie stared into the fire and began to rock slowly in his chair, its curved rockers finding their well-worn place upon the floor. "A fella's measure is the work he gets done; the family he keeps."

"That is something I have done near my whole life, sir. It is simply time for me to find another path." Clarisa withdrew her hand and looked to her husband.

"That was not always the case with you, my love. There was a time you looked beyond the fields and wondered what was over the next rise."

"Aye, a long time ago in a boys life." His voice seemed reticent, his mind searching for memories from a time long ago; a time lost. "I suppose it is part of who I am."

"A part I fell in love with, Reenie." I watched as her hand now caressed his arm. They were as one, from now till forever.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A cozy fire

As our dinner ends I lean back into my chair and sigh, my hands coming to rest on my full belly. My feeling of uneasiness subsides as my hosts begin the business of clearing the table. A pleasant smile and a subtle hand keep me in my place. I am a guest, and my help in their chore will not be accepted. The work now finished, I am directed to the hearth where a crackling fire ebbs low within its confines.

"Please join us, Mr. Clancy. It is our custom after our meal to sit by the fire and chat about our day."

"Oh, I would most surely love such company," I offer. "I hope I am not intruding. I am an outsider to these lands."

"Nonsense," Reenie replies. "You look a stout fellow. A bit peculiar, I reckin', but you're not from these parts."

We take our seats, my hosts moving to two chairs that I firmly believe have not moved from their spots in many a year. My eyes follow her form as I note the grace with which she moves about the cabin. It is not something I would expect from one who lives in virtual seclusion, a life in the middle of nowhere. Clarisa takes her seat between us as I pull my dinner chair toward the hearth.

"I am sorry I have not the proper chair for you, Mr. Clancy."

"Think nothing of it. I am grateful for the kindness you have shown me this evening."

"Not something I routinely do for trespassers, you understand."

"Now Reenie." Her look was mirthful, a wrinkle embracing her lips as she looked at her husband. "It is not often we receive visitors in our home. We are used to ourselves and our ways, alone."

"I again thank you for your hospitality. I am on a journey and a warm fire and a hearty meal is most welcome."

"You said you are on an adventure. Why would one want adventure?"

"Now Reenie. You of all people should remember adventure. If you lived the life in your youth you live now, you would never have met me."

"Is that so?" I lean forward and stare past Clarisa at my other host. "It would seem that adventure is not only in my soul?"

"Aye, I've had an adventure or two in my time, Clancy. But those are days long gone, and are now but memories."

I pull my chair in closer to the fire as its warmth bathes me. It is the first true warmth I have felt in some time. Yet it is more than that. It is the warmth of home and hearth that I now find I miss upon the road I have begun to travel. One sees only the horizon and not the safety of home. Yet, it is the safety of home that is often a prison to the spirit.

They have extended an invitation to me now and a warm bed sounds most inviting. We settle in for an evening of conversation as a light rain pelts the thatch upon the roof. The work and travel are now done for the day.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A taste of home

I look again about the cozy cabin as supper is placed before me, which has such an intoxicating aroma that it tickles my nose. I immediately sense the tingling of spices of which I have no memory. The smells intrigue me, though I know I must wait my turn. I would be an impolite guest to lift my fork before my host, though the scents are nearly overwhelming. Upon Clarisa's return, she seats herself and gestures towards my plate.

"Do not wait on us, Mr. Clancy."

Her smile again taps a corner within my heart I had not known before. I return her look with a polite smile and a nod, my fork stabbing at the offering. Within seconds my tongue explodes with sensations I could only dream of. The sliver of meat caresses my mouth, its own skin tender. I know the texture well but the flavor eludes me. I slice a wedge from the salad as the oils clinging to the fork begin to slide away. Again, nothing I have ever eaten has given me this experience. It is evident to my hosts as my eyes light with each taste.

"I hope you are satisfied with our small supper, Mr. Clancy."

"Oh my yes," I reply. "Sir, I have never tasted anything quite like this before."

"Not of my doin', Clancy," he replies as  his own fork stabs at the plate. "Clarisa is near the finest cook I have ever come across in all my years."

"Now Reenie, you'll make me blush."

Her words were true as a light flesh of color quickly arrived upon her round cheeks.She stretches her arm across the small table, laying her hand on his. Her touch brought a smile to his lips. It is obvious they are as much in love as any I have ever seen. Everything they do, they do for each other. Perhaps it is necessary out here in such a lonely place in the world. Perhaps it is something more, something I have not known in my life.

For a moment, I again feel as an intruder into their world as a sudden lack of companionship becomes obvious, at least on my part. I turn my eyes back to my supper as an empty place makes its presence known within my heart.

I feel suddenly alone in life.

Friday, June 14, 2013


The gentle smile I see pales against the sweetness of her soft voice. It is as a feather, soft and lyrical as it floats upon a summer's breeze. Her welcome is as luxurious as a full blanket on a winter's day. It is warm and sincere. Her eyes light as the stars of a night sky as she welcomes me within.

My host ruffles his cloak and slips it upon a well-used hook affixed to a worn board in the wall next to the door. There is but a pair of them, side by side, surely meant only for my hosts. His steps to her are quick as a soft caress upon her lips brings a second light to her eyes as her hands slip across his shoulders. Her eyes close slowly before she turns her attentions in my direction.

"We have a guest, my love." Her smile brings an instant warmth to my heart as does the cabin to my tired body.

"Clarisa, yes." The old man turns in a measured stance and nods in my direction. "Clancy, is it? Yes, Clancy, that is it. He is a long way from home."

"Mr. Clancy." Her smile is intoxicating as her voice soothes my ears. "We are just about to sit for supper. Would you join us?"

"I would be most honored," I reply.

"Reenie, would you set another place on the table?"

Without hesitation a third setting is worked carefully onto the small table. It is evident as I glance around this humble abode it is a home, one filled with warmth, but a home of two. There seem to be two of everything; two hooks by the door, two chairs nestled close to the hearth and two chairs tucked up against the small table which is obviously built for dinner for two. Dinner is quickly set as I do my best to stay out of the way, but I am motioned to my seat.

"Please Mr. Clancy, be seated while we finish our task."

I take my place trying not to take up more space than I should. I suddenly feel as if I am intruding.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A haven in the middle of nowhere

I feel the lump in my throat wanting to burst from its prison. My feet are clay embedded in the fresh soil. My face bursts with sweat, the salty water streaming down my cheeks.

"Not seen 'ya around here before."

I feel the cold metal release from my flesh. My frame slumps as I come to rest fully against the wall, my back becoming my support. The darkness does not hide my fear as my eyes pierce the night to find my captor. I feel the warmth of the wall, the captured light now radiating back into the clear night.

"I am sorry, sir. I meant no harm." The rod against my neck now comes to rest against the ground; a fork I now see; a farmer's tool.

"Where are 'ya from?" His voice I hear is low, deep and firm; a confident tone.

"I am from the north end of the Chrystum. My name is Clancy." The rock held within my throat begins to lessen and I feel the strength returning to my limbs. He steps back and examines me as I lean against his wall.

"What are you doin' round these parts?"

"I am simply on an adventure, sir."

"Adventure? Ain't no adventure round here," he replies." His hand shifts to his head as he adjusts his brimmed hat, pulling it backward slightly. The gathering darkness reveals little of his features. I can tell though, he is someone of experience. "I'm fixin' to eat supper. You are welcome," he says, "if'n you haven't eaten."

"I would be much obliged, sir. Thank you."

My legs shake briefly as I feel a tremendous sense of relief. I smile, though in the darkness I don't know if my benefactor notices. Within moments I am standing before the entrance to his humble home. The door faces east, toward the rising sun, simple, no opening to view in or out; no embellishments of any sort. He stomps his feet on the planks of the porch to release the mud caked to his boots. I do the same. It is as a signal as I hear the metal latch on the inside drop and the door swings open easily, not even a squeak from the hinges burrowed into the weathered frame.

The light within embraces us as I am am instantly touched with warmth. Before me stands his bride, a gentle smile wide across her comely face. Without a word, I feel welcomed.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A wall

What stands before me this night is unexpected, yet I feel the rails upon which my arms reside. They are real, tangible. I peer toward the cottage that lurks in the night, it's subtle glow homey from the fires that reside within. I can almost feel the warmth from its hearth upon my skin which is now kissed only by the cool night airs. The shroud that envelopes the night gives way to this amber glow.

The wood skims my back as I slide beneath the upper rail and take a first step toward this mirage. It shimmers in the night airs as a palm beneath the desert sun. Could this be some magic that reaches north from the wastelands themselves? What trickery plays upon my eyes? Yet, I know it has substance as the wispy trail that lingers above tickles my nose. My nose also tells me the hearth doubles as a cooking fire. The aroma is feint but it stirs my hunger. Lunch is long since past and my legs are weary.

The distance to the nearest wall is but a short walk. The grounds are flat with seemingly little fanfare. A practical caretaker it would seem inhabits this house on the edge of nowhere. A clank echoes from within; life. I become the night itself as I sneak to the outer wall and press my ear against the clapboard. The echoes from within set my thoughts in motion. My mind's eye sees what my ear takes in. My host works diligently as plates and utensils clank and knock against table and kettle. My stomach growls at the thought alone.

"I wouldn't move, if'n I were you."

The implement that now presses against the side of my neck pins me to the walls. I inhale sharply as fear clamps my feet to the earth. I have been discovered!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Where there's smoke

The day begins to draw late though the sun's light still dusts the tops of the Sirris, its lofty spires capturing the final gasps of twilight. The shadows lengthen though the warmth captured in the meadows of the Far Wilderness holds tight and I feel their caress upon my skin. Each day brings a panorama to these eyes as only the beauty of the Dream Valley rivals the vistas I have encountered.

As I turn my gaze to the south and away from the mountains and fields I spy a wisp of smoke trailing into the fading sky. Is this some sign of habitat or an errant wildfire? I watch as the smoke trails upward as from a chimney. No, this is not a wildfire. I find myself surprised, not only by the smoke but as much perhaps as the hint of someone ahead; someone unexpected. I stop and stare as the breeze washes over me from behind. I search the fields ahead but find nothing, the trail to the sky still some ways off. My pace quickens with anticipation as I have not spoken to anyone except Authurn since I left my protected valleys.

The next hour passes quickly in anticipation of what I will find ahead. The night settles at last as the day is lost behind the mountains and the shadows no longer lengthen but become the night itself. The fields of the wilderness fade as I feel tilled earth beneath my feet. It is a sign of a working farm. A farm in the middle of nowhere. The stars above wink into existence one by one as I see a soft orange glow from ahead, the only other light a sheltered beacon within the night.

My path is soon  barred by post and rail as I stride headlong into a fence, a fence where none should be. The soft glow from the cottage moves and flickers as flames unseen dance within. I watch in silence as the warmth ahead beckons me, calls be from the chill of night, yet I have no invitation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thoughts of memories

The day has remained fresh with a gentle breeze upon my face as I have trekked toward the southern end of the Sirris. The day has been uneventful as I pass beside the behemoths that block the horizon from the Chrystum. My walk has been easy as the meadows roll gently with only soft ground beneath my feet. It is a welcome path compared to the rocky hillsides and ambling creeks that had been my map to this point.

A twilight sky is settling quickly on this side of the mountains as the sun falls quickly to the west. I have seen little movement across the plain as I proceed. I find myself looking forward with both anticipation and trepidation to the end of this leg. Tales abound with legends of creatures and evil magics that inhabit the Great Southern Wastelands. Long ago it was laid bare. The tales of my youth tell of a great war that was fought between the men of the northern lands and those races that dwell far below the Chrystum.

Though I have only seen the Wastelands from the lofty heights of the Sirris, an ankle of the lower hills as the Dream Valley turns and runs toward the sea, my imagination is rampant. It has been many years since I tread the lower reaches but I can still see the vast rolling desert of sand as far as the eye can see. I remember how my eyes rebelled at the stark scenery, my vision obscured by a harsh glare that seemed to encompass all of the southern border. Would there have been a war, all traces I could imagine have been erased from the memory of the world.

Night settles in quickly as my meandering thoughts have kept all sense of passing time from me. This day escapes and night intrudes again. My stomach calls from its depths and reawakens my senses. Another day of rolling fields and stalks of wistful flowers shall greet me before the peaceful meadows of the Far Wilderness will be fully behind and a new trail opens before me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The next horizon

The day before me shines within my soul as I take in the majesty of ocean before me as sun-split meadows travel from horizon to horizon. The new day brightens the fields as petals awaken beneath their master's hand. Colors I have not before breathed fill my eyes with their heady vibrance. It is a land without boundaries, a land the valleys of the Chrystum could not hold within.

I revel in the openness that I have not experienced within the confines of the Sirris. I let the day lapse as the east winds follow from the dawn. I have no timetable for this day other than the hollow sounds of my stomach. Here though I am at home as in the fields I plow. Here is where I will gather my lunch. Fields are fields and within them the same creatures will travel and I am a master at their removal, as is any farmer worth his salt. I will take my direction as the sun begins its downward arc.

The day begins to seal its fate as the light begins to fade, its warmth a degree cooler upon my face. It is the warmth that steals my heart as the mountain passes has sapped it from my soul, and with the thoughts of the Dream Valley in my mind I shall make my way south. These fields that give new hope to my journey spring as a well from the depths of the earth. The flanks of the Sirris shall be my guide as I follow in their wake to ends unknown.

The sun shall rise upon my left shoulder come the dawn.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Field of dreams

The sun lifts the curtain of night from the open plain and shines its light upon the golden reeds that fill the expanse before me. I turn and gaze upon the hills that have sheltered me these past days and feel their presence within my mind. I turn again and let the day reveal the bounty that the world holds firm within its grasp. The breath of the east bends the stalks that bow in undulating waves before me.

I leave my mountain retreat and wade into the vastness of goldenrod that fills my view. My feet sink into the softness of the fields and leave behind the rocky trails of the Sirris. I feel the pull of the soft earth upon my boots as I step, the reeds sparse enough to make my passage easy. My hands skim along the chaff and feel the sting of hollow reed as I caress a world of growth. I see the seeds of life that float above the bending sea like swarms of locust riding silent winds. I feel their caress upon my cheeks as I step toward the fading light of dawn.

I feel a newness, a fullness of life that the Sirris possesses not. Their hollow valleys that are bold yet confining are in stark contrast to the wistful peace of glowing fields beneath sun-split clouds. For every life that leaves us, a new life begins within us. My breath pulls from the fleeting breezes and fills my soul with purpose.

I look now to the four winds in search of direction. Where shall my next steps take me upon this journey?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A vastness of wonder

The breaking dawn lights the darkness as I witness the flames of day chasing the terminus from its lofty perch. My time in these hills has come to an end and their closeness I have come to know, come to relish. The valleys that were my home coddled me in their richness; a splendor that had come to dull the senses. That I have spent these days in a vacuum of companionship save for my contact with Authurn is an achievement of consequence. I have relied on myself for conversation and fellowship.

At last I sit at the edge of my confines, my mind seething with the possibilities of the dawn. The light hovers just below the horizon as it streaks its power across the desert of night. The horizon begins to glow as my eyes begin to transition from the night, the stars that were my curtain beginning to give way. I peer from the depths, the edge of the last valley, the last of the Sirris that has held my hand upon this journey.

The day bursts upon the world as there is nothing save the horizon to hold back the morning. The lands before me are as wide as an ocean, the openness nearly more than my eyes can take it. The grasses bow beneath a gentle breeze as it runs freely across the plain, the tops of the feathered stalks rolling as ripples across a waterless sea. A vastness such as this have I never seen before.

A new horizon I have before me beckons. Where shall this course take me? What trails will I find within its vastness? Perhaps the dawn shall light my way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Weight of my journey

This day gives me pause to think about my journey and its course. I wonder, did I enter into this blindly? My encounter with my new friend surely is telling. Would I not have stumbled across his path, what would have become of me? Would I lie now near death in the mountains, my stalker victorious? I feel the weight of my pack upon my shoulders and though the day is still young, its straps dig in. Is it the pack I feel or is it the burden I have now placed upon myself through my ignorance?

The sun breaks through the low clouds and its warmth bathes me, soothing my soul. I pass a fleeting glance at the peaks that tower above me. They have been my guideposts in this journey, this walk I have taken. The corridors they have formed has been my map. I have taken their guidance but what shall guide me upon the open plains? My belly suddenly shouts and I realize I have been wandering aimlessly in my thoughts. It is time for lunch.

My shoulders relax as my pack sits quietly beside my small fire, its weight no longer a pull on my thoughts. As I clean up from my meal, my savior beckons. Its sleekness calls to me and I may not resist. I raise it slowly and feel its heft, its smooth shape somehow comforting within my hands. It is a queer weapon by design, its shape unknown to me. A sideways bow upon a rod, a channel within to lock an arrow. I look about the campsite; who shall see me test my skills? Only the birds of the forest realm. I laugh an my awkwardness, my shyness.

I have no instruction in weaponry and am sure in my mind I will somehow shoot my foot. My only instruction was to watch Authurn handle my savior in my presence as he showed me not how to use it. The arrow locked in place and the bow pulled fully back I hesitate at the possibility of its launch. A target, I need a target, an object which shall test my metal. I train the rod upon its victim and loose the missile down its shaft, the whoosh unmistakable in the stillness of the fold.

I shudder at my clumsiness. My skills in the wild shall surely be my undoing.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A night's fire

The day falls quickly away as night locks its arms about the Sirris. I sit now before a crackling fire with a creature known only to me by tales from my childhood. That I would sit with a man-folk, a people whose history is turbulent, violent as the tales have been told to me.

"It would do you well to know those parts of the world that you roam." Authurn reached to his side and flipped another log on the fire between us. "You have not traveled these lands before, I gather."

"I am of these valleys, sir," I reply, "though in these mountains I am indeed a novice." This Authurn, a gentle giant of a fellow smiles at my words. His face is lined with words of wisdom, a tell-tale sign of his own experience. "How do you know?"

"One would not travel such with what you bring to these hills, my friend. The mountains can quickly become a grueling ordeal if not respected, and within them secrets abound. Do you know that which trailed you?"

"I do not. I did not know I had a tracker."

"A mountain cat we call a 'bob'. Not as large as other cats of the world but in their element, deadly. You would surely have become a plump meal for her."

"A meal?" My eyes widen as I stare across the flames and into his eyes. My gaze falls to his weapon, one that I have never before beheld. It is my savior, my salvation. "Your weapon. It killed my enemy?"

"I killed nothing this night." Authurn laughed, his red beard coming to life in the light as he leaned toward the fire. "Wounded she may be but I do not believe she shall be worse for it. She shall retire for the night and lick her wounds, but tomorrow will come another day and only one meal missed."

"Then I shall thank you for your service this night." I lean back against the stump, my back searching to find a soft spot.

"Where do you travel to, Clancy?"

"I travel to nowhere. My search is to unlock a world I know nothing about. Too long have I been hidden in my valleys, ignorant of what is beyond my borders."

"Then welcome to my world. I too travel these lands for new discoveries, as do my people."

"What do you call yourself? Where do you hail from?" How quickly this giant has put me at ease. His manners are gentle yet it is evident he is skilled in the wilds.

"I am from the Flatlands above your valleys. Once a part of the kingdoms of the men of the north but no longer. We are a free people that owe their allegiance to no king. I am a Qualeman, a free ranger."

Our conversations continued above the flames as they held back the night airs. He has roamed these mountains for many years and handed forth some of that knowledge that I would have a safe journey. The path he lay for me would give my last day in the mountains structure and guidance and a map to what would be on the other side.

As I awake this morning, my new friend has departed as quickly as he had come; a silent breath of wind over grass-filled meadows. Yet he has left me a gift; my savior, that which saved my life in the dark hours of the night. If I only knew how to work it.