LotSF: Respect

PREVIOUS

I sprinted through the forest full-tilt, the anger and adrenaline coursing through my body pushing me past my pain. It was like my body was fading away with every step, the aches and wounds unravelling and leaving just my soul exposed. I hurdled fallen branches, pushed off of jutting rocks, wove between trees lightly and powerfully and nimbly. I felt faster than the river, lighter than the air. I didn’t just feel free, I felt capable.

Unstoppable, even.

The bearskins were faster, more desperate, more afraid, and they scrambled haphazardly through the trees towards some unknown destination. They plunged ahead, skidding and stumbling, but only ever went a few dozen metres before pausing to see if I was still following. Their pale, vile eyes flickered white in the failing light. They snapped and snarled at one another as they fought to get away but still I kept running.

I knew it was there, the fire between my fingers, the little black vortex churning ceaselessly within my chest. It was driving me on, pushing me through every twinge of pain or weak muscle. I wanted to rip into those bearskins, burn them alive for what they’d done, and the thought of finding their little hidey hole, where obviously there was something important to them, filled me with a dangerous hunger.

Steady, the wind seemed to croon as it twisted around my body. Steady.

I was more than this anger burning beneath my ribs. I was more than the blindness and the pain and the fear. I was more than loss and isolation and desperate risks. I was alive and powerful and I was not stopping for anything.

I leapt up on a rotting stump, planted my boot against its wood, pushed off and hit the ground running, kicking up leaf mulch and pebbles. My breath thundered in my ears. I wanted to go faster.

But rising above me was a steep ridge, lying across the forest floor like a bony spine beneath the grass and leaves. The bearskins’ claws raked deep gouges in the dirt as they frantically clambered up the incline and threw themselves over the other side.

I sped up, kicking hard as I fought gravity and my own heavy body. I grabbed shrubs, thick tufts of grass, anything within reach that could help pull me to the top. And there I stood at the crest of the forest’s backbone. My chest heaved. My legs shook. The aches and pains came coursing back.

I turned, looked behind me. Smoke curled up from the ground where liquid handfuls of flame had scorched the dead leaves. You could see the deep orange trail of smouldering forest tracing my steps hundreds of metres back into the darkness. That was me. That was me passing through the forest, as powerful and unstoppable as I was, and leaving my ugly black mark on it.

That damage was my fault.

My ribs shuddered as I fought to normalize my breathing and I slowly turned again, looking back ahead of me on the other side of the ridge.

There it was. Their hidey hole.

Bearskins swarmed like ants in the little hollow in the middle of the forest, their greasy pelts catching the moonlight, their pallid eyes reflecting white daggers in the darkness. They churned around their dingy camp, between piles of rotting meat and hoarded junk. The bearskins I’d been chasing flooded into the hollow, stirring the others to run faster and more erratically, until they were a chaotic, senseless mass.

I scanned the mass of seething bear pelts, searching for any tiny sign of anything that might be a clue. There was nothing. No sign of Faith, no sign of any gypsies, no sign of anything that meant anything to me. What had I expected anyways? That these brainless monsters would really be hiding anything important?

The swarming bearskins had started to slow, not quite as frenzied as they’d been when I first arrived, and I watched them with a curled lip. They were horrible creatures, monsters that preyed on emotional weakness, that inspired the same fear they thrived off of, and here they were in front of me. Afraid of me. So what did that say about me?

Maybe I belonged here.

I half slid, half clambered down the side of the ridge, tiptoeing around animal carcasses and rusted metal until I stood in the centre of their camp. They instinctively moved away from me, surrounding me in a circle that spun and bristled and pulsed constantly. The faint moonlight rode like a serpent on their backs. Their continuous motion was dizzying and infuriating and I wanted them to stop.

“Where are they?” I snarled at the beasts, and a low growl passed through the pack. A few of them swerved out of the circle to snap their jaws at me and a flicker of fear sparked in my chest. These monsters could kill me if they wanted to and it was their fear of a magic that wasn’t really mine–that I couldn’t really control–that kept me safe. If they decided they weren’t afraid of me anymore…?

The spark of fear flared hotter and now the bearskins were dodging in and out at me, snapping and snarling, made hungry by my worry but still cautious in the glow of the fire dripping from my fingers. The fear in my chest kicked harder, spiraling into something big and fierce, and my efforts to contain it only seemed to compress it into something sharper. The bearskins slowed, scraped their claws, turned inwards to glare at me. A few of them stepped towards me, threatening and huge.

The anger flared defensively, using the fear as ignition to make it burn hot and unwavering, and the bearskins leapt back from it. I sent them into a maddening dance, pulled like a magnet by their obsession with my fear, repulsed forcefully by the heat of my anger. They didn’t know how to respond, they didn’t know how to treat me, and we stood in a tense stalemate.

I swallowed tightly. Balancing the fear and anger like a pendulum where my heart should be, I took a step towards the bearskin directly in front of me. It immediately retreated, but I let out some of my fear, drawing it back, then held it there with a flash of anger. It felt scalding and nauseating in my throat, the potent emotional cocktail, but it held the bearskin transfixed as I took another step, and then another. I was standing a breath away, our eyes locked. My heart pounded, fury stretched taut across my shoulders, as the monster and I faced each other with ruthless respect.

It was a respect caked in dread and hostility, but it was respect.

My breath steamed hot and restless.

“Find them,” I snarled softly, baring my teeth in the darkness.

The bearskin growled lowly, pale eyes flickering, and then it took off into the night.

***

*collapses into an exhausted heap*

This was an effort to write. But it is done and hey, look, it’s the 15th. I’m sort of not really on schedule.

I have things I would like to do and a direction I would like to pursue and a whole lot of vague thoughts and aspirations but I have no promises for when any of that will happen. For now, I am tired.

Night.

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LotSF: Chasing Fear

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

I tripped on a root, exhaustedly catching myself against a tree trunk and standing weak-kneed for a moment to try to catch my breath. I was becoming progressively clumsier as I went on, less and less steady on my feet, less and less able to keep myself going every time I tripped. My whole body felt like a throbbing bruise. Every muscle wanted me to lie down on the forest floor and give up.

And this felt so terribly hopeless.

Why was I out here, wandering the forest alone and injured?

How could I ever find my horse in hundreds of acres of trees, when I didn’t even really know if she was alive?

But I had nothing else. Nothing to lose. Nothing to do but keep moving, keep walking, keep trying to fix the mess I’d made. So I pushed myself away from the tree and focussed on putting one foot in front of the other.

Almost an hour after I’d started walking, as the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon, I noticed them. Bearskins. Creeping silently between the trees on either side of me, easily keeping pace. Their hungry, greedy eyes were fixed on me, glowing yellow and amber in the dying light, and my hand reflexively dropped to my hip. My sword wasn’t there. I was weaponless, surrounded on every side by dozens of monsters that could easily tear me apart.

But they weren’t attacking. They kept me surrounded, they kept their eyes trained on me, but not a single one of them stepped towards me. If I stopped walking, they paced restlessly, antsy and jumpy and skittish. They were afraid of me. Afraid of my ugly, flaming magic, most likely. It made me feel astoundingly powerful, knowing they wouldn’t dare touch me, but being this close to something so brutally dangerous raised the hairs on my arms and neck. It was so incredibly eerie.

The sun sank lower, burning the sky red and gold, and still I hadn’t even come close to finding Faith. I was tiring myself out, disorienting myself in this massive forest, and keeping myself company with a pack of bearskins–company that made my stomach twist into all sorts of horrible knots. This didn’t feel like progress. It felt like it was making things worse and I was growing desperate.

But over the next little ridge, I found a river.

Judging from the size and speed of the river (plus a pretty desperately hopeful bias), I decided it was safe to assume this was the same river the gypsy camp was built alongside. That meant that if I followed it in the right direction, I would find the gypsies and possibly even Faith. Except that I couldn’t figure out which direction would take me to the camp. I knew vaguely the direction we’d ridden to fight the bearskins, but had that been up- or downriver? I couldn’t remember enough to give myself a clear answer. I couldn’t even use the position of the sun–I’d never thought to pay attention to its location when we marched out.

I was lost. Completely and utterly lost, with a 50/50 chance of becoming found.

I could walk forever, trying to find the camp, and as injured and fatigued as I was… what if I didn’t make it? What if the gypsies weren’t even there? What if the bearskins finally realized I was too weak to hurt them and attacked me?

Feeling helpless and powerless and so horribly lost, I waded into the cold water. I walked past my thighs, up to my hips, water flowing under my dusty, ashy armour, before falling to my knees and letting the river rush over my shoulders and chest. My blood mingled with the water where it flowed past my damaged shoulder and I wished it would wash the rest of me away, carrying me along the river’s course, dumping my ashes into the lake where they would settle to the bottom.

I felt the water drag at my body, urging me to join it, to give up my pointless quest, to just admit that I’d failed and run away from all my problems. Its weight was so tempting, so soothing, and I wanted to follow wherever it might take me.

This was so, so hopeless.

But it was my fault.

did this to Nolan. did this to Faith. did this to myself.

So was going to fix it, damn it.

I felt it again, the little stirring anger in my chest, that ugly black hole where my magic used to be. It burned like a coal within my ribs, urging me up onto my feet, pushing me out of the river. I was angry. At myself, at the bearskins, at the woman who’d kidnapped Nolan, and that anger drove me on, drove me up, drove me onto the riverbank. I staggered, lungs heaving, feeling an electric energy build inside me that I could neither stop nor control, and I felt heat brush against the insides of my palms. I looked down at my hands, remembered the flames.

Small, lazy yellow tongues of fire dripped down my fingers.

The bearskins stirred anxiously in the shadows of the trees. I turned towards them, raised my hands. They pressed back, away, clamouring over one another to try to escape me. They were terrified of the magic.

The anger kicked up in my chest. I wanted to summon massive torrents of flame, I wanted to hurl them at the beasts and punish them for what they’d done to me. But I bit back, reined in the fury, held white-knuckled onto the fire in my hands. I would not let this anger overcome me. I would not let it consume me.

Because while the bearskins were doing everything they could to escape me, they weren’t fleeing randomly into the forest. They were gathering at a specific point, some of them darting off into the darkness but all of them following the same path. I walked towards them and they funnelled along that path, never straying, never breaking away.

There was something there. Something they felt they could run to. Something that made them feel safe.

Maybe it was the woman who’d stolen Nolan. Maybe it was something else.

But it was better than wandering alone in the dark.

The anger, the determination, lifted me above the pain and fatigue.

Fire clutched tightly in my hands, I took off after the fleeing bearskins at a run.

***

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I did it. I actually wrote a LotSF chapter.

It’s horribly late (it’s currently 1:23am, whoops) but it’s done. It’s here. I did it!

It feels good. It feels really good. I am proud of myself. And I am so much happier with the way this chapter went than the way it was going before.

Again again, thank you everyone for being patient and all of that, I hope this was worth the wait.

For those who are possibly new to the whole thing, welcome welcome. I hope you enjoy.

And I hope everyone is having a good weekend thus far. I will see you all sometime tomorrow (or later today, since it’s already Sunday) for my regular posting schedule.

Good night!

-Alex

 

 

LotSF: Getting Up

469

PREVIOUS CHAPTER

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I didn’t want to get up.

Standing up would mean taking responsibility. It would mean facing the real world, and facing the long battle ahead of me. It would mean pain, and sorrow, and suffering.

But lying here, curled up on the ground… I didn’t have to face anything.

I’d been crying for a long time, even though my heart was past the point of aching anymore. A cold trickle of tears was still sliding down my cheek. I didn’t even know what the tears meant. They just wouldn’t stop.

I wanted to close my eyes and slumber forever, forgetting everything. I wanted to dream of the past, when I could speak the language of the Small Folk, when Nolan was there beside me and we were happy. But that felt so long ago. It felt like just a dream, like it had never been reality at all. If it had been real, then wouldn’t I still carry memories of such happiness in my heart? Now my heart was dark and empty. How could those sunny days have been real?

I wanted so badly to close my eyes and give up. I had done this, after all. I’d been so consumed by my anger, so worried about getting my old magic back that I’d ended up destroying everything. I had ignored Nolan’s efforts to help me, ignored the fact that my own loss was hurting him, and now he was gone. You did all this, without even trying.

I wanted to lie there forever. I wanted to stop hurting everyone else. But part of me was terrified. What would happen if I let go? What would happen to Nolan, or to Faith? I had hurt them. But I still loved them. And I needed to know they would be okay.

I couldn’t just give up.

You owe them.

And yet, as much as I knew I had to get up, as much as I wanted to stand so I could help them, it suddenly seemed as though just standing up was the hardest thing I’d ever done.

Get up. You have to help them. Get up. Get up. Get up.

But I had no strength. I told my muscles to work, to push me up, but they were too weak to obey. I was being pressed into the ashy earth and it was taking me in as its own. I would be swallowed whole, consumed. I would be free of my responsibilities. I would be free of everything.

But they need you. You owe them.

I pushed harder. I put one arm under me, propping myself up on my elbow. It felt like there was a thousand-pound weight on my back, bearing me down, but I had to get up. I put my other hand on the ground and pushed, and now my torso was lifted free of the consuming earth.

My shoulder throbbed with pain but I had to ignore it. I had to keep going. My arms were shaking, but I got my knees under me. I was farther off the ground. I was getting there. I was getting up. Just a little bit farther.

I put my boots under me and steadied myself, head swimming with my weakness, before slowly straightening. I swayed as I stood tall. My legs were numb, as if they couldn’t bear my weight, but I was stable for now. I could walk.

And so I started walking. I walked away from the cinders and ashes, towards the forest. I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t even have the sense to check the sky, to try to find my direction from the sun. I just kept walking, hoping for a sign. Hoping I would find something, or someone.

My footsteps were uneven and I wasn’t sure I could make the trek ahead of me without falling, but I persevered. You have to help them. You can’t fall. I focussed my thoughts on Nolan. He needed me. He trusted me. All this time, he trusted me to be there for him, and I wasn’t going to let him down. I couldn’t. Not now.

Thinking of him hurt, but I steeled my heart and kept going. There was no place for weakness. I had to go.

How could you do this?

You have to fix it.

How could you be so heartless?

I have to fix it.

I didn’t know what to believe. I just had to keep moving. I had to hope for something. Anything.

I stumbled and caught myself against a tree. I swayed for a moment, regaining my balance, and closed my eyes as I fought off a rising wave of sickness. That was when I felt it. A gentle breeze on my face, cool and insistent. I opened my eyes, heart pounding. There it was again, but stronger, wrapping around my shoulders and settling on the bridge of my nose.

“Alex…”

Oh gods. Nolan.

“Nolan,” I whispered aloud. “Nolan, where are you?” My voice rose in volume as I grew more desperate.

“Find Faith…” he said through the wind, and I shook my head.

“No. No. Where are you?”

I needed to know. I would find Faith, yes, but I needed to know where he was.

“Please…” he said, and I could feel the breeze fading. I was losing him again. And I didn’t know where to look.

The wind unravelled from around my shoulders and ebbed away from my face and I was left alone again. I wanted to scream at him to tell me where he was so I could save him, but there was no point. He wouldn’t tell me, or he couldn’t, and the wind was gone anyways. At least he was alive.

But where was I supposed to find Faith? I looked around me, at this great big forest I had stumbled into. Where would I find my injured horse amongst all these trees when she could’ve gone anywhere, in any direction?

I didn’t know. But I had wandered into this woods with only the hope of finding something, and that had found me Nolan’s voice. So I was prepared to keep wandering. To keep hoping.

I had to find her.

***

Another LotSF, and in not bad timing either.

I really don’t know what to say. I’m tired. And I need to catch up on things, as per usual. And that makes me more tired. Yawn. But I feel excited, for some reason, like something good is going to happen, and I guess it’s true. I’ve got some good plans for the rest of the week so there’s certainly a reason to be excited. I’m raaambling.

Also, I don’t know if the picture I used at the top really fits this chapter, but ohhh well. I guess the blurred effect of the droplets kind of represents how LotSF Alex is feeling right now, so there’s that.

All right, I’m off to bed (in a bit). Have a good night everyone :)

-Alex

LotSF: Flames

CHAPTER 1

PREVIOUS

Alex,” Nolan said, his voice half a whimper. I saw his chest heave with a sob as he began to break down. And I heard the snarling of the bearskins increase in volume, in response to his emotional pain.

And just as he collapsed to his knees, I felt the anger heave within me.

If he died, if he got us killed… I would not let him ruin my life.

Fuelled by a swelling fire deep within me, I raised my sword and leapt at the nearest bearskin. I dug my blade into the hide covering its shoulder, sinking it to the hilt in the monster’s flesh before the bearskin began to scream. It writhed, turning its head and snapping its teeth where I clung to it, and our eyes met. The creature wore the tattered scalp of a grizzly bear on its head, but beneath that was its ugly, humanoid face with the crooked teeth and red-rimmed eyes which now glared at me with feral stupidity. Its jaws closed in empty air, failing to reach me, but then another bearskin came from behind, crashing into me and knocking me off of its shoulder.

I rolled as I hit the ground and lifted my sword to take on the new bearskin. I was surrounded now, with my own circle of bearskins closing around me tighter and tighter as I slowly stood. My anger roiled, slamming against my ribs in an effort to get me to move, to attack everything that threatened me, but I was struggling to think straight, rationally. I was not going to die. One of the bearskins–the one I’d injured, no less–finally let out an ugly roar and charged me, but didn’t get very far.

“Stop it!” Nolan screamed, and his high-pitched Wind Voice was edging on hysteria as he commanded a gale to sweep down, knocking the bearskin clear off its feet. A wordless shriek caught in his throat, Nolan came closer, entering the circle, churning the wind into a whistling vortex around me so that the bearskins found it difficult to keep their footing. I saw how bravely Nolan was acting, how strong his magic was, but I couldn’t ignore the tears streaming down his face. He probably intended to sacrifice himself to save me, using his magic to keep me safe but leaving himself open to an emotional attack.

I did not need to be saved.

Not by Nolan. Not by anyone. I could save myself.

So, losing all self-control, I shoved Nolan and pinned him to the ground, my blade finding its way to his throat. His spell died, the wind dissipating with fitful bursts, and he could only yelp as he found cold steel pressed to his skin and met my menacing eyes. “Stop this,” I commanded, my words barely recognizable as my own, they were so twisted with rage. “You are not going to die here. I am not going to watch you die, not after I did so much for you, do you hear me? You’re a damned coward, Nolan,” I snarled, and his deep eyes flickered with disbelief and anguish.

“Please Alex, why are you doing this?” he beseeched, sounding pitiful. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong!” I screamed at him, and then pain exploded in my shoulder as dagger-sized claws crushed through my armour and I was wrenched backwards.

The bearskin pressed me to the ground, claws slipping deeper into my shoulder, and then two more came clamouring closer, crowding around me so that I couldn’t see the sky. I could hear Nolan though, screaming madly, and then I felt the same thing he was undoubtedly feeling–the bearskin magic.

The bearskins could feel the dark, angry magic in me, knew its secrets and danger, and they sought to use it against me. The pain in my shoulder was maddening, blocking out sense and reason while bringing to life the powerful heat burning in my chest. It was consuming me, my anger–but even as it flooded my veins and filled my muscles, it was lending me a mindless, terrible strength. With that strength, I kicked the bearskin off me, fighting to my feet and surveying those beasts that threatened me.

As I stood there, my own blood dripping into the grass, my chest heaving raggedly from all the pure rage that was washing over me, my mind struggled for control. I remembered threatening Nolan–why had I done that?–I remembered… losing my sword… somewhere. I couldn’t focus. My anger was burning me alive, swallowing my thoughts… I had had enough of this. I was done. I wanted this all to stop!

And that was when my anger truly burst free.

I raised my hands, giving some horrible shriek, and the dark magic within me found its release, escaping in a burst of sweltering flame. All around me, bearskins were engulfed in the blazing fire, and their howls filled the air as their fur was singed and their flesh was scorched. The fire devoured the grass in its path, leaving behind a black circle of death and ash. And I stood in the centre, surrounded by pain that was the result of my uncontrollable anger.

And worse than the pain that the bearskins were feeling was the reverberating agony that ripped through my system.

Clutching my ribs, struggling to breathe, I sank to my knees and desperately tried to focus, to think, to stop. My fingernails dug into the ashy soil, my breath squeezed through my gritted teeth with a whimper, and every nerve was alive with overwhelming dismay. Then, cutting through it all, was Nolan’s terrified, pleading voice.

I looked up through my veil of pain and saw him shaking, held firm in the grip of a strong arm with a new blade–a short dagger–pressed to his throat. One of the bearskins had stood on two feet, her bear pelt slipping off her shoulders, and I saw that she wasn’t a bearskin at all. She was a human, and on the edge of her steady knife hung Nolan’s trembling life.

“Please, don’t hurt her,” Nolan begged the woman, those endless tears still running freely down his face. I realized that he was talking about me and felt the familiar anger and indignation rise, but I suppressed it anxiously. My fear sharpened my thoughts, cleared my head, because I realized that I was about to lose him. Nolan was inches away from leaving me. No…

“Oh, I won’t hurt her,” said the woman with a wicked smirk. “I only want you, dear.” She then stepped back, dragging Nolan with her, while the bearskins came around me again, using their magic in a last attempt to crush me. This time, there was no anger left to stir within me. I was empty, exhausted, filled only with an irresistible desire to sleep…

END OF PART 1

***

Yay, more LotSF and after only 2-ish weeks! Amazing!

And yes, this is the end of Part 1. Somewhere partway through, I realized that this was just the start of an adventure that acts in two parts. So this part, unofficially, shall hereby be known as “SPRING”, and part 2 will be known as “WINTER”.

It’s very… interesting, writing scenes with such swelling anger in them. It’s impossible for me to write it without simultaneously feeling it, so I’m sitting here silently fuming on the inside as I rile myself up just so I can accurately describe what it feels like. It’s a breathtaking feeling, to feel something so strong, but not always in a good way.

Anyways. Ugh. Tired. I’m at that point where my head is starting to swim and I don’t want to do anything. I’m just barely conscious enough to write creatively, but emails and such are out of the question. Too much thought. Save for morning.

Off to write, then off to bed. A new Your Story submission shall be posted tomorrow.

Till then, have a good night.

What makes you angry?

May your anger find an escape that is painless to you and those around you.

-Alex

LotSF: Seeing Red

CHAPTER 1

PREVIOUS

When I saw the gypsies moving out for battle, my thoughts instinctively went to Nolan. I turned, searching for him among the flurry of wings, and saw him jogging behind the mass, also searching for me. Our eyes met and, despite our anger towards one another, we made our silent oaths to watch each others’ backs. I didn’t have much of a choice–he was the only being I could actually see–but nonetheless, our loyalty outweighed our dispute.

Adjusting my armour where it had twisted out of place, I rolled my shoulders, tested my sword in its sheath, and climbed up into the saddle. Faith saw the movement, felt the urgency, and understood what it meant, and she was dancing on the spot with anticipation. I looked again for Nolan and, seeing we were both ready, let Faith slip into a gallop after the fast-moving throng of gypsies. Nolan ran with the wind parallel to us, keeping pace easily and evenly. We plunged into the forest, the river at our backs, and our army thundered through the trees with tremendous might. I had no clue where the bearskins were hiding out but trusted the gypsies’ instincts. When such a terrible foe was in their territory, they made sure to know exactly where the threat lay.

Faith followed the colourful birds unfailingly, weaving nimbly through the trees and hopping over obstacles in her path, and I stood crouched in the stirrups to gain better height and scout out our route. I was focussed more on an upcoming ditch than the forest around me when the first garbled howl erupted from the shadows. Startled by the chilling sound, I looked behind me for the source of the sound and saw a pair of bearskins loping after us, tongues hanging from their jaws and a hungry glint in their beady eyes. They bore the mangled pelts of bears and I couldn’t help but notice their twisted claws. A set of those in Faith’s flank would be bad news. I whistled lowly, sending Nolan a warning on the wind, and urged Faith to go a little faster.

The more I looked around, the more bearskins I saw coming out after our warband. We were gathering them, flushing them out from beneath the trees so we could fight them all at once, drive the whole colony away. My heart started beating a little faster as I saw them pouring out. Some were running ahead of Faith and me–if they turned and saw us, we’d be hard-pressed to avoid them. But Faith galloped on bravely, keeping alert and wary of the bearskins slowly surrounding us. I could see the gypsies pulling to a stop ahead of us, flapping in a vortex amongst the trees with bearskins flooding in around them, and as Faith neared the flock, I drew my sword.It was time for action.

I glanced at Nolan one last time before riding into the battle. He was set and determined, eyes locked on the impending fight, his feathers wrapped around him and the wind at his back. Praying briefly that he would be safe, I returned my gaze to front and centre as Faith plunged into the writhing mass of bearskins and gypsies.

Trained for combat, Faith was light on her feet, avoiding swiping claws and snapping teeth while dealing her own damage with vicious kicks and bites. From her back, I swung at any bearskins that came close enough for me to reach. They were horrible to fight. They were creatures full of rage and ruthlessness, not fighting with any logic or sense of purpose, but instead writhing and clawing and snapping at any flesh around them. They were like cyclones of malicious energy. And when I managed to get a stab in, to pierce their thick, mangy hides, they screamed with unearthly pitch but didn’t seem to slow down despite the injury. It only made them angrier.

Faith was used to intense battles, but this was too much for even her steady nerves. She was tense and anxious under the saddle, fighting very hard against the urge to flee, and I was having to expend more and more energy in keeping my seat on her unstable back. Blood pumping with fear and adrenaline, I tried to control her, to guide her out of danger. It struck me then that we were feeding off each other’s fear, and that the bearskins in turn were getting hungrier and hungrier, sensing that very same fear. We were building a storm around us and as I began to see the enormity of it, I felt horror build inside me.

And with that horror built anger.

It swelled hot and large within me, and I dug the edge of my blade deep into the shoulder of a bearskin, snarling at it like I was a bear myself. It twisted, furious, and swiped its ugly claws at me. It missed my flesh but didn’t miss Faith’s–catching her on the flank, it ripped deep gashes in her beautiful pelt that spurted hot blood. I saw the cruel act and burned ever hotter. Seeing only red, I struck again at the bearskin, managing to kill it, but that had been the last straw for Faith.

Neighing with a high, terrified note, she reared desperately before plunging back towards the earth and kicking out, spinning and lurching in a panic-driven frenzy. I clung to her mane as my bubbling anger fought with my desire to help her, to comfort her. Finding it too hard to remain on her back, I slipped out of the saddle. I staggered slightly as I hit the ground, grabbed uselessly at her reins, but she was too worked up to be calmed.

Stumbling back from my mad, dangerous horse, I bumped into none other than Nolan. I turned to face him, my wrathful gaze meeting his tear-stained one, and the bearskins around us howled with a thirst for blood.

***

Paaaaaaaaaah. More LotSF. I annoy myself, with how slow I am at updating. But at least I do. At least I’ve not given up on it. It bothers me, because I do really want to finish it, but I simply can’t get myself to sit down and write it. I shall try my best to remedy that.

Mm. I’ve been very frustrated lately. With myself, I think, although I don’t know the precise reason why. It’s hurting my blogging though :/ I don’t feel like writing a post when I feel this way, and that’s just making me even more frustrated. What a vicious cycle, hm?

And it doesn’t help that my browser crashed while I was trying to upload the picture for this post. Thankfully I didn’t lose anything, but having to go through my entire text to manually add paragraph breaks is just another frustration I didn’t really want.

Aanyways, my bed is beckoning and I shouldn’t argue with it. Have a good night everyone.

Your biggest frustration right now?

May you never lost sight of your reason, no matter what frustrations fall upon you.

-Alex

LotSF: Riding Faith

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CHAPTER 1

PREVIOUS

It was incredibly awkward, eating lunch surrounded by a bunch of chattering birds that I knew were actually sprites, and sitting across from Nolan, the only person I could actually see but also someone I’d just had a horrible fight with. So as I ate roasted squirrel as fast as I could, I made sure to keep my eyes firmly fixed on an inchworm working its way through the grass beside me, just so I wouldn’t have to look at anyone else. I could feel Nolan’s intense stare burning a hole in my forehead, but as long as he said nothing, I was content to let him stare.

I finished eating before he did and excused myself to go saddle up Faith. Nolan thankfully didn’t follow, leaving me to work in peace. Once her saddle and bridle were properly adjusted, I set about putting on my armour. I’d taken it off to eat lunch, out of courtesy for the gypsy sprites, but had been itching to put it back on ever since. I now felt my discomfort ease as I settled the pauldrons on my shoulders and felt the press of metal against my ribs. I put my sword on, too—there was no way I was going for a ride with bearskins nearby without bringing my sword.

I put my foot in the stirrup and pulled myself into the saddle, settling easily and picking up the reins. I nudged Faith forwards and she went willingly, picking up a trot when I asked for it. I posted instinctively, rising and falling in the saddle in time with Faith’s steps, and for a time there was no sound but the steady thump of her hooves and the groan and jingle of her tack.

After a while, we veered from the riverside and towards the forest where there was a path wide enough for me to ride along it comfortably. I asked Faith to canter and she sprang into it eagerly. Her hoofbeats grew louder as she picked up the pace and I felt our connection, as her strength surged and carried her forwards and my muscles worked in tandem to keep me secure on her back. We cantered quite a distance till she decided she’d had enough and I pulled her back to a walk.

Everything was so quiet around us. The sunlight was dappled on my face and the ground as it filtered through the still leaves high above, and there was no wind to stir the air or undergrowth. It was peaceful, except that I had never before been in a forest so calm. Usually, it was bursting with life, bursting with Small Folk, and it was nearly impossible to find such quiet. That was the way it was supposed to be. This was wrong.

Psychological.

The word hung over my head like a curse. Accusing me. Telling me all my faults.

You did this to yourself, and now you can’t undo it.

When I first realized I was deaf and blind to the Small Folk, before I’d been given a reason for it, I never would’ve guessed that I’d done it to myself. Why would I? I didn’t want to lose my magic. I’d been able to blame my disability on some unknown power, something I could probably attack or confront or at the very least hate.

The fact that that power was myself, and that I didn’t even know how or why I’d done it… I had betrayed myself. And now I was supposed to trust that I could handle fighting the bearskins?

I now had my doubts. With the anger in my chest, and the resentment I’d been living with… I was suddenly afraid that I wasn’t prepared for this fight.

Faith tugged at the reins and I realized I’d been clenching them tightly. I loosened my grip and gently steered her back towards the gypsy sprite camp. I didn’t want to go back there, surrounded by people who didn’t understand, but I didn’t want to stay here, either, in this hollow forest that was too quiet. I didn’t really want to be anywhere right now–I just wanted to stop, to curl up and sleep, and wake up when the world had righted itself and I felt like I could be a part of it again.

I can’t.

The thought was terrifying and I felt a momentary breath-stealing flash of panic. I wanted to pull Faith to a halt, to stop her moving forwards because I couldn’t. I couldn’t fight the bearskins. I couldn’t overcome my anger. I couldn’t get my magic back. I just couldn’t deal with everything right now. All I wanted to do was cry, but I couldn’t let myself do that either. If I cried, people would see. They’d see me as weak.

But I was weak, wasn’t I?

As Faith brought me closer and closer to the camp, closer to a battle I couldn’t fight, to people I couldn’t face, to a world I couldn’t handle, I felt my panic grow.

What was I getting myself into?

***

More LotSF, finally. I take a very long time to update, don’t I?

Ergh.

I have not had a good couple days. Frustrating stuff has happened, and though some of it is my fault and some of it isn’t, I’m in that state of mind where I assign all the blame to myself. I know that isn’t true, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve done everything wrong.

I don’t mean to write LotSF only when I’m upset, but that seems more often than not to be the case. I guess that’s good, in a way… I mean, this is supposed to be a personal journey.

I can’t.

I felt that more back when I was sick, but I’m still feeling it a little bit right now. I can’t handle everything on my plate right now. I can’t live up to the expectations I’ve given myself and others have given me. I can’t do everything I want to, everything I need to, so why even bother?

Hm. Life is presently kind of sucky, but this is when I need my Faith. I will be okay. I can do it, whether or not I necessarily want to do what it takes. I’ll be fine.

How are you?

May you approach every challenge riding on the back of faith.

-Alex

LotSF: Scared for Me

CHAPTER 1

PREVIOUS

I didn’t wait for Nolan. I led Faith into a quiet, secluded place in the forest and made a fire. As I crouched next to it, I fed kindling into the infant flame and warmed my fingers. Ordinarily, the news that my problem was mental would be good news–that meant it could be cured. But things weren’t ordinary anymore. If things were ordinary, I wouldn’t have lost my hearing and sight in the first place.

What upset me most, about finding out that my problem was psychological, was that it meant I should be able  to get over it, just by changing the way I thought. Mind over matter. But I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. If it was my fault I had this problem in the first place, then how was I supposed to fix it?

I snapped a stick in half and threw it in the fire, watching as it rapidly blackened. I hated this. I hated that my problem was self-inflicted. I hated that I’d let myself get this way. I hated that I’d taken away the one thing in my life that meant most to me.

I couldn’t have hated myself more, for what I’d done.

I wanted to cry angry tears, to let their molten tracks burn the remnants of what I’d done. I wanted to scream and tear the memory of my misery to pieces. I wanted to let everything I’d done burn and crumble, turning to white ash and blowing away on the breeze. I wanted a way to destroy every mistake I’d ever made.

I was letting my anger get the best of me.

It thrummed in my chest, swelling as I fed it more and more. It made me feel nauseous, sick to my stomach, but I wanted nothing more than to be angry. To punish myself with my own sickening anger, as if that would make things better.

But I wanted so desperately not to be angry. To be happy, so I could fix my mental problem and get my hearing and sight back.

I wanted things to be the way they once were.

Somehow, Nolan found me. He came to me as soon as he was done speaking with the chieftain and his daughter.

“I asked them if they knew what the bearskins wanted,” he said, sitting next to my little fire. “They didn’t know. He said maybe it was something the lily-slips had. But he didn’t know.” He sat silently for a moment, then exhaled and asked, “Did you see the seeress?”

I didn’t look at him. “It’s psychological.”

“Oh.” He sounded surprised. “What does that mean?” he asked.

I shook my head, staring at the ground. “It means I can’t be fixed. I did it to myself and that’s that.” The angry tears were crowding my eyes, begging to be set free. I held them back.

Nolan was momentarily speechless. Twice, he inhaled as if to say something, but it only ended up a wordless whimper. When he finally thought of something to say, he spoke it with a tiny voice. “Why?”

I rounded on him, about to snap that if I knew why, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, but I cut short when I realized he was crying. “Why would you say you can’t be fixed?” he moaned, distraught. “Why would you give up on yourself like that?” He staggered to his feet, and I stood as well.

“I know what bearskins are, you know,” he said unhappily, the tears pouring off his chin in a steady stream. His hands made cutting gestures through the air between us. “I know what they do to people. They’ll know you’re hopeless. They’ll use it.” His words were now nothing more than a choked whisper. “They’ll kill you because of it.”

He was scared. Scared for me.

And he was right. If I fought the bearskins, feeling like this… they would use it against me and they would probably kill me. The thought was sobering, but it didn’t scare me. It just meant I’d have to be careful. What did scare me was Nolan’s reaction. He was getting worked up about something he couldn’t change, and that would make him a hundred times more vulnerable than he already was. If he didn’t cut it out, he was going to be the one who got killed.

“They’re not going to kill me,” I said sternly, “because I’m not hopeless. It is what it is, and I accept that. So what if I don’t get my magic back? I’ll live.” I couldn’t erase the bitterness in my voice, or that underlying anger just bursting to be free. But Nolan needed to stop.

He stared at me for several long seconds, tears still chasing each other down his face and a very hurt look in his eyes. “I don’t believe you,” he said. “You’re going to get your magic back. You have to.”

“I don’t have to,” I said, “I just have to get over it. Move on. Find something else. But it’s done.”

“It isn’t done,” he muttered, turning away from me and wiping his cheeks. He looked like he wanted to leave, wanted to stop listening to my resigned words, but he was afraid of being alone. So he stayed, but he wouldn’t look at me anymore or acknowledge my presence. It was just as well. I didn’t want to talk to him, if he was just going to get so upset.

I let my tiny fire go out and pulled my blanket from my saddlebags to go to sleep. It took me a long time to finally settle my mind enough, as I kept worrying about confronting the bearskins. I couldn’t let the gypsy tribe fight them alone, but I was worried that Nolan wouldn’t be strong enough. And if I couldn’t even see the bearskins, then what use was I?

My last thought before sleep was of my lost magic. It was so easy to believe that it was gone forever, but what if it wasn’t? Was there a chance I could get it back? I had no idea.

***

How’s everyone doing?

Life is good for me right now. Exams are over, I’ve had lots of time to write and game, and I’ve got a very warm cat on my lap. Life is good.

How’s it going in your corner of the world?

May your life be good and your worries few.

-Alex

LotSF: The Name of the Threat

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PREVIOUS CHAPTER

For a while, Nolan wouldn’t speak to me. He just sat in the moss, shadows lengthening on his face as he rocked slowly and rubbed at his forehead. He’d long ago rubbed the red painted ward against evil off his brow, but he couldn’t stop touching it, trying to get rid of it. His skin was almost as red as the paint. And it was driving me crazy.

“Stop doing that and just tell me what’s wrong!” I snapped, finally losing my temper.

He cringed at my harsh words and buried his face in his hands, moaning with despair. “Bearskins,” he hissed, and my stomach tightened uneasily.

Bearskins were nasty. True to their name, they often wore the skins of animals they’d slain–typically bears–and were widely regarded as the worst predators in any forest. And they were found everywhere. They were insidious pests, like blood-sucking ticks, that crept out of nowhere and slowly and subtly grew out of control, devastating an area before suddenly disappearing to infect somewhere else. The lands they ravaged never fully recovered. For they didn’t destroy from the outside, no–the bearskins knew the secrets of the heart, and they attacked brutally from the inside.

I exhaled deeply and dug my fingers in the moss, searching for an anchor. No wonder the lily-slips and the gypsy tribe had been so brutally defeated. The bearskins would have used the two tribes’ weaknesses against them, driving them to fear or anger in order to bring about their downfall.

The one question I had now was why the bearskins would have done something like that. They didn’t fight for pleasure–they weren’t that morbid. They always fought for a reason. Sometimes they needed food, or hunting weapons, or land, so they would raid and pillage to get what they wanted. But none of those could be the reasons for these attacks. The gypsy tribe didn’t have extra food, any weapons, or even a fixed territory. And the lily-slips were insectivores, had poorly made weapons and tools, and lived on sparse and poor land.

The bearskins’ reasons would have to be more than just the need to survive. Either the gypsies, or the lily-slips, or both had something the bearskins wanted. If it came between giving the bearskins what they wanted or fighting them in an outright war, I thought it might be better to just give them what they wanted and be done with it.

Nolan was still in distress, dragging his fingers through his dark, messy hair, and I spoke his name to settle him. “Nolan, please. I need you to go back to the chieftain and ask him why the bearskins are attacking them.” I tried to convey my urgency with my tone of voice, and he seemed to hear it, lifting his head to look at me. “I think they have something the bearskins want, so ask what it might be. Okay?”

Nolan inhaled shakily, his chest shuddering, but then nodded quickly and stood. Even his legs were trembling as he walked back towards where the gypsy tribe was preparing for the night. I watched him go with a cold hard knot sitting in my gut. This was bad. Bearskins were a problem I’d never had to face before, but the stories I’d heard were plenty enough to make me understand that fighting them off would be no easy task.

Maybe even impossible.

I propped my head on my hands and stared at the shadowed moss, thinking of every dark and gruesome fact I knew about the bearskins. I was lost in a tangle of terror when soft footsteps brought me back to reality.

I turned, and there in the silvery moonlight was a tall, thin old woman, her body adorned in downy blue-grey feathers. She had a necklace with three linked stone rings on it, the centre ring holding a piece of pink quartz in the middle. She watched me with bright yellow eyes and a wrinkled smile.

“Alex, yes?” she asked, her voice rough as the moors.

I nodded and stood, bowing at the waist, enchanted by this gypsy woman. How could I see her, when all the others remained hidden? My eyes were again drawn to the three-ring necklace and I thought I understood. She was the seeress who was supposed to examine me tonight. Of course she would have charms that would reveal herself to me, and make her speech plain. Realizing who she was, I bowed a second time, just a little bit deeper.

“Are you ready?” she asked, pulling an elegant silver wand from a sash around her waist.

Closing my eyes briefly, I nodded.

***

Wow, so it’s been just about forever since I last updated LotSF, but here it is! Better late than never, right?

But I’ve got more vision for it now than I did when I last wrote, and I intend to write it with more dedication, so I don’t end up with such wide gaps between chapters.

Aaaanyways. It’s really cold here. Like, super cold. Tomorrow’s supposed to feel like -40°C with the wind chill… Yikes.

Bundle up, everyone, if you live somewhere cold. I know that’s what I’ll be doing :S

How’s the weather?

May you have warmth and comfort throughout the night, no matter where you live.

-Alex

LotSF: On the Inside

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I sat alone at the edge of the river, sitting on a thick cushion of soft moss and fiddling with my boot laces while I waited for Nolan to come back. He had gone to talk to the chieftain without me. We had both decided that it would be better for him to talk alone with the sprites so that he wouldn’t have to translate for me. They were discussing the situation with the wounded lily-slips and were going to try to figure out how I could help, even though I couldn’t see any of the small folk. Before they’d gone off to talk, the chieftain had explained my condition to a seeress and requested that she come see me tonight. Nolan had thanked the chief on my behalf and then walked off without saying a word more.

And so I waited for him, the only person here I could see and talk to, while the sun started to set and rich golden light poured over the world. I stopped playing with my laces and held my palms out, letting the liquid gold settle in my hands like magic. I curled my fingers closed and the sunlight squeezed out, leaving nothing but shadows in my fist. I opened my hand again and the light flooded back, warm and happy on my skin, and I wished that I could hold onto it. That I could put it in my pocket and carry it with me. There was something special about this warm golden light. I felt as if it would help me understand, return my magic to me, if only I could capture it and put it inside my soul.

But it always slipped away, evading me.

I lowered my hands and buried my fingers in the moss, wondering if the earth would help me where the sun did not. I wanted to make myself small, small enough to hide in the moss and become one of the small folk–the smallest I could possibly be. I used to be able to talk to the moss, in a way. I had been able to hear its thoughts, those tiny little ideas that shivered through its roots and seeped through your skin. I’d learned quite a bit from the moss: the way sun changed its light at the beginning of each month, the way pollen travelled when there was no wind to take it, the way bark grew on a tree sick with mourning. Moss was wise and observant. I wanted to become the moss, so I could be wise and observant too.

But just as the sunlight had not allowed itself to be captured, neither did the moss accept me in its arms. I was stuck in my body, blind and deaf and clumsy, no longer a part of nature like I was when I had magic. Winter had stilled my blood and stripped me of life, like a leafless tree, but even with the coming of spring, I had not been renewed. I’d been left crippled and withered, separate from all that I loved.

It had been a long time since I’d felt bad enough to want to cry, but this was one of those moments.

Yet still I held it in. I poured it into the new magic inside me, an insidious magic that writhed and twisted in my gut like a serpent, consuming my old magic and turning it foul. This magic had grown in me through the winter–I’d felt it ever since it was just a small seed–and had swelled until it consumed every part of my living soul. This blight was a kind of life, in its own right, but it was a sickly life. Only I knew it existed–I hadn’t even been brave enough to tell Nolan.

Most of the time, I could ignore it. I could shove it down into the very bottom of my stomach, turn it into a cold, hard stone that sat heavily in my gut. Most of the time, it was dormant, passively absorbing all my good magic into its vortex. But sometimes I could touch it, use it like my old magic. The first time I used it, I almost didn’t realize that I was tapping it. For it wasn’t any new magic–it was a magic I’d always had, that everyone had within themselves in some small amount.

It was anger. Raw, merciless anger.

And it was eating me alive.

Faith came up behind me, putting her nose on my shoulder and tickling my cheek with her warm breath. I smiled and stroked her nose, thankful that she had come to interrupt me from my sickening thoughts. I petted her for a while and she half-closed her eyes with sleepy contentment. “Can you see them?” I murmured to her. “Can you hear their voices?”

She opened her brown eyes and stared at me, but didn’t answer. She didn’t know how to answer. I wondered dreamily if she could see and understand the small folk. If I became a horse, would I reclaim the magic I’d lost? I had no way of knowing. Faith had no way of telling me.

Together, we watched the last of the golden light fade away until shadows started to fill the world and the forest creatures began to prepare for night. It was as the earliest stars were appearing in the sky that Nolan returned, a ward against evil drawn on his brow.

***

I’m afraid to say I’ve been channeling a bit of that inner anger today–this evening especially. I get very frustrated when I have too many things to do and not enough time to do it–especially when most of that is schoolwork. So I’ve been a bit snappish today (sorry, April!) and I can’t say I’m proud. It’s even making me feel physically sick, but that might also be the stress.

So I’m going to try to let go of that and not get too wound up about my work. I’ve managed to handle everything thus far in my life, so I’ll be able to get through this too. To think it isn’t even exam season yet.

Happy first day of fall!

Have a good night, everyone.

What makes you angry?

May your anger be mild and fleeting.

-Alex

LotSF: Thorns

Nolan reached the group of travellers with the panicking horse long before I did, and was already trying to help them calm the beast. I could tell just from the way he was moving his hands that he was speaking to the horse in the wind in an effort to soothe it, but the big white draft was having none of it. A draft horse, I though unhappily. Why did it have to be a draft horse? The heavy wagon-pulling drafts were hard to spook, but were so much heavier than horses like Faith that they were more dangerous when they did freak out. This would be tricky.

The moment Faith got near the panicking draft, she started dancing on the spot, reluctant to go too close but also too unwilling to disobey me to run away. She nickered lowly, letting me know that there was danger, and I patted her neck comfortingly. “It’s all right, girl,” I said calmly, but inside I was simmering with frustration. If that horse bolted and struck out at Faith, there would be serious trouble. No one hurts my horse and gets away with it.

Not wanting to upset Faith any more, I dismounted and left her standing on the sidelines while I approached the crowd on foot. There were four travellers with the horse: two brawny men, a tough-looking woman, and a younger girl watching the rearing horse with round eyes of concern. One of the men was yelling at Nolan to leave and I wished that he’d listen. If they didn’t want our help, why should we try?

But Nolan kept approaching the horse and none of the travellers was trying to stop him. I pushed between the two women and came right up behind Nolan, looking over his shoulder to see what he was doing. He was moving his hands in small circles, his fingertips moving the air and carrying his gentle whispers towards the horse’s ears. To my surprise, whatever he was saying seemed to be working–the horse had stopped rearing and was only tossing his head now, getting calmer by the second.

“Grab him,” Nolan muttered to me, keeping his hands moving all the while. One of the men shouted at me to stay away, that he didn’t want us to touch his horse, but I didn’t pay any attention to him. Instead, I carefully reached out and gripped the horse’s halter tightly, stroking his neck to soothe him further. Nolan came over and patted the horse’s nose, giving me a small, reassuring smile.

I was about to admit grudgingly that it was a good thing we’d come to help when the man who had been yelling at us suddenly shoved Nolan to the side of the road and pulled the halter aggressively from my hand. I stood in stunned silence while Nolan, who had been so startled that he’d lost his footing, picked himself up off the ground with his mouth hanging open. The other man, fast as lightning, pushed Nolan down again before he could even catch his breath.

The sight of the men shoving Nolan around awakened a fierce anger in my chest. I half drew my sword and snarled at the nearest man, the one who’d taken the halter from me. “We helped you with your horse, so leave us alone,” I said between gritted teeth.

“We didn’t need your help,” snapped the man, “and we especially didn’t need it from his kind.” He pointed at Nolan and I saw the young girl make a fearful gesture–like she was warding off evil. My temper quickened.

“Stay away from us, heathens,” sneered the older woman as she took hold of the horse and began leading it down the road, the girl following on her heels. I pulled my sword the rest of the way from its sheath as they passed, and noticed smugly that even though they didn’t lose their looks of disgust, they did walk a little faster. I glared at them until they’d gone and then shifted my attention to the men.

They were watching Nolan with bared teeth as he sat on the grass and looked warily up at them. “Get moving,” I ordered the men, but they stayed put.

“We didn’t need any help,” said one with cold sparks flaring in his eyes. “You have no business offering help to people like us in these parts.”

“What kind of gratitude is that?” I grumbled, stepping towards Nolan so that I could help him up. The moment I moved, however, the man with the sparks in his eyes hit me hard and fast in the face.

I reeled back, taken by surprise, and pressed my hand against my throbbing jaw while shock and rage flowed through me. I tightened my grip on my sword and raised it as if to start a fight, but then Nolan was on his feet and was pulling on my arm. “Don’t fight,” he told me–he begged me. “Don’t get hurt, please.” He tugged on my arm until the two men turned away and spat on the ground before following after the women. When they were gone, I turned my anger on Nolan.

“Stand up for yourself!” I scolded him, shoving my sword in its sheath and rubbing my jaw. “Why do you always make it my job, to make sure you aren’t hurt? Why can’t you defend yourself?”

“I didn’t want to fight,” Nolan said calmly. “I wanted to help them, and we did.”

“And we were better off just walking away.” I stormed towards Faith and climbed up into the saddle. “I told you we should walk away.”

“And I told you we should help.” Nolan brushed grass off his pants as casually as if he’d just been napping. His passiveness annoyed me sometimes. Along with his eagerness to help everyone in trouble.

“Next time I say we shouldn’t help someone, we’re not going to help them,” I declared as if my word was law. “It’ll only get us into trouble.”

You get us into trouble,” Nolan said. “You shouldn’t have threatened them. They wouldn’t have hit you.”

I clenched my teeth. “They hit me because I was trying to protect you. And you didn’t let me hit them back, so now they think I’m just as weak and pathetic as you are.”

There was silence. Oh, crap. I should have felt guilty for what I said, but it was very hard when I was still burning with anger towards the ungrateful men.

“There are thorns in your heart, Alex,” Nolan finally said, his voice hard. “Let’s go, then. I wasted your time.” He started walking towards the path we were supposed to take and I followed along behind with dread. It was going to be a very long trip.

***

Not to much to say for this one. It would’ve been nicer to write it if I was actually angry and needed to get it out, but as it is, I’m pretty tired. Ah well.

Have you ever said something to a friend that you deeply regretted afterwards?

May you be free of thorns in your heart and quick to help those in need.

-Alex