Hard Times

Grzhegorzh and the monks were kept in captivity for many days while the raiders took them to their camp. At first the monks tried to talk among themselves. They would say prayers and sing hymns, but that did not last long. A few minutes after they started talking, one would be pulled off of the cart and beaten. It took three times for the message to get across. Not that Grzhegorzh could speak anyway, his jaw was severely fractured. The raiders mentioned selling them while sitting around their fires at night, meanwhile the captives were kept in the cart. It was the worst when it rained. Their captors had some form of shelter that they used when they made camp. This kept them dry, warm, and off the ground, meanwhile the captives were tied to a cart and left under the sky. They huddled together in silence as they awaited their fate. During the journey, they were only given one brick of hardtack and one canteen of brackish, muddy water per day, so it was no wonder that they eventually left two of the weaker and older monks in unmarked graves on the side of the road. Yet another injustice that Grzhegorzh would want vengeance for. He could not eat for the same reason he could not talk, and that left him a lot weaker than the others. By the time they reached their destination five days later, Grzhegorzh was weak with delirium and hunger. He was half-dragged, half-carried out of the cart by the other monks, but once on the ground he fell on all fours and could not find his feet. Worried, the monks pulled him to his feet again and led him where they were led. One by one they were sold off, except for a pair of twin brothers, who were sold together. Grzhegorzh was taken by a group of metalworkers to act as a scrap hauler. He still did not know what was happening even as he was dragged off to another cart. He was given more bread and water, but again, he could not eat due to the fracture in his jaw. It was during this time that he dreamed again, but not of a feast or a warm bed, this time, he was flying. He was among the clouds, the cold wind whipping his face as he watched the ground rush past beneath him. It was beautiful from up here, the forests and rivers blended together in a mural of green and blue. He looked up, there was the sun, clearer than ever before, and despite the cold wind in his face, he let it warm his back as he flew closer and closer. It kept warming him and he heard the rush of wind in his ears. It was now warmer than the wind, too warm. The wind rushing past him was deafening now, and the heat was so intense he felt as though the form that allowed him flight was melting away like wax. “I SAID WAKE UP!” Came a shout from his left. It wasn’t the sun, but a roaring fire of hot coals. Grzhegorzh tried to respond, but he could only groan, his body felt weak and numb. He managed to drag himself to his feet by leaning against a wall. “Name” his captor demanded. Grzhegorzh shook his head and pointed to the bruised spot on the side of his face where the hammer had left it’s mark. “Right, you’re mute.” the captor said to himself. Grzhegorzh nodded and slumped over, falling into a squat, before sitting against the wall once he could no longer stand. “Oh no, I paid a good amount for you, so you aren’t dying until I get my money’s worth.” The man said. Was it a man or a woman? Grzhegorzh could not tell. His vision was blurry from a week without any food, a concussion, and the searing pain of a broken jaw on the verge of infection. Whoever it was pulled Grzhegorzh to his feet and just about carried him to a tent. He was placed on a cot and held down. Someone pressed a bottle to his lips and commanded “drink”. He did, taking a gulp and gagging on the taste of the liquid. It burned, but the more he drank the less he felt, until at last he just passed out again. When he woke up, something was holding his mouth shut, and someone was sitting next to the cot where he was placed. They offered him a bottle that looked like it was made out of clay. He shook his head, but his visitor seemed to have other ideas. “You look like you haven’t eaten in a while, so take it on faith that this is what you need. This is basically liquid bread, with a decent amount of alcohol. Not as much as the stuff you chugged before they reset your jaw, but enough to make you forget how hard your day was. Trust me when I say that will be a welcome comfort, and one of the few you will receive here.” Grzhegorzh understood and took the bottle then. He parted his lips, despite his teeth not being able to separate, and took a gulp. This time he spit it out. “Takes some getting used to. My name is Victor.” He said, with a laugh. Grzhegorzh nodded and took another gulp. This time he managed to hold it down. It felt like a punch in the gut, but he figured that was just his stomach getting used to having something to digest in it again. Three long weeks he was kept there while he recovered, then, as soon as he could walk, he was dragged back to the forge. There a woman, with the same voice as the person who had berated him on his arrival. She was giving orders to several people. “You there, mute, get over here.” She demanded. Grzhegorzh couldn’t think of anything better to do, so he did as he was told. “There is a place nearby where we collect scrap metal. You and these guys will be sent there to collect scrap so I can forge armor and weapons for our soldiers, understand?” Grzhegorzh nodded and lined up with the others. There were five or six men in scrap armor carrying weapons that seemed sharp enough to cut a stone, and only ten prisoners including himself. There weren’t enough of them to overpower the guards, even if they were all in peak health. Grzhegorzh simply followed the others. He missed his knife, and his cloak even more so. It had cooled significantly since he had set out. His limbs were a bit numb still, and he was dragging his feet. One of the guards smacked him in the head for dawdling, and he just collapsed. He clutched his ears and shut his eyes, the concussion he still had was playing merry havoc with his senses now that he had taken another whack to the skull. The woman cautioned the guard to back off and dragged Grzhegorzh back into the forge. “I don’t know why the fuck they sent you out to work, you aren’t right in the head and your mouth is still healing. Until you can actually do what they bought you to do, I’m gonna have you doing some work here in order for you to recover.” Grzhegorzh still had his eyes shut, and he was rubbing his temples as his head throbbed. “Come on” she said “Let’s get you to work”.

Upkeep 3

Well, it’s been wild. I had major tests two days in a row this week, which was simply not fun. That was compounded by the three quizzes and two written assignments I had last week and left me generally unhappy. That was temporary, though, as I found a way to increase dopamine production in a healthy way. Granted, this also increases lactic acid production, and generally feels unpleasant while it is happening, but afterwards, I am usually quite happy with what I have done. For those of you who have not yet figured it out, I started exercising more. Turns out four classes a week of MMA practice wasn’t doing it for me anymore, so I added running three days a week and bodyweight exercise six days a week with an eye on increasing that in the future. I may also look into the noteworthy few recipes that hold the distinction of being both delicious and nutritious. It seems that this is a hard combination to come by unless you program yourself to enjoy foods with lower amounts of sugar and fat. Those two things are typically strewn about our food like sand at a beach. They are also the reason why a bacon cheeseburger and a mint chocolate milkshake taste so damn good. Throughout history, fat and sugar were some of the biggest energy storage mechanisms that humans had, or could readily consume. So evolution steps in and says “Hey, you know that stuff that is really efficient at keeping you moving, yeah, we’re gonna make that taste amazing for you.” Which was pretty neat, until everyone stopped walking everywhere and didn’t do primarily hard labor as a job, so now we’re stuck with high energy density food that tastes great, but without removing any of that fuel. Wow, that was a tangent and a half and I’m not even done yet. Anyway, generic words about increasingly sedentary lifestyles and energy dense foods leading to an increase in health problems and you have the gist of the point I was trying to convey. All that to say, I’ve had to moderate my intake of carbs and fat because ice cream tastes good, but it really won’t help me build back up after 160 burpees. Lean meat, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and lots of water are slowly taking the place of prepackaged meals and sodas. Granted, the latter tastes better, but the former is healthier, so I need to find a way to make the former taste better so the only barrier is effort. Aside from that, my grandfather had to go back to the hospital because he was bleeding internally. Thankfully, it was minor and he is home again, but for a few days, I was genuinely more worried than I have been in a very long time. I hope to visit him again soon, but for now he needs his rest. Transitioning directly from that somber note to another high-gear set of ramblings, I found a new thing to occupy my time that isn’t social media. I know, I know, I said I wasn’t on social media and for the most part, that was true. I just don’t really know how else to classify it. Anyway, I started watching the expanse, and I was struck by just how realistic it was for a science fiction show. I thought that was nice, in comparison to some other science fiction titles. Starting with video games, the two main ones would be mass effect and halo. Now, they’re fine as games, but lack some necessary elements that would otherwise allow them to be classed as fiction rather than fantasy. Prepare yourself dear reader, I’m about to start complaining again. I usually discern fiction from fantasy by how well it can explain its fictional elements. For example, in halo, the player typically fights as a “Spartan” super soldier, these are humans that have been heavily augmented which leads them to have near superhuman capabilities. While not possible now, it is explained in such detail that the casual observer could believe that similar procedures would be possible in the not so distant future. However, I feel it strays into the realm of fantasy thanks to things like energy shielding and faster than light travel. The former being a complex problem that many seasoned science fiction writers struggle with, and the latter being deemed by physicists as impossible. Mass effect is more egregious with things like biotics and reapers, the former being a term used to describe what I have come to label as part of the umbrella term “space wizards” and the latter being an ancient race of super intelligent machines that wipe out all advanced life in the milky way galaxy every 50,000 years. That’s not to say I don’t find these games entertaining, quite the opposite, I like them a lot, I just don’t get to play them that much. Moving on, I also have some thoughts on movies and TV shows that I feel should fall into the category of science fantasy. I’m gonna steer clear of the Warhammer 40K universe, because it is fairly well established that that is science fantasy. Instead, I am going to go into star wars. They have their own brand of “space wizards” in force users. It also has some fairly incredible materials and technology that seems to need more explanation to fall into the realm of possibility. This to me brings it into the realm of science fantasy. So what would I consider science fiction? Well, Joss Whedon gave it a very good crack with firefly. Some of the technology seemed far fetched, and don’t get me started on the reavers, but all told, it seems far more realistic than some other titles. However, I’m also not an expert, nor an experienced critic, so this has just been another segment of me giving out my opinions for free. It has a sort of catharsis to it, and it does provide a good time dump while I figure out what I should write next for the story of Grzegorzh.

Twisting Paths

Grzegorzh got shakily to his feet and stumbled out of the room he was allotted by the bishop, Jan. He was hyperventilating now, and leaning against the door frame. His eyes were wide with terror as the nightmare faded from his memory. “What happened to me!?” He shouted to nobody in particular. Jan heard him and rushed over, asking “What do you mean?” Grzegorzh stumbled back as Jan confronted him, “Who cleaned the mud off of me? I was on the road for half a week, who took the clothes off of my body and cleaned me while I was asleep?” He demanded. It was a creepy experience for someone like him. Jan looked perplexed, and a little ashamed as well. “We thought you were dead, as I said, so we were preparing you for a funeral. We had issued you last rites, and cleaned your body. We have a graveyard prepared for unknown travelers.” This calmed Grzegorzh substantially. If they treated the dead with such respect, then perhaps there was some truth behind that “Good Samaritan” story that he had been told by Jan as a justification for his actions. “I, I am sorry I did not trust you.” He stammered out. Jan nodded faintly to acknowledge him. “It is understandable, you have no experience with this sort of thing, and you are scared. Breakfast will be happening soon, if you wish to, you may go back to your room and rest.” Grzegorzh shook his head “I’d like to help if I can.” Jan gave him a pat on the arm. “If you would like, you can help us slice the bread.” He offered. Grzegorzh smiled softly. He was happy to have a job now, even if it was just for a short little while. They got to the kitchen and Jan handed him a bread knife. There were several large loaves of bread still hot out of the oven, they would be served with breakfast. Jan explained that he was to cut them into eight pieces each, and place them in a basket with a cloth in it. He nodded and set to work. It was easy enough to do, but it took Grzegorzh a little bit longer than Jan normally took. He was weak after the long voyage, but he was happy to be doing some sort of work. When he was done, he brought it to Jan. Jan was at the head of a table, where several other men were gathered. They wore simple clothes and had shaved heads. Jan informed Grzegorzh that they were monks. He was told to sit at the empty seat at a table. While it was not the feast he had in his dreams, he could not argue with the fact that he was being given free food by a complete stranger. He was still in rough shape, but he was eating a meal for the second time recently. He remembered Jan’s advice and ate slowly. There was water, bread, and fish. He was used to such meals, and did not complain. Before he ate, Jan said a blessing over the food and the monks bowed their heads. Then it was time to eat. The fresh baked bread was the most delicious he had ever eaten, and the smoked fish was cooked perfectly, though that may have just been a side effect of his hungry mind. He kept quiet as the monks spoke, and felt himself relax. There was a knock at the door, and one of the monks stood to answer. Once the latch was opened, the door was kicked in, and several burly men rushed into the room. Among them was a man with a limp and a cut on his face. Seeing the prominent bruises on Grzegorzh’s cheek and under his eye, he extended a hand, a single finger pointed at him. “That’s the one I’m after. Do what you will with the rest, he’s mine.” The man said with a menacing scowl. There was some grey in his beard, and as the poor monk who went to answer the door stood up to intercede, he was struck with a club and fell unconscious on the floor. At this the others stood. They were pacifists, and instructed not to fight unless absolutely necessary. This meant they were no match for the bandits who raided the church that day. Jan was furious that someone would disturb the sanctity of such a place, however, where the monk had received the working end of a club, he took the bit of an axe, and fell, never again to stand. Grzegorzh drew his knife again, but the brute that had attacked him only two days ago hit his arm with a hammer. Before he even had a chance to shout in pain, another hammer blow caught him in the jaw and his world went black. He woke seeing double and spitting teeth. He was laying on his side in some sort of cart, but from where he was, he could see a column of smoke rising in the sky, and the path behind them branching off in several places. The one that these bandits followed led into some woods. He felt something tugging at his wrists as he went to rub his aching head. Looking down, he saw that his wrists were tied together. He also saw several others, some sitting, some kneeling, all wearing those same robes as the monks had. His vision was still double and unfocussed, plus his memory was scrambled, an his head ached. He tried to sit up, but one of the monks cautioned him to stay laying down. He wanted to fight, but looking down, there was the limper, the cut on his cheek still plainly visible, despite his impaired vision. Grzegorzh saw his knife tucked into the bandit’s belt, and he groaned. He tried to form words, but his mouth would not move properly. “Hahahahaha, looks like I broke that bastard’s jaw” he laughed with one of the other bandits. Both of them were carrying a weapon and a bag. It looked to Grzegorzh like they hadn’t just gone to kidnap him and repay what he had done to one of their own. He felt tears well up in his eyes. Had he not brought that knife to the gathering, then he would not have wound up on that road on that dark and stormy night. He couldn’t help but think that the fate of these monks was now on his shoulders, and he vowed to right what he had done wrong. He would help them be free once again, and get them back their church. He had never felt so sure of anything in his life, but he also knew that he would not be able to do this in a normal fight like he had done with the boys in his village. He would need to be sneaky about this, and he would need to get his knife back somehow.

Two weeks

It has been roughly two weeks since I last posted on here, and recent events have been quite trying. My grandfather recently got out of the hospital for open heart surgery. For privacy reasons, that’s all I feel comfortable saying about that. However, that is not all I want to say about him. He is a wonderful man and has led a very eventful and interesting life. He not only taught in the school district where I wound up spending my K-12 education, but he was also one of the trifecta of teachers who founded the gifted program at the middle school where I went as well. He taught several of my teachers and they wound up having good things to say about him when they taught me, often asking me to say hello next time I saw him. He taught science in the 1960s while his brother, my great uncle, was in the army. His job, combined with the fact that he was married, exempt him from the draft. His brother worked in signal intercepts along the border between what was then East and West Germany. He can’t tell me exactly what he did, but that is no surprise, as he described several times where he met CIA field officers. I digress, my grandfather has been almost a second father after my parents were divorced. He taught me a lot of useful skills, both academic and just general hard work. He was a teacher, so it really is no surprise that he was able to help me learn. For now he is recovering, and I hope his recovery continues to go well. This past weekend was also my father’s birthday. While he is to blame for my parents’ divorce, I have long since forgiven him for it. Staying angry just is not worthwhile, especially at someone who never stopped loving his children. He also led an interesting life. He was a military kid, and he moved around more than a few times in his youth, though from what I gathered, he spent most of his childhood either in Texas or Alaska. He joined the Army after high school and wound up becoming a paratrooper. He was relatively lucky not to have been deployed, as he was in for four years during the 1980s. In the 1980s, the United States military in general, and the 82nd airborne among other units specifically, were involved in the invasions of Grenada and Panama. He was lucky enough to serve his four years between those two invasions and never see combat. That said, he was almost blown up by a grenade during training. He still laughs when he tells that story and I always credit him with, among other things, my rough sense of humor. His brother had an interesting military career as well, but they do not get along. I find that unfortunate because my brother and I get along very well. Now on to my brother. He has had a rough go at it, but he is slowly but surely pulling himself up. He used to swim competitively and actually held a record for our high school’s swim team for a few years, though that has since been broken. It is worth noting that he graduated high school at 17 thanks to starting school a year early. He initially went to the University of Delaware after high school for engineering. He swam well, but he did not study well and wound up dropping out. He then tried to enter the US coast guard as a rescue swimmer, but that also didn’t pan out due to medical issues. From there he seemed to feel stagnant. He was depressed, and felt trapped. He took some courses at a community college, and some of his years there coincided with mine. He now works two jobs, has discovered a talent and passion for writing, and seems to be interested in attempting to get a degree in engineering again. I hope he succeeds. Back to the top, there is my grandmother. Some may call her eccentric, I call her brave. She is still a registered nurse, even though she does not practice anymore. I think she will try to maintain her status as a registered nurse until she is 80. She worked in both the public school system and the prison system as a nurse. Among her stories was that of one prisoner who had a particularly foul mouth. “Oh he’d go on shouting ‘mother****’ this and ‘son of a *****’ that, but at the end he’d always shout ‘Sorry Nurse!'” Is one that always elicits a laugh. My grandfather taught her to drive. He also taught my mother, my uncle, my brother, and myself how to drive. She has always taken good care of us, and for that I am always grateful. My mother and her brother are both insanely intelligent. I do not say that to brag, but as a simple statement of fact. My uncle is an aerospace engineer working for NASA, and my mother as the director for biostatistics at Merc. In her study for her master’s degree, she met my father when he signed up for her research study. She pushed me and my brother hard to succeed. At first I did not appreciate how hard she was pushing me, but I now realize that she was only doing that to make sure I wound up having a good work ethic. I feel blessed to have been raised and shaped by such wonderful people. Either later today or tomorrow I will continue telling the story of Grzegorzh. Right now, though, I will finish out this post.

Upkeep 2

So this is the second in the upkeep portion and boy oh boy did I not think I would get through three chapters without mentioning blacksmithing once. Oh well, take things as they come I guess. While I do like to try and expose as much as I can through dialogue, I am finding it a bit harder than I first thought. Let’s go through some examples. I could mention in a conversation between two people “Wow, it’s quite warm out today” Mary said to the her sister Katherine. “Yeah, I don’t think it has been this hot since ten years ago at least, humid, too. God, I wish it would rain.” So from the outset we have established quite a few things. First, it passes the Bechtel test. I mostly put that in there because I felt like it. Also, the brief dialogue shows a couple interesting details. The pair involved are sisters, likely in the middle of either late spring or summer. The humidity is also shown to be high, this can give us an approximate setting, though nothing definite. If we go with assumptions, then it is likely that they are in a tropical or subtropical climate, though really anywhere but a desert could be relatively humid. In fact, the only place we can say for certain they are not is Antarctica, on account of it being hot, humid, and close to raining. While Antarctica is a frigid desert, it can be relatively warm and humid compared to previous scientific measurements. The breaking point is rain. While it can snow, it is too cold to rain. I digress. It is most likely that they are sitting on a porch somewhere in the southern united states during a summer heat wave, sipping sweet iced tea, lemonade, or perhaps a combination of the two. Maybe Coca-Cola if the author wants to include product placement. Let’s try another scenario. A chill ran down his spine as he breathed in the cold night air. Nearly opposite to the first scenario. Instead of two female characters, it is a singular male. Instead of warm and humid, it is cold. While it is left up to the reader to assume the time in the dialogue, it is more than likely that one would be led to believe that it is in fact day, due to the simple fact that Mary says “Today” to Katherine in the context of their current setting. This is contrasted with the outright statement of it being night in the narration during the second snip. So it is established that it is cold, it is night, and our single protagonist is male. Well, we assume that he is the protagonist, since that is typically the person who’s perspective is told in the story. It is also fairly safe to assume that he is on high alert. After all, cold is not what sends a chill down your spine, though it may put one in your bones. This is more likely to be farther from the equator, because of the cold. Generally, the tropics are quite warm, even in winter. Simply put, the closer you are to the equator, the warmer you will be. However, it is probably mid autumn or early spring in a more temperate climate, otherwise, imagery of frosty breath upon an exhale would have been evoked. Now back to the regularly scheduled griping about my own writing. There is a lot I would like to include in the story, but even if I had the discipline to write a chapter a day, I feel like I would not be able to put in writing everything that I want to. Hopefully, once I graduate college and have a steady job, I can revisit this story and maybe even finish writing it. That said, let’s examine the setting so far. It is mid summer, yet in some places it is still described as quite cool. There is rain, so humidity can also be factored in. Now let’s take a look at some of the symbols presented. First, let’s go with the reason the story kicks off. A strange ritual leaves a boy, just barely a man, pushed out of everything that he is familiar with in an era when time is judged by seasons, rather than calendar days, so it is assumed that this is done in a barbarian tribe before the invention or at least widespread use of the calendar. This gives a few areas, perhaps it is someplace that the Roman empire did not reach in it’s massive conquests. Maybe north of Hadrian’s wall in Scotland. The climate is pretty close to what you would expect for that area. However we also meet a Christian, probably catholic, bishop later on in the story, so we know that this has to take place after the rise of, and likely after the fall of, the Roman empire. This puts us in a confusing sort of area, though it is not impossible. Perhaps it is the dark ages in eastern Europe. Places like Poland, Belarus, or Ukraine would be a good fit, especially with Slavic sounding names like Grzegorz, Konrad, Vanya, and Jan. The next symbol is a bit more subtle, but still present. The knife that Grzegorz carries and the coat that his friend gave him. Here we have, quite literally, a cloak and dagger. This will set the mood for pretty much the rest of the story, however there will be a large, chaotic, battle at the end. Finally, the bandit on the road juxtaposed against the bishop and his church was one thing I liked writing quite a bit. While we have seen the last of neither, it was fun to have Grzegorz, who we know as our intrepid hero so far, go from falling into the hands of a robber, to being rescued by a man who literally tells him the biblical story of the good Samaritan to explain his actions.

Brief Respite

After sleeping for several hours, Grzegorz awoke on a stone slab, it was still cold, but at least it was dry. His head ached mightily, but a numb chill ran through the rest of his body. He was injured and alone in a cold dark room, needless to say he was scared. He managed to croak a tentative “Hello?” out of his dry throat. He was ready to give up at this point. He was starved, cold, and physically exhausted, when he saw a man with a lantern approach him. He could not discern much “Wh-where am I?” He asked. The man looked at Grzegorz with a concerned expression “You are at a village, a village with a church, I am the bishop. I must apologize, I thought you were dead.” He said, sitting down next to Grzegorz. “When was the last time you ate?” He asked, looking Grzegorz up and down “You look starved, sick, and beaten. If I had to guess, you would not have survived much longer out on the road.” Grzegorz nodded and leaned his head up to get a better view of the person who sat near him. “what is your name?” He asked the Bishop, very concerned that this man may have been a bandit or slave taker. “I am Jan, like I said, I am the Bishop in this village, if you are hungry, I can get you some food.” This offer set Grzegorz on edge. Almost nobody would offer food if they did not want something in return. He had known this since birth, and he only ever trusted people from his village when it came to food. “What’s your price?” He asked, resting his head back down on the stone slab while waiting for a reply. The Bishop shook his head “none, I want nothing in return.” Grzegorz let out a hoarse laugh “I don’t believe that. I have only just met you, I do not know your intent, and I don’t trust you. For all I know you want to sell me into slavery.” The Bishop was patient, and gave him a gentle pat on the arm. “I will return with food, once you have eaten, we can talk.” He said, leaving Grzegorz alone in this dark, cold room on an equally cold and uninviting stone slab. Alone with his thoughts, Grzegorz pondered his fate. He still had his knife, but without his strength, he doubted that he could overpower the Bishop. He pulled his cloak tighter around himself, though it was still damp, it comforted him. It was one of his last reminders of home. He began to fade again into unconsciousness, the numbness being replaced by a strange warmth in his limbs, and the emptiness in his belly began to fade, as he watched a dream form in front of his eyes. He was home again, and it was a celebration. They had been cooking for hours, and the smells that filled the air were enough to make his mouth water. Freshly baked bread, fried dumplings, and cider, this time from apples, and not that rancid pear juice Konrad had given him. It seemed everyone had brought something. Fish stew, sausages, and even honey cake, a rare treat, were all spread out on the table, just waiting to be eaten. A fire popped and crackled in the hearth, as his family sat around. He no longer wore the tattered old traveling clothes that he remembered, but instead, his clothes were intact, and, more surprisingly, they seemed sturdy compared to anything he had worn before. He was warm, he was safe, and he was happy. He reached down and speared a fried dumpling on his knife, bringing it up to his mouth, he could still smell the frying oil on it and, while it was supposed to be a mystery, he knew this one was filled with potatoes and onions, one of his favorites. As he was about to take his first bite, he was brought back to the present by the bishop coaxing him out of his dream. “Ahh, how long was I asleep?” he asked. “About five minutes.” Jan said, with a patient tone. “I dreamed I was home, there was a feast, and I was wearing new clothes, there was a fire going and…well do you suppose it means anything?” He asked. Jan nodded “Yes, it means you are hungry, tired, cold, and lonely. Come, eat. Once you have some food in you I will bring you upstairs and we can see what good a fire does you.” Grzegorz nodded and slowly sat up. His whole body ached, his face especially, and he felt lightheaded. The numbing chill was gone, but in its place, was a stinging pain in his fingers and toes. Jan handed him a simple wooden bowl of stew and a chunk of bread. He dipped the bread in the stew and took a bite, wolfing it down, he nearly gagged as his three days starved stomach was introduced again to food. “Slow down, the food isn’t going anywhere, and you will get sick if you eat too quickly.” His eyes watered as he swallowed hard to make sure he kept the food down and this time he simply sipped at the broth. Grzegorz came to the conclusion that whether or not he trusted him, Jan meant him no harm just yet. He ate slowly, as recommended, and eventually finished the stew and bread. He got to his feet and Jan came up to support him. “Here, I will take you to someplace more comfortable.” Grzegorz tried to move on his own, but he stumbled and had to steady himself against a wall. Begrudgingly, he accepted Jan’s help. Seeing nothing else to do, he asked “So, what is a bishop?” Jan smiled “A bishop is a holy man, he is typically entrusted with great responsibility in the Christian church.” Grzegorz was out of his depth here, he had lived in an isolated village for his whole life, and never learned how to read. Concepts like Christianity, Bishops, and even written language seemed foreign to him. “Why are you helping me?” He asked next, to which Jan replied “In my faith, we learned the lesson of the good Samaritan, a stranger with no reason to help, and with no expectation of compensation, helps a stranger who, just like you, appears to be on death’s door. He does it for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.” Jan replied. He helped Grzegorz to a room with a simple bed. “We will be holding a communal meal at sunrise tomorrow, I will wake you for the meal, but I will ask one question before I leave you to rest, what is your name?” Jan asks. “Grzegorz” he replied calmly, however Jan misheard it as “Gregor”. With that settled, Jan left him to rest. Grzegorz fell back asleep, and his mind was plagued my nightmares this time. Now that his needs for survival were met, his mind drifted to what may come. He was in the wild again, he was running from something, he was at a dead sprint at this point. Cold rain and bitter wind lashed at his face, his feet sank into the mud at first up to the ankle, but eventually up to the knee, as he sprinted. Whatever it was that he ran from had him terrified, but he didn’t know why he was running. He tripped and landed hard in the mud, his face landing in a puddle. He woke up gasping for air, the roof was leaking and the drips were landing on his face. It was hard for him to tell what time it was, because the room he was in had no external view, but he decided to stay awake instead. His body still ached, but the numbness was gone because he was not sleeping in the wild. However something else had him concerned now that he had time to think about it. He was much cleaner than he should have been. The mud of several days in the wilderness had been washed off of him and his clothing.

Upkeep 1

Well I don’t want to get too bogged down with writing just yet, it’s still relatively early and I have plenty of ideas. I wanted to start off by saying that it snowed, and I spent an hour clearing the driveway and sidewalk. This isn’t as bad as it has been in previous snows this year, and I was quite happy about that. I didn’t know how deep the snow was until I got out there, but all the same, I stuck a Yuengling in the snowbank next to my front porch (I know I’m writing snow a lot, bear with me) and got stuck in. I always thought that Yuengling tasted best fresh out of the bottle after clearing snow from my driveway. It was cooled to just about freezing temperature by the snow, and something about feeling like I earned it had always made that beer taste so much better than grabbing a cold one out of the fridge. My brother started this tradition of chilling a beer in the snow and drinking it after clearing the driveway, so I decided to carry on that particular torch. This got me thinking about tradition, however, I had to put that thought on hold, though, because I had class. Now it came back to my mind and I decided to follow this thread to some form of a logical conclusion. Now I won’t make the mistake of assuming to be a brilliant anthropologist and state my opinion as fact, but instead, I will base this off of my observations. Traditions are established for a reason, for better or worse. In my example, the beer in the snow was started as a reward for completing a fairly difficult task. It has since evolved into a nice reminder of some very entertaining shenanigans that I have gotten into with my brother. Likewise, I think involving a tradition in a story should have a well established backstory. For example, in a standalone story, I believe a tradition should be established over several chapters, and in a series, I believe it could take an entire book to establish a meaningful tradition. This is all from the perspective of the story anyway. I suppose this is going to devolve into a complaint now. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer fixing things to complaining about them, but I am unable to fix every instance of this, so let’s get on with it then. I think it is lazy when writers, be them authors, playwriters, or screenwriters establish traditions in the middle of the story without any sort of precedent. Having a tradition in place at the beginning of a story, however, I find acceptable. In fact, I think it can be a very strong plot device. Starting a story with a tradition, especially one that does not make sense, can help in forming a compelling plot around either gaining a better understanding of the tradition, or removing it.

The Bandit

As he followed the deer trail out of the village where he had grown up, Grzegorz thought on his new predicament. So blinded was he by his thoughts, that he failed to notice a hunting party from the village until he had almost walked directly into the leader “Woah, man. Are you blind or did you…Grzegorz, by God man, what are you doing out here, you’ll die of cold in this storm, where’s your coat?” The downtrodden teenager simply shook his head and fought to hold back tears. “They kicked me out Vanya, I brought a knife to the ritual and…” Vanya looked on in shock. “Don’t tell me you killed someone” Grzegorz shook his head, it was all he could do to keep from crying. “Here, sit down, we’ve got some of our lunch left and I know you’re gonna need it more. Konrad, give him the squirrel jerky and some pear cider if we’ve got any left. Come now, tell us what happened.” Grzegorz sat on a large stone at the edge of the path as Vanya gave him his cloak and Konrad gave him their food. He wasn’t exactly famished, but he really wasn’t in a position to turn down help from anyone. “I brought a knife to the gathering where my job was to be selected, the elders said I had brought the tool of a criminal, and without a job I could not stay.” He washed down the dry, stringy meat with a gulp of the cider. That didn’t help all too much, as it managed to be both overly sweet and incredibly bitter at the same time. “Gah! How do you drink that, it tastes like rot.” The hunters laughed and this time it was Konrad who answered him. “It’s still a work in progress. I brought a wine skin to my rite of passage because I wanted to be a brewer, the elders associated it with travel and made me a hunter instead. Glad to hear you like it, though.” Konrad took the wine skin back and tasted a gulp for himself. “Yeah, that’s pretty bad” He said with a cough, this time the laughter was directed at him. “Well, Grzegorz, if you don’t mind me saying, it sounds like you were set up on a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’re gonna have to fight for everything you want now, but we know a good place to do that. Wait here for two days and we’ll lead you there.” Grzegorz shook his head, he knew what happened to people who helped outcasts, and all these men had families. “I’m not gonna have you risk your homes on my behalf, just point me in the right direction.” The hunters conferred for a few moments and, deciding that if he did not want their guidance, then they would allow him to be on his way with only directions and a bit of food. “Follow the sunrise for two days, you’ll come across a more established trail after that. If you’re lucky, you will run into someone else who can direct you to the next town or village.” Vanya told him. They shared a hug and parted ways. Vanya let his old friend keep his hunting cloak, it was probably the last bit of kindness Grzegorz would see for quite some time.

Now alone, Grzegorz followed the trail. He drank the rainwater out of flooded streams and ate walnuts and berries, though this left him sick and weak before he reached the trail. By the time he got to it, he was filthy, exhausted, and a day behind schedule. Worse still, the travelers he did see took him for exactly what he was at this point. Two nights of sleeping in a muddy ditch and he was about to give up, then one night he was awoken by the toe of a boot in his ribs. “Alright lad, on your feet.” Having been in the middle of a dream where he was allowed to return home, the inevitable return to reality disappointed him. “I said on your feet” This time it was closer to a shout, and a pair of calloused hands dragged him up by his shirt. “What do you want from me?” He stammered, pushing the assailant away. “Your cloak would be a nice start. Take it off and give it here” The man demanded. “What? No, are you crazy? This cloak is all I have.” The stranger hit him on the side of the head, hard. “It was all you had, now you have nothing, give it here or I’ll take it off you.” At this point, the cloak was all Grzegorz had to lose, aside from his knife, and he didn’t want to part with either. Given the situation, he drew the latter and swung it wildly, nicking his attacker’s cheek. “You just cut me.” The stranger stated, more than a little surprised. He hadn’t needed to fight in years, at this point he relied on reputation to get his way. The pain rekindled a fire in his veins, though, and he lashed out again. His clenched fist collided with Grzegorz’s cheek and he went down. “I’ll have that knife, too. If you’re lucky, I’ll let you walk away” As he crouched down, it was luck, rather than skill that saved Grzegorz’s life. He struck his attacker’s leg with the tip of his knife, and this gave him enough space to make a break down the path. Tired, cold, and slowed by hunger, he barely made it to the next town. He collapsed outside the gate and was found the next morning by a priest.

Catch up

Well it looks like I have neglected this place for about two and a half weeks, so no time like the present to get back at it. Excuses really aren’t my thing, though if I cared to make one, I might craft a compelling narrative about how my classes, and indeed life in general has kept me far to busy to update my blog. While that is close to the truth, I believe that making up a story for this blog is a better use of my time than making up a story as to why I did not do my assignment. Some types of fiction are best left inside the writer’s head. Other types, on the other hand, seem best told through digital media. For example, I may go on for a page and a half describing a character hard at work, crafting some McGuffin that will aid an epic hero on a seemingly insurmountable challenge, however, it is much easier to show a montage where first a blacksmith is hammering a blade out of iron at his forge, then a wise and wizened wizard or witch carefully plants brightly colored gems and inscribes blessings on the weapon to give it certain attributes that the hero may need, and finally a cleric or regent of sorts bestows this blessed blade to our intrepid hero. Perhaps an alchemist has been given a chance to coat the blade in poison, or maybe it is a different kind of weapon, but either way the crafting process remains similar. An archetypal craftsman will form a mighty weapon out of raw materials, then a figure of intelligence will perform some ritual to modify the weapon’s power, occasionally there are multiple, depending on how the weapon needs to be modified, and finally the hero is given this weapon. Though a process like this often gives a writer the opportunity to introduce more interesting characters, sometimes it is more natural to have the hero craft the weapon for themselves in order to show a type of personal growth or experience. I know I should probably cover up before my bias shows, but I often feel as though a character making a weapon through their own hard work and ingenuity is more compelling than when they receive something which is undoubtedly better from a motley cast of characters. Often, it can raise questions. For instance, how do the craftsman, the scholar, and the ruler all trust this plucky adventurer? I have met some people I think would fit the plucky adventurer archetype and about them the craftsman would likely say that they were careless, the scholar that they were unfocussed, and the ruler that they were likely to cause more harm than good. I think, therefor, that my favorite type of fiction is also one I find better written down. If a character, let’s use the plucky adventurer again because I’ve grown to like them, makes that same weapon for themselves, it would wind up taking an entire movie, or at the very least a good portion of one. The same may hold true for a book, but here is where it is superior. In a movie where the plucky adventurer must create a weapon to fight against a generic mega-evil, they would be largely alone in their quest to create this weapon for the same reason as they had others make it for them before, the montage. In this instance, the hero is doing all the work, and the scholar, craftsman, and ruler play supporting roles if they are even present. However in a written work, that same craftsman, instead of working until sweat draws lines in the forge soot on his face, is now regaling our plucky adventurer with stories of his youth, perhaps he was once a plucky adventurer himself until he realized selling things to plucky adventurers was more profitable. In any case, a supporting character often has more opportunity to be given life in a written story than in a digital one. I believe this to the point where I am willing to put my money where my mouth is. Of course, if a plucky adventurer is crafting a weapon for themselves, then the genre is fairly obvious, it is probably and action/adventure story. It is not a necessity for it to be set in a medieval type of setting, but modern plucky adventurers can, and more likely will, buy a gun rather than going through the various complexities involved with milling, stamping, and otherwise manufacturing a firearm. Explosive weapons are also possible, however their damage does not discriminate between evil henchmen and innocent civilians. As the saying goes, “a bullet may have your name on it, but a grenade is addressed “to whom it may concern”. Perhaps an ally of the plucky adventurer could wield explosive weapons and likewise cause indiscriminate damage, that may form an interesting sub-plot, but it is for the best that the plucky adventurer does not frag a crowd of innocents while battling goons of the generic super-evil. In this case, blades are a safe bet. To my knowledge, most people have a basic understanding of how metallic edged weapons are formed. Let’s set the scene. According to the records kept by the council of elders, Grzegorz was in his 18th summer, and as with anyone born in the summer, his 18th meant that he was to undergo his rite of passage. After this he would be selected for a job in the village where he lived and probably work it until he retired to the council of elders himself or he died. The rite of passage was a significant event in anyone’s life, and though it had lost most of it’s practicality since the village had been founded a century before, it still held great symbolism in the minds of the villagers. Everyone needed to bring an object, hand made, to the council in order to be selected for their job. It could either be an object related to a job they wanted, or proof that they were skilled in a certain field. The and daughters of the hunters brought meat, the children of the masons brought mortar trowels, and so on for the multitude of other professions in the village. Grzegorz was an orphan, though, and as nobody’s son, he knew none of the trades. So it was that he brought the most important object he owned to the gathering. It was a knife, many speculated that it was left with him by his family, but nobody could ever figure out why this large blade was left with a young child at the entrance of the village. He had kept it with him ever since, no matter who was taking the time to raise him, that knife had always found some use in their house. Week by week he grew under the care of the villagers, and being an amalgamation of all their parenting styles, he was fairly well liked. The knife, while carrying many purposes, was seen as specifically the tool of a killer, and his most prized possession wound up making him an outcast. Without a job, he could not stay in the village, and was made to leave. His path had been chosen, as the elders said, and he would be doing the job they most closely associated with a knife, crime. So here we find him travelling the woods in search of a new home. Chance had set him on this path, so he decided to let it guide him from here on.

That was brief, I know, but I decided to cut it short here and allow myself time to think before adding more. This will come up again, though, because our plucky adventurer Gregozh still needs to make himself a weapon.

A Fresh Start

Well, I must say that it has been an uneventful and tedious week, and you know what? sometimes that happens. I have always felt uneasy during uneventful and tedious weeks. With it being uneventful, I feel as though I should be doing more, but with the tedium, I feel like I can’t. In times like these I normally take comfort in doing something physically active. While I still view it as tedious, it is at the very least eventful. If I am lucky, I can even allow my imagination to wander during exercise and occasionally come up with an idea worth writing down. Unfortunately tonight was not one of those instances, at least I don’t think it was, otherwise I probably would have remembered what I thought was important enough to write down. Given that it wasn’t I will just assume it was another time my mind wandered into an adventure story or tale of military exploit that I had read and reread at least half a dozen times. I do remember the push-ups, though, so even that is unlikely. Since I have not given any formal introduction, I take kickboxing classes. These have recently shifted to online, much like our classes at Temple, thanks to Covid-19 concerns, and one of the instructors testing positive recently dashed any hopes of a return to normal any time soon. Still, I have a punching bag, MMA gloves, and workout clothes, so another zoom class began. I cannot stress enough how important a good set of gloves are, even for practice. Your fingers are fragile, and your wrist is unstable, with a tendency to bend one way or another if you don’t line up a punch right. While I do appreciate a well choreographed fight in movies, or a well written one in literature, I have long since stopped hitting my punching bag with any sort of force before putting my gloves on. The boredom never lasts more than a few days, which is always nice. In any case, I have decided to give writing a second chance. In elementary school, I never liked it. I never seemed to be able to write fast enough and my pencils had a habit of breaking on me at the worst moment. In middle school, things weren’t much better. Somehow flash games managed to invade Microsoft word around then, and I threw my lot in with the former. In high school, I just did not care. I graduated from the public school system, probably somewhere around the middle of my class, and went to what was basically a continuation of that. My local community college was alright, I was finally free to choose what I wanted to study, and as an added bonus, the cafeteria food was so much better. Gone were the days of eating lukewarm mystery meals, now I could stumble in after an opening shift at my part time job, before I got laid off, and gorge myself on eggs, bacon, pancakes, and half-decent coffee. Then I would head to the library and make use of the comfy chairs in their study area for a quick nap before I went to class. If I was lucky (read, “if I competently scheduled my classes”) I would also have some time around the early afternoon free, so I could go down to the cafeteria again and eat to my heart’s content before going home. The down side was that in my first semester I had one of my least favorite English classes to date. The next semester it was followed by one of my favorite, but the damage had already been done. I graduated from there with an associate’s degree in psychology and set my sights on Temple. I’ll be honest, I liked the food at my community college more, mostly because we got to eat in a climate controlled building then, and not on a park bench where it can be hard to enjoy any food due to the cold and wind. Then again I did take one of the kinesiology department’s camping classes last semester and that was just amazing. I suppose eating breakfast while shivering on top of a mountain the morning after Halloween is just more exciting by nature than eating breakfast on a cold metal chair in Philadelphia after an hour long train ride while nursing a minor hangover. By the way, the full moon was so bright on Halloween last year that our camping group managed a night hike, on the walk back I was alone and out of curiosity I just turned off my flashlight. Funny enough, I could still see the trail, so I just walked back to the camp by moonlight. I think I also ate 2,000 calories at dinner that night. It was absolutely worth it. Taking a sharp turn back on track from our detour, I had just decided that writing really wasn’t my thing, and I would only do it as it pertained to my course work for my major, not as an elective. I usually try to spend my Sundays at my Dad’s house. He is a fun guy and as an added benefit, my brother lives there, too. Hanging out with them is always nice, we usually do a whole lot of nothing that culminates in me staying there until half past one, driving home, and not getting to bed until at least half past two. As you can imagine, this is not the best plan in the world. I have a class at nine in the morning on Monday, so six hours of sleep at most before a class makes it hard to concentrate. Here I have to thank my Dad, I’ll thank my brother in a moment. My father bought me a French press style coffee maker, so, in combination with my mom’s electric kettle which she has lent me for the time being, I can roll out of bed and start a pot of coffee pretty much right away. This has become a massive help on mornings where I stayed up too late and I happen to be dragging my feet. In any event, I said I would thank my brother and this is where that happens. He likes to write. In fact, a creative writing course taught by the same professor that taught my second semester English course at my community college is what got him into writing as a hobby. He and I were talking and the conversation veered off toward the most recent short story he was writing. I found it interesting and recognized that, without his creative writing course, he probably would not have started writing as much as he does now. So thanks to him, I did something I never expected myself to do. I signed up for a creative writing course. I hope this fresh start turns out well.