tales2apoint

…stories and poetry to touch, teach, & turn the heart toward truth.


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“Calderwood” Part IV

A story is more than just an explanation of events. It reveals life. It unveils the unseen elements of everyday life that are not always noticed at the time they occur.

These are the reasons I love to write stories. I love to think back through a memory and pull out all of the thoughts that went along with an activity and recreate them on paper in such a way that even the simplest of moments seem almost magical in the way they all work together into something so much bigger than anyone could have imagined at the time of their occurrence.

It’s the bigger picture of life–the elements of life that show there is a purpose for even the most unexpected and coincidental of circumstances–that makes life so beautiful. It is the complexity of life itself that makes a story worth telling. I cherish the moments that come to me as such clear examples of this orchestration of events into a larger plan.

The morning after meeting the young stranger in the canoe was one such example.

*

I was moving before my eyes were even completely open.

The morning sun had just started to lend some light to my tree sheltered cabin, and, as my eyelids moved out of their sleeping rest, my eyes caught the silhouette of a fleeing intruder.

I grabbed for the large knife hidden just beside my bed, and lurched after the shadow.

“You can either stop now, or wait until I stop you!” I growled, “The former would be better for both of us.”

It didn’t work. The intruder dashed out the door, and I followed just a few steps behind him. My newly awakened body wasn’t extremely anxious about moving this much freshly awakened from a deep sleep, but I pushed forward and started gaining on him. The light was stronger in the clearing outside my cabin, and I could now see that the trespasser was none other than the young stranger I had been hosting. With this knowledge, I slowed my pursuit and changed directions. He was running toward the river, and I was pretty sure I knew why. If he was planning to lose me in the woods and then escape in his canoe, I would just beat him at his game and go straight for his canoe. I solidified my suspicion of his intent, when I realized that he really didn’t have any other options.

Why all the secrecy? I wondered again, as I jogged silently toward my writing sycamore.

I reached the canoe just as he came out of the woods a few paces downstream. Because of the darkness and the fact that he was spending more time looking behind him, he didn’t see me waiting by his canoe until he was only a few steps away. He shouted a yelp of surprise when realized my presence, but froze as our eyes connected. For a moment, the night was still again.

There was a dark stubbornness in his eyes, unlike any I’d seen before. I remember the thought crossing my mind, as our eyes locked for those few moments, that whatever he was running from had to have a real hold on him. He was a young man overcome by something he’d tried desperately to hide, and my lack of pretense was a language with which he was not familiar.

The stillness between us ended quickly, being that he was much less interested in waiting than I. Realizing that his flight instincts hadn’t helped him as he’d hoped, he went for the next best thing–fighting. He was surely a trained fighter, but I had a knife and he didn’t. Before he’d moved more than a step toward me, I gave him pause with the harshest growl I could muster.

“Don’t be a fool.” It was all I said, but the flash of steel from my hunting piece in the moonlight spoke loudly enough to convey my implications to him. He stepped back in aggitation, and threw the pack he’d been carrying down on the ground.

“Fine, if you want your junk back, you can have it. I don’t need it anyway! I can take care of myself.” He spat the words, more than spoke them, but his eyes were fixed on the ground. He was still such a kid; couldn’t even look a man in the eyes.

“If you needed supplies, all you would have needed to do was ask.” The sternness still hadn’t left my voice. “Why…”

“Don’t ask me any more questions, okay.”

For the first time since I’d met him, my young guest, intruder, thief had let down his guard, looked me square in the eye, and had spoken plainly.

“Look, I know I should have just talked to you, but things aren’t that easy. The more you know about me, the easier it will be for them to track me. I never should have stopped here, and I apologize that all I’ve been is trouble. All I really want to do is get far away from this place, and I would really appreciate it if you’d just let me go. If you have supplies that you’d be willing to give me, I would be very grateful, but I really just need to get out of here.”

He fell silent and his eyes fell too. The troubled youth that I’d seen looking through his eyes only moments ago, now enveloped his entire posture.

“You don’t need a fight. You need a friend.” My voice had softened now, and, stepping forward, I put my hand firmly on his shoulder. “I don’t know who or what you’re running from, but I do know you’re going to need a better plan if you’re going to make it in these woods. You won’t find many in these parts as gracious as I. You’d probably be dead if you’d broken into anyone else’s home tonight. You don’t know how to hunt, trap, or lie for that matter.” I waited for his reaction. “If you’re going to live the life of a loner, you’ve got to be able to take care of yourself.”

“I can take care of myself.” He interjected.

“I think tonight’s events prove otherwise.” His eyes admitted his agreement.

“Now, if you want to get in that canoe and head off into the darkness, that’s your prerogative, but these woods are not tame. The farther north you travel, the more dangerous they become. This river, for one, turns into white water just a day and a half upstream from here. Then there are the mountains, and the Namerians beyond them. If you want to survive, you’re going to need a plan. That’s just all there is to it.”

He stood looking torn for several minutes, then nodded like he’d arrived at some internal resolve. “So you’ll help me, then?”

I laughed, “Well, it appears I just volunteered myself!”

He smiled, but his determination had returned. “What do we do first?”

“I’d say we should move this canoe off the water to start with, but first things first. For the last time, what is your name, son?”

The last bit of reluctance fell away from him, as his eyes looked through the growing dawn into mine. “I am Gnamel, son of Leen, nephew of King Garman of Calderwood.”

~By C. Evans

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Calderwood, Part III

Realizing it would be rather rude of me to remain in silence with him obviously intending to rest beneath me, I offered a leisurely greeting to break the silence. My thought that he was unaware of my presence was quickly confirmed as his entire body lurched and his eyes shot up with almost terrified surprise.

“I had no idea there was anyone around!” Obviously. “Have you been sitting there all along? Why didn’t you say anything before?”

Apparently, he wasn’t too interested in not being alone. Rather than respond to his unnecessary shortness, though, I replied with a more congenial question. “Nice day to be out. You been traveling long?”

Perceiving now that I meant no harm to him and that he was the one being intrusive, he offered a gentle nod and confided that he had been traveling since yesterday morning from Gleshna, the king’s city. He followed by asking if I lived nearby.

“Just beyond the river’s edge,” I replied. Coupling the knowledge that he was avoiding notice with my suspicion that he’d rowed quickly past Torren without stopping, I suspected he was more than ready for a place to rest. “You’re welcome to rest there a while if you desire. Want some help tying up your vessel? “

His earlier hesitance now seemed almost completely gone, and he offered a grateful smile. This young man was obviously not accustomed to the elements of the woods, and had probably managed next to no sleep the night before. To confirm this suspicion, I asked half-heartedly, “Not many places to stay around here are there?”

He offered a sheepish grin, as he confessed, “No, I tried camping along the shore last night, but…” He seemed too ashamed to admit that he’d been scared, but it was evident in his expression.

“Well, I always sleep better inside too.” I offered. “When I first moved out here, it took me a week to sleep through the night without being awakened by the noise of the night. These woods never sleep.”

“Apparently not,” he replied, shaking his head. “How long have you lived here, then?”

“About eleven years now.”

That interested him, but I wasn’t sure why. He had a hunger in his eyes, like a man who longed for adventure, but had yet to taste what he sought. “Where did you live before?” The boat was securely tied now, and after grabbing his pack of belongings, he climbed up the bank behind me, and we both started through the trees to the clearing where my cabin stood.

“The son of a fisherman,” I paused briefly, remembering the smell of saltwater mist blowing on the wind, “Grew up by the sea and moved here when I was old enough to leave home. Always wanted to live in the forest, so here I am.”

He looked a bit disappointed now. “Why do you like the forest so much? I’ve always thought the sea was better.”

He was direct; no doubt there. “Just water.” I replied, “Too lonely. I like the feel of life all around me out here, helps me remember I’m not alone.”

As we arrived at the cabin, I stepped onto the porch and opened the door. “Well, this is it,” I offered. He looked inside and his eyes went straight to the pears and squirrel jerky on the table. I showed him where the bed was, told him to help himself to some food, and let him know I’d be back in a few hours. That was all the invitation he needed. He had three bites of jerky down before I made it out the door. As I returned back to my writing, I considered the fact that he hadn’t mentioned a word about himself. He didn’t seem untrustworthy, just green, inexperienced at life. I would have to see about getting more out of him after he slept a bit. If he had really been as hungry as he acted, I thought, it was no wonder he seemed a little off.

I returned to the cabin at dusk, after picking some more fruit in the orchard and checking my traps. The place was quiet as I approached and I started to wonder if my visitor had left prematurely. A loud snore from inside answered me quickly enough, and I realized that there was a chance that he might just sleep through the night if permitted. Clearing my throat, I opened the door and left it open to combat the growing darkness. After replacing the missing pears at the table with two more, plus a couple apples and some blackberries, I grabbed my cleaning knife and went back out to the porch to clean the two rabbits I’d found in my traps.

An hour later, I was enjoying the savory aroma of fire-roasted meat. Darkness had fallen now, and I sat calmly in the light of the fire, finishing the story I’d started earlier in the day about a bird I’d once watched from my father’s fishing boat. The creature had managed to catch a fish twice it’s size right out of the sea. I still don’t entirely understand how he did it, but he carried it right off into the horizon, popping up and down with the fish thrashing in his talons. It makes an excellent story. It’s one of my mother’s favorites, and I’m glad I finally got it down on paper. Sometimes the biggest challenge for me is not to find a story to tell, but to decide which one I want to tell first. I decided long ago that it is a good problem to have.

I had just pulled the rabbit off the spit, when I saw a sluggish frame meander out of the cabin and into the light of the fire. How timely of him to wake up just in time for dinner. I suppose the only thing stronger than a man’s desire to sleep, though, is his desire to eat. I knew this well, but seeing it happen so blatantly was somewhat comical to me. I nodded as he approached and he offered a yawn-like smile.

“It appears that your nose is working properly,” I said dryly.

“My mother always said my appetite was my strongest feature,” he chuckled. Seeing the sizzling hot food made him forget his sleepiness faster than a squirrel can scamper down a sapling, I noted mentally.

“Well I’m glad you managed to wake up while it’s still hot. Wouldn’t want a good helping of meat like this to get cold. Here have a seat,” I said, pointing to the log bench across from mine.

He sat, and readily started in on the food I offered him, after waiting minimally for it to cool. He had to be at least twenty, I thought, by looking at him, but he acted more like an oversized kid, who hadn’t seen enough of life to know how to act around new people. It was almost a naivety, I realized as I watched him eat. As I had wondered before, I became gripped by the desire to know his story. Who was he, and what was he doing out on his own sneaking around like this?

After he finally looked up from his food, I asked, “So what brings you so far up the river?”

A momentary look of panic flashed across his eyes, and he looked away. “Just needed to get away,” he mumbled, “like you, I guess.”

“Away from what?” I pressed gingerly. I hoped that by now he trusted me enough to at least be somewhat informative.

“Long story.”

This wasn’t working very well, so I tried a more direct attempt. “Is someone after you?”

This brought a mixture of fear and spite piercing from his eyes that I had not expected. “Look, you’ve been real nice and everything, but if all you wanted was to get another story to write, I don’t recall volunteering for it.”

That rubbed me the wrong way, and I shot him a look that indicated as much. I’d hoped that some sleep would help his edginess, but it apparently only gave him more energy to express it. “Well,” I said rising. “You won’t be able to make much progress on the river tonight. I’m heading to bed. You’re welcome to stick around until morning, but you’ll have to find somewhere to sleep.” And for a little self-gratification I threw in, “I wouldn’t roam around in the dark too much, though, you never know what you’re going to run into out here.” I heard him curse under his breath as I walked away, and I was glad he couldn’t see my smug grin as I disappeared into the darkness.


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Calderwood, Part II

Calderwood is so named for its forests. Calderians are a people of the trees. From the northern slopes of the Great Calders, stretching for more distance than can be traveled on horseback in two weeks, reach the great forests of Calderwood. Scattered throughout as oversized clearings are fields of wheat and barley, lakes, ponds, rivers, and farms. If you manage to climb to the summit of Mount Cald, the highest of the Great Calders, you can see all the way to the sea. All the land that lies to the north, east, and west of the Great Calders is known as Calderwood.

Even the water that forms all but our southern border is known as the Calder Sea, and is instrumental in providing trade and all the benefits of saltwater dwelling. Some Calderians are known as people of the sea. Endless variety of marine merchandise is available throughout the scattered villages lining the Calder Sea.

The inhabitants of these villages are largely a separate culture of their own. The men are known to disappear into the great waters of the sea and not return for weeks and months at a time. The women band together and raise their young, sell their goods, and manage their households with the strength of three Namerians. The sea people contribute well to the strength of the Calderian people and build good relations with those of the lands beyond the sea.

I began my journey in one of these villages. I was born and grown in the seaside fishing village of Clayne. It was along the shores of this village, as a fourteen-year-old, that I first boarded a fishing boat with my father and older brother to experience the life of a fisherman for the first time. It was also along the shores of this village that I decided I never wanted to be a fisherman. Though every man in my family for the past four generations had lived and loved the life of the fisherman, I knew within a month of starting that it was not for me.

Being only fourteen, I did not have the freedom to simply say I wanted something else. It was an unspoken rule in my home that, while a son was under his father’s care and authority, he did as instructed and put forth his fair share of energy to bring in the provisions necessary for living. To that end, I was glad to fish, but as soon as I came to twenty, the Calderian year to choose my own way, I told my father that I was leaving when the time came for the next fishing journey.

I was careful to explain myself thoroughly before I waited for a response. I told him that I was thankful for the things he had taught me about fishing and living. I told him of another young man in our village whom I was certain would make an effective replacement for me. I was intentional about explaining that my choice to leave was not a result of anything he or anyone had done to turn me away. The reason was very simple; I did not like being on the water. I dreamed of deep forests, filled with mysterious creatures, where I could hunt for my food, build a cabin of my own, and write the stories that filled my mind incessantly with their plots.

His response was gracious, considering how unexpected my words seemed to him. He accepted my words, and even approved of my desire to write the stories I love to share. My people value a good story almost as much as a good meal, and it was common knowledge in my village that I was one of the best storytellers to ever be found in Clayne. I was more thankful for my father’s approval than I ever could have expressed to him that night. He accepted me as I was!

Even my mother, though her tears were unstoppable at the sight of her second child setting off on his own, hugged me tightly the morning I left and told me that she was proud of the man I had become, that the years she’d given to raise me were well spent in her mind. At these uncharacteristic displays of affection and warmth, I was surprised to find some water pools forming at the edges of my own eyes. Calderians, as I shared before, are proud people. Sea people, especially, are known for their strong defense against the expression of strong emotion. These two exchanges with my parents have combined to become the sweetest memory I have of my family. I look forward to the day I return to share with them the many stories I have acquired since I traveled here.

While I didn’t build my own cabin, I do live in the woods. My home sits just off a cart path that leads into the town of Torren. The river Cascade passes by on the southwest side of my cabin, and I can travel by canoe downstream to Torren in less time than it takes to eat a hot bowl of venison stew. If one is traveling north on the Cascade to the king’s city, Gleshna, Torren is the second to last town along the way. Torren stands in a bright clearing, surrounded on three sides by the dense forest, with the Cascade framing the eastern boundary.

It is the kind of town you can expect to find in Calderwood–tidy, quiet, and friendly. Calderians don’t typically seek out a lot of excitement. They live at home, do their work happily, and love their families. When the time comes to step forward and serve their king, protect their families, and guard their land, they do it with willingness and skill. On a normal day in Calderwood, though, the most excitement one might see will most likely come in the form of the storyteller’s newest tale or the hunter’s latest venture.

One afternoon, as those who regularly float by now expect, I was perched in the shaded throne of a mighty sycamore, branch curved comfortably beneath me in a rough chair of sorts. This tree hugs the river’s edge and gives me a clear view of the bright skies above, the soothing water gliding below, and the lively wildlife in the forest’s resumed density at the river’s opposite edge. As I soaked my feet in sun, enjoying the sound of life around me, I kept my mind and hand busy scratching out a story with a journal book and pencil–two of few items I have to trade for to acquire.

The surrounding sounds of nature were interrupted briefly by the splashing sound a canoe’s paddle makes as its handler rows upstream–a less than enjoyable task, I know. This traveler was built for work, though, and I watched, amused, as he continued to progress slowly against the gentle current. I’d never seen him pass by here before, and could easily see that he was not extremely used to navigating upstream.

Though he would only have had to look up and a bit to his left to see me, he was so concentrated on his task that he had not yet noticed me in my tree. He most likely would have gone by without noticing me too, but, for a reason known only by the divine, he chose to row his small canoe up to the river’s edge directly beneath where I sat watching.


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“Calderwood” Part I

I live in a land called Calderwood. We are known for our massive forests, strong warriors, high mountains, and plentiful harvests. We are a proud people, though not pretentious. We are a people who, up to this point in our two hundred year history have been without enemy infiltration. Though we are young, we have fought hard for what we own and are at peace with all of our neighboring tribes. We trade willingly with them for food, livestock, and spouses. We’ve been blessed with generations of wise leaders and responsible laborers. What we have never known is defeat.

There have been many small battles throughout our history, more when we first began than in recent years, and two wars. The first war was with the land of Hermebia. It was the most deadly, and we learned much from our losses. The second, with the land of Cornick, took place nearly thirty years ago. Cornick is a land inhabited by the descendants of Namere, the natives of the southern part of Calderwood who refused to join with my people to become one. Though they dwelt within the land before my ancestors traveled here, they were not strong enough to sustain their claim to the land. They were forced by my ancestors to move beyond the southern reaches of the Great Calder Mountains. This land is called Cornick because of the great Lake Cornica around which their people now dwell. While this conflict was a sad time in the history of my people, for many of the people of Namere were kindreds of my people, the Calderians, it has been to our benefit. Now that Calderians are a unified and united people, unpolluted by the eccentric culture of the descendants of Namere, our own culture has been able to flourish and become more and more refined over the years we have spent in recovery and perseverance in our attempt to remain at peace and prosperity.

The reason I am writing these words, though, is a result of the fact that I fear our land is dangerously close to an attack from within. If what I fear were to come to pass, we would find ourselves in more ruin than if the Great Calder Mountains shifted and buried us beneath them. It would be better for us to be completely wiped out than for us to self-combust, but unless the inconceivable happens, we are quickly on our way.

Gnamel, a young warrior who is the nephew of our leader, King Garman, is half Namerian. Gnamel’s father, Leen, died in the war against the descendants of Namere when Gnamel was still in his mother’s womb. Gnamel never knew his father, closest brother to King Garman both in birth and in spirit. Gnamel’s mother was the daughter of the great-great-grandson of Namere himself, the treasured patriarch of the Namerian people. Gnamel was raised in a home of conflict, within a land of peace. Because he was the king’s nephew, he was invited into the royal family as one of their own. His father, Leen, never knew he was to be a father before his death, and the news of Gnamel’s birth was as sweetly rejoiced as the death of his father was bitterly grieved. Gnamel’s mother, Kuin, had loved her husband more than anything, and had known great joy in bearing his child. She was also a very true-hearted Namerian, as the blood of her ancestor ran strongly in her veins. The knowledge that her own people had killed her heart’s love, and her child’s father, had filled her with a turmoil too great for anyone to bear. She raised Gnamel as a Namerian of the purest degree, yet allowed him also to grow in his love and understanding of my people as well. Her  world was one of contrasted loyalties, and thereby her son began to feel like a stranger in both of the cultures he loved.

Most Calderians who once held great esteem for their Namerian neighbors, had come to despise them when they rose in opposition to the ways and laws of Calderwood and sought to drive us out through violence and deceit. There were few Calderians who hadn’t lost at least one member of their extended family to the knife of a Namerian they had once considered their close friend. For this reason, few Calderians held anything but strong animosity for anyone of Namerian blood. Gnamel and his mother, Kuin, were of no exception if they ventured more than a few blocks from the safety of King Garman’s protection. In the same way, Kuin and Gnamel are not welcome in Cornick, the new land of her people south of the Great Calders. Kuin once convinced King Garman to allow her and Gnamel safe passageway to Cornick,  to visit deeply-missed family. Their small traveling party became the near victims of a lynching almost as soon as they had crossed into the land of Cornick. The Namerians hadn’t forgotten that they were no longer welcome in their native lands, and on that day had firmly established the understanding that no one of Namerian blood would be welcomed in their new land of Cornick.

Namerians are a people of stubborn bitterness and will not likely forget their resentment. Nonetheless, none of them have ever attempted to invade Calderwood again. Their numbers are much smaller than ours and their people are fisherman and farmers, not warriors. Interestingly, we trade regularly with them on the borders of our lands–freshwater fish for wheat and barley, herbs and spices for timber. Both sides are very careful not to step onto the opposite shore of the shallow stream that has come to serve as the physical border between Calderwood and Cornick.

Now that Gnamel has grown into a strong warrior of a man, and his mother has completely retreated from society as a malignant reservoir of anti-Calderian sentiment, his desire to weaken the societal unity of Calderwood has grown into a slow-burning passion. Many wouldn’t know this from simply observing or interacting with him, though. In fact, even the royal family is largely unaware of his hatred for the people and land of Calderwood. This is where I come into the story. My only hope is that my involvement will bring about the necessary climate for change in Gnamel’s heart before he ruins himself, his people, and the family that has given him everything he knows.