The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 2

Okay, so where were we? Oh, fully! My drink! Shoot. No, it’s fine. I got it. Okay…so, Bren and I head out to the camp where the men are. I said that bit already, didn’t I?

Yeah, so Bren starts to tell me about how they are on this super-secret mission to Crewda. The people of Crewda are mostly shepherds. They have all kinds of livestock, and they are nomadic. Well, as you know here in Arden, there are primarily farmers like my dear father. Every fall when the harvest would come in, the Crewdians would move their flocks along the river. They’d just be there all day staring at us. Then at night, they’d drive the herds across to plunder our fields!

Okay, well, not “my” fields, but our neighbors who were closer to the river. So Ramoth had sent out these men to go over there and make a few casual threats to the Crewdians. Nothing terrible, just keep to yourselves or there won’t be any more of you.

Still, you could imagine my surprise to see men in royal guard uniforms. They usually didn’t leave the castle, but there they were, and they stuck out like a sore thumb. The guy Ramoth’d put in charge had never been a captain of any kind before. From what I could gather, he had upset Ramoth, and so Ramoth told him that if he could settle this conflict, he would forget the matter and make him a royal captain, permanently. His armor was mismatched and did not fit him at all. I guess I can’t say much, seeing as I only had my father’s ax. Meanwhile, the Crewdians were rugged people living in tents and fighting off wolves. So, I took one look at him and thought, “We are all going to die!”.

So, with no hope in me, I took Bren up on his offer to sample some of the local libations he had procured. We drank all night! It was amazing! The whole troupe joined us, and so I got to know them all a bit better, though again, I figured they were all good as dead, so remembering their names didn’t seem that important.

Back then, Captain was the serious type: you know like that guy who is quiet and always seems to be planning ten steps ahead. Almost like he was playing Tikii all day, every day. Captain had a drink, and it didn’t phase him. We kept handing them off to him, and he just kept taking them. Soon we were all drunk, but Captain remained as sober as ever. Maybe we would make it through this, after all!

I finally got the nerve to ask him what he had done to cheese off Ramoth. Do you know what he said? He said, “I dared to touch the hem of her skirt.” What did that mean? At the time, I didn’t get any further because Captain refused to say anymore. Cool as could be he got up and went to bed: told the lot of us that we ought to do the same.

It wasn’t that I shouldn’t have obeyed; it was just that Bren and I started to get in our minds that we should go down to the river to give those Crewdians a firm warning that we would not put up with their shenanigans. At the time, we felt like we could do anything! So we headed off to the river, but when we got there, no one was around. So, we went for a swim instead.

At least I think that is what happened. In the morning, when we woke up, there was this ruckus. The others had caught up to us and were laughing hysterically! There we were, the two of us passed out on the shore, soaking wet without any memory of how it’d happened. They were teasing us something awful because of our dire estate. That was when I noticed one of them had my ax and another my shoes. It wasn’t that we were naked! We weren’t! We both had a good inch of mud covering us!

Captain was so… mad. I was going to say “mad”! See? I am getting better. Before we could join the others, we had to get washed up. The water was fully freezing, and the whole time the guys are razzing us, but I kept my cool. You know me. It didn’t bother me at all! I certainly didn’t yell anything back to them. That is not me at all. Once we were presentable, we crossed the river and headed into Crewda. We were looking for one of the campsites the Crewdians used.

It did not take us long. We just followed a small herd of sheep, and there they were. They greet one another in a strange way. You put out your hand, and you take their hand and say, “Minas Suto!” which means, “Here I am” or “Here is me.” Captain goes up to their leader and takes his hand like he has been doing it his whole life! The rest of us stayed back a bit, just pumping out our chests. Wait, pumping? Pushing? Whatever.

In any case, their leader is impressed! The two of them sit down and start to chat. They bring us scruffy guys some food too, so we sat down and after a while, we start joking and just having a good time.

It turns out these guys are okay, and their women… well, they were the perfect combination of strong and beautiful! One kept looking at me, Ayika was her name, and I just smiled back. She’d put her hand on my knee and smile her big, warm smile! Never you mind, though! No one is going to tie this man down! I still think about her sometimes. Her eyes flashed like onyx, but she was probably too old for me anyway! We start to chat as best we can and I see there is a lot of opportunity for trade between us if we can get this dispute settled. I mean, we both have something the other wants, right? I mean livestock and produce, Anny! Get your mind out of the gutter!

So, we get done, and Captain tells me it is time to go. It was a sad goodbye! On the way back, I asked him what the deal was, and he says that he told them they had to stay on their side of the river. They insisted they could not stop the flocks from crossing over. So, they had agreed that the herds could cross over, but only once every ten days. Apparently, the sheep found this acceptable. Sheep can be very accommodating. Have you ever seen a baby sheep? Well, yes, then you get it. So cute!

The guys and I are wondering, though, if Ramoth will accept this bargain. Do you know what Captain said to me? He said that it would not matter. He would tell Ramoth that they had agreed to keep out, and by the time ten days had gone by, he would already be officially a Captain anyway. Now that is a clever trick. After that, whenever the report came that the Crewdians had crossed the river, Captain would just tell Ramoth that he would “take care of it” when really he didn’t have to do anything because they wouldn’t be back for another ten or so days.

And that is exactly what happened when we got back to Pent, but you will have to refill my drink if you want to hear more about that!

The Completely True Tales of Jax: Part 1

Keep in mind this is all true- every bit of it. Anny? Did you write that down? You don’t have to look at me like that! I just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to miss anything, okay? Alright, just keep writing whatever I say. This is going to be neat.

Now, where should I begin? Well, how about I just start at the very beginning! I grew up outside of Pent, about half a day’s journey along the eastern coast. There is a small port there called… my name? Oh, my name is Jax! But back then, people called me ‘Jack’. That’s what my mom called me anyway. She was a beautiful woman. She took care of me and the others. There were eight of us all together. There might have been more after I left. I’d guess I have at least five more siblings out there I don’t even know about.

My dad was a farmer. I didn’t see much of him. He’d be gone before the sun went up and return around dinner time. He had this one chair that was his favorite, and he’d eat his dinner and then fall asleep right there. That’s about all I can remember of him!

We kids were expected to help out, of course, but I was always messing around. It was easy to get away with since there were so many of us. This one time… well, maybe I’ll save that one for later.

Anyway, I was a bit obsessed with fire. I mean, who isn’t? It is so fully awesome. What do you mean I can’t use that word? Which word? No, write it just as I told you! But that isn’t what I said! Okay, I guess “fully” works, but… whatever. Where was I?

So my mom tells me I have to bring some stuff to Jahna. He sold our extra supplies for my dad out of Gesh. I mentioned Gesh already, right? There were ships there that would travel along the coast. Well, you know that, right? Like the Berkiss and the like taking supplies around.

Okay, so she gives me this big bundle, and I head out, but before I go, I grabbed my father’s ax. I wanted to gather firewood on the way home. I figured my dad would never miss it. Fully, he’d probably miss it before he noticed I was gone! He was a fully full fuller like that!

By the time I get to Gesh, I am exhausted, and Jahna is nowhere around. I didn’t want to wait around for him, but if I left without being paid for the stuff, I knew I’d be in trouble. That’s when this guy comes up to me in a full guard uniform! He was all like, “Is that the supplies for the men? Jahna was supposed to deliver them, but he never showed up!”

I found out later that the reason Jahna never showed was because he had taken the money and then run off with one of the ship captain’s wives. The best place to hide in that situation is the mountains. Captains are always a little uneasy on dry land, so it’s best to get as far away from water as you can get.

Wait, where was I? I’ll tell you when I have had enough to drink! No, don’t write that down! Fully. Fine, so I say to this guy, “Fully, yeah, I have your stuff!” He’s super excited and tells me he’ll throw in a bit extra if I carry the stuff back to the camp for him. Fully, yes!

By the time we get there, it is getting late, and the guy offers me a place for the night with the guys. I was excited. His name was Bren. We all got so drunk that night. Hmm? Nah, I was plenty old enough! Okay, well, not everyone was raised like you, so just relax.

Bren goes on to tell me that they are on an important mission, but they are a bit shorthanded. Well, I’ve got my dad’s ax and plenty of time on my hands. I told him I’d be happy to help out. You see, further east of Gesh is the Welter River. It runs between Arden and Crewda. You know, I should draw you a map. No, I will tell you the rest after I draw the map and maybe finish my drink!

A very expensive and accurate recreation of the map of the boarder between Arden and Crewda

One Year Down!

It is hard to believe that it has been a year since The Myth of Arden was released! I want to take the time to thank everyone who supported me through it!

Writing a book had been something I had always wanted to do, but I was not sure what to expect self-publishing. The initial feedback was great! I am truly grateful for all my friends and family who went so far as to tell their friends about it, and I hoped that those who had ordered a copy would not be disappointed.

My proof copy still had a few errors in it, but I was excited to hold my book for the first time!

Further promotion has, unfortunately, proven to be much more difficult than I imagined. We tried several promotions including advertising on Facebook and free book/eBook giveaways, but ultimately, we did not gain a lot of traction. It seemed like a new approach would be needed!

For those reasons, things on the blog and website have been quiet while I work on the new book, which is well underway. I also have a new blog exclusive series in mind for my faithful followers, which would cover some of the events leading up to The Myth of Arden. Stay tuned for more details!

The Myth of Arden Kindle eBook is free this week only

The weather is getting chilly, which makes it a perfect time to snuggle up with a good book. Get some cheese from the cellar and enjoy a nice glass of Megan’s pineapple wine as you delve into Arden for free! Be sure to tell your friends because this sale will not last long.

From Tuesday, October 8 to Saturday, October 12 2019 check out Amazon for this limited time deal!

September 11, lest we forget

Russet blooms in slumber steeped
Shrugging off their veiled defeat
Arise the memories from their rest
Lest anyone of us forgets

Susan Strom

I was 19 years old on September 11, 2001. I was in my second year of college at Ulster County Community College. I fancied myself a “pre-med major” at the time, though the college didn’t have a specific set of courses for that.

For that reason, I was in the Chemistry Lab that morning at 8 AM. It was the molecular modeling lab, so my classmates and I were huddled around our lab bench working through our lab notebooks. I was flustered by the exercise of trying to construct the models with my kit.

About twenty minutes into the class, our Organic Chemistry professor came running into the room. He was very distraught and said something about an airplane hitting one of the trade towers. “How could that be?”, we wondered to one another. New York City was just a few hours drive from Stone Ridge. I imagining a small plane that had lost its way must have accidentally hit the building. What other explanation could there be?

I had three more classes that day. On my way to one of them I passed by the cafeteria. This was a time before I owned a cell phone. I was surprised to see an unusual number of students huddled around the television screens. Since the screens were not pointed towards the hallway, I assumed it had something to do with what my chemistry professor had mentioned. Being extremely timid and late for class, I hurried along.

My last class for the day was Psychology. My professor was an older gentelman with an abundance of energy. He used all of his knowledge of the subject to keep the class interesting. As soon as I saw my professor’s face, I had a feeling something was off. The gist of what he said was, “I am assuming if you are here today that you are okay to continue with the class. So, I am just going to do what we would have done. Otherwise, they will have gotten what they want.” That was it. The class went on as usual, but I wondered what I was missing.

Being the last class of the day, I next headed out to my car to take the long drive down Rt. 209 to Napanoch. As usual, I turned on the radio to WRRV. They played mostly alternative rock, a genre I felt a bit naughty listening to. I’d often change the station when I got home so no one would know I had been listening to it. I know, I was a rebel!

I figured it would take a while to hear anything, but to my surprise, the topic was all they were talking about. It hadn’t been a small plane- it had been a large commercial airliner. It hadn’t been an accident. Both towers had been hit, and they were both gone. It was inconceivable. Nothing like this had ever happened before. My naivety slipped away as the horror of it set in. How many people had been killed? Would it happen again? When? Why? Who would do something like this?

It was not until I turned onto the street where I lived that I realized my family might not know yet. I hurried down the road to find my father was home watching the footage on the television. I guess hearing about it on the radio first had somewhat softened the blow, but it was then I realized it was international news. I began to wonder if anyone we knew had been there. We had family all over the state and the city. I recall my father (a former volunteer firefighter) being ready to drive down to NYC to help when the news asked people to stay away. They were concerned about the quality of the air.

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

William Goldman, The Princess Bride

In a twist of irony, four years later, in the early hours of September 11, 2005, I would find out that same man who was so eager to help had passed away in the night. It was the fall of another pillar of my life. I spent the entire day bawling my eyes out. Few people asked me what was wrong because they all assumed it was the date- September 11. That was how long the pain lingered. People drove around with flags on their cars and with their headlights on in remembrance.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Jesus, Matthew 5:4

Now it has been 18 years- almost as much time has passed from then as years old I was when it happened. I swore at the time I would never forget, yet time has a way of softening the memory. I can only recall a few of my classmates’ names. I can’t remember what other classes I took that day. What we often do not talk about is the mood of the next day, September 12th. Unlike any other, there was this unspoken camaraderie. Back then there wasn’t this terrible tension I feel now. We were all just Americans. We were going to fight as one. Nothing else mattered.

You hear all the time, “Never Forget”, but what are we supposed to remember? Is it the tragedy? Well, yes of course but it is more than that- it’s the camaraderie too. For one day, we all grieved together. For one day, we are all grossly human. This tragedy touched everyone because the act itself was so senseless.

Being American is an ideal just as much as it is a geographical location. America was founded on “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  We are a giant family, and we cannot let anything break us apart. That seems to be what is happening more and more. People seek to divide us up, but we can’t allow that to happen. Seek the common ground. Understand that everyone suffers in this life.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence