Worldbuilding – A Journey Into Scifi

I’ve been working on science fiction stories for a long time, and with that comes the desire to support your ideas with as much flesh as you can. Scifi is a strange genre simply because by its very nature it requires more thought and exposition; the context in which you place your stories can in fact end up being the entire substance of those stories. This means that wherever possible, you need to be able to recall an interesting piece of galactic lore, or try to simulate grand politics in an interesting and engaging way.

This is where worldbuilding comes in. The pursuit of spending inordinate amounts of time on crafting a setting is all about creating a context which can organically make your stories come to life; as a dungeon master for many DnD groups through the years, there is nothing more annoying, or so able to break the flow of a story, as being unprepared for a twist. As a writer, when you’re actually writing your story, you don’t necessarily know where it’s going to go when you’re writing it. This is one of the joys of writing; with your notes you can set little milestones in your story, winding avenues where you know your characters must end up, but it’s those misty in-between parts where your instinct and indeed cunning as a writer must shine through.

Incidentally, you can make yourself seem a lot more skilled and a lot more cunning if you do most of the work in your setting beforehand, and that’s why we’re here; you want a nourishing soup of interesting facts and lore to draw from when you’re putting your characters in compromising situations.

Anyway, I began the journey into my setting a few years ago when I was working nights at my old job. I had some cleaning and restocking to do, I worked on my own, but after that I had atleast 2 hours a night to do whatever. Over the course of a few months to a year, I filled first an A6 notebook with tons of ideas for a history, then an A4 notebook that codified everything for me; in here I went into a ton more detail and actually wrote out the timeline for my setting’s history and fleshed out some of the more interesting ideas I had for the landmark events that really defined the setting.

Something that really stuck with me was a piece of advice I believe said by Jim Butcher – the writer of The Dresden Files. I will now butcher (no pun intended) that advice by paraphrasing it: “Ask yourself when you’re writing your story, whether you’re setting it at the most interesting time in your history, because if not, why not? Why would your reader want to hear second-hand about that interesting event rather than read it?”

The reason I bring this up is because these “interesting events” are what you should be looking out for when you begin worldbuilding; it’s these that should naturally turn into your stories. You’ll know them when you find them.

I’m writing scifi, so I began my setting’s history at the time when the timeline diverged from our own – conveniently, this was around the present time at which I was writing it, so 2017. I then went forward crafting a history which would catapult humanity to the place I needed it to be to have humans in my story. I went back and forth quite a lot on whether I should make humans the focus, or aliens; personally, I love the idea of aliens, but felt in the end that it would end up being more relevant if humans were the “main protagonists”. I actually go back on this later, but this decision paved the way for some really key decisions in my worldbuilding.

So after going through year by year, then decade by decade and eventually century by century, I got the the “present day” of my setting; this is the time in which all of the stories that take place in my setting will happen. At this point, I revised all the history which had been laid down and highlighted some of the more key moments: many battles and tactically interesting maneuvers took place in the huge upheval that brought humans forward and I wanted to make those events reference points from which I could craft exposition later on.

I also finalised who and what will be the main players in my story and every time I inserted another main player or race, I had to go back and quietly slot them into the story, or make a reason as to why they weren’t in it up until that point; it’s all quite a challenge, but incredibly fun when you feel like a decision you’ve made about your setting really clicks and creates some amazing ideas you hadn’t seen before.

For instance, I wanted a robotic race in my setting; I think the idea of AI is being explored more and more, so I’d love to be able to do some of that in my stories. Now, because I had waited until I had most of the history written before I put them into the setting, I had to figure out a reason why they were removed from most of the galactic history I had up until this point (almost 500 years). I did this by coming up with a little conceit – that they came about by accident: humanity, once they had conquered most of the galaxy, sort of began forgetting about most of the pusuits they had undertaken over the years. Humans had so many resources that they could open a huge mining operation for instance, then when it turned out not to be profitable, instead of taking all the robots and machinery with them, they just left it.

A group of scientists were studying a curious type of crystal that only seemed to exist in this obscure system at the edge of known space, the whole team end up dying from a radiation burst from a nearby star; this radiation burst also energises the crystals and kick-starts their sentience. They then access all the records from the scientists, learning earth’s history and also the plans of the scientists, namely that if this experiment were to result in sentience, they would dispose of the crystals and the budding life within. Eventually this crystalline race who are able to interface with technology reach out and discover the robots and primitive AI which had been discarded wantonly by the humans.

I came up with all of this after about 70 percent of the history of my setting was complete and it ended up being a hugely influential part of the story. To me, this just goes to show how having an idea and taking it to it’s logical conclusion, even if you believe that you might be “shoe-horning” your idea into the setting, is worthy and should be pursued.

I hope this little dive into how I crafted by scifi setting was interesting. I’ll be working on all of this for my upcoming entry into NaNoWriMo.

See ya!

NaNoWriMo Prep

We’re just under two months away from NaNoWriMo! If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a writing challenge where in November you try to write 50k words. I’ve tried the challenge in the past but I’ve only completed it once, and I think that was with a lot of excess words thrown in.
So, in order to prepare and to give myself the best chance possible I’ve been doing several things.

  1. Getting into a routine – I’m aiming for get up earlier in the morning, taking myself to the office to write and separate myself from the worries of the day, and meal prep so that cooking is less of a hassle and to keep us from indulging. This is still an on going process (especially since John is about to change jobs), but we have time!
  2. Making notes – So many notes! I’m one of those people who take hours to come up with names (and even then I’m not happy or just chose the first one I thought of) and just sit and stare and the blank page when I’m not sure of something. In order to prevent that I’m fleshing out my fantasy world, creating places, history and lists of names. This has been coming along slowly but getting quicker as I know more.
  3. Creating a story Outline – I’m not a pantser (going by the seat of your trousers). I can write stories that way, but they would all just be happy, with no conflict and lost plot threads. So, planning out will allow me to create a better story and I’m sure I will add some things as I go!

There are other little steps I’ve been taking; trying to be more social, spreading my writing wings, attempting to not feel guilty for spending so much time on something that may not go anywhere. But I love writing and it’s all worth it. The process of writing in pen on paper, tapping on the keyboard, of editing and of streamlining, it’s all a part of it and all wonderful.
This site is a little over a month old and already it has helped me so much. I hope in some way I can help others, whether now or in the future.
Are you joining in NaNoWriMo, if so how are you getting prepared? Any advice or questions, let me know!

StarFight: Chronicles – Part One – Awaken To Dust

Neko’s eyes flickered open and she squinted as several red lights blinking angrily at her. She could hear nothing but a dull buzz in her ears; she quickly surveyed the information panel of the emergency Lifecapsule she found herself in.

Well that’s a surprise, I’m alive.

The red lights indicated that a number of systems inside the ship were destroyed or broken in some way, but Neko could feel no acceleration, so she assumed the ship must have landed somewhere on the dust-ball of a planet she’d been scanning. Time to think; the Lifecapsule wouldn’t release her until it knew she was safe, so either she would have to wait until the emergency sensors completed their sweep, or she would have to override the controls and just take the chance.

She reached up tentatively to the console and accessed her vitals; the fact that she wasn’t feeling any pain could be misleading, her Lifecapsule would have shot her full of drugs pre-emptively, but sure enough she was pretty much fine: two bones in her left hand were fractured and she was massively bruised on her left side but there was no internal bleeding, no dislocation and no nerve damage. She accessed the emergency sensors and the sweep was stuck on 60 percent; the node must have been damaged, but she knew from her earlier orbital scans that the planet was breathable and the surface gravity was almost one gee.

Nothing for it.

She punched in the override code, every button press was followed by a visual and auditory warning, but with a whine and a pop, the explosive bolts fired and the door flew away, smashing into the far bulkhead and going no further; strong magnets in the door held it firm.

She pushed herself forward and took a sluggish step into the cabin. Her body felt heavy due to painkillers but her mind was sharp enough. She needed to know if the computer was still working; it was dark in the ship, she reached for her mag light but felt only bare thigh, she had forgotten that the Lifecapsule tore every scrap of cloth from anyone inside, to easily access the patient. No problem, her spare was in a compartment on the opposite wall.

Which is now magnetically sealed behind the capsule’s door.

Neko groaned and felt her way towards what she hoped was the cockpit, her night vision was beginning to kick in, but it didn’t have a lot to work with; windows in spaceships are a luxury this model did not possess. Neko cursed her sluggish footsteps as she thunked into a wall, her hands ran over the metallic surface and her finger found a long groove, she pushed hard and after a second the mag-lock released and the door to the cockpit slid open with a grinding noise.

That didn’t sound good.

Red light washed over her as she stepped inside and surveying the scene, she was glad to find it was more or less intact; two bulkheads looked to have buckled slightly, causing control panels and storage compartments alike to burst open, strewing cables, clothes and food all over. Neko waded her way through the morass before her stomach jabbed her mind and she knelt to pick up a ration pack before continuing on.

Neko practically fell into her flight chair, the painkillers seemed to be wearing off and she started to feel like she’d been beaten with an angry stick. Reaching forward she keyed in her passcode before tearing into the ration pack and waiting for the bootup sequence to finish. She was chewing on what seemed to be some dried meat analogue when the computer made a happy sound and the screen flashed up.

Neko made a low whistle as fifty two errors pulsed politely in the top left corner of the screen, she filed through them: Engines, weapons, navigation, most of the sensors, peripheral systems and all but two external cameras were dead. She accessed the functional cameras, the first showed blackness and the next showed her surroundings.

It looked as if she’d crashed belly first into some kind of muddy lake, she swivelled the camera, it would only turn sixty degrees or so but on the edge of it’s vision she could see some sort of thick vegetation. Okay, not such a dust-ball after all. The small yellow sun shone harshly down onto the now drying mud that had piled up in front of the craft. With the realisation that she was in no immediate danger, she slouched back and took another bite of the meat stick while idly keying a few buttons.

Ofcourse the air conditioning is broken.

The ambient temperature prediction was 96 degrees in the next 6 hours due to the sun’s oppressive rays. She was going to boil alive in her own ship unless she got out soon.; at least it looked as if the fission cells were operational, she had years of power if she needed it.

I really hope I don’t.

To be continued! This has been part one of the first chapter of my scifi epic – Starfight: Chronicles. I’ve been working on the setting for quite a few years and I’m happy to finally present it publicly. I’ll be posting more soon!

Presenting: Furlands

Furlands is my spin on an old idea – namely that there exists a world of roughly middle ages/renaissance technology level; with all the politics, religious fervour and personal strife which this might entail, but all the people are rodents. This idea was inspired by works like Redwall and Wind In The Willows, both of which I love, but I wanted to take a more strict take on the idea in terms of worldbuildng – really, this is more of a worldbuilding task than anything else; I really wanted to explore the idea of this kind of world, where different species of humanoid rodent vie for supremacy in the same way that humans might.

This presents a number of challenges, which, the more I thought about them, the more they intrigued me. Conisder, for instance, what it means for things like the idea of xenophobia or racism; in a world where there are many distinct species which cannot interbreed. There would be more of a focus on ones own culture, because cultures would be heavily influenced by the species’ habits; mice are nocturnal whereas rats are not, so mouse society would be more active at night and every different species would be faced with the idea that you cannot simply merge your culture with another, because even if rats wanted to integrate mice, both species still need only themselves to procreate, which changes politics dramatically over generations.

One thing I wanted to maintain is to code each species that I presented in my world with the sort of cultures from which they come geographically on earth; so my rats are scandanavian/western european, voles present as japanese, there are also Tanuki, which present as huge, 12 foot tall mountain people and many many more. There are lots of little rules that I want to figure out and maintain as a nod to all the little habits and features of those species, with some being vegetarian and others obligate carnivores, so their cultures reflect these virtues.

It is an interesting challenge, also in part because I don’t want this to innately be a young adult or children’s setting – I want it to be gritty and full of intrigue.

I have already published two parts of a short piece inspired by one of Emma’s ideas; The Fall Of The Hamurai – the story of the last days of a society started to unite many different species on an island which is my analogue of Japan. I also think my entry into NaNoWriMo will be based in this world.

Stay tuned as I dive deeper into this setting, hopefully I’ll get the time to build the central myths and go more into the unique politics of the various regions and species.

Thanks for reading!

John.

P.S. Here is the link to part 1 of the piece mentioned above:

https://steadmansociety.com/2019/08/05/the-fall-of-the-hamurai-part-1-blossoms-in-the-wind/

The Observer

Banner looked up at the wall before him, shifting his bag to a better position on his back. He held a hand over his eyes to stop the rising sun from blinding him as he tried to find the handholds he had been told about. The wall around the park was three times his height, made of yellowing white stone. The gate would have been the easier way in, as shown by the stream of well dressed people heading through them. But, for that you would have had to been invited to the event. And Banner would never be invited to such a thing.
After moments he saw the protrusions of the holds, it would be a tough climb, but he wanted on top of the wall. He glanced around him, noting that no one even bothered to look around, not even the guards stationed at the gates. One even looked like he was nodding off, leaning upon his spear, the warming air of the summer morning lulling him to sleep.
Good, thought Banner as he leapt to grab the first handhold, this should be easy.
He scampered up the wall, hands only slipping twice, each time sending his heart galloping inside his chest. It was only the work of moments but the strain created buckets of sweat and his muddied shirt clung to him, his long hair sticking to the sides of his face. But he was up! He took a moment to admire the view.
Tall, bushy trees lined smooth stone paths winding in many directions. A large softly undulating lawn stretched out near the gate, people were spreading blankets on the grass, jostling for good positions in front of a low wooden stage.
Banner walked carefully further around the wall so that he had a better view of the stage, then he sat down, legs dangling over the edge. He placed the bag on his back next to him and rooted around in it. He brought out a flask of water and a hunk of cheese.
Down below things were getting started. The sea of brightly coloured clothes calmed and a figure walked on to the stage.
The long figure was dressed in all black, a tall hat rested between two long sharp horns.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, and the random man on the wall.” They bowed, swiping the hat and almost folding in two, long brown hair falling forward.
Banner dribbled water down his front as the figure mentioned him. He scanned the crowd, looking for the guards. But the crowd was laughing, no one looked up, the guards were not even inside the park. He leaned back and peeked at the gate, no one was near. His heart slowed back down.
“My name is Trimble and today, I have something special for you.”
Trimble straightened and threw out their arms and flower petals poured from the sky. Banner watched as below him the crowd was covered in red petals. Then something tickled his head and he noticed that petals were falling on him. He picked up one that had fallen on his knee. It was soft and smelled wonderfully of berries.
“Let’s get on with the show!” Trimble spun and the black clothes changed to bright green.
It’s going to be a wonderful day, Banner thought to himself, and took a large bite out of his cheese.

***

I have no idea if this makes sense! I had an idea and then I’ve had a bad headache for the last two days. But my schedule must be upheld, so I hope this was at least readable!

Full Moon Ritual

“It’s time.” said Denay with a smile. Her eyes grazed the rising moon, full and watchful; the lake, still and deep. She slid into the water, its icy chill harsh against her naked skin. She stopped as the water crept up to her waist and turned to her friend.
“I cannot believe that you’re trying this.” Atter shook his head. He tightened his grip on the blanket around his slight shoulders, scooting his bum closer to the small fire they had built in their makeshift camp. “You are going to freeze!”
“I won’t. Gerargis will protect me.”
Atter shook his head again but passed her the bag of supplies. Denay knew his feelings on her experimentation, even if she did not understand them.
Slowly Denay made her way further into the lake, towing the bag alongside. Once her feet could not longer feel the bottom and she felt nothing but water around her Denay set about creating her altar. Carefully she opened the bag, spread it out over the water, moving the items within as to allow it still to float. A box of salt, a shard of red glass, a green leaf and an apple.
Once everthing was steady on the oil cloth Denay eased herself back, giving her room to swim and float.
She felt the giddy bubbling of success in her stomach, but damped it down, this was only the beginning. The altar bobbed as she shifted in the water, floating on her back and staring at the black sky. The moon was almost directly above her, time enough to ready herself.
Denay’s breath came slower, deepened, eyes drooped half closed, sounds grew louder, water became warmer. Her gaze turned inwards, seeking the barriers within, seeking with eager hands to unlock them. Through practise she had become a locksmith of herself and it took the work of mere moments to open herself to the magic of the world. The sounds and feelings of the physical world were dulled, Denay now felt the magic pouring from all around her, the water was a tingle, the air as painless sharp pins. The moon a loud roar above her. The items on her altar called to her, aiding and urging her on with her purpose. The brightness of the full moon dazzled her, filling her with importance. She righted herself in the water, easing to tread water in front of the altar.
“My intent is to change this apple into glass.” She held up the apple in both hands, raising it into the light of the moon. She returned the apple to the altar, picked up the glass in her right hand, and stared into the shard. More deep breaths, pulling magic through her and forging it in her intent. With her left hand she sprinkled a pinch of salt over the leaf and returned to lay her hand over the apple.
For a long moment she concentrated, focusing the magic and her intent. The leaf shrivelled, the salt bubbled upon its surface, the shard began to glow and become hot. The apple was becoming as ice beneath her palm, and all through she kept the glass apple in her mind, forcing the magic into the shape she desired.
With a last searingly bright burst the glass was gone, Denay lifted her left hand unveiling the newly made glass apple. It was more beautiful that she had imagined. Transparant red glass, with several black seeds hovering in the centre, it cast a sparkling shadow upon the altar; it had a small glass stem, complete with a delicate green leaf. She whooped and spun in the water, causing the altar to almost upturn. She grabbed her apple in time, calming herself.
“Thank you, Moon.” A nod to the bright white orb. “Thank you for your guidance Gerargis. Even though this is not your ocean I sense your care and your power.” She took the time to close the barriers within her, sending what magic remained to her Guardian in respect and graciousness.
Once she was grounded again, the physical world came back, she was safe to pack her things and head back to shore, to show Atter the fruit of her labour as he merely looked on, his eyes as wide and bright as the moon above.

**

This small snippet is set in my world. A little insight to show a bit about my magic and how things in the world work. It was a lot of fun to write! I hope you enjoyed and stay tuned, I’m sure there will be many such pieces in the future.

A Mysterious Egg – Part Two

THUD! Thud! Rafie started, vision swirling around her as she struggled to wake up. Thud! There was a pounding on her door, that’s what woke her up. She pushed herself to her feet and stumbled over the egg that had seemingly rolled off its nest, momentarily confused, the urgency of the knocking pulled her back to the present. She scooped up the egg and opened the door.
“Please, Rafie, please, come with us, Jesel is missing, he’s gone!” A hunch backed woman, who she recognised as Anni, the local village’s resident mother hen, grabbed fearfully at Rafie’s sleeve.
“Anni, slow down. I need to get my things; What happened?” She turned back into the cottage.
“No we have no time, he’s been gone all night.” Tears streamed down her face, her whole body was shaking.
“I’ll only be a second.” Rafie placed the egg back in the nest, then grabbed her gloves and walking stick.
“Lead the way.” Said Rafie, pulling on her gloves. Anni started off, leaning heavily on her own walking stick and on the arm of her grandson, Nen, a stout farmer whose expression was of honest concern.
“A horse went missing, it ran we think, Jesel went to go find it himself last night.” Anni choked on the words and Nen took over.
“We didn’t realise that he was gone until this morning.” Nen patted his ailing grandmother’s back.
“They went into the forest? The horse and Jesel?” Rafie’s senses were sharpening now in the cool morning air.
“Yes, the horse tracks lead away from the farm and to the edge of the wood, we tried to follow but I knew I would have no hope.” He gave a harsh shrug, his face going red behind his black beard.
“Not many people would.” Rafie said reassuringly. It was true, the forest was notoriously tricky and hostile to many. Rafie’s nature and her linage made her one of only a few who could traverse the mystical place alone.
They hadn’t gone far from Rafie’s cottage; Anni could only move slowly despite pushing herself.
“Head back to the farmhouse. Get what bandages and healing herbs you can ready. Jesel may simply be lost or he may be hurt. I will bring him to you as soon as I find him.”
Anni and her grandson nodded, Anni gripped his arm tighter, they had a job to do now, which would keep their mind occupied for a little while.
There were dark clouds looming off in the distance, it wouldn’t be long before rain came.
Rafie nodded in turn and lengthened her stride, making for the edge of the forest. She drew in a breath and slowly let it out, centering herself, opening her mind to nature. Once she broke into the line of trees, she stripped off her gloves and skimmed her hand over tree trunks and plants as she wound her way through the dense vegetation.
As with Lady Time, communication was not straight forward, there were images in her mind, snippets of life in the forest but she couldn’t ask about Jesel directly, but she could prod. She purposefully walked towards the farmhouse, where Jesel had come from. It was a good walk from her cottage to there, made shorter by cutting through the woods. Anni and Nen would have had to skirt all the way around the treeline, one mile atleast. Rafie hoped the trees would remember Jesel nearer there, or maybe the horse.
The forest stirred around her, confused at her questioning mind. She saw small glinting eyes in the shadows between trees. Animals would be a better source of information, but more difficult to seek for. She slowed her pace and crouched, then using her walking stick for balance, she opened her mind further. Her sense of self blurred, over many years she knew her limits but it always felt a little like looking at yourself in a crowd, and it did not come without risks.
There was a fox nearby, skittish and sleepy from a night spent hunting, but she saw it’s life essence as clear as a candle in the dark. However, there was also a darker presence, something lumbering, huge and poisonous. A twinge of pain caused Rafie to recoil. The presence was far away, somewhere deeper in the forest. Rafie took a moment to breathe, she was almost unmoored.
Gently she focused on the fox, prodding softly and asking about a man and a horse. The fox cowered back at the mention of the horse, she had seen the lumbering beast and ran away from it, afraid of the large hooves.
“Could you take me to where you saw the horse? Was a man following after it?” She showed her concern for Jesel.
The fox was scared but turned and slowly walk away, looking back over her shoulder.
Rafie stood, glad for the stick as her vision swam, but she was able to pull herself back. Once she was following, the fox picked up its pace. Now that they were connected, Rafie was able to settle back into herself and the million voices of plant and animal in the wood shrank away, leaving only the fox’s skittish presence in her mind.
They were heading quite deep into the forest. Rafie wondered what had caused the poor horse to flee this far.
Up ahead the fox leapt up on a fallen log, and sat down, tail twitching. Rafie walked up to the log and heard hooves pawing at the ground, she saw some movement further past the trees.
“Thank you.” She said and the fox leapt away, running back through the trees to its home, to rest.
Rafie climbed over the log and slowly approached the sound. In a small clearing with more fallen trees was a horse. Very large and dark, with furry white feet coated in mud. She was pawing at something near a freshly fallen log. Rafie did not want to approach it from behind, she had no desire to be kicked by a spooked horse. She circled slowly around until she was facing the side of the horse.
“Rafie-” A strained and weak voice rose up from the brush. Between the log and the horse lay a muddied man.
“Jesel-” She took a step forwards and stopped, the horse lifted its massive head and looked at Rafie. She looked wild.
“I’m here to help.” Rafie dropped her walking stick and held out both hands. The horse stamped down whinnying, the impact scattered more mud and leaves over Jesel.
“Acker, please, it’s okay.” The old man’s voice was weak, but the horse heard his reassuring voice and swung her head down, touching Jesel’s forehead.
“Are you injured?” Rafie asked as she approached, feeling more certain that Acker wouldn’t make a sudden move, but keeping one eye on the large animal.
“My leg is trapped, Acker is trying to free me but she can’t get underneath it. I hurts like anything.”
Jesel was on his back, right leg deep in the soft mud and under the fallen tree. Huge gouges marked where Acker had attepmted to help by getting her nose underneath.
“We should be able to do this together, eh girl?” She placed her hand softly on to the side of the horse’s muscular neck, attempting to calm the distressed creature. Images flickered, a stable, hay, a shadow, blue eyes and terror. Acker had seen the same creature Rafie felt earlier and fled. Rafie soothed over the memories, they would not help the poor horse now. Silently she conveyed her plan.
Her reins were still attached, so Rafie led Acker over to a branch sticking out from the log and tied her to it.
“Pull, Acker!” Rafie shouted before she rushed back over to Jesel and guided the log as best she could, forcing the trunk away without causing more damage.
Jesel was in immense pain, he gritted his teeth and balled his fists.
“Stop now girl, that’s enough!” And Acker halted, head shaking to try and get back to Jesel, the log moved. “Wait there, girl, I’ve got to move your dad now!” Rafie bent down to Jesel, wrapped her hands under his armpits and heaved.
Jesel’s colour was poor, and he groaned as Rafie pulled him free. She glanced down, his leg was a mess of blood and mud. Acker began to panic again, so Rafie rushed over to the horse, quickly undoing the bridle from the log, at which point it slammed down heavily into the mud. Acker immediately trotted over, nosing Jesel’s pained face. Rafie hopped over the log and knelt down before the poor farmer. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, but his leg looked broken.
“I can’t help here, we need to get you home. Think with my help you could get on Acker?”
Jesel couldn’t speak from pain but nodded and shifted gingerly.
“Acker,” Rafie gestured and the horse, with silent understanding, knelt and stayed still while Rafie gently manhandled the panting man onto her back. Jesel slumped over Acker’s neck as the horse stood.
“Can you stay on?” Again a nod. Rafie retrieved her stick. “Right let’s go.”
Rafie took the reins and led the group out of the forest. It took longer than Rafie would have liked, Jesel seemed to have lost all strength. When they emerged, Nen was standing with his hat in hand, worry had all but destroyed the felt cap from twisting it in his strong hands. The farmhouse stood a little way beyond him.
“Thank Meval!” He almost jumped with relief as he saw the group, Rafie could tell he’d been standing there, staring into the woods ever since he’d returned with his grandmother.
“We have to get him home. The leg’s broken. He’ll need a wash and some treatment, but especially water and food to get his strength back. He was trapped under a log all night.”
Nen nodded unquestioningly under Rafie’s authority and they started for the big house. when they got close, Nen lifted his grandfather as gently as he could. Jesel hadn’t said a word since he’d been placed atop Acker, Rafie guessed the blood returning to his leg had brought nothing but pain with it. Rafie turned and spotted a young man looking on worriedly in the garden.
“Young Harben, come and take Acker, she needs to be fed, watered and brushed. There’s a good lad.” Harben nodded, wide eyed, and took the reigns. Rrain began to fall, cold drops. “Hurry.” Rafie shot him a quick smile and followed Nen into the farmhouse, which was full of people.
“I’ll get the water.” A young woman with pale hair and a short dress sprung up and rushed out of the room.
“Place him here, Nen, we’ve made up a bed near the fire.” Said Anni. Made up on the hearth rug was a fluffy mattress, with lots of blankets at the ready.
“Let’s get these filthy clothes off first.” Rafie said. The girl had returned and placed the water over the fire.
His tunic was removed and rafie painstakingly cut his pants off with her knife, then Nen lowered him onto the bed. The wounds weren’t too bad and didn’t need to be stitched. With painful prodding and probing Rafie saw with relief that the break, though it would take a few weeks to heal, didn’t need to be set. Rafie worked her healing wordlessly while people bustled behind her, giving her space at Anni’s frantic insistance. Jesel drank water greedily after she was done. Finally, after Jesel was settled into the bed, with his leg bandaged and raised, some colour had returned to his face.
“I’m fine,” he said weakly, trying to push people away. Nobody paid any attention and they fussed over him incessantly, telling him how stupid he was for going into the forest alone, and how glad they were that he escaped with just a broken leg. It seemed the whole village had been roused when Anni had sent out the word that Jesel might be hurt. Jesel and Anni were pillars of the community and had a large family. Nobody knew more about farming within a hundred miles. Relatives and concerned villagers bustled, wanting to show their concern and to ask if they could help. They clapped Rafie on the back, saying how glad they were that their village had someone like her to keep them safe.
Rafie made sure that both Jesel and Acker were getting what they needed then slipped out of the back door. But Anni, who hadn’t left Jesel’s side since Rafie had finished treating him, touched her arm, appearing next to her.
“Thank you.” She was crying again, but with joy this time, a big smile on her face. “Thank you, Rafie.” She gave her a big hug and went back inside.
Rafie teared up, grateful she could bring such happiness and save someone again.
The rain was heavier now, a cold wind was ushering in the evening, as she cut through the forest she was protected from the worst of it.
She walked up the path to her cottage and remembered the egg. She raced inside.
The fire had died long ago, carefully she rebuilt it. Eventually she had enough light to see. The egg still sat in the nest, it was cracked, a green shoot sticking up through a small gap.
“Huh.”

To Be Continued…

I had so much fun writing this part, the story keeps growing! Again we leave off and shall reconvene next Saturday. I hope to see you again.