A Time of Isolation, Chapter 5 Part 1

Two weeks ago we left the scouting team finding a windfall leading to the possibility that they might be able to resupply. The problems they face, other than the obvious, is the lateness of the year. Plus we have to add to the mix of problems is the fact that they have lived their lives in the desert. To move from that environment to one that is completely opposite means another steep learning curve, and one where failure isn’t an option. Nature can wipe them out just as quickly as the harassing attacks they’ve faced from the primitives.

And it is here we begin chapter 5 with them attempting to steal the grains and such they need. And if successful they will be heading into the Sacred Mountains for the first time. Other than reaching for their present goal they really know nothing about the mountains. Only the fact that it is an area where only the primitive priests go to worship their gods. Otherwise it is off-limits. As to the whys and wherefores they haven’t a clue. (The Survival Trilogy: A Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past, are available from your favorite EBook retailer.) And with this introduction is Part 1 of Chapter 5:

Looking back as the morning started graying the skies, and the sudden coolness that seems to greet the dawn he realized that they had a lot of tension while they stole the grains that would hopefully sustain them as they finally made their way into the mountains. It had been a harrowing experience with two constantly watching the night watchman and two entering the small stone building and removing the grain and passing it on to the others. It seemed like an eternity with many stops and starts as at times it appeared the guard had been alerted to something. He really hated to steal, but at this time they had no choice. Once they had their supplies replenished they bid a hasty retreat and continued to move away from the area and towards the mountains. And now that the sunrise was just ahead they found themselves ready to find a way into those unknown mountains. Yet there seemed to be some kind of draw on him that he did not understand. It was like one of those itches that lay just below the surface. One of the types that you try and scratch and where you scratch is not where it truly itches.

As the suns came nearer to the time of showing and it became lighter with the mountains slowly being revealed to them in sharp detail, it was as if they had been here before. But that was all but impossible. As far as he knew there had never even been one of their cities located here. Of course he could never say for sure, but – well, something just seemed to be drawing him. Looking around he could see that it seemed to be affecting the others the same way. At the present they were taking a small meal break before they headed into those mountains. They had built a small smokeless fire to give all of them something hot before the day really began. Shellian, his sister, approached him and gave him something hot to drink. Looking questioningly at her he asked, “What’s this? I thought we had run out of our teas and shick a long time ago.”

Smiling back at him she said. “Ah that shows you don’t know everything . . . actually one of the two who was inside that storehouse found a small stash of this stuff. While I am sure it is not as good as our own it will have to do.”

Taking a deep breath and smelling the aroma from the tea he said. “I’m not going to complain. We haven’t had anything at all for what seems forever. At this moment it is even hard to remember that we once lived in Sequoyah and had such a different life than the one we have now.”

Sitting down beside him with her own cup she sighed and smiled a sad smile, “No truer words were ever spoken. Yet, here we are. I know at times it seems like our life, before the loss of the city, is more like a dream than real. We’ve lost so much since that day. Not just our way of life, but all those who started the journey with us, and now lie in graves behind us. All of our leaders, friends, and loved ones that are no longer here make it really hard. I mean at times it seems like it would be easier to just give up. There are now only fifteen of us, and only six being women. While I know that we can fight, we have a lesser chance of winning than the men. So really we have nine of you guys and six of us.” Trailing off for a moment, letting the silence rise before she continued, “I know, as you do, that if we are caught again that we probably will die. And for us women it will be worse before death takes us. Is all this flight worth it? I know when we started we were to try for another city, but now we can only flee to the mountains as all of the other options have been taken from us. I’m tired and I can see that the rest of us are too. It’s easy to understand – too little sleep, food, and constant vigilance, fighting and flight. Look while there is no defeat in our group, yet you can read the weariness in their very souls. I can see it in you and of course I worry. It is part of being a woman.”

Thinking for a moment before answering, Saige replied, “Everything you have said is true. I have no answer as to the whys – yet . . .” He paused a moment turned and looked into those mountains as the gathering light revealed them to him. “Yet, for some reason I am finding myself drawn to these ancient mountains. Looking around at the rest who are here with us, I can sense it is the same with them.” Then turning to her and looking deeply in her eyes, he said, “See it in you also. It is almost like there is a reason we are heading deep into this unknown. But I don’t know why or even understand what is drawing us here. I know it seemed like we were being herded in this direction. And I suspect that camped patrol at the only path through that valley was to be our end. Still . . . still there is something here I don’t understand. It seems to be just out of reach – just beyond understanding.” Looking down he realized that without thinking about it he had emptied his cup. Then looking up he could see that it was now time to move on. “I guess we will only know what it is when and if we get to wherever this is leading. It’s time to move again. I for one will be glad for this night since it will mean we will be able to camp and catch up on some needed rest.”

She couldn’t disagree with him. She was exhausted and knew that they could not stop until this very night except for a possible cold meal at midday. Sighing and slowly getting up she said, “I wish that I could just wake up and find all of this had not been real. Then we would happily still be in the compound with the city still there and with nothing out of place. Instead we seem to be living this nightmare, where it is all gone, and we are refugees with no home, and no place to go.”

He had no answers for her, and knew that really none were needed, as it was just a statement – one that had much truth to it. Standing he signaled the rest to assemble and to be prepared to move on. The Sun was now touching the tops of the hills to the east of them. It would be a couple of hours before the second much smaller sun would rise. Then picking what appeared to be an animal trail he led off. They needed to be away from any civilization by the end of this day. And the fact that the primitives considered these mountains a place of fear was their major hope and refuge, and that the only ones that they might encounter here would be the priests who would be asking of their gods whatever it was they needed, and to leave the tribes and clans behind, and to remain here isolated in these mountains. At this moment he did not send out scouts ahead, that would come later. Right now he needed trailers to watch their backs. Once it could be determined that they were safe from pursuit then he would put out scouts ahead. They just did not have enough surviving members to do both.

The trail they were on seemed to run parallel to the ridgeline, but below the top. It seemed impossible that such a trail should be here as the sides were steep and there was a long way to the bottom of the canyon. He suspected that if any fell that it would be to their death. There did not seem any way one could get up the sides. Yet he knew from experience that these trails, made by the animals, had to lead somewhere and usually did not just end. This he was counting on, as he wanted them to stay off of any of the trails that had been established by the priests and the few hunters that braved the hostile spirits that lived in these mountains, as primitives believed. Still as they worked their way along this small dangerous trail it was a slow and careful hike. By midmorning they were still over the same precipice. The canyon below had continued to deepen and they could hear the roar of flowing water and what they assumed was a waterfall. But none of it was visible to them. As the suns continued to rise in the sky they found that they were beginning to sweat heavily, and still this trail had continued; now slowly climbing towards the ridgeline. If it reached the top they would have to stop and make sure that it was safe to pass over and remain unseen.

From where they were, it appeared that the trail was approaching a large boulder which sat above them. At this moment it looked as if the trail would just end there. If so, they were in trouble, as there had been no place along the path that branched off or even gave them an opportunity to leave it. Once they reached the boulder, they found that again sometime in the ancient past, this monster had been up above them and had then fallen. It must have had a weak point within it. When it had finally struck the ground from where it had originally been, it split in half with the lower portion sliding away and down, opening up an area between the two pieces, and it was here that the trail continued. It was a tight fit but with work they got through. Once through, the trail entered head high brush and then dropped down the other side into a small valley that was completely hidden. Here they found a small stream flowing, with a very small pond where out the backside the water continued to flow out of the valley. There was also a small pasture, so it was a good place for the grazers to come. Now the question was, did it just end here? Even with no answer to that question, it was a good place to take their break before continuing. It was very quiet and peaceful. He looked at the area regretfully as it would have been a great place to stop and let everyone catch their breath and recover their strength. But it was just too close, and even here as remote as it appeared to be, they still could be found. Well, they would eat their cold meal here. He decided that probably they would now pull in the trailers and put out scouts ahead, returning to as close of a normal setup that they could make happen with their reduced numbers.

Yet, if the grazers came here, where were they? The trail looked used and there had been fresh droppings along the route. Looking around he could see some additional piles here. Yet at the moment there were none to be seen. Maybe they were here, but since it was still close to where the hunters came, they had learned to fear and were in hiding. If so this may not be as safe as he thought. In fact it may be a place those very hunters came to hunt the grazers. Alarmed now he signaled them to silence followed by the signal to carefully search for any sign of the primitives having been in the area. And shortly a couple of the members signaled that they had found something. He went with stealth now and signaled the rest to remain hidden and joined the two. There before them was a fire pit. But fortunately it had not been used in quite some time. But now it was obvious, that as appealing as this place had been, they could not stop here and must immediately continue leaving no trace of their passing. Yet, was this a good or bad sign? It meant that the fire pit hadn’t been used in a while, but did that reflect a change of location or just that it was one of the many visited areas the hunters traveled. With no idea of the history of the area they could not take that chance.

He turned to signal assembly and to move out when the two trailers came rapidly over the hill from where they had just come and signaled that a group was approaching. They hadn’t had much time to even check the area out but now they had to get out quickly if they were to remain invisible. The valley that they were in was too small to have any hiding places. Flight out of the area was their only choice. So Saige signaled retreat and out of the area. This was going to take a few moments since they had been unpacking to eat a quick meal. One of the trailers finally approached Saige while the other kept a lookout just below the entrance. The lead trailer then said. “We are probably no more than 10 minutes ahead of them at the most. So far they have been making the journey in this direction at a leisure pace. If they pick it up it will be in shorter.”

Shaking his head Saige said. “And I almost missed it. The signs were all here, but none of us saw it.” Turning around he could see the rest were very busy putting things back together and coming rapidly to form around him. To the ones who had gathered he stated softly. “We have very little time so begin heading out to the upper side and away from where we entered. We need to stay hidden since a group of hunters are approaching. We’ll take a head count once we are all outside of this area and away. Now let’s go.” Then staying with the trailers he began wiping out whatever sign they had left. He knew it would be a poor job, but these hunters were not tracking or looking for anything at this point. So maybe they would get lucky.

Taking a final quick look around, he trailed the others out of the valley hoping that they had done a good enough job. As he slipped through the brush and behind a boulder on the upper side the hunters came over the hill and into the small valley. How much time did they have before they started going after the grazers that had to be hiding in the area, he had no idea. But they needed to be as far away as they could be. The problem was these were hunters, so it had to be done carefully, so as to not alert them in pursing. But again, not knowing the area, they were not even sure what the easiest, safest, or fastest way out of the small valley could be. They, as a group, pulled back deeper into the brush where it was confirmed that everyone was there. Now once again they were on the run with an enemy close by. He had hoped that they had finally left that problem behind, but it was painfully clear that it wasn’t that way at all.

* * *

Now that they’ve reached the Sacred Mountains they felt they could finally begin to let their guard down only to discover that hunters from the tribes and clans hunt in the same foothills. The planned break must be put on hold, and as they push further into the mountains, and they disappear over a ridgeline Saige watches the hunters enter the very valley they just abandoned. With this discovery he, as well as the team, wonder how far the primitive hunters actually work the mountains. And with this we close out part 1. Next week we continue on, Have a great week and God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

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Fiction Verses Reality

As I was editing one of my future posts, which deals with part of a fictional story, I realized that for a story to work that it must mirror reality. And what I’m referring to here is what our experience tells us about how it all works – cause and effect, if – then, and the such. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Stranger than fiction”; meaning that something in real life was beyond the imagination of the many writers out there and whatever the incident one would never have expected it to happen in real life, in the real world.

As I thought about this I realized, (not that I haven’t talked about this before in past posts) that whatever the fictional world the writer creates, it is the actors or characters who must be consistent in what and who they are. The worlds may be of fantasy, of a future utopia, apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic, dystopian, or so many other fictional creations that don’t include the physical or real world as we know it. Again these worlds are simply the places in time and have a physical reality that the fictional people live out their fictional lives. And while it may be fantastical to us, for the ones living in these worlds it is the normal day-to-day stuff. And if we strip away the fancy dressing, the fictional worlds and societies, what do we find but ordinary people living their lives and trying to survive. Of course most of the boring stuff has been stripped away with only the situation that has been brought forth presenting us with the conflict that drives the story.

The people – especially the protagonists and antagonists must mirror reality. And here I mean they must mirror us, the ones who live in this physical realm. They must reflect, act, and react like living breathing human beings whether their form is like us or completely strange. I think one of the most difficult parts of being a writer of fiction is when one creates creatures that have never existed, be it in horror, science fiction, fantasy, or any of the many other genres where we have this freedom, is to make them appear real thinking beings, reacting as they should within the limits of their form. From our imaginations we must create a history, the conditions that drive these fictional cultures to become advanced enough to rise above the animals, build societies, and then act and interact with us, as readers, on a level where we can empathize with them and what we are reading. And all of it must be seamless and natural revealing this history and culture through the actions and reactions of these fictional creatures, worlds, and environments.

Yet, even here when this is done, deep down, and while the writer keeps it consistent within this world of aliens, we can still see us. All of us are prisoners of our culture. Unless you have spent time in another, then it is easy to overlook the fact that others, because of their culture, look at a situation or the world differently. In fact the language you speak has determined the way you even think. When one learns a foreign language it forces one to begin to think in that language. And I’ve been told that once you no longer have to translate that foreign language into your own, at that moment, you have made it your own. And it has been said the more languages you can speak the smarter you become. And it seems to be so. Still it could be because the ones who have done this have a higher intelligence and it becomes obvious when they speak, or maybe it really does. So by learning that language you really are expanding yourself beyond your culture, and the way you have always viewed the world.

So when these strange creatures are created, in a sense, it is like moving to a new country where one must learn to think, act, and interact like the locals. Still, and overall, while we are not logical creatures, since we deal with emotion, inexact thought, and biology, and because of this it is a wonder that we have any consistency at all. We all face fear, hate, jealousy, love, dislike, pain, heat and cold, and so many other things. All of this leads to a complicated creature. And if we really think about it we see much of the same reactions from our animals. So for us on this planet it appears to be something that is consistent among all of us.

When considering this, how, with so many complicated parts being involved, can we be consistent? It has been stated that it’s because of the combination of heredity and environment. Heredity determines the tendencies we are born with, and environment, or the way we are raised, will be the way we will act and react to those tendencies. With this understanding we now can begin to create our fictional characters, and why they, in the end, will be no more than mirror images or reflections of us.

In the beginning when a character is created, (at least in my case) much of what he or she is, is an unknown. For example in my novel, A Taste of History Past, book 3 in the Survival Series, I saw Kal standing in the afternoon in the middle of either fields or meadows trying to come to some decision about what was bothering him. Now if we think about it, this is consistent with any of us. Not necessarily the location, but going somewhere quiet and trying to solve some important issue that requires a quiet place so we can concentrate fully on the problem or issue. So this character shows a trait we are quite familiar with. Obviously, in this case since it is the 3rd book in the series the world he lives has existed and did not need to be created. Yet, this isn’t entirely true this time. Only the world is the same.

He exists a long time in the future from where book 2, Desperate to Survive ends. So in truth this required bringing the people of this world forward in time, including any advances, changes in culture, and their history through their myths and legends. Still when one looks at the story overall, and the players within this story, we can find parallels to our world, our time, and if we want to, look back to any time of our own world history. These fictional stories and the players within them are no different from any at any moment in time, in any culture that exists, have existed, or will exist on this world. No, the story or this novel I’ve used for an example, may not reflect any real event, but instead it reflects the tendencies that make us, us.

It is this consistency that draws us in, that allows us to anticipate what may be happening in the future of that fictional story, and to feel comfortable with the actors. We can see ourselves in them, and as a result feel empathy towards them. Making us want to cheer them on, to warn them when we, as the readers, can see things that are unknown to them. And maybe at times we can see some of our faults as we follow the antagonists, and hope that in the end they might be redeemed. Realizing that most of the time they don’t want to be redeemed and enjoy their power over others, (Does this sound familiar?) and their abilities to fool the regular folk. Psychopaths, and sociopaths immediately come to mind. For whatever the reason, their flaws are so severe that they enjoy being who they are, and what they can do against society and the individual.

And if one thing is consistent in any novel out there is this parallel world between reality and fiction. They go hand-in-hand to create these fictional worlds that we want to return to often. We want to see us in those stories. We want to watch the people in those stories grow, become more than they were at the beginning. We want to see them triumph in the end. And maybe this is the one true difference. In our own lives we have no guarantees that once our lives are over that we’ve accomplished our goals, or triumphed over our adversaries. Still in the end, and as it has been said too many times, it is the journey, what we learn and gain as time moves by us much too fast that will become our legacy. And it may be for some forgotten act that will mark who we were and how we will be remembered.

It is those failures that we learn from the most. But, a failure only remains a failure if we don’t continue to try. And every time we overcome those failures we gain. What we gain is up to us. And while those novels are static, meaning that every time you pick it up to read it again, the story remains the same with our hero or heroes winning in the end, our lives are not that way. So, in a sense, these protagonists can be someone we look up to. Someone who can give us the confidence that maybe in our own lives we can overcome those personal obstacles, learn from our mistakes, and reach our goals. Our lives only become static once we are no more. It is only then that there is no present, our past is written, and our futures are no more.

In conclusion, once again, as we read the words on the page, watching them disappear into the images within our minds, we can live, for a short time, the lives of these fictional people. People who only live within the pages of these novels. And have only become alive because of the imagination of a writer and you the reader. Yet, it is his or her observation of the real world that allows these fictional characters to live, and for us to love and hate them. And it is these fictional worlds where we see us thusly bridging the gap between the worlds of fiction and our world of reality. And many times when we have finished those novels we take a moment to reflect what was there, leaving us at times thinking about what was said, and other times leaving us with a sense of wonder. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

Time of Isolation, Chapter 4 Part 4

Will the ruse work? That’s the question on the mind of every surviving member of the scouting team. Their numbers have been whittled down to just a few. And even with what they have to work with there is no way an attack on these camped primitives can succeed. And time once again is a factor. Yes, for now they’ve evaded the patrols but they cannot count on their luck continuing. So with this plan of action they are putting all on the line in the hope that it works. If it doesn’t then it will all end here tragically with them being within sight of their present goal. (I guess as a writer I could have thrown a major twist and a plot change of direction here with a surprise failure of the scouting team and wipe them out. Then shift the whole storyline to the primitives, their satisfaction at stopping the ones who could reveal all, and begin to follow them as they continue their destruction of the cities. And in the process anger every reader out there.)

Each moment they remain stationary is one moment closer to discovery. Yet, at the same time, by remaining they are leaving no tracks or sign to their present location. So they listen for any changes, any sign that their misdirection will succeed. And it is here where we open the final part of chapter 4, (The trilogy is available from your favorite EBook retailer. They are titled: A Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past.) And now the conclusion to chapter 4:

They continued to monitor the primitives’ camp and could now hear boisterous voices, laughter, and see general horseplay emanating from the camp. Then somewhere half way through the night it grew strangely quiet. Even the fires that burned within the camp boundaries seemed to be dying down, as if no one was attending them. Saige then sent down a scouting team to see what had transpired. In too short of time the scouts returned and the leader of the 3-man team reported back. “Saige, they are all dead.”

Turning around to their physician Saige asked. “How much stuff did you put in the alcohol anyway? Our goal was to knock them out not kill them, what happened?”

Saar, shrugging, had a perplexed look on his face said. “I really don’t know. While I made it a little stronger since they usually are a bit larger than us, I did not put enough in there to kill anybody. Other than that, I cannot explain what happened.”

“Nothing we can do about it now. Let’s move and I want two of you to take up the rear and wipe out our tracks approaching and leaving the camp so that there will be no evidence that we were even here. Let’s move! We’ve lost enough time and I for one am happy that the pursuers behind us have yet to catch up. Now be very quiet. If we are lucky it may be a few days before the bodies are discovered. Giving time for the wild animals to work over the camp, further confusing what happened here. If things go in our favor it may be that the deaths will be attributed to one of the tribes or clans that have not joined this leader, who, we do not even know anything about as of yet.”

Shortly they were working their way through the camp as it had been set up right across the trail leading out of the foothills into the mountains. There was a temptation to search the very silent camp, but moving on was much more important at this moment. Then once through and across the small stream they hid while the final two wiped out their tracks as best they could. In what seemed like an eternity they finally joined them. The plan was a simple one. Now that they were past one of the final obstacles, to push through the remaining portion of the night, then continue through the next day and finally rest the following night. It would be rough but they needed to be at the base or in the mountains by then. Saige looking around in the rising moonlight and then at his small band realized that they all looked like hell. They were dirty –

filthy really, and while so far they had gotten this far, there was a weariness that one could see in everyone’s eyes. There appeared to be gauntness in all of them also. They had prided themselves on being self-sufficient and were proud of the fact that they could do this better than any in the city. But now he was beginning to wonder if they had been fooling themselves. Now without the city to at least allow some support they were finding it much more difficult.

Of course they had been on the run since they had to abandon the city. So finding the time to actually gather anything had been impossible. Once they had to abandon their machines then the ability to manufacture any food or medicines were lost. So, as they got closer to the mountains, their present goal – and this had become their goal when their way had been cut off from reaching any of the remaining cities – their supplies were almost gone. Now they moved as quickly as the darkness would allow them, with scouts out in front, runners to each side and a trailer to confuse their back trail as best that could be done in the darkness. Tonight it would only be the small moon that would give them light. But it would not be much as he would have liked. But better than the darkness they were now working their way through. He was snapped back from what he was thinking about when one of the scouts had stopped the group. “What’s happening?” Saige asked.

“We are going through an area we know very little about – kind of blind here. There’s either a camp up ahead of us or maybe a village. We need a couple more to come with us so we can scout out what we are dealing with here, and if there is a way to go around without arousing suspicions.”

Signaling the rest to stop and rest for a moment and then looking down in thought before speaking Saige asked, “Tell me what you have seen? Was it a single fire or shelters or what? I’m just trying to get a size here. You know we are not in shape at all to fight. We have to run. But our food is all but gone and if there is an opportunity to add to our stores we may have to chance discovery.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea. From what we saw they seemed to be on alert. I don’t know again if it is another patrol, part of this new alliance, or a clan that has not joined and is being harassed by the others. There is just no way to know.”

Shaking his head and sighing Saige said. “We have to know one way or the other.” Then pausing for a moment and thinking before speaking again he continued, “Okay, you’re probably right. Let’s scout it out and see what we face. But make it quick. We don’t know how long it will be before the bodies of that main patrol are discovered. I am hoping that it is long enough to hide any evidence of our passing.” Then signaling a couple of the other members of their group over to him he then said to them, “Join Staven and go scout out this camp and a safe way around. I need you all back in no more than 2 hours. That will put our time somewhere close to midnight. Again we need as much distance between them and us before sunrise. Now go and as always be very careful. Your discovery by this group could be the end of us all.” He watched them leave until they disappeared into the darkness. Now came the waiting, which seemed to be the most difficult. He signaled to the remainder to join him for a moment. And waiting until he was sure they all were there, he brought them up to date as what had been passed on to him by the scout. “Okay, we need to spread out, but keep close enough so that each can see another, and try and get a few moments of rest. We may be here up to two hours, but right now it seems unavoidable.” He watched them spread out among the underbrush, followed by small sounds of shuffling about, and then silence.

He must have fallen asleep – not a good thing, but the rest would help. It scared him that it had happened. It meant that he could have been taken and he would never have been the wiser. Yet something had awakened him. So carefully he looked around and shortly saw one of the scouts signaling him to come join him. Curious as to why the scout hadn’t joined him he carefully worked his way over to him. He saw it was Staven, “What is it that you have found, and why not come directly to me?”

“No time, will explain it all later. But need a couple of others right now to assist. We’ve kind of found a windfall but will need help.”

With a questioning look on his face Saige asked, “Windfall? What do you mean windfall?”

Quickly, Staven explained. “We’ve found a place where they have stashed some of their grains, and we need help to move a bit of it for our use. And don’t worry we are being very careful and covering up what we take so that it will not be obvious that we are taking anything.”

“Okay, but I think I am going to bring the whole group forward so that once we have what can be safely taken that we can immediately move on – just in case.” Turning around he signaled the closest to him to round up everyone and meet with him. He waited and then took a head count. In the dark it would so easy to miss someone and leave them behind. “We are going to follow Staven and he will lead us to a place where we will refill our depleted food stores. Once that is accomplished we must immediately move on.” Then turning back to Staven he said. “I guess this is some type of permanent settlement then.”

“Yup, it appears to be so. In fact there appears to be only one night watchman out and about if you want to call it that. We spotted him right off, and he’s staying pretty much in the light and actually looking into the fire that he is using to keep himself warm. It could be they aren’t bothered too much as of yet, which is different than we first thought.”

“Let’s hope he stays that way, or that we are gone before he is replaced with someone who is more alert. We really do need something to break our way for once.”

* * *

Shock and surprise. What actually transpired is completely unexpected, and their medical person has no explanation as to why. Still they cannot stay, and carefully move through the silent dead camp, and what they consider their final obstacle preventing their entry into the Sacred Mountains. This goal as the only solution for now, since they originally needed to get the information out to the surviving cities, but were unsuccessful. Yet we end on a high note with the possibility for the scouts to refill their depleted stocks. Next week we take a break from the novel as I present a post titled, Fiction verses Reality. Have a great week and God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

Time of Isolation, Chapter 4 Part 3

The one individual all of them counted on to bring them out of the chaos and destruction that is happening all around them has fallen. It is a shock to all and the last thing they expected. So with his death as well as his second it leaves the new leaders to get the remnant of the scouting unit somewhere safe. Saige and Shellian never expected to become the leaders and now it’s learn as they go.

In last week’s post they buried Shayne and with heavy hearts prepare to continue their flight. This week, when we begin reading, 14 days will have passed and in that time many have fallen and a few are still alive and with the two leaders. Still they are far from safe. (The trilogy is available from your favorite EBook retailer. Again the titles are: A Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past) So with these thoughts and a brief look back to last week’s post and an introduction to this one, I present part 3 of chapter 4:

Had it been just 14 days since they had lost Shayne? It seemed more like an eternity as they continued to be harassed by the primitives. At times it seemed that they had lost them only to be struck by a small patrol. Yet, now they were finally entering the foothills, and the patrols seemed to be less and of smaller parties. But that did not seem to lessen the danger. It appeared that many of these groups were much better prepared and wilderness wise than many that they had evaded when they were barely outside of the city. The city, now it was hard to even remember much about it, as the continual fear, fighting, running and hiding appeared to be their life now. It was as if the other life they had known was no more than a dream. And who knew – maybe it was. And what they were now involved with had been their true life. Saige, looking around to the remainder of the team thought that they had come so far. Although looking at them one would not have guessed such a thing. The clothes that they wore was ragged, torn, dirty and worn. And the bodies wearing the clothes looked no better. Eyes sunken from too little sleep and food, skin dirty from not being able to bath, and a fear that seemed to permeate the group, each wondering if they would be the next to fall. Still they had learned. And Saige thinking back thought that when they were still in their compound that they knew so much. Now he knew that what they knew there had been no more than child’s games. So proud of their skills and abilities that they had looked down on the ones actually living in the cities. Shaking his head all he could say now was – “How ignorant we all were. How proud we were of the abilities. How much we believed that we could match the primitives and because of our superior society and equipment that there was no way that the primitives could beat us.” Well it had all been proven false. So here they were running and fighting for their very lives.

Saige, crouching down behind a boulder that sat on top of a hill, looked out over the valley that they would have to traverse. Camping down by a stream that ran through the center of the valley was one of the numerous patrols. Shaking his head and pulling back away from the hilltop he signaled the team to head back to the copse of trees. He then joined them and said, “Okay we have a real problem. From what I can see there is only one way through this valley and they are camped right next to that route. I need a couple of you to monitor them, and for heaven’s sake, do not be seen. I’m going to send a couple of others to scout to either side and see if there is another way through here. But unfortunately it seems that everything has pushed us here. I know from what we have seen that there is a good possibility that we, once pass this point, will begin our trek into the mountains.” Shaking his head and breathing deeply before continuing, “Maybe then we will finally be able to take a day or two and just camp and give everyone a time to rest.” Looking down at the ground and then at each that was with him he then said, “Still I can hold no promises for any of us.” Then pointing at two of the people with him he said. “Okay I want you two to have the first watch, and then I’ll send a couple to relieve you. Unfortunately for all of us, we cannot chance a fire so we will all have travel rations. The one thing I know is that we cannot just stay here. So whether we find an alternate route or have to sneak by this group tonight we must continue to move.” He then got up and the rest of the team that was with him headed back to the camp leaving the two to watch.

When they got far enough away from the camping enemy he had the remaining team that was with him spread out and recon the area where they were staying. He needed to be sure that they were hidden. This delay was dangerous. It was time they could ill afford. The mountains were so close now, but still completely out of reach. It would be tragic if they came so close to their goal only to fail.   Yet there was very little they could do about it. If it came down to it, that the only way through was where the primitives were camping, then they would just have to figure out how to do it. As the day waned away and the scouting teams reported back it became obvious that this was the only way through the area. Thusly, why it was guarded as it presently seemed to be. So how were they going to be able to continue? One thing for sure they would not be able to backtrack and try and different direction. They had barely avoided a number of patrols and to expect their luck to continue was just too much to expect.

“Now what?” One of the members asked to no one in particular. He was answered with silence. Again this had been a question that had been asked over and over again. They were stuck and no obvious solution had been put forth. Then Steen said, “I don’t know if this would work but what if one of us went down there dressed as a courier with a message that stated that it had appeared that we went a different direction and that they could move to a different location to try and intercept us. Then we could wait for them to pull out and go through safely.” One of the others then said, “Right if we have time for them to pull out. You know how close we came to being caught just this morning. I really don’t think we can wait that long.” Silence fell over the group once again as it seemed like a good idea, but the weakness in it became obvious once it had been pointed out.

Saige asked, “Do any of you have any other suggestions? We need to come up with something quickly as has been stated we are out of time and out of chances.”

Sahar then said, “I thought of one but immediately discarded it. Since the way these primitives are, our women would pay the price – and I for one am not willing for that to happen.”

“And what was that Sahar?” Saige asked. “Right now we just don’t have anything. So maybe putting it out there where we all can hear it might give someone else and idea.” Saige then stood up and started pacing. He could feel the pressure building as each minute passing brought them closer to discovery. Their band was now down to 15 and with such a small force they were at a point that once discovered it probably was over.

Taking a deep breath Sahar paused and then said. “Okay, ahhh . . . I was thinking of guards and prisoners heading through to some unknown destination. But I realized that the women would have to pose as prisoners, which meant . . .” Here trailed off to silence. He did not need to finish, as they all knew what he meant. While like the other idea it initially seemed good until they realized the consequences. Their women would have to submit to the primitives since they were prisoners and be subject to the whims and needs of the primitives in the camp. And with the diminished size of their group there was no way they could prevent it from happening.

“Okay we have had two ideas put forth, and both have strong points and some very telling weaknesses. Let’s see if we can strengthen either and try and eliminate the negatives.”

About this time as the sun was setting the two who had been watching the camp reported in and stated that it appeared that there were only two guards placed out in a roving patrol. From what they could see they changed them every couple of hours to keep the guards fresh and alert. Otherwise it seemed that most of the remaining primitives remained in camp just lying around.

After they reported in and had given them what they had observed, Saige asked. “How can we put this to our advantage? I am surprised that they are not putting out at least four guards. But maybe it has been so quiet that their guard is down. So they are doing the minimal. Maybe, who knows, waiting to be relieved? This means they may indeed be waiting for a courier to give them new orders. Okay how can we take advantage of what we may be guessing is going on down there?”

Saar, who was their medical person suddenly, looked excited. “Saige what if we take that rotgut alcohol that we stole from one of their villages, spike it with our knockout drug that we extract from some of the native plants, and somehow get them to drink it? Of course the only ones that wouldn’t be allowed to drink would be the two guards. But I think it would be easier to deal with just two than all of them down there, don’t you think?”

“That’s a great idea, and being that they are a patrol getting them to drink shouldn’t be a problem. The problem is to keep them from being suspicious. Okay everybody we have many parts here, let’s work something out quickly. We need to be moving as soon as we can.”

* * *

Stone and Sahar approached the primitive camp with trepidation. Stone was elected as the one to pose as the courier and Sahar his guard. They had observed this enough over time to know the exact process. So that part should be easy. But putting oneself directly in contact with the enemy was not something either of them was truly interested in doing. Well, it was too late to back out now as the guard had spotted them. “Guard! Take me to the commander of your patrol. I have a message of importance that must be delivered – For His Eyes Only!” Sahar remained silent trying to look fierce and suspicious. He was to remain silent, as his grasp of the primitive’s language was rudimentary at best. Stone could have easily passed as any of the primitives from his skin coloring to his build. So they hoped that it would not raise any questions as to where Sahar may have been from. Still he was a close second to Stone, but a poor second if one really was honest. Sahar carried the backpack that had the spiked booze in it. As of yet they did not know how they were going to pass it on, but hopefully something would be presented that would make it seem natural.

The guard looked them over, but did not say anything. He then gestured for them to follow him. Knowing now to be silent, they followed the guard to the center of the encampment where the guard then went up to one of the largest members who was sitting by the fire. The guard pointing at Stone and Sahar simply stated “courier”, he turned and left and went back to his post. Stone waiting, since by the way it appeared to work from their previous studies he, as a courier, was superior to a simple patrol commander. Slowly the commander stood and both his girth and height made both of them feel as if they were children. It was difficult to keep from flinching, but somehow they hid their reaction. “I have a dispatch from the one in charge. Is there a place we can pass this on – as it is for your ears or eyes only! And yes, before you ask, I do know what is in this, since not all commanders can read.” He said this last part in a way that made him appear superior to any who could not read: Again knowing that he needed to do this to play his role.

The commander looked at him suspiciously for a moment then shrugged. He then led them off to one side and said. “Okay, here is far enough. Reading is not important in leading a patrol or fighting.” He then puffed out his chest and stated, “I have fought and won many a battle and have worked my way to becoming the leader here. For this I do not need to follow any scratches put upon a skin. What is it that you need to pass on? And since you are here you can take one back from me. I am tired of having to sit here and so is the rest of my clan. Nothing is happening here and I suspect it will remain so. Now what do you have?”

“The ones that we pursue have moved to the West and will not be coming through this area. You are to move your patrol to the West and join up with others to continue the pursuit. None must escape. By keeping our enemy ignorant, only then, can we conquer all. That’s all it says.” Stone then held his breath to see how the commander would respond worried that they had put something in the dispatch that would tip him off. But then he saw a big smile on the commander’s face and knew that they may just be successful.

“I told them they wouldn’t come this way, but no, they said that this was the only way through this area and needed to be guarded. We played a game of chance to see who would pull this duty and I lost. Now maybe we will see some action.” Then shaking his head he continued. “Now if we only had something to drink and some females to celebrate this.”

How had this worked out? The commander was practically begging for alcohol and he happened to have it. Smiling at the commander he said. “I cannot provide the females for your pleasure, but coming this way we . . .” He paused and put a look of conspiracy on his face before continuing. “Well let’s say I felt that such a patrol as yours needed something to help celebrate this change of plans. And since no one will know exactly when I arrived to pass on your new orders, then there is no reason not to enjoy the night and leave in the morning.”

“Am I to believe that you are going to provide us will something to drink? This is highly unusual.”

Careful now, Stone quickly thought, and then said. “Ah yes, these are unusual times are they not? Who would have thought that the many tribes who have fought each other are now allied and working together?”

Shaking his head in agreement the commander asked. “True, true, so where is this drink that you are offering us?

Turning to Sahar he said, “Guard please pass on to the commander the supply that we requisitioned.”

Bowing to Stone Sahar knelt down, removed his backpack and proceeded to empty it. Stone then said, “I am sorry that there is not as much here for all to get a complete enjoyment from it but it is war and many things are hard to find.”

“As you said it is war and we had nothing. So now we have something. Are you going to stay with us since it is almost dark?”

“No, no, can’t, as there is another patrol that is to the east of you that must be informed. So I must be on my way immediately – by your leave.” Stone then did a short bow to the commander turned around and left the encampment. Trying to make it appear to be as one who needs to be somewhere else quickly, but not so quick to raise suspicions, after all having succeeded to this point and to be too much in a hurry could give the whole thing away. Once a little distance had been placed between the two of them and the encampment Stone stated softly so only Sahar could hear, “I, for one, am glad that we did not go with the other plan that had been put forth. We only have six surviving women with our group now and to have at least 30 in that camp that would want to use them is just too much to think about. I really doubt if they would have survived the ordeal.”

“I can’t disagree with that statement at all. I have to always remember that as far as these primitives go, women, or females as they call them, have no names, are property, and like the grazing animals are there to both be protected by the males and bred by them. And as far as they are concerned that is as far as it goes.” Then shaking his head Sahar continued. “It is a point of view I just do not understand, and probably will never believe in. I mean our women contribute so much overall. To leave part of the race out because they happen to be able to produce offspring, and then figure that’s all they are worth just doesn’t make sense.”

* * *

So close and yet so far. As they make their trek towards the Sacred Mountains, they’ve learned a lot about this unknown leader of the primitives. It’s obvious he’s smart and has planned well. And as far as the tactics used in battle they’ve discovered he’s even good at this. Even though the scouting unit has escaped the city, they’ve been harassed the total distance they’ve traveled only to find their way into the Sacred Mountains has been blocked. In a way they have been herded into what could be considered a trap. Here they come up with what they hope is a solution. And with the first part of this plan being successful it is time again to wait. Again, if this doesn’t work then it ends here so close to their present goal. Have a great week and come back for the conclusion of chapter 4. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

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