Book Extract – Identity: Cry Sies!

Identity: Cry Sies.

The almost familiar country of Sarfricar is about to get a New President, and he’s a Manchester United Supporter! Run for the hills!

A satire of South African politics

Chapter 4

Dr. Wilson Diba was in his sixties when finally released from prison.

Arrested at the age of twenty-three for riding a bicycle without any lights, his initial sentence should have only been five years hard labour. The pro-government press felt this was quite fair as the crime happened during daylight hours. It would have been ten years had it been dark.

As Sweatow was usually shrouded in smoke from the innumerable coal fires that burned constantly the term ‘daylight hours’ was a moot point.

Wilson was busy studying to be a lawyer. Of course, this was impossible for a Blick person in Sarfrica, as they could not practice law, by law.

‘An’ if theys carnt practice, theys carnt get better, hey!’ remarked the Minister of Law and Order, Mr. Vas ‘die voet’ Flock.

To avoid any form of suspicion Wilson usually wrote “second-hand shoe salesman” on any government form that required him to reveal his profession. It had to be second hand because the assumption was that any Blick found in possession of anything new had to have stolen it. It also helped that he never had any stock in trade about his person.

Wilson attended university at Fort Hair and would cycle the 72 kilometres to ‘varsity’ every morning.

The morning of his arrest Wilson was about to crest the top of a steep incline.  He emerged from the perpetual smog bank in Sweatow and immediately went through a speed trap.

Within twenty minutes, he arrived, handcuffed, and blindfolded at Joan Foster’s Happy Circle Police Station.

The following morning he was due to appear in court.

Having a good idea how these things worked, and being a “smart Blick”, Wilson thought it best to confess to his crime and hope that he would get away with a fine.

However, when he addressed the desk sergeant, a charge of aggravated assault was added immediately. Misunderstanding the officer, Wilson politely asked, in perfect Inglish, ‘Excuse me?’

The sergeant, convinced that one of the station’s Alsatian dogs had spoken to him, ran screaming from the charge office.

After eight hours at Joan Foster’s Happy Circle Police Station Wilson was finally able to convince someone that he was prepared to make a full confession.

However, somewhere along the line, his court appointed attorney, who did not acknowledge a word of Inglish, incorrectly translated Wilson’s written confession from, ‘ Riding a bicycle without lights in a non built up area,’ to ‘Knowingly and willingly trying to blow up the Parliament buildings.’

The five-years went out of the proverbial window and Wilson received a life sentence.

Wilson had an interesting time whilst incarcerated, although it was not all spent inside. He spent the first five years of his sentence outdoors digging the route for the M2 West highway.

A cursory enquiry soon revealed that the charges were erroneous and relatives began a campaign to secure Wilson’s release. The original charge of ‘Riding a bicycle without lights’ was also found to be without substance as Wilson had had a set of bicycle lights in a canvass bag he was carrying; the batteries were nearly flat and he had intended to buy new ones in Joeberg.

Wilson Diba became an icon symbolising the inhumanity of Sarfrican law and the desperate need to supply Blicks with dynamo driven lights for their bicycles.

The person responsible for initiating the worldwide awareness campaign for Wilson’s release was his mother, Mrs. Beauty ‘Ma’ Diba.

She first approached the You Knighted States.

As they had recently enacted their own Civil Rights Bill and had lots of money, she believed this would be a good start.

She was thrilled when she received a letter from the President of the YKS, Richard Nicksome.

He wrote:

 

 Hi Y’all.

   I am sending you a crate of Automatic Rifles. We call them the Peace Maker. When Wilson gets out the joint give me a call.

Yours sincerely

Dick.

And, he was.

As the years went by Wilson’s fame spread far and wide. People around the world added their voice to the call for his release.

Universities all over the place bestowed upon him honorary degrees and doctorates.

One such being from the University of Pleese Yorself in Finland that awarded him an honoury degree in entomology, convinced, as they were, that after so long in prison he must have an intimate knowledge of most forms of creepy-crawly. The Dean having seen the film Papillon, no doubt

Then it happened. On a glorious Monday morning Wilson Diba walked out of Joan Foster’s Happy Circle Prison a free men.

The guards had all clubbed together to buy him a going away present and in an emotional farewell they presented him with a tube of Dark and Lovely hair dye and two new batteries for his bicycle lights. The prison warden had even approved the purchase of two slightly used bicycle tyres out of petty cash. Wilson had never ridden a bicycle with tyres and he did not mind signing the petty cash chitty one bit.

Wilson’s personal guard, who had brought him a cup of tea in the same tin mug with a hole in the bottom for thirty-three years, even on his last morning, was weeping inconsolably.

‘I loves that bleddy Ca…Blick, I really does.’

Wilson stepped out of prison pushing his bicycle to a tumultuous welcome from seven family members and one reporter from the Stark newspaper.

*

    Prior to being sentenced to prison, Wilson had belonged to a Sweatow jazz band called the All Night Clubbers. After he was locked up the rest of the band members gigged ceaselessly for over thirty years to raise funds to launch a political campaign to get Wilson elected as the first Demographic Blick President.

To attract attention to their cause they blew up Muckdonalds’ fast food outlets across the country. No-one died because of the explosions, but apparently, by preventing people from eating at these places many lives were saved.

The All Night Clubbers received the Noble Piece Prize for “Services to Humanity”.

Wilson became Sarfrica’s first Blick President at a glittering inauguration ceremony at Jean Foster’s Happy Circle Prison.

Wilson chose the venue for nostalgic reasons and an array of world leaders, attended, including a bemused President George Brush senior from the Y.K.S.

Asked for his feelings about witnessing such an historic event he replied,

‘Y’know I never realised that he was Blick. Is that legal over here?’

Ten years later Sarfrica was beginning to realise its potential as a true powerhouse on the world stage. Foreign investment began to flood the country and major inroads were made towards the alleviation of poverty.

The country was strong and getting stronger.

So famous had the country become that millions of well-wishers from north of the country’s borders came to congratulate the Sarfricans; most of them stayed.

Twenty years on Sarfrica was almost back to square one. Almost. They still had Demography.

Copyright© Douglas Pearce

Book Extract…

I haven’t posted here in ages, but my Altered Ego, the Ark, did a post over here 

http://atheistenquiry.org/2014/02/11/if-god-does-not-exist/

about sailing off the edge of the world and during a further conversation it brought this to mind.

From the fantasy novel, The Nine Amendments.

Undertaker, Isack Knewtun is having dinner with Captain Blithely. He is sailing to Sunniclimes….

Isack, who fastidiously avoided most things to do with the Church, didn’t seem to think excommunication sounded too bad until  Captain Blithely explained that although they were only planning to throw him out of the church, it was the six-storey drop from the bell-tower that would have been the problem.

‘Ah, I see your point. What about the prayer and the circle thing?’

‘You prob’ly know that when the wardens mark you for excommunication they make the sign of a cross, like an ‘X’. Three crosses and that’s a strikeout. The sign of the circle, or nought, ‘spossed to counteract it. Mr. Winky’s little prayer is sort of forun. Means, Please keep me out the sh—’

‘I think I understand,’ Isack interjected. ‘We were talking about your brother, Captain.’

‘Oooaargh that we were. Well then. ‘Parrantly one of their lot had come a cropper while convertin’ the ‘eathens up in the jungles of Wethafkarwee. Are you familiar with the place in question, Mister Knewtun?’

‘I know of it, but have not visited the country.’ Isack’s idea of well-travelled was having visited all the cemeteries in and around Port o’ Bill.

‘Visited. Right. Doubt it’s the type of place you’d choose fer a visit. Those what ‘as visited, as it were, didn’t return to tell the tale, oooaaargh. In fact, none that I’m aware of even had chance to send a postcard.’

‘Yes, I had heard it to be rather foreboding.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t know nothing ‘bout bodin’, Mister Knewtun, I’m only a simple ship’s captain. What I do knows is that it is a very portentous place where they ‘ave very interestin’ culinary ‘abits. Sometimes involvin’ visitors.’   Blithely pulled on his pipe in a sagely manner and finished the draw with his familiar phrase.

‘Good gods, cannibals!’ Isack exclaimed. He was aghast.

‘Aye, caninballs, Mister Knewtun, caninballs. So’s you can p’raps understand the C-word’s urgency on settin’ off on their rescue mission.’

‘I can indeed, Captain. What an awful business. Very rum,’ Isack added for maritime effect.

‘Oh, sorry, Mister Knewtun, where’s me manners. Pour us all a drink there, Mr. Winky, if y’please.’

‘Aye, cap’n.’

Winky got up to oblige.

Isack had never drunk rum from a tankard before and certainly not one that was full to the brim.

‘Er…’

‘Don’t worry about it, Mister Knewtun. There’s plenty. Wonderful cleanin’ properties. Removes encrusted salt and loosens up the barnacles a proper treat, it does. On the ship too, fer that matter.

‘Where was I? Anyways, they was in such an ‘urry they wouldn’t let any of them poor sales-ladies off the boat ‘afore they set sail. Said that although this was a rescue mission, the girls would be able to help the C-word with other positions of missionary work. They also took with ‘em several tools of their trade, includin’ one hundred fully armed and caparisoned soldiers. My brother was not an ‘appy man, I can tell you, Mister Knewtun.’

‘Doesn’t seem as though he had much choice, Captain,’ said Isack sympathetically.

‘Oh, ‘e ‘ad choice all right. There’s always that, Mister Knewtun. The choice ‘e was offered was, relinquish control of your ship to the servants of the Mighty, or swing. So he relinquished. For a while, at least. Well, the ship landed at Wethafkarwee and they found their warden. Some of ‘im, anyways, so I ‘eard. But the wardens of the C-word reckoned that as they was already there they might as well do some convertin’. Can’t say fer sure what they converted them Fkarweans into but it was probably similar to the conversion undergone by that unfortunate T-word warden.’

Isack noticed a look of disgust and contempt on Blithely’s face when he said C-word. A look suggesting that while not condoning cannibalism, it had even less respect for the Church.

Although Blithely didn’t ‘hold none fer foruners’, at least the Fkarweans didn’t invade Judysear and force everyone to worship their god, which just happened to be a five-toed sloth called ‘OO-OO.’ And of course, they had to eat something, he supposed.

‘They set sail shortly after their convertin’ and ‘eaded ‘ome. But what Fkarweans was left was proper…you know, like when you ‘as too much to drink.’

‘Er…drunk?’ Isack suggested.

‘The other word.’

‘Ah,’ Isack nodded, eyeing his own drink cautiously.

‘So they sets off in pursuit and gave chase, forcing my brother to alter course. Those little canoes o’ theirs can go right fast with enough motivation.

‘Well, my brother pointed ‘is ship at the horizon and hoisted ev’ry sail ‘e ‘ad, believing they wouldn’t give chase to the edge of the world, like. But they did. Meanwhile, them wardens was screamin’ blue murder, knowin’ full well that my brother was set on sending ‘is ship off the edge, if necessary, rather than fall into the ‘ands of the Fkarweans.  ‘E wasn’t about to let anyone make a whore’s derves outta ‘im.’

‘But that’s an old wives’ tale. Surely your brother knew the world is round?’

‘Not ever ‘avin a wife, young or old, ‘e was in two minds about what shape the world is. Flat or round, made no difference to ‘im, long as the water didn’t fly off.

‘But the Chur…sorry, Mr. Winky, the C-word, knows it’s flat and they’ll sail right round t’prove it. That’s about the time they got all the sailors t’mutiny and key-holed me brother, Mister Knewtun.’

‘I’m dreadfully sorry, Captain Blithely. Truly I am,’ said Isack.

‘S’okay, Mister Knewtun, Fkarweans got all but one of ‘em anyways. Found the poor wretch washed up on a beach a ways up the coast. Tha’s ‘ow we was able t’piece together the story. Died shortly after, ‘e did. Boat drifted ‘ome on its own a few days later, and at least my brother was already diced.’

©Douglas Pearce 2013

 

Book Extract…for Ish.

Discussing this with blog pal, Ishaiya I said the part I was going to reference was only a couple of paragraphs long. This turned out to be around 1000 words.

Forgive me. But in my defence,  there has to be some context, right? 

From the third novel in the Mining of Lif series.

Whenever a volcano threatens to erupt near a major metropolis, a giant lizard runs amok, or a huge chunk of rock threatens to induce a worldwide headache it creates a Situation.

To deal with these larger-than-life events those In Charge require a gathering point to Direct Matters and when it’s all over, give clenched fist salutes or high fives, hug each other, sing national anthems (somehow managing to remember the words) and utter such memorable platitudes as, “Yeah, right on,” or “We did it!” or “Effin A”. Although they never appear to be doing anything, other than swear a lot, sweat profusely and cheer.

A precursor to setting up a Situations Room always seems to involve a group of military-types bursting into a building close to the site of Imminent Destruction.  They usually wear protective clothing with the initials T.W.A.T. (Tactical Weapons Advance Team – or something) emblazoned across the front and back.   Behind these stalwarts, you will always find someone with rolled-up shirtsleeves and several rolled-up plans, or drawings of the disaster area in question. (Although, when the whole world is at stake, the map is electronic and wall mounted in front of hundreds of computer monitors.)

One of the T.W.A.T.’s sweeps his arm across the first available flat space, (so as to lay out The Plans) invariably destroying priceless pieces of Dresden china, one or two Faberge eggs and a small piece of innocuous paper that has the name of the hero on it or the crucial formula that just happened to be lying around. And the moment someone announces, “Right, let’s see what we are getting ourselves into, shall we?” a lost dog will wander in and go “Woof!”

In the slightly less sophisticated world of the Sueridge Canal garrison, they also had a Situation and a Situations Room.  Only, the immediate Situation was inside the Situations Room.

‘Is it poisonous, do you think, Sarge?’ asked Corporal Zimmer, nervously.

‘Fifty-fifty, Corporal. Only way to find out is to milk it, am I right, sir?’

‘That is correct, Sergeant,’ Captain Poohbah agreed.

Corporal Drivel Zimmer had a limited knowledge of dairy-farming but a picture formed inside his head nonetheless.  ‘Wouldn’t work, Sarge. Couldn’t get a bucket underneath it.’

The others, gathered around the entrance to the storeroom where the plans of the canal were stored in wax-sealed hollow tubes, turned to stare at their serious-looking colleague.

It was obvious from the amount of dust and cobwebs that this room had not been opened in quite some time. The startled looks from many of the room’s current occupants added to this impression.

The snake, coiled on the table in the centre of the room, reared up sinuously and stared at them. It had an air about it that said, “I was in the middle of lunch. Do you mind?”

The hollow tubes containing the plans of the canal were behind the snake in pigeonholes on the far wall. So were a few pigeons.

‘Reckon it must be poisonous, sir. That’s the longest, thinnest tongue I’ve ever seen on a snake,’ Zimmer offered as a qualifier.

The others turned to stare once again at the snake. The long, thin, pink tongue flicked from side to side for a moment then disappeared inside the snake’s mouth.

‘That, “tongue”, Corporal Zimmer, is, or rather was, a tail,’ said Captain Poohbah.

Zimmer gave his captain a look confirming his belief that all officers were mental.

Poohbah noticed.  ‘A rat’s tail, Corporal.’

‘Oh, riiight. Ha-ha. Silly me, sir,’ Zimmer replied, as a metaphorical light of very low wattage began to glow inside his head.

‘Isn’t that a relief model of the canal on the table?’ Poohbah asked.

‘Si, Senor Captain,’ affirmed the wiry, moustachioed individual standing next to Poohbah.

From the amount of droppings, it appeared rats and pigeons had been relieving themselves upon it for some time.

‘It would be very useful for our strategy, wouldn’t you agree, Sergeant?’

‘Certainly help when it comes to troop placement, yes, sir,’ Flogin acknowledged.

‘Well we can’t stand around indefinitely. Has anyone got a suggestion?’ Poohbah asked.

The snake, having swallowed its lunch, began to hiss in a disconcerting manner. Disconcerting for those watching it that is. It was perfectly normal for the snake.

‘Oh, the gods,’ groaned Corporal Zimmer, the colour draining from his face.

‘What is it, man?’ Poohbah asked sharply.

‘It’s ‘im, sir,’ Zimmer exclaimed. ‘We can’t go in there. It’s a sign.’ Zimmer swallowed thickly and edged away from the entrance.

‘Him? Sign? What are you talking about?’

‘The One God’s nemesis: Stan,’ croaked Zimmer.

‘Stan? Who the ‘ell is Stan, Corporal?’ Flogin demanded.

‘Everyone knows who Stan is, Sarge. We learned all about him as kids. The One God’s numero uno pain-in-the-arse. Turned up in that garden as a snake and made Evelyn eat her fellah’s banana. That’s Original Sin, that is, Sarge. We can’t interfere with Stan. It’s an omen.’

‘Corporal get a hold of yourself!’ snapped Poohbah.

‘That’s also a Sin, sir!’ Zimmer blurted.  ‘And I intend to always have good eyesight, sir. I can’t go in there with Stan. No way. Sorry, sir. But I just can’t.’

‘It is not a sin to eat bananas. Or any other fruit for that matter. And there is certainly nothing original about it either. People have been eating fruit since before they climbed down from trees. As for “Stan,” I think you will find the name is Sayten. Am I right, Sergeant?’

‘Definitely in the right legless-lizard ballpark, sir.’

The snake decided that this lot were not going to provide it with any sport and slithered off the table and down an old rat hole to digest its meal in peace. There were several squeaks of relief and one or two coos.

Captain Poohbah caught a last glimpse of the snake’s tale.  ‘Ah. Seems our little problem has resolved itself. Corporal Partz, please assist Corporal Zimmer to retrieve the table. See if you can clean it up a bit beforehand though. We shall set up a Situations Room in my office. Senor Brunel, you may now enter and retrieve the plans for the canal, I believe.’

Copyright ©Douglas Pearce

The Search for Donaldson.

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There was a time , a few years ago, the only author I read was Stephen Donaldson, who wrote the bestselling Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

It is about a successful author whose world collapses after he discovers he has leprosy. His wife divorces him, taking their son, Roger with her,

He  is ostracized by the community.

During a visit to town he collapses in front of a car and is somehow transported to a place called The Land, Because he wears a white gold wedding band which is considered magical and has tremendous power he is believed to be the reincarnation of a great hero from a former age, 

His leprosy is healed and he is called upon to save the people from a figure known as Lord Foul.

Covenant is more of an anti hero  and the reader generally develops a love hate relationship with him, especially as he is convinced that he is merely dreaming, a stance he adopts throughout the book. But then who wouldn’t?

There are many  familiar elements to the story found in other fantasy novels, but this one I felt was something special. But I am not very good at synopsis. What a personal indictment from a writer. Just go and buy a copy of Lord Foul’s Bane. 

Smile…

If you like fantasy, the books are brilliant

One could say I was pretty much addicted to this series.

When Donaldson published the sixth novel and – one thought – ended the story – I was in a serious *dwaal.

I felt there had to be more Thomas Covenant. But, alas, it seemed it was over.

Donaldson published several more fantasy novels and a 5 volume science fiction series titled The Gap.

It was during this period, with no sign of  a return of Thomas Covenant, that I seriously contemplated writing my own version of The Chronicles. But I held off, ever hopeful that Donaldson would somehow resurrect  one of my favorite literary characters.

Eventually I gave up and sucumbed to the realisation that if I wanted to see Thomas Covenant again I would have to write my own damn story!

So I began. And guess what? I hadn’t got past 10,000 words when I read that Donaldson was going to publish a third Chronicles of Thomas Covenant!  

Sigh…so much for that literary adventure! 

And my publishers husband still has a copy of the first volume of the Third Series which I lent him ….are you listening Iain?  I want it back , China  

 🙂

Some of the terms and characters may have no meaning if you have never read Donaldson, but I hope this wont distract too much.

Anyway, here’s the first chapter of The search for Donaldson.

Chapter One

It was a cold and blustery morning. How corny, he thought. Yet, staring out of the kitchen window  this was exactly what it was. The valley, which his property overlooked, was shrouded in mist.   Underneath all that mist was a golf course and on the other side of the valley were several other properties, similar to his.

The wattle tree in the front garden bent and swayed in the wind. Outside the kitchen window the large Delicious Monster was flapping several of its leaves against the glass, as if attempting to attract his attention. The more he tried to ignore it the more insistent the tapping became.

The steam from his tea began to mist up the window and what little of the wonderful view his property offered began to slowly disappear. He felt too tired to even lift his arm and wipe the window clean.

He wondered why he was up so early at all. It was only 5.45a.m. Considering he had been at the hospital until 11.30 p.m last night and only managed to crawl into bed at around 1.30 a.m. He should be tucked up in bed fast asleep.

Perhaps the sound of the rain woke me up? I’ll finish my tea and then go back to bed, he decided.

The phone rang. He swore under his breath, but ignored it. Stuff them. It rang again and conditioning made him get up from the chair, cross the kitchen and answer it. Conditioning and the fact that if it had rang once more his wife would have woken up and given him an earful for not answering it.

‘Doctor Stewart’, he said.

And that was how it started.

The duty nurse led him to a private room. The patient, a man in his late fifties, early sixties, looked asleep. But Stewart had already been informed that he was in a coma.

After checking the man’s level of pupil dilation and pulse then reading the other relevant information on the hospital admittance chart he asked the nurse to fetch him a cup of coffee.

He studied the man’s face and a glimmer of recognition made his eyes widen slightly with surprise. Taking the chart from the foot of the bed he looked at the name.

S. Donaldson. I don’t believe it, he thought. What the hell was Donaldson doing here, in South Africa? Didn’t he live in the States somewhere?

The famous author of the Thomas Covenant series was here, in his hospital.

Pulling up a chair he sat next to the bed. He took hold of Donaldson’s hand to feel the pulse once more and suddenly his own hand was taken in a vice like grip.   Stewart was so startled he initially did nothing but an instant later he tried to yank back his hand. But the grip was secure. It would not release him.

Donaldson began to pull him towards the bed. Stewart looked at the man’s face.   The eyes were still closed. There was no apparent sign of consciousness. Stewart did not resist and Donaldson pulled him close enough to whisper in his ear.

‘Stone and sea, you must set me free.’

That was all Stewart heard. His mind went blank and he felt himself slump over Donaldson’s chest.

As he came too he was assailed by a strong smell of dung. The fact that he was in the open air, lying on grass did not initially register. Just the smell. It was awful.

I must have stood in dog crap, he thought. He sat up, steadied himself with his left arm and looked under the sole of his left boot. Nothing. But the smell was still there. Even stronger now that he had sat up. His head jerked to the right and there was the source. Horse droppings.  He had no doubt what had caused the indentation in the middle of the pile. Pulling a disgusted face he yanked off his jacket and flung it to one side at the same time scrambling over the grass away from the muck.

That small exertion made him feel dizzy and slightly nauseous. He was overcome by the need to lie down again. He settled himself on the grass in the shade of a bush covered in berries. Before he knew it he was asleep.

He awoke sometime later with a feeling of warm breath on the side of his face.  Without opening his eyes he smiled at the thought of his wife, curled up next to him, whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

The slobbery, wet tongue that rasped across the side of his cheek dispelled that thought in a flash.  Yelling a curse in surprise, his heart kicked like a jackhammer and instinct flung him away from that tongue. But he only managed to entangle himself in the bush under which he had been sleeping. The large, fawn mare with liquid, dreamy eyes, and a small white star in the middle of its forehead returned to munching the grass, unperturbed by his sudden movement.

Freeing himself from the bush he climbed to his feet took a deep breath to calm himself a little then looked at the horse.

Suddenly, everything began to crash down on him. The bush, the horse. This place.

I was in the hospital. Stephen Donaldson had been brought in after apparently slipping into a coma. Donaldson had whispered something to him. Free me or something like that. Now he was here. Here? Here! Where the hell was here? But he knew. The bush. Those berries. Aliantha? Had to be. The horse. The star on its forehead. Ranyhyn? If that’s true, he thought then…Something sharp was pushed against his back.

‘Ware, stranger. Remain still if you value your next breath!’

Stewart froze. A figure came from behind the bush and stood in front of him. The point of whatever was between his shoulder blades remained.

The figure, a man, was barefoot. He was dark skinned, stood about one metre seventy in height and wore a short ochre tunic. An air of confidence about the man suggested total capability.

‘Bannor?’ Stewart croaked. He could hardly speak. The only response the man gave was to raise his right eyebrow a fraction.

‘Brinn, Ceer, Cail, Tuvor?’ Stewart continued, blurting out the names of   Haruchai that came to mind.

‘The names of those you speak are known to us.’ the Haruchai paused, as if wondering how this man could possibly know anything about Bloodguard or Haruchai. ‘Their stories are amongst many which have been passed on generation to generation.’

‘One who knows such ancient and important names could also possess other knowledge of equal import. If we are to question this stranger surely it would be better in more appropriate surroundings?’

Stewart attempted to turn his head toward the direction of the new speaker but the point of whatever it was, Stewart presumed a sword or spear, pressed more firmly into his back.

‘Furthermore’, the new speaker continued, ‘Have we not watched this man for some time now? He has given no indication that he is an enemy and has no visible weapons. As cautious as we have learned to become, surely we have not completely forsaken common courtesy?’

There was a snort of derision from the person who held the weapon at his back.   But the Haruchai glanced in the direction of the speaker and frowned.

‘You speak truly. Though we will not abandon all caution so blithely’. He nodded fractionally to the person holding the weapon at Stewart’s back and the pressure of the blade was eased. This time he was able to turn his head without hindrance. He knew what the second speaker was, if not who. Stewart smiled. ‘A Giant!’

‘Forsooth a Giant indeed. Also, from the look in your eyes it would seem you have knowledge of other Giants. Mayhap they too are ancient like the Haruchai you have mentioned. I would cherish any tale, no matter how strange, that included Giants.’

‘Tales will keep, Giant. This is neither time nor place for them. I was reminded of courtesy. For that there is time’.

The Haruchai stepped back two paces.

‘I am Damon’, the Haruchai introduced himself and bowed fractionally without taking his eyes off Stewart. ‘My companions, Marack and Gan, who are also of the Haruchai. Callum, first Lieutenant of the Guard and the Giant, Cove Whitesand’.

Stewart bowed to each of them and they bowed in turn. The Giant bowed with a flourish and a beaming smile.

They waited for him to introduce himself.

‘Oh. Sorry. I am Adrian Stewart’ He paused then added, ‘The Seeker’. For some reason it seemed appropriate to give him self a title.

‘Adrian Stewart,’ repeated Damon.  ‘An unusual name for an unusual person.’   The Haruchai regarded him for a moment.  ‘I sense an air of urgency about you and as Cove Whitesand has said, this is not the most appropriate setting for more searching questions. There are others more capable to ask and to answer. Come we will return to…’

‘Revelstone,’ Stewart interrupted.

‘Indeed Revelstone,’ the Giant replied. ‘For one so strange to the Land you appear to have the familiarity of one born to it.’

‘I’ve read the…’ Stewart caught himself.  ‘I was told about this place by someone.’

‘Then perhaps…’ the Giant began.

‘Peace, Giant,’ Damon interrupted, forestalling further conversation. ‘Revelstone is five leagues from here. We must leave now if we are to gain its safety before nightfall.’

Damon nodded to Gan who turned and gave a short piercing whistle.

Three Ranyhyn and a black Mustang trotted into view and gathered around their riders.

‘Adrian Stewart, do you ride?’ Damon asked.

Stewart interpreted the do as are you able. ‘I have ridden. But that was a long time ago, when I was a child.’

‘Then you shall ride with Lieutenant Callum. Gan will go ahead of us to   Revelstone to alert the High Lord. The Giant, Marack and I must remain unencumbered to watch and ward.’

Stewart took this for granted. Something must be very wrong within the Land.   That was why here was here; to sort out whatever it was, wasn’t it?

Unlike Thomas Covenant, who, during his sojourns to the Land had fluctuated from vehement denial to eventual acceptance of his situation and surroundings,   Stewart immediately accepted everything. His main concern was why was he here? But rather than speculate on any number of scenarios he decided simply to go with the flow. His role, either as an active or passive participant would be revealed soon enough.

Gan mounted his own Ranyhyn and headed back to Revelstone at a fast gallop. Stewart realised that he had appeared in the Land less than fifty metres from where Damon and his scouting party had stopped for a brief meal. They were, in fact, on their way back to Revelstone when they had heard him yelling. The Ranyhyn had given away his location.

The groups’ supplies were stored away in sacks that were then draped over the back of each horse.

Lieutenant Callum leapt lightly onto his horse and edged slightly forward to make space for Stewart to sit behind him. Callum’s horse although not as large as the three Ranyhyn still seemed to tower over Stewart.

Stewart considered the clingor stirrup but still felt uneasy mounting the horse.  His concern was for nothing as two huge hands lifted him effortlessly off the ground and placed him squarely behind the lieutenant.

‘Thanks’, Stewart acknowledged the Giant’s gesture.

Whitesand smiled.

‘Friend Damon is wary of anything strange or unusual. Perhaps, rightly so. His native caution has preserved many a life in times past and continues to do so now.

However, I am a Giant and our nature leans as much towards the curious as it does towards caution. Although, even Giants are not foolhardy enough to poke a snake merely because it does not look poisonous’.

The Giant gently poked Stewart in the ribs and asked. ‘Are you a snake, Stewart’?

There was obviously more to that gesture but Stewart replied simply,

‘No, Giant, I am not a snake.’

‘Then, I believe we will become friends.’

‘That’s good. I have a feeling we are going to need all the friends we can get,’ Stewart said his tone more serious.

Both the Giant and Damon gave him an inquiring look but Stewart did not elaborate.

Damon shrugged noncommittally then urged his horse forward with a slight pressure from his knees. Marack leant forward and spoke a few words to his own mount. The horse’s ears pricked in understanding and it too moved off at a light canter.

Whitesand’s giantish strides easily kept pace with the horses and the small band headed west towards the ancient keep of Revelstone.

Riding horseback after so many years was an eye-opener for Stewart. There is an art or skill to doing anything. Riding being no exception. Just like his other world counterpart from previous times he very quickly became excruciatingly aware of the horses spine. Only the clingor saddle prevented him from being flung from the back of the horse at every jolt. The base of his own spine was soon so numb that he began to wonder if he would be able to walk properly once he had climbed off the horse.

Conversation of any kind became an ordeal in itself. Questions, which came almost exclusively from the Giant, were initially answered monosyllabic.  Eventually that became too difficult and Stewart’s replies degenerated into grunts.

He tried clinging to Callum and pressing the side of his face against his back in an effort to reduce the relentless bouncing. But he soon gave that up after feeling that the skin on his cheek was being rubbed raw with the friction.  He cursed richly but silently about the fact that after so much time one would have thought that these people would have invented some form of comfortable mechanised transport. But he realised, of course, that was a ridiculous thought. Things like that just did not happen in situations such as these.

Taking in his surrounding was equally as difficult so he forced his mind to go as blank as possible.

After a journey which Stewart felt would never end he heard the Giant cry,

‘Ah, proud Revelstone. Your beauty never fades and I am always gladdened to behold you.’

Stewart peered over Callums’ shoulder. The horses pace had reduced to a gentle trot as they approached the huge stone gates that guarded the entrance to Lord’s Keep.

Four mounted Haruchai were riding out to meet them. The leading rider hailed the scout party and saluted by extending his palm forward.

Without preamble he informed Damon that Gan had reached Revelstone almost an hour ago and preparations to receive the stranger had been made.

‘The High Lord requests that Adrian Stewart be placed in your charge. He will meet with you all once the stranger has rested and eaten.’ The High Lord’s request was directed specifically at Damon who nodded once in agreement. Stewart had no doubts that the Haruchai’s duty would be that of a guard as much as an aide.

Stewart was so exhausted he could not have protested even if he had reason to do so.

The group entered Revelstone through the tunnel under the watchtower.  Smokeless braziers lit the way that led to a circular forecourt. Stewart’s senses were so numb after the ride he was only vaguely aware of the activity around him.  He heard the Giant ask in concern,

‘He appears unwell. Should not a healer be summoned?’

Stewart lifted his head and responded.

‘I’ll be fine. I’m just tired and a bit light-headed. I’ll be alright after some sleep.

But I would appreciate some help getting of this horse.’

The Giant smiled then lifted Stewart effortlessly out of the saddle. ‘Are you able to stand?’ he asked.

‘Think so, yes,’ Stewart replied but immediately his feet touched solid ground his legs buckled underneath him.

Whitesand’s shovel sized hands still supported Stewart and he lifted him into the crook of his arm.

‘See, Adrian Stewart, you have been amongst us but a few hours and already you are surrounded by friends.’ But Stewart had already passed out.

Copyright ©2007 Douglas Pearce