Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Labor of Love Resumes - A New Sample!

As discussed yesterday, I'm starting the first round of revisions by going back and filling in missing scenes, of which there are several. Today's sample is the first of these, in which we see Balfrith on his first day away from home, having run away. In the original story, I summarized the journey from his home to the river Asca (where he first met Eldamir) in a single paragraph, but after going back over it, I decided that I really wanted to write this out. It will end up being about three scenes in total, I think, so this is just the first of several to fill in that part of the story.

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Balfrith walked all night and into the next day, hoping to put many leagues between himself and his father - hoping to outrun or evade any pursuit. The clear sky and bright half-moon made it easy enough to see where he was walking, as long as he stayed in open areas, which he did. In previous attempts at running away, he had always been caught within a day or two. Well, except for the one time that he’d returned home of his own volition, sick with fever and nearly starved. But this time, Balfrith did not intend to allow any such thing to happen.

He walked cross-country, avoiding the road, thinking that would make him more difficult to track. It also allowed him to go in a relatively straight line, which he did by tracking the north star through the night. He reasoned that if the north star did, in fact, point north, and Illithëon was in the north, then it would lead him there. And if it did not bring him directly to the Elvish homeland, it would at least get him in the general area, and he could ask directions then.

Around mid-morning the next day, his eyelids began growing heavy, and he found himself stumbling as he walked. Guess it’s time to find a place to rest, he told himself, stopping to take stock of his surroundings.

He was in a farmer’s field, recently plowed and in the process of being sown with seed, though no one was out working yet that day, which surprised him. And then he realized it was Sonnday, so of course everyone would be at temple. Except father, he thought bitterly. He would be working at his desk, even on Sonnday, while Leofred took me and Aingeall and Aldfrid and Wilfrid to worship. That thought brought a pang of home-sickness to his heart, and he choked back a quick sob, taking a deep breath to steady himself.

While looking around, Balfrith noted a copse of trees just east of north, and struck out in that direction. A bit of tree cover would make it easier to sleep in the day-time, as well as shield him from detection. He crossed the field toward the trees, and saw as he approached that they bordered a pond on the left side, rimmed round about with cat-tails. Walking wide around that area to avoid the water, he made his way into the wood and found a dry spot that was sheltered by a fallen tree and some thick brush. The green of spring was taking hold already, leaves and buds coming forth on the branches of trees and shrubs, and grasses springing up from the earth. Settling into a fern bed beneath the tree, he removed the rucksack and set it on the ground nearby, then pulled his cloak about him as a blanket. Finally, Balfrith laid himself down, closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Some hours later, Balfrith awoke to the sun shining through a break in the branches and leaves, directly on his face. He blinked and raised a hand to shade his eyes, looking around to see if there were any signs of movement or disturbance in the area. But no, the wood was quiet, with only the occasional squirrel’s chatter or birdsong to disturb the silence. Through the trees, out in the nearby field, he could see people scattering seed in the long furrows, but they were far enough away that he couldn’t hear any voices.

Extricating himself out from under the fallen tree, Balfrith stood and brushed down his cloak, then ran his hands through his hair and scratched his head. The fern still glistened with morning dew, and he ran his hands over it until they were wet, then scrubbed at his face, enjoying the refreshing coolness of the moisture.  Finally he took up the rucksack once again and settled it on his shoulders, shifting Branulf in its blanket covering so that the blade wouldn’t jab him in the leg as he walked.

Looking up through the branches, Balfrith could see the sun high in the sky, and he judged the hour to be yet early in the afternoon. Smiling, he set himself in a generally northward direction, making his best guess, and started walking once again. The woods in which he’d sheltered were deeper than he had guessed, but that gave him plenty of cover to keep walking in the daylight hours, and so onward he walked, keeping an eye on the sun above and watching to be sure that it consistently tracked toward the left behind him.

About an hour later, Balfrith came to the far edge of the wood, and could see ahead that there were more farm fields to cross, with people out there working. Sitting down to rest and think for a bit, he decided that it wouldn’t be wise to be seen walking in daylight, for strangers would want to question what he was doing in their fields, and those searching for him might take note of a young man walking alone through open fields. So, he looked around until he found another shady spot to rest, and lay down there to try and get some more sleep.

Some time later, Balfrith was awakened by water dripping on his face, and the patter of a light rain on the leaves. His cloak was soaked through to his clothes, and the shiver of a deep chill ran through his body. “Rain - lovely. And here I was hoping for an easy journey in the sun. But I suppose the farmers will be happy,” he sighed at the last, standing up and stretching cold muscles, trying to warm up. Looking up, Balfrith could no longer see the sun. “Which way is north?” he asked aloud, not realizing that he had begun talking aloud to himself.

He looked about at the trees, and noted that a few of them seemed to have a mossy side facing toward him - presumably that would be south, toward the sun. So orienting himself, he looked far out beyond the woods to find a landmark that he could use as a guide. Somewhere ahead, perhaps half a mile, he could see a low rise that seemed to be about as close to north as anything, so he chose that hill as his destination. It wasn't any time near sunset, but the sky was leaden gray with clouds, and the workers had apparently all quit due to the rain.

It didn't take long for Balfrith to understand why they had quit working, for his feet were quickly caked in thick muddy clay as he began walking across the field, and the weight of it made each step an effort. Soon, he was warm even in his wet clothes and the cooler air that had come with the rain. But that was little comfort as he struggled along, step after slow step, trying to keep from falling down in the muck, struggling to move ahead and make it to that hill in the distance.

After perhaps a quarter-hour, he turned back to look at the woods behind, marking his point of departure so that he would be able to trace a line from there to the hill. Talking to himself again, Balfrith muttered, “At the rate I’m going, it will take me the rest of the afternoon to reach that hill.” He sighed. “Then again, horses will have the same struggle. Perhaps my father’s men will turn back today, and I shall be beyond capture at last.” He smiled then, taking some encouragement in the thought as he began walking once again.