Autumn – Chapter 6 – 01

            “You know, it would have been festival this weekend,” J.T. said quietly, staring out over the ravine, which was ablaze with the colors of autumn.  He was carrying his claymore slung by a strap across his back, hands shoved deep into his pockets.
            I frowned a little and shook my head.  “You’re keeping track of the days, Jay?”
            “Someone has to, right?” he murmured.  “Carolyn and I decided it would be us.  She’s been drawing new calendars at night, writing down birthdays and everything as best as we know.  Time still has meaning.”  His expression hardened.  “It has to.  If it doesn’t now, it will eventually.  You and Thom are going to want to know what day you got married.  Tala’s going to want to know when her baby’s birthday is.  If we don’t keep the calendars, keep the records, how are we going to know?”
            I suppose he’s right about that.  I do kind of want to know what date is when Thom and I get married.  I smiled wryly and squeezed his arm.  “Don’t forget Leap Years.”
            He grunted.  “We agreed they were dumb and were thinking about forgetting them regardless.”
            I snorted softly and shook my head.  Wind rustled the drying leaves, swirled past us back toward the rest of camp.  “Hard to believe it’s been that long since the meteorfall, isn’t it?”
            “A little,” he said quietly.  “But then I look at all the progress we’ve made and I stop being as surprised.  Of course, we’re going to have to hope that we’ll get more construction done before the snows fly.  It can’t be long now, right?”
            “Probably not,” I murmured, remembering my vision from weeks before.  “But I think Greg would know better.”
            “Greg.  When did we stop calling him Professor Doyle?”
            Probably about the time he started to defer to us.  I laughed weakly.  “I don’t know, Jay.  I don’t think he minds, though.”
            “Guess not,” he said quietly.  “We’re all on the same playing field now anyway, each have our shit that we’re in charge of.”  After a moment of silence, he looked at me sidelong.  “Your brother wanted me to teach him how to hit things with a sword.  I tried to say no.”
            I blinked.  “He does?  You did?”  Matt never really wanted to have anything to do with any of that—part of why he didn’t fit in that well with my friends in the first place.  What changed his mind?  “I wonder if it’s about that forge thing.”
            “I have no doubt it’s about that forge thing of his,” J.T. said.  “I overheard him talking to Thom and Phelan about it.  Phelan was going on about how you had to know how to use a blade so you could forge one.  They didn’t know I was listening.”  He pinched the bridge of his nose between two meaty fingers.  “Thom overheard me saying hell no to your brother, though, and we about ended up in a knock-down, drag-out over it.”
            “Really.”  Those two are really beginning to surprise me.  They must have declared some kind of cease-fire that I didn’t know about.
            He grunted.  “Yeah.  Said if I didn’t start teaching him the basics, he was just going to have to do it himself because one way or another, Matt was going to need to learn this shit.  I just looked at him like he was crazy and then we started yelling.  I don’t know, I think I might have actually agreed to teach your brother something by the end of it, but I don’t actually remember.  All I wanted was for Thom to knock it off.”
            “Well,” I said quietly, “we both know that’s how he wins arguments sometimes.”
            “Yeah.”  J.T. shook his head slowly.  “You’re not angry, are you?”
            “About what, that you’re going to teach my brother how not to hurt himself with a sword?  No, I’m not mad.  Hate me for it if you want to, but Thom’s probably right about him needing to know at some point.  Better to get them all started sooner rather than later.  We’re not going to have working guns forever, and if you listen to Phelan sometimes, you start to get the distinct impression that guns might not be very effective against some things we’ll go toe-to-toe with going forward.”
            He nodded, brow creasing.  “I’m just not sure what to make of all of it sometimes.”  He took a step away from me and drew the claymore, its edges catching the daylight that streamed through the trees.  “I’m not even sure how I knew how to do some of the things I did with this that day, Mar,” he said softly.  “How am I supposed to start teaching anyone anything?”
            “The same way you guys did when you started teaching people for faire.  They just won’t pull any strikes when it’s time for the real deal.”  I put a hand on his arm and squeezed.  “We’ll be okay.  You’ll be okay.  Phelan and Thom can help you when they’re better, Tala can help with the basics until she’s too big to move, and some of the others are pretty clear on the basics.  It’s just some of the staffers and Matt and Paul and Greg that you’ll really have to worry about.”  I smiled wryly.  “And me.”
            J.T. snorted and put up the claymore, then slid an arm around my shoulders.  “You’ll pick it up fast enough.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I think Thom would be happiest if you were at the back and outside of harm’s way.”
            “That’s never going to happen, Jay.”
            He smirked.  “I know.  But we can hope.”
            Boots crunched on fallen leaves and acorn husks, coming from the direction of the ravine to our right.  I frowned, turning.  I don’t remember anyone going down there today for anything.
            Leah appeared through the brush, slightly mud-spattered and a little bedraggled.
            She was also alone.
            “Leah, what the he—”
            “I didn’t go alone,” she said firmly, glaring at me.  “Rory went with me for firewood.  He slipped and hit his head on the way back so I came for help to get him and the wood back to camp.”  She walked past J.T. and I, then turned back. “You know, if you’ve got something to accuse me of, I wish you’d just stop screwing around and just do it so I can stop walking on a bunch of fucking eggshells.”
            My mouth went dry.  “What the hell, Leah?”  She knows?  Of course she’s got to know that something’s going on, that something’s up, but what does she thinks she knows?
            She shook her head.  “You guys have all been looking at me sideways since that thing happened with Phelan.  I get it, I screwed up.  I said I was sorry.  I didn’t know.  But nothing I’ve done warrants the level of suspicion you guys ratcheted up in the past two weeks.  You’ve leveraged paranoia into a fucking art form.”
            “Where’s Rory?”  J.T. rumbled.  I’d almost forgotten he was next to me—and almost forgotten about Rory hitting his head.
            I’m a goddamned one-way street, aren’t I?
            “Just past the curve in the ravine heading down behind the arboretum.”  Leah’s expression softened momentarily.  “It’s not a serious knock, but he was dizzy enough that I didn’t want to make him climb by himself, and he’d be useless to help with the wood.  I can’t help him and carry all the wood by myself.  I figured we might want both to make it back to camp.”  She exhaled, seeming to calm down a little.  “I’m going to go get some more help—it’s a lot of wood—and I’ll meet you guys down there if you want to go ahead.”
            J.T. was moving before I could respond.  Something was screaming in the back of my head that this might well be a terrible idea, but I ignored it.
            Rory needed help, probably down in the swampy meadow where we’d fought the greys and where the camazotzi had jumped Thom, Drew, and I that might years before.  Whether or not we were being paranoid about Leah for no reason, she’d left Rory out in the ravines alone in a decidedly dangerous spot.  J.T. and I didn’t have any time to lose.
            The fact that it could be a trap never crossed my mind.

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5 Responses to Autumn – Chapter 6 – 01

  1. Seraph says:

    As everyone in the Star Wars universe once said (and will again), I have a bad feeling about this.

  2. Peter says:

    A ‘bad feeling”, Seraph?

    This is like the part in a horror movie where the entire audience is shouting “DON’T OPEN THE DOOR, YOU FOOL!!”

  3. Aww, you guys make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

  4. Antonious says:

    Ok guys, what do you want on the tombstones that are to be placed over your bodiless graves. Seriously, Marin, J.T., you guys are going on about how dangerous things are and that it is a good idea to start sword fighting lessons, and you go and turn off your danger senses the moment Leah says Rory is hurt. GAH! I almost think you deserve to be attacked for doing that.

    Does anyone think they will survive to develop a healthy level of paranoia? Yeah, as key characters up to this point, you would expect them to survive this (the number of missing body parts is in question), but the visions have shown things to go either way. If they survive this they damn well better develop a guilty until proven otherwise attitude about things and people they suspect.

  5. All of this commentary is incredibly instructive for me as I finish writing up Friday’s update this morning. You might not expect what comes next…

Got thoughts?