Earlier I posted a scene for Rachael’s BlogBattle: Rage that will seem very familiar to those who read on. Truth be told, that wasn’t my first attempt at writing the scene, but rather my second. The things was—it wasn’t working for me. I struggled and struggled with it. Then I realized that I just needed to change to point of view. It worked a lot better and what you got fit well for Rachael’s BlogBattle.
But I didn’t want the whole scene to go to waste. Therefore I will give it to you here, warts and all. I hope that you enjoy it.
The hermit crouched by the meager excuse for a fire, a branch of skewered grubs held over the feeble flames. Ragged brown hair streaked with grey sat like a disheveled rats nest on the top of his head, while strings of it hung well past his shoulders. Rubbing a large nose with a grimey finger, he scratched aimlessly through a shirt of rabbits that hadn’t been as fast as him.
“Yes, yes, yes,” he mumbled, “yummy flippy plops.”
He sat in a clearing about ten feet across and surrounded by trees much older than him. They created shadows as the sky moved from evening to dusk. Bushes of varying types filled the gaps between the trees, creating almost a solid wall of brush which protected him from those things he didn’t want to face. Their green leaves reflected the small light thrown by the flames, making the small space seem brighter than it actually was. The illusion only failed when the hermit glanced behind him. In that dark space, even darker things lived. It was best to keep an eye on it as often as possible.
A few grubs struggled vainly to escape the heat, but most had already died from either the impaling or the heat, if not both. With a sudden snap, a brown carapace popped open, the insides flinging about. Thick fingers, nimble contrary to their appearance, reached out and snagged the grub and popped it into the hermit’s mouth.
“Plop crunch nimble curls.”
Suddenly, he stopped mumbling and grew as still as a deer smelling the mountain lion downwind. In the distance, a crunching sound could be heard. Whoever it was, whatever it was, didn’t care in the least about the amount of noise it made. It was the crash of trees falling in a high storm and the fall of rocks down the mountainside all rolled into one. As the noise grew closer, the hermit froze. Was it one of the Dark Ones? One of their minions? Should he have build the fire higher? No, no. That would have served only to draw them to him. He wanted to avoid that.
Dropping his stick into the fire, careless of his lost dinner, he scrambled backward away from the oncoming rush. He didn’t want to stay here, but he couldn’t leave. Fear froze his feet, as if that flimsy wall of brush were made from rock rather than plants. Back pressed against the largest tree he could find, he watched with wide eyes, fearing what would come. Maybe, maybe if he needed, he could climb this tree. Yes, that might help. He felt his pulse slow absently as he stroked the bark. He could climb, except— Looking up, he could see the nearest branches were well out of his reach, even if he stood up from his crouch. Nope, that was no good. He was a goner; dead for sure.
Just as the crashing and crunching reached a fevered pitch, a man dressed in a red wool jacket and white pants stumbled out of the brush. He was no more than a youth, in the hermit’s eyes at least. No more than twenty, twenty five at most. Firelight glinted off the metal he wore. The buckles and decorative pieces all glowed with a bronze color only intensified by the firelight. It seemed like he should be wearing a cap of some sort, but nothing covered his head but short cut hair that appeared black in the dim light. Despite being weaponless, even his belt knife was gone, the hermit huddled closer to the tree.
“A damn recluse,” the soldier mumbled through clenched teeth, doubtless not intending on being heard. He spoke again, this time raising his left hand toward the hermit. “Peace, good man. I mean you no harm.” Grimacing, he paused before continuing as his right hand and arm clutched his side. “I saw your fire and I hoped for. . . I had hoped for some help. You wouldn’t know anything about. . . No, I suppose you probably wouldn’t. Nevermind.”
His hand dropped and he approached the fire. “Pittiful little thing isn’t it? Could use a bit of care.” He kicked the reminants of the stick which had held the hermit’s dinner into the flames, uncaring for what he destroyed. That had been a good stick. A solid stick. It would take time to find another one like it.
Turning around, the soldier surveyed the brush and woods around him. Limping, he approached one bush, then another, gathering tinder and placing it in a pile close enough to the fire to be easily reached, but far enough away that it wouldn’t catch itself. That was followed by larger and larger sticks of wood, until he had a tidy pile resting in the clearing. All the while, the hermit clutched at his tree, only his eyes moving and preparing to run if this stranger grew too close. Truth be told, he had wanted to run long ago, but it was as if the Dark Ones held his feet. They didn’t want to respond and so he stood there. If he was fated to die there, then so be it, but he didn’t want to just let it happen. He wanted to fight back, to at least pay back his attacker with his own pain.
But the soldier never neared the hermit, instead going out of his way to keep his distance, even though a quicker path would have brought him within arm’s reach. He seemed to pick up on the hermit’s wariness and didn’t want to send the man running. That, on one hand, was a relief to the hermit. But on the other, should the stranger really wish harm on him that was one way to cause his guard to drop. The Dark Ones were devious in their ways. He would not be taken by surprise. Still, the company was a bit nice. It had been months since he’d seen anyone else. Years since someone had spoken to him, and that had only been yells accompanied by thrown stones which had caused him to flee the flatland forests he preferred for the mountains.
Only now, years later, he had started to venture down again. This is what came of wanting the trees and the green things. He should have stayed safe, no matter the barren mountainsides. There he had to worry about less than here. The hermit’s mind rattled on, barely making sense to himself. Still, there was a familiarity about the madness, as if he could just push through.
With a grunt, the soldier sat on the ground between the pile of wood and the flames. It was more of a controlled fall than actively sitting. His right arm never left his side and, as he connected with the ground, he toppled over on his right side. He pushed himself back up with his left arm and started feeding the twigs into the fire.
“That was unpleasant,” he said through clenched teeth. Once he had piled a significant amount of the tinder in the shape of a triangle on the fire and the wood started to catch, he heaved a deep sigh. “Come, Friend, sit.” He gestured to the spot on the other side of the flames that the hermit had originally crouched. “Call me Isim.”
It was only then, in the growing firelight, that the hermit saw why the soldier’s arm was pressed steadfastly against his side. The darkness and the color of his jacket had hidden the wound until now. He’d originally thought that it was because of a cracked rib or a broken limb. Instead, thanks to the growing firelight, he could see the blood as it flowed freely through the soldier’s fingers that were clamped to his side. There wasn’t much longer that any man could survive with that wound, not with the blood flowing like some sort of fountain.
Crouching low, the hermit waddled over toward the fire. Death wasn’t something to take lightly, but even his addled mind saw that this man deserved better.