Category Archives: Metal Work Saviors

The Fall of the North

They had been walking for only a couple hours when they attacked. They came from behind, and it was apparent that they had been stalking them for some time. They seemed to know exactly when to strike. The North group had just started out when they heard the growls. They turned, but it was too late. The animals were a breed that the boys comprising the North group had only heard about in stories they thought were meant to scare them. They were common stories, most boys had heard about them. When asked directly if they were real or not, the adults merely shrugged. Some boys would say they were only made up creatures to keep the boys from wandering out into the forbidden territories.

They’d first heard about them in separation school. Separation school is where they boy are taken away from their families for a large part of the day, and put into groups with as diverse characteristics as possible. Those that live in a village such as these boys do recognize the importance ot losing your dependence on your family at a very early age. Because they boys formed such strong friendships, the adults thought it might be wise to keep them from becoming too independent in their own right. So they devised various methods to strike a precariosu balance between encouraging an independent spirit in them with a sense of obedience.

One of these methods, or so it had always been thought, was the creation a mythical animal that lived outside of the safe territories. Depedning on who was telling the story, the characteristics of these forbidden animals ranged from alow intellignece scavanger to a highly sophisticated group of planning, scheming carnivores that employed a number of almost unbeatable strategies to herd their prey to an area that would maximize their take, and minimize the damage suffered to their number.

Some say the creatures could survive for several months without food, althought their hunger would never cease. In most other predators, as their hunger increased, so did their desperation and consequently their mistakes in tracking and eating game. Not these creatures, though. Something about them, at least according to some that told their story, made them more and more conniving and treachurous as they became more and more hungry.

They had been tracking the boys for a few days now. They knew, they sensed that the boys would separate at a certain time of day, and then reconvene at night. The collective senses that the best time to attack would be just before separation. They would have their guard down the most at this point. They crouched, and crept silentl behind them, until it was time.

“Did you hear that?” Eldest said.
Youngest spun, reaching for his weapon.
“Spread out!” Elder said, pulling his knife quickly from his boot. He quickly scanned the oncoming attackers. They were hideous. They seemed to be part wolf, part human. At least in the eyes. Their eyes shown some kind of hideous intelligence.

Suddenly one feinted, and caused younger to raise his arm in defense, then as the attacking creature jumped left, another quickly sprant towards youngers throat, grabbing it with crushing deadliness. Younger fell, and two other of the animals converged and began ripping pieces of flesh from his still quivering body.

Eldest and Elder had instinctively stood back to back, both their knives out, slowly turning. They had immediately given up on Younger, as he was quickly,and obvioulsy dead.

They crouched, and before long, all creatures, six in number, were slowly circling the two boys, the sun slowly rising in the sky.

To be continued…

Metal Work Saviors – East – I

East was having fun. A lot of fun. The three chosen for their group had never met before, not really. But for some reason, when they began walking on the first day, they found that they had a lot in common. They had many of the same experiences growing up. Like when you share something with somebody, and they have a very similar experience from their history. It’s like you were made to be with this person. The three of them were able to feel an incredible closeness as soon as they started out. That was four days ago.

When the time came to spread out and walk alone from sunrise until sunset, they weren’t afraid like they had expected. They were sad. They had just spent the last three days getting to know each other, and now they would have spend their waking hours mostly alone, and their nights mostly spent in sleep, recovering. They would miss sharing stories of their youth and the mischief they all seemed to get into and out of without too much trouble or punishment from their parents.

The days seem to pass too quickly as they knew the inevitable was coming. Their inevitable separation. As they arose, they dressed in silence, knowing that as soon as they were ready to leave, the fun would be left behind, and ahead was only loneliness and danger. That was ok, though. They had made a pact. They made a pact before they went to sleep the night before. No matter what happened, they would all make it back safely, and they would be the team who would find the new source that would support the village into the next generation. And they would be friends their whole lives. They had made the secret prayer together they all learned when they were children. Then they had slept, their dreams of a future in new village whose location and life source was chosen by them keeping their thoughts of the dangerous mission ahead.

They dressed, packed their tools and equipment and stood. They gathered on last time, and looked into the distance where they would spend the next six months walking alone, searching alone, surviving alone. They each silently and mutually held each other in high regard, and then turned to leave. The last of the sun was just breaking free of the horizon. They sky was clear, and the day was going to be hot. And long. They started walking.

* * *

Elder was clutching his side, in extreme pain. It was too soon to die. He grimaced and stood, facing defiantly into the setting sun. He turned a full circle, surveying the area around him. He knew where eldest and younger would be meeting. He would get there before they rose for the morning. He would not be left.

He spent the next hours, through the dusk into the night, shuffling towards the directing of the rendezvous. With each step the pain in his stomach lessened somewhat. The more he walked, the more he convinced himself it was merely a passing pain due perhaps to an unnoticed poisonous plant or insect that shouldn’t have been eaten. Must be more careful next time. He checked his water. Plenty left. He knew exactly what plants would produce water, and how to convert certain kinds of earth into water as well. Those were methods that required a certain amount of time, so they were reserved for emergencies. Now he had to focus only on moving in the direction of the rendezvous. The other two needed his skills. The village needed his skills. He would not allow himself to die. Not yet. Not until their assignment was completed. The village council had made sure that each voyager understood the importance of the mission. That was one of the most important requirements. That they understood that they had only two choices. Succeed, or die trying. He was not ready to die yet.

He stopped, paused, and closed his eyes. He sensed his surroundings. There were several small animals around him. Not dangerous. Only curious. Perhaps he could lure them close for food. If he needed to. Not yet. He sensed the wind, the direction. He quieted his mind to be more receptive. There. He could sense the other two. At the camp, there fire emitting a certain smell. Perhaps another two hours walk.

He kept moving.

To be continued…

The Metal Work Saviors – The South I

South was having problems. They left the same time as the other groups, and spent the first three days as required walking a straight line to put sufficient distance between them and the original village. The problems began on the first day, as they passed the outskirts. Elder started having stomach pains. At first they all thought, including Elder, that it was just nerves. After taking several breaks, they realized they had to make a decision. The village counsel was clear on this. No member may slow the group. The purpose was to find new earth that would support the entire village for at least another generation. If one member of the search party became ill, or fell to attack, or did not make it to their nightly rendezvous point, the directions were clear. Leave him, and continue.

When Elder, whose name used to be John before being selected, had agreed with his parents to submit his name to the council, he never dreamed he would be chosen. Surely there were many boys more fit than he to carry this lofty burden. He was the youngest, and the only boy in his family. His older sisters were in the processing of selecting their mates for the second half of their lives, and they had their fate already chosen. John’s father was one of better-respected metal workers in the community, coming from a long, lone line of expert craftsman. None of their line had ever been chosen to be a voyager, to venture out into the territory to find new earth filled with abundant minerals with which they could continue their prosperity.

When John had first submitted his name, as all boys were required to do, he had never expected to be chosen so he hadn’t even allowed himself to imagine what it would be like. To venture with two other boys in one of the main directions, in search of a new source. The actual tests that he’d gone through were much easier than he’d anticipated. Of course, the actual metal working tests were easy, as his family had long taught boys those skills from a very early age. Where he excelled much more than expected was in reading soil, and reading the land and the elements, as if he was in some kind of primordial communication with them.

A metal worker usually doesn’t need these skills, as the sources are identified, and the village is established. Skills of reading the land and the earth are only needed in a great while, and are not routinely taught to the young. Because John had demonstrated such a talent for this, he was chosen unanimously by the council. The families of the other two boys that were in John’s group were happy when they learned of John’s talents. Surely his skills would bring the boys home safely after the six-month ordeal.

That was three days ago, and Elder, having shed his given name, was on his knees, doubled over, clenching his stomach in excruciating agony. Eldest and Younger looked on in disbelief and horror. Their orders were clear. They must leave him. Because they had all sworn their lives in the name of the village, they had taken a solemn oath. And because, after this oath, their lives, and happiness, and even physical comfort were only incidental to the success of the mission, they knew they must do the unthinkable.

They must leave Elder, alone, writhing in pain.

He looked up, and summoned enough courage to disregard his suffering. He slowly looked each of them in the eyes.

“You must go. Find a new source. I will recover, and I will catch up. You will see. Go. Now.” Exhausted by the supreme effort it took to ignore the pain long enough to speak, Elder slumped forward, close to unconsciousness.

He was fifteen.

To be continued….

The Metal Work Saviors – Departures I

The first group to leave was simply called West. West was comprised of three youths; one aged fourteen, and two aged fifteen. This was the year that youths began their training at metal work. The typical journeyman was a period of a few to several years. There wasn’t any rush, as in this old village, the only path to metal work mastery was to inherit the shop of your superior. And that was usually only through his death.

They had only one task. Walk towards the setting sun until they found soil that was suitable enough to keep their village healthy and profitable for at least another generation. They were not to return for at least six months, regardless of what they found. Three other groups had also been dispatched. Although this seems a cruel way to treat a village’s precious youth, it would be much crueler to allow the village to die off completely. Not just for them, but for all the other surrounding villages that depended on their metal work for their horses, and farming. They would suffer as well. There were four groups, each with three boys, and all the villages were depending on them.

Before leaving, they had been trained in the ancient art of soil divining. Not dissimilar to finding a source of water, the boys were trained in the old art of determining if the soil contained enough elements to support a metal working village. They had been taught, and tested severely before being sent out on their quest. They each had a small collection of rocks of different sorts, several tiny vials of different oils, and a peculiar looking balance. When assembled the device would indicate the content of the soil, and if it had the ingredients that would allow the boys to go home, and the village to feel safe knowing they would survive yet another generation.

The awoke every morning at sunrise, and their rules were simple. They would walk together until midday, when the sun was directly overhead. They would then fan out, with the two older boys breaking right and left, and the youngest boy walking due west. Each boy would pause every hour, and measure the content of the soil. They would then record their measurements, and their location in a small bound parchment that was prepared for them by the village elders. When the sun was at three hands above the horizon, and sinking fast, they would converge and meet together just as the sun was disappearing. They would make their camp, and prepare for the next day.

Each boy was trained in the art of extracting water from the plants, and trapping small animals for food. They would take notes where there were abundant sources of water for their return trip. After three months of walking into the setting sun, they would turn around, and head back to the village. If all groups returned safely, the village elders would spend a sufficient amount of time with the boys’ notes, and determine the next location for the village.

They were on their fourth day, the day where the elders had told them it was safe to begin reading the soil. They had to move a sufficient distance from the village to ensure that their interpretation of the earth was pure. The sun was just reaching the apex, and they were preparing to split, for the first time.

“So, we meet back in a few hours, right?” Asked the younger.
“Yep.” Replied the eldest.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” Added the elder. The eldest was older than the elder by only a few weeks, but nonetheless, he was the eldest.

They stopped, looked out into the still flat and undiscovered land, with the slow hills rising just a few days off in the distance.

“What lives in hose hills?” asked the younger.
“We’ll find out when we get there,” said the elder. The eldest only grinned.

They stopped, looked at each other, and split up. It was the first time that any of the boys had ever been alone in an unfamiliar environment. The younger began to silently weep, yet bravely kept walking forward, not looking back. He chastised himself or crying, but he didn’t know that the others were doing the same.

Several days up ahead in the distance, just as the hills slowly rose up out of the flat earth, a solitary figure stood watching. Waiting. Wondering.

To be continued….