Example Of Revising – Artur and the Forest Guardians – Story Fragment

I set out to revise a chapter I wrote previously here:

Mushroom Hunting


I did not like how the first version came out.  I wanted to evoke more mystery and awe with the Forest Guardians.  And yes, I’m pretentious, they are male and female to represent the two aspects that create life, and I tried to play with that in this bit of writing.  So below is a revision of the above chapter.  I paste in from the fight scene onward.  The beginning of the chapter is largely unchanged…

After a couple hours the basket was about half full, and they reached a swamp. Artur sat on a fallen hemlock to relax and let Borussa do his thing. The pig wandered for a bit, and just as Artur felt a nap coming on, there was a crack, a crash, and a loud squeal. In Artur’s mind he could feel Borussa’s broken leg, and he sprung to his feet.

There was another squeal, and Artur homed in on it, and ran as fast as he could over the mushy, rooty ground until he found a hole. Someone had dug a pit and covered it with sticks and leaves, and Borussa was in the bottom some seven feet down. “Father! It’s a trap!”

From the north and the east came the sudden rustle of leaves and the crack of twigs, and then heavy rapid footsteps. Artur drew his sword and looked about, and saw several hairy, apeish, pig faced looking orcs charging through the foliage. They wore animals skins, and had crude spears and clubs. Their elongated yellow canines glinted in the sunlight. Their cries were not unlike pig squeals, but a mockery of pigs.

“Go father.”


Artur prepared to meet the oncoming creatures, and quickly counted them. He could see five. He charged the lead orc with a roar, and let his sword fighting instincts take over. It was Artur’s fight to lose, and he didn’t. He slew four with relative ease, and the fifth managed to dodge a decapitating blow, but tumbled headlong into the pit. Borussa sunk his teeth into the creature’s neck. It lost its bowels.

“Father I’m in a pit covered in orc shit.”

“That rhymes.” There was a distant crack, like someone stepped on a thick, dry branch.



There was another crack. Artur spun about, scanning around the swamp and the forest, and then an arrow whizzed by his head and stuck into a pine tree. Then another arrow from another direction. Then there was a great roar, and from all sides came another dozen orcs, some firing arrows from crude bows, and others twirling their weapons. Some emerged from the trees on the other side of the swamp, slowly slogging their way through, and others from behind distant trees on dry ground.

Five were doable, twelve were not. At least, not if Artur had to maintain defense of the pit. Artur whirled about, trying to pick targets, and dodging arrows all the while. “Father, go now!” urged Borussa from the bottom of the pit. Artur could not bring himself to leave his son, and could not fight all the orcs coming from all directions.

No harm in calling for help when you need it, he thought. So he did. “Help me!” he shouted, and the orcs replied, “Oh we’ll help you to your grave, warrior!”

Suddenly the plants in the swamp grew longer, and entangled the orcs, and pulled them down into the water, drowning them. The trees in the forest bent over and plucked weapons out the orcs hands. Bewildered, they lept and snatched at their spears and bows and clubs, but to no avail. Pines, and hemlocks, and birch trees all ensnared the orcs and choked the life out of them. One screamed, “It was a blood trap! Damn the rats!” All but one were slain, and the last and bolted for his life.

Artur was bewildered but grateful. Never had he seen such a thing. So he looked about at the trees, and said “Thank you?”

There was a sudden ripping sound, like ripping roots from the ground. “You’re welcome.” said a masculine voice. Artur whirled about and saw a man looking creature about his height, with bark-like skin, and long hair and beard like moss. He had antlers like a deer, and was naked. Artur didn’t feel threatened.

There was another rip, and Artur whirled about again, and there was a naked female figure, with a darker, bark-like skin akin to beech, and long hair like curly dried red and orange leaves. She smiled, gently, and her amber eyes met Artur’s.

Borussa called out, “Father! What goes on?”
Artur felt mesmerized for a moment, and then called over his shoulder, “it’s okay. The orcs are gone.”

“Well get me out of this pit then. This orc stinks!”

The male figure said, “Don’t worry Artur. We will help your son.” And he and the female walked over to the pit, and their feet seemed to make no sound at all. The knelt down and whispered to the ground, and the roots from the trees pushed through the sides of the pit and under the pig, who panicked again, thinking he would be crushed by the roots.

“It’s all right sweet pig.” And suddenly Borussa was calm, and the roots lifted him out of the pit, and then he lay atop a bed of entangled roots. Artur ran over to him, dropped his sword, and shoved the dead orc off.

“Oh Borussa, I’m so sorry.” And then Artur looked to the two strange people, and said “Thank you sir, and madam.”

The male and female both chucked. “I haven’t been called sir in ages,” said the male. The female said “You’re welcome, Artur Zootaloot.”

“How do you know my name?”

The female now approached, and put her hand on his shoulder, “We heard the animals speak of you. And we’ve seen you come year after year to collect mushrooms. So…we like you.”

Borussa winced with pain as Artur studied the broken leg. There were two breaks. “Don’t worry, Artur,” said the male, who then scooped up some clay from the ground and molded it into a bowl. He breathed on it, and the clay dried instantly. He then gave the bowl to the female, who squeezed a sap from her breast, and filled it. She then went to pour it into the pig’s mouth.

Artur held a hand out, “Stop. What is that?”

“Come now, Artur,” said the male. “We wouldn’t save your lives just to poison you and your son.” Artur hesitated, but he let the female proceed and she poured the sap into the pig’s mouth. Suddenly the pig convulsed, and he squealed, and then Artur could hear a crack as the leg snapped itself back together.

“Why, that feels better,” said Borussa. “Thank you madam, and sir.”

The male laughed, and his mossy hair seemed to rustle gently. “I’ve been called sir twice in one day. You can call us Moss and Leaf. We’re Guardians. Though I think you figured that out now.”

Indeed Artur had heard rumors of the forest Guardians, but never met one, or known anyone who met one. He stood, and Borussa rolled over and got up on all fours, and grunted contentedly as he walked about the forest floor. “I’m in your debt,” said Artur to the two Guardians.

“Nay,” said Moss. “There is no debt. Let us be friends.” And Moss and Leaf each held out a hand, palm open, and Artur put his hands in theirs.

“Friends.” He withdrew his hands and went to studying the orc bodies. For orcs, they seemed rather unremarkable. They had crude hides, primitive weapons, and necklaces strung with human ears and fingers. Some had short handled spades for digging. “I’m concerned how they got this deep into our land without being noticed.”

Moss and Leaf stood over Artur as the man studied the bodies. “They didn’t come overland,” said Moss. “Yesterday, we were about the forest when we felt a tingle, like the air in a thunderstorm.”

“Only there was no storm, of course,” said Leaf.

“And then Orcs were here,” said Moss. Artur noticed how the two Guardians seemed to continue each other’s thoughts.

Artur dropped the Orc trinkets and stood up, brushing himself off. “And you let them wander here?”

“We were more concerned with how they got here,” said Leaf. The two Guardians then went to each orc body, and they whispered together, and from all about, flies gathered, and the carrion picking beetles came out of the leaf litter, and the earth worms tunneled out of the soil and began sniffing about the bodies, and lastly some crows arrived to pick at the dead flesh. Then a vulture landed nearby and startled the crows, but it went to its own orc to pick and tear. Unseen, the bacteria and fungi of decomposition multiplied far more rapidly than normal, and the bodies of the dead fermented at an increased rate.

After they finished working, Artur asked them, “How did they get here?”

Moss said, “Wizardry of some kind.”

Artur was disturbed to hear this. He didn’t like the thought of Orcs traveling unchallenged in his country, or in anyone’s country for that matter.

Suddenly Borussa said, “Well Madam, yes! Thank you!” Leaf knelt down and offered a puffball mushroom the size of a football to Borussa, who greedily began chewing away. Artur and the Guardians chuckled, and they waited for the pig to finish his meal.

The day was getting on, and so Artur once again thanked the Guardians for their help, and with Borussa at his side, set off for home. The two Guardians watched the bald warrior and his pig leave. Then they turned to each other, holding hands, and dissolved into the ground. Their essence traveled the roots of plants, the tunnels of ants, the burrows of creatures great and small, the ripples of water in the swamp, and the tangled networks of mycelium in the soil. They fell with every acorn, leaf, chestnut, walnut, and beech nut. They took flight with every gnat that emerged from the swamp mud. They wiggled with every worm, and pushed up slowly with every mushroom, and with every moss they broke up stone at an infinitesimal pace. They were in one place at some times, and another place at some times, and sometimes every place in the forest.

Story Fragment: A side tale

I had writer’s block last week,  I worked a lot of overtime, and didn’t make time to be creative.  Even my weekly D&D adventure was a bit of a joke.  I’m at a point in the novel where I want to wrap up the story, get the Rhinos home, get Artur home, and then move onto other characters.  I also want to write a few short stories about Tana growing up and learning things from her parents.

So today I wrote about Tana going fishing…


[Finish this chapter. Send the Rhinos home. Get Artur back to his family. Do a reunion and a epilogue, then move back in time two months to the Cow tribe.]

[I have presently one or more short tales to tell about Tana growing up. I don’t know how to fit them into the book. There are events in different parts of the world that happen out of sequence with the main story and I need to get them in somehow. I do not wish to jump around like the Joyluck Club by Amy Tan, where you’re not certain when the events in the book are taking place until a few pages into a given chapter. Time jumps are fine if done properly.

In any case, this is a chapter about Tana learning about balancing her empathic gift against the human need to eat flesh]


In the spring time, when the leaves were just beginning to open on the hardwoods, Artur took his four year old daughter out on Sunflower and they rode southeast over the hilly farmlands. The sun shined bright overhead, and slivers of both moons could be seen on the horizon as they ascended. The tulips and daffodils were up, and the dandelions had sprouted their first flowers. The grasses were green, and the warm, humid air was rich with faint pollen and the odor of dried manure spread on the fields.

The bald Artur looked regal in his crimson tunic and Frostbane strapped to his hip, and his bald daughter Tana wore a little blue dress with a profile of a pink pig sewn to the chest. Tied to the saddle were fishing rods and a small basket, for they headed for the river Hogwash about an hour’s ride away.

They cantered down the dirt road a while, taking in the sights and smells. Artur noticed a smoke plume to the northeast, and took to deliberately steering his horse as the observed it. “What do you smell, Sunflower?”

The horse whinnied. “Meat cooking. Unwashed human stink.”

“Hunters then, perhaps,” said Artur.

“Do we stink?” asked Tana.

Sunflower said, “Yes, but I like your stink.”

Tana leaned forward in the saddle and sniffed Sunflower’s mane. “I like your stink too! We stink! You stink!”

Artur chuckled at this, and after a while they turned south to meet the river. They ascended a small hill and then down a gentle slope to the edge of a mostly coniferous forest through which the river ran. A slight breeze blew a cloud of pollen from the new anthers, filling their nostrils with the scents of new growth.

They slowed to a walk and rode carefully into the forest. The bed of pine needles cushioned Sunflower’s footsteps, and they moved almost silently, with only the distant babble of the river disturbing the quiet. They approached a rocky bank on this wide river and dismounted. The river here was thirty yards across and moved slowly, and downstream a ways it narrowed and sped up around the rocks, making a pleasing tinkle of churning water and foam.

Artur took the gear off Sunflower’s saddle, and told her to forage close. The horse went upstream a little to nibble shoreline grasses and to drink.

“There are some delicious trout here,” said Artur to his daughter. He prepared his fishing pole, and the little girl tried clumsily to mimic her father and string her own pole. She quickly grew frustrated, “I can’t do it.”

Artur smiled. “I’ll do mine again.” He untied the string from his fishing rod and sat down with his daughter, carefully showing her how run the wound twine down the length of the rod. With a bit of effort, she managed to mimic her father’s motions, and installed the spool of twine on the rod, and threw a hollow walnut shell, and tied a hook to the end of the string.

“Well done Tana,” said her father.

“Now I can fish?”

“You need a worm.” Artur took out a little box filled with soil and earthworms, and offered his daughter a worm.

“It’s all slimey!”

“Yes they are.”

“It doesn’t like me holding it.”

“It’s best not to get into their minds, dear. Let it be.”

Artur showed his daughter how to hook a worm, and then, his arms around her, helped her cast the line into the river. “Now pull in the string slowly, so the fish chase the worm.” He worked with his daughter for several minutes, casting and retrieving, until she was comfortable doing it, and then he cast his own baited hook out, and the two waited for fish to strike.

It wasn’t long until Tana’s rod jerked suddenly, and she squealed. “Oh papa I got one!” Artur tossed his rod aside, and rushed to help his daughter as she panicked. “What do I do?”

“Press on the string real hard here. Use your thumb. There I’ll put mine on yours. See it splashing out there? You got a big one!”

Tana’s eyes went from excitement to bewilderment. “It hurts!”

“It does?”

“My mouth. I’m scared.”

Artur recognized this. Like every child with the Gift, she hadn’t learned stay out of the minds of the animals she focused on. “Tana listen to my voice. Sing along with me.”

Fish fillets for breakfast

Fish strew for supper

Fish nuggets for a snack

I’m grateful for fish

They make my belly fat

How about that?

He repeated the simple melody, and Tana sang with him as they pulled the thrashing trout to shore, where it flopped on the rocks for a bit, and then on the dirt, and then it lay still, it’s gills panting.

“Quickly now,” said Artur. “Hold it down so it doesn’t suffer.” Tana sat next to the fish, and pushed on it’s midsection with her little hands. She felt like she could not breathe, she felt terrified, as though she were thrust underwater for too long. Artur drew a long, thin little dagger from his belt, knelt down, and stuck it between the eyes of the fish, and then it stopped panting. Blood trickled around the wound as he withdrew the knife.

Tana stared in wonder. Her lungs ceased to ache. “I can’t hear it anymore. Oh…” and she began to cry. “We killed it.”

Tears welled up in Artur’s eyes as he empathized with his daughter. “Yes. To eat, one thing has to die so another can live.” Tana’s sobbing increased, and her father dropped the knife and put his arms around his little girl and kissed her bald scalp.

“I—I—I’m sorry little fish.”

“I’m sorry too,” said Artur. “Let’s be thankful for the fish. It died so we can eat.” He let go of his daughter, but stayed crouched behind her. Tana sniffled and wiped the tears with the back of her hand, and knelt forward, and kissed the fish. “Tha…Th..Thank you fish.” While Artur considered kissing a fish to be a bit absurd, nonetheless he did not berate his gentle daughter who then and there found her own way of honoring their prey.

He let her sniffle and stare at the fish for a minute, and then said, “Let’s make a fire and eat! Help me gather sticks.”

He set about picking up fallen pine branches, but his daughter did not come. She remained, hands on knees, staring at the dead fish. He considered his daughter’s disobedience, and didn’t correct her on account that she had never caught a fish before. He let his daughter grieve and set up a good pile for cooking, and put dried kindling beneath it. He ignited his tinder, and blew it into a flame, and before long the kindling began to crackle and roar with flame.

Artur then went and picked up the fish, drew out his knife, and began to descale the fish. He ignored his daughter’s grief, and tried to focus on the lesson. “Now the scales are off, we can remove its guts. Cut the belly here, and pull out the guts! Toss those in the water for the other fish. That was easy, wasn’t it?”

Artur took two branches and gave one to his daughter. “Now use your knife, and scrape it like this. There you go! Cut away from yourself like this so you don’t cut yourself.” Tana used a tiny knife and worked at making a skewer. The smell of the fire and work took her grief away, and before long Tana and Artur each had a piece of fish on a skewer, and they cooked it over the fire.

The odor of fresh fish invigorated Artur, and he sighed with contentment. His daughter studied hard, rotating her fish when her father rotated his. It didn’t take long to cook, and the two ate fish on a stick, and they were happy.

As they ate, they both felt an intelligent animal mind downstream, and they looked over and saw a brown bear approaching the water’s edge on the other side. It paid them no mind, and waded into the water a ways, and then scanned the water that spilled from around the rocks.

“Father what is he doing?”

“I think he’s fishing, Tana.”

“With no pole?”

“Oh they don’t need a pole. Watch and see.”

The bear studied the water for a few minutes, and then suddenly lunged in with it’s clawed paw, and pulled a fish up into its mouth, and returned to the shore to eat it. It tore apart the fish, and licked its lips, and then sat down to clean itself.

The fire popped, and the bear looked up in alarm, and stood on its hind legs. But after seeing that the humans were on the other side of the stream, it seemed satisfied there would be no problem, and went back to cleaning itself.

“Can we catch fish without poles?” asked Tana.

“Oh for sure, but its very hard. We can use spears, or swords, or our bare hands. Alan McDougal- do you remember him – he will sit in a river all day until he catches a fish with his hands.”

The bear finished cleaning itself, and wandered off into the forest. Artur said, “Let’s catch some fish for mother and your brothers, and we’ll take them home.”

The two put fresh worms on their hooks, and cast their lines, and in about an hour they caught three more trout. This time Artur held the fish down, and Tana stick the knife in their brains, and he helped her descale them, and to gut them. Artur cut long poles and put the fish on them, and built up the fire, and,they let the cut up fish cook in the smoke.

They washed up in the river, and Tana disrobed and waded in the water while her father stood guard. Tana found minnows and snails, and she picked up the snailed and studied them. The snails retreated into their shells, and she tried to coax them out. “Come out little snail!” she said. But they snails didn’t want to come out. Sunflower came to the stream to drink, and then waded in and splashed around with Tana for little bit.

After swimming, Tana got dressed and reclined with her father under a fat hemlock tree. Artur played jaunty tunes and then soft lullabies on his flute, and before long Tana grew sleepy and dozed off. The day waned on, but before sunset the fish was cooked, and Artur roused his daughter to finish the lesson. They packed the smoked fish into a sack, and tied the gear back on Sunflower’s saddle, and the two rode home.

Story Fragment: The rats defeated, for now.

Here is more from my book in progress, “Zootaloot”. 

The rats are defeated in a one-sided anti-climactic battle.  More interesting than the battle  is how the humans and animals work together. I’m also interested in the mystery left behind, and how it affects the protagonists of the story.  I honestly don’t know what remains down in the rats’ fort.  What did the sorcerer leave behind?  How long with the rat skeletons stand there: decades, centuries?   I also take joy in showing how the peoples of the Pig tribe celebrate victory, even as they struggle to not scratch at their poison ivy…

The Captain of the rat guard, in dismay, tossed his weapons, unbuckled the straps to his breast plate, and returned to running on all fours. He bolted for the deepest chamber, which was the Rat Sorcerer’s room. Up the dark tunnel behind him he could hear the screams and squeals of battle, and the reek of ferret wafted down the tunnel. The captain pounded on the door, “Master! Master! We’re beaten! Open the door! Master!” He then put his shoulder to the door, and popped in, and shut it behind him, trying to catch his breath. Here he found a nearly empty chamber with a carpet, the stones arranged in a portal, and the skeleton guards who immediately moved on him. He didn’t have a chance to squeal.

The few rats hiding in the cursed trees gave up the fight when their home was overrun with ferrets, and carefully slunk away. Now all the humans walked about the rock pile, examining the constructions of the rats, and their armors and weapons, and found it all very curious and sad. Kevin went about, listening for the suffering of still living rats, and found a few badly injured ones. He put them out of their misery, all except one who limped along with a broken leg and arm. For this one, he put on thick leather gloves and picked him up, and spoke with him.

“I can take away you pain.”

“Go spit, Hew Man!”

“What kind of talk is that?” With this he took out a vial of poppy oil, and fed the rat a drop.

The rat seemed to relax after a few seconds, and he questioned the creature further. “Who set this place up?”

“The sorcerer.”

“Which sorcerer?” Kevin set the rat down on some dry leaves, and it began to unbuckle its breastplate with its good arm. Kevin took off his gloves, and helped with the other side, impressed with the handiwork of rats.

“Ours,” said the rat.

“Where is he?”

“In his chamber no doubt, working spells while we all die.”

Tana stood nearby and listened to this exchange. Then amid the milling about of the other people, and the pigs eating dead rat, and the ferrets licking their wounds and lounging, she wandered over to the main entrance, and peered down into the darkness. The hole was large enough for her to crawl in on all fours, if she wanted to.

Diana happened to glance in Tana’s direction, and realized what Tana was considering. “Tana don’t go down there,” she said, and came up next to her. “What are you doing?”

“The rat sorcerer is down there. Kevin learned it from a hurt rat.”

Looking up at the moldy, accursed trees about the place, Diana didn’t like the thought of a sorcerer down in the rat den. “Then we’ll smoke him out.” With that she asked Carberry,  Ferguson and the McDougals to fetch some deadwood and leaves. Troy heard this conversation and went to the entrance, and got on his knees next to Tana, looking into the entrance. He summoned a mild, glowing orb, and sent it down the tunnel.

They were impressed to see a well crafted passage, squarely cut, with shoring beams every so often, and this twisted away out of sight. They had a glimpse of a door on the outer bend of the passage. “More like men than rats, in some ways.”

“Did they make the trees go bad?” asked Tana.

“Yes, it seems that way,” said Troy as he combed the dirt in the entrance with his fingertips. There were no rat droppings. “Look Tana, there’s no poop.”

“Maybe they’re clean rats,” said Tana, also combing the dirt.

At this Martin McDougal, covered in dirt and scratches, plumped his fat self down next to Troy and slapped him gently on the back. He saw them studying the dirt, and said, “Maybe they eat their poop.”

“Who eats poop?” cried Ferguson with a laugh, who with Carberry, carried faggots of kindling over and plumped them down next to Troy.

“Since you’re down there,” said Carberry, “How about shoving this down the hole?”

Troy looked up at his abrasive brother and smiled. “Since you’re up there, how about you fetch me some supper and a mug of ale?” Tana kept staring into the passage as Troy pushed the wood and leaves inside. She wanted to know what other things the rats in their fort, but was obedient to her mother, and did not go down there.

Before long, the entrance was stopped with wood and dry leaves, and Carberry set it afire with his flint and steel. It wasn’t long until there fire became good and hot, and then they all helped fill the entryway with rocks and dirt to trap the smoke, and they stood around the rock pile and waited.

It wasn’t long until smoke began to come out of crevices in the rock pile, and the ferrets waited anxiously for rats to emerge. Nothing came but a few moths and beetles. All the rats were dead or fled after the battle. The the rat skeletons stood in the abandoned chamber surrounded in smoke: silent, breathless, waiting to execute the last order given to them.

* * * * *

The humans and their animals stood guard on the smoking rat fort for about hour, and the sun began to set. No stray rat shot quills at them, and the accursed, moldy trees gave up dropping branches, and seemed to slump over in undeath. The grabbing vines ceased to grab, and aside from the faint crackle of fire, there was an eerie silence.

Diana was satisfied that their menace was defeated, and called for a return home. All made ready, to leave. Kevin took the wounded rat and put it in a sling around his neck, and it slept peacefully. The O’Reillys called all their goats by name, and lead the parade out. The McDougals summoned all their ferrets, and after a difficult head count of the scrambling creatures, followed the O’Reillys. The Zootaloots made ready to go, but Tana lingered by smoking rat den with Borussa on one side and Nelly on the other.

“Come along Tana,” said Diana at the edge of the thorny ivy.

“We should go,” said Borussa. “It is finished.”

“And I want a bath,” said Nelly, who was exhausted from chasing rats up and down the rocks.

Tana had a nagging feeling like they missed something, but couldn’t express it in words. But she made a mental note to come back to this spot, and figure it out.

The party got home by dusk, and they were weary, and itchy. All the humans doffed their armor and their soiled clothes and jumped in the pond to wash the grime and itchy oils from their skin. They were naked, and not ashamed.

The animals were all happy to be back on the farm. “Mother,” said Borussa as Diana splashed in the pond, “unbuckle my armor.” But she didn’t understand. “Mother?” He made as to wade into the pond, and Diana noticed him. “Borussa, don’t come in, you’ll rust your armor!”

Carberry heard him, however, and swam to the shore, and unbuckled Borussa’s armor.  Nelly, who lounged under the willow tree, then said, “Oh! Me too!” and trotted over. Carberry unbuckled her armor as well, and the two big fighting pigs splashed into the pond and swam with everyone else. It looked like a giant pool party of humans, pigs, goats, ferrets, and a six armed orangutan. The cows wandered over in curiosity and because they were thirsty.  Upon seeing the merry gathering decided to wait until it was quieter before venturing down.

The humans broke out in rashes all over their bodies, except Martin and Donalda, who did not have the allergy, and Tana who carefully avoided touching the thorny poison ivy. They helped Kevin prepare salves to sooth their rashes, and also fetched water to drink, and food to eat, while everyone else tried not to scratch.

The elder generations of McDougals, and Cale O’Reilly, sat naked in the lamplight around a stump playing a raucous game of cards and swilled a good amount of ale and mead, and did their best to ignore their rashes. Alan McDougal alternated between his pipe, his ale, and a root he had a habit of chewing for its sedative properties. “Alan, dear” said Aine, who among them all seemed to bear her rashes with a little more dignity, “put one of those down, I can see your cards.”

“Now I know I really am old,” replied Alan, who spat the root away, “when I’m here naked, and all you can notice is my cards!” Everyone burst out in laughter, a great belly laugh, and it helped them forget their discomfort.

More Story Fragment: Borussa the Pig

Here we watch Borussa the pig go after the rats that shot up the farm cats with quill arrows….


Borussa reclined in the shade of a willow, watching Diana, Troy and Tana carrying the four cats. They had bolted off in a hurry without explanation, and it puzzled him that the cats were not walking back on their own.

Borussa was an unusual pig, with a degree of sentience far beyond the average swine. He traveled far over the years, and fought in battles alongside his father Artur. He helped raise Tana as if she were his own child. In seeing this unusual scene, he got to his feet and trotted after the three humans as they returned to the house.

The three humans stopped at a table outside the house and began extracting small arrows from the flesh of the cats, who howled and screamed despite Tana and Troy’s best efforts to calm them. It took a bit of time, but eventually they got the arrows out and left the cats to lick their own wounds. Borussa listened to the humans talking, and understood Tana and Troy the best: little rats with swords and bows. Little rats that fight like humans. Little rats hunting.

The hunting was of no interest to him. All meat eaters hunted.  He himself  killed a rabbits for supper if the opportunity presented itself.  But he never heard of small rats with human weapons. It seemed…off.  So Borussa made as though to head for the pig pond, and then when out of sight turned and headed for the woodlot.

The sun was setting now, and the air was thick with evening bugs, and dew began to form on the the grasses that had been in the shade for a few hours. The hawk weed and dandelions began to close their flowers. The pleasant odor of bark and damp wood wafted down from the woodlot onto the edge of the pasture. Birds sang their good-nights and traded tales of the day.

There’s a big pig in the wood

up to no good

no mushroom is safe

from the pig’s ravenous face

Borussa entered the woodlot, and put his porcine senses to good use. Nose to the ground, he scanned back and forth and he explored the forest: ants, beetles, moss, deer poop, fern, mushrooms. Oh! Mushrooms! Well there was just a few, so he ate them, but didn’t forget his mission. Nose down, he got scent of cat blood, and he expanded his search, and found plentiful rat poop and urine. Rats, are easy to track by their excrement, as they drop it everywhere they go. The fact that the rats marched in columns made their trail easy to follow.

Borussa snuffled and followed, occasionally perking up to observe his surroundings. Most creatures knew to steer clear of a huge boar, and so there was naught but the occasional tweet or chitter of the birds as they settled down for the evening.

Borussa came upon a porcupine digging grubs from a rotten log. Porcupines are one of the few that do not fear pigs, and paid him little mind. Borussa decided to chat up the porcupine.

“Hail Prickly Pig!” he said.

The porcupine turned, and Borussa could a great bald patch on the creature’s hind flank. She replied, “What do you want, oh boar? Can’t you see I’m busy?”

Borussa ignored the second question. “I’m tracking some rats, perhaps you’ve seen them.”

The porcupine shuddered, and she replied, “Oh do not talk about them. They gave me such a horrible time,” and continued eating her grubs.

“Do tell.”

“I’d rather not talk about it. It’s useless to dwell on the past.” And it was true, since animals tend not to ponder old hurts, but learn from them and move on, and continue living in the present. Miss Porcupine was enjoying her meal, and enjoying the fact that most creatures preferred not to fight with her.

Borussa went to the other end of the log and began digging at it with his tusks. A fat grub plopped to the leafy floor, and he slurped it up. “They shot up some farm cats with quills. Those cats are my friends. Did you give them yours?”

This disrupted the porcupine’s peace of mind, and she dropped a grub, which began to wiggle and try to escape. “No! No! I…oh it was horrible. They came on me, and there was a sorcerer among them. He chanted some words and suddenly I couldn’t move! I could hardly breathe. And then the rats yanked out my quills, and left me for dead. ‘Thank you! We’ll be back!’ they said.”

“Thank you Prickly Pig. I leave you in peace.”

Borussa nodded, and continued snuffling after the rat trail. There was too much for him to fully comprehend. There was evil afoot, he was sure of that much. He pushed on through ferns, low bushes, tufts of grass, until he came to a rocky patch covered with thicket creeper and poison ivy. Lucky for Borussa, he had no allergy, but made a note to bathe when he got home. He began to push through, when suddenly there was a high pitched screech ahead, and something pin pricked his left shoulder. Perking up, he could see a rat on a bit of rock pulling back his bow. He wasted no time, and lunged forward, skewering the rat with his tusk.

There was another screech to his right, and he heard little feet darting away. Borussa pursued, and under a great boulder was a large hole big enough for maybe a raccoon. There were three rats here, and they too were firing arrows at him. He shrugged off the hits, and bore down on them. Two retreated down their hole, but he killed the third. Quickly now, he began shoving dirt out of the hole with his tusks, and then with his trotter, and did his damnedest to get at the second and third rat, who by now had retreated down the tunnel.

Borussa figured he found their lair, or a lair at least. He lacked the means to get down and investigate. He could fill in the hole, but they, like squirrels and chipmunks, probably had multiple entrances. The hole reeked of rat urine and feces. Perhaps it would cover up his own scent. He rolled himself around the hole in it as best he could, and then retreated back into the ferns and shrubs a way. He found himself a comfortable spot in the leaves, and crouched down and waited.

It was at least an hour before any rats came out of the hole. They spoke to one another alternately in rat squeeks and elvish. Borussa was not fluent in elvish, so he could not discern the whole conversation. He heard something about “Huge boar in the woods! Fix the entrance. Ack Snitch and Pip are dead!” Then came another voice, less rat like, and more human like, and it spoke only in elvish “Imbecilles! Hold your bowels and swine won’t find you. Now go see if it’s gone.”

“I ain’t a-going after that beast!”

There was a flash through the bushes, and the smell of ozone and burning fur, and a simultaneous squeak of pain, but Borussa didn’t know what happened. “Perhaps I should kill you all, and your dead bodies will serve me better!”

“No master! I go!”

Borussa heard tiny feet scuttle off. A few minutes later, the rat came his way, walking on its hind legs, clinking in armor and sniffing about. It was tempting to just grab the wretched thing, but Borussa stayed still, and the rat passed by and continued until it was out of earshot.

Borussa waited a few minutes more, and then slowly crept back the way he came, retracing the patch of the rat droppings until he reached the rotten log. The porcupine was gone. Here Boroussa snuffled for grubs, and after eating a bit, he made his way back to the pasture land and then to the barn. Tana was there pouring buckets of water in the pig trough.

“Where’d you go, Borussa? You almost missed supper!”

“I was walking about.”

The little bald girl put down her bucket and skipped over him. She almost hugged him, but he pulled back abruptly. “I need a bath. I got into some poison ivy.” It was hard to disguise his being disturbed at the events of the evening. The little girl sensed something was wrong, but figured it was just the poison ivy.

“I’ll race you to the pond!” she shouted gleefully, and began to tear off away from the barn toward the pond. Borussa followed, and let her win the race. He splashed into the cool water and rolled about in the shallows, letting the mud cleanse his skin. He then waded into the deeper parts. Tana took off her dress and jumped in and swam to her friend. Together they played in the pond in the light of the two moons. Human and beast alike let go of the day’s stresses and lived in the moment.