A Word to Readers

Dear Readers,
I am going away for some time and I will come back sometime in the middle of JANUARY. When I do, I will notify you.

I posted again on The Light.

Hi, I will post every Saturday from now on, but there might be a few exceptions. If so, I will notify you. The new post I have posted today will be continued every week on the same post. Notice that I have put the date on the top left hand corner. I will do so every week so that you know where you have left off.

At the same time, I would like to thank all of you faithful readers for encouraging me. Your encouragement has motivated me to publish a book. In fact, Dawn is going to be my first book. The prologue I posted on this blog is a rough draft of the book's prologue. I'll keep you posted on my progress, but I cannot reveal the details --Book Progress: Chapter 14

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Father's Secret

This writing was entered in the "Sandra's Writers Workshop Hop"  --http://sandrasfiberworks.blogspot.com/2012/05/having-taught-fiction-writing-for-years.html

            My name is Lady Anebella Rose Loter. I am a nobleman’s daughter. No, I am Sir Albert Loter’s daughter. My father was a very wealthy man back then, in the medieval times. He was the most trustworthy lord in the kingdom. King William entrusted his deepest secrets with my father, with only my father. Now, looking back, I still cannot believe that he actually betrayed those secrets to the enemy, but no matter what he did, he is still my father. I still would go through it to save my father. I would go through it a hundred times if that is what it took to save him. It happened a long time ago, in my early days when I was 17…
            I honed my sword, sharpening it for the upcoming hunt. It was a beautiful sword with a long, polished blade and an ivory hilt adorned with jewels. My father had specially ordered it from the blacksmith for my birthday. Even though women were supposed to oversee the manor house, he made an exception for me. I was allowed to take part in the outdoor activities that only men could participate in and leave all the weaving and raising children to my older sisters. As you can see, my father loved me very much. He got me everything I wanted, from an ivory bow to the prettiest dress in town. I recalled one time when I had torn my favorite doll. My father had searched the whole of Europe for another, just because he had promised me. I had never known him to go back on his word.
            Just then, as I was smiling fondly at the memory, a shadow fell across the armory. I glanced up to see my father, walking quickly toward the back door of the manor house. I stood up, about to call out to him when I noticed that something was wrong. His eyes darted around as if any moment his worst fear would come true and as he walked on, I noticed that he kept on looking behind him to make sure no one was following him. Curious, I grabbed my bow and strapped a quiver of arrows to my back. I cautiously followed him, ducking behind a barrel of ale to keep out of sight. I was pretty sure that he would not see me. All the men I trained with said I was as stealthy as a cat and light and agile on my feet. If it had all been empty praise, I would be in big trouble, but I had to see what was wrong. Ever since my mother died giving birth to me, my father and I were very close. He would confide in me all his secrets and troubles, knowing they would not be let out. Why had he not told me about this? I wondered. I suddenly stopped in my tracks. My father had realized that something was wrong and was glancing around suspiciously. Seeing nothing, he continued on, once in a while abruptly stopping to see if anyone was following him. Finally we reached the back door of the manor house. He stepped through and carried on, now striding through the crowd of peasants bustling around. I narrowed my eyes, pondering about why he did not ride a horse and bring guards. My father turned left into an alleyway and I slowly crept after him. I stepped into the cold, stone alleyway, taking a quick glimpse. 
                The damp alleyway was made of roughly cut pieces of stone, carved and stacked on top of each other. There were huge gaps between each block and cracks running alongside most. As I passed through, I noted the scurrying of furry feet in the small crevices. Rats. I sniffed in disgust.Whoever had built it had done a horrible job. Two dilapidated houses towered above it, one leaning toward the other, giving the look that it was about to collapse.
I hurried on. My father turned again, this time entering a busy street filled with peasants performing their daily duties. In the distance, I heard a trumpet announcing that a miracle play was about to begin and spotted peasants, dressed in rags, gathering to watch. Pushing through the crowd, I tried to get closer to my father, but a peasant holding a pile of hay and a pitchfork blocked my view. Frustrated,  I waited impatiently as the old man slowly walked away. When the peasant had finally passed, I had lost sight of my father. I bit my lip in vexation, trying to relocate him. How could I have lost him so easily? I frantically looked around, searching for his brown coat and feathered hat, but everyone was wearing brown. The thought crossed my mind that he was wearing brown for that very purpose: to blend in. 
Anger erupted from me, cold and bitter. Anger at my father's behavior, at the fact that he had not trusted me enough to confide in me, and anger at the fact that I had failed. I blindly shoved through the crowd, ignoring the yells and cries of the peasants who got pushed. I looked around again, brushing my glistening black hair out of my blue eyes. In my desperation, I tripped on my green cloak and navy blue dress. I fell on the ground, winded. For a few moments I just lay there, despair threatening to take hold of me. The run had tired me out, and I was no nearer to whatever was causing my father to act like this than in the beginning. Failure, like a vulture's wings, enveloped me in its embrace. But, I could not give up so easily. I was Lady Anebella Rose Loter. I would not lay on the ground and give in to despair. Pulling myself together, I stood up and brushed off the dirt on my dress.
Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my father step into another alleyway. This one was narrower than the one before. I made my way through the throng of people and entered the alleyway, careful to keep out of sight. He turned yet again. I walked past a lone dog tied to a chain and continued following him. This time I noticed he bent down and looked at something. Then he clandestinely moved on. I waited until he could not see me. Then I went over and knelt down to see what it was. A couple pebbles were clustered together on the dusty ground. To a normal person, they would look as if they were in no particular pattern, but I knew better. I had been trained to recognize symbols; my father had insisted on it. And this one, I identified almost instantly. It was the insignia of our enemy, deliberately put there. I was certain, but why would my father have anything to do with our enemies?
I got up and hastily dashed in the direction my father took. I arrived just in time to see it: an exchange with the enemy.
“So you will give me the position?” my father queried.
“Yes” came the answer.
“If I give you the information, you will give me the position…” my father said, thinking.
“Of course” the man who was talking to my father replied.
“I’ll do it.” my father decided.
My father stepped closer and the man took out a contract from his sleeves. I watched, open mouthed, as my father took the quill and signed it. I had always been proud that my father could read and write, but seeing him use his skills in signing the contract made me feel queasy. I could see clearly from my hiding place behind a few crates of corn the emblem of our enemy on the scroll. Unconsciously, tears started streaming down my face. How could my father do this? How could he? He had always been loyal and the best man I ever knew, always courteous and chivalrous. How could he betray us? More importantly, how could he betray me? Not wanting to see more, I fled, tears dripping down my face and onto the dirt ground. I raced through the twisting alleyway, not caring if my father heard or saw me. As I burst out into the streets, the peasants stared at me, a crying 17-year-old in a cloak trailing past her and a navy blue gown. I must have been an odd sight without my usual dignity and regalia. But now, at that very moment, I didn't care. Not one bit. All I could remember was my father, allying himself with the enemy. I pushed past the crowd blindly and raced back to the manor house. Looking down, I hurried past the guards, ignoring their welcoming words. I rushed into my room and collapsed in bed. I sobbed into my embroidered pillow until exhaustion engulfed me and I fell into a deep slumber.
I woke up the next day as rays of light streamed into my room. I sat up and rubbed my red, swollen eyes. Looking up, I saw my father, the man who had betrayed me, sitting calmly in a chair, waiting for me. I gulped. I knew what would come next.
“You followed me last night.” my father was direct.
Swallowing, I replied, "Yes.”
“Do you think it is right to follow me?” he inquired.
“Do you think it is right to betray your kingdom, to betray me?” I countered.
My father sighed, "Perhaps I should tell you everything.”
I waited for my father to continue.
After what seemed like ages, he began, "These days, lords do not have much power. Many towns make charters with the king. We no longer have any power. We no longer are needed. Sooner or later we will be gotten rid of. I have made an exchange with the enemy. They have promised me power and safety for my family in exchange for a bit of information. Yesterday I-“
“I don’t need to hear anymore.” I interrupted, "I understand.”
With that, I stood up and walked out of the room, trying to ignore the look of pain in my father’s eyes.
In the next few days, I managed to evade my father. Once he had approached me to talk, but I had immediately left, still angry at him. I did not need to hear his excuses. He was not my father. My father was noble and would never do such a thing.This was a man I did not know.
That was when it happened.
There was a knock on the door of our manor house and a moment later, a messenger stormed in. He ordered to have the entire Loter family as his audience. When they all had arrived, the messenger took out a scroll and began to read.
“Loter family has been found guilty of betraying our kingdom. Of giving our secrets to the enemy.” The messenger began.
“But we would never do that!” one of my sisters protested.
Ignoring the gasps of horror around him and the protest, the messenger continued, "Therefore, the entire family will be punished if whoever did it does not confess or no one represents the family in three days. Also, the manor will be closely guarded and no one will be allowed to enter or leave it.”
I could not believe my ears. My father had been found out! What should I do? A mixture of feelings bombarded me, but the fear for my father was the strongest. As I went back to my room, I thought about it. Should I confess to save my father and family? I was in a dilemma. I did not know what to do.
The next day, I made up my mind. Even if my father had betrayed us, he was still my father. He was still the man that had assuaged me fears as a child and the very same man that had tucked me into bed and helped me through the hardships of life. Even if it took my life, I would save him. I owed him my life. I sought out the messenger and said that I would represent my family. The messenger, surprised, did not say anything and took me to somewhere blind-folded. I was told that I would have to fight my accuser and whoever won was innocent. I knew that this was the ordeal by combat. They took me to an armory to pick a weapon. Taking a deep breath, I chose a sword, long in length and sharp at the tip. Then I was pushed into an arena-
-where I stopped dead.
I stared at my accuser. I could not believe it. It was Sir Henry Duncan’s son, the young man who was my sister’s best friend. How could I kill him? Well, maybe I didn’t need to. Maybe I could just knock him out, but it would be hard. I looked at him up and down. He was wearing full armor, which was much better for fighting than a dress, but it would slow him down. If I was nimble enough, I might, just might, win, I thought. But the chances were slim. Very slim.
I would most likely lose.
In the background, the judge started the countdown.
Then he yelled, "Fight!”and it began.
I waited as my opponent ran toward me, trying to assess his speed.   As he swung his sword toward me, I dodged. I could see that he did not expect to be fighting me, but whoever lost was guilty, so he had to. I then slashed at him, but he moved out of range. Circling each other, he was the first to lunge. I pushed my entire body forward in a roll as the blade came down inches from my head. Panting now, I swiped my sword at his arm, catching him where the arm and the shoulder came together. He staggered, off balance, but his armor had done its job well. There wasn’t even a scratch on him. Desperate now, I knew that there was simply no chance to win. He was wearing armor and I was just wearing a plain dress! I mean, how could that compare? The dress I was wearing would not shield me from any of my opponent’s blows. Close to despair, I steadied myself, taking deep breaths. My eyes hardening, I charged, ducking a blow to my chest. I nimbly slashed at his heels, where I knew there was a gap in the armor, and a cry of pain rewarded me. Smiling in satisfaction, I elbowed him in the torso.
“You’re fighting like a sick peasant!” I turned to see Sir Henry Duncan come to encourage his son. At that moment’s lack of attention, my adversary leaned forward and sliced his weapon in me. I glanced down to see crimson red spread from the gash in my waist, pervading in an ugly shape. I gasped in pain, biting my lip in the excruciating and lacerating agony. Taking the opportunity, my rival swiped his sword at me, a cruel smile playing at his lips. I only had time to throw myself down. The blade whooshed pass a couple inches from me. Immediately as I hit the ground, I rolled to the right, jerking my spine. The sword came down again, this time with half an inch to spare. I gritted my teeth as I was slowly pushed against a wall. If I were cornered, I would be done. The fight would have been for nothing. I would have failed.
But then, an old idea came to me. A little trick. I doubted my opponent would fall for it, but it was worth a try. I backed off, closer and closer to the wall. I saw him smile as he thought he was cornering me. He thought the fight would finally be over. He thought that he would win.
But he was wrong.
As my back touched the wall, I darted behind him with amazing speed and banged the hilt of my blade at his neck. I was lucky that his helmet had fallen off during the battle. If not, I might not have been alive today. Bloody and sweaty, I waited for him to get up. I counted to fifty. He still did not get up. He was unconscious! I had won. Exhilaration swept through me. Finally it was done! I could now go back home. My father’s secret would never be found out. Everything was going to be fine. But then I felt a little dizzy. I narrowed my eyes in confusion as a black wave rose up to engulf me. I struggled to resist it, but when it came a second time, I no longer had the strength to refuse to it.  And the world in my vision tilted as I collapsed.
I woke up in the infirmary, a few days later, with my father looking at me worriedly. I told him that I was fine and that I had forgiven him. My father smiled and apologized. He told me that a feast was waiting for me. A banquet to acknowledge my bravery and courage. I got up and unsteadily went to my room, where I changed into a dress the color of onyxes. I walked out and hurried to the feast, looking forward to the music and food. Looking forward to see my family again. And for my old life.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Wise Leaf

     One hot, summer day, Dough was sitting under his little doghouse, thinking about rolling in the damp, cool mud for a reprieve of the warmth. His coat was thick and long, the color of corn in the setting sun. The shade of his doghouse was no help. Just as he was about to get to his paws and trot over to the mud, a dark, shaggy dog with unkempt fur approached him.The dark brown dog, named Dirt, boasted," Hey Doughy. Bet 'cha can't build a smaller doghouse than me. I, Dirt the Emperor, am always the best." Tired of hearing Dirt's boasting, Dough decided to craft a smaller doghouse than Dirt's. Upon finishing it, he strode up to Dirt, declaring," I have the tiniest doghouse in town." The doghouse was indeed small, the size of a beehive. Envious, Dirt made an even smaller one. He painted it the dark green of a pine. "There!" he boasted." Now I have the smallest doghouse in town." Seeing this, Dough created a doghouse the size of a Doberman's paw.
     This continued until Dough and Dirt could not build a smaller doghouse. Dough was exhausted and Dirt was too. Both thought, the match will continue tomorrow.
     The next day, a leaf floated down onto the hot, dusty floor near Dough's home. The sun glinted on it and soon enough, it caught on fire. Slowly but surely, words appeared, singed into the delicate leaf.
     On and on,
     Spinning on a wheel
     It's a real tire.
     Here one day
     And gone the next.
     On and on,
     Spinning, spinning, and spinning-
     Isn't it a real tire?
     Best to stop and take a day's rest,
     Or soon you'll decay.
     Reduced to a pile of ashes.
     The best in town
     is the most unintelligent in town.
     Stop the wheel 
     Before it's too late.
     Spotting the leaf and seeing its wise words, Dough decided to stop competing with Dirt. Dirt soon met his end, when deciding to build a doghouse as big as a bee, went to catch one in a bee hive. The swarm of bees bombarded him and soon after he had passed away from the stings.
     Well, Dough just lived a happy life with his old doghouse and never built another small doghouse again.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Biscuit, My Balto

            Bright sunlight filtered through the sapphire colored curtains of Molly’s bedroom, and outside her dog, Biscuit, barked. Molly yawned and opened her bright hazel eyes. Her straight, shoulder-length, hair without bangs was tangled. She got out of bed and walked toward her green closet. Everything in her room was neat and clean. There was a straight pile of books on her desk and a tidy bookshelf in the corner. Molly pulled open the closet door and picked out an orange plaid shirt and a pair of jeans. She went over to the tiled bathroom to change. Then, she put on a lime green headband. Outside her door, Biscuit barked again, waiting for Molly to take her on their morning walk. As quickly as she could, Molly brushed her hair and hurriedly opened the door. The white and tan Pomeranian jumped up into her arms, licking her face.
            “Okay, okay,” Molly smiled and clicked on a leash. She went out into the kitchen to eat her usual breakfast of a peanut butter sandwich. 
            “Good morning,” Molly’s mom greeted her.
“Good morning Mom,” Molly replied while climbing onto the chair.
 She picked up a sandwich and took a bite. Biscuit was wagging her tail impatiently, so Molly gulped down the rest of her sandwich.
“I’m going to take Biscuit on a walk through the woods", she called.
“Sure, just be back in an hour.” Mom answered.
Molly grabbed hold of the yellow leash with paw prints on it and Biscuit quickly got up and followed her. Molly opened the door and stepped out. It was a bright, sunny day with a slight breeze that carried the scent of sweet flowers. Biscuit rushed out, running around the recently mowed lawn. She closed the front door and set out on the path that led to the woods. It was very convenient to have a park so close to her home. The dense trees and undergrowth shielded her from the burning rays of the sun. The woods had been there for thousands of years and ivy climbed on the oak and fir trees that dotted the parks. The leaves were golden and shimmered as Molly and Biscuit walked past. The leaves that littered the forest floor crunched under her feet. A bush with bright red berries and spiky leaves rustled. A moment later, a mottled white and gray head poked out. The sharp ears with black tips were pushed out and it locked eyes with Biscuit. As suddenly as it appeared, the cat’s head was out of sight. With a bark, Biscuit gave chase to the mottled cat, and the leash was wrenched out of Molly’s hands.
“No”, Molly yelled desperately, “Come back!” But it was already too late. Biscuit was tearing after the cat in full speed. Molly ran after her, except Biscuit was already out of sight. “Biscuit!” Molly called, “Biscuit!” A thorn tore into her pants, but she didn’t care. Branches whipped in her face and thorn bushes blocked her path. Still, Molly didn’t give up. She spotted a clump of fur on a thorn bush. It was Biscuit’s. Molly rushed over to the bush and examined it. Good. No blood. There were no traces of a fight at least. She slipped past the bush to search for more signs, but she did not notice the sign that read “Danger! Bear Territory.” And she did not see the claw marks of a bear on the oak tree. “Biscuit!” Molly called and called, “Biscuit!” Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a lumbering shape and heard the thump of huge paws. She whipped around and gasped. A few feet away, a massive bear loomed above her, its beady eyes focused on her. A low growl issued from the bear’s muzzle and Molly screamed, eyes wide with terror.
A mile away from Molly, Biscuit was chasing after the cat. Then, she heard a scream. It was Molly! Biscuit dashed toward the sound. When she got close enough, Biscuit ducked under a yew bush. In the clearing a few steps away, a huge grizzly had cornered Molly. Quickly thinking, she dashed off to find the foxes that lived there. Her nose had picked up a whiff of fox when they set off into the woods. She circled the place, trying to figure out where they came from. She stopped by a bush and sniffed again. It definitely had the scent of Molly and herself. She had found the scent trail! With her nose in the air, Biscuit went all the way back. There was a whiff of fox again, and she followed the scent to a den.
“Hello?” she barked. There was a growl coming from the den. “Please help me!” Biscuit begged. After a while, the fox agreed and found a few of his friends, Misha, a dark red fox with white feet and a bushy tail, Stone, a thin fox with all of his ribs showing, and Silver, a light orange fox with dark brown eyes and a tail that was tipped silver. Biscuit whispered the plan to them and they split up and formed a circle around the clearing where the bear was. Stone howled first, his wild song cutting through the forest. Then Misha’s turn, her howl echoing through the trees. Third was Silver with her passionate, untamed song. Next was the fox that Biscuit found, and last of all was Biscuit. She howled her love of Molly into the bright sky. The bear’s ears lifted up and it started back toward where it came. Growls were coming from all around.
“What’s happening?” Molly thought, “Were they wolves or foxes? Oh no!” More sharp barks came from all around and the bear spun around and fled, clambering through the woods on clumsy paws. Out of the bushes rushed out a white and tan shape, so familiar to Molly that she recognized it immediately. “Biscuit!” Molly cried out joyfully. She had never been so happy and surprised in her life. “You’re the greatest dog ever. You’re my Balto!” (Balto was the bravest dog ever in Alaska, who went through 700 miles of deep snow without stopping to deliver medicine for sick children.) Molly reached her arms out and hugged Biscuit. Together, they went home, paw in hand.
“Molly, it’s already 10:59, what in the world happened? I was so worried, and you’re such a mess!” Molly’s mother exclaimed.
“Oh, we just confronted a bear,” Molly said with a gleam in her eyes.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Feline and Canine Rivalry

     Long, long ago, when the universe was first created, Catna, the goddess of the sky, and Doggia, the god of the earth, ruled. Catna, of course, governed the sky and Doggia the earth. The world was empty and desolate, without anything to inhabit it. Stretches of vast wasteland covered the earth and dusty winds blew across the barren land. Layers of dust  were disturbed as the winds rushed across them. A tear fell from Catna, for she felt despondent because nothing at all lived in the world. Moon, feeling bad for Catna, granted her wish.
     As the tear fell onto the ground, magically, a little white creature appeared, opening her mouth to let out a little mewl. Then the creature blinked open her eyes for the first time to the world around her. Two little tufts of fur tapered into gentle points that were her ears. Her head narrowed into a muzzle with a triangular nose that was pale pink. Whiskers sprouted on her muzzle and a tail, long and delicate, curled up at the end of her slender body. She stood up on her four paws and fuzzy white fur covered her from head to toe. Razor-sharp claws grew from every toe on each of her paws, perfect for tearing prey. The creature stretched open her jaws again in a yawn. Little rows of sharp teeth glinted in the light.  Catna smiled, her eyes brimming with happiness, and joy coursed through her, making the stars shine ever brighter. Catna named the little creature "cat" for herself. Feeling lonely, the white cat created plants to share the world with her. Soon, the white cat's plants covered the once-barren land. Flowers stretched their heads to the Sun and leaves glistened with dew in the early morning sunlight. Palm trees grew in oases and daisies popped up amidst the blades of grass,  thin strands of fuzzy green fur that grew in huge numbers.
     Doggia, wanting someone to accompany the lone she-cat, went to Moon. He trotted up the rainbow trail to Moon's house. As he arrived, Doggia requested for another creature to be made, one that was named after him. Moon consented and a little sculpture sculpted out of clay was animated. The creature had two drooping ears the hue of the dusty ground and a longer, narrower muzzle than that of the cat's. Longer and larger legs were attached to a more muscular body. A swishing tail wagged at the end of the creature. It was named "dog". The dusky brown dog and the white cat were good friends. And their offspring were too, until one day...
     A dog with a black-and-white coat, sat on the smooth and comfortable grass. She and another, a pomeranian dog with gray fur and eyes the color of the midnight sky, were eating their meal. The gray pomeranian was ravenously gulping down a squirrel. The black and white one was quietly munching a plump rabbit. A bush rustled in the peaceful clearing, and the black and white dog turned around, curious. Nothing moved. Not a leaf or a blade of grass. The lush glade was unusually silent. The wind was still and everything was just quiet. She stopped eating and glanced around. Dogs were all biting into their food and chatting. No one seemed to see anything wrong. It's probably just my imagination. The dog concluded.
     Just then, a cream-colored tom burst through the foliage surrounding the clearing and screeched out a challenge.
     "You have stolen our new-born kits! We want them back, you thieves. To think that you would turn on you friends so quickly when we had been allies from the time before time. You aided the foxes in stealing our kits! You will pay. Attack!" a tom with eyes smoldering with rage yowled.
     Cats crashed into the clearing in all sides, launching themselves into the hectic fray. It was chaos as dog fought cat and cat fought dog. What has happened? We were friends a moment ago! The white and black dog, confused, thought in horror. Then a cat leaped at her and clawed her with its sharp claws. With a bark of anger, she thrust out all four paws and pushed the cat off her. Baring her teeth, she bit into the cat's leg and let go as it begged for mercy.
     " Doggia, save us!" A dog wailed as another fresh row of cats stormed into the glade. Fur flew everywhere and the hot rank of blood hit her nose.
     Up above, Doggia and Catna looked down at the battle raging below. Sadness spread in Catna's face and Doggia's tail swished back and forth. Furious, Doggia shook with anger, The whole world shook as Doggia yelled out his rage.
     Back below, the feuding cats and dogs stopped abruptly and broke apart as the earth shook. A crack in the earth appeared between the two animals. Trees were uprooted and fell with crashes. Flowers swayed and raindrops pelted them from above as Catna expressed her sorrow. Both animals fled from the spot.
     To end all the bloodshed, Doggia enhanced the dogs' sense of smell. With a keen sense of smell, the dogs  would be able to smell the cats when they came the next time. Catna made sure cats could leap high to evade the dogs. They could do nothing to the gap between the two, but could at least ensure that there was as little bloodshed as possible.
     From then on, dogs had a keen sense of smell and cats could jump very high.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Life as a Rock 2

     Terror coursed through me and it took all of my self control to not scream and flail around. My heart beat rapidly against my chest. Faster and faster until I felt like it would burst from my chest. My eyes, wide with fear, darted to behind me to see my other friends being taken from their prison too. I closed my eyes, the air slick with fear, and prayed that we would be all right.
     Then it happened. A bat dropped a twig alight on fire on the bat carrying me in its iron, vise-like clutch. For a few moments, the little twig seemed suspended in the air. Then it was on us. The tip of the twig hit the bat's back and flames rose up, licking hungrily. Soon the bat's wings were aflame. Whirling crazily in a tilt, the bat careened into another and plummeted. I screamed as wind rushed past us and tears came to my eyes as the violent, whooshing air stung me. I closed my eyes. Screeching in pain, the bat, its entire body on fire, let go of me. I dropped and squeezing my eyes tighter, landed on something soft and furry. The back of a bat. I snapped open my eyes as we tilted dizzily earthward. The impact had unbalanced the bat, and  it struggled to regain control of its flight. The port wing of the bat dipped and I felt myself slipping. I was in the open air again. The ground came up fast. Too fast for me. I would be crushed on impact. I would never see my mother again. Nor my friends. Fat tears rolled down my cheeks as I closed my eyes in despair and waited, bracing myself, for the impact. Falling, falling. The wind buffeting me. Plummeting to my death.
     Excruciating pain. Agonizing pain. Searing through me. The heat. Burning, hot red flames. Surrounded by hot red flames, lapping hungrily at me. Roasting me alive. I forced my eyes to open, but they refused to budge. Tears welled up in my eyes, but they vaporized the very moment they first saw the world. A world of fire. Fire everywhere. All around me. And the pain. The horrible pain. Flashes of my memories came back. A little by a little. Falling though the air. Wings of flame reaching up. Up to a sky of stone. Of dark black stone. Then the impact. Landing in a wreath of flame. It was as if all the pain in the world had decided to barrage me. My entire body ached with it. Opening my eyes to a slit, they screamed with pain. And then they widened in surprise. I was on fire. Waves of flame danced across me. I opened my mouth to let out a scream, but nothing came out. My mouth was dry. Terribly dry, and I yearned for water. Oh, how I longed for water. The taste of it. The feel of it. That cool liquid that gushes down your throat. But I forced myself to get up. I had to for my friends. My mind flashed back to the plan we had devised in the skull prison.
 “We’re next.”Sapphire had said in a timid voice.
      “What will we do?”Amber had wailed, “A guard will come in any moment.”
     "When a guard picks us up, we can bite their claws or something. Just find a way for them to release us. Then what we could do is hide in all the brush and bones. They're too large to fit in the bones. Then one of us can go free the other stones and rocks held in the prisons. Coal, can you do that?" I had rapidly explained the plan that was currently forming in my mind.       
     "Sure." Coal had agreed readily.
     "Then the rest of us can go free the rocks in the pyramid. One of us will make a distraction. A big one. So that they will not be looking at you when it happens. I could set fire on this place. The cannibals have covered the floor with a layer of dried leaves. That could be the distraction we will need. Then when Coal and I are done, we will go to the pyramid to help you. What do you think?" I had finished, gasping for breath.
     "I think it's a good idea. Well, at least it's the best we have." Amber had spoke up first. 
     "Okay. Let's do it." Sapphire had said determinedly.  
     Painfully, I got up, my every limb creaking. I rolled out of the sea of quickly spreading flames, dodging towers of them. Well, I didn't need to set the cavern on fire anymore. I thought with a smile. Some clumsy bat had already done it for me. I had to dodge plenty of frightened bats that were winging their way to the tunnel’s entrance. The flames had spread more rapidly than I had thought. It was already eating its way to a nearby pile of bones.  I rolled faster. I didn’t have much time left. I could already feel the heat on my back. I was getting closer to the pyramid. I could see the scared faces of the rocks clearly now. The structure was tall with stone terraces and beautifully carved walls. I could make out the silhouettes of Sapphire and Ember trying to free the rocks. Dried mud was holding the rocks together. What could break the mud? Water of course, but the water would extinguish the fire and where would I get water? I had arrived at the pyramid already and I exchanged a few words with Ember.
“How are we going to free the rocks? We don’t have time to break each one out.”Ember asked desperately.  
“Water is the answer.”I said.
“But where do we get water?”Ember sighed resignedly, about to give up.
“Water sometimes fills up in a different room of a cave. All we need to do is to blast a hole in the wall.”Sapphire suggested hopefully.
“And how do we do that?”Ember questioned.
“Um…we could find a crack in the wall and dig in deeper?”I didn’t know what to say.
“I don’t know if it’ll work, but we could try.”Sapphire said.
I went to the wall of the cave to search for one. Cracks or thin parts of the limestone would work. I felt along the wall in search of one, but I didn’t find anything.
“Dusk!”Sapphire called from the other side of the cave, “I think I found a crack.”
I made my way over to her and examined the crack. It was deep and ran along the wall for a foot or two. I grabbed a sharp bone with a serrated edge and chiseled at the crack. The crack widened and it got deeper. Ember had rushed to us with a spear she had found on the ground. I stepped aside and let her work on the crack. After a few minutes, I felt a steady spray of water on me.
“It’s working!”I yelled to Sapphire.
Meanwhile, Coal was freeing the rocks in the skulls. The fire was much closer now. He could feel the flames scorching his back. He worked faster. He didn’t want to disappoint Dusk by not doing his part of the plan. Dusk and the others had probably finished their part and were waiting at the entrance of the tunnel for him. Just a few more skulls and he would be done. He was surprised that nobody interrupted him or tried to stop him from freeing the rocks that were supposed to be part of the pyramid. A bat had flown right past him without noticing anything. He had been so scared that they had been found out, but it was just another bat on his or her way out. The rocks he had saved had muttered a word of thanks and had fled right after that. Now he was on his last skull. Coal slashed with his bone one last time and the skull fell open. The rocks inside said their thanks and fled through the cave. He rolled over to the tunnel and waited for the others. What was taking them so long, he wondered. The fire was already blazing toward the tunnel entrance and it blocked his view of the pyramid. Bats were fleeing around him, pushing and shoving their way inside. For a moment, he was tempted to follow the growing crowd of bats and save himself. All his instincts told him to flee for his life, but he knew he couldn’t. Dusk and the others would wait for him, so he should too. The thought kept on repeating in his mind. Finally, he decided to go see what happened at the pyramid. Slowly and carefully, Coal rolled over to the pyramid of stones. He was cautious to not step on the flames on the ground. The heat was roasting him. The cave was heating up like an oven. Pretty soon, they would all be burned alive. Unexpectedly, water started to gush out of the wall of the cave, extinguishing part of the sea of flame. It poured over the pyramid, making the mud become runny. There was sucking sound and all at once; the rocks in the pyramid were released. The water started spread around the room, extinguishing the fire. Wave after wave of roaring water streamed out of the crack in the wall and flooded the cave. The water was already up to his mouth and Coal almost choked as he cried out, “Dusk, Sapphire, Ember, are you guys okay?”
As soon as the first streams of water gushed out of the crack, I had rolled over to the pyramid to warn the rocks stuck in it. By back was warm. Very warm. Curious, I turned around and gasped. The fire had already reached the base of the pyramid! I just hoped that the water would put it out fast enough.
“We’re trapped.”Sapphire panted.”I went around the whole pyramid, except it’s surrounded by fire!”
“We’ll have to wait for the water to help us.”I shouted above the din.
Just then, a huge bat with a four-foot wingspan swooped down on us. His face had an angry appearance and he shouted at us for breaking his plan and destroying his colony’s home.
“I am Murk, the leader of the Bone Bats. This is our place, and you little rocks refuse our rule. I had consulted Vampryma, my god, and she had said that if one million rocks can be made into a pyramid dedicated to her before the summer, she would give us the power to annihilate you all.We were perfectly fine until you meddling rocks. And now it is ruined!”the bat roared.”You puny underlings will have to pay for it!”
I backed off just as he lunged for me and missed. Sapphire rolled over to help, but Murk just swatted her aside with his enormous wings. Then, he turned back to me again. He opened his jaws and the sharpened fangs glistened.  My heart thumped hard against my chest as he reared up and crashed down on me. I tried to dodge, but one of his fangs gouged into me. Pain seared through me. The crash and roar of the water in the background gave me an idea. I would lure him to the mini waterfall the water had created. He wouldn’t stand a chance. It was dangerous maneuver to do because he could easily trap me against the wall and finish me off or if he didn’t get me, the water would. As he slashed at me with his jaws, I stepped back and slowly moved toward the water. My plan was working. I saw a gleam in his eyes as he thought he was cornering me. I moved backward again, my back almost pressed against the wall. Murk smiled as he reared up. I took a step to the right just as he launched himself at me. He didn’t have enough time to move, and he plunged head-first into the waterfall. He was crushed instantly.
Just then, a voice cut through the pounding of the waterfall, “Dusk, Sapphire, Ember, are you guys okay?” It was Coal.
    The water was filling up the room quickly, quenching the fire that had raged a moment before. Sapphire had gotten up again and had recovered from the blow Murk had given her. Ember splashed over from the place where the pyramid had once been. Now it was just a heap of watery mud. The rocks had been freed and were already on their way to the tunnel. It was time for us to leave.
“Let’s go to the exit as soon as possible. The cave is already filled up to the belly of a bat.”Ember said hurriedly.”We need to get out of here fast.”
“Are you okay?”Coal asked again.
“Yes, we’re fine.”I replied.
I started to splash toward the tunnel and the others followed.
The cave was filling up fast. I could barely breathe already. The tunnel loomed up in the distance. We were almost there. It was a few splashes away. I could feel the fresh air blow against my face. I burst out of the tunnel with Ember, Coal, Sapphire, and Amber. There were bats all around, trying to get airborne, but there were too many of them and they kept on bumping into each other. It was easy for us to slip out. No one noticed us. It was still pouring outside and the tree branches danced in the rough wind. I was so glad to feel the wind in my face and the cold raindrops the size of acorns pelted me, but I didn’t care. We were outside at last. All around us bats were soaring, getting as far as they could from the cave.
“Come on, let’s get out of here.”I said.
We headed toward the outline of the rising sun. It was still raining, so we went to shelter in a cave nearby.
“Let’s stay here. It’s pretty nice here.”Sapphire suggested.
“Sure,” Coal, Ember, Amber, and I replied in unison.
The cave had a high ceiling and no bats inhabited it. It was wide and had a spring of cool water off to the side. There were plenty of space and nicks in the walls to sleep in. My friends and I stayed here for so many years that we lost count. The group of hominids had gone.
Sunlight filtered through the cave’s entrance in the morning. I stirred. There were sounds of footsteps outside. That was unusual. The hominids had left. Who else walked on two feet? I yawned and stumbled to the entrance. I stopped suddenly. Ten pairs of long legs stood before me. I raised my head to look at these creatures. They were about five feet tall and were quite stocky. I turned my attention to the shallow hole they had dug in the ground. They were lowering one of them in it, but I didn’t see why. Were those their sleeping places? No, I decided. They were pouring soil on their fellow creature. That would certainly suffocate him or her. They plucked some wild flowers and laid them on the mound they had created. Then, the thought struck me. They were burying their dead!
“Ember, Coal, Amber, Sapphire!”I yelled as I went back in the cave.”The hominid creatures are back!”
“What?”Ember said, in the middle of a yawn.
“Those horrible creatures are back.”Coal answered for me.
“What shall we do?”Amber was wide awake now.
“I think we should leave immediately.”I replied.
“Buy what if they’re just passing? We don’t want to leave such a good home.”Sapphire queried.
“I don’t think I want to take a chance.”Coal said.
“No, we should stay. They are probably just passing by.”Ember yawned again.
“But…”I tried to talk them into leaving.
“It should be fine.”Amber interrupted.
I didn’t want to leave by myself, so I decided to stay, too. The next day, the creatures were still there. They were spreading some kind of poultice or ointment on a wounded hominid. A group of people came back carrying rabbits and birds to eat. They must’ve gone out to hunt together.
Months passed and the hominids had not left. I decided to try to convince my friends again.
“We should really leave.”I said.”They have stayed here for months already.”
“Yes, I think we should leave too.”Sapphire agreed.
“Me, too.”Coal said.
“I’m too old to leave.”Ember said.”Who cares if the hominids live here? Have they hurt us? No. I’m staying.”
There was a brief silence and Amber spoke up.”I want to leave.”
Ember was outvoted, so we left the cave at dawn. We headed for a lush forest in the distance, where I had been born. I wondered if my mother would be still there. After many days, we finally arrived. I rushed to the ancient tree my mother and I used to live beside. She was still there! Warmth flooded through me as I recognized the familiar shape.
“Mother!”I called.
“Dusk? Is that you?”my mother was so happy, tears coursed down her face.
I lived with my mother at the tree from then on. My friends lived in a nearby tree stump and every day I would visit them. Now, many young rocks go to me to listen to my adventures. The hominids had evolved into humans. They used mush more advanced tools then the past ones, and now I enjoy watching their machines in the fields at sunset, when the dying sun disappears in the horizon and the last rays of sunlight reach the earth. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My Life as a Rock 1

            In a deep, lush forest in now-a-day Africa, my life began. I was born on a day of frosted trees and icy winds. I opened my eyes to a new world when the seconds slowed between this year and the next. My mother beamed and named me Dusk for the glossy grey color I had. We lived by an ancient tree that my mother said was there when her mother’s mother was alive. The forest floor was soft with lush ferns and decaying leaves. A couple seasons went by, spring, summer, and fall, from the day I was born. Spring brought new saplings and warm breezes. Summer was hot with tall trees and fall had leaves strewn over the forest floor. Then, I was snatched from my home on the forest floor by a family of ape-like creatures. One of them had picked me up with a hairy hand and used me to skin animals they hunted. They even used me to crack animal bones to eat the marrow inside. Soon, they moved somewhere else and left me alone, worn out, but alive.
Many years passed and another group of hominids picked me up. They were a little bit different from the other group, taller and thinner. Plus, their foreheads were round and smooth. They used me to make fire to keep them warm. I was so surprised when they had first scrapped me against another rock, called Amber, to create fire. It had shocked me. I never knew that we could create fire. Fire is made when lightning strikes a tree and when dry brush is ignited, but never by rocks. One day, by the fireplace, I talked to Amber, my new friend.
“Hello, Amber.” I greeted her.
“Hi, Dusk. It hurt so much when they scraped me against another rock to create fire. There are even scratches on me now! They’re hurting us. I heard that an unlucky rock named Embia was thrown in the fire to fuel it.”Amber said, distressed,” What if we’re next?”
 “I don’t know. Maybe we should escape and free the other rocks too. Then, we could go somewhere far away. We could roll away when they’re sleeping. They might not notice. They're not very bright.”I replied.
“Sure, what time should we leave?”Amber asked, her eyes sparking with hope for the first time in months.
“Tonight, I think. The moon was full yesterday, so today it will be dark. It’s the perfect cover to escape. Plus, the sky is dark with heavy clouds. It might even rain. There’s a boulder a couple rolls away. If we get that far, then they’ll never notice us.”I answered her, looking up at the sky.
The sky darkened and the heavy clouds up above began to release their load. A light drizzle began and I talked to the other rocks, Ember, Coal, and Sapphire. They all agreed to the plan. It was the best we had. At midnight, Ember and Sapphire, who were closest to the boulder, would creep there to see if the coast was clear and signal to Coal, who would go next. Last, Amber and I would roll to them. Ember and Sapphire were already on their way. Coal received the signal a second later and made his way to the others. Then, it was our turn. The steady drizzle had become a downpour and the ground was slightly muddy. Amber slipped in the middle of the clearing, slipping on the gooey ground, and a hominid stirred. Quickly, I grabbed her and we rushed to the others, my heart thudding.
“Are you okay?”Sapphire asked, her blue eyes anxious.
“Yes.”Amber replied shakily.
We all entered the forest and walked together through the woods. The trees danced in the fierce wind and shadows lurked everywhere. The undergrowth were swathed in shadows and a lone owl hooted nearby. The absence of the moon made me uneasy. Without it, what would light up the forest? Then a cave suddenly loomed up in front of us and we walked in slowly and warily. I had a bad feeling about it, but it could provide shelter. I pushed my doubts to the back of my mind. I was probably being overcautious. It was cold and dark inside and icy water dripped from the ceiling. We went deeper and deeper until we could not even see each other. The dripping water formed a puddle in the middle of the cave and we heard a flutter of wings.
“What’s that?”I asked fearfully, glancing around me.
“I don’t know, but I had heard of dark creatures that live in caves. They are cannibals.”Ember answered.
There was another flutter of wings. It sounded as if there were hundreds of creatures in the cave. Swoosh! Something had alighted down near us. Then, an upside–down furry face with sharp fangs, pointy ears, and a sharp muzzle swooped in front of us.
We were snatched by thorn-sharp claws, and I yelped in surprise. Many red eyes watched us from above as we were pushed past two towers of gleaming bones. There seemed to be bones of bats, foxes, and lions. I fought against the wiry claws that grabbed me, but failed to free myself. I exchanged a hopeless glance with Sapphire, who was closest to me. We were dead meat. Then we entered a murky tunnel that seemed to have no end. We were pushed past guards with sharpened fangs and spears of bone. As the end of the tunnel came into view, I saw that there was a bright light at the end and shadows flickered around the tunnel. Fire. As we burst into the clearing, I heard a deafening chant and saw hundreds upon hundreds of bats hanging from the ceiling, each screeching in high pitch voices. It was gigantic inside and there were towering piles of glistening bones surrounding the fire that was in the center. To my horror, I spotted hominid bones in it. If these bats could kill hominids... I shuddered. I did not want to finish the thought. Some of the bones were still decaying and a simply repellent smell wafted up to me. At the very back of the cavern was a half-built step pyramid with bats flying around, placing stone over stone on the construction. We were then shoved into a skull of a hominid in one of the piles of bone and I could see no more.
In the distance, I could hear the cries of help and looks of horror on the faces of those who were next in line. A guard’s head poked in a skull a few feet away and grabbed all the stones in it. I heard the cries of despair and saw the hopeless faces of the rocks as if everything they had lived for had vanished. I couldn’t bear it anymore and looked away, those cries of the rocks ringing in my ears.
And then a bat appeared, its fangs flashing in the harsh light and its red eyes gleaming in anticipation, as if it were enjoying this, and headed toward us. My back crawled with apprehension. We were next.
To be continued...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Tale of the Yeast Bridge

For my cousins, Kimberly, my loyal reader,  and Alastair, who just recently sent me delicious cookies.

      One cool, windy winter day, Pebble walked up to the grassy hill to graze. Pebble was a giraffe the color of the setting sun. Her fur was as smooth as the rocks in the mountains that were eroded for countless seasons. Her spots were as white as the puffy clouds floating above her in the blue sky. As she reached for a leaf in a tree nearby, she noticed a gap in the hill. Oh no! she thought. She trotted over to the hole and looked down. Piles of earth had collected on the bottom and rocks the size of boulders sat atop the piles. This part of the hill must have collapsed, she decided, I must help fix it, or sooner or later there will be an accident. So Pebble went on to gather the ingredients needed to fill in the gap.
     After an hour or two, Pebble had collected cool, glistening mud from the pond, moss from the branches of trees, and soil from the bottom of the hill. She carefully mixed them in a large, dull yellow pot  the Potter had provided for her. The Potter was a neighbor of hers and was very kind to let her use one of his lovely pots that he made for a living. She stirred for a long time and soon, she had created a sticky, mushy mixture of the color green. She added some flour and water, stirring more. The mixture was becoming thick and sticky. Afterward she poured in a cup of yeast. Mixing more, she waited for a little longer. Then she was finished.
     Pebble gingerly carried part of the mixture to the top of the hill where it had collapsed. She then poured in the portion of the mixture she had carried up the hill. With a plop, it landed on the bottom, covering the dirt. It oozed a bit and then stopped. After many trips, the hole was filled up to the middle. Pebble needed more. She collected lichens and mud and more grass and soil. She put them all in the pot and added more yeast. Pebble blended the concoction. Finally, it was done.
     Pebble hauled the mixture to the gap and dumped it in. It fit perfectly, right up to the top. She then waited. The blazing sun high above began to tire and slowly set, the world one shade darker as it dropped one bit. Soon the moon appeared and the nocturnal creature that was the night awoke. Pebble tentatively stepped on the hardened mixture. It held her weight! She smiled, content of her work, and returned home, her eyes drooping with exhaustion.
      The following day, a huge crowd gathered on the hill to stare in wonder at the mixture that clogged up the hole in the hill. They called it the Yeast Bridge. Pebble became famous, and soon the Yeast Bridge became one of the wonders of the world and one of the most popular vacation sites there were.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fire Storm

            Smoke and buffeting winds of stinging ash made Feather’s eyes sting as they swirled around her. She could see nothing around her except flashes of gold. In the distance, there was a deafening roar that made her ears ring. Abruptly, the smoke thinned and Feather could see bobcats fleeing for their lives.  Then the choking blackness engulfed her again. A distant voice warned, “Beware of sun and fire.” Before she could comprehend the ominous warning, blobs of glowing red flew at her. Then a wave of crimson, bright red crimson, engulfed her.
            In a lush glade on Mount Mazama, a volcano that lies on a convergent plate boundary in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon in the year 5677 B.C., a silver bobcat with a fluffy tail opened her dark blue eyes and squinted in the early morning sunlight that streamed through the low-branched holly bush. Feather arched her back in a luxurious stretch and pushed her way out of the bush. Bobcats bustled around the hollow, reinforcing the barrier of thorns and fixing broken dens. A week before, the mountain lions and their mighty leader had invaded their home. The invasion was well planned and the mountain lions would have won if the Wolf Tribe, a group of wolves, the bobcats’ allies, had not come to save them. Everyone was chipping in to repair their home. Feather decided that she would contribute by hunting. As usual, she searched out the gray tabby pelt of her friend, Cloud, to ask her friend to accompany her. They always did everything together. She glanced around the leaf strewn clearing and spotted the lithe body of Cloud on her favorite place to bask, a mossy rock in the edge of the clearing. Feather padded over to the mossy rock where Cloud was stretched out on, relaxing.
            “Hi, do you want to go out hunting today? All the prey will be up and about on a warm day like this.”Feather queried.
            “Come on, I just climbed on the rock a minute ago and you ask me to get off! Yesterday I hunted until my paws ached. All night long, you muttered in your sleep and thrashed around. I clambered up this rock because I wanted some peace and quiet. Let me have some rest.”Cloud grumbled drowsily and put her black paws on her small pink nose.
            “Okay, I’ll go alone then.”Feather tossed the reply over her shoulder as she bounded toward her usual hunting grounds.
            The sunlight streamed through the canopy of trees as Feather padded through the forest. The soft chattering of the birds told Feather that her guess that the prey would be up and about was correct. A nearby stalk of grass swayed and a mouse crept out, its eye on a seed by an oak tree. Instinctively, Feather fell into a crouch and glided forward swiftly. As she slid forward, her mind drifted to the dream of the smoke and winds the night before. What had the voice meant by beware of sun and fire? Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that the mouse had snatched the seed and was trying to return to the safety of its burrow. Feather snapped out of her thoughts and chased after the mouse, but it was too late. The little creature had reached its burrow and scurried inside.
            “Great!”Feather moaned,”That one was plump enough to feed half of the tribe.”
            Feather pricked her ears again and detected a soft flutter of wings. She looked up and spotted a blue jay spiraling down for landing. The bird lighted on the forest floor and pecked at an acorn. Determined to not lose another piece of prey, Feather stalked forward lightly and pounced on the bird. The blue jay struggled, trying to get in the air, but Feather was faster. She killed it with a swift bite to its throat. Content with her catch, Feather hid it under a nearby bush. She would collect it later.
            By dusk, Feather had caught three mice, a thrush, a blue jay, and a plump rabbit. Proudly, she hauled in her catch and deposited it in a hollow tree stump where the tribe put their catch.
            “Good catch!”Cloud congratulated Feather, her eyes no longer bright with exhaustion.
            “You too,” Feather motioned to the chubby pheasant that her friend dropped in the tree stump.
            Feather grabbed a magpie for herself and a squirrel for Cloud. She padded over to their usual eating spot, a bed of sweet smelling flowers in the center of the glade, where Cloud was already waiting. She put down the mouse in front of her friend and settled down next to her. As Feather ate, her thoughts drifted back to the ill-omened dream. In the background, she could hear Cloud chattering about something, but she pushed the voice out of her mind and concentrated on the warning.
            “What is bothering you today?”Cloud’s voice snapped Feather out of her concentration.   “Wha-nothing.”Feather mumbled around the magpie, avoiding Cloud’s gaze.
            “I know something is bothering you. You can tell me and maybe I’ll be able to help you with it.”Cloud meowed, her amber eyes concerned,” Isn’t that what friends are for?”
            Feather sighed. It was hard to hide what was bothering her from Cloud and maybe two minds would be able to decipher the dream’s meaning.
            “Okay. Yesterday, I had a dream,” Feather began hesitantly,” I-I dreamed that smoke was everywhere and I couldn’t see anything except flashes of gold. Then, the smoke thinned out and I could see the tribe fleeing for their lives. A distant voice said to beware of sun and fire.”
            “Sun and fire…”Cloud said thoughtfully,”Hmm…maybe there will be a fire in the forest.”
            “Then what about the sun part?”Feather inquired, confused.
            “Uh…I don’t know. Why don’t we sleep first and think about it in the morning?”Cloud suggested, looking up at the starry night sky and waning moon.
            “Sure,” Feather’s answer was broken by an enormous yawn.
            Feather and Cloud slid underneath the holly bush and settled on the moss. Feather curled up and wrapped her tail around her nose, but she couldn’t sleep. Cloud’s labored breathing and soft snoring told her that she had already fallen asleep. Feather rolled over in the moss and closed her eyes, trying to sleep but failing to. Finally, the snores of the other bobcats lulled her to sleep.
            “Wake up!”a paw prodded Feather,” Dawn wants you to help repair the barrier today.”
            Feather lifted her silver head and nodded in submission. Stone, a dark grey bobcat with long fur, nodded back and turned and pushed out of the bush. Feather got up to her paws and followed him. She blinked slowly, her eyes adjusting to the bright light outside. Cloud, Leaf, and Fall were already there, weaving in branches of thorns to make the barrier stronger and fill in gaps. Feather padded over to join them and picked up a branch in her jaws to weave in the wall of thorns. Leaf greeted her with a friendly nod, unable to say anything because of the branch in her mouth. Feather returned the greeting with a lick on Leaf’s black-tipped ear. She started to use her paws to push the branch in a large gap.
            “Feather, do you want to go out and hunt with me today because I couldn’t go with you yesterday?”Cloud invited cheerfully.
            “Sorry, but Dawn asked me to fix the barrier. I can’t disobey our leader’s orders.”Feather meowed.
            “Okay then. I’ll go out alone.”Cloud answered.
            “I can go with you, if you want me that is.”Fall offered to Cloud.
            “Sure,”Cloud started for the entrance of the glade, a gap in the barrier just big enough for a bobcat to squeeze through.
            Just then, Dawn yowled from the Tree Stump, where she held all meetings with the tribe. Feather stopped working and sat down near the stump. The rest of the bobcats gathered around the stump to listen to what their leader had to say.
            “We have made much progress with repairing the barrier and I would like to thank Stone for doing such a good job in supervising this. I have talked with the senior bobcats and they agree with me that we should no longer wait for the mountain lions to attack us again. Instead, we should bring the battle to their cave.”Dawn began.
            “Is that a wise thing to do? We do not know their cave’s layout and it will be hard to fight in the dark. Last time we tried it, we failed and many of us were killed”Wind, an old bobcat asked.
            A few bobcats agreed with Wind and yowled their disapproval to Dawn. Dawn raised a tawny paw for silence. Slowly, the yowls and murmurs died down.
            “The mountain lions will not know about this. It will be hard for them to maneuver in the cave since they are so big. Also-“a yowl from the other side of the clearing interrupted Dawn.
            “The mountain lions are attacking!”a small, black tortoiseshell bobcat cried, his sides heaving for breath.
            “What happened, Thunder?”Sky, a white bobcat, asked urgently.
            “While I was hunting, a saw a tuft of golden fur on a branch and the smell of mountain lions was in the air.”Thunder gasped.
           “Are you sure it was fresh, not stale?” Berry queried,” Thunder has a wild imagination.” she added to Dawn.
            “It wasn’t my imagination. There were even paw prints on the ground.”Thunder retorted angrily.
            Feather looked up at Dawn, waiting for her to tell them what to do, but Dawn seemed stunned.
            “Should we send out a patrol to check?”Feather prompted Dawn.
            Surprisingly, Feather’s voice was calm despite the terror raging inside her.
            “Y-yes. We should send out a patrol to check. Stone will lead it with Sky, Thunder, and Star.”Dawn regained her confidence,” The rest of you will stay here and guard the glade. I want to post a guard on the mossy rock over there and one on the other side of the clearing. Who wishes to volunteer?”
            “I’ll guard.”Feather and Oak volunteered at the same time.
            “Okay. Feather, you guard on the mossy rock and Oak can guard over there.”Dawn pointed at a patch of grass at the edge of the glade,” Yowl loudly if you spot something. We never can be too careful. The meeting is over.”
            Feather bounded over to the mossy rock she was assigned to keep watch on. When she lifted her head to smell the air for mountain lion scents, she was distracted by a deafening roar. The northeast side of Mount Mazama had exploded. A towering column of ash and wind spread through the sky, obstructing the sun. A shadow fell across the clearing. A bobcat glanced up and cried out in terror as a vast cloud of smoke rose from the volcano. A red liquid that Feather could not name, lava, gushed out of the volcano and streamed down its side, heading toward the glade.
            Feather came to her senses and called out,” Something is happening to the volcano!”
            No one seemed to hear her. Feather spotted Dawn calling the tribe for a meeting and leaped off the rock. She landed gracefully and pelted to the Tree Stump.
            “I do not know what is happening-“Dawn began.
            “They’re coming! The mountain lions are coming! They got Star!”Sky screeched, rushing into the clearing.
Behind her, Stone and Thunder skidded to a halt, gasping for breath. There was a pounding noise behind them, as if there were rampaging elephants on the loose. As the thorn barrier tore apart, Stone, Thunder, and Sky leaped out of the way. The leader of the mountain lions ripped through the barrier like it was made of strands of spider webs with Star in his mouth. Star’s jaws gaped in a soundless yowl as the leader flung her across the clearing. Star hit the mossy rock with a thud and lay unmoving. With a roar, the leader leaped toward Dawn. As he was in the air, the sun lit his fur, making it glow like the sun. The mountain lions burst through the clearing. Then, the smoke was upon them. Feather could see nothing but the golden flashes as mountain lions thundered past her. In the distance, there was a roar. Suddenly, it dawned to Feather. The dream. The flashes of gold were the fur of the bobcats’ enemies. The sun must have symbolized the mountain lions because when their fur caught the light, it flashed like the sun. The fire must have been whatever was happening to the volcano. Unexpectedly, the smoke thinned. Feather could make out the silhouettes of Dawn and the leader, writhing in a screeching ball of fur and claws. Dawn was bleeding heavily, her body matted with blood and she had a long scratch from her shoulder to her hind leg. The leader did not even lose one hair, it seemed. Now, Dawn was struggling as the leader pinned her. Dawn loosened, trying to trick the leader into loosening his grip, but the leader did not fall for the trick. Feather let out a screech of fury and pelted across the chaotic glade toward Dawn.
A lithe shape loomed in front of her and leaped at her. Thinking quickly, she dodged to one side and followed up with a bite to the mountain lion’s hind leg. Enraged, the mountain lion pounced on her and pinned her. Feather struggled, but her opponent’s weight squashed the breath out of her. The mountain lion aimed for her neck and was bringing its paw down when a blurry gray shape rammed into it.
            “Feather, run!”Cloud yowled.
            Feather looked around franticly for Dawn. In the distance, the volcano had collapsed on itself and pyroclastic flows were racing down the volcano’s sides. The tribe was not safe here. They would soon be dead if they did not flee soon. Finally, she spotted Dawn hanging from the leader’s jaws, her paws flailing at the leader’s thick coat. Feather raced to Dawn and rammed into the mountain lion’s side. Surprised, the leader let Dawn go and turned to her. Dawn’s limp body fell onto the soft grass. Feather bit down hard on the leader’s tail as the leader turned toward her. The leader ripped his tail away and lunged at her. His teeth came in contact with her paw. Feather tried to wrench her paw away, but the leader’s teeth were deeply embedded in her paw. The leader picked her up in his powerful jaws and flung her against Tree Stump.  Feather lay winded, the breath driven out of her. With a tremendous leap, the leader pinned her down. Feather tried the trick of lying limply, but the leader was not fooled. He pressed his paw on her neck, ready to deal the death blow. Then, the tawny shape of Dawn slammed into the leader. The leader stumbled and bit Dawn’s throat. Then he dropped her. Feather let out a wail and leaped at the leader. She landed squarely on his shoulders and dug her claws in. The leader rolled on the ground, trying to dislodge her, but Feather hung on. The leader twisted to grab her neck. Feather bit down hard on the back of his neck. The leader thrashed around in a desperate attempt to dislodge her. Feather slipped and fell off his back. She rolled to a stop a few feet from the leader. He leaped at her. Feather judged the distance and jumped. Feather and the mountain lion met in midair. Feather’s jaws met their mark and she bit down on the leader’s throat. The leader fell to the ground. His eyes glazed and his body stopped convulsing.
Feather bounded to Dawn.
“You did well. I want you to be the new leader of the tribe.”Dawn rasped, blood trickling out of her mouth as she struggled to talk.
“Don’t go!”Feather cried, gazing at her leader desperately.
“You will be a great leader, perhaps the best the tribe will ever have.”Dawn said and closed her eyes for the final time.
Feather slowly got up. There was no time to mourn now. Blobs of the red stuff started falling from the sky. The mountain lions, seeing that their leader was dead, fled. Feather called to the bobcats of the tribe.
“We must leave!”Feather yowled above the roaring of the volcano.
The bobcats filed into a line and raced out of the glade. Feather took them in the opposite direction of the volcano. Running with her tribe, Feather felt proud and content, but she also felt a pang of sadness.
“Are you okay?”Cloud asked,” I heard that you defeated the leader.”
“Yes.”Feather replied, looking away in hopes that her friend would not see how insecure she felt inside.
The tribe traveled far from the volcano and settled in a forest. Feather and her tribe lived free from any threats. Feather puffed her chest up, gazing proudly at her tribe. They had found a perfect place to live. Prey was plentiful and tall, flourishing trees provided shelter. She lifted her head and stared at the sky above her, light blue with puffy shapes of white that were the clouds drifting across. Thank you, Dawn, she whispered, for entrusting the tribe to me. You can trust me. With the battle of the mountain lions over, we can look forward to peace.