While I mull over what to write for Friday Fictioneers or Julia’s 100 word challenge, I’m going to fill in today with 300-odd words out of my NaNoWriMo story.
This is a fantasy set in a world where there are several species (or maybe subspecies) of humans, including an overmuscled and reckless bunch who specialize in escorting travelers through dangerous territory. In another context, you might call them ogres, though that doesn’t quite fit these folks.
My main character and narrator is what we might call an “earth-standard” guy. At this point in the novel, he’s been saddled with the job of escorting several other people through a dangerous piece of wilderness to get them back to their home town. He’s spent time in the wilderness himself – that’s why he was given this responsibility – but he doesn’t know much about organizing things so an inexperienced group will come through safely. He consults with some of the ogres, since he needs advice while he’s –
The guards didn’t believe in looking ahead more than a handful of days, or holding grudges overnight. And they organized the caravans, not the merchants. Once you adjusted to their view of the world, they were fun to spend an evening with, too – sometimes out of control and frightening, but a huge relief from being always on duty.
“But look, Vundesner,” I said to the biggest and friendliest guard one afternoon, “what I don’t see is how you can take charge of getting a whole caravan from here to there through the woods without ever planning anything.”
Vundesner gave me a sideways grin and scooped a handful of walnuts into his mouth. His huge teeth crunched loudly through the shells. After grinding away at them for a bit, he washed the nuts down with a swig of the herb tea he liked. “What we don’t plan,” he said. I thought, maybe, he meant something like “what do you mean saying we don’t plan?”. The guards have their own language, and once in a while what they say in our language can be confusing.
“You don’t look like you’re making plans.”
“Town is different. Other people worry about town. Not my problem.”
I thought that over. Rushing conversations with the guard people never turned out well. It annoyed them, and they considered it rude. Besides, I usually needed to puzzle over what they said for a while before I saw the real point.
“Away from town,” I said, “it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s lonely.” What I meant was, there aren’t other people to take care of the problems.
Vundesner ate another handful of unshelled walnuts. I waited. Grinning so that his fangs showed, he scooped up a few more nuts and sat there tossing them up and catching them. I waited. “Away from town,” he said at last, “a smart man knows nobody worries. So he worries before he leaves town. You’ll leave town soon.”
“I’d like to be smart.”
* * *
After which Vundesmer settles down to explaining how to organize everything ahead of time so you don’t need to make plans in the middle of a crisis. Not that this helps much when they’re hustled into leaving too early, and when an earthquake almost drops them into the ocean, and when…
What do you think of this snippet out of the middle of a much longer tale? Comments are very welcome.