XXI - People are Fleeing

XXI - People are Fleeing

A Chapter by BL

XXI - People are Fleeing

‘An army is coming, take shelter my poor ears, I cannot stand the sound of the tramping feet. My house is only made of animal skins, it isn't a modern house with walls, a door and a roof and through the trees there is a dust cloud that creates the stench of sweat and leather.’


News travelled fast of the approaching army of Rome. Also word got around about Bezon’s fateful plight in the wreck of the Sea Serpent, but there was no time for sorrow or to mourn his death, the death that no one could speak of. Everybody was too busy thinking about themselves in their panicked rush to escape. People were getting ready to go, were on the move or were already gone. They were packing up, evacuating and heading north and west. There was a great disorganised movement of people in the country, villages and the main cities. There was an exodus of the masses. Independent reports had come back from Hibernia of all places that the Sea Serpent had been found wrecked on the west coast of Kerry. There were no survivors. Bezon's family put a brave face on it all while carrying out their royal duties, but they all looked openly sad and at a complete loss, not able to concentrate on directing people.

Yulla's family were among those on the move and before she knew where she was, she was in the back of a wagon heading for Siluria. Some people had decided to stay with the troops that would face the advancing army of Italia, but not many. These were the old, disconnected or farmers who only knew the land. News had come that the invaders had already landed in the east and were steadily advancing. The word was that they had deployed advanced mounted scouting parties to assess their opposition. Men had already been seen on hilltops and hiding deep in no man's land. They were well armed, but had not attacked anyone, so far. None of this mattered to Yulla, her journey was full of tears and sorrow.

'We will soon get to Horton, then we can have a break before we take the next stage of the journey,' her mother, Jenna said.

'Yes that's something I suppose,' Yulla said not looking around to respond.

'You've got to think on the bright side, this is a new beginning,'

'I don’t think it is,’ Yulla said scathingly. She knew her mother was deluded, but hadn't realised by how much. The journey they were on and the recent goings on brought everything into sharp focus.

'Oh, yes when all of this is over we'll be back at home in no time. Everything will return to normal. Apparently the Italians want order and civilisation and would like Briton to be a part of them. It would be easier if we all just put down our arms,'

'Stop talking rubbish woman,' a low reverberating voice shouted through from the driving seat of the wagon. 'That's treason,'

An argument between her mother and the driver, Tod went on around her, but she couldn’t hear it as she was lost in her thoughts. Now he is dead, now he is gone, I have to move on, in body at least as I never will in my mind. There will be no other and my mind will always be drawn back to the time we had together. All there is is darkness and the muted voices of the lost souls of the people around. It doesn’t matter if they are friends or enemies, family or strangers, living or dead, I am lost in this world. I am not supposed to be here without him.

Last summer everything was perfect. The summer was a mini version of their lives. It had started when the last of the heavy rainstorms had passed and as the clouds cleared they came together. Bezon would come by after his weapons training, calling in at the mill. They would walk hand in hand like lovers though the meadows of wildflowers, through the woods and deep into the forest. It was like that every day, for so many days. In the heat of the summer months the time seemed to go on forever, it went so slowly that time didn't mean anything. By the time of the blistering heat of mid-summer they were lovers and would go to the same meeting place of a derelict hay barn to make love until nightfall. It was such a happy and natural time, everything was so simple then, it made sense, they had everything they wanted from life, they had each other. At that time she didn't know he was the son of Duerra, he hadn't told her straight away, but gradually she got it out of him and he finally revealed who he actually was. From then on he could only be honest with her she had found.

She remembered looking at him in a new light after he had told her of his status, as though her eyes might show her something new, something royal, but there was nothing. In another way, he did seem different, the way he acted made sense, the way he carried himself and his confidence. He was still the same man, but different somehow. It was something inner that was different. What he had told her fitted into place as his clothes were not worn and looked new of bright colours. She had always wondered where he had managed to get such a finely woven cloak of deep and soft velvet and thought how stupid she had been to overlook something like that. His generosity was normal for a man wooing a woman, but somehow overly lavish. He always brought a bundle of fresh cheeses, bread and juicy fruits from the markets. Not to mention the wine from Gaul. 'You are a prince' she had said. 'Yes' he said laughing. 'Well it doesn't change anything, so don't get any ideas' she said, telling him off. 'No, I know, but if we were together you would be a princess'. 'Together?' she questioned. 'I mean married of course.', 'That's better,' she said laughing and eating some rich cheese.

That was the sweetest time, when everything was so right and nothing or no one could interrupt what they had between them. Why would anything or anyone possibly want to anyway? Then as mid-summer passed the murmurings of war started and dark talk came in like rain clouds over a summers day. At first there were the stories from sea traders about troops moving out of Rome and then later there were the whispers around the streets about how it could only mean one thing. After that there were formal announcements that the whole country was preparing for war and everyone had to play their part.

Their meetings had carried on, but were more subdued, as they realised their time together was limited. By the very beginning of autumn there was a tension in the air everywhere and somehow it managed to seep in between them. Bezon had been given his instructions, but had to keep them quiet. Yulla's job at the mill carried on as normal. The summer seemed to go so quickly; that summer that had been. The one that passed so quickly because it was so full of excitement and love . That special summer would always stuck in her mind, the one she would remember forever. That was last summer and was now nearly a year ago. It was slipping away in the distance of time, but did not diminish in her mind.

Then her mind moved forwards in time, to the recent months. I have always had feelings for Alfos in every way apart from as a lover, I could never think of him like that. We grew up together, I think of him as a brother. He is a protector, a father like figure and a good friend. As a man he is like Bezon in many ways. He is tall, handsome enough and very good humoured, he is always having a laugh, a little too much sometimes. He never seems to be down and is always around to pick you up if you are. He would make a girl a perfect husband, but he is not for me although he seems to have other ideas as he like everyone else assumes Bezon is dead. As they reached the old hill-fort at Horton her mind was drawn to the present. I shouldn’t be running away, I should be fighting. Boudica would be in the battle, she would be in the thick of it, ready to die, to throw herself away. Yulla felt guilty.

Horton was a large wealthy village set high on a large plateau that dropped down to the river Severn on its western side and faded onto the grassy plains of Arun far to its east. At its centre was a hillfort that was made of earth ramparts and thick wooden stakes. Horton was a place of much significance to Arun as it was a gateway to other places, sitting on a crossroads. Going straight through the middle of it was the long south to north road that started in the wild lands of Cornubia and ended up in no mans land to the north and then eventually Caledonia. They stopped by the roadside and made a fire in a clearing. Jenna tried to get lodgings in the hill-fort itself which in its middle had an enclave of multi-roomed houses, but they were all full due to the number of people on the move in the same direction as them. There was a hubbub in the place of people moving around, trying to find somewhere to stay, somewhere to settle down for the night like them.

‘We will have to sleep here in the wagon tonight. We can make a space amongst our things,’ Jenna said. She looked at Yulla hopefully, but was greeted with disappointed eyes and a heavy sigh of defeat. Yulla’s young brother, Tom and her older brother Jacob were with her father preparing defences around their farmstead. Tom was ten and Jacob nineteen, they were both headstrong boys who wanted to fight. Her father, who was nearly forty was part of the home guard defence.

‘Yes, mother. Is it safe?’

‘We are heading to one of the places we do trade with. The trader there is going to see us in. He has a place for us. It will be worth the journey,’ her mother said ignoring her concern.

‘I’m worried about Tom. I hope he doesn’t run away or get lost,’ Yulla said. Her mother started to cry.

‘These are such worrying times, Yulla,’ she wiped a tear from her eye. ‘Has anyone spoken to you about Bezon?’

‘No, of course not,’ Yulla said brightening at the sound of his name.

‘Well someone should. You have to face the facts,’

‘I know,’

‘There’s no point in dreaming about him coming back. He did his best,’

‘Yes, I know, but...’ Yulla argued.

‘My advice is to move on. As soon as you can,’ her mother said. But Yulla was away. They were in the barn looking at each other. The sun had mysteriously gone down and was making strange long shadows as though in league with time to play a trick on them. They were lying face to face and she was brushing his hair out of his eyes. His long golden locks had fallen over his face, he was sleeping lightly, his eyes half opening and closing.

‘I cannot ‘move’ on,’ she said in her dream like state. And they were together then, locked as one thing, shutting out all the world. A chilly breeze rushed into the barn and was running down her back. Her feet felt cold, so she snuggled into him. That embrace lasted for a few golden moments and then she heard the clattering and banging of something much closer at hand. He mother was moving furniture around in the back of the wagon so there was enough room for them to sleep.

‘Help me,’ her mother said to her. Rousing from her deep thoughts she manoeuvred one end of a storage chest to one side. It made enough room for one person to lie comfortably or two uncomfortably. Tod stood at the back of the wagon, looking in. ‘Where will you sleep? she asked him.

‘By the fire,’ he said cheerily pointing at the flickering flames growing bright in the grey of dusk. He nodded at them and then turned away. He sat by the fire, adding more wood to it. He hummed a song to himself.

In the night there was a still that put everything to rest and seemingly to peace as well, but after several hours the beautiful peace that had been broke into restlessness and noise. There was the sound of panicked voices and running feet that centred around a rider who brought a message from the east. He sat mounted on his horse at the hillfort gates talking to the guards.

‘The marching men from Italia are in Londoria and have made camp by the great estuary river,’ he proclaimed loudly.

‘Did you see them?’ one of the guards shouted down from the wooden palisade. A couple of people had come out of their houses and were listening.

‘No, I haven’t actually seen them myself, no,’ he said.

‘Oh,’ the guard said.

‘I was told to ride here and get here as soon as,’

‘Who saw them then? What’s going on?’ one of the people from the houses said.

‘Some farmers on a hill saw them. They saw their camp,’ the rider said. He sat on his horse, expressionless, watching as a small group gathered around him.

‘Don’t you have any more information?’ an elderly man said. He wore long night clothes with a big coat over the top.

‘No, not really. I’ve got to ride to Cleeve Hill,’ he said. From his saddlebag he got out a cheese filled bread roll and started nonchalantly munching on it. ‘What d’ya want to know?’

‘Anything. What do they look like? What were they doing? Have they killed anyone?’ the old man asked. He wrapped his big coat around himself as the chill got into him. Yulla had heard the voices and had joined the small crowd now gathered.

‘Not as far as I know, no,’ the rider said as he chewed his bread. His eyes drifted towards Yulla who stood at the back of the crowd and the faintest of smiled flickered across his face. Her arms were folded across her chest, she was still fully dressed. Other eyes followed his direction and she found a few people looking at her. ‘I’ve got to go,’

‘Can’t you tell us anything more?’ the guard shouted down. His voice had lost pitch and went up and down.

‘Me?’ the rider said gathering up his reins. ‘I’m just following orders. I came to tell you here, so you all know,’

‘How long have we got?’ a woman called out in the darkness.

‘They reckon three or four days at the rate they’re going,’ the rider trotted his horse on and he came close to where Yulla was standing.

‘No news from the west?’ she asked quietly.

‘I’m sorry Miss, I don’t cover that area,’ he said leaning down to keep their confidentiality as he went by.

‘Thank you, Rider,’ she said tearfully.

‘Stay strong, Miss. Word will come,’ he said over his shoulder so others could hear. Yulla wanted to call out to him, but he was already on his way. What did he mean? What did he know? Why had he said that? Had he heard a rumour? Her mind was twisted in torment. She lay awake in the wagon for the rest of the night, listening to sound of her mothers snores. She didn’t care about the invasion, she only cared about Bezon.

© 2018 BL

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Author's Note

Next chapter ‘The King of Kerry’

My Review

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• News travelled fast of the approaching army of Rome.

This paragraph is a report, not a story. If it was bridging two live scenes, and giving necessary information, it would be okay. But in reality, little of it is necessary so far as moving the plot or setting the scene. In fact, since most of it simply gives detail that'a implied by what the first line said, it serves only to delay the start of the actual scene.

You're thinking in terms of plot events. But story is what happens to the protagonist, not people who happen to live in the same neighborhood. In fact, you use 292 words, more than a full page, before anything happens in the story:

• 'I don’t think it is,’ Yulla said scathingly. She knew her mother was deluded, but hadn't realised by how much.

Here is a perfect example of the result of telling the story as a dispassionate outside observer, reporting what happens and then explaining the significance TO the reader.

As presented, we are NOT with Yulla. We are with the unseen narrator, who is personally talking TO us in a voice we cannot hear. Because of that, there's no emotion in the words as the voice explains what Yulla thinks, and how misinformed she was. How real can that seem to a reader if it reads like a report?

Instead of telling the reader that she had that realization, let her realize and respond in the moment she calls now. As Mark Twain observed: “Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.”

You will often hear the advice, "Show, don't tell." That doesn't refer to providing visual detail, it refers to presenting the story in the viewpoint of the protagonist, so the reader not only knows what's done, they know why the protagonist thought it necessary to do/say what they did. It calibrates the reader's expectations and biased to that of the protagonist. When you sum up the situation there's nothing of the protagonist in it,. just data presented in the style of a history book.

But readers aren't interested in events except as to the way they motivate the protagonist to react, because history is dispassionate, and doesn't entertain. That matters because readers are with you, first, to be entertained. But if you assign actions according to the needs of the plot, and focus on the flow of events from-your-viewpoint, every character will speak with your voice and think with your mind. They will be smart when you need smart and dumb when the plot calls for that—in short, they're plot devices, not real breathing and THINKING characters.

The short version. Like most hopeful writers you're using the skills given us in school. But those writing techniques are 100% nonfiction, because we were being trained to hold a job, not to be professional fiction writers. Fiction writing skills, like those of any profession, are learned separately, after graduation from our public education years.

For why you need viewpoint, and how it controls the reader's perception of the character, this article might be helpful.

In short: it's not a matter of talent, or the story. It's that if we are to please our readers in the same way the pros do, we need to know what the pro knows. No way around that. So some time spent in the fiction-writing section of the library would be time wisely invested. It won't make a pro of you. That's your job. But it will give you the tools and the knowledge of how to use them. And like chicken soup for a cold, it can't hurt.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein

Posted 2 Years Ago

lol,i felt like i was there

Posted 2 Years Ago

This comment has been deleted by the poster.

2 Years Ago

Thanks - that’s nice to hear

2 Years Ago

you`re welcome

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2 Reviews
Added on December 9, 2018
Last Updated on December 16, 2018
Tags: memory, dust, romance, Kingdom, peace, war, army, spy, battle, luck, empire, adventure, fantasy, fiction, hope, mystery, fear, power, belief, people, lust, Love, story



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