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The Book Man, Chapters 66-67

by BluesClues


66 THE SECOND COMPANION

They had only been traveling a few minutes more (Morrow kept glancing back to where Narodnaya drifted along at Christian’s side) when the Rover king stopped so suddenly that Christian and Rowan ran into him.

“What is it?” Rowan asked.

“Listen.”

For a long moment, nothing. Then something creaked nearby.

“Branches moving in the wind, that’s all,” Rowan said, but Christian shook his head.

“There is no wind.”

The Rover wagon rolled forward as Graham Chelsea touched the horse’s back with the reins. “Can’t stay here forever. We’ll miss the portal.”

Morrow held up a hand to stop him and said, “Wait.”

They listened as the creaking drew closer and closer. Then there was a squeal and a thrashing of undergrowth as something tore through the Sunforest toward them. Morrow drew his sword again.

“Get behind me,” he said.

Christian complied. Narodnaya bared her spiky teeth and rose up beside the Rover. Liza appeared in the wagon doorway again with her mouth open in question, but Christian put a finger to his lips and pointed toward the thrashing. She bit her lip and peered around the side of the wagon.

A moment later, a giant spider smashed through the trees before them, black and hairy, the size of a thoroughbred. Christian stiffened at the sight of it, but as it saw them it gave another squeal and tried to turn the other way so sharply it lost its balance and flipped over, end over end. It skidded through the grass and stopped only when it hit a sycamore tree several yards away from them.

“Oh, no,” Liza said, darting back into the wagon. “No. No, thank you. I do not do spiders.”

It lay there on its back, waving its legs about feebly but unable to roll itself over and get up. Christian felt sorry for it. It was such a pathetic sight, a spider that should’ve been able to kill them unable to right itself. Then he saw the black shaft sticking out of its backmost leg.

“It’s hurt,” he said.

He hurried over to the spider, ignoring the shouts of Rowan and Morrow as they demanded to know what he meant by approaching the beast. Narodnaya, however, followed him with a look of intense concentration on her face.

He is frightened of you and your friends, she said.

“There’s no need for that,” Christian said to the spider soothingly. In fact, now that he was so close to it, he felt frightened again himself, but it continued to squeal and wave its injured leg uselessly. He danced around the legs until he reached the arrow.

“Hold still, now,” he stammered as a hairy leg brushed against his ear.

“What the hell are you doing?” Morrow asked. Christian saw him and Rowan a short distance beyond the legs. The Rover king still had his sword bared, but he hung back. Rowan took one step closer and then stopped.

“He’s hurt,” Christian repeated. He placed one hand gingerly on the spider’s injured leg, the only leg no longer moving, and with the other gripped the shaft of the arrow. “Oh, dear. Oh, dear, this is not going to be pleasant at all.”

“He?” Morrow said. “What are you, an expert in spider anatomy?”

“Narodnaya told me,” Christian said. “Oh, dear. Alright. Oh, I am so sorry for this. Here it goes.”

He tugged on the arrow, gritting his teeth against the distraught squeals of the spider and saying over and over again “just a second—almost got it—hold on” until finally the shaft and head of the arrow came loose from the spider’s leg. He threw it down on the ground and then put his hands against the spider’s abdomen and pushed. It rocked back and forth, still flailing, but did not flip over.

Christian looked back at Rowan and Morrow. “Help me. Please.”

“Very strange company,” Rowan said, but she was already at Christian’s side with her hands against the hairy beast.

“Oh, for God’s sakes,” Morrow muttered. He sheathed his sword and joined them. “On three.”

Together they rolled the spider over. It tried to stand up, wobbled under its own weight, and toppled over. Morrow eyed its injured leg.

“Could use a splint.”

“We haven’t any bandages,” Christian said.

“Field splint,” said Morrow, holding up a stick. “Graham, you know what witch’s bane looks like?”

The horse-master did not reply; instead he hopped down from the wagon to root around the base of the sycamore.

Christian racked his brain but couldn’t remember such a plant in his field guides. “What’s witch’s bane?”

A horrid plant. Narodnaya shuddered and drifted a safe distance away. It stings something awful.

“It’s got healing properties,” Morrow said. “We’ll pack the wound with it. Here.” He pulled a penknife from his pocket and handed it to Christian. “You’re tall. Reach up there and grab me some of that vine.”

He pointed at the honeysuckle snaking around a nearby catalpa. Christian hacked at it until it fell away from the tree. He and Graham brought their plants over to Morrow, but the spider began squealing and flailing again as the Rover neared.

Morrow sucked in a breath and looked at Christian. “He’s not going to let me touch him.”

He dumped the leaves and vines in the accountant’s arms.

“What?” said Christian. “Oh, no. No, not me. I haven’t any idea how to—”

“Easiest thing in the world. I’ll tell you just what to do.” Then, impatiently as Christian stood in indecision with his arms full of leaves: “Do you want to help him or not?”

“Alright, then,” Christian said.

Morrow walked him through the process of chewing up the leaves and flowers of the witch’s bane (so bitter they made Christian’s mouth pucker as he chewed), packing them into the hole the arrow had left, and splinting the wounded leg with the stick and vines. When he had finished, the spider stretched its leg once or twice, took a few steps without collapsing again, and then rubbed up against the accountant like a giant cat. A deep rumbling issued from its body.

Rowan gave a shout of laughter. “I do believe he likes you. What a funny turn!”

There was an answering shout from the wagon: “Is that awful beast gone yet?”

“Gone?” the ringmaster called back. “Oh, no, my dear. Mr. Abernathy has decided to keep it as a pet.”

Christian had, of course, decided no such thing, but before he could say so, an arrow whizzed through the underbrush and struck the sycamore with a thunk. Morrow drew his sword. The spider’s purring (if that was what it was) gave way to the keening of before. Christian threw his hands up to its eight eyes as if trying to catch the head of a rearing horse.

Then a voice rang through the trees.

“That kill is mine.”

67 THE WOOD-ELF

A man stepped out of the underbrush with his bow drawn. He was tall and lean, with skin as brown as a ripe hickory nut and eyes as green as a linden leaf. Tribal tattoos of deep blue covered the bridge of his hawkish nose and wound around his forearms; his hair fell in thin black braids to the small of his back.

“Step away,” he said to Christian in the same ringing baritone. “The spider is mine.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sakes,” Liza said, popping out of the wagon with a glare (despite the continued presence of the spider). “What is it now?”

No one replied. Christian felt the spider trembling behind him.

“Don’t worry,” he told it. “I won’t let him shoot you.”

“The spider is mine,” the man repeated.

Morrow sheathed his sword and stepped forward. His face had paled at the sight of the man; his nostrils flared and his fingers were shaking again, but his voice was steady when he spoke.

“You can’t shoot the spider, Tirion. My friend has taken a shine to him.”

A look of surprise crossed the man’s face as he noticed the Rover, but a moment later it had gone; the stranger’s expression was inscrutable. He raised an eyebrow at Morrow and said, “Him? Since when do you have such a soft spot for Goblin’s allies?”

“He’s not with Goblin,” Christian said. The stranger turned his green eyes on him with such fierceness that he blushed.

“Oh, no?” he said, but before he could say any more Narodnaya drifted in front of Christian and glared at him.

You would do well to believe him.

The man eyed her warily.

“You’re the marsh-witch,” he said. “You keep no pact with Goblin.”

No. No more does this creature. Now stand down. You frighten him.

The man lowered his bow. “Even now, Goblin’s allies encroach upon our lands as they once did. Two days ago I found this spider within our borders and gave chase through our lands and out of them, and now I find myself stymied by a marsh-witch, a drunkard, and a ringmaster’s troupe. Men of little consequence. But so be it. I suppose, as this particular spider is not Goblin’s, he cannot explain why our old enemies are on the move?”

How rude, Christian thought. Morrow may have been a drunkard, but he was still a king. He himself was not of much consequence (so he thought)—but, after all, hadn’t he undertaken this journey?

“He can’t,” Morrow said, “but I can. Goblin has escaped the prison in which my father ensnared him on Earth.”

He sounded melancholy as he spoke—so melancholy the man’s gaze softened and he said, “I always thought he was too hard on you, knowing as he did you would one day have to correct his mistakes.”

Morrow looked at the man with his dark eyes blazing in such a way that Christian felt the two of them had momentarily forgotten the presence of the others. A blush rose in his cheeks at their intensity.

“I’m not asking you to come with us,” the Rover king said.

His black eyebrows were drawn in stubborn lines across his forehead. A smile twisted across the man’s face at his expression.

“But I will.”

They stood staring at each other for so long that at last the accountant cleared his throat and said awkwardly, “Well, now that that’s settled, perhaps introductions are in order? I am Christian Abernathy, and the woman in the wagon is Liza—”(she glared at the man from the doorway, evidently unimpressed by his behavior)—“and you’ve already met Narodnaya and the, er, spider.”

“This is Tirion Greendale of my mother’s people,” Morrow said. “Prince of the wood-elves. Someday he will rule them.”

Tirion shrugged as if to say this was unimportant. He bowed to the others. “Forgive my manners. I have been two days without food or sleep in pursuit of this creature.”

“Apology accepted,” Liza said promptly, though her expression was still one of extreme displeasure. “We’ll forgive your manners if you’ll forgive our haste, but the portal should be nearly open by now and we’ve stopped far too many times already.”

“Come along, then.” Tirion nodded off into the forest, to the right of the path. “We’ll have to run.”


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Wed Aug 27, 2014 1:28 pm
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TimmyJake wrote a review...



Timmy here!

Sorry for not showing up earlier. I was... mislaid by other review requests. But I am here now, so all's well that ends well, I suppose. Or begins well. Or continues well. Or... yesh.

“Oh, no,” Liza said, darting back into the wagon. “No. No, thank you. I do not do spiders.”


Sounds like Deanie. My favorite pastime is to put spiders on her cyber wall... I thought this was a nice little thing for Liza to have. Just because she has become stronger doesn't mean her fears (or simply things that disgust her - whatever that is called. notlikeyphobia? :P ) have simply vanished away. She is still paranoid over things. I liked that. ^.^

Of course, Christian was his usual self. I don't think he has ever been afraid of something, or animals or wild beasts, but he seems to be afraid more of stuff he has never done - the unknown. Stepping outside the box he lived his entire life in before he discovered this other world. And it's quite wonderful how he adapts so well, and is now not so afraid of the unknown and such, but is still portrayed as the same person - that is, to say, I don't feel as though Christian has done a complete flip in character (or at least not as much as Liza did) but more like just became more.

I think it was wonderful that he helped the spidey out. :D

. “Oh, no, my dear. Mr. Abernathy has decided to keep it as a pet.”


Erm, wow. I really like Rowan and her randomness. xD One thing I wondered through, because you told me you changed their genders: were their names the same in the old version as well? Just a random question on their characters. But anywho, she was really cool in this one, and was her usual cheery self. One thing didn't make much sense to me, though. Where is her sister? I know that the other people didn't go with them because they were afraid and whatnot, but I just assumed that her sister would come along because... you know, they are close, right? If she doesn't, I think you should have some little parting scene or perhaps her waving goodbye so that we know it's just her. Or something. Perhaps I am just imagining this as I go. xD

Greendale of my mother’s people,” Morrow said


Something I don't believe that has been mentioned. His mother was an elf, and his father a human... right? So does he age or not? Just a question that should be answered, I think.

This new pointy eared dude was quite the... weirdo, really. I am not too impressed with him right off the bat, and it seems as though Liza wasn't either. I don't really know what to think of him, actually. But I did just meet him, so perhaps I shouldn't be making this big thingy on his character without seeing him in action further.

One last thing:

drifted in front of Christian and glared at him.


This is too vague as to who Narodnaya is glaring at. I mean, once you read it twice you get it, but I don't think one piece of text should ever have to be read twice in a story to understand it. :)

I don't really have anything else to say on this chapter. It was beautiful, and I found the addition of this *pet* quite lovely, and honestly, I think it adds a lot to the entire gang to have another weird thingy following them around. They were always a dysfunctional group to begin with, anyway. :)
~Darth Timmyjake




BluesClues says...


Heh, heh. :) I do so love my spider. I love Tirion, too, but it's okay if you don't; I don't think any of my readers have really liked him much. He's a bit abrasive. Ah, well.

Anywho, Morrow does age, which I don't explicitly say anywhere, but I don't go to lengths to make him look younger than he is (and sometimes he looks a great deal older, instead). But I'll consider that. I think it just doesn't come up because it'd be kind of a weird thing for him to announce, and Christian doesn't have any special curiosity about it.

Rowan's name was Ronin originally, but her sister's name didn't change. And even though we know they actually do love each other, they're still caught in their ridiculous feud right now, so their circuses eat separately and Finn isn't with them (at present). There'll be a small explanation for that later, though. Next chapter, I think.



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Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:54 am
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dragonfphoenix wrote a review...



Knight Dragon, here to review!

Oops. I wish I'd known this was in here earlier. Starting as far back as possible (at the beginning, at some point) would have been ideal, but...Oh well.

They had only been traveling a few minutes more (Morrow kept glancing back to where Narodnaya drifted along at Christian’s side) when the Rover king stopped so suddenly that Christian and Rowan ran into him.

That parenthetical sentence really broke up the reading flow. Could you shorten that to just a little note? As is, the reader has to stop and visualize that, then jump back to what's going on in the forefront of the story.

“Oh, dear. Oh, dear, this is not going to be pleasant at all.”

“He?” Morrow said. “What are you, an expert in spider anatomy?”

“Narodnaya told me,” Christian said. “Oh, dear. Alright. Oh, I am so sorry for this. Here it goes.”

Two things. One, you can (and probably should) reduce the Ohs and Oh dears. It really bogs down the text by making it feel like you've run out of things to say. I know that's probably what you want your main character to come across as, but with the variety and quality you have in this piece, saying it once and leaving it says enough. You've used your words carefully so far. Let the readers infer his loss of words.
Second, 'alright' should be 'all right.' (Very minor thing)

Tribal tattoos of deep blue covered the bridge of his hawkish nose and wound around his forearms; his hair fell in thin black braids to the small of his back.

Style suggestion. Cut the semi-colon and just make that a separate sentence. Not a huge deal, but it flows better that way.

Just a quick side note that would have ended up on my first review (of chapter...68). You have three chapters, in effect, of introducing/reintroducing characters. Maybe a little more variety? I dunno. Maybe it doesn't come across so strongly in the overall scheme, but it feels right there.

Hope this helps!




BluesClues says...


Based just on reader reviews (since obviously I'm too close to the story to know for sure), the character appearances aren't a problem in the overall, but I can see how it comes across that way in these particular chapters. In other news, "alright" and "all right" are synonymous--although "all right" is the traditional standard, "alright" is swiftly becoming an acceptable alternative. (Inner linguist cheers and has a celebratory pint.) Anywho, thanks for reading!





Mmkay. Just wanted to point that out.
The spelling side of me gets hackles raised whenever I see alright. It just won't ever be all right for me. XD (And I don't consider that a linguistic victory *nods towards George Orwell* but if you wanna chat or PM me about it, I'd love to talk about it.)



BluesClues says...


(My inner grammarian usually rails against "poor grammar" only to have my inner linguist adjust her glasses and say, "Well, actually, language is a product of the people who speak it." Which means that "supposably" and "pacifically" will probably one day be acceptable words, as much as that makes my grammarian shudder.)





Oh how I know that feeling. XD And that's got to be one of my favorite anti-grammar explanations. I think Orwell's dumbing down of language idea is really chilling, though, when you stop and look at how it's happening today.



BluesClues says...


Then there's the spelling thing, right? Because, on the one hand, it makes me cringe. On the other hand, sometimes people's "dumbed-down" spellings make more sense, because English is stupid.



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Wed Jul 16, 2014 11:28 pm
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erilea says...



LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE it! This part:

A moment later, a giant spider smashed through the trees before them, black and hairy, the size of a thoroughbred. Christian stiffened at the sight of it, but as it saw them it gave another squeal and tried to turn the other way so sharply it lost its balance and flipped over, end over end. It skidded through the grass and stopped only when it hit a sycamore tree several yards away from them.
reminds me of Hagrid, he has giant spiders too. One thing: why is a man in pursuit of a giant spider? Please give description. Keep writing!




BluesClues says...


It comes across later in the story (and also kind of earlier). Glad you enjoyed it!



erilea says...


Thx for the reference!



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Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:36 pm
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EmeraldEyes wrote a review...



Hi..
So i was intrigued to read this part especially because of the wood elf. XD
You've still got that mature style going. I wonder, are you going to publish this? cos I definitely think you should try. It's a great story :)

Rowan gave a shout of laughter. “I do believe he likes you. What a funny turn!”

There was an answering shout from the wagon: “Is that awful beast gone yet?”


The characters have a very solid interaction with each other here. :) It's nice to read it because you have faith in the author that they know what they're doing and you've got everything all planned out. :)

I like the way you segregate the chapters, i mean, you can tell this is a revision because it is so polished and well written.

keep going. Good job. :)





No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies.
— Daisy Bates