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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Book of Deacon By Joseph R. Lallo Characters: 5582

Updated: 2018-01-19 12:03

Her stomach growled loudly.

"Of course, the touch to the sword wasn't that bad. It did not kill me. After all, it was probably a booby trap, and how likely is it that it would be set to trigger more than once? It is cold out, so the food has probably been preserved fairly well, " she reasoned again, this time the hunger getting the better of her.

She moved carefully toward the weapon and, extending her bandaged hand to the handle, while keeping the rest of her body as far from the blade as possible, touched her fingers to it. She cringed at the expected onslaught, but when none came she knew it would be safe to use the hand that still had some strength in it. She wrapped her right fingers around the grip and pulled, but the icy ground held tightly to the sword, allowing only the slightest movement. Myranda put her left hand around the grip as well and pulled as best she could. On a normal day the sword would have come free quite easily, but hunger had robbed her of more strength than she knew. Had she not taken the chance tonight to free the food, the morning would have found her without the strength to stand.

Finally, the weapon came free. She dragged the sword across the icy earth and slid its tip beneath the edge of the huge shield.

"I am very sorry about this, sir, " she grunted to her fallen benefactor. "I do realize how disrespectful this is." Grunt. "But I am left with very little choice."

Several minutes of prying and apologizing later, she'd cracked the icy buildup and freed the pack. Eagerly, she pulled it open. Savior! Salted meat and hard biscuit. By no means a banquet, but it was more than enough to save her. The food was well past its prime, but so long as it was still edible, it would serve its purpose. Aside from the food, she found a small bag of copper coins and a rock-hard frozen flask of water. There was also a pan for cooking and something that roused her spirits even higher. There were two loops of fabric across the top of the pack that could be only one thing.

"Tent straps! You had a tent, stranger! And if you had a tent, then I have a tent. I just have yet to find it, " Myranda said.

Grabbing the unlit portion of the largest stick in the fire, Myranda held the makeshift torch, swept it about near to the ground. Before long, she found what was left of the tent. It was flat against the ground and crusted with ice, one of the supports shattered. Myranda set what was left of the tiny tent near the smoldering fire. The heat slowly filled the half-collapsed cloth shelter and gave her the first comfort she had felt in days.

She had only just fastened the tent flap when a heavy, wet snow began to fall. Myranda put the pan on the coals and heated some of the food she'd found, smiling to herself about he

r accuracy in detecting the coming snow. It was a skill to be able to read the clouds. The northern lands were shrouded in thick, gray clouds for most of the year. One could not simply see clouds on the horizon and predict rain. It was more a feeling, a nearly imperceptible change in the color of the gray, a new quality to the wind. Even she wasn't quite sure how she knew, but whether it was to be rain or snow, hail or sleet, she always knew. It was a gift.

She nearly burned herself as she snatched the meat eagerly from the pan. She had stood the hunger this long, but the smell of the cooking food made the pain a thousand times worse. Myranda took her first bite of food in days, the first full meal in more than a week. Her eyes rolled and her jaw tingled at the first taste of food. When she'd eaten the ration for the day, she slipped into a sleep few would ever know. If there was one thing she'd learned in her years of endless travel, it was that starving made any meal a feast, and exhaustion made any bed fit for a king. She was warm, full, and happy now, and that was all that mattered.

In a flash, she found herself in the middle of a sun-drenched field. She was bewildered and disoriented. The ground was warm against her bare feet. As her eyes adjusted to the light, they saw the beauty of the field. It was the finest sight she had ever seen, a vast meadow of lush green grass as far as the eye could see. She breathed in the freshness of the air and let out a triumphant sigh of joy. Myranda closed her eyes and began laughing, sheer happiness spilling out of her.

When she opened her eyes to take in more of the splendor, they came to rest on a tiny speck of black. It was the smallest fleck of darkness, but in such a place nothing could have been more foreign. It floated near to her, then off and way, almost out of sight. Slowly, it drifted down and touched the ground. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the ground began to darken. The life-giving soil turned a charred black color, spreading outward like a stain across the countryside. The green grass faded slowly, so slowly that it was barely noticeable. She stood, helpless, as her paradise blackened. It was as though the world was being consumed by night from the ground up.

When all of the life had been drawn from the grass it spread skyward. Night flooded the field in spite of the sun above. In a grim finale, that too was blocked out by a curtain of black clouds. Only darkness remained, a darkness stirred by a frigid wind. Myranda strained her eyes, searching desperately for some wisp of what had been before. She saw faint, flickering lights far off in the distance. She rushed toward them, but one by one, the embers of light winked out, swallowed into the darkness as all else had.

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