Members' Corner => Member Creations => Topic started by: AP on August 14, 2017, 06:16:18 AM

Title: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on August 14, 2017, 06:16:18 AM

     She walked along the river, feeling the wet mud under her soles. Occasionally, she would slow down long enough to dig her toes into the moist soil order to take in the texture. The weeds tickled her shins as she passed through them and she made it a point to meander into them as often as possible. Her thick raven hair swayed in the breeze, and she ran her fingers over her smooth brow to remove a strand that found its way across her olive cheek. She made it to the shore of the river and stepped carefully onto the brown rocks piled up at the bank, making sure to step on the flatter and less jagged sandstone. They were rough and wet, but sturdy, easily holding her light weight. She knelt down with her animal skin tucked between her knees so she could dip her fingertips in the water as it lazily flowed between them.

     She sat silently and felt the water's movements.  It took some time before she noticed it.  It was wedged between two narrow stones and was partially sticking out of the water. It was caked in a strange primordial sludge, which had hardened over it, forming a slender, gray cocoon; it blend in with its earthly surroundings unless one got close enough to discover the grotesque crust wasn't rock. Some of it had broken, no doubt after being washed ashore and thrust between the rocks. With the top end broken and chipped off, she noticed a piece of wood inside. She curiously reached out and touched the surface of the cocoon, which was brittle, allowing her to easily break it after applying pressure. As it crumbled away, she saw the piece of wood in the sunlight and could see that it was smooth as if cut and sanded by stone. She was aware of wood carving but not to this extent. She brought the side of her hand against the cocoon again, forcing more chunks off it, revealing more of this strange, carved stick which now seemed to have thin strips of pale skin or leaves wrapped around it and enough times to create a sort of covering, much like the animal skins covering her and her people. She held the middle of the cocoon with both hands and pulled it out of the water and there, she could see that it was the length of a small log but much thinner like an oddly straight tree branch. Once it was dropped on the river bed, most of the cocoon broke away, revealing more of this log, which was almost entirely wrapped in the thin, pale skin and the end was rounded, just like its top. She pulled away the broken chunks along with the mud and weeds that came out of the water with it.

     It was obviously made by someone but what was its purpose? She decided to unwrap it from its skin to see what was inside. A single hand stretched out all on its own. She wondered why she was so nervous. This object terrified her, yet fascinated her, but it wasn't just because it was an object she had never seen before. Her people would sometimes find old tools and bowls buried under the sand or in the river, but this object was different somehow. It gave off an intense aura that her limited experiences could not fully process. She had to examine it more closely.

She extended her index finger and slowly, she touched it.

End of Prologue
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on August 15, 2017, 03:34:43 AM
Chapter One

     Robert Smythe was born to Caleb and Ellen Smythe on a rainy afternoon in Essex, England in the year 1742. He was the eldest sibling with a brother named James and a sister named Susan. Caleb was a lender, so the family was comfortable; the children grew up literate and well learned in the sciences and Christendom. They would spend their evenings playing card games after dinner and every year, they made sure to visit the fair. Robert grew tall and strong, but just lean enough that he could move swiftly in a race and was graceful on the ballroom floor. He enjoyed cricket and boxing, often being considered the best in his clubs. He once rendered an opponent unconscious with a sharp uppercut during a boxing match, to which, he apologized profusely for several minutes. Despite his tall, muscular frame, he was raised in British mannerisms and taught how to be a proper gentleman. He was no bully, nor was he arrogant. He was quiet, polite and never prone to emotional outbursts. His skin was strangely smooth without blemish or pockmarks; he wore his long brown hair tied neatly behind his ears and his clothes were usually modest yet fashionable. He was grateful for his blessings and never took advantage of his popularity with his friends or the attention he gained from the young ladies who wanted to be courted by him, especially since he had his heart set on Abigail Gibbs, the youngest daughter of a trading company manager. Abigail was likewise quiet and often considered too shy for her own good. Robert liked that about her since he dreaded conversations for the sake of conversation, a mindset that came about after one too many social gatherings. They would often take walks and play hide-and-seek in her family's garden.

   It was the spring of 1759 and Robert fumbled with his hat nervously as he stood in the parlor of Abigail’s home; fingers gripped tightly along the rim, rotating it between palms for no particular purpose other than a vain attempt to relieve tension.  It didn’t work.  A bead of sweat emerged on his brow, so he took the handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed his forehead before returning it.  He had been courting her for some time and both families approved of their union, so they had already made a formal engagement.  He was hoping to meet her one last time before he began his training.  During this time, the conflict that would later be known as the Seven Years' War was raging. Military enlistment was encouraged among British gentleman and since Robert was very physically fit, it was decided he should go as it was his duty as a Briton. He was fine with this.  Ever since he was a boy, he enjoyed tales of adventure and heroism.  He was particularly fond of the story of Saint George slaying the dragon.  There was something exciting about the idea of a noble knight doing battle with a larger, stronger foe.  He enlisted in the infantry in hopes of pursuing a career in the military (after all, his family was in good standing, which placed him in a position to move up the ranks).  As he stood in her parlor, trying his damndest not to appear nervous, Abigail came down the landing and instantly noticed his nervous demeanor.  She smiled and hid the fact that she could tell how nervous he was; she considered it charming and somehow, it made him seem more handsome.

     “Good afternoon, Abby,” Robert said before taking her hand in his and kissing the back.  She curtsied politely and returned a simple, yet sincere, “Good afternoon, Robert.”  Robert thought they should spend the afternoon in her garden and possibly read a book together.  In the back of his mind, he knew, however, that she had other plans.  Not that her plans were any more obvious to her.  She also considered the possibility of an afternoon in the garden, but her desires lay elsewhere.  They held hands and made small talk as they made their way out of the house, toward the garden.  The sunlight sent pillars through the trees, which touched them sporadically as they walked in the shade.  The colors of the flowers along the dirt path seemed brighter as was common after a heavy rain, which occurred that morning.  They slowly made their way to the small greenhouse nearby.  Their servants tended other sections of the garden and she knew very well that none of them would be around.  Her parents and siblings were likewise busy, so she knew they were properly alone.  Once they entered the greenhouse, she turned and kissed him lightly on the cheek.  It was something she would often do and while it was considered unladylike at the time, most women her age kissed the men who were courting them in much the same way and everyone knew this.  Customs being what they were, it was generally done in private with the unspoken agreement that it wasn’t proper behavior anyway.  He returned the kiss, but this time, on her lips, which were also not considered the actions of a gentleman and had the same attitude attributed to it.  They had kissed many times before, but they had gone no further other than Robert once bravely stroking her bosom with the back of his index finger.  He started with that, as she somehow expected.  It surprised him, however, but with her slight smile that invited him for more, he continued stroking her before gradually leaning in for another kiss that lasted much longer.  Soon, the stroking turned into awkward fumbling, his fingers trembling as he felt her soft body.  It wasn’t proper, but it wasn’t uncommon.  At the time, many men and women laid with one another in an unbiblical manner and, provided their was a pregnancy, would marry one another post haste.  The two of them were already promised to one another, and with Robert going to war and their impending wedding, they were committed before they realized it.  They removed their clothes shyly, but quickly before laying on the wooden planks in the greenhouse.  They didn’t take the moment to gaze longingly at each others’ bodies as they thought they would.  Shaky hands groped, limbs awkwardly intertwining, and when he couldn’t quite find his destination, she took him in her hand and guided him.  He went slowly, partially because it was a new sensation that took him by surprise almost instantly, but because he had heard from his classmates about the pain a woman might receive during her first time (it was the sort of talk common among his classmates, who often boasted of experiences they never had, but rather, heard from sailors or drunk uncles).  Likewise, she had also heard similar talk from her female friends who usually learned from similar sources.  She was nervous about the possible pain, yet willing. There was some discomfort for her, but no real pain; it was mostly pleasurable, yet over very quickly.  Also, despite what she had previously heard, there were no signs of blood.  His toes curled, there was a brief numbing sensation through his lower half, and he tried to hold back once he felt the force rushing through him but he released soon enough.  When he came, he tried to remove himself as quickly as possible, with a small mess on her thigh, which he wiped away with his handkerchief.  They lay on the floor of the greenhouse, finally taking the moment to examine each other.  Their skin was smooth and young but covered in sweat, their bodies curving in ways that were pleasing.  She lay against his chest with one hand on her shoulder and the other resting behind his head.  They both breathed heavily and did not speak at first.

     “Abigail,” Robert began, “I apologize.  That wasn’t proper.”  He furrowed his brow as he contemplated what took place within the past few minutes.  While he knew what he did was common, it did nothing to ease his guilt.  As an Englishman and as a Christian Man, he was meant to be chaste until marriage.  He never expected his urges to control him.  He remembered the words of his schoolmaster, his father, and his minister: a gentleman controls his urges.  He blamed himself, believing he lead her astray.  Abigail, likewise laid in his arms with the same concern as she recalled similar words,  “I guess we were both improper,” she told him with some sadness, but soon smiled as she recognized the sense of euphoria she had been experienced since she first saw him, which was only exacerbated by her first sexual encounter.  They would be married soon, so there was little reason to be too upset.  She sat up to get dressed, placing a single hand across her breasts.  “Don’t,” Robert told her as he took her wrist.  She gave him a curious look as he laid her back down and removed her hand.  She laid back with a befuddled look, “What is it?”  He smiled, but said nothing as his eyes followed the sunbeams down from the greenhouse roof to her pale, soft body.  “I just needed to look at you once more,” he told her.  They briefly discussed their marriage and what they expected of the war.  Robert promised he would return and believed it.  They got dressed quietly and left the greenhouse, making sure no one saw them.  By the end of the afternoon, Robert was smiling and holding her hand tightly as they returned to the house.  She felt the warmth of his hand and was satisfied.  He had dinner with her family in celebration of his desire to serve in the military, and they wished him well.  Her father told him that he was very proud of him and that he was performing his service for the Queen admirably.  He barely listened as he continually played the afternoon’s events in his head.  At the end of the evening, he kissed her hand and bid her farewell, a slight smile on her face as he did so, conveying a secret kept between them.  As he rode in the carriage back to his home, he replayed the afternoon’s events in his head, a slight smile emerging on his face.  He was changed.  He had just completed a milestone; it was fitting for a young man who would soon do his military duty as a Briton.
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on August 15, 2017, 03:36:33 AM
     He and Abigail had a September wedding, which was held in an Anglican chapel at noon, three weeks after the banns had been read aloud during service.  Abigail wore a blue gown with an ornate horseshoe tied to her wrist and Robert wore a new suit with his hair tied back neatly.  Their parents and immediate family were in attendance along with close friends of the families, as well as esteemed members of the community.  Robert’s brother James was his best man and Abigail’s attendant was her former nanny.  As the ceremony drew to a close, they sang a hymn and a care cloth was held over the couple.  They had a luncheon afterwards, and wheat was cast over Abigail’s head as they left the church.  Their new home had been prepared beforehand and once in the threshold, Abigail took a plate of shortbread and threw it over her head where in the wedding party quickly snatched it from the ground.  It was an exhausting day, but they found the energy to drink mead and consummate their marriage; afterwards, they fell asleep in each others’ arms.  Robert hoped Abigail would be pregnant by the time he left for military service because that summer, he was to set sail for India.  They were sure of a British victory and equated that hope with the foregone conclusion he would return safely home to a wife and child.

     Robert saw very little of India.  He joined the 79th Regiment of Foot under the command of William Draper and was stationed briefly at the port of Madras and slept in the barracks.  There were rumblings they would not stay long and would likely be sent elsewhere to fight Spanish colonies. It was nearly summer, but the Indian heat did not bother him as much as it did the other recently-enlisted soldiers, so he volunteered as a day guard.   Despite the assurance he would be leaving soon, coupled with his duty as a port guard who never had the chance to do much exploring, he had the pleasure of seeing the HMS Seahorse as well as the HMS Norfolk, which were both briefly at port.  As a sixth-rate warship, the Seahorse was a smaller frigate with 24 guns on deck.  The Norfolk was much larger by comparison as it was a third-rate ship with two decks and 74 guns along the decks.  His duties mostly consisted of guarding the pier.  As he made his rounds around the docks, he would often gaze at the knotted sails and the tall masts stretching to the sky.  He imagined the British flag hoisted up, flapping in the wind as the ships sailed into the sunset, an orange haze on the horizon as the last traces of light reflected off the surface of the water.  The Seahorse was the older ship, having been launched in 1748, eleven years before the Norfolk, and her age showed in her hull.  Despite repaintings, there were divots in the stem, but Robert considered them to be proud battle scars.   The Norfolk had her nicks and scrapes as well, mostly along the plating, but she still had a few more battles before it received the wear and tear of her older sister.  Guard duty was never exciting, but he appreciated the view.  Seeing these legendary warships gave him a sense of pride and duty.

     As for Madras, it was a very large port.  There were mostly British ships at port: frigates, ships of the line, store ships, as well as battleships.  There were also ships from the East India Company,  Indian naval vessels, and the odd merchant boats of various origins that came and went.  The ship and dock crews were likewise very diverse.  Aside from the expected Englishmen, sepoys, and servants, there were also French deserters, Muslim nawabs, and Portuguese half-castes, all waiting to take part in the upcoming battle.  He would occasionally overhear the sepoys talking among themselves and was surprised to find their English flawless, although he was surprised that they would speak to one another in English.  Furthermore, he was shocked by their fluency; if he didn’t know any better, he would have sworn they were from Essex simply by their voices.  One afternoon, while making his rounds, he heard the voice of a man whom he swore was English say, “Colonel Draper is a real beau nasty.  Have you spent any time around him?”  He turned, expecting to see some unruly British sailor and was prepared to dress him down for disrespectful language toward a British officer.  Instead, he saw two sepoys making their way to their ship, apparently unaware that Robert could hear them.  “I haven’t met him,” the second sepoy explained as they passed Robert, “But he sounds like a typical British officer.  They dress well, they act like gentlemen, but sooner or later, they slip and let their ugliness show.”  Robert stood, dumbfounded as the two men apparently spoke perfect English, including slang, and didn’t seem to know or care that a British soldier could hear them insulting a high ranking and well-respected colonel.  “So then they’re typical Englishmen, really” the first sepoy said with a chuckle as they continued on their way.  He was even more baffled.  Most sepoys wouldn’t care insult the British in their mother tongue, especially out in the open.  He considered walking after them but he questioned his senses far too much to be sure of what he just heard.  It didn’t make sense to him and if he pursued any sort of action, it might only draw unwanted attention.  He retired to his quarters later that night and couldn’t help but bring the matter up to one of his bunk mates.

“The sepoys speak fluently,” he said hesitantly.

“Sure.  Most of them have been taught English,” was the response.

“Yes, of course, but they sound just like Englishmen.  They sound as if they could have been born and raised in Essex.”

“Maybe to you.  Their accents sound a bit thick to me, usually.  English is obviously not their native language.”

“Have you ever heard them speaking English amongst themselves?,” he almost regretted the question before asking it.

“What?  You’re asking if they speak English to each other in private?,” there was an equal amount of incredulousness and humor in his tone, “Certainly not.  What point would that make?”

Robert laughed a bit nervously, “I think the boredom gets the better of me at times.  My imagination runs wild, I suppose.  I must’ve been hearing things.”

“Give it time, Smythe.  Any day now, we’ll leave this wretched place.”

     Robert never brought the subject up again out of fear of seeming peculiar or unintelligent.  He even convinced himself that he misheard the sepoys; ignoring a strange situation was often easier than admitting the reality.  He had little interaction with the other groups with the exception of a few French crew mates who mostly kept to themselves.  While, Robert studied French in school and did quite well for himself, he never had the opportunity to speak French to them.  He had a sort of private joke that, if he had the opportunity to speak to them, they would respond in English anyway.  He achieved this goal of self-isolation up until it was decided that the regiment would set sail for Manila.

     The Battle of Manila started on the first day of August in 1762.  The HMS Seahorse had already been sent under the command of Captain Cathcart Grant and intercepted vessels bound for the Philippines.  A fleet under the command of Colonel Draper and Admiral Samuel Cornish soon followed with the HMS Norfolk as the flagship.  Manila’s garrison was not as heavily fortified as expected, due mostly to the fact that it wasn’t complete: the ditch hadn’t been finished and some outworks had no cannons for defense.  The battleships’ guns roared one after the other as a sequence of gunpowder explosions erupted through the air, pelting the Spanish fortifications.  It wasn’t long before a three-pronged landing was established with Draper leading nearly 300 marines on foot.  Several more seamen joined them the next day just as dark clouds began forming overhead with the certainty of harsh winds in the near future.  The Filipino and Spanish forces weren’t equipped to deal with the onslaught and the British military forced their way into Manila City where Fort San Antonio Abad was taken on September 25th.  There were few casualties and it was a rousing victory for the British just as the weather got worse.

     Robert was not involved in the initial invasion fleet, however.  He came aboard a storeship bringing entrenching tools to create fortifications for ground troops and entered Manila waters on September 30th.  The crew could see fires burning in the distance and it was soon reported that their men had taken the garrison and landed successfully.  Normally, there would be a great deal of celebration but the dark clouds, strong winds, and tumultuous waters gave them concern.  The gale force winds beat against the ship, billowing the sails violently.  It was soon apparent the ship would be driven ashore and all hands were called on deck with only a few being commanded to remain below deck and secure the cargo.  Several men held tightly on the halyard while a few moved the brace to ride the wind.  “We’ll be forced aground, gentlemen,” the captain called out over the sounds of rushing water, “Brace yourselves!”.  As the men struggled to control the sails, one of the sheets came loose after a particularly strong gust of wind, the rope flailing in the air uselessly.  A huge wave rushed up onto deck, drenching Robert and the other men on the halyard, making them lose even more control.  “Smythe!,” the captain shouted over the raging wind and water, “Tie down that sheet!”  “Yes, sir,” Robert called back.  Robert’s reputation of being strong and capable was evident, even among the soldiers.  He was often called upon for manual labor portside and on the ship.  This situation was no different, even if slightly more dangerous than most of his tasks.  Robert’s hands were wet and the ship continued to tilt listlessly, but he still managed to climb up the mast quickly and then crawled onto the yard with both knees pressed on either side and both hands gripping it firmly.  Water sprayed into his face, blurring his vision, but he could still make out the dark silhouette of the rope flapping in the wind against gray clouds.  He held the yard firmly with one hand and reached out, snatching the sheet with the other.  He sat up on the yard and held the rope tightly, balancing himself against the swaying ship and the flapping sails.  He ran his forearm across his face to restore his vision and quickly went to work, trying down the sheet.  It was slippery work, but he managed to tie it down and the men were once again in control of the sails.  The ship lurched once more and Robert placed his hands against the yard.  Wet skin slid along smooth and equally wet wood, forcing Robert to slide forward where he felt his ribs slam into the hard surface, forcing him to topple over the side as his legs could no longer hold him.  He was weightless, limbs grasping at air as he felt the sting of wind and water across his face and hands.  His vision was surprisingly clear as he saw the deck spinning and rapidly approaching him until everything went dark.  His face was numb, but he could feel his body tumbling over something narrow and hard before he once again found himself weightless.   His vision returned slightly as stars danced around, but he could scarcely make out the outer hull of the ship just before he heard splashing water and felt it flowing through his ears just before he once again lost his sight.  The water filled his lungs and he could feel the current pulling him in multiple directions as if it couldn’t make up its mind.  It was impossible to swim against it.  No one would be able to save him.  The water was too violent and the ship was at its mercy.  Everything was cold and before the darkness set in, he thought to himself, “Don’t cry, Abigail.  I’ll be alright.”

End of Chapter One
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on September 03, 2017, 10:03:45 AM
Chapter Two

     Martin D'Castil was born in 1468, in the Kingdom of Castile, although the details of his birth weren’t known.  He was found abandoned at the steps of the Santa Maria del Jaen monastery and was believed to be no more than a year old at the time. The monastery was once an Islamic mosque that had been converted once the region became Christian-ruled. The nuns assumed he was from Christian birth even though there was the possibility he could have been born from Jewish or Islamic parents. As a child, he was extraordinarily handsome, leading some to believe he might have been the bastard son of a man of good standing or even royalty, so there were rumors in the monastery that a member of the Castilian upper class had an affair with a prostitute and Martin was the end result.  Similar rumors included Moorish or Jewish women in place of the prostitute. The ridicule over his appearance began in his early teens.  At that point, other boys had acne or the occasional scar from manual labor, sports, play, or fights (to say nothing of those with warts or genetic disfigurements).  Martin had none of these.  His skin was as smooth, his teeth were white, and his features were sculpted which made him appear feminine to those around him. Some of the other orphans would call him Martin la Hermosa which would prompt Martin to lash out violently in retaliation. Considering he grew up to be quite strong and healthy to an almost abnormal degree, he won his fights, even if they were against more than one boy. It got to the point that only the older, larger boys bullied him but even they soon learned not to do so. He couldn’t fight the girls, however.

     One major incident occurred as he returned from a swim.  It was late as he and some of the other boys made their way back.  Five young girls had fetched pails of water farther up the stream and met them along the road. “I think Martin is even prettier than all of us combined,” one of the girls called out, which elicited a whirlwind of giggling.  He tried his best to ignore them, but they continued to follow.  “Martin, do you think the other boys will fancy you one day?,” the alpha in the group called out again, which was followed by another roar of mad laughter.  The other boys began to snicker a bit, but tried their best to keep their voices low in fear it would provoke a fight.  At that point, he burst into a dead sprint, the sound of laughter following him as he ran.  He made his way to the boys’ dormitory, secure in the knowledge that they couldn’t follow.  With the other boys entering the dorm soon, he knew he had no privacy, so he quickly made his way outside, slipping unnoticed, as he crept along the darkened corners of the courtyard..  He hated the fact that he cried and he wanted to look like a man.  During this time he had started an apprenticeship with the carpenters at the monastery and got an idea he would later regard as completely idiotic and immature. He snuck into one of the carpenter’s workshops, silently creeping through the dark until he came to a table filled with tools. That was when he took a blade used for whittling and quickly struck himself in the cheek with no hesitation.  He wanted a scar; one much larger than the few lines found along the noses or hands of the others boys.  That way, he could look rough, as a man was supposed to look.  Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt aside from the initial sting.  As he wiped the small knife on a cloth, he could feel something wet drip down his cheek.  He raised his fingers to his face and then looked at them, the moonlight exposing the crimson droplets through the window.  The deed was done, but curiously, his cheek no longer hurt.  The cut must’ve been too thin.  He wiped the blood off his fingertips, then placed his hand firmly against his cheek and pressed down, hoping to open it up some more.  There was nothing.  He looked at his hand once again in the moonlight and saw no blood on his fingertips.  He left the workshop, rubbing his cheek as hard as possible in an attempt to make the cut bleed more, but there was nothing.  There was a horse trough nearby with water and the moonlight was bright enough that night that he could make out enough of a reflection to see if he had a gaping gash across his face, but when he looked, there was no sign of any damage.  He remained Martin la Hermosa.
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on September 03, 2017, 10:08:02 AM
     Bishop Alonso Garcia was one of the few people in the monastery who respected him and in return, he respected the Bishop. Once, a priest asked Bishop Garcia how he was able to get a positive response from "the whoreson".  The priest scolded Martin for appearing bored during mass and as he scolded him, he looked distant.  The priest did not like the show of disrespect, so he asked Alonso for advice since it was no secret that Martin admired him. After the priest asked the question, the bishop responded, "Well, I believe it's at least partially because I don't refer to him as a whoreson." Martin loved Bishop Garcia, often seeing him as a surrogate father.  The Bishop was rotund, with a jolly face, little hair, and a small grey beard that only served to emphasize the size of his jowls.  He laughed after almost every sentence, regardless of whether or not it was a joke.  He had a garden that he loved to tend to and it was located in the yard where he grew tomatoes.  He would often ask Martin to help tend it since he noticed Martin often kept to himself.  As a boy, Alonso had many friends, but he always hated to see someone alone.   Martin would water the plants while the Bishop sat in the shade and conversed with the young boy.  The Bishop had grown tired of monastery politics and regularly debating the other priests and bishops (sometimes, even the Abbot himself) regarding theology and church doctrine, so it was relaxing to engage in unimportant conversations.  Normally, this sort of behavior might turn one into a pariah or, if the person was involved in the church and made statements that would be considered bold enough, be stripped of his title.  Some of what he said bordered on heresy.  He argued on the inerrancy of the Bible and often criticized Catholic church practices that favored the wealthy or reflected cultural leanings.  During these debates, he got away with most of what he said due to being a bishop who was in good standing with the church and often engaged in charitable events. In addition to that, he was considered very likeable and charming by most who met him.  He had a special knack for challenging those around him without seeming antagonistic or arrogant.  Finally, he mostly waited until later in life before making his thoughts known.  It wasn’t until he was a bishop that he began engaging in serious debates, ensuring he had the social insurance to do so. He would consider himself a coward in his twilight years.

     When Martin helped him with his garden, he often entered his chamber to collect the Bishop and they would walk there together.  Sometimes, the Bishop would be immersed in his meditations, so Martin would have to wait patiently.  This was their relationship throughout Martin’s youth.  It wasn’t long after his sixteenth birthday that he became fully aware of at least one of his abilities and it was while he was helping in the garden.  He was eighteen at the time (not that anyone was fully aware of his true age due to being an orphan) and he came to the Bishop’s chamber as usual.  When he entered, the Bishop was reading over scripture; he said nothing but the Bishop waved a hand at him, “In a moment, Martin,” he mumbled, never looking away from the text.  Martin was both curious and a little less patient than usual on that day, so he decided to come to the Bishop’s desk to peak over his shoulder to see if he could make sense of what he was looking at despite not knowing how to read.  The old man didn’t notice at first and if he had, he wouldn’t have cared.  He tried to encourage Martin’s curiosity as often as possible and Martin was aware of this, so he knew it wouldn’t be an annoyance.  Since Martin was an orphan, there was little reason to teach him to read or write as he was destined for a life of manual labor and little else.  He didn’t expect to read but as he rarely saw written words up close, it was worth a look for no other reason than to satisfy momentary curiosity.  As he peaked over the Bishop’s shoulder, the letters appeared meaningless, as expected; it was a swarm of curves and lines zipping across the pages in an elegant order, creating an aesthetic that Martin could at least appreciate. The yellowed pages were full of hidden meaning, but otherwise, as easily read as a field of grass.  The grace of the pen strokes on the page caught his eye and demanded he pay closer attention and as he focused his eyes, the words seemed to blur together like a sudden fog, but it soon rolled away, revealing a message, which somehow became clear.  His eyes darted across the page all on their own and he began processing what he was seeing, the words coming to him like someone whispering into his ear.  It was as natural as breathing.  These words held fast on his tongue, then they slowly opened his mouth without his realization, then they began speaking for him.  His voice escaped from his lips without consciousness but with purpose, “The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”  It was a sentence purely spoken by instinct.  It was nearly an accident, but once he was fully aware of what he had done, he took a quick step back and looked at the Bishop both as an apology and as if he expected some sort of explanation.  The Bishop stopped reading and raised his head slowly.  He didn’t turn to Martin at first; he stared at the wall as if he was trying to make up his mind whether or not he was hearing things.  Martin was likewise baffled.  He couldn’t read the words on the page.  If he were asked to identify individual letters, he wouldn’t have been able to do it and in fact, would find it hard to tell where one letter ended and another began, but he was sure if he were to look again, he would be aware of every word on the page.  He was afraid he would be declared possessed or at the very least, the Bishop might think less of him somehow.  “I heard that verse during mass,” Martin quickly explained, hoping the Bishop would believe him, “I remembered it,” he entertained the idea in his own mind in hopes of convincing himself as well.  It didn’t work for either of them.  Slowly, the Bishop turned to him, locking eyes with Martin, “How did you read this passage?”  It wasn’t an accusatory question.  He was sincere in his tone, which made Martin slightly less nervous, but did not stop him from trying to formulate more excuses, “I think… I think I might’ve seen it written down somewhere,” he searched his mind for any excuse and as soon as it came to his mind, it continued that momentum and rolled out of his mouth, “And I think someone taught me what it said.”

     The Bishop furrowed his brow, which told Martin that he didn’t believe him, but was more confused than anything else.  Again, this was somewhat of a relief in that at least he didn’t feel Martin was peculiar in some way and he could stop making excuses.  The next question the Bishop asked added to the confusion, however.

     “How do you know Latin?” 

     Martin titled his head to the side.  If nothing else, Martin was sure the text he read aloud was written in his native tongue.  Certainly, when he read the verse, he spoke Castilian.  He couldn’t understand why the Bishop would ask about Latin.  “Your Grace,” he began, “No one has taught me Latin.  I spoke in Castilian,” he felt ridiculous making the distinction.  The Bishop leaned in close and motioned toward the text, “My dear boy, scripture is written in Latin.  That is what you just read.”  Martin stared at him blankly.  He had no idea how to respond or what to think.  The Bishop continued, “Not only did you read the words on this manuscript, but you were reading them in Latin.  Perfectly, I might add.”  Once again, Martin’s mind and face were blank.  The Bishop returned the blank stare and they locked eyes awkwardly for a few moments before the Bishop stood up.  The movement was so sudden, it made Martin jolt as he flew across the room to a drawer.  There, he removed a stack of envelopes tied together with string.  He ripped the string off and rummaged through them until he found the envelope he was looking for.  He pulled a letter from it and laid it on the desk, pointing a single finger at the writing, “Could you read this, please?”

     Martin leaned forward; he felt peculiar since he never expected anyone to ask him to read.  Once again, the shapes on the single piece of paper were meaningless, but the words entered his mind all the same.  “To The Most Reverend Bishop of Santa Maria del Jaen,” he began, “I hope this letter finds you in good health as I understand there has been an illness in your land.  I want you to know that I have been in prayerful meditation…”  The Bishop removed the letter from the desk and held it up in the sunlight to take a second look, then he realized what he was doing was pointless and laid the letter back down again.  “It’s a letter to you, isn’t it?,” Martin asked.

     “Yes, it’s a letter from a Bishop in the Vatican,” he placed the letter back in the envelope, “This man is Italian.”

     “The Italian knows Castilian?,” Martin knew what the most likely answer would be, yet asked it anyway as the shock of the situation still forgave questions to which he already knew the answers to.

     “No, the Italian knows Italian,” the Bishop placed the envelope back in the desk, “You don’t know that you just spoke his language, do you?”

     “I wasn’t trying to speak Italian.”

     “Do you understand me now?,” the Bishop asked, changing the inflection of his voice slightly as if testing the boy, “You know what I’m saying to you, yes?”

     “Of course, Your Grace.”

     “What language do you hear me speaking?”

     “I hear Castilian,” Martin shrugged, but knew he would be proven wrong soon enough.

     “I’m speaking Italian at the moment.”

     “You are?”

     “Yes, I’m speaking Italian right now and you understand every word, it seems.”

     “How is that possible?”

     The Bishop raised a single eyebrow and seemed shocked by Martin’s response, “Well, now that’s interesting,” he said aloud, “I didn’t expect this.  Very interesting.”

     “What’s interesting?,” at this point, Martin was growing impatient and frustrated.

     “Now that I am speaking Italian to you, I hear It as well,” the Bishop rubbed his forehead in exasperation, “It’s as if I expected Italian to come from your lips and it came true.  How in God’s name are you speaking Italian and Latin without realizing it?”

     “Can we stop this, Your Grace?,” Martin put on a brave face but he was confused and somewhat frightened.

     “I’m sorry, my son.  I’m speaking Castilian now, just so that you’re aware.” 

     “Your Grace, what is wrong with me?,” Martin finally dropped his facade and exposed his state of confusion to the Bishop. 

     He gave a comforting chuckle, “I don’t detect anything wicked in you, dear boy,” he placed an arm around him and hugged him tightly, “Obviously, this gift of yours is not a common one, but I think there is a reason why you are blessed with it.”

     “What sort of blessing would that be?”

     “Honestly, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s no reason to consider it a curse either.”

     The Bishop promised to keep the incident a secret and as the years passed, Martin began to secretly read scripture in the Bishop’s study.  During mass, when the priest would read or the choir would sing, he could understand every word once he was made aware of his gift.  He trusted the Bishop since keeping his secret meant quite a bit to him, although he wasn’t entirely sure why the Bishop decided not to say much more about it, although he did give the ability a name.  He referred to the gift as Babel, named after the story of the Tower of Babel.  This went on for about a year until he was old enough to leave the monastery.

     “The infantry is a good opportunity for men your age and stature,” the Archbishop told the small gathering of young men clustered in front of him.  When an orphan was old enough, they would be given some money and the monastery usually helped place them in a guild if one were available but, unbeknownst to Martin and the other boys, there was a royal decree from Queen Isabella for conscription and the Archbishop felt he was being gracious by sending a few of his strongest men to join the infantry and presenting to them as a choice.  After all, these boys were too old to stay in the orphanage and if they weren’t sent to the military, then they might become criminals.  Martin was fine with this for the most part as he had no other place to go.  He was meant to be taken into the town to enlist later that afternoon but he chose to say his goodbyes to the Bishop beforehand.

   “I suppose I’m off to join the infantry,” Martin told him.

   The Bishop looked up from his study and seemed sad but not because Martin was leaving, “I heard they were looking for young, strong men.  They found favor in you, did they?”
        “It seems so.”

   “And how do you feel about that?”

   “I don’t feel much of anything, Your Grace.  I’m just happy they’ll take me.”

   “Well, I think the infantry will take any man who can walk on two feet,” the Bishop grumbled slightly under his breath.

        “Well, I’ve never been much good for anything.  I’ll go where I’m accepted.”

   “You are always accepted in God’s eyes,” the Bishop embraced him.

   “Yes, I’m sure of it, but I don’t know what he would have in store for me.”

   “No one knows, my son.  If we did, it would spoil the surprise.”

End of Chapter Two
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on October 02, 2017, 10:12:40 AM
Chapter Three

   Usat was born to Keb and Nut, who were both respected members of the tribe as they had two daughters and her tribe valued daughters because they would give birth to future generations.  Keb was strong and could map out the terrain very well while Nut found a way to navigate by looking at the stars at night, making them two of the best pathfinders in the tribe.  Her older sister was Nephthys who, like her, spent most of her time following their parents and helping their mother gather fruits, nuts, and water while their father participated in the hunting parties.  Her tribe was led by Amun-Ra, a very friendly and strong man.  When the land began to dry up and prey became sparse, he decided that they should move for more fertile land.  A very long time ago, their people had settled by a large river in a valley, but when that land dried up, they scattered and began living off the land.  It seemed most of the areas they had ventured to were drying up once more, which made prey scarce, so they set off to find the river once again in hopes it was fertile.  They had been trekking for over a day.  The sun beat down on them and morale was low.  Even the dogs who followed them were panting and tired, but they remained loyal, as always.

     She followed her tribe through an arid landscape; the blue sky was a beautiful contrast to the brown landscape stretching ahead.  She lazily kicked her feet up, sending small puffs of dust into the blue sky as she plodded along.  Despite the severity of the situation, she found herself consumed by boredom more than anything.  She was well aware her tribe needed to find shelter but that didn’t stop her from feeling bored.  She kicked the dirt again, sending a small pebble past one of the men in the tribe who turned and gave her an annoyed glare, so she made a mental note not to kick so hard.  On the next kick, she brought her foot down gently, but felt it strike something hard and immovable.  She stopped and her toe throbbed with pain, but her curiosity overrode the slight sting in her toe and at least she wasn’t bored at the moment.  She brushed her thick raven hair away from her eyes and took a closer look at the strange object that lay partially in the ground.  At first, she thought she struck a rock, but the surface of the object was smooth and dark.  She stooped down, propping one arm on her knees as she dug her fingers into the dirt around it.  Once she could feel a flat surface, she pulled the object up, taking small chunks of dirt with it.  She shook it and held it up to the sun for a better view.  The black shard was curved and rounded, forming the shape of a bowl.  Or rather, half a bowl as it was missing one side, likely after it shattered a very long time ago.  It was rounder than the bowls they usually made out of clay, although she was sure this bowl was not made from clay.  It was made from something hard and smooth enough that the Sun’s light reflected off the hot surface.  It was a secret of the past, now forgotten, known only to the people who were no longer living.  She wondered if she would ever learn their secrets.  As the tribe moved past her, she sprung back up to her feet and followed, quickly catching up to her mother.  She said nothing but simply held the broken object up to her.  Her mother continued to walk with the object hovering just within her peripheral vision, so she craned her head back to get a better look.  The object was curious looking and might be useful at some point, so she took it and placed it in the sling she carried across her breast.  She had hoped it would in some way catch peoples’ interest and take their minds off their worries.  The day before had been uneventful and this day seemed no different.  People were hot, thirsty, and surly.  The man she had inadvertently kicked a pebble at turned and gave her another annoyed glare for no apparent reason.  Now she was bored and insulted.

     One of the scouts named Sobek stood on a high rock with one hand perched on his brow.  “It’s the valley!,” he called out to the tribe as they approached in distance.  The tone of the march changed immediately as they began picking up speed while smiling and chattering.  There was vegetation ahead and likely plenty of water.  “We’ve found it,” Amun-Ra shouted to his tribe and nearly began sprinting; most of the tribe couldn’t keep up with him, but they felt that since he never left their line of vision, they didn’t need to.  Sobek quickly hopped down to join the rest as they passed below, Amun-Ra still staying ahead as he raced like a child joining his friends for a game.  As they rose above the next hill, they could see the valley: patches of green and brown were in the distance, along with a stream that likely led to the river.  They made their way slowly down into the valley and Amun-Ra sent Sobek to look for predators at the stream.  He quickly rushed down and Usat watched along with the rest of the tribe as he poked the water and the reeds with a long branch to make sure their were no crocodiles.  Some of the dogs decided to help by sniffing the area before drinking, so he cupped some water in his hands and took a drink before waving to the tribe, signaling for them to join him.  Once they came to the stream, they immediately began to drink.  Usat was glad that everyone’s spirits had been lifted.  The women gathered fruit and berries from the bushes and the men used sharpened sticks to spear some fish in the stream.  Once their bellies were full, they made fires and cuddled up to one another with animal skins to protect them from the chill of the night.  Meanwhile, the dogs sat watch.

     The next morning, Amun-Ra woke the men up and led them to hunt boar and lizards with the dogs trailing behind them.  The dogs were a benefit to the hunts and to their protection at night, so they were often rewarded with scraps.  The women weaved baskets in the meantime and gathered any berries or nuts they might have missed the day before, then they placed them in the baskets.  Once the men returned, the women took the animal skins and made blankets and ouches with them.  Then the entire tribe cooked and ate the meat.  “We’ve taken all we could from this place,” Amun-Ra told them, “We should go,” so they packed up and continued on their way down the stream.  This day’s trek proved to have a more vibrant tone as the tribe was happier to be around vegetation and freshwater.  On the way, Nephthys would snatch a few figs and sneak them over to her sister when her parents weren’t looking (when people in the tribe came upon food, it was customary to store it to be eaten later).  It wasn’t long before the scout could see the river ahead.  It was more water than Usat had ever seen and she reckoned only the elders had experienced this amount of water, which was an accurate estimation.  It stretched into the horizon and was deep enough that the bottom could not be seen.  Lush, green trees littered the bed and could be seen far on the other side as well.  “The river!  The river!,” Amun-Ra shouted and once again left the tribe behind as he bolted for the running water.  Usat knew he enjoyed leading people and was happiest when they needed him.  She remembered when she and her sister were hungry, as were the other children in the tribe.  Amun-Ra made sure everyone in the tribe gave them their share of the fruit for the night.  She remembered eating the fruit with him happily watching her and the others with a wide grin on his face.

     They drank well from the river and had a small celebration.  Some couples decided to make love, children played, and a few fruits were gathered.  Some time after that, Amun-Ra would not let them camp for the night as he was too energized and wanted to explore a bit farther before they made camp.  A few of the older tribes people groaned and complained but they did not tell him to stop, either, so they followed.  It was then that one of the scouts spotted the fields.
Not far away, they saw flattened land as if a large group of dogs dug into it.  What was most curious was that there was vegetation growing in rows on these flattened lands.  It was unlike anything Amun-Ra had seen before and it was obvious that this sort of thing could not have been made by animals.  It was a settled region.  Some of the older members of the tribe had heard stories of settled regions in far away lands.  These regions were ruled by cruel people who built their camps with stoned and remained there for eternity.  Amun-Ra’s wife, Amunet had spoken with some of these elders while Amun-Ra and the scout kept watch.

“The elders think the people here are dangerous,” Amunet told him.

“Do they think we should turn back?,” Amun-Ra asked and then added, “Do you they think we should turn back?”

“They have left the matter to you,” she began,”And I agree,” she added.

“I’ll take some men with me and we’ll go and look,” he told her.

     He chose a few men from the tribe as they were some of the strongest and toughest: Anhur, Maahes, Mafdet, and Sopdu.  He also chose Keb due partially to his strength but also dye to his trekking ability.  They ventured through the foliage and into the field while the rest of the tribe waited.  Usat held her breath until she saw her father and the other tribesmen leave her field of vision as they slowly crept through the field and disappeared over a mound.  She wasn’t sure how long it took them to return.  The sun seemed to remain in the same place but to her, it felt as if it should be nightfall.  “I see them,” one of the tribesmen shouted as Amon-Ra rose over the mound, followed by her father and the other men.  They could barely make them out against the setting sun but they were recognizable.  After they cleared the top of the hill, Usat could make out a few more shapes following them.  It was dusk, so she mostly saw vague humanoid shapes which soon disappeared into the shadow of the hill along with her father and the others.  She assumed the shapes were men but she was surprised that they were so much smaller than the men in her tribe and as they came closer, she could see them more clearly;  there were no adult men, but rather, women and children.  Nephthys leaned over to her and openly wandered why the adult men weren’t sent instead.  The elders began to mutter among themselves and she heard one of them surmise that the men must be on a hunt.  Another theorized there there were no men at all.  Either way, the consensus was that this tribe had few adult men in their prime and it was very odd to see.  She considered it a blessing, however, as the tribe didn’t know what to expect and any fear of potential violence was subdued due to her tribe being physically superior.  It wasn’t a thought that comforted her as she didn’t want to think of her tribe physically dominating another tribe if it came to it, but the idea was there all the same.  The elders stepped out from the bushes and revealed themselves as they approached and they were followed by the rest of the tribe.  Amun-Ra approached the elders and his wife first, speaking with them in private while the children and women of this new tribe waited patiently a few yards away.  Usat noticed that the new tribe were a bit more covered than them in that their hides were neatly tied around them, providing protection from the elements as opposed to the hides her people usually flung over their shoulders or around their waists.  She felt that, despite her people appearing more physically fit, they were not as orderly as this new tribe.  Her father made it a point to come to his wife and children to explain. 
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on October 02, 2017, 10:14:08 AM
     “They speak our language,” Keb told his two daughters, “It’s an old way of speaking but we can at least understand one another.  Their tribe used to be with our people but they split long ago when the river ran dry.  They went one way and our tribe went another.  It is by the gods’ providence that we be reunited at this time.”  Their attention was directed to Amun-Ra who addressed the entire tribe by standing on a rock and calling out to them; he explained that this tribe discovered ways to make food and to build shelters.  He sounded very impressed, which impressed the tribe.  They met these women and children while they were gathering wood and they decided to allow them to meet their tribe leader.  While there was some trepidation among her people, particularly the elders, it was mostly agreed upon that they should follow them.

   They were led back over the mound and once they reached the top, Usat could scarcely make out distant fires on the horizon as the sun set.  They followed the amber glow through a grove of trees and once they cleared them, they found lines of wooden planks stretching from one wooden post to the next and inside this enclosure were oxen; it was explained that these oxen were used to plow their fields, which the tribe previously saw.  One of the women leading the tribe explained the act of plowing to them and the nearby river was used to make the crops grow.  It was an entirely new concept to them as they were unaccustomed to producing their own food, rather, they went out and found it.  Amun-Ra was particularly surprised.  He asked many question and continued to stare at the oxen and the crops as they passed by.  Usat was likewise curious, but she also took note of her tribal leader’s reaction to his new surroundings as it was uncommon for him to be so outwardly gobsmacked.  He was known for his wisdom and his ability to access a situation and produce a proper response.  Her parents used to joke that he was all-knowing and, going by her own accounts, there was little to dispute this.  There was a good reason why the elders chose him to be tribal leader.  Once the tribe got used to the field of crops around them, they were gobsmacked once again upon seeing their huts.  There was still just enough light in the sky to get a good view of the mud huts.  The bonfires threw dancing shadows across their wide walls, emphasizing their solidity.  While her people knew how to prop up tree limbs and drape them with hides to make small huts to protect against the elements, she had never seen anything this intricate.  They didn’t noticed that there were a few men sitting around the fires until they stood to their feet and carefully approached them.  Before any questions could be asked, the tribe found themselves soon surrounded, not just by the men but also by the few elderly tribes people who emerged from their huts to greet their neighbors.  Uset could tell that some of her people were nervous and even Amun-Ra seemed to subtly ready himself but she understood their curiosity.  Considering her tribesmen were still stronger and in larger numbers, it was obvious they were the dangerous one even if they didn’t realize it.  “Here comes our leader,” one of the women said as she motioned toward a hut that sat further back than the others.

     Two figures emerged from a darkened entryway and made their way through the darkness, calmly stepping into the light of the fires.  The first figure was a large, muscular boy who seemed to be roughly the same age as her sister with narrowed eyes and a furrowed brow that defied his youth and conveyed a cynicism often seen in elders.  His eyes moved across her tribe and seemed to settle on the men, then lowered and rose back up again as he very clearly began to size them up.  Out of all the tribes people, he seemed to be the only one prepared for a potential attack.  The next figure stepped into the light.  He was shorter and younger than his brother but more handsome, according to Usat.  He had soft, thin features and a skinny frame.  His eyes also moved along her people, but he didn’t have the intense scowl that his brother had but instead, it was more analytical as if gleaning an understanding of them that only he could pick up on.

“I am Osiris,” he told them, “This is my brother Seth.”

Amun-Ra stepped forward with his palms stretched, “I am Amun-Ra.  These are my people.  We’ve only been gathering food in this area and we mean no harm.”

     Seth turned and began whispering into his brother’s ear, but he stepped away with a dismissive glance, which seemed to irritate Seth further.  “If you mean no harm, then we invite you to stay as long as you like,” Osiris told them, “We have plenty of food in this area.”  His tone was inviting but not particularly friendly.  He had a confidence about him that a tribal leader should have, yet she did not often see this quality in someone so young.  Most of the young boys in her tribe followed the older men and women obediently and, when the adults weren’t around, were loud and prone to fighting (both as a friendly sport and as a means to take out aggression).  Osiris was young and much smaller, yet looked at Amun-Ra as a peer.  Amun-Ra, to his credit, did not seem to have any animosity toward a young person speaking to him as a peer.  He understood that some tribes might have different customs.

“I noticed there are few men in your tribe,” Amun-Ra said in a careful tone.

“There are enough,” Seth barked, which earned a sharp glance from Osiris, which made him turn away and sulk.

“When I was younger, our people had a sickness,” Osiris explained, “Many of us died, including our parents.  The men that were left did their best to protect us and built stronger houses in order for our people to survive.  It took its toll, so many men died sooner as their bodies broke down faster.  Our women are strong, though.  They built a lot of what you see around you.”

“How did you become the leader?,” Amun-Ra asked.

“Osiris is smart,” Seth interrupted, taking the question as an insult even though no offense was meant, “He learned how to train the ox to plow our fields.  He knew how to find the best spots to grow our food.  Our tribe has gotten stronger thanks to him.”

     Osiris smiled warmly as he placed a hand on Seth’s shoulder, “My brother has raised me since I was small.  He’s a good protector and always compliments me,” he motioned toward a woman and boy in his tribe, “But everyone here has worked together to make the tribe stronger.  Anuket and Hapi have been very helpful in navigating the river for me,” he motioned to another boy, “And Anubis here is smart enough to take my place one day.  They all have a purpose.”

“Very wise,” Amun-Ra agreed, “I think our tribes have much to offer one another.”

“I look forward to it,” Osiris paused for a moment, “It’s night now.  I’m sure you’re all very tired.  Out huts are small, but we may be able to fit all of you inside.”

Amun-Ra laughed, “We’re used to sleeping outside.  We’ll make camp.”

“Then we’ll leave you to it,” Osiris turned and retired to hit hut with his brother following.

   Usat’s tribe made camp in a grassy area just outside of the cluster of huts.  She and her sister laid next to their parents with a hide covering them.  “I think we’ve found a good place,” Nut told them, “I hope Amun-Ra keeps us here as long as possible.”  Usat smiled as she snuggled in close to her family, “I hope we stay here forever.”  She fell asleep next to her mother.

End Chapter Three
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on December 05, 2017, 07:38:10 AM
Chapter Four

   He woke up to a wave of water rushing against his face; his vision was blurry and there was a distinct taste of salt water on his lips.  He heard a slightly distant rustling sound rapidly approaching, then felt another splash against his face as gray blobs swarmed through his field of vision.  He tried to move his right arm and that was when he realized it was stuck between two sturdy, jagged surfaces, so he used his left hand to dry his eyes as much as possible.  It was a difficult task as he could tell his left hand was soaking wet.  He raised his legs and could tell they were underwater but he could feel his boots touching a hard surface.  He moved his shoulders, feeling sharp rocks against his back, which tore into his jacket.  Once he rubbed his eyes enough, the grey blobs faded, revealing white foam dissolving into various shades of indigo on the horizon.  To his left and right, there were jagged rocks standing strong against the waves crashing into them and, as he suspected, his right arm was wedged in tightly between two sharp boulders.  He looked down and could see that he was under water from the chest down, then he leaned his head back against the slab behind him and gazed up at the dark face of the cliff towering over him, which was partially blotted out by the blazing sun hovering overhead.  Another spray of water washed over his face, so he had to clear his vision once more.  He was confused by the onslaught of questions running through his mind, which seemed to be personified by the waves rushing around him, but the prevailing question was how to get himself out of the sea.  He held on fast to the rocks with his left hand and pulled his right arm back, tearing it loose from the rocks.  His jacket and shirt sleeve were torn but he did not appear to have any major cuts or broken bones, so there was some good news.  The waves rushed up again, but he was ready for them as he turned his head and clenched his eyes shut to avoid losing his sight again.  He turned his body against the side of the cliff and clung tightly to the first hand holds he could find.  The water rushed against his back, so he tucked his head in and that’s when he realized how slippery the cliff was.  He turned his attention to the stones above and now that the sun wasn’t in his eyes from this position, he realized they were very wet.  It was then that he realized it was low tide, which would mean he was unconscious underwater for some time.  He also realized that it was daytime and that his last memory was night, which would mean he was underwater for even longer than he initially thought.  He had to have been underwater for hours, but the notion quickly escaped his mind as it was illogical.  He raised his foot and found somewhat solid footing, then he lifted himself up.  His hand gripped a rock above him and he pulled himself higher.  Dry rock was still several feet away so he made sure not to slip as he continued to climb, gradually bringing himself out of the water.

   It wasn’t until he placed his hand on a dry rock that he felt his foot slip.  While he held the rock well enough, both feet and his other hand slid against wet stone and with his grip gone, his face slid roughly against the rock wall while the weight of his body nearly pulled his shoulder from his socket.  His free hand found a hold and one of his feet landed on a small slab a second later, which allowed him to stand for a moment. He slowly brought a hand up to his face and felt for the deep cuts he was sure he just endured.  There was no sting and there didn’t seem to be any blood (although his face was already wet due to the water, so it was hard to distinguish between the two).  He continued on, eventually climbing past the wet area, which made his task easier.  He found himself climbing a bit faster and he was surprised that he wasn’t the least bit tired from the ordeal.  Then again, he had heard about men in dire situations finding themselves free from pain and fatigue.  There was a story one of his officers shared during training of a soldier who went through an entire battle, not realizing that eh had been shot until it was over.  He knew there was an aspect of the human body that ignored pain and became stronger while under great duress.  He assumed this was such an occasion.  The sun was hot and it dried his hands and face, making it even easier.  He couldn’t feel any blood trickling down so he knew he wasn’t cut from his previous accident.  Meanwhile, his hands were void of any cuts as well despite the rocks shredding his clothes.  It didn’t make any sense, but with the edge of the cliff looming ahead, there was no point in deliberating on it.  Finally, he placed a hand on the top of the precipice and pulled himself up.  There was mostly grass and flat stone, so there was little difficulty in bringing the rest of his body up.  Once he was on solid ground, he rolled over onto his back and let out a sigh.

   Robert Smythe stared into the bright blue sky above him and listened to the cawing of tropical birds.  He was surrounded by water and sand on all sides as this island consisted of a single mountain, jagged rocks, some trees on its south side, and little else.  Around this small island were clusters of rocks and smaller islands with no sign of civilization.  Being washed up on a deserted island was bad enough, but Robert had a more serious dilemma:  by all rights, he should have been dead several times over.  He thought about the possibilities of his surviving and couldn’t come up with any logical conclusions.  There wasn’t a single cut on his hands from the rocks and he didn’t seem to have any head injuries from falling off his ship.  Aside from all that, he should have drowned hours earlier.  He wondered if he suffered a concussion from his fall, which resulted in hallucinations.  He also wondered if he wasn’t having some sort of lucid dream due to his injuries.  Perhaps he swallowed too much seawater and was going mad?  These were viable explanations.  He breathed heavily, then stopped once he realized he was purposefully breathing heavily as if expecting to be exhausted.  There were no aching muscles or fire in his lungs, nor did his fingers feel numb, which should have been the case after climbing such a long way.  He wasn’t even slightly tired from his climb as if it never happened, which fueled his belief that the situation might not be real.  In addition to feeling tired, he should have also felt hunger as he hadn’t eaten since he was on the ship.  There was the fleeting notion that he had died and he was now a ghost, but he never subscribed to such childish beliefs.  Besides, if he were a ghost, he likely would not need to physically climb anywhere.  He realized laying on his back and pondering possible explanations for his survival was not productive, so he stood to his feet, brushed some of the loose grass from his clothes and straightened his torn jacket.  What was left of his uniform was dirty, soaking wet, and ripped in several places, but he still felt it necessary to look as dignified as possible.  He was a British soldier, after all.

   The opposite side of the cliff sloped down with patches of rock and grass, leading to the trees below.  It was a much simpler journey, easily accessible on foot, so he made his way down.  On the off chance that this wasn’t all a hallucination or a dream, he would need shelter, food, and find a way to get back to return to the battlefront.  He had no supplies but he was trained to survive in the wilderness.  Hopefully, it would be enough to survive until his rescue.

   As he hiked down, he thought about Abigail and pictured her receiving news of his death.  He pictured his mother sobbing in his father’s arms.  He could see his brother attempting to remain stoic as his sister broke down.  They would be in such needless pain if he didn’t make it back in time.  He wished he could appear back in Essex if for no other reason than to assure his loved ones that he wasn’t dead.  He lamented getting on that ship and blamed himself for falling overboard.  If only he were more careful and held on tightly.  If only he were a better seaman.  It was a foolish mistake and because of it, he would cause his family grief.  He also thought about his fellow soldiers and how they needed him to fight at their side as he was unaware that British forces had already taken Manila.  He wasn’t sure if they won or lost.  If they won, he wondered how disappointed his officers would be in him when he returned and if he would be brought up on charges of desertion.  Otherwise, he could potentially be returning to Spanish territory.  It wasn’t the glorious adventure he had imagined for himself. 

As a child, he enjoyed hearing stories about King Arthur or Saint George slaying the dragon.  He would sometimes run through the yard with a stick but in his mind he held a long sword in his hand and as he ran, he rode atop a white steed.  He swung into the air, his sword piercing the thick hide of the dragon.  Now, there were no dragons.  There was no battle.  No glory.  There would be no tales of bravery upon his return, nor would there be any honor.  Saint George would not be riding off triumphantly with a fair maiden by his side.  At best, he would be commended for surviving on a barren island, essentially given a pat on the back for not dying.  That is, assuming he would leave the island to begin with.

   The small jungle below was lush and colorful.  Normally, he would be impressed with the beauty of the scenery but he was far too occupied.  He wasn’t hungry, but he still made sure to find a tree producing fruit.  He spotted bunches of bananas under the spiraling leaves above and wrapped his arms around the thin trunk and shimmied up.  The trees weren’t that tall so it didn’t take long to get to the top and with one good swing, he knocked down a bunch.  Once the bananas were on the ground, he dropped down neatly on his feet and scooped them up into his arms.  He unpeeled one and bit into it, chewing as he carried the rest of the bananas down.  Once he came to the bottom of the small mountain, he found a moss-covered cave.  The cave was small but it would provide protection in case of a monsoon.  Now all that was left was gathering firewood.  He left the bananas behind and walked through the small forest to the beach where he gathered fallen branches, tore some bark from trees, and pulled up some dry foliage.  He brought the sticks and leaves back to the cave, set several stones in a circle, dumped the kindling into the circle, and set about making a fire with two small sticks.  By the time the sun set, his fire was complete.

   He sat quietly with the fire flickering in front of him.  The air was slightly cooler, but it wasn’t cold.  Meanwhile, the sky was lit up by the stars which reflected off the water, creating a deep blue hue.  There was little need for the fire except to ward off possible wildlife, but Robert was sure the only animals he needed to worry about would be poisonous spiders or snakes on this island.  The had eaten the last of the bananas so he didn’t have to worry about filling his belly anytime soon; he ignored the fact that he hadn’t experienced a moment of hunger during this time as having his fill of fruit, but he was concerned that he hadn’t yet found fresh water.  He wasn’t thirsty, but he knew he would need water before long.  He removed his jacket and bundled it up against the cave wall, then closed his eyes.  He expected to drift off to sleep at any moment, but sleep never came.  In fact, he didn’t feel the least bit tired, either physically or mentally.  He was as fresh as he was when he climbed the cliff.  There was no longer any room for excuses.  He knew he should be tired and suffering from dehydration at this point.  There was no rational explanation, leaving only the supernatural.  He had cast off any notions of hallucinations as the physical realm seemed to be firmly in place and while he was beginning to consider the supernatural, he knew he couldn’t be a ghost as there was nothing ethereal about him.  The only conclusion left was that he simply wasn’t dying.  The notion was at once simplistic and incomprehensible.  He considered himself a learned man, not prone to superstitions and flights of fancy.  He believed in God, however, and in believing in God, he would naturally be inclined to believe there were aspects of reality beyond human understanding.  If there was a scientific explanation for his experience, he was not aware of one, which would leave room for the possibility of a more paranormal explanation.  Either way, there seemed to be evidence that he was living, yet undying.  As soon as the theory became fully realized, he laughed it off.  “Of course I’m not undying, what nonsense,” he thought to himself with a wry smile.  The stress of the situation must have gotten to him and when he returned to Britain, he would be examined and a perfectly logical explanation would be given.  He sat in the cave, alone in his thoughts and waited until he fell asleep.

End of Chapter Four
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on February 13, 2018, 03:10:49 AM
Chapter Five

   Queen Isabella of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon had forged a campaign against the Emirate of Granada and the first siege planned was for the city of Málaga, removing Moorish dominion from that area.  For over seven hundred years, the Iberian Peninsula was comprised of various Christian and Islamic kingdoms.  There were previous times in which Christians and Muslims fought each other, times in which Christians and Muslims formed alliances, and times in which the sides fought among themselves.  The complex history between Christians and Muslims in that area was mostly unknown to Martin but also entirely irrelevant as he was satisfied just to be of use to someone.  He was sent to an army of 80,000 men strong who were marching from Cordoba to Málaga.  The first target of their campaign was to be Vélez-Málaga, a Moorish settlement.

   Martin was popular among the conscripts in the infantry which was made up of commoners, mercenaries, foreigners, and criminals who were sentenced to serve by a judge.  Like Martin, they were uneducated, poor, and had little to fight for yet their hopeless situation established a camaraderie that was immediate as they found a particular purpose in their otherwise mundane and hostile lives.  The concept of potentially dying the next day didn’t phase many of them as they could either die in battle or die a number of other ways that could be potentially as messy.  They would be paid either way (little though it was) and most realized they were expendable.  The infantry had little to no armor and were often made to bring their own weapons, resulting in commoners showing up with wood axes, farming tools, or anything else they could carry.  It made for a much tougher crowd and as expected, some of them ridiculed Martin on his fey appearance but he anticipated the conflict and soon proved his mettle to them.  When Martin joined their ranks, a particularly filthy infantryman stepped forward and looked Martin up and down with the stench of alcohol ripe in the air and finally slurred, “They send the ugliest whores to our ranks, don’t they?”  This, of course, elicited a roar of laughter and the particularly filthy infantryman waved his arms about to silence them once more before continuing, “Well, this sweet piece of ass will have to do,” then got in close to Martin’s face, making sure he could smell every foul odor coming off him, then finished by saying, “The skin of your face is smooth, so I’m guessing the skin of your hand is just as smooth, eh?  Give me a nice rub down there, will ya?”  It was at this point that Martin lurched forward, slamming his forehead against the bridge of the man’s nose, snapping it in two as he sent him to the mud below.  His name was Alfonso and he was from the Kingdom of Aragon.  For the rest of the campaign, his nose was crooked and he constantly glared at Martin; in response, Martin would give him a wink.  From that point on, Martin was respected by most of the infantry around him.

         The infantry had little formal training.  Some of them had fought in campaigns in the past and taught the rest how to fight using what little they had.  There were a few retired knights in their ranks who, if they were lucky enough to have a sword, trained them.  Due to the size of the campaign, the royal families were able to lend some swords and spears to some of the men.  As Martin had no tools to bring, he was given an old, dented sword upon being hired, so he was one of the few who received anything resembling training form the retired knights.  They spared with sticks when they could, which was usually after making camp.  The aging gentlemen would teach the others how to block and parry, but when it was Martin’s turn, each stroke of the stick seemed telegraphed and listless; he was able to defend, then mount a devastating offense nearly every time.  When he sparred against a few of the younger men around his age, the results were the same despite their speed.  He excelled at swordplay and when it came time for some of the infantrymen to teach him grappling techniques, he was soon renowned for his stout strength and stamina while his agility defied his size.  He was able to slink his way through most holds and when that didn’t work, he could break free through sheer strength, then overpower his opponent.  He was proud of his newfound respect, which he thought was the reason why he wasn’t sleeping as often as he had in the past and was experiencing a surge in physical energy.

   The other men from his orphanage were placed in different areas of the military, not that he was disappointed as he never had much regard for them.  His new friends consisted of Alex, Hector, and Jaume.  Alex was a man that was roughly Martin’s age and was the son of a farmer.  He was strong with narrow features and he always seemed a bit nervous.  He brought a scythe with him and constantly had a dagger in his belt.  Hector was the older infantryman who was the primary teacher when it came to swordplay.  His dark beard and hair had splashes of grey and his once muscular frame was beginning to soften and grow rounder.  He had joined the infantry as a young man and had few skills, so he relegated himself to mercenary work and had the scars to show for it.  He was one of the few men in the infantry who owned his own sword and wore leather armor that was cheap and torn in places.  Jaume was a thief who had been arrested and was there to serve his sentence.  He was one of the thinner men in the infantry, but carried himself as a man who was much larger.  He had a brown scar across his forehead, which came from a fight at an inn years earlier.  He had a dull spear that he openly admitted he stole from a tent belonging to a knight.  “The bastards wouldn’t give me a weapon,” he said one night after he had too much to drink, “What else was I going to do?”

   In this social hierarchy, the infantry was at the bottom and above them, were the archers, as they were more valuable.  In addition to receiving helmets and crossbows, they were paid much better.  Above them were the aristocratic knights who were of more noble blood. They were outfitted with armor, rode on specially trained horses, and were given well-crafted weapons.   Mounted infantry were not in fashion as much as they once were, but these men were from aristocratic or military families who were wealthy enough to own armor, shields, spears, and swords.  They often slept in their own tents with their horses tied outside and in the morning, they would ride through the camp.  There was a certain smugness about them as they trotted through the ranks, further emphasized by the peasant infantrymen who would often remove their caps or dip their heads in respect as they rode past.  They reminded Martin of some of the priests from the orphanage as they peacocked around, beautiful and arrogant.  Their captain was a knight by the name of Tomas Alvarez.  He was young with a chiseled jaw and curly blonde hair.  He wore finely polished plate armor with a helmet and seemed to constantly tilt his head in such a manner as to reflect the sunlight.  If Tomas caught the men fighting, gambling, or doing anything that wasn’t becoming of infantry, he would chide them with a barely restrained glee that made many of them theorize he wanted to catch them so he would have an excuse to be condescending.

   Martin didn’t sleep the night before they took Velez-Málaga and he blamed it on his nerves.  He remembered Bishop Garcia once told him that fear was common in every man and was nothing to be ashamed about.  He asked him what he feared and he responded by saying, “Failing one of my boys”.  He would often refer to the orphans as “my boys” and Martin recognized a certain responsibility in Bishop Garcia’s actions that were not present among the other priests and bishops.  Memories of Bishop Garcia were comforting to Martin and he soon calmed down.  Curiously, he never fell asleep.
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on February 13, 2018, 03:12:20 AM
   The next morning, they marched through a series of farms.  Many of the knights went ahead on horseback to make sure there were no ambushes, otherwise, they were left unmolested while the army passed.  The fortress of Vélez-Málaga sat on the Western slope of the mound, overlooking the settlement, so the oncoming army of Christians would be visible for miles and they hadn’t even reached their target.  They knew it wouldn’t be easy.

   Siege engines mobilized toward the front gates of the outer wall with determination.  In the fortress above, Moors armed with crossbows sent a volley into them in retaliation; the canopies protected the men pushing them as they smashed the battering ram against the gate.  The moors were soon scrambling for cover as the catapults were released into the air, propelling large stones into the towers and the top portion of the wall.  The archers crouched in a line and sent their own volley moments later to ensure the enemies above remained behind the ramparts.  With the gated wall sufficiently damaged and the enemy momentarily retreating, a platoon was unleashed.

   Martin raced through a field alongside Alex, Hector, and Jaume with the rest of their platoon surrounding them.  “The bastards will try to separate us,” Hector shouted to all the men within earshot, “Don’t let them!”  As they approached, the air above whistled above them.  One infantryman found an arrow passing through the soft flesh just above his hip and out his back.  He fell and screamed in agony, but after two more arrows landed in his chest, the scream quickly turned into a gurgle as a fountain of blood escaped his lips.  Several Moors were already on top of the wall, launching more arrows at the infantry as they came.  Those with shields quickly raised them while others rushed up the mound and pressed themselves against the dry brick for cover.  Martin leaned against the wall and looked back at the field.  A few of the infantry were on the ground, riddled with arrows.  Some were writhing in agony and screaming while others were silent.  It was then that hot oil was poured through the machicolations onto the unsuspecting men below.  A man the muddy ground, wet and blistered.  Others were only partially hit with the scalding liquid, but it was enough to send them sprinting from the wall while screeching.  “Get back!,” Hector shouted and Martin obeyed, quickly removing himself from the wall but then finding that he was once again within range of the crossbows.  He locked eyes with one Moor and froze as he watched the man raise his crossbow and take aim.  Time was nonexistent.  He was stone.  A sudden shade was cast over the men and the air above them whistled once again as their own archers retaliated.  The Moor taking aim fell behind the wall along with the others beside him; the sounds that were wet and rapid as they pierced chests and stomachs.

   This was followed by a strange lull in the battle as there were no visible enemies to fight and they had nowhere else to go.  The siege engines continued pounding at the outer wall and soon, the infantry began attacking the gate with pick axes and hammers while others began digging under the wall with shovels.  The work went on for several minutes with Martin and his friends taking over once the first shift was finished.  Occasionally, the catapults would launch a stone over their heads into enemy territory when there wasn’t a volley of arrows passing by.  Martin tried his best to ignore the screams of the men still out in the field who were slowly dying, but he would catch himself glancing in their direction every now and then.  Ladders were soon carried to their location and placed against the wall as the gate was finally broken down.  The infantry rushed across enemy lines once more, either over the wall or through the entrance.  As the men cleared the wall, Hector chuckled a bit and remarked, “They’re not getting shot in the face, so it’s safe to say they finally ran out of arrows”.  It was soothing to see that Hector at least was calm.  Alex remained nervous while Jaume was stone-faced, not allowing others to clearly see what he was thinking.   Martin was the first to go up a ladder and once he cleared the wall, he could see the fortress above them.  It was now riddled with holes and the urban area below seemed almost uninhabited.  It gave him a boost of confidence, so he hopped onto the wall and rushed to the edge.  There, he saw a line of fully-armored men with shields and spears.  Once again, he froze and made eye contact with the enemies.  He didn’t see who threw the spear, but he could see it hanging in the air in front of him with the promise that would soon find its mark.

       A clumsy elbow was driven between his shoulder blades and he stumbled forward as the spear sliced through the air close enough to flip his hair.  The men were crowding the narrow space and as he tried to regain his footing, his boot grazed the edge of the wall and then there was nothing.  As he fell, he spun around and saw men struggling to get down the stone steps on the other side as more spears were tossed into the crowd.  When he hit the ground it sent a shudder through his limbs and soon, another infantryman fell beside him with a spear through his ribs.  He rolled on his side, witnessing more infantry coming through the gates; they seemed to fare better as they rushed the line of defense and were gradually pushing through.  Climbing the wall was a big mistake and he cursed himself for not going through the gates, but there was no point in dwelling over it for too long.  When he rose to his feet, he found one of the Moors charging with shield and spear.  Much to his surprise, he didn’t freeze this time, but rather, raised his sword, brushing the head of the spear aside as it passed.  The shield collided against his shoulder and pushed him to the brick where he braced himself and kicked off with enough force to throw his attacker to the ground.  He stepped on the dropped spear with his foot and brought his sword down.  The shield found its way into the sword’s path, so he took another swing at it, which loosened his attacker’s grip.  He brought one leg up and kicked the shield completely free, then plunged his sword into something soft.

      He wasn’t sure if the man was dead or dying and he didn’t check as walls of men closed in around him.  He leaped over his former attacker and tried to makes his way to a set of steps leading to a small home.  He lost sight of those steps as the walls closed in, pinching him between metal and leather.  He tucked his head in and soldiered on, pushing his way through a mass of bodies that belonged to friend and foe alike.  “Don’t let the Christians push through!  Hold the line!,” he heard a man shout and it took a while before he realized he was hearing one of the Moors.  He was briefly reminded of the day when he read the manuscript and his thoughts were quickly interrupted  as something gave way.  He tumbled over a pile of men and hit the dirt before finding the steps once again.  He leaped to the top and placed his back against the wooden door.

      It was then that he got a good look at the settlement.  A swarm of bodies were climbing over one another while another pile was quickly gathering mass on the ground below.  The Moors had switched to scimitars and were fighting the infantry in melee combat.  Martin could no longer find his friends in the chaos and thought to himself, “So much for not letting them separate us”.  Two Moors raced to his location with their blades at the ready.  Martin’s sword swung through the air, clanging against the tips of their weapons.  He swung again, but he only felt the air.  One Moor ducked down and went for his legs, but Martin quickly raised his foot and then stepped forward with a hard swing against the plate covering his shoulder.  The man was thrown off balance, but his partner stepped in with a thrust to his ribs.  Instinctively, Martin swung his sword down, deflecting the blade across the back of his tunic.  He could hear the tunic rip, but as he felt no pain, he assumed he wasn’t struck.  He brought his sword up into the man’s torso and felt something pour out of him as the man spit blood into his face.  The man fell away from Martin and he turned to the second opponent, trying his best to wipe the mess from his eyes.  It was then that he realized his enemy had fallen to a strike from behind.

Thunder rolled along the ground and a row of horses barreled through the broken gates with glints of sunlight riding them.  The knights rode past,bringing their blades down low as they passed the Moors.  The men left standing were tossed aside or trampled, streams of crimson following wherever they fell.  The knights passed and rode toward the tower up the hill and when they left, Martin got a good look at the bodies left behind: Christian and Muslim.  The Moors retreated from the area as more Christians poured into the settlement.  The fight was over.  Martin looked down at his tunic and sword.  He was dirty.

End of Chapter Five
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on June 16, 2018, 12:37:29 PM
Chapter Six

“I spoke with the Elders and my wife,” Amun-Ra announced, “And we have decided to stay.”
It only took a day for her tribe leaders to make that decision and they settles next to Misr, which was the name of Osiris’ camp.  The nomadic lifestyle was too difficult and settling in a fertile area was the logical choice, so the decision was a popular one almost unanimously.  Usat was excited to learn more about her new surroundings and she was especially impressed by Osiris who had been spending more time with her tribe.  He and a few of his trusted tribespeople taught them agriculture during the day and Amun-Ra asked that everyone take heed.  Usat was present along with everyone else in her tribe when Osiris explained how to produce crops.  In the rare moments in which she was near him, she studied his features for reasons she couldn’t quite realize.  Occasionally, she caught him making similar glances as he spoke just before turning away as they made eye contact.  She wondered if he thought she was pretty.  His brother Seth would sometimes accompany him but he seemed cold and didn’t care to take part in the lectures, which made Usat wonder why he was even there in the first place.

Usat’s tribe had barely begun planting crops on their own when they began hearing rumblings of the coming summer flood.  They were familiar with the dark summer skies and bitter winds once a year but they were never around a large body of water when it happened.  It was daunting as many had never experience water any deeper than their knees.  Osiris had observed the floods in the past and knew which areas of the river were likely to yield the best crops and which areas would be too dangerous to settle during the monsoon season.  Observing nature was integral to the survival of the tribes, but Osiris studied it in a way Usat had never seen before.  Not only did he anticipate nature, but he knew how to control it as if he had dominion over it.  Her people had mastered the art of looking for vegetation but Osiris mastered the art of creating vegetation.  He knew to plant orchards away from the river.  He knew to dig basins using rock tools in order to control the river’s rose and fall.  He knew how to store vegetables so they keep longer.  His knowledge even extended to the beasts.  Her people knew the art of the hunt and they knew the benefit of keeping the dogs nearby for protection and to root out smaller prey.  Osiris discovered benefits offered by other beasts.  A man from her tribe once saw a cat in the bushes, so he grabbed a stick and drove it off, only to be chided by a farmer from Osiris’s tribe.  The explanation was that the cats fed on the vermin who might otherwise feed on their crops.  Osiris had discovered their use after witnessing a cat catching a mouse outside a storage of vegetables.  Osiris’s tribe once used shovels to turn up soil in order to plant their seeds.  It took too long and was exhausting work, so Osiris had the idea to capture and use the large oxen.  They began tying ploughs to their horns and leading them over the soil, which made their work faster and easier.  Her people often looked to Osiris’s tribe for advice and it was understood, even if not consciously, that Osiris was just as much of a leader to his own people than he was to hers, even if Osiris claimed everyone played their own role.

   As Osiris was skilled at observing nature, Usat was in skilled at observing people.  It was a natural talent.  She would often pick up verbal cues, body language, or slight changes of facial expressions that not everyone picked up on.  When she was younger, she witnessed her sister give a jade stone to a boy she liked.  The boy tossed the stonel aside and even though her sister told her she didn’t care if the boy liked it or not, she noticed a straining of her voice, indicating she was holding back tears.  “You assume too much,” her sister scolded her when she asked if she was upset, but Usat knew better.  As her tribe began to prepare for the oncoming flood by seeking help from Osiris’ people, she noticed the expressions on the faces of two men: Amun-Ra and Seth.  While she never saw them on a regular basis, she saw enough of them to reach the conclusion that neither man was happy.

      While her and her sister were gathering reeds along the river bed, she noticed Osiris instructing Amun-Ra on wet soil and its importance to the crops.  Osiris was stooped down and held a handful of soil while Amun-Raw bent over him, his hands resting on his knees.  He towered over Osiris with sweat glistening along his muscles while Osiris crouched along the ground, partially in the shade of the much larger man.  Physically, Amun-Raw was more imposing than Osiris, but as Osiris spoke calmly, Amun-Raw furrowed his brow as he listened and it was obvious Osiris had the authority at that moment.  She knew Amun-Ra was a smart man and he understood what Osiris was telling him, but he was not used to having anything explained to him.  Certainly, he was not used to being lectured by someone so young.  He was always the leader in one form or another, even when taking advice from the elders.  When he furrowed his brow, it wasn’t because he didn’t understand what was being taught to him.  It was because he was embarrassed.  Meanwhile, Osiris’s face was blank, oblivious to the emasculation he was inadvertently causing.  There was a mysterious wisdom in Osiris that intrigued her and made him difficult to figure out.  As she watched the two of them, Amun-Ra’s eyes rose and he was suddenly aware of her presence.  Amun-Ra straightened up immediately, making himself taller and along the way, he smiled and gave Osiris a friendly clap on the back.  “You’re a smart boy,” Amun-Ra said and put a slight emphasis on the word boy, “You’re a lot like me.  If I had a son, he’d be just like you.”  It was obvious he was saving face and presenting himself as the alpha male bestowing fatherhood on the younger male.  Osiris smiled politely and thanked Amun-Ra.  From that day forward, Amun-Ra had adopted Osiris as a symbolic gesture of the merging of the two tribes.  Usat was sure it was to hide his insecurities.  The saddest part was that he did not seem fully aware of it.

      She observed Seth’s unappreciation during a rare rainfall.  There were several hunting parties that had been sent out and her father happened to be in a party with Seth.  The dark clouds rolled in sometime in the afternoon, bringing a sharp wind that was usually present at night.  Soon, Usat and her people began to feel fat droplets of water and quickly went inside their homes before it became too heavy.  Soon, her father returned to their camp along with Seth and others as they carried dead boars (it wasn’t a good hunt as there was little meat).  Seth looked annoyed and allowed the rain to wash over him while other men in the party held animal skins over their heads to shield themselves from the downpour.  Seth’s jaw was clenched and he gripped his spear tightly as he carried it through the camp.  A few boys quickly caught up with him but Seth kept his eyes forward and she could distinctly hear him speak even though he was not turning his head to the boys, “The nomads have no idea how to handle the rain.”  At that moment she learned two facts: First, she learned there was a derogatory term to describe her people and the second fact was that Seth had no patience for her people.  He obviously resented them.  Osiris had described Seth almost like a father figure.  After their parents died, he raised him, so it was obvious he felt a great deal of responsibility toward Osiris and by extension, their people.  She and her tribe were interlopers who did not know how to farm, or how to build, or how to use handle rain, apparently.  Once her father entered their hut, he explained, “The rain came and many of us decided to come back to camp.  Seth wasn’t happy about it.”  He also noted that rain should have been just as rare to his people as it was to theirs, which made Usat belief much of his bravado was an act.  As the night came and it became colder, the family huddled under a stack of animal skins.  Her sister fell asleep and she laid still, which apparently gave the implication she was asleep as well.  She could hear her father whisper to her mother, “I saw Seth stab a boar with his spear.  It wasn’t a clean kill, which happens, but I think it was on purpose.  That boy wasn’t being sloppy.  He enjoyed making it suffer.”  Nut assured her husband, “I’m sure the boy didn’t mean any harm.”  Usat became very afraid of Seth that night.
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on June 16, 2018, 12:38:51 PM
      As expected, the rains died down after some time, leaving higher river banks .  Nut took notice of a particular star in the sky during this period and remarked how it coincided with the flooding of the river.  She told this to Osiris who seemed to appreciate it, making it even easier for them to predict the flood.  During this time, the people sowed their crops and once that was accomplished, they waited out the flood.  Many of Usat’s people were nervous, but there was a surplus of food by this point, which alleviated their fears.  It was a time to celebrate, much like when Usat’s people found the river.  As before, they sang songs around the fire, thanking the gods and boasting of past accomplishments.  During the day, the children would play games and the adults would make love in their huts or set up hierarchies within their tribes to better establish the tribe leadership.

      One night, Amun-Ra had asked that members of both tribes be gathered for a special ceremony.  Usat and her sister were not told what the ceremony would be about but their parents seemed to be aware of its purpose.  There was an excitement among the tribespeople as they gathered near Osiris’ hut.  Seth, as usual, was sulking and stood apart from the crowd.  Keb hoisted Usat on his shoulder so she could see over everyone.  Several torches were lit around the hut and Amun-Ra stood in front of it, wearing a long ram skin draped over his shoulders that made his large frame even larger.  “Tonight, I speak to my people and my adopted people,” he began, “And this will be the last time I speak to both groups separately because this night, we are one and the same.  This night, we are one tribe!,”  Amun-Ra pumped his fists into the air and the crowd likewise raised their hands and some even let out a responding shout of approval, “This night, we are the people of Misr!”  The crowd loudly and Amun-Ra soon raised his palms to quiet them down before speaking again.  “And now I will signify this unity.”  The Elders soon gathered on one side of the hut along with Amunet who wore an ostrich feather tied to her head and a linen wrap that looked like wings draped on each side, which Usat liked.  On the other side of the hut, Anuket and Hapi approached with Anuket wearing a headress with many ostrich feathers while Hapi carried a jug.  Soon, Seth joined them, but did not appear to be wearing anything special.  He wore the same skins he always wore and carried himself like someone who was forced to take part in the ceremony.  Amun-Ra stepped away from the entrance of Osiris’ hut and motioned toward it, “This joining of tribes will be commemorated by an adoption.  A young leader will be the son of an old leader.”

      Osiris emerged from his hut, wearing only a linen cloth wrapped around his waist.  Usat noticed how the torches sent shadows across his slender frame.  He stood in front of Amun-Ra and knelt to the dark earth, partially concealing himself in shadow.  “Let this adoption symbolize the unity of our tribes,” Amun-Ra began, “It is a bond that will be unbreakable.”  Hapi stepped forward and ran water over Osiris’ head, letting it fall over his head and shoulders, then to the ground as a symbol of rebirth, passing from his former parentage to his new parentage.  As it trickled down, Osiris kept his head tilted down in reverence to Amun-Ra who continued, “Osiris, the benign and youthful.  The wise and just.  I take you as my son.  So to will my tribe take yours and your tribe will take mine.”  Osiris rose to his feet and simply stated six words, “I take you as my father”.  There was little inflection in his voice, making it difficult for Usat to read.  Amun-Ra leaned forward and kissed Osiris on both cheeks.  Likewise, Amunet stepped forward and kissed him on both cheeks as well.  Osiris and Amun-Ra held each other’s hand and raised them together as the crowd gave another cheer.

     Usat wondered if Amun-Ra’s actions weren’t entirely political.  She wondered if it was a show of authority over Osiris by declaring himself his father.  She was still sure he was secretly jealous of Osiris’ intellect and leadership regardless of the ceremony.  Still, she was excited, not just for the alliance between their tribes but also Osiris’ humility.  She couldn’t read him but was sure he didn’t care for the pomp and majesty of an adoption.  He was only concerned about his people and would be willing to endure a ridiculous ceremony.  People from both tribes were embracing and kissing one another to celebrate their unity.  Amun-Ra was among his people, basking in glory as several of the tribespeople gathered around him for congratulations.  Osiris, meanwhile, stood to the side and simply observed.  She made her way through the crowd to him and as she did, he turned and the two locked eyes.  She brought both arms around his neck and kissed him on both cheeks.  “I’m sure we will prosper together,” she told him.  He smiled slightly, one of the few ties she saw him smile, “I know we will.”  She shyly snuck back to her family and the tribe of Misr continued to celebrate into the night.  They danced and sang songs until the Sun rose the next morning, then they retreated to their huts.

      Several days later, the river had receded noticeably.  Usat could see where the river bank had retreated, revealing wet sand and reeds.  She walked to the bank, feeling the wet sand under her feet as she dug her toes in.  A glimmer caught the corner of her eye and when she turned, she found a white shell that glittered in the sunlight.  She knelt down and picked up the shell, holding it up to the sun, allowing the light to bounce off its curved surface.  After she had a good look, she placed the shell in the pouch slung across her shoulder and continued down the river to explore further.

      Her thick raven hair swayed in the breeze, and she ran her fingers across her smooth brow to remove a strand that found its way across her olive cheek. She approached the shore of the river and stepped carefully onto the brown rocks piled up at the bank, making sure to step on the flatter and less jagged sandstone.

      She sat silently and felt the water's movements.  It took some time before she noticed it.  It was wedged between two narrow stones and was partially sticking out of the water. It was caked in a strange primordial sludge, which had hardened over it, forming a slender, gray cocoon that blended in with its earthly surroundings unless one got close enough to discover the grotesque crust wasn't rock. Some of it had broken, no doubt after being washed ashore and thrust between the rocks. With the top end broken and chipped off, she noticed a piece of wood inside. She curiously reached out and touched the surface of the cocoon, which was brittle, allowing her to easily break it after applying pressure.

      This object terrified her, yet fascinated her, but it wasn't just because it was an object she had never seen before. Her people would sometimes find old tools and bowls buried under the sand or in the river, but this object was different somehow. It gave off an intense aura that her limited experiences could not fully process. She had to examine it more closely.

She extended her index finger and slowly, she touched it.

End of Chapter Six
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on August 13, 2018, 05:24:51 PM
Chapter Seven

       He wasn’t dying.  After a long period of denial, he was ready to admit that fact.  He couldn’t find any more fruit but it didn’t matter as he hadn’t found any fresh water for several weeks by that point.  He was supposed to have died of thirst several times over already, so dying of starvation had to be an impossibility.  He had been eating fruit and catching fish for despite not feeling a moment of hunger his entire time on the island.  He reckoned he was eating out of either habit or a vain attempt at normalcy to comfort himself.  Aside from the lack of food and water, he could not remember the last time he slept.  Once again, it didn’t matter since he wasn’t tired.  His ragged appearance his perfect physical condition.  His clothes were dirty, his hair was greasy and unkempt, and his beard had grown out by this point but he cared about that as much as he cared about eating or drinking.  The monsoon winds kicked up just before the dark clouds opened, drenching the small island with a torrential downpour and it was in that downpour that he noticed something he hadn’t noticed before: he could perceive each individual droplet of water within a few feet in front of him.

       They came in round, translucent streams that disconnected from one another, releasing clear orbs to the wet grass beneath him.  How odd it was that he witnessed each drop of rain as it came down as if the world were slowing down for him to remind him just how much time he had, but he was in no mood to question or marvel at his newly enhanced senses.  He didn’t bother with finding shelter, instead, allowed the rain to wash over him as he sat on the highest peak of the island.  It probably should have been cold and he likely should have caught pneumonia.  He ditched his military jacket long ago as it no longer mattered.  He knew he would not be rejoining the ranks and if he did manage to get off this island and return, his story would likely not be believed and he would face charges of desertion.  Of course, if he were sentenced to death, it would hardly matter as he wasn’t going to die.  Through all this, there was one question he found himself returning to him and that was, “What have I done?”.

   Robert had always tried to be an upstanding Christian British man.  He was stoic, well-mannered, and patient.  He attended service regularly and could recite scripture from some books of the Bible.  “What great sin have I committed, Father?,” he prayed, “What transgration was so great that it warranted this sort of punishment?”  He knew remembered the day he lost his virginity to Abigail Gibbs.  He hadn’t courted her properly by consummating their love before the wedding night.  Was that it?  He knew plenty of other men his age who did the same, so surely his act would be no different.  He recalled the time he refused to play with his sister, Susan and made her cry as a child.  He recalled all the times he had a fight with his brother, James.  He recalled his more rebellious nature as a teen, snidely making remarks at his father’s lectures.  Was it the time he knocked a young athlete unconscious during a boxing match?  He thought at the time it had been an accident but he found himself second-guessing his own nature.  Was there some malice behind that blow he didn’t account for?  “Whatever it is, Father, I pray for forgiveness,” he whispered under his breath as the wind howled around him, “I promise, I will make amends.  Whatever you ask of me, I will do.  I only ask that you take this curse away from me.”  Surely, if his crimes were unforgivable, then Hell would be more welcomed than this fate.  What could he have done to deserve a fate worse than eternal damnation?  Even the rapists and murderers had the luxury of death and fire.  Was this some new, fresh Hell?  If he could not be given salvation, then he demanded an explanation.  “Why have you done this?,” he shouted aloud to the raging skies above.  He nearly expected the wind to die down as if some sign from on high, but there was no change in the weather.  Aside from the howling surrounding him, there was silence.  Did he not deserve mercy at the very least?

   His jaw clenched and his hands curled into tight fists.  He rose to his feet and defiantly looked to the sky as rain poured across his brow.  God had no right to do this to him.  He remembered the infamous Appin Murder in which a factor was killed after being appointed to the estate of the Clan Stewart of Appin in Scotland.  It was widely believed an innocent man had been found guilty of the murder while the man who was the likely culprit went free.  Robert knew that evil men can escape justice even if they killed another man.  If a killer could go free then what could he have possibly done to deserve any sort of punishment?  It was not fair.  Was justice meaningless?  Certainly, if God did not care, then what purpose was there in the law of man?  If there was no God and the law of man was the only authority, it was a deeply fallible one.  In any case, authority was meaningless.  The Royal Crown was meaningless.  The military was meaningless.  If Robert, who had few acts of malice could find himself in such a cruel fate while killers roamed free, then morality had no purpose.  He had no dominion over his fate, but he knew there was one thing he could control.

   He turned about face and stormed across the peak to the cliff’s edge.  He was going to jump but it was not a suicide attempt (he was sure it wouldn’t work and he wasn’t going to make a fool of himself by trying).  He would leap off the cliff into the ocean and from there, he would swim.  He wasn’t sure where he would swim to and he didn’t care so long as he left the island.  It was all he had in his life at that moment that he could take charge of.  If Heaven and Hell existed, God had cast him out of both places.  If they did not exist, the least he could do was get off the damned island and a find a location less boring.  If he failed, he knew he’d survive and could try again until he succeeded.  There was nothing to lose and he wondered why he hadn’t thought of it sooner.  He stepped to the ledge, looked out over the waters below at the maelstrom gathering amid the jagged rocks below.  He would need to clear those rocks if he expected to get anywhere, so he turned to slightly calmer waters, then stood in stunned silence once he spotted it in the distance.
Title: Re: The 7th Day - Book One
Post by: AP on August 13, 2018, 05:25:42 PM
   The ship was rapidly approaching the island, carried by harsh winds.  He recognized it as a Dutch merchant vessel; the sort of ship he saw frequently in India.  It was curious that they would sail this route and set anchor in a desolate to say nothing of navigating near jagged cliffs during gale winds.  It was a dangerous maneuver which made it obvious to Robert that the crew knew the location well, yet there was no reason for a merchant crew to know the location.  Robert had a suspicion the crew might not be Dutch merchants and followed the ship as it sailed around the jagged cliffs and lurched toward the small beach on the other side of the island.  Robert turned and raced down the slope and through the trees.  It was a slippery run but he managed to balance himself enough to make his way to the brush down below in under a minute, which surprised him (he had always been fast and agile, but he was sure he was more swift than he had ever been).  When he slipped on a stone, he would leap into the air and find firm footing, then continue running, barely breaking stride.  Once he found himself at the beach, he hid in the brush and watched the merchant crew set anchor.  Although he could not see the men onboard clearly, the ship itself was closer to the shore which allowed Robert got a better view.  The merchant ship appeared old and in some disrepair.  That was more evidence to his theory.  The rain had died down somewhat so a boat was lowered into the water along with a handful of men.  They rowed the boat ashore and as they approached, Robert saw them clearly.  They were not Dutch, nor were they European.  Some wore the same garments as some of the Asian pier workers he had seen, but on their hips were various weapons: machetes, daggers, sword, or even some Dutch pistols.  One man even carried a Dutch musket across his shoulders. Robert noticed a bald man with a scar running up his left cheek, turning the corner of his mouth into a sneer.  As he was in the lead with the other men following, he assumed he was the captain.  At the back of the entourage, two men carried a large chest.   Robert’s theory was correct: they were pirates.  He was familiar with pirates along the coasts of Europe or the Carribean but for some reason he had never considered Asian pirates, although it made sense.  Pirates would often seek refuge from harsh weather and the authorities in deserted regions such as the one Robert found himself in, so it made sense they would come to this island to wait out the storm.  It was likely a common resting place for them.  He considered leaving them at peace and going on his way but he found the situation too serendipitous to pass up.  Swimming was such a chore, perhaps he could use their ship.  Obviously, pirates were not known for their charity, so he would have to commandeer the ship and force them to take him to land.  It was a sudden thought and one that would normally seem unreasonable to him.  One unarmed man taking a ship from a group of pirates would be an absurd notion under any other circumstance, but he had just made peace with the idea that he couldn’t die.  There would be nothing the pirates could do to stop him.  If he was wrong in his thinking, at least he would finally die and put an end to all this torment.  What he would not admit at the time, however, was that he was in a rage and had seen an opportunity to unleash his fury.  Pirates were notorious in Europe and would be killed on sight in many cases; he surmised they had the same level of infamy in Asia.  What purpose did they serve civilized people? They were criminals.  They deserved to find themselves undying on a deserted island, not him.  He hid, waiting until they made their way to the beach, then watched from afar as they continued their journey.  The men ventured across the beach and in to the cave Robert had discovered on his first night on the island.  He decide this was the best opportunity to strike.

   He waited until they had all retreated into the cave before creeping under the outcropping of rock slabs leading to the mouth.  Once there, he leaned against a boulder to peer inside just enough to see the inner wall and listened to the sound of striking flint echoing through the cave which was soon followed by the sight of flickering light dancing along the wall.  Despite the furious storm beating down on the island, when he leaned toward the cave, he could still hear the voices echoing along the walls.  “How long do you think the storm will last?,” he heard a voice say with a perfect Essex accent which confounded Robert and reminded him of his time in India when he heard sepoys speaking in a similar manner.  At this point, it no longer surprised him and he didn’t bother to have an explanation.

   “The storm probably won’t calm down until later tonight,” one of the pirates answered, also in perfect English, “We’ll set sail in the morning.”

   “Damn, I’m bored,”  he heard another voice, “Fan, tell us a joke.”

   “Sure,” he heard the voice of the man he assumed was Fan, “What is the most rare thing to ever happen?”

   “You paying the money you owe me?,” one of the men spoke up which got a chuckle from the rest of the group.

   “Do you want me to tell a joke or not?,” Fan’s voice became agitated.

   “Fine.  Stop whining and tell your joke.”

   “So what is the most rare thing to ever happen?”

   “We don’t know, what is it?”

   “A young woman farting in front of a man.”

   The joke received some laughs and Robert was sure he had heard one of his uncles telling the same joke.  It was curious but he never gave it a second thought.  He stooped down and leaned in just enough to peak inside where he got a better view of them.  The group sat at the back of the cave, around a small fire where they were cooking various sea life.  The captain removed a bottle from the chest they had been carrying and took a swig from it just before a small droplet escaped the corner of his mouth and ran down the curled scar stretching up to his cheek, then he handed the bottle to one of his crew.  Without saying a word, the crewman took the bottle and drank from it.  It was an alcohol of some sort and Robert waited until it had been passed around the circle before making his move.  He rose to his feet and slid along the inner wall of the cave, knowing that the pirates would have trouble seeing past the flames at this distance.  “Fan, tell another joke,” the captain requested just before drinking from the bottle a second time.  The thin, young man with a machete at his hip spoke up, “A monk was bathing in a stream one day until he noticed a blind woman coming up the path-”.  Fan trailed off as he noticed his crewmates and captain turning their gaze toward the darkness.  Robert also noticed that something had caught their eye and considering they were looking in his direction, it was obvious that he had been spotted.

   Robert stepped out of the shadows and into the light of the flame.  The pirates said nothing as their dumbfounded stares conveyed their mindsets.  “I want your ship,” Robert blurted out, not quite knowing what he needed to say while also realizing he never truly had a plan other than to take their ship from them.  What followed were mutual dumbfounded stares from all parties.  Finally, the Captain asked a question, “What the hell is this?”  The crewman next to him also had a question but to no one in particular, “Is that a white man speaking Cantonese?”  Robert silently wondered why they thought he was speaking their language when he was clearly speaking English.  “I’ll take your ship tonight,” Robert continued, hoping to get somewhere with his demands.  They chattered briefly but were soon cut off by the Captain who drew his dagger, “Enough of this.  Someone kill this idiot.” The men rose at once and those with pistols quickly drew them with a frantic bursts of thunder claps echoing off the cave walls following suit.  The air stunk of gunpowder and the light of the fire was faint under the thick cloud.  It was deafening and blinding to everyone inside but the crew was certain they hit their mark as he was not too far away.  Robert lay on his back after feeling several punches to his torso but somehow not experiencing much fo the pain.  A dark cloud hung over his head but the light of the fire spread along the cave floor which afforded him some visibility.  There were dark patches on his white shirt which contained blood and burnt fabric.  He didn’t panic as he was still sure of his immortality.  He was Achilles and he was sure his heel had yet to be struck.  He reached out, gripping the holes in his shirt with his fingertips and tore them open to inspect his flesh.  There was some mild bruising and blood scattered across his chest, stomach, and ribs, but the markings were quickly fading like ripples on the surface of the water.  Something caught the light of the fire and Robert quietly observed pieces of lead being pushed from his chest.  The bullets rolled out of his body, leaving small gashes in his flesh in their wake.  As suspected, these gashes soon closed together on their own without the use of medical supplies and faded even faster than the smoke that was still hanging in the air, leaving no traces of his wounds save for dirt and the small amount of blood that had escaped.  It all happened within seconds and when the wounds healed, Robert ran a hand down his torso and wiped most of it clean.  The pirates waved their hands in front of their faces to clear the air of the smoke as Robert slowly rose to his feet which got their attention quickly as the smoke began to clear. There was no pain in his movements.  It was as if he had never been shot at all.  While he remained unmoved by this sight outside of general curiosity, he was still enraged and that rage was growing.  For all these men knew, they had killed him.  Shouldn’t there be repercussions all the same?

       “Shit, we missed,” one of them growled as he began to pull the machete from his belt.  “We couldn’t have missed,” Fan’s musing fell on deaf ears as the man with the machete lunged forward.  To Robert, he was moving slowly, the blade gradually making its way to him, giving him plenty of time to duck under the strike.  There was a spark as the iron struck stone.  Robert tucked his head in as he was taught in his boxing matches, then sprang up, delivering a right jab against the man’s nose which sent him vanishing into the shadows as he fell.  The pirate with the rifle had no time to load his weapon, but instead, used his bayonet.  He thrusted, but Robert stepped to the side, then grasped the muzzle tightly, pulling the pirate in close before giving a sharp punch to his ribs.  Robert found himself pleased by the crunching sound that gave way and was pleased again by the man’s wheezing as he crumpled at Robert’s feet.  The others were too stunned to move, save the Captain who drew a dagger and flew at Robert.  A hand grabbed the Captain’s wrist tightly and another held his shirt, then he was thrown onto his back.  Robert brought his knee on the Captain’s chest and used both hands to pry the dagger out of his grip, ignoring any possible cuts along the way as they would heal just as easily as the gunshot wounds.  He held the blade in one hand and with the other, he pushed the Captain’s head against the cave floor where he got a clear view of the scar running from lip to cheek.  “That’s a nasty little grin,” Robert said as he brought the dagger to the opposite side of the Captain’s face, “A proper smile would be more fitting.”  He slid the edge of the dagger diagonally across the cheek, down to the corner of his mouth in an attempt to create matching scars.  He didn’t know why he did it and this time, he drew no satisfaction from hearing the Captain’s pained whine.  It was cruel.  It was bloody.  Robert dropped the dagger beside him and while he maintained his composure, he wondered to himself why he would do something so needless.  He stood up, letting the Captain hold his face in pain, then he turned to the rest of the crew who had now been frightened into submission.  Robert was disgusted with himself as he soon realized this had mostly been an excuse to give in to his anger.  He tried to justify his actions by reminding himself that these men were criminals, but he knew they were not responsible for any of his current woes and that his violent acts against them was not justice for any of their past crimes.  He was little more than a bully and his mindset was no excuse for actions.  He didn’t allow them to see his inner shame, however, and remained stone-faced.  He would see his plan through and he would escape the island.  It was best not to drop his guard entirely in front of the pirates as he would still need their labor and it was far too late for diplomacy.  “When this storm clears, you will take me to your ship,” he commanded aggressively, “Is that understood?”  The men were silent but Robert understood it as an agreement.

End of Chapter Seven