Wednesday, 27 April 2016

War in an age of innocence: 8

Link to Chapter 1

The trail to the forest led from a gate at the back of the village. It travelled up a gentle slope past several small fields, now just stubble. As they got closer to the forest, Kiri was impressed, and a little scared by the immensity of it. The trees were much larger than anything he had seen before, and an undergrowth of brambles at the edge of the forest presented what seemed to be an impenetrable wall. The trail looked as if it ran up to this wall and stopped. As they drew closer, Kiri could see that the trail made an abrupt turn to the right behind a large patch of brambles. As they made this turn, the entrance to the forest appeared as a dark hole in a wall of green. Kiri thought that it looked like a cave and remembered the stories of the lairs of the Great Serpent. He was having doubts about this trip. He fancied he could hear his heart beating, and wondered if Kala could hear it too, but she showed no sign that she could. He tried to present a brave front, but all that he had ever heard about the forest was very bad.

Kala was speaking to him about the types of trees that they were passing as they entered the dark maw of the forest, but Kiri heard this only as a mumbling behind the deafening sound of his heart and the flood of words and images about the Great Serpent and travellers that never came back.

Are you cold?” Kala asked. “You look like you are shivering”

A little bit” Kiri lied.

He tried to hide his embarrassment, but was relieved that Kala mistook his trembling for shivering. Answering her brought him out of his agitated state, and he started to feel a little better. He was still rather worried and he asked her about what dangerous animals they might encounter. She told him that those animals would be able to hear them coming and they would stay out of their way thinking that they might be hunters after their skins. Kiri had been walking very quietly up to that point, afraid that something might hear him, but now he realized that this was not a good idea and he tried to step on every twig that presented itself.

As they walked deeper into the forest the trees grew larger and blocked out the sky. Kiri could only see tiny points of blue above the trees. The ground was covered in ferns and huge fallen tree trunks covered in moss. Everything seemed to be wet and he saw a slug, the size of his hand, leaving a trail across a large leaf like the sun glinting on the sea back home. He paused to take a closer look at this giant slug, many times larger than any slug he had seen before, and when he looked up again he was alone. His heart leapt into his mouth. Kala had vanished.

Kala! Kala!”

He turned in all directions, but he could see no sign of her.

Kala! If you can hear me call out!”

There was silence.

Kala! Please!”

He decided that perhaps she had gone on ahead, and that she might not hear him is such a dense forest. He started to run further down the trail. He had not taken more than a few steps when a voice seemed to come from everywhere at once.

You really shouldn't run in the forest Kiri, you might surprise a bear”


Take six steps ahead of you Kiri, then stop”.

He did as he was told.


He heard Kala’s voice behind him and he swung round to see her on the trail where he had just been standing. He was relieved, but also angry.

That was mean! You know I have never been in a forest before. I thought something terrible had happened. Never do that again!”

Sorry Kiri, I could not resist it. It was just a prank we sometimes pull on visitors, but I did have a good reason. I want to show you something”

She took his hand and led him just a few steps through the ferns. There was another trail, smaller than the one they had traveled along, and completely invisible from the other trail.

Don’t tell anyone I have shown you this Kiri. It is a secret. You will probably be shown it again later by Urho and your Aunt Vara, but I wanted be the one to show it to you first, so don’t tell them you have already seen it when they do show it to you”

Why would they show me this trail?” Kiri asked

It will be part of your lessons, you’ll see, come on.”

They continued along the small trail and were soon climbing a steep hill. The trees started to thin out and become smaller as they got higher. Kiri noticed that a few large rocks were visible here and there, and that there was far less moss than there was on the old trail.

Where does this lead to?” he asked

You’ll see”.

Kiri was expecting to see whatever it was at the top of the hill, but when they reached the summit, the trail continued down the hill on the other side. Then it rose again over another hill. They climbed up that hill and down the other side. Kiri thought that perhaps they were still climbing higher. They went up and down several more hills; Kiri had lost count of them. Each summit had fewer trees on it and these trees were always smaller than were those on the previous summit. He was starting to get tired, but was pleased that at least he did not feel afraid anymore. Kala’s prank had cured him of that.

Is it very far now Kala?”

No, it is at the top of the next hill”.

Kiri was impressed by Kala’s knowledge of the forest. She knew where the trail was, and she knew exactly how far they should have to travel along it to reach their destination, whatever that was. Everything in the forest looked much the same to him. He had noticed some things: the trees getting smaller, the gradually vanishing moss, and the growing presence of rocks, but he knew that he would never be able to find that trail again on his own.

As they climbed the final hill Kiri saw that the trees were starting to thin out to the point that they must be leaving the forest. Soon, there was an expanse of rocky ground ahead of them and he saw that the trail led to a cleft in a rock cliff. They followed the trail, and just as it was about to enter the cleft, Kiri looked back the way they had come. He saw a series of hills, each lower than the last, then a large hill past that. He could not see the village, and the sea was only slightly visible between two other hills much further south. In all the other visible directions there were just more forest-covered hills. He suddenly became aware of a sense of great relief. He had not noticed how much he was comforted by open spaces before.

The cleft ran steeply between two overhanging gray rock faces. It seemed like there was barely enough room between the rocks for them to walk, but this was probably due to the height of the cliffs on either side of them. Kiri felt like the rock was closing in on him and he started to feel confined like he must have been in the forest. This time, though, he was fully aware of the fact. He was hoping that they would end up somewhere more open again. His wishes became fulfilled as he saw that the cliffs were getting lower on each side of them, or rather, that they were climbing to the summit of those rocks through the cleft.

Just as the first trail in the forest had made a sudden turn into darkness, the rocky trail that they were climbing made a sudden turn into the light. They had reached the top of the cliffs and the sun was shining down on a plain of short grass and small rocks. Everywhere was small flowers of a multitude of colours. After the dark and green of the forest, and the dark and the grey of the rocky trail, Kiri felt the colours like a burst of music from all of the flutes of his home village. In the middle of the plain was a circle of huge stones, much bigger than any he had ever seen.

This is where we come to look at the heavens and understand the times for things.” Kala said. “The circle in the village is for meeting the Oneness, but this is different. Not everyone comes here, mostly just those that can understand the heavens, and they pass this knowledge to the rest of us. There is a test though -- the children that will be taught these things are not shown the way. They are told what they must seek, and they then go and find this place themselves”.

Kiri was struck by a terrible thought.

But Kala! You should not have shown me this place. I am here to learn these things. I would probably have been told to find it for myself.”

I just had to Kiri. There are so few of them that can find it and I have seen how disappointed those were that could not. I found it myself, but I did not tell anyone. I did not want to be one of those few, and no one had asked me to anyway. Urho had told me that you would not only be studying here, but that Vara had told him that you were destined to become one of the wisest of all, and one day everyone would be telling stories about your adventures. I like you, and I owe a lot to Urho. I couldn’t bear the thought that you would just get lost in the forest and that Urho would think that it was all his fault. He deserves the happiness he has found with your aunt. I’m sorry, I had to make sure.”

Kiri could not contain his anger.

This was not your decision to make. If I was told to find the circle and I had failed or even died in the forest, then that was what was going to happen. Now how I am I going to know if I could have succeeded or not? My aunt Vara sometimes answers questions that I have, but sometimes she tells me that I’m not ready to know the answer. Everything must be in its own time. Everything must be what it is supposed to be. I feel that you have just taken my path away from me. How am I going to know if I was really destined to be what Aunt Vara thought I was going to be now?”

Oh Kiri, forgive me, please! I had to do it. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't bear the thought that you would fail" She burst into tears.

Kiri could not comfort her. He just stood there, his arms folded against his chest, his jaws gripped tight.

Please Kiri. Don’t do this to me,” she sobbed.

We must go home now,” Kiri said firmly.

They barely spoke all the way back to the village. Kiri led the way and Kala followed behind, sometimes sobbing as she went. Kiri did not respond. He tried to find the way back to the village trail, but he could not, and after several tries he asked Kala to show him. This made him feel even worse, and she could see that. She led the way back to the original trail and then walked behind him silently, all the way back to the house.

Vara was seated by the fire, and looked up and smiled at them when they entered.

So, did Kala show you the stone circle?”

Kala burst into tears again and fled the house. Kiri felt his legs grow weak and he collapsed onto the floor sobbing uncontrollably. .”

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  1. I drew the scenes in the forest from a wide variety of places: the impenetrable wall of brambles was at the end of the road where my grandmother lived in the English countryside; the moss-covered deadfall and the giant slug were from an exploration of the old growth forest on the Pacific side of the Ucluelet Peninsular on the west side of Vancouver Island British Columbia where there was no perceivable forest floor; The hidden trail was inspired from finding a cut trail to a claim when gold prospecting at Camp Creek, a tributary of the Goldstream river that flowed into the Columbia river about midway between Revelstoke and Mica dam in the interior of British Columbia. It was a cedar rainforest; hills after hills came from a hike near Moose Mountain, the closest mountain to Calgary near Bragg Creek; the plateau at the stone circle was taken from the top of Plateau mountain in the Kananaskis, Alberta, south of the Highwood summit, altitude just over 8,000 feet.

  2. I just finished reading chapter eight. The forest description was so well written I felt like I was walking through a forest on Vancouver Island. Also, the rolling hills reminded me of the beautiful foothills west of Calgary as one travels toward the Rocky Mountains.
    I love the way you are developing the relationship between the two young people. Will he forgive her and come to an understand of why she showed him the special place?

    1. Having experiences with forests certainly helps. Many of the European forests are now more "tailored" and I think that our forests give a better idea of how they used to be. I particularly like how the foothills "morph" into the mountains west of Bragg Creek, and while of a lower altitude than the alpine meadows on the top of Plateau Mountain and deeper in the Rockies, they were certainly inspiring for the approach to the story's mountain plateau. I just had to "squash" the landscape a bit.

      Your question will be answered in tomorrow's chapter, but that's not all...

      I converted the .doc novel as it sits to an ebook format and looked at it in my tablet ebook reader. Although I have not checked every page, it seems like the right paragraph method was used for most of the remaining book. I feel that there must be some easy way to change my tabs to indents in most parts of the beginning chapters, but have not figured it out yet. One other thing I noticed is that I missed putting a few page ends at the end of some chapters but even I know how to fix that. It's the tabs to indents that are bothering me.