Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Aidan's Journey, part 2

Aidan learns that mother nature isn't so kind

posted by Relimited

Author’s note: I totally forgot about finishing this. He is part 2 of Aidan’s story.

a few hours later

Aidan whistled as he walked the old familiar road. The tune was listless and lifeless; anyone with a slight ear for music would realize that he didn’t have a clue about it. He didn’t care, he never did. A smile broke out on his lips, stopping his terrible tune for a moment. His mother would be so mad. Here he was, whistling, singing, only half-focused on his destination. He spun around in a circle, just to spite her memory.

“See, Mother, it isn’t all about your stupid rules or looking proper. I can do whatever I want out here, without you critiquing me on how some noble in some land I’ve never seen might react.” Of course his mother used more than just words, naturally. What she couldn’t get across with disparaging remarks and insults, she attended to communicate with her whip. Aidan stopped, closing his eyes and biting his lip.

“I’ve left to get away from you, Mom, not be haunted by your brutality.” He shook his head, trying to clear it. However, the painful memory had already done its damage. The forest didn’t nearly seem so bright anymore, the birdsong seemed quieter, even the sun seemed to shine less. And out of every shadow he could see her glare, in that stupid dress, with her black whip. The one with razor sharp bits of bone and metal in it. Standing, staring, watching, waiting. “Just get away from me!” He yelled to the shadows, darting off the path.

He ran blindly through the darkening woods. He stumbled through the woods, snapping branches and nearly tripping over roots more than once. Finally, he stopped to catch his breath. It’s getting dark fast. There is no way it’s supposed to be night yet. I need to see what’s going on… get on top of a hill or something. Then try to get back to the path, see if I can maybe get shelter. He glanced through the trees, fighting his rising panic, until he spotted what seemed to be a small knoll that rose above the tree tops.

He started off in that direction focused on his goal. He had no idea which way the path was from where he had darted off, but he wasn’t about to give up yet. He resolutely marched toward the hill, forcing his fears and doubts behind him.

By the Maker… where am I? Aidan looked around from his perch on top of the hill, and realized he didn’t know this part of the land at all. Had he really managed to run that far in his blind panic? At least he knew why it was getting dark so fast. The sky was boiling over with clouds, big black ones that brought promise of a flash flood. He needed to find shelter, fast.

He spun around, and behind him it looked like some caves of some sort, reasonably high up. He scrambled off the hill and started jogging toward them. He struggled to find his way in the rapidly diming light, then stopped in shock when he saw something outrageous fall right in front of him.

A snowflake.

Its only the beginning of harvest time! How can there be snow already? This is insane! Before he could even really start back toward the caves, the light flurries of snow increased dramatically. The first few flakes became a blizzard alarmingly quickly. He began to run, worried about getting caught in the snow.

He hadn’t gotten far before he had to slow down. He could hardly see his hand in front of his face, much less run toward a cave. Stubbornly, he kept walking as the snow piled up, deeper and deeper around his feet. He knew he wouldn’t last out here much longer, he needed shelter. The wind was against him, and he had to struggle for every step, but he pressed on. Not out of courage, but out of survival.

What did Thatcher always say about the wild? Yeah, “There is no justice or high morals out there, sire. Just survival. If you ever have the misfortune of ending out there alone, you be ready to face it head on, and not budge an inch!”

Finally, he saw the opening of the cave. He pressed through the freezing whiteness toward the cave mouth, and finally stumbled in. Exhausted, he laid there for a while, breathing heavily. Finally he sat up, and watched the blizzard, shivering when a chill wind swept into the cave. By the Maker, it’s coming down hard. I really am stuck out here, no way am I supposed to try and travel through that. He knew that he should feel scared, panicked and lost that he couldn’t get home. But, a smile crept across his face. He was on his own adventure. Completely and truly.

After a long time, in which Aidan spent day dreaming about all the amazing things he might meet, (All of them were totally impossible, from a dragon to a dwarf) the snow stopped. Aidan stuck his head out of his cave and gasped at the new landscape.

It was white. That was the first thing that hit him. Where before there was the color of autumn in all its warm hues, it was now the white of winter. And it was cold, really cold. He rubbed his arms for warmth. A quick glance at the sky showed why it was so chill- the sun was setting. And near done with it too. He plunged into the white wasteland, deciding that he’d need a fire to survive the night.

He tromped around in the snow, breaking off the low lying branches of trees that didn’t look to covered in snow. When he could, he tried to find some kindling that wasn’t soaked by the white powder. As the sun finally dipped below the horizon, he had a bundle of less wet wood. He collapsed in the cave again, shivering constantly from the damp of melted snow on his clothes and bare hands. He started to pile the sticks together the way Thatcher had shown him once, when his stomach growled, accompanied with a pang. He hadn’t eaten much that morning, only a pair of eggs and he was starving. He threw off his backpack and dug through to find a few travel rations Thatcher had packed. He didn’t even bother to check them for poison, he wolfed the meager fare down, and trembling from the cold continued to try and build his fire. After getting it to look more or less what he remembered Thatcher showing him, he brought his flint and tender to bear on the wood.

Strike; Strike; Strike. He gasped when he saw a spark, but the wood didn’t catch. He kept trying, his trembling hands having trouble keeping the flint steady. The wind whistling into the cave didn’t help, and the damp wood seemed intent on not burning. He bit his lip, refusing to give up. However, time was not on his side, and the temperature continued to drop.

He was freezing. Literally, he’d die from the cold out here. Stupid, stupid, stupid! He stared at his pile of sticks, hands trembling from the cold. He wouldn’t be able to strike the flint soon, his fingers where already numb, and the deadly lack of feeling was creeping slowly up his arms. “Andraste, help me!” Aidan cried to the silent, deep, freezing night. There was no answer, dauntless, the youth continued, refusing to give in hope. He could hardly feel his hands now, but he stubbornly continued to light his fire, refusing to yield to the chill night. Tears started to stream down his face, as he realized this might be the end of it all. He whispered through chattering teeth, “So this is where my adventure ends. Here, in the trackless wilderness of nowhere”. He was tired, the cold sapping his strength. He was about to give in, when there! a spark! Aidan watched as the first licks of flame caught on his woodpile. Soon, the fire was burning brightly, casting out the chill of the night in his bones and his soul.

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Jennifer

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