Pen and Paper

A couple of decades ago, I tried to write on my computer.  For some things, I still do.  Writing emails or academic papers seems to go just fine on a keyboard.  But for prose, fiction, and journaling, I never got fully comfortable with the computer.  Even after writing my first novel on a computer, I found myself going back to pen and paper.

Mind you, this is a completely personal preference.  I do not think one way is inherently better than another.  It’s just that I started writing long before I got a computer, and pen and paper are the means I used.

It probably helps that I love office supplies.  Even as a kid, I enjoyed those stores as much as toy stores.  My dad and grandpa worked out of my grandparents’ house, and the basement always had pens, pencils, note pads, file folders, and so on.  I never wanted for the tools of writing.

Over the years, I have had different favorite pens and different preferred notebooks (composition notebooks, anyone?).  Generally, these have been inexpensive, though I admit that my current favorite notebooks fall on the pricier side.  (I still use inexpensive legal pads for a lot of my writing, however.)

The other day, we were walking by an art supply shop.  On the door was an advertisement for a limited edition Cross pen, Star Wars themed.  I’ve only ever had one Cross pen in my life, an engraved one given to me by my sister.  Normally, I wouldn’t consider such an item, but I thought I might splurge.

While looking over pens, I asked about fountain pens.  I’ve never used one before, but I was curious.  Now I have three bottles of ink, which together cost more than the pen I bought, and I can safely say I have a new favorite pen; my most expensive favorite yet.  It is easily the most fun.  And luckily, the ink washes off of my skin very easily.

img_2263

The Storyteller (part four)

Eres knocked on the door.  “May I come in?”

“Yes.”  Aaron’s voice came from the other side.

Inside the room there were remnants of a meal on the table.  He sat on one of the chairs.

“Did you get some rest?”

“No.  Too many questions on my mind.”

“Was the food okay at least?”

“It was fine.”

Eres walked over to one of the empty chairs and sat down.  “Would you like to talk here, or see more of the village.  In either case, I promise not to yell at you again.”

Aaron gave her a weak smile.  “It’s okay.  Let’s sit here for now.  I am a bit tired, and more sightseeing is likely to raise more questions.  I’d like to process what I’ve already seen and heard before dealing with more.”

“Very well.  What would you like to talk about?”

“How big is this village?”

Eres felt her mistrust rise again.  That was the sort of information that would be useful to someone planning an attack.  But she had meant it when she had said she wouldn’t yell at him again.  She wanted to get to know this man better, if only to discover whether he was actually a threat.  She needed to gain his trust, which meant showing a little trust of her own.  “There are several families here.  Some single adults as well.  Nearly everyone here comes from a family that has been here for generations.”

“Really?  How old is this village?”

Eres had to think for a moment.  “It was established in the early days after the great calamity.  At least that is what I was taught.”

“To have survived so long.  It must be quite a story.”

“Indeed.  That’s actually why Jonon brought you here.  Some among us are worried those stories may disappear.  Jonon hoped you might help us saved them.”

“Me?  Why?  Surely there are some here who can help remember your stories.  Why bring in an outsider?”

“That is the Moth’s position, but some others are less certain, believing we need a real storyteller here.  Jonon thinks that’s what you are, and by bringing you here, the Moth would have no choice but to accept you.”

“It sounds like a story itself.”

“I suppose it is, but not one the Moth would want me to speak of, so please, let’s change the topic.”

“Of course.  I’m sorry.”

“No need to apologize.  You couldn’t know.”  Eres did feel relieved that he was willing to move on, though.  Ara would not want a newcomer to hear that tale.

Aaron was quiet for a few moments, lost in his own thoughts apparently.  As someone she had met only today, what might be on his mind was hidden from her.  She remained quiet so as not to interrupt, but it did feel awkward to sit in silence with someone she didn’t know.

Eventually, he brought his attention back to her.  “Do you have any contact with other villages?”

Grateful that the silence was broken, Eres shook her head.  “Not anymore.  The last village we had dealings with was destroyed before I was born.  To spare us a similar fate, the Moth at that time decided not to seek out others, reasoning that if no one knew about us, no one could attack us.”

“So that’s why your Moth is so resistant to having me here.”

“Indeed.  And the Moth isn’t the only one.  Many of us have learned to mistrust outsiders.  This is part of the reason you must not wander without me.  I protect the village from you, and I also protect you from them.”

“I see.”

“May I ask you a question?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“You said you traveled a lot.  What is it like in other places?”

“I guess it’s pretty much the same everywhere.  People surviving however they can.  I haven’t been anywhere as isolated as this before, but suspicions are always high when it comes to someone from elsewhere.  I don’t think it is as dangerous as you seem to think it is, but there are dangers.  Not everyone means well.  Like I said, that’s true everywhere.”

Eres had a hard time believing him.  What he said did not fit with what she knew.  But he didn’t seem to be lying either.

“I do have one more question myself.  I know your Moth is going to decide whether I can stay, but what happens if I don’t want to?  As I said, I don’t generally like staying in one place very long.”

Eres stared at him for a long moment, searching for words.  “I can’t say for certain.  If you don’t want to stay, she may let you leave.  Or she may take that as evidence that you are planning to take your knowledge of us to others who will attack us.  If so, that would not be good for you.”

“So…  What will happen if she doesn’t let me stay?”

“The same.”

“Oh.”

She stood.  “Try not to worry about it too much.  Moth Ara is a reasonable person who just wants to protect her people.  Get some rest tonight.  Tomorrow I will show you the rest of the village.  Okay?”

Aaron nodded dumbly.

“Aaron, look at me.”

He did so.

“Get some rest.  I was honest with you.  And I am being honest now.  That is the worst case.  I don’t believe Moth Ara will treat you so harshly.  Okay?”

He nodded again, a bit more convincingly this time.

“Good.  Now get some sleep.  This has been a long day for you.  Do you need anything?”

His head had dropped and he appeared to be staring at his hands.  “I didn’t ask to come here.”

“I know.  Jonon was foolish.  And Moth Ara knows that, too.  She just wants to be sure the village is safe.  I want to be honest with you, but I am sorry I was so blunt.  You ought to know what you are facing.  Work with me, and I will make sure you get through this.”

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why help me?”

Eres took a deep breath.  “We are a good people, Aaron.  I hope you will see that.  And I hope you will prove to be a good person, too.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“Just let us get to know you.  If you’re a good person, we’ll see it.”

Aaron looked uncertain.

“Get some sleep.  It won’t do you any good to fret.  Good night.”

“Good night,” he muttered after her as she left.

The Storyteller (part three)

Eres tried decide if she was annoyed.  She had agreed to be responsible for Jonon’s stray puppy, so Ara’s instructions were not a surprise.  Yet she found herself resenting it anyway.

“So is ‘Sis’ a title like ‘Moth’?”

She looked back at the storyteller who had caught up with her.  “Yes.”

“What does it mean?”

“Don’t they have a Moth and a Sis in your village?”  Was he really this ignorant, or was it an act?

“I’m not really from anywhere.  Something of a wanderer, I guess.”

“So you really don’t have your own people?  How have you survived?”

“It’s really not that difficult.  I travel from place to place.  Trading news from other villages for a little food and shelter.”

“That sounds difficult.  Don’t you get tired of always moving?”  She didn’t believe him.  The one thing she knew was that the outside world was dangerous.  Surviving on your own was nearly impossible.

“Not really, I’ve been doing it for so long that staying anywhere for longer than a few days makes me restless.”

“So you don’t want to stay here?”

Aaron shrugged at her.  “Do I have a choice?”

Eres did not answer him.  She wasn’t sure herself.  Would Ara make him leave?  Would she let him leave?  The answer to either of those questions eluded her for now.

They arrived at a small wooden structure, little more than a hut.  Eres opened the door, lit a lantern just inside the entrance, and gestured for Aaron to follow her.  There were a few chairs at a table in one corner and two beds against the wall.

“We recently cleaned this place, preparing to move a couple of the older children in here.  It should serve to give you a little bit of privacy until we figure out a more permanent situation.  You have the Moth’s permission to go anywhere in the village, but I must accompany you.  And there will be a guard outside while you are here.  Ask them if you want to leave and wait until I arrive.  Do you understand?”

Aaron nodded.  “If I may ask, why so much trouble just for me?  If I’m that much of a burden, why not just throw me out?  It’s not as though I asked to be here.”

“Letting you leave means letting you tell others about this village.  We cannot afford to take that risk.  Not until we know more about you.”

“Who am I going to tell?  I already told you, and Jonon, that I don’t have anybody I’m with.  Why would I lie?”

Eres rolled her eyes.  “How stupid do you think I am?  Why would you lie?  So that you can leave and go tell someone.  And you just told me you visit places and trade information.  Even if you don’t have anyone to tell, you might tell someone about us for a meal.”

“I wouldn’t…”

“Maybe not.  But we don’t know that.  We don’t know you.  Moth Ara has extended a kindness when she has plenty of reason not to….”  Eres stopped herself from berating the man further.  Her resentment hadn’t been with Ara after all.  It was with this newcomer.  That he was here.  That Jonon had brought him here.  That he posed some sort of threat she didn’t yet understand.  Maybe he deserved her ire, but it wasn’t doing her any good.

Aaron appeared cowed by her.  Fearing she might begin yelling at him, she headed toward the door.  “Rest.  I’m sure being tied to the wagon was not an easy way to travel.  Take some time to relax, perhaps sleep.  With the supplies you and Jonon brought back, I’ll send a bit of food over.  We can look around the rest of the village this afternoon.”  Before he could say anything, she walked through the doorway and closed it behind her.

The Storyteller (part two)

Aaron sat in the back of the cart still tied up with the rope that Jonon had used to keep him from leaving.  The man seemed friendly, but his insistence on bringing Aaron back to his village was a bit unsettling.  Still, Aaron didn’t feel threatened.  Not yet, anyway.

After some time had passed, Jonon reappeared accompanied by two women.  The older one had silver hair and stood more than a head shorter than the man.  She had an air of authority about her.  The younger one had longer hair, brown, tied behind her head, and she was nearly as tall as Jonon.  She, too, projected authority, but not as confidently as the other.

As they got close, Jonon turned to the other woman.  “Moth, this is the storyteller, Aaron.  Aaron, this is Moth Ara and her second, Sis Eres.

“Aaron?”  The older woman stared intently at him.  “Strange name for a man.”

“Well, what sort of name is Moth?”  Upon seeing Jonon’s face flush, Aaron regretted his words, but his patience had been worn thin.

“Moth is my title, not my name.”  A hint on condescension came through her voice.  How should he have known that?

Moth Ara turned back to Jonon.  “Why is he tied up?”

“Well…  I wanted to be sure he was safe.”

“You just finished reassuring me he was.  Now you are uncertain?”

“Moth, I just wanted to be sure, until I could talk with you.  And I wanted to be certain he would come back here with me.  After Matten left…”

“Don’t!  Do not mention him.  You really are convinced we need a storyteller, aren’t you?

“Yes, Moth.”

She looked to Aaron once more.  “Why should I trust you?”

Aaron took a moment to think about his response this time.  “To be honest, I’m not even clear why I’m here.  I helped Jonon, and he offered me a meal and some company.  We spoke well into the night.  When I woke the next morning, I was bound, then he brought me back here.”

“You are a storyteller?”

“I suppose, but…”

“If I allow you to stay in this village, will you harm anyone here?”

“I have no reason to, but…”

“Will anyone be looking for you?”

“I very much doubt that; still, I should…”

“One more thing.  I am responsible for the safety of everyone here.  You will do as I say.  Agreed?”

It felt as though he were swearing some oath.  “I agree.”

Moth Ara did not look convinced.  “Very well.  Sis Eres?”

“Yes, Moth?”

“You are responsible for him.  Find him a place to stay.  Explain the village, as much as you deem appropriate.  And above all, make sure you watch him.  Let us see if this storyteller belongs here.”

Aaron could not read the expression on Sis Eres’ face, but she quickly acknowledged the instructions.  “Yes, Moth.  Jonon, untie him.”

“After you do that,” Moth Ara spoke again, “Find a couple of men and unload these supplies.  Provide an inventory to Sis…  No, that won’t do.  Give the inventory to Pru.  We need to figure out how best to utilize all of this.  When you’re done, come find me.”

“Yes, Moth.  Yes, Sis.”

The pace with which everything happened left Aaron feeling bewildered.  His wrists were grateful to be freed, though.  What was this place?  Who were these people?  Maybe Sis Eres would give him some answers.  For now, he was glad just not to be tied up any longer.

Sis Eres was watching him expectantly.  “Let’s go, Aaron.  We need to get you settled in.”  She turned and began walking away.  He nodded and began jogging to catch up to her.