A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 4: Please Don’t Feed the Animals
Wizard - “Why you are of course to become a half naked jungle warrior.”
“You’ve got to be joking.”
Wizard - “Indeed I am,” he chuckled. “Seriously, your training is to begin very soon. I should think tomorrow.”
“Seriously, what training?”
Wizard - “Well, that is an interesting question, and in a month, I shall ask you that very question.”
“Okay, you have my attention, what’s gonna happen?”
Wizard - “Well, since I have your attention,” he says while giving a slight bow, “I can only tell you the routine for now, not the point.”
“Anything would be nice.”
Wizard - “Starting tomorrow, your life will be divided into three parts, each 12 hours in length. You will only be able to sleep for the first month, and very little you shall have at that. After the first month, you shouldn’t need sleep like you used to. You will understand what I mean soon.”
“What about my friend, Wylde, I need to contact him. He seems to be too far away for my normal method of contacting him.”
Wizard - “Do not worry, you will be able to contact him soon enough.”
“So what is this training going to involve?”
Wizard - “That is for each of your masters to determine. But I will tell you this much, they will be the hardest tasks you’ve ever undertaken. At times, they will seem useless and illogical to you. But you must trust us. You can quit anytime you want. But if you do, we all die. Ah, but it’s time for us to start your language training.”
After telling me those things, I was a little unsure of what was to come.
“Harder than anything ever before,” I got the same speech a year ago before leaving to spend a year in Brazil. And now I’m getting it again.
For the rest of the night we studied the language of this tribe, and of this world. I swear they were both very similar to most Romance languages of earth. I’d have no problems picking them both up rather quickly.
Morning came much sooner that it should have. I ate a simple breakfast with the wizard. I was about to begin small talk when something occurred to me.
“I don’t yet know your name.”
Wizard - “From now on, you will call me master. That is all you need to know. And this is not a “master” as in master and slave, it simply separates me from other teachers in the village.”
“So you are to be one of my trainers?”
Wizard - “Yes.”
Wizard - “Sometimes.”
“Your not going to tell me much are you?”
Wizard - “No. When you are finished with your meal, go to the fighting circle for your first training session with the warrior cast.”
“Okay. Should I wear other clothes?”
Wizard - “That will be taken care of by each of your teachers.”
So that was that. After I finished my meal, I headed for the circle as ordered. There, I met an old man; an old, but very capable looking man. He was a tall brute, about seven feet even. He had no hair on his head aside from his goatee. I kind of envied him. I had tried for so long to get a good goatee. I guess it comes with age. It fit him well. He wasn’t wearing much. Only a pair of leather pants with no sides on them, a belt with a knife attached, and a leather strap for carrying his spear which he had in his hands at the moment. The spear was nearly eight feet in length with a jagged spike atop it. He said nothing, just a simple gesture towards me, and boy about my age came up to me. He told me to come with him and get my new clothes. I was led to a hut filled with leather products. And in the corner, a pile of clothes. I picked out a pair of black leather pants that looked like they had been chopped up by a lawn mower. I chose those in hopes that they would keep me warm, but cool enough when I was working. Those were all I chose. I thought about taking some boots, but I decided to stick with my shoes for now. Upon putting the pants on, I found that they were a bit too big, so I kept my belt. After changing and storing my cargo’s, I went back to where the old warrior was standing. Then he stared. He stared as if trying to see into my soul. Soon after, he spoke. It was a simple phrase, one that would forever change my life.
Warrior - “Let’s begin.”
Warrior - “I saw you fight the other one. He was merely to see if you would spare his life. You did. You passed. What you said was true, we need all the warriors we can get. The wizard spoke to me of why you thought you won. Do you not feel the need to look good in front of your leader?”
“First off, he’s not my leader. Second, there is no point in looking good if you are dead. And third, I like to win.”
Warrior - “You are cocky, which can get you killed in a second if not controlled. Then again, it can win you wars, but only if controlled.”
“I’m not cocky, I’m convinced. I know my limits.”
Warrior - “We shall see. Do you think you can best me in combat?”
Warrior - “Why?”
“There are many reasons.”
Warrior - “Speak.”
“First off, I don’t know you. I don’t know how you move. I don’t know how fast you are.”
Warrior - “Most would answer no first because of my size.”
“Size does not matter.”
Warrior - “Why?”
“Because you may be large in size, and I’d imagine you could kill me in one good hit. But unless you are fast, you aren’t likely to get that one hit. And one should not expect to break a rock in half in one blow. It takes many hits. Hits in the right place at the right time.”
Warrior - “You have good answers. Let us hope you have many more. If I told you that you have better combat training than I do, but you could not win against me, what is your first thought?”
“My first thought is to get bigger.”
Warrior - “Then that is what you shall do.”
Warrior - “Lots of work that you won’t want to do. I cannot be with you every step of the way, so I when you train, you will be watched by my son. I trust him completely. If he says you are not working to the best of your ability, or is not satisfied with your progress, I will take his word. Every five sessions, we will spend one going over warfare tactics. I will teach you the mental aspects of fighting. Each time you come, you are to run and swim five miles. You are to do one thousand push-ups and sit-ups over the twelve hour period. You are also to head to the river with the builders and help them move dirt, mud, and rocks. That is what you shall do for the first month. After that, we will look at what areas you need improvement in, and design exercises for you accordingly. By the end of this year, I expect you to be able to best me in combat. If you cannot beat me, I will be insulted greatly. For today, you will run.”
Warrior - “For the whole day.”
“Twelve hours of running.”
Warrior - “Yes. Every hour, you may stop for fifteen minutes and rest.”
That was interesting. I did as he said. I ran for twelve hours. I also passed out seven times, barfed ten, and cried in pain for over three hours. I had gotten used to running from playing Rugby back in Florianopolis, where I was before I got here. Oh yes, I had gotten used to running, but not twelve hours of it. I’d learned my first rugby practice, you don’t quit. You quit the first time and everyone will expect you to quit every time. So yes, I ran. Next, I was to go into the forest and wait for further instructions. So I limped in agony to the forest. It took all the energy I had to get there. I am so very glad I bought those really comfortable boots. Unfortunately, there was almost nothing left of them. As I got to the woods, I removed them to find my feet covered in blood. I wondered why they had stopped hurting. I guess they were so worn that I lost feeling in them. That can’t be good. After about ten minutes, I began to worry. Where was the next teacher? I could be sleeping now instead of waiting to be tortured again. I finally go tired of waiting and headed towards what sounded like running water. After another ten minutes of crawling on my hands and knees, I came to the base of a waterfall. I immediately stuck my feet and legs in the pool in hopes that the swelling would go down. After about twenty minutes of that, I got hungry. So I headed off to find some food. I didn’t find too much.
Everything that grew near to the ground was already eaten by animals. So, I thought higher up. I looked up and saw bananas everywhere. Now it was a question of how to get them from up there and into my growling stomach. After thinking about it for a minute or two. Okay, actually about ten minutes, I got an idea. After recalling a scene of a movie, and realizing that it wouldn’t work on the account of my useless legs, I got creative. I took off my belt and tied each end to one of my legs after wrapping my legs around a tree trunk. I then grabbed hold of a few nearby vines that were close to the ground. I then started pulling myself up the tree with the vines, and securing myself by tightening my grip with the belt. It took me nearly an hour, but I made it up to where the bananas were. At that point, I threw my arms around the top of the tree, undid one end of my belt, and then the other. Then I threw the belt around the tree and latched it. After almost falling twice, I finally got the belt around my waist in a way that I could relax without falling. I knew there was a reason I kept my belt. Not only does it keep my pants up, it keeps me up in trees.
Then I ate. I’ve never eaten so many bananas in my life. After having eaten almost one whole bunch, I cut down another whole bunch. And I thought about eating it later. Finally, I undid my belt after wrapping my arms around more vines and preparing to slide down. Then, I slid down.
Only when I got to the bottom, I discovered I wasn’t alone, there was a really big black cat peering into my eyes. Luckily, I had already eaten my last meal. Under normal circumstances, I would have been crazy enough to take out my knife and try my luck against it. But with no legs, barely any upper body left, and a very full stomach. I figured it was a nice day to be eaten alive.
I follow the road to Talladale. It’s a pleasurable and uneventful ride, much preferred to walking. I take turns riding the horses every few hours. I don’t want to over tire them. I stop at farm houses along the road and call out. I ask for information about the boy. No one has seen him or any other strangers.
This is very odd, it’s like he vanished from existence. But I can’t give up on the search. There must be an explanation for how I got here, in this place where I am not known. A place where I am as much a stranger to it as it is to me. How did T.J. come with me and then disappear, did he also lose his memory? I still have difficulty recalling the visions in my dreams, I hope that my memories will soon return. Something within me is certain that if I could remember, I can find my way back home.
Still miles from Talladale, I camp out the first night. I find an area well hidden from the road. The horses are my alarms, anything that disturbs them will alert me to any dangers. The weather is very comfortable at night and a fire isn’t necessary to keep warm. I dig into the rations and give the horses some oats and water, then I secure them for the evening.
It’s confusing that I can remember so much about horses and how to fight, but little else. That must be so much a part of my life, that it’s instinctual. It may be clear to me some day, but I guess I must have spent many years like this. It just feels like a large part of my life.
I rest under the open sky, first watching the stars until weariness overtakes me.
No dreams disturb my sleep, but the horses are agitated about something. I have no idea how long I slept. I freeze and listen for sounds. Tree branches and grasses are rustling, but near ground level. My hand reaches for the sword and I slowly make my way to my feet. The clearing is breached by two figures, large hungry feral creatures on the hunt for food. They think it will be me, but I will have to disappoint them. The horses are pulling on their tethers in fear, trying to get away.
I feel their fear and the wolves’ hunger. I expect others are nearby and I better deal with these quickly. A pack will have no problem in pulling me down. I suddenly get a mental image of a man with long black hair and enameled white armour. He has many wolves. No,they are hounds but they dwarf these two. I ‘know’ this but I can’t recall his name.
They move to circle me. I back up to keep them both in sight. A tree is to my back. I can use this to my advantage. The one to my left rushes around the tree to catch me on the other side. The one on my right snarls and leaps for my throat.
I swing the blade upwards very hard for the beast’s throat. It connects and deeply penetrates the thick fur and tendons of its neck. Nearly decapitated, the wolf falls to my left.
With a howl of frustration, its pack mate is at my back. My swing leaves my back exposed. I feel the hot breath at my neck. It knocks me forward to the ground with its powerful paws. Leaning forward at the last second and rolling to my left shoulder saves my neck, quite literally.
I land flat on my back with my blade laying across my chest. The wolf lands on my chest, nearly knocking the wind out of me. We are face to face with its paws on my chest and its jaws reaching for my throat. I reach for its throat with my left hand to keep the slavering jaws away. With the blade in my right hand, I use the point to push it away. I can’t get enough leverage to use the blade effectively. Both tasks are difficult because the wolf struggles to reach my throat.
I pull it off balance and kick it off me. I don’t know if it’s weak from hunger or I am stronger than I thought. We scramble to our feet and it turns to face me. I am only able to get to one knee as it charges. No time to swing, I lean forward and lunge with the blade. The force of the charge did the work for me. The wolf impaled itself on my sword. My arm goes numb from the jarring impact and I fall back without the blade. The wolf thrashes for a moment and finally dies.
I listen carefully for other wolves but I can’t hear anything over the pounding of my heartbeat and my heavy breathing. I pull out the blade and clean it on the wolves’ fur.
I realize that a campfire would have prevented the attack. A mistake that won’t be repeated. I am lucky to be alive. Wide awake, I gather my things and ready the horses. It’s best that I put some distance between us and this place, before other wolves detect the scent of blood. I lead the horses to the road and we ride slowly under the bright moonlight. Hopefully morning will come soon.