A JOURNEY BEGINS
The sun was already high in the sky - higher than most folks around Vandalia would allow it to get before arising and setting about their daily labors
- before Gert decided to awaken nenothtu. The old woman sighed. She well recalled that it just wasn't safe to approach and shake this one awake.
Instead, Gert grabbed a sturdy home-made husk broom from the corner and purposefully approached the split-log bench neno was currently sprawled out
"You 'wake?" she called asd she approached.
"MMmnhnhnn" came the muffled reply.
"Elevate and radiate, boy. Daylight's a-burnin' ".
"MMmnhnhnn" again, but no motion towards arising. Gert slipped th broom handle under the bench and levered the bench over, sending neno sprawling out
on the ground.
"Ah TOLD ye, daylight's a-burinin'! It's already 9 of the clock! You plannin' on sleepin' all day?"
Nenothtu jumped from the ground spluttering, then realizing his assailant was a little old woman, checked himself. "That was a pretty dirty trick,
The old witch-woman cackled. "What'd ye 'spect? A lady has a reputation to protect - couldn't leave you snoozin' out in the yard like that. It just
wouldn't look fittin'!"
"naw, Gert. I'm talkin' about that blasted popskull you plied me with. THAT was the 'dirty trick', not the bench-dumpin'. I b'leive your reputation is
about where it'll stay, anyhow. Who'd bother ye? Who'd accidentally come up in here to see me sleepin' in yer yard anyhow?" Then, a thought struck him
in connection with what she'd said - 'a lady has a reputation to protect'. His head wasn't quite clear yet, but clearing up fast. "GERT! You didn't
git me drunk an'...?"
The old witch couldn't help herself. She cackled so hard and loud that it bent her old frail-looking form over. She cackled so hard that her laughter
echoed throught the hollow. Gert found the very idea hilarious, and neno's alcohol induced confusion even more so. She couldn't resist gouging him.
"Wal, now, young feller, a gal has to find her sport somewhere
neno blanched. As all the blood drained from his face, his expression sent Gert into further paroxysms of laughter. For all her age, she ended rolling
on the ground and gasping for breath between cackling guffaws. This was just too rich!
neno picked the old woman up from the ground. Rolling around like that at her age just wasn't seemly. Besides, as she rolled, her skirt was riding up,
and he didn't have the stomach to go there
. This amusement was already too much for him. When Gert got herself back under control, she said
"What d'ye want fer breakfast, Lover?" which sent her off into paroxysms again.
"I don't think I'm very hungry." neno sullenly replied. His manner renewed her laughter. This boy was just too easy sometimes, she thought. He really
ought to have known better, and the fact that he didn't was just hilarious, and to be played upon. As she'd said, a gal has to find her sport wherever
Eventually, Gert regained control of herself, and wiping her eyes said "set yer bony ass down on the bench here, Freddy. we got to talk."
Neno balked. "I don't think I wanna have that
conversation, Gert." Which threatened to tip her balance again. It wasn't fair. Her ribs were
hurting from laughing. "I know I ain't touchin' nary another drop of yer homemade popskull, ever agin. I know that much!" that was too
much. Gert fell off of the bench laughing again.
Between gasps as she picked herself back up, Gert said "Stop that! Here I am trying to git in shape fer a serious confab, and you keep settin' me off
agin!" raising herself back on to the bench Gert reiterated "I said sit yer bony ass DOWN!" Neno sat. At the far end of the bench. His discomfort
threatened to send Gert off yet again. She hadn't had this much fun out of anyone in years.
"Relax, boy." Between giggles, she struggled to add "Whut's done is done. Cain't be UNDONE, y'know?" she wasn't about to let him off the hook. this
was too much fun. Nenothtu sat there without reply, looking like he was trying to draw up into a knot the size of a hickory nut. Gert reached over and
patted his knee. "I said relax. yer virginity's still intact, Freddy." That very notion set her off again, but all she had left was a series of choked
Gert wiped her eyes and continued. "You got a hangover?" neno shook his head. "Think about that, then - you really OUGHT to have one, oughtn't ye?" He
nodded. "Well, that's yer immortality kicking in. ye cain't be kilt, because ye heal too fast. what it is, is..." here she struggled to dumb-down the
concept enough that he could grasp it in a basic way. there was time for full realization later. there was going to be a lot of 'later'. "Whut it is,
is that you've been given a much higher dose of 'life-force' than the average mortal. that's all that sets you apart from them. You just can't die
because you have too much life in ye, and ye heal too fast. - everything else mortals are subject to is still in place in you. You can drown, you can
get shot, all of that, but ye heal so fast it can't kill ye, or if it does, you'll heal right back, all the way to livin'." She paused to let that
"I don't wanna live for ever, Gert." A simple statement.
"Doesn't matter what you WANT, it's what ye've got. You can either make of it a blessing or a curse. that's altogether up to you and how ye handle it,
but it is what it is. and it's non-refundable."
Pausing to let that sink in, Gert finally continued. "Now right now, you've got more pressing concerns. You've got ferever to mull over ferever, but
right now you've got to go through The Breaks."
"The Breaks? into the Badlands? What the hell for? I ain't lost nothin' over in that godforsaken patch of wasteland!"
"How should I know?" Gert replied. "The Sperits said you gotta go, so you gotta go. They generally know more'n we do, since they're everywhere at will
- ain't bound to this reality like we are. They told me yer needed over there, so yer needed. Besides, how 'godforsaken' can it be if a god walks
there again?" she said matter of factly.
Exasperated, neno said " well what am I supposed to look for, then? I gotta have SOME reason fer going."
Gert replied "they just said you was to go through The Breaks, then foller yer feelings" the old woman shrugged. She neglected to mention that his
'feelings' has been tweaked a bit, a natural response to the increase of the life force within him. No need to overload him with too much information.
some things just had to be learned as you went along. Gert cocked her head to the side as if listening to a distant sound, then added "They say it's
time sensitive, and you'd best get movin'."
"The Breaks - that's gotta be a fifty mile trip if it's an inch. Long walk for a 'time sensitive' mission that you don't even know the end point of,
nor how far the other side you'll have to go."
Gert responded with "You recall the Goss place down to Juniper Crick?" nenothtu nodded. "Well there's a Lynch family living there now, and they owes
me a horse and set of tack fer not 'lowin' his missus to die givin' birth. I never collected on it 'cause I never had a place to keep it here, but you
can go down there and tell 'em you've come to collect fer me, Then you just take that horse on. I'll not miss it iffen I never have it here to miss,
now will I?"
"Now you git goin'. I'll always be around here somwheres if you've got further questions or just need to yak through the centuries. Always here. The
place has grown on me, and forever is a long time. Can't think of any better or more peaceful place to spend it."
Nenothtu stood and started gathering his things as Gert disappeared into the cabin. As he was strapping the Caliburn sword across his back, she
re-emerged with a parcel "Hyar's some grub for the trail. Tain't much, but its parched corn an' jerky. It'll last ferever. It ain't like ye can starve
to death or anything, but it keeps the belly from growlin' and all manner of discomfort from visitng ye when it does."
Neno thanked her and set off down the trail towards Elder Gap, and the old Goss farm on the other side of it. Gert watched until he was nearly out of
sight, then called after him "Daddy says yer a-gonna hafta MARRY me now!" Then fell over on the ground laughing as neno picked up his pace into a jog
and disappeared. As he rounded a curve in the trail where it wrapped around a spur of the ridge, a bell tinkled in Gert's cabin.
edit on 2011/12/14 by nenothtu because: (no reason given)