Sword Called Kitten Serial

Gordon A. Long

Published by

Airborn Press


   Home      Issue #12 Blind!
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EPISODE 12

Blind!

 

 

"Hmm? " The trapper tried to raise his head and groaned. “Ouch! What happened?”

You fell.

"Hmm. Musta fell. Ouch! What's wrong with my leg?

I think it's broken. Just a little break.

"There's no such thing as a little broken leg when you're twenty leagues from help."

I mean, it could be worse.

"I'm having trouble thinking how."

You could have broken both bones. You only broke the little one.

"What are you talking about?"

The Cat sighed. "How many bones are there in the lower leg of a deer?"

"Two, of course. A big one in the front, and a smaller one in the back. Anybody knows that."

Fine. So it's the same with humans. You broke the little one. Down at the bottom near the end. It's not too serious.

"I already said it. Any broken bone is serious when you're alone out here. You just aren't listening." There was a pause. "Wait a minute. I thought I was alone. Who the hell are you? Why can't I see you? Damn, I didn't think it was that dark. Where am I?"

I'm afraid that's the rest of the problem. You hit your head, too. You're in the bottom of a creek bed, and there's plenty of light. Look up at the sky.

His neck craned upward, and he cursed again. "That hurt! I can't see anything!" He waved his hand in front of his face, and she could feel the terror rising. "Why can't I see anything?"

I told you. You hit your head. Sometimes that affects your vision. It ought to clear up in a couple of days, if you're lucky.

"Well, thanks, doctor, for the wonderful diagnosis. And what if it doesn't?"

I guess you starve to death. If you don't freeze first, or if the wolves don't find you.

The trapper slumped back in the snow. "You're not really there, are you? I really am alone. I've hit my head, and I'm havin' hallucitations, or whatever they call them. I'm injured and alone, and I guess I'm gonna die here. Well, at least I got a weapon. Where's my sword?" His hands groped through the snow.

I'm right where you stuck me, in your pack. No, over to your left, a little farther. There you are.

"Thanks." He hauled his pack over, rummaged through it. "At least I got some grub in here. Ah. There's the sword. Never thought I'd need it. Don't know why I even took the thing."

"You took me because I told you to. Your mind is really quite clear, you know. Lots of Inderjornese blood in your line?"

"Yeah, years back. My grandpaw was some kind of younger son, you know? Couldn't inherit, got into trouble, hit out into the mountains and never come back. Hey, that reminds me. Where's Ruffie? Where's m'dog?"

If "Ruffie" is your useless dog, Ruffian, he was the one got you into this mess. He went charging off after a rabbit so fast he knocked you off balance, and over the edge you went. I told you that pack was too heavy.

The trapper pulled off his mitt and wiped the cold sweat from his forehead. "Yeah, yeah, I know. But it's two days down and back, and if I took two trips…"

Well, you only took one trip, but it might have been a fatal one.

"I don't find that funny."

Probably not. So what are you going to do? Lie there in the snow till you freeze?

"No, I guess I'd better try and fix myself up. Where's that sword again?" Once more he ran his hands through the snow around him.

You don't need me at the moment, and if you paw around in the snow much more with your mitt off, you're going to have frozen fingers to add to your problems.

"My mitt! What happened to it!"

 It's on your right knee. You're blind, you know. You can't just put things down and forget about them.

The trapper found his mitt, tugged it back on. "By the Powers, I wish you weren't so know-it-all. Who are you, anyway? Somebody I killed, come back to haunt me?"

I told you. I'm your Sword.

"Whaddaya mean?"

I thought I spoke it quite clearly. I'm your Sword.

The man bared his hand again, felt her hilt. "Yeah, sure. A talking Sword. I'm blind and I'm hearin' things, and soon I'm gonna be dead. Well, let me tell you somethin', whoever you are. I'm not givin' in. I bin in tough places before, and I'm gonna fight to the end." He felt behind him. "I gotta find somethin' to put my back against, 'case the wolves come. I got good hearin'. I score on a couple of them, they'll leave me alone. Damn! Sure wish I had some firewood."

The Cat scanned the area. There's a big clump of trees downstream about ten paces. I can't see dead wood, only living trees, so I don't know if there's any firewood.

"Any clump of trees in a stream bed is willow, and a big clump is bound to have dead bits in the centre." He reached over for his pack, paused. "Wait a minute. How do I  know it's a big clump? How do I even know it's there?"

You know because I showed it to you.

"Yeah, sure. I'm gonna follow a hallucitate down a stream bed. Probably fall in, and then I'll freeze to death for sure. Better'n gettin' et alive by wolves, I guess."

You know, for somebody so smart, you certainly are stupid. You won't fall in the water, because there's no water between here and the trees. And if there was, you'd just have to listen for it. You're not going to be in any hurry.

"You said a piece, there. All right, here I go." He hooked an elbow through the nearest pack strap, dragged it to him, and tried to get to his knees. "Damn! That hurt. Only a little break, you say? Doesn't feel like it."

You're not going to be able to walk on it.

"I sort of figured that out. Go away and let me do this myself."

Whatever you say. I'll keep an ear out for wolves. Or a stupid dog coming back. Not that he's going to be much use. Of course, if he brings the rabbit…"

The trapper muttered and hitched himself along, dragging the pack and his broken leg behind him. "He never brings 'em back. He comes as far as the edge of camp and sits and eats them where I can see. Just to show off."

"Keep going. You're half way there."

"I've got to rest. Can't work up a sweat." The man panted. "Surest way to freeze yourself. 'Specially crawlin' around in the snow like this. My butt's startin' to feel damp already."

Take your time, then. It's still hours till dark when the wolves come out.

He swore again and hitched himself backwards faster. "Thanks a lot, whoever you are."

I told you who I am.

"Yeah, yeah. So if you're some kinda special Sword, howcum you're up here in the mountains with a trapper, 'steada out gettin' glory on the battlefield?"

Cat sighed. "That's a long story, and I'll tell it to you while your leg heals."

"If I live that long."

Well, you've made your first step in the right direction. Reach out your left hand behind you.

His groping hand found a willow trunk, and he began to search along it. Soon he had established the area of the clump near him, and he wormed his way towards the centre. A gasp of pain was followed by a shout of triumph and the crackling of breaking sticks. "There's a buncha dead limbs in here. Lots." He backed out gingerly, keeping his injured leg clear of the snow, an armful of sticks dragging behind him.

"Now, where am I gonna make my fire?"

There's a very steep pitch of bank behind you – right over…there – It even overhangs a bit. Might give you some shelter.

The trapper pawed around. "Yeah, yeah, that'll be great." He dragged the sticks and his pack to the bank, spreading everything just so, keeping track of where it all lay. With great sweeps of his arms, he dug the snow away from the bank, reaching into the hollow behind. "Hey, there's even some dead grass hangin' off the edge. This'll be great."

That's the spirit.

"All right. Now, how am I gonna light a fire?"

That's something I can help you with. Take off your mitts, find your tinderbox, and then put me across your lap.

"Me? You mean the sword?"

Yes, I mean the Sword. What's wrong with you? …I know, I know, you bumped your head. Just draw the Sword and lay me across your lap. Very good. Now just start making a fire like you always do."

"How do I do that? I can't see."

Just do it, all right? I can help you.

Now that she was in closer contact, she could extend his senses. Halting at first, but with growing skill, he laid out the fire in his usual pattern, carefully inserting a small piece of tinder into the heart of the small twigs. Cat refrained from any instruction, concentrating on his memory of the actions and the vague shapes that came to her from her surroundings. Normally she could get a very clear picture of where she was by putting together all the pictures in the human minds around her, but with only a blind man to help, this was much more difficult. However, they persevered, and he finally got the spark to jump from the flint into the tinder.

Blow on it! Blow! Gently now."

"I have done this before, Sword."

Sorry. I just got carried away. Not bad for a blind man.

"Wait a minute. Wait. What's that?"

Um…you're pointing at the fire? Yes! You're pointing at the fire! You can see it!

"I can see it! just a dull glow, but it's there. I'm not blind!"

Well, I wouldn't go quite that far, but it's a good sign.

The trapper carefully added larger sticks and the blaze grew. He stretched his hands to the warmth.

Want to do something about that leg, now?

The man grimaced. "Yeah, I oughta splint it, but it's not gonna be fun. I need some green sticks" He started to scrabble in his pack for the axe.

Not the axe. Cut with the Sword.

"Whataya mean? I ain't no hand with a sword. The axe is my weapon."

Just take my word for it. I'm very good at cutting.

"Well, you ain't steered me wrong yet." He took her hilt in his hand and began to crawl towards the willows. "Let, me see. I'll need about six, as big as my thumb…"

Over to the right. There. Now just swing.

"At what? Oh, yeah. I see them sort of. Is that my eyes coming back?"

No, I'm sending you the picture. Swing again. That's it. I told you I cut well.

Twelve swings and he had six neatly chopped stems. He hauled them back to the fire and began to lay them out beside his leg, muttering to himself all the while. Cat refrained from commenting, instead keeping the images flowing to his mind. When he didn't need her, she looked around inside his head. She easily found the injured area, full of blood and swelling. She could even see where the swollen tissue pushed against something like fine rope that ran from the back of his eyes. She prodded it a bit.

"Ouch! Damn, what was that? That hurt?"

She said nothing, but tried massaging the swollen tissue more gently, easing the pocket of blood away. She made little progress, and when he complained of the pain again she quit. Oh, well, Healing isn't exactly in my line of duty.

It was an awkward and painful task, but finally the trapper lay back, exhausted but satisfied. The willow wands surrounded his leg, stretching from half-way up his thigh to the sole of his boot, lashed firmly in place by a collection of rope, snare thongs, and trap chains.

Put your hand back on my hilt.

Without comment, the man did so, and she eased some energy back into his exhausted body. After a while, he sat up.

"Hey, that feels good."

I am not without my advantages.

He reached for his pack. "I could use some grub."

How about fresh rabbit?

She drew his attention to Ruffian, standing above them on the bank, a huge snowshoe hare dangling out of his mouth.

"Aw, he'll never give it up."

He is only a dog. Come here, Ruffie. She reached out and pulled. Whining with unease, the dog slid down the bank, his jaws firmly clutching his prey. She tried to get him to let go, but the instinct was too strong. Hmm. Maybe different tactics.

She sent a picture to the dog's dim brain. The dog giving the rabbit, the man making a fuss over him, and giving parts of the rabbit back. It took a while, but finally, reluctantly, the dog gave in. The Cat did not need to give instructions. The man showed his pleasure by voice and caress, and the dog lapped it up happily.

Yeuck. Dogs are so…dependent.

As darkness fell, man and dog lay curled together, stomachs at least temporarily satisfied, a reasonable amount of dead wood piled so that the man could reach it from his sleeping robes and lay it on the fire. She lulled the man into restless sleep with a soft purr. Swords do not sleep. She would keep good watch.