And Now a Look at the Dao

Last night as I dozed off it occurred to me that I was laboring on the wrong blog subject. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted one and it has been a hell of a hard time writing it. Every time I get a handle on it, something happens and BANG! I can’t write anymore.

This is not writer’s block, at least not the way I define it. This has to do with being hoodwinked, bamboozled, and befuddled by fate. The universe directed me away from my planned direction and kept doing until … Well, here I am.

I have mentioned the name of the sequel to The Sigma Factor, but I haven’t given even a small example to entice you. So, here are a few words from The Dao Factor for your enjoyment. Without giving much away, the story revolves around the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and there is some back story to it. This portion occurs in the seventh century, somewhere in western China.

The Dao Factor — Chapter Two

“Chi. Wake now, Chi!” I barely heard the voice, but the rough shake woke me to horror. Thankfully I hadn’t collapsed into a full-fledged sleep and plopped onto the table. From that, my friend Wu had saved me. I shook the vivid memory of a dream from my mind.

The twang in the Master’s voice irritated even the air. “Li Chan? Did you hear me?”

As though the sound came from afar, my ears pulled me in the direction of the old man. He stood just under the roof and still inside of where the wall would be if we ever finished the building. His face turned towards me, and by the lamp, near him, I could better see his beak of a nose shaped like that of a hawk swooping to disembowel.

I sat up straighter. The old man will skin me if he suspects my nap.

The breeze carried not only the smell of cooking rice and fish stew, but the night soil used for fertilizer on the garden. The odors fought for dominance. The garlic lacing the stew made my mouth water, but the foulness of the human waste in the plant food spoiled that. I tried to focus on the food, not the stench. As a compromise, I concentrated on the rice paddy water with its sour but promising bouquet.

Next, to me I heard the constant tap of Wu’s feet on the dirt floor. The Master shuffled towards us and both the speed and fashion of his feet kicking up the dirt sounded like his bladder would burst any second. I tried not to snicker, but all old men have trouble holding their water.

The yellow morning sky made a silhouette of him as it illuminated the valley between the terraced mountainsides. I could not see the Master’s arms. They had to be tucked behind his back. I wanted to think his hands held the discipline stick behind him. Otherwise, they would be in front and under his robes, a quicker way to issue a punishing thwack.

Maybe the discipline stick isn’t with him. I liked that thought. Maybe he had hold of his own rod? He was an old man. I didn’t know if I chuckled or trembled at the thought. Yuck.

I could feel the man’s sharp eyes slicing into me. “I will ask again. Who, or what is at fault if an order has not been obeyed?” The pause in his speech cut more than the sharpness of the sound. “Li Chan?”

The man stood before the pair of us. His hands were indeed behind his back. Good.

I took a deep breath, meant to appear as a cleansing breath like we’d been taught, but it was really a stall. I’m sure it looked good. Then I answered. “Uh, the fault of the soldier.” I tried to appear confident. My eyes flicked to Wu and back, but the action did no good. Wu looked to the floor, possibly for a way to escape.

The only warning I had was the whistle of the rod just before the sting of the stick on my shoulder. My arm trembled, but I didn’t dare raise it.

“The first thing the commander must consider is his order.” That twang in his voice buffeted me. “Did he communicate the order correctly? He must re-issue the order clearly. After that, he will be sure It was not his fault. Once that is done.” His voice trailed away and I peered up at him.

His hook of a bird beak appeared to sniff the air as his black on black eyes focused beyond the school grounds. With what appeared to be a self-conscious breath, he straightened to his full height, a half finger breath taller than normal. His full attention now on a growing commotion near the line of trees that surrounded our compound, near the edge of the rice paddies.

I turned too. We all did.

It had only been half a week ago since our conscription, and we were only about twelve years of age. The only thing I knew was that I was now in a place of Yīnyáng, where fortune changes to the opposite of what it was at the whim of payment and repayment for things done or not done.

A large man backed into the clearing. He fought hard, but several soldiers forced him back. He was a huge spectacle, dealing death with each blow of his sword. He wore the armor of the kind I had only heard about, and to my unpracticed eye, it looked as if the cost had been great. I had taken many Kai Yuan to balance the scale of that merchant.

His enemies fought hard, forcing their way into the clearing. Arrows flew, some aflame, arcing high towards the huts.
“Disburse,” yelled the Master as he picked up his bow and quiver. With deadly arrows flying our direction, he stood still as a tree, fired twice before moving, and then ran not away but towards the fight.

Wu and I dropped to the ground, crawled through the open air school, and searched for a way to run the other way. The forest beckoned. The two of us were expected to fight of course, but we were new to soldiering. Two days, maybe three.

The battle grew faster than I could reach the trees. Masses of enemy poured into the clearing, this time from our side. My head spun to pick another direction but the motherless pig fuckers had surrounded us.

I grabbed Wu and crawled behind the burning oak tree next to the Master’s hut. The flaming leaves dropped on the roof, spreading their flames. Smoke was thick around the camp, dense enough for Wu and I to hide in, but it made both of us cough.

I stood at the edge of the smoke and was able to see the fight had turned into a slaughter. Other boys from our class were slaughtered, cut down equally with swords and flaming arrows.

The Master was valiant, never hesitating to kill in any way he could. Blood sprayed everywhere around him. For the first time, I smelled the mix of burning forest and flesh, with the sharp tang of blood and human offal over the top of it all.

Three of our friends managed to evade death, two wounded in their arms the last had a bleeding thigh. I waved them behind our smoke screen, and then I stepped out to encourage more to join us.

In the midst of all the screams and guttural moans, a wind gust forced a huge draft of the stench, this time mixed with shit. The carnage of everything almost overwhelmed us all. Some of the other boys puked. I could hear several retches behind me.

I turned to the boys. “Grab rocks and sticks. We have to attack.”

“I’m too scared.” It was one of the bigger boys, the one I thought to be the meanest. I saw where he’d wet himself.

“I don’t care!” Although it wasn’t quite a yell he could tell I meant it. I’d grabbed a stick with a jagged edge to it and held it like a knife.

“They will kill us,” whined another.

“They will anyway.” Then an idea seemed to whisper in my head. The enemy can’t kill us if we attack at the same time.”

“But–”

I stabbed the big boy in his stomach just below his ribs. It didn’t pierce him but he had trouble breathing. My eyes dared them all to challenge me.” After another moment while they stood in the midst of the foul sounds and smells, all of them bowed in understanding.

By now smoke billowed from the tree above right down the trunk, through the wood, and it had an odd brightness to it. Fire would engulf it soon.

I crawled to the edge of the hut and studied the battle. The Master now fought near the big man who defended himself as the point of an arrow into the battle. But the two warriors were about to be overcome. They hacked and stabbed as best they could, but I could see they were tiring.

I turned back to the boys. “Do not yell until we are almost on them. I’ll signal. If you can, grab a sword or arrow to use as a weapon. A spear would be great. A sword should aim for the neck, arrow the inner thigh, and spear the chest or gut.” I waved them closer to me. “Ready!”

I scrambled through the smoke curtain and the others trailed. “Go.” Although I yelled, it couldn’t be heard over the battle noises, so I ran back and stabbed one in the butt with my stick.

The tactic worked.

I used that same branch to slap every one of the boys in the shoulder or back as I returned to the front of them all. We attacked in a straight line like an arrow in flight.

No one noticed the band of boys sprinting across the compound. I snatched up first a spear and then an arrow that had been snapped in half. I bit down on the arrow and held between my teeth. The spear I held ready to stab. Wu grabbed a sword. One boy tried to pick up an ax, but it was heavy and he left it.

“Run!” I yelled and he snatched a knife instead.
The crash and bluster of the fighting men were so loud it hurt my ears.

“Attack!” I screamed as loud as I could and still keep the arrow in my teeth. We joined the battle as one, stabbing, slashing, and gouging the enemy. But no blood showed. We were like gnats on a rabid dog.

One man swiped his arm through the air and sent us all sprawling. I’d lost my spear, and my nose bled. “Get him!” I screamed.
I leaped to his back and stabbed at his neck, pushing the point down into his chest, but I could not pull the arrow free.

He dropped, blood covered me in spurts. I ignored the goop, pulled the man’s sword free, and slashed as hard as I could, not caring who I hit. The solid thunk of the blade in flesh jarred my arm and I pulled it free.

I don’t know what the other boys did, but in my mind, I knew what to do.

I’d found myself behind the man that fought the Master, and hacked a solid blow just below his knee. Blood erupted and he dropped. Another took his place. The Master slashed downward striking his attacker between the neck and shoulder just as I stabbed the man’s ribs. Before he could pull his weapon high again, the point of the Master’s blade dragged down my forehead slicing a deep cut. It burned like hell, but I continued on the attack.

The Master’s opponent fell, trapping my sword as he did, yanking it from my hand.

I grabbed a knife from the ground and attacked again, stabbing and gouging. I attacked the men around me until I reached the armored man the Master had gone to protect. Up close, the man was huge, grunting and stopping life with every stroke.

He shoved me to the ground and slashed the air above me with another grunt, and then his foot pushed me down again and he kept it there. His great weight bearing down, trapping me.

My ears told me the fight raged above, and I could neither fight nor escape. The stench of burning wood, bloody ground, and charred bodies filled my nostrils. And blood covered me head to toe while I lay in the muck.

The foot released me when two or three bodies lurched at the big man, knocking him to the ground. The Master too was down. The enemy swarmed.

I screamed for the boys to see if any yet lived. The sound of clubs beating the two men filled the battle noise.

I grabbed a club and whacked an attacker. From my left came another thunk. More pummeling happened around me. I took a club to my legs, crumpling me to the ground, but I was not done. On the way down I hit yet another enemy, this time in his balls.

Then the last thump.

 

Well, there you have a portion of chapter two.

Look for the entire novel soon.

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