April 11, 2018

J is for Jiriya

        Jiriya had looked carefully at the maps of the North Region before she left.  She had not dared to take anything away from the map room, but she was fairly sure of her direction.  After all, it was easy to know west by the sun, and she had only to walk until she reached the river and then turn south along it.  She had learned enough from living among soldiers to know that she should go farther north than she thought right so that she would know to turn south at the river.  She walked confidently all day, resting frequently but not long as her legs and feet began to protest the unaccustomed exercise.
        At length she came to a tiny stream wandering between lashes of lusher grass, and she gratefully decided she had come far enough for one day.  The sun was low and darkening to orange.  The shadows of the bushes were as tall as the trees.  Jiriya turned to look at her own shadow, a dark strip like a ribbon of mourning blue laid across the orange-stained plain.  She chose a space between two bushes for shelter, and easily gathered a pile of dry twigs for a fire.  Then she crouched down with her flint to strike a spark.
        Jiriya had never lit a fire with flint before.  In Sisoa the fires are always kept burning, banked down overnight, in the ovens on the rooftops.  From having watched soldiers strike sparks in the North Fort she had widely misjudged the difficulty of it.  Again and again she struck her flint and steel.  Again and again.  Most of the time no spark at all accompanied the click of impact.  Half of the sparks she did strike disappeared at once or fell to the wrong side and not among the dry twigs she had gathered.  And those few sparks that did fall among the twigs simply burned out in a hair of white smoke.  Again and again and again.  Now the sun was gone and the plain was purple and grey and indistinct.  The rare sparks gleamed tantalizingly gold, but would not ignite the twigs, and it began to grow cold.
        Tears of frustration rose in Jiriya's eyes and she began to mutter aloud to the flint, "You have to work.  Just make a proper spark.  Please.  I only need one.  You have to work.  I have to have fire.  Please."  But she could not light a fire, and as the light darkened the night grew colder.
        She put on her cloak and held it tightly around her as she ate her bread.  The food stuck in her throat tightened by crying.  She pulled the thin blanket from her pack and wrapped in that, as well, and she wondered how she could travel such a long way with no fire.  She should not have put out her torch.  And her food would soon run out, and she was still on the edge of the desert where there might not always be water.  She had been a fool to think the journey
only a matter of walking. She had never been alone, never out of Sisoa or the North Fort.  She knew nothing of the land here, and hardly even knew why she had come, except that she didn't want to return to Sisoa and she wanted to understand Prince Oru, who died two hundred years ago.  Were these reasons enough to be cold, hungry, thirsty, alone, and lost?

        Jiriya from Sleeping Legends Lie, second book in a high
fantasy series for middle-school-or-so through adult (excerpt from Chapter IV).  More information here, or “Look inside” at Amazon.

[Picture: created by photoshopping from various models.]

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter J


Aidyl Ewoh said...

Oh, starting a fire with flint and steel is fun, and I've done it many times. Mostly though I "cheat" by also having cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly, and that makes it SO MUCH easier. ;)

Visiting from the A to Z Challenge https://lydiahowe.com/2018/04/11/j-is-for-jamming-a-to-z-challenge-2018/

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

The right tinder is definitely key. I hadn't heard of petroleum jelly, but that's really smart - presumably packs for camping relatively well compared with other flammables.

Melissa Sugar said...

I would’ve been out of luck completely. I couldn’t start a fire 🔥 with even if I had gasoline to pour on it. I’m not very resourceful outdoors. Nice writing.
Melissa @
Sugar Crime Scene

Kristin said...

I know she eventually makes it. Love the picture :)