So, I have had a productive few days.
I finished the indomitable chapter that was pinning me down for the last two weeks or so. Already finished revising it, and started on the next one as well.
The next chapter, which closes out a pivotal section of the book, has been extremely entertaining to write. I remember sitting down and belting our nearly 2,200 words in a single session because of how in-tune I was with this chapter. A stark contrast from the difficulties I experienced with the one before it (although make no mistake, that was super fun to go through once it was done).
And, just as a check-in, The Sworn Defender currently clocks in at 70,737 words-- and I'm still (roughly) seven chapters away from the end. So, I have definitely shot past Prince of Azra's 60,000~ word count.
Anyway, I won't dag this bit on for much longer. I'm trying to continue practicing my drawing, as well as add more to TSD before I go to bed.
I had a lot of fun writing this piece, and, ironically, I feel Gabe and I both managed to touch on a similar theme.
Word: Ration. Provided by: Gabe.
Arthur brought a steaming cup of coffee to his lips and allowed a long sip as his eyes wandered over the camp settled just below the hill. They had been here, all of them, for almost a year: eleven months, twenty-two days, and three hours to his knowledge. Following the old calendar, Christmas would have soon arrived. However, whether or not the holiday would be honored was a moot point, as the spirit of celebration had long left the people.
The settlement was facing dire times as living conditions worsened, and as the bounties of the wild grew more and more scarce. Arthur knew that tragedy would soon raise its head if things continued as they did.
The door to his right clicked as it opened, and he turned in time to see Morgan enter the room.
Morgan was tall and heavily-built; he sported a bushy, unkempt beard, and long crimson hair that fell to his shoulders. His looks were often a subject Arthur used to tease Morgan, as his rugged appearance did little to convey the man's warmth and steadfast loyalty.
"G'morning, Arthur," Morgan beamed, "How did ya sleep?"
"Good morning, Morgan," he answered, taking a moment to drink more coffee, "As I'm sure you can already tell, I did not sleep well."
"Seasonal Depression?" Morgan asked, pulled an apple from a bowl behind Arthur.
"I-I'm not sure that exists anymore," Arthur replied, a bit stretched for thoughts.
Morgan didn't respond, but instead chewed at the apple as he approached the window Arthur had been standing in front of.
"Oh, I suppose I should let you know they came to a decision, as far as resource management and all that," Morgan revealed, "Or, did you already know?"
"No, I heard about the meeting, but I didn't… things are getting a bit rough down there, and I didn't want to see all that," Arthur explained, scratching at his neck, "And, anyway, I know you're always here. You can tell me what happened when I miss a development."
Morgan clapped his hand across Arthur's back as he smiled, a mouthful of apple bits poking out between his teeth.
"So, what was agreed to?" Arthur inquired.
Morgan looked at his feet for a moment and took a deep breath.
"Well... nothing good, boss," he sighed, "Winter's starting to pick up, and it's only gonna get colder. A lot of the homes we put together aren't fit to deal with that, and a lot of the furs and blankets and whatever we had before are falling apart. So, they're gonna take names and do a sort of lottery to form a party. Then they'll have to go out on an expedition."
Arthur shook his head slightly at the news.
"There haven't been any appearances of wildlife in weeks," he muttered, "They won't find anything worthwhile, not here. Maybe if they go as far as Pale's Ridge, but that's not a journey I expect anyone to survive."
"Well, I know that, and you know that, but people are stubborn," Morgan remarked, "Oh, and that's not all. They made a count, to see what was left as far as medicine and food, and it doesn't look like enough to make it through another month or two."
"And the plan for that?" Arthur questioned.
"They've decided to #ration the stockpile again, and they're setting up guidelines for which injuries get treated too. 'Not serious enough, no medicine; too serious that the medicine might be wasted, we'll pray for you' sort of deal," he murmured, "A lot of people didn't like that, but no one really argued. They've got their hopes pinned on some miracle, I guess."
Arthur stepped away from the glass and sat down, his brow furrowing as he began to think.
"So, what do you think, Artie?" Morgan poked, an expectant look on his face, "You're the leader here, you gonna flip that decision?"
"No, you know my stance," Arthur rejected, earning a surprised look, "This is a free colony. Anyone who lives within it can make their own choices and face the consequences that come from them. One lunatic in complete control of an entire population is what forced our world into oblivion. There are no more gods, Morgan, and there sure as hell aren't any kings."
"But what if the settlement collapses?" Morgan whispered, apprehension clear on his face.
"Then it collapses and fades into the pages of a book that can no longer be read," Arthur grumbled.
He spared a glance towards Morgan, and saw the man fidgeting with his fingers, worry spreading across his face openly.
"You'd best get yourself together, or you're gonna have a bad time when things go south here," Arthur pointed out, "I swear, Morgan, in all the years we've worked beside each other I've never seen you get so attached."
"They're different, Arthur," Morgan mumbled, "I've never seen people so determined to survive. So… unyielding in the face of doom. They're not like the other groups we've supervised."
Arthur pursed his lips as he walked away from Morgan and pulled open his drawer. He retrieved a small, rectangular tablet, and typed in a summary of what Morgan had told him. Then, when a new question flashed across the screen, he turned it over to his friend, and held it there.
"I'll let you answer this one, Morgan," Arthur muttered, "Go on."
He looked pained for a few seconds, but slowly reached out and tapped the screen.
"I know it's difficult, but our examinations are more important than anything else," Arthur told him, "Go ahead, take the rest of the day for yourself. I'll fill out the other logs."
Morgan nodded, a somber look warping his usually happy face, but said nothing as he stepped out of the cloaked cabin, and trudged down the hill.
Arthur watched him briefly before glancing back at the tablet. The question it had posed remained, "Chance of Survival?" but the lettering stopped flashing after Morgan input his answer: "Very Low."
I hope that came as a shock.
The Ranger, now going to write some more