New Friends #SampleSunday

Although this piece is based in the world of SAGE, my fantasy trilogy, there’s nothing supernatural in the excerpt I’m posting today. Maybe. Nothing obvious, anyway.

Brother Reticence has left the monastery, leaving behind his name when he went. The people of his country are pathologically xenophobic, and he’s suspect just because the monks guard the borders and have to deal with people from other countries! This story is made up of two of my 2016 Story A Day May stories, with additions and changes thanks to Southern Indiana Writers.

New Friends

excerpt from “A New Name For Reticence”
by Marian Allen

It amused him to accompany a blue-tailed lizard away from the stream. Since he had no destination of his own, he followed the flicker of bright blue against the greens of the sun-dappled grasses.

FlickerofBrightBlueThe sky was cloudless, so the rush of black shadow startled him. It seemed to startle the lizard, too, because it froze in place. The shadow passed, circled, and returned, and now memory identified the pinions of the wings and the fan shape of the tail as belonging to a small raptor. Dragonbane, the folk around his homestead had called the birds, because they ate lizards and small snakes.

He eased closer to the lizard, hoping it wouldn’t run into death, fleeing his protection. It remained motionless as he placed one foot on either side of it, shielding it from the predator with his inedible human shape.

The raptor wheeled away to look for better hunting. The lizard, as if wakened from a spell, scuttled into a crack in a pile of rocks.

And that was familiar, too. He had forgotten the rock piles long-ago people had stacked up as boundary markers. Meaningless now, but useful as homes for small defenseless creatures.

A meadow spread out beyond the marker. A figure rose from the wild millet and purple vetch and took an uncertain step. The white hair stringing out from its topknot and the white beard braided with glittering crystals signaled an old man who would be more in place at the fireside than wandering alone in an untilled field. He wore nothing but a loinwrap, woven in black, white, and burnt orange.

The old man fell, rose, staggered in another direction, and fell again.

The former Brother Reticence picked up his pace – running, as the bloody scrapes on the old man’s legs and hands became visible.

“Father Not My Father,” he said when he reached the fallen figure, “may I help you?”

The old man raised puzzled, despairing, frightened eyes.

“I’ve …. I’ve lost her,” the old man said, in a voice oddly strong for being so hesitant. “My One goat is lost. Have you seen her? She’s white, with black around her eyes and one black dot on the tip of her tail. She flicks it like this.” He flapped his hand.

“I haven’t seen a goat, Father Not My Father, but I’ll help you look.”

“Will you? Thank you! Thank you! The others won’t help. They tell me to stay home and forget about her. But she’s my One goat! Without her, the herd will scatter!”

Oh, the words, the terms, the ways of the lowland! He felt as his feet had felt the night before, plunged into refreshment and renewal! He was suddenly ravenous.

The former brother surmised he had come upon a cherished elder who had, after some attempt at dissuasion, been allowed to follow where his mind led him: into a productive past. His loss would be mourned, and his safe – though, no doubt, temporary – return would be celebrated. If the old man could be induced to lead them both to the family who had so lovingly combed and braided that silky beard, even a border keeper would be welcomed.

“We’ll find her, Father Not My Father. Give me food and drink, and I’ll search with you.”
“Of course. Of course. This way.”


A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: How would your main character deal with the dementia of a cherished elder? Not YOU, your main character? Your villain?





I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “New Friends #SampleSunday

  1. Dan

    June 19, 2016 at 8:02am

    Very nice. Life is puts us on a complicated path, with too many players to keep track of everything. Today, I’m focusing on the sadness within the old man.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 19, 2016 at 9:25am

      I hear ya, Dan. I’ve been spoiled by a good life, and completely understand the old man’s desire to undo unendurable losses.

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  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    June 19, 2016 at 5:02pm

    I saw ‘monk’ and was pulled in. Have been watching Firefly, and Ron Glass as Shepherd Book, and it made me nostalgic.

    I like ‘Father Not My Father.’ Very respectful.

    And I’m assuming if this poor old man dies alone out in the fields, nobody will care? If so, says a lot about a society – regardless of what an elder with dementia wants.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2016 at 8:40am

      Firefly is the BEST! 😀

      It says later in the story that it’s part of this country’s tradition that elders can be permitted to wander until they die rather than confining them, but his daughter keeps finding him and taking him home with her against his will. The former monk finds a happier solution.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    June 20, 2016 at 10:52am

    The problem is old enough so that it is in the Bible; humans have always had a few lucky enough to survive, but unlucky in that their minds wander.

    The resources needed to care for someone with dementia are huge, as I know from my mother’s care, and her mother before her. They are not always expended wisely or well.

    I hope we find a cure in time for her, but she is about to be 93 in four days, always said we should shoot her if this happened. If the alternative had been to let her wander the fields, shooting would have been much kinder. Wild animals, hunger, thirst, cold or heat, physical and mental discomfort – it this what a society gives to its vulnerable elders? There has to be a better way – there are a lot of people in that category.

    For that matter, those whose minds do not wander also need care. I can still mostly take care of myself, but already have mobility problems, and a long-time battle with the mental effects of CFS (one of the reasons I write is to keep fighting).

    You hit a nerve.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2016 at 11:45am

      My mom has mild dementia. So far, she still lives by herself with her cat, but I live next door and keep a very close eye on her. She isn’t prone to wander, but I know some seniors are. I will care for her as long as I’m able to do so to the best benefit for her; if she comes to need help I can’t provide, I’ll find a good facility or service for her and supervise that as carefully as I do her now.

      I haven’t “explored” the society where this story is set; it’s part of my fantasy’s world, but this is the first story set in this particular part of it. I suspect the number of elders who develop advanced dementia before they pass is relatively small, and the number who want to wander a small percentage of those, and the number who are allowed to wander minuscule. This particular man is about to be caught up to by his daughter and son-in-law because he is NOT allowed to wander until he dies.

      Not that I’m equating people with non-human animals (although many people, of course, do), but the number of people who dump unwanted animals in the country because they “don’t have the heart” to have them euthanized or don’t have the will to find them other homes is appalling.

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      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

        June 20, 2016 at 7:01pm

        I SO agree. I can’t believe someone would abandon a pet. All you really have to do is turn them in to a shelter – ours charges, a lot, but I’m sure they have a way to take the animals if you don’t have the funds.

        But then I can’t believe so many of the behaviors ‘humans’ engage in, from beating their spouses and children, to abusing servants, to – you name it, we’ve done it. Some of us, anyway. I don’t see how they sleep.

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        • Author

          Marian Allen

          June 21, 2016 at 7:31am

          My good friend and frequent commenter, Jane, cared for her mother for many years. Her mother did want to get out and go, and Jane moved in with her to keep her safe. Jane also cares for feral cats in the neighborhood. She works with an organization that catches them, spays/neuters them, and brings them back. I love listening to her tales of her mother’s happy-ending adventures and of the cats’ friendships and personalities. 🙂

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          • Jane

            June 21, 2016 at 10:25am

            Thanks. I love the time she picked the lock with a fork while I was napping in the other room. I got a call from a fellow around the corner, ratting Mom out. I ran out the front door just as they were driving up in a HUUUGE pickup truck. Mom, tiny wee Mommy, was sitting in the passenger seat, barely peeking up over the door, her elbow hooked over the edge of the window, grinning ear to ear, having the best adventure ever!

            The fellow plucked her from the seat and gave her back to me. Fortunately, a lady never leaves the house without her purse. Heh. So she always traveled with her retrieval info handy. How lucky can a sleepy caregiver get?

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            • Author

              Marian Allen

              June 21, 2016 at 10:55am

              Your mom was a terror and a wonder! She was amazing for as long as I knew her.

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