The Young Sorceress – Chapter 6 Excerpt

The Young SorceressAs the warmth of the sun woke him to his fifth day on the island, Baxter felt a new sense of vigor. He had worked hard the past two days. A dozen hammers, twenty boxes of nails, four hatchets, two axes, twenty coils of braided rope, and the remains of an empty wooden crate seemed meager enough possessions, but it still took him an entire day to tote them piece by piece to the clearing. He had worked hard that day and had eaten very little, though thankfully he now had a plentiful fresh water supply.

The next day he had spent finding food. Eating the slimy remains of small crabs had sustained him during his first two days, but they were less than appetizing when eaten raw. Scouring the jungle had provided a great pile of coconuts and several different varieties of bright purple fruit. Some were tastier than others, but they all seemed edible. During the day he spied several species of large birds, all of which seemed unable to fly. He tried chasing two of them, but they were swifter through the jungle undergrowth than he was. He did however discover one of their nests, and within it two speckled eggs larger than his fist. He ate both of them raw, but determined to make a pot of some kind so that in the future he could boil or fry them.

The little lake in the middle of the jungle, perhaps one hundred yards long and almost as wide, was so clear that it was difficult to judge just how deep it was. Swimming within the crystal water were numerous fish and a few large turtles. It had formed in some kind of crater, probably volcanic, though the cool water indicated that there was no thermal activity below it at the time. There was a lip that ran around the edge, several feet above the water that would make it impossible to climb out of, with only a single exception. At the end closest to the ancient ruins, a set of stairs carved into the rock, descended down into the water.

The ruins were obviously man-made and resembled the remaining parts of old world Sumir, especially Donnata, rather than the reptilian constructions of Birmisia. A forty by sixty foot platform was raised some ten feet above the forest floor, reached on all sides by a dozen stone steps. Upon this platform were six thirty foot tall pillars and the bases and broken pieces of forty two more. There were also hundreds of pieces of broken stone that must have once come from a roof. Huge vines and tree roots were growing across the base and up the pillars, partially obscuring it. There was no mistaking that it was once a temple. The broken stonework was uniform enough, that Baxter reasoned it could be pieced together to form at least the walls of a shelter, though it would be a great deal of work.

Getting up from his sleeping place on the temple platform, he descended the stairs to the ground and then stepped down into the cool waters of the pool. Washing himself and his clothes without taking them off, he was in the water long enough that he started shivering. Climbing back out, he found a warm sunny spot in which to rest as he dried off. He wanted to explore the rest of the island, or at least the part of it on which he found himself. There had once been people here. Perhaps there still were. Primitives no doubt, but were they friendly or not? Before he could embark upon that task however, he had to set up enough food for at least a couple of days.

Baxter started by collecting more coconuts and more of the fruits that he found most tasty. The large and plentiful fish in the lake captivated him. But how to catch them? He had rope and toyed with the idea of somehow making a net, but set the idea aside as too time consuming. He could make a spear though. Almost all of the shoreline was easily accessible and he could launch spears from above the water. Cutting down a sapling tree, he trimmed it and then sharpened its tip using his hatchet. Using it to spear a fish was more difficult than making it. He followed the schools of fish along from the lip of the lake and threw his spear again and again. He didn’t hit anything and on the fifth throw, the spear drifted away from the edge of the water and he was unable to get it. He quickly went back to work crafting another spear.

Rather than risking his second spear, Baxter determined to find an easier spot to fish. He started through the jungle in the opposite direction from where he had found the lake, following a similar but different small stream through the forest. Several hundred feet from the lake, the stream widened to eight or ten feet and became less than four inches deep. Here Baxter found not fish, but crustaceans. Crawfish with red shells that were nearly as big as most lobsters, swam through the shallow waters. There were also fresh water mussels, but he left them until he had a pot to boil them in. The crawfish retreated to holes in the bank, but when he stuck his hand in one of the holes, the little beast clamped onto his finger and he was able to pull it right out.

It took him almost an hour to start a fire, but once he did Baxter was able to cook his crawfish in the coals. That night he feasted for the first time since his arrival, reveling in the taste of fresh fruit, crawfish, and toasted coconut.

Then next day, he put aside more food than he could consume in a day, and even managed to spear two fish. He also recovered the lost spear which had floated to the southern edge of the lake. On the day after that, his seventh on the island, using his shirt as a satchel to carry his food supplies, he started off in the direction of the crawfish shallows, but determined to explore as much of the island as possible. He had a hatchet tucked into his belt and carried an axe in hand.

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