“It wasn’t afraid of the water…” Jim realized, on the verge of panic. “It just can’t swim.”

A year ago, e-Veritas ran a four part series featuring the writing of 25366 Mike Shewfelt, whose fantasy novel “The Phaireoir Legacy” tells the story of College Cadet Jim Carmichael, and his journey on horseback from Kingston to Calgary and beyond. Now that Mike is back in Kingston, we’re picking up where we left off. Mike Shewfelt would like to thank Dr. Huw Osborne, RMC English Department, for his invaluable editorial assistance. A publisher for the novel is currently being sought.

Read the first ten chapters of the novel here.

THE PHAIREOIR LEGACY: JIM CARMICHAEL’S STORY, VOLUME ONE

BOOK ONE: BEGINNINGS

CHAPTER 11

A loon’s call woke him. Groaning, he rolled over, stumbled out of the water, and sat down on the shore. He cursed the bright blue sky and the cheery sunshine, his fist raised, his roar of rage filling the air. “Now what do I do…?” he yelled at the sky. His food was gone, his compass, his slicker, even the rest of his ammunition, all left behind when he abandoned his pack. And there’s no way I’m going back for it, he thought bitterly. The shadow’s still out there. Hell…it even got the book. He glanced at the sky. I don’t even have my hat anymore.

Shame and despair overwhelmed him as he realized how complete his failure was. The creature would find the book, of that he was certain, and then the sword was as good as lost. And so am I…I’ll never get clear of this, never get back to Becca. It’ll find me, too, before long. He gave into the despair, there on the river’s shore. His spirit was broken, his will to go on taken from him.

For three whole days he lay there, not moving, waiting for death to take him. Memories of Becca came and went, of the time they had spent together and of the plans they had made. His mind wandered further, slipping in and out of reality, thinking of the times he had spent with his dad in the bush, of the rides Rudy and he had taken together. Who knew it would end like this…? he thought bitterly. They’ll never find my body…or Rudy’s, either…Becca will never know… He wept. I’m sorry Becca…

He lay there through the rainy night, waiting for the end, and he awoke in the pale light of morning to something bobbing in the shallows.

Cout forced himself onward, moving as quickly as he dared while trying to hold on to Jim’s trail. Something had killed Rudy, of that he was certain. No tracks, no signs of a struggle, no nothing…and the rain the other night didn’t help. It couldn’t wash away the blood, though, he remembered. A large puddle of blood had leaked out from under the rock cairn housing the horse’s remains, and that was how Cout knew whatever had happened had been no accident. Something killed him…but what…?

He stopped suddenly, jarred out of his reveries. Something was different, something had changed, but he couldn’t figure what. He stood very still, rifle at the ready, eyes roving over the bush, the trail- Two sets of tracks. Long, narrow footprints, very shallow and hard to see, were interspaced among Jim’s moccasin tracks.

He knelt to examine them. Weird sonofabitch…big, from the length of its stride, but light as a feather…whatever it is, it’s moving in one hell of a hurry, too. He glanced at the odd deer track that still showed despite the heavy traffic. Must be some kind of animal using the deer trail…but what the hell is it…? Don’t look like no kind of animal I ever seen.

He walked on, following the trail, waiting for the strange prints to veer off into the brush. Animals often used such trails for travel over short distances, he knew, but when he had gone more than a mile and the prints remained he began to worry. By the time he had gone two miles his blood was cold. Whatever it is, it’s following Jim.

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It’s my hat…huh. Jim picked it up, shook the water off of it, and held it up. Becca hated this thing… he remembered. As much as she loved horses, the first time she saw it she thought it was the dumbest looking thing she’d ever seen… He smiled at the memory. She dared me to wear it to school for a civilian dress day…I did it, too. The memory triggered something within Jim, and he let out a long sigh. No fire, no food…and what, two bullets…? Winter’s coming on, and no clothes, and hell, not even – he reached down to where his knife was supposed to be, attached to his belt. Well, at least I still got that. He sighed again. It would be so easy to just let go, to slip away. He was already weak from lack of food and his exertion of a few nights before, and yet… Always try. Whatever you do, always try. If nothing else, just keep doing what you’re doing. Becca told me that, the week before Dad died, and all this started…when I didn’t think I could make the standard for the PT test, and I wanted to just walk away. She was right, too…I did OK on that test. Not great, but it was enough. Oh hell…I’m not gonna get anywhere just standing here.

He had no idea what he would do for food. A check of the rifle revealed three bullets, not two like he’d expected, but not enough to hunt and fight the creature. Hopefully it’ll take a while to get around that lake…cuz I ain’t going anywhere in a hurry. I’ll have to make a bow and arrows, or something, and I’ll need clothes… something to hold water in…definitely not going anywhere soon. If it does go around the lake, he realized with a start. What if it doesn’t…but wait, it stopped on the shore. Maybe the damn thing is afraid of water…? That has to be it…

A search of the shoreline yielded enough to berries and roots to take the edge off his hunger, yet Jim knew he would need more. They might keep him alive, just, if he was lucky, but he’d never survive the winter on that fare alone.

He hunted for dry kindling, looking at the base of trees where it was more difficult for the rain to get to, and he gathered what he could. Returning to the shore, he gathered in large sticks and kindling, and then sat down to think. Now…how to do this…no matches, no nothing. This could take a while…at least I got nothing better to do. He chuckled to himself. Can’t magnify the sunlight…the only way to do this is the ol’ rope and stick method, but I haven’t even got rope. No shoe laces, either. I could cut strips off my clothes…but they wouldn’t be strong enough. Huh.

“So much for that idea…” He got up and headed into the bush, hoping for a little inspiration. OK, genius, he thought, think. Now what do you do…? There has to be some way out of this mess… if I could get a deer that would help. So the question is, how to get a deer…? Only a few bullets…what about a spear…?

It took him only a few minutes to find what he needed, a long, stout stick, lying on the forest floor. Taking it, he headed back to shore, and picked up another he found on his way back. He sharpened one end of both of them with his knife, and then, after drinking as much water as he could, picked up his rifle and the spears and was on his way once more.

He saw nothing that day, not even tracks. And on the second day, even the berries failed him. On the morning of the third day after leaving the lake, though, he struck gold.

Crouched in the brush on the shore of yet another lake, he starred across the water. There was an island out there, a small one, right where the swampy shore of the lake dropped off into deeper water. I could swear something moved out there… he thought, gazing intently at the island. He waited. There! It moved again. A deer…no, wait…two deer…His stomach growled. Oh jackpot. I’ll only get one of them, though. Can’t reload fast enough to get both. And I can stay on the island for a while, without fear of the shadow…have a fire, make a better spear…hell, more than one spear…gotta have something in reserve… He set those thoughts aside, commanding himself to relax. None of it would happen if he missed the shot. Using a tree branch for support, he took careful aim. The larger of the deer, a buck, raised its head, and Jim, knowing by some instinct that the deer was about to move, fired.

He was lucky. The other deer, a small doe, fled through the swamp, but the buck dropped, a bullet in the heart. Jim crossed to the island, where he immediately began to butcher the animal. Ravenously hungry as he was, he refused to eat the meat raw, and he commanded himself to take his time. He buried the offal on the shore of the lake so as not to attract predators, and then had a brainwave. He picked up two rocks, smashed them together to ensure they would spark, and then set about making a fire.

It was slow going, and by the time he had it going it was well into the night, yet it was a fire, his first in more than a week. He broiled half the meet, planning to smoke the rest, and when the meet was done, he wolfed it down. For the first time in weeks he was content. Food, a fire, and finally, a place where that thing can’t get to me. I’ll stay here for a few days, I think. Have to smoke this meat, see about making a bow and some arrows, harden the spears in the fire…but all that can wait til tomorrow. Tonight I sleep. Fire blazing beside him, he went to sleep, secure in the knowledge that for the first time in a while, the shadow couldn’t reach him.

His fire had barely had time to burn down when a shriek of anguished vengeance sounded from the lake shore, chilling Jim to the core and shattering his feelings of safety. Oh shit… In a flash he grabbed the rifle and disappeared into the shadows at the edge of the brush.

His heart pounding in his ears, he scanned the shoreline. The night was dark, yet there was a sliver of moon, and Jim peered into the darkness, cursing himself for looking into his fire and ruining his night vision. He strained his eyes, searching frantically. Where the hell is it…? Then Jim’s heart leapt into his throat. For there the creature was, not on the shore line at all, but wading through the shallow water. It wasn’t afraid of the water…Jim realized, on the verge of panic. It just can’t swim.