The Boys of Lionshire

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: December 09, 2017

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Submitted: December 09, 2017

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I spend most every day on the edge of our encampment trying to stay away from the other boys that were orphaned here.  It’s not that I feel I’m too good for them; frankly, it’s the other way around.  They bully me a lot and I prefer not to deal with them along with the other hardships I deal with on a day-to-day basis.  Some say I’m a loaner.  I don’t think that’s entirely true, but I haven’t completely dismissed the idea.

I don’t have many skills I can contribute to the group, partly because I was raised for the first seven years of my life in a wealthy home with servants, and partly because I can’t learn some of the things the other boys know how to do because I keep to myself.  In ways, it’s a blessing and a curse.

I tried to build a fire once but only succeeded in knocking the tightly-woven pyramid of sticks down that one of the boys built.  I tried to hunt another time, but was nearly mauled to death by the wild boar I was pursuing.  I’m too weak to carry water in from the stream and too short to pick the apples from the small orchard to the south of the camp.  I feel pretty worthless most of the time.

I’ve been here for six years and haven’t made one friend.  I’ve tried and have had some promising beginnings to friendships with the new orphans that are dumped here, but once word of my reputation gets to them they stop hanging around me.  Even Freddy, the only boy shorter and weaker than me has friends.  But he has a skill that proved invaluable to the group as he can trap small game animals.

I wish I was more like Bastion, strong and handsome, skilled and popular.  He is the unofficial leader of our group of 28 boys and has been here the longest.  He’s also the oldest at 17.  I often wonder if age will bring me height and strength, but I haven’t changed much over the last six years.  Truthfully, I feel doomed to loneliness during every waking moment.

I often wonder if I’ll die here without having ever made a friend or developing a skill that would be valuable to the group.  Since I’ve been here, thirteen boys have died from accidents or were killed while trying to escape the large walls that keep us in.  I mentioned earlier that we were abandoned orphans, but the truth is, none of us really know how we got here.

I sat alone by my hooch, a tiny lean-to that I inherited after Tommy died when he fell out of a tree and broke his neck.  I tried many times to build my own hooch but failed miserably.  Tommy’s hooch was well constructed and it had served me well over the last six months.  None of the other boys blinked an eye when I quietly moved my few worldly possessions in to the shelter after the makeshift funeral service had concluded.

As I sat by my hooch, I watched the other boys fencing with crude swords constructed out of sticks.  I soon became bored with the shenanigans and began tidying up the dead leaves around my bed.  As I cleaned, the new arrival bell began to chime from the loudspeakers, startling me from my chore.

For a fleeting moment, I felt excitement for the new arrival.  After all, it had been nearly a year since the last new arrival came in.  The energy in camp quickly intensified and I could hear the buzzing from the other boys as they prepared for the new arrival ritual. 

“Boys of Lionshire”, Bastion boomed from a tree stump pedestal in the center of camp, “Prepare the welcoming fire for our new arrival!”

Several of the boys began to construct a large log pyramid next to the arrival throne in response to Bastion’s demand.  Within minutes, the pyramid was complete and Bastion barked other orders in preparation for the festivities.  Food had to be prepared, the obstacle course had to be cleared, rope had to be strung from the repelling tree, the pugel sticks had to serviced.  The ritual had become sacred in Lionshire with Bastion as the sole organizer for the routine.

As preparations continued around me, I wondered what the new boy would be like.  What did he look like?  Did he have any constructive skills?  Would he make it through the ritual unscathed?  Would he be my friend? 

As I pondered these questions, Bastion arrived at my hooch with Freddy and Alexander, his two most trusted companions.

“Aren’t you going to help with the preparations, Ian?” Bastion demanded as he knocked the leaves out of my hands.  “They’ll be plenty of time for cleaning up later.”

“Yeah!” yelled Alexander.  “You never participate in group activities.  The rest of the boys are helping while you stay over here by yourself.”

I was surprised at the situation I found myself in.  I’d never been invited to a welcoming ceremony before and I was certainly sure this one was no different.

“I’m sorry, Bastion”, I apologized.  “I didn’t think I was invited”, I said as I started to pick up the leaves he knocked out of my hands.

“You’re not”, Freddy bellowed.  Bastion and Alexander high-fived Freddy and howled with approval at their public humiliation of me.

“Some things never change, Ian”, Bastion said before walking back to the center of camp.

Alexander and Freddy stayed behind to humiliate me more. 

“Don’t come around the new boy”, Freddy threatened, “we don’t need you tainting him with your incompetence.”

“I won’t”, I assured the pair without realizing that Alexander had moved behind me and was on all fours directly behind my knees.

“Good”, Freddy replied before firmly planting both of his hands on my shoulders and pushing me back and over Alexander.

The boys in the center of camp paused to witness the assault and wailed with approval as I fell over Alexander’s body and crashed in to the corner post of my hooch.  The boys high-fived again and walked back to join the others in their coordinated preparation festivities.

I could feel the warm liquid seeping from the back of my head as I reach up to finger the wound.  I found a gash about an inch long where the cedar corner post of my hooch had pierced my flesh.  I quickly grabbed one of Tommy’s old t-shirts, wrapped it around my head, and applied pressure to stop the bleeding from the fresh laceration.

Bastion was right, some things never do change.  I had been the brunt of the joke since I arrived here and I was sick of it.  As I held pressure to my wound, I couldn’t help but wish the worst for the new boy.  I hoped that he wouldn’t be able to light a fire or hunt and that he would take my place as the camp idiot.  I hoped and prayed.

“Boys of Lionshire”, an unfamiliar voice thundered from the loudspeaker, “Line the walkway!”

In unison, the other 27 boys ran to their places on the walkway leading to the large iron gate that separated us from the rest of the world.  They brushed their hair back, straightened their clothes, and made final adjustments to their appearance in order to make a good first impression on the new arrival.

I made my way around the edge of the encampment to get a closer view.  I moved swiftly through the trees careful not to cause any noise that would draw attention to myself.  As I got closer to the gate, I climbed a small oak tree because I couldn’t see over the shoulders of the other boys.  Once I had a perfect view from the tree, I planted my feet firmly on a sturdy limb and anxiously awaited the 29th boy of Lionshire.

As the gate started to slowly open, I could feel my heart pounding away at the walls of my bony chest.  The others were chanting in unity, “New boy! New Boy! New boy!”  As they chanted, they stomped their feet and clapped their hands.  The atmosphere was truly electric.

When the gate was halfway open, I caught my first glimpse of the new arrival.  He was wearing a maroon hoodie with the hood cinched tightly around his head, blocking most of his face.  His blue jeans were faded and torn and his tennis shoes had holes in them and were covered with thick, fresh mud.  But what I noticed most of all was his physical stature.  Not only was he small, he was skinny and frail looking like me.  I sighed with relief as I realize that my hopes had come true.

Two hooded guards appeared from behind the gates and slowly ushered the new arrival inside the camp.  New boy! New boy! New Boy!  The chanting continued as the he slowly walked in between the line of boys and took his place near the newly constructed fire pyramid.

Once he stopped moving, the gates closed, sealing us off from the rest of the world again.  The boys left their places on the walkway and quickly surrounded the new boy.  They continued chanting as they locked arms and tightly encircled him, effectively shutting off any potential escape in the event he tried to run from the group.

I could no longer see the new boy from my treetop perch, so I climbed down to get a better view.  I found a taller tree closer to the human circle and carefully climbed as high as I could.  I could see the new boy standing calmly in the middle of the excited crowd.

Within moments, Bastion broke free from the human circle and took his place on the tree stump pedestal.  The boys continued to lock arms but immediately stopped chanting in preparation for our leader’s first announcement.

“Boys of Lionshire”, he began.  “It’s been one long year since the last arrival walked through our gates.  We’ve lost three in the past year due to their untimely deaths.  Let’s bow our heads in a moment of silence for those that have passed.”

The boys dropped arms, folded their hands in front of them, and bowed their heads in silence.  At this moment, I expected the new boy to sprint from the crowd and pound on the gate like they always did.  He didn’t.  He remained steadfastly glued to the center of the circle like he had always been part of the group and to my amazement, he also folded his hands and bowed his head in a moment of silence for the fallen.

“Let the new arrival ceremony begin”, Bastion announced after the moment of silence.  “We have much to do before the sun sets and brings us a new day!”

The boys cheered with excitement as Alexander and Freddy pushed the new boy towards the log pyramid.

“Your first test”, Bastion declared as he jumped off the stump and walked towards the crowd, “is to show us your fire starting skills.  The ability to start a fire is one that few have mastered, yet is of utmost importance.  Not only does fire keep us warm at night, it also keeps the beasts at bay as we sleep.”

Freddy stepped forward and handed the boy in the maroon hoodie a pair of sticks.  He stood there holding them for a minute before tossing them at the base of the fire pyramid.

“Well go on”, Freddy coaxed him.  “Start a fire unless you don’t know how.”

A chant soon began: Start the fire! Start the fire! Start the fire!

The boy slowly placed his hands in the air as if demanding silence from the group.  They obliged and the crowed hushed their chant.  I curiously watched in anticipation as the boy stepped forward and knelt before the fire pyramid.

Moments passed before someone in the crowd piped up.  “He can’t do it!” the voice yelled.  “He’s just like Ian!”

I smiled as the crowd roared with laughter.  I was finally going to find my place in the small community.  Either that, or make a friend with the new arrival.  I was giddy with joy.

As the crowd laughed, the new boy stuck his hand in to the pocket of his hoodie and pulled out a small object.  I couldn’t make out what it was, but it instantly silenced the boisterous group.

Within moments, I realized what the new boy was holding.  He lifted the lid to the item revealing the wick and in one smooth movement, thumbed the metal striker and caught the flint, spraying sparks easily over the saturated wick.  It caught instantaneously and flamed to life before all of our eyes.  As the flame flickered in the wind, he bent down and nestled the lighter next to the loose layer of kindling underneath of the fire pyramid.  And just like that, the fire pyramid erupted in flames and he had passed the first test.

“That’s cheating”, Bastion roared.  “Where did you get a lighter from?”

“It isn’t cheating”, someone else retorted.  “Can I have it?”

“It is cheating!” exclaimed Freddy.  “We can’t have cheaters in our group!”  And with that, Freddy stepped forward and pushed the new arrival deep in to the center of the fire pyramid.

The crowd stepped back as the maroon hoodie flared up and the new arrival fought the logs and pushed himself quickly out of the would-be fiery tomb.  Before the hoodie totally caught on fire, he threw himself into the dirt next to the bonfire and calmly rolled back and forth until the flames were completely extinguished.

As the new arrival climbed out of the dirt and dusted himself off, the boys began arguing between themselves about whether the use of the lighter was cheating or not.  By now, I had climbed down from the tree and moved to the edge of the crowd to get a closer look at the boy with the lighter.  I hadn’t seen a lighter in at least six years, and even then, I was never allowed to touch or play with one.

I wanted badly to get my hands on the lighter but the boy had already replaced it deep in to the pocket of his jeans.  As the crowd continue to argue, the boy grabbed the edge of his hoodie and pulled it up over his head.  The crowd paid no attention, but I stared at the boy in awe as he revealed a surprise bigger than the lighter tucked in to his pants pocket.

“It isn’t cheating”, the new arrival finally said.  “The task was to start a fire and I did.”

The voice was soft and high pitched, a far cry from the typical voice in Lionshire.  The new arrival had long brunette hair and a freckled face adorned with the greenest eyes I’d ever seen.  To say I was smitten is a vast understatement.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  He, was a she.

At that moment, the boys of Lionshire were no more; it was now the boys and girls of Lionshire.  The crowd gasped.  Bastion’s mouth hung open in disbelief.  Freddy scratched his head in a state of confusion.  Alexander just pointed.

“What’s the matter”, she said, “haven’t you ever seen a girl before?”

Stay tuned, there’s more to come…

 

 

 

 


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