Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (12-ending)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 12 - Ending

One spring day, just a week away from the Anniversary, Stuart was in the town square, just sitting and talking with Jessica, when the familiar tune breezed by his ear.

‘I hear the band far away, far away, far away…’

It was strange, none of the children had come screaming that Andrew had arrived. A few of the other adults sat up and looked around, gathering in the town square to greet their returning townsman. Big D and Little D sauntered in, a line of children in tow. Soon, the whole town, without an announcement had gathered together. Nobody knew exactly why or how they knew to come. They just came. Solemnly. Something serious was going to happen. Even the children sat quietly. Just waiting.

Then Andrew limped in, with his usual style, various bags hanging off his person, still singing.

‘I hear the band far away, far away, far away…’


“Spyri. Jess. Big D. Li’l D. Maria. Everyone,” He nodded. “Nice day today, isn’t it? I’m glad to see everyone’s here so that I can get down to business.”

There was silence. Nobody spoke a word. There was no need to.

“I just wanted to come home and thank everyone. I’ve never really thanked any of you properly and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me be me.”

“Get to the point, Gympi or I’ll knock you over,” growled Stuart.

“Not if I knock you over first,” was the retort. “Anyway, Spyri, all my books are yours. All my belongings still here are yours. You do what you want to do with them. Put them in the war museum or whatever you want. They’re yours now. You and Jess, live long and happy.”

One by one, Andrew turned to those he loved, standing around him and told them where to find an item he was bequeathing to each of them and wished them well.

“What’s going on, Gympi? Why this all of a sudden?”

“You’ll see,” said Andrew looking to the town’s edge. “Use your ears if you know how to use ‘em.”

In the quiet, all the townsfolk turned to see what he was looking at. A soft breeze blew and birds sang in the trees. They turned back to look at Andrew, but he was gone. Then they heard it. In the distance. A refrain.

‘I hear the band far away, far away, far away…’

The tune was not sung, but was trumpeted by a military band that marched over the hill, instruments shining in the sun and into Thistlowood, wearing the stiff dress uniform of the people they had once fought from across the border. Leading the band, were six soldiers, immaculate in step and bearing a wooden coffin, draped over with the flag from across the border. Before them marched the now old Commander-in-Chief and Major Peneer who had since become a Lieutenant General. Behind the band, followed a large crowd and news people bearing cameras.

The people of Thistlowood were stunned.

“We are here to return Gympi, also known as Andrew Cotton, to his beloved town of Thistlowood and to surrender his will to the Mayor Stuart Mendleton, also known as Spyri. Gympi told us across the border that he never told you of what he did during his wanderings and we are here to complete what work he has spent his life doing. Today, here in Thistlowood, we will sign the very treaty he helped both our countries create. It will be his legacy and enshrined here in the war museum, with the Mayor’s permission.”

Stuart could only nod his assent, stunned. Andrew was a hero of two countries? How had he kept them from knowing? Why had he kept it secret from them? That boy had to have been raving mad. Absolute nuts. But it wasn’t surprising. It was just like Andrew to steal his thunder and become something greater than he would ever be… and let him find out at the very last minute. There was no bitterness in his thoughts.

“Andrew’s last wish was that we sing his happy song. All of us together.”

The band struck up an introduction and the people of Thistlowood looked at each other, recognising the song. Lifting their voices, the melody meandered upon the air streams and echoed off the hills, while two nations looked on.

“Sun a-shining in the sky,
Looking down on happy flowers,
Watching laughter,
Bathed in warmth,
Singing, dancing,
Wind a-breezing through the trees,
Tickling leafy boughs,
Oh, that life would ever be,
Full of joy and song.”

This ends the Legend of Spyri and Gympi

Written by Korallieam 2009/2010

I'm sorry to have put so many postings all at once. It'll clog up people's reading feeds. I apologise. I had forgotten about posting the rest of the story up. This story is a little rough, but I like it all the same. It's not likely to go anywhere and now that it's written, I want to be able to share it. Maybe one day, I'll have enough experience to polish it up so that it shines, but this is the best I can do with it at the present.

I have another story I would like to share with you all. It's a speed-written story. I wrote it in about 16 hours from 9.30am in the morning to 1.30am on 10/06/2013. I won't put it up for a while, but just giving you a heads up.

From memory, Spyri and Gympi is a speed written story too, but I wrote it over several days.

Both stories come from story dreams that I wanted to write down when I woke up. The fact that the stories came from dreams may account for some sections that people may find irrational or incongruent. I tried to iron everything down so that it'd read smoothly, but as any writer knows, it's not always easy to see your own mistakes.

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (11)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 11

After his operation, Andrew joined Stuart and Maria, living with the two D brothers in the new house they had built over Stuart’s old house. Learning to walk again, even with the help of the two brothers and Stuart, was difficult for Andrew. The operation had been unable to completely fix his legs and so he would always walk with a strange, tilting gait. Occasionally, the old pain would return and Stuart would be the first by his side to support him if he needed it. Andrew never needed to say anything and most people wouldn’t even notice that he was struggling, but Stuart would. Stuart and Maria said it was the slight deepening of the scar lines on his face, but nobody else ever seemed to notice.

Having Big D and Little D as permanent fixtures in the town boosted the town’s work force, because there were few men left and everyone agreed that they did a good job taking care of all the war orphans. Slowly, slowly, the town returned to its former busy self – that is if you didn’t include the shadow that lay across the town every anniversary of the Night of Burning. Every anniversary of that day, all the children who Spyri had saved, led by Stuart and Andrew, would walk a circuit of the town, stopping at the plaques of brass fixed on the new buildings that had been built over the foundations of the old. They would recount the stories of the mysterious Spyri and Andrew would smile. Nobody called Stuart ‘Stuart’ anymore, everyone called him Spyri. He was the town’s hero.

The town grew. Time passed. The children became adults in their own rights and Stuart was unanimously voted by all the town’s folk as the next mayor for 12 years running. In history, he would always be remembered as Mayor Spyri, the mysterious shadow saviour of the children of Thistlowood and in the shadow of his name, would be Gympi, Jessica Frilby and the two D brothers, besides the long lists of those who had perished in the fires of the Night of Burning.

True to his word, Andrew left on long journeys to go travelling to far and distant places, never telling anyone, but Spyri when he was going. He never told them where he was going either, but when he returned every few times a year and almost certainly every Anniversary, he would be a favourite with all the children of the town. Not to mention quite a few of the adults who had not forgotten his songs and stories. When he returned, children would fly into the town, shouting the words to the tune ‘I see the band far away’. Every time he returned, he would bring with him surprises, toys and presents that would delight both young and old, but most of all, he would bring with him new stories and songs. No special town event was right without Andrew and Stuart did not begrudge him the attention when he came home.

To Stuart, every time he saw Andrew, he felt sad. It was like his best friend was slipping away, just like the shadow he’d been during the early days of the war. Somehow, Andrew had convinced Jessica, whose heart had been set on him, to look to other places and guided her to Stuart. Although Stuart had sent messages everywhere he could think of, he’d been unable to find Andrew and invite him to the wedding… but somehow, Andrew had known and been there in the front row to see the happiest day of his best friend’s life.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (10)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 10

The buses with the rest of the children and all the girls were returning today. The boys were just as excited as any of the parents to welcome their sisters home, despite all declaring they’d be glad never to see their annoying faces again. Big D was all ready for seeing his little brother after the 3 months he’d been away.

“There’s the bus! There’s the bus!” boys shouted, jumping up and down, jostling one another or pushing each other onto the road in their eagerness.

Spyri stood at the back of the crowd, remembering his family that he would never see again. Beside him stood Gympi, as quiet and thoughtful as ever, while Big D hopped from one foot to the other trying to see through the dark windows of the coach that had drawn up by the curb. It was funny to see Big D so excited. The girls tumbled down the bus into their waiting brothers’ arm.

“Therese, Therese, over here! Over here!”
“Big D! How are you, man?”
“Li’l D! How was the trip? I missed you, bro!”

The two boys standing with their backs to the brick wall of the school building watched as families were reunited and tears were shed over the realisation that someone was missing for good. Then both noticed one tiny little girl, only about four years old, wandering dazedly amongst the hugging, crying and laughing children.

Spyri walked forward to greet her, remembering vaguely that her name was Maria. Her family was all gone too. Some homecoming it was for her. How was anyone going to tell her that her parents and brother had died during the war?

“Do we know anyone related to her? I think I was distantly related, but I don’t know…” he said.
“She’s your cousin Brolga’s daughter,” said the firm voice of Gympi beside him.
“How do you know?”
“I don’t know. I remember seeing it on a registry once. Anyway, she’s your relation. You’ve still got a family after all.”
“Yeah,” said Spyri in a voice of amazement, squatting down to say hello to little Maria properly. “I still got family after all.”

Watching everyone celebrate was making Gympi tired and anyway, the sun was hot. He stumped off, wondering why he couldn’t think of a single song or tune at the moment. Passing by Jessica’s window, he saw her wistful face set toward where all the noise of the reunions was coming from and felt a pang inside him. She wanted to join the other children, but couldn’t. Not since the soldiers had broken her legs. He of all people, knew what that felt like.

“Hey, you! Gympi!” Stanton had seen him and hailed him.

“Yes, Mr Frilby?” Gympi stopped tiredly, wishing there was some nearby shade to pause in. The sun was making his headache throb more than usual and all he wanted was to lie down and rest.

“Let me have your crutches.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Frilby – ”

“You’ve seen her staring out that window. Those crutches are her only chance to get out into town and see people and things again. You can see how thin and pinched she’s getting. Let me have your crutches for my Jess.”

It seemed that the grocer was feeling particularly adamant today and Gympi had no patience to play the game out. His headache was making him dizzy.

“No, Mr Frilby. I’m sorry. Excuse me, I’ve got to go,” and with that, he swung himself away down the hill.

“Wait, Gympi! Wait!” Stanton’s patience snapped. “Fine, be like that, you selfish brat! Stuck up boy! You’re only thinking of yourself! You don’t want to give me those crutches, fine! You’ll get no more food from me until you give my Jess your crutches. You hear me?”

Ignoring the shouts, Gympi swung his way home, feeling more and more sick. What kind of man was Mr Frilby anyway? A desperate man, one part of his brain told him, but he didn’t feel like pitying him. Collapsing onto the cardboard of his makeshift bed, Gympi wearily contemplated what should be done. Surely someone could get crutches from somewhere for Jessica.

With night, came the cool change and evening breeze, which soothed the pain in Gympi’s head. He slept soundly and didn’t wake when a dark shadow crept into his shelter during the night and took his crutches.

Morning came and Gympi automatically reached for his crutches. They weren’t there. Pulling himself into a sitting position, he looked around. No crutches. His eyes fell on the food at the entrance and he wiped his sweaty forehead. The grocer had taken his crutches. He should feel angry, but he didn’t. Instead, he vaguely hoped Jessica would like the crutches and wondered why he felt so hot. The sun wasn’t even up properly yet. He’d have to learn to walk by himself, but right now, there was the picture of a small cave in the hills floating in his mind. It was so vivid… and he knew exactly how to get there. Since he didn’t have his crutches, he’d have to crawl the distance. Why he had to get there, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he had to find that cave and he would know. But what? Gympi dragged himself out into the dew of the new morning, having forgotten about the food and water, thinking only of reaching the cave he saw in his mind.

Big D frowned. It was the second day Gympi hadn’t turned up for school and he’d never missed a day since school had opened. Nobody had seen him since the girls and Little D had come home either. Where was he?

Beside the huge soldier, Spyri also stood at the gate, wondering where the boy he’d gotten used to seeing nearby all the time had gone. It was obvious that every movement he made was made in pain and yet Gympi still tried so hard, was always ready to help, even if he couldn’t do much. He was some boy.

“Maybe he’s sick,” offered Little D.
“Then we should go visit him. If he’s sick, he’ll need help. Anyone know where he’s staying?”

The other kids shrugged.

“He lives halfway down Feathertop Hill in that burnt out house with the collapsed roof. I’ll take you there if you want,” said Spyri.
“Thanks, Spyri. Once everyone’s settled, we’ll go pay him a visit. I hope he’s all right.”
“That’s our Spyri for you,” said one child watching admiringly.
“Yeah. He knows everything!” exclaimed another, bringing a dark flush to Spyri’s face.
“He’s our hero.”

Spyri was still getting used to all the praise he was receiving. The affection all the children had shown him when his face had been revealed to them had been overwhelming. It felt strange, yet nice in a way. He’d never set out to be a hero and anyone who knew who he really was would have never thought that he would one day be a town hero. Before the war, anyone who had mentioned the possibility would have been laughed at. At that time, all anyone ever had to say to him were insults or to ‘get lost’. He’d only ever been a nuisance and a bully and he was glad that nobody recognised him now. Spyri was a good character to be. Better than what he’d been before. He remembered Andrew’s words. Could he really become mayor one day?

Sometime later, Big D and Little D sought him out from where he was trying to make a ball out of rubber bands other children had been collecting.

“Hey, Spyri, let’s go find Gympi.”
“Spyri and Gympi,” mused Little D. “It kinda rhymes, don’t it?”
“Yeah. Kinda, not really.”
“Makes you wonder sometimes whether someone will write a story about it one day.”
“Yeah. I sure hope Gympi’s home.”

“Here. This is where he sleeps.”
“Hello? Gympi?”
“Knock, knock. Anyone home? It’s Big D, Li’l D and Spyri. Is it all right if we come in?”

There was no answer and Big D peered into the entrance.

“He’s not here. Some food by the door.”
“Frilby’ll have left that.”
“That’s yesterday’s food.”

“You got some sharp eyes there, Spyri. True. That’s yesterday’s dosh. So Spyri hasn’t been here since the girls and you got back, Li’l D. What do you reckon?”

“Something like that.”
“Frilby was yelling at Gympi that day, so I heard. Do you know what about, Spyri?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t hear it. It was probably about the crutches. Mr Frilby wants Gympi’s crutches for Jess, but Gympi can’t get around without the crutches either.”

“Let’s go pay the grocer a visit then.”

Big D entered the grocery with his brother and Spyri in tow.

“Morning boys. What can I do for you today?”
“Have you seen Gympi around lately?”
“No. Why? He missing?” was the feigned concern they received.
“Yes. The food you left for him yesterday wasn’t touched.”
“Oh. That’s a surprise,” said Stanton Frilby with unimpressive nonchalance.

Big D loomed over the grocer.

“Where is he?”
“Where is he? How would I know? I’m not his father.” Beads of sweat dotted the man’s nose.
“You leave him his food everyday,” said Spyri. “You went this morning and saw yesterday’s food still there, so you didn’t bother.”
“It’s not my problem if he doesn’t want to eat.”
“You know something you’re not telling us. What is it?”
“Nothing. Nothing! I swear!” Perspiration broke out on Stanton’s forehead.
“What is it, Frilby? Where’s Gympi?”
“I don’t know!” came Stanton’s voice in a squeak. “I don’t know where the blasted kid is.!”
“Dad? What’s going on?”
“Nothing, Jess. You just stay in the room and rest.”

“You’ve been telling me to get out of bed since Gympi gave you his crutches for me,” Jessica entered the shop, shaking with exertion as she gingerly made her way in. “Why should I stay in the room? I’ve been stuck in there for months!”

Big D, Little D and Spyri stared at Jessica.

“What’s wrong?”
“Gympi gave you his crutches?”
“So Dad said. Something about him making his own. Why, is he missing?”
“Yes. Gympi’s gone. Yesterday’s food is still there. From what we can tell, he’s been missing one day already.”
“Nobody’s seen him?”
“Not since the other day when the girls came home.”

“I saw him just outside that day. Dad said that he wouldn’t give him anymore food if he wouldn’t give me his crutches. That was rude of you, Dad.”

“I just want the best for you, Jess. He wouldn’t give me the rotten things anyway. Didn’t he know you needed them more than him?”

“That’s not true and you shouldn’t have said that. He needs them as much as I do, probably more, because he’s always in so much pain. Anyone can see that. I’m not too bad. Anyway, the crutches were here yesterday morning when I woke up. Dad had already gotten up by that time for the morning rounds, although he’d gone to bed late the night before.”

“Where were you that night, Frilby?”
“Doing stuff! I get stressed and everyone spits on me when I pass them nowadays. A walk in the dark calms my nerves.”
“I saw you near Gympi’s sleeping place.”
“I didn’t go near the place, Spyri. What were you doing up so late anyway?”
“You said you’d gone to Feathertop Hill, Dad.”
“Jess, you’re mistaken. You heard wrong,” sweat trickled down the grocer’s chin and the shrill in his voice was a dead giveaway.

“Dad, you do know something, don’t you?” asked Jessica quietly. “Gympi would never give me his crutches because he can’t walk without them. What did you do to him?”

“Nothing! A man can’t go about looking after his own daughter in this town without everyone accusing him of murder?”
“No one’s said anything about murder yet, Frilby.”
“That’s what you’re all thinking. I can see it in your faces. He gave me the crutches, because we had a deal. Crutches for food.”
“That’s mean,” said Spyri. “He’s got nothing but the crutches and you took them anyway.”
“Dad,” said Jessica slowly. “You didn’t steal the crutches did you?”

Stanton Frilby looked at his daughter in shock, stumbling back a little on his walking stick.

“S-steal? No! I’m an honest man, I am. How can you suspect me of such a crime, Jess? I’m you’re father, for goodness’ sake! Everyone thinks the worst of me. Even my own girl is against me now!”

“You stole them,” Jess said flatly, looking into her father’s desperate eyes. “You did. Now Gympi’s gone and we don’t know where. Did you even notice that he might have been sick? He didn’t look well the other day.”

“I did it for you, Jess! Everything I did, I did it for you! Yes, I took the crutches, but he doesn’t need them. See, he’s gone and disappeared on us, so that you can use them. He can get around without crutches. He was just pulling one over everybody’s eyes. Only I could see he was faking it!”

The clatter of crutches falling to the floor brought the distraught man to his knees.

“Next you’re going to tell me you killed him. Spyri, please help me to my room.”
“Certainly, Jess,” Spyri held out his arm for Jess to take.

“I didn’t kill him! I don’t know where he is! I only took the crutches while he was sleeping. I left him his food. I kept my side of the bargain. He was gone by the afternoon, I checked! Believe me, Jess, please, believe me. I didn’t hurt him. I don’t know where he’s gone. I’ll do anything, only believe your old man, Jess. Please. Don’t leave me alone. Don’t leave me.”

“You only took his crutches,” Jessica didn’t say anything else, too upset by what her father had done; at how selfish he was. She knew he loved her and that he’d done it for her, but to steal the crutches from a boy that really needed them more than she did when he was sick… could she even forgive her father for that? It was bad enough that the whole town saw him as a traitor, but for them to also find out that he stole from children? A man with no principles, no scruples – so selfish he’d do anything to survive. They’d have to leave town. She would be punished along with her father for something she hadn’t done. Mother would never have let him do something like this. Why couldn’t her mother still be alive? Why?

Big D, Little D and Spyri left the grocery after making sure Jess was safely in bed. They felt dirty, as if Stanton Frilby’s low sense of morals had rubbed off on them. Anyway, they couldn’t stand the sight of the skinny man kneeling by his daughter’s bed, blubbering and begging for forgiveness. The crutches lay forgotten in the doorway. They believed that the grocer didn’t know where Gympi was, but that left them back at square one. Where was Gympi?

They searched the town and Spyri, all the hiding places he could think of, whether Gympi would have been able to get there or not. When the two brothers had to stop looking and return to dismiss school, Spyri kept on looking. When the brothers and other children came to rejoin the search, Spyri’s search had taken him into the hill sides.

“He could be anywhere,” said Li’l D glumly.
“For all we know, he’s sitting some place watching us and laughing,” said Big D, not believing a word he’d just said.

None of them could bring themselves to say that he could be dead. They just kept looking and hoping. Hoping the brave, determined boy with the crooked legs who had travelled all the way from Murnabeem just to get home, would still be alive.

By the trunk of a scraggly tree, Spyri noticed some drag marks in the bare dirt there and followed it up the hill.

“Found something, Spyri?”

Wordlessly, Spyri pointed to the impression of a hand clawing its way through the dirt and followed the trail of subsequent flattened grass. The brothers followed him, scouring the ground with their eyes for further signs. They lost the trail a few times, but would soon find another mark nearby to help them on their way.

The sound of a groan and a string of mumbled words made them stop and look around. Where was the sound coming from? There was nothing but grass and trees beyond those bushes and they couldn’t see anyone or anything unusual around the thin leaves. Nevertheless, it was the only cover that anyone could hide in around here.

More mumbles drifted to them on the breeze and they brushed between the bushes to find a little dip and a small cave between the roots of one of the trees. In the shallow cave beneath the roots, they could see a small figure. Big D immediately jumped down.

“Gympi. Hey, Gympi.”

Stirring, Gympi mumbled something incomprehensible and turned over to reveal several old scrappy exercise books and a small red coloured box that obviously had contained the books within them.

Little D and Spyri joined Big D and opened one of the books. Spyri exploded in astonishment.

“It’s Cotton! Gympi’s Andrew Cotton!” he jabbed his finger repeatedly at the name on the exercise books. “It’s Andrew!”
“Yes,” said Big D, scooping Andrew easily up into his arms, “and he’s sick. Come on, little man, let’s get you to a doctor.”

“It’s Cotton,” said Spyri, picking up all the books, replacing them in the red box. Opening another one at random, he laughed. “Look, this is his song book, where he wrote down all his weird songs. It’s even got the song he used to sing to me.”

Andrew turned his head at Spyri’s voice and opened his eyes.

“Cotton, we’re gonna get you to the hospital, ‘k?”
“Stuart. I remember now. Remember everything now…” and Andrew’s voice faded into mumbles once more.
“Come on, bro. We gotta get this kid down the hill. Spyri – Stuart’s your real name, hey? Well, Stuart, you take that box of books for Gymp – I mean, Andrew. Let’s go.”

The news that Andrew Cotton had survived the Night of Burning swept the town by storm and people visited him in the hospital almost non-stop, bewailing his crooked legs. From a distance, Stuart watched and scowled. It was just like him. Just like Andrew to steal all the attention. Everyone, once they had found out his real name from Big D and Little D, had been surprised. It felt like everyone was shunning him again, except for the youngest children that didn’t seem to remember what he had been before the war.

Although he had been pleased to find Gympi alive, for him to turn into Andrew Cotton was something he had not expected and Stuart didn’t know what to do anymore. Sometimes, when no one else was there, he would sit by Andrew’s bed, knowing that now that Andrew was back, he would be out of the picture again. He had enjoyed being Spyri. He didn’t want to be the Stuart Mendleton that the whole town found troublesome.

“Hey, Stuart,” said the quiet voice beside him.
Stuart turned away, embarrassed that Andrew had caught him crying.
“Thanks for finding me.”

“The doctor said that they can fix my legs, but I’ll never walk normally again. I used to wonder, you know, before the war, why the two of us just couldn’t be friends.”

“You were the one everybody loved. The best. The golden boy. The mayor’s son.”

“And you were the bully. The attention seeker. The stupid kid who couldn’t read, but you know, Stuart, you aren’t really all that. You’ve made yourself a new name. People aren’t going to remember that you were Stuart, but they are going to remember that you were Spyri. Just like they’ll always remember me as Gympi, because that’s what I am now. Look at us. We’re nothing like we used to be. Now you’re the hero and I’m the poor little mite. So, whatever people say, I’m gonna just keep calling you Spyri. You’ve earned yourself that name. In my books, you’re a good guy now.”

“So I saw.”

It was Andrew’s turn to be embarrassed.

“You read my books?”

“Yeah. I didn’t read anything that said ‘private’ on it though. It took a while, but… your writing’s good. I liked the stories. One of the books had my name on it. Why?”

“It was the book I was gonna use to teach you how to read properly if you ever wanted me to teach you. I meant what I said before the war that I’d be glad to teach you. I guess, I just didn’t say it very nicely.”

“No. I thought you were just making fun of me.”

“Yeah. I was kind of mean about it. You just used to make me so mad when you picked on the other kids. I couldn’t understand why you did it. I think I do now though. Sorry… Friends?”


Andrew smiled.

“You can teach me to walk again after the operation. Then we’ll be even.”
“Fine. It’s a deal. Do you want me to get those crutches back?”
“Nah. Jess needs ‘em. You can help her and teach her how to use them, so that the time I’m out of here, she’ll be walking as well.”
“Sometimes I can’t help but hate Mr Frilby for what he did to you.”
“Me too, but it turned out all right in the end, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah. I gotta go. I’m helping Big D and Li’l D out – they’ve decided to stay in our town and they’re building a house over where my house used to be. Some of the other girls are waiting for me to pick up Maria too.”

“You’d better go then. See you, Spyri.”
“See you, Gympi. Get better soon so that I can kick your behind again.”
“We’ll see who kicks who when I get out of here,” retorted Andrew.
“You’ve never won a fight before and you’re even less likely like that.”
“So? Think it’ll stop me?”

Both boys laughed and Stuart left, glad that he had a friend who understood him. A soft song followed him out the door. A familiar tune, but now, the words had changed and this time, he didn’t mind one little bit.

‘Mendle’s a-mending again, once again, once again.
Mendle’s a hero again, once again, once again.
Saved the town's kids from the fires,
Kept ‘em safe,
Food and stuff,
Mendleton, he's Spyri now,
Our hero now,
Ho, yes he is!’

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (9)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 9

Spyri cautiously edged around the trees to where he’d seen last night’s explosion take place. If he was fast, there might still be something to salvage, before anyone else got there. A slight noise made him freeze and he slipped into a bush. He relaxed.

Big D and Little D walked carefully by.

From his vantage point, Spyri watched them examine the crash site.

“Looks like the truck was chased by our own people.”
“Managed to shoot the driver and the truck crashed at about 110 kilometres an hour into this tree.”
“Anyone still left alive in the cabin?”
“Nope, dead as doornails.”
“Wonder how door nails can be alive, anyhow.”
“Don’t get started on that now, bro.”
“Sorry, Big D.”
“There was a shootout here. Snipers and such.”
“So there was. Quite a few people injured.”
“Someone dragged themselves behind this tree.”
“That same someone you’re talking about must’ve crawled back over here to the truck. Looks like they got crutches.”
“True. Anything in the truck?”

“Nup. Stripped clean and burnt bare or is it the other way around? Burnt bare and stripped clean? There probably wasn’t anything left after the truck blew anyway.”

“Hey look, an apricot!”
“An apricot?”
“Somebody had apricots. I wonder if there’s any more lying around.”
“Doesn’t look like it.”
“What a pity. Looks like our guys won through.”
“Wish we could’ve made contact with them.”
“Ah well. Come one, bro. Let’s get back to the kids. They’ll want to know what’s happened.”
“May as well. Feel kinda sorry for them, sending them away like this.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ll kinda miss you, Li’l D.”
“Aww, thanks bro. Just can’t do without me, can you?”
“The youngest ones are gonna cry their eyes out. You look after all them girls, hear, bro?”
“Sure thing, Big D. You know me.”

“Yeah. Come on, the bus’ll be round within the hour. We gotta get back. I betcha most of the boys’ll ‘ave gone into hiding, so that they can help.”

“At least you’ll have some company.”
“Awful thing having to get kids involved in a war. I probably won’t be able to get our part of the plan done without them though.”
“Too true. Too true, mate.”

The two brothers walked past him. Spyri waited a moment and was about to follow after them, when he heard a muffled groan. Curious, he warily went to investigate, and found a boy, with a face as scarred as his own, with both legs in filthy, split plaster up to his hips with shorts over the top. A pair of crutches lay nearby. The boy turned his head and opened his eyes.

Neither spoke a word.

The boy in plaster attempted to sit up and fell back, wincing, but not making a noise. He looked at Spyri, his throat too dry and swollen
to even try speaking.

Spyri nodded, understanding the silent cry for help, sizing up the situation and knowing that he would be unable to do anything. He turned and ran after the two soldier brothers.

Hearing the noise behind them, Big D and Little D stepped behind a tree each and waited. Quieter than mice. Just as Spyri drew near, they stepped out and spoke with one voice, guns raised.


Spyri skid to a halt and opened up his hands, gesturing behind him.

“There’s a boy back near the crash site in the trees. He’s hurt and he needs help!”

Exchanging glances, the brothers nodded and put away their guns and gestured for Spyri to lead the way.

“Who are you, anyway, kid? We haven’t seen you around before.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s not important.”
“You’re not from Thistlowood, are you? Which township are you from?”
“Then how come we’ve never seen you before now?”
“Cos I didn’t want you to.”
“Hmm. We’re gonna have to get some straight answers out of you, some time, kid.”
“I’m Big D and this is my bro, Li’l D.”
“I know.”
“You know…”
“You wouldn’t by any chance have been spying on us?”
“Not on purpose.”
“What were you doing over here then?”
“Investigating, like you were.”
“And you didn’t want us to see you…”
“You wouldn’t by any chance be the mysterious disappearing kid they all call Spyri the Saviour?”

Spyri’s face flushed an uncomfortable red and he didn’t answer the question.

“The boy’s somewhere over this way.”

The brothers nodded confirmation to each other over Spyri’s head, with a small grin. Then they saw Gympi and forgot about Spyri, giving him the chance to meld into the trees and watch from a distance, safe from any more questions.

Big D looked around for Spyri and shook his head.

“His done his disappearing act again, Li’l D.”
“Huh. Well, at least we’ve finally met the famous Spyri. Let’s see to this poor kid. He looks parched.”
“What’s your name, kid?” Big D asked, after helping Gympi to take a drink out of his drink bottle.
“What sort of name is that? You born with that name?”
“No. I don’t know what my real name is. All the soldiers called me Gympi. It was either that or Boy.”

“You’re a talker, you are. We’d better help you back to base. The other kids’ll be glad to make ya welcome. Come to think of it, we can put you on the bus. The war’s heading back this way, and it’ll be safer to put you out of harm’s way.”

Gympi pursed his lips at that and frowned, but didn’t say anything. Gritting his teeth, he let Big D pick him up, while Little D carried his crutches.

“So where you from? How’d you get out here?”
“Hitched a ride in that truck, until our men caught up.’
“The enemy let you hitch a ride?”
“Yeah. I was going to walk anyway.”
“From where?”
“Not far from Murnabeem. Maybe a few k’s from Loswage.”
“Murnabeeem? Loswage?”
“You’re one hell of a kid. You’d never have made it.”
“Better than being ignored or petted over in an orphan’s camp.”
“Why come this way?”
“I wanted to come home. The soldiers took me from Herrick up to the front a few months ago.”
“So you’re from Herrick?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
“That’s all right. What do you remember?”

“Waking up one night with the town on fire and a massive headache. I don’t know what town it was or where I was. Then the enemy found me and they adopted me as their ‘boy’ and took me to Murnabeem.”

“You could have come from anywhere then. All the towns around here had fires when the enemy took over.”
“I know.”

They walked in silence, with Spyri following from a distance but still within earshot.

“How’s Spyri? Is he still around?”
“Spyri? You knew Spyri?”

“Well, yes. But I don’t think he knew me. I used to watch him and help him in his raids without him knowing it. I managed to get together everything that made up the first ‘Spyri’ bundle. I suppose that’s where he got his name from.”

Spyri’s eyes widened in understanding. So that’s who the soldiers used to always be chasing whenever he got near the store room when the war started, and who had packaged everything neatly that first time so that all he had to do was swing it onto his back and escape.

Who was this boy? He didn’t recognise him at all, and yet there was something familiar about him. Something that annoyed him and made him want to punch him.

Big D put Gympi down in the cave.

“The bus’ll be here soon. You sit tight and wait. Have something to eat and drink. I’ve got to help the others get organised.”

Gympi watched Big D leave and appealed to the boys to whom Big D had just introduced him to. They all looked very familiar. He must have known them before.

“Help me up.”
“No, no. Stay there and we can help you onto the bus,” a boy called Jamie said.
“I’m not going anywhere. I just got here. You don’t want to get on that bus either, do you?”
“Well, no-o.”
“You’re all planning on hiding right? Help me. I’m not getting on that bus.”

The boys watched in silence. Gympi gritted his teeth and ate some of the stale bread he’d been given. Whether or not they were going to help, he was not getting on that bus. Wolfing down his food and drink, he reached for his crutches.

Beads of sweat dripped down his forehead as he tried to stand for the umpteenth time, swaying and struggling to maintain his balance.

The other boys still refused to help, insisting that he wait for the bus.

Taking a deep breath and ignoring them, Gympi set his shoulders and swung himself out of the cave with effort. They watched him go; admiring his determination, then hearing the low grind of the bus remembered that they were going to hide themselves too. They scattered.

Big D swore when he found that most of the boys had gone into hiding and that even Gympi was missing. He remembered the stubborn determined look on Gympi’s pain-lined face when he’d carried him to the caves and he’d mentioned putting him on the bus. There was no time to look for the boys or Gympi anymore. Those kids would probably regret staying behind in a few days. The bus had to leave now, mostly full of girls and younger primary school age children.

He waved a sour goodbye to his younger brother and watched the bus bounce across the hills and far away from where the last big battle was planned to take place. Blasted kids. Couldn’t they just do as they were told? But he knew in his own heart, that if he’d been in the same position as them, he would have done exactly the same thing.

Never mind. They’d all probably be back at the caves by now, waiting for him. He had a mission tonight to sabotage the enemy’s lines and create confusion just as his own army approached and he did not want the kids to get involved. No, he wouldn’t head back to the caves.

Gympi watched him go and knew he was going to the town so that the other kids wouldn’t know. Spyri was somewhere nearby watching too, he was sure of it. ‘I hear the band far away, far away, far away,’ he whistled noiselessly to himself.

Sure enough, he saw Spyri quietly follow Big D down the hill. At least the big soldier would have some help.

Big D set the charge and peeked around the corner. The noise of enemy soldiers coming into the weapon’s store made him freeze. They picked up a few boxes and left again. Waiting a few minutes, he prepared to leave, but a hand pulled him back and around the wall. He instinctively fought back and raised his gun when he realised that he was fighting a kid, Spyri to be specific.

Putting a finger to his mouth, Spyri pulled him back again, just as the door burst open and more soldiers entered the store room to grab some ammunition. Spyri beckoned Big D to a dark corner and removed a few boxes, indicating the hole in the wall. It looked big enough for Big D to slip out of as well.

They slipped out the hole and Spyri covered it up.

“What are you doing down here?” Big D whispered furiously.

“Helping you. Come on, this way. We’ll have to get further away before you blow up the store room. The others have already cleaned out the food store and are helping Jessica out to the caves. They’ve set some charges in the food store as well. They’re all waiting for you to cut the communication wires and get out before they blow their charges.”

“What? You kids! You realise that this isn’t a game?”
“Shh! We know. Come on, hurry up!”

Growling to himself, Big D found himself being led by Spyri all around town to all the major points and being saved on more than one occasion from being seen. This was some kid.

“Ok, is that all you wanted to do?”
“Good, let’s get out of town. We should’ve warned most of the adults to get under cover by now.”
“You kids, just beat me. How did you know what I wanted to do?”
“We’ve got ears and know how to use them, as Andrew Cotton would say.”
“Andrew Cotton?”
“Yes, the mayor’s son. I think he’s dead though. Boy, I used to hate him. We were classmates, see.”

They joined the other kids on the hill side and Spyri slipped away before they had noticed him.

“Big D! Come on, hurry up! We’ll blow the charges from that cover there.”
“Where’d Spyri go?”
“Spyri? Was he with you? What’s he look like?”
“Let’s go find him, he must be somewhere nearby!”
“Wait, wait. Let’s blow those charges first. Count down from three. Ready? 3, 2, 1, fire in the hole!”

Various areas of the town plumed skyward in a cloud of dust and fire. The children and Big D could see the enemy soldiers running around in confusion. They cheered in the safety of their hideout.

Big D spoke into the radio.

“Alpha Team, you have a go. Repeat, you have a go.”
“Thank you, Big D. Affirmative, we have a go. You sit tight and watch the fireworks. Make sure you keep any of the kids still hanging around out of the way.”
“Affirmative. We’re on our way back to the caves. Happy hunting. Big D, out.”

Many hours later, a team of soldiers headed up the hill to the caves to announce the victory. The enemy had been defeated and were retreating back over the border, having surrendered. A few days later, it was official, the war was over. Once the town had been cleaned up a little, the children were allowed back into town to be reunited with the parents that were still left. Jessica Frilby was carried back home to her anxious father and word was sent to the children that had been sent away on the bus that they could come home soon.

Once the majority of children were safe, Big D set out to find Gympi, the other boys having told him what had happened. Spyri, seemed to have also had the same thought and the two of them scoured the countryside outside the town for him. He hadn’t been seen for a few days. They found him sleeping soundly in a little hidden hollow not far from the caves.

“Gympi! There you are! You had me worried for a while there.”
“Come on, mate, let’s get you back to town and see whether or not the army surgeon can do anything for you, hey?”

But there were many other much more serious cases for the surgeon to worry about than one lame boy and feeling forgotten, Gympi let himself out of the hospital. Other people needed the beds and his crooked legs were not life-threatening.

The school was re-opened – not for education, but as a place for the orphaned children to stay and for the younger children to be cared for during the day while the others helped to rebuild the township. Because his own platoon was gone and seeing as he was the one they trusted most, Big D had been left in charge of the children during the day. They were fiercely protective of ‘their’ soldier.

Everyday, children would be dropped off at the bent school gates that didn’t close properly anymore, where he would welcome them and mark them off on a roll, before relegating them to the care of another soldier, teacher or volunteer, who would keep them occupied with various activities during the day. Everyday, Gympi would turn up on his crutches and sit around listening to the stories or joining in what activities he could. He seldom smiled. Most of the time, he just sat on a log seat and watched, with a thoughtful expression on his face. Nobody wanted his help in rebuilding the town. They’d made that firmly clear to him when he’d tried to help. His legs made him useless, they said.

Today was no exception. In return for the useable odds and ends that Gympi had managed to find the previous day, Stanton Frilby had left him his day’s rations on the ground as usual. The food was left just inside the burnt and broken down shell of a house he had decided to make his home, because it had a section of the roof still intact enough to keep the ground beneath it dry. He didn’t like the grocer, although he pitied him and felt sorry for the way the other townsfolk treated him. One of the children in school had told him the story about Jessica’s legs and much as he pitied him, he just couldn’t bring himself to like him – especially when the man only gave him his share of rations if he had anything to pay him. Tucking his food into a bag he’d managed to scavenge, he set off for school.

“If you give me your crutches,” Stanton had told him one day as he’d swung by the grocery on his crutches, “I’ll give you your food everyday, for free. No charge. Upon my honour.”

“Why do you need my crutches?” Gympi had asked.

“My daughter has broken legs. The soldiers broke both of them and she can’t get out of bed. She needs a pair of crutches, but there isn’t anywhere to get them at the moment. She needs them more than you. You can get about without crutches. Let me have your crutches and I’ll give you your food.”

“I can’t walk without my crutches either. Sorry.”

Stanton had just shaken his head.

“Then you’ll have to make sure you can pay me for tomorrow’s meals.”

Each time Gympi met Stanton in passing, Stanton would ask the same question, saying that Jessica needed the crutches more than he did. Each time, Gympi would have to politely decline. He couldn’t walk without the crutches. He’d tried and he’d tried, but it just hurt too much. Even walking with them took a lot of effort. All he could do without the crutches was fall down. By this time, the plaster on his legs had chipped and cracked in several places. There was no use trying to keep it on anymore, even though it was harder to walk without the support of the plaster. Why should he give his crutches to this mean man?

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (8)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi

Gympi sank thankfully down onto the grass with a stifled groan. This travelling was a lot tougher, slower and a heck more painful than he’d originally expected. It wasn’t likely that anyone would be out looking for him, but he couldn’t take the chance. Somehow, he had a feeling that he hadn’t travelled very far in the last week.

Emptying his bag, he sighed. Out of food. He shook his bottle. Out of water too. Wonderful. Never mind, he was a resourceful lad or so he told himself. His legs ached like they were on fire and sharp pains shot up his hips and up his spine. They should ease a little after a rest. He’d have just a little rest. The hedge hid him from the road, and the clusters of wild bush sheltered him from the cold wind. If only the ground were not so damp.

The faint tinkling of water woke him. Sitting up, Gympi looked around the bushes, trying to pinpoint the sound. There. There might even be something edible near the water. No point standing up and using his crutches. It would take too much effort. Putting his bag back onto his back, Gympi dragged himself along on the ground with his arms to where he could hear the water. Why hadn’t he been able to hear it before he’d fallen asleep? He must’ve been too tired.

A little brook burbled quietly, the tinkling noise was made by the water running off a mini waterfall formed by a branch. Water from a tiny dam ran off the branch tip onto a smooth pebble stone. By the ditch in which the brook ran, Gympi was pleased to find an apricot tree with fruit just beginning to ripen. After filling his drink bottle, Gympi contemplated how he would get to the apricots. He’d have to go back to fetch his crutches first.

Crawling was so much easier than walking, but if he crawled all the way back to Thistlowood, his clothes would completely wear away. They were already pretty worn as they were, and he had no desire to be found upon the road near naked. That would be just too embarrassing.

He poked at the nearest fruit with his crutch, and after some time, decided that this was going to take a while. He shrugged. So long he was able to fill his bag, he didn’t mind if it took days. He was in no rush.

“Plip, plop,
Sweet and juicy,
Summer treat.
Hip, hop,
There I drop,
Filling bag with
Round rocked ‘cots.”

“Tinkling water,
Swirling water,
Sparkle brightly,
‘Neath the shade.
Spickled, speckled,
With leaf dancers,
‘Pon smooth pebbles,
Colours gay.”

So busy singing and trying to get the apricots, Gympi didn’t hear the motor of the approaching truck until it was too late to hide. Nevertheless, he ducked down beneath a bush and hoped that they would just continue on their way, but they didn’t. The truck stopped and Gympi was frightened to see the boots, enemy issue, jump over the hedge and tramp his way.

He had no idea where the front was now, but he also had no wish to get entangled with either army again. It had already cost him a lot of pain and the use of both legs. All he wanted was to go home and all he knew was that home was in this general direction.

“Hey boy! Come outta there!”

Knowing a command when he heard one, Gympi slowly crawled out from under the bush. To the soldier, it looked more like he was only using his arms to drag his whole body and almost useless plaster coated legs after him.

“What are you doing here?”

The soldier squatted down, as the boy before him, slowly and painfully pulled himself into a sitting position. The face stared back calmly.

“Picking apricots.”
“There’s a war going on in these parts and you’re out picking apricots? Don’t you know it’s dangerous?”

A dirty, sticky hand stuck out firmly.

“Hi, I’m Gympi.”
“Gympi? What sort of a name is that?”
“It’s what everyone calls me.”

Shaking his head, the soldier shook the hand and repeated his question.

“Don’t you know there’s a war going on in these parts and it’s dangerous?”

The boy looked back queerly, almost sadly – a near smile, but not; such that it almost made the soldier want to cry. He was suddenly reminded of his own younger brother back home, eagerly waiting for him.

“I know it’s dangerous.”
“Then why are you out in the middle of no where? Our men are retreating, but it doesn’t make it any safer for you.”
“I’m going home. I had to stop and get some food.”
“Where’s home?”
“I don’t know. Somewhere near the old border.”
“You’re trying to get that far, in – in – with you like – like this?”
“Yes. Why not?”

Gympi split open an apricot and offered the soldier half.

The soldier was amazed at the boy’s boldness and determination, as he took the apricot half. It was obvious that every movement he made was painful and that he could barely walk, and despite that, he was prepared to travel the hundred kilometres or so back toward the border.

A yell from the truck made him look up. His partner gestured angrily and urgently.

“We can give you a lift. We’re heading toward Thistlowood and should get there sometime late tonight if all goes well.”

God knew that this boy would never make it that distance in his current condition.

“We can’t take you into the town itself or we’ll get ourselves into trouble, but we can drop you off just outside the town. What do you think?”

Cocking his head to one side, Gympi shrugged.

“Here, let me help you.”

Wordlessly, Gympi handed the soldier his heavy bag of apricots, ignoring any attempts to help him and pulled himself upright, using his crutches and the bush.

Understanding, the soldier restrained himself from putting his hand out to steady Gympi as he wobbled dangerously before jamming the crutches beneath his arms.

“Hurry up, Hansol. They’ll catch up with us any moment now!”
“Hang on, help me get this boy into the truck. He’s headed for Thistlowood too.”
“You can go without me if you want.”
“No, no, Gympi. We’ll take you with us. Here, get in.”
“Hansol, of all the stupid little-”
“Shut up, Toby. This boy would have tried to get there on his own anyway, whether we stopped to help him or not, and I’m not willing to leave him for those jumped up, nervous bastards of his own country to shoot and find out what they’d done after. Especially the way he moves on the ground. They might mistake him for a commando.”
“Don’t talk so loud, he might hear you.”

Both men turned around to look at Gympi, to find him curled up in the back, in an exhausted slumber.

The truck stopped suddenly, bucking and shaking with the impact. Gympi found himself being thrown around in the back of the truck. Pain and whirling colours obscured his vision before he came to a rest with a squish, on top of his bag of apricots. It was dark.

Carefully pulling himself upright, and wincing, Gympi knew that the two soldiers in the front seat were dead. It was obvious by the angle at which their bodies were resting in. There was a screech of tyres and voices shouting orders. His country men must have caught up. Trying to drag himself toward the door made him gasp with pain. He wondered whether he’d broken more bones.

The back of the truck doors were flung wide open and cold air rushed in.

“There’s a boy in the back!”
“A boy?”
“God knows what they were going to do with him.”
“He’s injured. Quick, get him out!”
“Good thing we stopped them in time!”
“My God, look at his legs! What have they done to this child?”
“Hurry, the truck could explode any moment now!”

Gympi felt hands lift him and he groped around for his crutches.

“It’s all right kid, we’ve got you. It’s all right.”
“What are you looking for?”
“No worries, kid. I’ve got them.”

He heard a whimper that didn’t sound like his own voice.

“Shh, it’s all right kid. We’ve just gotta get clear of that truck before she blows.”

A massive explosion ripped through the night and in that flash, Gympi saw the truck’s cabin almost literally wrapped around a tree trunk, erupt in a blast of fire. The soldier carrying him stumbled and fell. Gympi cried out and gritted his teeth, struggling to get out from under the weight of the soldier.

The soldier rolled off him and apologised.

“Sorry, sorry. It’s ok, it’s ok.”

Gympi lay on the ground, panting. Willing the pain back into its box. Lifting his head, he struggled to sit upright, but froze the moment he heard the whine of a bullet thud into the ground beside him.

“Head for those trees, kid! We’ll hold them off. Head for the trees!”

The soldier helped Gympi stumble toward the trees and then whipped around and threw himself into the cover of the nearest bush as soon as he was out of harm’s way.

“The bastards!”

Too tired and sore to move from behind the tree, Gympi lay there, listening to the whine of bullets and return fire, the curses and shouts of the soldiers and the occasional scream as they were hit. Battle was not a nice place to be.

He woke up to silence. Looking around the tree, the soldiers were gone. They’d forgotten him and taken the bodies of their comrades with them. He spotted his crutches lying near where the burnt truck was still wrapped around the trunk of a tree and dragged himself toward them.

No water, no drink bottle, no bag, and all his precious apricots wasted. At least he still had his crutches. At least he was still alive and closer to home than he had been.

Heaving himself up onto the crutches, he buckled under the unexpected sharp pain. It took 3 hours and many attempts before he was able to stand and another hour or so before he could swing himself further into the safety of the trees.

After a long, careful look at his surroundings, Gympi knew exactly where he was. He wasn’t far from Thistlowood, but still far away enough to know that it would still take him a long time… and he had no food or water. Licking his dry lips, Gympi wondered what happened after death. Would it be just a dark oblivion? Or was there a heaven like the Bible said? He liked the idea of heaven better than oblivion.

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (7)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi

Two soldiers, Big D and Little D had lost their entire platoons. They didn’t know what to do or where to go, but at least they still had each other. They’d happened across Thistlowood by accident and suddenly realised where they were. The lost children had found them and been so excited to see them, thinking that their own countrymen would soon be taking back their town. The children happily brought them food and any other essentials that they needed. The two soldiers hated the idea of telling them that they didn’t know what was happening at the war front right at this moment.

Despite avoiding their questions, the children loved these two soldiers, and had showed them everything and told them everything that was happening in the town. Soon the two lost soldiers knew all the hide-outs, all the secret ways around town and all about Jessica and Spyri, although they were still to meet the mysterious saviour of children. There was nothing they could do for Jessica, but if only they could meet the silent shadow that nobody could catch, they might be able to do some worthwhile sabotage in town and help get rid of the enemy.

Then one day, Spyri left them a working two-way radio. Big D and Little D wanted to find out who this silent mysterious, elusive person was, but first, they had to report back to their countrymen that they were still alive and had found themselves amongst almost all that was left of the town of Thistlowood’s children, hiding in the hills. They had to meet this Spyri and thank him some time.

“Stay where you are and stay out of sight,” their CO had ordered. “Use guerrilla tactics, but try not to get any of the children involved, we don’t want them getting hurt. We should be able to push the enemy back to the town within a few weeks. We’ll try organise a way to evacuate the children before that happens. Report back every six hours.”

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (6)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi

Jessica turned her pale head to look out her window. She hadn’t been outside for months now and wondered how the children were holding up. No doubt, Spyri was looking after them well. Who was Spyri? She wondered. She’d managed only to catch a few glimpses of his tall, strong build in the shadows and that reminded her of Stuart Mendleton, but all the Mendletons had died during the Night of Burning, just as all of the Cottons had been burnt alive in their house. None of them had survived.

She missed Andrew Cotton and his cheerfulness. Ever since he had saved her from Stuart in First Grade, she’d had a crush on him, although he’d never seemed to notice. If only she had told him, but then if she had, he’d probably have just laughed at her, which would have been worst.

No crutches were available, all of them had been sent to the hospitals which had run short of them. Nobody could spare any for a young girl like her. Her father had been a pawn of the enemy ever since and she detested the fact that everyone in town must look down upon him as a traitor, more than they ever had before. He’d always been the informer type, only looking after his own interests. It was because he loved her and he didn’t want the soldiers to hurt her again. She was his weak spot and she hated herself for being her father’s downfall.

From a-far off, Spyri watched Jessica through her window. He felt sorry for her, but there was nothing he could do, especially when it had really been his fault. People said that she had a slim chance of ever being able to walk again. Of course, he’d heard of what had happened, but despite that couldn’t help feeling disgusted at her father. No one had any doubts now, whom the town’s main informer was, but no one wanted to get on the bad side of the grocer who distributed everyone’s daily rations. Besides, Mr Frilby probably hated himself for betraying his own people more.

He looked down at the two-way radio he’d managed to steal from the enemy’s store with a smug smile. So much for their increased security. The four guards the enemy had left to guard the store room had been well and truly drunk when he’d crept in. So drunk that they’d fallen into a nice stupor. Spyri hoped that they would choke on their own puke and be shot for not doing their job properly.

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (5)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 5

Looking back over his shoulder, Gympi gave one last glance at the hospital where he had spent the last few weeks of his life. His legs still hurt, and he had the feeling that they never would stop hurting. Even Dr Stonehed had just shaken his head and apologised for being unable to do anymore for him. Ideally, the legs should be surgically broken and realigned again, but there was neither the time nor the bed space for Gympi to remain in the hospital anymore.

Once the area had been retaken over by his own countrymen and secured, Gympi was promptly forgotten. Another pair of crutches had been given to him and he’d been told that someone would come shortly to take him to where another hundred or so war orphans were being looked after. Gympi didn’t want to go there. He wanted to go home.

After quietly teaching himself to deal with the constant pain and how to walk gingerly with his new roughly made crutches, Gympi decided to head out. It seemed impolite of him to not thank the Alison or Dr Stonehed, stealing from the hospital rations, after all they had done for him, but they would have tried to stop him. Gympi was going home. Nobody could stop him. Not even his own two crooked legs. Not the long distance between Murnabeem and Herrick. It was going to be a long journey home.

Never mind that, he liked travelling on his own two feet. He was sure that travelling was all he’d ever wanted to do before the war anyway. A stirring breeze whipped stiffly through the almost bare branches of the trees, creating a haunting melody. A song sprang unbidden to his lips and he wondered where the song had come from. He’d never sung it before and yet it seemed so familiar.

“Sun a-shining in the sky,
Looking down on happy flowers,
Watching laughter,
Bathed in warmth,
Singing, dancing,
Wind a-breezing through the trees,
Tickling leafy boughs,
Oh, that life would ever be,
Full of joy and song.”

Gympi shrugged and smiled to himself despite the pain. He was going home. Maybe not to Herrick. Thistlowood had seemed much nicer and had ever so many more hiding places around it than Herrick. Anyway, it was closer.

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi (4)

The Legend of Spyri and Gympi - Part 4

Spyri was lonely. It was 9 months since the war had begun and he was feeling very lonely. He watched the other children play games and talk to each other, but he never had anyone to talk to. Everyday, he, like all the other children of the town worked hard to find food enough for themselves. He always searched for extra things that he could leave in the caves for the other children. Every attempt they had made to find out who he was had failed. He was too wary and it usually ended with him leaving something behind for them and silently slipping away.

He was ashamed to show himself to them, mindful of how he had been before the war had started and his looks now. The right side of his face had been burnt and was now scarred from when he had escaped from his burning house. Nobody would have been able to recognise him now. His mother and father had almost thrown him out a window, through the fire, in a desperate attempt to save their youngest son. Not long afterward, the roof had collapsed. After sitting a while, crying, he had heard screams of other children and parents, trying to escape from their burning homes or from the whining bullets of enemy fire. A sudden thought had come to him and without further thought for his own safety; he had gone to save as many of his townsmen as he could.

He constantly berated himself for being so weak. He had only been able to save the younger children, being yet too small to save the older teenagers or adults. Nightmares of that night tormented him almost every time he went to sleep and the only thing that made him feel as if he were making up for not saving more of them was to try and help the children he had saved, survive.

The children had noticed that the enemy were becoming more and more uptight about something. They heard news that their own countrymen were coming to save them and sweep the enemy back into their own country. They had also found that it was now getting too dangerous to go out into town to forage for food. The enemy soldiers were unpredictable and would do sudden things to an unsuspecting child.

Spyri and Jessica Frilby were the main sources of food for the children now. Being the daughter of the town grocer, the man who had been given all the food stores to take care of, she was often able to take some food for the others. Her father, Stanton, turned a blind eye to her activities and only made sure that she never took enough to be noticed. He just rearranged any paper work to cover up for the loss of any food.

The war was beginning to turn and the enemy were still deciding on their next move.

Spyri stealthily crept into the enemy storeroom. It was dark, but he knew where everything was. He selected a few choice foods and wrapped them in a few blankets and spare clothes. He had seen these supplies arrive just earlier this morning. He quietly tied his bundle to his back and slipped out the window after a quick check to see if all was clear. Spyri hurried down the street, and pressed himself into the dark shadows of an empty house.

A car stopped outside the storeroom. Doors slammed and some enemy soldiers went into the building.

Loud shouts arose.

“Where have the extra blankets gone?”
“Who took the cheese and bread that just arrived this morning?”

A light flashed up and down the street.

“Thieving kids!”
“How do you know it’s the kids? It could be one of the civilians or one of our men as well!”
“Get onto Frilby, and get him to find out whether one of the civilians has been sneaking around. He’ll know. We’d better order a pop search of our men. We can’t keep losing things like this.”

Spyri waited until the commotion had settled down and then ran off in the direction of the caves. He didn’t realise that he was being followed by a shadow as silent as himself.

He set the Spyri branded items down in the usual place and decided to call it a night. As he was setting off to his own hide out, a voice called out to him and stopped him.

“I saw that,” said a girl’s voice. “So you’re Spyri.”

Spyri recognised Jessica Frilby’s voice. Her voice had woken some of the children sleeping in the caves up. They stirred and began to come out to see what was going on.

Spyri slid into a moon shadow and disappeared.

“Spyri? Spyri was here?”

Children emerged rubbing their eyes.

“What’s going on Jess?”
“I just saw Spyri rob the enemy and bring you some stuff.”
“What did he bring?”
“It’s too dark to see, we’ll find out tomorrow.”
“Say Jess, won’t you get into trouble if you’re dad finds out you’re not at home?”
“Aww, he won’t care.”

Jessica let herself back into her house quietly. The lights were still on. That wasn’t a good sign.

Rough hands suddenly grabbed her and she screamed.

“So. You’re the thief.”

Jessica looked up into the faces of the soldiers that had checked the store room earlier.

“No, I- , it wasn’t me! It was one of the other kids!”
“Spoken just like a thief. Do you know what we do to thieves? Why don’t you tell her, Stanton? She’s your daughter after all.”
“Where have you been, Jess?” her father moaned. “What have you done?”
“Tell her what happens to burglars!” one of the soldiers kicked Jessica’s father, who was sitting at the table with his head in his hands.

“D-don’t kill her! Please don’t kill my daughter!” Stanton pleaded desperately with the soldiers. “I’ll tell you anything you want, but please, don’t kill my daughter. She’s all I have left.”
“Hmmm. Anything, eh?” the soldier smiled evilly. “Let’s get started then. If your answers aren’t good enough, you know what we’ll do.”

He gestured at Jessica meaningfully.

The soldiers soon received all the information he wanted on the actions and views of all the other townsfolk. It was just before dawn when they left to arrest several other townsfolk and left Stanton weeping over his unconscious daughter who was lying with both legs bent at a grotesque angle.