The Escape Attempt: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 8


Lem closed the door to his hut as if he were going to bed, but instead, he began his preparations to leave. He changed into the clothes he had been wearing when he found the underground village and folded up the extra shirt and pants that Running Wolf had given him. Taking two cords that he had saved for this purpose, Lem tied the shirt and pants to his knees as improvised knee pads. He clipped his small flashlight to his belt, slung his pouch with some dried food it in around his neck and tied his shoelaces together draping his shoes around his pack. Standing up, he took a deep breath. He was ready.

Lem walked to the door of his hut and cracked it open just wide enough to peer out into the darkness. He couldn’t see them, but he knew they were there. Even at night the warriors stood guard blocking each exit. It would be tricky getting past one of them, but first, he had to make it across the wide cavern without causing any sound or attracting any notice.

Concentrating on each step, Lem inched his way along the path that he knew well from weeks of study. He had never moved so slowly in his life, so painfully slowly. His muscles ached under the strain, but he didn’t dare go any faster. With each step, he felt out the ground in front of him before he placed his foot. Then he lowered his toes first and gently his heel followed. He had tried just walking on his tip toes to start with, but after almost losing his balance a few times, he changed his tactics.

Inch by inch, Lem made his way to the other side of the village. Once he reached the archway and the huge boulders that covered the floor underneath, he sank to his knees and crawled over them one by one, feeling his way carefully. It was in anticipation of this that he had made his knee pads, and they served him well.

The journey which would normally only take a few minutes, felt hours long. Only when his outstretched hands finally hit the rock of the cave wall near where he had entered all those days ago did he allow himself to take a moment to rest, but even then, he hardly dared to move. Up above his head somewhere on the ledge by the tunnel entrance stood a guard.

This would be so much easier, he thought contemplating his next move, if I could just somehow climb up the side of the rock. Hmm, some animals can do that, can’t they? I wonder if those skills could be transferred to humans. Probably not. After all, humans don’t have the sticky hands and feet that some animals do. Lem let his mind wonder over the possibilities. But, what if there were some way to imitate that characteristic in people? Wow, the possibilities could be endless. Hmm. A soft noise brought his distracted mind back to task. That’s a thought for another time, He told himself. Right now, I’ve got to focus.

Bending down ever so slowly, Lem picked up a handful of dirt and small stones. Gripping it tightly, he began inching his way around the cavern wall to the steps that led up to the ledge. Breathing as quietly as he could and taking one cautious step at a time, he slowly made his way to the top counting the steps as he went. Once he reached the ledge, he knew that only a few feet away stood the guard. He froze. He hadn’t heard a sound, but he got the feeling that the warrior knew someone was there. It might just be his overactive imagination, but he couldn’t take the chance. He would wait a moment before moving again.

There he stood in the pitch darkness only inches away from being caught. The sound of his breathing seemed to pound in his ears, so he opened his mouth hoping that would help. The air seemed to crackle with tension. Lem thought he heard the whisper of light cloth moving and instantly started to panic. The guard only had to reach out his hand, and he would feel him. He had to do something. Not moving his feet, Lem slowly and quietly bent his knees to squat closer to the ground. He waited a few seconds and then carefully bracing one hand on the ground, while not letting go of the dirt and rocks he had picked up earlier, he picked up his leg with the other hand, so he could more easily and more quietly move, and in this way, he shuffled over to the opposite side of the ledge, his leg muscles screaming under the strain. He was glad for the darkness at this point. He could only imagine how ridiculous he looked. He felt like a frog. Hmm, some frogs could stick to the sides of walls, couldn’t they? Focus, focus. He told himself roughly.

Once he felt the edge of the rock platform, he froze again and listened and waited. After what seemed like an eternity, his nerves couldn’t take any more. The adrenaline rushed through his veins, and he began to fear that his breathing was getting louder. He had to make his move. He took the dirt and small stones and measured out the distance in his mind. He would have to throw them, so they would land at the bottom of the steps. If the guard had detected his presence, that distance might be believable. He would also have to throw them low, so they wouldn’t make much noise when they landed. Anything loud would be too obvious, but the warrior might believe a soft sound was someone trying to sneak by. Concentrating on the direction and distance, Lem threw. It was perfect. The small stones, muffled by the soft dirt, made only the lightest clatter, but it was enough. Lem felt more than heard the guard leave his post.

He didn’t waste any time. As quietly as he had been moving, but with a new sense of urgency, Lem made his way down the tunnel. Fortunately, he remembered this passage well. It ran pretty smoothly and straight. With his hand feeling the wall as he went, he was able to move a little more quickly. However, in his newfound haste, he forgot to be cautious. When he came to the end of the passage where it opened up into the small room, Lem squeezed through the tiny opening and immediately hit his head on a low-hanging jagged edge.

Momentarily stunned by the pain, he sucked in his breath and reached up to feel the quickly forming bump. His hand felt something wet and sticky, and he knew he was bleeding. When a wave of dizziness hit him, he sat down on the rough ground to catch his breath. Feeling his head again, he tried to determine the extent of his injury. The last thing he needed to do was leave a blood trail. He untied the spare pants he had been using as a knee pad and wound them around his throbbing head.

Rising to his feet slowly and shakily, he continued his journey, but this time, he held his hands out in front of him in addition to feeling along the ground with his feet. Eventually, the ceiling of the tunnel began to get lower, and he had to scoot along on his elbows. Daring a little light, he pulled out his flashlight, and covered the end with one of his pants legs that hung down by his face. The dimmed light was barely enough for him to see immediately in front of himself, but it still helped. Just when his battered and bruised body felt like it couldn’t take any more, he saw the moonlight streaming in at the end of the tunnel and knew he was almost out.

Crawling through the small opening, Lem wiggled out into the soft glow of light in the forest and sank to his knees in relief. He was out! He had made it!

Suddenly, his joy was interrupted by a low snarl from his right. Looking over, Lem’s blood froze. There glaring at him hostilely, stood five dragons. With teeth bared, they began to circle around him.

Settling In: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 7


Lem woke up in his small hut on the far edge of the underground village. He had been living with the natives for over a month now, and he still had trouble judging the time in the mornings. The sun shone down into the cave differently depending on the time of day because of the trees in the forest above and the location of the holes in the cavern ceiling, but no matter how early it felt to him, he always seemed to be the last awake.

He had not given up on his determination to escape. He was growing fond of the people in the village, and he had no cause to complain about any of them. They all treated him kindly, well, except for Red Bear and his friends, but they pretty much ignored him. The older ladies in the village seemed to have organized some sort of informal schedule for feeding him. Every day, someone brought him three meals, and then the next day, it would be someone else. The first week, they didn’t ask anything of him in return. They just let him get settled in and try to come to terms with his new home, but the following week, his vacation was over. Since he couldn’t leave the cavern, he wasn’t able to go hunting with the braves, so, he was given other tasks, miscellaneous tasks.

The natives had planted a garden under a particularly large hole in the cave roof. Enough sunlight streamed in to allow the specific plants they had chosen to grow. Lem spent most of his time working there. He also helped skin animals, tan hides, and make bows and arrows. He realized later that many of the jobs he was given were tasks that usually fell to the women of the village. He felt embarrassed when this was first brought to his attention, but his curious mind quickly rid him of that emotion. He was learning so much, and it was all very interesting. Sometimes, he got so caught up in what he was doing that he even forgot he was a prisoner. Then something would remind him of his parents or his home, and a great depression would overpower him.

Even with all of the new things, he was learning, Lem always kept his eyes open for any opportunity to escape. He tried to be subtle, but he knew that the warriors guarding the exits still didn’t trust him. Every chance he got, he tried to learn more about the cavern and the tunnels that shot off from the main room. He also kept up with the guards’ schedules. He had a difficult time finding out where they  hid at first, they were very good at their jobs, but after a month, he thought he had discovered all of their posts and when someone would be at each one.

Today, Lem worked in the garden alone. They had been leaving him alone some lately. Not that that really mattered because the guards were ever there and ever watchful, but it gave him a change to think and look around with a little more freedom. Once he settled into his task, he glanced around as subtly as he could. There was Big Eagle, a friend of Red Bear, taking his post on a ledge high above. Lem thought he saw what could be a tunnel entrance behind the tall warrior, but he couldn’t be sure. He sighed. It didn’t really matter anyway. That ledge was never left unguarded.

Lem sat back on his heels and wiped the sweat off his forehead. That seemed to be that, then. He had watched them all. This was the last post he had been unsure of, and now he knew that it had a constant guard on it as well. There was no other option but the one he feared. Sighing again, he continued weeding. He must keep up appearances, after all. He needed to put together a plan. It would be incredibly dangerous, but he would have to go at night. That was the only time he could be sure that he wouldn’t be seen. That was the problem, though. You couldn’t see anything at night. Hardly any light came in at all from the moon, and even the faint light that did, didn’t reach down into the bottom of the vast cavern. They wouldn’t be able to see him, but he wouldn’t be able to see where he walked either. That was dangerous in a cave with pits, low-hanging, sharp rocks, and boulders scattered around on the ground. He would have to try it, though, it was his only chance. He thought about his parents. Did they think he was dead? Were they still looking for him, or had they given up? He had to get out. He had to let them know he was safe. He wouldn’t tell anyone about the village, but he had to get out. He would try tonight before he lost his nerve. Satisfied, with this decision, Lem continued his work while he planned his escape.

Don’t Do Anything Stupid!: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 1


It was his first day in a new school. Most people would be nervous but not Lem. He was excited. He hadn’t had too many friends in his old school, you see, and this was his chance to start over.

Nothing stupid, nothing stupid, nothing stupid, he kept repeating to himself as he walked up the sidewalk toward the large impressive building at the end of the street. It looked more like a British manor house than a school, but that made it all the more exciting for Lem. He loved anything out of the ordinary.

Lem also had a very curious mind. That curiosity is just what seemed to be the root of all of his trouble at his old school. He was always going where he shouldn’t go, and he was always asking “why?” whenever anything struck him as odd or interesting. He drove his mom and dad absolutely crazy with his questions. Many of his teachers at his old school hadn’t liked it either. Don’t get me wrong, they encouraged his questions at first. They all commented on what a bright boy he was. In the beginning. But sometimes, he would ask questions that they couldn’t answer or questions that weren’t exactly politically correct. This began to make some of his teachers, and other adults in the community a little nervous. No longer was he a “bright boy.” He began to be more often referred to as a smart aleck.

Teachers began to give him fewer opportunities to ask questions in class. Parents started not wanting their kids to hang around him. It didn’t take long for him to become a social pariah. His classmates just avoided him at first, then they started whispering behind his back, then whispering about him when he was in earshot. Finally, some of them started just being mean. A few of the teachers understood and tried to help him out, but this tended to only make things worse. Let’s just say, he was quite excited the day his dad come home and announced that his company was moving them to Button Island. His dad was going to be in charge of setting up a windmill power system there, so they would probably be staying for a while.

Now, here he was with a new island, a new town, a new school, and a new opportunity to make a good first impression. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t say anything stupid. Don’t ask too many questions. Just blend in.

As he got closer to the building, he could see the schoolyard full of people sitting and talking, waiting for the bell to ring. Glancing around, his eyes stopped on three boys over to the left sitting cross legged under a tree. Their clothes didn’t stand out as any different from what everyone else had on, but that was where the similarity ended. Long black hair framed their bronzed faces, and their stern expressions and intense stares unnerved him a little. They seemed to be looking at nothing and at everything all at the same time. They must be island natives. He had been warned about them. In fact, one of the sailors on the ship that brought his family to the island had told him to watch out for them.

“It’s best if ye avoid them wholly,” he said, “but if ye have to do dealing with them, ye should be doing it quickly.”

“Why?” Lem had asked.

“Because they be a mean and vicious people. They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”


“I guess it be cause we’s came in and crowded them outta mosta their island. I spose they’s do have a reason for being angry,” the old sailor admitted grudgingly. “But that be many years go. Tain’t good to hang onna grudge so long. Sides, twasn’t none of us who done it. But I spose they’s still angry.”


“Well, they still got a rough time of it, seeing as they’s stuck on the far side of the island now, but they’s got a good village there. Sides, I don’t reckon they’d even want to live in town with alla us.”

The man’s voice rose with each sentence, and his face had begun to turn red. Lem saw the signs of impatience. He knew them well, but he just couldn’t stop himself. He really wanted to know.

“Why?” he asked. But that was just too much. The sailor threw up his hands in exasperation.

“I don’t know!” he yelled. “Go below and stop your jabbering.  Why? Why? Why? Ye’s worsen old Ben Tillley’s parrot.” He walked away grumbling and avoided Lem for the rest of the voyage. Lem gritted his teeth and gave himself a stern talking to.

No questions! No pestering people! Nothing stupid! A good first impression, that’s what I have to concentrate on.

Seeing the natives now, though, he wished he had found out more about them. These three certainly looked intimidating. He couldn’t help but remember what the sailor had said.

“They’d rather kill ye than talk to ye.”

Now, Lem was a smart boy, and he knew about prejudices, so he didn’t completely believe that, but looking at those still, expressionless faces, he decided that he wouldn’t risk it. He forced his feet to keep moving into the schoolyard and looked away from the intimidating sight under the tree.

That’s when a yell from one of the other boys caught his attention. It had come from a group clustered at the right of the school building over by the woods. They seemed to all be looking at something on the ground. Curious as always, Lem found his feet moving toward them. Another boy came running up to the group and yelled, “Whatcha got, Burt?”

One of the boys, Burt, apparently, turned and hollered back, “It’s a dragon.”

A Dragon? thought Lem excitedly as he ran over to see.