Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Making Ends Meet (01/16/14)
TITLE: Man of Many Jewels
By Nancy Bucca
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Beads of sweat dripped down his brow as he squeezed a cluster of amethysts. They shimmered in his hand like ripe grapes sprinkled with fresh dew.
The work was hard, but the price well worth it, for gardening alone would not supply the income needed to satisfy his family's hunger or cure their multiple sclerosis, cirrhosis, fibrosis, halitosis, and/or post traumatic stress syndromes.
Long winters took a toll upon the hilltop where he lived, with winds that sliced straight through thick comforters and blew away scarce food supplies. Bodies grew lean, tempers flared, and nasty vices raised their ugly heads. Tired of seeing his hard-earned funds sucked down the "whiskey" drain, our hero sought more profitable work beneath the roots of Perilous Mountain. He knew if he could manage to access the store of untapped treasure buried there, his family need never suffer lack, ever again. But the trip would cost him everything. And it did.
As the stress inside the sweatshop mounted, he felt his muscles cook. Mere fool's gold couldn't pay the price required to set them free. Nor could any cache of silver unrefined. To prove its authenticity, it must be tested, just like him.
The first leg of his journey involved crossing Rabid Rapids, the turbulent river bridge between poverty and prosperity. On the near end lay his own hometown, the city of Stark Lack. On the far end lay the country called Abundant Wealth. To make those two ends meet, he had to brave a storm of unforgiving waves, judgmental rocks, and foaming falls.
The driftwood raft to which he clung poked him with sharp splinters. Battered, bruised, and racked with pain, he pulled himself ashore, only to get ambushed by a band of outlaws. They beat him mercilessly, stole his clothes, and splashed freezing water on his wounds. Cruel winds whipped his shivering back as they led him up a thorn-strewn path toward the mountain's base.
With growing strength of will he pushed aside the urge to flee and strove to work his pen more feverishly than the fever threatening to quench his light. He clasped a ruby to his chest and etched into its side the letters "HOLY ZEAL." He extracted a sapphire from hot coals and inscribed on it the label "REVELATION." An amber orb received the name "HOPE DAWNS ANEW." Each gem got marked according to its purpose, whether to warm chilled bones, fill starving stomachs, heal shattered nerves, or calm the anxious soul.
Such was his plan from the beginning, long before the mob of blinded, greedy miners met him, armed with shovels and pick axes. Before he had a chance to state his business, they accused him of trying to steal the claims they'd staked a mere two weeks before. Without a trial, they found him guilty.
Shouts of "Mine, it's mine, the treasure's mine!" rang out as blunt steel hit iron nails. Besieged by loneliness, he cried in agony as they attempted to break him. His chest heaved fitfully as he tried to catch his breath. The mountain smoked and the earth quaked as he declared his work complete. Then he expired, and his enemies thought it was over.
He expired, but they didn't understand.
He expired, but his soul revived. Fresh wind filled his lungs as he pushed his way through mounds of dirt and clay, and cut through miles of stubborn rock. He traveled many miles, ever downward, ever mindful of his mission, until he finally arrived at the great forge. Bitter smells rose from beyond the iron gates. He opened them with a simple finger touch, and entered the infamous furnace, deep beneath the roots of Perilous Mountain.
In that place of intense heat, he shaped the jewels, crafting each one to express a different facet of himself and of his story. In their light his family could see where he had been, behold the wonders he had done, and marvel at how in the end he'd finally overcome.
After he arose, he told them, "Spread it everywhere, that all may know and understand: I am the man of many jewels, capable of making all ends meet."
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