April 19, 2018
The Scrivener is DeSmet Jesuit’s literary magazine. The purpose of The Scrivener is to promote the artwork and manuscripts, short stories and poems, of the students, teachers, and staff at DeSmet Jesuit High School. Students, faculty, and staff submit their works throughout the year and the student literary and art editors choose which submissions to publish. Robert Hutchison is the moderator and receives great help from Mrs. Laurie Kohler and Miss Emily Ledbetter. Any students, faculty, or staff member looking to submit their work should e-mail Mr. Hutchison.
The Siege of Widow’s Web – Part 1
Garth had never known a time when he had been so scared. The world around him seemed to spin; he took this moment and relieved himself of his breakfast over the enclosed bridge. He wiped his mouth of the vomit, taking this time to think. It had been three days since they had been put at their posts. Each day had been worse than the last hours passed with a mixture of anxiousness and boredom. On this day the added element to the two was fear. They had known of the coming army three days ago but didn’t realize the mere mass of it until the middle of the night on the second day. A great sound of swords banging on shields aroused the entire castle echoing through the stone halls for hours. When they stopped, the sun had risen and more guards needed to be put on duty. Lady Edith Thorament had known they were coming for she had told all of them three days ago. Thorament was the last house in the East that had not surrendered or sworn fealty to the General and his army. He had conquered the capital, thus declaring himself the new king, and by this title he deemed he had right to all lands once belonging to the old kingship.
The old royal family was still alive or so Garth was told. They had fled to a neighboring country and, with help from their allies, would return with a large army. He didn’t know if it was true or if it was just something Lady Thorament told them to keep the morale high. After all, Widow’s Web was nearly impossible to impregnate. The only way into the castle were several enclosed bridges that only ten men shoulder to shoulder could walk across. They were made of stone while the roof was low and made of wood making it impossible for cavalry to enter. All of which led to one central tower, which served as a keep for the castle. From the higher plateaus this made it look like the various bridges were connected like a web.
Garth slid his back against one of the various beams that supported the celling. He gripped his stomach regretting the bowl of hot porridge he had had for breakfast. It felt as if a sword had gutted him in the stomach. After this pain subsided, he took off his pointed helm and wiped his brow of sweat. Fifteen years he’d been alive, not long enough for him to become literate and go to one of the universities. Actually he never found use for reading in his life as a farmer in the valley reading was a faun’s job; they loved everything to do with reading or art, or at least that’s what he’d heard as he had never met one. But it was probably true; he knew of a faun saying that went “book’s first, wine second and mounting your mate’s last.” Putting his woman over reading was something Garth could never do which is why he thought he would not like to be a faun. His wife was with child now; they hoped it would be a boy. Garth could use an extra hand on the farm, but if it were a girl, they would manage as they always did. The two of them had been married nearly a year now and took housing in the cottage just below Bridge Keith (the bridge he currently stood on). It was just a dot whenever he looked over the bridge, but to him it was everything.
As his mind wandered his gut began to subside form its violent state. With a deep sigh he stood up and made his way toward the gate house barracks. It was the end of his shift and after the loss of his breakfast, he felt the need to lay down. Bridge Keith had a nervous air to it this morning with various guards crowding its edges trying to get the more circulated air. Most had their pointed helms off which was the only part of their entire armor that were made of metal. The rest of the amour was boiled leather from the valley below and the surrounding plateaus. Cattle and leather were the only exports the area could produce, which were then traded for iron that was used for the soldiers. Unfortunately, the amount of iron was inefficient which left most of the troops with short swords and wooden shields. The only exception being Lady Thorament’s son, who with full iron armor and a long sword, commanded the household guard. Their aggressors on the other hand were well equipped with iron armor, shields and long swords. Crossbows were also said to be used by the enemy, but this was of little use since the bridge had been enclosed and nowhere on the current plateau could they get an angle. Catapults and trebuchets were virtually useless since it was a mile from every plateau to the central tower. Battering rams were the only equipment of any use, but the enemy only needed to use one, since they only had besieged Bridge Keith’s gate. The other gates were left unguarded but still locked just to be safe, not that they had to worry about an attack from the other flanks since there was a gorge 600 hundred feet deep and several yards wide between each plateau. To get around to the next plateau one would have to walk nearly a mile. Garth could never understand anyone who would ever wish to be a solider in a lively army; he would rather spend his nights warm in his bed with his wife than preparing to besiege a fortress.
The warm spring air rushed through one of the wall breaks. The valley was normally quite blustery and before the entire area was called Widow’s Web it was known as Whistler’s Gorge. Garth took his helm and secured it back on his head to keep his ears from chapping from the wind. It squeezed his skull like a lemon. It was a few sizes too small due to the castle’s armory lacking supplies. Despite its age, Widow’s Web until then had never been besieged. The castle’s web-like layout intimidated the most ambitious of all invaders except for the tyrant Tom Myrin. He had won over the hearts of the commoners with his insane ideas of officials being nominated by peasants, leaders serving in terms, separation from the royal council and even dismantlement of the country’s democratic monarchy. Elected by the peasants, this family had to be of noble lineage and rule a castle for nearly a hundred years. Then there was the Royal Council, a union of kingdoms that almost all had democratic monarchies and used the same currency. Garth truly didn’t care what system was in place to rule over him as long as it allowed him to put food on the table for his family. The current democratic monarchy had this for him, his father, and his father’s father, so he would support it to the end. He never considered himself to be chauvinist, but he would do what he could for his country to a certain extent.
These thoughts were pushed aside when he finally made it to the gate house barracks. The gates of the castle had thankfully been built last in the construction of Widow’s Web giving the men stationed in them less to worry about beams and stones falling out. Its massive gate was wooden and swung outward instead of inward to ensure more difficulty for the attackers battering ram along with a strong beam placed on the back for extra defense. Two roofed buttresses guarded both sides of the gate leaving just enough room for a carriage to come through each of which housed ten men for the reserves of the valley leaving Garth with only other farmers as his selection as roommates.
He pushed open its door and went inside to find several of his bedfellows sitting around the central fire pit. Its flames had died hours ago causing its creators to draw more toward its center for warmth as they smoked their pipes with great enthusiasm. Creating a light haze in the room like that of morning fog by the valley’s streams. Another had taken residence in one of the straw beds against the cold stone wall. Garth presence had not been taken note of till he shut the heavy wooden door with a clang. Their eyes were torn from the smolder and onto him.
“Where in hell you been?” one of the three near the pit inquired harshly.
“Martin caught me on my way out of the Great Hall and made me do an extra patrol.” Garth made his way over to one of the straw beds and began to remove the leather from himself.
“The charlatan thinks he’s in charge of everyone because his mother’s head of house Thorament.”
He proceeded to undress until he was just in his tunic and britches making a small pile next to his bed.
“I hear him and her have done a little midnight wrestling,” one them by the pit joked with an undertone of disrespect toward the hierarchy.
Everyone laughed at this until a voice with the essences of adolescences interrupted.
“Could you all shut the hell up,” Ralph, the one on the bed said to him. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“O, you poor little boy,” another by the pit mocked with a voice reserved for children. “Did we wake you?”
“Don’t treat me like a child Arthur,” he spat with venomous attitude. As far as Garth could tell, Ralph hated being treated childishly by the others mainly due to the fact that he was two years their junior. He had a large gash across his right cheek, which opened into his mouth showing all his teeth whenever he grinned. Ralph would only say that it was from a bandit who had killed his father when he was ten. They naturally assumed this was the source of his awful temperament. The lack of sleep also didn’t help for his morale or the entire group for that matter.
Arthur took off one of his boots and flung it at Ralph with no intent of harm but more out of playfulness. It struck the wall with a thud, missing its target but still infuriating Ralph. He took leave of the mattress and stormed over to Arthur who sat there grinning with a great fluster. The smirk was wiped from his face with a blow to his nose causing him to tumble backwards. Ralph grinned at what he had just done revealing all of the teeth on the right side of his mouth. They all began to laugh at this sight of pure barbarism, raising their sprits that had been so low that day. Garth laid down on the mattress and gathered up stray hay strands to rest his head on. His bedfellow’s laughter began to subside being replaced with the steady sound of smoking pipes and low grumbling table talk. The ringing of the bell from on top the central tower could be heard lulling Garth to a peaceful slumber away from the chaos of his world.
The digital clock on the bedside table showed 10:53 p.m. Wednesday was always a late night for Coach Andrew Sanford in his two-story house in Palo Alto, California. He always dedicated this day of the week to watching their game film over and over preparing for the upcoming game. Basketball in the San Francisco Bay area is nothing to take lightly. Being the coach of Palo Alto High School in the middle of San Francisco, there was not much he did without it being basketball related. All he could think about was keeping up the good season that he was working on, in hopes of moving his way up in the ranks and making a name for himself
As he prepared to turn the television off for the night, the phone began to ring. Coach Sanford muted the screen and quickly checked the caller ID on the phone. It read “unknown caller.” He decided that it was too late and let the phone ring as he made his way up the stairs. He could not help but wonder who was calling him at such a late hour. He fell asleep, just thinking who it was.
The next morning, Coach woke up before his alarm went off. It was his phone ringing and displaying the “unknown caller” on the ID. Since he had a little time before his day started, he decided to answer it.
“Hey Andrew, it’s Chris Perkins, the athletic director down at St. Anthony Prep. How’re you doing?” the man asked.
“I’m doing just fine how’re you?” Coach responded. He began to wonder what such a prestigious school like St. Anthony was doing calling him. They were undefeated and ranked number one in the state. Palo Alto was ranked a little bit behind at number twenty-two. Was this the call he had been waiting on?
“I’m great, thanks. Listen, I wanted to talk to you about a coaching job over here at St. Anthony’s. Our head coach just left to go coach at some fancy college and we thought you’d be the perfect person to come on down here and fill the gap,” Chris said
At first, Coach Sanford did not know how to react. Of course, he had always wanted this but now that it was here, was this the right thing to do. He thought about his team, his players, all of his progress this season. And he would be throwing it away for what? Only a few ranks higher? But on the other hand, he thought, maybe the same thing that happened their old coach could happen to me.
It felt like ten hours had passed since the question had been asked. “Chris, I…I don’t know what to say. I appreciate the offer, I really do. But I have to be at practice in about thirty minutes so I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
“Hey, no pressure Andrew. You just give it some thought and get back to me as soon as you can,” Mr. Perkins responded. Somehow, this laid-back response only made Coach’s heart race faster and his stomach began to hurt.
“All right well you take care,” Coach said.
“I will. You as well,” Chris said right before hanging up the phone, leaving coach in silence.
The first thing that popped into Coach’s head after he hung-up the phone was the money. If he was able to lead Palo Alto this far into the season, just think about how good he would do if he had the players down at St. Anthony’s. There would be championships, press conferences, college offers, all of the spotlight you could think of. He came to the conclusion that he would call back Chris Perkins tonight after practice and tell him the good news, that he had decided to take the offer.
Coach Andrew arrived at 8:45 a.m. for 10 a.m. practice like he always did. As he set up drills for the day, he was surprised to see two players already shooting around on the far basket, farthest from the door. The players there were the best on the team. One of them was their point guard, Harrison Solich, who was a 5’11 160-pound senior who had just moved to California a couple of months before the season started. The dark, mop-like hair that sat on top of his head drooped down into his eyes, causing him to be constantly flipping it to the side. He worked harder than anyone Coach had ever seen. Then there was Landon. He was only a couple of inches taller than Harrison but probably had thirty-five pounds on him. The teams star shooting-guard, he had blonde hair with long, lengthy arms and hands that looked like they could palm an exercise ball. Another thing, he and Harrison were best friends, on and off the court.
“What’s up boys?” Coach asked.
“Just getting some shots in before practice,” Harrison answered.
“Alright well, I’m not going to stop you guys just yet. You keep going,” Coach said.
As the boys got back to work, Coach Sanford began to grab the cones out of his bag. These boys are always working. I wish the whole team worked as hard as they do, Coach thought to himself, as he stopped to take it all in. They are up and done with their workouts before most guys get out of bed on some days. He began to wonder if he had ever seen two people that were more hard-working than Harrison and Landon. He hadn’t.
The clock hit 9:30 a.m. as coach finished setting up his last drill. More and more players from the team began to sprinkle in the gymnasium doors.
“What’s this, you guys?” Coach asked the players.
Landon stepped in this time. “We thought we would have everyone come in a little early and go over some plays and work on some things for tomorrow night.”
Coach got to thinking again. Not only are they the two hardest workers I have ever seen, but it is rubbing off on the rest of the team.
“You don’t say,” Coach said right back. “I like that Landon. You keep doing what you’re doing.”
“Thanks, Coach,” Landon responded, as he huddled everyone up to talk about what they were planning to work on.
That night, Coach sat at home on the couch, relaxing after a long morning. He remembered that he was supposed to call back Mr. Perkins and give him his answer on whether he was going to stay, or leave. That was probably the last thing he wanted to do. With what he had seen at practice, he was not sure if he still wanted to leave. He still thinks about the money and the fame but he also thinks about this own team. How they had gone to practice early and were doing extra work on their own without being told. That was what being a coach was all about. Not just working at the scheduled practices, but the need to rub off on your players and have them be working all the time.
The clock next to the couch said 9:45 p.m.. Coach Sanford decided that night that he would not be finalizing his decisions to leave or stay. Instead, he called one the oldest, best coaches he’d ever worked with. Coach Richard Valiant was the head coach at Coach Sanders first coaching job as an assistant at Westmont High School down in San Jose. The guy had to be at least seventy-five years old now. But he and Coach Sanford had always kept in touch, texting each other every so often just to see how the other person was doing. He dialed the number.
He answered, “Hey how are you doing Andrew? Good to hear from you, what’s going on?”
“I was just calling to see how you’re doing. I Got something I needed to talk to you about,” Coach Sanford said.
“I’m doing great, what’s on your mind?” Coach Valiant said.
“I just got a call from St. Anthony’s and they want me to be their new coach. But I would have to switch in the middle of the season.”
“Well, that’s a tough decision…” Coach Valiant said.
Coach Valiant told him about why he became a coach. “I did not do it because of the money or the championships or the recognition. The winning was just a bonus if I was able to accomplish my original goal. And that was working with kids to help them improve to the best of their ability. Not bouncing around from school to school looking for the better paying job or the higher ranked team,” He said.
Immediately after the call ended with Coach Valiant, Coach Sanford began to think about his team. They were not the best team around and the definitely did not have the best players. But they were the hardest working team he had ever seen. He thought that if he could help just one player move on to the next level, all of his years of coaching would be worth it. It also popped into his mind that he would be abandoning Harrison and Landon. He could not just leave them behind, could he?
After sitting alone in the silence of his home, he decided to sleep on it. As he made his way up the stairs, he almost felt relieved that he had not made the mistake of locking in his decision that night. That night, he sat in his bed thinking about what he would be giving up. Losing his successful season, his reputation and the idea of letting down his players made his stomach feel like it had just dropped. But he also began to think about all of the opportunities, the money, and the prestige that would come with taking the job. It felt as if he had fallen asleep the moment that his head hit the pillow.
The next morning when he awoke, Coach jumped right into his game-day routine. He went right down to the kitchen and immediately began making his personal breakfast of champions: eggs, hash browns and bacon with a single biscuit. The time between breakfast and game time always seems to fly by when Coach does all of his last chance preparations. It was not until he walked into the locker room and saw all of the players lacing up their shoes that he began to start thinking about the coaching offer.
After the game had ended and the post-game locker room meeting had come to a close, he went into his office. The had smashed the other team 76-41 and they obviously could have run the score up, but Coach Andrew never let his team do that, no matter who they played against. When Harrison and Landon walked past the door to his office, he called after them.
“Hey boys! Get in here for a second,” he said.
“Hey coach, what’s up?” Harrison asked first.
“Yeah what can we do for you?” added Landon
“What I just saw out there, is that something you two can make a habit of? Do you think you boys can have that kind of effort every game we play from here on out?” When he said this, he expected a modest response or something along the lines of “We’ll try.” But what he got was completely different.
Both of them looked at each other, then back at Coach, “Absolutely,” they both said.
Coach reflected back on his conversation with Coach Valiant and everything that he told him. “Thanks, guys. Good to hear. You guys are free to go.” he said to them.
“No problem, Coach thanks.” Harrison said before making his way towards the door to leave.
“Hey son,” Coach said, “you played a hell of a game.” It was at that moment that Coach knew with absolute certainty, he did not want to go anywhere else.
Landon looked back, “Thanks, Dad.”