Donovan, contentedly stuffed after a hearty meal with Vidar the blacksmith and his family, wandered through the village, enjoying the comforting sight of domestic life.
He spied Calvin sitting on a stump, facing towards the sunset (or what passed for one in this topsy-turvy world) and doodling on his notebook. Remembering a remark made during the dinner conversation he'd just had, he detoured over to where Calvin sat.
"Hey, there, Cal," he greeted the young man with a grin. "Thought you'd like to know. I found something you might find interesting as inspiration for your drawing."
"Oh, hey there Don. What's that?" Lost in thought and in his drawing, Calvin didn't notice the man approach and was almost startled by the greeting. His third attempt at drawing a giant person was going as well as the first two. This would be a good opportunity to switch gears.
Donovan paused in theatrical suspense. Then he leaned close and said in a conspiratorial tone, "Mermaids."
Calvin's eyes went wide and he nearly dropped his pencil at the word. "Are you serious? I gotta see this. This place is unreal. It's just like in one of those...." The thought stopped dead in its tracks. Calvin's expression went from genuine surprise to stunned realization to looking quite haunted.
Donovan had no problem following the shift of emotions on Calvin's face. Bending down to a comfortable squat, he asked in a gentle voice, "Something you want to talk about, Cal?"
Calvin looked around to make sure no one was within earshot. "Yeah. Remember that battle the other day?" he said low enough to not be heard. "Something's been bothering me about that. When we went into that, I thought we were gonna be some big damn heroes. You know, like in the action movies? That's the thing, though. Everyone did. Billy Jo charged in like a madman. Ed went toe to toe with one of those suckers. Even Marcus gutted one. I froze, Don. I froze."
Donovan's face showed nothing but sympathy and concern. "Calvin, correct me if I'm wrong, but that was the first time you had to fight anyone face-to-face, right?"
He waited just long enough to read the answer in Calvin's eyes before continuing. "Nobody knows how they will react the first time the dime drops. Nobody."
The former Air Force pilot sighed. "You say you froze like it was wrong, like the fact you hesitated about killing makes you less of a person. The thing is, the way people are normally wired, your reaction is actually the common, expected one. I don't know about BJ, but Ed, Cyan and I were trained to overcome it. And for some people, the compunction isn't as strong. On a few, it isn't there at all. You know what those few are called? Sociopaths."
Donovan brushed his hair back with his hand. "Here, let me tell you something. Even though I was taught hand-to-hand combat back in Basic, that was the first time I actually had to use what I'd learned. I was lucky." He chuckled ruefully. "Heck, afterwards I ended up puking up my breakfast. Never seen an action hero do that in the movies, have you?"
He rose to put a hand on Calvin's shoulder. "Don't run yourself down over it, okay? The fact that you were willing to stand at that line, that's what counts, regardless of what happened."
Calvin relaxed a little, letting the words sink in for a moment. "Perhaps you're right. Maybe I am making too much of it. I just can't help but feel I let these people down when they needed me. They're good people, Don. You don't see too many people like these back home, and I'm not talking about the fact that they come in technicolor." This last comment brought a much needed smirk to his face.
Donovan chuckled agreeably. "Actually, the villagers are a good example to follow. They acknowledge that not every single one of them is a hunter, or a farmer, or a smith. Yet they each know they contribute to the common good in their own way."
He gave the artist an encouraging look. "You have skills that the rest of us don't have. And they're just as valuable as Marcus' grasp of science or BJ's knowledge of construction. Seriously, don't sell yourself short."
Donovan brought a hand up to rub his chin speculatively. "In fact, I can think of something you can help with right off. Vidar was kind enough to give me a general description of the geography in this place. How good are you at drawing maps?"
"A map, huh? Sure, I can give it a shot." Calvin started drawing as Donovan relayed everything Vidar told him, in detail. Drafting and cartography weren't his strong suit, but the basics were a simple endeavor.
He made marks for the vast mountain range, and the 'ocean' at opposite ends of the map. Two little houses became the villages of Fyrkat and Askam, and a third denoted where the 'burrowing people' supposedly were. He drew little trees to symbolize the forests and a squiggle became the cliff range. Overall it was simplistic, but it should suffice.
"Well, it's not to scale, but what do ya think?" Calvin said, handing the map to Donovan.
Donovan grinned. "Perfect." He handed the map back. "Keep it. You're now the official team cartographer. As we get more info, you can add the details to it."
He gently clapped Calvin's shoulder. "Now go get some rest. Tomorrow we'll ask Mister Grimm about checking out those Water People."
Calvin nodded thankfully and headed off back towards the longhouses.
Donovan's eyes followed the artist's exit as his expression shifted to a thoughtful almost morose look. He took Calvin's place on the stump and stared off into the distance, his private thoughts staying securely locked in his head.
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