(Note: In the early versions of Gordath Wood, Lynn wandered around lost for a loooong time. While I wanted to get across the fear and tiredness of being lost in the woods, which is something that happened to me when I was twelve, pages and pages of it has the opposite effect on readers. It’s not frightening. It’s boring. So in keeping with Elmore Leonard’s dictum to leave out the boring parts, I cut most of it. The following is a last snippet that survived almost to the final draft, falling victim at the end to an editorial instruction to tighten things up.)
The forest had long gone silent when Lynn, sitting on the floor of the clearing hugging her knees, raised her head. She had often prided herself on never crying. It didn’t ever do any good and it was a sign of weakness that most people were impatient with despite all their hair pats and sympathy.
Now she wiped her tear-streaked face against her sleeve and thought about survival. Up until the theft of Dungiven, she had only been thinking about being found. That was a luxury she could no longer afford. She could not rely on rescue.
Lynn took a mental inventory. She had her vest. Her boots were good — they weren’t made for walking, she thought with a wan smile, but they were sturdy and would protect her feet from harm. Her socks were useless though, just the thin nylons she always wore so they would fit under her skin-tight breeches and her custom tall boots. They were probably already in tatters, or would be when the time came to peel them off.
Her breeches were no longer skin tight. She straightened out her injured leg, wincing as it protested. A bit more blood had seeped through the knee, and warmth radiated off of it when she placed her hand there. Gathering herself, Lynn got to her feet. Slowly she unbuckled her breeches and began to pull them down, gently drawing them over her knee. The stiff fabric stuck on the abrasion and she cried out, turning it into a curse. Finally it came off, and she took a long look.
The joint was swollen and bruised, the skin already turning red and purple. There was a long deep cut that could use soap and water and an antibiotic ointment. Not to mention anti-inflammatories and an ice pack, she thought.
All in short supply in the woods.
She hated having to draw up her pants again but she took a deep breath and began to inch the whipcord back over her knee. For the second time she burst into tears, it hurt so bad.
“Okay,” she whispered as she tried to regain her composure. “Okay. But it’s not broken. And I just had a tetanus shot last year, so that’s something.”
Not that the cut couldn’t still get infected. At least she could walk though. If she needed to she could find a stick in the tangle of deadwood along the creek and use it as a staff.
So. She had adequate clothing. She had water, if she stayed along the creek. She had daylight still, although the Woods seemed perpetually twilit. She had the weather on her side, if the dryness of the creek was any indication. She had plenty of firewood, if she could make a fire, which she knew she could not.
No fire — and no food either. She would have to be careful about what she sampled of the wild vegetation. Her stomach had the grouchy feeling it got when she passed beyond hunger. She would have to find food soon, or she would end her days sitting by the creek, too weak to continue.
Lynn took a deep breath. “Then I best get a move on while I still can,” she said to the silent forest.
Her first obstacle was the sharp hill that Dungiven and the horse thief had taken. She tackled it slowly, hauling herself up by pulling on saplings and reaching for jutting rocks. The footing was treacherous, covered with slick leaves turning into mold and hiding loose rock. She fell and slid a couple of times, and banged up her other knee, though not nearly as bad.
When she reached the top, though, she was rewarded with a tuft of blue yarn, snagged on a maple sapling whose leaves were already turning bronze. A stray shaft of sunlight stabbed down into the gloom, illuminating the yarn and the great gouges in the leaves that Dungiven’s hooves had made. Nearby, tickling over moss-covered rocks, ran the little stream, the merest reminder of the waterfall the cataract must be in the spring and early summer. Lynn knelt again and drank her fill. Then she stood, straightened her vest and brushed off as much of the dirt as she could, and limped off in the direction Dungiven had gone.
She didn’t know why, but she felt suddenly optimistic.