Category Archives: The Life and Times of Jacob Travlers

An ongoing work of serial fiction… which is currently on hold.

Jacob Travlers Goes on an Indefinite Hiatus

Can I share a secret with you all? Writing fiction can be challenging, especially if what one is writing is a long, plot driven narrative that requires cohesion and few (hopefully none) plot holes and incongruities. Frankly, The Life and Times of Jacob Travlers has turned out to be more than I can chew in this season of my life.

When I first began this story, I aspired to write a serial epic in the style of the pulp stories of the late 19th and early 20th century. I was very much hoping to channel my inner Edgar Rice Burroughs (without the racism) and Charles Dickens (likely without the same wit and charm). The original title for this section was Pulp Fiction Friday! I was hoping to encourage other writers I know to take on the task of writing a serially published story so my readers would have a new chapter every Friday from three or four alternating tales. Each story would get a monthly installment, and several genres would be represented.

That was the portion of the blog that I was most excited for.

Alas, writing serial fiction requires extensive planning and forethought, so writing week to week is a poor strategy. While it certainly worked for the first couple of seasons of Lost, it is also a reason the show floundered in the middle, killed off characters without reason, then crashed into an ambiguous ending with unanswered questions.

I certainly hope to bring Jacob Travlers and his adventure to the world wide web again. I have notes and scribbles and other such gris for the proverbial mill. But I’m not sure how soon that will be. Consider this an indefinite hiatus.

I thank you for reading what four chapters I do have posted. I will continue to share with you all where my imagination goes and what musings come to the surface.

Peace, fellow pilgrims.

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The Life and Times of Jacob Travlers: Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Begins with a Single Step

“You don’t have to leave tonight,” said Esau. Jacob shifted the straps of his pack on his shoulders and adjusted his scarf as a chill wind rose. Margaret hustled and bustled about the kitchen, lighting candles whose glow melded into the orange of the setting sun. She was gathering biscuits, hard cheese, and a skin of wine.
Jacob reached for the door. “No. If I’m going to make this boat, I need to find a ride out of town as daybreak.”
“Right,” said Esau. “I’m, I’m sorry it worked out this way.” Jacob noticed that Margaret had stopped her bustling. He thought he heard a sniffle. Maybe she had a cold.
“I’m not sure if I’m sorry yet,” returned Jacob. “Who know’s what traveling with Uncle will be like.” Esau only nodded. Margaret had joined them at the door, her hands clenched around a sack and wine skin.
“Thank you for letting me stay as long as you did,” said Jacob. “I know this house has felt rather cramped.” He opened the door into the dusky evening.
She lifted her eyes Jacob’s for the first time since that morning. They were were pink and puffy and damp. She sniffled again. “I promise I will miss you, Jacob. Like a brother.” Her arms extended with a jerk, offering him the sack and wine skin.
He embraced his brother and sister-in-law, then turned to the path into town. “I love you both.” And Jacob Travlers started to walk.
He walked as the sun dipped into the east at his back. The cold night air morphed damp patches of mud and slush into ice. Jacob walked with care. He slipped once or twice, but caught himself on gracious branches, which bowed before him under the weight of snow.
Norshire was dark when he entered the village. Everyone was asleep. The night before had been bathed in blizzard and the townspeople must have spent their whole day clearing the streets and salvaging caved-in sheds. The darkened windows of the Drunken Dragon were a far cry from the hustle and bustle behind warm panes, persevering through the storm the previous night. Jacob knocked on the tavern door.  After a moment he knocked again. He raised his fist to knock a third time when he heard Everette Thor’s thick stomping feet thundering across the floor. The locks of the door clicked and Thor threw the door open.
“We are closed! You ingrates emptied every barrel of ale and every sack of flour, you bastards!” Thor then realized who was standing before him and raised an eyebrow.
“Hello!” chimed Jacob.
“Master Travlers. Why are you here?” His eyes widened. “She kicked you out! That icy witch threw you out!”
Jacob shrugged. “If you give me a bed, I’ll tell you the story.” At that, Thor stepped aside and swept a welcoming hand to the interior.
“Well, I have no food or beer. But I have beds. Come, Master Travlers. Let us fellowship as paupers.”
Jacob relayed the events of the day. Thor read Malachi’s letter, accompanied by a dim harmony of hums and grunts and exhales. He could not spare a horse to Jacob for a prompt morning gallop to Nor’Haven, but given Jacob’s lack of experience on horseback it wouldn’t have been worth the trouble. Jacob was in luck, said Thor, because the fellow who had rode into town, to deliver mail throughout the village, was the Dragon’s only other guest. He had gone to bed before sundown to rest well before his journey south. “For a copper piece or two, I’ll bet he’ll take you. His cart and horse are in the village stable. He’ll be leaving town at dawn so you best be awake by then.” Jacob nodded then felt exhaustion fog his mind. Jacob had not noticed how tired he was while amidst all the letters and packing and goodbyes of the day. But, having spent the previous night snowed in at the Dragon listening to stories, Jacob hadn’t slept since the previous morning. “I’ll take that bed now, Master Thor.”
The following morning, Jacob awoke to the knocking on the bedroom door. “Best be moving, Master Travlers! Your carriage should be leaving soon.” Jacob rubbed sleep from his eyes, gathered his things, and marched through the still chill of early morning to the village stables. A man with graying hair and a thin face under a fury cap was tightening the reins of his horse and double checking the cart. He agreed to take Jacob to Nor’Haven and if all went well, Jacob would be there before the departure of the Queen’s Splendor. Jacob loaded his pack into the cart and took a seat next to the fur-capped man. And the cart left Norshire. And Jacob left home.

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The Life and Times of Jacob Travlers Chapter 3

Chapter 3: A Journey of a Thousand Miles…

The remainder of that day sat in quiet. The sun continued to turn the snow to slush and the clouds continued to flee from its face. The miller’s house was quiet. Only this quiet was busy. It was the quiet in which no one spoke but the huffing and heaving of the miller clearing wet snow was muted amongst the trees. It was the quiet in which no conversation filled the kitchen or reverberated over the supper table but the miller’s wife hurried about with her scrubbing and sweeping, always looking over her shoulder at the bedroom door of her brother-in-law then anxiously returning to her chores. It was the quiet in which no tears, no laughter, no muttering to one’s self beyond the door found the ears of the miller’s wife listening because there was none. Only the rustle of cloth on cloth and the hiss of metal on fabric as the brother-in-law packed, unpacked, and repacked his belongings. Jacob’s mind was as turbulent as the snow storm the night before, only now he felt fear. The sun was setting in the west. The day had moved swiftly, although the day seemed to have no end several hours before. He had only left his room once for a biscuit, salted fish, and some well water, avoiding eye-contact with Maggie as best he could. When heard her inhale in preparation for what might have been words for him, Jacob scurried only faster. He finished loading his pack for what felt like the hundredth time and sat on his bed.
On his bed next to his uncle’s letter.
He had read the letter a dozen times between his dazed packing and unpacking. He reread it always making sure he understood it correctly. He had spent the day rereading notes since he came home. Or came to what was once his home. He picked up the letter once again.

To my favorite nephew, Jacob Matthias Travlers. There. I have written it as good and final as if I had engraved it in granite. You are my favorite nephew, in so far as an uncle can have favorites. Certainly the scale has been tipped by the impending eviction you are facing. If I spoiled the surprise, then fold this letter up and speak with your brother. If you are aware, then your life is just beginning! Esau, and I suspect his wife as well, has decided it is time for you to leave the home of your childhood.
Good for you, my boy! I have dreamed of the day when you may join me on my merchant vessel. I have dreamed of the day when you and I would walk into the harbor of Nor’Haven and sale out on the seas on The Georgiana. But, alas, you have to make it to the harbor and make your way to me on your own. I cannot be there. Too much to do. Too many treasures to sell, too many royals to impress. And too many ladies to love. Have no fear, Jakey. On the back of this letter, I have left the name of a ship that should be leaving Nor’Haven for the south in a week’s time from when you should receive it. It will journey to the port of Edenweave. The Georgiana will be moored there when you arrive. If the weather holds out up your way, the walk from Norshire to Nor’Haven should take two days at a brisk pace with one four hour nap. Bring your gifts from your Uncle Malachi. You’ll need them.
Lastly, do not hate your brother and Margaret. They are giving you a gift, even if they do not know it. Let them live their quiet lives in their quiet village. You are made of sturdier stuff than that.
See you at Edenweave. Look for me at the Salty Lassie.
Malachi Travlers, Captain

Jacob turned the letter over:

Captain Reginald La Fayette
The Queen’s Splendor

The departure date was as Malachi had written. Only then did Jacob realize that the storm had delayed the letter. He had two days from the coming morning to be in Nor’Haven. His chest grew tight. His breath quickened. A two days’ walk with four hours of sleep his uncle had written. Where would he sleep? The thaw may have started but the nights would still be frigid and bearing frostbite. And even if he could manage a place to sleep along the way, Jacob wasn’t that fast of a marcher. He wasn’t conditioned for such a pace at that distance. Could he make it there in time? He would need a horse. Actually, Jacob had never ridden a horse, at least not as a grown man. And the family horse had frozen to death two winters ago and Esau hadn’t had the money to replace her. He’d need to go into town. Tonight. And find something for the following morning.
Jacob stopped. What was all this? Where did these machinations come from? Never had he planned such a journey. He had read stories of how others had traveled, but never sought out his own. But then, he had had a home.
This was it.
Jacob took a deep breath. He tied and buckled tight his pack, tightened his boot laces, and stood. His pulse quickened again, his chest tightened again. He closed his eyes and took another breath. Then another. Another.
In spurt of frustration Jacob slapped himself in the face, shook it off, and took one more deep breath. The deepest breath that, in that moment, Jacob believed he had ever inhaled. He threw open the door to the kitchen and as it banged and Margaret jumped, Jacob realized what he had hoped would be an act of confident resolution had turned to panic.
“Maggie,” the words stumbled out of his mouth. “Whatever you have prepared for supper, save it for you and my brother!” The words came hurried and panting. Was he afraid of speaking, leaving, or at staying? “I am leaving tonight!”

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The Life and Times of Jacob Travlers Chapter 2

Chapter 2: The Thaw

Jacob Malachi Travlers, you are hereby evicted from Travlers’ Mill and adjacent grounds. Please vacate within a day’s time. Jacob read it over and over again, sighs punctuating each read.

The month and day were scribbled at the bottom next to his brother and sister-in-law’s signatures.

“So you are evicting me.”

Margaret nodded. “You have until tomorrow morning.” Jacob tucked the notice into his coat pocket and reached for a biscuit, then withdrew his hand and shuffled to his room. Next to his bed was his pack. He hadn’t used it much beyond an occasional overnight hike and it was apparent it had been set out for him but Margaret. It had been a gift from his uncle Malachi. Malachi had always gifted Jacob with more adventurous items for birthdays and holidays, despite Jacob’s not being too keen on adventure. It wasn’t that he disliked adventures per say. As a child, he was captivated by Malachi’s stories of sailing on merchant vessels and visiting foreign lands. Once Jacob had matured, Malachi had even alluded to some of his exploits with exotic women. He assumed many of his uncle’s tales were exaggerated, especially the ones involving women and Malachi’s insufferable charm, but Jacob soaked them in like a tavern mop. Yet, when it came to striking out on his own in search of swashbuckling and romance, Jacob shirked away from the prospect the way a chick shirks from the edge of the nest.

“Travlers weren’t christened that surname for nothing, lil’ Jakey!” Malachi used to say around the fire while camping in the foothills. “Our people earned it through their own sweat, blood, and piss. We used to draw maps, not grind flour!” And his uncle would spit and pound his chest with a surly grin.

Jacob pulled a trunk from under his bed and sifted through its contents. Compass, spyglass, flint and steel. All gifts from his uncle. At the bottom lay a knife and whetstone.  One side was honed sharp, the other serrated. Malachi had made it himself and it was the last gift he had given Jacob before he and Jacob’s father had a falling out. He left the chest open on the bed and packed his other two sets of clothes. He rolled up a wool blanket, wrapped it in a cloak, and strapped it on the bundle. Finally, he emptied the chest into the pack. The gifts from Malachi, as well as a quill, ink well, and two pieces of crisp folded parchment, were most of his possessions. He set the pack on the bed and stared at it. Where to now? he wondered. A knock on the wall behind him startled Jacob.

“I brought you something, ” Esau said. In his hands he held a small, maple chest with brass bands and clasps. It was about half the size of the one Jacob kept under his bed. Esau also held a hatchet. It was Esau’s last gift from Malachi. “Here is your portion of the inheritance, in the chest. And take my hatchet.”

Jacob didn’t move. “I’m not even sure where I’m going yet…”

“You could go anywhere, Jacob.”

“I may just rent a room at the Dragon until I can earn my keep in this village.”

Esau shook his head. “It’s your’s to do as you please. But maybe Fate is granting you a new life just beyond the horizon.”

“What a wonderful way to view an eviction… Fate seems to have conspired with my own brother and sister in-law.”

Esau mumbled something to himself, the only audible words being “…not Fate, exactly.” Jacob’s long face kept his brother locked in a stare. “Well,” Esau continued. “We wrote to Uncle Malachi. His response came into town last night and Harper’s youngest ran it out this morning at first light in exchange for a shilling. Said it was brought to town by a traveling peddler who rolled in looking for grain for his mule. Delayed by the storm, I suspect.”

“He wrote back already?” Jacob’s mouth dropped. “You must’ve written him months ago.”

His eyes searched the the floor for something. “You and Maggie have been discussing this since the dead of winter!”

The silence hung in the air between them like a heavy fog. Finally Esau spoke and offered the letter to the younger brother. “Uncle didn’t address it to us. We do not know what he thinks. He wrote to you, Jacob.”

Jacob took the letter and broke the wax seal. “Here’s hoping this is better than the last note I received,” he muttered. Esau winced. “I’m sorry, Esau. I didn’t mean it. I know the mill is yours, and you and Maggie desire to start a family.” Esau merely nodded in consent.

“We are sorry, Jacob. You’re just too old to stay here. With the thaw at hand, new life is upon us all. The rhythm of the seasons beckons for rebirth and new possibilities. Just like in all those stories elder Hector tells. You know, of spirits and sprites and the blossoming of flowers and the reaching of trees towards the sun. The renewal of the world…” It became apparent that Jacob wasn’t listening. His eyes were wide, his hands gripping the letter from Malachi tight. “Brother, what does it say?”

Jacob slowly met Esau’s eyes.

“I’m leaving to sail across the sea.”

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The Life and Times of Jacob Travlers

Chapter 1: Dragons and Evictions

The snow from the previous night grew heavier in the morning sun. The door to the Drunken Dragon shook and heaved as those inside dug their heels into the tavern floor and pulled, hoping to overcome the frozen snow and ice that cemented the door in its frame. Droplets cascaded from old eaves. Then with one muffled chorus of huffs and grunts, the bank spilled through the tavern door while half a dozen sweaty men spilled into the sunlit morning. The last great blizzard of the season had passed and the spirits of thaw were at work. The storm had swept through the village and the patrons of the Dragon had spent the night emptying barrels of ale and telling fairy tales, heroic epics, and insufferable jokes and gibes. The morning sun burned away the dark, snowy clouds, and poured into the Dragon’s dining room casting shadows every which way. Men and women gathered their coats, tied tight their boots strings, and began to cut a path through the snow to their respective homes and hollows.
Jacob set his tricorn hat on this head and draped his scarf about his neck. “Well, Master Thor, it has been one eventful night but I must return to my brother’s house.”
“Master Travlers, don’t let ol’ Maggie kick you out without a fight. Be a scrapper, boy,” said the burly proprietor from behind the bar. Jacob nodded and stepped out into the snow. His boots sunk into the heavy terrain just above his ankles. With heavier feet, Jacob marched out of the village towards the river, towards the mill. His brother’s mill. With lanky strides, he tromped down the road reminiscing about the stories and songs of sprites, knights, ogres, and vagabonds that had been told the previous stormy night. His sigh turned to cloudy vapor before him despite the morning sun. If the sprites and mystics and magics were real, Jacob Travlers would have given his coat and scarf thrice over for their aide in what likely waiting for him.
Soon his brother came into view. Esau was thicker and more muscled than Jacob and it showed as he shoveled a path from the house to the mill. He stopped his labor and shouted. “Where’ve you been all night in this blizzard? Caught up into the mountains by frosty shades or hungry beasts?”
“Snowed in at the Dragon with the best and brightest of Norshire,” Jacob hollered back. He approached Esau only to be met with stern grey eyes and furrowed brow.
“Margaret wants to talk to you.” Jacob looked to the frozen ground at his feet. “Don’t worry she’s simmered down since last night,” Esau continued. “She was worried about you when the storm came through. We both were.” Jacob fidgeted with his scarf. “Jacob, it was just a broken plate. Winter seemed to go on for ages until this morning, and our stores are running low. Both of us were anxious and the plate only lit the tinder.” Jacob said nothing. “Go on inside and eat something. I’ll follow you in a minute.”
Jacob started towards the house. “How many days do I have to leave, brother?” he asked over his shoulder. Esau didn’t answer but continued shoveling.
“I’ll… I’ll be in in a minute. Just need to get the mill door clear.”
Jacob came upon the door to the house and knocked. “Come in,” echoed from the kitchen inside. As he pushed in the door, the smell of bread and grease enveloped him. Eggs, rashers, and biscuits were set on the table. It was a warm and inviting presentation. The scowling woman in an apron who turned to meet him was neither.
“Breakfast smells wonderful, Maggie,” unsure if he should take a seat at the table or not.
The woman took a deep breath as if trying to find words to say, only to then hand him a piece of parchment from her apron. It was old, ruddy parchment and look far from magisterial. However, written in globby ink was a brief note. Or more appropriately, notice. Jacob Malachi Travlers, you are hereby evicted from Travlers’ Mill and adjacent grounds. Please vacate within a day’s time.”

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