Jump to content
  • Join For Free and Get Notified of New Chapters!

    Are you enjoying a great story and want to get an alert or email when a new chapter is posted? Join now for free and follow your favorite stories and authors!  You can even choose to get daily or weekly digest emails instead of getting flooded with an email for each story you follow. 

     

  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
  • Shadowgod - Almost Home
    WolfM
  • Author
  • 3,782 Words
  • 1,297 Views
  • 16 Comments

Embers - 8. Embers 8

The daily briefing was thorough as the different fire fronts were covered. Assignments were divided amongst the many crews. Work would start the following morning for the Mutts. Battling the blazes in the Katoomba area was going to be much different than it had around the Hunter Valley. While the previous assignment had been a mix of hand work in the mountainous forests and structure defense in the small enclaves, all the fires around Katoomba would require miles of hiking just to reach. Large water trucks were constantly filled before heading to where the men waited to connect hoses and auxiliary pumps that carried it as far as possible. Aircraft had to make up for the lack of access for emergency vehicles.

Brandon and the others double-checked their packs to make sure they had all the gear they would need. They would not have access to the trucks for at least a week.

As dusk set in, the Mutts made their way to Echo Point Lookout. Joe pointed towards the towering column of smoke and glowing orange line in the distance. “There’s our prey, men. Just like the others, we’re gonna take this one down. Recheck your equipment tonight. A ten kilometer hike should be nothing for us, but if you forget something, you’re shit outta luck. Might just make you guys run it, so you don’t get lazy.”

“It’s not the hike I’m worried about, Joe. It’s those bloody stairs getting down to the valley.” Unlike the others, Lachlan would not get anywhere near the railing to look over. “They won’t let us take the train down?” Originally built in the late nineteenth century for the Katoomba Coal Mine, the Scenic World Railway was the steepest cable-driven funicular in the world at a staggering fifty-two degree incline. The pair of side by side cable cars counterbalanced each other; as one transited up the other descended.

“If it helps, we could throw you off the cliff. See if you can fly down.” A growl accompanied the displeasure in the voice.

“Oliver, there’ll be no throwing anyone off the cliff. Unless I get to do it.” Joe shook his finger at the man. “He may be a pain in the arse, but we need him.” The shiver of Lachlan’s body caught his attention. “Sorry, Lachie. No train and the cableway down to the valley is also out. Equipment and injured personnel only.” Like the train, Scenic World also operated an aerial tramway that traveled 1788 feet from the cliff top to the floor of Jamison Valley, giving passengers a spectacular view from the gondolas.

“Fine. Can I at least break his jaw so he can’t talk for a while? He can heal it later. Being stuck in a small truck with him for hours with his never ending babbling’s torture.”

“Walk it off, Oli.” Joe turned towards the problem. “And you. Not another word the rest of the night, Lachlan, or I’ll let him break whatever he wants.” Moving in close he whispered. “You’re scared of heights, aren’t you?”

Lachlan looked down at the ground and gave the barest of nods.

“Try to focus on the stairs or the side of the mountain. Keep your hand on the rail and avoid looking at the valley if you can help it.” Joe was back to his fatherly attitude, looking out for his men. “You’ll get through the climb, and we’ll be at the bottom before you know it.”

“Should we take the Yank over to Wentworth Falls?” Thomas hiked his thumb towards the east. “Might be his only chance to see it.”

“Naw, mate. Heard one of the other crews say it had run dry.” Oliver shook his head. “Might get rain someday to start the flow again.”

Brandon had been quiet as the men talked. He stood at the railing, resting his chin on his hands, as he watched the fire. Lucas and Noah remained with him while the others returned to their trucks. The smoke plume and clouds changed colors as the sun disappeared below the horizon. Lights turned on, illuminating several rock formations.

“Those are the Three Sisters, aren’t they?”

“The signs and plaques around here kinda give that away, mate.” Noah teased.

“I saw them mentioned in a travel post from a guy I follow on Instagram. I know there’s some sort of legend about them.”

“Let’s see if I can remember it.” Lucas stroked the scruff on his chin, as he glanced to his left. “The legend has it that three sisters, and I’m not even gonna try to pronounce their names, lived in the Jamison Valley as members of the Katoomba tribe.

“These beautiful young ladies had fallen in love with three brothers from another tribe, yet tribal law forbade them to marry or some bullshit like that.

“The brothers were pissed off, wouldn’t accept this law, and decided to use force to capture the three sisters, causing a major battle.

“As the lives of the sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from their tribe took it upon himself to turn them into stone to protect them from harm. He had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, but the bloody fool was killed in the fighting. Since he was the only one who could reverse the spell and return the ladies to their former beauty, the sisters remain in their rock formation as a reminder of the battle.”

“You’re full of shit, mate. You didn’t pull the story out of your arse, you read it from that plaque.” Noah’s hearty laugh reverberated in the canyon below.

“But he presented it in such a… unique way.” A dark-skinned stranger approached the three men. “Sorry to interrupt you. I lead bushwalkers around here when they don’t want to do the hikes on their own and have told that story many times. Umm… Usually with more of the story in it.” He extended his hand to each of them. “I’m Yarran Hurley. To say I’m grateful you’re here would be an understatement. Hopefully all of you can save our mountains.” He moved to the railing and watched the flames dance amongst the treetops in the distance. “Now that you’ve heard his version of the story, would you like to hear it the way I tell hikers?”

“That would be great.” Brandon smiled at the man.

Yarran cocked his head. “You’re an American?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I know a lot of your countrymen have been flying in the last week. A special thanks to you.”

“Oh, sure. Show up the tourist fireman who tried to read it without looking like I was reading.” Lucas could not hold back his own laughter even though he tried to keep a straight face.

“No worries, mate. You tried and that’s all that matters. Okay, here goes. Three sisters, and their names are pronounced Meenhi, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo, had a father who was a witch doctor. His name was Tyawan.

“Long ago there was a Bunyip who lived in a deep hole in the valley and was feared by all.

“Passing the hole was considered very dangerous. Therefore, whenever Tyawan had to pass it in search for food, he would leave his daughters safely on the cliff, behind a rocky wall.

“One fateful day, Tyawan waved goodbye to his daughters, and descended down the cliff steps into the valley.

“Meanwhile, at the top of the cliff, Meenhi was frightened by a large centipede which suddenly appeared before her. Meenhi took a stone and threw it at the centipede. The stone continued on its journey and rolled over the cliff, crashing into the valley below which angered the Bunyip.

“The rocky wall behind Meenhi, Wimlah, and Gunnedoo then began to split open and the three sisters were left stranded on a thin ledge at the top of the cliff. All the birds, animals, and fairies around the valley stopped still as the Bunyip emerged to see the terrified girls.

“As the Bunyip began to approach the girls, to protect them from harm, their father, Tyawan, used his magic bone to turn them into stone.

“Angered by this, the Bunyip then began to chase Tyawan. He became trapped and in order to flee from the Bunyip, he changed into a magnificent Lyre Bird, yet in the process dropped his magic bone. Tyawan and his three daughters were now safe from the Bunyip.

“Once the Bunyip had disappeared, Tyawan returned in search of his magic bone, yet this was never to be found.

“The Lyre Bird has been searching for this magic bone ever since. Remaining in rock formation, The Three Sisters stand silently overlooking the valley, hoping that one day he'll find the bone, and turn them back to their former selves.

“If you listen carefully you may be able to hear the Lyre Bird, Tyawan, as he continues his quest for his lost magic bone.”

“I like that better than the first version.” Brandon felt relaxed around man. “Okay, being an American I have to ask. What’s a Bunyip? And I can tell you’re lupus, but you’re scent’s different, so I know you’re not the same as me and Lucas.”

“Well my young wolf, I’m a dingo, so we’re sort of cousins. But I’m also a child of the sun and not of the moon like you.” The man winked at the foreigner.

“You’re one of the solar lycan? Are there a lot of you?”

“I am. Though I’m not sure about other countries, here we have a fairly even balance between both I believe.” He grinned at the inspecting gaze of the young American. “Now, a Bunyip, it’s a creature of Aboriginal mythology. You’ll find different versions all over the country. Generally it’s a large creature that’s said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, and waterholes. The name translates to evil spirit or devil, though some of my people call them water spirits. Now days they’d likely be called an Elemental crossed with a lycan. Much like the couple from America. Their body and shape change, depending on who you ask, which reinforces the lycan possibility.”

“I hope if I make it back with my mate we can go on one of your hikes. It would be like having a professor level guide.”

“The term is bushwalk here, and it would be my joy to lead you and the lucky lady.” Yarran’s face lit up at the prospect. “Actually you would have a professor as a guide. I teach in Sydney during the winter months. It lets me put my fancy Oxford education to use while still letting me spend as much time as possible in the mountains.”

“That explains the way you talk.” Lucas rubbed his chin. “Don’t sound like the typical Blug…”

“Care to finish what you were about to say?” The smile had vanished from Yarran’s face.

“Honestly, no. I don’t want to, and I won’t. I’m sorry. Things I learned growing up, and I’ve tried hard to unlearn and not say.”

“What’s going on?” Brandon looked back and forth between the men.

“Brandon, you remember how Joe said never call a woman a sheila?” Lucas waited for his friend to nod. “Well, I almost said something even worse to Yarran. It’s a name mainly used against the Aboriginal that isn’t nice. Something my parents and grandparents used to always say. And a word I’ve tried hard to change since I became an adult.”

“Hope you didn’t screw up my chances at having him take me on a hike. I mean bushwalk.”

“He caught himself and apologized, so no worries. Besides, it takes time to unlearn something, and courage to admit you’re still working at it. I’ll still take you and your mate if you make it back after the fires. I’m sure she’ll love the sites around here. Consider it my thank you for how far you traveled to fight this blaze.”

“Yeah… Umm… My mate’s actually a he. I won’t be offended if that changes things.”

“My young American friend, I might even bring my husband along, so we can both get to know you guys. There are canyons to the north of town that are breathtaking. Or they were. We’ll have to see what’s left when they get those fires out.”

Noah had been silent through the entire exchange, but could not hold back any longer. “Wow. I’m not used to being the only straight one in the crowd.”

“I call bullshit, or whatever term you use in Oz.” Brandon laughed hard. “You make enough cracks about guys asses, everyone on the crew thinks you go both ways. Hell, Lachlan won’t turn his back on you for fear or anticipation you’ll mount him.”

“Oh, you guys are fun to be around.” Yarran’s hearty laughter joined the other three. “Now, since you’ll be hiking in my mountains, which route are you taking? Golden Stairs I assume.”

“They’re sending us down the Giant Stairway.” Lucas glanced over towards the Three Sisters. “Once we get to the bottom, we’re taking the Sublime Trail to hit the eastern flank of the fire. They’ve already got a bunch of men at the Golden Stairs and Ruined Castle.”

“If you don’t have someone guiding you already, I’d be happy to do so. I know a few routes that might get you there quicker. My brothers and I have been leading the teams out the last few weeks.”

“I’ll have to clear it with my boss, but it would be helpful. Thank you, Yarran. Why don’t we head back to our trucks, and you can meet our commander.”

“Lead the way.”

Brandon walked quietly behind the older solaris and his friends. His wolf was feeling talkative.

“I like this one. The dingo.”

“Yeah, I do too. He seems nice.”

“If we come back here, can we run in fur?”

Brandon glanced over his shoulder towards the orange glow in the distance. “I’ve got to get the fires out before we can even think of returning. It does look like a fun area though.”

“I’ll protect you from our prey.”

“Would you stop calling the fire that?”

“What? We chase, hunt, and kill it. It’s prey. Even the alpha called it that.”

“You’re gonna give me a headache so please stop. I kinda miss when you were quiet. You're being too bouncy. Just don’t trip me on the stairs tomorrow. It’s a long way down.”

“We’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

“I think I need to see a shrink when we get home. It’s weird talking to myself like this.”

“Picture our mate on his back. Then things will grow and not shrink.” The wolf could not contain his laughter.

He had fallen behind and had to run to catch up with Lucas and Noah.

******

“How many steps?”

“Lachlan, how many bloody times are you gonna ask that?” Joe was already growling.

“It’s a bit over eight hundred. Going down isn’t bad. It’s coming back up that’s a bitch.” Yarran heard groans from a few of the men.

Brandon took in the men and women around him. The group waited to make the descent into the valley and fight the fire. He was used to the muscular builds of the lycan. Noah was just plain built in a sexy, feline way, while Jaxon had the macho mechanic look many guys dream of seeing in porn, if not their local auto shop. Oliver and Lachlan, with their broad chests and powerful arms, could carry anything the team needed. Lucas was total stud even if he was clueless about it. Joe, as the oldest on the crew was the ultimate muscle daddy type with just enough grey in his beard. Even the humans showed the efforts of fitness training. The work demanded them to carry as much as their lycan counterparts, and from what Brandon had seen in the showers, they rose to the challenge. Given the weight of the gear he lugged around was at least 150 pounds, he figured most everyone was also loaded down with a heavy pack. His own small stature, when compared to his strength, earned him the nickname Mighty Mouse from several of the humans. A smile formed at the thought the bodies crafted due to the job’s physical demands was why so many firefighters were asked to pose for calendars.

“Alright. Let’s get this bushwalk started.” Joe synched his backpack. “I know I already asked this, but you’ve all got your tools and everything you’ll need, right?”

There was a collective, “Yes, Dad,” from the group.

“Good. Everyone remember where we parked. And no, we’re not stopping for a piss break, for at least a couple hours. Yarran, if you please, lead the way.”

The Mutts started their descent into the Jamison Valley. Two more crews would be following them on the hike for a total of seventy firefighters joining the line. As the path came out from behind Meenhi, the tallest of the sisters, the first men were greeted with a view of a very large air tanker making a pass over the valley. The massive Boeing 747 dove low as the white mist of water began pouring from its belly. The whine of the jet engines increased, as it powered up to gain altitude. The dark column of smoke briefly changed colors until the flames roared back to life.

“I love that jet.” Yarran watched it bank to the right. “It’ll make a pass at the fires on the north side of town next. Might have enough for one or two more drops before it has to refill.”

Brandon was impressed with the climb down to the valley floor. A lot of work went into creating the Giant Stairway as it was called. Steps cut into the side of the cliff in places and metal stairs anchored to the mountain in others. Much of the path was wide enough for only one person. He thought his mate would enjoy the hike. Like many things, it saddened him he could not share this adventure with his Marine. He tried to keep count of the steps, as a way to distract himself, and made it to somewhere around three hundred and twenty-three before losing count. “Damn, it sucks having short legs sometimes. You tall guys can take them two steps at a time.”

“Maybe so, but even my thighs are starting to burn from this.” Lucas sipped from the hose on his water pack. “And we still have a long hike once we get to the bottom.”

“I know we’ve still got a ways to go, but this changed so much from the top.” Brandon glanced around while trying not to lose his balance. “The ferns and other plants are beautiful.”

At the bottom of the stairs, the temperature was somewhat cooler. However, at a little before 7:30 a.m., it was still warm, which did not bode well for what was expected by the time they reached the fire. Sounds of wildlife and water filled the air. Brandon wondered how much the humans could hear. Although there was more than one guide in the group, everyone took a break once the last person had exited the stairs. The lycan crew had the stamina to keep going, but it was best for everyone to stick together.

“Yarran, how much of the valley is eucalyptus?” Brandon ran his hand along the leafy-green frond of a large fern.

“They cover most of the area. There’s a few other things mixed in. Some areas near the creeks and rivers border on being rainforest.”

“As nice as it is here, I’m growing to dislike the trees you have.”

Joe was busy conferring with the other crew chiefs as the men took their breather. “Okay, time to get moving. We’ve got close to ten kilometers to cover to reach base camp. Stick with your guide and don’t wander off.”

The sun beat down on the men as they followed the Sublime Point Hiking Trail. Yarran would occasionally point out something of interest, or at darkened trees, burned in previous years. After roughly four and a half hours, and multiple stops to rest, the crews arrived where they would be camping. There was a scattering of men and equipment lying around. A line of backpacks awaited their owners who would be leaving the fire line that day.

“Okay, we’ve made it this far. The fire’s still a kilometer and a half away. Pick a spot to bed down.” Yarran and the other guides stood before the men. “But remember this is not a campsite. Try to cause as little damage to the area as possible. If you gotta take a piss, find a tree away from the camps, or the streams. Gonna need some men to dig a couple of new holes for when you gotta squat. You’re only gonna do it where we say so the forest and creeks are protected.”

Under the constant thwapping sound of helicopters making water drops, one of the other guides took over. “We’ve got access to the Jamison Creek and Kedumba River for water.” He stopped talking as the whine of jet engines roared past. “Make sure to use the test kits. If ash is dropping upstream, we’ll have to boil it, and anything using a flame has to be closely watched. The dry lightning’s bad enough. Don’t need a fire started by you guys trying to burn water.”

After a couple hours rest, Brandon put his Nomex gear back on, and had his McLeod tool at his side, waiting for the order to start the march towards the day’s battle. Pulling his notepad from his pack, he jotted down a few things he wanted to remember. “January 9, 2020. Sitting at base camp in Jamison Valley. This area is beautiful. As much as I hate to say it, if it hadn’t been for this fire, I’d have probably gone my whole life without seeing this. I can only imagine what it would be like without the smoke.

“Alright, Mutts. Time to get to work.” Joe synched his pack around his waist. “Grab your gear. Yarren, thanks for guiding us.”

“No worries, mate. I’ll stick around to take the guys you’re relieving back out.”

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there’s nothing so becoming a man, as modest stillness and humility. But when the blast of war blows in our ears…”

“OLIVER. What the fuck did I say about going on a Shakespearean rant just before we go to work?” Joe’s growl and Oliver’s oratory made all those around laugh.

I adapted the three sisters legend from the Blue Mountain’s website https://www.bluemts.com.au/info/thingstodo/threesisters/

Copyright © 2021 WolfM; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 35
  • Love 26

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

Arf...Arf...😉

Given the weight of the gear he lugged around was at least 150 pounds, he figured most everyone was also loaded down with a heavy pack. His own small stature, when compared to his strength, earned him the nickname Mighty Mouse from several of the humans. A smile formed at the thought the bodies crafted due to the job’s physical demands was why so many firefighters were asked to pose for calendars.

  • Like 5
Link to comment
7 hours ago, chris191070 said:

Awesome chapter. It sounds an amazing place. Just wish it wasn't so threatened by the fires.

Thank you, Chris. Even with the fire, it's a beautiful place.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
7 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

Great chapter, so descriptive and full of energy.  I would think fighting a fire in an area like that would be unbelievable hard; plus throw in all of the eucalyptus trees and wow, just a recipe for disaster.  

The story I heard onsite for the three sisters matches the first one more than the second one; but both were fascinating.  

Keep up the great work.

Thank you, Centex. :)  The area is incredible with canyons and valleys to the north and south of town. Nothing about working in that area was easy.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
7 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Loved the story about the three sisters! And the convo with his wolf!!!!

Thank you, Wesley. I still think Brandon might need a shrink. :)

  • Like 2
Link to comment
WolfM

Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, drsawzall said:

Arf...Arf...😉

Given the weight of the gear he lugged around was at least 150 pounds, he figured most everyone was also loaded down with a heavy pack. His own small stature, when compared to his strength, earned him the nickname Mighty Mouse from several of the humans. A smile formed at the thought the bodies crafted due to the job’s physical demands was why so many firefighters were asked to pose for calendars.

:) @Carlos Hazday made a joke during editing of this chapter about Mighty Mouse. When I sent the chapter back to him for another review, I had added it. Having a good rapour with your editor makes the process enjoyable, and sometimes adds a little additional humor into the writing. I can say that so far Brandon hasn't posed for any calendars.

Edited by WolfM
  • Like 2
  • Love 3
Link to comment
WolfM

Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Brandon and his wolf are talking to each other, so that's a positive.

To be Brandon's age again... sigh. Ten plus years after visiting Katoomba, I don't think my body could handle those bloody steps again. And I'm pretty sure even when I was there, I couldn't have managed with all that equipment. Working out's a lifestyle for firefighters, they need the strength and stamina. And lucky for us, they often show off the results by posing for calendars. :P

 

The voice in his head must be as annoying as my characters wanting to talk when I'm relaxing. lol. It's good they're talking though. :)

You at least have a little height on Brandon (and me). Those steps, short legs, and a pack that weighs about the same as him are a bitch. I can't wait to go back.

I'm still not posing for a calendar. lol.

Edited by WolfM
  • Like 1
  • Haha 2
Link to comment
7 hours ago, CincyKris said:

I've read several stories set in Australia, but never visited the katoomba (virtually).  The pictures look amazing. I hope the fires didn't devastate it.  

Thanks Cinco. :)  And only one very small portion of the area is described here. There is so much more around the town to see. Some areas were devastated. Others remained untouched. In time it will recover.

  • Like 2
Link to comment

Sounds like a great place to visit however I am not so sure about both the 800 steps or the side of the mountain, I am not scared if heights I have a very healthy respect for them , I hope that they have success in fighting this fire

  • Like 3
Link to comment
1 hour ago, mikedup said:

Sounds like a great place to visit however I am not so sure about both the 800 steps or the side of the mountain, I am not scared if heights I have a very healthy respect for them , I hope that they have success in fighting this fire

There are the other two ways to get down into Jamison Valley I mentioned, or back up without making the climb. The aerial tram or the funicular. The stares are definitely worth it though. The views are incredible.

  • Like 3
Link to comment

I have had two family members dedicate their lives to the fire department. I have nothing but high regard for the men and women who choose to serve given the reality of the risks involved.

I’m wondering what my therapist would do if I insist that the voice in my head, is indeed my inner wolf and I, finally coming to an understanding. I’m glad for Brandon though, they need that.  I also like the interaction with the team.

Your descriptions of places are fascinating and I’m finding myself so absorbed in the story. I enjoyed the last few chapters and look forward to what’s coming.

Thank goodness someone mentioned the Liston Winery and led me here! Thank you 

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
3 hours ago, Defiance19 said:

I have had two family members dedicate their lives to the fire department. I have nothing but high regard for the men and women who choose to serve given the reality of the risks involved.

I’m wondering what my therapist would do if I insist that the voice in my head, is indeed my inner wolf and I, finally coming to an understanding. I’m glad for Brandon though, they need that.  I also like the interaction with the team.

Your descriptions of places are fascinating and I’m finding myself so absorbed in the story. I enjoyed the last few chapters and look forward to what’s coming.

Thank goodness someone mentioned the Liston Winery and led me here! Thank you 

 

Thank you, Defiance. :) I actually tried that once with my therapist. She rolled her eyes then said, "And moving on." lol. Thankfully she knew I was writing Running With The Pack at the time. I'm happy with splitting my time between my day job and being a reserve firefighter. 

I'm glad Carlos mentioned this to you. It's nice to have you along for the adventure. Even with the fires, those areas were beautiful. Well, at least the places that didn't completely burn. When I told Carlos I was going to be out of contact for a while, we were editing The Alpha at the time, I joked I'd try to make sure the Liston Winery didn't burn down. Then I did get sent to Hunter Valley. It's become a running joke that places he's written about I've fought fires at.

  • Like 1
  • Love 3
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..