Min Lee pulled the bowstring back to full draw, concentrating on his target, a blackened X scrawled on a dead oak tree some fifty yards from the door of his hovel. He had worked on the bow for months, learning patience in his first two failed attempts. Lacking the tools of Master Ong’s workshop, with only his knife to work with, this bow was long in coming.

Since leaving Shan Shiaw in disgrace at midwinter Min Lee had lost considerable weight. While he found periodic work based on his purple sash, the symbol of an Adept, it was never enough to buy more than bare essentials. The coppers he earned for blessing homes, finding lost objects, or tending to sick children came few and far between. He was an unknown entity, unproven, therefore unable to command much in remuneration. He dare not stay in one area long enough to build a reputation. He decided hunting might serve him better than his skills as an Adept.

He closed his eyes and called up the image of the charcoal X in his mind’s eye. He let the world around him flow in, let his ears hear, his nose smell all that surrounded him. The dead oak tree seemed to call his name. He let the arrow fly.

His eyes sprang open before the arrow struck. He heard something, a horse, not far off.


The arrow landed true, dead center in the blackened X.

He ignored the twang of the vibrating shaft, concentrating on the sound of the approaching horse. A road ran nearby, just over the hill behind his home.

Had they found him?

He rushed into his hovel, emerged with a rough hide blanket. He tossed it over the entrance then hurriedly scattered leaves and bracken over it. His home was carved into the very hillside – concealing the entrance concealed his home.

He glanced at the oak tree. The arrow and foolish black X stood out like beacons for any passersby. He went to the tree. The steady clop of the horse’s hooves changed to a gallop, then stomping. It began to neigh frantically. He heard someone cry out.

He paused, hand on arrow, listening. There were thrashing sounds, screams from the horse. Min Lee dashed up the hill.

On the road below he saw a bear mauling a prostrate horse. A man on the ground was trapped under his mount, struggling to protect himself from the blows of the bear. Min Lee ran forward, waving his arms and shouting.

“Oy! Oy! Look at me!”

The bear swiped at the man, landing a heavy blow on his arm.

“Oy!” Min Lee stooped, picked up a stone, and threw it at the bear. That got her attention. The bear reared up, then dropped down to all fours and charged toward him.

Min Lee stood his ground, looking directly at the bear as it charged. He cleared his mind, concentrating on bear, on cub, on honey, on home. The bear paused, then reared again. On cub. On home. The bear shook her head. Cub. Home. The bear dropped down, shook her head, then shambled off into the woods.

Min Lee rushed to the horse and man trapped under it. The horse was broken, bleeding, rocking and kicking in agony. Its movements ground down on the man, threatening to kill him. Min Lee laid his hand on the horse’s head. “Sleep, friend.” He slowed the heart of the beast, calming it, stroked it with his free hand. The man beneath the animal passed out from the pain. “Sleep.” The animal’s heart slowed further, then stopped. When he was sure the horse was dead he turned his attention to the man.


It took three days for Min Lee to drag the one-man litter to the outskirts of Noat Dol, the closest village. While his broken bones were set properly, or at least to the best of Min Lee’s abilities, the man was growing feverish. The gashes inflicted by the bear were festering. He needed the attention of a proper healer.

On the rise of a hill Min Lee stopped dead in his tracks. Noat Dol lie before him, a small but bustling village. A market was underway. The colors of the Emperor flew above the town hall . The traveling Prefect was in town.

Min Lee saw some farmers working the fields to his right. He called for them.

“I can go no further,” he told his charge. The field workers set their tools aside and began toward them. “These men will take you the rest of the way.”

“Thank you, my friend. You saved my life.” He pressed a bag of coins into Min Lee’s hands.

Min Lee opened the bag and withdrew three silver coins, then handed the bag back.

“I want you to have it,” the man protested.

Min Lee shook his head. “Use it to pay the healer who actually saves your life, saves your arm, your leg. I simply staunched the bleeding.”

The man nodded his head.

As the farmers approached Min Lee stood and prepared to leave.

“I don’t even know your name,” the man said.

“Wen Ho,” Min Lee lied.

The farmers came up and looked at the two of them as if awaiting instruction. “This man was attacked by a bear. Take him into town, to your healer.” The two men looked back toward their field. Min Lee pressed a piece of silver into the hands of each man. The farmers agreed. One moved forward, the other to the rear, and stooped to lift the litter.

“So tell me, Wen Ho, why didn’t you simply shoot the bear?” the man asked as the farmers hoisted him up and adjusted to his weight.

Min Lee looked off toward the horizon, toward the home he would not be returning to. “She had a cub.”

With that Min Lee walked away.
© 2010 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.

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  31 Responses to “Unproven”

  1. Oh, do love this update to the Min Lee story. Just captivated by the fable-like quality to the writing, Jon.

    Hope you write more.

    • Things are starting to gel in the old gray cells. Not sure if that’s Alzheimer’s, or the beginnings of a novel though. :o

      Actually, I’ve worked a few things out in my mind concerning just how things work in this world. Not quite ready for novelization, but as I build more and more of these vignettes things start dropping into place.

      So glad you liked it. Thanks.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by J. M. Strother, EJ James and Marisa Birns, Julie. Julie said: RT @jmstro: My #fridayflash "Unproven" is up on Mad Utopia — another tale of Min Lee. I hope you enjoy it. http://bit.ly/ag4WTp [...]

  3. What I like most about Min Lee is how real he is. You have such a knack for describing not only your characters but the scene, that it’s impossible not to see it and get lost in their world.

    Wonderful work Jon and I hope we get to hear more about Min Lee soon!

  4. Excellent writing on the mind-welding scene, Jon. You totally captured it without having to say what was happening. I also enjoyed Min Lee’s appreciation for all life. A noteworthy character, indeed.

  5. So glad to see Min Lee again! And this story is just wonderful. I love his respect for life, as well as his integrity.

    Beautiful writing, Jon!

    • From the previous stories Min Lee is not shown in anywhere near as favorable of a light. I wanted to show that down deep he is a good person who has made some bad choices in the past. The more I work with him the more I like him.

  6. Great to see another writer writing a story with Asian characters. I can see from the posts that there is more to Min Lee’s story. Look forward to reading them.

  7. I really enjoyed this piece. It reminds me of Aesop with a Buddhist twist. Very refreshing.

  8. Fun to see you playing around in the Oriential-esque fantasies again, Jon. I can tell you made Gracie’s day.

    If a bear landed a heavy blow on a man’s answer, wouldn’t it breaK? Bears are really strong and heavy. Maybe a glancing blow instead, before the rock throwing to distract her?

    • Oh yes, it did break. I mention his broken bones were set to the best of Min Lee’s abilities, tough I did not say which bones specifically. I figure he has a broken arm (from the bear) and leg (from the horse)at a minimum, maybe more.

  9. I like how you portray him creating a bow. That is part of what makes this world feel real to me. Nicely plotted.

  10. A really nice lesson to be learned from this fable-esque story. The selflessness of Min Lee really shines through. Very nicely told.

  11. That was really quite lovely as well as beautifully done.

  12. I’m going to have to go back and read previous Min Lee stories now. He’s such an intriguing character and feels very real in this. I like his ability to calm his surroundings and those animals and people around him. It adds greatly to a real sense of his presence in the story. Beautifully done.

    • I’d love for you to read them, but be warned, Min Lee has his down side. Right now he’s struggling to find his way, but in this story his inner character finally starts to emerge.

  13. I like the stories with Min Lee. Sure hope he finds happiness some day.

  14. The first story I’ve read with Min Lee. The character seems to be well developed, and I love the simplicity of the story telling, it all flows nicely toward the end, with an ‘awww.’ It’s so beautiful.

  15. Way past ADEPT, Mr Strother sir. I join the Min Lee fan club but more significantly, the way he’s getting out of your mind and INTO your psyche > that’s real writing-reaching Mr!

    Now, as an ever learner of powers of the mind, I was wonderin’ if you’d meet me by the river where the sun dapples the quaking aspens and whisper me the secret to the “concentration communication”. So ADEPT at telling the more the essence of your worthying-himself protagonist. All that kudos stuff man. ~ Absolutely*Kate

  16. This is my introduction to Min Lee and I would certainly think him a good guy from this. Will have to search out past stories with him. I really liked the way the story took a turn at the beginnig. Min was anticipating the rider to be trouble, I’m expecting a confrontation, and then it turns out he rescues the rider from a bear attack! Very cool Jon!

  17. Your Min Lee stories are terrific! He seems to be growing here.

  18. This just flowed, Jon, from start to finish. You have a good character here in Min Lee. I think there are lots of stories to be told as he journeys from place to place.

    I loved the feel of this – and his explanation for his action (or inaction) is just perfect.

    Very well done.

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