Monday, February 27, 2017

Pub Chatter #43

        I was meditating today on the idea of unconditional love.
I’ve met people who claim to practice unconditional love---they are all liars. There’s not a man or woman alive today that truly loves without conditions. Now, there are folks who still love someone who has broken their heart. Consider this, how did that heartbreak come about? The answer is simple. The object of their love violated the conditions of love.

Think about all the mating rituals practiced by man and beast. Why do they exist? To convince the prospective mate we can meet the conditions they require in a lover. You fail to measure up--bye, bye, love. The contract of wedding vows is a practical outline of the conditions of love set forth in a ceremonial agreement. Violate the agreement---bye, bye, love. Violating the conditions of love does not necessarily stop the emotion, but the emotion changes and so does the practical expression of love.

True love is a chain we place upon our self. It is a chain forged of the iron conditions that link us to our lover. It is a slavery we willingly submit to for as long as our own conditions of love remain unbroken. Some chains are easier to throw off than others and every chain has a weak link that limits the strength of the bond. If we bind our self; we also have the power to free our self.

All of which only serves to show that I don’t know a damn thing about love. If you are in love---good luck. You’re on your own from here.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chapter 31

Chapter 31?

Bryn closed his eyes. The pain receded and for a moment he believed he might be granted his wish and die. But, it was only a dreamless sleep. He awakened to the light of the full moon shining overhead. The square was empty except for a small detail of soldiers standing guard. A yawn he could not hold back broke over him bringing the pain flooding back.
Behind the pain came a rumbling. It was the sound that awakened him. He tried to focus on it; to get a sense of direction. But, the sound seemed to be everywhere. A great wheel was turning. Its rumbling filled his head; spread out over the sky and swallowed up the universe. Without prelude, the sound ground to a halt. The creation stood still. Time and the stars held their breath.
The world fell away. Tettias, a blue-green orb floating in the blackness of space, shone beneath his feet. He stood alone on the vast emptiness. As he watched, the great sea of his home world began to boil. A dragon rose from the waters, his thrashing tail beat the sea. Bryn sensed a presence and turned to see who it might be. A bright green light that folded in on itself hung beside him. Somehow that light was a being; he knew it. He didn’t know how he knew, only that he knew.
“Who will still the dragon?” the light asked.
Bryn knew the answer.
“I will,” he said.

Pain shot through his limbs. The wheel began to turn. The square and the moon changed places. The dream ended and he was not saved. If it was a dream. It had to be a dream, but it seemed so real. Maybe a hallucination; the pain had driven him mad. That made sense, but it didn’t ring true.
Before he could get a firm hold on the idea, the soldiers began to stir. Weapons were brought to the ready. Someone was coming. Bryn could just make out a blurry figure weaving a path in his direction. Two soldiers moved to intercept him.
“Stop right there,” one of the soldiers ordered.
“Wassah matta, gener’l,” the slurred reply sounded familiar to Bryn’s ear. “I wass jes lookin’.
“Well, that’s close enough,” the soldier said. “Look and move along.”
“Yeah,’ The second soldier chimed in. “You’re drunk. Go home and sleep it off.”
“Ah, I only had a few, honest,” the man continued to move closer.
One of the soldiers stretched out a hand to hold the man back. The man bounced off the soldier’s outstretched hand; stumbled and began to fall. As the soldier moved to catch him, the stranger’s head jerked up and caught the soldier on the chin with a loud thud. The soldier’s head snapped back. The stranger planted his feet and followed the soldier’s head with a hard right hand that sent him to the ground. The soldier was sent sprawling. The second soldier, surprised by the drunk’s sudden sobriety, froze long enough to get hit by a spinning kick to the groin. He collapsed in a heap. Moonlight reflected off the blade that leaped into the stranger’s hand as he jumped onto the platform. He slid over the surface of the raised stage toward Bryn. The slicing cut to the throat Bryn tensed for never came. The stranger cut the ropes holding Bryn’s hands.
“It’s me,” Wynn said. “We’re getting you out of here.”
Bryn heard the other guards approaching. A bolt from one of their cross- bows hit the spoke beside Bryn’s ear sending waves of pain reverberating through his head. His feet came suddenly free and Bryn crashed down onto the platform planking.
“Sorry,” Wynn said, but he was already moving away towards the rushing soldiers.
Pain from the fall passed quickly. Bryn’s blood was up and so was he. Through the slits of his eyes he saw Wynn and One Eye grappling with the rest of the guards. He started for the melee. Soldiers began pouring into the square from all sides. These new comers were dressed differently from the bleary eyed soldiers of the guard detail. Even with his limited vision, Bryn could see these were real fighters.
“Everyone stand down,” a voice boomed across the square with an authority that brooked no disobedience.
Bryn froze in place along with everyone else within hearing. He soon found himself bound and standing alongside Wynn and One Eye before a solidly built officer with a scar that ran across his cheek.
“A warrior,” Bryn thought and with the thought, his hopes dimmed.
“Sir,” the captain of the guard detail said. “This man and his Valir accomplice tried to free the prisoner. We were about to take them into custody, sir.”
“Yes,” the officer sneered. “So I see. It’s a good thing we happened along. Much more of your custody and your Lord Zett would have been with a show tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” the captain said.
“I’m are taking these prisoners with me,” Luther de Mans informed him.
“But sir, Lord Zett...” the captain’s voice trailed away chased by the glare of the Prince’s bodyguard. “Yes, sir.”
“They need no longer concern you,” Luther said. “You may tell your master they are now prisoners of the royal house.”
“Yes sir. As you say, sir.”
Luther turned away from the trembling captain. He turned his attention to the three prisoners pushed before him with a snort of disapproval. They weren’t much to look at. Nevertheless, they were set to take on the best Zett had. They had balls, not much in the way of brains, but damn, they had balls. Maybe the prince wasn’t completely mistaken after all.
“Major Frye,” Luther commanded. “Take these three to the palace dungeon as secure them there. But, for God’s sake, clean that one up and put some clothes on him.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Pub Chatter #42

Spent the evening out drinking with the boys; those courageous life savers from the local ER. A quiet professional meeting of matching shots and seeing who could handle the hottest wings. We did swap a few embellished stories and a couple of downright lies to keep things light. One of the guys brought along a breath-a-lizer that works with his cell phone to make sure everyone was legal to get home unassisted. Always be prepared.

We all said farewell to one of the corpsmen; wishing him well on his way to sunny San Diego. What the hell he’s going to do in all that sunshine is beyond me. I think these guys do an amazing job. It almost makes me want to go back and do the whole military thing again---but, only almost. As a twenty-something, I don’t think I’d exchange planes and pilots for this job.

It’s not that the job here is less important or less difficult. I just didn’t have the patience in my twenties that these guys do. They listen to a lot of whining and still smile. Come to think of it, I don’t have the patience in my sixties for this job. It’s just that now lack the energy to do anything more than shake my head and have a spirited inner dialogue.

I made good progress on the next chapter in Trails of Trouble, but still have miles to go before I sleep tomorrow. The number of blog views is climbing, which is extremely encouraging to an old fart like me. I’ll keep writing; you keep reading. Until tomorrow keep humming that all time favorite country tune, If I Had a Nose Full of Nickels, I’d Blow it All On You. Ah, come on, you know you know it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pub Chatter #41

Pub Chatter #41

I just finished writing the next three installments of the Lost Crusader. I hope y’all like it as much as I liked writing it.Watch the blog (In Cawhoots--the Blog) and here on Facebook beginning Sunday to get in on the fun.

I did a bit of revamping of my web site (In Cawhoots) on Monday. I am hoping to expand the number of stories by bringing in some other writers who have a story to tell. I’m dancing as fast as I can and can’t seem to keep up. I never imagined I’d be this ambitious at my age. Retirement is going to be exhausting.

I find it rather amazing how many otherwise intelligent people mistake kindness and patience for weakness. A dislike for confrontation is not the same as a fear of it. Corner the meekest of animals and when they have had enough they will come out biting, snapping, and clawing. People are no different. I understand how someone can walk into a place and shoot it up. I don’t condone it, or excuse it, but I do understand it.

The old adage it true, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. But, here’s the thing. The squeaky wheel gets just enough grease to make it be quiet and is discarded. People who are loud and obnoxious in public get just enough reluctant service to shut them up. No one wants to please them; they just want them to go away. Quiet kindness and tact is harder to pull off, but it will take you further and get you more.

The opinion of others should not rule one’s life. Likewise, a person does well to consider the impression they make on those around them. There’s a reason people react as they do---generally speaking, that reason is you.      

Monday, February 20, 2017

Pub Chatter #40

                Why? I’ve been bombarded with that question lately. It’s not an unfair question to ask somebody. However, when asking it one must be prepared to be surprised. Why people think, say, and do things does not often come neatly wrapped in words the questioner wants to hear. Which usually results in a refusal to hear and repeated “why” questions. This can royally piss off someone without a great deal of patience resulting in the fight or flight mechanism being triggered in the brain. It’s all downhill from there. The point I’m trying to make here is if you ask somebody “why” and they don’t answer, maybe you don’t want to know. My tip for the day.
                Welcome,  newcomers to the pub. Pull up a bar stool like you know what’s going on. You might be the only one who does.
                I have this hanging file full of stuff I’ve started writing but never got around to finishing. Actually, I have more than one, but that’s beside the point.  Today I stumbled across a bit of writing right down the Lost Crusader’s alley. You’ll get to see it soon. It’s a long piece so I’m planning on breaking it up into web chunks over the next few weeks.
                Tonight I will be completely revamping the web site. Yeah, I don’t like it either. If Go Daddy doesn’t deliver they’re out of here. Their stuff isn’t as user friendly as they think it is. Wish me luck and excuse any shouted profanity you may hear. HyDee, my trusted companion Schnauzer, is planning on a long night hiding under the bed.

                For the Trails of Trouble readers, I got the idea for Riding the Wheel from descriptions of actual London execution practices. Ah, the good old days.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Chapter 30 The Wheel

The sergeant unlocked the cell door and waved for Bryn to back away. When he judged the prisoner safely distant, the sergeant opened the padlock the kept Bryn’s shackles secured to the ring in the floor.
“Get out,” the sergeant ordered. “Slowly.”
Bryn kept his eyes locked on the soldier as he scooted from the wagon and forced himself to stand. It took a moment for his wobbly legs to steady themselves. Soldiers with disrupters closed around him while the sergeant removed his shackles. It felt good to be free of the chains. Bryn was certain the feeling wouldn’t last long. The sergeant’s next command sealed his certainty.
“Strip those clothes off,” he ordered.
“No.” Bryn answered.
“What the hell did you say,” the sergeant snarled.
“I said, no.” Bryn tried to keep his voice flat and emotionless.
As Bryn squared his shoulders, a soldier drove the tip of his lance into the right shoulder. A stream of bright blood flowed down Bryn’s arm.
“We won’t kill you,” the sergeant told him. “But we can make you wish you were dead. Take off the clothes.”
“No,” Bryn repeated. “I’m afraid if you want them, you will have to come and take them.”
“Suits me,” replied the sergeant.
Bryn flexed his knees, widened his stance, and waved the sergeant closer. There was only one possible outcome. Bryn was going to get the crap kicked out of him and lose his clothes. So, be it. He wasn’t going quietly. The sergeant obliged him circling to Bryn’s left. His guard wasn’t quite what it should be. Bryn caught him with a right hand to the temple that snapped the sergeant’s head back. He went down, but managed to grab Bryn’s leg. Before Bryn could shake free, a soldier hit him with a flying tackle that carried them both to the ground atop the sergeant. Air exploded from the sergeant’s lungs when the weight hit him. Gasping for breath, he struggled to get out from under the punching, kicking tangle of limbs flying above him.
Bryn rolled free. He was almost upright again when two soldiers knocked him to the ground. One of the newcomers drove his thumb into Bryn’s wounded shoulder sending lights flashing behind his eyes and profanity flying from his beak. Bryn sent a looping left hand that struck home with a loud crack. He wasn’t sure if the sound came from the bones in his hand of from the soldier’s jaw. He didn’t wait to find out. He kicked an advancing soldier  in the groin before being swallowed up by a mass of humanity.He was crushed beneath the combined weight of the soldiers and unable to move.
“Hold him,” the sergeant shouted.
The order was followed by a sharp pain in his belly. Bryn stopped struggling.
“That’s my knife,” the sergeant informed him and the soldiers began to roll away. “I’m going to cut these clothes off you. The more you struggle, the deeper in goes.”
“Gut him, Sarge,” one of the soldiers shouted.
“The knife moved upward to Bryn’s throat moving smoothly through his tunic and leaving a spreading red furrow from groin to chest. He was rolled to his stomach; his hands pulled behind his back and chains fastened to his wrists.
“Stand up,” the sergeant ordered.
Bryn was yanked to his feet just to make sure he understood the order. Feet under him; an unseen blow smashed into his head ripping open a cut above his left eye. Bryn’s knees buckled. Soldiers kept him propped upright. He was dragged away from the wagon naked and bleeding. Blood filled his left eye. He was blind and unprepared for the sergeant’s roundhouse right hand that drove into his guts. Breath exploded from him. The world went from red to black. Pain rippled from the impact to his extremities and back again.
Then, he was falling. His head thudded against something hard. Stars danced in the black world behind his eyes. His arms and legs were spread wide. Though he couldn’t see through his swollen eyes, Bryn knew he was being tied to the spokes of the large wagon wheel delivered from town last night. The hub bit into his back; ropes chewed his wrists and ankles.
“Well done, Sergeant,” a familiar voice said from far above.
“Zett,” the name echoed in Bryn’s mind.
“I want you to take you time on the drive in,” Zett instructed. “We’re in no hurry here. Let everyone get a good look.”
“Yes, Lord Zett.”
“On my signal,” Zett said.

The gates of Shiloh opened. Prince Eli rode out of the city on a ceros adorned in purple and silver. The Price and his bodyguard turned away from a detachment of cavalry and rode on alone. Trumpets flourished. The cavalry fell into the procession and Lord Zett led the column into Shiloh. Far behind the triumph Lord of the Army, a lowly sergeant in a disheveled uniform spurred the ceros he sat on and a large wooden wheel began its bouncing journey.
The wheel began to move. Bryn wasn’t sure what happened from here. He tried not to let it wander to the possibilities. He concentrated instead on a prayer to the Creator. It was not a prayer for the deliverance of escape. That was not the Valirian way. Bryn prayed for strength to endure what lay ahead.
The sergeant kept the ceros under tight rein. He wanted a slow plodding trip through town. Lord Zett wanted time and opportunity for the crowd to inflict plenty of torture on the murderous piece of garbage he was towing. He planned on pleasing Zett while savoring every indignity the Valir suffered.
Lord Zett waved to the crowd from atop his prancing black charger. He had defeated the butchering Valir and now was bring their leader to justice. He welcomed the crowds adoration and encouraged them to join in his victory. He was Zett, brother of the next queen, uncle of a coming heir to the throne, nephew of the King of Mara, Lord of the Army of Shiloh; so ended all who opposed his will.
The cheers of the crowd rose as he passed. It doubled and doubled again as the wheel entered the gates. The figure writhed on the wheel. Agony accompanied each bump of the wheel as it dipped and bounced along the cobblestones. Blood flowed from the bare chest and shoulder of the wheel rider. His face was a swollen mass of bruises and dried blood. It was not enough. The soldiers on crowd control vanished into the passing column. It was time for the people of Shiloh to voice their outrage.
A man with a large stone in his hand broke from the crowd along the sidewalk. The stone crashed into Bryn’s ribs with a crack. Restraint evaporated. The punching, kicking, throng rushed on Bryn shouting obscenities, throwing stones, rotten vegetables and animal dung. A woman jumped up on the wheel, lifted her skirts and urinated in his face. Children beat his body with bamboo canes cut especially for the occasion. A hotel owner poured the reeking contents of a chamber pot over him before bashing him over the head with the empty pot.
Bryn lost all sense of time and distance, but never a moment of consciousness. Strapped to the wheel, covered in blood, garbage and excrement, he was dragged five miles over two hours. The procession finally ended at a raised platform near the city center. Soldiers stood the wheel up and rolled the beaten prisoner end over end to the top of the platform. There, for all to see, the wheel was fastened to a hub.
On the longest night of his life, Bryn Bou was rotated a half turn of the wheel every hour. His tears washed tracks through the filth that covered his face. His shoulder had stopped bleeding. At least, it did while he was upright. Upside down pressure on the joint caused it to ooze again. His body screamed in protest with every tiny movement. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to think. The smell of human waste infested his nostrils. A cold stone had replaced his aching heart and that hurt worst of all. Without natural feelings he might as well be dead and for the first time in his short life, he wished he was.
He closed his eyes for a time and the pain receded. It seemed his wish might come true. He awakened to the light of a full moon on his face. Through the slits that were his eyes he could see the square was empty except for a small contingent of soldiers. Lord Zett was not to be cheated of his spectacle by an over eager citizen with a knife.

Pub Chatter #39

      The new chapter from Trail of Troubles will be along shortly. I'm still working on typing from the old pen and paper form some of us dinosaurs still resort to now and then. It's a habit my Valentine is helping me overcome---she bought me a notebook. That's love right there. Can hardly wait to try it  out.

   I hope you've noticed by now that I've started a new blog addition called Lost Crusader. I have a strange mix of anti-religion upbringing and Christian adulthood. I have evangelical tendencies---evangelical, as in marked by crusading zeal---not the mainstream media definition. That is, I believe in the Christian faith as presented in the Gospels and offer it to whosoever will hear. So, if you find the Crusader offensive, I hope you have the good sense to quit reading it. Meanwhile, we can still be friends. I don't require you to have a certain faith, color, political view, or geographic location to be friends. Why some of my best friends are Yankees.

     The Crusader is more the truth as I see it than anything else. Which, I believe, is what blogging and social media is all about. This week's little bit of crusading will be along tomorrow.

     When on a wonderful road trip yesterday along the Northern Cascades. Saw some of the most beautiful countryside ever; so much falling water. The snow capped peaks and clear mountain lakes are to die for. I have a sneaking suspicion that this scenery is going to find its way into the world of Tettias when we get to the home country of the Wolven people.

     For those who enjoy a puzzle, there is a clue to how I chose the name Tettias for my fantasy world in the Lost Crusader blog. If you find it let me know.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pub Chatter # 38

     I'm loathe to admit it but I was watching CNN tonight. The truth is is was too lazy tonight to get up and turn the channel. They hit, what for me, is the height of hypocrisy. Right in the middle of my lunch, the talking heads, experts in all matters political and otherwise went into a mini-tirade about what they see as the President's fixation on crowd numbers and unfair media coverage of his supporters. They conclusion of all was that the President was immature, narcissistic and his complaint was beneath their dignity.

     Everyone knows there's nothing beneath CNN's dignity but bedrock. So, of course, they proceeded to comment away on how ridiculous is the notion that they manipulate crowd pictures to suit their purposes.

     This commentary was immediately followed by a story about the crowds gathered in Mexico to protest "The Wall." They had multiple wide shots of the vast number of marchers and plenty of close ups of their shirts and signs. All I could think to say was, "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."

     Now, you won't find me defending the current President against charges of narcissism. Narcissistic tendencies is a requirement for anybody who runs for President. President Trump may have an extra share, but he cannot compare to Slick Willie. He wasn't my candidate. He is my President for better or worse.

     I don't really give a rat's ass about who does or doesn't show up at rallies of any kind. I have this habit of thinking for myself. I don't need a poll, a CNN special report or a tweet to make up my mind. My opinions are not crowd driven. I don't own a pink hat, a rainbow tie or decorate with yellow ribbons. I'm more in favor of an armed citizenry to protect the rights of the people than I am for experts on either side to tell me which way the wind is blowing. How about you?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Chapter 29 Eli and Eeryn

Prince Eli found his captain waiting at the stables.‭ ‬Luther’s official title, Minister to the Prince, was deceptive.‭ ‬While he did attend the needs of the most distant heir to the throne currently living in the palace,‭ ‬he was much more.‭ ‬Luther de Mans held the rank of commander in the elite King’s Guard.‭ ‬It was a rank he earned on the battlefield and carried on his face.‭ ‬A Maran arrow plowed a jagged,‭ ‬white furrow from his right cheek to jaw and took with it half his right ear.‭ ‬He was a short man with heavy gnarled limbs and a torso solid as a tree trunk.‭ ‬For all his power Luther moved as swiftly and silent as the spotted cats of the Booja.‭ ‬His fellow officers chided him for abandoning command of a battalion for duty at the palace.‭ ‬Luther shrugged off their barbs. During Eli’s military training, the captain found a warrior spirit lived within the young prince that attracted him and won his confidence. Since those days,‭ h‬e was convinced service to Eli capable of more honor than could be won on a dozen battlefields.‭ ‬His oath to die for his prince gave Luther de Mans a reason to live.

In his hands, Luther held the reins for a pair of saddled ceroses.‭ ‬The naturally armored beasts strained against the leather straps eager for the open spaces.‭ ‬Tri-hoofed feet pawed the ground raising small clouds of dust from the stable floor.‭ Royal purple blankets baring the king’s crest and saddles laden with silver covered massive, thick,‭ ‬gray hides.‭ ‬Blunt covers of sliver adorned the row of pointed horns the rose from between the nostrils and ran up of the middle of its forehead.

“‬Are we going to battle,‭ ‬Luther‭?” Eli‬ asked.

“‬The Queen wasn’t happy to find me in the stables,‭” ‬Luther answered.‭ “‬I thought I ought to be prepared for anything.‭”

“The Queen‭? ‬How did she‭…?” Eli‬ threw up a hand in resignation.‭ “‬Is there anything she does not know‭?”

“It’s always best to proceed believing she knows all,‭” ‬Luther said with a smile.‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭

The Prince took the reins and swung into the saddle.‭ ‬The ceros bolted a step. Eli hauled back on the reins to hold him.‭ Holding these‬ snorting beasts to a walk while navigating the streets of Shiloh required skill and more than a little strength. Eli preferred them to the horses of the light cavalry units.

“‬You haven’t asked where we are going,‭” ‬the Prince said after they were clear of the stable.

“‬No sir,‭” t‬he captain said.‭ “‬You see,‭ ‬the Queen‭…”

“Say no more.‭” Eli‬ smiled at his companion.‭

The prince’s smile faded when they reached the street. A half dozen mounted riders armed with disrupters and lances fell into step on either side of them. Eli cast a sharp glance at his captain.

“No troops,” he ordered. “Crowd or no crowd you’re all the protection I need. Send them back.”

“But, Highness,” Luther said. “The Queen insisted. Perhaps just until we reach the city gates.”

“Very well,” Eli relented. “But they return to the palace. There’s to be no following at a distance no matter what the queen said, understood?”

A smile flashed  across Luther’s face. “Yes, sir.”

The crowd was already three deep along the main thoroughfare. As they approached men lifted young ones to their shoulders to get a look at the prince. Smiling excited faces greeting them with friendly waves. Eli smiled and waved in return. His presence was a pleasant distraction. He was not  what the people came to see.

Lord Zett’s spectacle was well attended. Eli was disappointed rather than surprised. Crowds loved nothing better than public bloodletting and humiliation. Eli had no taste for it and wished more of the population shared his opinion. He attended an execution once and only once. He was a soldier at heart. Violent death between combatants held neither terror nor revulsion for him. Watching a beaten foe paraded through the streets; shoved to his knees and slaughtered like an animal sickened him. If this Valir truly did lead an assault on human troops and two villages, he deserved a better death than riding the wheel to the chopping block.

“Zett will be pleased,” Eli said.

“As much as Zett can be pleased by anything, I suppose,” Luther observed.“How will we find the seer‭?”

“I have an idea,” Eli said. “Eeryn’s intentions are always subject to change. He will find us; count on that.”

Eli continued to smile and wave. Luther, his eyes sweeping the waiting throng, searched faces and body language for signs of danger. His actions were largely habit. There was little actual risk. The prince was well loved in the city. As they made a sharp left turn into the city square, the captain’s eyes came to rest on a pair of Valir; a young female and a very large male. Strange, they should risk being among the mob instead of staying tucked safely away in their embassy. There was something hard about the female’s face. Her stance was casual, yet her eyes sought out the troops managing the crowd. He could almost hear her as she mentally counted them and marked their positions. The big fellow, obviously a body guard was doing an excellent, albeit discreet, job watching her back. He considered warning the prince, but finally decided to let Zett care for his own problems.

They took a circuitous route through town before riding out into the open countryside.‭ ‬Free of the city,‭ Eli‬ let the ceros have its head.‭ ‬Grain fields flew by in a golden blur.‭ ‬The approaching dust cloud and the sound of great thundering hooves cleared the road ahead. The riders urged their mounts on.‭ ‬A mile further on, the beasts slowed of their own accord.‭ ‬The ceros were unmatched in the power of their charge,‭ ‬but they could not maintain that speed long.‭ Eli‬ turned his ceros off the road onto a footpath barely wide enough to accommodate the beast.‭ ‬Luther pulled his bow and adjusted the position of his quiver. Their destination was visible as soon as they left the road.‭ ‬Silhouetted against the horizon,‭ ‬a single giant oak tree stood on the rocky cliff overlooking the sea.‭ The Prince thought the two hours it would take to reach the tree worth the journey.

He was right.‭ ‬Sitting relaxed and waiting at the base of the tree was Eeryn.‭ ‬Luther hobbled the ceroses and sent them to graze while Eli unfolded a camp stool beside the Valirian and looked out over the blue expanse.‭ ‬He came meet his old friend,‭ ‬but the view alone was worth the trip.‭ ‬To his right a dozen streams cascaded over the cliffs in a series of long white tails that disappeared into the waves.‭ ‬Heavy mists covered the pools where the falls joined the blue arch of the bay.‭

“‬Do you miss the Boubouja‭?” Eli‬ asked.

Eeryn sighed and looked up at the prince.‭ “‬Only when I breathe.‭”

“Why not return‭?” Eli‬ drew his stool closer to the seer.‭ “‬Why suffer for my family’s thin skin‭?”

“The king has the right to ban me from the palace,‭” ‬Eeryn began.‭ “‬He cannot erase my oath to serve him.‭ ‬My oath is not just to the king.‭ ‬It is also to my people.‭ ‬I am their sworn ambassador to the house of Zedek.‭”

“The Valir have appointed a new ambassador,‭” Eli‬ protested.

“‬My oath ends when I die or the destruction of the royal house,‭” ‬Eeryn explained.‭ “‬I will go home wrapped in my burial robe.‭”

Luther joined their watch over the sea. Neither prince nor seer spoke.‭ ‬He was accustomed to the two of them sharing silence.‭ ‬As a child,‭ ‬the prince amazed his parents with his willingness to sit quietly at Eeryn’s side.‭ ‬Luther admired the prince’s ability to draw and be drawn by the strong of heart.‭ ‬His intensity,‭ ‬not his position kept the prince from casual friendships.‭ ‬A glance at the pair beside him was evidence enough of that.‭ ‬On one hand was the tall,‭ ‬dark prince.‭ ‬His short black beard outlined a youthful face that hid an old soul.‭ ‬His long arms hung lazily from wide,‭ ‬square shoulders.‭ Eli‬ shunned the elaborate tattooing of day.‭ ‬His skin knew the sun,‭ ‬but avoided the leathery appearance of his bodyguard.

Then,‭ ‬there was Eeryn.‭ ‬The seer was a Valir.‭ ‬Luther wondered what could be more different.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬he could say the same of all the inhabitants of the outer kingdoms.‭ ‬In his heart,‭ ‬he suspected the Creator was simply having some fun when He made the Valir.‭ ‬Luther called them green skinned,‭ ‬but he was not sure they were covered with skin at all.‭ ‬Their touch,‭ ‬on the few occasions they allowed it,‭ ‬was as cold and hard as their hearts.‭ ‬They swore oaths to their own hurt and never relented. To their fierce loyalty and sense of duty to this the Creator added speed,‭ ‬agility and natural weaponry.‭ ‬All of these traits made them powerful allies and formidable foes.‭ ‬Legend says men once crossed the Hiddekel to conquer Boubouja.‭ ‬Mountains of bones still mark the place where the invaders died.

“‬Tell me of your heart,‭” Eli‬ said at last.‭

 ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭



Friday, February 10, 2017

Pub Chatter # 37

     Some have taken exception to my refusal in the last Pub Chatter to call the members of today's armed forces "heroes." Let me just say to my detractors, "Suck it up, Buttercup." If people today want to call anything in a uniform a hero, they should knock themselves out. I will refrain from joining the chorus.

     The hero moniker is inaccurate. It's not that there are no heroes in our military. There definitely are heroes in the ranks. But, putting on the uniform alone does not make anyone a hero. For the majority of GI's the most heroic thing they do is to show up everyday and do their duty. Which, when you think of it, is pretty darn special but none of them will tell you it's heroic. I wore the uniform for seven years and was glad to do it. But, believe me I'm no hero.

     Which brings me to the real sticking point. When I was in uniform, we were fascist, storm trooper, baby killers. How do you go from that to hero in a generation? Well, it's like this. The name callers are now the parents and grandparents of soldiers, sailors and airmen. These are the same people who tell stories of their hippie days. They just leave out the part where they spit on troops in airports.

      To me the whole "Heroes" thing is a weak attempt at atonement; very weak. As for me, I don't want to hear, "Thank you for your service." I want to hear someone say, "You did your duty. I apologize for treating you like shit." Maybe then, I do like people say and let go of my attitude. I sure as hell ain't going to do it before then.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pub Chatter # 36

          Okay, enough excuses for slacking on the pub chatter. It's time to Git R Done on a regular basis again. This week I've reversed myself on giving all ex-GI's ---I ain't about to start calling them heroes---free medical care for life. I'm all for it; sign me up.

          The cause for my change of heart? My Obama mandated insurance don't pay for shit. As a vet, I figure it's time I jump on the gravy train. You're going to tell me about waits, right? Forget about it. I'm waiting paying an outrageous insurance premium and still have to wait 6 months to just get in to see a primary care provider. I'll wait for free.

          The thing is I provide care for vets everyday of my working life. I'm here to tell you all these guys are on Viagra. I'm only guessing at this part, but I seriously doubt even one of them is paying for the prescription. Price for Obama mandated insurance customers is $61 a pill. Maybe we need guys like me to go before Congress and cry about how the government isn't paying for my sexual health. It worked for women and their birth control pills.

          There was a time I was balancing things by calling for the government to quit supplying birth control. But, have you had a real good look at the recent crop of parents and kids? We need birth control more now than ever. If we are going to bankrupt the nation to pay for everyone's wants---I want in before the collapse.

          I feel as a defender of the nation, I'm entitled. Where is my white male privilege? Where's my hero status? Where's my free shit? My rights are being trampled on feminist, racist, bigots. Give me my pills!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Chapter 28 The Palace Visitor

 ‭  ‭

Shiloh slept.‭ ‬Swaddled beneath a coverlet of moonlight even the Temple’s golden dome was painted soft silver.‭ ‬The silent streets lay empty.‭ ‬Atop the palace walls,‭ ‬the sergeant-at-arms nodded wordless greetings to the sentries he passed on his rounds.‭ ‬A breeze stirred in the leaves of the Royal Gardens and carried the scent of jasmine into the open windows of the palace bedchambers.

Eli,‭ ‬Prince of Salem turned beneath the silks covering his massive bed.‭ ‬His soft breathing was the room’s only sound.‭ ‬Near the window,‭ ‬a single candle flickered atop an ornately carved ironwood table and fluttered the delicate purple curtains.‭ ‬The rich tapestries of greens and blue that covered the walls were unmoved.‭ ‬The scuff of a shoe on flagstone announced the presence of a long black shadow spreading over the sleeping prince.‭ ‬The second brush of leather on stone brought the prince to wakefulness.‭ ‬Eyes closed,‭ ‬he waited and listened; ‬more curious than frightened.‭ ‬The brave of heart are cautious in their way.‭ ‬The prince’s hand moved deeper beneath his pillow and closed on the bone handle of his knife.

“‬No need for that,‭ ‬my Lord,‭” ‬a voice spoke from the foot of the bed.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ “‬Says one banned from this palace,‭” Eli‬ answered with a sudden smile and sat up.‭ “‬Good even,‭ ‬Eeryn old friend.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭“‬Add this to my many sins.‭” ‬Eeryn shrugged.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ “‬Sin is the usual business of this hour,‭ ‬But I doubt that is what’s on your mind.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭“‬You’d do well not to be so sure, my Lord,‭” ‬Eeryn replied.‭ “Sin is only the beginning of sorrows I bring.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭Eli waved a hand for him to continue.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ “‬I don’t know all that the future holds,‭ ‬but all I do see is evil and death,‭” ‬Eeryn said.‭ “‬I pray you find an excuse to leave Shiloh as soon as possible.‭”

  ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬You know that’s impossible,‭” Eli‬ protested.‭ “‬My brother is to become king in seven days. I cannot be absent.‭”

‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Stay if you must,‭ ‬but leave that very day.‭” ‬Eeryn’s voice dropped to a whisper.‭ “‬I fear for your life.‭”

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬Melchez would never harm me,‭” Eli‬ said. “I know such things happen, but I cannot accept my brother acting in such fashion. Besides he knows onlt too well that I have no desire to rule.”

‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  “‬In that you say true,‭ ‬my Lord,‭” ‬Eeryn told him.‭ “‬You need not fear your brother,‭ ‬but I tell you a darkness is coming that even he cannot resist.‭”

‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭  ‬A subtle,‭ ‬yet insistent knock sounded on the chamber door.‭ The prince held a finger to his lips.‭ Bare feet slipped from the bed. Soundless steps carried him to the door.‭ ‬Before answering,‭ ‬he glanced back at his friend.‭ ‬Eeryn was gone; replaced by a small piece of paper.

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭“Enter,” the prince ‬said.

‭“‬Forgive me,‭ ‬my Lord,‭” ‬said a tall, powerfully build soldier. ‭“‬I thought I heard voices.‭”

Luther Silas was‭ captain‬ of Prince Eli personal guard. Steely gray eyes swept the room before coming to rest on his charge. The captain’s beefy hand dropped from the hilt of his sword. ‭

 ‭ ‬ ‭ ‬ ‭ “‬A dream, Captain‭” Eli‬ replied.‭ “‬All is well.‭”

“As you say,” Luther gave a quick nod of his head and backed from the doorway pulling the heavy oak door closed behind him.

“For now,‭” the prince whispered and went to retrieve the paper left behind by the prophet‬. ‭

He looked down on the two words scrawled in a familiar looping script: “Our Place.”

Eli shredded the paper into tiny strips as he moved across the room to stand at the rail of his balcony. He let the paper fall. The air brushed cool against his face. It was a handsome face. The soft lines of his mother’s beauty had seen to that. The prince had chosen to shun the beard made made all the rage by his father and older brother. His eyes, a deep rich brown, looked out over the gardens to the city square beyond. The gardens were as empty as his room. No so the square. Construction of the coronation stage continued through the night as it had for the last week. Preparations would go on until the morning of the ceremony. His father Zedek, King of Salem was transferring the title according to tradition. It would pass to his eldest son, Prince Melchez.

Eli’s plans for his own future eluded him despite his efforts to pin them down. He lacked the confidence of his own wisdom that flowed in the veins of the rest of the royal house. He always considered himself bereft of the divine right to dictate to other men. That inner weakness kept him from the affairs of state his father wished upon him. His skill with weapons and as a tactician saved him from failure in the king’s eyes. There was not a soul living that doubted the favor he held with the queen.

‬Eeryn, the seer sent as ambassador from Valir, befriended Eli when the prince was just a boy. Eli possessed a‭ ‬mysterious trust in the seer. He remained loyal to Eeryn and sought his council even after the seer was banished from the palace. The seer’s wisdom and visions were unerringly acurate beyond the imagination of the royal house.‭ Eli‬ trusted the old Valir’s word with his life,‭ ‬but to escape Shiloh just now was a problem he was not sure he could solve.


“You look ill,‭ ‬my son,‭” ‬the queen said the next morning.‭ “‬Did you not sleep well‭?”

“A dream,‭” ‬he said.

The queen waited for him to explain,‭ ‬but when she saw no answer forthcoming,‭ ‬she let the subject go.‭ ‬She knew her youngest son.‭ ‬He was strong and independent‭; ‬stubborn like his father.‭ ‬She also knew from experience that he would come to her with any problem that was beyond him.‭ ‬His willingness to seek counsel when overwhelmed was a trait neither his father nor his brother possessed.‭

“I think I shall go for a ride this morning,‭” Eli‬ announced.

“‬Without breakfast?” Her eyebrow arched with the question.‭ “Yes, well, t‬ake Luther if you are going outside the city.‭ ‬Do it for me‭; ‬please.‭”

Eli nodded and kissed her cheek.‭

“‬I will,‭” he promised.

“And,‭ ‬say hello to Eeryn for me,‭” she said.

Eli blushed at her mother’s smile, the one that reminded at how well she knew him and how much she cared.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Pub Chatter #35

I’ve been away for a while. All I can says is, “Shit happens.” I’m sure y’all are familiar with the concept. Plus, I’ve had to battle my own leaning toward inconsistency when I’m not being coerced. No one’s twisting my arm to write or i’d be cranking out all kinds of stuff.

Over the last week or so, I’ve left a lot of people down. I think I’m the only one who is not surprised Super Alan is only human after all. I’ve known it all along. Why no one else could see it is the real mystery. The real test of mettle is yet to come. It’s called picking up the pieces and making something good out of them. There are those who say it can’t be done. Fighting a desperate battle against impossible odds is the kind of challenge i live for. It wasn’t always so, but I can stand losing as long as I know I gave it all I had to give. I think if you really live; you lose and learn.

The upside to all this ( there is always an upside if you search hard enough ) is that I have some one who makes me feel like a phoenix. So, I guess I’ll be around to write Alan’s resurrection into this story. Meanwhile work goes on in Trail of Troubles. Dragon and Dove got a few hundred words today---the end’s in sight for the text on that one.

Y’all stick around, bear with me and we’ll see how this turns out.