Friday, March 31, 2017

Pub Chatter #56

I’ve strayed a bit lately from the conversational style that I prefer around the pub. The guy at the end of the bar watching Lloyd serve drinks is still there. For the last few weeks I’ve been laying low and letting the shit storm that was once my marriage blow over. It’s all but done now, so I figure it’s time to return to my usual chatty self. So, if you’ve felt an impersonal breeze blowing through here, I apologize. That doesn’t mean I’m buying the next round.

Work is progressing with Trails of Troubles. I’m eagerly working on a way to get Bryn and One Eye out of prison; reunited with their love interests and into some real trouble. Eeryn seems to have a real talent for that, so I’ll probably get him to stir things up.

I’ve about given up hope that I can get my website to do what I want it to using Go Daddy. I may jump ship and go back to Angelfire where writing my own html is easier and I’m happier with the results. I should be able to keep the same url to make it easier on searchers too.

I’m hosting a meetup for fellow writers in the Gig Harbor area. We’re meeting every Saturday. It makes for a nice push to get me writing on the weekend. We had a new sign up this week and I’m hoping for a larger attendance this week. Faye is fond of Kimball’s white chocolate, caramel cappuccino. As long as I bring her one home, I can hang out drinking---coffee, drinking coffee. Yes, straight coffee. Although, I will confess to drinking an occasional fru-fru coffee. Last week I had a caramel apple latte---whatever a latte is--it’s quite tasty.

Ok, it’s a quarter past two; it to close. There are lives to save and folks in discomfort to rescue.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pub Chatter #55

From the abundance of the heart; the mouth speaks. When the heart is least guarded, the mouth speaks the truest. Angry words are a window on the heart of the speaker. You will never find a truer evaluation of their feelings. Stripped of diplomacy, and tact, those unguarded words are poured straight from the heart.They may be hard to hear, but if you want truth---there it is.

Truth, that is, as the speaker perceives it. You may not, in fact, be a selfish asshole, but rest assured, the speaker thinks you are. Any apology that follows is a salve for feelings bruised and have little to do with the truth. Anger is not the only emotion that brings out the truth, but it is a familiar one. Sorrow and frustration can work the same magic. Love has a more difficult time doing so. Loving words “for your own good” seldom are. They are for the speaker’s conscious.

Be that as it may, all words have a heart link somewhere. Consciously or subconsciously people speak with purpose. The purpose can be to deceive as easily as it can be to inform, but only the insane ramble without purpose at all.  When a writer tells you a story, there’s a truth inside him that he hopes you hear; something about him he wants you to know. That truth is usually disguised or unspoken, but it is there.

From the time I left home at eighteen until my father’s death, we called each other every week. Sometimes he called me; others times I called him. We talked about all kinds of things, but underlying every word was one message. It took tragedy for “I love you” to shine through. Words are an expression of the heart, but you cannot always count on hidden meanings to break through. Say the words your heart holds; use them wisely; use them kindly; use them often. One day they will be all you have left.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pub Chatter #54

“I’ll be there; you can count on me.” Really? The thing about counting is that numbers don’t change. One means one today, right now. It will still mean one when the snow and wind erode Mt. Everest to a nub. The same can be said for each and every number used to count. So, can people count on you?

Personal integrity is the value that allows you to answer, “Yes.” You either have integrity or you don’t; no middle ground; no partial measure. It’s sort of like being pregnant. There’s no such thing as having a little integrity. Which is quite sad because personal integrity is a human expectation. People everywhere expect every person they interact with to operate with integrity. When the expectation isn’t met, mistrust results and rightfully so. When we say we will meet someone at ten and then don’t show---how are they to trust us the next time? The answer is simple; they don’t.

Integrity is a mixture of honesty and responsibility. It requires meaning what you say and taking responsibility for following through to see your word is accurate. You know, like in the old cowboy movies---a man’s word is his bond. That notion is only passe to the double minded  who lack any notion of loyalty except loyalty to self. Integrity cannot be taught in school or star in a video game. Integrity must be modeled by a person we trust.

Integrity comes from within. We are all born with a measure of integrity. Some more than others, but no matter, integrity can be grown in the human spirit through exercise. No need for expensive equipment; harsh diets; or rigorous routines. All that is needed is a vision that others are as real, as deserving and as busy as we are; then proceed accordingly. It helps if that vision is more than a mental construct.

Integrity has vanished from the world of business. That’s why you need a password, a PIN, and the answer to multiple questions to do business. An automated voice answering machine doesn’t know integrity from insincerity; it cannot sense honesty. It only knows numbers and letters. We don’t do business with a handshake while looking someone in the eye. We do business by phone and computer. Human interaction is removed from the equation. When a real person does answer the phone, we don’t see their face. There is no exchanged feeling of personal responsibility or liability. I don’t know you, you don’t know me; no one senses a need for integrity---it’s just business.

The result is that we trust no one and we are all the poorer for that turn of events. Practicing personal integrity will cost you. It is not free or easy, but the rewards are worth the price.

“Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? ...He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.   Psalm 15.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pub Chatter #53

“Honey do these jeans make my butt look big?" This question never fails to kick off what I call a man dilemma. Any verbal response, truth or blatant lie with create a shit storm. Silence is an answer, but is it a lie? The man answer is, “hell no.” But, that’s not the last word, by any means. Venus has a different take on the situation.

Believe me, she hears the wheels turning. She knows you have come up with an answer; probably an inappropriate one, but an answer nonetheless. All you can do is pray she does not press the issue. If the stars are properly aligned, she is just messing with you to see you sweat and this will blow over if you keep quiet and look sufficiently pained.

  She will probably accuse you later of dishonesty. But that will be later, right? This is now, and survival is on the line. How does that meme go? “Studies show women who carry a little extra weight live longer than men who mention it.” True wisdom, brother. Silence will save you---for now.

The trouble is that silence, golden as it may be, is only opaque. Women want transparency. Evidently guys, we are not as transparent as we seem. Somewhere deep inside there’s more to us than dreams of titties and beer. I’m not sure where, but it’s in there and covering it up is often met with hostility.

If you’re thinking guys just can’t win, go to the head of the class. I don’t think we’re supposed to win. The best we can hope for is lovable loser. If you’re lovable enough, she will snuggle with you---and that’s a win in my book.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pub Chatter #52

“It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood...”
James Madison, Federalist no. 62.

The Affordable Care Act has nearly 11,000 pages of regulations and stands three feet high. Is it by design that the printing a single law consumes an entire forest? You bet your ass it is. Relax, I’m not going to rant about Obamacare. I was simply using it as an example. Obamacare pales compared to the US Tax Code at 74,000 pages.

Do you believe all that verbiage really necessary? All the government is trying to say is, “Send us x% of your income.” Seven words; that’s all you need for equality and fairness. Uncle Sam take note, God sets the figure for Jews and Christians at ten percent.

Let’s agree to overlook the fact that Mr. Madison would have an epileptic fit at the notion of directly taxing incomes. The Father of the Constitution outlined the entire working of the government in---are you ready? Four handwritten pages. This was no accident. In simplicity there is understanding by all. In the smoke and mirrors of convoluted political-speak lurk all manner of evil. The slippery language of modern legislation exists solely to serve the interests that inserted it.

Don’t worry America, you elected your own representatives. What they say and do after that need not concern you. Besides even if you had the time to read the laws they write, you wouldn’t understand them. A lot of people in who work in Washington DC (or own someone who does ) are counting on that. For every expert who “understands” the law, there are two who “understand” it differently. There’s design in this madness.

I don’t know how true it is, but I heard an online company inserted a line in their terms of use laying claim to the customer’s immortal soul. People signed that they understood. Who am I? I don’t read that crap either.

God, who is all knowing and has all the time in the world to hear, appreciates brevity. Jesus told His followers not to use vain repetitions when praying. He said the heathen, who thought they would be heard for their much speaking, had it all wrong. Keep prayer simple and straight forward.

Christians had a huge family feud over translating the Bible from Latin into other languages. As long as it was in Latin, common people who didn’t speak Latin, only had the priests word for what the bible said. When it was put into a language they understood, everyone jumped on it---the Bible became a best seller. There’s a lesson there for us.
Wonder if all the out of work lobbyists would apply for Obamacare?    

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Chapter 35

The outer cell door swung open opening a fan of sunlight on the cobblestone floor. The spreading shaft of light fell across his face for the first time in seven days. Bryn Bou lifted an arm to shield his eyes from the searing light. The shrieking grate of hinges raked nails along the blackboard of his brain. Somewhere above him a pry bar worked the boards from the cell window. Bryn’s mind shouted the curses his lips were too dry and weak to form. One Eye stirred beside him. Footsteps pounded the stones.
“Well, who’s hungry now?” the sergeant of the guard asked.
Hot soup splashed over Bryn. The blistering liquid summoned strength he didn’t know he possessed. Bryn slapped at the hot bits of ground meal and vegetables that stuck to his skin.
“On your feet you worthless dinks,” the sergeant ordered.
A fist closed on his tunic. Bryn was jerked to his feet. A sharp slap brought his swimming head to a stop. Next to him, One Eye was propped upright by a pair of soldiers. The hand on Bryn’s collar threw him toward the open door. Unsupported, he stumbled a few steps before crashing to the floor. “Get up," the sergeant’s order was punctuated by a boot in the ribs.
Bryn grunted against the pain; got his trembling arms under him and levered himself from the floor. He willed himself to stand. By some miracle, his body obeyed. Soldiers closed on his arms. He was in motion again; pushed towards the cell door.

Bryn and One Eye found themselves herded into a small room furnished only with a small wooden table and two stools.
“Sit,” the sergeant commanded and disappeared out the door.
They were only too glad to comply. Bryn didn’t hear a key turn in the lock, but his limbs refused to carry him to check it. It was just as well, the door opened a moment later. Soldiers laid food, water on the table. Another threw a pile of clothes on the floor. This time the key turned the lock.
Sudden strength surged into Bryn’s arms. He lunged for a water pitcher. A hand closed on his and he found himself beak to beak with One Eye. The old smuggler shook his head.
“Slowly,” One Eye said. “Tiny sips. Eat only a little bread.”
He released Bryn and followed his own advice sipping slowly from a pitcher. The water was cool; soothing as it rolled over his tongue and down his parched throat. He was about to thank the Creator when the liquid hit his stomach. An iron fist squeezed his guts. Bryn gagged. He wretched once as the water tried to escape, but held it down. He sat doubled over for a couple of minutes before daring to sit up and try again. The next sip was easier.
  After seven days without food or drink, bread and water was a real feast. Bryn forced himself to eat slowly.The rumbling protests of his shrunken stomach sent him frequent reminders. They were finishing up the crumbs when voices sounded in the hall outside. The key clicked inside the lock and the tumblers of the lock fell into place with a soft clack. The door swung into the room revealing a slightly built Valir with a prominent blue crest. He appeared slightly older than Bryn’s father. He was draped in a black robe with an embroidered band of gold around his neck. A soldier carrying a chair followed close behind him.
“Sit down,” the robed figure said. He followed his own command; smoothed his robe and looked up; his eyes resting on Bryn. “I am Ambassador Dorryn. I’m sure you have many questions. I will try to answer them, but first, let me explain something of your situation.
You are charged with leading the massacre of two human villages. your chances of avoiding execution are about as good as they are of escaping this prison. It’s a wonder you are not dead already. There will be a formal trial. However, rest assured, it is only a formality. There is not a human in Shiloh that believes you are innocent.You would do well to resign yourselves to your fate and make whatever peace you can with the Creator.”
“Pardon the interruption, Ambassador,” One Eye broke in. “But just why are you here? Surely you didn’t come all the way down from your palace just to cheer us up.”
“Impertinent to the last, as I told them,” Dorryn said. “Very well, let’s get to it. I think young Bryn will have a slightly different take on things.”
“If I am condemned already,” Bryn said. “Why should I care what you have to say?”
“Because,” Dorryn leaned closer. “You are not the only ones facing death in this affair.’
“Save your breath,” One Eye said. “We know the others are dead.”
“To be sure,” the Ambassador replied. “However, I was not speaking of your comrades. I am talking about Byryn Bou and Coryn the Seer now sitting under guard in Vix awaiting your testimony.”
“What?” Bryn jumped to his feet and glared down at the Ambassador.
The Ambassador was unmoved. He smiled up at Bryn with a predatory look in his eye. He motioned for Bryn to sit.
“Now,” he began when Bryn was seated. “We come to the part where I can help. It seems Lord Zett does not believe you two capable of mastermining this atrocity. Byryn and Coryn have already confessed that they gave you permission to travel in defiance of the High Council. Zett believes they are the leaders behind the massacre. Nevertheless, Lord Zett assures me that if you will take sole responsibility for the killing and confess your crime, your father and the seer will go free.”
Dorryn’s smile widened as he rose to his feet. He brushed their presence from his long robe and sighed.
“You will want time to think it over.” He rapped on the door. “We’ll talk again.”
The Ambassador nodded to the soldiers as he glided through the open door. The sergeant stepped into the vacated doorway.
“Okay, you birds. Back to your cage,” he said. “Come on, move it.”

The sun had set by the time they returned. The cell was dark again save for a few pinpoints of starlight far above the open window. Joel watched them from across the cell. The expression of sated peace on his face explained by the three empty bowls scattered at his side.
“Didn’t think you was ever coming back. His explanation was followed by a loud burp.
“Thank the Creator it was that end,” One Eye joked.
Bryn wasn’t in the mood. A black cloud had descended around him. He wandered to an abandoned corner of the cell and sank to the floor. One Eye dropped down beside Joel in hopes of keeping the human quiet.
“You remember how he wanted to kill you the first time he saw you?” One Eye whispered. “I think the mood is back.”
Joel held a finger to his lips and nodded understanding.
Bryn closed his eyes and let the darkness come. Not so long ago he knew all about duty, loyalty, truth and taking responsibility to one’s self and one’s neighbor. He could recite the warrior’s creed by heart; no, he lived and breathed it. All it took was a single conversation to let him know he didn’t know shit. His life was over. He sort of understood that. He hadn’t accepted it as real, but he understood how quickly it could happen.
He had never told a lie. Stretched the truth a time or two, sure, but never outright lied. Lying cried to him from the dark. Tell the truth and his father died. He had to lie it was the only way. Except, it wasn’t the only way. It wasn’t his father’s way. Could he die with the knowledge that he betrayed all his father held sacred? He didn’t know. He knew life and death balanced on his word. That was knowledge enough for the moment.
He let a friend fall to his death. He ran while his companions died. He caused the death of an innocent tavern keeper and left his daughter an orphan. He left helpless women and children undefended to be wiped out by soldiers. For what? His duty? The scent of that rose had vanished long ago. Perhaps death wasn’t such a bad thing after all. He dealt enough death to deserve a share.
Death came through the darkness like an old friend loosed from the bowels of Tettias to stand beside him. A skeletal hand reached out; a bony finger raked his skin. He sank at the dark angel’s feet. Death’s scythe whisked through the air.

Pub Chatter #51

It’s easy to get lost when there is no point of reference to act as a guide. I think that is why I am so often frustrated by people and behaviors. I have no point of reference for ideas like “free” stuff, naming your own gender identity, or kids ruling adults. We taught our kids to fight for themselves, not start support groups. We never supplied our kids with things they were searching for until they could name places in which they had already searched. We thought that fostered independence, but then we didn’t have Google.

Through my childhood and young adulthood it was not acceptable for children to throw a screaming fit when told to do something they didn’t like. That’s not to say it didn’t happen--it did. But, it was unacceptable behavior.

My mother-in-law was a sweet, gentle woman. One day our very independent, and somewhat headstrong daughter dropped down on the dining room floor screaming and crying. My mother-in-law calmly said, “You better beat her butt until she gets up from there or you’ll have that all the time. Was she right? I don’t know. We followed her advice and that didn’t happen ever again. We took advice from elders back then. We didn’t have government programs to teach us any better.

So when a modern parent sets Johnny on the doctor’s scale and the kid falls screaming to the floor and the parent is good with it---I’m lost. Daily I watch as parents bring their sick little dears to the hospital for treatment, only to be told by the child that they don’t want this or that. I can understand the child saying it. I cannot understand parents giving in to being told what to do by their child. I stand there scratching my head in wonder.

Of course, in ancient times the kid wouldn’t have gotten a trip to the hospital in the first place. Sore throats, ear aches, tooth aches, runny noses, and coughs waited until morning even if a parent had to stay awake with the child. Then, maybe---maybe a trip to the doctor’s office. Even that was unlikely because we had to pay the doctor real money. Money that was usually set aside for trivial things like food and clothing. Back in those days, even a carton of milk at school cost money.

It’s not just kids. What starts out as a child becomes an adult that is no better behaved. People today have real trouble with waiting their turn (actually, waiting for anything); minor discomfort a pill won’t take away; or calmly stating an honest, opposing opinion.

So, if you're a truly modern Millie, excuse the hell outta me if I don’t play along. I have no point of reference except the one I grew up with and I’m keeping it. I’m not judging you---I’m just puzzled by your ideas. We will both have to live with it.  

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pub Chatter #50

I’ve heard it said that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. I don’t know how true that is, but it served that particular author’s purpose well. Wherever the truth lies, I promise the case is different with men. Vive la difference!

The male corollary goes: a man needs a woman like a junkie needs the monkey on his back. Which anyone holding a current man card will tell you is not far from sublime truth. Taking offense to such a statement is undeniable evidence of feminine gender identity----and, I might add, an unfair, hasty judgment.

Think about it. In the junkie’s mind, he cannot bear to live without his monkey or long endure the monkey’s anger. Without the monkey, his stomach churns, he breaks into a sweat and his hands tremble. Thinking about doing without his monkey makes him anxious. He is apt to chase his tail nervously in search of the calming presence. He needs that monkey.

That need is torture because the monkey can be a hard taskmaster. It has a voracious appetite; relentless desires and a quick temper when denied. The desire to appease the monkey is so intense that the smallest failure brings on sharp pangs of inadequacy. The monkey’s pleasure is everything; it’s displeasure torment. Self will dissipates into servile surrender to his habit. He rages against the chattering voice on his shoulder only to repent---for he loves his monkey.  

A man’s friends tell him to kick the habit; to live free; to be his own man. They cannot see how tightly he is held. Every man tries to kick the habit at one time or other. The result is the same---misery. His poor, little-used cerebral synapses get crossed. He can’t think, he can’t eat, he can’t sleep, all he thinks about of how sweet it would be to have the monkey back for just a little while.

Kind of makes you wonder how we came to live in a male dominated society. What secret weapon has carried the day in the war on women? I hold a man card. I attend all the strategy meetings on oppression. I vote Republican. But, I still can’t explain how come we are winning.

Unlesssss, we are covertly living in a computer generated matrix of delusion operated by women. No, no way. It can’t be. Say it ain’t so. Somebody? Anybody?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Pub Chatter #49

I took my sweetie to the movies the other night. I know she loves me because we went to see Kong. It was a good movie, but that’s not really what I want to talk about. People, especially those my age, often ask if the movie was worth the $23 to get in? The answer is, yes and no. Honestly, I’ve not seen much on the big screen that wasn’t as good at home. The entertainment value of most movies doesn’t measure up to the price of admission. But, that’s beside the point.

Here’s the thing I want to share---not all the value is in the movie. It may seem like a couple can’t afford the show. In reality, they can’t afford not to go. Time spent together is worth the investment. That’s what it is--an investment; in each other and your relationship. A relationship worth having is a relationship worth investing yourself in. Without it you will grow stale and fall apart.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a movie. It just needs to be something done together outside the sedentary stillness of home. In the course of the home becoming people’s sanctuary from the rat race world of work, it also became a sanctuary from doing things together; almost a sanctuary from life itself.

Guys, surprise her with flowers for no reason. Ladies, make a big deal of it when he does (even if you are allergic). Give in the spirit you hope to receive. Take time for one another.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chapter 34

“The king wishes to see you, my Lord,” the servant said with a deep bow. “He waits in the library.”
“Is he alone?” Eli asked.
“No, sire,” the servant answered. “A message?”
“Yes,” Eli said. “Tell the king; I shall attend him presently.”
“Yes, sire. Very well.”
Eli recognized the man; he was one of his father’s personal staff.The servant wiped a wreath of sweat from his forehead; bowed again and backed quickly out of the room. Had he been instructed to avoid questioning? Eli thought it likely. The prince gave Luther a sidelong glance.
“Care to wager who is with him?” Eli asked.
“I think not, my Lord,” Luther said. The corners of his lips drew up. “Enjoy your visit.”
“You’re not coming?” the prince said.
“I was not invited, my Lord.” Luther’s smile grew.

A short time later, Prince Eli paused outside the royal library. He painted a smile on his face; gave a light rap on the door, and entered without waiting to be summoned. Kings of Shiloh were known to kill their sons, but Eli had no fear of that. Right now he thought it best to press his family connection. The servant was right; the king was not alone. He sat where Eli expected behind a large writing desk near the open balcony. This was clearly was not the meeting Eli imagined. Lord Zett was nowhere to be found. The King was flanked by the Queen and Prince Melchiz. His father’s arms were hooked across his chest. Melchiz looked like he just ate a green persimmon. Eli decided to take the offensive.
“Well, a family meeting,” Eli said. His jovial tone was a thin mask for his surprise. He much preferred an angry Zett to a family conclave. Family connections had their upside; the opposite was also true.
“So it would seem,” the king answered. “It also seems that I was a bit naive to hope my last fortnight on the throne might pass in peace and quiet.”
“Is there trouble, father?” Eli feigned ignorance.
The Queen quickly hid a smile behind a her hand. The King did not appear amused. The corners of his mouth strained to turn even further downward.
“Dammit Eli.” His brother sprang to his feet.
The king stretched out his hand; his palm on Melchiz”s chest. His sharp glare returned Melchiz to his seat. The King held his eldest son’s eyes a moment longer before turning the look on Eli. The prince shifted in his seat.
“Dammit Eli,” the king roared. “What am I going to do with you? Why do you delight in angering Zett? Tell me what you have done to set the man off this time?”
 “Your Majesty,” Eli stood and with an exaggerated bow at the waist and sweep of his hand said, “Only saved the honor of your kingdom from injustice and embarrassment.”
“Go on,” the King said.
“I assume we are speaking of the young Valir taken captive by Lord Zett?” Eli and hurried on without waiting a reply. “This boy is the only son of an esteemed member of Valir’s High Council. Byryn Bou of Vix is a warrior of renown in the Boubouja. I believe you are familiar with the Bou clan. Granted, a goodly name does not excuse the boy’s crime. Neither does it serve to mitigate any deserved punishment. Nevertheless, I believe his execution calls for a modicum of evidence to be presented that he is actually guilty of anything. We would do well to at least go through the motions of a trial before we kill him.”
Melchiz was on his feet before the king could speak.“How is it you know so much about this Valir?”
“My brother,” Eli said with a sneer. “How is it you do not?”
The anger that flashed in Melchiz’s eyes made Eli mentally retreat a few steps. Giving in to displays of anger was not like Melchiz. He always greeted Eli’s taunts with indifference as if he was above them somehow. Something else was troubling him. But, Eli quickly became aware of another danger.
“Well," the king spoke up. “I am greatly interested in the answer to both of those questions.”
His words evaporated Eli’s hope the exchange would fade harmlessly away. A lecture was building like a storm upon the sea. There was no escape; nothing to do except to hang on tight and weather it the best he could. The King took a long look at Melchiz, then shifted his stare at Eli.
“Well, I’m waiting," the king said. ‘Who would like to start? “What? No one has anything more to say? How about if I take a guess at what’s going on here? Melchiz, you know so little because you have relied on Zett to do your thinking for you. He hands you reports and you sign them without bothering about the truth. This is not the way of kings; not if they wish to reign for very long. Knowing this almost makes me afraid to step down. I am disappointed that at this late date you have not learned the first things about being king.”
“And as for you, Eli, you are more informed, but you have done no more thinking for yourself than your brother. I know the bird that whispered in your ear. Whose bidding have you really done? Perhaps you should rethink where your duty lies.”
“If I am to be robbed of a few days peace as king, hear my word. The Valir remains where he is in the palace dungeon. The next full moon he shall be taken to the Hall of Judgment. Melchiz, as king, you shall be his judge. Your man, Zett, may prosecute if that brings him pleasure. Eli, you shall have the task of defending the prisoner. When the trial is over, everyone will abide by the decision. Then, the two of you will publicly stand together before the world and pledge allegiance to Shiloh. Are we clear on this?”
“Yes father,” they said in childlike unison
“So be it.”

The palace gardens were in transitional bloom. The quince, tulips and daffodils of early spring were giving way to iris and dianthus. A sweet fragrance of gardenias hung on air. The crowded, and often fetid, air of the city seemed many miles away. A bee laden with pollen circled Eli’s head before buzzing away to its hive. Eli loved the gardens. He sometimes spent his mornings here in quiet meditation. Today, he came for a much different reason. He sought the advise of the ranking gardener. The woman to whom the duty belonged was difficult to recognize. She preferred the simple overalls and cotton shirts of her crew to the flash of rank.He spotted her working on her knees among the lilies.
“Mother,” he called and waved.
She beaconed him over and patted the ground beside her. Eli took his place by her side. He had resorted to this place beside her in the garden since childhood. It was his refuge from the worries lurking outside the lush greenery and bright colors. She smiled at him and continued to work her hands through the soil.
“Was he very angry?” Eli asked.
“He’ll get over it,” she replied without looking up. “He knows you were right to intervene. It will just take him a while to get over how you came to be right.”
“Yeah, that kind of slipped out.”
“What is Eeryn’s interest in this boy?” she asked.
“Something about the vision of a seer back in Valir,” Eli said. “Some disaster that is supposed to affect the whole world. The boy is to deliver details to Eeryn.”
“You don’t believe in that sort of thing, do you?”
“No, not really,” he said. “But, I believe in Eeryn. I should, at least, listen.”
“Yes, you may be right. But be careful,” the queen warned. “Your plan to smuggle Eeryn in or the boy out, is going to cause more trouble than you imagine.”
“I know nothing of any such plans,” he said. “I mean to keep it that way.”
“You’re a good son.” She gave his shoulder a soft pat.

“What? Again?” Joel cried. “How’s a man supposed to live on this crap?”
“You ain’t,” the guard told him with a chuckle. “You’re supposed to starve so’s we don’t have to listen to your bellowing day and night.”
“Yeah,” said a second guard. “Be a good sort and hurry up about it.”
Joel’s bowl hit the bars of the inner door as the guards closed them. Greasy soup splattered across the shoulders of the departing guards. Bits of ground meal and onion stuck to their hair and their clothes. They brushed away at the dripping mess and fumbled to get the iron door open.
Bryn and One Eye exchanged a glance and a shrug. They sent their bowls sailing toward the door. The guards saw the bowls coming and tried to dodge the flying soup, but the space between the two doors offered no place to hide. The tepid liquid flew between the bars adding to the guards discomfort and their string of shouted obscenities.
“Leave that door alone and get out of there,” a voice called.
The huge wooden outer door swung slowly open and a sergeant of the guard stepped inside. He grabbed his Soup splattered comrades by their collars and dragged them outside. The door did not immediately close as was the routine. The sergeant stepped back inside.
“That little stunt is going to cost you---dearly,” he promised.

Pub Chatter #48

There’s a lot of negativity in the world. Everywhere I turn somebody says, “Don’t try this at home.” Like me, maybe, you are wondering how to fill up the empty hours created by all the stuff we can’t try at home. In an effort to decrease negativity in the world, tonight I’m going to shine a nurse’s light on some things you can try at home. In fact, you really ought to try these things at home. Here’s my short list:

1. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Motrin). Surprisingly enough these medications are available at the local dollar store. I know the idea of paying for treatment is scary, but the investment can really pay off in time and convenience. Imagine avoiding the Emergency Room wait. The cost is minimal, but the savings in time is huge. These medications are often the Emergency Room’s first line for easing pain and lowering fever.
Here’s something most people don’t know---you can take them more than once for the same fever. That’s right, when that fever comes sneaking back in 4 hours; Boom, fire another dose at it.

2. When in doubt, read and follow the directions. This one is hard for the man in me to accept, but it works. For most treatments where one pill is prescribed, taking two will not work better. The opposite is also true. If half your antibiotic makes you feel better, don’t save the other half for the next time. Take it until it’s gone like the label says. Along these same lines, don’t start, stop or adjust your medications on your own. Ask your doctor.

3. Go with your gut feeling. If your tummy is upset; feeling nauseated, vomiting or battling diarrhea---quit feeding it. Let it rest. Small sips of clear liquids or ice chips for 24 hours will do wonders. I’ve seen just the threat of clear liquids for 24 hours drive away many a potential viral gastroenteritis. Faced with the prospect of giving their gut the day off, miraculous healings can and do happen. A note of caution and explanation is needed at this point. Nausea is not pain. It does not in and of itself require a trip to the ER in the wee hours of the morning. One the other hand, if you have pain, you may wish to seek help. When it comes to your gut, try using your head.

4. Try managing your health as if you were paying for treatment. I know Obama said you don’t have to, but look how much he aged on “free” government health care. And he got the high end care. Do you want that to happen to you? It’s not a sin to discuss drug prices with your doctor. I found that is how affordable care works. Take WalMart’s $4 a month list of medications with you and ask if you can safely switch your high priced drugs for cheaper ones. Tax payers will all thank you.

5. Try sucking it up. I’m going to make enemies here, but I’m preaching what I practice. Pain is a symptom something’s not right. Accept the fact that after a few decades stuff is going to go wrong and not every ache and pain can be fixed with a pill or surgery. Life is painful. Adapt, improvise, overcome. I’m not condemning you if you can’t, but before you give up or give in---try.
( Doctors and nurses aren’t impressed by dramatic pain. They see that shit everyday. It’s not that they don’t care about your pain; it’s that drama will not move them any faster. Save it for home and your significant other.)

6.   Try telling the truth straight up. First to yourself, then with the doctor. If you said, “Hey, bubba hold my beer and watch this,” and the next thing you know you’re in an ambulance---fess up. When the nurse asks if you smoke, feel free to say, “Not tobacco.” Say it with a smile. If it is tobacco say, “Hell yeah, four packs a day for nigh on to forty years.” Again, say it like you mean it.
I’m tired of working my ass off in unsuccessful resuscitation (that’s a Code Blue) with family and friends swearing Bubba don’t smoke no meth. When I know damn well that’s what I’m seeing. (Then have the coroner find it in Bubba’s pocket.)
I’m not judging or condoning any of those behaviors. I’m simply telling you, that except from a medical standpoint, the doc and nurse don’t care what you stick up your nose. Tell the truth and get the right treatment. You might as well because most medical people have finely attuned bullshit detectors.

7. My all time favorite unspoken advise is: try to be the parent. If you go to the ER or the doctor’s office with a rug rat, give positive parenting a try. Of course, Johnny does not want the medicine. Ask yourself, wtf did I drag him down here in the middle of the night for? If it was to watch him scream and roll around on the floor---you can do that at home. Be the parent, get the kid what they need without regard to how they feel about it or whether they like it. That is what you came for. Get your money’s worth.
I recommend that you kindly excuse yourself, beat the kid’s ass and let the treatment resume with a sadder, wiser, more cooperative child. It’s not only the way to restored health, but the effects will spill over into other areas of Johnny’s life.

That’s my story for the night. Who knew there was still so much we can try at home? The world can be an amazing place.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Big Vein Safari

Big vein hunting is both an art and a skill. An artist’s intuitive eye is as important to bagging the prey as manual dexterity. It’s not for everyone. It’s not just the blood. There’s a certain callous boldness required to actually pull the procedural trigger and spear the flesh of another living being. To the bold goes the sublime satisfaction of taping down a trophy vein.

Unlike with other wild game, the real trophies in vein hunting are not the biggest specimens. Hitting a spiderweb vein deep in subcutaneous tissue or catching a wild roller in mid-stride are the ones that make vein hunters beat their chests and turn the other hunters green with envy. However, the high of bagging a vein no one else could find only lasts until the next hunt---and there is always a next hunt on the horizon.

For the seasoned hunter the game begins before he arrives in country. Vein hunters are constantly studying the terrain. They have an eye on the people next to them in line. Shaking hands is an exercise in vein selection. If you watch closely you may even catch a vein hunter prodding his own veins with a fingertip just for practice.

Playful speculation is quickly replaced by a deadly seriousness once the hunt is on. The hunt begins around the spots most frequented by viable veins. The back of the hand, the antecubital spaces, and the wrists offer ready rewards for the diligent hunter. Application of a tourniquet serves to flush stubborn veins out of hiding and help insure a clean shot.

Though veins are present in arms the world over, there are times when they are next to impossible to find. Some hide deep under layers of flesh concealing their telltale blue coloring. Small ones blend into their surrounding so well that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. In such cases the hunter is reduced to relying on blind touch; searching with only his fingertips for that vein no one else can locate. This does not deter the true champion vein hunters. Experience has taught them that veins have a distinct spongy feel that is distinctly different from tendons and arteries. Some hunters no longer rely on sight at all living by the  credo that if you cannot feel a vein; your will not hit it no matter how hard you try. Recent discoveries have complicated the big vein hunters reliance on feel. Venous blood can carry all sorts of deadly diseases forcing the hunter to wear gloves that deaden the touch.

An experienced vein hunter carries needles of various sizes. Just as one would not use an elephant gun to shot rabbits, using too large a needle can do more harm than good. Veins stretch, but there is a limit to what they can hold.Choosing a needle that is too large will blow out the vein. On the other hand, a that is too small may not yield a good flow. Emergency situations demand the largest needle possible. The pressure is on the hunter to choose quickly and wisely.

Needle in hand, the hunter must approach the vein with the bevel of the needle facing up and toward the heart. A deep, cleansing breath helps steady the hands. A trembling hand can affect your aim causing you to miss or worse plunge through the vein. Inexperienced hunters will want a solid base on which to rest their hand while they work. Once the vein is spotted; the hand is steady; and the decision made; don’t hesitate. Pull the trigger. Move forward swiftly into the vein at an angle. A flash of blood in the hub of the needle signals a hit, but the job is not done yet. Drop the needle down advance it slightly. Slide the catheter into the vein in a single smooth motion.    

Attach a cap and secure the catheter with tape and a dressing. You’ve captured a vein. These tips are only the basics. Practice honing your skills until you are ready to take on a struggling infant or the adult who jerks away. Happy hunting.

Chapter 33

The cell was exactly fourteen stones wide and twenty stones deep. Bryn counted every one of them; twice. The worry that keep his mind racing and his eyes open didn’t affect his companion in the least. One Eye spent the night snoring and breaking occasionally to search for a more comfortable position. That he could sleep at all on the cobblestone floor was a mystery to Bryn.
Two locked doors barred the way to freedom. The outer door was made of four inch thick oak beams strapped together with wide iron bands. Opening the door was a full time job for one person which meant guards showed up on pairs. The inner door was a hinged latticework of iron bars secured with a lock of its own. The weave of bars was reinforced with welds wherever they touched. Granite blocks formed walls. The only light that entered came through two small windows; one in the outer door and another high up on the east wall. Unaided escape was impossible. They would have to have outside help. Eeryn was their most powerful ally, but he was banned from the palace. It was unlikely they would get much help from the seer.
Bryn decided pacing the cell didn’t generate solutions. However, it did pass the time and help restore flexibility to his aching muscles. An hour before dawn Bryn heard the lock turn in the cell’s outer door. The sound brought his pacing to an end. The big door opened to reveal two guards dragging a blood covered man. The door was closed behind them. One of the soldiers balanced the prisoner against the wall while the other worked the lock. The iron door swung open and the two soldiers tossed the wounded man inside. They left him sprawled on the stones and without looking back signaled for the outer door to open. The new comer groaned and rolled slowly on to his side facing Bryn and One Eye. Intrigued by the man’s face, Bryn started over for a closer look.
“He’s okay,” One Eye said from where he lay curled up against the wall. “I can hear him breathing.”
Bryn stepped over the man and took up a seat beside One Eye. The two of them spent the next few minutes watching their new cell mate. Gradually, the man came around and returned their curious looks.
“What are you birds looking at?” He said when he eyes focused.
“A blood covered turd,” One Eye said. “That would be my guess. How about you Bryn? You ever see anything like that?”
“I’m not sure,” Bryn said. “Maybe once; stuck to the bottom of my shoe.”
The smile starting on Bryn’s face suddenly faded. He worked his way to his feet; his eyes never leaving the human. Fire burned in his face.
“Actually, I do recognize this human garbage,” Bryn said. “He was one of the guards at the wheel.
Ignoring his aching muscles, Bryn kicked the downed man in the gut. The blow sent the breath rushing from him. Gasping and coughing, the man tried to crawl away. Bryn followed landing sharp kicks to any spot left unprotected.
“Are you going to kill him?” One Eye asked from across the cell.
“Maybe,” Bryn said. “Does it matter?”
“It might,” One Eye replied. “He might know something we ought to know. We could ask him, but then you’d have to let him live awhile.”
“Damn you,” Bryn said. He grabbed the man by the collar and dragged him back to where One Eye sat.
One Eye leaned over the wounded man and flashed an innocent looking smile. He took the man by the shoulders and propped him against the wall. When the ex-soldier’s breathing returned to normal One Eye gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder and nodded toward Bryn.
“He really wants to kill you,” One Eye said. “You might be able to talk your way out of it. I suggest you try.”
“Go to hell,” the man answered.
One Eye twisted his upper body and sent a looping left hand into the man’s face. His head snapped back into the stone wall with a thud. Blood began to pour from the man’s lips.
“You might as well kill him,” One Eye said.
“No wait,” he mumbled through smashed lips. “What do you want to know?”
“What’s your name?” Bryn asked.
“That hardly seems worth knowing.” One Eye caught Bryn’s look from the corner of his eye. “Just saying.”
“Joel,” the man answered before Bryn could ask again. “Joel Sens.”
“How well do you know this place?” Bryn asked.
“Not very well,” Joel said. “I’m regular army.”
“What’s that got to do with it?” One Eye jumped in.
“This is the royal dungeon,” Joel explained. “The army has it’s own prison. It’s across the city. We don’t come here.”
“Who does come here?” Bryn said.
“The Royal Guard.”
“So, the soldiers that came last night...”
“Royal Guard,” Joel cut him short. “They belonged to Prince Eli. Every royal has a his own.”
“How do you know who those belonged to?”
“The badges on the uniform,” Joel said. “They belonged to Eli alright.”
“And the army belongs to Zett,” One Eye said.
“Why did the Prince’s men step in?” Bryn asked.
“I don’t know,” Joel answered. “But Lord Zett was in a rage about it.”
“Bryn.” One Eye jerked his head away from where Joel sat.
The two moved as far away from the human as the cell allowed. One Eye held a cupped hand close to Bryn’s ear.
“Why would they...” One Eye began to whisper.
“Yes, indeed,” Bryn’s voice grew dreamlike; his focus far away.
“Eeryn and the Prince are friends,” One Eye added.
“Are they now?”
“Close friends,” One Eye said. “The kind of friends who do favors for each other.”
“This dungeon may not be as dark as I first thought,” Bryn said.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Pub Chatter # 47

I’m going to try not to post a rant tonight. No promises, but I will try. I’ve been in a ranting kind of mind set lately. I started claim that it was brought on by people watching, but that’s not exactly true. If it were only people watching, I’d be laughing. I must have momentarily regressed into giving a shit again.

I blame the book I have been reading, Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. It’s a look at quality of life issues from the one unique viewpoint no one listens to---old people. According to Gawande, realizing that my time is finite and debility coming, I should narrow my focus. Instead of thinking about networking and achieving, I’m supposed to be concentrating on the here and now, everyday pleasures and the people closest to me. You know savoring life. Granted, those things have a certain appeal. Still, there are problems with the idea of the slow and narrow.

One such problem is the fact that I can’t shake my desires to write a break out novel, open a pub and see the world. I get frustrated that there’s never enough time to write; and never enough money to walk on the wild side. I may be old, but I believe people should live until they die. The longest mortal lifetime is too short to quit before the final buzzer.

Someday I may decide to grow up---just not today. Imagination is the fuel of youth and I still got a full tank. There are dreams left to dream, stories yet to write. Nowhere are the dreams and the stories more real than between the author’s ears. The secret is to keep building new worlds; visiting old haunts; and letting imagination drive the thinking process. Only the body has to age. Imagine the possibilities when we live it behind.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Pub Chatter #46

Pub Chatter #46

Does every American deserve health care? I think so. Does every American have a right to health care? Absolutely not.

In this country, rights cannot be abridged or unfairly restricted. No one can legally interfere with the free exercise another person’s rights. Let’s say I want to shout, “Trump is a Rump,” on the corner of Main and Broadway. No one can legally hinder my doing so. I have a right to free speech.

That doesn’t mean I can say anything without consequences. It only insures that I am free to say it. Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes said no one has the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. My speech cannot intentionally cause harm. Saying things that hurt someone else’s feelings or offends their sensibilities does not constitute harm.

If Joe Public hears me shout “Trump is a Rump,” and because of that Joe decides not to buy my books. He has not hindered the free exercise of my right to speech. I was still free to say what I wished. Just as he is free to keep his money in his pocket. That’s free speech and the free market. It’s how America works.

Let’s take a step into modern thinking. I have the right to free speech. Therefore, I can force Joe to rent an auditorium for my upcoming speech and I can make him attend. No way. Nowhere is another citizen or the government obligated to finance or listen to my free speech, no matter how much they need it.

Our much talked about right to health care is not about the violation of freedom. It’s not about being turned away from health care or forbidden health care. I can walk into any clinic or hospital and get care. The fact that I am required to pay for my care may give me pause, but I am free to do so if i desire. Furthermore, the Emergency Room cannot refuse to treat me because I can’t pay. They must suck it up and treat me anyway. The supposed right to health care is about one thing and one thing only. It’s about making others pay for my health care. The modern thinker says, “Because I deserve it, I’m entitled to it.” This ain’t so. If it were, my house would have an ocean view.

A word of warning before I go. Be careful talking about being entitled and deserving---you just might get what you deserve.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Pub Chatter #45

If you are easily offended that people come in different colors and have different cultural backgrounds, prepare your knickers for a twist. I do not believe all people are the same; they don’t look the same; they don’t act the same; they don’t think the same. To insist that they do implies blindness, delusion or that you just don’t get out much.

  I’m all for equal opportunity, equal rights, equal protection under the law, and equal pay for equal work. All great ideals. We tend to forget those things are the product of western culture. Those same ideals are as foreign to other cultures as a resident of Kalamazoo. Does everyone deserve these rights? I think so, but I know rights don’t automatically translate into equality. Competence, manners and achievement do a better job at leveling the field than rights.

What people deserve and what they have a right to are not the same thing. The difference is at the heart of America’s obsession with entitlements.
Now, here’s where, for me, it gets interesting. Entitlements are a white invention designed to assuage guilt. That this guilt is an illusion doesn’t seem to matter to anyone. What even fewer people see is that entitlements hold people in bondage. Entitlements kill incentive, stifle education, and perpetuate poverty among every race and creed.

Southerners objected to suddenly freeing black slaves because they felt blacks would have to be cared for by society. Was that racism or realism? African-American, Hispanic and Native cultures still don’t value education or the work ethic needed to succeed in this country. But, everyone is expected to believe the reason they don’t achieve the American dream is white oppression. So to make everyone feel better we hand out chains in the form of money, food stamps, health care and free education.

Israel wandered until they found the Promised Land. Of course they had to fight for it, till the soil, and tend the flocks when they arrived. The land flowed with milk and honey---just not hand outs of free milk and honey. Little effort produces little of value. Nobody minds putting a torch to a neighborhood they are not invested in, especially when it will be rebuilt for them by others.

Think it’s way past time to tear down the barriers of race, religion, and national origin; throw off the chains of government hand outs and be Americans. You know, those rugged individualists pursuing life, liberty and happiness by taking responsibility for their own outcomes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pub Chatter #44

I have run completely out of patience. I didn’t have much to start with, but what little I had is gone. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not me using it up needlessly. It’s time to quit living in denial. Millennials really are a generation of irresponsible, immature, entitled, whining children. They’ve been raised with a Burger King attitude that everything should be served to them their way. Our computerized life has told them customer satisfaction is not only king, but a club they can use on anyone who opposes their rigid beliefs.

I used to wonder who will care for these people when the Me generation dies out and there’s no one left to pamper them. It’s a given it won’t be their children. Their children have no one filling a parental role. I don’t wonder anymore. The answer is clear. Government will care for them. It won’t necessarily be the U.S. government, but some government. The government of
a country with a strong, committed, dedicated people will rule them.

Russia, Iran or China come immediately to mind. Don’t get me wrong I don’t endorse their ideologies. I simply see in them the strength we have surrendered. In those countries twenty-somethings are not having their asses wiped by mom and dad, being spoon fed education, or enjoying free anything.

Forget about the European Union. The EU surrendered any chance of world leadership when they threw open their doors to immigrants incapable of peace, civilized law, and order. The Eu is already well into the process of surrender to Islam, without another Vlad the Impaler or El Cid, Europe is as lost as we are.

The kind of liberty Americans enjoy comes from strength; the kind of strength that stares offensive shit in the face----right before kicking its ass. There are no trigger warnings or cozy little safe rooms in the preservation of liberty. Have you noticed wolves run free, but sheep are herded? There’s a lesson in that they don’t teach in school anymore.

When Thomas Jefferson said the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of martyrs, he meant the kind of people willing to stand up, fight, and die for their liberty, not those who die cowering behind the notion that rights are simply handed over. Our inalienable rights are not free. They have never been without cost and never will be. Those rights will vanish forever when there’s no one left to defend them.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Chapter 32

The dank nether region of Shiloh palace lacked even the minimal comforts. It was, after all, a dungeon. For Bryn Bou, the darkest dungeon was considerably more comfortable than the wheel he was tied to for the last twenty hours. Being marched to prison by the Prince’s Guard was his salvation. The officer in charge of the detail ordered him hosed down to prevent him smelling up the mildew covered walls and the straw strewn floors. The soldiers took particular delight in applying icy waters from their hoses.
When they finished, he smelled better, was clothed again, and his wounds stopped bleeding. All in all, he felt blessed. It still hurt to breathe, but he was breathing. He also had company. The cell into which he was shoved was occupied by his old friend and would be rescuer. One Eye looked none the worse for wear. He wasn’t bleeding anywhere and Bryn was positive he heard snores coming from the cell before the soldiers unlocked it.
“Come in, come in,” One Eye welcomed him. “Make yourself at home. My cell is your cell.”
“You sound awful cheerful,” Bryn replied and took a seat on the cobblestone floor next to his friend.
“We’re alive.” His voice then dropped to a whisper. “And we’re not alone. We found your prophet.”
“You found Eeryn?”
“We did. Wynn and xxx are with me. Were with me.” One Eye corrected himself. “Jaryn, the tavern owner turned out to be part of an underground network. From what I’ve heard so far, the few slaves smugglers have sold here and there within the walls of Shiloh is the tip of the iceberg. I’d wager Eeryn is involved in it too.”
“What happened to Wynn?”
“Released. He’s been under the Valirian spell you cast on him since Gotebo. He didn’t know what he was doing until he was rescued tonight. At least that’s the story he was selling.”
“What? There’s no such thing.”
“Humans are gullible creatures,” he said with a shrug. “They believe creatures from the outer regions capable of anything. There seems to be a special paranoia right now.”
“Do you know why we were brought here?” Bryn asked. “That officer that stepped in looked capable of putting us to the sword on the spot.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about that,” he said. “I do know that was the personal body guard of Prince Eli.”
“Really?” Bryn rubbed his chin. “That’s interesting.”

Far above the whispered dungeon conversation, Luther de Mans rapped on the door of his prince; interrupting yet another whispered conversation. Eeryn slipped noiselessly onto the balcony.
“Enter,” Eli called from his seat.
Luther stepped inside and closed the heavy door behind him. “It’s done, Highness.”
“Well done.” Eli turned toward the balcony. “Come in Eeryn. Your young messenger is safe for the moment. Pull up a chair and join us, General. ”
“In for a penny,” Luther said and drew up a chair.
“Well,” the Prince began. “What now? Zett will be livid. He will demand they be turned over to him for execution. I can stall for a while, but we can’t keep them in the dungeon for long.”
“Leave that to me.” Eeryn caught the prince’s puzzled look. “Better for you not to know.”
“I don’t want anyone dead,” Eli said.
“I can’t promise that,” Eeryn said. “Can you get the execution delayed until after the ceremony?”
“I don’t know,” Eli pulled at his beard; a sure sign he was feeling stressed. “I’ll try.”
“You’re planning to use the ceremony as a distraction, I assume,” Luther chimed in.
“I am,” Eeryn admitted.
“It might work,” Luther said.
“It better,” Eeryn said.
The prophet sprang to his feet, head cocked to one side. Without a word he dashed to the balcony and disappeared. The prince looked at his body guard and shrugged. The general touched a finger to his lips, then pointed it at the door. A loud knock followed his cue.
“Enter,” Eli called.
The door swung open revealing a tall thin figure wrapped in a black cloak. His raven hair was combed straight back on his head giving a clear view of close set black eyes that looked over a drooping rat-like nose. Parchment hued skin stretched smoothly over a narrow face the ended in a blunt, beardless chin.
“Lord Zett.” Eli fabricated a smile for the visitor. “How good of you to come. I was about to call on you.”
“Truly,” Zett said with a slight bow of his head. “You have been busy then?”
“Indeed,” Eli replied. “The general here was just telling me how he came upon your men grappling with your prisoner. Rest assured he is well secured now. I’ve ordered him held in the palace awaiting the King’s pleasure.”
“Well done, Highness.” Zett looked at the now empty seat between the prince and the general. A small smile brushed his lips. “How fortunate for me he happened along at such an odd hour.”
“Yes, wasn’t it?” Eli said. “What’s the story with this Valirian?”
“He is the leader of the criminals who massacred the villagers in the west not long ago,” Zett explained. “My men captured him as he approached the city. He was hiding out in a well known resistance way station. Given the severity of the crime, I hoped for his speedy execution.”
“I trust a short delay for the King’s blessing on his death will not be too much of an inconvenience?”
“Of course not, Highness.” Zett bowed. “I will address the King on the matter in due course. Good night, my Lord.”
“Good night, Zett,” Eli waved a hand in dismissal.
Lord Minister of the Army’s stiff march out of the room betrayed his inner rage. Eli watched him go with equally restrained emotion. The initial clash was over. The war was on.

Zett shoved his way passed the fawning captains who served as his aides. His cloak billowed behind him riding the storm of anger that powered his steps. He slammed the carriage door closed and fell into the cushions. Zett sat unmoving, arms crossed tightly across his chest, throughout the ride from the palace. The guards outside his door, already at attention, drew themselves up a little taller as their master exploded from the carriage and stalked by. No one dared speak; no one looked up; no one moved. The door to Zett’s office slammed to a collective intake of breath and sudden scurrying for cover.
The sound of smashing furniture and shattering glass slowly subsided behind the massive double doors. Still, no one venture to inspect the damage. A solitary figure, sweat dripping from his brow, paced just outside the office doors. The smell of fear lingered over his circuitous wake.
“Balfour!” Zett screamed from within.
The lonely figure hunched his shoulders in preparation for the onslaught and opened the door.
“Yes, Lord Zett,” Balfour whimpered.
“Get me that dink of an ambassador in here now,”Zett commanded.
“Yes, my Lord. Which ambassador, my Lord?”
“The Valirian Ambassador you sniveling, brainless, dink.”
“Right now, Lord?”
“Balfour, would like to keep breathing? Of course, right now.”
Balfour ducked a crystal statuette than flew by his ear and shattered against the wall.
“Get moving,” Zett shrieked. “And send that bumbling captain and his men in here.”
Zett’s minister didn’t bother to ask which captain he was to send. He’d find one to sacrifice. However, the task proved easier that he imagined. On the steps outside stood a quaking officer and a handful of miserable looking men held under the watchful eye of General Ergen.
“Lord Zett wants them inside,” he said over his shoulder as he passed.  “I’d hurry if I were you.”

The general signaled to his troops and the guards turned prisoners were pushed and prodded inside. Following a string of shout profanity, they found Zett standing behind an empty desk. He was staring down at the large piece of furniture as if measuring how far he could throw it. The prisoners were pushed to within a step of the desk. General Ergen saluted, but said nothing.
“Do you incompetent dinks have any idea of how you have interfered with my plans? Plans, mind you, more than a year in the works.” Zett began to pace. “No, of course you don’t. To know that would require you to be able to think.
Zett came around the desk. His black eyes studied his prey as he drew closer. He stopped in front the man whose face bore the marks of Wynn’s head butt. Zett leaned in, his nose almost touching that of the soldier. Zett drew a deep breath. The tirade never came. The soldier’s bladder let go. Zett cut the man’s throat with a smooth flick of his hand. The soldier fell twitching into a puddle of his own blood and urine.                                            
“You,” Zett pointed at one of the soldiers. “Would you like to live?”
“Yes, Lord,” the man croaked in a broken voice.
“Your sword, General.” Zett held out a hand. The General gently handed him the scabbard. Zett drew the blade and handed it to the soldier.
“Kill the rest of these idiots,” he said.