Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trails of Trouble---Chapter 41

Eeryn led the rush out the pub’s back door. Fleeing patrons streamed by him in a headlong dash for freedom or a place to hide. Eeryn came to a halt a block away to regroup. Cross brought up the rear carrying a flailing human.
“Does this belong to one of you?” he asked. He dangled Joel up for them to see.
“I know him,” Bryn said. “Joel, what are you doing here?”
“I ain’t got no place else to go,” he whined. “Please take me with you.”
Bryn nodded at Eeryn. The seer gathered the group around him. Eight souls amid a rushing tide fleeing the city. Bryn could hear the human mob advancing through the streets in their direction.
“Stay close,” Eeryn cautioned. “We are going out of the city.”
Eeryn waved them on across streets; through buildings; and down alleys. The city wall loomed before them; growing as they pressed closer. They rounded a corner and the route suddenly opened up into a garden. Across the lawns and short hedges Bryn saw soldiers corralling outlanders into groups. A Valir with a dark green crest saw them and broke from the crowd. Bryn started in his direction, but Eeryn caught his sleeve and held him fast. The fleeing stranger’s hands flew in the air. He lurched forward pitching onto his face in the grass with a lance in his back.
They turned to the left moving away from the gate. Even weaving through the shanties littering the base of the wall, Bryn felt exposed sliding along with his back against the hewn stone. Twenty or thirty yards further down the wall a wooden lean-to blocked the way. It wasn’t much of a shelter just scrap slats staked to the ground on one end and propped up against the wall on the other. It was home to someone, smoke curled from a battered bit of stove pipe at one end. Bryn held back a couple of yards while Eeryn ducked inside. A minute later, the seer’s head reappeared.
“What are you waiting for?” he asked and waved for Bryn to follow.
Bryn ducked as he stepped through the open end of the lean-to. He was met by a sharp pain in his right leg. His shin struck a two foot square wooden door sticking up from the ground. He knelt a looked into through the door. A torch lit a long tunnel that was tall enough for a person to stand up inside. Dirt walls stretched into the dark. Eeryn, carrying a torch of his own, was lighting a second torch embedded in the wall further down the passageway. Bryn climbed down a ladder into the passage. He set out after the seer while Fayrn dropped into the tunnel behind him.
Without landmarks it was hard for Bryn to gauge distance, but he felt certain they traveled at least a mile underground before coming to a dead end. Eeryn handed him a torch and retrieved a ladder from the floor. He used the top of the ladder to push open a door in the ceiling. A deep bow and sweep of his hand invited Bryn to ascend. The city lights cast a yellow glow in the sky behind him. They were, in fact, two miles from the city; the walls still in sight. The door to the tunnel was shielded from the watch towers by a stand of thick oak trees. Using his body to block the light from the torch, he waited by the door for everyone to safely exit. Eeryn, the last one out of the tunnel, kicked the ladder down and closed the door behind them. Cross spread grass and leaves over the wooden entrance.
   The wolven’s ears shot up; the hair on his neck bristled as his upper lips began to twitch revealing long, sharp canine teeth. A low growl rumbled up from his throat.
“It’s okay,” Eeryn told him. “I’m expecting someone.”
Cross relaxed; the muscles in his face and arms uncoiled, but he kept his eyes on the nearby woods. Bryn picked up the sound of something large moving behind the trees. His head snapped toward Eeryn. The seer waved for him to calm down. Easier said than done, an armored ceros carrying a human army officer in an elegant uniform pushed into the clearing. Eeryn seemed unperturbed by the human’s arrival. He lowered the hood of his cloak to his shoulders.
“Your Highness,” he said with a slight bow of his head. “Bryn Bou, may I present Prince Eli of Shiloh.”
Bryn drew a dagger. Beside him One Eye did the same as a mounted escort of human soldiers slowly rode into the open and formed around the Prince.
“What’s going on here?” Bryn backed away from the soldiers.
“Put that away,” Eeryn snapped. “The prince is here for the same reason you are.”
“He broke out of jail?” One Eye asked.
“No, you dink,” Eeryn said. “He’s trying to escape the executioner.”
Bryn and One Eye stared at him as if he had grown a second head.
“Prince Eli, should he be apprehended,” Eeryn explained. “Is going to be charged with conspiring with me to free the two of you from from prison. An escape which led to the two of you murdering the King of Shiloh on our orders.”
“It’s true,” Eli assured them. “Like it or not, we are all in this together.”
“We meant no offense, Your Highness,” Bryn said.
“Then no more calling me, ‘Your Highness.’” Eli said. “I think those days are over for good. My name is Eli de Claire.”
“This meeting is no accident,” Bryn said. “Nor, I believe is this murder business.”
“You are correct,” Eeryn said. “I was warned ahead of time and plans have been in place for some time. That tunnel did not happen over night.”
“Warned, by whom?” Eli asked.
“By him.” Eeryn pointed at Bryn. “He brought the final piece of Coryn’s vision.”
“All this was on a single feather?” Bryn said.
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist.” Eeryn smiled at him. “The feather was just for show. You carried the vision in the safest place of all; in your spirit.”
One Eye nudged Bryn. “That trance thing in the jail.”
“Yes, exactly,” Eeryn said.
“What comes next?” Bryn wanted to know.
“We try to stay alive,” Eeryn told him. “Beyond that, only the Creator knows. However, one thing is sure; we cannot stay here. Let us keep moving.”
“Where are we going?” Bryn asked.
Eeryn looked around the clearing searching for something. Finally, he nodded twice and pointed. “That way.”

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pub Chatter #68

A fella from a big university came around today talking about his program to encourage girls’ interest in robotics. The university had great success getting the young girls to participate and found them as adept as the boys in working with robots. The whole point being to show the world that girls can do as well in science as boys.

I don’t have very many letters after my name so I’m probably not the right guy to question their findings. I was taught in high school  that scientific method relied on observation. All I can say is the big university folks aren’t very observant. It doesn’t take a lot of looking to see females have been programming machines to do their bidding do centuries. I call the machines “men,” but you can call them robots if you want.

It all began when Eve used voiced activated remote control. She said, “Are you just going to leave that dirty fig leaf laying on the floor?” Adam responded to the command, reversed direction and picked up the leaf. The only difference is that robots aren’t brave enough to mutter under their breath while responding to commands. Since that time mothers have been teaching daughters the science of robotics.

So why does the myth that girls are weak in science continue to circulate among the university crowd? again, a little observation is key. Female have been programming us to think men are superior. I guarantee you Adam thought picking up that fig leaf was his idea and that he was doing the heavy lifting to protect the little woman. He had no idea he was being programmed by a master. No way she was controlling him. Why, she didn’t even have a penis.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Pub Chatter #67

The news has dominated the chatter at the pub today. I hear President Trump wants to cut the corporate tax from 35% to 15%. That should set off a tsunami of cries from the left about tax breaks for the rich. It’s nonsense, but that’s the knee jerk reaction of the big spenders.

The truth is that corporations don’t pay taxes; no business does. That’s true from Microsoft to neighborhood micro-breweries. Let me say it again: businesses don’t pay taxes. Customers pay taxes. When you buy a Big Mac, you are paying McDonald’s corporate taxes. Ronald McDonald passes every cent paid in taxes on to the McCustomer.

But you are paying in other ways too. Corporate loyalty is to their stockholders first and foremost. Corporations don’t mind moving away from the outrageous 35% tax in the good ol’ US of A to someplace with a lower tax rate. Since America has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world there are lots of places to choose from. Even high tax European countries don’t pay as high a corporate tax as businesses here. Cutting the tax rate might encourage companies to stay put---maybe even return. The proposed 15% would put the US near the bottom. More businesses at home with more to invest means jobs.

I was not a Trump supporter last election. I wasn’t opposed either. Anybody but Clinton was fine for me. Trump supporter or not, this tax cut is a good idea.

Pub Chatter # 66

Urgent Emergency

I saw a news story yesterday on a subject near, if not dear, to my heart. It seems people in larger cities are walking into free standing Emergency Rooms thinking they are going to an Urgent Care and then being floored by the huge bill. I really appreciate this story making the news. I’ve been trying to educate people for years on the difference between an emergency room and an urgent care with little to no success.

Depending on your point of view, the culprit/hero is the free standing ER. Free standing means it is not part of a regular hospital building like a traditional emergency room. You might run across one at a strip mall. They provide emergency care by emergency trained staff, have advanced equipment, and can handle things a traditional ER does, like chest pain, stroke, or acute abdominal pain. So you know, they charge like an ER too and that’s what has folks singing the blues.

How do you tell a free standing ER from an Urgent Care---this is complicated. That’s why the news story was necessary. A free standing ER has a red sign that says, “Emergency” on it. If you go inside, they will see your stubbed toe. It’s against the law for them to turn you away, tell you to go somewhere else, or council you on your choices without an exam. You are (rightfully)going to pay dearly for their services.

Likewise, an urgent care center has the word “Urgent” in its name. This is an after hours doctor’s clinic. Got a sore throat, stubbed toe, or need a stitch or two? Come on in. Most of these places will call 911 for you if you are having chest pain. But, you could have (and should have) done that from home. If that doesn’t make an impression---they bill like a doctor’s clinic too. Most insurances will only charge you the office call co-pay for going to Urgent Care.

Read the sign. Believe it. Your going to pay according to the sign, not your understanding or convenience. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Pub Chatter #65

I’m calling on all you old hippies out there to join me in organizing a effort to remove the Viet Nam War Memorial Wall. We all know that it was an unjust war. High school drop outs, minorities, and the poor were targeted by the draft and the military-industrial complex to oppress a people struggling to emerge from colonialism. Villages were massacred by blood thirsty American troops supported by a people and government focused on body counts. We were there, our protests helped end the war. Why stop now? It’s hypocritical to have a memorial to oppression in the capital of freedom.

In the same vein, let’s talk about the Stars and Stripes. Who knows it fluttered at Wounded Knee? How about its flying at Manzanar? The government’s plan for Native Americans was not oppression; it was extermination. Under the Stars and Stripes we slaughtered these people’s main source of food to starve them into submission. How different from slavery was the treatment of the Chinese building the railroads? Let’s get real.

Just trying to put some perspective to current removal of monuments in New Orleans in the name of being politically correct. The War for Southern Independence is a fact--it happened. I’m not ashamed of that---only disappointed at the outcome. Those who fought to defend their freedom are not villains. Their descendants are not ashamed of their fight. They deserve their memorials. The story written by Washington is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The vast majority of fighting men did not leave home and take up arms to enslave blacks. They went to defend themselves from the dictates of an over-reaching central government.

Regardless of your political views, how moral can removal of Confederate monuments be if it must happen at night by workers in helmets and flak jackets? Sounds more like a police state come to take away opposing views to me. This is the kind of thing that happened in Russia to rid it of Stalin and Khrushchev. Sadly, I’m originally from California. Nevertheless, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jackson and Jefferson Davis have always been heroes to me. The Confederate battle flag is, to me, an inspiration to fight for one’s rights.

I know Yankees have little respect for Jesus Christ, but I’m including a couple of quotes just the same. I’ve heard theses two quite often from liberal lips.
“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.”
“...he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Minimalist Mind

The idea that the government that governs best governs least has been around since, well government. Personally, I cannot go as far as Thoreau and envision a government that governs not at all. It doesn’t seem practical given the nature of man. But, the least amount of government needed to protect the property, liberty and the safety of each citizen seems the best course available. It is my sincere hope that the polarization of American politics will lead us to an understanding that government by the majority is no more moral or more secure for individual liberty than a dictatorship. Safety in numbers applies to, say, hunting grizzlies. But when you are the minority in a democracy, who protects you from all the hunters on the other side.

My reading of the founders of this country suggests they were rabid about property rights. What a man owned, be it a business, land, or natural resources, was his to do with as he pleased. They considered it a major function of government to secure that freedom to every citizen. Governmental intrusion upon their personal property was one of the sparks that led to a revolutionary fire in the colonies.

  We still give lip service to the idea of private property. Landowners post signs on fences declaring it private property. Only the willfully ignorant and naive believe that our government protects the property rights of individuals. On the contrary, our government of the majority has decided it is their responsibility to oversee personal property for the “good of all.” We are told what cakes to bake, who we must rent to, what structures we may build, sometimes we’re even told the color we may paint our home. Just because the majority make those rules does not make them less restricting on our freedom.

It seems the only role left to the individual is that of property responsibility. The government tells me what I can do with my property. But let someone get hurt climbing over my back fence. Does the government assume a portion of the settlement when the injured trespasser sues? Are you kidding? The government is apt to side with the intruder because I didn’t post sufficient warning of possible harm.

I don’t support recent armed standoffs with government agencies, but only because they did not involve strictly private property. You run cattle on public land--you obey public rules and pay the fees. When the issue comes to involve actual private property, I’ll be there. You may not agree, but then it’s not your property---this time.

Rolling back the intrusiveness of government in our lives begins in the minds, hearts, and lives of individuals. It means taking care of ourselves, solving our own problems, and minding our own business. Before we can shrink government, we must do away with our dependence on it. The solution begins with us. We can be free or we can be dependent on government; we cannot be both.

"Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."
-- Patrick Henry, speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pub Chatter #64

Pub Chatter #64

In answer to last night’s plight over what to talk about, the best answer I received was Charlie Brown. Charlie is a favorite of mine and as baseball season is just getting started, he seemed an excellent choice. Young Mr. Brown’s hard luck baseball exploits are well know. He’s the starting pitcher and manager of a team that never wins. Yeah, I can identify. The awesome thing about Charlie Brown is that he doesn’t give up.

His team sucks, as a player he sucks, but he loves the game and keeps on playing. He keeps playing when everyone else calls it quits. A person should do what they love. You don’t have to be good at it, you don’t even have to be mediocre. If you love it and it makes you happy to just be in the game--do it.

I remember watching Eddie the Eagle compete in the Winter Olympics years ago. The guy was from England. At the Olympic level he sucked at ski jumping. But there he was on the top of that great big ramp with the big step off into space. Eddie flew--not very far, but he flew. He did what he loved and we all cheered for him. He didn’t win a medal. He won hearts and that’s a bigger prize.

Charlie Brown has an unfailing determination to trust people. he gives people the benefit of the doubt even when there is no doubt. No matter how many times Lucy pulls out that football, Charlie is going all out to make the kick. Everybody knows she’s going to yank away the ball. I think Charlie knows it too. He is simply willing to believe one more time.

So here’s some advice from Charlie and me. Believe one more time--take the field no matter what, ignore the nay-sayers, and give it your all because you love what you are doing more than you love the praise of those on the sidelines. As long as these chats continue, you will know that I am following Charlie Brown’s example.

Pub Chatter #63

Sweetie and I went out exploring over the weekend.  Our destination was Dosewallips State Park near Brinnon, Washington, where we hoped to hike the Steam Donkey Loop Trail. The weather forecast was for rain. This is Washington. Fortunately for us, the weatherman was only half right. The sun broke through minutes after taking Hwy 101 north out of Shelton. The bright sunlight and warm temperature were a real treat after hibernating all winter. Winding its way through the tall pines the highway hugs the western shore of the Hood Canal.

We couldn’t help but feel a twinge of envy for the people living suspended from the roadside over the tiny strip of land at the water’s edge. It was easy to see why the Hood Canal is a popular retirement spot. Leaving again is the hardest part of the trip. It took about an hour to make the trip. Dosewallips State Park takes in a little over a thousand acres. There are five miles of shoreline both salt water and fresh. Saltwater shore along the Hood Canal and fresh water along the Dosewallips River.

We parked at the at the park check-in area and walked a short ways back to the Footbridge Trail. We crossed the bridge, turned right and entered a moss covered wonderland of pine trees and ferns. The Footbridge Trail portion of our hike was an easy walk over fairly level ground. Maybe a hundred yards in, we intersected the Railroad Grade Trail. Yeah---grade, up hill. It was up hill from there. We took the wide loop and cut the Park Service Road; reversed direction and found our way to the Steam Donkey Loop Trail.
 A steam donkey is a name for a steam powered winch type engine that was used in area logging operations. Winch, as in pulling logs up hills. You guessed it, the trail continued to wind up hill.

I’m not complaining about the climb. We just were not ready for it. About a mile in we turned around and walked back down the hill. We did get some nice pictures and the dogs splashed around in a small pool. It was definitely worth the trip and we’re going back to conquer it.

Next, it was onto Duckabush Recreation Area. That was an adventure. On Duckabush Road the pavement ends about five miles west of Hwy 101. Collins Campground is another mile or two on the far side of deep unavoidable, pot holes. Great looking campsites and white water on the Duckabush River. We meet some volunteers who were preparing the camps for summer. The happened to have a pair of fur kids and it was quickly a play date. It took some major coaxing to get Titan to leave.  

Hamma Hamma and Lena Creek Campgrounds were closed and dusk was coming on by the time we arrived so we decided not to explore them until they opened for the summer. With a little hustle, we made it back home in time to catch the first pitch of the Mariners and A’s game.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trails of Troubles Chapter 40

The door to Eli chambers exploded inward spilling the captain of his guard and six red-faced, panting, soldiers into his rooms. Luther, short sword drawn and ready, scanned the room eyes darting from corner to corner. His face wore the hard, cold look of battle.
“Are you alright?” Luther asked.
“Of course,” Eli answered. “What is all of this? What’s happened?”
“Your father was attacked in his chambers,” Luther said. “I don’t know more than that. I had to be sure you were safe.”
“Where’s Melchiz?” the prince asked.
“At the celebration,” Luther said. “He has his guard and more troops are on the way to bring him back to the palace.”
“Take me to my father,” Eli ordered.
The prince threw a cloak around his shoulders and fastened his sword to his waist. Luther made no protest but led the way to the king’s rooms at a cautious pace ignoring the price’s desire to hurry. A winding staircase led up to the next floor. They were met at the top of the stairs by the king’s guard. The shock and sadness on the soldier’s faces was clear. No eyes looked up to meet Eli. The guards silently parted and let the prince pass. Luther remained at his side as they made their way down the hall to the group of men crowded into the king’s door. Their hushed conversations came to an abrupt halt as Eli approached. A path opened for him and Eli entered his father’s room.
A fire burned on the hearth. A plume of steam curled from a mug of tea on his father’s desk where papers were neatly stacked awaiting the king’s attention. The only thing out of place was the pool of blood beneath the desk and chair. The king lying on his bed appeared as peaceful as the room. A blanket was pulled up to cover his shoulders as though he were sleeping.

Lord Zett stood at the head of the bed hands folded in front of him; a long look of sorrow painted on his narrow face. Eli hated the man, but never as much as at that moment. Zett’s mourning felt as false as his loyalty. Eli knelt beside his father and laid a hand over those of the dead king.
“So cold,” Eli thought. “A cold, empty shell.”
He and his father were so different. One would wonder that they were father and son until the queen appeared beside them. Their unrestrained opinions produced spectacular clashes. Eli had no doubts that Melchiz was his father’s favorite. Melchiz was the heir and unlike Melchiz, Eli challenged his father’s decisions. Nevertheless, love reigned between them. Love that now squeezed at Eli’s heart and brought tears to his eyes. He knelt holding his father’s hands until the silence was shattered by wailing from across the room.
His mother ran into the room and threw herself over the King’s body. She held a cheek pressed to his chest; hoping against hope for a heartbeat, but found none. She spent the evening with Mechiz and her grandson enjoying the coronation celebration that honored her husband all unknowing she would never see him alive again.
“Why?” she sobbed. “He was stepping down. Why would someone do this?”
Zett laid a long pale hand on her shoulder. “A question we are all asking, your Highness. I shall not rest until I have your answer. That is with the King’s permission.”
Zett looked up at Melchiz who stood at the foot of the bed. Without a word, He dropped to one knee and bowed to Melchiz. Everyone else did the same. The new king shifted uneasily from one foot to the other as he looked around the room. The moment Melchiz lived for took him by complete surprise. Zett rose and ushered all but the royal family from the room.
“I must speak to you alone,” he whispered to Melchiz and quickly added, “Your Highness.”

An hour later, the new king found his Minister of the Army waiting for him in the throne room.
“I took a chance you might come here,” Zett said. He swept a hand over the room. “It’s all yours now.”
“This is not how I imagined it would be,” Melchiz said.
“But, you did imagine it,” Zett told him. “You imagined being king and have now achieved your dream. The kingdom is yours to shape as you will once you have secured it.”
“Secured it?” Melchiz said. “I am the king. There is none who can deny it.”
“Maybe,” Zett drew closer. “And maybe not.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, this.” Zett drew a bloody cloth from behind his back and slowly unwrapped the object inside it. “A Valirian dagger, if I’m not mistaken. Taken this night from your father’s back. Also found not long after the Valir escaped from the dungeon in this very palace.”
“Someone called away the guards,” Zett said. “Stupid of them to obey, I know. My humblest apologies. The prescribed punishment has been carried out.”
“You executed them already?” Melchiz asked. “But why? They might have possessed information we needed.”
“Information, readily given before their deaths,” Zett assured him.
“Who called them away?”
Zett gave no answer as he studied the floor.
“Out with it,” Melchiz ordered. “Who was it?”
“It was your brother.”

Luther jumped from his chair wheeling on the intruder. Across the room lances dropped to the ready. Eeryn held his empty hands in the air. Luther returned his sword to its scabbard and signaled for his men to stand down.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I have come to warn the prince,” Eeryn replied.
“Warn me?” Eli stepped closer. “About what? Do you know who killed my father?”
“You must flee the palace at once,” Eeryn told him.
“Are we under attack?” Eli asked.
“Only from within,” Eeryn said. “You must flee now.”
“Men coming this way---a lot of them,” said one of the guards by the door.
Luther pushed the prince behind him and drew his sword. The soldiers of the prince’s guard formed a defensive line before the door.
“Open in the name of King Melchiz,” came the order from the other side. “Luther, do you hear me? Luther, you must lay down your arms at once and turn the prince over to me.”
“Caleb, you know I can’t do that,” Luther said.
Caleb was Caleb de Luna, Marshall of the Army, and Luther’s immediate superior. They joined the army together as boys and fought side by side in two wars. Luther knew as strong as their friendship was, it was not as strong as duty to their king.
“You can and you must,” Caleb said. “Don’t make me do this.”
Luther felt movement behind him followed by the pop of air filling sails. He glanced over his shoulder unsure whether or not to be relieved by what he saw.
“What’s this all about?” Luther said. “I need your assurance the prince will not be harmed.”
“I can promise that my men will not hurt him,” Caleb called back. “But no more than that. He is to be taken to the king.”
“What of my men?”
“You are all relieved of duty. Go home.”
Luther tossed his sword on the stone floor. “Did you hear, Caleb?”
“I did,” he replied. “Now, open the door.”
Luther nodded at his men. They threw down their weapons and stood back as Luther slowly opened the door.
Caleb de Luna stepped inside. His men fanned out across the room. the prince was gone.
“Where is he?” Caleb asked.
“He jumped from the balcony.” Luther pointed at the open curtains. “Take a look.”
Marshall de Luna stepped onto the balcony and peered over the edge. There was no sign of the prince, but just beyond the palace walls there was a commotion in the street. A small group ran through the crowd headed away from the palace. The Marshall couldn’t make out which of them was the escaped prince but was sure one of them was.
“That’s going to cost you, Luther,” he said.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pub Chatter # 62


          I feel bad. It's the most beautiful Friday evening of the year we 've had thus far. I innocently called up an empty page to begin writing and was instantly beset by a wave of ill people seeking care. Sorry, folks I didn't mean any harm. I don't mind providing the care; it's what I do. I am confused as to why somebody who has been sick all week spends a clear, warm Friday night in the Urgent Care instead of waiting for the dreary, rainy Saturday that's coming tomorrow. I know I wouldn't be here if I didn't have to be.

          It's just one more of life's little mysteries I don't understand. Like running; I don't understand why people run when there's no danger. I'm not opposed to people running for the "fun" of it. I just don't understand the entire concept. I mean, I've ran before and let me tell you it was no fun. It was nothing like fun.

          Some people say they run for their health. That's somewhat easier for me to understand, but only somewhat. People run to be healthy so they can spend their time doing what? More running? Seems like a lot of wasted effort to me. Some claim running releases endorphins. So does sex, so why run? Live longer have more sex; that's a concept I can get behind.

          My co-workers run because their job requires it and it affects promotions. Now, we're getting closer to a motivation I can identify with. But, doesn't that really go back to fear? Afraid of losing my job or a chunk of pay, I might run too. Although, I'd be quick to point out that I've been a nurse for over twenty years and have never once run in the performance of my duties. That being said, I confess that I can walk incredibly fast for someone with such short legs.

          The point of all this discussion is to promote observance of the golden rule. I don't like to run, but I don't put down people who do and I don't see my self as superior for abstaining. So, if you don't happen to enjoy sitting in a recliner, sipping beer and watching baseball, that's your fine. Don't be smug. Keep it to yourself or get your own blog.



Saturday, April 15, 2017

Trails Of Troubles Chapter 39

The cell’s iron door ground open; its slow arc punctuated by the grunting effort of the guards. The strained voice behind the heavy iron grill-work sounded familiar. Bryn knew all the guards. The voice belonged to none of them. He rose to his feet. Prison ran on routine. Different was seldom good; best to face it head on. A flash of crimson moved into the cell followed closely by a high pitched shriek of joy.
Fayrn hit him mid-chest carrying him off his feet. Bryn met the floor with a loud “oof.” Fayrn landed atop him and peppered his face with kisses.
“Oh, Bryn,” she said with a sigh between kisses.
“Fayrn, what are you doing here?” He asked. “Let me up.”
She made no move to comply. Bryn started to ask if she heard; decided he liked the feel of her next to him; and shut up.
“What’s going on?” One Eye took over for him.
“We’re getting you out of here,” Vulryn told him. “Let’s move. Eeryn’s creating a diversion, but we haven’t got much time.”
“Where is everybody?” Bryn asked. “Where are the guards?”
“At the coronation,” Fayrn said. “Now, hurry.”
“I don’t think so,” Byrn said.
“What?” She pulled away from him.
“Something’s wrong.” He replied. “It’s too easy.”
Bryn lifted her off him. He struggled to his feet. His head swiveled left, then right taking in the empty hall. No guards anywhere. It was more than easy.
“It’s a trap.” He said caught her by the sleeve and pulled her into the hall after him.
One Eye fell in behind; Vulryn brought up the rear. There was neither time nor opportunity to reverse course now. Bryn charged ahead. At the end of the first hall, he realized he didn’t know the way and pushed Fayrn ahead of him. Bryn struggled to keep up as she sprinted through the maze of halls without hesitation.
“Where’s Eeryn?” He panted after her.
Fayrn ignored his question. She plunged ahead heedless of the guard standing just inside a large wooden door. Bryn pushed by her snatching the knife from her belt as he passed. Rather than drawing a weapon, the guard turned his back to them and pushed open the door. Faryn clamped a hand on the guard’s shoulder and followed him through the door. They were outside at last.
Faryn slowed to a walk, falling into step behind the guard. Her hand bounced up and down beside her signaling them all to do the same. A second guard fell in behind them. They were transformed in a moment into prisoners being escorted.
“Keep in step,” the guard leading them ordered.
“Wynn?” Bryn said.
“No talking,” Wynn snapped out the order.
Bryn obeyed. He adopted the bowed head walk of the condemned that also served to hide the smile lighting up his face. They were not free yet. Why the trap was not sprung inside the prison remained a mystery. Whatever the reason, it no longer mattered. They were out in the open and chances for success had multiplied.
The street outside the palace wall was jammed with revelers. Vendors filled the corners offering skewers of meat cooked alongside ears of corn over glowing coals. Tables filled with pies and baked delights frosted in bright colors competed for position on the sidewalks. The cool, evening air was alive with the odors that tantalized the senses. Music played in the distance where crowds danced in the city square and children played in the parks. Wynn tossed aside his uniform. The little group melted into the crowd, keeping each other in sight as they moved through the celebration unmolested.
Far away from city center, a large black bird perched above an open door. Music carried on a cloud of smoke wafted through the opening. As Wynn turned into the pub, Bryn watched a small white owl silently descend from the rooftop to sit beside the raven. With a glance and a wink overhead, he stepped inside.
A hand slapped Bryn’s shoulder hard enough to stagger him. He turned on his attacker, crouched, and ready to strike. He found himself looking into One Eye’s face. The old smuggler was beaming. He swept his hand over the crowded pub.
“We’re home,” he announced. “This place has it all.”
“Sweetie,” a voice screamed from across the bar. Jaryn threw her arms around One Eye’s neck and planted a huge kiss on him.
“See what I mean?” he said.
Faryn grabbed Bryn by the collar and pulled him toward the back of the room. A familiar face inside a leaf cloak sat with his back to the wall; a pipe clenched in his beak. Eeryn waved to a chair beside him while signaling to the bar with a circling of his other hand. Bryn sat down with the prophet. Fayrn kissed his cheek and wandered away leaving the two alone.
“Well, my boy,” he greeted Bryn. “We meet again.”
“In slightly more festive conditions,” Bryn said as drinks arrived. “One Eye greatly approves.”
“And you?” Eeryn asked. “Do you approve of my congregation?”
“Not my place to approve or disapprove,” Bryn lifted his glass toward the prophet. “Cheers.”  
“Ah, a diplomat.” Eeryn grinned at him and raised a glass. “Cheers.”
The two sipped dark brown beer and studied one another. It was an interesting study. The older prophet wore his leaf cloak in the relaxed manner of one who had faced the worst and lived to tell the tale as he chose. The warrior inside him was evident in his back to the wall fearlessness. The tired lines about his eyes said the warrior no longer found war glorious. The ragged youth’s movement had a stiff newness about the. His expectant eyes constantly swept the room for approaching trouble. Only a fool would take his wary manner for weakness. There was no doubt he was a warrior. Faryn had the uneasy feeling she was looking into a wrinkle in time; somehow seeing the past and future sharing a drink across the table.
“Tell me about your friend,” Eeryn said.
“One Eye? I’m still trying to figure that one out.”
“Oh, he’s not complicated,” Eeryn said with a wave of his hand. “But, I was speaking of the small white fellow sitting outside the door.”
“Judging by the company he’s keeping, I’d say you know more about him than I do.”
“He speaks to you?”
“He does.”
“Don’t you think that rather strange?” Eeryn leaned closer. “Maybe you are losing your sanity.”
I’ve been convinced of that since I left Vix.” Bryn smiled.
Eeryn held out his hand. Bryn took it. In his spirit, gears meshed, wheels turned, a rumbling stirred him.
“Good,” Eeryn said. “Hold on to that. It will keep you from taking yourself too seriously. That, my friend, is the key to sanity.”

Eeryn held up a finger and cocked his head toward the door. Bryn followed his gaze. In the distance something stirred; rising like a wave; building. A tall, ginger colored wolven caught the door frame. He shirt was torn. He was panting. His eyes burned with fear as he stared at Eeryn. He heaved a huge breath and pushed through the crowd toward the seer. Bryn’s hand fell to his belt, but there was no knife. Eeryn laid a hand over Bryn’s and  shook his head.
“Cross, my friend,” Eeryn said. “What is it?”
“The King,” he gasped still trying to catch his breath. “The king is dead. Soldier are rounding up out landers. Rioters are killing those the soldiers miss. He was murdered.”
“Which king?” Eeryn asked.
“The old one,” Cross panted. “We have to get out of the city.”
Eeryn climbed atop his chair. Time and everyone in the bar froze.
“The old king is dead,” he announced. “Everyone make your way to the rendezvous. Go now.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pub Chatter #61

I like being a man. I’d like to be a werewolf, but being just a man will do fine. Being a man is easy. It’s retaining the essence of manhood as you go through life that is tough. That’s because, brace yourself, not everyone loves manly men. I know this because there is a substantial portion of our population that want men to change. Come on, you know it’s true.

I’ll admit some changes are warranted. Some parts of man anatomy are not suitable for public scratching, especially when you’re pitching the seventh game of the World Series and the camera is on you. The same goes for the release of gastric tension. Small group conversations can make men uncomfortable. That’s not because men don’t like to share their feelings; it’s because he has got to fart. If he gives vent to that particular feeling without excusing himself from the group there’s going to be hell to pay. Stifling simple natural processes in favor of more complicated, rule laced behavior stresses men.

Occam, the person who invented razors, was a man. Occam knew a manly solution was always the simplest solution, because men are simple creatures. Ask a man the color his shirt. He opens his mental box of eight crayons and picks the closet one. That’s why he’s apt to hear, “Not the crimson one, the scarlet one.” Even then, he’s still scratching his head. They all look red to him. Simple.

Not many people know this but, the whole “Keep it simple stupid” philosophy is a misnomer. She originally said, “Keep it simple, he’s stupid.” That sounded sexist so it was shortened to the present form. The thing is, it works. Keep it simple and men are happy. You ever look at the written directions for putting a some assembly required thing together? Not man friendly; they are too complicated. One word; pictures.

Ever wonder why women wear “panties” but men wear “briefs”? It’s that lex parsimonae, the law of briefness, again. Simplicity in action. Yeah, Hanes makes boxers. And some males wear buns on their head. Let’s not play at semantics here. Here’s another little know bit of information, men and women are different and I’m not just talking about underwear. Although one look inside their closets will serve to bring the difference into focus.

You will probably never hear a man say, “I’m not mad; I’m angry.” For men word choices are a lot like colors---one choice covers all the shades. You can bet a man wrote those Dick and Jane books used long ago in school. If Fifty Shades of Gray had been entitled simply, Sex, more men would have read it. Who has time to learn fifty shades of the same color?

I think what drives women mad (or is it angry) is that men are capable of complicated thought; we just refuse to do it of our own free will. And that, my friends, is why behind every successful man---is a woman.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pub Chatter #60

Whew, just closed up shop for the night. Lloyd was out of here like a shot; must have a hot date. It seems like I’ve been in constant motion for the last three or four weeks. I’m taking the day off tomorrow and would like to say I’m going to rest, but I’m not. I’m going to the Mariner’s game tomorrow evening with Sunni and we’re taking along my bud, Aaron and his wife. I’ve been waiting for this day since October. Now, if the M’s will just win one.

I think it’s important to lay work aside and have fun whenever you can.  I’ve read that bit about finding a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Bull----. Work is man’s fate; his punishment if you will. I love to write more than just about anything else. But, writing is work and sometimes it’s hard work that I don’t feel like doing. That’s the thing that transforms leisure into work; you do it when you don’t want to in order to gain the reward it supplies. There’s a reason for the expression “works of art.” There an underlying theological explanation. This is not the place for it. If you want to know it, ask the Crusader.

That being said, I think the next time I have a day off, napping just might be my activity of choice. Writing is my love. Napping is my super power. Sometimes, when writing feels like work, I combine the two. I was hoping Santa might bring me a hammock so I could fine tune my nap skills. The way I’ve been going, I should probably break down and buy one.

Imagination is must have for a fiction writer. Imagination, and prevarication, yeah, you need them both. The experts say to, “write what you know.” That, would be a short story. When I write that my characters drift off to sleep, that’s pure imagination. I don’t remember ever having drifted off to sleep. For me it’s always been more like jumping off a cliff. Awake---boom, asleep. That may mean there’s something to the idea that intelligent people have trouble sleeping. When you ask a man what he’s thinking and he says, “Nothing,” believe him.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Wiped Out

The Millennials were the first to go. The Centennials followed. The pandemic exploded and swept them all away. The Boomers and X’ers got sick. Hell, everybody got sick, but the Boomer’s and X’ers managed to ride it out. However, by the time the older generations were well enough to care for the helpless, it was too late.

  WebMD crashed. Google was out of answers. Facebook and Twitter spread panic. CNN blamed Republicans. Fox blamed Democrats. The CDC said everyone was full of shit. Meanwhile, hospital emergency rooms were overrun with the sick. The lines winding around the hospitals turned into death camps spewing disease when the port-a-potties backed up. Millennials were the first to refuse to stand in line and the first to die at home. The ones that stayed fared only slightly better. The world had turned to shit---literally.

The system collapsed beneath waves of gut-wrenching diarrhea; the result of antibiotic resistant Clostridium Difficile. No one knows where this particular strain it came from. Some said it was spread by politicians as the campaigned across the country. Insurance companies, hit with the sky-rocketing cost of free care went belly up. Hospitals breathed their last when Medicare followed suit. The sick were let to fend for themselves. There was simply no one else to care for them. For months, it was care for yourself or die. Without being administered intravenous fluids and having no one force the sick to drink; pour them water, or hand out Immodium---the dependent Millennials died--shit themselves to death. That’s how it began. Things quickly got worse.

The world that operated by computer came to an abrupt stand still. The techno-generations were gone. Nothing worked anymore. Companies had no access to records, stocks plunged, and automated answering service rage spilled into the streets. The world turned back to paper--or tried. The diarrhea pandemic had exhausted the paper supply around the world. Huge lumber and paper conglomerates rushed armed security in to seize forests. The paper mills fought back plunging the world into Paper War I.

After the peace treaty was signed, most countries introduced strict electronic device control laws. The slow reintroduction of computers eased tensions for awhile. But, addiction to devices returned. The Apple Cartel seized control of Seattle and began churning out electronics and selling them outside schools across the nation. Once again, America found itself staring down at little screens and walking blindly along.

The Boomers and X’ers were gone when the plague flared again. There are a few of us Throwbacks living in tiny houses in the mountains still hanging on. The rest of the world has totally gone to shit and this time they are not coming back. If you’re reading this, Camp Kao has fallen: stay away from Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, Camp Pepto is still operating in Norwich. There’s safety here if you can get through the woods surrounding the old manufacturing plant. God speed.    

Pub Chatter #59

When people condescend to grant that I have a heart, they say its hard and cold. I cannot argue with that assessment. I think I’m a hard-hearted bastard, so why shouldn’t others think the same thing? So, when it comes to American involvement in foreign wars---I’m opposed.

I think people need to solve their own problems whenever possible. As far as I’m concerned, that goes for countries too. Uncle Sam needs to butt out of third world squabbles. Let the rest of the world solve their own problems. If that means they resort to killing each other; so be it. Hell, 600,000 Americans died fighting each other and no one felt the need to intervene. Why do we need to referee every Islamic argument? Let them wear each other out in a lethal middle eastern rope-a-dope.

The world has changed--or so people tell me. I don’t believe it. The world is made up of people and people haven’t changed since Adam went on a fruit tasting tour. We’re linked by a global economy, they say. I seem to remember we were once linked by global genetics---sort of one big dysfunctional family. I think the modern distinction is an indicator of modern values. Modern altruism is a more function of knee-jerk political correctness than any actual compassion for people. If we were really compassionate we’d quit selling (or giving) weapons to both sides. No wait, that would upset the global economy wouldn’t it?

I’m not the only one who believes this. I simply honest enough to say it out loud to whoever happens to be in the way. I believe we should let the Syrians kill each other. Same goes for Iraqis, Afghani's, and Libyans. After all, they seem to have a real flair for it and we may be stifling their creativity.

Bring our troops home we will find something for them to do. Like facing off with our real enemies---the ones slipping over our southern border everyday and hanging out at Home Depot and the maternity ward at Parkland Hospital. Now, that’s an honest threat to national security.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chapter 38

“Is he alright?” Faryn met Eeryn at the door. “Tell me you saw him.”
“Yes,” Eeryn said. “I saw him. He is a bit battered but well enough. He’s a strong lad.”
He held out a hand to Jaryn who was doing a nervous little dance in the corner. He sighed, smiled, and shook his head. Young love was a marvel.
“Your one-eyed hero is also well,” he said. “Now, if we may, let’s try and work out how we will free them.”
Eeryn hung his cloak on a hook by the door. The glow of a few embers and four small candles gave the room a warm glow. A pair of cloth sofas flanked a small wooden table covered with a linen cloth that reflected the dancing firelight filled one corner. Across the way a dozen chairs were tucked under a long table. The seer padded over a woven rug that covered most of the floor and took a seat in a rocking chair fashioned of unfinished birch. The little cadre assembled in the room gravitated to him. Each one claimed a place to sit and hear what he had to say.
This room hidden under a tavern seemed strangely like home. Eeryn wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. All of those gathered here should be far away living lives and chasing dreams. They should be high in the trees of the Boubouja toasting one another with mugs of ale, singing songs and laughing as their fellows were no doubt doing now. Instead they were huddled in the light of a dying fire and plotting what might be the death of all of them.
Except, he knew that wasn’t quite true. Death awaited them all, that was true enough. One didn’t need to be a seer to know that. But, he was a seer and he had seen. Betrayal, blood, and war stood in line ahead of Death. By the time he gets here, the pale shade just might be a welcomed visitor. That was the vision in a boy’s hand, but it was not a message he wanted to share just yet.
Eeryn pulled a leather pouch from his tunic and began to fill his pipe. The pipe was a gift from his old mentor. As he touched a match to the leaves, he tried in vain to recall Coryn’s face.
“I’d like a pint of ale with this smoke,” he proclaimed as smoke began to swirl about his face. “Who will join me?”
Everyone, as it turned out. Which allowed Eeryn a few more minutes to think about what he was going to say to them.

“Fortunately for us,” Eeryn said after a sip. “The trial cannot be held in the prison. Melchiz is to preside. He will be king by then and it is taboo for the king to enter the dungeons of the palace. They will have to move Bryn and One Eye. That will be our best chance to rescue them and when rescue is the most expected. Zett will not lose him again for lack of guards.”
“What are we going to overcome all those guards?” Jaryn asked.
“We’re not,” Eeryn said. “I think our best chance is to grab them before the trial.”
“From the prison?” Vulryn asked. “How do we manage that?”
“When nobody’s looking.” The seer leaned closer. “We snatch them during the coronation ceremony.”
Murmurs of accent ran through the group. The issue was decided.
“That gives us five days,” Eeryn said.

Chapter 37

“Hoskie, take a look at this.” A portly, career private handed the sergeant one of the prisoner’s bowls.
A slender blue “x” was drawn on the underside of the bowl. Hoskie had no idea why it should be there. However, he had strict orders to report such an occurrence directly to Lord Zett. He fought a quick inner battle over whether or not to take the bowl; decided against it; and fled the palace. He found the Minister of the Army on his third stop and was immediately ushered into Zett’s presence. Hoskie’s knees trembled as he approached. The Minister appeared to be holding court. His nervous mind couldn’t remember the last time he had seen so much brass in one room. Those not in uniform wore robes of office and not all of them were human.
“Sgt. Hoskie, your lordship,” he said with a bow. “Of the palace guard.”
“You found the mark?” Zett asked.
“Yes sir, this morning, sir. I came right away.”
“Well done, sergeant,” Zett replied with a flick of his hand. “You may go.”

Zett leaned back into the plush upholstery of his chair and silently surveyed his audience. He felt their anxiety build. Only a few knew that this was the moment when plans turned to reality and talk turned to action. He took special satisfaction seeing Dorryn squirm. The Valirian Ambassador had been playing at treason. The time for games was over.
“It is as I said,” Zett assured them. “Eli and his pet seer are plotting against the king. The royal house must never hear of this betrayal. Prince Melchiz has long suspected his younger brother’s designed on the throne. He appointed me over this business that his family’s hands would be free of their own blood. Eli must die and Eeryn with him, but the order must not come from either king.”
“I am relieved that the question is settled at last,” General Nui spoke up. “No more speculation about who is involved or the lengths they are prepared to go.”
“Thank you for your confidence, General,” Zett said. “But silence and caution are still necessary. The Prince and I have throughly examined his personal staff and they are loyal to the cause. However, there may be plotters within the palace who have, thus far, escaped detection.”
The meeting was interrupted by pounding on the chamber door. The incessant pounding continued. Everyone inside the room braced for the Minister’s explosion of rage. The rage didn’t come even when the doors flew open and a mud caked messenger boldly stepped inside unannounced.
“My Lord,” he said and bowed on one knee. “I bring news of the utmost importance from Marah.”
“Proceed, Captain,” Zett’s voice was calm; measured; almost rehearsed.
“My Lord, it is my sad duty to inform you of the death of your uncle King Malcolm of Marah.”
The news rolled through the room to the sound of gasps and subdued murmurs. All eyes were on Zett. The Minister stared straight ahead without speaking. There was a slight twitch of the muscles in his face that was rapidly wiped away. His voice wavered for a second, then continued in a calm controlled manner.
“You will all excuse me please,” he said. “We will reconvene tomorrow if I am able. Thank you all for coming.”
Zett rose quickly and rushed from the room with Balfour bobbing in his wake. Inside his private office, Zett leaned against his desk; his face away from Balfour. His master’s shoulder were shaking. It took Balfour a full minute to realize Zett was laughing.
“My Lord, are you alright?” Balfour asked mystified by laughter.
“Oh my dear, Balfour,” Zett slapped him on the back. “Never better, never better. The entire world is about to come right at last.”
“If you say so, sir.” Balfour scratched his bald head.
“Come along,” Zett waved for him to follow. “We must call on the new King of Marah and his mother.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“No, of course you don’t Balfour,” Zett said. “Let me enlighten you. Young Prince Mali, the one and only son of Prince Melchiz and my cousin, Ada, is now the rightful King of Marah. He is also second in line to the throne of Shiloh. It is entirely possible he may become king of all mankind.”
         “You think the kingdoms will be untied again?” Balfour said.
“Oh, I’m counting on it,” Zett said with a dreamy smile.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Pub Chatter #58

Pub Chatter #58

I just finished up a busy weekend. Found a new location for the Raven and Owl on Friday. I will be moving from Gig Harbor to Shelton, Washington in the near future. I hate the work involved in moving, but the freedom the new site brings can’t be had in Gig Harbor where renting a small plot of land entitles the owner to micro-manage the tenants’ lives.

A new writer joined our meetup this week. I’m hoping she will be with us for awhile. I was able to polish off Chapter 36 and a cup of coffee aptly called Meaning of Life medium roast at last Saturday’s meeting. No fancy coffee for me this time around. Over indulgence in that stuff can result in having one’s man card revoked.

Capped the weekend off with a tour of Seattle. I took the ferry over from Bremerton. It was a nice break from crowded highways and constantly needing to debate with fellow drivers just who is Number 1. I surprised myself by surviving the climb to Pike Place Market.
The sugar-free almond clusters at Rocky Mountain Chocolate are a diabetic’s dream. great tasting chocolate---period. Add that it’s sugar-free, out of this world good. Tasted a chocolate, caramel, coconut chew. Never put one of these on your head because your tongue will beat your brains out trying to get to it.
There was an explosion of tulips and daffodils inside the market. That resulted in a rainbow that spanned table after table along one side of the market. There were even daffodils growing in flower boxes on the roofs.
I think I could catch a fish at the market. There were plenty of them on hand just laying around on beds of ice. Since no one threw one at me, the question my being a fishing jinx remains unanswered.
I did catch one of the best hot link sandwiches ever. It was smothered in so much hot bbq sauce I had to use a spork to protect my shirt. Which, by the way, is just how I like it. About half way through, the burn sneaked up and slapped my mouth; also the way I like it. The after effects? We’re not talking about that.
Left downtown after Pike Place and rode the light rail to the University of Washington. The cherry trees lining the quad were in bloom. I’ll just post pictures because words don’t do justice.
Back downtown again, we walked out to the Space Needle. It was lit up, so we were able to find it in the dark. Walked down Broad Street back to the waterfront on our return to the ferry. The city lights fading into the distance as we sailed back to Bremerton were a glorious finish to the day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Pub Chatter #57

I’m gearing up for the start of baseball season. The first games are on Sunday. Unfortunately, I’ll be by the television for awhile. The Mariners start the season on the road. I have to wait until the twelfth to go to the ballpark, but the tickets are in my hot little hands. I’m planning to hang out with friends at the Hit It Here Cafe and watch the M’s whoop up on the Astros.

Somehow, I’ve never joined the throng enamored with the Seahawks. They’re a good team and all, but football just hasn’t been the same for me since KC beat the Vikings in the Superbowl. Yeah, I know, that was a long time ago. Hey, I’m an old man.

Baseball and I have a longstanding love affair. Growing up I’d sit next to my grandfather and listen to Vin Scully and the Dodgers on the radio. I can afford to go to a few games now. It’s not the same game, but it ain’t all bad. I’ve forgiven a lot through the years, the strike, designated hitters, and lights at Wrigley. I suppose, if I live long enough, I will eventually get over instant replay too. That’s the way of baseball fans.

I’ve lived long enough to see baseball move to the west coast, the '69 Miracle Mets, the Giants win 103 games and fail to make the playoffs, Babe Ruth’s home run records broken and even see the Cubs win the World Series. Not a bad run. I’d like to go to a World Series game. I think the M’s will need more pitching for that to happen. Meanwhile, the set is on here at the Raven and Owl. Let the games begin!

Trails of Troubles -- Chapter 36

Bryn woke to the sound of boots on cobblestone. A beam of sunlight streamed through the window inciting thousands of bits of dust to dance in its glow. Joel and One Eye laid empty bowls near the iron door and moved away to allow the guards to exchange them for ones filled with the thin soup they knew and loathed. Only there was no soup this morning. Instead, the guards carried in plates of colorful fruit. The smell of grilled fish rose from large platters and drifted on the air. These were followed by buckets of amber liquid.
“Holy Creator,” One Eye shouted. “That smells like beer.”
“It is beer,” Joel cried.
“Gifts from the King,” Sgt Hoskie announced. “In honor of his reign.”
Hoskie left them to feast. When the heavy door opened behind him, the sound of the guards holding a similar feast flooded in. Music floated in through the cell’s single window.
“What’s going on?” Bryn asked through a mouthful of fish.
“King Zedek,” Joel said. “Is stepping down. It’s tradition. His oldest son becomes king in a week. Shiloh will celebrate for seven days before the ceremony in honor of the old king and seven days after for the new one.”
“You mean we’re going to eat like this for two weeks?” One Eye asked.
“Don’t count on it,” Joel said. “This feast is probably all we’ll see. There’s always a chance the cooks will toss a bone with a little meat on it in the soup once or twice.”
“Better than nothing,” Bryn said. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow, we die.”
“There’s a cheery thought,” One Eye said.

Shadows stretched across the cell as the sunlight leaking in through the window faded. Outside, the music grew louder and the crowds grew larger. The darkness that swallowed up the cell was interrupted by a series of loud booms and splashes of bright red, blues and greens. The prisoners moved across the room to get a better look at the fireworks. The crowd just outside the window oohed and aahed between the blasts. The fireworks went on for several minutes before Bryn began to feel something was out of joint. Slowly swiveling his head, Bryn scanned the cell. The inner door was open. It couldn’t be more than an inch or two, but the door was definitely open. Bryn punched One Eye in the shoulder.
“What?” One Eye groused.
Rubbing his shoulder, he turned toward Bryn. His eyes grew wide, then abruptly narrowed straining to make out the figure standing in the corner. Bryn followed his partner’s gaze. Bryn gave a sharp intake of breath as his eyes locked on the intruder.
“I hear you’ve been looking for me.” Eeryn stepped from the deep shadows into the small shaft of moonlight. A red flower of light blossomed in the window over his right shoulder. “I am Eeryn, son of Edryn.”
“Bryn Bou, son of Byryn,” Bryn rose to his feet, hand extended. “I’d like to say I’ve been looking for you, but mostly I’ve just been stumbling around trying to stay alive. As you can see, I’m not doing very well at that task either.”
“I don’t think he heard you,” One Eye said with a jerk of his head in Eeryn’s direction.
The seer froze; his hand still in Bryn’s and staring into the dark with unblinking eyes oblivious to the others in the room. Eeryn’s face was as vacant as his eyes. His chest rose and fell enough to signal ongoing life, but the rest of him might have been carved of stone.
“He is out there,” One Eye said.
“Out where?” Joel asked. “What’s going on?”
“It’s some sort of trance,” One Eye told him.
“Ssshhh,” Bryn’s voice was little more than a whisper.
Eeryn’s eyes rolled closed; lids lowered like curtains from within by ropes and pulleys as if the shop was closed for business. Bryn did not try to withdraw his hand from the seer’s. He glanced down at his fellow prisoners, smiled and shrugged. Unease fueled by uncertainty grew as the wait stretched out. Minutes turned to hours. After three of them, Eeryn drew a deep breath. His eyes opened as he slowly exhaled. The lights were on inside once more. He released Bryn’s hand.
“You have a message for me?” Eeryn gave him a grin. “Bow your head.”
Bryn sank to his knees; head bowed, eyes closed. His mates looked on in silence as the seer reached his fingers into the feathered crest atop Bryn’s head. A sharp yank plucked a single feather from Bryn's head. Bryn flinched;  surprised by the sudden movement. He rose and watched as the seer held the feather up to the dim light streaming in from the window.
Eeryn studied the feather for a moment; nodded and let it fall to the floor.
“We don’t have time for questions,” he said. “Do you know the third virtue?”
“I do,” Bryn replied.
“Practice it and all will be well.” Eeryn placed a hand on Bryn’s shoulder. “You must trust me in this.”
He retreated into the dark from whence he came. The iron door clanged closed.
“He’s gone,” Bryn said.
“How the hell did he do that?” One Eye asked. “Wait. Why the hell didn’t he take us with him? What’s going on here?”
“I don’t know. He couldn’t. Patience.” Bryn answered.
“Huh?” Joel said.
“I don’t know how he did that,” Bryn explained. “However he did it, he could not take us along and now, we wait.”
“Wait for what?” One Eye asked.
“Whatever happens next,” Bryn assured him. “We’re leaving that to Eeryn.”
“What did that feather say?” One Eye began searching the floor. “Where did it go? It was right here.”
“Here, I’ll help,” Joel said.
He crawled around the cobblestone helping them look for the feather. The rough stone bit at his knees and the palms of his hands, but Joel wore a smile. Tucked away inside his shirt was the feather he would give to Lord Zett in exchange for his life.