Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pub Chatter # 91

     “You say you want a revolution. Well, you know we all want to change the world.” However, wanting changes nothing until it is joined by doing. There lies within every man the ability to change the world. We can say to this mountain, “Be removed and cast into the sea,” and it will be so. Provided, that is, that the speaker is prepared to carry away every stone and shovelful of dirt. Change does not come like coffee; ordered to our taste and served by someone else. Real, world altering, change begins and ends in the hearts of men.

     Throughout history, man has tinkered with the world creating ever faster transportation and communication, ever more destructive weapons, and ever more excesses from which to launch himself. But man, himself remains unchanged. We stumble over the same obstacles that our ancestors did. In fact, it is that same stumbling gait that gave birth to all the “advances” of modern technology. If we can only create the right gadgets, invent a miracle formula, all will be well. It is a lie we keep believing.

     Nothing will really change for us as a species until we effect a change in ourselves. I’m not talking about tinkering with DNA to cure disease. We already live longer---sometimes longer than we like. I’m speaking about a change of heart and mind. Christians call it repentance and that scares the you-know-what out of people. Change is what they are really talking about. Changing the selfish heart we are all born with into with a caring for others heart. Changing the mind that runs to win at any cost into a mind that revels in the success of every man.

     Before anyone wraps a robe of righteousness around himself, I wish to share a thought from C.S. Lewis. “When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less....a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.”

     Still, want to change the world? Well, now, you know where to start.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pub Chatter #90

     A giant influence on my decision to become a nurse came from my experience as a volunteer and chaplain for Cross Timbers Hospice. This particular organization was operated by a small group of nurses. They did such excellent work that I was drawn into a desire to do more for the physical suffering of those we served.

     Unfortunately, while I was going to nursing school tragedy struck. The government got involved. The little personalized hospice had to compete with home health care providers backed by Medicare and Medicaid. Compassion was buried beneath a mountain of paper and regulations. I have been a nurse for twenty-four years now and have not worked in hospice a single day. It was just not the same.

     Yesterday President Trump tweeted, “If Republicans don’t Repeal and Replace the disastrous ObamaCare, the repercussions will be far greater than any of them understand!” I have the feeling most people, especially the media, were so focused on hopes of turmoil within the Republican party that they completely missed the larger truth in what the President said.

     The government peddles influence. It produces nothing. It is incapable of running any business, especially one as vast as health care. ObamaCare was a foot in the door piece of legislation. The Medicare and Medicaid strangle hold on health care providers was not enough. It was time to cripple insurance companies and force a socialist single payer health care system on the country.

     Having championed the cause during her husband’s presidency, Hillary was their best hope to seal the deal. Without a repeal and replace socialist medicine will continue to insinuate itself into our lives. Waits for care and fraud like those at the VA will become the norm for every hospital. The government will own us. At least it will until it bankrupts itself.

     I think we should support the President. We need to make sure our Congressmen and Senators know that we will hold them accountable for failure to act. We will surely be the ones paying if we let this travesty continue.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Trails of Trouble Chapter 51

     The sun was going down when they reached the place where the stream met the river. They were still far from home and Hiddekel was not yet quite so mighty or so wide. Bryn shielded his eyes against the setting sun. The scene spread out on the far side of the river resurrected every boogie man he ever knew. Faryn shivered beside him.
     Every fledgling Valir knew tales of the Wonod. Until he reached a certain age, every Valir believed them. Maturity has a way of chasing away belief in the unseen. So, it was with the oft told tales of the Wonod. But, now they were seeing--and belief came flooding back. The land of demons and monsters was not a fairy tale after all. It was the real smoking, ruined land parents scared them with.
     Tomorrow, they would cross the river into that wide sea of gray, skeletal trees dotted by islands of tall, brown grass and bare stone towers that rose into the sky. From the moment their feet touched the far bank, they would have to contend with the creatures that lurked in the grass and fell from the skies. Whoever died in the Wonod was condemned to wander the wasteland; their spirit chained forever to the horror that took them down.
     Camp was set up back from the river, but not too far. The only thing they wanted less than a view of the Wonod was to not be able to see the Wonod. The same thinking kept eyes open; bodies huddled close together and fire built high.
     “We are going to need to get everyone across at once,” Bryn said.
     One Eye nodded and continued his silent study of the river. Bryn dropped down beside him. Across the river grass swayed on the wind. Nothing else seemed to move; no ghostly spirits rose from the river and no boogie men came to stare back at them. The stillness did nothing to ease the anxiety of the watching Valir.
     “What about the viath?” Faryn asked her silent companions.
     “We cross at night,” One Eye said. “Viath don’t stir at night.”
     Bryn cast a sidelong glance at One Eye, but said nothing.

     Work on the rafts began shortly after dawn. One Eye led a crew felling trees and dragging them close to the river. Faryn ‘s group stripped bark and wove ropes to lash the logs together. Bryn saw to the assembly. The work continued into late afternoon. Ten long rafts were pushed part way into the river and anchored to the shore. Bryn called a halt to the work and ordered a rest. He wasn’t sure anyone would sleep, but he urged all but a few guards on the rafts to try.
     They broke camp a few hours later by the light of a half moon. Piled on top of the rafts they set out across the Hiddekel. The river was only about a hundred yards wide at that point and shallow on that side. Twenty yards in those pushing the rafts were still standing in only two and a half feet of water. From that point on the water rapidly grew deeper. Midway across the current began to push them downstream. Bryn thought it faster to travel the river, but One Eye insisted they paddle for the far shore.
     All but one of the rafts touched the far side moments apart. The last raft overshot the landing and they tried to paddle against the current to bring them closer to the others. They were still ten yards from the bank when the back of the raft tilted skyward dumping the crew into the river. A scale covered head broke the surface beneath the upturned raft. Long rows of teeth snapped at the Valir frantically splashing for shore. A second set of jaws exploded up through the water sending one of the fleeing Valir head over heels into the air. Bryn and his crew began pulling the swimmers ashore. The river boiled with flailing limbs and snapping jaws.
     Bryn dragged one panicked warrior by the arms and pulled for shore. He stepped from the water with the Valir still in tow. He was snapped violently back and into the air. Bryn hit the water clinging to an arm that was no longer attached to a body. He threw the arm aside and began running for shore. He felt he was doing little more than bobbing in the deep water. For all his struggling, the shore refused to draw nearer. He barked his knee on a submerged rock. Pain shot up his leg, but he managed to keep moving. He scaled the rock and jumped. He landed in knee deep water and picked up speed. Finally clear of the river, he collapsed on his back, his muscles aching and panting for breath.
     The pleas for help and the screams of pain faded away. Bryn turned onto his hands and knees. He crawled to where One Eye lay.
     “You said they don’t stir at night,” Bryn said.
     “I may have exaggerated,” One Eye admitted.
     “Like hell,” Bryn said. “You lied.”
     “Would anyone have gotten on that river if I hadn’t?”
     “No,” Bryn spoke with a sigh and fell exhausted at his friend’s side.

     Ten missing, five hurt. The survivors turned their backs to the sun and the pain of the crossing and trudged reluctantly to the southwest and home. The fear of what lay ahead lost for the moment in the carnage behind them. They walked in silence; together and completely alone. Each of them lost inside his own mind blindly following the one in front.
      At the head of the column, Bryn Bou marched into the huge, black hole that opened in his heart. He led them into this wasteland on a trek christened in blood. Knowing they still looked to him was a clear signal how utterly hopeless their plight had become. When he started out he was only responsible for himself. If he died the world was none the poorer for it. He had not sought out others. They came of their accord. So, he kept telling himself. It was a lie. Death followed him. Why did it refuse to take him? Why did death claim those whose only sin was trusting in him? The barren landscape of perdition that stretched out ahead of him mirrored his heart well.
     He didn’t feel the first tap on his shoulder. Not discouraged, One Eye simply banged harder. Bryn shook his head to clear away the cobwebs and turned to looked at his friend. Though Bryn could find nothing particularly pleasing in the circumstances, One Eye smiled and pointed ahead. On the ash gray stub of a pine branch ahead sat a small white owl.
     “Guess we’re headed the right way,” One Eye said and dropped back into line.
     Oto floated from the branch to make himself at home on Bryn’s right shoulder. The sharp talons locked on him were an unexpected comfort.
     “What are you doing here?” Bryn whispered.
     “I’ve been flying around this Creator forsaken plain for three days and that’s the greeting I get? What are you doing here? Ha. Looking out for you, but don’t bother to thank me.”
     “Thank you,” Bryn said from the corner of his beak.
     “You know you are being watched, don’t you?”
     “Second rock column on the right. Just to this side of the top.”
     It took Bryn a moment to make out that one the smaller stones was really the top of a head. When he finally saw it, he wondered how he had missed such a familiar shape.
     “That looks like a...”
     “Yes, it does,” Oto interrupted. “A distance and unfriendly cousin of yours. Please, take your hand off that dagger.”
     “You said unfriendly,” Bryn reminded him.
     “Yes, and easily provoked by unwelcome visitors,” Oto’s head swiveled back and forward again. “The girl’s here.”
     Faryn took hold of Bryn’s left arm and peered around him at the owl on his shoulder. Her eyes looked up to at him for a questioning moment before she fell into step beside him.
     “Ah, I suppose you want to know why there’s a bird on my shoulder?” He said.
     “The question is making the rounds behind us.”
    “Uh huh, well, it’s ah,” he searched for that didn’t sound as crazy as the truth.
     “What I’m wondering is,” she said, “Why you don’t look surprised it’s there.”
     “It’s a he,” Bryn explained. “We met awhile back.”
     “So I gathered. You want to tell me about it?”
     “It’s kind of hard to explain.”

Pub Chatter #89

      I sat down in my favorite recliner after closing on Thursday. You know, just to relax and unwind after work. Woke up seven hours later. So much for my To-do List. Thankfully, my bladder held. It’s that nurse training--sort of like a camel in reverse.

       In the old days we had a saying---we had a saying for almost everything.Anyway, we used to say, “All that glitters isn’t gold.” Something to remember for those stressing about “losing” their Obamacare to Republicans. Modern medicine is great. Life expectancy is up. Antibiotics save people from infections that once meant certain death.

     But the medical machine also keeps us alive when the quality of life is gone. Death, once such a natural part of the circle life, has become a symbol of failure for not only the medical community, but for people in general. People are obsessed with keeping the heart beating and the brain firing even though all else has failed. Assisted living and nursing homes keep elders safe; even from their own desire to depart the torture of frailty, immobility, incontinence and loss of autonomy. The people who live in and staff these facilities have little choice. Medcaid and Medicare have their rules about just letting people die.

     The physically infirm are not the only ones subjected to Big Brother’s edits. Courts say people (okay women) have the right to say what happens to their own body. But the minute someone considers permanently leaving that body, here comes the ambulance to whisk them of to confinement for modern medicine to fix. Mental pain is every bit as real as physical pain and disability, but opiods don’t help that kind of pain. I have to qualify this by saying that I am a caveman. I’m not convinced people who show up at the ER for attempting suicide really wish to die. Suicide is too easy to accomplish for a determined person. Most often it is a cry for help from someone who doesn’t know where else to turn.

     Life is mixed with pain and trouble; joy and peace. There is a time for everything. Life is worth living. Nevertheless, there is a time to recognize life is over even though the heart is still beating. Death is feared by those for whom it is the end. For those who see death as a door to the rest of eternity there is hopeful expectation.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Pub Chatter #88

     Before buying a house eats up your income, it eats up your time. That’s my lame excuse for falling behind this time. Being witty and intelligent is one thing, having the time to write it down---well, that’s another story. Maybe I should consider hiring some one to follow me around and write this stuff down.

     Speaking of hiring people, or more to the point, firing people. I heard one of the brilliant minds sitting in as a guest expert on CNN say that Trump thinks everyone in the Justice Department works for him and not some greater good of the American people. News flash---not only does everyone in the Justice Department work for the President, the sole purpose of everyone in the entire Executive branch of the government is to serve the President. They are appointed by the President, not elected and serve the people by serving the President. It is the function of the Cabinet and other executive appointees to carry out the policies of the President. Congress and the Court are the Constitutional checks on presidential power.

     Therefore, if the President wishes to fire a member of the Executive branch, he is free to do so. If they disagree with the President’s policies and are galvanized by an altruistic desire to service the American people, they are free to resign and go get elected on their own. It didn’t happen for poor Hillary, but that’s the way this country works. Suck it up buttercup.

     My question is, how can a CNN expert not know this? Wait, CNN expert...never mind I answered my own question. A better question might be where do they find these people--college campuses?

     The above expert was followed by another great thinker who thought to criticize President Trump by say that if Trump wakes up and decides he has something to say, he says it no matter what advice he gets. Well, yeah that’s why people voted for him. He may have a comb-over, but he’s not afraid to step outside without first checking to see which way the wind is blowing. Liberals just don’t get it. He speaks his mind. You don’t have to like it, but you have to be a real loser not to respect it.

     And if Lloyd turns the pub television to CNN again, I just might fire his ass.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trails of Trouble Chapter 50

   Eeryn was dead. Bryn looked up from the seer’s serene face. His mind was racing in a thousand directions. Questions exploded in his head. Then, his eye’s met Faryn’s and the world changed. What he saw in her face shot ice through his veins. A disconnected numbness closed around him leaving only a vague awareness that the world still turned. Her eyes were on him, but she was no longer looking at him. She was looking to him. They all were. In that single mind numbing moment, Bryn found he had been transformed into the leader of a small army.
     It was a mistake. It had to be. He was no leader. He was not even a useful follower. He had just let his leader die, for Creator’s sake He was just as certain there was no protest he could make. The decision was made.
     He sank into the stream. With the last of Eeryn’s blood coloring the water swirling around him, Bryn placed his arms under the seer’s shoulder. A half dozen Valir moved to the unspoken order and helped him carry the body onto the stream bank.
     “Let’s get away from this place,” he said.

       Bryn had no trouble finding volunteers to carry the hastily constructed litter. However, he had to post One Eye at its head to prevent fights over who would be the next bearer. They were going home. That much was decided before they set out on this journey into the unknown. Unknown, that is, to all but Eeryn and he was dead. They set off down stream though there was no reason to do so except that was the way they were heading already. It seemed a good enough reason at the time. Bryn had no idea where they were at the moment or which way home lay. His ignorance did not seem to bother anyone but him. He wanted nothing more to do with angry dragons. So, he followed the stream until the day began to fade.
     A thin band of stars appeared above the rim canyon where they made camp. One Eye thought he could find their position if he had a wider view of the sky. He offered to climb the canyon wall for a better look, but Bryn told him to wait. They would follow the stream for one more day and see where it took them.
     It was just one of the decisions laid on Bryn’s shoulders. Where to go, where to camp. When to march, when to rest. What to eat, the demands went on and on. Killing dragons was nothing compared to the crushing weight of responsibility. When he had time to think, he was haunted by his own nagging questions. He quickly found there no good answer to, “why me?” It was him. Complaining and questioning wasn’t going to change that. Nor, it seemed, was his total lack of ability.
    When most of the camp quieted down in an attempt to sleep, he sought respite walking with his thoughts. The fresh, clear air reminded him of home. There was a certainty in him that he would see the Boubouja again. He was not sure where that idea came from, but it was there  inside him. If it was the foolish pride he imagined it was, well, it kept him going for now and that was enough under the present circumstances. However, it would not do for long. If Eeryn was right, they were headed into battle. Pride led to destruction and that was no way to go to battle.
     Was there a right way to go to battle against your own people? He could not think of one. Damn it all, his classmates were right; he was no warrior. He hated war, even a war to saved his home. There was no glory in killing another living being. Unfortunately, there were also times that allowed no other choice.
     “Hey General, are you lost?”
     “I should be so lucky,” he said and turned with a start when he realized someone had spoken to him. “Faryn, what ate you doing here?”
     “That should be obvious.”
     “It should?”
     “I’m looking for you, you dink.” She gave him a playful poke.
     “You found me.” He held open his arms and she stepped into them tucking her head against his chest.
     “Did I? I wonder,” she said. “You have that far away look.”
     “You mean this one?” He crossed his eyes and stuck out his tongue.
     “That’s the one,” she said
     “Why did you call me that? He asked.
     “What? General? That’s what everyone is calling you. Like your father.”
     Bryn dropped down at the foot of a tall pine; his head was in his hands. Faryn sat beside him and looped her arm through his. She rested her head on his shoulder and waited.
     “They are wrong, you know?” He said at last.
     “Maybe,” she said. “You may not be your father. It doesn’t matter to me. I have faith in you that doesn’t come from a name.”
     Before he could answer, they were interrupted  by the sound of approaching footsteps. A tall young Valir steps from the shadows a moment later. His bow was slung across his back and his dagger belted at his side. Excitement danced in his eyes.
     “Pardon, General,” he stood at attention. “You might want to come see this.”
     “See what I mean,” Faryn whispered in his ear.
     Bryn nodded in acknowledgment. He got to his feet and helped Faryn up. Together they followed the soldier back in the direction of the camp where a crowd was gathered around
Eeryn’s body. A path through the crowd opened for them to pass. A large raven lay unmoving atop the seer’s shroud.
     “It just swooped out of the sky,” a soldiers said. “We were standing watch and it came straight through the trees and landed on him. I think it’s dead.”
     “Damndest thing I ever saw,” said the one next to him.
     “It’s okay,” One Eye said. He picked up the bird and gently slipped in under the shroud. “They were friends.”  
     He winked at Bryn.
     “Yes,” Bryn said. “Leave it be. Everything’s alright.We are going home.”

     The next morning, Bryn woke with a start. He was not alone. One Eye sat a few feet from his head. The old smuggler’s clothes were filthy, his feathers disheveled, and his shoulders drooped. He gave Bryn a weak smile.
     “Sorry to disobey your orders General,” he offered a mock salute. “But, I know where we are.”
     “You do?” Bryn sat up.
     “Yes, and we have got to get the hell out of here.”

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trails of Trouble Chapter 49

     Sprinting through the thin line of Zett’s soldiers who tried to close the gap was a walk in the park compared to what came next. Eeryn, true to his word, asked Bryn to jump off a cliff. Into a deep dark hole was more accurate, but there was no time for semantics. Zett’s army was closing in on them. Eeryn waved him on; opened his wings and jumped. Bryn and the rest of the Valir followed the seer down. Just as the walls closed in preventing a widening spiral descent, Bryn felt the ground rise up to meet him. The ground sloped sharply downward away from the narrow band of daylight above the rim of the canyon and into a growing darkness. The broken stone floor underfoot threatened to break away at any moment prompting Bryn to keep his wings out for balance. They had not gone far when the sun disappeared altogether. The darkness was complete.
     “Take my hand,” Eeryn’s voice spoke from the inky nothing ahead. “Get hold of the person behind you.”
     The seer’s hand brushed against Bryn’s shoulder. His free hand found Faryn’s. A smile no one could see crossed Bryn’s face. The thought of a group of winged creatures holding hands like school children and walking through a hole in the ground got the better of him. He couldn’t suppress a chuckle.
     “What’s damn so funny?” Faryn asked.
     “The blind leading the blind,” he said.
     “Not for long,” Eeryn told him. “Have everybody sit down.”
     The sat passing whispers back and forth in the darkness. It was a welcome rest, but it wore off quickly. Bryn’s curiosity overpowered his patience.
     “What are we waiting for?” he asked.
     The answer came from the walls around them. A faint glow began to radiate from the surrounding stone. It built to a bright green luminescence that filled the world. As Bryn suspected, they were in a cave. Faryn suddenly grabbed his arm. Her wide eyes were awash in reflected green light.
     “The walls are moving,” she said.
     “They are called Eral,” Eeryn told them. “Bioluminescent bacteria. They live on the walls. Quite the handy little creature, don’t you think?”
     Bryn touched a finger to the cave wall. The Eral streamed around him in a wide berth. He withdrew his finger and the dark gap closed. Without further word, Eeryn got to his feet and started them moving again. The sound of dripping water kept a rhythmic back beat to the splash of footsteps through the pools that collected on the smooth cave floor. Hushed calls to look a this or look at that spread along the line. Eeryn didn’t push them. He kept a steadily pace. He had seen stalagmites and stalactites before. He’d seen other things too. Some of those things he’d rather not see again.
     Bryn thought the seer had a keen interest in the side tunnels. Was he unsure of the way? He knew Eeryn was uneasy about returning to the Boubouja, but he sensed an unease that went deeper than worry over a wrong turn.
     “Everything okay?” He laid a friendly hand on the seer’s shoulder.
     Eeryn jumped away with a gasp. Eeeryn took a couple of deep breaths before his hand dropped from the hilt of his dagger.
     “Anything I should know about?” Bryn asked.
     “I don’t like caves,” he replied.
     “You didn’t seem to mind when we left Shiloh,” Bryn reminded him.
     “That was a tunnel.”
     “What’s the difference?”
     “Tunnels are seldom homes,” Eeryn said.

     A half mile farther on, the ground began a gentle slope upward. Bryn tried to rub the tension from the muscles in his shoulders without much success. He did not ask Eeryn what might be living in the cave. Sometimes it’s best not to know. He kept a hand on his dagger and his eyes on the way ahead. Eeryn left the center of the cave to wander to the wall on their right. He held a finger to his beak and waved Bryn over to a narrow cleft in the rock. At the seer’s feet was a pile of bones. Bryn didn’t recognize them. Eeryn pointed for him to look into the opening in the wall. Bryn saw nothing but darkness. No Eral lived on the other side. He shrugged his shoulders and started to pull away when a large golden eye opened in the blackness. Bryn jumped away from the opening, his back to the wall and working hard to breathe again.
     “Dragons,” Eeryn whispered.
     Bryn nodded understanding and followed Eeryn from the opening.
     “I don’t think there is a connecting tunnel the rest of the way,” Eeryn said when they had moved away. “As long as everyone stays quiet we should be safe.”
     “How many?” Bryn asked.
     Eeryn shrugged. Bryn signaled for the column to keep silent. These were warriors. They were trained to move with little sound, but tip-toeing three hundred of them past a den of dragons without incurring their wrath seemed to Bryn a minor miracle.
     Eventually, they were rewarded. The familiar glow of daylight grew from a tiny point to open onto the floor of a steep canyon. Ferns and lichen replaced the glowing Eral. Pine scented air pushed through the canyon toward the setting sun. The trickle of water that flowed along the cave floor became a gravel lined stream. The banks spread out to either side, soft sandy soil replacing the damp stone floor of the cave. A hundred feet above the rims of the canyon were in no particular hurry to part company. But, they were back beneath the open sky again. A huge cheer went up.
     The cheer was answered by a faint rumble from the ground, followed by a second and a third. The rumbling grew closer together until the ground shook.
     “Run!” Eeryn shouted.
     He could have saved his breath. The column disintegrated. Three hundred Valir warriors who earlier that day fearlessly charged Zett’s army broke and ran for their lives. Bryn quickly realized that even fueled by fear, they were not going to outrun the danger.
     “The trees,” Bryn waved his arms and shouted at the fleeing warriors.
     Knee deep in the middle of the stream, Bryn began marshaling those who heeded his shouts, into the trees along either bank. Eeryn and One Eye rallied the rest of the Valir a short way downstream. Weapons drawn, they waited for the coming attack.
     The dragon exploded from the cave. Beams of sunlight shining between the trees reflected in bright flashes from the row of iridescent blue scales along the creature’s back. The rumble of its footsteps did not do justice to the massive scaled body that filled the entire canyon floor  Golden eyes burning with internal fire searched locked on a warrior scrambling to his feet in the stream. The monstrous neck coiled to strike. In a blur of motion the powerful neck shot propelled rows of teeth forward. The dragon’s jaws closed around the Valir with a nauseating crunch of bone. A quick upward thrust of the dragon’s head sent the broken body into the air before it slid down the  beast’s throat.
     The onlookers recoiled in revulsion. Fear was back threatening to destroy their resolve. Bryn looked around for a means to steady them. The answer was supplied for him. Eeryn stepped toward the monster alone and unafraid. The prophet drew the cloak from around his shoulders. His eyes never left the dragon. Deliberate steps carried him as he rolled his cloak lengthwise and began to twirl it above his head.
     The spinning movement of the cloak caught the dragon’s eye. It spit out a leg that remained of the dead Valir and roared a warning at the seer. Eeryn, not deterred by the display, kept advancing. The dragon answered with great lumbering strides that rapidly closed the gap quickly between them.
     “Ja Ryn.” Eeryn snapped the cloak like a whip.
     Electric blue fire crackled, snaking through the air on a wave of ozone. The bolt hit the dragon between the eyes. The dragon shrieked in pain. Its knees buckled. It staggered, but kept coming. Eeryn retreated a few steps and snapped the cloak again. The blow took the dragon down in a heap that nearly splashed the stream dry. The wall of water knocked Eeryn off his feet leaving the two foes floundering in its wake. The cloak of leaves floated downstream. The seer was the first to find his feet. He ran after the cloak and the weapons waiting in the trees, but he was not fast enough. The swing of one huge claw caught him in the back. Eeryn went down into the stream in a spray of blood.
     “Now,” Bryn ordered.
     He leapt from the branches dagger drawn. A hundred Valir followed him, their weapons driving deep into the dragon’s hide. The ground forces closed in. The dragon was able to do little more than bellow at the onslaught. The attack was swift and deadly. For a moment the dragon found his feet, but his legs would not hold him. He collapsed, bleeding and gasping for breath. More thrusts of the daggers made certain he would not rise again.
     There was no shout of victory; no rush for trophies. There was no sound but the breeze in the branches. The warriors gathered around the fallen prophet in stunned silence.The stream carried away Eeryn’s life in a fading flow of red. Blood oozed from his ears and the corners of his beak, but the light of life still shined in his eyes. He raised a trembling hand in a don’t touch me gesture. Bryn sank to one knee at Eeryn’s head. Tears stood in his eyes.
     “Take them home Bryn Bou,” the seer said. He coughed and a fine pink mist shrouded his head. “It’s up to you now. Give the cloak to Coryn. He will know what to do.”    
     “But how...” Bryn stopped short.
     The seer was no longer listening.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pub Chatter #87

     I’m late closing up tonight. I got caught up finishing the chapter for Trails of Trouble that I should have posted on Saturday. Apologies to you faithful readers. I am trying make myself write without stopping to polish. Polish comes later. Now, if I would just listen to myself.

     The is closing up shop tonight, but will reopen soon. The goal is a better look with better function. That required me to change hosts to one that I can actually use the way I want. Like making a “Members Only” section.

     I am currently reading The Big Book of Pain, Torture and Punishment Through History. It’s gruesome stuff. It’s illustrated too. It has reinforced my disdain for those who call people animals. No animals sink low enough do this stuff to one another. If  you are reading Trails of Trouble, you may remember Bryn’s riding the wheel. I adapted that from a combination of old English punishments. I though the wheel part was my own contribution. Nope, there’s a torture called Breaking on the Wheel. It sounds way worse than my adaptation.

     Will this torture stuff find its way into future stories? You better believe it. Even the Huffington Post can’t make this stuff up.

     Aaron Judge won the Home Run Derby--which is no real surprise. No bad for a rookie. He hit four homers that traveled over 500 feet each. You may not know this but I was once a home run champ. Then, I had to pee and woke up.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Pub Chatter #86

     This weekend wasn’t intended to be a writing vacation. Sometimes the best laid plans never happen. Which is not to say the time was wasted, only that I didn’t get much writing done. Somehow I couldn’t quite get out the words to match the pictures in my head. They seemed to have gotten lost in the battle between the things I “ought to do” and “want to do.” I wish I knew sooner what a drag it is being an adult.

     When you are in a slump, you try too hard. You start making changes in your stance or your swing, anything to connect. Patience is the key. Unfortunately, I keep losing mine. I seem to spend more time looking for it than using it. Deep down I know I will eventually connect with a pitch on the outside corner and pull it into the cheap seats. Maybe it will be today.

   I read in the news that the world leaders attending the G20 conference are not warming to our President. The news media is “concerned.” Personally, I think it’s about damn time we had a President who will tell the world to go pound sand. Seems the other leaders object to Mr. Trump putting America’s interests first. That’s the difference between a businessman and a politician. I didn’t vote for the guy. I was a strictly “Anybody but Clinton” supporter. But, Trump’s growing on me. Maybe he will kick the UN out of New York, buy their building, and turn it into a sanctuary for white males. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head?

     Gotta close this and take a few more swings at getting Bryn Bou out of his troubles and onto the page.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Pub Chatter #85

   Happy Independence Weekend. A golf cart parade is lining up outside at the Fire Department’s pancake breakfast. There’s a chicken picnic scheduled at the clubhouse tomorrow andsomewhere in all the hustle and bustle, there will be fireworks. Hope I can see them from work.

     In the spirit of the holiday, I want to share the distinction between democracy and liberty. One we should be celebrating this weekend. The other is a creeping plague liberals are using to destroy the first.

     Democracy is “government by the people; especially :  rule of the majority.” Walter Williams calls it, “mob rule.” The Founding Fathers shared this opinion. It was their fear of mob rule democracy that led them to form a republic with safeguards against rule by majority vote. What’s wrong with majority rule? Ask the minority. Democracy doesn’t give a damn about freedom, liberty or rights of the individual; it only cares what the majority thinks. One than once in the annals of government, the majority has favored genocide.

     Liberty, on the other hand, recognizes the worth of every individual’s freedom, efforts, and possessions. Liberty protects the rights of the individual from the majority. Either all men are at liberty in a society or no man is truly free. Stealing one man’s food to feed another enslaves them both.

     C.S. Lewis points out that people’s willingness to promote liberty depends on how they see human life. Those who believe our physical life on earth is all there is, find little to value in the individual. Therefore, the State not the individual is all important. It is for those who believe we are eternal that every individual is vitally important. I think that says a lot about political factions and their proposed solutions to the issues of the day. It is clear one side wants the government to think for us in a democratic fashion. The other side calls for a “hands off” kind of government.

     Something to think about while waving those sparklers and shouting “USA.”

Trails of Trouble----Chapter 48

Cross looked out into the darkness and sniffed the wind. Flickering camp fires burned to the east and west. Ahead of him, nothing but the wind in the branches of an oak forest. The possibility of yet another trap was foremost in his mind. Zett had made few mistakes that day. He had the rebels in a box; or did he? As near as Cross could tell there was a half mile gap between the left flank of the infantry to the west and the right flank of a legion of light horse and cannon east of him. Was it a mistake by the two commanders or an open door to disaster? The question tumbled over and over in his mind. If he guessed wrong, a great many people would die. He decided not to guess.
“Chip, Fang, with me,” he ordered.
He dropped from the low branch where they had taken up position. Two wolven soldiers followed. Keeping to all fours they moved swiftly through tall grass to the cover of the woods. The breeze in their faces carried no human scents. Cross pointed left then right. The others split off toward the enemy camps while Cross continued forward. He worked his way through the trees stopping at intervals to listen and smell the air. A mile or two further on the woods gave out into a meadow of tall grass. He found no trampled grass; no sign of anyone having passed this way for weeks. There was only one other thing to try. He stood up; an inviting target for any sniper. A minute later, he began to breathe again, turned on his heels and headed back the way he had come. Chip and Fang fell in beside him.
It was another three miles back to the main camp. The three wolven knew they were in a race. It was a race they had to win. With the coming daylight, Zett’s soldiers would begin to wonder why there was no one covering their flank and close the gap. Getting an army of tired and wounded through the breech before that happen was probably impossible, but sometimes the impossible was all you had to work with.
They found the camp alive with activity. Entire families worked side by side digging defensive positions, stacking brush and readying weapons. Cross bolted into Eeryn’s tent.
“We found a hole,” he panted and collapsed.

In less than an hour, the army was moving. Wolven scouts led the way while others of their kind moved to secure the gap. The Valir formed a rear guard that pushed the masses onward. The need to hurry was at the front of every mind. They would not be beaten by the lack of effort. The big foe at the moment was noise. Thousands moving in haste made a great deal of noise; sounds that any moment might be picked up by Zett’s troops and give away their escape.
Faryn coaxed and prodded the stragglers to keep up. Those too exhausted to walk, she had piled into carts pulled by the rear guard. She was constantly on the move shuffling fresh backs and legs into cart duty, keeping the column straight, and watching the flanks for signs of enemy troops. Bryn found her busy loading a mother and her young into a moving cart.
“How are you holding up?” he asked.
“Well enough.” She handed the last of the young to its mother. “But, I’ll be glad when we’re out of here.”
“Another hour will bring us to the gap,” Bryn told her. “Are you sure you won’t continue with Eli?”
She stopped and took his face in her hands. Her eyes drew him in. Their beaks hooked around one another. The kiss lingered long enough for him to join in. Then, she let him go.
“I’m going with you,” she said just to be sure the message got through.
Bryn nodded, not trusting his voice. He slipped an arm around her shoulders and started forward. Faryn leaned against him. Her hand resting his hip, her head touching his and for a moment they were lost in a world of their own. A world without troubles; without armies; and without constant cries for help. It was a world of two becoming one; an impossible world that lasts only for moments and flees away.
Panicked cries pulled them back. Half their group searched for hiding places in the woods while the other half stampeded over them. A young human couple was bowled over by a terrified group of Taurines. An infant was knocked from its mother’s arms and trampled by sharp hooves. Faryn scooped the child up. Bryn pulled the father to his feet and pushed him onward. The mother was beyond his help. The cause of panic swept back to them.
“Soldiers coming.”
To the left Bryn could see torches moving toward them. The sound of the soldier’s field equipment rattled above the rush ahead. The gap was being closed. Bryn dragged a ragged human to his feet.
“Stay here and you die,” Bryn shouted. He threw the man forward. It was enough to get him moving again.
“Listen to me,” Bryn yelled to the crowd. “Move ahead or die without mercy. One Eye, Vulryn, take our people into the gap and hold it.”
Valirians surged forward to form a wall. Archers took to the trees while others stacked brush to hold the ground on the refugee’s flank.
“It’s dead,” he said to Faryn.
She laid the limp little body on the ground. With a deep sigh, she stood to her feet and began pushing carts forward and breaking up groups hunkered down among the trees. Bryn formed a small group of refugees into an armed rear guard. They were almost through the gap.
The vanguard of Zett’s troops hit the wall of Valir as the last of the refugees cleared the woods. The Valir held. At best they could only delay the oncoming army. Bryn ordered his people deepest into the gap. Slowly the line gave way like a swinging gate. The refugees were through. Cross and the wolven streamed back to cover the retreating column. The Valir were left to manage escape on their own. Eeryn told them he had a plan, but Bryn had not seen the Prophet for hours. The soldiers set fire to the woods. The flames drove the last of the Valir from the trees and sealed the gap against those who remained in hiding. Fresh human troops streamed in from both sides. Outlined against the flames they were easy targets, but the weight of their numbers began to swallow Bryn’s people.
One Eye came up behind Bryn panting for breath. “Eeryn’s that way. He says hurry; we have trouble.”
“Oh, he noticed did he?” Bryn said. He motioned for those around him to follow and set off after One Eye to find the seer.
Eeryn stood atop a large stump surrounded by Valir. His back was to Bryn as he studied the area to the west of their position. Before Bryn could speak, the seer hopped down to the ground and turned to face him.
“If I told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?” Eeryn asked.
“What the hell kind of question is that?” Bryn asked.
“The kind of desperate one that will save us all,” Eeryn said. “Well?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Not really.”
“Then, I’ll do it,” Bryn said.
Eeryn motioned everyone in as close as possible. His voice was slow and clear. His face flush with battle.
“There is a small band of Zett’s troops just ahead,” he said and pointed to the west. We are going to run through them as quickly as we can. On the other side is an escape. They will not be able to follow us down. Use your wings; do as I do; and for the Creator’s sake, don’t hesitate. I’ll see you on the other side.”
Eeryn drew his dagger, turned and charged ahead. Bryn gave the order to follow and the Valir set off at a run.