Sunday, August 27, 2017
Braved I-5 traffic to Tacoma yesterday morning only to find I had arrived at my CPR training a day early. I’ll be making the trip again in an hour or so. I might even remember to take along my phone this time. Prayers are appreciated.
It all worked out for the best. I was able to make it to the Gig Harbor
Writer’s Meetup. I had a good time drinking Kimball’s caramel apple latte and talking with Scott Russell, his daughter, Megan, and Mike Costa. We had a new member join the group today, so looking forward to an even better time next Saturday.
Closed on the new house this week and have spent the lost few days prowling for bargains to furnish it. After several hours in Washington traffic we managed to get most of the job done before I head back to work tomorrow. Just need a bed to complete the job.
By the way, I am now re-certified in Basic Life Support. However, as a reminder, if you are having chest pain go to an Emergency Room--this is a pub. This is my refuge. If I wanted to break ribs, I would go to work.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
Humans armed with crossbows kept watch outside a wall of stacked bouja trees. Sharpened branches bristled from between piles of thick tree trunks that formed a large square on the eastern edge of the town. Small fires flickered at irregular intervals within the compound. More guards stood upon the corners of the impromptu prison.
“What do you think?” Bryn asked.
One Eye continued to survey the scene in silence. His eyes shifting from the wall to the jungle and back again.
“We can take out the sentries without an alarm,” he said at length. “The guards inside? I don’t know. We’ll try. That’s a lot to pull off at one time.”
“I have faith in you,” Bryn assured him.
“Dawn then,” One Eye said and with a wave of his hand led them back to their waiting warriors.
One Eye hustled off to brief his troops and move them into position around the eastern border of the village. The plan called for a silent dispatch of the guards before One Eye and a hundred warriors assaulted the prison before attacking the human garrison. Faryn rifled through a pair of packs pretending to look for something. She finally gave up and looked at him with stony eyes. Her jaw was locked in place by the tense muscles of her face. She didn’t return his smile. Ignoring the hard set of her face, Bryn kissed quickly on the forehead. Piece by piece her face crumbled. He gathered her into his arms and pulled her tightly to him.
“We’re going to be okay,” he said.
“I know,” the crack in her voice barely showed.
“Secure the lift station,” he brushed her crest. “Then, leave it with Asaryn and come join us. You can do it.”
“Of course, I can do it,” she said. “I’m worried about you.”
“Get going,” he said with a smile.
Bryn’s troop had the farthest to travel. They moved out heading north, keeping to the trees in a wide arc around the village. If One Eye’s assault on the prison went according to plan, Bryn would attack from the west and cut off the human’s retreat. Most importantly, it would keep word of their presence from reaching Raryn’s army. Quick action was their friend today, but only for today. Once the village was theirs, they needed time to build an army of their own.
They hung their packs in a large bouja tree a quarter mile from the road that tied Vix to the rest of Valir. As far as Bryn could tell, they had not been detected. They took up positions across the road about an hour before dawn and waited for the distant sounds of battle.
A smile flashed across Bryn’s face. Despite his old classmates’ predictions, his name was about to enter Valirian military lore. Whether he would be remembered as a hero or a villain was yet to be determined; victors write history.
While Bryn was stealing through the jungle, One Eye, having left word to be awakened before dawn, slept propped in an upper fork of a forest giant. The night breeze rocked the tough, old bird with a gentle hand that soothed soft snores from him.
“How does he do that?” A young warrior a dozen feet below whispered to his friend.
His companion slowly shook his head. “Wish I knew,” he whispered in return.
The wait stretched out into an endless parade of monotonous hours that ended all to quickly. A sentry scrambled up to One Eye’s perch and nudged the sleeping leader with a toe. One Eye instantly rose to his feet. He didn’t stretch, he didn’t yawn, leaving the youngster scratching his head and wondering if he was really sleeping.
“Well, come on,” One Eye said over his shoulder. “It’s time to start a war.”
The humans had cleared the jungle surrounding the village. From his vantage point in a tall bouja tree about thirty yards away, It looked to One Eye that it was about the only thing they did right. Even that was not done well. He would have moved the perimeter out another twenty yards or more. Good thing he had not been in charge.
His best sharpshooters were in position. They had been for a couple of hours; long enough to get a sense of the human patrols. A thin youth named Tadryn slipped silently through the branches to One Eye.
“They change guards in about half an hour,” he whispered.
One Eye nodded and gave a backhand wave. Tadryn disappeared leaving his leader to his inner countdown.
The two sentries walking the ground outside the wall met in the middle. One Eye couldn’t hear them, but he knew how the conversation well. Off duty mischief and a bed had their full attention. Then, light flared. One of the idiots lit a match.
“Put that damn light out,” someone atop the wall called at them. “Stupid di--”
His commentary on his fellow soldiers ended abruptly with a wet, meaty thud. A trim bundle of feathers sprouted from the growing red bloom in the center of the man’s chest. His eyes rolled to white as he toppled off the wall. He dead before he hit the ground. The astonished looks of the smokers lasted a little longer than the blink of their wide eyes before arrows carried them to eternity guard duty.
Atop the wall the alarm was shouted. One Eye and his warriors answered first. Gliding from the trees, they hit the ground running beneath a cover of flying arrows. They reached the wall and began to climb before the first of the humans arrived. Inside the prison, chaos broke out as men awoke to Valirian war cries. They scrambled for boots and weapons that were left scattered carelessly about the long hall.
The Valir swept the guards from the wall without breaking stride and were on the compound before more than a dozen men could muster outside their quarters. The human’s disrupters useless before dawn. Some still inside the barracks grabbed swords and lances. The east door was a target. Some men leaped through open windows while the rest changed course for the doors at the western end of the barracks. The fight of those exiting by the windows was brief. They were cut down as soon as they stood up with their weapons. Those charging out of the doors didn’t bother to fight. Bryn and his hundred were spread across the compound, weapons trained on the door, waiting for them to surrender. Human weapons clattered to the ground.
The large wooden cages were opened. Worn, ragged and wounded survivors of civil war filed out to embrace their liberators. Family members held small reunions. Others mourned the news of loved ones lost. A thin warrior Bryn recognized as One Eye’s lead archer came to a halt before Bryn and snapped off a smart salute.
“No sign of your father or the other Council members,” the soldier said. “I’m sorry, sir. The camp is secure.”
One Eye arrive with a small group of his troops. He read Bryn’s down turned face and stooped shoulders and answered with a quick embrace.
“I will see to the rest of the village,” he said. “It’s possible they kept the Council from the indignity of the cages.”
It wasn’t impossible, but Bryn knew better. Raryn was not one to share the spotlight. Keeping the throne he stole meant eliminating all opposition and his human friends were quite adept at that. Bryn’s best hope for his father was that he was allowed to rest undisturbed in the grove with his ancestors.
“General Bou, sir.”
Bryn’s gloom vanished. His father lived. He turned to welcome his father, but no one was there. His brows knit together as his head cocked to one side fro a moment. Bryn closed his eyes as the realization hit home. His face relaxed; his arms sank to his sides. Inch by inch he shrunk beneath the weight that pressed upon him. He was General Bou and his troops were awaiting his command.
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Personally, I’ve never been afraid of opinions. Maybe that’s because I write horror and play with monsters and evil all the time. You know the old adage, “familiarity breeds contempt.” I’ve heard so many opinions in the last sixty years that I’m rarely impressed. The depths of idiocy behind some opinions is amazing, it can even be a little spooky at times, especially when they show it on television.
I am puzzled, however, by the fear some folks have of differing opinions. I have yet to discern why people of the alt-left, BLM and Antifa are so afraid to let others speak their minds. Clearly, those groups place no value on anything anyone else believes, so why fear them?
Letting others express their opinion is often the best way to demonstrate that opinion’s lack of a rational thought process behind it. I used to work in a locked down, in-patient, mental health hospital. People with problems would sometimes be ordered by a court to spend twenty-eight days with us. At the end of their stay these folks would go visit the judge before release. Predicting who the judge would invite back for another twenty-eight days was relatively easy. Without fail, it was those people most determined to voice their opinion to the judge.
Mark Twain once advised that it was better to keep quiet and have everyone think you are a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. People on both sides of today’s political situation would do well to study Mr. Twain. The dearest right held by every American is the right to remain silent. Silence, we are told, is golden. But, it takes upwards of a thousand words to equal a picture.
Chelsea Clinton must have missed Mr. Twain’s writing while she was in college. She recently weighed in on the subject of Confederate monuments. I doubt anything she might say could embarrass her parents, but you have to hand it to her, she’s out there trying. Must be that clean New York City living she’s done. What else could explain the moral superiority that denies others free choice and a free voice?
The trouble with denying people a voice is twofold. First, it keeps them in the shadows where much of what they truly believe is hidden. When the do get something out and it sounds rational---Boom, your condemnation is called into question. Buried in the rants of groups like the KKK or BLM are sometimes tiny nuggets of rational thought, even truth sometimes makes an appearance. These little bits are the hooks that catch unwary, and ill advised support. However, if you let these people talk, the idiocy of their true beliefs will be paraded for all to see.
Secondly, Expression has a way of breaking out. If it can’t be done peaceably and in order, it can be done with violence and chaos. Responsibility for the election of President Trump rest as much with the left’s denial of the value in other’s opinion as it does with the Republican’s campaign. The whole strategy of the Democrats and the media was to demean the opinions and values of the other side. But, low and behold, the other side’s voice broke through.
The alt-left and their ilk have pretty much been given a voice. I don’t know a single person they have won over with their assumed superiority. On the other hand, I know of many they have driven into the open arms of their less vocal opponents. Want to make the world safe from fascism that socialism or democracy or whateverism might flourish? Let the other side speak their mind.
Let freedom ring.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
At midday, he brought them to a reluctant halt. The restless few were sent to forage for food while the main body settled down to shelter from the heat. The humid air was refreshing after the dust of the Wonod. Bryn closed his eyes, but could not close down the thoughts racing inside his head. The would be home tomorrow night or the next morning. Legally, if not morally, he was a criminal. He defied the Council’s travel ban and conspired with Coryn to flaunt their refusal to issue an exemption. Bryn might escape punishment. His father was a powerful council member. He could not escape guilt.
Whatever the consequences, he must face the. The prospect no longer frightened him. What was he guilty of? Doing what was right? Heeding the instructions of the Creator’s seer? He was worse than guilty. He was proud of it. He did his duty as he saw it. A Valir warrior could do no more.
“Cootie-who,” the cry echoed through the trees.
Bryn’s eyes flew open. He cocked his head toward the south.
“The scouts,” he said to no one in particular.
Bryn was on his feet, as was half the camp. Faryn came up beside him. Her brow wrinkled in concert with the quizzical look in her eyes. Bryn shrugged, head still cocked, straining to hear.
Bryn was on the move. He drew his dagger without a break in stride. from the corner of his eye, he saw One Eye was running in the same direction. The alarm was close. Bryn’s eyes darted back and forth across the way ahead. He spotted the scouts on the ground about fifty yards ahead. They were safe, but they were not alone. Bryn tucked away his dagger; left the branches and glided down to meet them.
A blue crested Valir stood between two of the scouts. Bryn guessed him to be middle aged, erect posture, and calm demeanor. His relaxed stance in the face of possibly hostile strangers reminded Bryn of his father. He was a profession, accustomed to dealing with people and being listened to. So, what was he doing alone in the outer edge of the Boubouja?
The stranger waited patiently, measuring them as they approached. He started to speak, cocked a eyebrow and closed his beak. His head turned from One Eye to Bryn.
“You are in charge.” It was a statement rather than a question. “You’re very young.”
Bryn nodded and said nothing. A twig snapped among the ferns at the edge of the clearing. Weapons flashed; warriors jumped to the alert. A green crested female slowly rose up from her hiding place.
“Sorry Dr. Joryn,” she said as she was escorted to join them.
“It’s okay,” the doctor said. “I was just about to introduce myself to the soldiers. Is everyone alright?”
“Everyone?” Bryn asked. “There are more....doctor?”
The doctor scrutinized Bryn and turned his gaze on the warriors around him. A puzzled look wrinkled his face.
“You don’t know,” he said. “Who are you?”
“Bryn Bou son of Byryn,” Bryn held out his hand.
The doctor’s beak dropped open. He looked at the female and back at Bryn. A wide smile beamed across his face.
“Joryn Del son of Kiryn,’ the doctor said. “I am so glad to see you, though I must admit a certain surprise you are in the Boubouja and still alive. Have you come to rescue your father?”
Bryn and his band sat in stunned silence as Dr. Joryn recounted recent events in the Boubouja. Vix was a village in name only. It was now an armed camp of human soldiers. With human help Raryn assassinated the king and disbanded the Council. He then seized control the army. Resistance had been brief and bloody. All who opposed him were hiding, dead or in the prison at Vix awaiting deportation to the slave camps of Shiloh. Raryn, backed by King Zett, was named himself Lord Protector of the Boubouja.
“We managed to escape into the jungle with about a hundred wounded and dying. Seventy-five or eighty remain,” the doctor said. “When your warriors came we assumed we had been found.”
“My father,” Bryn said.
“In prison,” Joryn said. “All the priests and seers with him.”
“In Vix?” Bryn asked.
While studying his feet, the doctor gave him a slow, silent nod. A moment later, he scratched his head and looked up at Bryn.
“Just how did you get here?” he asked. “The Lift has been in Raryn’s hands the whole time.”
“It’s a long story,” Bryn told him.
The doctor’s patients lay scattered about in the litter of a fern covered clearing not far from away. A quick count found eighty-nine still alive. Two were clearly dying and five would never regain use of all their limbs. There were six, maybe seven, with healing head wounds who might still be able to fight. Bryn’s warriors took up defensive positions around the camp.
No soldiers came. As the day melted away to the west, Bryn, Faryn, One Eye and a few others gathered around a small fire with the doctor.
“What are you planning to do?” Joryn asked.
“We need to get you and these wounded to someplace safe,” Bryn said.
“I’m not sure such a place exists anymore,” the doctor answered.
“We’ll have to make one,” One Eye said. “There’s always a back way to smuggle stuff in.”
“He knows,” Bryn jerked a thumb in One Eye’s direction and laughed. “How many men are in Vix?”
“Many more than you have,” Joryn said.
“More maybe,” Faryn answered. “But not better.”
“You all sound like you mean to fight,” Joryn said.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” Bryn told him. “In the morning I’d like you to take your charges to a spot I know. Faryn will show you the way.”
“The hell I will,” Faryn said.
Bryn smiled at her.
“Can’t blame a fellow for trying,” he said.
“Don’t count on it.” Faryn and One Eye said in unison.
The laughter that followed was the last they would share.
In celebration of my one hundredth pub chatter post, I'd like to share with you a little long lost information that I just rediscovered. It's called:
Here are the rules from the male side. These are our rules! Please note.. these are all numbered "1 " ON PURPOSE!
1. Men are NOT mind readers.
1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.
1. Sunday sports It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.
1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are never going to think of it that way.
1. Crying is blackmail.
1. Ask for what you want. Let us be clear on this one: Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
1. Come to us w ith a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.
1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become Null and void after 7 Days.
1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.
1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one
1. You can either ask us to do something Or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.
1. Whenever possible, Please say whatever you have to say during commercials..
1. Christopher Columbus did NOT need directions and neither do we.
1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not A color. Pumpkin is also a fruit. We have no idea what mauve is.
1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," We will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
1. If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, Expect an answer you don't want to hear.
1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine... Really .
1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball or fishing.
1. You have enough clothes.
1. You have too many shoes.
1. I am in shape. Round IS a shape!
Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; But did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.
Friday, August 18, 2017
It’s been a difficult few days for me. I’ve had time and desire to share some blog posts, but cannot quite seem to get away from the inner unrest in me produced by the growing tensions outside. Everybody wants a peaceful resolution, but only on their terms.
This attitude is not surprising to me. I grew up among the people who launched this current phase self-adoration---the end stage Boomers. Yeah, you high school and college students of the '60's, I’m talking about you. I was there. Everything had to be on your terms and your way; Orwellian sheep bleating, “Old way bad. Our way good.”
Your grandchildren are here now and whether they are Antifa or Unite the Right, their tantrums in the streets are wrong. Damn right both sides are to blame. In this country, everyone has the right to march and shout their opinion at the top of their lungs. No one has the right to interfere because they don’t like the subject matter or the participants. There’s many a flag burner alive today because someone put that right above personal feelings.
Boomers, where are your cries for peace now? No more, “Give Peace a Chance?” If we do not stop this, then we are the worst hypocrites that ever lived. I didn’t protest and I didn’t get drafted---I enlisted. I don’t have to alter my children’s perception of the kind of freedom this country stands for. Some of you have work to do in that regard. The option is to continue to let them run wildly after their own selfishness.
By 1862, Union and Confederate soldiers had a whole new outlook on the glory and glamour of fighting for their cause. They had been to “see the elephant” and their passions had cooled considerably. Of course, it was too late for peace; too many of their friends and family were in the grave. Do we really want to relearn the lesson?
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Next comes the follow on book, Roads of Battle. We’ll be leaving Bryn for awhile to catch up on what’s happening with Prince Eli and Cross. Oh, ye of little faith. Of course, there will be a reunion.
These new flat screen televisions don’t bounce real well. They just kind of shatter when thrown from a height. Who knew? I know, it doesn’t really stop the inane chatter of the talking heads to throw a television off the roof. Yeah, I will have to go buy a new one so I can watch Midnight Texas next week. But, darn it felt good for a minute there. Boom! Crash! Take that you %^@&$ing idiots!
So ends tonight’s endless loop of CNN road apples. I can believe people fall for this stuff only because I know the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
When I saw Mitt Romney’s tweet, Obama suddenly looked like a good choice. Mitt proved he still doesn’t know WTF he’s talking about. “One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other side opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.” He must know cause that bit of reasoning could not have originated on Earth.
How about Marco Rubio, the esteemed senator from Florida? “When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you, it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them.” Somehow that doesn’t help me separate the KKK and BLM. They look an awful lot alike to me. Does that mean violence directed at BLM is okay?
I guess that I’m just not deep enough to get it. To me hate is hate no matter what color mouth it spews from or what color it is directed toward. It can’t be that simple, right? Otherwise, we simple folk would understand. Although, the President seems to get it.
Oh, and did you notice? Despite the “fire and fury,” Guam is still around and N. Korea still has its missile up their silo. Just saying.
Good night Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.
Monday, August 14, 2017
I say, “in general” because the use of absolutes with humans is folly at best. Every circumstance of mankind is riddled with the good, the bad and everything in between. There is indeed evil in the best of us and good in the worst of us. God, Himself says we have fallen short of His expectations for us. Who am I to disagree?
I am the worst kind of white---western European descent, male, working-class, ex-military, white. I have a few regrets in life, but I have zero guilt about who or what I am. For want of a better party, I am even okay with being Republican. The only privilege I’ve had is the privilege of working my ass off for forty-five years and passing from this world still in debt if I don’t hit the lottery soon.
The real tragedy I see coming is that I am slowly being pushed into an alliance with people I really do not like. My elected officials don’t seem to have the chutzpah to stand up for the rights and safety of folks like me. I am the enemy of antifa’s, socialists, leftists, people of color, congressmen, senators, governors and mayors. I am the villain of every media story and my childhood heroes are being demonized.
The only people who appear willing to stand against this onslaught are extremists. Unite the Right and the KKK are not representative of my beliefs or share my values. Nevertheless, they resist the vocal and violent forces arrayed against me. It’s an enemy of my enemy kind of situation. When the only course left to me is to choose sides, I will step to the right and that with a vengeance against those who leave me no alternative. I have the feeling I will not be alone in this decision. I find that heartbreaking.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
It’s nice to hear the patter of rain on the roof again. I look forward to complaining again about that same sound when summer finally ends. Ain’t that just like folks?
I’ve said a time or two that I didn’t vote for Trump. I was a Carson support who lost interest after he dropped out. As time goes by I have come to appreciate President Trump more and more. Makes me wish I had voted. I plan to rectify that next time around. He’s no politician, that’s for sure. The man expects results. Guess that’s why I like him. That, and his willingness to speak his mind. America needs some “fire and fury.”
Now, if the members of his party in Congress would get off their asses and get with the program, we might accomplish something besides drawing lines in the sand that everyone knows are bullshit.
Obamacare tripled the annual cost of my health care. In my experience, it has not decreased reliance on Emergency Rooms for primary care. Our numbers are through the roof. Insurance or no insurance it seems even those without jobs don’t want to go to see the doctor during business hours or can’t find a doctor to see them. Get rid of it.
I’m not ashamed to say, “I want the wall.” In my opinion that’s the absolute minimum action to take against illegal immigration. I’m all for bringing the troops home from Afganistan and Iraq and stationing them on the wall when they are not busy rounding up the illegals already here. Maybe, Trump should appoint Sheriff Joe as Attorney General or head off Homeland Security.
Those two actions alone would be a proper start to making America great again. It might even prompt us to work on the debt. Hope springs eternal.
Nowadays that makes me a hater. Live with it. I do and I like it just fine. Hater is one of those words that, through misuse, no longer has any real meaning. It is the cry of disappointed hypocrites--people who complain about the behavior of others while doing the same things in the name of their cause.
I wonder about narrow-minded people who complain about Christians being judgmental as if Christians have a corner on “hate.” I hear the whiners, “but Christians aren’t supposed to do that kind of thing.” Clue here---no one is supposed to do hate others. That Christians fall into the same trap as others doesn’t mean their faith is in vain. It only means they are humans who have yet to overcome being human.
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.”
Democrats and liberals--I give you Donald Trump--for whom you have no problem expressing a wish for his death. Clue here, wishing, hoping, and agreeing with someone wanting another person dead is hate--real hate. The kind of hate that might make a Christian blush. Here’s another little clue for you. It was your disdain and your discounting the opinion of those who don’t share your views that won the election for him.
If you have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to people who are different--that is not the historical perspective of the oppressed, or anger about “privilege,” or the tenets of a religion of peace. It is a stereotypical judgment; the very thing you claim to dislike. The idea that those in the minority can’t be prejudice because they aren’t in power is blindness and a hypocrite’s excuse to hate.
Every now and then I see Facebook friends forced to post protests of the dick pics being sent to them. I get it. Nobody wants to see that shit. Those that do will ask. Fast forward to the LGBTQ community. It is not hate that somebody else doesn’t want to see that shit. Those that do will ask. Parading down the street doesn’t make you superior. It only makes you look desperate for approval.
Let’s all cut each other some slack. It isn’t hard to do. All it takes is a willingness to let others be as human as we are. Diversity doesn’t need celebrating, but being human is.
Faryn wrapped her arm around his shoulders and kissed his cheek.
“Will you go now?” she asked. “We can take it from here.”
He gave her a silent nod and delighted to see her face soften and light fill her eyes as the worry slipped away. It was so easy to slip into the love that radiated from her. More difficult to face was the small voice in the back of his mind that continued to wonder it was fair to do so.
“You’re right behind me,” Bryn said.
Faryn glanced at Vulryn. He gave her a quick nod.
“Sure,” she said. “Right behind you.”
Bryn wrapped both hands around the rope Faryn handed him and started down. His weight hit the rope sending bolts of pain crackling across his chest. His jaws locked and the curses he wanted to shout only echoed in his head. Thankfully, it was a short climb. Ten feet down his feet found a rock ledge.
Unlike the stairway going up the Edge of the World, the path descended in a gentle slope over a series of long runs and switchbacks. The stone underfoot was worn smooth, broken here and there by creepers and roots of small trees that worked their long fingers into breaks in the rock. The air drew them into a warm, wet embrace as they worked their way down toward the jungle canopy. Splashes of red and yellow began to dot the rising carpet of leaves. Their perfume was carried upward on the current created by the cool, falling waters.
Bryn rounded a switchback well below the canopy whose far end was shrouded in mist and knew they were near the bottom. The roar of the falls was deafening at this level. As he grew closer, Bryn could make out a figure standing in the path. One Eye met Bryn with and embrace and the path’s final challenge.
“End of the trail,” One Eye said. He slapped a hand against the huge boulder behind him. “This took out the rest of the path long ago.”
Bryn looked over the edge and up at his friend.
“Only about fifty feet to a sandy riverbank,” One Eye told him. “Easy glide.”
Without another word he pushed Bryn over the side. He bowed to Faryn, one hand sweeping in the direction she should go. Faryn leaped over the edge and her wings opened wide. There were a few odd rocks below. Remnants of the boulder’s long ago trip down the cliff, but all in all a soft landing in fine river sand. Bryn was waiting for her wear the smile that replaced his look of surprise. They were together and back in the Boubouja. Already Bryn was plotting pay back for his abrupt departure from the path. One Eye beware.
Bryn found he had landed in the midst of a celebration. The Valir warriors who were not lounging by the river and stuffing themselves with bouja fruit, were dancing around a hastily kindled fire. Disregarding his wounds, Bryn gathered Faryn onto his arms and joined the dancers. Whirling and laughing, Shiloh and the terrors of the Wonod seemed far away.
Shrill shrieks from overhead brought it all came crashing back on them. A quick glance around assured Bryn that most of the warriors were present. Most, but not all. Not One Eye. Not Vulryn and Asaryn who stood with him.
“A rope,” Bryn shouted. “Get a rope over here, we’re going back up.”
A warrior named Abnryn working hands and feet into fissures in the rock started scaling the cliff face. He caught the rope thrown to him, secured it to his belt and continued to climb. A couple of others started up after him, drawing the rope after them and feeding it out to Abnryn.
“Whoa---aaaa--aaagh,” an undulating voice broke through the mist.
One Eye spinning wildly by his single good wing came plummeting down towards them nearing sweeping Abnryn off the rock. He hit the sand with a thud. He was followed closely and more gracefully by the remaining six Valir as yet unaccounted for. No shrieking monsters braved the trip down. Bryn helped One Eye to his feet and a diplomatic refusal to comment on his friend’s rather unorthodox bit of gliding. One Eye was almost recovered when he was tackled by blue blur named Jaryn and nearly ended up back in the sand.
“Oh you poor thing,” she cooed. “Are you alright. You were so brave.”
One Eye gave Bryn a wry smile before resuming the wounded look he shared with Jaryn and hobbled off with her arms wrapped tightly around him.
“Cootie-who!” Someone shouted and the celebration resumed. Even the afternoon rains could not damped their enthusiasm.
Eventually, the day, the fire and their strength faded away into night and shouts turned to snores as exhausted warriors curled up on the sand and in the trees to sleep. The stars came to watch over them and were later joined by a crescent moon that dodged in and out through the clouds as it traveled across the sky. All was right with the world.
Tuesday, August 8, 2017
“Get them down,” he shouted at One Eye and drew his dagger.
The creature tilted tawny wings in a wide turn. The griffins settled on the rocks nearby content to watch. The masters completed their circle and prepared for another run. Bryn shifted his weight from one foot to the other looking for a clue of which way to move. The shrieking cries the creatures broke his concentration and made his skin crawl.
“Screedevils.” Oto landed on his shoulder. “Right.”
Bryn rolled to his right and came up swinging his dagger. Blood poured from the wound he opened in the creature’s leg. The leg, covered in feather the same color as its wings, ended in three sharp talons like those of an eagle. The body was that of an emaciated human female as was the scale ringed face beneath a black mane.
“Watch the tail,” Oto cautioned. “They bite.”
Bryn chanced a look behind him. Faryn was rushing warriors over the side as fast as she could. Those waiting stood with weapons drawn. They unleashed a volley of arrows. Bryn hit the ground just under the screedevil’s diving claws. Vulryn and a Valir named Asaryn took up positions at Bryn’s side to await the next attack.
“Left and swing up,” Oto said.
Bryn planted his right and pivoted left. He threw his left leg in the air; came down on the creature’s back; and drove his dagger between its shoulders. The screedevil hit the ground head first. Bryn tumbled over the rocks at the rivers edge and into the water. A score of arrows sealed the downed creatures fate.
Vulryn caught a second devil by the tail unaware of the presence of snapping jaws until too late. He stumbled, planted his feet and held on. The serpent tail lunged at his trying to twist its fangs into his arm. Vulryn swung the creature over his head and let to go. It crashed into the foot of a rock tower struggling to get up. Two Valir warriors were on it before the creature recovered. Their daggers made quick work of the writhing, shrieking devil.
The third screedevil, a half dozen arrows sticking from its body, climbed high into the sky over the defenders. It hovered screeching in short sharp bursts that brought the griffins to attention. Bryn shifted his gaze from the devil to the griffins and back again. Arms spread toward Vulryn and Asaryn, he backed slowly toward the cliff.
“This is bad, boys,” he said.
The griffins began to stir in a kind of nervous dance. Their eagle heads rocked side to side, beaks snapped, feet unable stay planted in one spot. They made no move to attack as Bryn anticipated. That condition was temporary at best and there were still one hundred Valir to get down the cliff. Above them, the screedevil loosed a long insistent shriek. Oto left Bryn’s shoulder. He circled the alpha hooting and bobbing his head in what Bryn took as some kind of conversation. Oto broke off circling the alpha and returned to Bryn’s shoulder.
“He can’t hold them back much longer,” Oto said. “There are more devils on the way. The girffins must stay as long as that devil lives.”
Bryn leisurely walked over to Vulryn and turned his back on the griffins. He looked up at the big Valir and smiled.
“How are you at throwing a dagger?” Bryn asked.
“I can throw it further than anyone I know,’ his eyes glanced up at the devil. “If that’s what you are asking.”
“It is,” Bryn said. “Can you do it?”
Vulryn’s head moved slowly up and down.
“I will distract it,” Bryn told him. “Creator help us if you miss.”
Bryn pointed for Vulryn to join the others at the cliff. Then, he turned and did the same to Asaryn. Both warriors shook their heads as they backed away. Bryn moved his attention to the devil above. He shook his fist in the creature’s direction and shouted curses at it. The devil shrieked back at him, but came no closer. Now, if the griffins delayed just a little longer.
Sun glinted off the silver streak as it flew over Bryn’s head. There was a hollow thud from above followed by the whoosh of breath from the devils lungs and the dagger cut through its chest. The devil grabbed the blade and pulled it out. It seemed all was lost until a fountain of blood opened where the blade had been. The devil’s wings folded beginning a headlong spiral to the ground. It landed with a crunch of bone and a dying shriek. Bryn picked up the dagger covered in the devil’s blood and cut the beast’s head off with a single stroke.
Bryn held the severed head for the griffins to see and waved them away. To his great surprise, they obeyed. The alpha flew north followed one by one by the rest of the griffins. Bryn dropped the head in the dirt and ran over to the line starting down.
“For the Creator’s sake, hurry,” he said.
“You’re bleeding.” Faryn touched the blood on his chest.
“It’s not serious,” he told her.
“Sit down General,” she replied. “That’s an order.”
Vulryn assumed the duty of keeping the escape moving. Faryn sat Bryn on a nearby stone and began washing the blood from him. That finished, she tied a wide bandage made from a blanket around him and tried to usher him to the head of the line. There her success met its end. He would not go and leave his warriors while the devils were still a threat.
Saturday, August 5, 2017
On their right hand, the sun was sinking. On their left, the night and its relentless phantoms. Bryn knew exhaustion was the strongest shield against the restless spirits of the Wonod. He pried his tongue from the roof of his mouth to push them harder still.
“Let’s move it, hatchlings,” he chided. “You march like humans.”
The paced quickened, but Bryn knew they had reached their limit. One more mile and he would call a halt. One more, god awful, body breaking, mind numbing, mile. It had been his mantra for two days. This time he meant it. They had covered half that distance when Bryn threw up his hand. Over the sound of their panting for breath, Bryn heard a faint rumble.
“Do you hear that?” He asked when One Eye stepped up beside him.
His one good eye closed, head cocked to the south, One Eye strained to recognize the sound. When he opened that eye, the light had returned to it. He knew the sound and knew its meaning.
“Waterfall,” he said.
Bryn nodded and for the first time since he followed Eeryn down this rabbit hole, he smiled. Behind them others picked up the sound and spread the news to those farther back. They were almost home. The marched resumed without orders and without complaint. It was a bit farther than a mile, but no one was counting anymore.
It was not the Edge of the World that Bryn climbed what seemed a lifetime ago. Nevertheless, the precipice it front of them was a formidable barrier. They had to find a way down and there were still the Griffins to consider. Camped with their backs to a cliff was not an enviable defensive position. The thought of giving up the road home was worse. By the Creator, they were Valir. If the Wonod wanted them, it was time to take its best shot.
Bedrolls were spread. Small groups huddled around fires sharing animated stories of home that did more to revive spirits than food and water. None forgot where they were, weapons stayed tucked into waistbands. Bows remained in reach. One Eye insisted on looking for the way down. Knowing he would slip out and look anyway, Bryn agreed. Meanwhile, Bryn settled beside his own fire to share some dried fish with Faryn and wonder where One Eye found the strength to move.
The sound of racing water accompanied by the song of night birds played a soothing melody to which the thunder of the falls supplied a steady beat. A warm breeze swept in from the plain wrapped loving arms around the tired campers. Fires faded to embers as the moon climbed the sky. Bryn left Faryn to sleep while he walked quietly through the sleeping soldiers. He still found it difficult to believe how they trusted him enough to close their eyes at night. He certainly had a hard time doing so.
A few turns around the camp let him know not everyone was sleeping. They were Valir. Sentries were posted without orders. Like him, they fought off the urge to sleep to watch over their brethren. They snapped to attention as he passed. Some continued to call him general, others seemed confused since his confrontation with the Griffins. What he was and why he was here remained a mystery even to him.
He didn’t know why he chose to put on Eeryn’s cloak. It simply felt like the thing to do. It worried him that wearing the cloak felt so natural; so right. He talked to an owl. He even considered the bird a friend. Without a doubt, that was not normal. Although these were supernatural things, he was no seer.
He led troops in battle. People called him, General and followed his orders as if duty bound. Yet, he quit military training because his teachers and peers thought him unfit. His own grandfather believed he would never amount to anything. He was no General.
So, what was he? The question would have to wait. Raised voices from the other side of camp called him away. One Eye pushed his way by the sentries and stumbled toward him.
“What’s wrong with your leg?” Bryn asked. “You look like crap.”
“Thanks,” One Eye said. “Cramps. That doesn’t matter. I found it.”
“The way down?” Faryn stepped around Bryn. “You found the way down.”
“It’s a little tricky, but yeah, I found a way down,” One Eye turned to find half the camp crowded around him. “We should wait for daylight.”
“Okay, everybody back,” Bryn said. “Get some rest. We go at first light.”
The crowd broke up slowly. Soldiers reluctantly returned to their bedrolls. No one believed there would be much sleeping the rest of the night. One Eye proved them all wrong. He dropped down on his bed seconds before his snoring began. With the only one who knew the way sleeping, one by one others joined him.
The last night in the Wonod was without nightmares; that came in the morning.
I have about 80% of tomorrow’s Trails of Trouble chapter written, so I am hoping for no delays this week. Plan to be up early and get the rest knocked out before company arrives and male foolishness gets underway. The current burn ban has taken some of the fun out of everything, but we will carry on the best we can.
I know I said Trail of Troubles would be finished by now. Shows you what I know. The story just has to unfold on its own at times. This one refuses to die. Already have several early chapters to add in mind. That makes it difficult for the other stories I want to work on and new ideas for stories. I might forget why I went into a room now and then, but the really good stories never seem to get lost completely.
Fifteen minutes to two. Lock the door Lloyd, I’m going to bed.
Thursday, August 3, 2017
At first glance, it appeared everything had ground to a halt behind her eyes. Bryn knew the opposite was true. Faryn’s mind was racing. He reached out a finger and gently closed her beak before lightly kissing her forehead. It was his moment of tenderness before the storm broke. The tempest swirling inside her head was about to be set free. He could see it coming. The contours of her face sharpened, her jaws set, and lightning flashed in her eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Her arms crossed over her chest. “Don’t you trust me?”
“It’s complicated,” He said. He was still smiling, but the smile was fading fast.
“And I couldn’t understand because I’m a female? Is that it?”
“I didn’t say that,” he retreated.
“Well, certainly not to me, you didn’t.” Flames climbed in her eyes. “What other secrets are you keeping from me?”
“None. I mean, it wasn’t a secret exactly. How do you tell someone you love that you have started talking to the birds?”
“You just....uh, you love me?” Her stunned look was back. “You said you love me.”
“Oh my God. Of course, he loves you,” One Eye broke in. “But, right now...”
One Eye lifted a finger towards the rocks crowding in on the trail. Birdlike creatures rose from the stone above them. Faryn gasped as a line of the creatures spread themselves across the way ahead. They were only half bird. Tawny fur covered heavily muscled bodies that move with feline grace.
“Griffins,” One Eye whispered.
“Shorten the column,” Bryn said.
One Eye turned and motioned. Captains began forming the troops into a dense square that bristled with steel daggers. Bryn steered the phalanx under a rock overhang. They were still surrounded but now only their front was exposed. The Griffins fanned out in a menacing arc across the road but made no move to attack. Both sides settled down into a staring match waiting for the other to blink.
An east wind stirred the gray dust of the Wonod. A bank of black clouds was growing in the wake of the wind. Bryn whispered a prayer of thanks for the shelter of the rock. Let the Griffins sit in the rain. The building storm pushed the sun below the horizon. Darkness blotted out the stars. The griffins were still out there. Bryn could hear the occasional rustle of wings and the hushed pushing and shoving going on in their ranks. The wind moaned through channels cut by the ages in the towering rocks. The undulating wail worked its way into the mind drawing down eyelids and numbing the conscious. Was this what the Griffins were waiting for? Did they mean to kill the Valir in their sleep?
Bryn got up and began to pace across the face of the shelter. Even with the added physical activity, his mind kept floating away. He was forced to reel it in, again and again, to stave off sleep. Full wakefulness came like a shot when a strange voice spoke his name. He pivoted, dagger in hand, but no one was there. Or was there? A soft image of white gauze hovered just beyond the rock. Bryn to a step closer. At first, it appeared without form, a patch of fog or a mere ripple on the wind. Slowly, it congealed. A face, familiar in a long forgotten way, appeared. Bryn strained to remember.
“Byryn,” the apparition called his father’s name and memory flooded in. “That boy is a shame on the name Bou.”
“Grandfather,” Bryn answered in the voice his childhood.
A ghostly finger rose in Bryn’s direction.
“Shame,” his grandfather’s voice said. “You will all die in shame because of that boy.”
“No,” Bryn’s voice was back. “No, it’s not true.”
“Coward,” the spirit flung the word like an arrow. “The son of the great General is a coward; a failure.”
Bryn’s blade cut the air. A black hole opened in the taunting pillar of smoke. The shredded bowels of Bryn’s tormentor loosed a horde of screeching phantoms. The wind howled in celebration of the haunted souls riding its swirling currents through the rocks. Spirits capered among the sleepers; nightmares within the nightmare. The dancing wisps of white sucked the warmth from all they touched. Bryn shivered under the icy blanket of cold borne on the wind. Jolted awake by icy fingers prying into their dreams, the group of outcasts, shaken by nightmares and haunted by phantoms, huddled together.
The assault was more spiritual than physical. A knife twist in the soul, the ordeal left the band of Valir exhausted and irritable from lack of sleep and the adrenaline fueled emotional roller coaster ride they had been on. Raw nerves caused tempers to flare. The rising sun confirmed the worst. The griffins were still blocked their way. So be it. Bryn’s band was in a fighting mood.
He was certain they could not remain huddled in the shelter of the rocks. His soldiers would not stand another night like the last one. They were outnumbered, unfamiliar with the ground, and probably less mobile than their foes. There was an excellent probability that a fight would end badly. The weight of all those eyes on him was a giant thumb grinding him into the ground. If he delayed, he would be crushed. If only Eeryn was here.
“Give me the cloak,” Bryn said.
“What are you up to, Bryn Bou?” Faryn asked.
“Gambling with our lives,” he told her and threw the cloak around his shoulders. He gave her a quick kiss. “Wish me luck.”
Bryn walked from under the shelter of the rocks into the open. No need to look over his shoulder. The rocks above were crawling with Griffins he would rather not see.
“Keep your head up and keep moving,” he told himself.
Thirty yards into the open, Bryn stopped and waited. It was their move now. He was not disappointed. The beating of wings announced the arrival of his counterpart. At any rate, that was his hope. A large, muscular body, half eagle, and half lion touched down a few feet away from him. The Griffin paced while studying Bryn with its piercing yellow eyes. A familiar weight settled on Bryn’s right shoulder. The Griffin continued to pace in front Bryn with only a glance at Oto.
Satisfied he had Bryn’s measure, the pacing stopped. The Griffin launched into a series of high pitched sounds. For the first time, Bryn took his eyes off the Griffin.
“Anything?” He asked Oto.
“He wants to know if you are the seer.”
“Yes,” Bryn answered. “I request to pass through to the Boubouja.”
Oto offered up sounds Bryn never imagined an owl could make. The Griffin seemed to understand. At least, he nodded his head in time with Oto’s noises before answering in kind.
“He said that his master would never allow it,” Oto relayed the message. “He has no orders to stop you. They will not interfere without orders, but once the masters command them, they cannot refuse.”
“How do I speak with your masters?”
“When you meet the masters, you will die,” Oto translated.
The Griffin bowed his head and leaped into the air. His wings chopped the air and lifted him away. One by one the Griffins followed their leader. Bryn was relieved to see them head north away from his direction of travel. It was a reprieve, nothing more. He had to make it be enough.
“We’re getting out of here,” he told the rest when he reached the shelter. “We are going fast and hard. The Creator help us if they come back.”
Wednesday, August 2, 2017
A moment of silence please.
I’m sorry to report the sudden passing of my favorite Yeti coffee cup. It has been a good and faithful friend for the last year. Today, while leaving for work, I left Yeti on the bed of the truck. About half way to work I reached down for him and he wasn’t there. He will be greatly missed. Sadly, this tragedy comes on the heels of the demise of the coffee pot in our break room.
Speaking of tragedies, is anyone else feeling the bite of the price of medication? Drug prices in this country seem out of control. But despite skyrocketing, they are not out of control. They are over controlled and there’s plenty of blame for everyone. No doubt corporate greed plays a role. Patents give drug companies have a limited time to recoup their costs and believe me they take advantage of it. Even so, the generic drugs that follow in the wake of the patent’s expiration are far above the cost of manufacture. Store brands are no losing any money on drugs.
Drug companies test 5,000 compounds to find 5 that may be promising enough to qualify for an Investigational New Drug Application. According to the FDA, those that survive trials and approval, take 11 to 14 years to hit the market. In 1980 the typical drug underwent about 30 clinical trials. In mid 1990 that number doubled. All that time the companies are paying salaries, keeping the lights on, and laying out millions. So, when a new drug hits the market, they damn sure want to get their investment back while turning a profit. High prices? The FDA and big government are as much to blame as big pharma.
I work night shift so I see a good deal of daytime television. If you haven’t had the pleasure, brace yourself for the endless commercials by lawyers encouraging our nation of victims to sue the drug companies. It takes 14 years to get the damn thing on the market and six months for a lawyer to begin the law suits. I am astounded by the number of cases in which the drug is blamed for doing just what it says it will do. For example, the drugs that keep blood from clotting. Nearly every new drug in this area was sued for preventing clotting. No law suits I heard of because of heart attack or stroke due to clots though. Go figure. If you figure the way I do, drug companies are building the cost of law suit judgments into the price before the suits happen. That way everybody pays. Such measure may even be retaliation for suits and over regulation.
Now, let me turn the flying finger of blame onto a culprit closer to home---consumers. The greedy lawyers would get no where without greedy clients. We are a society of victims preyed upon by whosoever we can take for a buck. We let no opportunity to get paid for “suffering” get away from us.
We combine that propensity to sue with an unreasonable drive to have the latest and greatest. Drug companies offer physicians incentives to prescribe new drugs. Many doctors play on our desire for new and better. Hey, they may or may not be healers, but they definitely are businessmen. As such, they are only too willing to satisfy our demand for the newest thing out there.
What can be done? We could do what they do in all those countries with cheap meds and ease the hell up on regulations and trials. I think we can be safe with less than sixty clinical trials. Shackle the lawyers and their clients with limits on judgments and the window to file. Those things require a group effort and legislation. But, they are not impossible. The other thing that you and I can do as individuals is use the system. Drugs, like everything else are priced according to the law of supply and demand. Cut demand.
Every person should sit down with their doctor and the $4/month medication list. You can thank Wal-Mart for taking the lead there. Not every medication can be had for $4 a month, but take advantage everywhere you can. If your doctor is opposed to at least discussing this, get another doctor. Of course, with the internet the markets in Canada, Europe and India offer bargains. Just don’t try suing them.
Talk to your doctor about getting off some of the medication. There’s a lot of talk these days about the opioid crisis. I know of areas where 90% of the older clients are on both hydrocodone and lorazepam. Really? I’m 63 years old and I’m here to tell you that every pain or discomfort does not require medication. Not every misbehaving child needs to be medicated and coughs and runny nose do not necessarily need antibiotics.
On a larger scale, we as citizen should oppose the government handing out medications that most insurance companies do not pay for. Every veteran over 50 does not need Viagra at $50-$60 a pill. Active duty military, veterans and native Americans using government hospitals can buy their own Tylenol, Motrin and the plethora of over the counter medications they dispense on a daily basis.
It’s your money.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
I have a suggestion for the city council here in Shelton to consider. Our city could become a tax sanctuary and exempt ourselves from income tax and the other gross pay eating taxes like Medicare. Of course, we’re not giving up any of the benefits associated with those taxes.
How about an English sanctuary? The city could cut in half the money it spends on signs and forms. Fines could be levied on companies that require you to dial 1 for English.
I might be induced to move back to the South if they could establish a few Rebel sanctuaries; cities where sugar is required in tea and banned from cornbread. No Yankees allowed in these cities where footballs are oblong and only offensive linemen are looked down upon for illegal use of hands.
Where the really twisted live, there might be a pedophile sanctuary where pervs could hang out and watch kiddie porn without the cops beating down their door. The possibilities are endless. Every American should have a sanctuary to call his own; a place where the law just doesn’t apply to them anymore. Yep, it’s an idea whose time has come.