Monday, February 27, 2017

How an ancient Egyptian letter could have changed the world

First, I'll admit that I have often found Egyptian history kind of boring.  The same with Greek.  The truth was that I simply hadn't found the right teacher.  I'm watching a 48 part course on Egypt from The Great Courses with Bob Brier as the instructor, and it is fascinating.  The classes are about a half an hour each, and I am half way through them, which means I've already watched 12 hours worth of material.  I'm not even through it, and I already want to watch it again.  Instead, I'm going to watch is 32 (or maybe it is 24) part class on reading hieroglyphs.

Last night I had a raging headache, and it kept me awake.  So as I curled up under the blankets, I thought about Tutankhamun's young widow and how she came very close to completely changing history as we know it -- at least in the way my imagination worked.

First, it's important to know how someone became King of Egypt -- Pharaoh -- if you wanted the strongest hold on the throne.  You might have been named the heir, but it was important that you marry the woman with the most royal blood and she became your Great Wife.  This is why there were so many marriages to sisters and half-sisters.  It was not always the case -- Akhenaten, Tutankhamun's father, was married to Nefertiti, a beautiful commoner, though of high rank.  Tutankhamen might not have been her son, but was the child of a second wife.  He does not show up in any of the material about his father and Nefertiti, though all the daughters and the son who died young are mentioned.  The most famous Pharaoh of all time, though, is never referred to in the historical records before he was Pharaoh -- and long after his death, a successor (Horenheb) erased his name from practically everything.  Not just his name, though -- his heretic father's history and the history of the man who followed Tutankhamun also disappeared.

Anyway, Akhenaten and Nefertiti's daughter Ankhesenamun married Tutankhamun.  The two had no children who came to term.  When her husband died, Ankhesenamun was the only person with truly royal blood still alive.  That meant she was the key to the throne for someone.  Whoever married her was going to become the next Pharaoh.

She wrote a letter to the king of the Hittites.  This was a very powerful nation in the area of modern Turkey and a long time enemy of Egypt. She asked that he send one of his numerous sons to marry her and she would make him Pharaoh.  She said she would not marry a servant and that she was afraid.

Suppiluliuma I, the king of the Hittites, didn't believe the letter, so he sent someone to investigate.  Word finally reached him that it was true.  He sent off a son and his retinue to Egypt, but they were met at the border, and the son was killed.

The former Vizier of Egypt, a man, named Aye, becomes Pharaoh.  He is shown as such even in Tutankhamun's hastily created tomb.  Tutankhamun died at about the age of 18, and they had only seventy days to prepare the burial place, which is the official time that the preparation of the mummy takes place.  Shortly after she wrote the letter, Ankhesenamun disappears from history.  Aye's own tomb lists a different wife.  No tomb to Ankhesenamun has ever been found, but it is evident that Aye had married the most royal woman to become Pharaoh ... that she was forced to marry the servant.

(If her name sounds somewhat familiar, you've probably seen the Brendan Fraiser Mummy movies.)

So what would have happened if the Hittite king had sent his son right away? What if Ankhesenamun had succeeded in her plan?

Maybe everything would have changed. 

Let's pretend....

Through the marriage, the Hittites made a permanent link with Egypt and the fabled Egyptian wealth. With it, there were able to fight back the peoples of Mesopotamia (Assyrians, Kassites, Hurrians -- I can't remember what nations were actually powerful at this point) and conquered all that part of the ancient world.  They gain more from Egypt than just her wealth, though.  Nearly every conqueror of Egypt became seduced by the culture.  A Hittite became Pharaoh, and he and his successors helped to spread the glory and the gods of Egypt from the Nile valley all the way up to Troy and down to Babylon.

Now, this Egyptian-Hittite empire might have pressed west as well, but I'm going to pretend that they had their hands full with everything eastward and along the southern Mediterranean shore.  The Greeks might not have had their Troy, or they might have had some battle against this new empire.  The Greeks might have developed in much the same way as they did in our reality, but there would not have been a Persian Empire that had tried to invade.  Maybe the Egypt-Hittite empire would have done so, but let's say that this melding of the empire was already a thousand years old when the Persians would have invaded and maybe had its hands full with rebel provinces and trouble to the east and south. Though our real Egypt had some tumultuous times, they still held on remarkably well all the way down to the Romans.  Even the Greeks played at the Egypt game.


Maybe there would still be an Alexander if the Greek lands had been left to their little wars between the multiple kingdoms.  Phillip might have united them. Alexander might have taken his father's throne.

But the Persians had not attacked Greece.  Alexander didn't have the mandate to invade and burn Persepolis in revenge for their attack on Delphi.  If the Egyptian-Hittite power still reigned strong and kept its attention eastward, someone as wise as Alexander would not want to draw that giant's attention.

However, Alexander would have done something.

What if he looked West instead?  Those upstart Romans might have become a bit of a problem.  If he moved against that area of the world, he would have saved his cousin from that disastrous Pyhrric Victory later.  So instead of paving the way for the Romans into the east, he subjugates them and keeps heading west.  What if he reached the end of the world in Ireland in the company of Druids?

This is an entirely different world.  In this one, Caesar is part of the Greek World and Romans might well be slaves.  Or maybe he is part of the army recruited from the Roman peninsula.  I don't believe a person is created just by his genes so the circumstances would have had to work just right for Caesar to be anything like what he was in the real world, whether he was successful or not.  The same with Alexander and anyone else.

What if the Egyptians take over everything and Alexander is, in essence, Egyptian?  Phillip (his father) had made the Macedonian capital a haven of Greek Culture -- but even so, the Greeks of places like Athens never considered them to be more than northern barbarians.  What if Phillip brought in Egyptian culture instead?  How odd would that be to see the Gods of the sunny south standing in the winter lands of Macedonia?

I'm not even seriously considering anything like shifts made by Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.  I am not looking at the lands of India and beyond and what they might have done when faced by these giants to their west.  I am only looking at historical people and pretending that they would be much the same regarding drive if not position.

In this pretend world, the Egyptian-Hittites hold the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean shore (and inland from there).  The Greeks hold the northern shore and the western islands.  Or the Egyptians take all and rule from their river-fed lands. Egyptians never liked to travel far, partly because you had to be buried in the land of the pharaohs in order to partake in their resurrection and eternity.  Perhaps they could expand the idea of being buried on the west bank to include anything west of the Nile, but the Northern, European edges of the Mediterranean would have been far harder to include in that world (and death) view.

Egypt as an empire lasted for thousands of years.  Yes, they fell sometimes, but they always rose again in the same mold.  They had an unyielding sense of self -- so strong, that even the Greeks after Alexander fell under their spell.  Alexander succumbed to the glory of Egypt to some degree as well, though in a different way. Did the Oracle at Siwa set Alexander on his way to the east by proclaiming he would be supreme ruler of all those lands?  That might be a handy way to get rid of a troublesome Greek, wouldn't you think?  At least until it turned out to be true.

Oh, but that's more real-world stuff.  I am infatuated with my 'Let's Pretend' world where the Egyptians have the south, the Greeks have the north -- the Romans are troublesome slaves (but maybe great at designing and building things), and the Druids were the beloved of Alexander.

I want to write in this pretend world.  I want to see the Romans rebel against their Greek masters.  I want to see pyramids on the Straits of Gibraltar, and the 35th Tutankhamun proclaimed Pharaoh amidst rumors of another band from the Chinese hinterlands heading into the eastern edges of the empire.  Are the Mongols coming?  How far into Europe will they get?  If the Romans revolt, will Egypt help the Greeks get it settled?  They would be wise to unless some fool of a Pharaoh thinks it's time to take over all the known world.

There could be a lot of stories in this world, but it would also take considerable work to get the foundations built.  I am going to play with it, but I honestly don't do well with historical fiction despite the amount of history I read.  This is the kind of project that would take years just to set up, though.  And what if I added a sprinkling of magic to take it into the world of true fantasy stories.  Egypt certainly had its tales of magic, after all.

So if everything changed with a letter, where would it lead?

I think this one is going to stay with me for some time.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Flash Fiction # 239 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 23: Town


I didn't think we were going to get past the people with the torches.  They'd spread out, and others came racing along the road and leapt out of their cars.  Edmond and I both crawled for a long ways, sometimes huddling close together.  You do not see us ... you do not see us.  I couldn't be certain if the magic worked or if we just got lucky.  They moved on.

A ditch, half-filled with mud, provided the best cover.  People walked everywhere around us for a while, but the madness seemed to die down almost as quickly as it had started.

"Damn fool thing to do," one of the men grumbled as he and a companion went by far too close.  "Could have set fire to half the county."

"We never jumped at ghosts and goblins before," another replied.  "We need to stop running around in circles."

"The war is in the east, whatever is real about it.  Let them keep it there."

"Yeah," the other man agreed.  "And I'm gonna tell that to the next government man who comes and riles things up."

And they walked on.  I was glad to have heard some human reasonableness, but that didn't mean I felt safe.  We stayed in the mud, though until all the sounds were gone and the night had settled in around us.  Edmond slept for a while again.  I think I did for a little while, too -- and awoke again, afraid that I'd not been on guard, that something could have found us.

There weren't many cars on the road the other side of the ditch.  I would have liked to walk that easier path, but I clawed my way up and into the field again instead.  Edmond moved cautiously with me.  We got lucky, and I found a path through the wheat that was easy enough to follow.

Less an hour later I heard a train whistle and found the location of the tracks.  Across the road, of course, and now a few miles away.  We were near a stand of trees, though.

"Let's sit down and eat," I suggested.  I hadn't talked much and neither had Edmond.  "I have tuna sandwiches."

I saw his tail come straight up, the sign of a happy cat.  At least I'd done something right today.  I still wasn't sure how they'd spotted me, though.  I said so to Edmond, too.

"Humans are always ready to panic," Edmond said.  We sat down behind the trees. The moon was going down, and I wished we could rest here for a long time, but it wasn't going to happen.  "They are not the most stable species in the world.  Or any world, as far as I can tell."

"Probably true," I agreed.  I handed sat down half a sandwich for him, and he started eating it, bread and all.  He purred, too.  That put me in a better mood like I had done something right.

"We are still too far from where we need to be," I said, staring out at the land as the sun started to come up.  "We're going to have to catch another train, but it's going to be dangerous crossing the road --"

And right then I saw that we didn't have to.  Another train was going by, heading west and I realized the tracks must have curved because it was now almost straight ahead of us.  I took that as a good sign.  I needed one.

Another good sign was the line of clouds and the drizzle that started not long after we started out again.  Neither of us liked being wet, but even Edmond admitted that the rain would help keep people from seeing us.

"I wish humans weren't so stubborn in what they believe," Edmond admitted.  He nestled in my jacket and with just a touch of magic, he wasn't so difficult to carry this way.  "They want to believe that magic is evil without ever looking at what might be happening -- like there are two sides fighting and they might want to join with one of them."

"True," I agreed.  We'd been moving along the tracks for most of the long, wet day.  The only train heading in our direction had been going far too fast for me to dare magic to grab hold.  I hoped we wouldn't have to go too far before we found some place where they slowed.

Our journey was taking too long, though.  I worried about our friends, and though I didn't say anything aloud, I knew that Edmond worried, too.  I had never felt so useless before.  I had never felt so cut off from everything I understood.

I wished I could call my mom.  That probably came from being back in this reality.  I pushed the thought away.

Sometime in the afternoon, we skirted around a house and out into a field.  A scarecrow stood over a stand of corn, his arms flapping in the damp wind.

"I don't like scarecrows," Edmond admitted.  "And if this one starts talking --"

"I wouldn't keep going the way you are if I were you," a voice said.

Edmond leapt out of my jacket and attacked the scarecrow, tearing it apart.  I stepped back and watched, glancing at the woman who stepped away from the tree nearby and watched.

"Just let him get it out of his system," I suggested.

She nodded, graying hair damp, glasses pushed down on her nose.  She wore a big, heavy leather jacket and watched Edmond with what looked like a nod of appreciation at what a good job he was doing.  The head was gone, the arms were following.

"I only meant to tell you that they're waiting for you at the next train stop," she said  "You might not want to go that way.  I'll give you a ride."

"Why?" I asked.  Even Edmond had stopped and taken notice.

"Why? Because someone has to be smart."

To Be Continued....

1000 Words

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Book Goes On

The book I thought might make it to 70k is over 90k now and still going strong.  I have reached the dragons.  They've been a fun addition.

But I think things have been too easy for my MC.  I'll have to change that up in the edit/rewrite.  It's more important right now to get the basics down and know where the story will go at each step and where it will end.  I love the saying that all first drafts are perfect because their only goal is to exist.

At some point in the last few days I topped 100k in my writing for the year so far.  The word count has been a bit lower than I like for each day lately, but that was because I am feeling my way through a change point in the story.  The dragons are more than fun to write -- they are a key that my MC needs to lead him to the next revelations and show him what he needs to do if he hopes to defeat the enemy.

So here is a little snippet from the start of the latest chapter:

I was on a dragon and flying off over the snow-covered mountains.

On a dragon.


Of all the nightmares about dragons that I had hoarded since my childhood, this was not one that had ever come up.

I write far better first drafts now than I did ten years ago. I am pleased when I read something I wrote a few years ago and it stands up far better than I had expected.  Right now I'm reading a much older book, but I have rewritten it once from the original and it's better than I had hoped.  It's even been fun.

Fun. There is the word that a lot of writers, especially new ones, think they need to avoid.  Writing has to be work.  If it isn't work, then it can't be worth anything, right?  And if it's fun, then it obviously isn't work.

I see people trying to reconcile themselves with the idea that they enjoy writing when so many others are out there growling at every word they write.

Some people are just that way.  It doesn't mean you have to be, too.  It's all right to enjoy writing.  I know that's hard to believe.  I know that some of you have been taught that you need to suffer and share your angst to show you are a true artist, but it's just not true.

Writing, for many people, can be fun.  It's not homework.  The story doesn't have to be perfect on the first try.  We are lucky because we have the wonderful tool called a first draft.

Oh, and don't tell me that you edit your story as you go because you can't stand to read it after you are done.  If you hate it that much, why bother?  And if you hate it that much, why should anyone else want to read it?

Write what you love.  Enjoy the process.

Have fun.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Flash Fiction # 238 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 22: Food


I stared at the newspaper and then dropped it and looked around in haste.  Edmond walked over and stared for a moment, his tail twitching in a way that a human might shake his head.  "Well, this isn't good. They even know about me.  That's going to make things difficult."

"Very difficult," I agreed.  I hadn't realized Edmond could read, but it didn't surprise me, either.  I looked around.  "We need to catch the first train out of here because I wasn't really very careful."

Edmond gave a startled look around.  "You might be right.  Let's be wise, though, Mark.  We can try for something heading east.  No one seems to have noticed us."

I looked around, worried.  People moved here and there, but they all appeared to have duties.  We slipped back into the nearest shadows. 

It turned out that a train with an engine pointing east didn't mean that was where it would go.  The first one we caught hold of went less than a mile, stopped and backed up.  One train had engines front and back, and I thought it was probably headed back over the mountains.

"Yeah, came through in the middle of the night," someone said and far too close to them.  I tried to not even breathe.  "Not on any schedule.  I didn't much like the look of the officials, though."

"Drugs, you think?" another asked.  They passed by within a yard.

"Or worse.  I suspect that boy they're looking for is part of it."

And on they went.

"Yes, let's get out of here," Edmond said softly.

I moved away from our hiding place.  We had to do this wisely.  Could magic help?  I didn't know, and I didn't dare use anything showy.  We choose another train, barely avoiding being noticed.  I pulled Edmond into my jacket, leapt on the coupler, and then used magic to get to the top of the railway car.  I laid flat, Edmond nestled under my arm and used enough magic to pin us there and to keep us from being noticed.  I would not let anything happen to Edmond, and I realized that meant my Protector powers had kicked in again.  That might save us both.

We moved away from the train yard, out into the mountains again, but then down towards the lowlands.

It was not a comfortable ride, but Edmond managed to rest.  The train slowed, stopped when the path to a new track changed, and went on.  By morning we'd left the mountains, and I happened to see the border as we crossed into Kansas.  By then I felt weak and shaky.  Staying on the train would be dangerous.

We slipped off into a field overrun with weeds and burrs, stayed still until the train had gone, and then I carried Edmond to the ruins of an old barn.

"I'm too tired to do anything but sleep, Edmond," I said.  "Sorry."

"Sleep," he said.  "I'll keep watch.  I slept on the train."

I wasn't sure about Edmond as a guard, but I didn't say so.  I found a spot in a corner behind some fallen wood, brushed out the debris, and laid down --

Slept through the day  Nothing found us.  As far as I could tell, nothing had tracked us at all, though now that we didn't have the mountains between Darman and us, I knew that I would have to be careful of my magic.

We went back to the train tracks and caught another train heading east.  That night we slept in an old fishing hut by a lake.  We were getting closer to home, but our supplies were running short.

"I am going to have to go into town and see if I can buy us some stuff," I said.  We had walked far enough to see a small town ahead, and we hid in some bushes a few yards off the main road.  Cars and trucks rushed by.  "You need to stay --"

"No," he said.  "It's almost dark.  I can fly in and keep an eye on you."

"Edmond --"

"Let's go.  Maybe they have some tuna," Edmond said and sounded hopeful.

I wasn't certain if I ordered him to stay if he would.  Besides, I thought it might be a good idea to have someone keep watch while I went into the store.  There was a convenience store right at the edge of town so I wouldn't have to go far.  I had a little money.

And I had magic.  Don't recognize me.  I wasn't sure it would help.  I just had to hope it worked.

The tree at the edge of the lot suddenly shook.  Birds flew off in startled profusion and what was probably a lot of bird cussing.  Edmond really had to learn how to land.

I had no trouble buying some supplies -- trail mix, chips, a couple sandwiches, including one tuna.  I also picked up a newspaper.  The teen behind the register never even really looked at me.

I had a bit more trouble after leaving the shop.  I couldn't just run and head into the weeds.  The road was busy, and cars pulled in and out of the lot.  A big rig truck finally gave me some cover.   I thought about taking refuge on top of it, but there were just too many people around.

Edmond landed and rolled at my feet at the edge of the weeds.  We stopped there, and I unfolded the newspaper.  I was still big news, but tales about magic creatures along the East Coast took more of the space.  This was not good.

"Let's find some place to sit and rest," I said.  "This isn't good, though, Edmond. They know about the magic now."

"Yeah," he said.

We headed farther into the fields and farmlands.  The train tracks weren't far away.  We could catch another ride there --

I heard a shout and saw a line of people with torches heading into the field after us.

To Be Continued....
996 Word Count

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Photography Day

We left the house at 4:30 am.  I had not slept.  I did have my 1k of writing done for the day.  I also had all my photography stuff ready to go.  Three cameras -- one for Russ, two for me -- my Nook with the newly installed Audubon Bird Guide (and it makes 4 cameras once I considered it).  Tea in a travel mug (must remember to get that back from the car).  Fed cats and dog.  Made sure heaters are off except in the bathroom.  Made sure bathroom door couldn't be closed all the way.

Get in the car with Russ -- who had maybe three hours sleep -- and off we went, heading south.

Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge has just changed names to Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge (though the signs aren't replaced yet).  It's over the border in Missouri, which means we start in Nebraska, cross into Iowa and follow I29 south.  Omaha is about the halfway point.  It's a bit over a three hour trip on a good day, and having started too early we didn't see much in traffic until about 8 AM.

I talked a bit about my science fiction universe and a couple things I still wanted to do.  Russ made some suggestions for the stories I told him about.  It was great fun.

The day grew gradually lighter with a beautiful stretch of orange and pink cloud across the sky.  We were about half an hour from our destination when we started seeing more geese flying north than I believe I've ever seen at one time.  We realized we'd missed them by about half an hour at the refuge -- or somewhere close to it, at least.  They came in wave after wave -- really gorgeous, but hard to get pictures even if you aren't the one driving.   We also saw hawks now that it was light out.  Lots of hawks.

Loess Bluffs did not disappoint us, though.  There were hawks here, too.  Also a lovely belted kingfisher, bald eagles (including immatures), ducks of many types, muskrats, and magnificent swans.

And the snow geese.

Russ napped while I spent over an hour taking snow geese pictures.  There were several thousand geese, and when they'd suddenly lift into the air and start circling -- you can't imagine what that is like.  It looks like chaos as they leap out of the water, and yet they don't hit each other -- no one plummets back into the water.  They either lift off in large groups or if you're really lucky all of them will lift up at once.  Some circle to the right and others in the opposite, so that there are layers moving in different directions.  If they are not ready to return to their migration journey yet, they'll settle back down.  Sometimes they'll move from one side the pond to the other.  I got lucky because the vast mass of them moved from one spot and settled within a few yards of where I sat in the car.

I wish I could have caught it well on video.  Though both of my cameras do video, I've never had a lot of luck with it.  My interest is almost always in photography -- but this was something I did hope to capture.  I  ended up sticking my Samsung Nook Tablet out the window of the car and doing a quick video with it and the result looks better than I had hoped since it was hard to see the screen.

Eventually, we headed back home, making a short trip through DeSoto Wildlife Refuge, just north of Omaha, but we didn't see more than a single eagle and a handful of Canada Geese.

Then home.

And then the next step starts.  I began downloading pictures with Adobe Lightroom so I can tag and sort them.  The main camera had 781 pictures.  The other had 104 more.  885 pictures to sort through, which isn't so bad except that I'll need to find one to choose as the Picture of the Day on my photography blog. (I decided on 4.  It was too good of a day for just one).

Sorting through all the rest, I think, is going to take a while.

Sleep?  I napped for about an hour and a half spread out over two different stretches on the way home. 

This was fun.  Long ride, wildlife, a whole day with Russ -- and something like 800 pictures taken in 4 hours at the refuge.  Okay, I've already (a couple hours after downloading them) cut the number down to about  900 plus photos down to 690 by deleting the obviously bad ones and the duplicates.  I set my camera on a burst mode for shooting when it comes to wildlife, so I often have two or more pictures that are virtually identical.  Still weeding a lot of them out, too.  This is fun!

Tomorrow things will be back to normal for me.  I'll be moving ahead on Journey of a Thousand Truths, which has crossed the 80k mark.  I thought the entire novel would be about 70k, but I still have a lot of the story left to tell.  I am at the death of a character who has been with them since the start.  I am not having trouble with the actual idea of killing the character off, but writing the scene properly slowed me down.  I'll get it today.

The talk with Russ about the science fiction stuff has started a new Devlin novel running through my brain.  I need to get the edits on Devlin 4 & 5 done. The new one will be #10, and I had a faint basic idea of it but Russ suggested some details that make it far more interesting to write.

So there were are. The only problem I'm having today is that my hands hurt from all the camera work.  I'm clearly out of practice.

Had a beautiful day, though -- and now it's back to writing!

And playing with a lot of fun photos.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Flash Fiction # 237 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 21: The Long Trail

(As we near the end of the Elsewhere stories, 
I thought I might share some pictures of the real Edmond)


"Well, that didn't go as well as it could have," Edmond said.

I was carrying him as I rushed back through the collapsing glacier.  The beautiful magical city was already gone and all the Icelings had made it to safety.  Alsia was gone, reluctantly, with them.

Lord Snow had dragged her through to Elsewhere, and now he was gone as well.  Only the two of us left and we were heading right back out into the cold, snowy world.  The collapse of the ice cave behind us kept me moving on toward the brighter light ahead.  Light at the end of the tunnel?  Probably a train, I thought.

But I kept going straight out into the falling snow of a cold, windy day.

"Ugh," Edmond said and tried to burrow his way into my jacket.  His wings fluttered and the feather's tickled my face.

I got him settled as I started up a trail away from the glacier.  I looked back when I heard a loud crack and watched as a huge part of the ice cracked, fell downward, and slid forward by several yards.  We had barely gotten out in time.

"At least the others made it home," I said.

"We did good work, Mark," Edmond said, lifting his head out of the jacket.  Not the most comfortable way to hold him, but it kept the cat warm and he helped me stay warm, too.  "I'm sorry Storm is gone, too.  But he took Alsia, and that's going to help us.  We'll see Lord Snow when we get back to the Gate."

"What if he can't beat Alsia?" I asked, worried about something I had not named yet.

"That was the Ice Dragon's lands, you know," Edmond said.  "The moment Lord Storm arrived with an enemy, the dragon was going to be moving in on her, especially since she did harm to his icelings.  If she is wise at all, she won't stay around to try and fight it out, but escape as fast as she can."

"Oh. Good."  Those words did make me feel better.  We had done good work.  And thought I didn't like the snow and ice, I wasn't particularly cold.  "I think more of my magic is kicking in, Edmond.  I don't think we'll freeze, at least."

"You are rather comfortable," he admitted.

I shifted him slightly again and wondered if a little magic might not make it easier to carry him --

It did.  He suddenly felt like nothing more than a warm spot pressed against my chest and I had to check to make certain he was really still there.  That fear gone, I concentrated on walking, heading back toward the train tracks.  I hoped I was going in the right direction --

And yes, there was a train moving down the tracks and heading in the opposite direction from where I wanted to go.  I suspected we might have gone over the high pass sometime in the storm and other climbing, though there would still be more mountains to climb.  The train gave me hope again, though.  The train and tracks were a sign of civilization and a hope that we might find a ride on one heading in the right direction.

We would survive.  I would hate to disappoint Lord Snow who'd had enough faith in my ability to leave me behind.  I didn't want him to learn he'd been wrong.

Or maybe it was Edmond the big cat really trusted.

Edmond was napping.

By sunset, when I finally reached the train tracks and began to follow them towards the east, I had begun to consider a far more difficult problem.  We had no food.  I was going to grow weaker, both in body and in magic, if I didn't find something to eat soon.  I had to hope that my friends would be looking for me. They had to know something had happened by now.

Just as it got dark, I saw an odd bit of a glow, just off to the right of the tracks and up against a tree.  Worry made me cautious.

"Magic," Edmond said as he finally woke up.  He even worked his way out of the jacket and dropped into the snow, which reached up to his chin in this wind-blown spot.  "Ack.  Magic, and it feels like Maggie's work."

That made me  bold, especially when I saw a backpack.  I opened the top and found it filled with food and a blanket imbued with such warmth it was almost too hot to touch.  There was also a compass -- one I recognized.  Maggie had given it to me once before so I could find the gate to Elsewhere.  The glow of magic died now that I'd found it.  Maggie had done her best.

"Let's eat," Edmond said and pawed at one of the sandwiches.

We had a nice meal.  Another train passed heading in the wrong direction, though I was tempted to take it and catch another train in the lowlands.  Instead, I kept going.  Walking wasn't so difficult, and we slept finally with the magic blanket wrapped around us.  We could not walk directly on the tracks now, though.  There just wasn't enough room to maneuver out of the way there, so we climbed a bit higher.  There had to be roads, too -- but those would be more dangerous.  Drivers wouldn't be as willing to pick me up, and a winged-cat would be a problem.

Another day -- but towards sunset, I saw the glow of a town ahead.  I gave a sigh of relief at the sight of a small train yard.  We wouldn't have trouble finding a ride heading in the proper direction, at least.

Snow still fell and the wind blew papers through the air.  Half a page of a newspaper caught at my leg and I grabbed at it, shocked to see my face on the front page.

Extremely Dangerous.

Travels with a black cat.

Well, damn.

To Be Continued....

999 Words

Monday, February 06, 2017

New Novel Snippet

Journey of a Thousand Truths is over 70k.  Since I had thought it might only go to 70k, I'm pretty pleased in that respect.  The fact that I might only be halfway through the novel bothers me a bit, but at least it's still moving and quite nicely.  So I will share the opening with you:


Legend walked through the door of The Lost Way Inn.

Oh, not the boy himself, but rather the blood that ran through his veins. Zaron was the grandson of two contending barbarian conquerors who had finally ended their wars when neither the Tiger of the East nor the Wolf of the West and sealed their peace when the son of the East married the daughter of the West. Despite a marriage as tumultuous as the battles their fathers had fought, the pair had three daughters and one son.

What brought that illustrious son to my humble inn worried me so much that I almost stared too long. A quick glance around the crowded room showed that no one else had recognized the hooded figure. I had only had a brief glimpse of his face, but I had known him well until five years ago. Besides, he looked remarkably like his father, whom I had served for ten years before.

That the boy was here was reason to worry.

"More beer, Mai!" One of the regulars reached out and caught my arm. "More beer!"

I signaled one of the others to bring it while I threaded my way past a dozen tables. Zaron had not stopped at the door; he had walked in as though he knew the place, scanned the room once, and headed for a little table at a back wall. I had been wending my way there as well, laughing with customers, pretending that there was nothing wrong.

I didn't want Zaron in my Inn. I no longer served the royal house, not since his father had been taken up for treason and killed. His mother hadn't trusted anyone who had served her husband. I was lucky that I'd made provisions the moment I saw the way the dice were rolling, and after a few months in hiding, I had presented myself as one of the many widowed women who had taken up a business. Few knew the truth about my past and Zaron was not one of them. He should not have been able to find me here.


I reached his table ahead of any of my people. He looked up at me with such relief that I felt a shiver. No boyish lark sent Zaron here to find an old friend.

He didn't waste my time.

"My mother and sisters are dealing with demons," he said softly. Far too cultured of a voice for this place. He knew how to keep his voice soft, though, having grown up at court. "They intend to kill me, my grandfathers, and take the rule."

I blinked several times. Someone came closer, but I had made certain I stood at an angle where no one else would see him clearly. Oh yes, the old ways of court, came back too easily.

"We have beer of three levels," I said, sensing someone in hearing range again. "May I suggest the golden?"

"Yes, thank you," he said. Still too cultured, but I didn't think anyone would take note of someone being more polite than most of the others.

I didn't dare stand over him for much longer. "Outhouse after the next bell. If anyone goes out before you, wait for the following bell."

He bowed his head.

I passed back through the tables and gave his order to Jana, who was the least observant of all my girls. Then I went back to the kitchen and chopped vegetables for the next day's food, though I suspected I would not be here to cook it. I purposely went to a place where I could not see the boy because I would stare, despite knowing better.

"Ah," Danisin said as he came in the door with a bag of rice over his shoulder. He dropped it onto the table and eyed me. "Old Han make another play for you did he? I'll just stay clear of that knife."

"Ha." I chopped some more and then turned to him. "I may have to go for a while."

He nodded and asked no questions. This wasn't the first time, though the reasons before this had never been this dire. I suddenly remembered what the boy had said -- demons. I chopped some more and he went about the business of preparing for the late night business. The bell rang as the nearest temple counted the hour. I saw movement toward the door -- the boy in his cloak still. I went out after him.

Zaron had taken a spot by the wall in the most shadow he could find. I gave him a nod, checked the outhouse to make sure it was empty and put the lock down on the door so no one could come out. Then I crossed to Zaron with my anger starting to bloom into a righteous rage.

The rage died when he looked up at me again.

This was not the boy I had left behind five years ago. He was nearly twenty and looked far too much like his father at that age. More than the age and resemblance stopped my ill-timed rage, though. His face was damp with perspiration, his mouth set in a tight line against obvious pain, and his right hand held tight against his left side. I pulled the cloak back and could see the bulge of cloth and a dark circle that had to be blood.

"What in the name of the Forgotten Gods --"

"Endris sent me," he said and drew the hand away from the wound, standing up straighter, and doing his best not to show any pain.

"Ah, Endris," I said. "He wouldn't have sent you unless --"

"He's dead," Zaron said. He gave a bow of his head. "I'm sorry. He suspected something was happening and managed to get me away from the others. Hasana killed him."

"I assume you mean your sister and not the Goddess of Mercy."

"She thinks she's the Goddess incarnate. They all think so -- Mercy, Abundance, Hope. Mother convinced them --" His breath caught and I put a hand on his shoulder when I feared his legs were going to give way. He looked startled. No one touched the prince without permission. I almost bowed my head and apologized. "No matter," he said. I wasn't certain if he meant me touching him or the story about his sisters. "Endris sent me because he said you should know. He said to tell you it is a truth unwritten."

I had not expected those words despite the situation. My breath caught. He nodded and seemed to understand the important of the words he'd said. Then he did something I had not expected. He stood up straighter -- he'd grown as tall as me in the last five years -- and gave me a nod that was clearly meant to be a sign of farewell.

He had not come here for my help. He'd come to deliver a message and nothing more.

I could let him walk away. I won't say wisdom made me catch hold of his arm before he turned. Maybe I only wanted a chance at redemption and to do for Zaron what I had failed to do for his father.

"We have someone else we must see," I said.

"You know what I've said," Zaron replied. He sounded weary and his hand went to his side again, no longer trying to hide his weakness. "You do not need me. I'll go now while I still can. They won't find me near the inn."

Those were the words of wisdom. I didn't listen to them.


I hope you enjoyed it.  And now I'm back to working on the story!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Flash Fiction # 236 -- Saving Everywhere. Part 20: Open Doors

The magic of the gate responded to me, a little movement here, a different touch there.  If I'd had time --

I didn't.  I focused, which was difficult with the sounds of trouble growing behind me.  I stopped and looked back.  Edmond was urging Icelings closer and several hundred of them were already there, though most of them watched the trouble coming down through the long street.  Alsia was alone, but she was powerful.  A few icelings and Lord Snow worked at keeping her back, but they lost ground one step at a time.

"Mark!" Edmond darted to me.  "We are running out of time."

I brought up both my hands, and focused as best I could on the magic in the gate.  I dared not get distracted again --

The gate spoke to me.  Not in words, but a whisper of something that awakened the power within me.  For a moment I was the gate and understood that someone else had closed it, long ago -- not a safe place to go to this Earth.

They must escape back to Elsewhere!

The gate began to open.  I heard the cry of surprise and pleasure from the Icelings, and that gave me the strength to push harder and force it open --

It was just as cold on the other side as here, but that didn't matter to the Icelings.  They were already rushing through, going past me with touches on my arms and shoulders, a moment of thanks. They were heading for home.  I knew that was part of Elsewhere on the other side and wondered if the great dragon, the Lord of Winter, was nearby.  I wasn't certain I wanted to see him, but --

I heard a huge crack of sound followed by the thunderous sound of stone and ice collapsing.  I spun around and raised my hand, magic dispersing the debris that had almost crashed down on us all.  That had come easily because I had seen others in danger and knew I had to protect them.

The use of that much magic, and the power I'd expended to open the door, left me cold and trembling.  Edmond brushing against my legs almost sent me tumbling, and my eyes were not focusing well. 

"Hey!" Edmond said.  "Come on, Mark!  We need to get through --"

"Not yet.  Lord Snow -- Alsia."

Edmond didn't argue, though I thought I could hear him hissing, mumbling, and growling
"You can go, Edmond," I said and meant those words.  "I'll try to follow as quickly as possible, but I can't leave yet --"

"I know, I know," Edmond said.  He darted up a pile of debris and then spread his wings and sailed ahead of me.

"Be careful!" I shouted. The little cat had no sense of his own vulnerability.

I rushed forward, darting around the fallen buildings.  I was sorry to see them destroyed, but then I realized the icelings were heading out the door still, and this place couldn't stay here afterwards, for some human to find as the glacier retreated.

I glanced back. There were still at least a thousand more icelings to go through the door.  I hadn't realized there were so many.  I could only catch a glimpse of the world on the other side, all white and snowy.  The icelings seems to disappear into that world as soon as they crossed.

I could feel the link to the gate in me, tenuous and if I lost it --

We had a battle still, with a woman who would have been wiser to back away now that I had opened the door and let the icelings get away.  Ah, but they were never her real prey, were they?  It was me she wanted.

Lord Snow had been doing his best to battle her.  I could see blood on his shoulder, his rear left leg dragged, and some of his fur had been singed.  None of this seemed to have slowed him at all, and Alsia had a few wounds of her own.

When she saw me, her voice rose an a howl of anger and she swept Lord Snow aside -- I didn't see where he went, and I didn't have time to go and help him.  I raised my hand and tried to call up magic --


"Edmond, get back to the gate!"

Alsia smiled brightly.  I had to agree with the Icelings on this one.  The woman was insane.  I didn't know how to deal with her if I could not call up magic again.  My mind was swirling, trying to call back that magic I'd gained, but nothing came --

Edmond swept around over my head and headed back for her.

She lifted her hand --


The force of my power sent her flying to hit hard against one of the few standing walls.  It collapsed, but did not stop her.  In a moment rock and ice flew everywhere.  Edmond had turned back to me again.  I grabbed him out of the air and we retreated back toward the door.  Something moved to the right and I caught a glimpse of Lord Snow keeping pace with us.  Just get back to the door --

She raced towards us.  We were not going to get through, though at least the Icelings had made it to safety.  I saw a few on the other side, yelling I thought for us to hurry.

I was barely three yards from the gate when she lifted her hands and I knew --

We hadn't counted on Lord Snow.  He leapt from a pile of debris, drove her to the ground and grabbed her by the leg, dragging her past us so fast that I couldn't have stopped him.

I took a step forward, but I had lost my link and the gate was already closing.

"Good luck!" Lord Snow shouted.  "I'll see you at the other gate!"


The city around us began to crumble.  I grabbed Edmond and ran for safety back out into the world.

To Be Continued
997 Words