Sleep: The Great Non-Equalizer

So I had this serious post all lined up in my head last night thanks to a conversation I had with Rachael wherein I was getting quite frustrated with myself and my perceived lot in life.  Oh, I had all these great lines about the difference between giving in and giving up, about how what I was doing was one, but not the other.  Frustrated words creating a fantastic mesh of emotion.

Then I fell asleep.

It’s all gone this morning other than the great concept—that doesn’t seem so great now.  Sleep erased the magnificence and majesty leaving only a vague emotion and a general idea which doesn’t work so well in the light of day.  I know that I should have written everything down, but there was a problem with that.  Had I done that, I should have just written the blog post then and there.  My mind doesn’t usually work in bite-sized snippets that can be jotted down on a notepad next to my side of the bed.  And that was where I was, in bed with the light off and my head on the pillow.  So because I’m lazy and i was tired and—well, how many other excuses do you want from me?  It just didn’t work out.  A pity that.

Sleep really is the great equalizer isn’t it?  Actually, I lie.  It doesn’t equalize—for me at least.  It is one of those things that separates the wheat from the chaff, allowing the good ideas to stick with me while letting the bad ones slide through the cracks.  I’ve tried the write everything down method, and I tell you, late at night, my mind spits out a lot of crap.  Metric tons of the stuff.  If I let it, I’d have notebooks upon notebooks filled with the stuff that would never be of any use for me.  To make matters worse, I can’t write—physically—when I’m mostly asleep.  My handwriting looks like a doctor’s prescription mated with an antelope currently on the run from a lion.

There’s a mental image for you.

To top it all off, I lack what is needed to write it down—the willpower to get up in the middle of the night to write anything down.  Had I had that, then I wouldn’t be in the situation that I’m in.  Nor would you be forced to read my ramblings on sleep and how it messes with my ability to write blog posts.  Or novels.  Or blog battle stories. Or one of a million other things.  And you wouldn’t have to listen to me blather, either.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Regardless, I don’t think that it will change anything soon.  Not unless I really start to suffer from it.  I like the idea of it acting like a filter and protecting me for the horrible ideas.  Enough bad ones slip through already.  But never say never.  It could change, given enough catalyst.

That catalyst might be insomnia, but it’d work.


Another glimpse into WIP—The Immortal Lords

Different POV this time!  Enjoy!

Jhim Neola couldn’t stop staring as Reliable dropped anchor.  Before him, the city of Baroth sprawled.  All the rumors had been correct.  It truly was one of the great cities.  Buildings climbed into the sky, the wooden slats covered in paints blues and browns and reds.  Even a few yellow buildings stuck out of the masses.  People swarmed over the streets like so many ants in the distance.  Other ships, most of them skiffs or sloops, dotted the harbor—enough so that Jhim briefly thought that he might be able to pass from one to another all the way to the shore and never touch water.  They’d passed two war galleys on their way into port.  That had been the grandest sight until now.

Streets and the buildings that lined them climbed the small hills that dotted the island.  But right in the center of it all, in a place of prominence—as it deserved—rested the Collusium, looking down on the rest of the world.  Silbar really was the greatest of the Immortal Lords.  Granted, the Collusium served as a school for all eight of the Lords, but Silbar was the best, the most benign.  Otherwise, why invite all priests to train and study within the Collusium when the other nations rarely, if ever, admitted to the other Lords beyond their own.  It all was just so magnificent.  Jhim took an unconscious deep breath.

That had been a mistake.

The stink of sewage and fish guts mixed with the distinctive odor of stale seawater, leaving him gasping for breath.  A cry from the taller section of the back of the ship—the stoop?—caused the sailors to leap about.  One proceeded to shove Jhim away from the rope he’d been using to hold his balance.  Jhim hit the floor with a grunt and he looked back up at the sailor.  He felt sure the hurt was plain on his face, but no one took any notice.  The sailor unwound the rope from the peg it’d been attached to and started letting coils of it slide through his fingers before tying it off again.  A lopsided grin appeared on his face as he stared down through greasy black hair at Jhim.  Reaching down with a sun-darkened hand, he grabbed Jhim by the arm and pulled him to his feet.

“Sorry, lad,” he said, straightening Jhim’s shirt.  “Needed on that yesterday, if you follow my drift.”  Then he proceeded to spout some jargon about boats that Jhim couldn’t follow.

Jhim nodded at all the right points.  Or at least, what he thought was all the right points.  There was no way for him to know, but the sailor seemed to take it for agreement.  At least, he wasn’t being called out right then and there.  That was the last thing he wanted.

Taking advantage of a break in the speech as the sailor drew in a breath, Jhim jumped into the fleeting silence.  “Quite alright, sir.  I do apologize for being in your way.  Pardon my intrusion and blessings be upon your day.”

The sailor scratched his head as Jhim walked away.  Hadn’t the man ever heard proper speech before?  If he had talked that way, his mother would’ve knocked him upside one side of the head and down the other until he stopped.  Come to think of it, most of this ship could’ve used the same treatment.  Ma and Fa hadn’t been the richest of folk, barely making it by on the farm they scrabbled a living off of, but they’d understood propriety and proper etiquette.

And passion.  That was why Jhim had made it this far.  Without them and their love, he’d have never had the courage to speak to the priest of his local temple.  The idea of journeying to study at the Collusium hadn’t even crossed his mind.  He just wanted to spread the word of Silbar’s glory.  But when the priest had suggested it, how could he have said no?  Ma and Fa had understood that, sacrificing even more for their son’s dream.  He owed them everything.  The least he could do was remember what they had taught him.

Taking a set of stairs down to the floor below, Jhim entered the space that had served as his living quarters on the five-day trip.  It was nothing more than a hammock strung between two posts.  Light filtered down through the floorboards above, illuminating dust and. . . other things he’d rather not dwell on.  The smell was something else he didn’t want to think on.  There was only so much space on the ship, and not near enough air circulation.  The stink of sweat, tar, and unwashed men permeated everything, including the hammock he had been assigned.  Whenever possible, he’d snuck up to sleep in the fresh air, staring at the stars as they floated by.  Or were the stars floating by as he stood still?  No one had every answered that question as far as Jhim knew.  Another thing for him to ask his teachers.  But all things were possible with the grace of the Immortal Lords.  Without them, it made no difference.

Grabbing the bag that held all of his worldly possessions, Jhim took the stairs two at a time as he reappeared into the noonday sun.  A rowboat had pushed away from the docks and was now making its way over.  Two sets of men worked the oars while another stood in the back, looking ahead with tight lips below a tricorne hat.  His yellow jacket showed plenty of lace at the sleeves and embroidery along the chest, but as it grew closer, he could see it was well worn.  It looked dim, the colors not as bright as they had once been nor the whites as bright.  Still, it had been a wealthy man who’d afforded that to begin with.  Jhim’s own purse held no more than a few coppers and one precious silver half-penny.  That was everything him and his parents had been able to muster.  But he’d find more and send it back to them.

The boat bumped alongside and a pair of sailors sent a rope ladder over the side.  A moment later, the official in the yellow coat popped his head up and climbed skillfully, if not nimbly, over the side.  Captain Syten Melic met him and the two started discussing something in whispers.  Curiousity overcame Jhim’s fears of the hard-eyed captain and he took a step toward the two men before a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

Jhim looked behind him and saw the face of a young man, skin sun darkened like the rest of the crew but with a shock of platinum blond hair.  He was only a few years older than Jhim’s eighteen summers, but lines already showed on a clean shaven face.  That was to be expected, Jhim assumed.  He’d seen what the man had done way up on the tops of those poles.  If he’d been spending most of his time two hundred feet above the floor, lines would surely cover his face from worry as well.

The sailor dropped his hand and gestured toward the captain and the official.  “I understand wanting to be ashore again, but best that you leave those two alone, lest you hear more than is healthy.”

Jhim turned back to the two men and saw a small purse exchange hands before heads and backs straightened.  How could hearing something be unhealthy?  That made no sense.  Ma and Fa had always said to listen as much as you could and learn from what you heard.  His priest had said the same.  What the sailor said flew in the face of that.  Clearly, the sailor was confused.  Moments later another two coins—Jhim saw the glint of silver and gold—openly changed hands and the official opened a ledger he’d carried up, jotting down a note or two before turning and heading back over the side.

“Boy,” the captain called.  His head went back and forth before his eyes landed on Jhim.  “You want to go ashore, there’s your ride.  Get going.  They’re not as patient as I.  Wait too long and they’re libel to ship off without you.”  He chuckled, causing his belly to job up and down in his too-tight green coat.

Looking back over his shoulder, Jhim could see that the sailor who’d stopped him had disappeared.  That saddened him a little.  He’d have at least liked to say goodbye to someone.  The captain would have to do.  Throwing his bag over his shoulder, he walked up to the man and stuck out a hand.

“Goodbye, sir,” he said.  “Thank you for the enjoyable trip.”  It’d rained most of the way here and today was the first day that wasn’t actively cloudy.

The captain gawfawed and grasped Jhim’s hand in a meaty paw.  “Enjoyable, huh?  I’ll have to show you what an enjoyable trip actually is sometime.”  He released his iron grip and pointed to the side.  “Better get going.  What I said holds true, politeness or not.”

Jhim nodded and stepped up to the latter and looked over.  The boat seemed so far away and the latter rather rickety.  One of the men who’d worked the oars kept ahold of the ladder, preventing the boat from drifting away.  Two of the others looked out onto the harbor, contenct that they’d be paid regardless of if they were moving or sitting still.  The last picked at a lump on his nose.  Whatever it was, it was red and probably needed to be lanced.  As for the official, he had a pained expression on his face, and when seeing Jhim, peremptorily gestured for him to hurry up.

Sighing, Jhim climbed over the side and started down the ladder.  It was slow going, trying to keep from falling while balancing with the sack over his shoulder.  He’d made it only a few feet when a voice shouted up in a high pitched tenor for him to drop the sack.  Curiousity made him look down to see who was talking.  That was a bad idea and Jhim almost lost his balance before looking back up.  But he’d learned who spoke, so it all hadn’t been a loss.

“I said just drop the damn sack,” said the official.  “Edmon will catch it.  Or just let go and we’ll fish you out of the water.”

Jhim braced himself better and looked down again.  Edmon had been the one picking at his nose and he now looked up with a pained expression, gesturing for Jhim to drop the bag.  Trusting all of his possessions to a complete stranger wasn’t an easy thought.  His parents had taught him not to trust strangers.  But then again, everyone was a stranger until you  got to know them.  The strap of the bag slid down his arm to his hand, and with the best aim he could muster, Jhim dropped it toward the boat.

Edmon caught the bag without batting an eye, stowing it under the seat.  Then he looked back up and raised both hands, gesturing again.  That confused Jhim.  There wasn’t anything else for him to drop.  Everything he owned was in. . . . No.  There was no way that he was going to jump.  No way in the Seven Kingdoms.  True, he wasn’t a big man, but he was no boy.  The idea of jumping into someone else’s arms was more than a little insulting.

He started back down again.  The official was right.  It was faster without the bag.  A sense of confidence started to build and Jhim built up speed descending.  Then his foot caught on a rung and he lost his balance.  Hands slipped, then his free foot, followed by the foot which had caused it all to start.  Next thing he knew, he was in free fall.  Vaguely, he registered the official’s voice crying for them to push off.  Then there was nothing but the harbor.  His lungs caught nothing but water.  They spasmed and he reflexively tried to breath it.  Which only made the matter worse.

Two hands grabbed his shirt while two more grasped his ankles.  They hauled and Jhim coughed and gasped for breath in the bottom of the boat.  Water dripped from his hair into his eyes.  It took a moment or two for enough sense to return in order for him to stop thrashing about like some fool.  A snort or two helped clear his nose and a wet hand wiped drops of water from his eyes.  Nothing pleasant, but enough to clear away the water so he could see.  Looking up, he saw the four men bent to work on their oars.  The official held a lace handkerchief to his nose as if trying to disguise a smell by the perfume Jhim could smell despite the odor of fish on his clothing.

The boat bumped up against the dock and the official jumped out and started off down the docks before anyone else had time to react.  As the other three men put away the oars and tied the boat to a peg set in the posts of the dock, Edmon stood up and helped Jhim out of the boat with a rueful smile and a knowing wink.

“Happens to all of us,” Edmon said as he handed Jhim his bag.  “The trick is to stay dry next time.”

Jhim smiled thankfully and walked off after the official.  He really had no idea how to get to the Collusium, but he could see its towers in the distance above the buildings that lined the docks.  If nothing else, he could just keep climbing roads that led up.  It wasn’t the greatest of plans, but it was better than nothing.

Sailors and dock men busied themselves with a myrid of tasks as Jhim walked by.  Not many of them made sense to his untrained eye.  A man hauled a barrel here.  Another a box there.  More than once he saw a crate put down by one man only to be picked up and moved by a second and then a third.  It was confusing.  But it had to make sense to someone, if for no other reason that no one said an unkind word or threw a fist.

Perhaps an unkind word was incorrect.  More than once, Jhim heard one man insult another, or another’s parentage, or one of a million things.  Several times, he paused looking at a group of men, puzzling out what one or another had said.  When it clicked, he could feel his face turn a deep shade of red.  Such things were just not said—or even suggested.  To do so was incredibly inappropriate.  What parents would let their children speak so?

That wasn’t the only thing that shocked him.  The closer he got to land, the more that the colors of the buildings faded or flaked.  Most looked run down and in need of a new coat of paint which would restore some of their faded beauty.  Alas, no one seemed inclined to do so.  Signs hung over doors, depicting names and businesses in both words and pictures, several quite lewd.  More than one shop door hung open with rank smells of rotting meat or sweaty men rolling out into the street.  Inside, Jhim could see men hunkered around tables, stout clay mugs grasped in grubby hands among dimly lit tables.  Grime covered windows would do a better job letting in light had the barmaids been more interested in cleaning than—

Jhim’s face turned red when he realized why some of the women had skirts sewn up to revel petticoats or a well-turned ankle and bodices cut low.  And they seemed to relish in the attention it drew.  Both inside and outside of shops, Jhim saw hands slap away pinches and groping fingers with nary a thought.  It was like they expected it, and in doing so, was able to prevent it.  Such behavior would never have been tolerated at home.  He felt sure about that.  Sure, the barmaid at Ledwin’s Luck back home knew how to step lively, but she’d never had to fend off such an onslaught as this.  She’d have been overwhelmed in the first minute.  But then again, she’d never have had to.  Ledwin’s Luck didn’t open until a proper hour, well after the workday ended for most men.

All this took place while people danced around and ignored the rubbish lining the streets.  Crates and boxes, barrels and casks, filled any open area larger than three men abreast.  Fish filled some, rotting waste others.  It made the stomach churn to even look at it.  No one noticed the smell or the papers which filled the street, blown by the wind or caught wet in puddles on the stone street.  Seabirds filled the air, their rawkous cries unnoticed by any but him.  Occasionally, one or two would attempt to filtch some food from a stall or a cask.  Usually they were ushered off by angry proprietors, but enough succeeded to keep the hopes up for the rest.

Jhim just tried moving forward as fast as he could, keeping his head down.  Once or twice, he could have sworn he saw the brown robes of a priest inside a tavern with squirming woman on his lap.  But that would’ve been impossible.  Such activities were forbidden.  But he did stop one time, peering inside the darkened common room of a tavern just off the docks.  Indeed there had been a priest with a young woman half his age sitting on his lap with her tickling him under his chin.  Standing in the doorway, he gaped at the sight until another woman saw him and came sauntering over.  What she suggested had him red in the face, embarrassed that it even sounded entertaining.  He could still hear her and the other girls laughter as he fled down the street.

Time to share those random thoughts we all have!

Today, I’m going to do something a bit different for my blog post—especially after that fine post from Susan Hughes last week.  Perhaps this will work, but maybe not.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that it should be a bit different.  I’m going to attempt a bit of stream of consciousness writing.  It works for some comedians and actors, but I’ve never tried it for my writing before now.  But since I have nothing—and I do mean absolutely nothing—to talk about this week and I wanted to do more than post another excerpt from my current WIP, I figured I’d give this a shot.  But for those who want, there will be more from The Immortal Lords later this week.

But The Immortal Lords have some bad news tied to it as well.  I’ve temporarily shelved it.  It was frustrating me because the story seemed to be taking forever to write.  The worst thing about it was that I knew it wasn’t, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  Yet, I still love the story and the characters and the world.  Been working on this epic for over a decade now—well over a decade—and I’m not about to abandon it.  You will see more of Valar and the rest soon enough.  Until then, enjoy the excerpts.  To be honest, by the time you catch up on them to where I am now, I might be back at it.  Just a short, short break.

So that begs the question, what am I writing now?  I’m back to the familiar.  There is something about Stephanie Hawthorne and Daniel Atwell that I just love writing.  I don’t know what exactly, but I think it has something to do with the snark, the conversations, and the egos.  The Hawthorne mysteries are just fun for me.  But nor are they hard and heavy writing—at least for me.  I can lose myself in the words and, based on my estimates, have a new novel probably done by the end of September, October at the latest.  Then back to The Immortal Lords.

Of course, perhaps part of the reason I’m currently interested in working with Stephanie and Daniel is perhaps because The Red Dress is finally nearing publication.  I almost have a cover and am currently researching what needs to be done for actual publication.  But before that, there is the part that everyone looks forward to:


Soon, I plan on releasing bits and pieces from The Red Dress so you all can see what the pair get themselves into.  So tell your parents, tell your friends, but most of all tell your dogs.  Dogs LOVE Stephanie, and she them.  Oh, and you can tell yourself too.  That’s allowed.  Look for the excerpts soon!

And my mind feels like it’s run dry on this topic.  I mean, I have other things I could talk about, but now isn’t the time nor place.  They may become blog posts in their own right, but meh…. I’m good for now.

What’s going on in all of your lives right now?  Good.  Bad.  I’d love to hear.  We all have things going on that fills our minds or that we want to share.  So spill it.  I want to hear it all.  As a certain TV psychologist once said, “I’m listening.”

Steven Brust: Equality and Justice and Why the Difference Matters

Steven Brust is one of my absolute favorite writers.  He is also incredibly well educated and intelligent in his discussions.  I read this recently on his blog and felt that it needed to be shared.  Doubly so in this age of social causes flowing through Facebook and Twitter like twin rivers.

Do you think he’s right?  I’d love to hear your opinions on his post.

The Immortal Lords: Valar part 3

Here is part three of Valar’s opening chapter.  As I’ve said before, this is all in an early draft, but it should be entertaining for those interested.

It may be obvious based on the post title, but this is part three.  I’d recommend starting with the earlier posts.  You can find part one here and part two here.

Pushing her away, but holding her at arm’s length, he studied her face.  “Did you do as I said?  Did you close the doors?”

She nodded.  “And locked them.”

He nodded and turned toward the alter.  The sanctuary was mostly empty now.  Either they had seen the foolishness of hiding in a church or they’d fled when the bell had fallen.  Both were fine with him.  They were safer out there, in the masses, than in here whether they realized it or not.  Odds were against this building remaining standing when everything was all said and done.

Only the priest had remained.  He stood now, in the center of the alter, glaring harsh words at them.  Valar felt sure that had he not been a priest, and not such a self-controlled one at that, those words would have come fast and furious.  That was the way with clergy.  Probably that also meant he’d have to haul the priest out bodily or let the old man die there.

That was one decision he wouldn’t argue.  The priest could come if he wanted, but Valar wasn’t about to force the man to do anything.

“Catacombs,” Valar shouted at the priest as he made his way toward the alter through lines of benches petitioners would have sat during services.  “Do you have any catacombs?”  His voice carried and reverberated through the vaulted space.  On any other day, it would be a joy to.  But not today.

The priest leaned forward, bracing himself on the alter to stare as the two of them approached.  “Are you the one who destroyed my church?”

“It was for a good cause, Elder, trust me.”  The words came breathy as Valar stopped before the old man.

“There is no cause worth enough to destroy a temple to the Immortal Lords.”

“I beg pardon, sir, but this time there is.”

“You mean those crowds out there?”  The priest swept a hand toward the direction of the door.  “They panic over nothing.  Calm reflection could show you that?  But instead, you come into my temple and cut down the bell.  From here, I can see it’s ruined.  It will be years before we can get the funds for an adequate replacement from the Anthaquim.”

“I’m sorry.  I really am.”  He really wasn’t.  This man was blind.  Worse than most as far as Valar was concerned.  “I will make my dues to you and Her Lordship Lura just as soon as I can.  But now we need to leave.  You too, Elder.”

The priest snorted in disgust.  “Hogswallop.  We need not go anywhere.  You’ve barred the doors.  I saw her do it.”  A boney finger jutted towards Senar.  “We’re perfectly safe.  Now what’s your name?  I want a record of it for when this mess is done.”

“Taneid Valar, Elder.  Now can we go?  Catacombs.  Is there any catacombs under this place.”

“No.”  Valar wasn’t sure if the old man meant that there wasn’t any catacombs or that they couldn’t leave.  Somehow, it seemed to stand for both.  “How many times do I have to say that we’re perfectly safe here?”  He started pacing around the dais.

“We aren’t.  Have you seen people like this before, sir?  They—”

“That rabble is nothing to concern yourself with.  Right now, they are little more than animals, giving into their baser instincts.  But soon enough, reason will restore itself and you will pay for what you’ve done to my temple.”

On any other day, perhaps, that might have held more weight.  To destroy temples risked retribution, if not from the courts, then from the masses.  But for what he’d done, Valar felt sure that the courts would send him to the gallows.  If any courts were to be left after today.

He turned and gestured to Senar to follow him back the way they had come.  The old priest squaked and rushed ahead of them.  There was surprising speed in those old bones.  “You cannot go.  I will have you stay here until this mess,” he gestured toward the bell behind him with his head, “is settled.”

“We aren’t safe here.”  Valar spoke as slowly and clearly as he could.

The priest shook his head and took two steps backward.  “Nonsense.  Go sit.  Think on your sins.”

Valar sighed and a window broke.  It all happened faster than he could see, but old instincts took over.  Glass showered down as he turned and grabbed Senar, covering her with his body as they fell to the floor.  He could hear the rain of debris onto the stone floor.  It seemed to go on for a lifetime and, at the same time, only a second or two.  Senar breathed heavily into his shoulder between frightened sobs.

Once the pitter-patter had died down enough that Valar felt safe for the moment, he lifted his head and looked at his daughter.  Tears streaked her face through eyes clenched shut, but other than the fear that painted her face, she seemed to be alright.  A blessing that, considering the stone floor they now lay on.

The priest hadn’t been so lucky.  His body lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, looking untouched.  Untouched save for his missing head.  That was splattered about the sanctuary.  The cannonball which had done the damage lay in a hole in the stone floor, still smoldering.  Broken and scattered benches were pushed away from the impact by the force of the blow.

Father and Daughter came unsteadily to their feet.  There went that idea.  Sure, he could spend time searching for the answer he sought, but to do so would again waste time he didn’t feel he had.  As the ringing in his ears died away, he could hear cannon shot landing about the city.  That he could deal with.  It was said that it was the one you never heard which ended your life.  A small voice in the back of his head asked if that was true, then how did you know?

Cries from beyond the temple doors grew louder and Valar turned to look at them as the pounding registered.  The plank that Senar had used to lock the doors would hold for a little bit, but it not forever.  Already, he could see more and more force applied to the doors.  That plank wouldn’t hold long.  Senar gripped his arm and Valar glanced at her.  Her eyes were glued on the doors.

He growled deep in his throat.  Had only the silly girl done what he’d said, he’d only have one neck to think about.  No, he admitted to himself, that wasn’t true.  I’d still be worrying over her, I just wouldn’t know how bad it actually would be for her.

Valar’s eyes scanned over the damned priest.  At least now he wouldn’t have to worry about that one man stretching his neck over that bell.  Nor over what he had to do next.

Freeing himself from his daughter’s grip, he reached down and picked up a chunk from one of the benches.  It was too long and unwieldy to do much of anything, but several swings against the stone wall of the temple fixed that problem.  When he was done, he gripped a stick of wood about the length and size of his arm.  A bit of wood he’d been unable to dislodge still clung to the end.  It didn’t really matter.

The pounding on the door had stopped.  Senar took several steps toward the doors, moving most of the rest of the way toward the entryway.  “Father,” she said over her shoulder, “I think they’ve—”

She cut off as an even louder pounding then before started on the doors.  This was different, however.  Not only was it more forceful, but the attacks were rhythmic rather than the individual attempts made by several hands.  No, this was much more organized.

Valar stepped up to the nearest window—a stained glass thing about waist high and depicting Lura’s rising from the sea—and swung his makeshift club two handed.  Glass and lead lining cracked but didn’t give way.  He swung again and again, each time cracking the panes or lining a little more.  A pane even fell out, creating a hole no bigger than his fist, but nothing near large enough to allow escape appeared.  Frustrated, he dropped the stick.  This was useless.

Then a chunk of bench flew by his head.  Wind rushed by his ear at its passing.  It crashed through the window, glass and lead providing little in the way of resistance.  Turning, he saw Senar grinning from ear to ear.

“You always left the hay for Manura and me while you went and milked the cows.  Guess all that work paid off.”

“I guess so,” he said, feeling a smile creep onto his own face.  “Glad that I did.”  A sudden crack from the doorway brought him back to the reality at hand.  He shot a glance at the door and could see a crack in the locking board that hadn’t been there before.  Each subsquient hit cracked the board anew.  It was only a matter of time now before it completely gave way.  Grasping the stick of wood anew, he started knocking loose some of the glass that still stuck to the window frame.  Once that was done, he gestured to Senar and they carried a bench over to the window.

Senar went first, using the bench as a stool to help her over the window ledge.  She dropped down without a word.  Valar went next.  His coat caught on an edge of glass as he climbed up and over, tearing a new hole in the shoulder.  Just as well that.  This coat was long past ruined long ago.  Sleeping in it for a week or two would do that.

He let out a grunt as he hit the ground.  As he stood up, he saw that the alley that ran alongside the temple dropped at a step rate.  The window ledge he had fallen from now sat at eye level.  That would teach him to leap without looking.  Senar gave him a lopsided grin as she attempted to brush mud off her skirts.  Those were also just as clearly ruined as his own jacket.  Mud also streaked down her face in single line from beside her nose.

Reaching out, he did his best to brush it away, but only succeeded in knocking off the large chunks.  A thin line still ran down her face.  She would need a bath to get rid of it.

She reached up and pulled away his hand.  “You don’t look much better.  A little mud won’t make much of a difference.”  A sudden crack, sounding almost as loud as thunder to Valar’s ears, sounded from within the temple.  “But I think a bullet or two might.  Shall we get going?”

Valar nodded.  Should the enemy army reach them, then he doubted that his daughter wouldn’t get the simple pleasure of a quick death from a bullet.  Not for some time at least.  She was a beautiful girl when she didn’t have mud covering her.  No, not a bullet for her.  That thought speed up his feet like nothing else could.