Just a snippet of ‘The Frozen Lotus’

Evadar sat in the largest chair his raiders could find, staring down at the villagers who had submitted to him. He was disappointed. His scouts had told him of skilled warriors who had dispatched three of his best. All he had found amongst the valley dwellers were soft, fearful beings who would give up any liberty just to stay alive. At first he meant to raid them, take what he wished and returned to the high places of the Clã, but now, after having bested their leader, he itched to use the combined might of his twin gloves. He gestured with one finger to his man at the end of the line of villagers.

The raider reached out, yanking a man up by his hair so that he was forced to look the Thane in the eyes.

“Where are your warriors?” Evadar asked.

“Please, I beg of you,” he began.

Evadar made a cutting motion with his finger, and the raider drew a blade across his dirty neck, letting the blood splatter out onto the dirt before him. When it slowed, he dropped the body and moved to the next person, yanking their head back.

“I do not know!” the man screamed. “I do not know anything!”

Evadar gestured again. Again a bloodless body dropped into the dirt and the grass.

The raider moved to the next, but the woman, before he could grab her hair, moved from his reach. She pushed herself to her feet, arms tied behind her back.

“We have no warriors.” She spat. “This is a broken, disused farming village. So deep in the Verde that the Mescate’s barely know it exists. Whatever you are looking for you will not find, no matter how many men you kill.”

She stood defiant before him, staring down at the first man who had been blooded.

Evadar appraised her. She was older, but still useful. Her body would bring enjoyment to the raiders, if he gave her over to them. She had a fire in her, and a need too, that he could see. She hated this place, and longed to be elsewhere. Her chin jutted out in anger and he knew that she would provide ample entertainment.

“A warrior bested three of my scouts in the woods south of here. They say he wielded two axes and caused them much shame.”

The woman laughed. It was a surprising reaction to his statement. Evadar thought that eventually he would find someone who knew this warrior, who could give him the leverage that he needed to draw him out and best himself, but laughter was never mixed with what he thought would be the reaction to such details.

“He?” She asked.

“Aye, He. Two axes, like the crescent moon, a just as deadly.” One of the raider called.

The woman turned her deep, forest-hued eyes to Evadar.

“Your man lies.” she stated.

The other raider was on her in an instant. Blade to her throat, point piercing the skin so that a teardrop of crimson rolled down to he hallows of her throat.

“No one speaks to the Thane as such.” He whispered against her ear.

“Then he should question his men, because they lie to him.”

The blade began to sink deeper in. Evadar watched as the woman bore the pain with the grace of someone who was not afraid to die. He lifted a hand for the man to hold back. He removed the blade and did as his Thane bade.

“Why would you accuse such?” He asked. “Among the Wind Clã, such would be grounds for combat. Should I offer you a blade so that he might seek reprisal against you?”

She shook her head, wiping her neck against her shoulder.

“No, but I know this warrior you ask of.” she replied.

Evadar stood up, nearly leaping from the chair to stand before her. He had been waiting for this moment. When he would find the clue he needed to tracking him down.

“Tell me everything you know.” He said towering over her.

She stared up at him, and now that he was closer, her body beckoned to him. He bit his lip, seeking to hold his own desires at bay until he knew more about the warrior.

“This… warrior, as you say, has trained outside of this village from a very early age. Each day, before the sun rose, conditioning body and mind to work in concert. Wicked, round blades on hafted handles, like the crescent moon slicing down to the earth to kill. Day-in and day-out, practicing to be the best here and everywhere within this world. Tell me… Thane,” She said, as she moved close, her body touching his as she looked up into his eyes. “What would you give for everything I know of this warrior?”

He smiled. Women had their wiles, when they could not stand beside a man. Many times those who could not match him in strength, ferocity and desire had sought to use his physical desires to gain an upper hand. Her ploy would work as well as there own had. He leaned down, his lips against her ear.

“Tell me what you know, and I shall free you to be more than you have ever wanted.” He whispered a skein of lies across her mind.

Her eyes blinked, and he could see the desire and greed cross them.

“The warrior you seek is no man.” She said. “She is my daughter, Olathe. When you find her, she will put her axes into your skull and stand over your dying corpse.”

Her head came up swifter than Evadar could imagine, connecting with his chin, and sending him reeling. His vision went black, and there was thunder in his skull. He howled, but could only hear the commotion of his men scrambling to act and the remaining villagers attempting to use the opportunity to escape.

“Bring me her head!” The Thane screamed at the sky.

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Why I don’t participate in Veteran’s Day

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April 10, 1995. I boarded a plane from Lansing, MI to San Diego, CA, and sat in the USO of the airport dreading the next three months. It was a decision that I had made, but the prospects of what awaited me didn’t mean I had to like it. A bus pulled up and Marine Corps Drill Instructor, complete with Smokey Bear and black leather belt strode into the USO and began demanding that we board the bus immediately. As if in comic relief Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey was screaming at the boots in Full Metal Jacket. Three months later I graduated as a US Marine.

I state this, on the 240th Birthday of the Marine Corps, to give you a sense of who I am, where I’ve come from. I spent the next 19 years, 2 months and 26 days in the military. On the eve of Veteran’s Day I can say without a doubt, and from what my DD214 says, that I am a veteran.

What I want to say has to do with something very small, very trivial to many folks. Veteran’s Day comes and goes each year. It’s filled with discounts and freebies for veterans and active duty servicemembers. And a lot of the time… that’s it. Sure people share some patriotic posts on Facebook and Twitter. They share old stories with comrades, and family & friends thank their veteran loved ones. There’s no problem with this. It simply is.

The reason I write this, is to point out something to those who have never served. I can’t claim anything heroic in my years of service. I, thankfully, had a very quiet enlistment, save for an F-18 crashing 20 feet from me on the JFK, and one crazy 36 hour period on the George Washington in 2008 when our ship caught fire. I was never in a fire-fight, I didn’t see combat, but I knew people who had. I lost friends, good friends to training accidents, suicide and combat.

Every Veteran’s Day I look at the lists of discounts and freebies that get emailed out by well-meaning people. I have people who know that I am a veteran stop me and thank me for my service.  Every year my mind goes to those we lost. The ones who won’t come back. In psychology it’s something called Survivor’s Guilt. Those of us who survived, who made it back, who ended our service and stepped back into the civilian world, look at the sacrifices that our friends, our comrades, our brothers and sisters made, and do not feel as if we deserve anything, when they sacrificed it all.

This is why I don’t participate in Veteran’s Day. I don’t say this to say that there is anything wrong with how our society goes about thanking veterans. I simply to say it to point out that some of walked out with a great deal of loss, and we feel guilty that we survived it. So when you see a veteran, thank them, but remember too their standing before you is because other’s gave or lost their lives, and those losses leave scars.