Month: August 2018

Breath Stopped

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It had come down to this moment as I knew it would. And here I was, unable to do it. I had assured the captain I was capable of this mission. This would be my chance to rise above the common man in our band. I would become one of the heads, inferior in status only to the captain himself.

About time too, after seven bloody years of service and measly portions of the riches. I remembered stroking the finger that would bear my new gold ring as proof of my position as I spoke with the captain, telling him that I would not fail him, not in this imperitive moment. So he sent me off, alone, to complete the dreadful task.

I had killed before, certainly. Seven years in a band of thieves doesn’t come without a price of human blood. But it had always been a price I was willing to pay. The men I fought with and removed from this life were always giving just as much effort to my death as I was to theirs. And I couldn’t let that happen. So I killed and I ran. Later, I pushed the memories of their faces from my head with the help of a deck of cards and a jug of ale.

My assignment was simple: eliminate the captain of the King’s Guard without a fuss. We knew he would be home on leave this weekend, sent to spend a few days with his wife and children and take some time off from the stress of being constantly personally responsible for the king’s physical well-being. He was given a holiday such as this one in a regular cycle – every three months came with its promise of three days of leave – and my own captain had reason to want him dead. As did we all. The man had been nothing but trouble for our well established band since his appointment to his current position.

So it was my job to get rid of him while he was at his ease, taking a few days break from his professional vigil. That’s why I had crept into his house in the dead of night, opening the door without a creak and stepping softly through each room of the grand home that the man shared with his family. Though the city was a busy one, no one raised the hue and cry at this time of night. All were asleep besides the gutter rats and the watchman. No gutter rats lived in this sector and the watchman had turned the corner just before I stepped into the street.

I’d never thought of myself as an honest man or a good one. No need to lie to myself like that, as some of my comrades did. It would be hard to continue to tell myself that I was doing it for the greater good or some other such nonsense as I unclasped a bracelet from a sobbing lady’s wrist, so I didn’t bother. It was enough that I did it for my own good.That was probably why the captain was finally considering promoting me to be one of the heads, his leaders who never hesitated to be sure that his will was carried out by those beneath them.

The captain of the King’s Guard had become a rather wealthy man through his own seven years of service to a different master. His home was full of beautiful things which I kept from touching as I went. It was not the time for collecting trinkets.

It wasn’t hard to find the bedroom he shared with his wife and come up next to his sleeping form. My shadow blocked the moonlight through the window from illuminating his wife’s face and she shifted slightly. In the morning, the kingdom would be one beautiful widow richer.

I slid a short dagger from a sheath at my belt and held it a breath away from the clean-shaven throat I was prepared to cut. Breathe in, breathe out, and slice. That was the best way. I took my breath in.

“Dadda?”

I snapped around and raised the knife at the intruder.

A girl of about seven stared back at me, mouth wide open. She had been rubbing her eyes, but now they were frozen on me. The girl had blonde hair in waves to her shoulders and shivered in the thin nightgown that was her only garment. Her barefeet must have been ice on the floor.

I stepped closer to the girl, refusing to wake her father and my target. “Go back to bed,” I hissed. “Unless you want me to hurt you too.” I held my blade before her eyes, bending close to her.

“Are you going to hurt my dadda?” Tears began to well in her eyes, but she spoke softly, not rousing her parents. She brought her hands to her mouth, covering it, and let the tears fall.

I recoiled at the girl’s reaction. I had expected her either to flee or scream, but she stood fast, shaking from cold and fear. I shook my head and moved back to her father’s side. If I killed her father before she could wake him, I would have only her mother to deal with when she did cry out. I could handle a terrified woman.

I put the knife back to his throat, taking my breath once more. But my hand did not complete the sliding motion that would complete the man’s life. I tried again. I couldn’t do it.

“Please, sir, don’t hurt him.” The girl had lowered her hands a moment to make her soft plea before replacing them and resuming her position as a trembling statue.

I turned back to my target, frozen with indecision. I must do this if I wanted to be a head. But I made the mistake of glancing back to the girl. One of her tears fell to the floor. I shook my head and looked back to her father. Do it. Just finish it.

I bit my tongue and pulled the knife away. As I slid it into the sheath, I knew I sealed my fate. I paused next to the girl on my way out the door. “Not a word of this to anyone,” I breathed.

She stood shaking, giving me no reply, and I disappeared back into the dark.

Kira

Redirection (Not a Real Post)

I don’t have a *real* post for you this week. I’ve been sick and running all over the place between work and babysitting. I’m also preparing for the SAT this Saturday and getting a Bible study ready for Monday with the time I do have at home. Plus school starts in a few days. And for some reason, I feel the need to list for you every single reason (excuse…) that I have for this cop-out post, so there you have it. My week in a nutshell.

Through all of this, I’m tired and I do not want to keep going. I’ve felt this way before and I pray that it will pass soon, but for now it’s still here. I wanted to redirect you to an article that I just read a few minutes ago which I found both encouraging and convicting through my disenchantment with life. Please take a few minutes to read it and respond to the lovely writer who God used to say such true things.

Dear Tired Rebelutionary, Don’t Give Up

Kira

An Experiment in (not) Complaining

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Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a conversation which you absolutely hated, only to discover that it was due to the other party’s constant whining about their circumstances?

Have you ever been in a decent mood and dragged yourself downward by dwelling on all the things going wrong – or at least not going right?

Have you ever heard those dreaded words from the back of a car: “Are we there yet?”

Then you, my friend, have had experience with complaining.

I realized recently just how much I complain about my life and circumstances. I slip easily into a negative mindset and just as easily let those thoughts slip out of my mouth. It effects not only my mood and actions, but those of others as well, and, as a child of God, that is not something I should be allowing to happen.

This realization hit me about a month ago, and, as soon as it did, I began to notice every time I complained to myself or someone else. I often didn’t make it through an hour without some negative thought passing through my head or out of my lips. There were a few key times in which I especially noticed this unpleasant tendancy of mine, including when I got home from work, when I felt tired and unmotivated, and when other people’s actions interfered with what I wanted.

I decided that I would spend the next month doing my best not to complain and seeing how it effected me. This time included three weeks of counseling at camps, a few very long days (and one night) at work, and the gloriously high temperatures of late summer in Virginia. Here’s what I learned.

I can’t do it.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent that I was not able to keep myself from complaining by my own strength. Duh. But it was still something that I had to learn and remind myself of over and over again. Once I had that figured out, there was a lot more prayer involved in my quest to keep myself from the sin of complaining.

I really can change my own mood.

Remember when you were a kid and really angry about something and your mom would tell you to just decide to be happy and you could turn yourself around? Just me? Okay.

Anyway, the last month has shown me that my mother actually knew what she was talking about. Who would’ve guessed? There are still lovely things like hormones and bad circumstances to be dealt with, but choosing to keep a positive attitude about things really does make a difference. Sometimes, I would catch myself talking about how awful things were at work one day and realize it was putting me in a downright bad mood. When I changed my thoughts to what was good about the situation (I have a job, some of my coworkers are really great, etc.) or to something else entirely (what to blog about when I got home, how great this morning’s run was, etc.) my mood instantly began to rise. Even just the action of putting a smile on my face helped a lot.

The people I interact with impact my actions.

There’s a saying that goes something like this: Show me a man’s five closest friends and I’ll show you his future. And that is true. When I’m around people who complain themselves, I am much faster to complain. When I’m with cheerful people, I’m quicker to be positive. Choose your friends wisely, for you will become more like them, whether you want to be or not.

There are other things to talk about.

I never realized how many of my conversations consisted of 1) complaining or 2) gossip. Since I included gossip in the category of “negative thoughts”, that had to go as well. And as it turns out, there are other things to talk about.

The world is full of interesting and good things to talk and think about – we need not dwell on the things that upset us.

Complaining is a form of pride.

How often do you complain for someone else’s benefit? If you’re anything like me, it’s not very often. Complaining is all about me, myself, and I. It is all about what I can get out of life and what will make me happy – not what I can do to please God or serve others. It puts all of our focus on ourselves, which is not how God would have us live our lives as His children.

As C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (giving the picture of a truly humble man): “Probably all you will think about him  is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him…He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

I complain a lot. Still.

The past month has not cured me of my desire to complain (or my all-too-frequent fulfillment of that desire, as my family can tell you). I am still working on this discipline, and I probably will be for a while. Thankfully, when I get discouraged, I can return to the first point: I can’t do it on my own.

I’ve learned a lot from just the realization of how much I complain in a day, and I am grateful for the conviction, painful as it may be at times. I hope that my experiment in complaining will cause you to examine your own life and thoughts and will lead you to a more God-focused, self-forgetful way of being. Because that is what we are made to do.

Kira

What helps you keep yourself from complaining?
Are there any places/circumstances that trigger complaint?

Following Orders: Princess Elaine Penndragon

 

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Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Today, I thought we’d do something a little bit different and meet one of the main characters of the novel I’m currently working on, Following Orders.

Now I’ll be interviewing Her Highness, the Princess Elaine Penndragon of Camelot about herself and some of her background. Please enjoy.

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Good day, Your Highness. Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me.

It is my pleasure. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with a scribe for any purpose other than a lesson on history or politics.

I’m sure those are very dull indeed. Today, I thought you might be willing to answer a few questions about yourself? For your subjects’ sake?

My subjects? I don’t know what they think so interesting about palace life, but I suppose so.

Wonderful! My first question is about all of the balls and dinners your father hosts as king. What is your part in them and do you enjoy them?

Ah, yes. All of the fancy events. You asked about my part in them? Well, as the king’s only child and heir, it is my task to learn the names and interests of every diplomat, nobleman, and ambassador in Camelot. If they are to be my court one day, I must know their strengths and weaknesses, know them as people. And, of course, know their loyalties.

Besides that, as I am of marriageable age, I must dance with every eligible bachelor in attendance. Most of them are of no interest to either me or my father, but we mustn’t offend anyone. You never know who may end up as the future king of Camelot. It is my job to be the most beautiful and charming woman there to every single guest.

As to whether I enjoy such things, I don’t mind them. They do become tiring, especially when too many are held in a row. But I suppose that’s to be expected.

You mentioned that most of the young men are of no interest to you or your father. What do the two of you look for in the next king – and your husband?

All the usual traits I suppose. He must be strong and brave and all that, but he must also have a brain in his head. My father is not going to hand over Camelot to some halfwit. He would not send me or his people to such destruction. Other than that, he must have all the general qualities that make a king beloved by his people.

And what about you? Don’t you want to marry someone who will love you?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Who I marry is not up to me, ultimately. As part of the royal family, I have a duty to Camelot before myself. I would like a kind man who loves and whom I love, but that is not nearly as important as what is best for the kingdom. Besides, I’m told that people sometimes grow to love each other. We’ll have a whole lifetime to become fond of one another, whoever this man turns out to be.

Didn’t your father and mother marry for love?

Ah, yes. The famous story of Arthur and Guenivere. Has that become popular again? Nevermind. It was a different time back then. My father was free to marry as he chose because he had Camelot so firmly secure as one of the strongest kingdoms around. And he chose my mother – a commoner – endearing himself to the people practically overnight.

You don’t seem to hold much love for you mother. Is there a story behind that?

What impudence! That is none of your concern and I do hope you don’t speak to everyone you meet in such a rude manner. As it is, I am feeling gracious today and will give you a partial answer. I know that it is no secret that there is very little love between my mother and me.

Between just the two of us, I believe she is jealous of me. I hear from some of the older women that after my birth, my father devoted far more attention to his new daughter than to his wife. She wasn’t used to the relative drought of his affection and, as his doting on me continued, her bitterness toward me grew as the years moved on. We don’t speak often.

Now, are we through? I have one of those dances you were speaking of to prepare for tonight and my hair takes a dreadfully long time to complete.

Thank you for your time, my lady. I hope you enjoy your evening!

Kira

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

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And now you see why I don’t usually take my own photos 🙂

After my post of a few weeks ago bemoaning the depravity of today’s literature, let me assure that there are indeed still excellent books in the world. Books that spin a tale of adventure and keep you up far later than is right (oops). The Prisoner of Zenda is one such book.

Rudolph Rassendyll is a typical young man with too much money, not enough ambition, and a peculiar connection to the royal family of Ruritania from several generations back. He is floating through life with ease – much to the frustration of his industrious sister-in-law. She takes it upon herself to nag him into becoming an attache to Sir Jacob. Rudolph takes it upon himself to go on a different trip entirely, visiting friends and going to see the coronation of the new King of Ruritania.

Once there, he stumbles upon the new king and his two closest advisors – Colonol Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. The four spend an evening of celebration together which ends with much less joy than when it started. Rudolph is thrown into a role he never imagined having and holds the fate of all Ruritania in his hands. He must struggle with the king’s brother, Black Michael, to defend the throne, while keeping up appearances with the rest of the court – especially the Princess Flavia. And through it all, he must remember who he really is, though the rest of the world thinks him someone else.

Anthony Hope’s story of Rudolph’s misadventures in Ruritania is fast paced and written with the beautiful yet easily comprehensible language that seems only to spring from the 19th century. The style of the writing led me to be wrapped up in the fictional time and place of Ruritania and I even learned a new word:

compunction: a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad (according to Google)

I won’t bore you with a lecture on why I love Anthony Hope’s language so much, but I will say that it was refreshing to have to work a little bit to stay engaged in the book. And the excellence of the story itself provided plenty of reward for the minimal efforts it required.

The Prisoner of Zenda holds within its pages an adventure novel, a romance, and a story of personal struggles and growth, all woven perfectly together to create one unified tale of a man thrown out of his own world and into one where much more is required of him. And, (maybe this is also typical of books of this time period) it was clean. I had no fear that The Prisoner of Zenda would take a dark or disgusting turn. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story from start to finish and one that I am glad to have read.

Kira

What’s your favorite adventure story?
Have you read any older books lately?