Sunday, November 23, 2014

The 12 Days of Thanksgiving

Before you ask, I know that it's supposed to be "The 12 Days of Christmas." And here it is November and nowhere near Christmas. Okay, so I know we're close, but we're not that close!!! But in America, especially now, we tend to overlook Thanksgiving and skip directly to Christmas. If you ask me, that's just wrong. On November 1st every store I know of has Christmas decorations and ads out, and Christmas carols playing. Um, hello? Did I miss something or is there supposed to be another holiday here?!
For my American readers, I hope I'm not alone in this. For my readers from other areas of the world, I still hope I'm not alone in this.
So, I have decided to do a thing of what I like to call, "The 12 Days of Thanksgiving." I am going to list twelve things I am thankful for and why. Then I am going to tag other bloggers to do the same.

Bloggers: You, as I stated above, must list twelve things you are thankful for. Then you can tag as many other bloggers as you want (be sure to let them know!!). Spread the word and get "The Twelve Days of Thanksgiving" started!! You can use the photo I used at the top of this post, if you want. There really aren't any other rules other than that!

(And yes, some of these are going to be the generic answers, but just bear with me!)

In No Particular Order:

1. My Family: You've always been there for me. And you always will be there for me, I know. I love you all so much, and I've been blessed beyond what I can imagine to have the family I do. Thank you for putting up with me when I'm tired, frustrated, angry, happy, confused, and generally in a bad mood. I know you're kind of stuck with me for another couple years, but consider this a thank you and an apology. I love you so much!

2. My Friends: You guys have been there for me, put up with my obsessions over some things, seen me at my worst and my best and you've still stuck around... I'm still not too sure how that's going to turn out, but hey! You're here! So let's go be crazy and make mayhem and chaos (which really translates into "Hey! Let's all go over to ______'s house, eat lots of junk food, and binge-watch TV shows on Netflix while planning to take over the world!!!"). Don't worry. That last bit won't happen. We're all too lazy, right guys? ;)

3. My Readers: Yes, you lovely people are on my thankful list, too! Without you all, I wouldn't have a blog. You guys are my beta readers, and the people who listen to my random ramblings and my sorry excuses. And you still keep coming back for more. That's what makes you all so important to me. You're faithful, even when I have nothing to give. Thank you all for that.

4. My Teachers: I would not know anything at all without your hard work and dedication. I wouldn't know how to write, so I wouldn't have any means to have my voice heard. I also wouldn't know how to get a job, or really anything without all the time you've put into my education. I don't know what I would do if it weren't for you.

5. My Teammates: We're all in this together. Oh, no. I did not just quote High School Musical. I did!! Oops. Oh well. That's pretty much all we do in the dugout, anyway. Thank you all for being so supportive, even when I make a huge mistake on the field. Thank you for welcoming me into your lives and and for not letting me leave. Which I still have yet to figure out if that's a good thing or not... But I don't know what I'd do without my sisters on the field.

6. My Coaches: You didn't just teach me how to be a better athlete, you taught me how to be a better person and how to succeed and excel when life throws a low, outside curveball at me. If you've ever been my coach, you know how much I *love* those pitches as a batter... You've taught me that, no matter how tough things become, or if everything falls apart on me, or if I screw up massively, not to get inside my own head and tear myself apart over a mistake. You taught me how to learn from the past, but also how to let go of it, too.

7. My Books: Without which I would not be able to go on epic adventures, engage in battles of good vs. evil, and explore new worlds only accessible through raw imagination. From early on, to make me happy all you had to do was put a book in my hands and supply me with a flashlight so I could read late into the night, er, early morning...

8. My Cat: What? I'm a cat person. She's beautiful, see?
My cat, Hope <3

9. Food: hey, it was going to be on here sometime!!!

10. Music: I cannot go a day without music of some kind. How boring and dull life would be without it. It also helps me write and focus on my school work, which I should really be doing right about now... nah.

11. My Bible: Without that, I'd be lost. I would be so hopelessly lost in this world. It's a letter from God to His children. It's His message of hope and love. From Him to every single one of us.

And last but most certainly NOT least because He is by far the most important thing in my life:

12. God: He loves me, a worthless dirty sinner, so much that He died a horrible death. He died. For me. The fact that someone could love me so much to do that is incomprehensible. And it is because of that that I know that when I die, the greatest adventure anyone can ever hope to experience will begin because I will be in Heaven with my Lord and Savior. And I hope you will too.

Those things are what I am Thankful for. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving to my American readers and an equally wonderful week for my readers from other areas of the world!

Tag! You're it for the 12 Days of Thanksgiving:

Megan of Rustic Remains
Madeline of #Dreamer
Willow of The Call
Darrion of The Call
Hazel West of Hazel West's Character Purgatory
Moriah of My Own Little World
Hope Brockway of Stitches of Freedom
Hope E. of Stitches of Freedom

Your turn for the 12 Days of Thanksgiving!!!

By the way, Chapter Thirteen of The Mark of the King will be up first thing next week!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Mark of the King: Chapter Twelve

So technically, where I live at least, it is still Wednesday. Very late Wednesday. but Wednesday none the less. So I kept my promise. 
Oh man you guys, typing up what I've written so far, I realized how close we are. You see, I've broken The Mark of the King into at least two, maybe three parts. 
We are almost at the end of part one. I have about two more chapters to post until it all goes down. 
For the first time.
I may or may not post Chapter Thirteen next week. Being Thanksgiving week, things get a little hectic. But I am going to post a Thanksgiving thing next week... Chapter Thirteen will be up the week after next. 
Without further rambling, Chapter Twelve!

Chapter Twelve

Half a dozen men met behind a locked door guarded by four trustworthy knights high in a turret tower of the castle. Five were from Tir O Niwl, the sixth Corrthainian.
“Tonight is the first of many,” declared Sir Reuben. “The time is close upon us. Even as we speak, things fall into place.  Our patience is well rewarded. We need only wait a little longer.”
“So soon?” One of the men spoke up, his voice layered with uncertainty. Soft candlelight illuminated his concerned expression. “Now? When we number so few…”
“More will come!” reassured the Keeper. “Once the word spreads, and the people catch wind of our plan, they will band together. When the one we’ve been waiting for rises up and assumes his place, they will follow.
“The question now, my Lords and knights, is whether you continue to aid our plight or sit idly by and watch the Four Kingdoms desolated? The pieces you hold may very well seal your death sentences. I give you a choice: you may either relinquish your pieces to me, or you may burn them, thus freeing you from all other obligation of our cause.”
The youngest of the six stood. Barely past his mid-twenties, the man displayed an eager readiness and will beyond his fellow Niwls. “Sir, you know I would gladly give my life to protect the people of the Four Kingdoms. And if the knowledge I possess does indeed strike a blow in our favor, I consider no greater honor than for that to be my final act here on this earth.” With that, the fair knight drew a curious weapon from his sheath. It looked like any other dagger, but instead of a single blade, two razor-sharp blades emerged from the hilt. He laid the dagger on the circular table.
Sir Reuben eyed the unique weapon, and then laid his folded hands on the table. He nodded with quiet approval at the knight. “You’re a good man, Rupert. And what of the rest of you?”
“Aye,” answered one immediately, laying his sword on the table. His response was readily followed by two others.
Staring into the round face of the final lord, Sir Reuben raised an eyebrow questioningly. “What say you, Ulric?”
The large man answered, albeit reluctantly, “Aye,” and placed his sword on the table
Sir Reuben reached down to his belt and withdrew his own sword, with which he completed the circle. That finished, he leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“Each of you bring your pieces to me between tomorrow morning and the end of this week, trusting you heeded my advice and did not bring them with you here tonight. Be careful not to come too quickly, else suspicion is cast. Bide your time wisely, and watch your backs. Always, enemies lurk in the shadows.”

Catrain paced back and forth outside the Great Hall. Her mind raced with words, ideas, and possibilities, all in a seemingly endless jumble. Just when two pieces appeared to fit together, another piece rose out of the pile and obscured them. The longer she paced, the deeper her frustration became.
Outside, bells rang, signaling the end of the watch and the changing of the guard. At last, Cat thought as the large doors opened, and noblemen filed out in long lines. She stepped to the side as they passed her by. Most took no notice of her, except Lord Joran, who regarded her with stern interest. Coldly, she met his unwavering gaze, and when he had passed, tried to analyze what she saw in his black eyes. I am missing something. It’s staring me in the face, I know it. She waited until the final man had left the hall, and then slipped inside before the guards closed the doors.
She hesitated for a moment at the top of the stairs overlooking the hall. King Fendral sat alone at the large table on the platform where they feasted the night before. Even from that distance, the king's features were pale, abnormally so. He weakens overnight. The weight is too much for him to bear. The crown has finally taken its toll on him.
King Fendral wearily glanced up from the pile of parchments on his table and squinted at her with dark-rimmed eyes. With a trembling hand, he waved her down.
Catrain descended the wooden stairs cautiously, her eyes trained on the steps before her. After years of wearing dresses and long skirts, Cat had still not mastered the art of walking or moving gracefully in them. She reached the bottom, to her relief, without tripping over the thick hem. Her footsteps echoed lightly in the empty hall, the empty sound lingered long after she stopped in front of the table.
“Sire, there is a matter I wish to discuss with you. A question, actually.”
“Go on,” he answered in a thin voice and leaned back in his chair.
“At summer's end, Lord Joran brought a young man from Tiem to the Capitol.”
The king sighed, “This is not unusual. Tiem is part of the land I granted to him for his services to me years ago.”
Catrain shifted her weight from one foot to the other and twisted her fingers nervously. “Sire, he did it under the impression that you ordered him to capture this young man and train him. If that be the case, why then have you not summoned him?”
She studied the king's blank face. The only expressions she read in it were confusion and exhaustion.
“I did not know, nor did I order this boy to be brought here,” King Fendral lurched forward as a coughing fit came upon him. His body shook violently until the coughs ceased.
Catrain waited for the king to regain his breath. “He trains as a squire. His name is Skandar Edmundson.”
“Edmundson,” said the king hoarsely. His face furrowed with deeper confusion as he tried to recall the name long forgotten. “The messenger.”
Catrain nodded.
“Why bring him here?”
“That is the very question I wished to ask you. I hoped you knew the answer. I do know that it concerns Bródúil,” she studied his features closely. At the mention of the sword, her grandfather looked as though he'd been stricken.
Tears filled his cold eyes. “I sent my own son to his death because of that sword. I killed- I killed your father. I killed my son.” King Fendral trembled with the force of his hidden grief. In that moment, Catrain almost pitied the old man. “So I ended it.”
“Ended what?” she demanded, harsher than she should have, she knew.
“The quest,” he replied. “I ordered to end the quest. Some of the lords objected, yes.”
“How many?”
“Nearly all.”
“Who? Was Lord Joran among those against your order?”
The king didn't reply, but stared through Catrain with empty eyes.
Catrain stepped onto the platform and gripped the edge of the table until her knuckles turned white. “Tell me,” she nearly growled.
King Fendral appeared startled. To Cat, it seemed that for a moment he forgot she was even there. “Joran was strongly opposed, but he agreed with it soon enough.”
Catrain released the table, the jumbled pieces beginning to fall into place around the border of the picture. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
Turning, she stepped off the platform and crossed the room. Just as she mounted the stairs, her grandfather's frail voice called after her. “When does your mother return?”
“She is due from Tir Thuaidh near summer's end,” replied Catrain coolly, continuing to climb the stairs.
“Too long.” She barely heard the king whisper. His head drooped to his chest, and he sat, slouched on the throne.
But not long enough.  
“Sir Reuben?” Catrain knocked on the Keeper's door before she opened it and stepped inside. She was met by a man she recognized as a Niwl noble, and slid to the side as he passed her and departed. Briefly she made eye contact with the man when he walked by, and he bowed his head slightly toward her. She dipped her head in acknowledgment, and then waited until he was out of hearing range.
“Princess,” Sir Reuben buried a small piece of leather under a pile of scrolls, but not before Catrain caught a glimpse of it.
Another piece, she thought. In the hearth, half a dozen stout logs burned. The mesmerizing flames distracted Catrain from her purpose for meeting with the Keeper. So bright. So alive, and full of life. But that life is short, snuffed out in a single moment. Yet while living, it brings light and warmth to a dark world. Then reluctantly, she tore her gaze and her thoughts away.
“My grandfather soon will be no longer capable of the throne. You know he is ill, and the physicians have done what little they can.”
“Yes,” Sir Reuben folded his hands, laying them on the crinkled scrolls covering the table. “We are almost ready.”
“Do you have all the pieces?”
“As of this moment, one is in my possession; five I lack.”
“Only one,” she repeated for clarification. “Would it not have been easier to have had them all give you the pieces last night?”
“The more pieces a single man carries with him, the larger the target on him.”
  “Will you be ready in a fortnight?”
Catrain nodded, a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “I can be ready sooner than that. Does Muriel know?”
“Some. Morgaine and I will tell her the rest tonight.”
“Then I shall inform Aidan and Eoin, if you have not already done so.”
Silence from the Keeper told her that he had not.
Catrain started to walk out of the room, but paused with her hand on the door. “When do you expect to obtain the other pieces?”
A single log in the fire snapped, breaking in half and sending sparks showering out of the hearth. They smoldered for a moment on the stone floor, and then died.
And now slowly, the picture becomes clear.

In this chapter we learn a little more about Catrain. What do you think of her?
What do you think of Sir Reuben's secret meeting? Do you have any guesses as to what's going on? Feel free to comment and let me know!! As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Modern Canterbury Tales: The Soldier

It's Wednesday, and as I promised, here is my second Modern Canterbury Tale about the soldier.
His name is Jack Price, although I never mention it in the story. 
Yesterday was Veteran's Day, so really this would have been better to post then, but oh well. The day after still works, right?
Remember to honor those in the military who fight and lay down their lives to protect you. Without them, our world would not be what it is today.

The dreams hit worse at night. They haunt me with memories like a plague, unwilling to cease the endless torment. Often, I lie awake in the darkness of my cabin, unable to drift off to sleep. The barest whisper of the cruise ship rocking on the waves does nothing to settle the insomnia brought about by post-traumatic stress.
When all is still, I hear the faint traces of gunfire and the agonized moans of my fellow soldiers. As an army combat medic, I witnessed more than my share of anguish and death. I spent three tours in Afghanistan doing what I could to ease the suffering of wounded brothers and to ease the passing of others.
During our sixteen weeks of medical training, I and the other doctors and medics were warned that fifty percent of the soldiers we would care for on the field would die. Even that did little to prepare me for what lay ahead. After basic battle training, I was deployed.
Armed with plenty of anxiety, apprehension, and an M-16 rifle, for self defense only, I began work providing first aid and trauma care on the frontlines. Although the Geneva Conventions supposedly provide protection for medical personnel, we were fired upon frequently. Terrorists aren’t exactly known to play by the rules. On many occasions, I was forced to fire upon hostiles to protect myself, my fellow medics, and the wounded soldiers we tended. I took lives to save lives.
Half of the young men and women I attended to on the field died, most within a half hour of receiving their initial injuries. To this day, I see their faces each time I close my eyes; their fear, their pain, and their regrets evident in their battle-weary features. Many, I never met until they died. Most I never knew their names. That, I believe, haunts me greater than the war itself. The few who survived and whose names I knew, I tried to contact once I returned to the states.
One young man whose name I did manage to learn, I located upon my arrival home. As a sniper, he had been shot through the shoulder while defending me and my team during my third tour. The bullet passed narrowly between his subclavian and axillary arteries. Though he lost roughly two pints of blood by my estimate, he fought to survive. Even as we cared for him, he argued that he was alright, and pleaded with us to allow him to continue fighting. “I have to protect them. I have to protect them, please,” he begged. What set him apart from the others was his lack of fear and his passion and drive to defend his fellow soldiers. He didn’t fear death, but defiantly stared it in the face. He lived, and returned home early to his family to receive further medical treatment. Inspired by this young soldier, I continued to work with renewed vigor until the time arrived for me to return home.
For a year and a half I feebly attempted to lead a normal life. I worked, attended counseling twice a week, and immersed myself in the world. But I felt lost. I could not allow myself to sit idly by when on the other side of the world others fought and died protecting people they would never meet.
Israel, the cruise ship’s destination, is where I plan to accomplish my goals as a Lone Soldier, the term the Israelis dub those in their military who have no immediate family living in Israel. I opted to travel by plane, but as their air space is somewhat compromised thanks to terrorists, that proved difficult. That and my sister practically ordered me to travel by cruise ship on the pretense that, if I die, I should at least enjoy myself on a leisure vacation beforehand. As a successful lawyer, she provided the money, and as a soldier, I followed her orders.    
Most of my time I spend in my room or on walks along the decks of the ship; I put forth little effort to meet my fellow passengers. The moment they discover my occupation, the formalities ensue. I understand that some possess no notion of how to react or relate to a man with war experience. There are times when I, myself, am at a loss to explain the depths of my trauma and the ways it catches me off-guard at untimely moments. In the eyes and expressions of some passengers, I see malice and hatred, and although as a combat medic my duty was to save lives, I know they see me as nothing more than a murderer.
Yes, I killed people in self-defense. Yes, I knelt over too many dying brothers and sisters, powerless to stop the bleeding that drained the life from their bodies. Yes, I have seen suffering, death and horrors; experiences that scarred me forever. And yes, I am willing to endure it over again to protect and save the people I love and the people I shall never meet. I know that those people will never understand the reason behind my voyage to Israel. Theirs is for pleasure; mine is for purpose.
Meeting my traveling companions, I know, is inevitable. After all, even on a ship the size of three football fields, one cannot hide forever. If I confront the people residing closest to me in my hall, I wish it to be on my own terms. The faces of those who died in my hands haunt me each night, but more importantly, the knowledge that I never learned their names. Maybe I will rest easier tonight if I attempt to learn the names and faces of the people I shall protect as a Lone Soldier in Israel. 

That's it for now! What did you think? Please feel free to let me know.
By the way, the young sniper that got shot is a character in another story I'm planning. You can find what I've done on my Pinterest board Storyboard: Untitled. Really creative name, I know. ;)
I am hoping to have Chapter Twelve of The Mark of the King up my next Wednesday at the latest. I'll edit it over the weekend, so I'll probably have it up before Wednesday.
Oh, by the way! I got my government test back yesterday and I did really well on it! Thank you for the prayers! God bless you all, and remember, He loves you more than you can imagine, and nothing- nothing- will ever change that.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Modern Canterbury Tales: The Journalist

Hello my lovely readers!!
So I have bad (to me) news that results in good news.
My whole family has been hit with colds (bad-ish news), so today I pretty much did nothing but write. And write. And work on Chapter Twelve! There's the good news.
This week I'll edit it and post it at the beginning of next week! Oh, and I also began typing up Chapter Thirteen, so that will be up later this month as well!
Which means that I shall be posting both both of my modern Canterbury Tales this week.
Here is the first one. The second and final I will post Wednesday.

On a cruise ship, there are people with stories waiting to be told. Not a person passes me in the halls who I don’t wonder, if asked, would he tell me? Would she tell me her story? Beneath their smiles, whether false or genuine, something lurks in their faces; their deepest secrets and their brightest moments unique to their individual pasts. I smile back, but inside I long to ask them about their lives, both their successes and their hardships.
After all, that is my job.
As an investigative journalist, I tell the stories beneath the smiles. This often earns people such as me less-than-friendly reputations and nicknames, ‘muckraker’ being among them. I discover the holes in the stories, exploit the weaknesses, and expose the lies. The area of investigative journalism I chose at the beginning of my career is one I have felt strongly about since college. I investigate homicides and suicides, and aid in the prosecution and justice of the guilty, and repeal the convictions of those I believe innocent.
My first week of investigative journalism, I was assigned a double homicide and suicide. A father came home one night, drunk and infuriated, and fatally shot his wife and four year old son before putting a bullet through his own brain. To say that it was a rough introduction to my job is a serious understatement.
Since then, I’ve investigated and reported more murders and shootings than I care to count. Why do I continue with my job when nearly every day I surround myself with death? When I was in college, an unnamed man murdered my best friend’s younger sister in a drive-by shooting. She was only fifteen. Still to this day, he remains unknown. The authorities never caught him. Witnessing the pain her family endured during the following weeks and months nudged me on the path I tread now.
Two months ago, I reopened a formerly closed case and successfully proved innocent a man convicted of a murder charge, and the judge revoked his life sentence. For over a month, I dug through evidence, case files, past criminal and personal records in a grueling search for justice. Exhausted, I returned to work, where my boss convinced me to take a much-needed vacation.
Why choose a cruise to Israel? Israel is a nation with a story told for centuries. Theirs is a story of hardship, of pain, of triumph, and of victory after countless years of endurance and difficulty; a story much like the stories of the victims and their families whom I aid through journalism.
A cruise provides me with the opportunity to discover the stories of my fellow travelers. Among my diverse companions is a professor who appears irritated with his pupils, a college student with too much time to spare, and a reclusive soldier who spends most of his time alone.
Stories are the history of our lives, each and every one of us. The stories of my fellow voyagers may or may not be told in their lifetime. But as a journalist, it is my duty to examine their lives, sort through the evidence, and tell the truth behind the stories.

Thank you for reading about my dear Cassandra Ross. Look for the story about Jack Price, my combat medic/soldier on Wednesday. Until then, farewell my wonderful readers!!