What did I want?

Came across this recently:

And it reminded me of this bit from Glory Road by Robert Heinlein put in the words of the first person narrator Evelyn Cyril (Oscar) Gordon:

“What did I want?  I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword,. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get u feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.

I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.

I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”

Gordon was about to get that.  However, very few people get selected by Her Wisdom, Star, the Empress of 20 Universes to tread the Glory Road.

As a kid I wanted so very many things.  I wanted to be a super hero.  I wanted to walk on the moon and Mars.  I wanted to venture beyond the solar system and be the first to see some star and its planets up close with my own eyes.  I wanted to find a world of magic where I could help to defeat dark forces in the service of the light.

I wanted a lot of stuff that I couldn’t have.

I couldn’t have it, but I could at least write about it.  A lot of my early fiction was me imagining myself in these places what I hoped to do, what I hoped to accomplish in them.  Oh, I never went full “Mary Sue” (Marty Stu) giving “myself” unlimited abilities–the gallant hero, master of every form of combat, handsome, brave, wise, educated in all the arts and sciences, so wonderful that lesser men grovel at his feet.  Okay, I rarely went full Marty Stu.

It was a learning experience.

But always I had to come back to a humdrum existence.

But does existence have to be so humdrum?  I may not be the first to climb Everest but any slope I ascend for the first for me.  I’d never been there before.  I may not walk on the moon, but there are places I haven’t walked.  There are places where you can go and do a full three hundred sixty degree turn and not see one sign of human habitation from you to the horizon.

So maybe I have to be responsible, to see that my daughter gets to school every day, that there’s food on the table and a roof over our heads.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t find things to stretch myself, to challenge myself, a world beyond the humdrum.

So, while in between all the bills needing paid and dirty socks needing washed, find something exciting.

Go skydiving.  Challenge gravity and win.

Take a flying lesson.  You may not have the time and money to get a license but just once you can have your hands on the controls of an airplane and have it respond to what you do.

Leave the ordinary behind, if only for an hour.

Live.

Dum vivimus vivamus.

While we live, let us live!

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Asatru Leaning Agnostic

This is a topic I’ve talked about before so there will be much rehash.  I was raised in a religion that, well some consider it “Christian” but others not so much.  In any case, I was taught Young Earth Creationism in it and…the more I learned the less viable that became.  Either the religion was wrong on that aspect–and if I couldn’t trust it on that, how could I trust it on anything else–or the God described by that religion was playing an enormous practical joke on mankind, deliberately designed to mislead most and lead them astray.  This latter one would mean that what the religion said about the nature of God was wrong.  And if I could not trust it on that, how could I trust it on anything else?

The answer was, I couldn’t.  And not being the White Queen on the other side of the Looking Glass, I could not believe seven impossible things before breakfast.  It didn’t happen instantly but over time I found I just didn’t believe it any more.

Humans, however, have something deeply hard-wired into us that demands ritual and symbolism, a look for something outside ourselves.  I didn’t recognize that for a while but eventually the lack caught up to me leaving me open for other possibilities.  Oh, not necessarily for belief.  And thus why I couldn’t fill the need with the common monotheistic religions–belief is the core of their philosophy; that one has to believe is what makes whatever “salvation” they offer possible.  Cynically following a practice without belief simply because it fills the internal need for ritual and symbolism was contrary to my own ethos.  I couldn’t just pretend.

Pagan religions, however, don’t have that problem.  The gods and goddess as described in them generally do not care whether people believe or not.  (This, incidentally, breaks the “magic systems” in many games and books which postulate that a god or goddess’s power depends on the number and sincerity of believers.  But if that were the case then all these gods would encourage their believers to proselytize, to convert others to their belief so that they, the gods would have more power.)

I first got introduced to modern Asatru via the novels of John Ringo, specifically part 2 of Princess of Wands and an oblique reference near the end of Through the Looking Glass.  Curious, I followed up by getting Greg Shetler’s book Living Asatru and Diana L. Paxson’s Essential Asatru.

It was like a flashbulb (and doesn’t that date me) going off.  Here was a system that was not only full of symbolism, but with hooks on which I could build my own rituals that suited me.  It was also built around an ethos that I found highly congenial.  And ones status in the afterlife (should there be such a thing) was based on deeds, not the belief in which I was simply not suited to give, not without a lot more evidence (not “proof” mind, I never asked for proof) than any gods that exist have ever seen fit to offer.

One of the first things the books said was that the myths were stories about the gods, told to convey principles.  Indeed, when I studied mythology in college, that was the very definition of myth, the stories told in a culture to define that culture.  We tend to think of “myth” to mean false, but whether they’re literally true or not they contain a greater truth–the values and ideals that make up a culture.  So the myths are not truth in the literal sense that there’s a large tree and the world is stuck in one of its branches with Asgard in another, Nifflehiem down by the roots and so on.  They were stories told to convey ideas and ideals.

No need to reconcile modern science with Young Earth Creationism here.

That said, on a somewhat humorous note, I am a physicist.  And so I find it interesting to note that in the Norse creation story the sparks from Muspelhem, the land of fire (heat) meeting ice from Niffleheim, the land of ice (cold) was the driver behind the creation of the world.  In much the same way the meeting of heat and cold is the driver behind the science of thermodynamics which is behind everything interesting that happens in the Universe.  Neither Relativity nor Quantum Theory has altered that.  All that happens in the world comes about because of the meeting of heat and cold and energy flowing between the two.

Likewise when it comes to right and wrong, the common monotheistic religions tend to base that on “God said so.”  Pagan religions like Asatru are more like the gods say so because it’s right and wrong (and don’t try to pretend that the gods are ultimate examples of “good”.  They can be flawed just like people are.  Indeed, the ultimate deciders of fate in Asatru are the Norns and you’ll have to look long and hart to find someone claiming that they are “just” let alone “loving and merciful.”)  There is the concept of ørlǫg.  Basically, that’s the weight of ones actions to that point, and to a lesser extent the weight of the actions of those that came before.  It’s what determines ones fate.  Ones fate is determined by the sum total of all that ørlǫg.  One can change ones fate my making different choices but its hard because it takes a lot of effort to shift that ørlǫg into a different direction.  And the direction the ørlǫg pushes you is not simply because the gods say so, but rather the nature of the thing itself.  I have examined that a bit in my post on Morals, Ethics, and Religion.

The Lore of Asatru does not come with a nice convenient set of commandments akin to the Ten Commandments of Judaism and Christianity.   Some modern practitioners, however, have distilled a number of ideas from the surviving Lore into what they call the Nine Noble Virtues.  I find them a good guide, myself.

This is just one of several different lists.  I don’t particularly say it’s better or worse than others, but I had to pick one to go into here.  So, here it is:

Courage.
I’ve generally seen this defined in modern Asatru as the bravery to do what is right at all times.  Determining “what is right” might be open to question, of course, but for me the other virtues serve as a good guide.  It’s also possible that different people may come to different conclusions about what is right:  a soldier defending his home against invaders may see this as the right thing to do.  Another soldier serving his nation in invading and stopping a dangerous “evil” (by his standards) regime may see that as the right thing to do.  And, here’s the thing, they could well both be right.  The solder defending against the invasion is doing the right thing for him.  The soldier invading is doing the right thing for him.  And, in the end, when the dust has settled, the victory has been won by one side or the other, and the soldiers  of the victorious side can honor the courage of their vanquished foes while the soldiers of the defeated can respect the courage of those who bested them.

Courage need not just be courage on the battlefield either.  The political activist who risks arrest to stand up for a position he believes to be right, the scientist who braves ridicule by saying to his peers “you are wrong and I can prove it”,  and the medical personnel who risk infection to minister to the victims of a plague all exercise the virtue of courage.

Courage is also, I think, a virtue that is its own reward and its lack is its own punishment.  There is no need for some stern lawgiver to say “if you do not have courage you will be punished.  If you do, you will be rewarded.”  From the punishment aspect consider Kipling’s poem “That Day”:

There was thirty dead an’ wounded on the ground we wouldn’t keep —
No, there wasn’t more than twenty when the front begun to go;
But, Christ! along the line o’ flight they cut us up like sheep,
An’ that was all we gained by doin’ so.I ‘eard the knives be’ind me, but I dursn’t face my man,
Nor I don’t know where I went to, ’cause I didn’t ‘alt to see,
Till I ‘eard a beggar squealin’ out for quarter as ‘e ran,
An’ I thought I knew the voice an’ — it was me!

And that’s the way it’s been.  The horrible death tolls in battles weren’t usually (not until the “modern” age anyway) caused during the battle itself but in the pursuit.  Shakespeare put it another way: “Cowards die a thousand deaths. The valiant taste of death but once.”  That certainly has been the case in my own life.  When I’ve let cowardice dictate my actions the result has usually been misery, even if I avoid whatever it was I was afraid of.  When, on the other hand, I am moved by some small measure of bravery the result is that I’m usually happier even in “failure” than otherwise.

And yet given all of that Courage is a hard one for me.  Fear is a powerful motivator even if one knows, in ones head, that it tends to lead to more misery than it saves you from.  And so this is one I struggle with.

Truth:
Say what you know, or at least believe, to be true and right and it’s generally better to be silent than to lie.  Now, according to the Norse beliefs (remember, we’re talking about Asatru here) there is no obligation to be true to those who lie to you.  In the mathematical field of Game Theory a strategy of tit-for-tat is often the most effective strategy and I find it interesting that a mathematically sound approach is what has come out of Norse religion.

I would add my own thought that Truth may sometimes conflict with other virtues such as Hospitality.  This is the concept of the “white lie” told to spare others hurt.  I’m not particularly opposed to that concept just be sure that 1) it doesn’t cause greater  hurt later and 2) be absolutely sure that you’re telling your “white lie” to spare the other person and not to spare yourself (see “Courage” above).

Honor:
Oh, this is a hard one.  I’m tempted to retreat to the “I know it when I see it” but that wouldn’t be fair.  I’ll try to give my own thought on the matter rather than repeat some other folks words.  To me, honor is the natural tendency to do the right things for the right reasons.  An honorable person doesn’t have to think, doesn’t have to figure the angles, doesn’t have to calculate the odds, he just does it.  It’s what you have when you take all the other virtues and pull them together into one smooth whole.

Loyalty:
As individuals we are rather small things in the vast universe but by giving our devotion to something outside ourselves, whether it’s a cause, a belief, or a person, we can become something greater.  But this only holds so long as we remain true to that something outside ourselves.  To abandon the something is to lose all that one has gained and then some.

Now, this doesn’t mean that devotions cannot change with time, but if they do we need to deal with them honestly.  A clean, honest break with old devotions is better for all concerned than betrayal, deceit, and trickery.

Discipline:
Anything worthwhile takes work.  It takes effort.  It takes putting off immediate gratification in favor of future, greater, satisfaction.  Whether its sweating and aching in the gym three times a week to build a strong body or spending six hours a day studying to learn a difficult subject or pushing doorbells every day to drum up support for the political candidate who supports the causes you favor it takes work, lots of work, to get the greater rewards in life.  And yet every time one takes that road it’s a gamble.

The work does not always pay off in the ways you might like.  When I was younger I wanted to be able to sing well.  I spent hours every week working on it.  I took classes.  I had voice coaches.  The result?  I got to the point that if I practiced a particular song long enough with the right preparation I could stay mostly on key.  But sing well?  I don’t have the voice.  I don’t have the ear.  And I never will.  So that exercise of discipline didn’t pay off.  Or did it?  Humans are creatures of habit.  Simply applying the effort, the discipline, made it that much easier to do so when next I wanted to accomplish something.  Years later when I wanted to get good at Judo, I spent hours every week practicing, exercising, studying everything I could about Judo.  And, while I will never be a “great Judoka,” I got good enough to earn the respect of my peers in the dojo–and the respect and honor of the instructors.

So the rewards of exercising discipline are not always obvious.  It’s easy to say “it’s not worth it” but trust me, it is.  Oh yes indeed, it is.  And I don’t need any old man in the sky to tell me that.

Hospitality:
When I grew up my family had a simple rule.  Well, we had lots of simple rules but I’m talking about one in particular.  Whenever we had guests the rule was that no one went away hungry.  This is a rule I have continued as an adult.  And, I think “hospitality” goes beyond just house guests.  Helping my neighbor at need is also a part of hospitality.  And, in today’s shrinking world “neighbor” can reach very far indeed.Sadly, I’ve seen a lot of people not follow that rule.  Oh, yes, it can be hard to make sure that your guests and neighbors are tended to, sometimes ones duty to guests might mean going short oneself.  Easier to just look after yourself and let others fend for themselves.   Besides, if you’re that hospitable you’ll end up with people who just take advantage of you.

But there’s a catch to that “easy approach”.  A great truth in the world is that if you want to have friends you have to be a friend.  To let others fend for themselves is to end up with a lonely life.  But, there’s another catch as well.  It’s not the cost or the fanciness of the “hospitality” that works the magic.  That it’s provided cheerfully, and willingly.  A table of potato soup and collard greens, provided cheerfully in the presence of good company is far more “hospitable” than caviar and filet mignon grudging from the hand of a stuck up . . . Well, you get the point.

In the myths the Gods were often wandering the world and a guest one hosts could easily be a god.  There’s a lesson there, I think.  Consider any guest as a possible God in disguise and one will rarely go wrong.  And while one might attract a few moochers along the way by that approach, one will rarely lack for friends.

Industriousness:
This one I think relates strongly to Discipline.  Where discipline is taking the harder, longer road to great rewards rather than the shorter, easier road to small rewards, Industriousness is pursuing that road with vigor.  When I chose Judo as a martial art, I chose one that took time and work to achieve high rank rather than one of the many “belt mills” where you can show up for class (if that) pay your fees and you, too can be a black belt in six months.  But that choice would mean nothing if I didn’t put in the time and effort.  If I didn’t do the work.  So it is with many things in life.  Discipline and Industriousness go hand in hand if you want to achieve real success.

Self Reliance:
Too many people these days look for other people to take care of them.  I was raised to take care of myself.  Help others in need, yes–see Hospitality–but there’s a difference between “need” and “want” and the old adage about “giving a fish” also comes into play.  Sometimes your neighbor may want a fish but what he needs is to learn how to fish and perhaps someone to give him a shove out toward the lake.  The best help you can give most people is the motivation and ability to fend for themselves.  And, in that, example is a great teacher.  One helps others be self reliant by being self reliant.

One of the great virtues of being self-reliant is that self-reliance is essential to freedom.  If you are beholden to anyone for your survival then to that extent they control you.  To be free you must be able to stand on your own.  And if anyone tries to make you dependent on him or her, flee that person.

Note that fair trade is not a violation of self-reliance.  Both the farmer trading part of his crop and the blacksmith providing iron tools for those crops are self reliant.  Each takes only what they give good value for.  The employee giving honest work for an honest wage and benefits is self reliant.  There is no shame in doing work, even the most menial work, in order to be able to say “I earned my way.”

I think this is one of my biggest disagreements with the traditional Christian concept of God.  Salvation cannot be earned.  It is given entirely and completely at the pleasure of the Christian God.  A person’s eternal future is entirely at the sufferance of another.  This is completely contrary to the very idea of self reliance.  And so people bow and plead and beg and worship in the hope that they will be given as a boon something they cannot earn cannot win of their own efforts.  And why can they not win it of their own efforts?  Because the Christian God says so.

Perseverance:
No matter what you do you will occasionally face failure.  The truly successful are the ones who can come back from failure and keep striving until they succeed.  Yes, sometimes the reason for the failure is that you’re on the wrong path and no amount of perseverance will succeed, but all too often people quit when continued striving would have brought success.  In the end you have to make that call for yourself.  Quitting is easy.  Nothing is easier than to drift along with each change of fortune.  Staying the course despite the difficulties along the way is much harder.  But it is only there that greatness is achieved.

Santa Claus is Real

As I told my daughter when she asked that question, “Yes, he is.  He is that part of the human heart which gives to others for no more reward than the joy in someone else’s eyes.  We just dress it up with a red suit and a jolly laugh to make it more understandable to young people.  Sadly, some people never learn that lesson.  But he’s very real and he’s in all of us if only we look for him.”

Terry Pratchett expressed the idea quite well in The Hogfather (Movie version ends just a hair different from the book, and, to be honest, I prefer its more explicit spelling out of the reason):

And so, we can take a moment to look at Santa Claus in action.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the United States Marine Corps:

I don’t usually ask people for things on this blog.  But with this holiday season I’m going to ask that you look inside yourself, find your Santa Claus, and let him out to bring joy to someone this year.

You’ll be glad you did.

 

Feeding the Active Writer

Every once in a while I get back to doing one of these.

This is relatively low carb but it is not a low fat or low calorie item.

Oh, wow, that was good.

Cheesy Garlic Cauliflower Bake (take 2).

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 lb cauliflower chopped into small florets.
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts for this, but basically because that’s what I had handy)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 350
Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.

In a saucepan heat the heavy cream to near boiling.
Add in the cheese, garlic powder, thyme and pepper.
Stir until cheese is melted.

Put the cauliflower into the casserole dish.
Top with the chopped onion.
Pour the cheese mixture over the cauliflower spreading it so everything is covered.

Top with the nuts and parmesan.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

Let cool a bit before serving.

Enjoy.

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“And Rome Fell.”

Over on FaceBook I saw this:

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There’s another meme floating around with Cicero complaining about things the then Roman Republic was doing with the tagline “And Rome Fell”.

Sigh.

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First, there was nothing sudden about the fall of the Roman Empire.  The Western Roman Empire had been in decline for quite some time before Roman Emperor Romulus was overthrown by Odoacer ending the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD.  The Eastern Roman Empire, which we have come to call the Byzantine Empire (but was Roman to its people) lasted nearly another thousand years (1453 AD).

Consider only the Western Empire at the moment, not considering that “Rome” as an empire continued in the East.  Pressure due to the military threat various Germanic tribes were posing, a threat that was increased because Germanic Leaders included those Roman trained from Rome’s long policy of hiring Germanic troops to defend the borders–easier to pay them than to fight them (the danger of that approach has been immortalized in Kipling’s poem “Dane-Geld“) led to the abandonment of Britain in 406 AD.  One of the main causes of the pressure is Germanic tribes basically fleeing the Huns coming out of Asia.  In 410 AD, the Visigoths penetrated into the Roman Empire and sacked Rome.  Rome recovered partially from that but faced continued pressure from the Germanic tribes:  Franks, Visigoths, and Ostragoths.  Then the Vandals swept through Spain, across North Africa, and then up across the Mediterranean to sack Rome a second time in 455 AD.  And then, finally, Flavius Odoacer, a Roman trained Germanic Leader overthrew the last Western Roman Emperor Romulus in 476 AD.  66 years from the retreat from Britain to the final end of the Western Roman Empire.  Hardly “suddenly.”

This doesn’t even go into the centuries of internal issues that left it weakened to these external threats.

Now, there is some comparison to what was going on then to what is going on now, but I suspect the meme maker would be horrified at the comparison.  A particularly vicious group of “barbarians” had other, not quite so strong barbarians fleeing before them, refugees if you will, who fled until they ran up against the Roman Empire.  Some were accepted into the Roman Empire, hired as auxiliaries and used to defend the Empire.  Other’s just settled in the border provinces.  And the ones brought in learned Roman technology, Roman military tactics, and Roman discipline and then turned that on the Roman Empire overthrowing it to establish their own kingdoms on its carcass.

As for the Cicero bit that gets bandied about (sorry, I don’t have an image to show the exact wording), note those dates involved.  Cicero was assassinated in 43 BC.  The Roman Empire in some form lasted nearly another 1500 years after that.  The Roman Empire lasted longer after Cicero penned those complaints than most historic empires last from founding to fall.

So, please, stop with the stupid comparisons to Rome.  While there may be parallels, if experience is any guide they’re almost certainly not the ones you are making.  And none of them and none of them point to an immediate crisis indicating the imminent fall of the American Republic.  Other things may point to that (or not), but not comparisons to Rome.

 

A snippet: The Beasts of Trevanta

From the in-progress sequel to The Hordes of Chanakra:


Movement in a partially burned building caught Kaila’s eye.  She pivoted.  A leg, clad in tattered rags, the foot bare passed behind a half-collapsed wall.

Kaila frowned remembering the man in the warehouse.  Was this what the people of Trevanta were reduced to?  Rats in human form scurrying among the ruins?

Kaila continued moving into the city in the direction she remembered for Merchant’s Row.  A glance at the sky showed that her path took her near none of the plumes of smoke.

A part of her mind reminded her that venturing alone into the city like this was the height of foolishness but she shoved it down ruthlessly.

“Ayeeee!”

Kaila jerked up short at the sound of the scream.  Her head pivoted to face the direction from which it had come.  Without conscioius thought she found herself sprinting.

The scream came again.  There.  On the other side of a low wall.  Kaila leaped.  Her hands clasped the top of the wall.  Her legs swung up, hooking.  And then, with a push, she was squatting on the wall, looking down its other side.

Kaila’s eyes widened.  In a corner she saw huddled a child, scarcely more than ten or twelve years old, hugging a smaller child to…her?  Kaila thought it was a girl.  Kaila caught her breath.  Kaila had never before seen a creature like the one that menaced the children.

The creature stood on two legs, about the size of a rather short man, its posture hunched.  A long pink whiplike tail hung from its back.  Despite that, Kaila could almost imagine it was a man until she saw its head.

The head sat on a short neck between heavy shoulders.  The face pulled forward into a pointed snout.  Long teeth protruded from its upper jaw overlapping its lower lip.  Rounded ears sat high on the creatures head.

The creature’s eyes flicked from the children to Kaila, then back to the children.  Kaila could see the creature considering, thinking.  It lifted its left hand in which it held a short, stabbing spear.  Neither steel nor even chipped stone tipped that spear, but a length of jagged bone, no less deadly for all of that.

The creature reached a decision.  Its eyes focused on the children.  It crouched to spring.

Kaila sprang from the top of the wall to land between the creature and the two children.  She drew her sword.

The creature lunged, stabbing with the spear.  Kaila deflected the spear and, with quick twist of her wrist, slashed her sword across the creature’s throat.

The creature dropped its spear and clutched with both hands at its spurting neck.  It sank the the ground.  The spurting weakened, then ceased.

Kaila lowered her sword and turned to the two children.

“Are you well?  Did that…” Kaila thought for a moment then came up with a word. “…kinmar harm you?”

Kinmar. “Half man” in the old Aeriochi language.  The label seemed to fit.

The girl shook her head.

Kaila crouched, bringing her eyes closer to a level with the girl. “Are you alone?  Where are your people?”

“The…the beast men, they stolen us away.” The girl squeezed the child in front of her. “Erek an’ me.  We runs.  And then Rat Face, he chases us.  And…”

Kaila smiled. “Do you know where your people are?”

The girl pointed, a vague gesture in the direction of the city’s main gate.

Kaila looked up.  Another plume of smoke had arisen almost on a straight line between where she stood and the main gate.  She looked back to the girl.

“I don’t know if I can get you back to your people,” Kaila said, “but I will try.  For the nonce, come with me and I will see you safe.”

The smaller child turned its head from the concealing folds of the girl’s clothes.  Kaila saw a round face, caked with dirt except where tears had left muddy rivulets down the cheeks.

“I will see you safe,” Kaila said, her voice as soft as she could make it. “I swear it by the Twins.”

The girl pointed past Kaila’s shoulder. “Lady!”

Kaila whirled.  Before she had half finished her turn pain bit deep into her right thigh.  She glanced down to see a spear protruding from her thigh.  Releasing her right hand from her sword, she reached down and jerked the spear free.  Blood poured down her leg, not enough to be quickly fatal, but she would have to deal with it and soon.  She tossed the spear aside, noting as she did so the discoloration on the bone point.  Another thing to deal with later.

From the buildings across the street more of the half-beast creatures, the kinmar, poured.  One of them threw another spear which Kaila deflected.

“Stay close behind me,” Kaila told the two children.  And when I tell you, flee.” Kaila jerked her head in the direction of a narrow alley.

Her senses hyperaware, Kaila felt the children follow her direction.  She deflected another spear, this one with an iron point.

Kaila counted twelve of the kinmar.  They spread out along the street, flanking her.  Most were armed with crude spears, some with bone points, some merely sharpened wood.  One, with a face reminiscent of a fox, carried half a dozen spears bundled under one arm.  He selected one and threw it at her.  Kaila could easily have sidestepped, but mindful of the children behind her, she licked out with her sword and swatted the spear aside.

Kaila took a step back.  A thirteenth kinmar emerged from the building opposite her, this one larger than the others, with a heavy-jowled snout reminiscent of a mastiff.  This one carried not a spear, but a sword, the long straight sword popular in Shendar.  The mastiff also carried a shield, or most of one.  Some previous battle had sheared the top third of the shield away.

The mastiff pointed Kaila’s way.

“Kill them!” The Shendi tongue sounded harsh from the mastiff throat.

Fox threw another spear which Kaila deflected.  The others charged.

One of the kinmar, rat faced, ran faster than the others and met Kaila’s sword-point for his trouble.  Kaila stepped back again putting herself into the entryway of the alley.

“Kill them!” Mastiff growled again.

Another rat leaped over the body of his fallen compatriot.  Kaila swung her sword, the tip slashing across the rat’s midsection, spilling guts onto the ground.

The remaining kinmar crowded close, each striving to outdo the others in their efforts to reach her.  For a moment, they blocked the entrance to the alley.  She could not see Fox and his remaining spears.

“Now,” Kaila shouted. “Flee.”

Kaila thrust twice, into the eye of the nearest kinmar, and the throat of the next, then turned and ran.

A day that will live in infamy.

No, not that one.  I’m talking about December 7, 1972, the day the last of the Apollo Lunar missions launched.

After five successful missions, and one that failed but which nevertheless safely returned its three astronauts to Earth, the seventh and last Apollo Lunar mission, Apollo 17, took off at 12:33 AM EST on December 7, 1972.

This was the last time, to date, that humans have ventured beyond low earth orbit.

Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans, and Harrison Schmidt (a scientist replacement for the original choice Joe Engle) rode a fire in the sky to the Moon.  Cernan and Schmidt landed on the Moon at 2:55 PM EST on December 11.  Three days later, on December 14th at 5:26 PM EST they left the Moon.

Before entering the Lunar Module for the last time, Cernan said:

I’m on the surface; and, as I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just [say] what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.

On December 19th the crew returned to Earth.

And no one has been back since.

And that is truly infamous.  We stood poised at the edge of the greatest adventure mankind has ever faced.

And we turned our backs on it.