Monday, June 1, 2015

Editor's Corner

June 2015

"All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me...
You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."
-- Walt Disney

Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes and elements. Witness the weather beginning in May and continuing into June. Not just in the U.S.A., but around the world. Many have suffered and there is not a lot those of us who hear about these things long distance can do, but we can look closer to home and perhaps help someone nearby.

Nancy Park addresses "The Compassionate Self" in her column, "Mind, Body, & Spirit Connection." Check out her thoughts with your own.Thomas F. O'Neill ("Introspective") speaks of China's attempt to block all international internet resourses, which is more obvious to him after signing up for NetFlix.

Mattie Lennon ("Irish Eyes") shares some macabre practices, "Sleeping in Coffins" with his usual comical tact, then seeks the higher and lighter life for himself by attending Listowel's annual literary event.

John I. Blair's column "Always Looking - People Who Made A Difference XXX" brings Ralph Waldo Emerson into the spotlight disclosing his attributes. Blair found four poems we had not published from 2004 and these are: "Geckos in The Garden Shed," "What Could Be More Antithetical," "Cattle Egrets," and "Reality Checks." Glad to show these and hope he gets in the poetry mood before the July-August combined issue.

Phillip Hennessy's poem "God Only Knows" was set to music, and as such placed Phil with the top song in the month of May on the Clay County Radio, CCR, The home of Independent Country Music Promotions ! His youtube link to the song is shown with the poem and two more of his poems ("Friends" and "The Fool") are included this issue.
Bud Lemire sent us two poems "Expressions" and "When You Get Old" while Bruce Clifford's single submission is "The Only Thing."

Jeremiah Raber also sent two poems, "Beware" and "Is it to Forget." Mrs. King submitted two also: "Sovereignty" and "Catastrophe That." Be sure to click her byline for her bio.

Rebecca Morris' serial "The Adventures of Ollie Dare" continues with Chapter 3 "Ollie-Dare and The River Boat Pilot" for June. Share this with your reading youngsters.

Mark Crocker adds Chapter Two "Underhanded Deals" of his "Rabbo Book Five."

Thanks again to Mike Craner for his expertise and patience that allows this little ezine to continue its mission of encouraging writers, experienced and beginners, and to promote reading. TV has done a lot to discourage reading as a pastime, but we are holding fast.

We will be combining the July and August submittals in one issue to be released on the first day of August. This should give all the authors time to enjoy summer and still get some writing done for their loyal readers. We certainly are looking forward to a nice summer and wish everyone the best.

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This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Always Looking – People Who Made A Difference XXX


Ralph Waldo Emerson

   A reporter asked a scrubwoman who always attended Emerson’s lectures whether she understood them. "Not a word," she replied, "but I like to go and see him stand up there and look as though he thought everyone was as good as he is."

   Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) began his career as a Unitarian minister but became the preeminent lecturer, essayist and philosopher of 19th century America. He was a key figure in the "New England Renaissance," as an author and through association with the Transcendental Club and other writers—notably Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller—who gathered at his home in Concord, Massachusetts.

   The Transcendentalists opened the liberally religious to science, Eastern religions and naturalistic mysticism. Emerson’s oration at Harvard in 1837, "The American Scholar," challenged listeners to stop imitating Europe and to ground their ideas in American resources, sincerity and realism. It has been called "America's Intellectual Declaration of Independence."

   In his “Divinity School Address” in 1838, he protested a stale, inherited Christianity, calling for fresh religious inspiration. "Cast conformity behind you, and acquaint men at first hand with Deity." Emerson considered his ideas consistent with Jesus’ teachings. He spoke against slavery, urged greater freedom in worship, and championed woman's rights, more freedom and scope in university education, and purer methods in politics and trade.

   Emerson’s fame came primarily through Chautauqua lectures and two collections of Essays. The great teaching for which he is best remembered is self-reliance—to listen to and heed the still, small voice of God within and to master passion and temper. He regarded the true self as capable of experiencing and knowing the Divine, present in all creation—the God within, not the God of authority and tradition.

   He believed we know God first and mainly through the moral law within. "It is by following other men's opinions that we are misled and depraved." Emerson’s optimism was the fruit of a long, hard personal struggle. His self-reliance is the ability to affirm all creation even while coming to terms with manifest evil.

Adapted from an article by Frank Schulman
Link:Frank Schulman article

   Selected quotations from Emerson:

   “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

   “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.”

   “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

   “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”

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Mind, Body, & Spirit Connection

Nancy's Mind Ramblings ~ Tuning in to "Synchronicity"~the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection

The Compassionate Self

    This month has brought with it stunning losses with the devastating earthquakes in Nepal, the destruction caused by tornados and flooding, disasterous train accident in New York and even the loss, upon our streets, of young people who made poor decisions, as well as those who protect and serve, losing their lives in the course of this duty to us.

    It's enough to make you avoid the news. So many fall innocent victim to Mother Nature and her indescriminent paths. Still others become victims of violence. Regardless of the origin, suffering is the outcome. How then, could these things possibly be of any service to us? By affording us the great blessing of service to others.

    We have seen natural disasters of one kind or another where there is such devastation and loss of life. As the pictures and stories unfold, our hearts go out to those affected and for many of us, we find a silent gratitude within, fortunate we were spared these tragedies. In these instances, there can be great empathy, as, being aware we all of the same family, its not difficult to imagine the affect these disasters would have upon our own lives. Naturally, empathy can often be accompanied by a natural sense of fear, which can feel much like when we assist someone who has lost a loved one, we are very sad, we try to say something healing, do something to help, but deep down, we fear this loss in our own life, and sometimes seek to distance ourselves from that fear. We are unconsciously aware of the delicate balance between we who are fortunate and those who move through overwhelming struggles, but this comes to the forefront when we are barraged with images of destruction, loss of life and the destructive power of Nature, and man.

    As I'm sure many can attest, we have all seen where these cataclysmic events, these times of great need, bring others who would step in to offer whatever they can do. I believe tragedies of any kind, bring about the greatest opportunities for the expansion of our humanity, in the extending of our love and compassion throught prayer, thoughtful intent and action. I would go further to say that these events may well be the glue, the bond to that fabric of who we all really are, a hallmark of our soul.

     Scientists study our origins, whatever belief system you may or may not have, the science points to our earth, even our own moon, as all being from the same "material" structure. Dynamic collisions, this way or that, chipping off here and there, a bit of this planet, a piece of that moon, all that collesque, formed by the circling of a field of gravity, into the planet we inhabit - "the stuff of the stars" - taken in its literal meaning, biblical (as in the formation by "God" of man from the mud of earth, etc.) or scientific "the big bang" - all leads back to the same "element". Everything that exists upon this planet, came into form from the same origins.

    And so it is, that all things, are one thing.

    The best side of people is often hidden. We are offered the opportunity to extend the deepest, most loving part of ourselves, without any reservations, to another, to our fullest and theirs, in these moments of tragedy. We are provided such an overwhelming gift in our capacity to love another through action, in these times. I do not attempt to diminish, in any way, the depth of loss and grief which happens, but rather shine a light on the gift of our being able to bring forth our truest selves at these times, putting another before us. Extending whatever love and compassion we are capable of, in order to facilitate healing the self - the One self. The gift lay not in what happened, but rather how we will respond to it, the action which transmutes it from what it has become, to what it can be. All that is needed, is the extension of the compassionate self towards another. Whether its one on one, or extending healing to the masses.

    It’s rare in our everyday lives that we truly contemplate the suffering of strangers.

    Many historic figures have made references to this understanding:
  • "Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependance of all things."-Thomas Merton
  • "Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive."-The Dalai Lama
  • "Love one another."-Jesus
  • "We are one, after all, you and I, together we suffer, together exist and forever will recreate each other."-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
  • "Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world... Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis."-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

    Healing can take place through many expressions. We've all heard "sending love and light". Not something to be taken lightly. Studies have shown that the power of intention, sometimes through "prayer", which is really holding that soul in your heart and sending mental healing and love towards them, can have an extremely powerful effect. This action done alone, or in the company of others, for example a healing service or prayer group, is but one powerful way in which we can "intend" love and healing for others. Actions, of course, our physical presence, the giving of our time, or our abundance is yet another for those who can.

    Despite the appearance of the opportunities we are afforded by these events, we are provided by their existence, limitless options to express our love and compassion. To exercise our true nature, in the service of another.

    Three rules I live by:
  • The first is be kind.
  • The second is, be kind.
  • The third is, be kind.

    Take a moment to send loving, healing thoughts towards those who are less fortunate than yourselves in any way. Take action if you can, reach down to what it is you yourself would be most grateful for, should it be you upon which this unfolded.
"there but for fortune, go you and I"

    Express your true nature, that of a compassionate soul.
Many blessings~

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Irish Eyes

Sleeping in Coffins

      The four penny coffin (also referred to as a coffin house) is a Victorian term that described one of the first homeless shelters to be created for the people of central London. It was operated by the Salvation Army during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide comfort and aid to its destitute clients. If you think that attic-flat in Ranelagh or the MRI scanner were claustrophobic or the ‘geki-sema share houses’ in Tokyo, Japan, which are so tiny that they don’t have room for anything excepting for sleeping , think again. Have you ever slept in a coffin?

      Apart from vampire and goths very few people have a desire to sleep in an actual coffin. When George Ryan was doing research for his book Vexed at his Own Funeral he spent a night sleeping in a coffin in a Dublin funeral parlour. The funeral director claimed that he didn’t ask for permission but George assured me that he did. “ . . .I was generously granted permission to lie for an hour and a half in a coffin, in Clonsilla, on my own, and the light off. I spent most of the time wondering who’d be the next to enter that coffin.”

      For the past 23 years, Brazilian Zeli Ferreira Rossi, 61, has been going to sleep, every Friday night, not to his bed, but straight into a real coffin. This unusual exercise is in memory of a friend of his who died.

      One “coffin-sleeper” had this to say, “ . . .if I ever met the right woman, we'd probably construct a two-person coffin shaped bed for ourselves. Complete with a removable lid.”

      I read the following in the Nigerian Tribune (I don’t confine my reading to the Wicklow People.); “Coffins are never intended to be just another items of relaxation like sofas or even beds. But some people do not see them like that. Coffins, to them, are just items of wood and it does not matter at all if the tired takes a nap in them. Whether they are called coffins (their original name) or caskets (originally a box for jewellery), these boxes for the dead, to those who make them, are cool means of livelihood, as well as for rest, while waiting for customers. ”

      There are some provincial temples in Thailand, such as this one at Nakhon Nayok that specialize in the coffin ceremony with Buddhist monks providing the blessings. For a fee of around 200 Baht (a merit-making donation to the temple) participants lay in the coffin holding flowers. The lid is then shut as the monks chant death rites. Just over a minute later as the monks chant about new life, the coffin is opened and the participants are ‘reborn’ leaving behind their bad karma. If, in future years, the participant endures a spell of bad luck or misfortune, they may again opt for the coffin ceremony to bring about a reversal in their luck.

      When Mark Twain was living in London in 1909 his cousin Dr. Jim Clemens , who also lived in London died. The media of the day took it to be Mark Twain and published, what it assumed to be , suitable obituaries. Mark Twain was amused and went to the morgue and declared afterwards, “The moment I saw the corpse I knew it wasn’t me . . .”

      Now, that's enough about coffins, death and dying. I'm at Listowel Writers' Week among such celebs as Ann Enright, Graham Norton, Patsy McDermott and P. J. Kennedy. I'll give you full run-down next month including an account of "The Healing Session." It has been held for the past 22 years In John B. Keanes. (see pic below) It is the biggest open-mike session in Europe (if not in the world.)

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Below: Seen at Listowel Writers' Week



    I just recently signed up to stream movies online from Netflix but in order to watch the Netflix movies, here in China, I have to us a VPN (virtual proxy network). My VPN connects my computer to a server in the U.S. which enables me to surf the web as if I were in America. I also like to download movies for my students here in Suzhou, China, by using my trusted VPN.
    I learned quickly from speaking with my students that they are huge fans of American films and television programs from the U.S.
    There are many Chinese here excited about the fact that Netflix has its eyes on China. The company sees a huge profit potential in Asia due to a huge demand for online American films.
    Netflix in recent years has been experiencing a slowdown of subscriber growth in the U.S. The firm has announced that they are aggressively intending to expand globally. The company is currently in talks with Chinese online broadcasting firms, the executives of the involved Chinese parties are hoping to work out a deal.
    There is a lot to be worked out though and the negotiations are in its early stages. The deal will most likely face various complications with the Chinese censors. There will most likely be programming content that China feels objectionable for China’s viewership.
    There are many broadcasting companies based in China that would love to partner up with Netflix. They understand the global influence of the American media. However, China has raised concerns over foreign online content. The country has also placed many obstacles and policy restrictions on foreign content, especially, from America.
    China has close to 600 million internet users which Netflix would like to tap into. For instance "House of Cards," a Netflix original top-billed by Kevin Spacey, is already famous in China, with avid viewers including the country's powerful anti-corruption ambassador, Wang Qishan.
    The series' first two seasons have gathered positive and overwhelming viewership results in the Chinese video streaming site operated by, Inc. However, the show's third season has not been aired on the portal yet after new Chinese restrictions were issued. It has been said that the series was placed on China’s chopping block due to China’s over the top censorship of American programming.
    I haven’t watched the series “House of Cards” but millions in China can’t get enough of the series. Many fans have illegally downloaded the third season, making China the top pirated video downloader of the recent "House of Cards" episodes.
    The fact that China is placing so many restrictions on what can and cannot be viewed in its country only reveals the major differences between our two countries. The American broadcasting companies have to deal with censors but nothing to the extent of restrictions you find in China.
    Like I mentioned before my students here in Suzhou, China also enjoy watching American films. But, like me many of them have to use VPN’s which are illegal in China.
    I think the fact that VPN’s are being used illegally here for the simple enjoyment of watching American movies online - is a reflection of China’s irrational fear of America’s influence on the Chinese culture.
    I do hope Netflix is allowed to stream its content in China but I feel they are in for a huge disappointment. I say this because in the end China’s restrictions on American programming will become Netflix’s greatest obstacle and perhaps its greatest disappointment for China’s viewership.
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

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Reality Check

High today on my agenda,

Bucking all the current trend,

I intend to get real,

Not bend rules of logic

Nor relegate reality to addenda,

But send a message loud and clear

That I shall spend my energy

Trying to comprehend what’s here.

©2004 John I. Blair

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Cattle Egrets

We sit together in the evening air
At my brother’s place,
Laughing and talking,
Lost in the present,
Hooked on each other.

Overhead small clouds scud,
Blown by the western wind
From Mexico to Mississippi,
Cross-tracing iridescent cirrus,
Those crystals at the edge of space.

I idly watch as white birds
Flap firmly past,
Thinking they are pigeons,
Thinking they are common
(Though all life is rare).

Suddenly I catch a flash of buff,
Noting then the supple necks
And slender legs as more birds,
Dozens, scores, a hundred,
Splash the sky with intermittent splendor.

Cattle egrets, dressed in breeding plumes,
Are flocking to their hidden roost,
Somewhere yonder in the dusk,
And glorify our lives unbidden,
Reminding us to look for wonder.

©2004 John I. Blair

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Under God, is our Nation. His back is not turned.
For your sacrifices in combat recompense be returned.

Your legacy of nobility, devotion and honor
is the quality of my life, my sons and my daughter

For all whom we've lost: your memory has remained.
You, who covered the cost while our freedom was gained.

In God we trust to give rest to the soldiers
who carried the burden of combat on shoulder.

Commemoration for one day: nowhere near adequate
for being justice, independence, and liberty's advocate

Each of us, we are free
All across this land
You won. Rest in the sovereignty
of our Father's hand.

©2015 Mrs. King

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When You Get Old

Life isn't easy when you get old
The golden years aren't really gold
Our bodies age and aren't meant to last
Our time in life goes way too fast
Our legs give out and we take a fall
We endure our condition, we take it all
As we age and get old
We are always being told

Our freedom is taken away
Wondering what will be in each day
Being watched with all we do
Like children that we once knew

Our eyes go, and it's hard to see
Visions of how it use to be
The music that we once heard
Flies away like the yellow bird

Even our brain starts to decay
We forget exactly what to say
Where are we, where do we belong
Everything just seems so wrong

Getting old isn't fun for me
But it's the human way to be
©May 18, 2015 Bud Lemire
                            Author Note:
We are mortal, so we age with time
We must enjoy our years while we can
Because time moves on, and our bodies
age. Yet there is hope, if you believe,
our souls become young once again,
when we pass away.

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Geckos in The Garden Shed

Sliding past my prickly hollies,
Mind intent on finding what
My planting project sent me for,
I stepped up to the garden shed

And wrestled with the balky door.
The gloom within breathed old decay,
Objects tossed to rot away,
Compost, hoses, battered tools,

Broken lawnchairs slung aside,
Years of flower tags on the floor.
Suddenly, my senses sharpened
By the musty atmosphere,

I felt a presence on the walls,
Something hiding, something gliding
On the panels, on the ceiling!
As eyes adjusted to the sight,

Turning dusk to dim twilight,
The mystery resolved, revealed
A dozen geckos creeping, crawling,
Dashing over rusty steel.

Twisting torsos, lashing tails,
Stalking trails through dusty pots
And empty pails, they let me know,
Unbidden to that humid space,
I’d found their hidden jungle world.

©2004 John I. Blair

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Something tells Me that this is to be
a very special friendship...
I Like friendship,
...’cause that is something that never leaves,
or changes.
...I'm a good friend..
.I've got good friends, and I respect them,
as they respect Me,
despite all my misgivings...
..and theirs.
Thats what friends are FOR.
For Giving
©2014 Phillip Hennessy
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The Fool

I made myself, a Fool, - for you
Perhaps I was a Tool, - for you
Something to hold, and feel so near
Nothing so cold as the voices, I hear.

They tell me to do this,
they tell me, “Do that”
It’s sometimes a Wonder
I know where I’m at.

Could this be fantasy,
Is this so Real?
How will I know
How to think, how to Feel?

An intuition comes along,
an insight may appear,
and all I know, is I should grasp -
and cling upon the Truths, I hear.

With such passions aroused, and (with hindsight), no Reason
We hide our suspicions, of others’, deep treason
Their shouts of denial, that echo, so sweetly
For judgements abound, and rebound, discretely.

With our minds now possessed, and a passion to know
We seek further guidance, - (for lights, to show)
We pray for protection from anything dark
We ask that the light shines, reflecting a “spark”

Which smiling Angel, which Star do we follow
For us to come Home, without Hate, without Sorrow
Returning from battles within, and without,
We smile at the Wisdom awarded, no doubt.

We ask for the courage to cross boundaries unknown,
and support of our helpers, who’s way was once shown
the noise of the battle approaches, my friend
is this the Beginning, or is this – The End.

©2014 Phillip Hennessy

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Catastrophe That

Catastrophe that I would be
Expected to be won
One big mistaken submission
Mrs. Taken work for fun
Funny ha ha
It's rather clear
Transparent seeds a child
I've disappeared before the shear

Wild hair gone mild
Infect with facts
Perfect, retracts
Reinterject your stance

In fact I'm shunned by none
You see, nobody gives first glance
You can't! see? Me/you: never! could?
Critic always sideway thinking

Straighten out futile irony
My seamlessness is wrinkling
Miser is able to miss
This ship has gone too far

Invisible? na! kid, I?
No answer wind direct
Act shunned preceded by conned sequence
Term minimal defect
©2015 Mrs. King
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What Could Be More Antithetical

What could be more antithetical than
An egret flapping alone across our parking lot?

The egret’s all elegance and sinuosity,
Spotless, soft, antediluvian grace;

The parking lot’s all brittle concrete,
Stamped steel, stone, sterility.

Yet for the egret the hot air rising
From the pavement helps it stay aloft;

And for the parking lot—well, with
An egret for our eyes, why care?

©2004 John I. Blair

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Is it to Forget

Have you ever wondered why people get high
Do they do it just so they can live and get by
Or is it to forget the past and all their pain
Is it because it helps them to not go insane

That's the excuse that most of them use
They say it's too help forget all the abuse
But in the end they all know it's a huge lie
After a life filled with sadness they all die

Those people should focus more on life
They need to realize life cuts everyone like a knife
So next time you wanna go and get high
Then buy a plane ticket and fly up into the sky

©May 2015 Jeremiah Raber

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God Only Knows

Sentimental images still bless my wall
I still think of You, in spite of it All
I can see you, even though it's through my tears
I'm still here, with You, after all these Years

God only Knows
Where we'd be, Now
My Love still shows,
I need you, so much
and How much,
God Only Knows.

Cold emotions are all that's left to Share
the Glory of our dreams is always there
I can't touch you,but you're always by my side
I mean so much to you, and your Love's Here, inside.
God only knows just how we feel
could Life reveal, our Love is Real
why can't we Live to see,
our Destiny, the Ecstasy
God Only Knows
God Only Knows.

youtube link: God Only Knows

©2014 Phil Hennessy

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Expressions are worded in so many ways
It's all in the way that we use the phrase
We can explain it on one day
The next time it could be a different way
I do believe expressions come from our soul
From our experiences and all that we know
To voice what we need to, of it all it can be
Expressing the words and setting them free

Once we get the words ready and then let them out
The way that you wanted to, there can be no doubt
The order they came out, was the right one
Now that they're released, then it is done

Everyone has their own way to express
Each is unique in individualness
Just like each soul is unique
Each one expressing, must reach their peak

Speak the words, say what you want to
Do it the way that is the best way for you
Use your thoughts, not anything less
And then let it out, go ahead and express

Expressions are for us to express what we know
So others can hear what comes from your soul
©May 22, 2015 Bud Lemire
                         Author Note:
Expressing is our own unique way of letting others
know how we feel. The way we word them depends
on what we wish to get across to those listening.
It's a good form of release as well.

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I'm a martian Lost in this world
From Here to there I get hurled
I'm Always bouncing to the beat
I Always make it through the heat

There is nothing that can stop me
I fall then get back up as you can see
There's no bullet that will put me down
You see me walking with a frown

But that's because I'm not from here
I'll be out of here in another year
Until then I do what the master says
You'll then wonder who I really was

So save me before I go on my trip
And they return with the spaceship
That's when they take me into space
That's when I end up losing this face

Hear my cries for help as I am lost
Death is what they said was the cost
Beware I'm going going going gone....

©May 2015 Jeremiah Raber

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The Only Thing

I feel like I’m crossing paths with you
As if we were in many ways out of tune
We wandered off to the view
Feeling blue

I feel like I’m flying inside the cloud
As if we could hardly make any sounds
We scattered a dust cloud in the air
We didn’t care

These things happen from time to time
It doesn’t matter if I’m dead or alive
The only thing I’ve been missing is gathered in the wave
All of those promises were made

I feel like I’m hearing a Calypso serenade
As if we are the only ones who had it made
We climbed a hilltop towards the slide
Day and night we cried

These things happen from time to time
It doesn’t matter if I’m dead or alive
The only thing I’ve been missing is gathered in the wave
All of those promises were made

The only thing I’ve been missing is right there to be saved
All of those memories could never fade

©5/7/15 Bruce Clifford

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The Adventures of Ollie-Dare - Chapter 3


Deep within the forest lived a bear called Ollie-Dare. Now Ollie-Dare was a very special bear for he was wise in all things, and took care of the great forest.

One day as Ollie-Dare was walking along the river on his way to see friends he saw a strange sight before him. Sitting on the river's edge was a giant float of some sort, with strange ropes and large white cloths blowing in the breeze. Now this worried Ollie-Dare that something had entered his forest, and he was not quite sure of what it was.

Ollie-Dare slowly walked up to the rivers edge and called out "Hello, is someone there?"

At first there was no answer from the strange float, and then suddenly a tall white-haired man came into view. He had a long white beard that hung to his chest, and on his head sat a wool cap. "Hello there and who may I be speaking with?" called the man.

"I am Ollie-Dare, and this is my forest you have entered. May I ask who you are, and what is this float that you seem to be riding on?"

"I am Max, the River Boat Pilot," the stranger said, "and I mean you no harm. This is the Queen Anne and she is the swiftest and best riverboat on this here river. But she has taken on a leak, that must be repaired. I am only stopping to see if I can repair her so I can continue my journey."

Ollie-Dare thought for a moment and said "Welcome, Max, come ashore and I will fix some fresh tea, and see if we, here in the great forest, may be of help to you."

Max lowered a strange looking rope that looked like a ladder and began to climb down. As Max reached land from his boat, he shook hands with Ollie-Dare and with a big smile said, "I don't think I have ever met a bear, and one that talks as well."

Ollie-Dare returned his smile and answered, "I, Sir, have never met a River Boat pilot before, so that should give us plenty to talk about over tea."

As the strange pair started toward the forest they began talking of their travels and Ollie-Dare spoke of the forest and its many problems. As they came upon Ollie-Dare's cave they could see Jimmy the Rabbit sitting on the porch waiting for his old friend. Ollie-Dare introduced Max, as they entered his cave, and told Jimmy of the boat and its leak.

Max sat and listened to all the wonderful stories Jimmy had to tell of his life in the forest, and Max told of his life on the river. Soon Ace the Coon and Banjo the Fox showed up, to the delight of Max, and they, too, told him of tales from the forest. They talked along, and the time went by so fast that soon darkness entered the cave. Ollie-Dare invited Max to spend the night and have breakfast with him and his friends, giving an invitation for a forest tour the next morning.

Max happily agreed for he needed some materials to repair his boat and thought the forest may be able to help. So Max settled in for the night, and Ollie-Dare set out some fresh tea bags and bread for breakfast the next morning. Jimmy, Ace, and Banjo left to get a few hours of sleep after the promise of returning the next day for breakfast.

And sure enough, just as Ollie-Dare had finished making the tea and toast, the voices of his friends could be heard in greetings as they entered the cave. Max was sitting, waiting on his new friends, and the fresh tea Ollie-Dare was preparing. Over breakfast they made plans for the day, and who they should visit for the supplies Max needed.

Soon they began their journey and made the way to the home of Nibbles the Squirrel. Of all the forest creatures, Nibbles was the one that knew where and how to find things within the forest, for she traveled the forest every day gathering nuts and berries for the long winter ahead. Everyone knew that Nibbles was a friend and gave help to everyone. Nibbles talked with Max and asked many questions of his travels before finally telling him about Beaver Joe that lived down river, and how he was the best water and woodsman around. So with a fresh bag of berries, Nibbles said good-bye to Max and sent him on his way to see Beaver Joe.

Along the way they passed many of the forest creatures, and Max took the time to stop and talk with each of them. He met Blossum the possum with her wild hat and bag of goodies, Shantey the groundhog waved from a distance, for he was shy and stayed away from strangers.

Soon they came upon a large pile of wood. Max thought to himself that he had never seen so much wood. Ollie-Dare called for Beaver Joe and soon he came scampering over the woodpile along with his sons Joey, Jr, and Jay. Ollie-Dare introduced Max and told Beaver Joe of his boat and its leak.

Beaver Joe left and returned with a nice, long, log from his woodpile. Max thanked Beaver Joe for his kindness and asked him to join him for a trip up river as soon as the leak was repaired. Off the group went to rest and have evening tea before taking Max back to the river.

As the evening sun began to fade, Ollie-Dare, Max, Jimmy, Ace, and Banjo headed for the river to see the boat and assist Max if needed. They were nervous attempting to climb onto the big boat, but soon found themselves laughing at the slipping and sliding as they tried to climb the rope ladder.

Before long they found themselves on deck of the boat, and were amazed at the sight before them. Ropes of all sizes, barrels, and boxes were everywhere. A small door led to a small room where there was a bed and a small kitchen.

Max explained in detail the operations of his riverboat, and the responsibility of his hauling merchandise from town to town along the river. He carried medicine for doctors, food, cloth and fuel, as well. Soon the time came for Ollie-Dare and his friends to leave, so with a promise of returning the next day to say good-bye before Max continued his journey, they headed home.

Bright and early the next morning, a parade of animals could be seen walking toward the river's edge. Max was up on the tip of his boat, laughing heartily at the merriment before him. Nibbles the Squirrel had brought along her best friends, Fanny the Robin and Henny the Wren. Blossum the possum was there and so was Shantey the Groundhog, Wood Chuck the Logger, and Beaver Joe and his family. They all carried gifts for Max of one sort or another. Ollie-Dare was pleased with the forest creatures, and smiled proudly as each came forth to wish Max well and deliver their gifts.

Max in turn gave the animals gifts of food, hay, and bright cloth for clothes and bedding. He soon had to say good bye to his new friends, and started off to deliver his goods along the river. Promising to return one day for fresh brewed tea, he said good by.

Ollie-Dare returned to his cave, and once again thought of the years gone by, and how each new thing that came his way brightened his tomorrows. He gave thanks for his old friends such as Jimmy, Ace and Banjo, and thanks for his new friends such as Max. While brewing his tea, he wondered at what the morning would bring - what new and exciting adventures lay in wait for him.
©2002 Rebecca Morris

Watch for the next chapter in the July-August combined issue!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Rabbo Book 5 - Chapter 2

Underhanded Deals

    Merryn walked up the little lane until it reached the main forest road. Once she set foot on the road she levitated herself about three feet of the ground and started to head east up the forest road at about twenty miles an hour. As Merryn traveled down the forest broad she had to duck from time to time to avoid low branches and the odd fallen trees. It wasn’t really a road in the true sense of the word. It was more of a well traveled track that was wide enough for a cart yet not rutted up or paved. In winter when it rained hard or snowed the road became almost impassible at times and at those times Merwyn would get the locals to help him keep the road open by either removing the snow or draining the puddles that formed.

    As Merryn moved down the road she grumbled to herself about how unfair it was that she was being sent off on what Merwyn had called a secret mission. She would have much preferred to of stayed at home and listened in to what Merwyn, Bastet and the elders would be talking about. The only reason she could think of that Merwyn would send her off on her mission was that she had spent some years in Rome and had got to know a lot of people high up.

    Merryn giggled to herself as she thought about her first meeting with little boots as she liked to call the then heir to the emperor’s throne. Merryn smiled to herself as she remembered the first time she had meet little boots at the island court of Capri of the then emperor Tiberius. She remembered the long conversions she had had with little boots while she had shape shifted into the form of a middle aged man. She had to be careful while there not to get drunk or fall asleep. For if she had got drunk or fallen asleep she would at once return to her normal female form and that was the last thing she wanted.

    But the conversions with little boots had intrigued her as he was highly intelligent and quick witted and nothing like the rumors that had been banded about after his murder. As Merryn drifted along she thought about why little boots had been killed. True some of his antic had been wildy outragous. But they had been goal driven and a means to an ends. But little boots had had plans that would have changed everything in the Roman Empire.

    Merryn thought back to that first meeting with little boots on the island of Capri at the palace of the emperor Tiberius. The palace was on the top of the highest point overlooking the roman’s called the Mediterranean Sea. The palace was a dark place filled with fear, dread and an unbelievable stench of death. Merryn had come to the island with Bastet who had come to trade citrus and silk for gold. As Bastet had put it “You have to put up with the bad to get the good”. But the look on Bastet’s face of utter disgust said far more than the words she had spoken. Merryn’s heart had gone out to poor little boots as she knew that what was going on at the palace was changing and corrupting little boots.

    Tiberius had absolute power and lived a life of corruption and drunken debauchery. The only thing that matter to Tiberius was his own pleasure and nothing was beyond his corrupted idea of pleasure and Merryn was glad when she had finally left the stench of the palace. Then when little boots had become emperor the rumors went around that he had murdered the old emperor and was plotting to kill the old emperor’s son that he had to share power with. One of little boots very first acts was to give his personal body guard two years worth of pay in one lump sum on top of their normal pay. Then he had given the head of each house hold in Rome a personal cash gift to win them over.

    The following day Merryn had done to the young emperor first as a rich merchant and then as herself having shape shifted back to her normal form. That night little boots sister had invited her back to join her in his private rooms where the three of them had enjoyed some private time. Once little boots and his sister had fallen asleep she had slipped into little boots mind to see what he was really up to. Merryn had been shocked by what she had found and seen in the young emperor’s mind. A mind tormented by unspeakable horrors, the murder of his father then of his older brothers and lastly by the torture and death of his mother. Then she had seen how the old emperor Tiberius had corrupted him and worked his own evil magic on the poor scared young man. Little boots sanity teetered on a knife edge so Merryn had spent most of the night working on his tattered ego until the horrors of his young life where more manageable for him and did not seem as bad and as horrific. But she had realized that she would never be able to make him fully sane and that he would slowly sink into insanity.

    But Merryn had also seen the great plans that little boots had and that he wanted total power and that he planned to do away with the senators or at the very lest make them do his bidding and control them so that he could live the life he wanted and make his empire even greater. But then suddenly little boots had fallen very ill and the general in charge of his personal body guard had betrayed him thinking that he was going to die. But once little boots had recovered, he had changed and the true nature of little boots had been covered up started to come to the forefront. To hold onto power in Rome you had to be cruel and hard. But now little boots mental health issues started to come to the forefront.

    The list of mental heath issue was long. Glutten, sex addict, alcoholic, sadomasochist the list was long and Merryn felt bad that she had been unable to return to help the young emperor overcome his mental health issues. But it was not surprising that he had so many after all from the age of seven he had lived in a world full of murder and torment and then when he had joined the old emperor on the island of Capri at age seventeen and seen what absolute power was, he was bound to develop issues. But there was still one control in his life that helped to stop him from descending deeper into to the depth of depravity. And that was his sister that he adored and loved beyond anything.

    It was little boots sister Drusilla who really controlled things. It was she that ran his house even though she was married. But her husband was happy with the way things were what with being married to the sister of little boots. Besides that made him next in line for the emperor’s throne if little boots was to die, matters where helped by the fact that Drusilla’s husband preferred the company of his peers to that of woman.

    Drusilla had let little boots live the life that he thought an all powerful emperor should. Drusilla had even realized that Merryn was not human and had in private referred to her as Venus as that’s was who she thought she was. Merryn had been saddened at the death of the very beautiful and somewhat kinky Drusilla and had planned to return to Rome for the funeral of Drusilla but she had been unable to due to a storm and then Bastet talking her into a long trade mission to get silk.

    Merryn popped out of the forest surprised at how quickly she had gotten there. But she had been deep in thought and had not noticed that much time had passed or how far she had traveled up the forest road. She stopped her floating and then floated up to about three hundred feet so that she had a clear view of the surround area. Merryn could see the roman camp on the far side of the plain and off to the north she could see the hill fort of Hembury behind her and to the northwest was the settlement that the elders had come from. Merryn scanned the forest looking for human auras and only saw a few and those auras she knew. The Romans seemed to be staying mostly to the east. But Merryn has seen signs of freshly felled trees on the western side of the forest but it was unclear whether it was the Celts or the Romans who had felled the trees.

    Merryn remained invisible and flew over the roman camp and headed towards the forest on the eastern side of the roman camp. About a mile past the eastern edge of the forest Merryn descended until she reached ground level where she stopped levitating and found a spot to sit down and recover. But out of caution she kept herself invisible so that if a patrol came by she would not be noticed. As Merryn sat catching her breath her thoughts went back to little boots.

    Many had said that little boots was insane and they often cited incidences of his behavior such as the time at a banquet with high ranking senators he had invited his horse to join them and had fed his horse out of golden bowls. When asked why his horse had been invited to dinner all he said was “I’m thinking of making him a consul. What little boots was really saying to the senators was “you are useless. My horse could do your jobs” but the point had been lost on the senators who failed to see what he was saying and only took it as an insult.

    And then there was the attempted invasion Britannia where he had his soldiers collect seashells on the beaches of Gaul. The there was his bridge to nowhere was another incident that many used to say that little boots was insane. Little boots had built a pontoon bridge from the city of Pozzuoli to the city Baia. Then he had marched over thirty thousand horsemen and soldiers from Baia to Pozzuoli and threw a party for them while the rich town folk had watched in horror as the soldiers and horsemen got drunk and wild. Then the following day little boots had marched them all back across the pontoon bridge he marched them all back to Baia and threw another wild party with some of the party goers falling into the sea and drowning. To some this was proof enough that little boots had lost his mind.

    The final straw that had brought little boots down was then he declared that he was a living god and then ordered that the capital of the empire was to be moved from Rome to Egypt and the city of Alexandria. The end of little boots had been swift and fast. But all that he had done was goal driven and that goal had been total power over everything and everyone. His murder was well planned and thought out. It involved senator’s slaves and even his personal body guard. But the bloody aftermath while necessary had shocked many. The murder of his wife was not necessary but the murder of his child was as if there was any blood relatives left the senators would not get what they wanted and that was a republic. But little boots personal body guard had other plans. For if the empire returned back to a republic they would lose all power. So they hunted down the one man that they thought they could control and that was who little boots called “the stuttering fool”.

    Merryn looked up the road and then down the road. She then closed her eyes and scanned the area looking for roman aura’s and seeing where the patrol were. Then still invisible she head up the road until she was almost two miles away for the edge of the eastern great forest. Once Merryn was far enough away from the marching camp she stepped out on to the road and made herself visible. Then she shape shifted into her favorite male form which was that of a man in his mid thirties. She changed her clothing into that, that a roman courier would be wearing. Once she was happy at how she looked she started to jog at a steady pace westward along the forest road.

    Once she came out of the forest having been stopped only once by a patrol she looked around to see if anyone had run ahead of the patrol to inform the marching camp that a runner was coming. Merryn was surprised that there was not a guard waiting for her nor did they seem unduly worried by a lone runner coming from the east down the forest road. Once at the marching camp gate she was stopped and asked for papers and to explain what she was doing.

    With a smile that was all charm Merryn reached out with her coercion and the guards at the gate just stepped out of the way and waved her though. She jogged up the main internal road towards where the headquarters tent would. She was glad that the internal layout of every roman fort or marching camp was pretty much the same. It did not matter if the camp was in Gaul or Judea or if it was in Thrace or Britannia the layout was the same. The fort defenses might be different shapes but once inside everything was the same. And always at the center was the headquarters building or tent.

    Merryn arrived at the headquarters tent and saw two guards standing in the entrance way in full armor with javelins in their right hand and their left hand resting on their shield. As Merryn approached the guards the crossed their javelins and both said in one voice “halt”.

    The guard to the left spoke “State your mission”.

    Merryn reached out again with her coercion and both guards uncrossed their javelins and opened the tent flaps to let her pass.

    Once inside the tent Merryn looked around quickly and saw a suit of armor in the corner and a curtain sectioning the tent in two. In the section Merryn could see was a large table where one solider dressed in a soldier’s toga and another soldier still in full armor minus his helm stood with there backs to her.

    The solider in the toga did not turn his back but spoke and waved his arm pointing to the tent flap “Wait outside please”.

    Merryn did not move and after a few moments the solider in the toga turned and looked at Merryn in the male form she was still using.

    The solider at once straighten his shoulders looked at the solider that was in full armor and then spoke softly.

    “You better go and we will finish this up tonight. I think I have an important message from the emperor”.

    The solider in full armor turn saluted and then left.

    Merryn looked around and saw a chair which she the seated herself in before looking the solider up and down with a measured look.

    “Merryn take that dam fool look off” said the solider with a dry smile.

    Merryn shape shifted back to her normal female form and smiles. “It’s good to see you Plautius”.

    “I take it this is not a social visit” said general Plautius. “But I must comment that you seem to be far from your home”.

    “Sadly it's not” Merryn said with her smile fading. “I’m here at the request of my father”.

    Plautius looked hard at Merryn for a moment marshalling his thoughts “your father? I did not know you had a father”?

    “Merwyn would like to talk with you” Merryn said ignoring Plautius comment. “My father wishes that you come and visit him as soon as possible. Sooner would be better than later”.

    “Merwyn is your father” Plautius said looking shocked and visibly shaken.

    “I see you have met my father or at lest heard of him” Merryn said with a sly smile spreading across her face.

    “I can’t leave here now” Plautius said shaking his head and reaching for a wine goblet that was on the table. “To travel all the way to Gaul to meet with Merwyn is out of the question”.

    “He’s not in Gaul” said Merryn starting to enjoy herself at Plautius discomfiture. “He’s at his home waiting for you”.

    “His home is not in Gaul” asked Plautius as he downed the wine in one swallow.

    “No” said Merryn “as my father told me to say “I would like to see the general in charge at his soonest convinces”. And well I want to get back as I missed lunch to get here”.

    Plautius walked to the tent flap lifted it and spoke to one of the guards outside saying “Two horses saddled and make it now”. He then turned back to Merryn smiled before walking over and entering the sectioned off part of the tent. When he returned he had a heavy riding cloak which he was putting on.

    Merryn shape shifted back into male form and together they walked out of the tent.

     Plautius then turned to the solider that had been in the tent when Merryn arrived. “If I am not back in two days move the army east to the other side of the forest and send word to the emperor that I am missing. And no questions please, I will explain everything when I return”.

    Together Merryn and Plautius started to walk towards the two horses that where being led down the main north road of the camp. Once they reached the horses Plautius mounted his horse while he watched Merryn struggle to mount hers. Then together they rode towards the west gate.

    Once outside the west gate Merryn dug her heels into her horse’s flanks and set off at a fast gallop towards the western forest. Plautius followed hard trying to catch up with Merryn. After about three miles of fast galloping both horses started to show sign of tiring and slowed to a canter.

     Merryn turned to Plautius and smiled before she spoke. “I hate riding horses”.

    “You ride very well. Better than most men I know that where born around horses” Plautius said.

    As they neared the forest Merryn pulled her horse to a halt and looked at Plautius with a sly and playful smile. “How far do we have to go” said Plautius.

     “Oh about 10 miles more” said Merryn letting her horse rest. “It should not take to long as long as we keep moving”.

    Plautius was about to speak when he noticed that while the horses where standing still in fact they were moving and picking up speed.

     “What made you think my father lived in Gaul” Merryn asked as they moved down the forest road.

    “I met Merwyn in Gaul when I was helping the last emperor put down a revolt” said Plautius.

    “I was saddened by little boots death” Merryn said with a sad tone entering her voice.

    “Caligula was insane” said Plautius “We are far better off without him. When we were putting down the revolt I lived every moment in fear for my life. Just one wrong word and I would have been dead”.

     “I had heard that he was insane but I would never have believed it” Merryn said thoughtfully. “Its just when I met him he seemed so nice and friendly”.

     “He was sane before his sister died” Plautius said “But after she died he seemed to have changed. But then losing a lover can be heard”. Plautius paused for a moment before continuing. “You do know that the rumors had them as lovers. But well after she died he turned in on himself and then once he came out mourning he had changed and seemed to take his grief out on everyone around him, if you ask me he took get pleasure in watching people suffer”.

     “I know they were lovers” Merryn said quietly. “I spent some very enjoyable nights in their company” Merryn turned and looked at Plautius. “You know she was the one in control and many of his early ideas where hers. She controlled him and kept him in check”.

    Plautius was silent for a while then he looked at Merryn. “How do you make us float”?

    Merryn looked at Plautius for a moment and then smiled “I just do. I think about moving something and it moves”.

     “You mean you just think about it. That’s all”?

     “Pretty much” Merryn said. “I reach out with my mind like you reach out with a hand” Merryn paused for a moment in thought and then smiled again at Plautius “I never really give it much thought. It’s like my shape shifting. I just think about what I want to look like and that’s it. I become what I want to look like” and with that Merryn shape shifted back to her normal female form.

     “Is that what you really look like” ask Plautius.

     “Yes this is the real me. This is my real skin color, this is my real hair and hair color. As you see me now is as I really am”.

     “I prefer your female form” said Plautius. “Me too” Merryn said with a giggle “A specie that has female and male is so enjoyable”.

    They traveled on for a long while without talking. Then they started to slow down and Plautius became aware that they were getting lower to the ground and finally the horses hoofs made contact with the ground. The horses seemed unaware that they had been flying and did not seem worried that they had traveled faster then they had ever traveled before. Once the horses hoof settled to the ground they trotted along as if nothing odd had happened.

    Merryn stopped her horse and looked at Plautius “Down this little track way”.

    They traveled down the track way until they rounded a corner and there was Merwyn’s house.

    “Different” said Plautius.

    “Different? Different how” Merryn asked looking a little confused.

    “I thought it would be a round house like the Celts live in not a two story villa like building”.

    Merryn dismounted her horse almost falling flat on her face.

    Plautius did likewise without being clumsy like Merryn had. Together they walked the horses to the barn and Merryn led them to the stalls that were sometime used when visitors came to stay over night. As they walked to the house they saw a war chariot. Plautius stopped and looked at Merryn then at the war chariot.

    Merwyn and the two elders sat in the living with Rabbo sitting in a chair next to Merwyn beside the fire.

    Athena was sitting by the window and had opened the curtains after lunch to let in the afternoon sun.

     “You realize” Merwyn said “That if you drive the romans out trade will be harder. They will put an embargo on things that are being shipped to here from their empire”.

     “There will always be trade” said the second elder. “People like Bastet will always come or get though”.

    “True” Merwyn said “But the cost will go up and if that happens the roman’s will return in force. All you will do is by pushing them out is push the problem of the roman’s away so that your children or grand children will have to face the issue”.

    “I have idea or rather a thought” said Rabbo sitting up on his hind legs so that he was eye to eye with the elders. “It seems to me that if you want to have olive oil, wine, citrus, silk and healing herbs from far away it would be better to let the romans in as the trade price will go down. They too like wine, olive oil and they will want that and they will bring it with them. The way it seems to me is that working with the roman’s all you would have to do is pay lip service to them and go on pretty much as you have been”.

    Merwyn nodded to Rabbo and then looked at the elders. “I could not have put it simpler myself”.

    “So if we let the romans in and pretend to follow their customs we will come out with a higher standard of live” said the second elder looking at Rabbo thoughtfully.

    “I don’t agree” said the first elder. “There are a lot of if and buts. And I don’t like dealing in if and buts”. The first elder paused and looked at Rabbo before he continued. “If we let them in. If we pay lip service. If they lets us keep our old ways. If they bring the items you mentioned. If the don’t force their ways on us. If, if, if. What I want to do is deal with is facts”.

     “Would it help if you spoke face to face with the general leading their army” Merwyn said with a tight lipped smile.

    Both elders nodded.

     “But that’s not going to happen now is it” said the first elder.

     Merwyn smiled and looked at both elders.

     Merwyn turned and looked at Athena. “Could you ask our guest to join us please”.

     Athena stood up looking somewhat surprised and walked to the door. She turned back and looked at Merwyn before she opened the door.

     Merryn and Plautius sat at the kitchen table eating a light late lunch. There was cheese boiled eggs bread and cold roasted chicken.

     “This more than makes up for you dragging me away from my headquarters” said Plautius as he put a slice of cold roast chicken on the bread.

     “It nice that someone other than Merwyn enjoys the food around here” said a voice coming from the darkest corner of the kitchen.

     Plautius half turned to see where the voice was coming from but was unable to see in the gloom of the back of the kitchen who was speaking.

    “Your daughter” said Plautius looking at Merryn.

    Merryn laugh softly “No not my daughter”.

     The voice had a soft feminine tone to it that a young girl would sound like.

     “Oh she wishes I was her daughter” said the voice taking on a slight sarcastic tone.

     “Knock that off” Merryn said not even turning around to look at the speaker.

     “Merwyn’s daughter” Plautius said he comment more of a question.

    “No I’m not the old farts daughter either” said the voice.

    “Well without seeing what you look like its hard for me to tell who you are” Plautius said trying again to see into the gloom. All he could see was a chair with what looked like a large stuffed rabbit. “It couldn’t be the stuff rabbit that’s talking. It had to the owner of the stuffed rabbit that was speaking” Plautius thought to himself.

    “I hear your thoughts” said the voice “and I am stuffed. I’m stuffed on dandelion flowers and fresh greens”.

    “Oh stop teasing him” said Merryn.

    “She umm he umm it must be one of that giant talking rabbit of Merwyn’s” said Plautius looking at the now almost fully visible rabbit.

     “He’s clever and smart” said the voice.

     “You are being mean and rude” Merryn said finally turn all the way around so she could see soft eyes.

     Soft eyes hopped down from her chair in the corner and hopped over to Plautius. She stood up on her hind legs and looked Plautius up and down. She then moved closer and then rested her front paws on Plautius’s bare leg.

     “Hmm” Soft eyes said thoughtfully. “A bright aura that’s a rarity’.

    Just then a door opened and in walked Athena. She stood and looked at Plautius and then looked at Merryn.

    Plautius looked at Athena with a look of amazed shock. “You um you look um like a stature I once saw in um. I’m sorry just that you look like the stature of the goddess Athena in um Athens”.

     “Very possible” said Athena look at Plautius. “My father will see you now”.

    Plautius stood up and walked towards the door. There was neither the feeling of dread nor any feeling of fear, rather a feeling of bemusement. Almost as if he had gone from the world of mortals into the world of legends and the world of the gods.

     “Plautius please join us” said Merwyn standing up to greet him. “It’s been so long. How is your father”?

    “My father pasted two years ago” Plautius said.

    Plautius looked around and saw two Celtic elders seated next to a giant rabbit.

    The two elders also stood up and looked Plautius up and down as if he was a dangerous animal of some unknown kind.

     Plautius nodded to Merwyn and then looked at the two elders who stood facing him. He reached out with his hand and arm in the manner in which Gaul’s greeted each other.

    The second elder stepped forward grasped has forearm halfway up. Plautius did the same and he and the second elder looked each other in the eye.

    Then Plautius released his grip and smiled. He then turned to the first elder and offered his hand and arm in the same manner.

    The first elder just looked at Plautius with a grim look.

     “I for one will not have it said that I showed poor manners” the second elder said.

     Reluctantly the first elder used the greetings of the Gaul’s but it was clear to everyone even Plautius that the greeting was half hearted.

     Plautius looked at Merwyn again “Will you act as translator”.

    Merwyn raised an eyebrow and sat down.

     “You will have to forgive the poor speech of a warrior” Plautius said speaking in one of the Gaul languages and hoping that the two elders spoke some Gaul.

     Both elders looked at Plautius with a mix of shock and amazement.

     “I do not speak Gaul very often and I am sorry that I will be tripping over my tongue. But I will do my best to speak plain and simply with no umm hidden words. I say what I mean”.

     The second elder pointed to a vacated chair.

    “Be seated and be at peace” said the second elder as he moved to sit.

    The second elder and Plautius sat down and then again reluctantly the first elder sat down.

    “Tell me” said the second elder speaking in Gaul said. “What would happen if we went to war with you and we beat you”.

    Plautius thought for a moment or two and was about to look at Merwyn and thought better of it as it might be seen as a sign of weakness by the first elder. Speaking to the first elder Plautius said “If you where to beat us in battle then another army would come and then another. You would have to wipe us out and drive us into the seas to stop us”.

    “And then what would happen” said the second elder.

     “We would come again with more troops and more and terrible weapons. And if that would fail then we would make it so that no one would come here. There would be no trade or very little” Plautius said adding a sad tone to his voice.

    The first elder turned slightly and looked at Rabbo.

    “But if that happened then none of us would benefit. Both your people and my people would be the worse” Plautius said still looking at the first elder.

     “We could get by without you” said the first elder dryly.

     “Maybe so. But at what cost to your women and children. If you were to drive us out and wipe us off the shores of this island then as I said we would come back in greater force and we would not be here just to fight but to wipe you out. Your women and children would be slaughter or sold into slavery and you yourselves would be killed or taken back to Rome and used in the games. I for one would prefer if some kind of deal could be reach. I maybe a general but I do not like war. It may bring out the best in some. But it also brings out the worst in other” Plautius paused and looked hard at the first elder before he continued. “There has to be some middle ground that we could agree on”?

     Rabbo suddenly jumped down from his chair and moved to the middle of the semicircle.

     “I have a thought” Rabbo said. He then turned to face both elders. “You want to be as you are now” Rabbo then turned to Plautius “You want to take this land”?

     Both elders nodded as did Plautius.

    “There we have a starting point” said Rabbo.

    “What are you doing” Merwyn said to Rabbo on the private telepathic mode.

    “I have trusted you my whole life and I have learnt so much from you on human nature. Now trust me with this idea” Rabbo answered on Merwyn’s private telepathic mode.

     “I suggest an area setup as a trade center with a fort and a village near by” Rabbo said as he started to explain his idea. “A place that you” Rabbo looked at the two elders. “Can watch the Romans and see their weaknesses and strengths” Rabbo turned and looked at Plautius “and where you can watch and see the weaknesses and strengths of the Dumnonii”.

     “The who” said Plautius?

     “The Dumnonii” Rabbo said as he continued he used his ears to point at the two elders. “From that settlement you will be able to watch each other and learn from each other. Plautius will be able to keep his emperor happy as his emperor will think that he has a settlement in the area. You the Dumnonii will be able to trade and continue to live the life that you have become accustom too”. Rabbo chuckled softly “it seems if I understand trade that having a point where trade can happen might drive down the price of some items as they become more common” Rabbo paused for a moment and looked at both elders and Plautius. “To continue. Now with the roman fort over looking that large river where Bastet comes to trade it will seem to have a good natural fortified position that commands the area. But that goes both ways as it can easily be cut off. A balance will be needed so that neither you” Rabbo looked at Plautius and then at the elders “will have the advantage. A balance must be maintained so that both sides will have to learn from each other” Rabbo paused again looked at the elders, Merwyn and Plautius.

     Before anyone had a chance to say anything Rabbo continued.

     “The important thing as I see it as that the Dumnonii want the trade goods that the roman’s have. The roman’s want what the Dumnonii have. If it came to open warfare both sides would lose in the long term as they would be busy fighting each other. To avoid that a neutral point as I have mentioned would help. A trade center with a roman fort and Dumnonii village would make that happening. A place that is neither Dumnonii nor Roman, but both. Such a place would benefit both parties involved. The location would become an important trade hub and those that controlled it would find themselves in a position of where their power would increase and they would have control over those coming into the area. Working together you could become very powerful here and in the empire”.

     “Powerful you say” said the first elder looking at Rabbo.

     “Yes powerful. I think if you made the traders pay a fee. A umm tax for coming to trade that on its own would be profitable. But that would be just the start. I also see a problem. That is your people’s habit of raiding” Rabbo said looking at the two elders. “But there is away around that, that would benefit both parties” Rabbo paused and looked at the elders and Plautius again. “Let’s say the Dumnonii’s young men raid a roman patrol. The romans would want retribution. If the retribution was taken out on a village with trade items from the Dumnonii and those items taken to the trade point to be traded then it would seem that retribution had happened but in fact the profit from those trade items would be split between you thus increasing your profits with no harm to each other”.

     “I like you idea” said the first elder who then looked at Plautius and then the second elder. “If I understand right what you are saying if that mock warfare would be the cover for moving the trade items to the trading point and that would keep our young warriors busy and out of trouble”.

    Rabbo nodded.

     “I see some issues with your whole plan. But it’s a starting point”. The first elder turned and looked at Plautius and for the first time he smiled. “We need to talk more on this”.

     “I agree” said Plautius as he offered his hand and arm in the Gaul greeting.

     “Let us have some refreshments” Merwyn said as he stood up and walked towards the kitchen door.

     “That was very clever Rabbo” Merwyn said telepathically to Rabbo as they both entered the kitchen.

     “I had to change a few of my planned ideas as I went along. But all three gave me clues by the looks on their face. The first elder was the key one. Once he saw the umm profit in what I was explaining I knew that they would all agree Rabbo said with a tired tone creeping into his telepathic voice.

     Dinner had been set out and was a roast leg of lamb with pasta, fresh garden greens carrots with butter and garlic and fresh baked bread.

     Everyone helped themselves to what they wanted while Merwyn and Rabbo sat eating and watching the interaction of the first elder and Plautius.

    Bastet and the maiden had returned and they sat talking with Athena and Merryn.

    Rabbo looked around the kitchen seeing that everyone other than Merwyn and he were deep in conversion.

    Rabbo scanned with his ears and finally settled in on listening to the two elders and Plautius who where talking about the fort and the village that he had suggested. He was surprised that while they had changed a few things they had not changed the faults that Rabbo had spotted in his own plan.

    As he listened Plautius was saying “The thing is I have to convince the emperor that I have control over this area”.

    “That’s easy to make appear to be happening” the first elder said. “You roman’s are famed for building roads”.

    “Roads” Plautius said looking surprised.

     “Yes roads” said the first elder. “It seems to me that if you kept your men busy building a road from where the trade center will be to whatever point to the east that you need that will keep them busy and seem to your emperor that you have control plus it will mean that trade could be move much faster up and down the road. We already have the road that you would call a track. That would be a good point to start from”.

     “I see what you mean. If we build a full paved road running east west then trade could be moved fast. You realize that there would have to be way stations for people to rest”.

     The first elder nodded “That would also keep your men busy and would also seem to show your emperor that you have control of the area”.

     “You seem to have changed your mind” said the second elder.

     The first elder turned and looked at him and laughed. “Until Rabbo pointed out how much we could profit I was ready to leave and muster an army. But this idea of profit without warfare has its advantages”.

     “But what will your kinsmen and followers have to say” said the second elder.

     “Rabbo gave me the answer to that” the first elder said laughing. “The raids are the key issue. If we control the raiders then we can set it up so that it seems that we are fighting and resisting, but the truth would be that we are aiding in making it seem like that the roman’s are not in control. And it would keep my warriors and yours if they wish to partake out of trouble”.

     “You ever thought about being a roman senator” laughed Plautius “You are sneaky and underhanded”.

    Both elders laughed hard.

    “I think we need to enlist Bastet’s help” said the second elder as he looked towards Bastet and his daughter. “After all Bastet is the best trader around as she know where to go and the best deals and when the weather is going to be bad. Plus she trades from the area Rabbo said would make a good trading center”.

     All three looked over at Bastet who was busy hand feeding the second elders daughter.

     “I think that has resolved the issue with your daughter” said the first elder.

     “Bastet could you join us” said the second elder.

    Bastet handed the maiden the plate she had been taking food off and stood up and walked over.

    “What can I do for you” Bastet said with a giddy smile on her face.

     “The place you trade from? Rabbo suggested that we use it as a place to set up a trade center and a place with a fort and a village” said the first elder.

    “And you want me to help set that in motion” Bastet stated.

     “Yes” said Plautius. “Something were maybe ten ships could load and unload”.

     “I will have to think about it” Bastet said as she looked back over at the maiden who was walking towards the door leading outside.

     Merryn then came walking over towards Plautius “let’s head back to your camp. Tomorrow I can bring you here again and you can continue your planning.”

Watch for next Chapter in the July-August combined issue!

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