Monthly Archives: July 2018

Banner of the Hawk 32

“If you hadn’t stopped them, they would have fought to the death that day. What is between those two, anyway?”

“You can guess as well as I can. An elder bastard and a younger legitimate son — how could they not hate each other.”

Conger went back to polishing the jacket. He said, “You aren’t going to tell Marquart you saw him, are you? I wouldn’t.”

“Are you narat? What if I didn’t tell him, and he found out later?”

# # #

An hour later, bathed, rested, and dressed in fresh clothing, Clevis went out again. He could hear the ringing of a hammer at the forge, and turned his feet that direction. Branbourn was there. He looked up from his work, grinned, and offered his wrist in greeting.

Clevis and Branbourn had grown up together. They had parted as young men, then Clevis had not seen him again until five years ago. Now Branbourn ran the armory for Marquart and made swords when time permitted.

“What is that,” Clevis asked, gesturing to the amorphous mass of metal on the anvil.

Branbourn picked it up with tongs and a twist of the wrist. His massive forearms swelled as he transferred the iron back into the fire. He wiped the sweat from his face and chuckled, “Have you been a soldier so long you no longer recognize a plowshear. I know you walked enough miles behind a tichan when we were boys, that you should remember.”

“Maybe I don’t want to remember. Who’s getting married?”

“Don’t know them, myself. A couple of Marquart’s serfs. The ceremony is day after tomorrow.”

Clevis turned his eyes toward the shadows beyond the glow of the forge and said, “Well, boy, don’t you have a smile for me, after all these weeks.”

The boy did smile, but it was fleeting. There was much of Marquart in his son Tidac. Neither was given to expressiveness. 

Marquart had not spent much time with his son since Dael ran away. Clevis and Branbourn were the only ones in the manorhouse who ever had time for him.

Now the child asked, “Where did you go?”

“I went to Renth to get soldiers for your father. Do you know where Renth is?”

The boy shook his head.

Clevis knelt and drew a map in the dirt. “Here is the Inner Kingdom. Here we are, on the south edge of it. Over here to the west are the lands of the Dzikakai. No one knows much about those plains, because the Dzikakai guard them so jealously. Here is the Great Sea. In the middle is the island of Bihag and here, on the other side, are two great cities, Lankarea in the north and Renth in the south. I went to Renth.”

After a minute, the boy said, “Where is the Outer Kingdom.”

Branbourn chuckled and said, “I told you. He only puts on his dull face for the world to look at. The boy has a sharp mind.”

Clevis grunted assent. He had come to the same conclusion himself. “This,” he said, “is the City of Light, the High King’s city. Two generations ago, it was the center of the Inner Kingdom. Since then Limiakos II and III conquered all of the kingdoms around them, so the Inner Kingdom is now the only kingdom.”

The boy smiled and said, “Then the High King is really the Only King.”

Clevis’ and Branbourn’s eyes met over the Tidac’s head, and Branbourn said, “Marquart doesn’t know what he has in this boy.”

“Give him time,” Clevis replied, but he wondered if Marquart would ever realize what a treasure Dael had given him before she fled.

# # #

Clevis found Marquart walking outside the stables, watching the kakai’s frisking in the corral. Marquart greeted him with neutral calm.

Clevis described the soldiers he had brought in, then told of finding Melcer in Renth, holding back no details. He watched the quick anger in Marquart’s eyes turn to guardedness as he hid emotions behind narrowed eyes. When he finished, Marquart thanked him for the information, but there was a brittleness in his voice. Clevis took his leave. more Monday


505. Heinlein and the Hippies

I have come to realize the value of a post title in finding readers, but I try to avoid bait and switch. To provide a balancing bit of honesty, this isn’t about the effect Stranger in a Strange Land had on the Free Love generation, but on the relationship between Heinlein and one particular group of hippies, the Jefferson Airplane, aka the Jefferson Starship.

For the relationship of hippies to Stranger, see 160. Stranger in a Strange Land. That way I don’t have to tell you again that I read it early and found it to be a dud.

As for me, I was a half-way hippie. I opposed the war, grew a beard, let my hair go long, and dressed in rumpled casual. The wild, multi-colored garb of TV hippies was largely a media invention. Real hippies wore Army surplus because it was cheap, which was also one of my sartorial motivations.

However, I didn’t do drugs and I was in the wrong place in the wrong time. My college roommate spent the Summer of Love in California; I spent it looking for archaeological sites in the backwoods of Michigan. He told me all about it when he came back in the fall; I had been out of touch and didn’t even know it had happened.

The only thing I understood as it happened in 1967 was the music, blaring out of the car radio as our survey crew drove around looking for archeology sites. I particularly liked that new group the Jefferson Airplane.

Which brings me to the heart of the post. In 1969, Paul Kantner wrote Heinlein a letter asking permission to quote from his work. I knew this, after a fashion, from contemporary gossip, and it was evident in the lyrics soon after, but I didn’t get confirmation until the second volume of Heinlein’s biography came out (see below). I’ll quote some of Heinlein’s reply:

I am pleased by your courtesy . . . Bits and pieces from my stories have been used by many people . . . and it is rare indeed for anyone to bother to ask my permission.

Heinlein gave permission and went on to ask for some autographed albums in return, since he was a fan of their work. Who knew?

The album Blows Against the Empire came out about a year later, by Paul Kantner and the Jefferson Starship. Despite the title. it was actually a compendium band filling in the time between the breakup of Jefferson Airplane and its later rebirth as Jefferson Starship.

It would be impossible to overstate how much music from this era was fueled by LSD. If you seek out the full lyrics, you’ll see how many drug references I have left out of what follows:

from the cut Hijack

You know – a starship circling in the sky – it ought to be ready by 1990
They’ll be building it up in the air ever since 1980
People with a clever plan can assume the role of the mighty
And hijack the starship
Carry 7000 people past the sun
And our babes’ll wander naked thru the cities of the universe

7000 Gypsies swirling together
Offering to the sun in the name of the weather
Gonna hijack – hijack the starship

from the cut Starship

Out – the one remaining way to go
Free – the only way to fall
The light in the night is the sun
And it can carry you around the planetary ground
And the planetary whip of the sun

Mankind gone from the cage
All the years gone from your age

If you are at all familiar with Heinlein, you will recognize that this imagery is from the novel Methuselah’s Children, originally serialized in 1941, which was also the first appearance of Lazarus Long. Of course Kantner reworked it. The hijackers are not Howards fleeing for their lives, but drug-fired hippies whose faith in everything turning out well is a bit laughable in hindsight.

Like all the first half dozen Jefferson Airplane or Starship albums, I loved it. If you are younger than old, there is an excellent change that you’ve never heard music that shows the spirit of innovation and experimentation that was the hallmark of the 60’s. The music that appears on TV flashback programming is fine stuff, but it is also the tame stuff. The raw stuff doesn’t get replayed.

If you are curious, give this album an online listen, although you may not care for it.


Robert A. Heinlein, vol. 2, The Man Who Learned Better by William H. Patterson, Jr, p. 312. FYI, the subtitle does not refer to a change of heart by Heinlein, but is RAH’s idea of one of the three or four basic plots in fiction, and one he often used.

Banner of the Hawk 31

Without turning in his saddle, Clevis replied, “Lord Marquart gets results in unusual ways, but he always gets results.”

When Marquart had arrived in the Valley, his coffers had been nearly empty and what money there was he had invested in cattle, brought in from Pinera’s land. These he had distributed to his serfs so they could better plow their fields. There was no money to hire troops and the menhir villagers, knowing this, had continued to default on their taxes. Like Taipai before him, Dymal had supported them.

Since he could not afford soldiers, Marquart had brought in stonewrights, ostensibly to build a proper keep, but had set them to work displacing large boulders from the canyon rim. These had fallen into the narrows of the Gull below the village. Weeks of this passed, while the villagers came out to laugh; then the water began to rise. Soon a lake rose above the constricted flow, until it reached the clearing where the menhir stood.

All that winter, the waters had stood ankle deep around the menhir. The villagers had shouted, “Sacrilege!” Marquart replied that the dead within the menhir would not mind wet feet.

Marquart came for his taxes that spring, and the villagers claimed inability to pay because the dam had cut them off from commerce. So he put his stonewrights back to work and piled the rock dam higher. By late spring, water had entered the houses of the village.

Jor was always busy, those two years, fomenting and organizing. He gained Dutta’s support, and the support of the head of the menhir village. With a mixed band of his and Dutta’s relatives, along with a few dozen of the villagers, he led an attack on the manorhouse.

Marquart, Clevis, Conger, and Hein socketed up their lancettes and waited. They had seen battles of thousands against thousands; this was hardly a skirmish. When it was over, eight attackers lay dead, and five more were wounded. Dutta was among the latter. Marquart held trial on the battlefield, there among the scattered bodies, and found Dutta in rebellion against his rightful lord. Hein beheaded him while Marquart watched.

Dael never looked at Marquart again.

Jor escaped.

As the column approached the manorhouse, Clevis could see Marquart at the rimwall, watching and evaluating. His face was expressionless. Their old camaraderie was gone. Marquart no longer confided in Clevis, since Clevis’ advice to confide in his wife had gone so sour.

Clevis did not see Baralia, full of advice, invisible at Marquart’s side.

# # #

Clevis dropped his sword and lancette on a table and sat on the bed. He tugged off his boots with a sigh and wriggled what remained of his toes. Since he had lost the outer three on his left foot, he had not been able to walk without strain. Keeping his balance on the rolling merchant ship all the way to Renth and back had been no fun. Clevis had never been much of a sailor anyway.

Conger was there, rubbing down a leather jacket with tallow from the kitchen. He said, “What do you think of the new troops?”

“They’re good. Young, but veterans from the service of a merchant who recently went under. They were glad to find employment that didn’t make them work for recent enemies.”

With a twinkle in his eye, Conger said, “Tell me about the dancers?”

The temple dancers of Renth were famous, even in the Inner Kingdom. Clevis snorted. “You know damned well no one with my purse is ever going to even see one of them. But there were a couple of barmaids . . .”

“I’ll bet!”

“I’ll tell you what I did see. I saw Melcer.”

Now Conger put down his jacket and listened with both ears. They had both been present ten years earlier when Marquart had last met his h’brother. “He has come up in the world,” Clevis continued. “He is master of a merchant vessel now, working out of Bihag. He recognized me; bought me a drink. Seemed friendly enough.”

“No reason he shouldn’t be. If you hadn’t stopped them, he and our Lord-and-Master would have fought to the death that day. more tomorrow

Banner of the Hawk 30

Dymal felt a calling from within the temple annex. Leaving the board and counters, he rose and went in to Taipai. The old man’s skin was waxen pale and his eyes were bright. He held a thin hand out to Dymal and said, “I saw him. I saw his ai gathered about him as he was born.”

Dymal was skeptical, but did not disagree. He took the old man’s hand and felt how loosely his ai was tethered to his failing body. The time of his passing had come. No wonder, then — if ever a man were to see visions, why not in the hour of his death. Dymal nodded his belief to comfort the old man, and actual belief flooded into him as Taipai’s eyes locked with his.

“Dymal,” the old man said, “this child is your weird and your destiny. Never lose him. He will pattern your life.

“He is the Lost Get.”

In that revelation many mysteries became clear to Dymal. And in that moment, all of Hea Santala’s attempt at hiding the child from the truth of his heritage was overturned, although it would be years before Dymal would reveal that truth.

Taipai closed his eyes and departed his body. His soul rose up to hoover, benign and smiling down on the one he had come to love like a son.


Banner of the Raven


There had been no hell in the world of the menhir until Hea Santala created it — and now Baralia was in it. The pain of this hell was not analog to physical pain. She did not burn with fire. But take every rejection of a lifetime, every loss of loved ones; take the pain of a father in the grave, or a beloved child dead in your arms. Take every empty moment of a lifetime, every snub, every failure to connect with those around you, every loss so deep that it seems the human soul could not endure. Take all that and multiply it. That is the loss that comes when the soul hangs in the air above the body, forever separated from that physical shell that connects with other physical shells and makes life, life

It is an unendurable loneliness.

Then comes enreithment, and a total inclusion with the souls of those who have gone ahead.

Or comes the sure knowledge that there is no besh and no priest near enough, and that enreithment cannot be done. The crying loneliness of the abahara is the greatest tragedy possible on Baralia’s world, made tolerable only by the abahara’s rapid fading to oblivion and nothingness.

Or so it was until Hea Santala, not really knowing what she did, condemned Baralia to endure that hellish loneliness for all of Marquart’s lifetime.

Now, it has been seven years.

# # #

Clevis rode at the head of the column of new troops, returning from Port of the Gull. It was a good day for travel; perhaps the first perfect day of spring. New grass grew in the sheltered places, providing food for kakai on the march. The entire season of Greengrass lay ahead, before the Weathermistress put an end to the time when warfare was practical.

Coming up from Port of the Gull where Clevis had landed his small troop, the wagon road passed over a high bluff where the rocky backbone of the land forces the River Gull through a narrow defile. Below a convoluted maze of heavy blocks of stone impeded the flow of the river. A narrow channel had been reclaimed from the maze so that small barges could carry cargo, but the swans which had previously brought the goods of the world to the village that surrounded the menhir were still blocked out.

It was all clearly no act of nature. One of the soldiers, called out to Clevis, “Is that what I think it is? I had heard about Marquart damming the flow of the Gull, but I didn’t believe it.” more tomorrow

504. Homage to Robert Louis Stevenson

I can’t remember the first time I read Kidnapped, but it stayed with me. When I took a class on children’s literature as I was preparing to become a teacher, Kidnapped was the book I chose for a report. I read it again before going to Scotland for the first time, and have read it additional times since.

I have also read a half dozen other works by RLS, but Kidnapped began it and remains my lodestone in things regarding the author.

Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson was born at N. 8 Howard Place, Edinburgh, on the 13th of November, 1850.

That is a quotation from RLS’s cousin and first biographer Graham Balfour. While RLS was still a child, his father changed the spelling of his name to Louis, without adopting the French pronunciation, because he was angry with a contemporary politician named Lewis. RLS himself dropped the Balfour to make his name shorter for his literary works.

Balfour was his mother’s maiden name. Despite dropping it, RLS was fond and proud of his maternal ancestors — so much so that he used the name for the main character David Balfour in Kidnapped.

Two recent things brought my long time fascination with RLS to the surface for these posts. First, a character in my latest novel is his doppelgänger. My character Balfour is — and is not — RLS. He has been “transmigrated”, for want of a better word, into an alternate London. He has minimal memories of RLS’s life and death, and is trying to recover them. Like most of the rest of the characters in Like Clockwork, he spends the novel trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

To tell more would be a spoiler, and besides, Balfour only explains things to me as he learns them, and the two of us haven’t reached the end of his book yet.

The second thing that brought RLS to the fore was The Great American Read on PBS. I watched the premier and looked at the 100 books on offer to be crowned as America’s favorite book. RLS was nowhere to be seen. How could this be? Surely either Kidnapped or Treasure Island should have made the cut. And if not, what about The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde?

I’ll say more about The Great American Read in a later post.

All this sent me in search of a more comprehensive biography of RLS than the one I had picked up in Scotland. I had avoided too much research when I began Like Clockwork, but by the time The Great American Read reignited my curiosity, my Balfour had become an established separate entity in my mind. I no longer had to worry about being sidetracked by an excess of reality.

I went to my favorite underfunded library where they never throw books away — because they can’t afford new ones — and found volume II of the Graham Balfour’s 1901 biography. Volume I was missing, although I eventually got a look at it online. It was a bit dense, as well as being too old fashioned even for me. Also Graham Balfour was a cousin, writing under the eye of a very protective family.

I ended up with the Pope-Hennessy biography, a work that is thinner, more up to date, and not written by a relative. Pope-Hennessy has an honest reputation and gives a balanced view.

RLS’s life was a bit of a soap opera, so I will stick to the highlights. The first key to understanding him is that he was sickly from birth, and his mother was sickly before him. His father was a robust engineer, who carried on the family business of building lighthouses.

RLS’s schooling was late starting and continued irregularly. Bouts of ill health punctuated his whole life. In fact, part of his appeal during the Victorian era was his illness. In that era, it was romantic to be clinging to life, or falling to suicide, and tuberculosis was a particularly romantic way to go.

The elder Stevenson intended him to follow in the family business, but RLS chose from an early age to be a writer. His father, fearing that he would become dissolute, restricted his allowance to such a degree that RLS lived a strange life of poverty throughout his young manhood, alternating with travel and convalescences that would only be available to the wealthy.

Shortly after writing his first book, Inland Journey, in 1878, he met Fanny Osbourne, an American woman who was separated from her unfaithful husband. RLS’s love for her was instant, intense, and permanent. When she returned home, he followed her to America where he almost died in Monterey before moving to San Francisco, all in pursuit of Fanny. She eventually received a divorce and they were married. During this time RLS was constantly writing, receiving positive reviews, but little money.

RLS, Fanny, and her two children returned to England, but could find no place suited to RLS’s ill health. During this period he wrote his best loved works, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but could find no easing of his tuberculosis.

In 1888, RLS, Fanny, and her two children, now financially secure from his novels, left for the South Pacific. They never returned. This was the first place that had allowed RLS to gain the health that had eluded him throughout his lifetime, and he was unwilling to leave it. He settled in Samoa, where he lived his last years, dying at forty-four. By that time he had written many works I have not had space to mention, and left the novels St. Ives and the Weir of Hermiston unfinished.

I future posts, I will talk about some of those works.


Biographies — Graham Balfour, The Life of Robert Louis Stevenson, 2 volumes, 1901.   James Pope-Hennessy, Robert Louis Stevenson, 1974. Forbes Macgregor, Robert Louis Stevenson, 1989. The last is a an excellent summary biography in 29 pages, shown at the head of this post. It is sold in Edinburgh to tourists who probably never read it. Interestingly, the author’s name is buried at the bottom of the last page. Writer’s get no respect, even when they are writing about other writers.

Banner of the Hawk 29

Dutta had felt Marquart’s displeasure before, at Midwinterfest, but now his anger was like a flame. Marquart had told him — had told them all — to clear out their households. It had seemed to unreasonable to take seriously.

But to threaten to remove him altogether from the only home he had ever known! That had been home to his father and his g’father before him. And to make that threat openly here, in his own hall, in the presence of his wife and children. To Dutta, it was world shaking. No one had ever threatened him so. He had not known, not at the bone where knowing is real, that such a threat was possible.

Marquart turned on his heel, and strode out of the house, calling for his kakai. Never mind the long cold ride. If he stayed here, he would kill someone. Probably Dutta.

Marquart was shaken. He had meant the things he said, but to have said them as he did, and where he did, and when he did was foolish. It was bad strategy. Marquart prided himself on forethought and cold consideration; where now was the warrior who had taken Port Cantor with cool efficiency, unhurried even by Limiakos himself?

He had acted like Beshu.

# # #

Baralia trembled at the outburst, clasped her translucent hands together, and almost whimpering with joy. At last. At last, a crack in the armor.

It was not just rage. It was not just that Limiakos had sent Marquart into exile and made him small. Marquart was a God, with all the power of a God locked up inside him, and he did not even know it. He was agemate to Argat. His mother had been human, his g’mother had been human, his g’g’mother had been human, but none of that human heritage had diluted his power. Rem’s blood ran in him, and the Shambler’s blood ran in him. Only his ignorance, caused and enforced by Hea Santala, kept him from his power.

That frustrated power was now threatening to burst into a flame of rage. And Baralia stood ready to fan that flame.


Marquart’s child was born. Angels did not attend him, but his coming was widely known. 

Lyré in her glade cast mandalas in which the power of his ai threw all other forces into question. She watched the glowing sphere with awe and dawning hope. Hea Santala did the same, with anxious worry. Argella cast mandalas and hated the child at his coming, because he was of the sept of the Shambler, and because his power would be greater than hers — if he lived. Argat merely watched; he was learning to keep his own council.

Marquart paced the hall awaiting the outcome. He had banished everyone but Clevis, and even Clevis remained silent and out of the way of his pacing. Marquart tried to feel pity for his wife, tried to anticipate his son, tried to think of this as a transcendent moment when his life would expand and deepen. He could not.

Men marry and women bear children. That was universal. But for Marquart, it would be another descent into the ordinary.

Dymal cast his mandalas in the center of the menhir, but his mind was not on his work, nor on the coming child. Taipai had failed these past months, and now all the details of the temple were in Dymal’s hands. Every day Taipai grew weaker, and every day Dymal realized more deeply how much like a father the old priest had become.

When the child emerged screaming into the world, Dymal knew. And the menhir, which had no mind, knew. Dymal could feel an uneasiness surging through the insensate stones. And he felt a calling from within the temple annex. more tomorrow

I, Too

Here is a poem for the day after the Fourth of July. Langston Hughes wrote this in 1926.

I, Too

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Apparently, it isn’t tomorrow yet. But tomorrow is coming, and it’s up to us to help it along.