Container Gardening at Casa Ney-Grimm

In the middle of May, I became convinced I should be growing some vegetables. Whether this conviction were truly wise…I remain uncertain. Regardless of the wisdom of the plan, I set about gathering supplies.

The middle of May is certainly leaving it late. And supplies were thin on the ground. Furthermore, finding a suitable spot in our yard was problematic.

Twenty years ago, there was plenty of sun in the front yard. Since then, our cherry blossom tree has grown considerably and the only sunny area is on our front deck.

The back yard has a similar problem. Once sunny, now the maple trees are so tall that it is shady. Even if there were a sunny patch, the herd of deer that regularly roam through would munch any vegetables grown there.

Despite these difficulties, I persevered. We obtained three box planters and set them up on the front deck!

Getting seeds was a challenge as well, and I think I ordered the very last packets that Park Seed had in stock!

But it has all come together and I wanted to show you what I have growing.

Here is my plan for the planter next to my front door.

As is often the case, my plan had to adjust once reality hit. When the bare root strawberries arrived, there were 26, six more than the 20 I’d ordered. There was no way I’d toss the extras. I mean, strawberries! I had to find a place for them. So I popped them into the okra bed.

Also, the spinach never germinated. Zip. Bare soil. So I sowed more lettuce there. (Those small green dots all represent lettuce.) It would be too late for lettuce (which bolts in the heat), if I were growing full heads. But I’m doing cut-and-come-again. So I think I’ll get to harvest some before the heat gets it.

Here’s a photo of the “okra bed.” Isn’t it pretty!

The planter next to the “okra bed” is the “pepper bed.” Originally I thought of it as the “basil bed.” It does have basil in it, but we added a pepper plant when we discovered a local source with curbside pick-up. That pepper plant is so beautiful that it rather overshadows the basil, which is still quite small.

Here is my plan for the “pepper bed.”

Reality also forced some changes to this bed. Not only did the pepper replace some of the chard, but the lettuce and parsley never came up. So when I thinned the basil, I moved the seedlings to fill those spaces.

Here’s a photo of the “pepper bed.” That tall plant at the left is the pepper! 😀

At the far end of the deck, past the “pepper bed,” is the “beet bed.” The “beet bed” has remained closest to its plan, but not identical. Here’s the plan.

The radishes all moved to the right side of the middle space, while the left side became home to more lettuce, and the green onions were dotted here and there. Here’s a photo of the lettuce side.

My daughter has been helping me with this mini vegetable garden, and it’s been a lot of fun. Plus it sparked the whole family to renewed fervor for yard work. I’ve enjoyed our time with the four of us all working together. And I really like the beauty emerging from the jungle that our yard had become.

We just harvested our first radish this morning!

As a family project, it’s been a total success.

As a significant addition to our food supplies…not so sure. It’s early days yet, of course. I expect the okra will be the biggest producer, and that will reach harvest much later in the summer. It will be nice to have fresh basil. And the strawberries, fresh from the garden, will be lovely.

But so far, we’ve had enough lettuce for a few salads, and that’s it.

And yet, I don’t regret having put my energy into this. I’m learning new things, which I always love. And the family fun is priceless!

 

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500 Blog Posts!

I started blogging February 2012.

I can still remember my uncertainty at the time. Would I be able to dream up interesting topics week after week? Would any readers find my blog? Would I make it past the 3-year mark that is the end point for so many bloggers?

I really didn’t know how blogging would go for me.

But I discovered that I loved it.

So here we are…this is my 500th post! Celebrate with me and leave a comment. I’d love to hear from some of you, especially if you’ve been following along for a while. Or if you’re new. Give me a shout and say hello! 😀

 

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TP in the Time of COVID-19

The last time anyone from Casa Ney-Grimm set foot in a grocery store was sometime during the second week of March. It’s been delivery or curbside contact-free pick-up ever since.

Food supplies have been good. TP? Not so much. In fact, not at all.

At first I wasn’t too worried. But as we watched our stash of toilet paper go down and down and down over the weeks, I wondered where the end of it would be.

Would we have to venture into the store to get any? I really didn’t want to do that, given that my husband occupies three of the high risk categories.

I searched on Amazon and discovered a bale of 12 rolls that would arrive sometime between April 23 and May 15.

The reviews were poor. The rolls were scant and the paper itself thin, harsh, and prone to ripping.

But I figured it would be better than nothing at all, so I ordered it.

Then I watched our existing stock of TP go down some more. Even if the Amazon order arrived on April 23, it was going to be close. If it arrived in mid-May…we weren’t going to make it.

So I decided to search for the commercial rolls that are massive in size and don’t fit on home dispensers. We might have to prop a drum on the side of the tub, but at least we’d have something!

I found a bale of the commercial TP that was reasonably priced, had good reviews, and possessed a delivery date range of April 23 to May 1.

My husband eventually broke out the 3 rolls of camping TP stashed in a backpack. And we made it! Just barely. (One roll of camping TP left.)

I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the commercial TP. It’s soft, cushiony, and strong—much better than everything I’ve encountered in public restrooms.

As you can see in the photos above, we decided to roll the TP from one gigantic commercial roll onto the multiple cardboard tubes we’d been saving for that purpose. The first attempted transfer (roll on the far right) was…messy! But we got more skillful with practice.

Ironically, a mere 3 days after the colossal bale arrived from Amazon, our grocery store had TP available for delivery. Just one package per order, but still. We ordered it, and it arrived. After coming so close to having none, I’d rather have a little extra now!

For more on how we’re coping during the pandemic, see:
Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus
Conquering Back Pain
Tackling Hip Pain

 

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Moderation in All Things

I’ve had a setback. Gotta say that I’m not happy about it.

My qigong practice was going so well. The weight lifting with my son was fun. And the myofascial release on my hips looked to be heading me toward the ability to take long walks. I was thrilled!

And then it all fell apart.

My middle back seized up. Badly.

The pain was severe enough to keep me in bed for two days. Now it has eased some, but not much more than will allow me to move around the house very carefully.

The day after my back seized, my right foot also went wrong. I’m limping painfully when I walk from room to room.

I think I know what happened.

Everything in the body is connected. When you change the alignment of one section, the parts upstram and downstream from that section have to adjust.

My hips have been misaligned for a very long time—years, probably decades. Which means that my middle back, directly upstream from the hips, was adjusted and acclimated to those misaligned hips.

When I started doing myofascial release on my hips, it began to change their internal alignment. That change really eased the pain in my hips. Which meant I chased the pain relief aggressively. I spent longer intervals on the Miracle Balls. One day I did two sessions (one morning, one afternoon) of myofascial release.

And the next day, my middle back seized up. It just was not ready to make the changes that it would need in order to work smoothly with my realigned hips.

(I think it is the latissimus dorsi—right and left—and the erector spinae that are the source of the trouble. You can see the latissimus dorsi in red in the first image of this post. The erector spinae are displayed in the second image at right.)

I’m less clear on why my foot deteriorated so suddenly, but I figure it has to be related. Perhaps the leg muscles downstream of the hips adjusted to the changes in a way that stressed my foot. Perhaps the way I’m walking with the seized-up back muscles puts undue stress on the foot.

Certainly I’ve had foot trouble for decades. It’s just that it had been greatly improved during the last 3 years.

So…what next?

Well, I’m finding that standing in the qigong stance (just standing) helps those seized middle back muscles release a little. So I’m doing that, and also trying to move gently around the house some.

I’ve also returned to doing some myofascial release, especially on my foot directly.

When my back recovers—when the pain finally ebbs—I will return to weight lifting and perhaps three reps on the qigong Eight Brocades. And then I will move forward much more gently.

Never more than one session of myofascial release in a day. Stay at 3 reps on the qigong. (I had reached 5 reps when my back and body failed.) And if I am able to start taking walks, I will keep them very short for many weeks.

I know the osteopath I’ve seen for my joint problems was always very conservative in the adjustments he did on my foot and back—never too much at one time. Clearly I need to follow that guideline!

Send healing thoughts my way, if you feel so inclined. My aching body could use some help!

For more about my experiences with chronic pain, see:
Conquering Back Pain
Tackling Hip Pain

 

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Tackling Hip Pain

Last Friday, I talked about back pain and using myofascial release for relief. I also promised to share this week what I was doing to relieve the hip pain that had flared up anew in response to my at-home exercise program.

This post is the promised hip-pain post.

It builds on last week’s post, so if you missed that one, go read it first. I’ll wait! 😀

Here’s the link.

So…hip pain. It can occur in a lot of different spots around the hip joint. When I was 16 or so, I pulled something in the front of my left hip joint when straightening up from sitting in the car. For nearly two decades after that incident, if I straightened incautiously, I pulled it again. Each time I pulled it, it grew more susceptible to pulling the next time. The problem spread to the right hip. And both sides began to hurt more and more.

I eventually solved the problem by doing leg lifts religiously. Three times a week, without fail, I would lie on my back and lift the left leg 10 times. Then I did the right leg. Three sets of 10 repetitions for each leg.

It worked! My pain diminished, and re-pulling the muscle happened less and less often.

But it is not front-of-the-hip pain that is bothering me now. Nope. The pain is at the back and deep in the joint.

Let’s take a look at the muscles on the back of the hip, since that’s important both to understanding what is happening, and how to fix it.

The biggest muscle, and the one that gives the derriere a lot of its shape, is the gluteus maximus. This is the muscle that should be doing most of the work when you straighten from sitting to standing. I suspect that mine has been shuffling off some of its work to other muscles that are not meant for it, and that is where my pain is coming from.

(We’re looking at the hips from the back in the images at right.)

Beneath the gluteus maximus is the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius controls rotation of the hip, allowing you to turn your leg inward (pigeon toes) and outward (ballet first position), as well as allowing you to lift your leg to the back and side. It also holds the hips stable when you stand on one leg.
 
 
Beneath the gluteus medius is the gluteus minimus. The gluteus minimus helps the gluteus medius do its jobs of hip rotation and keeping the hips stable when you are standing on one leg. Now that I’m a week into working on the pain in my hips, I suspect that some of my discomfort is coming from the gluteus minimus.

But the majority of my pain seems to stem from a cluster of much smaller muscles underneath the gluteal muscles.

The prime villain is the piriformis muscle.

The piriformis muscle attaches at the front of the sacrum (the base of the spine), and runs sideways at a slant to wrap around the outside of the greater trochanter, the knob at the top of the femur (thigh bone).

At the start of the week, the path of pain mapped quite perfectly along both my right and left piriformis muscles.

So that is where I placed my Miracle Ball. One side at a time, starting at the spot where the piriformis emerges from the sacrum, I lay on the ball, letting it rest at each aching spot along the piriformis for 2 or 3 minutes until I reached the spot where the muscle wrapped around the trochanter.

The relief was amazing. It had that “hurt good” sensation while I lay on the ball. And afterward, my hips felt both less tense and stronger.

I found that changing the angle and rotation of my body as I lay upon the Miracle Ball was helpful for digging into different spots where the fascia was restricted. Sometimes it was quite a balancing act! I let my intuition guide me.

Now that I’ve been doing this process for a week (as I type this), I’m finding that the piriformis muscles are calming down. The right piriformis is still tight right at its center, in the “belly” of the muscle and at the end where it attaches to the trochanter. So that is where I focus my efforts.

The left piriformis is problematic largely where it attaches to its trochanter.

But I can now feel that the three muscles beneath the piriformis are painful (on both sides), both in the belly of each muscle and where they attach to the trochanter.

These three muscles are: the superior gemellus, the obturator internus, and the inferior gemellus.

Additionally, the spot at the end of the gluteus minimus where it attaches to the trochanter is painful.

So when my Miracle Ball reaches the outer end of the piriformis, I walk the ball in a semi-circle around the top of the trochanter.

Here’s a video that gave me some ideas for how to position myself on the ball. Notice how the gentleman is balanced on one hip with the opposite hip angled into the air. Once the ball moves away from the spine, the other hip has to rise so that you stay balanced.

Here’s another that gave me ideas for where the hotspots are located, and how to move the legs while on the ball.

The patient is passive and lying on her front. But seeing how the therapist performed the various releases helped me figure out variants for myself. (The release work starts at minute 10.)

The relief is incredible. I can feel the inflammation going down, and I have great hope that not only will the pain resolve completely, but that I’ll eventually be able to walk for exercise again.

I love walking. But every time in the last few years that I’ve tried taking the long walks I adore, this deep hip pain has flared up. Now that I’m using myofascial release on the area, I think I may arrive at a long-term resolution of the problem. Fingers crossed!

I suspect there may be two more pieces of the puzzle, however.

1) Myofascial release of the quadriceps.

2) Mobilizing the gluteus maximus to do its job.

But first things first. Right now I’m focusing on myofascial release of the hips. Wish me luck!

I’ll continue to blog about this particular adventure as it unfolds, but it may be a while before I get to the experiences beyond the piriformis and company.

Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical person in any way. I’m just sharing my journey with the idea that it may point you toward some good questions, if you too suffer from hip pain. Good questions can lead to good answers; coming up with the right question is often the hardest part of solving a problem, in my experience. Just remember that what worked for me may not work for you. Seek out the right experts for help, if you need treatment!

Here are the links to the videos on YouTube:
Activ Chropractic on the Piriformis
iBody Academy on Myofascial Release

Here’s more about my own experiences with myofascial release:
Conquering Back Pain

 

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Conquering Back Pain

For most of my life I’ve dealt with back pain—upper and lower.

Over the years, I’ve discovered ways to lessen the pain: yoga, strengthening specific core muscles, putting a latex topper on my mattress, etc. All of these, especially in concert, helped a great deal. But when my sister-in-law shared her positive experience with The Miracle Ball Method by Elaine Petrone, I listened.

And I put the Miracle Ball Deluxe Kit on my wish list for Christmas 2017.

My dear father choose to give me the kit as one of his gifts, and I’ve been using it ever since.

I’ve been delighted with the results. I rarely experience low back pain these days. And the doctor who I see for my joint issues said that the scoliosis of my lower spine (sideways curvature) was entirely gone!

My upper back continues to challenge me, but it is much better than it used to be. And some extra time on my Miracle Balls always resolves the worst of the pain.

I learned recently that the Miracle Ball Method is really a form of myofascial release. I’d been using the method because it worked, without really worrying about why it worked. But my new qigong practice began creating pain in my hips. In pursuit of a solution for that, I encountered…a bunch of new information.

What is myofascial release?

John F. Barnes (at myofascialrelease.com) describes it as “a hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the fascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.”

And what is the fascia?

Wikipedia’s definition…

A band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.

A video from the Life 360 Summit gives an excellent view of what the fascia looks like and how fascia can cause serious pain and range-of-motion problems when the fascia is tight or restricted.

Minute 6 is when Fascia-man first arrives. And 15 seconds later we get a good close-up of him, if you want to skip ahead.

The way the Miracle Balls work is that you lie on them, and your own body weight applies the sustained pressure that releases the fascial restrictions. The more you are able to relax, the better they work.

In the diagram at right, you can see how I “walk” a single ball up my spine from the tail bone. At each location, I pause the ball for 2 or 3 minutes, until I feel the restriction release.

Across the shoulders, I use the balls in a pair, one placed on each side of the spine.

The whole process does take roughly 40 minutes, but it is so worth it to be pain-free. 😀

The kit I received included the Miracle Balls themselves, a how-to book, a how-to CD (which I haven’t used), a hand pump, and a plastic nozzle for the hand pump. The plastic nozzle did not work for filling the balls, but we had a steel needle for a bicycle pump that fit the hand pump perfectly.

My son tried my Miracle Balls this week after his weight workout and liked them so well that he requested some of his own. I purchased him a smaller kit that included only the balls and the how-to book. (We don’t need 2 hand pumps in the house—he can use mine.)

I meant to tell you all about my adventure with Miracle Balls after I’d used them for a few months. I figured I’d test them well before reporting back. The problem with that plan is that I tend to be most excited when something is new. That’s when I shout about it from the rooftops. Once several months pass…it’s old hat.

I kept saying, “Next week I’ll blog about it.”

But now that I’m using my Miracle Balls on hip pain, they are new and fresh again, so here I am shouting. 😉

So what about my hip pain, which set off this new learning odyssey? I’ll tell you about it—and how I’m fixing it—next week!

For your convenience, here are some of the links from all of the above:
Miracle Ball Deluxe Kit on Amazon
Pump Needles on Amazon
Miracle Ball Basic Kit on Amazon
Fascia-man Video on YouTube

Here’s more about my own experiences with myofascial release:
Tackling Hip Pain

Important Disclaimer: I am not a medical person in any way. I’m just sharing my journey with the idea that it may point you toward some good questions, if you too suffer from back pain. Good questions can lead to good answers; coming up with the right question is often the hardest part of solving a problem, in my experience. Just remember that what worked for me may not work for you. Seek out the right experts for help, if you need treatment!

 

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Artemis Avenger

I’m in the midst of writing a short story about the vengeance Artemis is determined to pursue for the deaths of four nymphs at Hades’ hands.

Gotta say…she’s really furious. How dare the lord of the underworld harm her handmaidens and companions of the hunt!

I’m so involved with the story that I’ve not written the blog post I intended for today. But I’m hoping you’ll enjoy these paintings from the past of the classical goddess of the hunt.

“Artemis” by Arthur Bowen Davies (above) depicts her in her guise as a lover of nature and the wild creatures inhabiting the fields and forests.

“The Nymph Arethusa” by Charles Alexandre Crauk (below) shows Artemis in her role as protector of maidens. The river god Alpheus pursues the nymph Arethusa after she bathes unknowingly in his waters. His lustful attentions are unwelcome to her, and she begs Artemis’ help and protection.

 

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Writer Conference of Two

Yesterday—when I should have been ensuring that my blog had a new post—I was instead meeting with Laura Montgomery to talk shop about writing and publishing for 4 hours.

It was glorious!

I don’t dare impose upon non-writers and non-publishers with such a prolonged concentration on the craft of writing, the intricacies of advertising, and the requirements of book design.

(We greeted one another with a Thai wai—and did a lot of hand washing—so as to minimize the chance of conveying COVID-19 from my location to hers, or vice versa.)

I’m not going to impose upon you with a blow-by-blow account of our discussions. But I will relay a few highlights.

Dorothy Sayers

Since I’m re-reading several of Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries, I spoke of a new discovery I’d made of something heretofore unnoticed by me. Sayers’ world building is largely focused on the social milieu in which her stories take place. She gives just a sketch of the physical setting—enough that the reader has some idea, but no more.

In Murder Must Advertise, I felt myself to be in the ad agency, not because the office premises were so vivid, but because the attitudes of the copy writers, the typists, the art department, and the account managers were vivid. I heard how they spoke, learned what their concerns were and what produced friction between different individuals and groups. It was fascinating!

In The Nine Tailors, I visited a village in the English countryside of the 1930s and felt myself immersed in the community gathered around the parson of the local church. In Gaudy Night, I experienced the society of the dons, scouts, and students of a women’s college in Oxford.

I’m really intrigued by how Sayers conveyed the social milieu, because my own world building tends to focus more on culture, art, religion, and social hierarchies. I’d like to bring more of Sayers’ community feeling to my work.

Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block has written many marvelous books on the caft of writing, and I’ve read all of them. But just recently I decided to read his Write For Your Life, a “seminar in a book” focused on how the unconscious beliefs held by a writer can hold her back and how to get free of such impediments.

Laura and I have both been reading Write For Your Life and doing the exercises within.

Next week’s blog post will be a transcription of my results from one of the exercises on building characters.

January-February Accomplishments

We looked over what we’d each accomplished so far this year. It’s helpful to be accountable to someone other than oneself. Here’s my list:

Jan 2—brainstorm short story about bridge engineer for the legions of ancient Rome
Jan 3—register Sovereign Night at the US Copyright Office
Jan 4—write flash fiction: “Ribbon of Earth’s Tears”
Jan 6—create cover for The Hunt of the Unicorn paperback
Jan 8—write first scene of bridge builder short
Jan 15—write “Were It Only Exile” short story
Jan 20—work on Here Be Elves bundle
Jan 21—publish Sovereign Night
Feb 1—register The Hunt of the Unicorn at the US Copyright Office
Feb 4-10—big marketing push for Gael & Keir series
Feb 10—publish The Hunt of the Unicorn on Amazon
Feb 12—first correction pass through Journey into Grief paperback photos
Mar 2—register Tales of Old Giralliya at the US Copyright Office

Looking Forward

We also shared our plans for the year ahead. More accountability to help with productivity.

I hope to adjust the categories and sub-categories for a bunch of my backlist books, as well as doing a few other publishing tasks. But the most important plans are my writing plans. Take a look!

March (early)—write short story about bridge engineer for the legions of ancient Rome
March (mid)—think about Deepearth Rising, Gael & Keir Book Three
March (late)—revise first 16k of Deepearth Rising

(April—visit several colleges with my daughter)

May 2—start writing Deepearth Rising
October (early)—write short story: “Sleeping Beauty 2”
October (mid)—write short story: “Sleeping Beauty 1”
October (late)—write short story, plot to be determined
November (early)—think about Gael & Keir Book Four
November (mid)—plan Gael & Keir Book Four
December—start writing Gael & Keir Book Four

I’m crossing my fingers that my health stays good and I don’t have any surgeries this year! 😀

 

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Ribbon of Earth’s Tears

Long he slept. Centuries and millennia of years he slumbered.

The age of creation had demanded hard labor, and he had given freely of himself, cooling the lands made molten by his sister Gaia, collecting the rains of his brother Ouranos, and wielding the gathered waters to shape plains and shores, valleys and deep, deep ravines.

At the end of his work he retreated, claiming a lesser portion of himself.

Let his sister’s son Poseidaon rule the oceans and the seas. Let his half-brothers—a multitude of them—dwell within other streams, other rivers, guarding their clarity and guiding the speed of their flow. He would reserve for himself just this one important ribbon of earth’s tears. Its headwaters sprang from the river traversing the underground realm of his brother Plutonos. Bursting through a cleft in the rock of a high place, the spray fell free, down and down—its drops a crystalline thread in the air until they crashed into the cauldron below, a raging vessel of froth and fury. From there they leapt merrily over boulders and down slopes, a young river at the bottom of a ravine, broadening as it ran, calming, until—where the cliffs sank to form a rich vale—the waters proceeded serenely, limpid and green in the sunlight, grey and opaque under cloud, but always lifegiving, despite their source in the underworld.

This was the river Morvarag—Blackbourn—black for its peaty soil in the valley, black for the dark cliffs along its upper reaches, black for its dark birth among the dead.

Morvarag was its name, and Morvarag became his name, too, as he slept. For in his slumber, he dreamed. And as he dreamed, the people on his banks—his people—dreamed his dreams with him.

They dreamed of the labor he had done, mirages of molten earth shining in crescents and seas of shimmering heat, visions of spraying lava and hell-lit skies. They savored reveries of present fecundity—schools of gleaming fish, rich tillage, violet-scented glades, summer breezes, feasts of roasted meats and sweet mead at the end of the day. They embarked upon trances of future glory, starlight and a long, long journey into mystery.

The people dreamed his dreams by night and named him guardian of the night watches, mediator between them and the powers of darkness. But by day they were busy. They made tools of knapped flint, they hunted deer and aurochs, they built huts of reeds and river mud. Their children splashed in the shallows, while mothers washed stone vessels and hunters speared great river sturgeon in wild boat hunts.

Their toolmakers learned to cast bronze. Their kitchen gardens expanded to become fields of grain. They prospered.

All the while, their god dreamed, keeping them safe through the night.

Their days grew less safe, not because of their neighbors, the tribes who fished and traded along the great flood of the river Danouvios, into which the Morvarag flowed. No, it was a more distant people who posed the threat.

The foreigners were men of pride and spirit, with a desire to possess and rule all the lands to the horizon. With each valley they took, the farther their horizons stretched. On and on they marched, helmets bright under the sun, their lorica segmentata clanking—armor stronger than a gorgon’s bones—and each gladius thirsty for blood.

They torched villages, put women and children to the sword, and defeated the warriors whose fishing spears were nothing to the invaders’ heavy pilums, whose bronze blades were battered ragged against the iron of the invading legions.

The river dwellers cried out to their god, begging that he extend his nighttide protection into day, praying that he rise and confront the trespassers, demanding that he take vengeance for their slain.

But Morvarag slumbered on.

The invaders built a bridge to carry their legions across the river to the richest fields and the most prosperous villages.

Wicker crates shaped like pyramids and filled with stones were lowered into the waters to kiss the riverbed and sink deep.

Morvarag felt them in his sleep—like bruises against his shins.

The crates of stones anchored barges, a whole series of them, floating at careful intervals from bank to bank.

Morvarag felt these, too, each an oppression upon his skin.

From barge to barge, the invaders laid a wooden roadway, its timbers stout to bear the tread of marching men. And Morvarag felt the weight of the dead trees as a suffocation, a thickness to smother fire and dreams. He stirred, but still he did not wake.

The soldiers began to cross, their sandaled feet heavy on the span, their voices loud in answer to their herald’s cry—are you ready?

“We are ready!”—a thundered reply.

“We are ready!”—louder still.

We are ready!”—to break mountains.

Morvarag woke.

The bridge bound him. As an iron band tormenting his ankles, it bound him. As an abrading rope around his knees, it bound him. As manacles on his wrists, it bound him. As braided linen at his elbows, it bound him. A hangman’s noose about his neck, it bound him.

He was bound, but not powerless.

“My brother! Loose your might!” he roared.

He might have done it himself. He’d shaped rock with his waters, cooled fire, flooded seas. The cracking open of a cleft in a cliff must have been nothing, even bound as he lay. But he would be courteous of the rights of others; the underground river was not his.

“Plutonos! To me!”

And the lord of the dead answered, not with breath and voice, but with the thunder of rock shattering. The cliff burst open and the water of the dead king’s river spewed as a maelstrom of jagged wavecrests pocked with rubble, raging down the ravine, scouring the clifftops, a churning fury of destruction against which no legion could stand.

The floating bridge transformed to splinters in an instant, and the soldiers?—on the bank waiting to cross, arrived on the far side and debarking, or marching the fraught span itself?—pulped dead men carried downstream for the river dwellers to witness, and be grateful.

*     *     *

For more flash fiction, see:
Blood Falchion (The Old Armory, Part I)

 

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