Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Brief Bit of Parental Venting

AAARRRRRRRRRRRGH. Sweet child, I realize you're a seven-year-old boy, but would you please quit arguing with us every time we tell you not to do something? Especially -- and I want you to pay extra attention to this particular point -- especially when it puts you in the position of explaining to us at length on topics you know almost nothing about??? Just. Stop. It's okay to say, "Oh, I didn't know that," adjust your behavior, and carry on. I promise.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Ear Worms

"You know, mister Blond, when you first joined my organization, you seemed too good to be true. I suppose I really should have expected this."

Jain Blond shifted on the cold steel table and tried to get his bearings. Heavy leather straps held him firmly in place, from his wrists and ankles all the way to his head. He strained, but could only see the stretch of ceiling directly above him. Still, that was enough to tell him that he wasn't in one of the main labs. The stone walls and thick wood ceiling were part of the older structures further up the mountain: Doctor Mayhem's private retreat.

"There's no point in struggling, mister Blond." The voice was dry, cultured, and methodical as always. "I'm not going to kill you. That said, I can hardly have you trying to sabotage the Great Work, either."

There was a brief pause, and Jain Blond could hear the doctor moving around. "What are you going to do?" he asked.

"I'm going to make you happy, mister Blond. In fact, I'm going to make you so happy that you'll no longer have the will to oppose me. You, my valued assistant, will be the final test of my ear worms. If they can suppress your clever mind and unrelenting sense of duty, then they are truly ready... and it will finally be time to drag this battered world into a new age of peace and happiness, whether its inhabitants like it or not."

Jain Blond had become a spy knowing that each job might be his last; that he might be killed, or tortured, or just imprisoned. He knew how to be patient, how to pick his moment; he had been trained on how to escape from restraints, if he only had time. Only now there was no time, and death would be preferable to what the doctor had in mind.

For a moment, he strained against his bonds. Leather creaked, but nothing gave way. The doctor must have seen him, but the older man didn't bother to comment; he was fitting something against the outside of Blond's ear. Jain tried to shake his head, but to no avail; he felt the worm slither into his ear canal.

For a moment, nothing happened and Jain Blond thought that he might be safe; that the worms were a failure, that he'd managed another miraculous escape.

Then the singing started.

Against his will, international spy Jain Blond began to smile.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Hunter Prince: The Difficulty With Wounds

Morius was still breathing at the end of their attempts at healing; that was probably the best that could be said for it. They had wanted to lay him down, so he wouldn't move while his flesh was closing; instead, the change of position had hurt him even more. Cyjar had intended to withdraw the wood, so it wouldn't be in the way while Janiva's magic was trying to heal him; instead, the wood turned out to be holding back a river of blood, and it had taken all the magic Cyjar could muster to hold it back. It had been exhausting, since he had no particular skill to use for that; he'd done it with nothing but power and will, and by the time Janiva had closed that wound, Cyjar's whole body was shaking with exertion. Straightening the leg hadn't been so hard, but by then Janiva was too tired to finish the work.

They'd splinted the leg, using broken wood and bits of Cyjar's vest that they cut into strips. Morius was breathing more evenly, and more deeply, so Cyjar had tried calling for help.

He hadn't expected anyone to answer, so he wasn't disappointed when nobody did.

"Wait," said Janiva. "Somebody will come looking for us. If we're quiet, we can call when we hear them."

"We won't hear them," said Morius, sounding bleary. Then he drew a ragged breath. "I closed the door behind us, so we wouldn't be caught. They won't hear us, either."

Janiva and Cyjar exchanged a glance.

A moment later Morius asked, "How badly am I hurt?"

"Not as bad as before," said Cyjar, "but your leg's still broken."

"...And you two?"

"Battered," said Janiva, "but intact."

"Then I didn't get you both killed. Good." Morius paused to draw another ragged breath. "I would have felt bad about that."

"So would we," answered Cyjar, and Janiva chuckled.

Morius sniffed. "So what do we do now?"

"There are three of us," said Janiva. "You're injured, so one of us should stay with you, and the other one should go for help." She turned to look at Cyjar, who nodded.

"You have more reach," he said. "Can you climb back up?"

Janiva offered a small, determined smile. "I can try."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Introduction In Two Voices

"What are we looking at here?"
"A boy. They brought him in with Silk and Rodeson."
"The disappearances? What happened?"
"We're not sure. They're both dead, and so are a lot of monsters. The boy was with them, naked and unconscious, so they brought him back. He's in hardlock until we're sure he's clean."
"Who's checking him?"
"Bradwell is on his way in."
"Bradwell? I thought he was retired."
"He is. The boy is his nephew, the one who's been missing for the last two years. Do you want to tell him that he has to wait? Especially for us?"
"When you put it that way... No. And I supposed Bradwell can check him over as well as anyone. But if the boy's been under for two years..."
"I know. I don't like it either. And I want whatever he knows about Silk and Rodeson and how they died."
"You said there were monsters..."
"There were. In bits and pieces, all over the clearing. Unknown breed, but the claws and teeth are consistent with the wounds on Silk and Rodeson. Except, if they killed our agents, how did they end up dead?"
"You think there's something still out there? Something with an interest in the boy?"
"Or something that thought he was already dead, and left him alone. That's the problem: I don't know."
"All right. I'll see what I can learn."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rise From Your Bed

We drove from Dallas, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas for a funeral last Saturday. It's about a five hour drive. Then, of course, there was the funeral, and the socializing with the family, and the chasing after the small boys to make sure they weren't getting into anything they shouldn't. Then there was a night's coma sleep, then breakfast and more socializing, followed by a truly lovely lunch, and finally the five hour drive back.

The whole thing went really well. "Really well", however, was still exhausting. We're still not really recovered. So trying to get out of bed this morning felt a bit like trying to rise from my grave. (Sadly, I don't get to take power from defeated foes and gain new, more powerful forms while I attempt to rescue Athena from Hades. Tragic, that.)

Anyway... Yeah.

Friday, March 21, 2014

No new nightmares

I thought I was going to finish this week with another installment of A Haunted World, but... well, let me tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday, Thursday, I showed up at work as early as I could manage. This was complicated by the need to drop Firstborn off at school. It was required by the need to get with our front-line support and troubleshoot an issue with our document management software. It was, of course, a particularly weird and specific issue, and this is software that I'm only just becoming familiar with - and this was a custom form within that software, one which had been created by the same company I was calling for support.

In addition, yesterday (still Thursday) was the latest in a long line of indignities that have been visited upon me by the United Way. I had volunteered... voluntarily, even... to be part of the Information Technology (And Anyone Else We Can Grab) Dodgeball team. The tournament was scheduled to start at eleven o'clock.

So, knowing that both these things were coming, I went to bed early. This was not so much a matter of sensible personal planning, as a matter of being hugely exhausted and passing the &*^% out on the top bunk in Firstborn's room. That I had nightmares was no great surprise; that they woke up me was no surprise either - especially since I woke up to discover that one of the cats was meowing loudly in the hallway.

However, it was also no surprise that the nightmare - despite plugging perfectly into that writing project - was not sufficient to keep me awake long enough to write it all down. Not even close. It woke me up at midnight; I was back down by one o'clock. I have the shape of it, I wrote that much down, but it's not ready to be published yet. So that'll probably be done sometime next week.

If anybody's wondering about the Dodgeball, well... I didn't embarrass myself. Actually, I did pretty well. And the I.T. Team - appropiately named "Get The Hell Out And Dodge!" - made it to second place, out of something like seven teams. And this, despite the fact that the tech support call ran long enough that I didn't think I'd be able to play.

So, since I don't have my fiction ready, let me throw you at one of my go-to albums for writing about the end of the world. The band is named Xandria, and the album is called Neverworld's End. Here's the first song: A Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Hunter Prince: The Fallen Stair

Pain and shock gave way to the awareness that someone was shaking him by the shoulders. "Cyjar? Cyjar?"

He opened his eyes, saw nothing but darkness, and squeezed them shut again. When he opened them a moment later, he still couldn't see anything. Someone, Janiva, was still calling his name: "Cyjar?"

He coughed. "I'm intact," he said, though he wasn't sure about that at all. His leg hurt; so did his belly. Still, he didn't hurt as much as he thought he should have... and there was the faint, lingering sense (not quite a smell, not quite a glow) of magic hanging over him. "Where's Morius?"

"I'm not sure," said Janiva. Cyjar could see her now: a black shape, her outline surrounded by a faint gray. It's the light from the door at the top of the stairs, he realized.

She let go of his shoulders, and Cyjar sat up. He'd been lying on his back, he realized, which meant that Janiva had probably rolled him over. He was pretty sure he'd landed with his face down, and the remnants of bruises on his elbows and knees seemed to support that memory.

He took a deep breath, then another. Forcing himself to concentrate, he shaped the words to call light. He even added the ritual gestures, though the court wizard had put them through enough drills that he ought to be able to call light without even the words. After a fall like that, Cyjar felt that he needed all the help he could find.

The darkness gave way to gloom, then slowly brightened. They were lying on a flat strip of stone, at the bottom of a crevasse that seemed half natural and half carved. Broken beams of various lengths were scattered around them. The stairs had obviously been built to connect the wine cellar to these deeper passages, but Cyjar couldn't remember ever hearing anything about tunnels under the keep: not lessons, not rumors, not even stories.

"There," said Janiva, and Cyjar turned his head to see Morius slumped back against the wall, with his right leg twisted in a way that no leg should ever bend, and a chunk of wood pressed up against his ribs, just under his left shoulder. His eyes were wide and dark, and he was breathing in quick, shallow gasps; his skin, usually quite pale, was now an almost deathly white.

She scrambled away from Cyjar, and stood beside Morius. Cyjar took a moment to count all the pains in his body, then took a deep breath and pushed himself to his feet. He took a careful step, then another, and found that he could walk passably well. He wasn't completely healed, but he was well enough to move.

Janiva was looking over Morius. After a moment she turned back to Cyjar. "His leg is broken," she said, "and he's in shock. I don't know how deep that piece of wood went, but we'll have to get it out of his ribs."

Cyjar nodded. Now that she said it, he could recognize the signs. He couldn't remember where he'd learned them, but at this moment it didn't matter. "Can you work the healing?"

"Maybe," said Janiva. "Yes, if we can straighten the leg. Better, if we can can get all the wood out of his chest."

Cyjar drew a breath and tried to find his strength. "Yes. Let's try to lay him down, and I'll pull the wood. Then we can straighten the leg, and you can work the healing."

Janiva nodded. "Tell me when you're ready."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Great Hotdog Schism

I love my wife, I really do. She's a lovely woman, smarter than I am in a lot of ways. There's just this one area where she's... how to say this? error. Unorthodox. Heretical.

See, here's the thing. When I buy hotdogs, I do it right: Oscar Mayer Bun Length Wieners.

My wife, on the other hand, well... She buys Hebrew National Hot Dogs.

Look, it's not that they're bad hot dogs. They're perfectly yummy (by hotdog standards), they're the right length for a hotdog bun... but, well, they come seven to a pack.

Hotdog buns come eight to a pack.

Oscar Mayer Bun Length Wieners also come eight to a pack. That means that you run out of hotdogs at the same time that you run out of buns. That makes Oscar Mayer Bun Length Wieners the only sensible choice for hotdog purchases.

My wife, however, disagrees. She says that Hebrew National Hot Dogs are clearly, obviously superior because they don't have that red dye in them.

Now, all right-thinking people will agree that a bit of red dye is a small price to pay for not running out of hotdogs before you run out of buns, but my wife? She won't hear it. Perfectly sensible in all other areas, but she has this giant blind spot when it comes to hot dogs.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what has driven me to pen this epistle, to set right once and for all the correct approach to hotdogs. There is no middle ground on this. There is no backing down. There can be no reconciliation between the true believers of the Oscar Mayer Bun Length Wieners and the pernicious heretics of the Hebrew National Hotdogs.

...Not unless Hebrew National Hot Dogs start coming eight to a pack, anyway.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sort of a drinking holiday...

So, I see by the calendar that today is National Caricature The Irish Day. Let's have some music.
(Warning: my taste in music probably isn't work-safe, though I suppose that depends on where you work.)

A Token Celtic Drinking Song:

More below the cut:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Morning Gunfight Dialogue

Firstborn: "I shot you! You're dead."
Secondborn: "I am NOT DEAD!"
Firstborn: "Just respawn!"
Secondborn: "Whoosh! I'm back! Pew! Pew! Pew!"

...I love that "respawn" has entered their running-around-games vocabulary.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cowboys and Aliens and Bedtime

So, Firstborn (age seven-and-a-half) decided, when he turned off the video he was watching in his room, to sit on my lap and watch the video I was watching in the living room. This turned out to be Cowboys and Aliens, so he was treated to the big final battle and the exploding alien spaceship and whatnot.

This is of interest mainly because he had decided not to watch it earlier because it was too scary. Apparently the mental effort involved in Not Going To Bed Yet renders scary things a lot less scary.

I figure in another two or three years he'll be ready to watch Alien with me. At least, that was about the age where I first watched it with my parents, and under rather similar circumstances. Scary movies always > bedtime.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Filler: Taming Yesterday's Nightmares for a Better Tomorrow

I have nothing for today, so I'm going to send you all over to Peter Watts for an update on his research into Vampire Domestication. I'm sure you'll find it very educational.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Dreamer's Prison

This is the fourth installment in A Haunted World. No, I still wouldn't count on it ever getting finished, if I were you.

There was a silver tray beside the narrow bed. Linda blinked and closed her eyes, tried to find a comfortable position on the narrow cot. After a few minutes she opened her eyes again.

The tray was still there. It was impossible; the cell had no doors, and the windows were high and barred. There was no way a wide silver serving tray could have been brought into this cell, but there it was: sitting on a wooden stand beside her cot. Was she dreaming all this? The thing in her closet, the horrible sense of being taken into darkness, her time in this cage? Or was it all some sort of trick? Had she been drugged and kidnapped? Was there a door here somewhere, carefully hidden?

She sat up and pulled the blanket around her shoulders, partly against the chill of the air and partly out of a fear that someone might be watching her, unseen. She approached the tray and tentatively extended her free hand. When nothing changed, she touched it: metal, solid and slightly cold. Encouraged, she lifted the lid from the tray.

Underneath it was a wide, shallow bowl. It was half-full; oatmeal, by the look and smell of it. Linda's stomach rumbled.

For a long time she just stood there, looking it at. Then she put the cover back down over it, picked the whole thing up (cover, tray, and wooden stand) and moved it to the far corner of the cell. She left it there, and went back to the cot. Even with the blanket, it wasn't particularly warm or comfortable, but it beat standing on the cold stone of the cell's floor.

She wanted to look for a hidden door. She'd been brought here, somehow; so had the food. There had to be a way in and out. Instead, she lay back on the cot and covered herself with the blanked. She wanted to see if anyone would react to her refusal to eat. The door, if there was one, would have to wait.

Later, when she looked back at that corner, the tray was gone.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Hunter Prince: The Unbarred Door

"Did you take the bar off?" Cyjar looked at the metal door, then at the thick steel bar that was leaning in the corner beside it.

"No," said Morius. "It was like that when I found it. You can see there's still dust all over it."

Cyjar nodded. Janiva rubbed her nose, then asked: "And how in the world did you find it?"

"I was in the kitchen, getting a snack, when Jonquil came by."

"Jonquil?" asked Janiva.

"He's the wine steward," answered Morius, "but I didn't know that at the time. I was in the kitchen, trying to find a snack, and he came marching through with about six other servants behind him. He was wearing a serving coat, but one that very finely cut, and ones following him were almost as nicely dressed."

Cyjar nodded at that. He and his friends were too young for wine; the most they were permitted was a single cup of hard cider at the feasts. Jonquil, though... Cyjar had seen his father consult with the man about courtly dinners and visiting dignitaries, and not all of the discussion had centered on wines. Jonquil wasn't a spy, exactly, but as a high-ranking servant who came from a noble family, he carried some unique insights on events and politics.

"It seemed like a good test of my magic," said Morius, "so I followed them. They came down here, past the pantries and into the wine cellar. I stayed out of the way, and none of them saw me." Morius' voice held a touch of pride at that. "So I could have followed them back up, but as they were working I noticed this door."

"You stayed because of a door?" asked Janiva.

"I stayed because of this door," Morius replied. "Look at it. Why is it here at all? The kitchens are on the ground floor, just behind the Great hall. The pantries are below them, in chambers carved out of the bedrock. The wine cellars are further down; they're almost caves. Wines are expensive, so they should be kept dark and cool and safe... so why is there another door here? And why does it open on a staircase leading even further down?"

Cyjar stepped forward and pulled the door open. As Morius had said, there was a short passage and then more steps, leading down. "So why did you bring us here?" he asked.

Morius hesitated. "I was afraid to explore it alone."

Janiva snorted. "That's not cowardice," she said. "That's just sense." She looked a Cyjar. "Well? Should we have a look?"

Cyjar felt himself smile. "I'll play if you will," he said, half-challenging. Knowing already how Janiva would respond to that (she was the daughter of the High Lord of the Western Marches, and in training to become a knight as a prerequisite to her inheritance) he turned and stepped through the door. He muttered a quick spell as he walked, calling a small, glowing light to float above his head. He could hear Morius and Janiva behind him.

He'd gone down sixteen steps when his light flickered and went out. The steps were regular, so he kept walking; but as he voiced the words to call back the light, his left foot found empty air and he tumbled forward.

The passage continued for three short paces, then turned downward. Cyjar set his foot on the first step and heard it creak. "Wood," he said.

Behind him, Janiva said: "Old wood."

...But Cyjar had already started down.

The stairs went down a long way, and they creaked with every step: his, and his friend's. He had just caught sight of the bottom, where dusty wood gave way to smooth stone, when something gave way with a loud crack. He stopped immediately, but it was already too late: the stairs were shifting under his feet, twisting and sinking down. Cyjar shifted his balance, and in the process lost his hold on his spell; the air above his head went dark. He had a brief moment to realize that the stairs were too dark, that one of his friends must have fumbled his or her spell also.

Then the last of the wood gave way beneath his feet, the last of the light went with it, and he was falling into the dark.

For a moment, Cyjar felt nothing but cold, paralyzing fear. Then he slammed into something hard, which pressed into his gut and squeezed the air from his lungs. A moment later something crashed into him from behind (or above) and the surface beneath him swayed alarmingly. Then there was another crash, and nothing but the sense that everything was falling in the darkness.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Frozen Metal

Making sculptures from mercury, using liquid nitrogen.

You see the consistency when he's pouring the mercury? The way the surface tension makes the liquid "stand up" much higher than water ever would? Molten lead acts like that, too.

Of course, casting things in molten lead requires an entirely different set of safety precautions.

Also, this:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Further Adventures in Minecraft

I just went back into the living room to find Firstborn typing something into the PS3 (using the very awkward on-screen keyboard that works with the game controller), while Secondborn helpfully suggests letters that have nothing to do with whatever Firstborn is trying to type. So I said, "Secondborn, let Firstborn pick his own name."

At this point, Firstborn informs me that he isn't actually typing in a name. Instead, he's creating a sign. More specifically, he's creating the inscription for a gravestone for his dead dog.

He finishes this explanation about the time he finishes typing, so I look... and sure enough, his Minecraft guy is standing in front of a gravestone... and the gravestone says:
Rough, it seems, was the name of the dog. Rough, it seems, fell into the lava and died. Firstborn, it seems, has created an entire grave, complete with headstone, for Rough the tragically deceased Minecraft dog.


I have no idea. I think I'm just going to nod my head and back away slowly from this one.

Adventures in Parenting, Part 527b

Things I never thought I'd find myself saying to my child:

"Quit putting piggies on the floating platform! It's not big enough for them, and there's nothing to eat. All they can do is fall off, die, and become bacon!"

Firstborn's response? "Yay! Bacon!"

It's Minecraft, so apparently they actually drop porkchops when they die. I think. I don't even know...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Long, slow climb...

I finished the antibiotics on Monday. I'd love to tell you that I'm now completely recovered, but as most of you probably know, that isn't really the way it works. What I am, right now, is Not Sick Anymore. And believe me, that's great as far as it goes.

"Fully recovered" is another matter altogether, and I'm not there yet. I'm still wearing out; I have no reserves. I fell asleep on Secondborn's bed last night while the boys were playing games and I was trying to read. So, basically, I passed out with the lights on, and only woke up because the boys got into a minor tiff right outside the doorway. And even with an early evening nap, I was still back in bed by ten o'clock.

I'm not sick anymore. I'm just tired.

So, more music - this time I think I'll put it below the cut:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Real Work Conversations: Fonts

Me: "If I ever design a font, I'm going to name it Ellie."

Boss: "Ellie?"

Me: "Sure. It'll be the Ellie font in the room."

Boss: {throws stapler at my head}

Industrial Strength Tranquilizers

I'm out. So, um, how about some Austin Lounge Lizards?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Turn To Me, And The Cage Goes Away

She was at a party. She wasn't entirely sure where it was, or how she had gotten there, but it was definitely a party: rooms full of people talking, laughing, eating, drinking. She didn't know any of them, and found herself moving through them in a succession of polite smiles and nodded acknowledgements; she wasn't ignored, but she wasn't engaged, either. Seeking the fringes of the event, she drifted out of the lavish ballroom and along a short hallway. There were windows, but she couldn't make out anything in the darkness outside them. There was a smaller room ahead, and she slipped into it gratefully. Three men were playing cards at a small table in one corner, but Linda ignored them in favor of the bookshelves that lined the walls.

For a moment, she was distantly aware that she was sleeping on a narrow cot in a concrete cell, wrapped in a rough blanket. There was no door, and only high, barred windows; the air was cold and damp, and all she had with her was what she'd been sleeping in: a tee shirt and a pair of boxers. Her throat hurt from screaming and sobbing, for all the good that had done. Nobody had come, and even if they had, how could they get her out? For that matter, how had she gotten there in the first place? Was she still in her closet, somehow? Or had she been brought somewhere else?

The dream was comforting, a blessed relief from all that, and Linda sank back into it gratefully. She pulled a book from the shelves, and opened it. Then she laughed in delight as the words and images of the story spun around her. A young sorceress was setting out from her family keep, on a journey that almost certainly wouldn't end where she expected...

"Turn to me," said a voice behind her. She was back in the room, still facing the row of books. The table in the corner was empty, the deck of cards neatly stacked at its center. Linda straightened, but kept her eyes on the book. The images, the story, had collapsed back into words on the page.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Turn to me," said the voice, "and the cage goes away."

In the darkness of her cell, Linda woke up shivering.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Hunter Prince: An Invisible Friend

Cyjar was on his way to dinner when someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned, but nobody was there. A ghost? Puzzled, he started walking again. Three strides later, someone tapped his shoulder - this time on the other side. He stopped and took a careful look around.

This hallway ran along the outer wall of the central keep, so there was light from the arrow slits along the left-hand wall in addition to the glow-glasses in their sconces. Glow-glass was created by enchanting regular glass, so it could be made in any shape. In this area of the castle, the glow-glasses had been shaped to resemble flames, and they lined the hall at regular intervals. There was no shortage of light here, and no place for anyone to hide.

There was also nobody else anywhere nearby.

After a moment Caijar shrugged and started walking again. This time, when he felt the touch on his shoulder, he reversed directions and swept his arm out in a wide circle. He felt his fingers brush across something (it felt like cloth) and heard a sudden intake of breath.

A moment later Morius was standing beside him.

Cyjar took a quick step back, raising his arms to a fighting position. Morius wasn't going to attack him, so he didn't really need to defend himself; but having someone appear out of empty air beside him was startling enough that it took a moment for the recognition of his friend to catch up with Cyjar's initial, startled response. As soon as it did, he put his arms back down.

Morius looked apologetic. "I'm sorry," he said. "I've been studying illusions, and the best way to practice is to try them out on people who aren't expecting them."

"Well," said Cyjar, adopting a tone of careful judgement that sounded as much like their teacher, Master Barigil, as he could manage. "I trust you've learned a valuable lesson about the effectiveness of illusion magics: they work far better if you don't go around touching people when you're trying to remain unseen."

Morius grinned. "A valuable lesson indeed. I shall mark it down in my notes, alongside the one that says, 'Never be late for dinner'."

Exasperated, Cyjar asked: "Well, whose fault is that?"

"Not mine," said Morius. "Not if we hurry."