Monday, July 29, 2013

Why You Should Not jot at 12:01 AM in Bed with an Indelible Pen...

Brainstorm for a scene.

If I don't jot it gets lost.

It's very late and I'm sleepy.

--BUT!!! I have a notebook and a pen.

Voila'!

(You should have seen my hands the next day.   'Indelible' is the c0rrect word.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Celebrating - Half-days and works in progress

I am posting this early because I will be traveling tomorrow and won't have time to do things properly.

Today I am celebrating taking a  half day's vacation and driving down to visit my mother. My father died this past summer and Monday would have been their 63rd anniversary.  I thought she would like company (we try to be with her as much as we can).  But aside from that, she's a lot of fun and has been a wonderful mother who, though I love and respect her as my mother, has turned into a friend I enjoy 'hanging with', as the American slang goes. 

So I have taken a half day and will be driving down through the New York and New Jersey countryside (stopping at stands that sell beautiful 'Beefsteak' tomatoes and fresh corn), and then on to Mom's house.  I'll be setting up her computer (she actually got one!) and showing her some good things on it - like Facebook, where her grandchildren are posting.

She's very bright (I'd say brilliant) and is a quick learner with a devastating, subtle wit.  It should be fun.


Kadesh - wretched cover!
I'm also celebrating my WIP, called 'Kadesh'.  That is the name of a famous battle that led to the first international treaty in recorded history.  The story is about four brothers who go to war with their father - but while there is the battle itself, it isn't a war story.  Rather, it is about the family itself.  There are several (historical) female characters who are engaging.  It's the sequel to my recent one,  Mourningtide, taking up fifteen years after.

My new cover for Kadesh!  A Wrap!
The reason I'm celebrating is that I haven't touched the thing since November.  I've been going through, reading the chapters, adjusting the timeline, and thinking, "Actually, this is pretty good!"

I wrote it during the 2012 NaNoWriMo and made the requisite words, then got busy.  It's good, but it needs a lot of work, both in composing and in editing.  I'm having fun.  Now if I could just come up with a better cover...  Perhaps this one?  It does capture the personality and attitude of one of the major characters, the Crown Prince.




This blog hop is the brainchild of VikLit, who thought it a good and enjoyable (and beneficial!) thing to pause regularly and not only count our blessings, but celebrate them.  Why not join?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wal-Mart Weirdos (?)


I am posting, here, something I put up on Facebook.  I think it bears repeating. 




I was checking messages and such this morning and, as usual with various types of social media, I was presented with a photo of a 'Wal-Mart person' to laugh at. The picture was taken from behind the person, and it showed a woman poured into a pair of jeans, trundling a stroller with another child tearing along ahead of her. She looked rather harried (from the back). I chuckled, but then I looked closer. 

Her clothing appeared clean, her equipment was in good order (for a stroller) and the children seemed to be well-fed. 
Wal-Mart lady photo I refer to

In fact, the only thing that seemed to qualify her for the standard 'Gosh-Awful Wal-Mart People Show' was the fact that she was carrying what appeared to be a sudden weight gain on her thighs, hips and buttocks to the point where the jeans, which appeared to be decent quality ones, whatever the maker, did not have any looseness in them and her outline seemed distorted. Not badly distorted, mind you. She might have taken a size 18 (US) in trousers over the thighs.  The rest of her was fairly slim. Oh - and she did have a tattoo across her lower back.  If she had worn jeans that actually fit, I doubt anyone would have snapped the photo.

I frowned and eyed the picture again. Two children, apparently under 3 - 4 years old. Very tight jeans - pregnancy weight, maybe? Based on some other observations, she might well be a nursing mother.  And she was in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Hm.

That photo made me think, and I remembered the various slide shows of 'Wal-Mart people' that I had laughed at over the years. It struck me that maybe I wouldn't be laughing at them any more. Or, at least, I wouldn't be looking at them any more.

Why? Well, a couple of reasons. First of all, it seems that a lot of the 'gosh-awful Wal-Mart people' are overweight. Some of them are very overweight, indeed. Does that make them somehow contemptible? Or less worthy of respect? A dear friend died this summer. She was very heavy, but she dressed well and carried herself with pride. I imagined someone putting her in a 'people of Wal-Mart slide show and cringed.

Some of the outfits are truly bizarre - but speaking as one who has walked down the streets of New York and Philadelphia , the clothing and hair is no more weird that I've seen on the streets. For that matter, if someone had been around last Thursday morning at 5:30 AM they might have had quite a photo opportunity with me trundling my trash receptacle to the curb, wearing my night attire, with hair uncombed, muttering under my breath about the annoying company that handles recycling for my town.

And let's be honest here - a lot of people are hurting for money and they need to shop somewhere cheap.  And they can't afford to buy new, larger jeans (or spiffier clothes).  While I don't like scammers and criminals, the bulk of people hurting for money are neither.
 


Well, everyone has his or her own notions of what is amusing. Reducing people to what amounts to be freaks for our derision is, to me, neither amusing nor kind.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Progress on my WIP


From my latest WIP, due to come out February 2014, God willing and the creek don't rise.  ( © 2013 by Diana Wilder)  Good Day's work.  Now to fiddle with it...

     ------  ***  ------

The main character, Hori, has spent four years as an acolyte at a temple.  As Crown Prince, he has been summoned back to court by his father, who is planning a campaign that will lead to the first international treaty in history. The scene opens with him leaving the army barracks (he is a general) and returning to his quarters to prepare for a state feast. 

Hori could hear the roar of the feast in the distance.  Drums, flutes…   Laughter….
He spared a thought for the silences at Opet, the calm courtyards at the Temple of Ptah.  Or the ringing, clear skies on the coast of Byblos  The stillness was still there, somewhere, if only within himself.
**   **   **
     "That is much better," Neter said. Hori was wearing the lion-head pendant Gold of Honor his grandsire had awarded him after that difficult fight on the Libyan border. A cylindrical necklace awarded by General Djedi during Hori’s second campaign sat at the base of his throat.  He shook his head at the broad collar.  Too heavy, too ornate. 
     He slid a pair of plain gold armlets up either arm as Neter clasped two bracelets on his wrists. 
     Neter was frowning around the room.  “Your diadem, My Prince—  I don't see it."
     "I will go bare-headed," Hori said.  He had tucked the jewel away in one of his chests just that morning.  “It is late.  There will be other feasts - and the wind can stir my hair tonight.  There will be precious little wind in that throng otherwise!”
     Neter smiled and shook his head.  "There will be wind of another sort," he said.  "Your Royal Highness is wise." 
     He is growing old, Hori thought, remembering how he had seen Neter serving his grandsire during the years Hori had been trained by King Seti.  He had some wealth of his own.  He could settle Neter in comfortable retirement when the man wanted it…
     Neter unstoppered the small carnelian flask of kohl and inserted the rounded stick.  "It will take a moment to refresh the kohl around your eyes.  Do hold still this time, Highness: I don't wish to have to explain to His Majesty why his eldest son has to wear a patch over his eye!"
     Hori closed his eyes and raised his eyebrows.  "It would tend to skew my archery," he said through his teeth.
     "Indeed it would."  Neter put the flask away.  "You are ready, My Prince, although others will no doubt be wearing tunics of royal linen."
     "The more fool they.  They think layers of cloth hides flabby stomachs.  I have nothing to hide." He grinned at Neter's suppressed smile. "Thank you. Get some rest, yourself. I'll put myself to bed when I return. And do you go to the master of the feast and tell him I have requested that you be given food and drink." He took the small ring from his finger and gave it to Neter, then waited as the man swung the door open for him.
     He seemed for a moment to be facing a long path that arrowed before him into the distance.  He had not yet set foot upon it and at that moment he had the sense that once he took the step forward that would set him on that path, he would have no way to turn back, then or ever.
     Behind him lay the aftermath of a tiring, satisfying day.  Before him lay…  He did not know, and it was for him to bring it into being.  And yet—
     He could turn back.  Remain in his rooms, plead fatigue, plead—what? The press of duty?  Where did his duty lie? 
     Did he truly have to ask?
     He drew a deep breath and stepped into the dim hallway.  The door closed softly behind him.
**   **   **
     His Majesty had set the feast in the palace's western gardens, to catch the last glint of the sun upon Imhotep’s masterpiece. Hori moved softly along the dim walkway, his bare feet thudding upon the sand-cushioned ground.  The afternoon breeze had risen and he could see the whirl and sweep of swallows chasing insects.  One passed so close, he could feel the light breeze from its wings.
     He could see the doorway in the distance.  Dark wood doors firmly closed upon intruders, even as the Temple of Ptah was giving a gala dole to those who were in need. 
     No doubt, Hori thought, remembering the years that he had been present at the dole in Opet. 
     The cool of the evening was yielding to increasing warmth.  Hori could feel it building as he drew near the door, like the strengthening current of an unseen river.  Warmth from the press of bodies, the air passing in and out of active lungs, the warmth rising from movement, from the blood pulsing through their veins.
     What had seemed a murmur when he stepped into the hallway had grown to a rising hum.  He could see a thread of light through the closed doors.
     He hesitated.  The air would be hot and stale, full of the fumes of beer and souring wine…
     He took a step, another, and in his mind he could see himself turning away, moving down the hallway toward increasing brightness and his own rooms.
     A thread of incense touched him and he could hear the wheedling of a flute beyond the doors.  He paused, biting his lip.  He suddenly knew that if he went through that door, it would be to step into a changed life.
     You must lead yourself, Hori.  If you do not go forward, you must go back.  An army must move or die.  His grandsire, King Seti, had said that while they were perched on the battlements of that fortress in Kush.  And, truly, the thoughts of others, the way they see you, do not depend on you.  Move on. 
     “My Prince!”
     He turned to face Neter, who was panting behind him, clutching a pair of gold-adorned sandals.
     “My prince—! Barefoot!  It will not do!”
     He took them from the man.  “Thank you, Neter,” he said. 
     The man smiled, bowed, and turned away.
     Hori frowned at the rich, chased leather and then, casting a quick glance behind him, tossed them into the dimness and faced the doors and the two guards flanking them, so silent that Hori, battle-trained as he was, had not seen them.  They dropped to their knees, hands to chest, bowed, then rose and swung the doors wide.
     The roar of the feast surged toward him in a swell of sound.  He let it eddy around him and stepped forward into sudden silence.
     A guest straightened and squared his shoulders.  Another set down his cup with a click.  Cuts of meat fell back into serving dishes.  Servants straightened and stared 
     The silence deepened.
     Ye gods!  Have I stepped on the hem of my own kilt and pulled it off?  Am I stripped to my shenti that they should gape so?
     He lifted his chin.  He would be damned if he peered down at himself and tweaked his garments.  And if I am, then so be it. 
     A murmur grew. He heard his name, repeated and repeated until it was a roar itself.
     He moved into the throng.
**   **   **
     Nefertari, smiled at the servant, shook her head at the wine, and nodded at the ewer of water, accepting a full cup a moment later. Her eyes were dry; she closed them and held the pose for a long moment. That was better.
     Her husband was watching her. “It is hot,” she said.
     He frowned and nodded to two servants bearing feather fans.
     Rai and Mayet were sitting together, both smiling, though from Mayet’s straight smile and the stiff set of Rai’s shoulders some sort of quarrel was brewing. Was it too soon after Mayet’s confinement? Iyneferti might know. But from the way Rai was ogling that dancer- She blinked as he threw another ring and watched as the girl put it down the front of her loincloth.
     She suppressed a chuckle, caught her daughter's eye, and had to look away. The girl made her giggle like a new wife. Most embarrassing!
     “Wine, Majesty?”
     She frowned at the ewer. A sip would be wonderful. “Yes, thank you, good Tuti,” she said, and sipped. She looked up to see her husband smiling at her. The dancer was on her knees, bending back...
     A hand closed around hers. She met her husband’s smiling gaze, relinquished the cup, and watched him turn it to sip from her side and hand it back under cover of the music.
     She lowered her eyes. After five children and twenty years wed, he could still make her heart flutter even as she thought Oh, Ast, please: no more babies!
     The cup was in her hands. She turned it, sipped, and set it down.
     Movement at the doorway - a flurry among the servants, the doors swinging wide -
     A man strode into the hall, tall, broad-shouldered with sun-browned skin and back hair. Gold glinted from wrists and upper arms, warrior’s gold hung at his neck and lay flashing against the satisfying swell of his chest.
     The room was silent. He stepped forward into a sudden roar of sound, the crash of applause, a rising, wordless murmur that built to a crescendo, as palpable as a wall of water.
     The man faltered, his dark eyes beneath straight brows flashing for a moment before the shoulders squared. He moved through the throng in the sudden silence, his eyes on hers -
     Hori! Her heart leapt with delight. Her son - and such a son!
     She beamed as he approached, rose as he went to one knee, his hands at his breast, his head lowered.
     Her husband had risen and was speaking measured, warm words of greeting that she could not hear through the glad singing of her heart.
     “Welcome home, my son!” she said to him as he raised her hand to his lips.

This is scheduled to be published early 2014.  We'll see how I do.,,   Deadlines can be exhilarating - or truly annoying,

Friday, July 19, 2013

Celebrating... You!



Today I'm raising a glass / smiling while contemplating / cheering for / quietly appreciating something truly worth celebrating.  For me, anyhow:



       You







I started blogging a while back just for something to do.  It was enjoyable - and then I started meeting other people who had blogs about all sorts of things - families, crocheting, collections of inspiring snippets, whether about the Chelsea Flower Show or travel.  Writers who do other things than shout about buying their books.  Helpful people, enjoyable people, people I would probably invite to my home for dinner.  Once it was cleaned to my satisfaction.


People celebrating, people sharing, people just being...people.



You're worth celebrating, folks!







This blog hop is the brainchild of the delightful VikLit, whose blog is well worth visiting whether or not it's Friday and you are celebrating.  Every week that participants can, they stop, take stock, recognize that life is full of small celebrations that go unnoticed, and they celebrate.  The participants are on the list - look around - celebrate!  And maybe join?  You'd be welcome!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Writing Limericks


It's amazing what pops into your head.   For some reason I've been thinking about Limericks. 
What's a Limerick?  Well, it's like this:   

lim·er·ick  
/ˈlim(ə)rik/

Noun
A humorous, frequently bawdy, verse of three long and two short lines rhyming aabba, popularized by Edward Lear.

 I have run into some that aren't bawdy (most of mine) but the form does lend itself to a certain level of - shall I say? - friskiness.

I had quite a run of limericks for a while.  A number of us cranked them out.  They are rather like knee-jerks.  With the right stimulus, you can put them out quickly.  As an example, a perfectly charming lady named Pat, who was a senior administrator one place I worked, was quite taken by Sunsweet Brand Prunes (they did start calling them 'dried plums' some time later) had several small bags of the things.  And I wrote this to commemorate her adventuresome nature: 

Has someone suggested Prunes?
A collection of large, juicy prunes
Was assembled by Pat one fine June.
But she went overboard
And devoured the hoard -
So I don't think we'll hear from her soon!

 

 I seem to remember that Pat was slightly amused, but it was long ago and far away.





We were off to the races with the limericks.  I've forgotten most of them ("Good!" my family might say) but a few came back, and I am happy to share:


On myself (NOT biographical):

A hazel-eyed cookie named Wilder
Met a plausible scamp who begilder.
He was nabbed by a Copper
For Conduct Improper -
And posting his bail really rilder



Then, laughing at Elizabeth and Richard Taylor's flatulent endeavor that barged down the Nile and sank, I came out with these:

Egyptian Queen Cleo saw Caesar -
His face and form didn't displaesar.
She had her slaves lug
Her, rolled up in a rug,
To seduce that unfortunate gaesar.


And, finally, this:

Queen Cleo laid hold of an asp
Whose sour disposition did rasp.
Her ending was bad,
So remember, my lad -
Never fool with a Snake in the Grasp.










You can breathe now - I don't recall any more.

At this moment.
 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Things That Once Were

I wrote poetry, once upon a time.  I still do, actually, when the mood strikes me.  Generally, now, the mood that strikes me is puckish and what I write is humorous.

Grandpa at 90
I was remembering, recently, a time when my grandfather was sitting in my mother's living room and mulling things over.  He was matter-of-fact.  He always was, with a puckish sense of humor.  I remember him laughing at some hobbling fellow who had told him that when Grandpa reached 60, as he had, he'd like to lean on a cane.  Grandpa was in his late 70s then. 

He was in his nineties that evening, a WWI veteran, a musician, a fly fisherman, gardener - my Grampa.  He was talking about life, and he said that young men think of all the things they want to do in the future, while an old man like him knows that the future contains his departure. 

Grandpa lived to be 100 years old plus a month.  His last words to me, when I hurried to the hospital to see him, were 'I love you!'.  He died in his sleep.

On the evening I mentioned, I started thinking, and I ultimately wrote a poem.  I like the form of a sonnet, and that is what I wrote.  My grandfather loved it.  And I lost it in the course of many moves.  I didn't have a computer at that time, just paper.

It was entered in a poetry contest of sorts (the kind where you 'win' and get to buy a volume of poetry that contains your effort.  I didn't bother) and then it was lost.

Recently, I tried to find it.  My mother went through all her papers - no luck.  But she gave me a number of old poems, which I put away.  Last night I was sorting through them - and here it is, not lost forever and regretted, but complete, tying the past to the present.
 
                                                  Sonnet for my Grandfather 

                                Could I by some chance make you stay with me
                                Beyond the moments given you by time,
                                If I could somehow stay your destiny,
                                            Unravel fate's thread and unsay life's rhyme –
                                I'd spend a thousand summers by your side,
                                Distill them to the touch of one clear day
                                Within the stippled shade where brown trout hide,
                                Watching the water skimmers' silent play
                                            Along the surface; I would stay with you
                                And hold your hand nor would I hurry on
                                As once I did, to matters fierce and new,
                                Whose call to me was brief, whose thrill is gone.
                                            But at your side I'd cheerfully remain,
                                            Knowing those times could never come again. 

                                                                    Diana Wilder  © 1979

Monday, July 8, 2013

Of Mice and (Wo)Men

A Sugar Ant
I came home from a long weekend away to find my cats waiting for me and looking hungry.  It doesn't matter what arrangements you have made to feed them, a cat or cats will always stand before you, swaying with weakness, uttering faint cries of distress (as their distended bellies, caused by overly solicitous cat-sitters, sway gently from side to side, rather like those of sugar ants).

At any rate, I returned, counted noses, said hello, made certain they had food put out for them, and did a circuit of the house, checking to see that all was well.  Aside from the cries of the starving hordes, all was well. 

I thought. 
Dead Mouse.  RIP.  Caption by Frida

Then I found this:

Now, I don't think animals are stupid, though I suspect the brain power of a lobster isn't terribly high.  But you might think that a species that is always getting nailed by hawks, owls, weasels and cats might have some way of communicating the notion that a certain place is not necessarily the best one to slip inside and take a snooze.

Hoboes had a sign that indicated that a generous woman lived in a house:

"Kind Lady"





"Stay away from THIS place!!"



You would think that mice or voles or other such would have a similar sign that warns travelers off:




I'm not sure who left the love token, whether Frida (getting old at 9),
Frida, age 9
















Orlando (in the Special forces but a bit of a doofus, 



or Casey (the Maine Coon, a breed famous for producing mousers).
My money is on Casey.  I think Frida wrote the sign, however...











 Myself, I was busy doing battle with some poison ivy that strayed into my yard.  Wonder Woman (yours truly) is fine. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Fabulous Fourth Fresh Berry Pie (recipe)

The Fabulous Fourth is upon us here in the United States.  I will be visiting my newly widowed mother who for grit and humor is unsurpassed.  She called to tell me that a neighbor admitted that she would be alone on the Fourth, so Mom said, "Well, spend it with me!  My daughters are coming and we'll cook burgers and hot dogs!" 

She then called to ask me if I minded.  Minded?  Generosity?  Kindness?  Not I!  I've been the beneficiary of it quite a lot over the past several years.  How could I object?  

Fresh Raspberry Pie
I immediately offered to bring my favorite berry pie.  Mom said it might be a good idea.  So I made it, and here is the recipe. It is a simple fresh berry pie.  Not too sweet, rather perishable, easy to make (if you know what  you are doing and don't waffle instructions).  And if you do it right, people think you're the greatest chef since Brillat-Savarin.  A good thing if you go for such.

It's easy, delicious - how could I not share the recipe?

So here it is:
Must use fresh berries!

FRESH BERRY PIE
I generally use raspberries (they eat them in Heaven, you know…) but you can use hulled strawberries (cut up slightly) or peaches, cut up (and drain them) or any other berry you like.



UNBAKED PIE SHELL

If you are one of those who likes to have people believe that

you never, ever, EVER use store-bought anything, you buy a frozen crust, thaw it and crimp the crust with your fingers once the thing is thawed.  Somehow, a crimped crust just looks more homemade to eaters.  Me, I don't mind buying them (but check ingredients; some crusts do have sugar in them).  I also make a very good crust from scratch.  It's a nearly-forgotten skill.  Rather like starting a fire using kindling.

BAKE THE CRUST:

Heat oven to 375.  Take a standard dinner fork and prick the crust all over (bottom, sides).  Holes everywhere.  If you have any pie weights, pour them into the crust to keep the thing from wrinkling.  Dried beans or peas work well, but then don't use them in soup.  Bake the crust for no more than 15 minutes.  It should be golden brown.  Let it cool while you fiddle with the filling:




FILLING:
1 ½ cups cold water
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 small package of gelatin.  If you're using raspberries, use raspberry gelatin.  Sugar Free is fine.
3 Tbs granulated sugar
2 pints fresh berries, with any bugs or dirt picked out and washed off, well drained



PUT IT TOGETHER:

In a large saucepan combine until smooth:
1 ½ cups cold water
2 Tbs cornstarch
Bring to a boil, cook and stir constantly for two minutes, till thickened.  Take from the heat and stir in the gelatin.





The (very strong) temptation, if you have chidren watching as you stir in the gelatin, is to cackle, look slyly at them, and say with your best Wicked Witch of the West voice, "Poison!  It is Poison!"


Now we learn whether one is utilitarian or artistic…

UTILITARIAN:
Stir fruit into gelatin, mix well and pour into crust, and let it chill in the refrigerator.

ARTISTIC:
 Pour about ¼ C of gelatin mixture in the bottom of the crust and spread it. 
Add about ½ of the berries and drizzle half of the remaining gelatin over them, making sure most of the berries are held by gelatin.  Add almost all the rest of the berries (hold back a handful) and drizzle the rest of the gelatin over it.  Pretty it up and place the remaining berries on top.  Let it chill.

 
You can served this with the whipped topping of your choice.  I prefer whipped cream, myself, and I whip it myself, thankyouverymuch.  (But I also enjoy spritzing the pressurized stuff)
 
Leftovers are delicious stolen from the fridge at midnight…

Happy fourth, you all!
 

Monday, July 1, 2013

...Music in the Night...

I spoke about a scene I wanted to write in a love story I was working on, hindered a little by exhaustion and malaise.  People were very kind and supportive, and I am showing my thanks (well, trying to do so!) by posting a rough version of the scene I mentioned.

[Copyright (C) 2013 by Diana Wilder , all rights reserved, etc and reserving the right to edit this till I'm happy with it...]

--------------------------------------------------

  It was amazing, she thought, how tiring it was to recline upon cushions and allow beasts of burden to draw you along in a cart. Where was the sense of it?   She smiled at the menservants and stepped back as they began to lead the teams away.
     One of the donkeys sidestepped, throwing its head up and then prancing.
     As though he has not spent the better part of a week pulling me along, she thought. He still full of prance, and I exhausted.
     The doors swung open and she saw her mother’s butler beaming at her.
    “Welcome home, My Princess!”
     She returned his smile. “It is good to be back Master Hefner. Is my mother awake?”
     “She retired some time ago,” H said.

AND SO ON

     In her chambers, seated in the low stool, she listened, heavy-eyed, to the murmurs about her as they braided her hair. She lifted her polished bronze mirror.   Her fatigue-smudged refection yawned back at her. Her robes were folded and set aside, she settled into her sorely-missed bed to the sound of murmured good-nights. Someone’s kiss warmed her cheek as she faded into sleep…

** ** **

     The moon cast a coverlet of silver across her bed. She sighed and opened her eyes to smile at the stars, yawn and turn on her side, and drifted to the soft chime of music…
     Music…
     She rose through the layers of oblivion, her weariness falling away from her as the notes seemed to quiver in the night.
     A harp, she thought.  The music was almost too soft to hear. She sat up, scarcely breathing, as the notes rose and fell, softer than a breath but as clear as the sigh of the wind. …Where was it coming from?
     She rose from her bed, drew her shawl about her shoulders and stood silently as the sound faded. Had she only dreamed it?
     It came again on the echo of that thought, a sound of wind and sunshine.
     She was fully awake now, listening as the music twined through the wind, caught stars in its threads…
     She slid from beneath her covers, caught up her shawl, and went into the star-sparked night, moving silently along the worn stone ramparts. 
     The sound was nearer.  She could barely distinguish it from the wind sifting down along the ridges.
     The walkway passed above an open courtyard, half-sheltered by the ramparts’ buttressed overhang.  Her father had brought a worker in timber to build the supports. She had sometimes sheltered there when a rain squall caught her.
     She moved softly to the wall and leaned over to gaze into the courtyard.    The glow of a tiny oil lamp warmed the night.
     A man was kneeling by the wall, half-sheltered by the overhang. The lamp sparked details that seemed to flash and vanish. Dark hair, the light easing over a strong line of shoulders, long fingers moving with delicate precision over the quivering strings.
     The music strengthened a little.  He had stiffened, even as he continued to play, his head moving slowly from side to side…
     Her breath caught as he raised his head. The wind teased the fringe of her shawl. She stepped back into silence.
      A soft shimmer of sound strengthened as the harpist played again.  She stepped softly away from the balustrade and returned silently to her rooms, to dream of moonlight and music. 

----------------------------------------

FROM THE MAN’S POINT OF VIEW.  HE IS AT THE LADY’S HOME TO NEGOTIATE A TREATY BETWEEN HIS PEOPLE AND HER FATHER’S.  HE IS IN AN OUTSIDE COURTYARD, HALF-DOZING IN THE AFTERNOON,  HE HEARS SOMEONE SPEAKING…  

     The voice made him open his eyes, oddly breathless. It was like a voice from a dream. It was a woman’s voice, but lower than many with a quality of water running over bronze. Chiming… But that implied a high voice, and this one was lower, softer, warmer, with the touch of a smile.
     Loveliness, he thought, and then blinked at the extravagance of the notion. But yet- He thought confusedly that ‘lovely’ was the correct word. Love…
     The voice spoke again. He frowned, trying to understand the words. He knew many languages and dialects, but this one was strange to him.
     He pushed to his feet as the voice spoke again with that same chiming sound…
     Who was she?
     He hurried to the wall, breathless, in time to see the flicker of a shawl entering the palace.
     He turned. The door— If he could overtake her, he thought feverishly, if he could see her - speak with her-
     “Highness—”
     He swore silently and turned to face the King.  

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THIS IS A DAY AFTER THE PRIOR SCENE.  THE LADY AWAKENS TO THE SOUND OF THE HARP.  

     A ripple of notes drew her to the edge of the casement.
The man knelt, as before, with the harp in his arms, coaxing the strings with quiet strokes that brought the song of the wind.
     She leaned over the casement. The wind caught her hair and spilled it across her face. She closed her eyes, reveling in its cool touch.
     “Welcome again, O Lady Watcher in the night.”  The words were quiet; for a moment she had thought it was the sound of the wind.  She had been silent, she knew. Something must have caught his attention. Perhaps the flutter of her sleeve?
     She opened her eyes. The man’s face was turned up toward her.  He was one of the Egyptians; the straight, dark hair confirmed that.  The flash of dark eyes caught her. But it faded, eased. The hands moved again on the strings.
     “Shall I play a song for you, My Lady?”
     His voice pleased her. It was quiet, tinged with a smile, though it had a sense of strength, as though he could fill a room with it if he wished to shout. 
     She chuckled.  “Wait,” she said. “Wait - I will come down to you.”
     The music stilled abruptly as she spoke. It began again with a slight quiver that had faded by the time she arrived at the courtyard.
     He was still kneeling by his harp, but he bowed over the strings.   "Am I intruding in your rooms?" he asked. He seemed almost breathless.
     She folded her hands at her breast and returned his bow. "No, My Lord. This belongs to no one…"
     "You were here earlier,” he said, plucking another ripple of sound. His voice had altered subtly. He almost seemed hesitant. “Who are you?”
     “I am Chara. And you?”
     “I am Hori.”