Durance Vile

It’s an alley or perhaps a broad street, or perhaps a docking station in the middle of trackless space.

Where ever it is, if you’re one of this crowd, you know where to find it.

You knock.  The door opens a fraction of an inch.  “Hun, Hoyden or Dinerite?”

“I er… don’t know?”

The person — you presume it’s a person, though all you can see is one enormous eye peering out at you — sighs with a gust like the wind of a thousand bellows.  “His Grace Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater is?”

“The King’s Witchfinder?”

“I see.  Athena Hera Sinistra, just another cuddle bunny, right?”

“OMG, no.”

“I see.  And if you’re a Usaian you have…?”

“A fanatical devotion to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness?”

“Yes, but that applies to the Huns and Hoydens too. What else do you have?”

“My scrap of flag!”

“Right.  Come on in.”

The door opens wide, allowing you into a space that’s a medieval tavern, unless it’s a space bar.  Two things you can’t avoid noting.  The person — it’s a person, right? — who let you in is a huge dragon wearing a t-shirt that says Drak.  And over the bar/counter/serving table, a board/electronic board/blackboard says “Try our Cthulhu- Mari.  It’s to die for.”

As you edge further in, an orange cat rubs around your ankles, and you wonder if he’s a pet or a guest.

The dragon catches up with you and puts a friendly claw around your shoulders, “Okay, this is all self-explanatory.  If the floor looks shaky, wait till it solidifies to step — we’re between dimmensions.  That guy over there is Statist Josh.  Don’t get in a government discussion with him.  He gets odd.  Other than that he’s perfectly fine.”

“Oh, I see.  He’s a big government fan?”

The dragon looks at you with an immense eye.  “Oh, very no.  Why would you think so?  And that,” Points at the nice lady in the corner with a laptop.  “Is Celia Hayes.  Don’t interrupt her.  We like her writing.   That,” he points at a young woman surrounded by kids, “Is Foxfier and the royal family of elvenland.  Don’t ask.  It was a merger deal.  That,” He points at a wallaby sipping something that foams and bubbles and occasionally tries to crawl out of the glass.  “Is RES, which, it will not have escaped you, is Latin for thing.  Don’t have a punning contest with him when life is on the line.”

“But what about that guy sitting across from him?  Who–  He looks…”

“Oh, yes, that’s SPQR.  He’s a vampire and sometimes a wear feline.  He denies that he’s in fact undead Julius Caesar.”

“Denies it?  How can–”

“Well, he’s had a lot of practice as a politician, right?”

At that moment, the entire place shakes and a roar echoes.

You ask, “Transdimmensional earthquake?”

Drak looks unconcerned.  “That?  Oh, no.  THAT is just herself.  We locked her in the basement until she finishes Through Fire.”

“Yeah,” an athletic man says, as he walks up wiping sweat from his brow.  “She almost got loose that time.  She tried to turn into a hedgehog and cute her way out.  When that didn’t work, she tried to become a dragon and bite her way through the door.  I don’t know how much longer we can keep her locked up.”  He extends a hand to you, “I’m William O’Blivion, btw.”  He turns back to Drak.  “Knighton and Jeff Gauch and Garsys and I really need something to drink, if we’re going to keep holding the fort.  She keeps demanding to see the political news now.  And poor Dr. Mauser was flamed in the fracas.  He’s trying to recover, but you know what it’s like.”

Drak sighs.  “Yeah, I hope she finishes Through Fire soon, or we’re going to have to get reinforcements.  Also, thorazine.”

242 responses to “Durance Vile

  1. today, I’m the upholsterer, ripping stitching from a seat cover from my Corbin saddle … but the cats, they demand food. One bowl is almost empty!!! can’t have that, and it needs a bag to fill it so a trip to Tractor Supply is in demand

  2. While Thorazine would cut down on the flame damage, wouldn’t it slow down the Creative Process?

    • I have it on good authority that her HERO, RAH, recommended Maple Syrup as a specific for dragons. Especially the Venusian kind. I’d imagine it would work on a Portagee as well.

  3. BTW, has anyone told Herself that it’s for Her Own Good? (I mean just because we benefit when she finishes…)

    • Yes, and that worked exactly how well last time? Hmmm?

      • Yes, and NORAD asked us very nicely not to do it again. They even sent a fruit basket.

      • Well, my health insurance only went up a little bit . . . as in one decimal place. And I got put into the high-risk pool. And the ER docs sent me a holiday card. But other than that it worked pretty well. Sort of.

        • “And the ER docs sent me a holiday card.”

          You don’t need to really worry until the ER gives you a “frequent customer” punch card (do places still have those, buy 10 and get 1 free?).

          • those are electronic now-a-days.

            I broke my leg a year after my sister had gotten hit by a car, the hospital 2.5 hours away from us had plenty of people who saw Mom and Dad and would ask “Oh my. did Shelly get hit again?!”
            “No, it was our son this time, but just a nasty break to the leg is all.
            (sis spent 30 days in ICU, 39 in the hospital total, I was just there 3 days)

          • When I go into the pharmacy and a new tech is being trained, the pharmacist comes over and tells them who I am, and points out that I am a VIP customer.

  4. Christopher M. Chupik

    A were feline I can understand? But wearing a feline, that’s perverse! 😉

    • Not at all! My Senior Ranking cat makes a very elegant stole, self-heating, and with acupuncture and vibro-massage. She likes to supervise things like dishwashing from that position–no danger of big feet stepping on toes or tails, and she can see what I’m doing. Which, apparently, is crucial to the proper operation of the planet or something.

      • D’Artagnan does this too, but if he gets very happy (and being on your shoulders makes him VERY happy) he drools down your neck. Or, when he’s in his favorite position, being worn as a hat with legs and tail dangling, he drools down your nose.

        • I visited the animal shelter the other day and one of the cats put both forelegs around my neck and kissed me on the mouth.

          Turns out his name… well, we’ve been getting mail inexplicably addressed to me and this random guy who shares our surname but is NOT my husband… apparently it is this cat.

    • I dunno… I’ve seen felines who are happy to drape themselves on the shoulders of their humans.

      • Molly didn’t like to be cradled, but she would stand on my shoulder and outstretched arm (I have a picture of this on my old Kendra site, I think.) Max and Minerva tolerate being held, but they don’t like it. The have opposite approaches though. Max gets stiff when you pick him up and Minerva turns to jello.

        Alas, I’ve never had a good shoulder kitty.

        • Yeah, I’m really jealous of the ones who have nice shoulder kitties. I’d have to have a small kittycat to manage that though.

          Also, one that won’t drive Rhys to sneezing fits. ;_;

          • Well, considering that Max and Minerva are both topping out at over 14 lbs, it’s probably a good thing they aren’t shoulder kitties….

          • Now I want to see you find someone with a Maine Coon and get a picture of it draped over your shoulders.

            • You mean, sit on me, right? I heard those cats are big.

              • Well, if it was draped over your shoulders, it might look like you were trying to recreate a “strong man lifting a horse” scenario…

              • About the size of mine– you’re a bit smaller than me, and it looks like your frame is smaller; if Fluffy is the same build as a Maine Coon, and his hips and shoulders hit on my shoulders when he drapes across (sadly, hasn’t since I was first preggers– Princess kicked him, and he hasn’t forgotten the Strange Poke from my torso), then an average sized Maine Coon would hit your arms about where a short T-shirt’s sleeves do.

                Could probably hold him just fine, not heaver than a pre-schooler.

  5. “I see. Athena Hera Sinistra, just another cuddle bunny, right?”

    “OMG, no! Well, certainly not just another…unless you have a death wish or something. Though she’s totally hot and all, but no…”

  6. “Oh, yes, that’s SPQR. He’s a vampire and sometimes a wear feline. He denies that he’s in fact undead Julius Caesar.”

    Haruumph. Well, at least I’m not orange. Because then I’d be Orange Julius.

  7. If it makes you feel better, you could be doing a zillion zillion footnotes and citations, like me. Sigh. Didn’t meet the Left Behind movie deadline for Part 2 of Beatus, either. And I’m still finding more notes and corrections that need to be put in. Argh!

  8. ” an orange cat rubs around your ankles, and you wonder if he’s a pet or a guest.”

    Not Dinner. 😉 [gee, guess what I’d reading now.]

  9. Sarah– Does he bamf? Is there a chance he’s teaching his tricks to Scooter? (That would be a feat in itself– Scooter isn’t that bright, and not especially teachable. But he loves collecting bad habits) Nowadays he loves hanging out on the top of the back of my chair, and biting my hair, and clawing my head. THEN he will try to sit on my head, and yes, drool. *ick*

    Tell Herself that if she doesn’t finish, the WALLS will talk back.
    Maybe crows (or worse, squirrels) will chase her back into her house, if she tries to escape. And that’s before the Hunns, Hoydens, and assorted fauna appear with flaming torches and pitch forks. Oh, and other weapons that are probably classified. I was told not to mention those, but naught was said about references.

    • :: cough :: Lizards. Just get some lizards and spot them around the door. Or possibly horses. I think those are the only critters that can even daunt her.

      • I think the lizard wizards of Lemuria have previously given her paws, back when they transformed her into her were-panther* form.

        *So-called because natives were wont to warn visitors to ” ‘ware panther” when in her presence. Visitors were not generally cognizant of the tendency of natives to lisp and thus ignored the advice and stayed kilted.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          “Lizard wizards of Lemuria”. I’m pretty sure Lin Carter wrote about those.

          • Is she related to John Carter? The Carter family always seems to visit the most interesting places.

            • Christopher M. Chupik

              He, actually. Linwood Carter was a fantasy writer back in the ’60s and ’70s. Not very original, but very energetic and prolific.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        Lizards riding horses?

  10. So, you mean I shouldn’t tease Herself with “wish you were here” pictures from the Redneck Riviera?

    Actually, I do wish she were here. Dan and I could go abandon our authors and do something interesting, leaving our spouses typing away on the balcony with their view of the sea and endless cups of tea without feeling guilty…

    • That sounds heavenly. Mrs. Dave and I can come along, and the three of you can escort Wee Dave. Somewhere else. Anywhere else. And I might actually get something done.

      • As long as you don’t mind me filling him full of sugar before I hand him back…

        Actually, I’d be more likely to get him wearing himself out on the beach, and then plopping a sleeping baby near your consortium of typing noises with “Right, that’s done. You watch him while he naps.”

        • Don’t forget the drum machine, a toy commingling the two greatest bete noirs of parents: loud banging noises and battery consumption.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Mom had a dual-purpose version of that: the standard old stainless steel pot and a wooden spoon. For some reason, that didn’t make her want to shove metal spikes through her eardrums.

            • His mother will be introducing the little man to that particular joy. After I am safely downstairs in my office, door closed and music up. The mere thought fills me with fear and trembling.

        • The only danger there is Sarah getting distracted by the baby.

      • Has the little tyke not yet acquired the habit of solid waste disposal, or does the Wee refer to some other characteristic?

        • His “solid” waste is, as yet, in a very fluid state. Neither one thing, nor t’other, ye ken. That said, himself is a tiny human, at least tinier’n his father, so the appellation makes it easier to distinguish between us online.

  11. Pshaw — nothing has ever tried to crawl out of any glass of mine. Not once I fixed it with a hard stare.

    As for Herself demanding to see the political news … how many times must we explain to Her that there isn’t any news what ain’t political? In this degraded age we’re fortunate if the news is occasionally less than 20% editorial; straining out the political is beyond current technology.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      But she would be deeply interested in the political news about Hyrule Warriors being out, as it is the most pressing issue of the day. As hard core a fan as she is of Dynasty Warriors and the Legend of Zelda, obviously she just can’t wait to play it.

  12. Well, I’m taking a break from Teh Writing to brew up a batch of mushroom ketchup. (Young Fredi Steinmetz and his buddy, O’Malley the exile Fenian are about to be robbed of their gold-mining stake by Joaquin Murietta’s gang of notorious road agents…)

    he Daughter Unit says that it smells very much like Worcestershire Sauce … which is good, because she LIKES Worcestershire Sauce. Mushroom ketchup is supposed to go well on everything. Don’t we still have some of that brontosaurus packed away in vacuum-sealed bags in the deep-freeze?

    • sabrinachase

      recipe? (for the mushroom ketchup, not the brontosaurus gee whiz you have to be VERY SPECIFIC around this place…)

      • OK – lifted from a blogger who lifted it from Jas. Townsend & Sons Youtube series-
        2 pounds fresh mushrooms
        2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
        2 bay leaves
        1 large onion, chopped
        zest of 1 lemon
        1 tablespoon grated horseradish
        1/4 teaspoon ground clove
        1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
        pinch of cayenne
        1/2 cup cider vinegar
        1. Wipe the mushrooms clean and chop them or break them into small pieces. Combine the mushrooms, salt, and bay leaves in a large non-metallic bowl. Mash for a few minutes with a big spoon or masher. Cover and let sit overnight. (I mashed it a few more times during the night for good measure.) The mushroom mixture will reduce in size considerably.
        2. Transfer the mixture to a Dutch oven or other big cooking pot and stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes, stirring often. The longer you cook it, the more concentrated the flavor will be.
        3. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to cool, then place it in a large piece of muslin-type cloth or a double layer of cheesecloth, and squeeze the cloth over a bowl to remove as much liquid as possible. (I put a sieve under the cheesecloth, just in case.)
        4. When you’re done squeezing, you should have about 2 cups of liquid — your ketchup! Store it in a glass bottle with a cork or other stopper. According to the above video, the ketchup can be kept at room temperature for at least several weeks, because of its high salt content, but I’m keeping mine in the refrigerator. (Basically the longer you’ve cooked it, the safer your ketchup will be.)
        5. Don’t throw out the wrung-out mushroom bits! Spread them on a baking sheet and dry thoroughly in a 200°F oven. This may take up to several hours, depending on how much liquid you managed to squeeze out. The mixture can be ground into a powder and used for seasoning or left as is and added to soups and other dishes.

        • This looks great! I’ve copied it to try. I think I might add some garlic to it, though….

          • I did it over the weekend, and it came out tasting and smelling very much like Worcester, with a slightly stronger mushroom flavor. I came out with almost four cups worth of liquid so that I think I will simmer it to reduce and concentrate the flavor. The leavings, dried in a slow oven and reduced in the blender to a powder, have a very nice flavor also. I’ll definitely do it again. Daughter says that I should try it with shitake mushrooms in the mix, as well.
            Good luck!

    • Wayne Blackburn

      I’m in the process of making beef jerky, as well as having just made some green hot sauce (son didn’t want to wait for the jalapenos to ripen), and some pesto. Not sure the pesto came out very well, though. Had to make some less-than-optimum substitutions.

  13. LOL!! Sarah, you are a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?!? Because, you know, you’ve just started another book you’ll have to finish!

  14. I experimented with a wear feline once as a fashion statement. I tell people who notice the scars I got them in the Nam,

  15. hmmmm. . . .

    would the smell of baking cookies be an enticement to finish or a distraction from the task?

  16. BTW, on a minor point of order: I do not pun. I suffer a disability relating to difficulties in resolving ambiguities derived from English homonyms, which disability frequently results in irregular application of words and phrases. I am therefore a protected Ambiguo-American under the ADA and not to be mocked nor derided by ambiguophobes.

  17. Ow, my ribs, my sore jaw, ow. *wipes away tears of laughter* Ow. I needed that. 😀 The villain for the WWI and subsequent novel just showed up, except I haven’t gotten to that point yet, and the main character informed me that I cannot skip some of his back-story, lack of research be d-mned.

    Oh, and is there any meatsloaf left from the last Hun gathering? I found this in the freezer *holds up freezer bag containing dense, loaf-like object of proper color* but someone forgot to label it and I don’t want to interrupt another experiment. Or something hibernating.

    • Be careful with that: it might be dwarf bread.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      That is V.I.M.’s ground vampire mammoth. It is kinda all three. Also intended for a WMD and a crime against humanity. Feed it to the were-shoggoth, they’ll like it fine.

      • OOoohhh kay, that explains . . . *goes back to hunting for the leftover meatsloaf*

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          V.I.M. wants to know if you are interested in their line of custom synthetic vampires.

          “Does the work of manual labor with the reliability of automation. By weight, significantly cheaper than rat, sheep, or cockroach. Perfect for part inspection. Renders down to safe high quality dog food.”

          Destroying it or giving it away should help their marketing forget you exist faster. Shoggoth will deal handily with the sort of microtracers most likely when they feel like sticking them in that sort of thing.

    • Found it! *reads label* “Meatsloaf: lamb, venison, veal, tears of animal-rights activists, bacon, tomatos, breadcrumbs, bacon, garlic, bacon, basil, bacon . . .”

  18. Two minor bones to pick”
    Primus – The only correct answer to “Hun, Hoyden or Dinerite?” is an emphatic “Yes!”
    Secundus – Any feline on the premises by natural right owns the joint, or at least acts like they do.

  19. Statist Josh

    Don’t listen to the Dragon.
    So, what your favorite political idol or author? Why?
    *Placing arm around their shoulder.*
    Me? Oh, I’m a Free-Market Anarchist, Fan of Ayn Rands, Cynical almost to the point of Misanthropy to be a Voluntarist.

    Have you read Frédéric Bastiat’s essays? If not will have to fix that pull a seat of to the dinner counter/bar…….

  20. “And who is that in the corner?”

    “That’s Draven”

    “Whats he doing?”

    “Grilling carp.”


  21. *snif* I feel so included. It warms my heart. Either that or it’s the burns.

  22. Yum grilled Cthulhu.

  23. With my new friend Foxy, I have turned into a poop collector so don’t mind me following the were’s with a poop bag.

  24. Gotta love those days.

  25. L Jagi Lamplighter (Wright)

    >She tried to turn into a hedgehog and cute her way out.

    Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

    I would write a longer comment…but that would be me escaping from the basement with Raven and the Technicolor Dreamland still unfinished.

  26. L Jagi Lamplighter (Wright)

    Gah…that should have said Rachel…not Raven. Guess I have the Raven on my mind. Maybe a sign that he’s been missing from the pages of the book for too long.

  27. L Jagi Lamplighter (Wright)

    Did I mention I recently misspelled my own name when signing a book for a tween? Sigh.

  28. I’ll just sit in a corner and quietly tag for comments.

  29. Wait, I’ve got Herself watch??

    Buggerit, I’m going to need another, er, more, er, all of the beer.

    • Two fingers of Devil’s Cut whiskey says you should let me out to… er… get fresh Instapun– Fresh air. That’s it. Fresh air.

      • Eamon J. Cole

        Jeff!! For the love of squirming kittens, man! Don’t do it!!!

        I’ll get another keg.

      • Make it a fifth of something nice and peaty and I’ll consider getting you a digest of Glenn’s non-political headlines.

        I’ve been in lust with Zenoba far too long to risk delaying Through Fire much longer.

    • William O. B'Livion


      I started in on the vodka just to get the liver warmed up.

  30. It was a merger deal.

    Is that what they call it these days?

    Hm. Not sure if that beats the “Theology of the Body” meme on facebook or not.

  31. Just wanted to say thank you to some people. I was unaware that Orange Julius was still around, let alone that it was available anywhere outside of California. Some of you pointed me towards Dairy Queen.

    I found a local DQ that has Orange Julius over the weekend. For the first time since 1977 I got to taste that sweet delight. Brought back some warm memories of my childhood in the San Joaquin valley.

    Now that I know where to find it, I’ll be going back. -grin-