A Review: The hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I realized that this title needs some corrections.
A Review (more like a ramble really): The hobbit (or to be more accurate, the wizard and the dwarf with a hobbit thrown in): An Unexpected (and completely messed up) Journey

And if you read all the way to the bottom, you will get budget facts....oolala. Also, I tend to be very sarcastic, so if you cannot stand sarcasm, you probably should not read this post. 

Okay, lets start at the very beginning, which I really did like. I was kind of sad that Frodo looked all grown up, baby faced no more, and sadly un-hobbitlike. Bilbo Baggins looked so digitally airbrushed that I could barely find Ian Holm, but these things are to be expected when you film a prequel almost ten years after the original.
There were, of course, several problems with the beginning, but two that I noticed in particular.
Bilbo says to Frodo: "...and while I can honestly say I told you the truth...I may not have told you all of it." Um...yes you did, Bilbo dear. But because I understand why that was done, for the purpose of telling the audience the story, I have no problem with it.
The larger sin, which is found throughout the whole movie, continuing into the second one, and probably to be found in the third one as well, is the vulgarity and lack of common courtesy. I mean, why oh why did the trolls have to be so vulgar? And why didn't Bilbo invite Gandalf to tea? And why the burping contest from the dwarves? The slopping and dripping of their beer? Why? There is no need for any of that. In its place, there could have been little lines from the book...almost as if the movie was taken from a book...oh wow, never thought of that did you Peter?
Also, the shire looked really fake, but more of that later. Before I get into the really horrible stuff, let's look at the good things. The pros.
If the movie had been outright horrible, I wouldn't mind so much. But it COULD have been so good.
The casting was absolutely superb. The music...Howard Shore is always amazing, though there were a couple of pieces that were almost the same as in the Lord of the Rings, but in the wrong place. The most notable being that moment when Thorin runs down the burning tree to kill Azog, and they play the music that was played when the Witch King walked forward to stab Frodo on Weathertop...anyway.
The casting was good. The music was good. The Writers were good writers. The Director had once been amazing. So when I heard who was playing whom, who was doing music, who was writing, and who was directing...of course my mind at once created this amazing and beautiful movie that would be as good as the original Trilogy. That was why the disappointment was so huge.
Anyway, the beginning of the movie was very good. I loved how they tied in the beginning of The Fellowship, kind of re-orients the audience to the world of Middle Earth. There were many very, very good lines. Gandalf's one about how little acts of kindness and love keep the evil at bay. Gandalf's line, "true courage is not knowing about when to take a life, but when to spare one." I loved it. Bilbo's explanation for why he came back to Thorin and Co. And Bilbo's little line at the end: "I would have doubted me too." Wonderful. The riddles-in-the-dark scene was great. Gollum was wonderful, as usual. Martin Freeman was really a perfect Bilbo. If only we had seen more of him...Oh..and the song of the misty mountains...be still my heart. It was so beautiful...if only it had been longer. By the way...why didn't Gandalf bring Bilbo his hankies? They had time for bets...but they didn't have time for that.

So many things were good, but let's take a look at all the things that were bad, bad, bad, bad.

Thorin was really off. For one thing, he was a complete jerk. And for another, in the book he was completely willing to go to Rivendell, that was even part of his plan. And he was also self obsessed. After Balin tells that little story about him and Azog, he turns around and gives this little nod like patting himself on the back. And then there is the moment when he runs to kill Azog....oooo, big heroic Thorin ( I am being sarcastic by the way).
You just put everyone else's lives in danger, stupid! "Oh, well they didn't have to come save me or wait for me or anything"...yeah right, you knew perfectly well they weren't going to leave you there, though they should have. You were only thinking of yourself and your own petty revenge.

I have already mentioned the vulgarity and lack of courtesy. A giant flaw in the entire storyline...what is with Azog? If Peter Jackson had wanted to add an orc in to make things a little more exciting...fine. But to insert a completely new character and let him dominate the story...I don't think so. According to Tolkien, not only was Azog really defeated and KILLED, but Thorin wasn't even the one who killed him. Dain of the Iron Hills was responsible for that, so Thorin's heroism is completely fake. And while I am on "Azog the Ridiculous", what on earth was he doing on Weathertop? And I understand that AZOG was supposed to be really big in Peter Jackson's mind, but when did all the other orcs get so huge? I mean, if that is an orc, then the Uruk-hai must be about seven feet tall...which doesn't make sense. And at one point when talking about Azog, Balin says "[Azog] had sworn to wipe out the line of Durin." Um...why? According to the movie, he had sworn that BEFORE the battle with Thorin and  before he killed Thror. And how is this gigantic orc, who is really strong and powerful and kind of insane and mad and not noticing pain....gets his arm cut off and bang! He is completely defeated and his armies give up and lose...doesn't sound very probable.

I liked the trolls, though they were much more disgusting and vulgar than was needed. When Fili and Kili tell Bilbo to hoot twice like a barn owl and once like a brown owl...in the book it is twice like a barn owl and once like a screech owl. Why do they have to change little things like that? Would it have killed them to...I don't know, maybe quote the book they were supposed to be making a movie of?

Radagast is completely insane in the movie. Some kind of lunatic who lives in a forest and also has arachnophobia. Stupid. There was way too much of him. He featured as too great a character. When I wanted to know what was happening with Bilbo, I had to sit through five minutes of a dying hedgehog. And where did the stupid rabbits come from? And what is with the bird poop? I mean, who but a lunatic has a nest in his hair where birds live, and poop down the side of his face?

So...there is a well known pass going through the mountains, that changes every time there is a thunder storm or the thunder giants get irritable....um. Also, how on earth did Gandalf follow them to the cave? The path they took was destroyed when the thunder giants whose knees it was on had moved and died. And how did Azog follow them? It doesn't make any sense. And when Bilbo says he is going back to Rivendell...how? Well in the book where everything makes sense...they are not walking on a thunder giant's knee. They see the thunder giants fighting off in the distance, that is it. Less than a paragraph.

For my review I re-watched the extended version (not worth the extra money, less than half an hour added) and it has this added scene in "goblin town". When they first come in, there is a rock band of goblins, and the goblin king gets up and dances and sings...what the heck? Speaking of the goblin king, he is way too agile for his fatness. Goblin town was way too big. Too much of it. The entire escape from it was a roller coaster ride, and all of the fighting looked staged and fake, even comical. ugh. And by the way...Glamdring (Gandalf's sword) is supposed to glow just like Sting. And when the dwarves were being looted by the goblins, one of them had stolen something from Rivendell, and it said "made in Rivendell". Wow! I wasn't aware that the elves did that, and wrote it in the common tongue too! Or maybe the Goblin king spoke and read elvish. And how did Bilbo survive that fall?

And now for all of the in-continuity.

Now why would they do a thing like that? What was wrong with the old staff. 

THE LORD OF THE RINGS                                     THE HOBBIT

It seems that Elrond has two crowns, one he wears in battle and one he wears to other things. I guess everyone needs a silver and a gold crown. I don't have one.

But Galadriel has the same thing, so why shouldn't Elrond? I wonder if it is a ring bearer thing? Of course, Elrond's two crowns are in the same movie, Galadriel's two crowns are in the Lord of the Rings and The hobbit...so I guess that justifies things. No need for the people to be the same.

THE HOBBIT                                                                      THE LORD OF THE RINGS

Now lets play "Follow the broach"
See? Right now it is on the coat thing covering her very modern looking disco dress.

Now look! She decided that she didn't like it there and moved it to her dress. And wow, what a pose. Her hands are also different from what they looked like in The Lord of the Rings.
And Gandalf's moth looks different too. More like a butterfly.

And then we have the strange passage of time...they escape from the goblins and Thorin and Bilbo have a little, why did you come back moment in broad daylight. 

Then it is night time as they run away from the wargs. 


I have never before seen a pine tree with no roots, but they seem not to have any. It's amazing how they each just topple over one by one, and don't have any roots come up. 

Thror looks really CG, fake...and stupid.
his armor doesn't look real either. None of the armor in the whole movie looks real. 

And why do they have a dwarf that shoots a slingshot? How about a sword?

There was so much CG in this movie, even the actors faces seemed to be covered in cg airbrushing to make them look younger. There is so much stuff that was obviously done with blue screen and the shire looks unreal. Probably because of the excessive amount of CG enhancement. 

Here we have the beautiful and realistic looking shire from The Lord of the Rings. 

And here is the hobbit shire, looking very fantastic and out of this world.

Since we are on the topic of CGI, lets peek at some budgets. All three Hobbit movies have a mass budget of $745 million and a grand total of 474 minutes. The Lord of the Rings had 558 minutes not including the extended edition stuff, and its budget was only $281 million. Why was the hobbit so expensive? CGI. There was so much CG, that the CGI budget alone was more than the entire Lord of the Rings budget. And of course, Aragorn has a comment. The following quote is from Viggo Mortensen. 
"Also, Peter was always a geek in terms of technology but, once he had the means to do it, and the evolution of the technology really took off, he never looked back. In the first movies, yes, there’s Rivendell, and Mordor, but there’s sort of an organic quality to it,actors acting with each other, and real landscapes; it’s grittier. The second movie already started ballooning, for my taste, and then by the third one, there were a lot of special effects. It was grandiose, and all that, but whatever was subtle, in the first movie, gradually got lost in the second and third. Now with The Hobbit, one and two, it’s like that to the power of 10."

So it appears that somebody has gone overboard in a lust for more money...just like Thorin. Perhaps that is why Peter Jackson couldn't portray Thorin properly on screen, because it reflected his own lust for gold, and when you know you're doing something wrong, the last thing you want to do is face it. 
And a lot of people seem to follow my train of thought. With its larger budget and experienced crew, the entire hobbit trilogy has, so far, made $795,484,416 less than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am not sure how long The Battle of the Five Armies will stay in theaters, but I can bet you that it won't be there long enough to change that much. Without a doubt, no matter how much certain misled people like it, Peter Jackson's hobbit trilogy will never even be able to pretend that it is better, or even close to as good as, The Lord of the Rings. It seems that our CGI has become so good that it is terrible again. And so, as you might have guessed when you began to read this post, I must needs end on 
Long Live The Lord of the Rings! 

And down with the "hobbit" (or so they call it)

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A Blog Button Tutorial

I don't know about you, but for the longest time, when I would try doing blog buttons in my sidebar, with that little box of code under it, the box would be empty. I think I tried about ten different tutorials, but nothing worked. Then, finally, I found one tutorial that worked if I put the code in a page, but in the sidebar, it was still not working. I looked through all the codes I had tried, and through trial and error, I finally changed a code just enough that it would work. It might just be my blog that doesn't accept the code, but I have heard that others have had similar trouble, so maybe not. Anyhoo, I am going to post the tutorial.

1. Designing a Blog Button

Making a blog button is really a pretty simple matter. You can make them just with the tools that your computer offers, or you can use an online photo editor. I like to use Ipiccy for most of my work, but I also use Lunapic. Lunapic has a service you can pay for that gives you better editing tools, so it is not ideal. The only tool I really use is the transparency tool, which Ipiccy doesn't offer and is free. So a mix of the two can work, or whatever. A blog button can be any shape, can have a colored or a transparent background, and can be a .jpeg or a .png. It doesn't really matter. The only requirement that I would suggest would be a higher quality image, so that it doesn't look grainy. Also, if you are saving a newly transparent image with lunapic or ipiccy, remember that you have to save it as a .png or it will not stay transparent. But if you don't have any transparent parts you want to keep, then .jpeg is fine.

2. Uploading a Blog Button

Before you can make a 'grab my button' widget, you need to have code for your image. To do this you will need to upload the image to a free image hosting site. There are a lot of them, but I prefer Tinypic because of it's simplicity. Just upload your image. When you upload an image to tinypic, it will give you HTML code for your button, an IMG code for forums or message boards, a URL, and a Direct link. You will want to copy all this into a text editor (I like NotePad). I say text editor because word documents and the like tend to change formatting, and with code, formatting is everything. Anyway, save all the information so that you will be able to access it easily. OK, so now you need the following code. The pink 'SITEURL' you need to change to the URL of your website or blog. The green 'SITETITLE' you need to change for the name of your website or blog. The blue 'IMAGELINK' you need to replace with the Direct Link that Tinypic gave you for your image. You will notice that there are two of everything. This is because one set is the image itself and it's links, and the other set is what goes in the scroll box underneath it. Once you have the following code all set up with your information, go to your blog dashboard. Go to Layout>>Add Gadget>>HTML/Java Script. Paste your code into the the widget, and you are good to go. Let me know if you have any questions.

<div align="center">
<a href="SITEURL" target="_blank"><img alt="SITETITLE" src="IMAGELINK"/></a> </div>
<div align="center"><form><textarea rows="3" cols="17">&lt;center&gt;&lt;a href="SITEURL" target="_blank"&gt;&lt;img alt="SITETITLE" src="IMAGELINK"/&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/center&gt;</textarea></form></div>

Also, I can design a blog button for you based off of your input and give you ready-made code that you just paste into a gadget. Completely free of course, its an enjoyable experience for me since I have way to many blog buttons for my own blog and don't need to make any more. And then of course, you don't have to do it. 

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Getting Different Fonts for Your Posts and Pages

So, recently someone asked about getting fonts for blogger, other that the standard Arial, Courier, Georgia, Helvetica, Times, Trebuchet, and Verdana. This is actually do-able, and not nearly so much of a pain as you might think. Though still kind of annoying. So, you don't really need any experience with HTML/CSS stuff for this, but it is helpful for understanding what is going on. If you don't have any experience, than just call it MAGIC.

So, as a basic bit of knowledge, when you choose a font from a drop down menu list, the HTML automatically changes to something like this...

span style="font-family: Times, Times New Roman, serif;"

So you can see that it is telling the following text to be Times New Roman. What you will be doing, once you have added the fonts to the blogger template, is going into the HTML, and changing that font code. It's very simple, and I shall show you how to do it in a moment. First, lets see how to add your fonts to your Blogger Template. 
What you will need, is a font with a HTML code link, you may find other sources for these, but the one I recommend, and the on I will be referring to, is the GoogleFontsDirectory
You can add one font at a time, but I just find a bunch of fonts at once and add them to my google fonts collection. Once you have the fonts you want added to your collection (no sign up or anything is required for this) you can get the code. 
While you are in GoogleFonts, look at the bottom right corner of the browser window, you should see three little tabs that say Choose, Review, Use. Click on USE.
You should see all of your fonts lined up. Scroll down until you get to a little box with code in it. It should look something like this.Copy the code.

This code has all of the fonts that you added, now you need to go to your BloggerDashboard&gt;&gt;Template&gt;&gt;Edit HTML
Click IN the HTML and use the Keyboard shortcut ctrl+f to bring up a search box, find 
Paste the code DIRECTLY beneath <head>.

So, now your code, which looks something like this, minus the ellipses at the end.
link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Crafty+Girls|Yellowtail|Calligraffitti|Indie+Flower|Pacifico|Dancing+Script|Architects+Daughter|Amatic+SC|Courgette|Handlee|Pinyon+Script|Cookie' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'>...
You will notice that there isn't any closure at the end of the code, you will need to add this to avoid problems. So, at the end of the code where it says

You will need to change it to

So that the code will now look like this, again, minus the ellipses at the end.
link href='http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Crafty+Girls|Yellowtail|Calligraffitti|Indie+Flower|Pacifico|Dancing+Script|Architects+Daughter|Amatic+SC|Courgette|Handlee|Pinyon+Script|Cookie' rel='stylesheet' type='text/css'/>...

OK. Now the fonts are in your BloggerTemplate. We can move on to actually using the fonts in post or pages.
Now, you can memorize the names for all the fonts (they aren't always as simple as all that) or, you can go back to that page where you found your fonts in the first place, and scroll beyond the first code, to another box, with shorter lines of code.
It will look something like this.
Each line is a separate code for a separate font. Copy the line that has the font you want (again, on the same page as this code, at the top, are examples of all the fonts in your collection, so you can look at them there). 
Now, in your post or page, go ahead and type up your content in one of the standard fonts (I use Times) that way you can see clearly what to change to get your own font. The top of my list is Crafty Girls, so I will use that for this next paragraph. 

This is an example sentence using the Crafty Girls font. 

So, once you have the text whose font you want to change, go into the HTML version of your post. (At the top left corner of your post editor it says Compse and HTML, click HTML).

Find the text you want. 

On the Google fonts page, copy the single line of code for the font you want, in this case, Crafty Girls.

font-family: 'Crafty Girls', cursive;

Copy your code, and use it to replace the code highlighted in red. 
span style="font-family: Times, Times New Roman, serif;">This is an example of the Times New Roman Font
And now, the font will be Crafty Girls

span style="font-family: 'Crafty Girls', cursive;">This is an example of the Times New Roman Font. But it has been changed to the Crafty Girls Font.

This is an example of the Times New Roman Font. But it has been changed to the Crafty Girls Font.

So, I hope that this Tutorial was actually helpful. 
And if it is, than I am glad to have helped.
And if it isn't, then I didn't do any harm.
And please give me feedback if you would be so kind.
Or not.
Whichever you prefer.
Bye now. Oh by the way, this particular font, Courgette, is a particular favorite of mine. 
At any time, you can get more fonts and add them in just above head, just like the first time. If you have any questions about this tutorial or fonts or Google fonts...or whatever, comment below, or you can use the contact form here

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Tragedy! Death! Linkup!

So now it is time for a collection of Tragic Death Scenes under 3000 words, written by people (at least, that is what they said they were, but you can never be sure). Wicked smiles play upon my lips as I think of the poor bloggers who I roped into this tragic post.
Lest you should find my conduct a bit untoward, I hasten to assure that my conduct is completely untoward, and you have every right to find it so. And now (muahahahaha!!) for the sad death scenes of 'people'. Thank you, So-Called-People, so much for your lovely sadness, tragedy, and furrowing of the ceremonial brow on my part.
I will now.....
shut up.

I do not necessarily agree with or endorse the contents of the following snippets, their authors, or their author's blogs.

A Scene From The Girls Who Are Not Princesses Who Dance Every Night Starting From A Certain Night And Who Sell Flowers - 625 words - un-edited.

By The Lady Awdur from The Pen of Awdur

Mama died when I was ten. It was nearly five years ago, to be sure, but I remember it clearly as I know my own name, far clearer than I care to. She was pregnant with my tenth little sister and her time had come. She was on her hands and knees, weeding the garden, when she suddenly called Magnolia and I from where we were sitting on the stone bench. My mother's face was white and Magnolia, having delivered five of my sisters, knew what she needed. With our help, Mama staggered to her bedroom. Since the birth of my sister Violet, Mama hadn't been able to afford a midwife, but Magnolia, twelve years old then, was capable. She wiped my mother's forehead and prepared the baby's wraps.
At one point, when my gentle mother was nearly screaming in frustration and pain, Magnolia shooed me away to watch my other sisters, so I don't know exactly went wrong. I think there was just too much blood. When I came back in, two hours later, Mama was lying on the bed, exhausted, as Magnolia washed a little baby.
"Rose," my mother panted, "would you bring me one of the scarlet roses from the north side of the garden?" The scarlet roses were her favorite. I ran and clipped three blossoms, hurriedly placed them in a jar of water, as Mama had taught me, and brought it back to her.
"Lovely," she murmured. I didn't understand the urgency then, nor did I know the ache of a heart that simply doesn't want to be conscious any longer, or I would have thrown my arms around her and buried my nose in her thick, wavy, black hair.
Mama told me to bring all my sisters in, then, and she gave each of us a gentle kiss in turn. Her last words were that she loved us, her precious blossoms.
Larkspur, Daisy, and Pansy, all under the age of four then, didn't understand, of course, but the rest of us were filled with acute agony over the next few days as we were faced with the wretched task of gathering what money there was in the house to pay for Mama's funeral. Father drank himself into a stupor that night, so he was no help. I grew up more in those few days than I had in all my ten years; we all did.
She was buried with her beloved scarlet roses surrounding her. As a child, I had never associated my parents' marriage with the lovers my mother favored; I had never seen my father kiss Mama, never thought that they loved each other. But I think they must have once been in love, or my father would not have embarrassed himself by crying as he did at her funeral. Then again, it wasn't as if he had a reputation to lose. I wonder sometimes if he was crying more for remorse over her life than her death, perhaps feeling guilty for not caring for her or loving her while she lived. Whatever he felt, it did not inspire in him any change. We had scarcely finished eating the funeral luncheon provided by some of the ladies of the town, than he informed us that with our mother's income gone (she mended clothes as well as selling flowers) we would starve, so we must take her place. Only Magnolia, Aster, and I could sew, and many of Mama's clients lived too far away for us to walk to, anyway. So we started selling flowers, calling out our wares to every passerby so loudly our throats grew raw, rain or shine, cold or hot, our feet aching by the time we went home. We had no other option.

Untitled Piece - 857 words - un-edited.

By Anne-girl from Scribblings of my Pen and Tappings of my Keyboard.

The late afternoon sun slanted through the treetops, touching lightly where is touched at all. Beneath the boy the grass was warm and above the boy the air chugged as if it formed a breeze not of it's own will. 
The cat wriggled past him all black promise of adventure and whiskered disdain at the thought of including anyone in the secret he obviously held. The boy made one grab for his heat drunk playmate and then lay still again, cheek pressed against the ribbons of green.
"Your majesty,"  the woman had stood there an hour, wringing her hands and the boy had almost forgotten her presence, "Your majesty, please come back in."
The boy didn't stir his body, he only turned his head and looked into the pool that stretched down small and perfectly circular, some said to the very bowls of the earth.
"I will fetch your mother your majesty."
The boy said nothing but his tongue flicked out and he waved it impudently at a small beetle making it's way towards his face.
After a time there were soft footsteps on the tired grass. The boy did not look up, "Read to me?"
There was a rustle and a bit of silk flopped over the back of his knee, "Majesty..."
"No," said the boy, "Not today. Or I'll have a tantrum."
The silk covered woman laughed, "It's been five years since you've had one son."
"I still know how."
The leather cover creaked and the pages rustled, she had known what he would ask her to do.
"Said Hasloka to the beast, "Foul monster you may not..."
No," the boy turned his head again, looking up at the woman in silk, "No not that part."
"Which part son?" A swallow dipped, skimming the surface of the round pool, the woman saw it and hated it with a very small part of her, "Won't you come in dear?"
The boy frowned and moved restlessly on the grass, "I am king, I can do this wherever I want to do it. They all sigh to much indoors. And you know which bit."
The woman bent her head and flipped through the book again, "The time came, as it must for all men, for Hasloka to die, he called to him his scribes and chief councilors and asked them one last question, ' is is honorable for a man who has fought great battles to die on his bed with no last foe to vanquish in his dying?'"
The boy turned and looked back at the pool, "Keep going, it's hot and I want to think of something, and my cat left me."
The silk clad woman trembled but read on in a steady voice, "The councilors and scribes reasoned together and they brought the dying hero this answer, "oh great ruler of the people, oh great hero of the land, death is only dishonorable to those who have fought no battles.' And so smiling, the great hero blessed his people, gave his son the writing of advice that Acoa had given him, and went to meet the master with great peace."
The boy reached out his hand and trailed fingers in the water, "I rescued that cat when it was a kitten," he said, "And now it thinks it's too good for me."
The boy's breathing was more ragged now, "It does hurt rather mother, in my head. You wouldn't think me an awful fool if I asked you to stroke it would you?"
The silk clad woman lifted his head into her lap, "They'll be punished son, the people who did this too you. We'll find them and..."
He picked at the lace on her sleeve, "You know what'll make them angriest?" There was a chuckle in his voice.
The swallow swooped low again this time over their heads, the woman's jeweled hands winked in the sunlight as she stroked the boy's head, "What, son?" The idea would live on, even after her son was dead, the memory and the dream would still live, she would see to that.
"That our dungeons don't provide," he pitched his voice higher, "The delicacies to which they are used."
The woman laughed remembering the looks on the ambassadors' faces when they had first seen her son's court.
The boy twitched and grabbed her hand, "I do love you mums," he said, "Even though you get soppy sometimes."
There were heavy, nervous footsteps on the grass,"Please your highness, won't you convince his majesty to come inside?"
The woman turned her head and looked at the chief chancellor, "His majesty is dead."
The chancellor started to sob, "Before even his first battle! Such a shame! Such a shame!"
But the silk clad woman turned away form him, the sun slanted down through the leaves and the little cat came wriggling back writhing over the boy and rubbing up against him.
 "Stupid cat," said the woman, and then she kissed the boy's forehead, picked up the book and went inside, "There are battles" said the woman as she walked past dozens of useless, weeping people, "And then there are battles."  

A Snippet, A Death, and A Spoiler - 2,416 words

By The Author

We stepped out into the cool desert morning. There was a gentle breath of wind brushing against my cheek, and the sun nearly blinded me. It was so good to see it again after so long. This was Ukani’s first time out too, and I heard him sigh as he stood by my side. Everything was delightful. Nefru had a good plan in mind, and Ukani was well and loved me. And I was well, and the sun was shining, and we were all well fed and rested.
We had no camels it was true, but that didn’t bother us as much as it probably should have. Coming out of the ruins of the Shrine itself, we came to the temple that had once stood outside of it. Or at least, what was left of the temple. It had been a massive building, and the ruined walls towered above us. Nefru led us through what was once the inner sanctum, then out to where the public were allowed to place their sacrifices. A brief prayer of thanks was given to Hathor at this point, and it seemed to me that the wind stopped and a great sigh came instead.
Suddenly an arrow landed on the ground beside Nefru, it was red, with a black Snake on it. A warning shot.
The men readied their bows and spears and knife, and they waited. They formed a circle, with me in the middle. There was a long silence and no one moved. Then it all started at once. A figure dressed completely in red and black leapt out at Sipthah and several others followed. There were at least twenty of the enemy, and only seven of us. I don’t really remember much. I saw Nefru struggling with one of the enemy; Ukani was rushing to the aid of Mendes, leaving two dead men where he had been. Everything was confused and frenzied, I had no idea what was happening; no one seemed to notice me where I crouched against an ancient pillar. Then I heard Nefru’s voice loud and clear.
“Don’t fight! RUN!!”
And we ran. I don’t know where he thought we were going to run to but it didn’t matter. The enemy had horses. They were upon us again at once. It was stupid to fight, but we fought anyway. That is, the men fought. I don’t remember what I did. My eyes were focused on Nefru and Ukani, fighting side by side. Everything around me was fast and muddled, but it seemed as if I could clearly see everything that those two did. They were killing plenty, but there were too many, and they were badly wounded. Nefru had a long bloody gash in his leg, and it was slowing him down. Ukani did not seem to badly hurt, and for the first time, I realized how much taller he was than Nefru. He seemed to tower over his younger brother. And he was angry. I was almost afraid of him, though I knew he would never hurt me. I could see the hate and bloodlust in his eyes as he fought.
He and Nefru were the only ones of our group who had swords. The rest of us had knifes, spears, and bows and arrows. But all of the enemies were armed with scimitars and there was no hope of winning. But still they fought on, and it seemed to me that Hathor must be giving them some strange strength, though she could do little else. It was not given to her power to kill. She could do nothing until she had the Pendant again. I saw one of the Snakes (for I was sure that they were the Snakes) step out of the fight a little and take his bow from his back. He fitted the red arrow to the string, and pulled it back. Then he waited. I followed to where his arrow was pointed, and I realized what he was doing. He was waiting for Nefru to be even remotely still. Then he would shoot him.
“Nefru!!” I screamed, hoping he would hear me over the fray. He did, and he turned to look at me. He was still for a moment, and that was all that the Snake needed. He let the arrow go, but it did not hit Nefru. It hit Mendes, who had placed himself in front of his kinsman. He staggered back a little, and Nefru caught him. I could see him saying Mendes’ name, but it was no use. Mendes could hear nothing. He could see nothing. He was dead. I screamed as an arm shot around my waist and pulled me away. One look at the black-gloved hand on my hip was enough to tell me that my captor was a Snake. I kicked his legs, and struggled to get away from him. But he did not seem bothered or angry, I heard him laugh a little under his breath. I finally looked up and my blood ran cold as I realized what he was doing. He wasn’t going to take me to the leader or kill me, he was dragging me away from the battle, back towards the opening of the shrine. His hand was covering my mouth, but I bit hard and in the moment of freedom I screamed Ukani’s name. I was beginning to faint, but I forced myself to stay awake. I saw Ukani struggling to reach me, but it was Nefru who managed to break out of the fight. He had his own sword in one hand and was brandishing a bloody scimitar in his other hand, no doubt stolen from one of the Snakes.  He came immediately to my rescue, and my captor released me at once so that he could face Nefru. But the Snake was a smallish man, and I knew at once who would win. I didn’t want to watch, but I felt a hideous fascination and I could not tear my eyes away. Nefru drove his sword through the man’s heart, and easily removed his head with the scimitar. I shrank back a little as Nefru reached out and put a hand on my shoulder.
“You alright?” He asked quickly. I nodded. He smiled ever so slightly and pulled a knife from his belt.
“Here,” he said, handing it to me.
“I can’t fight, Nefru. I have no idea…” I faltered.
“It’s not for fighting, Reniseb. Don’t let them get a hold of you. Now run. Run!”
I realized suddenly what he meant. The knife was to kill myself with, rather than let the Snakes catch me. I shook my head, but it was too late to do anything. The enemy were already there. Nefru tried to break free, but he was overpowered and helpless. I watched in horror as the chief of the snakes drew a long, cruel knife from his belt. I could hear Ukani yelling, but my eyes were fixed on Nefru. He was held by two of the enemy, but his eyes were still bright and defiant. The leader spoke. His voice was black, cold, and mocking. His face was masked, but I could hear his cruel smile when he spoke.
“So, you are caught at last, son of???? (A noble, well known as the head advisor of the previous Pharaoh). You and your elusive brother. Oh yes, we know who you are, Ukani,” he said, turning to Ukani. “As the older son, we thought you might be easier to find, but you have led us quite a chase. In fact, I confess that finding you with Nefru was something we had not even dared to hope for.”
There was a derisive laugh from Ukani, he seemed to have regained his good spirits, though he was completely covered in blood, and most of it his own.
“I am always happy to give another a good time, and I trust that chasing me about the world was quite fun. Good, I intended it to be. But, we have not been introduced. That is, you seem to know my name, but I do not know yours. Though I recognize your young friend.”
I followed Ukani’s gaze to Sipthah, who was standing nearby, unbound and sword in hand. He did not seem to be enjoying himself, and was avoiding meeting the gaze of Nefru or Ukani. He looked almost apologetic.
“Nefru,” he said, his voice pleading. “Just agree to help them. They won’t kill you if you do what they want. What loyalty do you owe Hathor? She didn't think to warn you that we would be waiting out here. She obviously doesn’t care that much about you. And Pharaoh only wants you as a puppet to do his bidding. If you join us, you can be your own master.”
Nefru didn’t say anything, but Ukani seemed quite cheerful.
“Now this is an interesting proposition Sipthah, I would say yes though it wouldn’t really work because I have absolutely no honor, and would just as soon break my promise to you has not. My dear brother, however, has plenty of honor, and if he accepted, he would actually stay true to his word. Though he hated every moment. Unfortunately, the only reason you would accept his ‘yes’ is the very reason you aren’t going to get the chance. So I really think that you should go ahead and take me instead. Now, I would be quite willing to serve you as long as you wouldn’t require me to kill my good friends here.”
The Snake leader laughed.
“I am well aware of your lack of honor, Ukani, and I must admit that I could use a man like that. The only problem is that as soon as I set you free, I would be in great danger of being throttled in my sleep. So I am afraid that we must turn to your brother for assistance.”
Nefru shook his head.
“You know that I am not going to help you. If you tortured me in front of my brother, I am sure that he would throw all of Egypt to the crocodiles to save me, for all the good it would do. It is for this very reason that I have not told him anything of interest to you. Nor have I told anyone but Pharaoh himself. And I am sure that you can do your worst to all of us without getting one word out of Pharaoh, so you might as well give up.”
Nefru’s voice was determined and unfaltering. He seemed completely resigned to whatever fate was in store for him.
The Snake leader motioned to the men holding me, and they pulled me forward. Ukani made yet another unsuccessful effort to free himself. Nefru looked a little surprised and worried, but otherwise he remained the same. The leader grabbed my wrist and the other men holding onto me let go and stepped back. I tried to free my hand, but I could not even move my arm. The strength of the Snake surprised me, I had at least expected his own hand to move a little bit when I pulled as hard as I could, but his arm remained motionless. I had never before felt so utterly powerless.
“Now then,” began the leader, “you may not tell when you are being hurt, but how would you react to this girl being hurt?”
Ukani really did break loose this time, but he was caught again at once and held back by three men.
“Don’t tell them anything, Nefru. I can bear it,” I said in an effort to seem brave, though I was terrified.
“No you can’t, Reniseb. If you knew anything you would tell them.” Nefru’s words stung me.
“It will not work,” Nefru was saying to the leader, “as much as I care for all of these people here, nothing would ever induce me to tell you what you want to know.”
He meant it, I could tell. I am sure that he was being very brave, but to me it seemed as though he was only being selfish and cold. I was so afraid. Afraid of what they might do. Afraid of pain. Afraid of death. I didn’t want Nefru to tell them what they wanted to know. But at the same time, I did want him to. It didn’t occur to me that if Nefru told them, they would have no trouble killing us all and leaving our bodies where they fell.
The Snake leader was silent for a moment, then he shook his head slowly.
“Too bad, Nefru. I really wanted to keep you all alive. Die now, and know that your companions will not be spared what pain I might have spared them had you been more cooperative.”
Nefru nodded.
“So be it,” he said.
“Nefru! You can’t just go without a fight.” I cried, trying again to break free. This time I was released. I stumbled forward came close to Nefru.
He shook his head.
“Reniseb, leave me be. What good would fighting do? Even if I could break loose, they would catch me again before I could even get a sword.”
“Nefru, please. You have to try at least. Even if you know it won’t make any difference, you have to try.” I pleaded with him, but he did not respond.
“I like this girl, she has spirit. If you would like to stand and fight me to decide whether or not you die, you are most welcome to. If you wish, I will command my men to release you.” The Snake leader had come closer and his voice was quiet.
“Please, Nefru,” I said, “You at least have a chance this way. Fight him. You can win.”
Nefru only shook his head again.
“Even if I was strong enough to overcome him, his men would intervene and I would die anyway. It’s no use Reniseb, at least the rest of you may be spared this way.”
I was dragged away, and placed in the charge of my original guards. The Snake leader removed his glove and drew a drop of blood from his middle finger. He smeared the blood along the blade of the knife, whispering words that I could not understand. Then, without further warning, he drove the blade into Nefru’s heart. His men cheered and I tried to scream, but no sound came. My vision clouded and I knew no more.

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A Pendant Snippet

A Snippet from the Pendant. 

There were five little rooms like the ones we had woken in. All of their doors were open except for one. I walked towards it quietly and peeked in through the gaps in the wooden rods. There was a man sitting cross legged on the floor. His tunic was dirty and torn and he looked very angry. But he also looked like someone I could trust, and he looked nearly as tall as Ukani, though it was hard to tell when he was sitting.
“Who are you?” I asked quietly. The man jumped to his feet at the sound of my voice, and I could see that he was about as tall as Nefru had been. And he looked strong enough to support Ukani easily, and fight too.
“Hai! Who is there?”
I looked over at Anhur and Ukani who were looking at me curiously. I nodded and turned back to the stranger.
“I will ask the questions. Who are you?” I said, trying to sound very sure of myself.
“I am Capturer. I am Sefkh son of Se-isi son of Sebek of the house of -”
“Ast! I care not of your name. I wish to know why you are here.”
“Oh. I was captured in the desert about a week ago. And if I ever get my hands on the Son of Set who -”
“Be quiet. He was truly a son of Set, and I hope that you may kill him someday. But right now, I need your help, Sefk son of Se-isi. My friend is badly wounded and we need to get him out of here. We have escaped from our cells. Will you help us escape from this place entirely?”
“Of course. Just let me out.”
I lifted the bar and opened the door. Sefkh shot out and grabbed my hand.
“Ra! You but a child!” he said, releasing me, “take me to your friend.”
I pointed to where Ukani and Anhur were waiting, and Sefkh ran over to them and relieved Anhur of his burden. He seemed well fed and in good health, and he was certainly quite strong.
“Now,” he said, “I’ll wager you were not conscious when they brought you in. They usually do that, from what I have learned in a week. But Sefkh outwitted them. He pretended to be asleep, but he was watching all the while. I know how to get out of here. Follow Sefkh, and he will lead you to safety.”  
Anhur and I walked on either side of Sefkh, Anhur giving Ukani extra support on his right side. There seemed to be no guards around anywhere. There was no sound either. A dead silence hung in the air. Finally, we reached what seemed to be the stables. There was only one guard here, and Sefkh put his finger to his lips, and slipped into the shadows. The guard was walking first in the stables, then in front of them. But when he went in again after Sefkh had gone, he didn’t come back. After a bit, Sefkh himself beckoned to us from inside the stables. There were horses instead of camels, and the guard was tied up on the floor. Sefkh carefully began to saddle one of the horses. His movements were fluid and silent. And the horses did not even seem to notice him. The horse he chose first was a huge beast, and large enough to hold two riders as well as another horse could hold one. Sefkh reached for another saddle, but just then we heard the sounds of shouting outside the stables.
“Quickly! Get Ukani into the saddle. Now!” Sefkh was hoisting Ukani up even as he spoke. Anhur pushed me towards the horse.
“Take Ukani away from here. We will hold them back. Go!”
“I cannot ride!”
“Sefkh, you must go, I will stay here with Reniseb.” Anhur lead the horse out of the stables through a back door as he spoke. Sefkh shook his head.
“I can protect her better than you. Ride hard. Get him out of here. Now!”  Sefkh shoved Anhur towards the horse, and without another word, the old man mounted.
“Take care of her,” he said, and rode away. Sefkh grabbed my arm and pulled me into an empty stall. But it was no use. The Snakes were so numerous that they captured me and Sefkh without any trouble. But instead of taking us back to our prison, they through us in the back of a covered trader’s cart and tied us to metal rings in the wooden floor. In a moment, the cart was moving.
“I am sorry,” Sefkh said quietly.
“No matter, Ukani is safe. That is all I care about.”
Sefkh nodded. “I too loved one so much that she was all that mattered. But she was taken from me. Tell me, little one, how does a pretty maid like you come to be in a place like this?”
I could no longer restrain myself. I had to tell someone. So, during the long ride, I told him everything about the Pendant; I told him all that had happened since that first dream which had started all of this. I told him of Rhea’s story, and how she never finished it. I told him of Pharaoh, and Tiye and Tseskos. I told him about my father, and my mother and how she died. I even told him of falling in love with Ukani; of Sipthah and his treachery.
He listened to me quietly. It had not yet been midday when we had reached the stables. But dark had long since covered Egypt before I finished my story. When I finally finished, he took my hand in his and said, “Reniseb, if I can, I will help you find the Pendant; for this is something which affects all of Egypt. If I can assist or protect you, I will.”
“Thank you. I am already in debt to you.”
“Think nothing of it.” He said, smiling.
“I shall try not to if it makes you happy, but it will be very hard. Where do you think we are going?” I asked.
“Into the snake's nest.” He said grimly.
“Hathor protect us.” I replied.
The cart stopped just then, and we could hear the guards coming around to get us. Sefkh smiled kindly.
“Courage, little one. Courage, for our loved ones, and for Egypt.”
I nodded. Courage. I had found my courage. Or rather, I had stumbled upon it it the dark. It was not in holding on that I was brave, but in letting go. In forgetting myself and thinking of those I loved. Ukani and Father. Mother, Tseskos, Tiye, even Amenhotep. Nefru and Anhur, all of them. It was for them that I could be brave, not for myself.

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