Monday, March 5, 2018

The Book of Joe

There was a man in the land of US, whose name was Joe; and that man was pretty good and nice, and one that went to church on Sunday, and shared Christian memes on Facebook.
And there were born unto him 1.5 children, one daughter and one son who kind of counted.
His substance also was like seven thousand investments, and a three thousand square foot house, and many big toys, and a five hundred horsepower car and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
And his children went and feasted in his basement, but did no work; and sent and called for their Instagram followers to eat and to drink at the same time as they did.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up late in the morning, and offered a 10% tithe for himself and his children: for Joe said, My children have probably sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Joe during his 1-minute devotions.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Joe, that there is none like him in the earth, not perfect of course, but simply forgiven...I mean, I am big enough to take it when he saith he is wroth with me, and it is not a problem that he is fearful all the time. Because as long as he continues trying...I just love him, thou knowest?
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Joe try to be good for nought?
10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
12 And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.
13 But as he was going, he considered again and then turned himself back to the Lord. On second thought, he said, Joe causeth me few problems. Were I to lay my hand upon aught that he hath, he might think of thee more than he doth now. Rather, I will leave him as he is, for this pleaseth me.
oy, I miss this view...

No disrespect is intended regarding the original book (which I find fascinating) or its Author (toward whom I would not imagine flippancy). But I have heard "You cannot be perfect" my entire life, and my body, mind, will, and emotions lift themselves battered from the floor after fruitless attempts and acknowledge that truth. Before Christ in me, of course...and even after Christ in me, what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. 
And yet...can I not be as perfect as Job? as perfect as Noah? as righteous as "these three men" -- Job, Noah, and Daniel? with a heart as perfect before my God as David's? is there not some reason we have been commanded, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect"?
After all, Elijah "was a man subject to like passions as we are" - as very human as we - "and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of 3 years and 6 months."
The devotion, the intercession, the perfection these attained can surely not be beyond us who have a historical Christ, rather than a formless promise, and the very Holy Spirit of God sent unto us. Yet we as Christians seem to miss the high calling before us so very often, and as I listened to the first chapters of Job last week, I could not help but wonder what the Lord has should Satan come before Him now. Are any of us as blindingly righteous as Job and Noah?  Beloved, like Daniel and John? Repeatedly named perfect-hearted, as David? 
We become so content in our little boxes, in our 'good enough's', in the little phrases we find so comforting despite how blatantly they contradict Scripture...the wrongness of this hurts. We are called to so much more, and the only thing holding us back is ourselves. I do not want to rest in my weakness instead of looking to see God's strength. I do not want to unconsciously set His forgiveness as my pass for repeated sin. I do not want to settle for mediocre faith and mediocre action when the orders and the power given were so much greater than that. 

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to 'survive.' The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”

― Sophie Scholl

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Meet the Medicine

Because not very many people know how teaching hospitals work, and if I DO get a chance to write some Residency-ish posts, a guide might be helpful. XD

1. Non-teaching hospital: you go there when you are sick and are seen by a doctor - most likely a hospitalist, if it's a bigger city/hospital, though in rural areas they might be a family practice, an internal medicine, or a med-peds physician. (I mean, nurses, CNAs, MAs, NPs, PAs, PT/OT, phlebotomists, hospitalists, and specialists will all be part of the medical team at any hospital - everyone who comes in to your room wearing scrubs is not a nurse, and will most likely say "I'll check with the nurse" when you ask for something - but I won't go into to all their levels as I am not an expert in their systems.)

2. Teaching hospital: the above still applies, but there will be a whole new set of people wearing white coats who will introduce themselves as: students, medical students, interns [not the same thing as internists or intensivists!], juniors, seniors, residents, attendings, preceptors.
Hint: med students wear short white coats, like pharmacy - med students have papers and books stuff in all their pockets, pharmacy usually doesn't. Doctors wear long white coats, and you can tell which year they are by how much they have in their pockets, too - interns carry more than med students while attendings usually don't have anything in their white coat pockets. 

- Students: usually college students considering a career in medicine who know someone at the hospital well enough to get special privilege to spend a day seeing patients and learning about what medicine is like. They have no responsibility, it is your right to refuse them in your room or to ask them to leave, but this is where the Future of American Medicine is coming from, so please be nice to the ones who might make good doctors. XD

- Medical Students/Student Doctor: people with four-year college degrees who are currently in medical school, have finished 1-2 years of pure medical knowledge studying, and are now doing "clinicals" - rotating throughout various areas of the hospital to figure out what they want to specialize in and to learn clinical care. Their future depends on their grade, so they are have both motivation and some responsibility regarding your care, but in larger hospitals they are not the ones putting in orders. They usually have more time than the residents, though, so are good people to ask questions to or try to explain something if nobody else seems to be listening. In small, rural hospitals, they might be working more closely with their preceptor, and therefore might actually be putting in orders/functioning more as a resident. You can still obviously tell to leave if you don't want them present, but they will be graduating in 2 or fewer years, and let me tell you, I am extremely thankful for every patient who allowed me to be part of their care, because nobody wants a doctor who has never done something before because no one wanted the medical student to do it and the medical student is now the doctor. 

- Intern/PGY1/First Year Resident: supposedly resident comes from "resident physician" back when they never let the training physicians leave the hospital grounds...PGY1 stands for post-graduate year one. Intern = everybody else gets to tell you what to do.
This is a physician who has chosen a particular field in which to become board certified and who will be spending 3-5 years working under other phsycians until ready to take board exams and work alone. They are a doctor, they are primarily responsible for your care, they are putting in orders, and they are checking with other people like crazy. Technically all their orders are co-signed, though in reality, if they ask for an EKG, a chest xray, or stat antibiotics, you're going to get that done before anybody else has a chance to co-sign their orders. This is a good thing, if the intern has any sense at all. XD At this point, they are your doctor, and they are doing all the documentation, hopefully all the communication required for your care, so do need to examine you/question you/etc, even if someone else has already done so. Hint: it is apparently fun to remind them they are your doctor and the expert and watch to see if you can see them internally freaking out.

- PGY2/Junior Resident: Probably has their prescribing license and is no longer required to have an attending co-sign their orders. They oversee interns, can be in charge overnight, and are expected to have some degree of independence. They see more patients than Interns do, and early on are expected to see their patients plus the Interns' patients, to make sure the Interns aren't messing anything up. Broad range of competency, depending on how their intern year went and what they have been exposed to and their confidence level.

- PGY3(family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, etc) or PGY 4(med-peds!)/Senior Resident:
Definitely has their prescribing license, and is preparing for their board certification exams more instensely than the others. Often functions more in a supervisory role as Ward Chief/Floor Chief (overseeing the rest of the team, keeping attendings on track, assigning patients to interns and juniors, coordinating with nursing staff for smoothest care, filling in whenever a team member is in clinic or has the day off). They are months away from independent practice, but still learning. 1-2 residents at this level per program are also program Chiefs, who go to extra meetings and go to bat for the rest of residents or take a bat to the rest of the residents, depending on what is called for at the time.

- Attending/Preceptor: Med students have Preceptors, Residents have Attendings. Attendings = Attending physician, or where the buck stops. This is doctor who graduated med school, completed a residency of their choosing, and is now working as a clinician or hospitalist in a teaching hospital, most likely after a few years of work in a non-teaching role. They sign orders, answer questions, see each patient daily, and depend in varying degrees on the residents to keep them aware and updated. (Some know the patients better than any of the residents. #goals) They have to sign notes, and sometimes write their own exam etc, but usually have a great deal less documentation to do than the residents, which is good, because they are responsible for all the patients all the residents are seeing - for example, 22 patients a day is the limit for the pediatric attendings at my institution, while 7 is the most I can be responsible for as an Intern, and 14 is the most for a senior. (Though if you are Ward Chief, you have to know enough about everyone on the floor to assist in their care, meaning even if an extra pediatric hospitalist is called in, you need to be knowledgeable about more patients than either of those attendings! If you're a Ward Chief on the medicine side, there are up to 56 patients you might be asked to help out with, but a) that never happens and b) the there are many more checks on the medicine side so that the Ward Chief is not nearly so responsible for patients as the pediatric Ward Chief. Different methods.)

All Levels in General:

Okay, so now that the basics are out of the way...did any of those definitions not make sense and are there any particular medical topics you are curious about? XD

Thursday, February 22, 2018


HEY LOOK, A YEAR IN REVIEW! and a whole month earlier than last year. XD Is that success or does February still count as behind...

(Don't answer that.)

What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before? 
- became a doctor
- bought a car
- rented an apartment
- started residency
- took a conceal-and-carry class
- tried many churches close to the hospital and eventually ended up in the next town over; I think I like this church, though.
- allowed a Nigerian and an Indian to try to teach me how to dance 
[*spoiler* I dance like a white girl from a Baptist background, which between Bollywood and Rythm is a bit hilarious]
- learned how to do lumbar punctures and other slightly less terrifying procedures
- saw patients and prescribed them medications on my own. at night. and actually helped people.
- spent some thousands of hours working. 
- gave multiple presentations
- read a lot of articles
- learned to dictate my notes
- got written up as a conscientious objector (or was that not until this year...)

Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make one this year?
See here what I do instead of make resolutions. [20172016201520142013,
2018's I will hopefully get around to at some point this year. (I have one, but nothing written about it. XD)

2017's word, like 2016's, was a life-long goal...and of course I am not satisfied. Looking at the list above...perhaps I learned abandon more than I thought - these are things I could not do on my own and all of them meant learning to trust God more. And yet there is so much more I wish I would have tried, learned, attempted, succeeded in doing...learning to abandon myself wholly to God is something I am still striving for.

What countries/states did you visit?
...I believe I have been to 3 states this year, all practically touching. In the past 6 months, I've barely left a 10 mile circle around my apartment.
Which, strangely enough, has led to me learning more about Indian culture, food, and dialects, Nigerian history, Pakistani rivalry, and China in general than ever before. 

Did you move anywhere? 
Home sweet never fails to crack my fellow residents up when they learn that I 
a) drive a truck and 
b) live in senior apartments. 
I am an enigma. XD

What was the best month?

March and April kind of tied for brilliant moments of seeing God pull pieces together and fulfill dreams that had been in the making for the past 10 years while giving me hints of what else could lie ahead.

Did you suffer illness or injury? 
Sicker than a dog the last week of December, but otherwise I do not usual, stress overshadows the rest. XD

Where did most of your money go?

...did I mention a car and an apartment...I am making actual money for the first time in my life, and also spending real money for the first time in my life. I would like to make living cheaper, so if anybody has any ideas on that...

What was the best thing you bought?

I am sorry for you if you click that link but I couldn't help it.

also I promise I don't even listen to country music. that would be cliche. which I clearly delight in not get in my car, you hear classical. or kpop.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
...basically the things that come up over and over again in this post. Doctoring. Making big life changes. Stories. People. Watching God work.

What song/album will always remind you of 2016?
....a weird combination between the chorus of Mountain Goat's This Year:

I am gonna make it...through this year...if it kills me...[repeat]
(the rest of the song is nonexistant for me, lol) and American Author's Born to Run:
I'm gonna live my life like it's never enough, like I'm born to run...etc
Also I was given the gift of the soundtrack for Six Flying Dragons, which is one of the most epically beautiful music sets I have ever been able to immerse myself in - I remain in love.

Who did you spend the most time on the phone with? 

My mom. I am not answering this question next year unless it randomly changes. But seriously. I did spend more time than usual talking to my siblings via phone. Still not as much as I spent talking to my mom. XD

What was the best book you read?

I have a post coming about my new Bible reading plan...2017's was good, but I am very much enjoying 2018's too. At this point I think I have read the Bible more times than any other book. It remains incredible to me how new the Book remains. I will save waxing eloquent for the future post.

Beyond that...most and longest anticipated was Thick as Thieves - it did not have enough Gen in it to fully satisfy me, but I read it chapter by chapter with one of the friends I dragged into the series and it was absolutely amazing. I plan to reread it very soon. XD

Biggest surprise was Tracking Ruby, a book I read quite a few years ago, but which came to publication out of nowhere and which I hope means that Jessica Greyson will be bringing out a few more novels very soon. *hint*

Other biggest surprise was a love-hate relationship with A Darker Shade of Magic and All The Crooked Saints - these being the only two new-books-that-actually-read-like-2017-books I found myself able to stand reading...both stories have their own type of issues, and both are heavy on the magic - they are very much not reads for everyone, and I recommend parts cautiously to people I know well. But both dealt with love and power and responsibility and sacrifice in fascinating ways, and both helped me see how I want to deal with these themes from a solidly Christ-centered place in my own writing.

Did you fall in love in 2017? 
*waves hand at this post* Does this look like the writing of someone who is not loving many things? 

What was your favorite TV show/movie?
Hmm...I have delightful memories of watching Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Ju with my little sister...Circle was a genius bit of Korean sci-fi that while it did involve aliens and clones and the future also dealt with the most current and utterly human question of what makes us us and what makes us matter...but far and away the best thing I watched was Dong Ju: The Portrait of a Poet. This was a truly genius work of art, and a movie I plan to buy as soon as I can afford a proper TV. 

Who was the best new person you met?  
This remains a terrible question. What do I say? The insane and amazing entire group of interns from all over the world that I have gotten to know and who have made residency liveable? My fellow med-peds resident who has remained my friend despite the odds, given our completely conflicting schedules and repeated warnings that "you two will never see each other"? My awesome seniors, who give me presents and encouragement enough to keep me going? The fascinating patients who have taught me in so many different ways, as I have learned to help them?
Though, I mean...if we're going favorite...the 3 year old patient who introduced themself as "Mew-mew" and pretended to be a cat the entire clinic visit kinda wins. It was amazing. XD

residents @ life.
Compared to this time last year, are you:
1. happier or sadder? not ask a resident about their happiness. Half my fellow residents were depressed when residency started. Imagine us now. But I am settled in for the long fight and I trust the One who placed me here knows what He is doing, so I am good. Also, med-peds residents at my program have a track record for being so much happier than the pediatric residents or the internal medicine residents {despite working harder *snerk*} that "discuss attitude with med-peds residents" was an item on the pediatric agenda last year. XD lol
2. thinner or fatter? thinner. it's called the "Floor Diet Plan" - going 16 hours without food because you have too much work to do to eat is working wonders for some of us. XD

3. richer or poorer? ....I feel like as long as I have six digit debt going on, I can't say richer, but I mean, I'm no longer going deeper in debt, and I've started paying some off, so...can I say richer? XD It's not like I have a ton of time to spend money...though I admit, lack of sleep leads to some spectacularly terrible shopping choices, even if it's running in for milk and coming out with $100 worth of junk food because you were hungry...XD 


Did anyone close to you give birth?
Practically half the people I am in residency with ARE PREGNANT, but surprisingly there were no births that really made a difference in my life in 2017. XD 

Did anyone close to you die?

If you're talking in proximity, I have had my hands on three patients whose lives were beyond the power of medicine to bring back, even though we tried. We tried hard. CPR and modern medicine can witness miracles, but cannot technically work them.

What date from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory?
If last year I said 11/16/16, for the answered prayers surrounding the interview with the program I've wanted to Match with ever since I first heard about it...
Then I guess 03/17/17 stands shockingly out as the day I learned I matched with that program and was going to not only be a doctor, but get further training in the field I wanted in the program I wanted in the town I wanted. God is incredible.    

What was your biggest failure?

I think it was an overall inability to do several things that simply needed doing. To give myself boundaries and absolutes and simply do the things I felt I needed to get done. There was too much laziness and self-love in the year, and it meant I did not finish 2017 as the kind of person I want to be and could already be, had I forced myself to learn what there was to learn.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I imagine graduating with an MD is up there in a lot of ways, but in my case almost more for the number of prayers and the learning-to-trust that it represents, than for any other reason. 

I have to say that discussing salvation with a patient is probably one of the best memories/achievements of 2017, however.

What kept you sane? 
~...writing [you've seen that answer before]

~incredible, creative, ridiculously loyal and understanding people for whom the word friend feels not nearly strong enough, while even chosen family does not encompass the whole of them.
~a family by blood that refuses to let me mope and who comes to see me when I'm working nights and completely falling apart and who does not laugh at me even when I call them and spend the entire time bawling on the phone for no concrete reason other than exhaustion and intern-year-induced terror. Cases in which family is what it was meant to be and I am incredibly grateful to have been given such people as mine. 
~pretty much God [you've also seen that answer before] XD

Valuable life lesson you learned in 2017. 
+ Friends don't let friends do residency without a great deal of sarcasm and sensitivity. 
+ Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He will bring it to pass. 

What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Discipline. Which used to be one of my strongest character qualities, but which perhaps was used up early in my life. It's no longer an option, and while in general things seem to get done, I need them done clothed and in their right mind, not falling-apart-barely-made-it done.

Five things I wanted to remember from 2016 and did I remember them: 

1) The good that comes from freely loving.
*looks at year* It has been a good year for freely loving.
2) The excitement of doing new things, gaining new skills, as well as the satisfaction of mastering a thing.
...well, if I'd mastered a few more things...XD when not completely exhausted I think I remembered the excitement of doing new things.
3) That I never regret spending time with people or with God, and often regret not doing the former and always regret not doing the latter.
...tried to remember this...and I think remembered it better than in 2016. 
4) To treasure the love of my inner circle, and to keep them close forever.
More difficult than expected when time is in short supply, but I think treasure those moments more for their rarity.
5) That the God of the universe is the One who holds my hand.
Learning it more each day.

Five things I want to remember from 2017:

1) Did that is so much better than will someday do.
2) Being real is so much more amazing than being afraid.
3) Recognizing a problem is pointless without a subsequent working to fix that problem.
4) Time wasted is a regret I cannot afford. 
5) God knows exactly what He is doing + He loves me. There's a combination I can rest on.

Five things I wanted to do in 2017:
1) Be accepted to a residency program. (This is totally outside my control at this point...but hey.)
....soooooo that happened......

2) Finish medical school well. I have 14 more weeks of rotations as I write this...I want to learn, I want to understand, I want to be the best that I can be.
my last rotation of medical school was my favorite...the two previous all manner of painful. but that last one...if anything made me do a fellowship, it would be that rotation.

3) Be purposeful. Not sliding in just at the due date, catching people just before they are overwhelmed, passing things just above the line. But reaching out to people just to love them. Getting things done as soon as I can.  
I thought I was there...but you guys. The level required by residency...suffice it to say I got slammed down to ground zero and am now working my way back up.

4) Ahem. Once again, do more with my writing. So... a) self-publish my novella and maybe a few short stories also. b) publish a poem. c) submit CTTT to first a publisher and then to an agent. Before residency starts, because after...hahaha.
I chose to hold back on the novella/short stories, because they were not where I wanted them to be and ahahah, residency started sooner than I thought it would...XD I DID PUBLISH A POEM. AND GOT IN A MAGAZINE. AND HAD MY PHOTO TAKEN. IT WAS GREAT. And I did submit CTTT to a publisher and was swiftly disillusioned as to their professionalism and helpfulness. :P Am working on the agent/another publisher now. 

5) Pray more. Once again, as close to an hour a day as is possible. This year I'm actually going to keep track - not because I want to be legalistic about it, I don't at all. But how have I managed to read through the Bible year after year? By keeping track of it. Sometimes that little extra paying attention is all that is necessary. along the line I forgot to keep track, which kind of says how that went...

Five things I want to do in 2018:
Now that I've discouraged myself by looking at 2017's list...XD

1) Find a volunteer opportunity, preferably outside of medicine. 
2) Do well on Step 3 and my in-training exams. [So many tests, you guys. XD]
I'm laughing because there are so many gifs related to hope
from so many fandoms, including so many I know nothing about
3) Be. Purposeful. As noted above. Trying again, at residency level, to be ahead instead of behind - to do whatever my hand finds to do with all my might, as unto the Lord and not unto men.
4) Figure out where writing fits into residency. Submit Contract to Time Travel to 1 if not 2 places. 
5) Pray without ceasing/abide. My prayer time and my ability to think and endure insanity are correlated. I need to be spiritually grounded to help people and I need to make redeeming the time second nature so that I am able to spend more time focused on my God. Him, instead of me. Him, instead of fear of man. Him, instead of whatever I think my calling is. for 2018. Only 10 months left, you's going to fly past. :) I do have some ideas for future blog posts...and would like to comment on your posts when I get a chance to read them, instead of just read+run...but despite being 8 months in, residency is a beast I haven't yet tamed. Then again, to quote one of my seniors: "It never gets better; you just get used to it." XD I guess I'm still waiting for the used-to-it to kick in, but medicine is fascinating, people are incredible, and God is good. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Red Wolf

Some of you may remember this blog post or the brief mention therein of "the mainest of main characters" and "the mercenary". I still haven't had much time to write {that post was from 2 months ago? yeesh}, but the story has made some rather intriguing advances in my head. {Church remains my #1 writing place, and it is fascinating to watch certain spiritual aspects of the story come to life somewhat depending on the Sunday morning service.} 

Among the advances is the fact that the above-mentioned character now has a name. Which gives me some freedom in using his title of The Red Wolf [of the North is occasionally added, even though it is a misnomer as he is technically from the East and that is fairly obvious from a look at his face].

Following this exchange on facebook, between one person who knows certain ins and outs of the story and one person who does not...

Is Red Wolf a weapon, a plan, or a person?
Yes.... yes.... and yes.
I'm intrigued. May I see a demo of he/she/it in action?

I decided to do a brief post on said Red Wolf. "Brief" being relative and "on" meaning I throw story snippets at you until you get a picture of this weapon/plan/person.

Enjoy! :)

Winter-dark. The day stretched toward night, and the chill wind brushed ice against the slaves’ bare skin. Huddled beneath the ragged half tent, most shivered, abject misery sharpened acutely. All but the two boys side-by-side upon the wooden platform, ivory skin bluing. They made no sign they felt it, even as its bitter fingers touched them, gently lifting the straight black hair that hung past their shoulders and then whipping the strands against their ghostly faces.

They were beautiful. Slender and willowy, almost feminine they looked, yet their backs were steel-straight, their faces set like flint, hollow eyes staring straight ahead, so dark as to be almost black. Ethereal ghosts, if ghosts they were. Brothers, clearly, with the oldest still a boy, and the youngest scarcely more than a child.


The man’s gaze measured the slaver first, dark and unreadable, before shifting to the boy on the floor and the loosing battle with consciousness he was still desperately fighting. “I want him,” he said then, his voice no louder than necessary.
“He is one—” the slaver started, and the stranger smiled, a dangerous sort of smile that was nothing but a warning.
“He is very damaged, and I will give you half the usual price, which is more than you will get from any other.” He placed a small bag of coins upon the platform, and then bent down beside the boy.
The boy hissed, baring his teeth again as he made one more attempt to gather himself. The effort was too much, and when the man lifted him in his arms, the boy’s head fell back limply, blood washing scarlet across his skin. The man straightened, and started for the door, while the crowd parted in his path.
Silence followed them out into the night.


Bak Talhae woke tasting blood. A moment of panicked stillness passed before he was sure that no one else was in the tent, before he sat up in the dark, wiping sweat from his face with one hand and reaching for his water flask with the other. He rinsed his mouth, grimacing at the ice crystals in the water. He had been expecting the return of the dreams since the first snow, and it was almost a relief to no longer wonder when they would come.


The power that held such men down, strangling the life from hearts that should never have been claimed by such as he, was enough to turn Talhae’s stomach.
Then came Alekseyev. "Your order is heard, my King."
To carry out that order was to hurt the child. To do so in filial devotion to one he so dearly wished to love was to scar his soul.
"To hear is to obey." The boy straightened, forcing the words through clenched teeth as he looked to the one upon the throne. "This thing will be done in your name." The final words rushed together in a painful gasp for air. For hope, for deliverance, for anything but the pleased smile above.
He turned to go, and in the turning Talhae met his anguished glance. It was the horror in the boy's eyes that did it.
The last in the room, the final one to swear devotion, Talhae bowed low, making no effort to temper the feeling within. He straightened smoothly, looking up at the man before him. He said nothing, and the High King smiled a smile of unconcern and self-satisfaction.
"And you? Red Wolf of the North? Do you accept this order from your king?"
The words were in his mouth and he said them easily. "I will kill for you. But you are not my king."
Silence followed his words, silence long enough to regret the truth so simply stated, should he have wished to do so. 


The men jostled one another, casting sideways glances like court maids and jerking their gaze as fearfully away. They knew who he was.

Which was, admittedly, the point of cultivating a reputation, he thought, and decided himself fully aware of the distinct disadvantages that came with being known as the Red Wolf. He shifted his stance to ease the tension on his bound arms, pointedly ignoring the whispers.


Voices rose outside, and he flung open the tent flap.  Mikhailo Nikandr Rai had as many names as the High King of the North and sometimes half as much sense.
“Mikhail!” He barked the name, and the newcomer flung one arm up in greeting, the smile cutting across his face brighter than the gold of his hair. Swinging one leg over his horse’s neck—he was going to get unseated one of these times— Mikhailo dropped lightly to the ground, ignoring the dark looks from those of the Pack standing around the fire.
“Do you please stop irritating the watch with your poor imitation of a wolf, and tell me why you are here while I put on my boots.” Talhae jerked his head towards the tent behind himself and Mikhailo waved cheerfully at the men beside the fire as he started for the tent, breaking into a lope as he came.
He did not slow at the tent door, but threw his arms around Talhae, crashing against him with enough force that Talhae staggered. “Brother-mine! It is good to have you back,” Mikhailo added, breaking his embrace to punch Talhae’s chest.
Talhae smiled and shoved him back, before pointing to the pile of furs against the tent wall. “Sit. We would have been back before high noon; why could not the King’s pleasure wait so long?”
Mikhailo raised his eyebrows, the twist in his smile as good as words to encompass the four years they had known each other and every conversation they had shared in those four years regarding the King’s lack of patience. Talhae laughed despite himself.  
 “You are putting on your mask before your boots these days, I see,” Mikahilo said abruptly, seating himself upon the furs and kicking Talhae’s left boot towards him.
Talhae picked up the boot, then sat to pull it on. “You have ridden half the night to reach us before first light, and yet you have no urgency to your message?” he said, ignoring the other’s observation 


The mercenary came out of the spin, rising to his feet even as the sword meant for his throat struck the metal bar of his mask and skidded sideways, the edge catching the skin at his hairline while slicing neatly through the broad silk ribbon holding the mask in place. His own sword came upon into the unguarded space before him and the soldier before her dropped where he stood. She jerked away from the gush of blood at the soldier’s throat, looking somewhere else, anywhere else, and her gaze focused on the mercenary.
Blood—the soldier’s? his own?—was spattered across his unmasked face, and she found herself suddenly staring at the place the mask had covered. The thing it had covered. A thick scar, darker than his moonlight skin but not so dark as the blood that ran in crimson rivulets across it, twisted across the entire side of his face, starting at his forehead, slicing through his left eyebrow and down his nose, down to the left corner of his lip and then back across his cheek, pulling his mouth into a permanent snarl.
The Red Wolf.

Click here if you want to see the original inspiration for this character...and click here if you are curious about the original inspiration for his brother.........XD


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