I was shoved forward through the door before I could resist, my feet tangling in the swathes of skirt as I tripped and struggled to keep from tumbling to the ground. By the time I had spun back to the door, it had shut and the lock been thrown with an audible click. My fingers twisted uselessly at the knob, not budging the door one bit.
Crouching low, I examined the plate around the doorknob, but realized the door locked only from the outside, not even a skeleton keyhole showing on this side of the door.
Becoming more frantic, I stood and felt desperately along the other edge of the door, but to my panic, these weren’t removable pins in the hinges that I could pull out. With a sledgehammer, I might be able to break the heavy iron hinges, or with a battering ram break down the solid-wood door. But I had neither.
And I was stuck here.
Stuck with no way out.
No, can’t be stuck, have to find a way out. Have to get out!
My breathing became shallower with every inhale. My vision spinning as I exhaled in shallow pants, the cursed dress so tight around my body that I couldn’t draw air in properly.
My panic only heightened as I stumbled towards the bed, falling to my knees as I fumbled desperately at my heap of weapons, sending them careening across the floor as I pawed through them for my knife.
The stone walls around me darkened, changing from light gray cut-stone to the dimly lit dewy rocks that still haunted me.
“No, I got out of that cave,” I gasped to myself, trying to convince my own mind. My vision darkened more, the close air of the cave closing around me. “I have to get out of here! I won’t die in this Godforsaken cave!” I cried desperately.
Though my vision seemed to darken and become sightless as I panted shallowly, my fingers instantly recognized the feel of the jackknife I’d carried from my own world. Numb fingers flicked it open and hacked at the serpent tightening around my chest. Hacking until I’d cut it to pieces all the way down to my naval.
Drawing great shuddering breaths at last, I fell backwards on my butt, leaning my back against something solid as tears raced down my cold skin. Shudders continued to wrack me as I rocked slightly front to back, one hand pressed to my chest as my other hand clung desperately to my knife. My lifeline and protection.
Finally, the shudders passed and my tears dried. My vision was again clear as I stared bleakly across the room I was stuck in. It wasn’t the cave in North Korea. It was my rooms in Minas Tirith. Rooms I had been locked in. Stuck with no way out.
Feeling the panic starting to rise again, I sprang to my feet and threw my weight at the flimsy doors to the small balcony. I didn’t bother trying to fumble with the latch, simply shouldered into the door and broke the small latch, the doors flying open and offering me the freedom of fresh air and the sky.
“I’m okay. I’m alright,” I whispered to myself. “I may be stuck here, but this isn’t like that cave in North Korea. Much bigger and I can at least see the sky.”
I took several deep breaths. Still too off-balanced to meditate or anything useful, but I focused the military portion of my mind, going through my options.
“Even in his grief, Denethor has some kind of courteous sense of chivalry which he thinks he’s best serving by locking me in here for my safety. If he can think that much through when all he felt was despair, I can figure out how to get out of this room even when all I feel is panic.”
I was leaning heavily against the wall of the balcony my hands braced wide upon the cool stone, my eyes closed as I tried to stave off another panic attack. But I heard the wet thwacks of something dripping. Opening my eyes, I saw red drops falling onto the stone and running down the side of the wall.
“What the hell?” I muttered, looking down at my chest.
The previously beautiful green velvet creation was hacked unevenly down past my bellybutton and waist, thrown open and exposing most of my chest and torso. Not that there was anyone there to see anything. But several gashes marred my chest and stomach were I’d wildly and blindly cut away at the fabric.
I gingerly touched the one that seemed to be bleeding the most, it stung, but was shallow. I pulled one of the underskirts off and pressed it to my chest as I pushed the dress over my shoulders, letting it fall and hang limply down the backs of my legs at my waist.
Here I am, standing topless on a balcony in Minas Tirith. I threw back my head and laughed loudly at the thought. Who would have ever imagined such a thing? Been topless on a lot of beaches, but here in the White City? No one from my old world would have believed something so ridiculous.
But the panic that had tightened my chest finally fled. Still clutching the underskirt to my chest, I looked over the balcony wall and down the outer wall of the Citadel. A narrow ledge, perhaps no more than an inch, ran along at the same height where balconies occasionally dotted some of the windows in the rooms to either side of my own.
Plan in mind—even if it was perhaps the craziest of all my escape plans—I walked back into my room and began changing.
When I pulled the underskirt from my chest, it was dotted and in some places deeply colored with red, but the wounds on my chest mostly seemed to have stopped bleeding. Tearing another of the underskirts into strips, I wrapped them around my torso. The cuts were still tender, but the strips would help to keep the gashes clean.
My hair had partially fallen down in my mad panic, but I didn’t have time to comb through and tame the once elegant curls Nethiel had styled. So I yanked the hair back into an economical ponytail and tied it tightly in place with a leather thong.
Finally dressed, I gathered up the weapons I’d previously scattered across the floor. I held my pack loosely in my hand, but eventually left it by my bedside. It would only hinder me. My cloak I fingered as well. It might provide needed warmth through the night, but it too I finally left behind. Whatever warmth it might offer would be offset by the hindrance of its bulk. Besides, I doubted the enemy would allow us to sit on our laurels long enough to feel night’s chill. And if they did, I knew the enemy would happily provide fire to heat things back up again.
Thus outfitted, I stood on the balcony considering how to proceed.
“This is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever come up with,” I muttered to myself. But I couldn’t come up with anything else and I wasn’t going to remain locked up here.
I finally decided that my plan might be better attempted barefoot. The thick soles of my boots wouldn’t allow me much feel of the stone. So shucking my boots and peeling off my socks, I stood on the cold stone considering how to accomplish the next step while still hanging on to my boots.
I realized there was no good way to do it, so I stuffed my socks into my boots and stepped up to the edge of the balcony. Swinging my boots carefully, I finally released them with a strong spurt of energy and watched them sail those twenty feet through the air and neatly clear the lip of the wall on the balcony to Gandalf and Pippin’s room. They landed on the stone with a soft thud.
Now came the difficult part. It would have been easier to toss my weapons in the same manner so I wasn’t encumbered by them, but I absolutely couldn’t risk dropping them. The boots might have survived the fall to the street so far below, but I doubted my weapons would.
After ensuring my bow, quiver, and sword were secured and pushed around to my back, I carefully hopped up to crouch on the balcony wall. I told myself not to look down, but of course, it was too tempting.
I swallowed difficultly past my suddenly dry throat.
“Well, at least way the hell up here at however many stories this is, if I fall, I can pretty much guarantee it’ll be an instant death.”
The thought somehow didn’t comfort me.
One leg after the other carefully extended past the balcony to lower myself down on the narrow ledge. Gripping with my toes and the balls of my feet, I began edging and shuffling across the narrow ledge, my fingers grasping at what bits of stone I could wrap my fingers around.
As I inches across the ledge, the sword in my scabbard swayed with my movements and the gusts of wind, lightly banging into my calves. I cursed not finding a way to strap the blade more securely to my back.
I was halfway across when my nerves finally began to get the best of me and my muscles started quaking. Pausing to catch my breath, I reminded myself, “Just as far back as it is to keep going forward. Buck up and finish this.”
Focusing only on the stone in front of me, and where I was next going to place my hands, I continued inching across the stone ledge.
My hands shook as I finally reached the other balcony and heaved myself over the wall, my legs giving out beneath me as I collapsed to the floor of the balcony.
I sat on the cold stone for a long time before I’d gathered myself, still wavering on disbelief that not only had I attempted something so crazy, but that I hadn’t fallen to my death.
“Well, can’t sit around on cold stone waiting to catch my death of cold.”
So I gathered my boots and socks and pulled them on.
The latch on the doors to the balcony was shut, but using my knife, I was able to pop it open and let myself into the room. The room was nearly identical to my own, only lacking the large sitting room my own had. Neither Pippin nor Gandalf were present, but I hadn’t expected them to be. The hobbit would still be attending his duties, and the wizard would now have started shouldering the mantle of responsibility in leading the defenses of the city as Denethor had given up his responsibilities.
But the door to their room was mercifully unlocked, and as I carefully pulled it into the room to peer out into the hallway, I saw that my silent guard was still posted outside my room.
Damn, now what do I do?
I suddenly regretted leaving my cloak behind. It might have helped to disguise me in slipping past the guard. I eased the door closed and looked around the room, trying to come up with another plan.
A chessboard sat forgotten on a low table near the doors to the balcony, several of the pieces haphazardly scattered on the board and tipped over. I held a pawn in my hand, fingering the smooth white marble. It was a simple plan, but then, the old rule of KISS was often the best. Keep It Simple Stupid. No problem, I can keep it simple.
Picking up a couple of the pawns, I went to the door and eased it back open. The guard was still there and standing without so much as a twitch of his nose. Perhaps his true calling was as statuary. But at least he wasn’t looking my way to take any notice of me.
With a practiced underhand throw, I tossed the pawns strongly through the air, watching them arch over the head of the guard in the peaked ceiling of the hallway. They landed well past the man with a loud clutter, sounding like at least one of the chess pieces had shattered.
As the guard turned in that direction to investigate, I softly and soundlessly fled in the other direction, turning at the first hallway to get out of sight. The hallway was unfamiliar, but after a short jog, I’d gotten my bearings and made my way down to the street in front of the citadel.
I knew it was well into the night now, but for once, my internal clock had lost track of time. How long had I been in Faramir’s sick room? How long had I been held in panic? How long had it taken me to make Gandalf and Pippin’s room? I couldn’t say. Only that it was well into night now and the battle already begun.
The first level of the city burned brightly with fire, but I maintained my course, heading down through the levels of the city where the battle cries roared loudest.
Many men were running up through the levels away from the battle and fire, pandemonium reigning since not all the soldiers seemed to heed Gandalf’s orders. But I pushed past them, finally making the lowest level to find the burning heat and blaze of orange fire burning throughout.
Men ran in all directions, throwing water on the fires and some using blankets as they tried to stem the burning tide. I paused, briefly thinking that I should help in the attempt to stop the blaze, but I didn’t know how far into the night it was. I didn’t know how far into the battle it was or what was happening. So instead, I ran to the outer wall and sprinted up the steps to where archers fired from the ramparts and behind the parapets.
I stepped up to the parapet and looked over the edge. The rampart where I stood was perhaps only fifty feet from the main gate to the city. As I looked up and down the wall, I could see that the soldiers were being spread thin trying to stave off the numerous attacks at all the various points along the wall where Orcs were hurling their efforts.
But I knew it was a diversion. The Enemy’s true effort at plowing through Gondor’s defenses was inching forward ever nearer to the gate.
It was still a ways off, but in the orange glow lighting the night, I could see all manner of Sauron’s evil creatures. Things I’d never before witnessed in any Hollywood imagination or even in my worst dreams. The deep shadows and orange glow of the fires only made the creatures seem more sinister. A sight more appropriate for a Halloween nightmare than a great battle.
“‘Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble,'” I muttered to myself. With a pause, I took in the sight of the great trolls finally becoming clearer to my eyes in the darkness. “Somehow I don’t think Shakespeare’s Three Witches could have held a candle to this sight. I doubt even Hitchcock or Poe could have so darkly imagined this night.”
I leaned against the parapet, eyes held captive in horror at watching the trolls bearing and pushing their burden ever forward, inch, by hard fought inch.
Grond. Named for the Hammer of the Underworld.
The machine of the enemy that would for the first time in Gondor’s long history breach their great gate.
I shook myself from my stupor, quickly taking in how many soldiers were manning the portion of the ramparts at the gate.
Not enough. Not nearly enough.
Too many soldiers were spread out at other points of the wall; the well-planned distractions of the enemy working spectacularly to spread the soldiers thin, pulling them away from defending the gate.
“Send a few men up through the levels to bring those dolts back!” a commanding voice demanded, brooking no argument. “I want those men back on the ramparts manning bows or at the very least helping to fights the blazes in the first level.”
I turned to see Prince Imrahil hurrying along the ramparts and passing orders through his aids. Knowing it might be foolish, I stepped in front of the prince anyway.
“My lord, you must regroup these men from their scattered positions along the wall. The bulk of them must be centered at the gate.”
He stopped at my words, staring at me without expression. He wasn’t a tall man, but even looking me evenly in the eye, I could feel his imposing nature. This was a man used to being obeyed, not questioned. His expression suddenly turned startled, marking the instant he finally saw through the darkness that I was a woman.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m a woman, yadda, yadda. Now back to the issue. We need to move men back to defending the gate,” I told him, throwing a hand out towards the massive gate.
“My lady, the Gate of Minas Tirith has never been breached. These men are fighting as best they can with so scattered and little direction from their lord.” He paused and tilted his head back towards the citadel. “You should not have been in the city; at the very least, you should be ensconced within the safety of the citadel.”
I waved it away angrily. “Forget hiding ‘safely in the citadel.'” I gestured back towards the sea of creatures on the Pelennor. “That army wants to raze this city to the ground, and they’ll do their damnedest to see it done. We’ve got to work together to stop them and save as many men as we can. You need to lead the men. Mithrandir’s doing his best, but you know many of the soldiers won’t listen to him. They’ll listen to you though.”
He sighed impatiently. “I am attempting my best to rally these men.”
My hands pointed insistently at the Enemy’s great battering ram coming ever closer: Grond. “That thing is getting closer and closer. It will break down the gate if we don’t stop it. And if they breach the gate, they’ll swarm the city. This city was designed to defend and repel the invaders from outside the wall. It’s not designed for ideal defense if they get in. Every level has gates, but they won’t withstand much to keep the Enemy detained. We’ve got to focus on stopping that thing before it gets through the outer gate. Let the Orcs hurl themselves at the rest of the wall. It’s the main gate we’ve got to worry most about.”
Imrahil stepped forward and leaned his hands heavily along the outer wall as he stared across the distance at the trolls moving Grond ever forward. It had seemed they were only inching the great thing, yet in just the few moments that I’d been turned away, they’d covered a significant distance.
“Recall more archers to the ramparts along the gate and aim for those trolls,” I pleaded. “Bring them down or at least slow them as much as we can. We’ve just got to hold out as long as we can.”
The prince glanced over his shoulder at me, his aged face showing his regal and commanding presence. “You have a sound mind for defense strategy.”
I shook my head. “I’m better on attack strategy; my people believed more in bringing the fight to our enemy than letting them come to us.”
His brows furrowed in confusion, but then he turned to his aids and called out new orders. “Gather most of the archers from further down the ramparts. The lady is correct; we are in graver danger of the enemy breaching the gate than in them bringing down wall of solid stone. Tell them to focus their efforts at the gates and to aim for those trolls. Bring down as many as possible.”
The aids turned in different directions to carry out his orders, and we both turned to survey the trolls’ progress.
“I fear that even if we bring down every troll bearing that machine, there will be two more recalled to take their position,” he muttered lowly.
“Maybe,” I answered. “But if we can slow them down even a bit, it’ll give us the time we need to hold out.”
“Hold out for what, my lady?”
He turned his head to regard me. “You believe Rohan yet comes?”
“They’ll come. We just need to hold out as long as we can. The longer we can keep that gate from being breached the more lives we can save.”
“What is your name, lady?” Imrahil suddenly asked.
“I’m called Lane.”
“Lane,” he repeated, tasting the name carefully with his lips. “You are the lady of rumor? The very one witnessed riding into the city with the wizard and whom many have said even joined my men in our charge across the Pelennor?”
I only nodded.
Instead of trying to order me away, or yet again—like every man it seemed—try to tell me battle was no place for a woman, he merely nodded in return and said simply, “It is a strange name.”
A humorless chuckle left my lips at that. “I guess it is.”
“You are said to be fair with your blade. Those of my men who witnessed the stranger joining our sortie claimed you were quite agile with the sword.” I nodded again. “I hope you are as good with your bow,” he continued as he returned to gazing out across the field.
Soldiers had begun to fill in around the gate and started letting loose their arrows at the trolls now coming into range.
I slipped my bow over my head and reached for an arrow from my quiver. “I would say I’m better with my sword, but I’m fair with a bow. I just hope it’s enough.” I turned to leave, jogging down the rampart closer to the gate, finding a hole to step into and aiming my bow.
“Pray that we are all enough this night,” Imrahil answered, surprising me as he stepped up beside me and nocked an arrow in his own bow.
I fingered the shaft and fletching in my hand as I too nocked an arrow, holding my breath and aiming carefully. I briefly tried to recall where I’d last restocked my supply of arrows. From those slain Dunderlings at Helm’s Deep? I knew I’d gathered more as well from the archery field I’d practiced in some days before.
Prayers that we would be enough for the night were a given, but I was also praying that the arrows I’d collected would fly straight and true.
My arrow released with a soft twang, and I tried to track its course, but it became lost in the sea of arrows striking the trolls.
“I’m praying that morning and our allies come swiftly,” I threw back in answer to Imrahil.
He grunted in agreement as he continued firing his own bow.
The concentration of arrows at the trolls was helping. They began swatting angrily at the many shafts piercing their thick hides, slowing the progress of Grond towards the gate. And every so often, enough darts were well placed to bring down one of the giant beasts, causing them to fall away into the masses of Orcs around them.
But Imrahil was right; it didn’t take long for a new troll to replace the felled one. Yet every moment that the progress of Grond was slowed for a new troll to assume the felled one’s place was something. We just had to hold out.
Just hold out as long as we could.
I reached over my shoulder to grasp another arrow from my quiver, only— “Dammit!” I cursed. My quiver was empty.
At Helm’s Deep, I had been able to use spent arrows from the enemy, but I saw no spent arrows lying here on the stone rampart. I turned and stepped away from the parapet, only to collide with a boy running past. I held my feet, but the boy dropped something with a clatter.
Loose arrows were spilled over the stone. “Perfect!” I exclaimed, and snatched a double-fistful before the boy could run off with them to distribute them down the line.
I didn’t bother putting these arrows into my quiver, instead propping them against the parapet and resuming my rapid fire.
But despite all efforts, the trolls had pushed through to the gate, pulling the heavy trunk of Grond back on its thick chains and letting the massive weight swing forward.
“Hold on!” I shouted, lowering my bow and grabbing the wall to steady myself.
The sinister wolf-head of Grond seemed to snarl and growl as it slammed into the gate, the gleaming metal appearing as glowing eyes as its hit reverberating up and down the wall.
Shouts ran out as men all around me stumbled and fell to their knees. Imrahil beside me hadn’t grabbed for the parapet when I did, yet he still managed to remain on his feet.
Once the quake passed, be began bellowing rapid orders. “Fire! Resume loosing your arrows men! Bring down those trolls!”
As one unit, we all obediently turned and resumed firing, our movements taking on a rapid and frantic pace.
Imrahil too began firing next to me, his pace as fevered as the rest of ours. “What perchance are our odds of stopping these beasts?” he questioned in a soft but serious tone.
“We can’t,” I replied, hating myself for answering with the truth and wanting to lie.
Our efforts again slowed the trolls, but not enough. As they began hoisting Grond’s bulk back for another hit, we all lowered our bows this time and braced for the hit.
It came with an even greater crack, seeming to shake the very earth.
And even though my body still shook with the reverberations of the stone, my eyes were transfixed on the gate.
It wouldn’t last. Another hit and the Enemy would be through.
Turing to Imrahil, I told him desperately, “We’ve got to pull back. They’ll be through on the next one. We’ve got to get these men up to the next level.”
His eyes too were transfixed on the gate as he angrily pounded a fist against the stone. “Never would my eyes thought to have seen the White City’s gate fall. Curse their black hearts.”
“We’ve got to pull back,” I reminded him as the archers began to automatically resume their fire.
“To what end?” Imrahil asked, desperation sinking in. “You said yourself, the inner gates were not designed to withstand such force.”
“Then we brace them with anything we can find. Wagons, lumber, furniture, rocks if we have to. We just need to buy time.”
“Time for what?” he demanded.
“Time for help to arrive. Time to come up with a better plan. As long as we’re still alive, we can still fight the Enemy, we can’t if we fall here and now,” I answered with a grim smile.
Imrahil’s voice rang out loud and clear over the battle din. “Pull back! Pull back to the second level and brace the gates!” His orders were taken up in the call of his captains as they repeated them.
The archers seemed reluctant to abandon their efforts, but obeyed their Prince and began hurrying down the stairs and rushing up to the second level.
“Follow the others,” Imrahil commanded with a pointed finger down the stairs.
I stayed beside him and watched the archers beyond our position stream past. “I’ll go when you do.” He turned to glare at me. “I’m just some woman, you’re the one they’ll listen to, so someone needs to watch your back.”
Before he could rebut, Grond struck the gate with a thundering crash, the sound of wood splintering echoing through the night as pieces of the gate broke and fell away.
The last of the archers ran past us, their pace now terror-quickened.
“Go!” I yelled, shoving at Imrahil’s shoulder and hurrying after him. We had just made the bottom of the stairs when the Black Rider rode imperiously through the gate. The Lord of the Nazgûl.
With the Lord of the Nazgûl came a dark weighty feeling of evil and oppression. My shields were generally well bolstered by the adrenaline that coursed through me during a battle, but not even my normal barriers kept the heavy despair from engulfing me. I stumbled as it wrapped around me, feeling as though the blood in my veins had frozen solid, the breath stolen from my lungs.
Imrahil had turned towards me and grabbed my arm at my stumble, steadying my body as I desperately shuffled my feet forward, trying to outdistance the shadow of that evil. As my feet began moving more quickly beneath me, my body somewhat recovering, we rushed past Gandalf on an imposing Shadowfax.
The pair was still, unmoving to the threat of the Nazgûl lord.
“You cannot enter here,” Gandalf called in a clear and commanding voice. Imrahil and I had reached the gate to the second level and paused to watch the unfolding scene as the wizard continued. “Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!”
With a grand gesture, the Black Rider tossed back his hood to reveal a once kingly crown; although to my mortal eyes I could not see what it sat upon. Only a red fire seemed to shine above his dark cloak.
“Old fool!” the nebulous figure laughed. “Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!” A sword lifted aloft from a cloaked arm, fire running down the blade more terrifying than any Hollywood stunt.
But Gandalf gave no ground.
The silence broke as somewhere behind us a rooster crowed. I glanced up at the Enemy’s dark clouds and realized dawn had indeed arrived, heralded simply and modestly by an old rooster that understood naught of battle and war.
“It’s dawn,” I whispered, a small grin tugging at previously downturned lips.
“Dawn?” Imrahil questioned beside me, looking up at the sky as I had done.
Before he could speak more, another sound rang loud and clear.
The loud clear call of horns sounded, echoing off the mountains behind us.
The Rohirrim had come.
As though the sheer force and pitch of the horns had been the cause, the dark clouds retreated, shadow failing while light broke through in such brilliance of white, blue, and silver rays.
Before our very eyes, the once imperious Dark Rider turned from the gate and disappeared, seeming to fade into the fleeing darkness.
“Rohan is come,” Imrahil gasped in an astonished tone. “And none too soon it would seem.”
Grinning wider, I told the Dol Amroth prince, “I told you we just had to hold out long enough!”
“Indeed you did,” he laughed, his eyes showing his surprise that he was even capable of such a sound.
He turned back towards the second level gate where many astonished soldiers now gathered and called out, “Rohan is come! Come to honor age-old alliances! Shall we thank them by cowering here in the city, or shall we meet them upon the field of battle, our swords stained as red as their spears?”
Again, I witnessed how quickly the men could rally their strength. The appearance of the Rohirrim reinvigorated us all, and the soldiers of Gondor gladly took up the call, “Rohan! Rohan!”
Fatigue and weariness faded away, if once there had been terror chilling the blood, it too fled as blood warmed with the battle call.
“To the field!” Imrahil demanded, his aides and standard-bearer surrounding him and bringing with them many horses for the Dol Amroth contingent as a mass of soldiers moved as one for the ruined gate and the Field of Pelennor beyond. Archers that had been on the ramparts with us again readied their bows as they ran, and foot soldiers who had labored through the night to slake the fires and fortify the gates drew their swords as they eagerly joined the fray beyond the gate.
I had a few arrows still in one palm, but those quickly were spent, so bow was exchanged for blade as I ran forward on foot, no horse being brought forward for me as I turned and twisted in the macabre ball of human and Orc dancers.
Though the night had been long, I knew the battle was only just beginning.
A/N: I had this chapter going at well over 10,000 words, so I decided I’d better try to cut it somewhere in half and make it two chapters instead. But the good news is the other chapter is basically done!
I had a pretty boring birthday yesterday (Wednesday kinda sucks for a birthday) so I decided to work on these chapters and finish the battle scenes (which I hate writing) and get them out to you as my birthday present to all of you. And I can hardly believe I’m 27 years old now, where did time go?
Anyway, as always, let me know what you thought!
And thanks so much for the reviews! They’re like crack for writers!