A twofer for Third Sentence Thursday

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

p. 113: “It’d burn its own lips off!”

Captain Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch is a sensible man (even if he does tend to dive headfirst into the nearest bottle of liquor). He doesn’t believe in big threatening dragons, because they just wouldn’t work. So when he sees one with his own eyes, breathing a huge blast of fire in classic dragon style, his instinctive reaction is “it can’t do something like that! It’d burn its own lips off!”

Then Vimes realizes that whether the dragon is possible or not, it’s a threat to his city. And he gets mad.

You wouldn’t like Sam Vimes when he’s mad, but you’d enjoy reading about him.

A Forest of Kings by Linda Schele and David Freidel

p. 282: “Lady Eveningstar moved to take the position on Shield-Jaguar’s left, but before she could mount the bench, Lady Xoc entered and usurped that position for herself.”

Or, power politics among the ancient Maya, about 1300 years ago. (Think Game of Thrones with tropical climate, amazing ornate art, and religious bloodletting.)

A Forest of Kings tries, fairly successfully, to be several kinds of books at once: archaelogical study, art history, and history-history, with little scenes from time to time of how things could have happened (and, from the information we have now that Maya writing can be read again, how they probably did happen).

The sentence above comes from one of those vignettes – in other words, it’s historical fiction, almost; but very close to fact. We know definitely that Lady Eveningstar (a low-ranking wife of the previous king) was Shield-Jaguar’s mother. But Lady Xoc, his father’s main wife, tried hard to stop him from inheriting the throne – much like a classic fairy-tale evil stepmother. Only real.

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