Hand made in the U.S.A. with U.S. Hardwoods
Random Renaissance Era Quotes (Well, mostly)
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Buy Wooden Tankards

Handmade Wood Mugs and Tankards

All handmade wooden tankards are made with American hardwoods

I hand make wood tankards in various sizes. I only use American hardwoods to make them. I offer a lifetime guarantee on leakage or breakage on all of my tankards. I buy the wood directly from the mill and plane the boards to the proper thickness. I have been making tankards for years and have never had one returned.

There is an interesting bit of history to wooden tankards… during the Saxon era, the wooden tankard was the most common form of drinking vessel. Some of these tankards had a capacity of up to four pints. These large tankards were not for individuals, but they were designed to be shared. Despite being shared, the contents were usually speedily dispatched, encouraging riotous drunkenness. To help quell the drunkenness, King Edgar (who reigned from 959-975AD) introduced a decree stipulating that the wooden tankards were to be fitted with pins or pegs all the way down, with each interval denoting one person’s measure. So, you drank the ale down to the next peg and then handed it on. Drinking more than your share therefore entailed taking the next man down a peg or two. And, no, I don’t have the pegs on my tankards so you can’t be brought down a peg or two. On the other hand, you will not have the opportunity to bring anyone else down a peg or two either.

Wood Tankards for Sale

You can see prices, styles, and sizes here.

Types of Wood and Tankard Styles

The darkest wood is walnut, followed by oak and the lightest wood is maple. I also made combinations of Walnut and Maple and Walnut and Oak.

Are they Mugs, Steins, or Tankards?

They may all mean the same thing to some people, but there really is a difference between a mug and a stein and a tankard. More information can be found here.

Sizes

I offer these tankards in three standard sizes.

Guarantee

Guaranteed for life against leaks and/or breakage.

The Making of Wooden Tankards (How They Are Made)

I have extensive and detailed information on exactly how these are made. So if you are curious just go here.

Caveats

These are guaranteed for life but there are a few things you should know. For more information on cautions and such look here.

Foodsafe Finishes

If you are concerned or just curious about food safe finishes then you can go here to read more. For even more information on the finishes I use you can go here.

Mugstraps and Belts

To coordinate with these tankards I also offer handmade leather mugstraps and belts. A variety of sizes and styles are available, all handmade.

Disclaimer

We live in an extremely litigious society which makes it necessary that I say this. I will not be responsible for damage of any sort resulting from the use of these tankards.

WALNUT:

Walnuts are of the genus Juglans and are in the walnut family Juglandaceae. Walnut trees are deciduous which means they drop their leaves every Fall. They grow from about 30 feet to about 120 feet tall.

The 21 species in the genus for the Walnut tree exist natively in all of the countries known
as the ‘Old World’. These are the countries known to the Europeans before the voyages of Columbus. The Old World includes Europe, Asia and Africa.

Persian Walnuts and Black Walnuts are used for their attractive grain and strength. The mature trees are hard, dense, and have a tight-grained pattern. This tight-grained pattern allows walnut to be polished to a very high luster and a very smooth finish.

Walnut colors vary from a light white to a very dark (almost chocolate) color. When walnut is kiln dried (like we use in the USA) the color goes towards a dull brown. But this dull brown can fool you, once a finish of any type is
applied, the color of walnut comes back to life and is very attractive.

You will sometimes see walnut used for expensive bowls too. (Back to top)

OAK:

Oaks are a very common species and come from the genus ‘Quercus’. They exist, and have always existed primarily in the Northern hemispheres and can be either deciduous or evergreen. They exist as native trees from Asia to the Americas.

Oaks are very hardwood and are used for a lot of furniture and flooring. Some European and American oaks are used to make the barrels to age wine and other fine spirits. Sometimes these barrels are charred to lend a unique character, taste, and color to the spirits.

Of all of the North American oaks, the Northern Red Oak is the most prized of the oak group. All Northern Red Oaks are sold as simply ‘red oak’ regardless of where it originated.

Due to the strength of oak, it is commonly used as a symbol for strength and endurance. The Oak was chosen as the national tree for the United States, England, Germany, and France.

The oak was used to symbolize Zeus (from classical mythology) and was considered Zeus sacred tree.

Of course, we have all heard the expression, “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow”.
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MAPLE:

Maples are trees of the genus ‘Acer’.

Maples are cultivated for syrup and timber. Some maples have bright leaf coloring during their Fall change. The Sugar Maple is used for its sap which is then turned into the ever-popular maple syrup.

Quebec produces more maple sugar products than any other place in the world. This sugar maple, (sometimes referred to as hard maple) is also used to make things like bowling pins, the lanes in bowling alleys are made of maple. Drums and butcher blocks are commonly made from maple too. Even baseball bats are sometimes made from maple (although these are more commonly made from hickory or ash).

The grain on maple is very close-grained. It does not have the distinctive grain patterns like other woods. It is so close-grained that some modern finishes have a hard time penetrating the wood, so even finished maple doesn’t carry a lot of natural color.

Soft maple is from the genus ‘Acer Rubrum’. It exhibits almost all of the same characteristics as hard maple but is easier to turn on a lathe and takes stains and finishes easier than it’s cousin hard maple.

Canada uses the maple leaf on their national flag and as their national symbol. (Back to top)

What’s the difference between a stein, a mug and a tankard?

The word stein is a shortened form of Steinzeugkrug, which is German for stoneware jug or tankard. In the U.S., stein has come to mean just about any beer container — regardless of its material or size — that has a hinged lid and a handle. Tankard would be more technically correct than stein, but these two words are used interchangeably. But some people reserve the word tankard for pewter tankards too) or all-silver varieties of steins.

A mug is universally used as the name for those vessels that have handles but doesn’t, and never did, have a lid. So these should probably be considered mugs and/or tankards, but not steins.

How about the difference between a goblet and a chalice? Both are bowl-shaped vessels with a foot or pedestal and no handle, but a chalice is generally considered the vessel used in religious ceremonies.

I offer four different styles and two different sizes of these wood mugs and tankards.

They are all hand made and I buy the lumber straight from the mill. By handpicking each board at the mill I end up with higher quality lumber. When possible, I use the same board to make the entire tankard body. This results in a much closer grain pattern (as seen in the pictures) without the wild (and sometimes pretty ugly) variations you sometimes see in wood mugs.

The darkest wood is walnut, followed by oak and the lightest wood is maple. When available, I use soft maple because the soft maple takes on a slight “golden” hue when the finish is applied. Back to top

SIZES:

Due to the varying thickness of the rings on these tankards, the size (height) will vary some. When I plane the rough sawn lumber I get from the mill, I only plane the boards to remove any imperfections. What I mean by this is that I do not plane them to a certain thickness. I plane them for looks and not size. A 1/16″ variance can result in almost a half-inch difference in the overall height (7 rings at 1/16″ each). I set, as a minimum, the one pint to hold at least 16 oz. and the half-pint to hold at least 8 ounces. But, the tankards you receive may hold slightly more than that as a result of the thickness variance.

I really don’t see the need to destroy perfectly good wood just to get the sizes to be exactly the same from tankard to tankard. These are hand made so expect each tankard to have a little different ‘personality’ than its brethren.

Large Size:

After numerous requests from customers, I added a new larger size tankard. This size will easily hold about two 12 oz. beers (or two of whatever else you drink that comes in 12-ounce sizes). The appearance is a little deceptive because it really doesn’t look that much bigger than the one-pint size but in reality, it holds nearly twice as much.

This tankard is decidedly “manly”. So if you feel the need to “man up”, then this is the one for you. It’s closer to a quart than a pint, which is more in line with the sizes in use during the Renaissance era. Back to top

One pint size:

Personally, I drink beer and know that when I buy beer at some of the faires, the “serving wenches” can get pretty busy and they don’t take a lot of time pouring the beer. Hey, I paid for it and I don’t like to see it foaming over the edge of my tankard. Theoretically, a 12-ounce mug would work if they could take their time…. but they can’t. So if you are a beer drinker then I recommend the 1-pint tankard/mug. It will give you enough room for a lot of ‘head’ on the beer without foaming over the edges. Plus you can walk and talk without spilling your beer and you won’t have to slurp the foam off before you leave the bar.

The one-pint tankard actually holds about 17 ounces (thank you excel spreadsheet), but that is to the very top of the rim. I know you’re curious so I’ll tell you… an ounce of liquid is 1.804 cubic inches. Bottom line is that the one-pint tankard comfortably holds 16 ounces. Back to top

Half Pint-size:

Now for the more refined people (I’m not included in this group) who drink wine, I recommend the smaller half-pint (8 ounces) size tankard. It holds about 9 ounces. So you can walk along without spilling the wine.

For the really stout of heart, they serve mead at some of the faires too. Mead is much stronger than a normal beer so the half-pint mug/tankard will work out great for mead too. So you can walk without spilling the mead. If you drink a lot of mead then you know why this is important.

Oh yeah, you can also use the smaller half-pint size for a kids mug or tankard for their water of juice. So if the kids want to be like Mom or Dad, then these are great.

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Other Sizes and Styles:

I can make these tankards in just about any size and from just about any wood. If you have a desire for something larger, smaller, or with a different wood or combination of woods, just let me know. I will get back to you with the price and lead time.

Making Wooden Tankards – How the wood tankards and mugs are made:

Each wooden tankard is cut from a single board when possible. Keep in mind that all trees do not necessarily cooperate when it comes to this. Each wood mug and tankard has a minimum of three coats of exterior finish on it, so the finish should last a lifetime. Now for those of you concerned about ‘food safe’ finishes, to put your mind at ease you can go here to read all about modern food safe finishes. I use a minimum of two coats of two-part epoxy for the interior coating to keep the vessel ‘leak proof’.
When the interior finish has cured, it sets up kinda like the exterior of the old fiberglass corvettes. Which to those of you who are not Corvette buffs, it means it sets up really hard with very good “tack strength”. That’s why I can guarantee them to never leak. Again, if you are curious, or worried about the finish used on these tankards, then by all means read this.
I also have the Material Data Safety sheet for both parts of the two-part epoxy. The resin is here and the hardener is here. If you are the least bit paranoid or worried about the finish, just put a note in the comments section when you order requesting a ‘food safe’ finish. I will then put a minimum of 2 coats of a FDA food safe finish on the interior of the tankard. You should know that it will take an extra 3 days to add the food safe interior coatings. You can read the Material Data Safety Sheet on the food safe interior coating here.
Personally, I don’t use the food safe finish on my wooden tankard I use but my wife has pointed out that “not everyone is like you”. Personally I think it would be a much better world if that wasn’t the case…. but I digress.

I cut each ring separately on my lathe. After the rings are cut, I sand them flat. Then comes the semi-artistic part of the process. I set each ring so that it sits with the growth rings going the opposite direction (vertically) of the ring below it. I then set each ring offset by 90 degrees with the ring below it. This combination of vertically opposite and 90-degree offset creates a pattern similar to a herringbone (my wife’s term, not mine) pattern. An interesting thing about this combination is that as you rotate the mug, the light rings turn darker and the dark rings turn lighter every 90 degrees. The change from dark to light is because the wood is going from end grain to face grain every 90 degrees. It takes more time to set the rings this way but the effect is pretty cool.

The rings are then glued and clamped together without the bottom on the tankard. Once dry, this gives me unhindered access to the inside of the tankard so I can sand the interior and be sure the edges of the rings are sanded smooth with the other rings, using a spindle sander.

Then I glue the bottom of the tankard to the rings to complete the rough wooden tankard.

At this point, I put the entire assembly back on the lathe to finish smoothing the exterior. Sometimes I have to use a roughing gouge, sometimes a bowl gouge but most of the time I only use sandpaper because I use a lot of care in the assembly of the rings. I sand the exterior of the tankard and make sure the top lip is made thinner (my wife’s request). The sides start out at about 5/16″ thick and end up somewhere around a quarter of an inch thick. This thickness makes for a much stronger tankard and gives the glue a lot more surface area to adhere to. The exception to this is the large-sized tankards. I actually make the walls of this size thinner because visually it makes a better-looking tankard (of course that’s just my opinion, but I’m the one who makes them). The sides on the large wood tankards0 are about 1/8″ thick, more or less.

At this stage, I apply a minimum of two coats of two-part epoxy finish to the interior of the tankards over the course of two days. If the interior shows any spots that are not glossy after two coats, then I apply a third coat which takes another day. I use foam brushes to apply the epoxy to help eliminate any brush marks.

I then cut the handle using a bandsaw and sand it smooth with a spindle sander and a belt sander. I freehand cut the handles (which means I don’t attempt to cut each handle exactly like the others) then I use the spindle sander to knock off the handles sharp edges. This gives the handle a more rustic look. If you look at the pictures you will see that the handle color always looks a little different than the tankard/mug body. The reason for this is that you are looking at the ‘face grain’ on the side of the handle and you are seeing some of the ‘end grain’ of the wood on the wood tankard/mug body.

The handle is then placed against a homemade sanding disk made of wood that is the same diameter as the tankard and covered with sandpaper. By holding the handle against this disk (attached to my drill press) it makes the curvature in the handle where it meets the tankard body closely match the curvature of the tankard. Again, this makes for a much stronger joint since the surface areas between the tankard body and handle match so closely. The handle is then glued/epoxied and clamped to the body. After removing the clamps if I see any hairline openings between the tankard body and
the handle, I fill it with CA glue (Superglue) just for a little extra strength.

The type of glue I use to hold the actual rings together is a heavy-duty, weatherproof, waterproof, exterior glue. I figure if this glue is designed to hold things together that are left outside in the weather then there’s probably not much you can do to damage the tankards.

The last step before applying the exterior finish is to close the hole in the bottom of the tankard that was used to hold it to the lathe. Note that not all tankards require this step. Sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious, I use my circle cutting jig on my bandsaw to cut the bottom ring for the vessels. When I do that, there is no hole to plug. To plug the holes, I use either half-inch dowel rods or hole plugs. If I use dowels, I glue the dowel into the hole making sure it is flush with the top and bottom of the bottom disk. If I use plugs, then I have to put one plug on the top (interior) and one plug on the bottom. I really haven’t decided if one way is better than the other. The hole plugs show ‘face grain’ which more closely matches the bottom ring grain and is more attractive in my opinion, but I the dowels have more surface area for the glue to adhere to. So the bottom line is that your tankard may come with a plug or a dowel or nothing at all. The majority of the time I tend to use plugs because, overall, I think they just look better and are less noticeable.

If the wood tankard is made of maple, I sometimes leave small knots in the tankards for a little extra character. The knots are really dark and show up nicely against the really light maple. If I have left any knots in, then I cover them with CA glue to be sure they remain tight during the finishing process. And just to be redundant, I guarantee them for life so you should have no worries when you buy one.

If I’m going to be applying the exterior finish to the tankards the following day I use an air compressor to blow off the tankard, inside and out.

Now it‘s time for finishing. I only apply finishes first thing in the morning. This is because the shop has had all night for all the minute dust particles (called dust motes) to settle. Which means a better finish with fewer dust motes.

I use a ‘tack cloth’ to remove any remaining dust the may still be attached to the unfinished exterior.

For the exterior, I use a minimum of three coats of finish and apply them with a foam brush. After each coat has dried, I lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper to remove any dust nibs that have attached and then apply another coat of finish. After this coat has dried for 24 hours, I do the same thing over again. I use a minimum of three exterior coats, sometimes more. If after three coats, there are any spots that aren’t showing high gloss, it’s because that part of the wood has soaked up a lot more of the finish (most likely the end grain portion of the wood) . If that happens, I add additional finish coats until all spots are glossy.

Once the interior and exterior is finished then I have to put a couple of coats of epoxy on the bottom of the tankards to keep them from absorbing any moisture they may come in contact with while sitting on a wet table. I apply the finish to the bottom and then wait 24 hours for it to set. Then repeat the process again.

The last step. Once the last coat is dry and has set for 24 hours, I fill the tankard/mug with water and let it stand for at least 24 hours. After 24 hours with no leaks, it’s time to dry it and put it up for sale. This step is for my peace of mind. I have never had a tankard leak and I have never been told of any tankard that has leaked.

The finishing process alone takes seven days. First interior coat, wait 24 hours. Second interior coat, wait 24 hours. Attach handle to tankard, wait 24 hours. Apply first exterior coat, wait 24 hours. Apply second exterior coat, wait 24 hours. Apply third exterior coat if necessary, wait 24 hours. Apply coating to bottom, wait 24 hours. These seven days does not take into account the actual cutting and gluing time either. All told it takes about 9 days to make a tankard from start to finish. Please keep this in mind if you want me to make you ‘something special’. You can’t rush mother nature (or two-part epoxy).

These wooden mugs and tankards should last a lifetime (see the guarantee section), but there are a few caveats that should be adhered to. Common sense is closer than caveat, but I kinda like the sound of caveat, (I hate admitting I like anything French).

CAVEATS:

First, these are for cold beverages only. They are not designed for hot beverages. The reason is that hot beverages cause the wood to swell as it is heated and then it contracts when it cools. Over time, this expansion and contraction weakens the joints. You don’t want a hot tankard of whatever your drinking to end up in your lap or on your expensive renfaire garb so use these for cold beverages only.

OK, I’ll answer the burning question, if hot beverages cause expansion and contraction and weaken the joints then why don’t cold beverages do the same thing? Good question. (Donning my professorial hat now) Let’s say your hot beverages start out at a piping hot 190 degrees and your cold beverages start out at a chilly 40 degrees. Now we have to assume that the environment you live in (and the tankard lives in) is around 80 degrees. So the cold beverage has a 40-degree difference and the hot beverage has a 110-degree difference. So the hot beverage will ‘stress the joint’ almost three times (2.75 actually) more than the cold beverage. (Removing my professorial hat now). Actually, when I use mine for beer, the cold doesn’t stay in my tankard very long at all so by quickly drinking my beer I’m actually reducing the stress on my tankard. Bonus.

Do not place these tankards in the freezer. They are not ‘freezer mugs’. For the reason for this, read the preceding paragraph.

Next, these are not dishwasher safe. This goes hand in hand with the above paragraph. If you put one of these in the dishwasher and it goes through the heated dry cycle, you will end up with a nice variety of wooden rings (possible new use as very large napkin rings) …. but you will no longer have a tankard.

If you use the wooden tankards/mugs for red wine then the red wine should not be allowed to ‘stand’ in the container. The manufacturer of the interior finish says that red wine can stain the epoxy so it should be cleaned immediately after use.

Okay, it should go without saying that if these are designed for cold beverages, then they shouldn’t be put in a microwave either. So unless you have some magical microwave that actually cools your beverages (I actually use a refrigerator for this) then do not put these in a microwave.

Do not use the mug or tankard if the interior finish ever chips or cracks because this will allow the liquid to penetrate to the wood. If this happens, the wood will swell and cause the ring to separate (to my knowledge, this has never happened but I feel I should mention it anyway). Return it to me and I’ll fix it or replace it but you have to pay the freight.

To clean, use warm (not hot) water, mild soap (no abrasives) and a sponge. Do not immerse the mug or tankard in water.

If the tankard gets scratched and it bothers you, you can use paste wax to remove (hide) small scratches (on the exterior only), just don’t apply it to the inside or top edge (even though I have never personally tasted paste wax, my natural instinct tells me paste wax would not be tasty). Back to top

DISCLAIMER:

We live in an extremely litigious society which makes it necessary that I say this. I will not be responsible for damage of any sort resulting from the use of these tankards.

GUARANTEE:

If you should ever drop one of these tankards and the handle comes off (not likely) you can return the tankard and the handle to me for repair or replacement, at my choice. It’s free but you have to pay the shipping. Or you can contact me and I’ll tell you how to do a home repair. A home repair won’t be as strong, but after you drop it and break it, you will naturally be more careful in the future…. right?

Quick side story here: I had a customer leave the Texas Renaissance Faire and she put her wooden tankard on the top of her car while she placed the rest of her belongings in the vehicle. Then she got in the car and drove off. According to her when she got up to about 30MPH she heard something hit her trunk and in her rearview mirror saw the tankard bouncing off of the pavement. After pulling over and going back she found her tankard in a ditch on the side of the road. It was definitely banged up but not broken. She called me and asked if I would take a look at it for her. When I received the tankard the first thing I did was fill it with water to see if it leaked. It didn’t. I did refinish the tankard and sent it back to what was at the time a very happy customer. That is the one and only time I have ever had a wooden tankard returned to me with any type of problem. It’s the end of the story but now you know why I can offer a lifetime guarantee against breakage and leaking. This coincidentally leads me to the next paragraph.

If the mug or wood tankard ever leaks, you can return it to me for a no-charge repair or replacement, again, my choice. The likelihood of a leak is remote (I do not know of a single tankard that has ever leaked), but if you are one of those, yeah but “what if” kind of people, then put your mind at ease.

Keep in mind that the pictures are of actual tankards and mugs but each tree is different (kinda like people), so each mug is different too. The pictures are close, but mother nature makes things interesting.

If after all of this, I still have not answered your question, then by all means contact me. I try to answer all questions within 24 hours but sometimes life gets in the way.

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ac

A touch of “Swan Song” and a dash of “The Stand”…Very good post-apocalyptic tale in the mode and mood of R. McCammon’s “Swan Song” and S. King’s “The Stand”. ★★★★★

Excerpt from Troop of Shadows:

Prologue
Colleyville, Texas
October

Dani cursed the weight of her backpack. The final two items from the ransacked Walgreens, crammed in as an afterthought ten minutes ago, might cost her everything. After surviving the last twelve months of hell only to be thwarted now by a can of Similac and a twelve-pack of Zest soap, would be sadly anticlimactic. Despite running at a full sprint down a dark suburban street, dodging overflowing garbage cans while eluding three men who would steal her hard-won tubes of Neosporin and likely rape and kill her in the process, she snorted at the thought of a fictional headline: Young Woman’s Life Ends Tragically but Zestfully Clean.

Damn it, she would ditch the backpack. She could come back tomorrow night for it, but right now staying alive outweighed any future benefit its contents might provide. As her pursuers rounded the corner behind her, she darted across the front lawn of a house and leaped over a cluster of dead juniper shrubs. A year ago, those shrubs had been green, manicured, and providing curb appeal to the upscale neighborhood; they functioned now as a hurdle component in the obstacle course Dani navigated on most nights.

She angled toward the side of the house and around the corner, only to come to an abrupt stop next to a six-foot barricade. Residents of these sprawling bedroom communities situated between Dallas and Fort Worth clung to their privacy fences as fiercely as their rural counterparts did to their firearms. Why all those day-trading dads and cheerleader moms required such secrecy was beyond Dani. She didn’t care. All that mattered was how difficult they made her nightly forages. Only idiots or people with a death wish traveled alone on the streets anymore. The clever ones navigated through backyards and drainage ditches, shadowed easements and alleyway, avoiding open spaces and other humans.

Especially humans traveling in groups.

Stealth and caution were second nature to her now, and she was pissed at herself for loading up the backpack with more weight than she could easily carry at a full run.

Rookie mistake.

She flung the pack into the undergrowth of a once meticulous garden, making a mental note of the enormous red tip photinia which camouflaged the bundle in a leafy shroud. She hoped to be alive the next day to retrieve it.

She clambered up the fence, finding a toehold on a warped plank, and squirmed over the top. A silver fingernail of a moon did little to illuminate the backyard. Weak starlight reflected off the inky surface of a half-empty, kidney-shaped swimming pool. Her Nikes gripped the concrete deck as she skirted the murky water and made a beeline for the back of the yard that was, of course, separated from its neighbor by a privacy fence. It was a tall one too — a full ten feet. There were no bushes or trees to use for leverage either. She scanned the area for anything that might serve as a step ladder.

Of all the yards she could have chosen for her escape, she’d picked one with a damn ten-foot fence.

Her heart raced from the sprint, but not from panic. Gone was the young woman from a year ago, the full-time floundering college dropout and part-time surly Starbucks barista who spent too much time reading books and not enough time looking for a job that would allow her to move out of her parents’ house. She was too smart for her own good, everyone had told her. She should have taken that secretarial position in North Dallas, but she would have lost her sanity in that environment. The tedious filing, the ringing phones, the office politics — in other words, hell on earth for a girl with an IQ over a hundred and fifty.

Despite the recent horrors, she’d come into her own at last, after twenty-one years of meandering through life unfocused and unchallenged. The extra twenty pounds she’d been carrying courtesy of Freddy’s cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos were gone, thanks to her newfound self-discipline and endless hours of Krav Maga training with Sam. Not only had she transformed her body, she’d elevated and strengthened her mind as well. Before the power had gone out, she’d watched countless tutorials on T’ai Chi, Qigong, and Buddhist meditation. During that same window — when people were beginning to get sick, but before most of them had died — she’d combed book stores and libraries within a fifteen-mile radius. When the country went dark and people realized that life-saving information was no longer available with a few keystrokes, Dani had amassed reference material on subjects as diverse as hydroponics and combat first aid, ancient meat drying techniques and bomb making. Between martial arts lessons with Sam, she spent every spare minute absorbing the printed esoteric knowledge like a greedy lizard on a sun-drenched rock.

Knowledge was survival.

When the first of the men slithered over the fence into the backyard, she hadn’t found anything to use as a foothold. Another figure followed behind him. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and released it from her lungs, slow and measured, then took off at a full run toward them. While she ran, fingers slid down to a leather sheath secured to her belt. Two seconds before she reached the first of her would-be assailants, a Ka-Bar — the grandaddy of tactical knives — was in her hand.

Dani used momentum and every ounce of her one-hundred-twenty pound frame to slam the first man into the second, knocking both assailants off-balance and unprepared for her next move: a vicious stab to the groin of the first. He collapsed to his knees. She followed with a backhand movement, opening up the throat of his companion. A similar gesture to the man with the injured groin silenced his moaning.

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