Used the few hours i had available this weekend trying to see what options are there to get Lua running as an Apache2 module. Shortly put, i knew about two routes: Kepler's mod2 and mod_wombat (which is supposed to be part of apache some day)
Asked about the source for mod_wombat and promptly got what i needed (thanks Brian!). looked around in the docs. looks really similar to mod_python (and i guess to mod_perl??), it can keep a pool of LuaStates, with some code preexecuted on each process, and call a specified function to process client requests. just what i hoped.
now the bad news... it says "You may user (and I encourage you to!) the threaded MPMs"; but PHP5 doesn't run in a threaded apache. ??? i had no idea it was so limited! so i guess the preforked MPM is the most used apache build. who runs apache without PHP?
then came Kepler's mod2 time. i didn't have high hopes on this because the "build everything from scratch for each request" architecture in Kepler was what motivated me to write what later became Xavante.
looking around in the mod2 launcher code confirmed it: there's a small Lua layer that is clearly called with a new, clean LuaState for each request. useless.
but i also found a nice preprocessor switch: some #if LUA_STATE_PER_REQUEST and #if LUA_STATE_PER_PROCESS to change where and when are the LuaStates created! could that be what i was looking for? of course, i was sure that code would be far less tested than the 'standard' LUA_STATE_PER_REQUEST; but still it would be easier to debug it with the kepler guy's help. but... no, it can pre-create the LuaState, but it doesn't execute _any_ code! still waits for the client's request to load, compile and execute the main Lua files. Ugh.
in conclusion: it will be mod_wombat (as i could have guessed from the start); but it's a pity not to use it how the author "encourages" to do.