The Wolf Pack Chapter 7 Hambara

 

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CHAPTER 7

HAMBARA

The four travellers stood on a small hill overlooking the town of Hambara. It had taken almost a sixday to reach it after the rescue of Asphodel from the orcs. Those days had taken the travellers through the central mountains of Grosmer by way of deep passes. These mountains were small in comparison with the huge mountain ranges that surrounded the land, but were about two to three thousand feet in height.

During this time, the travellers had become firm friends, any lasting distrust evaporating in the camaraderie of travel.
Hambara was the largest town in the region. In fact it was the regional capital, ruling the duchy of Hambara, and second only to the capital city of Grosmer, Asperilla, in size and importance. Rolling hills through which the little party had travelled over the past few days surrounded it. There were large areas of woodland and some heath, which Fero surmised were hunting grounds. Small farms similar to that of Borolis and Elpin also studded the land around.

From their vantage point at the summit of the hill, the little group could see the town laid out before them as though they were looking at a map. The town had grown up at a crossroads where the roads which travelled north/south crossed those going east/west. It had begun as a trading post and fishing town, situated as it was on the Blue Lake, and had subsequently grown to an important merchant city. It was situated in a strategically important place in almost the centre of Grosmer.
In the centre of the town, from their vantage point, the travellers could see a large area of green with a building in it. From here, the four main roads radiated out to the cardinal points of the compass. Thus the town was divided into four main areas. There were walls around what had been the original town, with gates leading through them on the main routes, but now the town had spilled out to form a sprawling complex of buildings of various shapes and sizes.

These buildings seemed to form a number of concentric rings around the walls of the old town. It was obvious that some of them were dwellings. In the outermost ring, these dwellings were large and built in the main in squares, with gardens in the centre of the squares. The next ring in, were smaller dwellings with small gardens out at the back, but were obviously not the homes of the poor, they were just a little too fine and large for that. Maybe the people who worked for the rich merchants lived in them. Finally, there was a ring of what appeared to be warehouses and workshops just outside the walls. T

o the north, they could just glimpse the clear waters of the Blue Lake. They could not see the details inside the walls very clearly, but it seemed to be built on a different pattern, more as though the town were divided into quarters with the roads forming the borders.
‘So this is Hambara,’ stated Carthinal. He looked down on the town. ‘I suppose that area in the southwest inside the walls is the area of the temples and the mage tower. There seem to be a number of large buildings, some with spires, and I can see a tower standing up above everything else. It seems to be in some sort of green area. I think that’s where I’m going.’
‘It seems to be near the temples.’ Asphodel spoke quietly. ‘Maybe when we get to the town, we can both travel to our destinations together.

‘Where will you two go?’ she asked Basalt and Fero.
‘I’ll go to see if there are any vacancies in the town guard or the militia first,’ replied Bas. ‘They usually need some experienced fighters. After that, if I have no luck there, I’ll look for something in metalwork. What about you, Fero? Towns don’t seem to be places rangers like very much.’
‘True, friend, but a man must eat, and there are usually people who want a guide, either for hunting, or a journey. The militia sometimes employ rangers as scouts, too. I’ll see what happens when we get there. I may come with you to see if they want anyone,’ he went on, speaking to Basalt.
‘Well, standing here’s not getting us anywhere. We’d better move on. It’ll be dark in a couple of hours and I’d like to find somewhere to rest and have a bath.’ said Carthinal, ‘And I have a letter to deliver to Duke Rollo.’ he revealed, beginning to move off down the hill. The others quickly followed.
The companions soon found themselves passing through an area of fine houses. This was the area in which the nobles and very rich lived. Most of them seemed to be hidden away behind walls and gates, a sure indication that their owners considered that they needed to be away from prying eyes and safe from thieves and vagabonds.

Most were built in squares with gardens in the centre, as they had seen from the hill outside the town. These squares were paved with blocks to prevent mud from clogging up the wheels of carriages and the feet of people. Some of the houses had guards at their doors dressed in the livery of the house. All the guards seemed to be alert and ready to do their duty in preventing unwanted access.
Soon these houses gave way to houses without walls. These houses were built with their doors fronting onto the streets, but it was obvious that the people who lived there were not short of money. Finally, as the houses became less and less grand looking, they entered the area of warehouses.
They came to the gate just before the sun set. There was a nominal guard, but there was no sign of the gates being closed. When they asked if they were closed at night, the guard replied that they were not, as so many people lived outside the walls that they were forever opening and closing them to let people through.
‘It’s not as though there is a war or anything, is it? There are no enemies about to cause us problems since the country is no longer divided into separate kingdoms, and the other races such as orcs and hobgoblins don’t come near any more,’ the guard went on, leaning indolently against the wall of the guard house. ‘We always stop strangers to make sure they are not smuggling though. The merchants get angry if they think that cheap goods are coming into the town to undercut them. I suppose I’d better check your bags although you don’t look like merchants or smugglers. Must be seen to be doing the job.’
He made a very perfunctory search of their bags, simply opening them and looking inside. He did not move anything or take anything out.
‘Well, off you go then,’ he said. ‘I’ll pass you.’
‘It’s our first time in Hambara. Is there a good, reasonably priced inn you can recommend?’ asked Carthinal.
‘I’d try the Golden Dragon if I were you. It’s not far. Go down this road (called by the very imaginative name of Southgate Street!) and then take the second turning to the right, you’ll find yourself in Market Square. The Golden Dragon’s on the opposite side of the square. It’s clean, and the food’s plain, but good. You’ll get a bed there for a reasonable price. Tell the proprietor that Jandi sent you. He’s my sister’s husband and his name’s Keloriff. He’ll treat you well if he thinks you know me.’
They thanked Jandi, and walked on smiling.
‘I wonder how much custom Jandi drums up for his brother-in-law?’ said Fero. ‘It’s ideal for his brother-in-law to have a man at the gates to send strangers to him.’
The main streets in Hambara were cobbled and this made walking easier for the unpaved side streets appeared to be very muddy. It also showed the richness of the town for many towns at that time could not afford to do more than put wooden boards down to try to protect people from the ever-present mud. There was much traffic too, and they had to jump back several times to get out of the way of carts and carriages as well as some people on horseback.
They reached the second turning, and walked down the road for quite some time, until they were beginning to wonder if they had turned down the wrong street.

The street was lined with shops, all closed up for the night. They were timber framed, and had bricks between the beams in the main, but they could see a few that seemed to be wattle and daub. The roofs were all of a red tile and were all at different heights as the buildings all had different numbers of stories. Some had only two, while they saw some with as many as five or six.

Shutters were closed for the night, but occasionally a light could be seen gleaming through a crack as a shopkeeper worked late, checking his day’s takings, or an artisan was hard at work replenishing his stock.

Most of the shutters on the downstairs windows closed by pulling one shutter up and one down, the lower shutter acting as a counter during the day. Upstairs were more conventional shutters, again mainly closed against the cold of the late winter night. (Few people could afford glass for the windows.) Many houses’ upper stories overhung the cobbled street, making it gloomy in the fading light.

A channel ran down the centre to carry away waste and rainwater and occasionally there were gratings leading to the sewer tunnels below the town. This was one of the cobbled streets, which indicated that it was an important thoroughfare, and so the friends decided that they were on the right road after all.
Then they were suddenly out of the street and in a large open square. Around the sides of the square were various buildings, many of which were still open. These were obviously taverns, as evinced by their signs and the smell of ale and sounds of revelry coming from them, and in various parts of the square were stalls selling chestnuts, savoury and sweet pastries, pies, toffee apples and other candied fruits as well as hot drinks.

Some of the buildings were closed and shuttered, and these had signs of moneylenders and pawnshops hanging over them. There were two large buildings on opposite sides of the square. One had a big golden dragon painted on the sign that was swinging in the breeze, and the other was painted in bright and garish colours. Over the door it said “Madame Dopari’s Emporium.”
‘What is that building?’ queried Asphodel, looking at the reds, blues, oranges and gold that adorned it. ‘It looks truly awful with all those clashing bright colours.’
Carthinal coughed slightly and looked at Basalt, who shrugged as though to say, ‘You tell her.’
‘The colours denote that it is—how can I put it—well, a brothel, but it is a licensed one, and checked every few weeks. The girls are all checked for their health and if any are carrying infectious diseases, they are healed by the priests,’ he went on hurriedly. ‘You can tell it’s licensed by the red letter “L” in the circle at the left of the sign.’
All Asphodel could say was ‘Oh!’ and blushed. He hoped that she would not think he was well acquainted with such establishments. She would not appreciate such knowledge he was sure.
‘Let’s get to the inn,’ Fero interrupted, to try to ease the embarrassment that Asphodel was obviously suffering.
The inn was a welcoming place. From the outside, the lights shone brightly, illuminating the cold air. The door was open, and from within there came the sound of laughter and voices in eager conversation. It was obvious that the inn was a popular place in Hambara; a place where both residents and visitors came and were made welcome. The large door was in the centre of the outside wall, and there were large windows on either side. Over the door was a sign with a painting of a gold dragon, with the words ‘The Golden Dragon Inn’, and in smaller letters, ‘The Best In Town’.
It was built in a similar style to many of the other buildings, being timber-framed and brick with an overhanging upper story. This overhang had been put to good use in that a wooden veranda had been built all along the front so that in warmer weather, customers could sit and drink in the shade of the upper storey. The latter had many small windows overlooking the square.
‘Bedrooms,’ surmised Basalt to himself.
Three steps mounted to the door, and the four travellers climbed wearily up them and entered.
‘I’ll be grateful to sleep in a bed tonight,’ mused Carthinal. ‘I’ve had enough of the ground for quite a while.’
‘Me too,’ sighed Asphodel, ‘but I must go to the temple tomorrow to report.’
‘I, too, have to go to the Mage Tower to report for my tests,’ replied Carthinal, ‘I think I should first go to see this Duke Rollo, though, and give him this letter from Duke Danu.’
Carthinal had told his friends about the paper he’d found in Mabryl’s book, and they had all puzzled over its contents and what it meant. Now, after the flood and Asphodel’s capture by the orcs, they felt that it might be referring to the current time.
‘I’ll come with you,’ said Basalt. ‘I can vouch for the flood and the new arrival of orcs in the land if Rollo is sceptical.’
‘I’ll do the same,’ said Fero.
‘Thank you my friends,’ replied Carthinal, ‘but don’t you have business of your own? What about talk of finding work?’
‘That can wait for half a day, eh Fero?’ said Basalt. He turned back to the apprentice mage. ‘I’ve begun to consider you to be a friend after travelling with you these past days.’
‘Yes, we’ll come with you. Moral support and all that,’ This from Fero.
‘Thank you, I’d welcome your company.’
They entered the inn, which was very busy. There was a blazing fire in the fireplace set on the opposite wall of the inn, and there were tables and chairs scattered around the large and comfortable room. The bar was situated on the wall to the right of the entrance, and behind it was a door obviously leading to kitchens and probably the living quarters of Keloriff and Jandi’s sister. Stairs ascended from the left-hand side of the room to the rooms above. A young woman approached the group.
‘Find a seat and sit down, and I’ll be along in a moment,’ she said with a smile. ‘All right, Jolli, have some patience. I’ll be with you in a minute!’ she called to a large man who was trying to get her attention.

She turned to another man at a nearby table. ‘Now, sir, I can take your order. Did you want a meal or just a drink?’
‘There seems to be a free table over there, near the window,’ noticed Asphodel. ‘A pity it’s not nearer to the fire, but it seems to be quite warm everywhere in here.’
They took off their cloaks and went to sit down at the table. Shortly, the young woman came to them.

‘Now, what can I get you?’ she said.
‘First, we would like a meal,’ said Carthinal. ‘And a drink, then if you have any rooms, we would like a bed each.’
‘And we were told to tell you that Jandi sent us,’ added Basalt, smiling his most winning smile.
The young woman smiled back. ‘That brother of mine. Always trying to “help” us. As if we can’t get enough custom on our own. We’re nearly run off our feet every night these days. Not like it was when we took over. The inn was very run down, and we needed all the help we could get. Then Jandi’s recommendations were a godsend. Now they can make life a little too busy at times.’
‘If you don’t have any rooms, then maybe you could recommend somewhere else.’ said Asphodel.
‘Oh no. If you gentlemen don’t mind sharing, I can move a bed out one of the other rooms and the sister can have it to herself, then I can then put it into a room with two beds. I’ve only got the two rooms left. We’re very busy at the moment, and will get busier in the next few sixnights as people come into town for the celebration of spring.’
‘Of course,’ Asphodel said in surprise. ‘It’s only about three sixnights away. I’d forgotten.’
‘Yes. And the celebrations always attract a good crowd. They start a week before and culminate on the Equinox itself. If you are still here, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it immensely. There are games, dancing, entertainers and finally the Spring Procession—and the bonfires, of course. Now, I’ll go and sort out the rooms, and order your meal. We’ve got roast mutton and baked potatoes with roast vegetables if that will be to your taste?’
‘Sounds wonderful,’ a dreamy look came over Basalt’s face as he contemplated the meal. ‘I’ll have a tankard of your finest ale to go with it.’
‘For me too,’ said Carthinal  ‘What about you, Asphodel?’
Asphodel ordered a glass of white wine from the islands in the Inner Sea and Fero decided to have a red wine from the same region.
Soon the meal arrived. The simple fare seemed like feast fit for the gods themselves, so hungry were they. They ate in silence, each of them relishing the good cooking, and meat other than rabbit, pigeon or dried beef. They finished off the meal with fruit brought by the landlady, whose name turned out to be Mabrella.
‘Would you like to use the bath house?’ Mabrella asked as she came to clear away their dishes.
‘Oh yes please,’ responded Asphodel. ‘I wouldn’t like to turn up at the temple looking and smelling like this.’
‘I’ll show you to your rooms and then to the bathhouse. You’ll have to take it in turns as it has only one bath.’
With that, Mabrella turned and made her way to the stairs. As she reached the stairs, she turned to them and said, ‘You can wash your clothes, and if you leave them in there, hanging on the line, the warmth will dry them.’
‘Thank you,’ replied Carthinal ‘I’ll be glad of clean robes.’
‘Are you here to take your Apprentice Tests?’ queried Mabrella. ‘only I notice that you are an apprentice. There are some tests due to begin soon, I believe.’ Mabrella glanced at Carthinal’s tawny-red robes.
‘Yes I am,’ replied Carthinal. ‘We had a little trouble at the ford on the Brundella. There was a flood and the entire caravan was swept away except for Asphodel, Basalt and myself. Asphodel and I were very lucky to have just about got across when the flood struck, but Basalt was swept downstream. We met him later on the road, then Fero turned up, which was lucky, as I don’t think that two of us would have made it. Fero’s hunting and tracking skills are excellent, and he kept us from starving.’
They reached the landing, and Mabrella showed them to a pair of doors that stood opposite each other at the end of the corridor.
‘Sister, I’ve given you the room overlooking the square,’ Mabrella addressed Asphodel in the customary way the people addressed the clergy. ‘It is a much more interesting view. Gentlemen, your room overlooks the stable yard and the bathhouse. I hope you don’t mind, but as I said, they’re the last two rooms we have.’ apologised Mabrella.
‘Anything with a proper bed will do me,’ replied Bas. ‘Even if it is in the cellar with no view at all.’
‘I don’t think they would allow a dwarf to sleep in the cellar with all that ale stored there,’ teased Carthinal.
Basalt responded with ‘Humph!’

Asphodel entered the room and sat down on the bed with a sigh. She looked out of her window down onto the Market Square. It was going dark so she could only see from the light streaming out of the inn windows and the taverns and the brothel. The stallholders seemed to be doing a good trade from the local people. This square seemed to be a natural meeting place for the townsmen and women.

Many folk were buying their evening meal from the stall- holders and wandering around chatting to friends and neighbours whilst eating the various goodies they had bought. There were both rich and poor there, she could see, but the rich did not seem to be eating as much as the poor. They would be going home to a good meal cooked by their staff, she suspected.
Then Asphodel turned her attention to the room. It was not large, but very clean. It had pale green curtains at the windows, and the walls were painted a slightly darker green. There was, as well as the bed, a large cupboard and a chest of drawers. Someone had been in and lit a fire in the small fireplace, above which was a mantelpiece with some glass ornaments.

An oil lamp burned on a table under the window, giving off a warm, cheery glow. Asphodel sighed. It was good to be back in civilisation. She was looking forward now to getting to the temple, whatever the letter that Mother Caldo had written to accompany her said. Now to get clean.
Picking out a clean, white robe and scarlet sash from her pack, she wandered down towards the bathhouse. She found it easily enough from the steam rising from the chimney, and she entered to find again, a clean and welcoming room. There was a large copper boiler in one corner with a fire burning under it. It was filled to the brim with water, which was nearly boiling.

Standing next to it was a bucket, obviously for taking the water to the bath. In the other corner was a pump, with another bucket, for filling with cold water to cool the hot water so that it was amenable to the skin.

She took a bucket of the hot water and tipped it into the sunken bath in the centre of the room. When she had almost half-filled the bath with the hot water, she added cold from the pump until it was a cool enough to enter.

There were bars of soap in a glass pot. It was expensive soap, with a pleasant perfume. She selected one with the scent of lavender and then, after undressing, she stepped into the bath and leaned back luxuriating in the warmth of the water.

She soaped herself all over and then washed her long black hair, which she rinsed with clean water from the pump. Lying back in the bath, Asphodel almost fell asleep. She had not realised how tired she was.

Soon she decided that she had better go back to her room and sleep in the bed—oh yes! The Bed—so that the others could use the bathhouse, rather than sleeping in the bath.

She quickly washed her robe and hung it on the line, and then after towelling herself dry with the fluffy warm, white towels that were provided, she slipped into her clean robe and left the bathhouse.

It was cold outside and she hurried across the courtyard to the inn and up the stairs. Once back upstairs she knocked on the door of the room that the others were sharing and told them that she had finished and that they could use the bath house, and she slipped into her bed and within minutes was fast asleep.

 

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Two poems appearing in The Wolf Pack

Today I am posting some poems found by the characters in The Wolf Pack. They are prophetic poems that helped the companions find Sauvern’s Sword.

There are a number of poems appearing in this book. Some are in the language of the Elves’

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Prophecy found by Carthinal

When Kalhera descends from the mountains,
And orcs once more roam the land,
When impossible beasts occur
And the never-dying man is once more at hand.
Then the Sword that was lost must once more be found;
Only it can destroy the threat
And kill the immortal mortal
To balance out his debt.

 

Clue found by Asphodel and Fero
To the whereabouts of Sauvern’s Sword

Deep in the forest lies the tomb
Protected from all evil.
Sauvern lies as in the womb,
Safe from man or devil.

His Sword is resting by his side
Awaiting call to action.
When danger lurks on every side
You need the Sword’s reaction.

But first, 6? 8? questers bold must go
To Sauvern’s tomb, surrounded
By Guardians strong, no fear must show
Or from there they will be hounded.

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Thoughts on the Paris atrocities.

 

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I was greatly shocked and saddened by the events in Paris on Friday. I am afraid that I cannot understand the mentality of these people who think it is right to kill and maim in the name of their God.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about these in the last two days and have decided to put some of my thoughts down. I am also publishing early as it is pertinent right now. My usual blog will now be a week on Tuesday and will be a sample of my writing.

Firstly, I could not understand how Isil, Isis, Islamic State or whatever they call themselves, could not see how their actions hardened the thoughts of people against them and provoked hatred for Islam, but then on Sunday I read a comment from a friend of a friend on Facebook. He said that Isis is doing this in order to deliberately provoke an Islamaphobic backlash so that they can say they are in a war. Or perhaps they want to actually provoke a war, but to what end? Do they really think they can win with most of the world against them?

Having said that, I still cannot understand how people can believe the lies told by these people. Firstly, they are fighting against people who worship the same God, whatever they call Him, Allah, God, Yahweh, Jehovah etc. They even look upon Jesus as a prophet. Do they really think that God would like them to kill other people who already worship Him, albeit in a different way? Would it not be more acceptable in the eyes of the Deity to have people come to Him in belief rather than being killed with no attempt at conversion?

Christians, Jews and Muslims are all Children of the Book. Jews and Muslims both trace their ancestry back to Abraham. Moses is in both the Bible and the Quran, hence the 10 commandments also. There are a few differences in these between the Old Testament and the Quran. To me, it seems that the Quran elaborates more. Now one of the Old Testament commandments says ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ It leaves it at that and says no more about it. The Quran, on the other hand says that one should not ‘…take life, which God has made sacred—except for just cause.’

It seems to me that the extremists have taken that and said that killing Christians and Jews is a just cause. However, the Quran goes on to add ‘…unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land.’ Allah, therefore says that murder is wrong. It goes on to say that unjust killing of an innocent person is wrong also. Were those people out on a Friday night, at the end of a long week at work, not innocent? How many of them had committed murder or ‘spread mischief  in the land?’

The Quran states that Christians and Jews are ‘People of the book’ and are in the ranks of the righteous…for them is a reward with their Lord. This does not seem to say that killing Christians and Jews is right.

Now I am not an Muslim, and therefore only know what I read in books and on the Internet about the Quran. If I am wrong in any of my statements above, I am willing to stand corrected, but I do know many Muslims that are as appalled as most of the world about these atrocities. They all say that this is a twisted form of Isla,.

I have heard it said that Christians used to be as bad, and that we went out to fight the ‘Infidel’ as we called the Muslims at the time. But that was over 600 years ago. We also had the Inquisition and tortured people into ‘belief’. We have come a long way since then and in the modern world these things are looked on as appalling. It seems that Isis wants to go back to those days of barbarism.

It is also true that the worst feuds are between close relatives. Well, it seems that is true of religions too. 3 religions that have such a lot in common and always seem to be at each other’s throats. First the Jews were  treated very badly in the Middle Ages and then, of course, the holocaust, then the Crusades in the Middle Ages waged by Christians against Muslims, now terrorism by groups like Isis.

I will just finish by again by sending my sympathy and thoughts to the people of France. They must not let these terrorists win. They must keep on doing as we British did during the Irish Troubles and get on with their lives. That’s the best answer that they can give to t he terrorists. Don’t be terrorised!

If you find any of what I have said above to be inaccurate, please let me know via the comments section.

 

7 more commonly confused words

 

 

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I first of all apologise to everyone for being late with my blog this week. You can blame NaNo in part, but also I had to go out Monday and yesterday.

Anyway, here are another 7 commonly confused words.

PRACTICE/PRACTISE.

Practice. This is a verb. It is what you do when learning to play the piano. Your teacher would say:

‘You must PRACTICE for half an hour every day’

Practise. This is a noun. It is where the doctor or lawyer practices his/her calling.

e.g.  I hear there is a new doctors’ PRACTISE opening in the town.

CONFIDENT/CONFIDANT

Confident. When you are CONFIDENT you are sure of yourself.

e.g. I am confident that I will pass my driving test this time.

Confidant. This is someone you confide in.

e.g. I have always told my best friend my secrets. She is my CONFIDANT.

UNCONSCIOUS/SUBCONSCIOUS
The second of these two words is almost always substituted by unconscious. It really irritates me!

Unconscious. This is what happens when you get a blow to the head.

e.g. When the piano fell from the second floor, the man walking beneath was knocked UNCONSCIOUS

Subconscious. This is a word used in psychology. It means the part of the mind that you are unaware of, yet it still acts to bear on your actions.

e.g. The doctor said that it was Mary’s SUBCONSCIOUS that was making her afraid of snakes.

UNIQUE/RARE

Unique. When something is unique, there is only one of it. It does not mean very uncommon Thus you cannot have grades of uniqueness.

e.g. I am told that this is the last dodo on Earth. It is UNIQUE.

Rare. Something that is uncommon. You can have gradations of rareness.

e.g. The hedgehog is becoming increasingly RARE in the United Kingdom. There numbers are decreasing rapidly.

THEORY/THEOREM

This one I came across in a book I was reading only the other day. It was not one I would have thought to put in otherwise.

Theory. This is an idea that explains something. It is usually based on some evidence.

e.g. Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree and reasoned out the THEORY of gravity.

Theorem. This is a mathematical term whereby a proposition is shown to be true by a chain of logical reasoning, based on accepted truths.

e.g. Pythagoras managed to prove the THEOREM that now bears his name.

LIBEL/SCANDAL

Libel. This is bringing someone’s reputation into disrepute by something you’ve written.

e.g. The journalist was accused of LIBEL by the man she had reported to be the thief.

Scandal. The gossips in the village were accused of spreading scandal about the vicar and his housekeeper.

VISCOUS/VICIOUS

This one I saw in a thread I was following the other day. It was another that I hadn’t though of before.

Viscous. A thick, slow-flowing liquid.

e.g. In order to get syrup to drop easily from the spoon you need to make it less VISCOUS. You can do this by heating it up by dipping the spoon into hot water before getting the syrup.   (This is quite a good tip.)

Vicious. It actually means addicted  to vice, but nowadays it has come to mean more along the lines of vicious.

e.g. The growling of the dog behind  the door sounded vicious.

Those are this week’s commonly confused words. I hope you enjoyed them. If you did, please leave a comment, and if you didn’t, please leave a comment too explaining what you thought was wrong with them.

The Wolf Pack Chapter 6 Horselords

First Tuesday of the month again, and time for the next episode of The Wolf Pack. Here we meet a couple of Horselords from over the Western Mountains. They will come to play a big part in the lives of Carthinal and his friends.

If you have missed earlier parts and would like to catch up, the story began in June.

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CHAPTER 6

HORSELORDS

Kimi crept silently out of the house. She paused to listen with bated breath as the outside door creaked slightly as she opened it, but the house remained silent, her parents and brothers fast asleep. Carefully, she closed the door, hoisted her pack onto her shoulders and slipped away into the night.
Once she had reached the enclosure containing the horses, she opened the gate to allow the animals to run free. She regretted doing this, but it would delay any search for her as the horses would need to be caught first, both to mount a pursuit and for the safety of the animals. She offered a prayer to Grillon, the god of wild things, to keep his creatures away from the beasts during the time they were free. The animals seemed reluctant to leave the enclosure, so Kimi got down from the fence where she had climbed and whacked the lead stallion on the rump. He whickered in indignation, but at another whack, he galloped through the open gate, followed by the mares, geldings and foals. Only then did Kimi turn her attention to leaving. She looked at the house that had been her home for all her seventeen years. She was sure she was doing the right thing even though her parents had told her it was wrong. Davrael was an honourable man, and his father was a chief, not that that would mean anything now since his father was as adamant they should not marry as were her own parents.
Kimi had met Davrael six months before when he had rescued her from the war party of an enemy tribe who had abducted her from her home. He had returned her to her parents, who were very grateful, but not before the pair had fallen in love. Unfortunately, the settled people, who were horselords that had decided they could rear better horses by settling in one place, were mistrusted by the wandering bands, and vice versa. So both Davrael’s father and Kimi’s parents refused permission for the couple to marry. In fact, they went further. Both groups forbade the match and told the pair that they would disown them if they went ahead. The lovers managed to meet as frequently as possible in secret, a difficult task when Davrael was wandering the plains following his tribe’s horses, and eventually they had agreed that the only way for them to be together was to leave the land of their birth entirely. They had planned to meet a mile from Kimi’s home in the forest clearing where they had so often met before.
Kimi had never been able to really believe that Davrael had fallen in love with her. She was not pretty, but she had glossy, dark brown hair worn long and in two braids over her shoulders in the manner of the horselord women. Her eyes were hazel and her nose small. She always felt that her mouth was too large for the rest of her face, but it was well shaped and always ready to smile. She was a tiny girl, barely five feet and slender as a reed with small, neat breasts and boyish looking hips. Davrael on the other hand was a handsome and fierce looking warrior of the Swooping Hawk tribe. As the son of the chief and the probable next chief, he had, tattooed on his face, the image of a hawk. Its wings swept over his eyebrows with its fierce head along his straight nose, looking down at its prey, its feet spread ready to pounce, on his cheeks. At first glance, he was a frightening sight, but those who looked closely could see a kindness in his brown eyes. He was about five feet ten and had a muscular figure with broad shoulders and narrow hips. He was carrying no fat at all and his muscles were hard as iron with the life he led as a nomadic herder. His hair, a dark brown, similar in colouring to Kimi’s but a little lighter, was worn loose about his shoulders and kept from his eyes by a leather headband. Both wore leather leggings and fringed leather tunics over woollen shirts in a similar brown colour. Davrael had a dark green cloak and Kimi a brown one.
The couple had chosen this night to elope, because the moon, Lyndor was three quarters full. Ullin, although just past full, had set by the time Kimi left. There would be sufficient light for them to see their way, and thus travel more quickly, but not so much that they would show up too clearly if they were followed quickly. The omens were good too, for full moons meant good things to come. If either of them were concerned by the fact that Ullin was in truth just beginning to wane, meaning that there were good things, but passing and transitory, they did not think of it. They were just too happy that they were at last going to be in each other’s company forever.
Kimi approached the forest clearing cautiously. At first, she could see nothing, and she felt a moment of fear that Davrael was not there. She knew that if he did not arrive, it would be because something had happened and her heart seemed to falter in her breast at the thought. Then she heard a soft jingle of harness and the gentle harrumph of a horse. When she looked to her right, she saw, in the shadows, someone holding the reins of two horses, a bay gelding and a dappled grey mare.
Davrael. She breathed a sigh of relief, and at that slight sound, the man turned and, letting go of the horses, ran towards her and swung her up in his arms before kissing her soundly.
Kimi laughed with pleasure at seeing her beloved, but there was no time to waste. Davrael quickly fetched the horses and the pair leaped on to them and set off at a steady canter towards the west. They headed for the pass through the mountains the Grosmerians called the Western Mountains, but the people of the plains called The Barrier, since it kept the people from the east away from their lands. The horselords rode bareback, eschewing such things as saddles. They also had no use for bits on their mounts’ bridles, considering it a violation of the horse and a symbol of slavery for their beloved animals.
They rode on until it was nearly dawn, through wooded land that slowly began to become hillier towards the east. Soon they decided that enough distance had been put between themselves and any followers so they stopped by a stream, and tended to their horses before anything else. Only then did they run into each other’s arms.
As they sunk down onto the grass, Davrael said, ‘We can’t stay too long in one place, little Mouse. They’ll have found out you’re missing by now I expect, or will do very shortly. We have about six hours start on them, that’s all, and they’ll be on fresh horses. If we sleep here for long, they’ll be on us. The horses need to rest though, and I needed to hold you, if only for a short time.’
Kimi smiled at her lover. ‘I think they may be longer than you think in mounting a pursuit, Davrael. They’ll have to find and catch the horses first.’
‘You let the horses out? Clever girl. But we must still limit our time here. I couldn’t bear to lose you after all we’ve been through.’
‘Nor I you, my darling,’ replied the girl.
They spent the next few days travelling ever eastward until they came to the pass over the mountains, and here they slowed. The passes were treacherous at the best of times, and it was winter still. Snow sometimes blocked the passes, and they both hoped they would be lucky and get through. The skies were leaden above them, heavy with more snow. Snow lay on the ground and banked up on the windward side of rocks and trees. The mountains of The Barrier towered over the pass through which they rode. The horses were gallantly plodding their way through the snow of the high pass, obedient to their riders’ demands. Davrael and Kimi were also cold. Very cold. It was the month of Majordar, which was the middle month of winter. Winter had begun with the solstice. Only now did Davrael think that maybe their haste had been ill considered, and wondered if they would have been better to wiat until spring arrived.
‘Davrael Swooping Hawk! Don’t you ever think such a thing,’ Kimi told him angrily when he ventured to say this one very cold night. ‘I would prefer to die here with you than live a moment longer in the comfort of my own home, if it meant I was living without you. I love you, and want to be with you all the time, no matter what the discomforts and hardships.’
Davrael sighed at her reply. ‘I’m sorry I said that, Mouse,’ he replied, ‘But I hate to see you so cold and hungry. I love you too much to bear the thought of you dying, even if I were to die with you, and I can’t live without you.’
So they clung together for warmth, and snuggled nearer to the fire, covered with furs and endured yet another night of cold.
The next morning, the pass began to descend towards Grosmer, and as they came to lower lands, they began to feel a little warmer, the bitter wind seemed blocked by the mountain range, and there was a little less snow. After a couple of days journeying, they found themselves at the walls of a town.
Neither of them had seen a town like Eribor before. There were few towns in their lands, and those that there were, were more a conglomeration of wooden huts, rather than true towns. This town, however, was built of stone. There were stone walls surrounding it, and a large stone keep. As they passed through the gates the guard stopped them. He demanded they state their business. They were under suspicion as Davrael’s tattoo of a hawk stooping on its prey, which he proudly wore on his face, marked him out as a Horselord of the Swooping Hawk Tribe, and one of some rank too. Kimi was also dressed as a woman of the plains in leather jerkin and trousers and with her hair in braids.
‘What brings the Horselords over the mountains?’ the guard demanded of them. ‘You lot are rarely seen this side of the range.’
They looked at each other. Both had managed to pick up a little Grosmerian, but Kimi, having been a settler, had managed a little more than Davrael since her family had traded from time to time with the people of Grosmer. The couple had decided that she would do most of the talking, but what should she say? If they said they were fugitives and outcast, they would undoubtedly be thrown into jail and thus separated if only until the law could run its due course. Then again, if they said they were running away from their parents to get married, they may be detained and returned. A consideration they could not contemplate.
‘We are on an important errand for Davrael’s father, the Chief of the Swooping Hawk Tribe,’ Kimi told them. ‘We are taking a message to Hambara for him.’
Kimi said the name of the only other town she knew of in Grosmer. Many years ago, her grandfather had travelled to that city, but Kimi could not remember why.
‘Do you have a copy of this message to show me to confirm this?’
‘Horselords no writing,’ Davrael put in, in halting Grosmerian, but looked at the guard with his most haughty expression. He truly did look like the son of a chief at that moment, and the guard quailed before his gaze.
‘Well, I suppose it will be all right to let you in. You look as if you need rest and food. There’s an inn just on the right, about fifty yards from the gate. It’s clean and not too expensive. It’s called the Invisible Mage. The sign has a picture of a mage on it.’ he added, remembering that the Horselords did not read and write. ‘He’s perfectly visible, even though the inn’s called the Invisible Mage, but I suppose it would be difficult to draw an invisible person, wouldn’t it?’
He laughed at his own wit, and opened the gate to allow them entry to the town.
As they entered, Davrael turned to Kimi. ‘I think we’ll have to sell one of the horses, Mouse,’ he said. ‘We’ve no Grosmerian coins and we’ll have to pay for somewhere to stay and we have to eat too.’
‘Oh, Davrael,’ exclaimed Kimi in dismay. She knew just what it would mean to him to sell one of his beloved horses. Horselords lived for their animals, and measured their wealth by the quality and quantity of their beasts. He was right, though. They had no money. In their land, all marketing was done on a system of barter. In the end, they decided to sell the gelding and to keep the mare as long as possible. If they could manage to keep her, they could use her as breeding stock once they got settled.
They led their horses through the streets. Sure enough, as the guard had told them, there was the Invisible Mage, but more important, right opposite was a livery. Davrael turned and led the horses through the gate.
‘We would like to sell this gelding,’ Kimi said to the man.
He turned to the horse and looked it over. He gave it a thorough examination to ensure himself it was sound, then turned to Kimi and said, ‘He’s not worth much, you know.’
Kimi understood about bargaining. She had seen the gleam in the man’s eye when he looked at the animal. It was a fine creature. One of the best the man had seen, she did not doubt, although not one of the best of Davrael’s father’s horses she knew. To take one of his tribe’s finest animals would not be Davrael’s way. So she bargained with the man and eventually got what she considered too low a price for such a magnificent animal, but it was obvious the man was not going to go any higher, so with money jingling in a pouch, they made their way over to the Invisible Mage.
They spent a couple of nights in the town, and were excited by all the new sights and sounds and smells of the place. However, they eventually decided they were not far enough away from the border where a pursuing party might come when they decided that the couple must have crossed The Barrier. They would be easy to find, as they were so distinctive. They decided to continue in an easterly direction towards Hambara.
They had few solid plans, but Davrael thought they might have more of a chance of finding work in a larger town. They walked and rode for the next few days, taking it in turns to ride Moonbeam, as Kimi had named the dappled mare, and resting either in inns or friendly farms when available, or sleeping rough when not. They paid with the money they had obtained from the sale of the gelding, and were forced to consider the possibility of having to sell Moonbeam. Kimi had become very fond of the mare on their journey and regretted they may have to sell her.
One day, as the couple was travelling through wooded country and it was getting dusk, they found themselves in a clearing, so decided to rest for the night. It was the last night of Majordar, and bitterly cold. An easterly wind was blowing from the Mountains of Doom, bringing a promise of a freezing night. There was a spring in the clearing, turning into a small stream which gurgled its way through the trees on its way to join the Avrimar, the river that passed close to Eribor, and hence to the Inner Sea by way of the Mistmere. They lit a fire to try to keep some of the cold at bay and to cook the last of their provisions, bought from a friendly farmer the previous day, and then settled down close to the fire to rest.
Suddenly, Kimi became aware of a growing light in the clearing. She opened her eyes, thinking that it could not possible be dawn yet as they had only just got to sleep. The clearing seemed to be filled with a soft golden light, and a feeling of peace and calm stole over her. She felt Davrael stir at her side, and then sit up and look around. The voice came then, soft and gentle.
It was a deep male voice, and it said, ‘Kimi, Davrael, my children. Do not be afraid, but approach the spring.’
They looked at each other and stood. The voice, although kind and gentle seemed to command their obedience so they walked hand in hand to the spring, which now seemed to look more like a beautiful fountain to their eyes. They did not see the figure at first, but then he spoke again.
‘You are blessed, my children. Love such as yours is a wonderful and rare thing. You have both given up much to be together, and you will be rewarded. I believe you wish to be committed to each other for the rest of your lives?’
‘Who are you?’ they both said at once. ‘And how do you know who we are?’ Kimi added.
‘That matters not,’ the voice replied. ‘Do you wish to vow to each other eternal love and fidelity?’
The shadowy figure stepped forward and they saw a man dressed as a scribe, carrying a scroll and a pen. He had white hair, but his face did not look old, and he was wearing a purple robe, the colour worn by the clerics of Zol, the god of learning and the consort of Kassilla, the chief deity.
After exchanging a brief look, the young couple replied in the affirmative.
‘Step forward to the spring,’ commanded the cleric.
This they did, and he asked them to speak their promises to each other.
‘Say whatever is in your heart,’ he told them, and I will record it on the scroll. Davrael began. He looked deep into Kimi’s eyes and said, ‘Kimi, my little Mouse, I promise you that I will always love you. I will give my life for you if that is necessary. I will never love another. You are my reason for living, and without you I am incomplete. This I swear before the gods themselves.’
Then Kimi replied, ‘Davrael, my one and only love, I swear before all the gods that I have never loved anyone else the way I love you. I will remain faithful to you for my entire life. Even if you should die before me, I will remain faithful to your memory, and if I should die before you, I will wait for you beyond the veil until we can go on or be reborn together.’
Their promises made, the strange man then said, ‘Enter the fountain together, and be bathed in its waters.’
After they had done so, the scribe smiled at them both, then became more serious. ‘Your promises have been noted and are irrevocable. You can now consider yourselves married. Your lives will not be easy my children.’ he went on. ‘You will face tragedy, but you will also know great happiness, and as you share your great love, you will also come to know great friendship too. You have a task before you. It will not be easy, but you have each other’s love to aid you. Go in peace, my children.’
With that, the figure disappeared. Kimi thought she heard glorious music for a while, but then that too faded. The pair looked around and to their surprise, the winter glade had become transformed by a profusion of spring flowers, which were definitely not there before. The newly married couple then returned to their bed by the fire, silently wondering exactly what had just happened.
The next morning, when they awoke, Kimi related a strange and beautiful dream to Davrael. Oddly, he too seemed to have had the same dream. They rose and went to wash in the stream. Half way there, Kimi stopped and silently pointed to their surroundings. There in the glade were hundreds of spring flowers.
‘Could it have been real, Davrael?’ she whispered. ‘Who was that man?’
Her new husband put his arm around her and hugged her to him. ‘I think, my little Mouse, we have been in the presence of one of the gods. I think that Zol himself has married us.’