An Interview with Davrael. The Wolf Pack.

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I have managed to get Davrael to agree to do an interview. This was a difficult task as he is a very private person, but eventually my power of persuasion triumphed. I was a bit afraid when Imet him. He is an imposing man, and the hawk tattoo on his face, wings over his eyebrows, head and beak down his nose and talons on his cheeks was very intimidating. Here is what he said:

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Me: Good afternoon, Davrael. Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I know you are not very keen on publicity.

Davrael: No. I not speak your language too good. It is difficult for me.

Me: I will try to make it as easy as I can for you. Please tell me something of the life of the Horselords.

Davrael: We, as you know, live for horses. Our horses are best on whole of Vimar. We respect them not just use them.

Me: What do you mean by that?

Davrael: We never put them to do things unnatural. We do not enslave them with saddles or bits to make it easier for us. We never beat them, but talk to them and are gentle.

Me: But don’t you use them for food?

Davrael: Yes, but we apologise to horse. He allow us to eat him. We thank Grillon for horse too and we grieve for him when he die. If we not eat horse sometimes, we not survive. If we lost in dry places, horse allow us to drink his blood so we do not thirst. Mares allow us to drink milk too even though it is for foals.

Me: How many horses do your tribe own?

Davrael: We not own horses. They are own masters. We follow when they move to different grazing grounds.

Me: But the horses that you ride;  surely you can’t say they are their own masters?

Davrael: Yes. They allow us to ride and use them, but they not belong to us. To answer your first question, there are 300 horses that allow my tribe to be with them.

Me: That is a lot of horses.

Davrael: Yes. Swooping Hawk tribe very rich. Look after horses well so horses breed well.

Me: Tell me about your family then.

Davrael: I my father’s heir. I second son, but it not auto…automatic…is that the word? for eldest to inherit. My father think that I would be better to see after horses than my brother. I have 2 sisters too. They younger than me. Probably married by now. I not hear since I leave The Plains.

Me: Your father is chief of the Swooping Hawks I understand.

Davrael: Yes. He great chief. We always win fights with other tribes. He good at tactics.

Me: Why do you war with other tribes?

Davrael: Over land–territory, over stealing horses, over stealing women; things like that.

Me: Would you have become chief after your father if you had not left?

Davrael: Perhaps, perhaps not. It depend on other men in tribe. Elders. They vote, but usually it is heir of last chief. Only if they think he not fit will they vote for another. Usually no one challenges. Sometimes, if elders not agree, contestants must fight and winner is chief.

Me: Is it not a hard life, wandering The Plains.

Davrael smiled: Before I came to Grosmer. I not think so. I used to it, and love the horses. Now I get soft with easy living. No need to look for place to camp near water for animals and people, soft beds, not hard mats on floor, stone walls that keep out cold and heat, not hide tents that are cold in winter and hot in summer.

Me: But when you were on your quests with Carthinal and the others. That must have been a bit like your life on The Plains.

Davrael: Yes, but that before we settle to soft life. We only just come over the Barrier–The Western Mountains, you call them.

Me: We?

Davrael: Me and Kimi. We run away because our parents not wish us to marry.

Me: Why was  that?

Davrael: I am son of Chief of Swooping Hawks. Kimi is daughter of a nobody. She also is daughter of settlers. Nomads think settlers no good. Settlers think nomads no good. So we run away.

Me: Is that why you ended up in Grosmer?

Davrael: Yes. We first come to big city, Eribore. I not seen anything as big. Walls all round of stone. We think we not stay there. Too near home, so we go to Hambara. It even bigger city. Kimi find inn and there we meet Carthinal, Basalt, Fero and Asphodel. They kind to us and take us on adventure. Other folk kind too. Duke Rollo give us work after we return. We  think of Grosmer as our land now.

Me: You would not go back to The Plains?

Davrael: No. We have no home there now. Our families have disowned us. Our home and country is Grosmer.

Me: Thank you very much for your time.

Are You Genre-Phobic?

YA Author Rendezvous

Young Adult Books Genre PhobicAre you genre-phobic, by T.D. Shields.

Are you a genre-phobe? Do you love to read fantasy but avoid romance like the plague?

Sci-fi flips your switch but horror makes you flip out?

I’m right there with you. Through the years I’ve had many genre phobias, but I notice that mine tend to shift over time.

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t get enough of romance novels. I loved to read about people older than me living exciting lives where I could picture myself as part of the adventure. Now that I am the older person, I love to read Young Adult fiction for stories about people younger than me living exciting lives while I imagine being part of the adventure.

I tend to avoid horror and zombie books because of the gore… yet a serial killer thriller is a must-read in spite of the gore. Inconsistent, I know…

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Please help me with a title for my book

I am searching for a title for my latest book. I have a working title of ‘The Elements’, but that doesn’t even grab me, let alone potential buyers.

I’m posting a very brief synopsis below, and if you can come up with an idea I would be most grateful. I’ll then put the ideas I recieve to a vote in order to find a title that grabs readers attention.

Here’s the synopsis. You can put your ideas in the comments section below.

Thanks in advance for your help.

 

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Torren, the Crown Prince of Ponderia has been behaving strangely. His sister and Pettic, his best friend  discover that he has been kidnapped and a doppleganger put in his place.

Pettic, has to go to the four elemental worlds, Terra, Aeris, Aqua and Ignis, in order to find enchanted gems to enter the mini-plane where the prince is imprisoned and to defeat his captor. On each world he has a quest to perform to aid the people of that world before he can find the gem.

Pettic and Lucenra, the princess, then have to find the kidnapper and defeat him.

22 reasons to vote Remain

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I am concerned at the possibility that the UK will vote to leave the EU on Thursday. While I acknowledge that there are things wrong with it, I really don’t think that in the world today it is sensible to decide to ‘go it alone.’
 I believe this for the following reasons.

 The EU is the biggest free-trade group in the world. We are a very small country that thinks it’s a big one. Should we turn our backs on this huge market? Yes, we will still be able to trade with them, but it will be on their terms. We won’t have any say in things. We will still have to meet their requirements without any input into what those requirements are. Not a sensible thing, really when we can stay in and argue our case.

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 There have been luxury houses built in London. They were mainly being bought by the rich Chinese, I understand, but this market has slowed considerably since the referendum has been mooted. The rich foreigners are hanging back to see what happens. They see the UK as a way into the European market, that I have already said is a huge free trade area. If we pull out of the EU, they’ll pull out of the UK. Big international companies already hear will most probably pull out. I heard of one company, I forget which, that is already looking at the possibility of moving to France.

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 Investment will go down. People and companies won’t want to invest in the UK without the access to the European market, so jobs will be at risk.

 The NHS is a big argument. The ‘leave’ people say we can invest the money we give to the EU into the NHS. Actually, I don’t believe that will happen. Some maybe, but it will be a drop in the ocean.

 We don’t have enough nurses, midwives and doctors now. Many come from overseas. People complain about that, but the NHS would collapse without them. It’s all very well saying ‘Train more’, but if people don’t want to go into those professions, then we can’t make them. I personally believe that part of the reason is the litigation culture that is building up in this country.

 Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England is someone who should know what he’s talking about. He says that leaving is the biggest domestic risk to financial stability. When someone, even someone of his stature says something like this, the ‘Leave’ people just say. ‘Oh no it won’t,’ but have nothing to say to back up their argument.

 The TUC General Secretary says leaving would have ‘massive implications for jobs, rights and the very fabric of the UK. If you take that floor away, workers will be worse off.’ I’m sure she will have done her research before making that statement.
 One of the best brains in the country, Stephen Hawking, says that leaving the EU would be a disaster for Science.

 In the EU we have co-operation between many police forces and so criminals can be tracked over borders. Do we want to lose our criminals if they cross the channel, or do we want them brought to justice?

 If the vote is ‘Leave’, then the Scots will hold another independence referendum. I believe that this time they would vote for independence because the majority of Scots want to remain in the EU. The UK would then be split up. Would this then have a snowball effect and cause Wales and Northern Ireland to break away too? I don’t know, but it’s possible.

 The biggest argument of the ‘Leave’ campaigners is immigration. ‘Take back our borders’ they cry. Now, I think that we do have to limit immigration. The number of people in this country is getting too great, but I don’t think that leaving the EU would make much difference.

 I was born in England. My ancestors as far as I can trace were all born in England or Wales. Yet when I return from a foreign holiday I have to show my passport to re-enter my own country. This summer I crossed eight borders and the only time I had to show my passport was to return to the UK. We are not part of the Schengen agreement about free movement. Leaving the EU won’t stop people from trying to board lorries and get here illegally, nor will it stop people from trying to come legally. Anyway, we only seem to be concerned about those people from Eastern Europe, yet we employ them to do work in our homes because ‘they are cheaper and work harder.’ How’s that for hypocrisy?

 They (the immigrants) only come here for benefits people say. Not true. Most come here to work or study. (Did you know that anyone who stays here for more than a year is counted as an immigrant, even if they are only here for a few years to study?) Most of these people are young and so don’t use much of our NHS provision. A UK national is also more likely to apply for, and get, benefits than those who come in. Immigrants now have to work for 4 years, and pay into the system, tax and National Insurance, before they can claim any benefits, including child benefit. Child benefit for children living abroad has been stopped.

 0.1% of the EU migrants are claiming benefits or tax credits, while 22% of the working-age population is claiming, so they are a very small number. (calculated from Nomis, official labour market statistics)

 Over 3 million UK jobs are linked to trade with the EU. That’s one in every 10 jobs. (The Treasury)

 If we leave the EU, UK households would be £4,300 a year worse off. (The Treasury)

 We save over £350 a year on lower prices in UK shops by being in the EU. (Centre for Economic Performance)

 Workers’ Rights are protected by EU law, including maximum working hours, parental leave and rights for part-time workers.

 This is my personal opinion. I haven’t got any statistics for it. I think, though, that food prices will rise if we leave. This is because the EU gives our farmers a subsidy of £2.4 billion. There is still a commonly held belief that farmers are all wealthy. Now I wouldn’t deny there are wealthy farmers. Of course there are, just as there are wealthy people in other walks of life, but the average farmer is struggling to remain in business even with the subsidy. (Dairy farmers barely get the cost of production, and a few years ago they were making a loss.) If farmers are forced out of business, then more of our food will have to come from abroad, thus putting up prices, and incidentally, due to increased mileage it has to travel, pollution.

 What about tourism? If we come out of the EU, there is a high likelihood that holidays abroad will be dearer. This is because of a forecast fall in the pound of 12%. This will increase flight costs as well as the cost of accommodation.

 We will lose t he EHIC card. This card ensures that travellers with it can access health care abroad. If it goes, people will have to take out their own insurance and if they are ill, pay up front and then claim the money back.

 The British economy stands to lose £4.1billion per year from loss of tourism from the EU. That’s a lot of money.

I advise people to think very carefully before voting. If we vote ‘out’ it will be final. The EU won’t want to have us back. Voting ‘out is a jump in the dark.

Jovinda and Noni Part 6. Tragedy

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This is the last part of the story of Carthinal’s parents. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave a comment when you’ve read it.

 

Two years passed quickly, and Carthinal was toddling about. Noni came in from the embassy where he was still working. It was Carthinal’s second birthday and he had brought a huge toy dog for the little boy.
‘Dada,’ Carthinal said as he ran towards his father.
Noni gave him the dog and he struggled with it, dragging it towards the sitting room where he had been spending some time with Jovinda. His mother laughed at his difficulty, then went to help him bring it in.
‘Say thank you to Daddy, Carthinal,’ Jovinda said.
‘Fan choo,’ Carthinal said, looking at his father. ‘Fan choo. Doggy.’
Jovinda kissed her husband then said, ‘I’m a bit worried about Carthinal, Noni. Most of my friends children his age seem to be much more advanced. Even some of those much younger are moare advanced than he is. I’m afraid there’s something wrong. Perhaps he’s not very bright.’
Noni laughed. ‘There’s nothing wrong with our son, Jo. Half of his blood is elf. Elven children develop more slowly than human ones. In fact, he’s in advance of most elven children of his age.’ He paused for thought for a minute before continuing. ‘I don’t know how quickly or slowly this mixture of elf and human should develop, but probably about half way between an elf child and a human one, I would say. It’ll be interesting to find out. In the meantime, stop worrying.’
Jovinda smiled up at her husband and picked up her son, dog and all. She kissed him as he struggled to get down again.
‘Down,’ he insisted. He clenched his small fist and tried to punch her. ‘Down’ he repeated.
Noli took his hand. ‘You must not punch your mother, Carthinal. That’s very naughty.’
‘Want down,’ he repeated.
Jovinda put him down and sighed.
‘That’s another thing. He seems to be developing a temper. That must be nipped in the bud.’
‘No one said bringing up a child is easy, love. In fact. it’s probably the hardest thing in the world. You’re doing a great job.’

The couple wished for another child, but the years passed and there was no sign. Noni said it was probably due to the infertility of elves and that perhaps it would happen in due course. Jovinda went to the temple of Bramara and prayed, but it was to no avail.
When Carthinal was six, he was in the garden, playing on a swing that Kendo had fixed to the branch of a tree in the garden. He heard his nurse calling for him, but took no notice. It was nice in the garden. The sun was shining and he liked the swing.
Shortly, Jovinda came out and saw him.
‘Oh, there you are. Didn’t you hear nurse calling for you?’
‘Yes, but I don’t want to go in. It’s nice out here.’
‘You must come in now, Carthinal. It’s time for your tea and then it’s bathtime and bedtime.’
The little boy’s face clouded over and he fixed his lips into a straight line.
‘Shan’t.’
‘Oh, don’t be naughty, Carthinal. Be a good boy and come for your tea.’
‘No.’ His eyes began to look, not like the blue summer skies, but dark stormy seas. Jovinda noticed the change ans she went and picked him off the swing and carried him, squirming and crying into the house where she handded him over to Blendin who took him away for his tea.
Jovinda went into the sitting room and smiled to herself. She had become used to these infrequent outbursts of temper and knew that in a few minutes her son would be his normal sunny self again. His temper never lasted long.

Noni arrived soon after this and sank down in one of the chairs.
‘There’s a problem in Rindisallaron,’ he told his wife. The elflord has died and there’s a problem with the succession.’
‘I thought that the elflord was succeeded by the eldest male child of his nearest female relative.’
‘Yes, That’s true, but in this case there are identical twins.’
‘So! The elder twin inherits, doesn’t he?’
‘Ah, therein lies the problem. You see, when the twins were born, their mother was seriously ill after the birth and in the rush to treat her the twins weren’t labelled. Now both twins are claiming to be the first-born.’
‘The father told the midwife that the first child was to be called Frissillimidor and the second Grimmshollin. She claimed she knew in which crib she’d put each baby and so they were named.’ He stood and walked round the room before continuing.
‘I believe the midwife would have been correct and that Frissillimidor is the elder, but factions have grown up, as you would expect. Now war has broken out.’
‘That doesn’t affect us herein Bluehaven though,’ Jovinda said ‘We aren’t involved in Elven politics.’
Noni came and sat beside his wife and took her hand.
‘You aren’t involved. Bluehaven isn’t involved, but I’m an elf, and so I am involved, like it or not. Father is packing at this minute to go to help the rightful heir.’
Jovinda turned and looked at her husband, understanding beginning to dawn on her face.
‘So you plan to go and fight too.’
Noni nodded.
‘You’d leave your wife and child for this war?’ Jovinda was getting angry rather than sad at the thought of Noni going away. ‘You care more for this Frissi-whatsit than Carthinal and me?’
Noni stood.
Just at that moment, Carthinal came to the door, but neither of them saw him. He had come to apologise for his outburst earlier. He heard his parents arguing. He had never seen that before and it frightened him. Nevertheless, he stood just behind the door and listened to an argument he could not understand. Carthinal fled back up to the nursery, his apology forgotten.
No matter what argument she put forward, Noni was adamant he must go to fight for the rightful heir. The couple went to bed that evening barely speaking and that continued until three days later when Noni had packed ready to leave for the Elven lands.
Jovinda said goodbye to Noni with a heavy heart. They had made up their quarrel and she stood on the doorstep of their house with Carthinal as she waved him off. She blinked back her tears as she stood waving until he could no longer be seen.
‘How long will Daddy be away?’ Carthinal asked.
‘I don’t know, dear. He’ll come and see us when he gets leave.’

Two years passed. Noni came home as often as he could, but he needed a long leave to make the journey to Bluehaven from Rindissillaron and back and he had little time when he was there. Jovinda had to rely on his letters to tell her of the progress of the war.In one letter, Noni wrote of how the war was nearly won. Grimmshollin had retreated to a very small area and was barely holding it. It would be only a few days before the war was over.
Jovinda was delighted at this news and eagerly looked forward to welcoming Noni home. Every day she expected a letter, or even Noni himself to arrive. The letter came in just over a sixday saying that there was one more battle to end the war and then just a few things to sort out before Noni came home. She was ecstatic and began to prepare a welcome home party.
A couple of sixdays later, there was a knock on the door. Their butler answered and showed an officer into the drawing room where Jovinda sat reading to Carthinal. She rose as the officer entered.
He saluted and introduced himself as Roshinderal, who was Noni’s friend.
‘Yes, he’s spoken of you often in his letters,’ Jovinda told him. ‘Do you know when he’ll be home? I’m planning a welcome home party for him, you see.’
The young captain cleared his throat and looked embarrassed.
‘Perhaps you’d better send your son out of the room, Madam,’ he said.
Jovinda’s heart began to beat quickly as she told Carthinal to go to the nursery. At first she though he would refuse as she saw tell-tale signs come over hs face, but the boy thought better of it and left.’
‘Please, sit down,’ said Roshinderal, as though it were his house and she were the visitor.
Jovinda sat down as requested, heart sinking. Then Roshinderal cleared his throat again and began to speak.
‘It was the last battle, and nearly the end of that too. The enemy was retreating. Noni laughed and said he always knew we’d win as we were in the right. Just then, one of the enemy archers turned and drew his bow. The arrow took Noni.’
Jovinda’s hand went to her mouth.
‘How is he? Can I go to see him? Is he badly injured?’
Roshinderal took Jovinda’s hand in his.
‘I’m sorry to be the bearer of this news, but I’m afraid Noni died of his injuries soon afterwards. The arrow ruptured an artery, you see. He knew he was dying and asked me to come and tell you and to say he loves you more than he could ever express. He said to take care of Carthinal. He was very proud of you both.’
Jovinda looked at Roshinderal with a blank look in her eyes. All the life had gone out of them. Then she screamed.
‘No! No! No! No! It’s not true. You’ve all made a mistake. He’s not dead. He can’t be. Go back and check. I’d know if he was dead. I know I would.’ She shook her head in disbelief, refusing to accept what Roshinderal had told her.
Her screams brought the butler, who was passing the door.
‘Madam,’ he said, ‘What’s the matter? Is it this man? Do you want me to escort him off the premises?’
Roshinderal turned and said, ‘I’ve just brought her bad news. Her husband was killed in the last battle of the war. Is there anyone who I can get to be with her?’
Between them, they decided that Jovinda’s parents would be the best people to get and so Roshinderal set off to their house to get them.
As soon as they arrived, they took Jovinda and Carthinal, along with Blendin, his nanny, back to their house. Ellire took Jovinda and put her to bed in her old room with a soothing drink and soon she was asleep.
Jovinda remained in her room for the next few days. She refused to answer the door, so Ellire left a tray outside. Some days a little of it disappeared, but others Jovinda did not touch it.
Ellire tried talking to her daughter through the door, but got no response. She tried to get her to come out to see Carthinal who was wondering what was going on. The six-year-old understood that his father had been killed in the war and had been inconsolable for a few days, but then, in the way of children, he seemed to bounce back somewhat. He could not, however, understand why his mother was ignoring him. Ellire tried to tell Jovinda this, but either the young woman did not hear or she was still too much enveloped in grief that she did not care.
Three days passed and Jovinda had not responded to anything. The trays of food and drink had been left untouched and no sounds came from her room. No sobs, no crying, no prayers, nothing.
Kendo decided that he would go in. After all, no one could go without food and drink indefinitely, especially drink, and Jovinda had not drunk anything in three days. He knocked on the door. No sound from inside. He tried the latch, but the door was locked.
Frowning, he called again, and when he still received no answer he said, ‘Jo, if you don’t answer me I’m going to break the door.’
Still nothing. Kendo put his shoulder to the door and pushed. There was a cracking noise as the hinges gave way and he fell into the room.
What he saw there broke his heart. There was his daughter, swinging from the beams overhead, a belt around her neck. He quickly cut her down, but it was to no avail. She had been dead for quite some time. A couple of days probably.
He left the room and told Ellire not to go in and to keep Carthinal away. The boy had taken to sitting outside his mother’s room talking to her through the door, even though there was no response. He went out into the garden and sat under a tree thinking. Was there something he should have done? He ought to have broken the door down sooner. They should have insisted Jovinda come out and eat her meals with them. She was obviously brooding in there alone. All these thoughts went through his head until he felt he was going to go mad.
The funeral was held in the temple of Kalhera a few days later. The family was surprised at how many people turned up. Jovinda and Noni were popular figures in Bluehaven. Kendo knew he would never get over his guilt about his daughter’s death, but he buried it deep.
He said to his wife after the funeral, when everyone had left and Ellire was weeping softly to herself.
‘There’s Carthinal to consider, Ellire. He’ll need a lot of support and help. We need to be his anchor now that Jo’s gone.’
Ellire blew her nose. ‘Yes, of course. We’ll need to bring him up. We should sell Jo and Noni’s house and put the money in trust for him. He’ll live here now with us.’
‘Should we tell him how his mother died, do you think?’
‘No. At least not for a long while. The poor child’s had enough to cope with without knowing his mother killed herself.’
Thus Carthinal lived with his grandparents and they brought him up. No one ever told him how his mother died.

Special offer

The relaunched version of The Wolf Pack is on special offer from tomorrow, 10th June until 17th June. Don’t miss this chance to get it at the ridiculous price of $0.99 or £0.99.

Please tell your friends about it too.

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To end his apprenticeship and be admitted to the ranks of the mages is all that Carthinal wants and so he is excited to travel from Bluehaven to Hambara, where the tests will take place. He did not expect to end up travelling far beyond Hambara on a quest to find the long lost sword of the legendary King Sauvern.

Along with three strangers that he met on his journey, the beautiful but headstrong elven cleric, Asphodel, Fero, a dark foreigner from lands far to the south, known as the Black Ranger and a fearless dwarf, Basalt, Carthinal reluctantly sets out on this seemingly impossible quest.  

Followed by Randa, the snooty aristocratic daughter of the Duke of Hambara and a very young runaway thief, known as Thad, Carthinal has to decide whether to send them back or allow them to continue on this dangerous quest. There will certainly be fireworks as Randa will try to take over the leadership of the group.

Faced with floods, wolf attacks and near death in the mountains, Carthinal and his friends will have to accept help from the least likely sources and face their innermost fears.

But this is more than a simple adventure. The fate of a nation hangs in the balance.

Get your copy from http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.amazon.co.uk/

 

The Wolf Pack. Homewards

newcoverwolfpackFirst of all, may I apologise for this post being a little late. Lots to do hqving just got back from holiday. I hope you enjoy it.

HOBGOBLINS

The next morning, they left the vicinity of the tombs. Muldee told them that they should follow the northern side of the lake as the exit they wanted the exit on that side of the valley and so they duly followed him. He alternated between flying and walking, but he walked rather slowly, so he started riding on one or the other’s shoulders. They put up with this as he not very heavy, and he did not stay long before taking off again. When he landed on Davrael’s shoulders, he suddenly jumped making Davrael curse.
‘Asphodel,’ the dragonet called to the elf, ‘This helm of Davrael’s is magic. It startled me when I felt it. I didn’t expect it.’
‘How can you tell?’ she asked him.
‘Made me feel funny,’ he said.
‘Can you always tell if something is magical?’ she continued.
The dragonet looked surprised. ‘Of course,’ he replied, ‘Good magic or bad. Each feels different.’
‘What about the other things we got from the tomb?’
He touched each item in turn and confirmed that they were all magical in some way, and that it was not bad magic.
‘All we need to know now is what kind of magic they have,’ said Randa when Asphodel had told them what Muldee was doing. ‘We’ve no idea what they do.’
They followed Muldee’s directions and found that they were heading much further north than they would have thought, but the little creature assured them that this was the only way out.
‘All the branches towards the south are dead ends,’ he told Asphodel when she asked about the direction. ‘I told you that you needed me to find your way.’
The dragonet had begun to learn Grosmerian. He learned quickly. He experimented by trying to get into the minds of the companions. Unknown to the group, dragonets had a certain talent for telepathy. He discovered that Thadora and Asphodel were the easiest for him to read, but he found Basalt almost impossible. This talent made his learning of Grosmerian all the easier. One day he surprised Thadora by managing to speak to her telepathically. It frightened the girl at first, but she became used to it, and even managed to respond. She did not seem very happy about the idea of the little creature “rummaging around in me ’ead at me most private thoughts,” as she put it, so Muldee said he would teach her how to shield her own thoughts and also promised not to pry. This seemed to help Thadora come to terms with the idea of telepathic speech.
Two days after beginning their journey from the valley, they came to a place where it narrowed, passing between cliffs on either side. A stream flowed along the bottom, and a few trees managing to cling to the banks. By now, many of them were looking a very pretty shade of pale green as they burst into leaf. Birds were well on the way with their nesting, and many animals were giving birth. They were all walking along and feeling very pleased with themselves when suddenly Randa felt a tingling from the Sword at her hip, and from the sides of the valley, where they had been hidden from view by the rocks and bushes, sprang a couple of dozen hobgoblins.
Randa drew her Sword and began to fight, as did the others. Carthinal quickly gave the command to his staff to set armour on himself and then sent a ball of multicoloured light at one of the hobgoblins which blinded him as well as causing injury, followed by some missiles from his staff. The others were all fighting strongly, but in vain as they were too greatly outnumbered. Even Asphodel struck out with her mace, which she had hardly used since she had acquired it from the temple before leaving Hambara. She even managed to do some damage to the enemy while avoiding damaging her companions. When they were eventually all captured, they found there were only fourteen of the hobgoblins standing, and some of those were bleeding.
‘We made them hurt though!’ whispered a voice in Carthinal’s ear, sounding strangely satisfied. He turned his head and it surprised him to see Asphodel standing next to him, her arms tied behind her and an uncharacteristically savage expression on her face.
A rough voice, obviously the leader of the ambush party, said something in a strange, guttural language, and they were searched and their weapons removed. They looked over to a large hobgoblin dressed in chain mail. He stood well over six feet, with a typically animalistic hobgoblin face with tusks reaching up from his lower jaw. His eyes were brown, but had a hard, cruel look, and his mouth seemed to be in a permanent sneer. His men were obviously afraid of him and obeyed him with alacrity. The other hobgoblins were smaller and were wearing leather armour reinforced with metal studs. They all had cross-bows and melee weapons, some with axes, some with war hammers, some even had short swords and all looked as though he knew how to use his weapon of choice.
The hobgoblin that tried to remove the Sword from Randa, quickly dropped it, and ran around blowing on his hand. He had obviously been burned by the Sword’s defence mechanism. The leader ordered another of the creatures to pick it up, but he failed. The Sword was just too heavy. He dragged it with the help of a second of the hobgoblins to the leader of the gang. The leader looked at the two, and then at Randa and said something scathing, judging by the looks of his two men.
Fero had managed to pick up a little hobgoblin on his travels, and he whispered to the others. ‘He says they must be weaker than a mouse if they cannot lift a sword wielded so effortlessly by a mere woman.’
Randa looked incensed at being called a “mere woman”, and almost responded when the leader came up to them. He kicked out at Randa and caught her on the ankle. She refrained from crying out, and just managed to stay on her feet.
‘You not be hurt if you not fight,’ he said in a harsh voice. ‘Where your pet?’
Carthinal frowned, then realised that he was talking about Muldee. Carthinal shrugged and the hobgoblin hit him across the mouth, for his insolence, so he said.
‘No matter. It only small creature. It probably run away. Must be afraid of mighty hobgoblins. Would have made good sale though. Bring lot of money for Khland. Khland take Sword for own. It do much damage to Khland’s men. It good Sword.’
He walked over to the Sword, and picked it up. It was no longer heavy, and Khland gave a disgusted look to the two who had dragged it to him. Randa did notice a wince, however, and after he had strapped on the sword round his waist, she caught him looking surreptitiously at his hand.
The hobgoblins marched the party along at a brisk pace, allowing no talk at all between them. Thadora wondered where Muldee had got to, but then decided he probably thought it was too dangerous in the world and had flown back to his siblings. Suddenly one of the hobgoblins at the rear of the line put his hand to his head and crumpled up in a heap, moaning about a loud noise in his brain. They stopped, and the leader, Khland, demanded to know why.
They held a hurried discussion in hobgoblin, which Fero tried to hear, but failed, and then one of them dispatched the injured creature an axe, stripped off his armour, weapons and money, and the column moved off again. This happened again during the day, and the hobgoblins repeated the same procedure.
That evening, they made camp in a barren place. They had been going steadily northwards since leaving the valley, and the mountains had given way to hills covered with heather. These moorland hills were bleak, and the east wind cut across them with an icy blast. There were little valleys with small streams in them, and every now and then, a rill joined a bigger stream, tumbling down through the heather in a series of little waterfalls. There were few trees here and what few there were, were poor stunted things that leaned away from the prevailing wind, which usually blew from the west and gave no shelter from the icy blast.
The hobgoblins set up a large tent for their commander, and while this went on, he amused himself by taunting the captives.
‘You be cold tonight,’ he told them. ‘Not possible to make fire. Heather burn easy. Too easy. You be hungry too. Have only small foods for you.’
‘Why have you captured us? Where are you taking us?’ demanded Randa imperiously.
‘You not speak to Khland unless told,’ and he kicked her in the stomach.
She doubled up in pain, tears springing unbidden to her eyes, but she was determined not to let them fall and give Khland the satisfaction that he had hurt her, so she straightened as best she could and, with her most proud look, gave him a disdainful glare. Khland raised his foot to kick her again when one of the hobgoblin patrol came up and said something to him.
He said to Randa, ‘Wait till later. Khland hurt you then. Not damage badly though. Orders not to, but no orders not to hurt you.’ With that he strode off to where the others had erected his tent.
The Wolves stood and stared after Khland.
‘If he touches you again,’ said Fero, ‘I swear I’ll kill him myself. Somehow.’
‘’Ow, wi’ yer ’ands bleedin’-well tied and no weapons?’ asked Thadora, somewhat scornfully, Fero thought.
‘I’ll find a way,’ snarled Fero, slumping to the ground. ‘I’ll not let him hurt any of you girls,’ he went on.
The others also sat down and eventually one of the hobgoblins placed a bowl of thin stew before them, with eight spoons dipped into it. He brought no bread.
‘How are we supposed to eat with our hand tied behind us?’ Carthinal complained.
‘I go ask,’ replied the hobgoblin, and disappeared towards the tent of his commander.
It seemed that they could do nothing without the permission of Khland. They watched as he spoke to the guards, and then Khland came out, said something to him and cuffed him around the head. The chastised creature came back and untied their hands, but tied their feet together, one left foot to the next person’s right. All except Carthinal. He had his feet tied as did the others, but his hands were not released.
‘Hands of mage stay tied so he not do magic,’ the hobgoblin soldier told them.
‘I’ll feed you some of this stuff if you want, Carthinal,’ said Kimi. (She sat between him and Davrael.
‘I’m tempted to say I don’t want any of it, but I suppose we should all eat something,’ he replied, ‘but goodness knows what it is. I’d rather not think about that.’
They ate, and afterwards, their hands were retied, but his time in front of them, except for Carthinal, whose hands remained as they were. A very cold wind blew around the hills, getting up more strongly as darkness fell. They could see a brazier around which the hobgoblins were sitting or lying down sleeping, and a light flickered in the tent of Khland showing that he too had some heating. They huddled together as best they could for warmth, but passed a very uncomfortable, cold and sleepless night.
The next day, they were all very tired. They were dragged roughly to their feet and made to march again, still over the rough moorland terrain. They were given nothing to eat this morning, and only a minimal drink of water. They stumbled on, each wondering whether they were more miserable now than they were in the mountains. At least in the mountains they had been free. They found it difficult to walk, as their feet were still tied and they found they stumbled frequently, much to the amusement of the hobgoblins.

Just as they stopped for a brief respite for the hobgoblins (but not their captives) to have a brief bite and drink, one of their number suddenly clasped his head. He said something that Fero translated as “Blinding headache.” Khland told him to get to his feet and to continue marching with the others. They almost felt sorry for him as he obviously felt very rough.
‘You should not drink so much while on the march,’ Khland told him. (Translated by Fero.) In reply, the afflicted creature moaned that he had hardly had any last night. The hobgoblin chief kicked him and told him to go ahead as a scout. Later in the day, they found his body lying in the heather, quite dead. As with the others, they stripped him and left him for the wild creatures.
‘Do you think it’s some disease that’s killing them?’ asked Kimi nervously.
‘Possibly,’ Asphodel speculated, ‘but it seems very quick acting. I’ve not heard of anything like it.’
‘Let’s just hope it only affects hobgoblins then,’ said Carthinal.
Later in the day it began to rain. A light drizzle only at first, but soon they were all wet through. The rain continued harder as the day progressed, and the captives were thoroughly miserable. The easterly wind continued and it seemed to go right through them, wet as they were. They could not talk any more as they were punched or kicked if they tried to communicate. They saw a creature flying high above them once or twice, but could not make it out clearly. Thadora hoped it was Muldee and that he could somehow get some help to them, but whenever it came lower, the hobgoblins fired bolts from their cross bows, and one came very close to hitting it and it flew away again.
In this manner the next day passed. That night, Fero began to shiver and sweat. He complained of aches and feeling unwell. Asphodel diagnosed ’flu, but she hoped secretly it was nothing worse. She demanded to see Khland, and when he eventually came to them at dawn, she expressed her view that Fero could not travel and that he needed rest and warmth to recover. Khland growled that they had no time. Fero must continue with them or be left for the wild beasts.
‘Have headache?’ Khland asked Fero.
‘I ache everywhere,’ the ranger replied.
‘You not got same illness as men?’ he asked.
Asphodel replied for Fero.
‘I’m sure it’s not. Your men had a headache and then dropped. Fero has a fever and aches all over. I’m sure it’s ’flu brought on by us being so cold and wet.’
‘We be at hobgoblin camp less than two more days. Only one more night on road.’ With that he hobbled back to his tent.
They had all noticed that he had started to limp rather badly and that he had still got Equilibrium strapped to his waist, and they each decided that the caused him some pain. They found a grudging admiration for the hobgoblin captain to endure such pain as they knew the Sword could inflict. Then the creature in the sky descended and drew their attention away from Khland. One of the hobgoblins raised his crossbow and took aim, but immediately he fell down clutching his head, unconscious. The other hobgoblins murmured among themselves, but one harsh look from Khland silenced them quickly.
‘Kill him and we go on,’ said Khland, and the others quickly complied.
They marched on for a while until Thadora felt what she later described as a “scratching in her brain.” She tried to make it go away, and it did indeed fade a little, but then it began again more forcefully, until she thought she could hear words in her head.
‘Stop blocking, silly girl.’
She looked around but could see no one.
‘It is me! Muldee!’ she heard. ‘I follow. I attack. I try chief next. He a big man. Hard to hurt. Others afraid. Think they have illness.’
She tried to think back to the little creature.
‘I ’ear yer, Muldee. You’re causing this “illness” in th’ bleedin’ ’obgoblins? ’Ow cool is that?’
‘Yes. I make loud noise in heads. It kill little creatures. Many dragonets together can kill bigger creature. One dragonet only hurt hobgoblins. Maybe it enough. I go. Mindspeak make me tired. Need strength for hurting.’
Thadora passed on what she could to the others, when no hobgoblins were looking so she would not get beaten. The news seemed to raise their hopes somewhat, even Fero, ill as he felt.
After about an hour, as they were marching along, Khland raised his hand to his head and stumbled, but he managed to regain his balance and limped on with a pained expression on his face. The rest of the party of hobgoblins looked at each other, then quickly away again.  After a few more miles, Khland again stumbled, this time falling to his knees. He allowed a groan to escape his lips, but he struggled to his feet and staggered off down the road. Almost immediately, Muldee landed in the heather ahead of them. Carthinal hoped that he had not landed too close to the hobgoblins, but they did not seem to notice as they were all looking anxiously at their leader, with, Carthinal thought, hope in their eyes. The heather rustled as the dragonet tried to get nearer to the hobgoblin leader, and then he again fell down, this time to lie face down on the track. He did not move. The other hobgoblins stood frozen for a few minutes and then one cautiously went forward and poked the immobile Khland. Still nothing. He came back to the others and said something in his own language. The hobgoblins held a brief discussion and then they came over to their captives and roughly searched them for any valuables, while two others went and systematically robbed Khland. The hobgoblins took all the gold the Wolves had on them, but left them their armour. Carthinal supposed they did not consider it valuable enough to be worth carrying the extra weight. The Wolves packs that they were carrying including group’s weapons, they dropped as they fled away from their captives and vicious leader.
After they were gone, Muldee appeared from the heather.
‘Hurry. He not dead, just unconscious. Must leave quickly.’
‘Thank you, but we can’t move well tied up like this,’ Carthinal told him. ‘Can you do anything to help us escape?’
‘I’ve spent time tryin’ ter work meself loose,’ came a response from Thadora, ‘An’ I think I’ve nearly succeeded in loosenin’ th’ rope enough ter slip me ’and out.’
‘I bite through rope too.’
Between them, they managed to get out of their bonds. They searched the hobgoblin leader and found no gold, but only the Sword. It seems the other hobgoblins had not dared to touch it. As Randa removed it from Khland, she noticed that his left leg looked as though it had frostbite and she felt a grudging admiration for the determination of the creature that he had continued to wear it in spite of a great deal of pain.
‘I think we should kill ’im,’ said Thadora. ‘After all, ’e bloody well ’urt us and wasted some of ’is own men when they was ’elpless. He’s a soddin’ brute.’
‘And make us as bad as he is?’ replied Asphodel. ‘No, Thadora. I will not kill a helpless creature, nor be party to such an action, even if he is an evil brute.’
So picking up their dropped packs, they set off down the road, free once more.

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