Category Archives: serial

Carthinal 6

 

Reminder: After the fight with the Green Fish Gang, Carthinal’s gang, The Beasts, discover The Wren, Carthinal’s pickpocket partner, is missing. the Rooster, the leader of the gang, sends Carthinal and The Cat out to search for her.

Carthinal left with The Cat to search. “I think th’ guard caught ’er,” The Cat said. “I ’ope not. Th’ penalty fer killin’ is death by ’angin’.”
“But we don’t know she killed anyone.”
“There was a fight. Folks got killed. She was in the fight, so they’ll blame ’er fer killin’.”
Carthinal frowned, a sadness filling his indigo eyes. “Come on, then. First place to look is the jail.”
“We can’t go ter th’ jail, Fox. They’ll ’ave us in there as soon as we appeared.”
“Do you want to find Wren? If not, I’ll go myself.”
“Nah! I’m comin’ wi’ yer. I’m usually a lucky bloke. You have luck too, Fox. Mayhap our combined luck’ll ’elp us find Wren.”
The pair neared the jail and paused.
“I’ll climb onto th’ roof an’ see if I can find anythin’ out. There’s a chimney I can listen at.” The Cat sprinted around the side of the jailhouse and began to climb. Carthinal hid in a doorway opposite, chewing his fingernails. Soon The Cat returned.
“They’ve got ’er, alright. They’ve got a couple o’ Green Fish, too. Put ’em in th’ same cell, they ’ave. By luck, th’ Green Fish ’aven’t started on ’er. Not yet, anyway.”
“How can we rescue her without the Green Fish, too? In fact, how can we rescue her at all.”
The Cat thought for a moment. “If we can some’ow get th’ guards out o’ there, I can slip in an’ pick th’ lock. ‘Ow t’ stop th’ Green Fish gettin’ out, too, I’ve no idea.”
Carthinal pressed his lips together as he walked towards the jailhouse. He must rescue Wren. She was his partner, yes, but more than that. He was unsure quite how he felt about her. He was, after all, in terms of human life, just a boy in his early teens.
He passed through the door and found himself in a single room. On his left were two cells, and a table stood immediately in front of him. A guard leaned back on two legs of the chair with his feet propped on the table. He had his eyes closed. Carthinal drew in a breath. It was the guard who had thrown him out of Gromblo’s offices.
He turned to make a rude comment in order to get the guard to chase him but he heard a voice. “Fox!”
The voice came from the second of the two cells. Carthinal looked and saw a pair of hands gripping the bars of the door.
At the sound of her voice, the guard opened his eyes. “It’s you! Kendo Brolin’s grandson. What are you doing here?”
Carthinal swallowed the words he was about to say and looked at the guard with eyes wide.“You believe I’m his grandson?”
The guard nodded, “There was something funny about that death certificate. And there aren’t too many red-headed half-elf kids about.”
“Then why didn’t you help me? Why didn’t you expose him?”
“Grondin has friends in high places. It would have been dangerous to try. Besides, he made it worth my while to keep quiet.” He swung his feet down. “How come you know this girl? She called you Fox. Are you with The Beasts now?”
Carthinal glanced towards the cell door and did not answer.
“You know there’s a warrant out for any of The Beasts or Green Fish?
Wren called out from her cell. “There’s always a warrant for us. What’s new?”
The guard stood and walked towards the cell. “You keep out of this. There’ll be a rope for you.”
Carthinal thought quickly. How could he get the guard to release The Wren? He had an idea. “You said you knew the death certificate Gromlo showed you was forged. That means you knew he swindled me out of my inheritance, yet you did nothing. You took his bribe and left me to starve on the streets. I was lucky enough to fall in with The Beasts and that’s kept me alive.”
The guard looked at him through narrowed eyes. “What are you saying, boy?”
“I’m saying it would be hard on you if your superiors found out. Even after a year, they would still not take a good view of a guard taking a bribe.”
“You go to the bosses and they’ll arrest you before you get one word out.” He smirked at Carthinal.

The boy replied, “But if they got a letter, they wouldn’t know who it came from, would they? They’d have to investigate, and you would be dismissed. What would you do then?”
The guard laughed. “And who will write a letter? All you street kids are illiterate.”
“Are you so sure about that? Aren’t you forgetting who my grandfather was? He sent me to school.”
The guard blanched. “What do you want?”
“I want my friend released.”
“And how will I explain where she’s gone?”
“You’ll think of something. Now, give me the keys, and you go and stop those Green Fish from breaking out when I unlock the door.”
The guard picked up the keys, but before handing them to Carthinal, he turned to the door.
Carthinal jumped in front of him and drew his knife. His nostrils flared and his eyes blazed “Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to run out on me.”
The guard put up his hands. “I’m just going to lock this door, then if those thugs make a run for it they can’t get out. I’ll get them back into their cage then unlock the door for you and your friend.”
Watching closely, Carthinal held onto his knife and kept it pointed at the guard’s throat as he locked the jailhouse door and went to unlock the cell.
The Wren rushed out, followed by the two Green Fish. The guard tackled one of them, bringing him tumbling to the ground. The youth rolled over on top of the guard and looked like being able to overpower him, but the guard bucked and threw him off. As luck would have it, he banged his head on the wall of the cell and lay still.
Carthinal and The Wren took on the other youth. He was a big young man, but Carthinal threatened with his knife and as he approached, The Wren stuck out her foot and gave him a push. He stumbled enough for Carthinal to finish his fall and sit on top of him. He held the Green Fish’s long hair and pulled back, holding his knife at the other’s throat.

”Now go back into your cell like a good boy,” Carthinal said with a smirk, “or I might forget I’m a nice person.”
The guard dragged the first youth into the cell, and the second went in quietly, looking all the time at Carthinal.
“They’ll end up on the hangman’s gibbet, no doubt,” the guard said. “Now get out of here before I have second thoughts.”
Carthinal grinned. “You won’t. I know too much about you.”
He and Wren left the jailhouse and met The Cat outside. “What kept you? I thought you were goin’ in ter lure th’ guy out.”
“Long story, Cat, but I found a better way to do it. I’ll tell you on the way back to HQ.”
Wren reached up and kissed Carthinal on the cheek. “Thank you for rescuing me.”
He blushed. “I…it was nothing. You’re my partner.”
The Wren smiled.

***
Another year passed. Carthinal had been with The Beasts for just over two years. There had been many more fights like the one with the Green Fish. Other gangs tried to take over the Beasts’ territory. It was the best territory in Bluehaven, having the market. Carthinal learned to fight with his knife and usually came away with few injuries.

“The luck of the elves,” The Wren told him.

His relationship with The Wren deepened, and soon they shared a room. They were a good team, too, and The Rooster was proud of the way they never failed to get a good haul when they went out to pick pocket.

It was the spring equinox, Grillon’s Day and the first day of spring when they went out, not to pick pockets, but to watch the entertainers in the square.

Grillon’s Day was a day of celebration all over Grosmer. First, there was a service in Grillon’s Grove outside the city. Most people went there or to his temple in the city. Here the priests gave thanks to Grillon for past productivity and fertility. He was the god of the wild and wild things, and beloved by hunters, but because his day was the first day of spring, everyone worshipped him on this day. All except the gangs.

After the services, people came into the towns to feast and be entertained, then in the evening, there was dancing around the bonfires, after which couples sneaked away into the woods. Any children born after this celebration were not considered illegitimate, but thought of as Grillon’s children.

This year, a magician was billed to be appearing, and Carthinal and The Wren got to the square early. They stood hand in hand waiting for the show to begin.

It began with dancers in the centre of the square, then a group of singers appeared. Clowns and people on stilts followed . The stilt walkers began to dance and the audience clapped, cheered and threw money into the arena. A man dressed in a clown’s costume with a bucket, picked the coins up and then went round the crowd shaking it for people to add more.

A woman brought her dogs into the space and they ran around seemingly at random at the beginning, but then she began to play a flute and dance. The dogs followed her movements and soon they were all dancing, weaving around each other. That brought more cheers, and people threw money again. The same clown picked it up and asked for more from the crowd.

Finally the magician appeared. He wore a deep blue robe with stars and moons printed all over it. He had a hood pulled up over his head so no one could see his face. He waved his hands around in the air and appeared to pull coins out of the air.

“I wish I could do that,” whispered Wren. “We’d no longer have to steal to make a living. We’d be rich.”

“I don’t think it’s real magic, though,” Carthinal replied. “If he could conjure coins, I don’t think he’d be here doing that.”

The magician approached the crowd. He reached out his hand and seemingly pulled a sweetmeat from behind a small boy’s ear. He handed it to the child who immediately put it in his mouth and grinned.

This went on for some time, until Carthinal began to feel a prickling all over his skin. He scratched.

“What’s wrong?” Wren asked. “Got fleas?”

Carthinal shook his head and watched the magician carefully. He was muttering some words and a flame appeared on one of his fingers. Still muttering, he made it jump from one finger to the next.

The next thing he did, Carthinal felt nothing, then he felt the prickling again. This time the man held a globe of light that changed colour as he moved it around. He threw it into the air and it turned blue, then disappeared against the sky.

This went on for some time. The crowd loved it, especially when the magician conjured bursts of coloured lights in the sky. All this time, Carthinal’s skin prickled.

After the show, as the pair walked back to the headquarters, Carthinal said, “I think some of that was real magic. Not all of it, of course, just some of it.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Didn’t you get a prickling of your skin when he did certain things?”

Wren shook her head. “No, Nothing. Why?”

Carthinal looked down at her. “Doesn’t matter. I thought it was interesting, that’s all.”

Was it real magic, and can Carthinal sense when it is being used?

Please leave a comment in the comments box. and tell me what you think of this story.

If you would like to find out more about how Carthinal turns out and his later adventures, you can do so by reading The Wolves of Vimar Series. Just click on the book covers in the side bar to go to its page on Amazon, wherever you are.

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Carthinal 5

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Several months later, as Carthinal and Wren were just leaving on a job, The Bull charged into the headquarters.
“Green Fish on our patch.” He paused for breath. “Their boss is with ‘em., too. Think they want to try a takeover.”
The Rooster surged to his feet and began pointing and giving orders. “Fox, Wren, come ‘ere. Job’s cancelled. Porcupine, get th’ weapons. Bull, find th’ other big guys and come back ‘ere. Quickly. Everyone oo’s ‘ere gather round.”
Porcupine arrived pulling a large chest. The Rooster opened it and began handing out weapons. Daggers in the main, but he gave a bows to a couple of the stronger lads, who set about stringing them. Carthinal watched as they heaved on the heavy wood, realising the bows would need a great deal of strength to draw.
“Fox, take this knife.”
“I’ve never used one before.” Carthinal looked at the weapon, turning it over in his hands.
“Mind.” The Wren came up and took it from him. “It’s sharp. Very. You c’d cut yer fingers off.”
Carthinal grimaced and took it from her. “I’ll be careful. What happens now?”
“We go and fight Green Fish off our patch.”
Carthinal frowned and looked at his dagger again. “I don’t know how to fight.”
It was Wren’s turn to grimace. “Then you’ll ’ave ter learn quick. That or die.” She gave a little laugh. “I’d ’ate ter see that ’appen.”
The gang was making its way through the door and into the street. Wren and Carthinal rushed to catch up. Green Fish had set themselves up in the park where Carthinal had slept when he first found himself on the streets. The gang, about thirty strong, stood in the entrance to the park.
A few citizens were strolling in the park as it was a pleasant spring day. One of the first of the year. They stopped, frozen in their tracks.
The Rooster stepped in front of the rest of the gang. “You’re on our patch.”
Another young man stepped in front of the group facing the Beasts. “Sez oo?”
“Sez me, and we’re gonna see you gone or dead.”
He beckoned the rest of the gang, who rushed through the gates. As soon as the gate cleared, the citizens rushed out. Carthinal watched them go, wishing he could go with them, but he must fight. How should he do it?
“Come on,” Wren whispered. “We’re missing all the fun.”
Fun? What’s fun about probably getting hurt, or possibly getting killed? In spite of his fears, Carthinal rushed towards the fight, after Wren.
It looked like chaos to Carthinal. He grasped his knife trying to find someone who he didn’t know to stab. He looked around. He recognised everyone. Then he saw someone he knew. Someone who was not one of the Beasts. Someone who had tried to rob him.
He felt his anger rise from somewhere in his stomach. Carthinal deserved to have his own back on this young man, and, although smaller, he rushed through the melee. He almost tripped over a body lying on the ground, but managed to catch his balance. The trip propelled him forward towards his selected victim. He held his dagger before him and thrust it forwards.
The young man in question had his back to Carthinal, and the dagger entered between his ribs, and pierced a lung. He went down with a cry. Carthinal smiled.
He found himself in the middle of the battle. How dare these people try to take over his gang’s territory? His anger had not been assuaged. The stabbing of his enemy only fed it. He swung the knife at random, but, as luck would have it, he made contact with a young woman’s eyes. She screamed and fell.
So it went on for what seemed to Carthinal like hours. When the last of Green Fish ran away, leaving their friends groaning on the park grass, he looked at the sky. The sun had not moved far. The battle had taken no more than half an hour. He looked around to see how many of his friends had been injured.
There was The Rooster, covered in blood, but checking those lying on the ground. Some he helped to their feet, calling others to take them away. Some he sighed over, bent and closed their eyes, but most he left.
The sound of pounding feet brought Carthinal to his senses. The Cat, blood running from a cut on his cheek, called “Fox, run. It’s the guard. If they catch you, you might as well have been killed here.”
All those who could, scattered in all directions. The guards tried to pursue them, but quickly lost them as soon as they got into the poor quarter. Gradually all made their way back to the headquarters.

 

The Rooster counted them. “We lost five. I hope the injured make it back. I sent them off with help before the guards arrived.”
Slowly the injured, and those helping them arrived.
“Did we lose any on the way?” he asked The Scorpion, who was helping the injured.
“No. We all got back.”
Carthinal looked round the room. Some had minor wounds, others more serious. He had a cut on his hand, and one young woman had managed to cut his shirt, but the knife had not gone through.
“Where’s Wren?” he asked. He felt a hollow feeling in his stomach as he realised she was nowhere to be seen.
The Rooster searched the room with his eyes. He turned to The Scorpion. “But we didn’t all get back. The Wren isn’t here.”
The Scorpion hung his head. “Sorry, boss. I thought she was with Fox.”
“Thought? Thought?” The Rooster paced up and down. “What do you mean, ‘Thought’? Did you think to check with Fox?”
The Scorpion shook his head. “Sorry” he repeated, shuffling his feet.
“We must find her.” The Rooster began organising the search. “She wasn’t among the dead, so she left the park. Let’s just hope she’s not been caught by the Guard.”

Where is Wren? Has she been caught? Find out the first Tuesday in October.

This is the story of Carthinal’s youth. Carthinal is a young man in my Wolves of Vimar series which begins with The Wolf Pack. You can buy this, and my other books, by clicking on the images in the side bar.

I hope you are enjoying this story. Please let me know in the comments.

Carthinal’s Story Part 3

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“I’m not moving from here until I see the lawyer.” Carthinal set his mouth in a straight line.

The woman stood and rounded her desk. She took Carthinal by the arm and tried to propel him to the door. He planted his feet onto the ground and pulled back. The woman slipped and almost fell. She cried out.
A door behind the woman’s desk opened. “What’s all the noise about, Hiroma?” Then he caught sight of Carthinal. His face reddened and his hands formed fists at his side. He iseyes glam]nced from side to side.
“What do you want?” he growled.
Carthinal’s mouth formed a firm line. “I want my house back.”

 

“What are you talking about, boy? You are, what? thirteen years old? How can an thirteen-year-old have a house? Go back to your parents.”
“I have no parents. And I’m seventeen.”
Gromblo Grimnor laughed. “Seventeen? Seventeen? I’ve seen taller twelve-year-olds than you. Don’t try to kid me. Now, what do you really want? And who sent you? Do you want money? If you’re in some gang, they’ve not done very well with this scam.”
“You know who I am.” Carthinal looked Gromblo in the eye. “I am Carthinal. My Grandfather was Kendo Borlin. He left his house and money to me. He told me so.”
Gromblo narrowed his eyes. “So that’s your game. Trying to impersonate Carthinal. Well, I have to tell you that Carthinal is dead. He died of pneumonia last year. Some say his death was the cause of his Grandfather’s illness. That the old man never recovered from the shock. So,. You see, you can’t be Carthinal.” The lawyer laughed.
“I’m not dead. I’m here. And I want to know why you stole my home.”
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and call the Guard. We need to get this child out of here.”
As she left, Carthinal felt a tightness in his chest, and a familiar feeling welling up from his stomach. Clenching his fists, he ran at Gromblo and kicked him in the shins. The lawyer yelled, hopped on one leg for a few seconds and lunged at Carthinal, who slipped beneath his arm. Steadying himself on the wall behind the bench where Carthinal had been sitting, he turned and, with a roar, launched himself once more at the child. This time he managed to catch Carthinal’s arm. Carthinal bit the hand holding him, but Gromblo managed to hang on to the boy.
Carthinal screamed at the man. “I’m not dead. I’m here, and you’ve stolen my home and my money.”
The door opened and Hiroma appeared with a guard.
“What’s going on here?” the guard asked.
“This little rat is trying to say he’s Kendo Borlin’s grandson. You know, the head of the guilds, who died last year. I think he’s trying to get money from me.”
“Too right I am. You owe me a fortune.”
Gromblo turned to the guard. “See what I mean? I grant you he looks a bit like Carthinal, with the red hair and blue eyes, but that child is dead.”
“Do you have proof of the child’s death?”
Carthinal looked at the guard. He had not thought of that. There could not be anything to prove the demise of Carthinal. He stood right here in front of them, very much alive.
Gromblo turned to Hiroma. “Go and get the Borlin file.”
The young woman left, to return a few minutes later with a thick file. Gromblo took it and laid it on his secretary’s desk.
He fumbled through a lot of papers then pulled one out. “I did a lot of work for Kendo Borlin “Aah! Here’s the paper giving details of Carthinal’s death. Very sad it was. A lovely little boy. Such a sweet nature.”
Carthinal frowned. He had hardly seen Gromblo when he visited. Neither had he ever heard himself described as having a ‘sweet nature’. He had been too much of a rebel and short-tempered for that epithet to be applied.
The guard looked at the paper. He frowned. “Looks as if the name could have been scrubbed out.”
Gromblo paled. “Well, you know how it is. Secretaries aren’t like they used to be.” He flashed a look at Hiroma who started tapping her feet. “I expect she made a spelling mistake or something.”
The guard grunted. Carthinal thought he saw something pass between the guard and Gromblo as the guard passed the paper back, but he could not be sure. Then the guard grabbed him and propelled him towards the door, pushing him so that Carthinal rolled over in the dust in the road.
“Get out of here.” The guard gave him another push, but more gently this time. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near here in future. That lawyer’s sneaky, not like the old man who used to be there. He’ll try to do you harm if I’m not mistaken.”
With that, the guard stomped away, looking at something in his hand.
Carthinal watched as the guard disappeared round the corner of a building. What did he mean? Did he mean he believed Carthinal and not Gromlo? He made his way back to the park where he had slept. He sat on the grass and pulled out what money he had left. As he counted it, a shadow loomed over him. Carthinal looked up. A boy of about fifteen stood over him, with another standing just behind.
“Hand over your money.”
Carthinal jumped to his feet, stuffing the coins back into his pocket. “No! Why should I?”
The boy was much bigger than Carthinal. In fact, he stood a head taller, and he was broad-shouldered. His friend was a little smaller, but not by much.
“Because if you don’t, we’ll punch you until you drop it, then we’ll get it anyway. Your choice.”
Carthinal backed away, keeping his eyes on both boys as best he could, and his hand on the coins in his pocket. If he gave these thugs his money, he would have nothing to buy food with. He would starve.
They both came at him at once. Being smaller, Carthinal managed to duck under both their hands, but then he felt a blow on the back of his head. He went down, but kicked out his feet as he did so. The second boy, as luck would have it, happened to be coming in for another blow and Carthinal’s kick took both his legs from under him. He crashed down on top of his victim.
The first boy dragged his friend off but the blow Carthinal expected did not happen. He looked up to see his assailant held in a firm grip by another, even larger boy, while a smaller one pummeled the second.
Carthinal’s nostrils flared and he clenched his fists. How dare these young thugs try to steal his money. Taking advantage of the fact that he was held, he bunched his fist and slammed it into the midriff of the larger of his two assailants. The boy holding him swung him round and punched him as well. Gasping for breath, he took off, running as fast as his legs could carry him.
The smaller of the two new arrivals dipped and dodged and got in quite a lot of blow without being hit himself, but as soon as his opponent saw his friend running, he, too, turned on his heels and fled.
Panting, the smaller of his rescuers turned to Carthinal. “Right. ’oo are yer and what’re yer doin’ on our patch?”
Carthinal frowned. “Patch? I don’t understand.”
“Yer not part o’ our gang, and yer not part o’ Th’ Green Fish, either. So oo are yer?”
“Green Fish?”
The boy frowned and ran his fingers through his dark hair. “Start by tellin’ me oo yer are. Bull,’old ’im t’ make sure ’e don’t run for it. Right. We’ve never seen you ’ere before. Tell me oo yer are.”
“I’m Carthinal Borlin. I live, or rather used to live, up on the hill.”
“A rich kid,” growled Bull. “Let’s kick ’im.”
“I’m not a rich kid anymore.”
The smaller boy put his head on one side. “What d’yer mean, ‘anymore’?”
“The lawyer has taken my home and said I’m dead. He had a paper to prove it.”
Bull released Carthinal’s arms. “What d’yer think, Cat? Let him go?”
Cat shook his head. “’e’s not part o’ Green Fish. We can’t ’ave ’im wanderin’ round operatin’ on ’is own. We’ll take ’im to ’eadquarters.”
Carthinal did not know what they were talking about, but as he had no other ideas as to what he could do, he followed the pair.
They led him to an area Carthinal had never been before. Near to the docks, it was very run down. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of rotting food lying in the gutters, and carefully skirted other unmentionable things. A skinny dog barked at them as they passed, and half-starved cats jumped onto walls. Dirty children ran wild in the streets, and people looked suspiciously at Carthinal’s expensive, if dirty, clothes.
They came to a dark alley where his escorts turned off the main road and arrived at a door whose paint had mostly peeled off. Cat knocked a complex pattern and the door opened a crack. Just enough for Carthinal to see a grey eye peering out.
“Oh, it’s you.” The voice was female. Carthinal saw the eye turn to him. “Oo’s this?”
“Someone oo might want ter join us. Come on, Shrew. Open up. We need to see Rooster.”
The door creaked on its hinges as Shrew swung it back. The three entered into a long corridor.
Carthinal looked around. Inside it appeared cleaner than outside. The wooden planks on the floor had been polished and the walls looked clean and painted.
“Come on. Rooster’ll want ter see yer.” Shrew beckoned them towards a door at the end of the corridor.
Carthinal followed and found himself in a large room. Several small tables scattered around with a few people sitting at them. Some played Rond, a card game popular on Vimar. Others sat around talking or mending clothes and tools.
Light streamed in through two large windows opposite the door. As with everything else, they were clean and polished. A large table stood under one of the windows, and a man sat on a large chair behind it.
He stood as the three entered the room. He was dressed in a tunic of red and blue, with green trousers. He had his hair dyed red and it stood up. His nose was long and he craned his neck forward as he looked at them.
“What’s this you’ve brought?”
“We found ’im. Green Fish attacked ’im,” the boy known as The Cat replied. “Well, a couple of ’em, anyway. They were on our patch, so we saw ’em off.”
“Why bring ’im ’ere? ’e looks like one o’ them rich bods.”
“’e was, but ’e was cheated of ’is ’ouse, ’e sez.”
The Rooster came round the table. He walked all round Carthinal, looking him up and down. Carthinal shuffled his feet as he watched the man.
He does look like a rooster, Carthinal thought. He even walks like one.
When he returned to face Carthinal, The Rooster turned to him. “The Cat says you might want t’join us. What d’you say?”
Carthinal looked around the room. All eyes looked in his direction, and a few people had left their places and now stood around looking at him.
He turned his eyes at the person referred to as The Cat. “I never said that!”
The small, dark-haired boy grinned. “Not in so many words, no. But you were on our patch. You’ll be stealin’ soon. You steal on our patch, you better be in The Beasts or we’ll deal wi’ you like we did Green Fish”
“Who says I’ll steal? Stealing’s wrong.”
The Rooster stood up from the table and approached. “’ow much money ‘ave you, boy? You say you got no ’ome. Your money’ll run out soon. Then you’ll steal to live. You can join us or not. Up to you, but if you don’t, expect us to sort you out like we sorted Green Fish. You’ll not survive long. Green Fish’ll be after you, too. You join The Beasts and we’ll give you food, protection and a ’ome.”
Carthinal stood looking at the young man in front of him. What he said was true. He closed his eyes as he thought.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you.” The Rooster interrupted his thoughts. “We hold everything in common. You have to give us what you have.”
Carthinal stepped back. “I only have a little money left. You can’t take that.”
The Rooster shrugged. “Have it your own way.” He turned to go back to his chair. Then he stopped and looked back at Carthinal. “We’ll get th’ money anyway. One of us’ll catch you and take it. Pr’ob’ly beat you a bit, too, ’cos you’ll be on or patch, see. So you lose it anyway.”
“All right.” Carthinal felt in his pocket and pulled out his few royals, He handed it to The Rooster.
“Sensible lad.” The Rooster took the money and called to a young man sitting by the window. “Tiger, bring th’ money pot. We’ve a bit more ter put in it.”
Tiger lifted a pot from one of the shelves and carried it carefully over to The Rooster, who dropped Carthinal’s money into it.
“You need a name,” one of the girls said.
“I’m called Carthinal”
“No, a gang name. We don’t use our given names here. As we’re the Beasts, we all have animal names. I’m The Porcupine.”
Another boy chimed up, “I know. ’e’s got red ’air. ‘e can be The Fox.”

So Carthinal has joined a street gang! Will he be able to fit in? What will he think about committing crimes?

Find out on the first Tuesday of August.

Are you enjoying the story of Carthinal’s early life? Please let me know what you think in the comments.

If you want to know more about Carthinal, you can find out by reading The Wolf Pack. You can buy by clicking here, or on the book cover.

 

Carthinal’s Story, Part 2

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One day when Carthinal had been out all day, he returned to find the door locked against him. Gromblo Grimnor appeared when he knocked.
“Go away,” the lawyer said. “There’s nothing for you here. We don’t want beggars at the door.”
He crossed the road and stood looking at the house he had once called home. Some men came and erected a sign saying it was for sale. How could they sell his house without his permission? His grandfather left it to him in his will.
Carthinal sat on a wall to watch. As he watched, the staff who had served his grandparents left one by one. Some carried bags, others nothing. All turned to look back at the house as they trudged away. None saw the small auburn-haired lad sitting on the wall.
Eventually, when he had seen everyone leave except the lawyer, Carthinal turned away. Where should he go? He had no living relatives. Not here in Bluehaven, anyway. His father had been an elf and had relatives in the elven homeland of Rindisillaron, but he had no idea how to get there, nor how to find his paternal grandparents if he did manage it.
He ambled away, constantly turning to look toward the house. He had no idea where he was going, but staying there was pointless. His stomach rumbled. By now, the cook would have given him some honey cakes to assuage his hunger until it was time for the evening meal. His mouth felt dry, too.
He had a little money in his pocket and so he wended his way towards the market place where there would be stalls selling food. He did not know what his small amount of money would buy him. Although he was seventeen years old, being a half-elf, he developed slower than human children, and he looked and behaved more like an thirteen-year-old. People found it odd, and many thought he was mentally deficient, that a seventeen-year-old should look and behave as if he were only thirteen.
Sixteen was the legal age of majority in Grosmer, but Carthinal did not feel grown up. No one really knew when he would be able to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Elves were twenty five before they became officially adults, but a half-elf—well, no one knew.
Carthinal arrived at the market. Taking a few coins from his pocket, he wandered past the stalls looking for something he could afford.
He stopped by a stall. “How much are your small pies?”
“The very small ones are one royal,” the stall-holder replied, citing one of the copper coins.
“Please may I have one?”
The man smiled and passed a pie to the child. “Don’t spoil your evening meal with it, though, or your parents will be annoyed with me.
Carthinal’s indigo blue eyes filled with tears, and he turned away so the man would not see. He strolled to the park gates, munching on the pie. Where would he sleep tonight? Would it be safe to sleep outdoors? How cold would it be? All these questions passed through his mind as he finished the pie and brushed the crumbs off his tunic.
As the grandson of a prominent guild member in the town of Bluehaven, Carthinal had always been well-dressed. Today was no exception. He wore a dark green tunic over a lighter green shirt and brown trousers. The cut and the cloth marked him out as the child of a wealthy family. He had never known hardship in his entire life.
As he passed a fountain, he cupped his hands and picked up some of the water. When he had slaked his thirst, he entered the park gates. Fortunately it was summer, and so the night would be unlikely to be cold. Carthinal sat down on the grass to think.
The night began to fall and he fell asleep where he sat on a grassy bank, shaded by a large tree. He dreamed of his grandfather. They were in his grandfather’s office and the old man spoke to the child standing in front of him.
“Carthinal, remember this. Life isn’t always easy. You’ve been lucky in that you’ve never known hardship. The gods be praised you never will, but everything will not go smoothly, even so.” His grandfather sat on a chair in front of his desk and pulled Carthinal towards him, putting his arms around the child. “When you meet problems, always think them through. Take your time, and don’t try to rush things. If you do that, things will usually turn out right in the end.”
The sun woke Carthinal the next morning. He stretched , looking around and wondering where he was, and why he wasn’t in his bed. Then he remembered. He had no home now. His eyes began to fill with tears, but he brushed them away.
His stomach rumbled as he stood and made his way back to the marketplace. Here he bought some fruit for one royal and a small glass of goats’ milk for another.
The sun rose high in the sky and Carthinal returned to the park where he sat in the shade of a tall tree. This far south in the land of Grosmer, summers were hot, and soon the young lad began to feel thirsty. He stood and made his way back to the fountain where he drank some water. Then he wandered once more towards the market place.
At noon he bought some bread filled with chicken. He looked at the coins that were left in his hand. Only two royals. He could only get a couple more meals with them. What would he do then? He could get water to drink, but that wouldn’t help him beat off starvation.
He wandered the streets of Bluehaven all day until he found himself outside the offices belonging to the lawyer his grandfather had trusted with his will. He crossed the road and opened the door.
The young woman sitting at a desk looked up. “What do you want?” she snapped. “This is a lawyer’s office, not a child’s playground. Be off with you.”
Carthinal stood his ground. “I want to speak with Gromblo Grimnor, please.”
The girl laughed. “And what business have you with a lawyer?”
“I want my home back.” Carthinal sat on a bench situated against a wall.
“A child can’t own a house.”
“I’m seventeen.”
The woman laughed. “Seventeen? You look no more than thirteen. Be a good boy and go away. Find your friends and play.”

Can Carthinal get his home back? How has the lawyer managed to cheat the boy?

Find out on the first Tuesday of July.

Please leave a comment in the comments box and let me know what you think of this story. It’s the backstory of Carthinal, who is one of the main characters in my Wolves of Vimar series. You can buy the first book, The Wolf Pack, on Amazon, is either an ebook or a ‘real’ book. Click here to go to Amazon where you are.

Horselords. Training

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Davrael was taking his turn at leading Moonbeam while Kimi rode. The usually dour and serious young man was smiling. He had never felt so happy in his life. He had no possessions, just his horse, which he reasoned they would have to sell when they reached Hambara, no family left except for Kimi, and no idea where their next meal was coming from, but he had never been more optimistic in his life. Of course, it was all because of Kimi and his love for her. At last they were together, and that was all that mattered to him. He turned and smiled up at her.
She smiled back. ‘I think it’s your turn to ride now, Davrael,’ she told him, stopping the mare and sliding down from her back.
‘Let’s both walk for a while, Little Mouse,’ smiled Davrael. ‘I want to hold your hand.’
Kimi reached out and took her new husband’s hand in hers, twining her fingers through his. They walked on together, not speaking, but just contented in the company of each other and the contact made through their handclasp.
It was a slightly warmer day than they had known recently. It was always a bit warmer in the lee of the mountains, but they had now left the range they knew as The Barrier far behind. The sun was shining too, adding to the feeling of optimism they shared.

‘Davrael,’ Kimi said suddenly, ‘I feel so happy. It doesn’t make any sense. Here we are, destitute and in a strange land. I should be feeling at least a bit nervous about the future, but somehow I don’t. I know everything will turn out well, somehow. Ever since we were married in that glade, I’ve had a feeling that we’re being looked after. It doesn’t make any sense,’ she repeated.
‘It’s because we’re together at last. Now nothing can separate us,’ Davrael replied, ‘Not even our parents. Somehow, I too know things will be fine. We’ll find work and somewhere to live, don’t you worry.’
Kimi laughed. I’m not worried, I just told you, didn’t I, you silly goose.’
They decided to stop for a break and something to eat as it was almost six hours since dawn and time for the mid-day meal. As they sat on the grass by the side of the dusty road, Davrael thought he heard something moving in the trees behind them. He quickly signed to Kimi to remain quiet and sit still. He stood, drawing his two knives, and crept silently to the trees behind them.

A man rose from the under-brush with a short sword drawn and ready. Davrael yelled a war cry and slashed with his left-hand knife. The man was not expecting this, thinking Davrael would use his right, a fact that Davrael was counting on. Davrael’s left-handedness had often caught unwary opponents in the Games held by the tribes on the plains.

The man parried the blow, but then was surprised by Davrael spinning and then bringing his right-hand knife into play. After a few more parries and attempts to get past Davrael’s guard, he took off into the trees. He had been unnerved by not only Davrael’s skill and the fact that he had never before faced an opponent wielding two weapons, but also by the frightening aspect of the Horselord with the hawk tattoo on his face. Davrael returned to a frightened Kimi.
‘Are you all right?’ she asked him, probing him with her eyes for any blood. ‘Do you think there are any more of them?’
‘Yes, Little Mouse,’ replied Davrael, ‘I’m fine. I think the man was just an opportunist who saw what he thought were two helpless travellers and thought he would try his hand at robbery. Maybe he wanted Moonbeam. She is after all a Horselord horse.’
‘Maybe,’ replied his wife, ‘But I think we should be moving on, just in case he comes back with friends. You know how these Grosmerians covet our horses.’
The pair set off again. After a while, Davrael spoke again to Kimi, who was once again riding.
‘I’ve been thinking, my love,’ he said, ‘That you should learn to fight. There are only we two, and we are vulnerable. If there had been more than one man back there, we would now probably have no horse at the very least, and maybe we would be dead.’
‘I can use my bow, Davrael,’ replied Kimi. ‘I often had contests with my brothers, and also went hunting with them.’
‘Yes, that I know, Mouse,’ replied the other, ‘but sometimes a bow is not enough. Sometimes an enemy can get in close before you can damage or kill him. Then what?’
They decided that each evening, Kimi would learn to fight using a pair of long knives like those Davrael wielded so efficiently. The Horselords did not use swords as did most of the folk of the northern part of the continent of Khalram, preferring to either attack with short bows from horseback, controlling their galloping mounts with their knees. If they were on the ground, they used two knives, longer than daggers, but considerably shorter than short swords.
That evening, Davrael began Kimi’s lessons. He told her to find a stick about the same length as one of the knives, and he did the same. He began to teach her the rudiments of defence with one knife, using a stick in lieu of a wooden practice knife. At first, he managed to ‘kill’ her every time. At the end of their first practice, which he only allowed to go on for about a half-hour, she felt her bruises where Davrael’s stick had got past her somewhat imperfect defence. She complained to him, and thanked the gods that he had not decided to use real knives or she would really have been dead, several times over.
‘Young boys begin their training at six years old,’ Davrael told her. ‘You are eleven years past that age. They would all be expert knife fighters by the time they are seventeen. You must forget how old you are, how good your brothers were at your age. Remember, you are as a six-year-old in this.’
She smiled at this thought, but it did bring her a little comfort. She had, in fact, been thinking that she was nowhere near as good as her brothers, but, as Davrael had pointed out, she was remembering them practising in their teens, not as small boys. Both her brothers were older than she was, four and eight hers her senior, and had always seemed so grown up to her. She could not remember them being as inept as she seemed to be with the knives.
‘You did very well, for a first attempt, Kimi,’ Davrael told her, and he pulled her to him and kissed her soundly. ‘We will practice every evening. Next time it will be for an hour.’
Kimi groaned at the thought of all those extra bruises.
‘You’ll just have to stop me getting through then, won’t you, my love?’ laughed Davrael as he pulled her towards him once more.
Each evening, when they stopped, they practiced with their sticks. Soon Davrael was hardly able to touch Kimi, and he began to teach her to attack as well as defend. He was very proud of the way she had taken to the skill. She was learning much faster than he had hoped, or even considered she could learn. She was a natural, as he told her one night, after they had made love under the light of both Lyndor and Ullin. He hoped that she would be able to handle a real knife by the time they reached Hambara. He would buy her one there, he determined. She would like that.
And so the pair continued on their way towards the second biggest city in Grosmer, unsure of why, or what they were going to do once there, but both as happy as they had ever been.

Horselords Part 7

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Kimi crept silently out of the house. She paused to listen with bated breath when 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 on which 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.
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. 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 agreed the only way for them to be together was to leave the land of their birth entirely. They planned to meet a mile from Kimi’s home ina forest clearing where they had 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, people found him 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 carried 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, he wore 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 chose this night to elope, because of the moon phases. Lyndor was three quarters full and 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 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 had not come. 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 range 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 decidedthey had put enough distance 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 sank 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’ve 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 a pass over the mountains, and here they slowed. The passes were treacherous at the best of times, and it was still winter. 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 gallantly plodded 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 began with the winter solstice. Only now did Davrael think that maybe their haste had been ill considered, and wondered if they would have been better to wait 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 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.’
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, managed a little more than Davrael since her family had traded from time to time with the people of Grosmer. The couple decided 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 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 told them, there was the Invisible Mage, but more importantly, 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 saw 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. 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 did not intend 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 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.
The young couple 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 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 her on their journey and regretted they may have to sell her.
Will Davrael and Kimi have to sell the mare? Will they reach Hambara, and what will happen to them there?

Read the next instalment on the first Tuesday of next month.

If you wish to know more about the Horselords and their adventures, read The Wolf Pack, available from http://mybook.to/TheWolfPack

Horselords Part 6

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First of all, may I apologise for not posting this part last month, but I promised to do the cover reveal for D.H. Nevins. thank you for your patience. I hope you enjoy this part.

Kimi rode her own piebald horse as they trotted out of the camp, waved off by Andrid. Kimi felt happy and began to hum a tune. She was going home at last, and her longing to see her family made her excited.

But it was a long way. The Swooping Hawks held a large territory, and it would take nearly a sixday to get back to Kimi’s father’s farm.

Each evening, Davrael came to talk with Kimi in her tent. Mimola sat at the back sewing so the two young people could talk without her presence disturbing them. At first, Kimi asked her to join them, but she declined saying she had sewing to do. She was embroidering a tunic for Andrid. It was a surprise for him and this was an ideal opportunity for her to be able to get on with it without him knowing.

During the journey, the pair got to know each other better. Kimi liked what she saw of the young warrior.

One evening, Davrael said, ‘You remind me of a little mouse, Kimi.’

Kimi frowned. ‘A mouse?’ she said.

‘Yes, a mouse. Not because you’re timid. You are definitely not that, but you are small and brown, and very sweet. Your hair is brown and your eyes are brown, and you are very tiny.’

Kimi was not sure quite how to take this comparison, but she decided to accept it as a compliment. She smiled at the man opposite her. He looked into her eyes with his paler brown ones and she felt as though an electric shock passed through her. He seemed to jerk back slightly himself, as if he, too. had felt something. She saw a slight frown pass across his face, then he was back to normal.

Each evening passed in a similar way until they reached the edge of the lands claimed by Kimi’s family. Then, Davrael gave orders for his men to stay where they were with the horses and he and Kimi rode on towards the homestead.

The sun had just begun to set when they arrived at the farm. They reined in their horses just as Kimi’s mother came out of the house. She carried a bucket towards the well when she noticed them.

Giving a scream of delight and surprise, she dropped the bucket and ran towards the pair. Kimi slid off her horse and ran towards her mother, falling into her arms.

‘Kimi, you’re back, you’re back,’ said her mother, over and over again.

Her father came out of the barn at that moment and saw Kimi. He dropped the bucket he carried and ran to where the girl and her mother stood, still hugging each other.

‘Kimi,’ he said, tearing her away from his wife and hugging her to him. ‘We thought you lost, perhaps even dead, and here you are returned to us. Praise to Kassilla.’

Kimi extricated herself from her father and turned towards where Davrael sat on his horse a little way away. She beckoned him to come forward and he dismounted and led his horse to where the family stood. Before Kimi could say a word, her father’s face darkened.

‘I suppose you’ve come for a reward. Taking our little girl and then bringing her back. Not to mention the horses. Where are they? I expect you’ve kept them.’

Kimi’s face fell. She turned to her father. ‘It wasn’t like that, father. Davrael did not capture me.’

‘Hmm. Then how come you’re with him now?’

‘Father, he rescued me. I was captured by the Prowling Lynx. Davrael’s from the Swooping Hawks. The Lynx were the ones who stole our horses, and me. They wanted fresh blood in the tribe and were going to make me marry the son of their chief. He was horrible. He’s a cruel young man.’

‘They’re all the same, the Tribes. Thieves all. If it hadn’t been the Lynx it would have been the Hawks no doubt.’

Kimi’s eyes filled with tears. ‘Father, the Swooping Hawks are honest and they’ve punished the Lynx, including their chief. They would never have done the things the Lynx did.’

‘Perhaps they didn’t steal the horses, but where are they now? Tell me that.’

Davrael held up his hand and whistled. From out of a stand of trees, three warriors drove the missing horses. Kimi rushed to the gate of the paddock and opened it as the men drove the animals in.

‘But you want a reward, don’t you? Your kind never do anything for nothing. What do you want?’

‘I’m just happy that Kimi is back with her family. and safe. I want nothing more.’

‘Well go, then. You’ve brought our daughter back. There’s nothing more for you here. I won’t pander to the greed of the Tribes. It’d only encourage more theft and kidnapping.’

Davrael leaped onto his horse’s back and, calling to his men, he galloped ioff into the distance.

Kimi rounded on her father, tears in her eyes.

‘How could you, Father? Davrael was so kind to me. You were rude and now he’s gone.’ She burst into tears without quite knowing why.

‘Come in, dear,’ her mother said. ‘You must have something to eat and a nice hot drink,’ and she led her daughter towards the house. Kimi turned to look at her father.

‘I didn’t think you could be so hard, father,’ she said. ‘Davrael is a nice, decent human being,’

‘Of course he is. He wants you to think that, then you’ll be able to get round me to provide a reward. Or so he thinks.’

He turned and went back to his work.

Kimi was glad to be home with her family, of course she was, but she did miss Davrael. This surprised her as they’d not known one another very long. then one day, about a sixday later, as she rode along past some trees, a rider came out, She screamed, but then recognised Davrael.

Riding up to him, with a huge smile on her face, she said, ‘Davrael, what are you doing here?’

‘I came to see you. I needed to see you. Kimi, I missed you.’

‘And I you, Davrael. I’m sorry my father was so horrid.’

‘Kimi, in the time we’ve been apart, I realised I wanted to see you more and more. My tribe had moved near to the border of your land, following the horses and so, if you wish, we can meet a few times each sixday.’

He looked so anxious that Kimi almost laughed, but she smiled and said. ‘Of course I want to see you, Davrael.’

During the next few months, the couple met as often as they could until one day, Davrael said he wanted to marry Kimi. He had told his father, but he had forbidden marriage with one of the Settlers. The Tribes view of the Settlers was not much better than that of the Settlers for the Tribes. Davrael’s father had also arranged for a young woman to visit to see if Davrael liked her, so they could marry. It would be a disgrace and a dishonour if Davrael were to reject her out of hand. The young man told Kimi he would be prepared to give up his place in the Tribe and settle down in one place, if that was what was needed.

Later, Kimi spoke to her mother and told her of Davrael’s promise.

‘Your father will never agree, even if Davrael does settle down, although I can’t see him doing so, The Tribes are wanderers.

‘Mother, once our ancestors were wanderers, too, and they settled. I’m sure Davrael can do it.’

Of course, her mother was right. Her father adamantly put down his foot. No daughter of his would marry a Tribesman. He would find her a nice, steady young man to marry, and give them six of his best horses for a wedding present as well as some land.

The pair met in secret then, hoping against hope something would change.

Will Davrael and Kimi manage to change their parents’ minds to allow them to marry? Read next month’s instalment to find out.

Please leave any comments on this episode in the comments box below.

If you want to know more about Davrael and Kimi, read The Wolf Pack.

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Horselords 5

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They rode into the camp to be greeted by Chief Andrid, Davrael’s father.
‘You were gone a long time, son,’ he said.

Davrael slid from his horse and embraced his father.

‘We had some problems,’ he replied. ‘We found some of the Prowling Lynx on our territory. We followd them for a while, then approached. They attacked us, so we had to retaliate.’

‘Were any of our men hurt?’

Davrael shook his head.

‘Those Lynx are no match for the Swooping Hawks. We easily defeated them. But they had stolen some horses from the settlers at the far side of our territory. What’s more, when the settlers tried to regain their horses, the Lynx took a young woman captive. We rescued her.’

‘Well done, son,’ Andrid said. ‘That’s typical of the Lynx. What were they going to do with the girl? Ask for ransom?’

‘No. The chief was going to make her marry his son.’

Andrid’s face grew red and he clenched his fists at his side.

‘What!’ he exclaimed. ‘That is against all our laws and customs. The Tribes do not force marriage on anyone.’

Davrael then brought Kimi forward and introduced her to his father.

He smiled at her and said, ‘We will make sure you are returned to your family, but we need you as a witness to what these men have done. We will begin the trial tomorrow.’

Davrael gave Kimi into the hands of his mother. She smiled warmly at the girl and told her to call her Mimola. Kimi smiled back and soon found herself telling Mimola all about her ordeal with the Prowling Lynx. That night she slept in Mimola’s tent. the best night’s sleep she had since her capture.

The following morning, true to his word, Andrid sat on the only chair in the camp, on a raised dais made of wooden planks laid across tree trunks.

‘Bring the prisoners forward,’ he commanded, and half a dozen of the Swooping Hawks led the Prowling Lynx warriors to the space before the chief.

Around this space stood the rest of the Swooping Hawk tribe, all agog to see what was happening. All kind of rumours had been circulating during the previous evening and night, and the people wanted to know what was going on.

Kimi stood to one side, with Davrael. His presence reassured her as she did not know what was going to happen.

As soon as the Prowing Lynx arrived, they stood, hands tied, before Andrid.

‘You have been accused of trespass and stealing horses,’ he said, ‘but what is worse, of kidnapping a young woman with the intention of making a forced marriage. This is against our laws, as you know, and so you must face this court.’

The chief of the Prowling Lynx stepped forward.

‘I do not recognise this court,’ he said, and stepped back.

Andrid laughed. ‘You may not recognise it, but it is perfectly legal. You are a chief and are being tried by a chief, as the law insists. Your men should be tried by your own chief, by rights, but as you are on trial, too, for the same crime, then that is not possible. I will try them also.

‘What do you have to say?’

The Prowling Lynx Chief said nothing.

‘Then I will ask a witness to come forward. Davrael, what have you to say?’

Davrael stepped forward and gave an account of how he and his men had been patrolling their territory when they came across the Prowling Lynx men. They challenged them, but were met with an attack. When they finally beat the Lynx, they found Kimi in one of the tents.’

The young man who Kimi understood to be the Prowling Lynx chief’s son shouted out.

‘We were not trespassing. We were just on our way back to our own lands. We had to cross yours. We had no intention of doing any harm, notr interfering in any way with your horses.’

His father gave him a stony stare, but he continued.

‘We only took horses from the settlers. Everyone knows they’re not proper Horselords. and ;the girl asked to be taken. She came after us and attacked. What were we supposed to do?’

Davrael stepped forward.

‘You should not have stolen their horses in the first place. Then she and her family would not have followed.’

‘They’re settlers for the gods’ sake. They aren’t proper horselords.’

Andrid scowled at the young man.

‘Settlers or not, true horselords or not, although on that point I agree, we do not steal.’

Andrid then turned to Kimi.

‘Kimi, come forward and tell me what happened.’

Then it was Kimi’s turn. She told how she had been captured and how the chief had told her she would be taken to their camp and married to his son. She told of the abuse she had received at the hands of that son, and how frightened she was. then, with a smile at Davrael, she told how he and his men had rescued her.’

The trial continued and lasted all day. Each of Davrael’s men gave evidence, as did the Prowling Lynx men, and eventually, their chief.

As the sun began to set over the plans, Andrid gave his verdict and sentence.
‘You are all guilty because not one of you stood up to say what happened is wrong. However, I accept it is difficult for warriors to go against their chief. Therefore, you warriors I am going to allow to return to your territory. However, if any of my men see you within five miles of our territory, then you will be recaptured.’

He turned to the chief and his son.

‘As chief and probable next chief, you have more responsibility for what happened. I cannot allow you both to go in the same way I did your men.’ He turned to the chief. ‘You hold great responsibility as chief of your people. You uphold the law and are responsible fora keeping it. Therefore it is doubly worse for you to have taken part in this theft and kidnapping. I sentence you to be beaten and kept in custody for two full years. Every day you will receive four lashes.’

There was an intake of breath from the crowd at the severity of this sentence. Andrid then turned to the chief’s son.

 

‘You were fully complicit in this. You could have had some influence over your father. but instead, you used the situation to frighten and abuse a young girl. You I sentence to be kept in custody for only one year, but because of the way you treated a young and frightened girl, each day you will receive six lashes.’

Andrid then dismissed the court and the Prowling Lynx warriors mounted their horses and rode off.

As he as taken away, the chief of the Lynx shouted, ‘What is going to happen to my tribe? They will be without a chief for two years.’
Andrid turned and said, ‘Your problem. With any luck, they’ll decide to reject you and choose a better leader.’

That evening, Kimi and Davrael talked long into the night. The next morning, his father had told him he was to accompany Kimi to her home. He chose a few warriors to accompany them in order to drive the horses, and his mother to act as chaperone.

How will Kimi’s family respond to her return?

Find out on the first Tuesday of December.

Please add a comment to this episode. I like hearing what you think.

You can find out more about Kimi and Davrael in their adventures with The Wolf Pack;

Follow this link to buy, or click on the book image at the side of the page.

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Horselords Part 4

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Kimi mounted the horse the young warrior brought her. He held its head as she vaulted onto its back. She recognised it as one of the ones the Prowling Lynx had stolen from her parents’ ranch. A chestnut with a blaze down his face and four white socks. She had been particularly fond of this animal, and she delighted to be riding him on her way home, if by a roundabout way.

‘I thought you would prefer to ride one of your own horses,’ he told her.

She nodded and took the reins from him, gripped the horse with her knees and squeezed. The horse responded and trotted off after the others, who had rounded up the spare horses and had begun to herd them westwards.

Kimi became aware of the young warrior riding up beside her. They rode in silence for some time. Kimi looked sideways at him. She still felt that he looked frightening and became uncomfortable when he looked at her. True, he had promised to take her home as soon as he had delivered the thieves to his father, but could she trust him? Her experiences with the previous tribesmen made her anxious.

The young warrior, after riding alongside her for around an hour, suddenly broke his silence.

‘My name’s Davrael,’ he said. ‘What’s your’s?’

Kimi jumped, then told him her name. He smiled at her and she noticed his eyes for the first time. They were a soft brown and had a spark of humour in them, as well as a kindness. Perhaps he had a fearsome appearance, but somehow she knew that he had a soft side.

Little more was said during the rest of the day, then the band stopped by the side of a stream. They put the captives in one tent, still tied up, and erected a separate tent for Kimi. Davrael smiled at her as he held the tent flap back for her to enter.

‘I’ll bring you some food in a few minutes,’ he said, and disappeared. Kimi unrolled the blankets left for her and sat down cross-legged on them to think about her situation.

Shortly, Davrael returned. He carried two bowls and wooden spoons. He sat down opposite her and handed her one of the bowls and a spoon.

‘Sorry it’s not better food,’ he said, looking at his bowl, ‘but we have only trail rations. We cooked dried meat to soften it, but it’s not good.’

Kimi shrugged, looking at her own bowl. ‘It’s better than going hungry. I’ve eaten worse.’ She began to scoop the food into her mouth and chew. The meat was tough, but it was nourishment and so she ate every last bit.

Neither of them spoke while they ate, then, after finishing, Davrael called to one of his men and handed him the bowls. He came back and sat down again. Kimi frowned. Why did he not go? He was not going to be like he other one, was he? Was he going to try to take advantage of her? At that thought, she shrank back a little.

Davrael noticed. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘I’m not a Lynx. The Swooping Hawks don’t take advantage of vulnerable women. We have honour. Neither do we steal from others.’

Kimi sighed and resumed her position.

‘Tell me about yourself and the Swooping Hawks, Davrael. I am from the Settled Tribes. We have forgotten much of the lives of the Wandering Tribes.’

‘We have our own territories,’ Davrael replied, ‘and we stick to them. At least, the Swooping Hawks do. Other tribes don’t always. When there is an infringement, the chiefs will usually try to settle it peacefully, but occasionally there is war.’

‘I’ve heard that the Wandering Tribes are always fighting each other,’ said Kimi.

Davrael shrugged. ‘If war is needed to settle a matter, then we fight. Some tribes steal, horses or land, like those Lynx.’ He spat in the direction of the tent where the Lynx were being held. He stood, and drew himself up to his full height, looking every inch the proud son of a Tribal Chief. ‘The Swooping Hawks do not steal, but we will defend what is ours.’

He strode out of the tent, leaving Kimi alone.

Each day for the next sixday, Davrael rode at Kimi’s side, and each evening he came to her tent to talk. He did not say much more than he needed to in order to answer Kimi’s questions. She decided he was a man of few words. Then, he asked her about her own life. Kimi found herself beginning to like this young man more and more, She became used to the tattoo on his face, and it no longer frightened her. She smiled at the thought.

‘What are ;you smiling at,’ he asked her.

‘Just that I wonder, now, why I was so frightened of you when we first met. I feel as if I’ve known you for ever, and we’ve always been friends.’

Davrael’s eyes lit up when she said this. ‘I’m glad you said that, Kimi. I feel that way too. We’ve always known each other.’

The ride continued over the plains. Grassland stretched away into the distance. They passed the occasional copse, and many streams. Once they had to cross a wide river at a ford. Davrael stuck to her side all the way until a camp appeared in the distance.

‘My father’s camp,’ Davrael told her. ‘Soon we’ll be rid of these Lynx dogs and get them tried and condemned then I can take you home.’

What will happen at the camp of Davrael’s father? How long will the trial take? And what are the feelings Kimi is beginning to feel for Davrael?

Find out on the first Tuesday of next month.

Please leave a comment in the comments box, and I’ll get back to you.

Horselords 3

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The raiding party moved ever westwards. the mountains the Horselords called The Barrier, retreated ever further away until they were just a blue haze on the horizon. Kimi looked longingly at them as she rode surrounded by Prowling Lynx warriors. Her home was at the foot of those mountains. Would she ever see it again? She prayed for a miracle, but the days passed and none arrived.

One evening, just as the men began to set up the camp, Kimi heard the sound of galloping hooves. She was inside her tent with a guard as they had put her tent up first. Not for any chivalrous reasons. Just that they thought she would be less likely to escape if she were safely in her tent with a guard.

Sounds of shouting came through the thin walls of the tent, followed by the noise of fighting. Horses whinneyed in fear, men shouted and the sound of metal on metal rang through the air. Kimi’s guard was in the process of tying her up, but when he heard the sounds, he rushed out to help his friends, leaving her alone and free. She thought of trying to make a break, but the sounds of fighting were all around. She thought she might be safer in here than out there.

Then suddenly, all was silent. Kimi crept to the tent door and peeped out. Her captors were now the captives. They stood in a huddle, surrounded by other men. A few bodies lay on the ground, and several of the captives had sustained wounds.

I hope the chief’s son is hurt, she thought, surprising herself at this thought. She had never been vindictive. But then, she had never been kidnapped and threatened with marriage to a violent man before.

One man walked round the group of captives. she listened to what he said.

‘You dare to cross the lands of the Swooping Hawks? You will come with us to our chief. There you will be tried.’

Kimi tried to slip back into the tent, but the man saw her and came over.

Kimi shrank back. This man was fairly tall, around five foot eleven, with a proud bearing. He wore his dark hair long and tied with a bandana to keep it from his eyes.

It was not his height or bearing that made Kimi afraid, though. On his face was a tattoo. This tattoo was in the shape of a hawk with its wings spread over his forehead, head down his straight nose and talons on his cheeks.

‘Who are you?’ he asked her. ‘I’m surprised they brought a woman on their raid. Even if they are Prowling Lynx ‘

‘I…I’m not with them,’ she stuttered.

He raised his eyebrows, making the hawk’s wings seem to flutter.

‘Then what are you doing here?’

Kimi swallowed. They raided my family’s ranch and took our best horses. When we went to try to get them back, they captured me.’ She took a deep breath to try to stop tears. ‘They were going to make me marry their chief’s son. He was cruel. He taunted and hit me.’

Now Kimi could no longer be brave, and tears began to fall. The young warrior strode out of the tent without looking back.

She heard the sounds of his feet striding towards the group of prisoners. Then she heard the young warrior’s voice calling to them. He called a name, but no one replied. There was silence for a while, then she heard quiet voices before the sounds of someone being beaten.

Shortly, the young warrior returned.

‘I taught him a lesson,’ he said. ‘Now we go to my father for him to judge them for trespassing and theft. Come.’

He left the tent before Kimi could reply, leaving her to follow.

When she caught up, he turned and said, ‘You ride one of your horses. We go back to my people.’

‘Why can’t you take me to my people?’ Kimi replied.

‘We need to take these men back first. See my father then see what he says.’

Has Kimi fallen into the hands of another tribe? What will they do with her?

Find out on the first Tuesday of next month.