English is a strange language.

via Why the English Language Makes No Sense

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The 9th Legion

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The 9th legion is the legion that appears in Vengeance of a Slave. It has an interesting history.

It was known as Legio IX Hispana, or the 9th Spanish Legion. It existed from the 1st centuryBC until around 120AD. It was said to have been founded in Hispania (modern Spain) by Pompey around 65BC.

They are one of the oldest Roman legions. They were taken over by Julius Caesar when he became Govenor of Hispania. They fought all across Europe with Caesar and came to Britain with him when he made his ill-advised invasion in 55 and 54BC. At this time, the Romans did not manage to conquer Britain, although Julius Ceasar empbroidered the truth a bit in order to boost his credentials in Rome.

The 9th came again to Britain, along with three other legions, in 45AD with Claudius’s more successful invasion. It took 4 entire legions to subdue the Britons.

The brutal rebellion of Boudicca, in which 70,000 civilians were slaughtered brought more conflict for the 9th legion. They were the first legion to fight Boudicca’s army and they were routed.

They had, however, bought time for the rest of the army to come down from Angelsey where they had been subduing the druids. They met Boudicca’s hordes in the Midlands, and, along with the remnants of the 9th, they fought and won, even though they were outnumbered 10 to 1.

It was Roman discipline that won the day against the ill-disciplined hordes of Britons.

In Vengeance of a Slave, Ailbert realised this when he planned his raids against the Roman army.

When they conquered the Brigantes in the north of Britain, the 9th was stationed in York. But there were still the wild tribesmen of what the Romans called Caledonia, and we call Scotland. For the Romans to feel safe, these tribes needed to be subdued. and so the 9th was sent there.

In 64AD, under Agricola, the 9th met with the Caledonian tribesmen in open battle. The Romans won. They had slaughtered many of the Caledonians.

For a while, all was peaceful until 117Ad when the 9th again went north to supress the Caledonians. That was the last anyone ever heard of them. They never returned. Were they all killed in battle, or were they lured into the bogs and mires of that wild land? No one ever found out.

 

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.

Release on Smashwords

My historical novel, Vengeance of a Slave, has now been released on Smashwords and the other platforms it deals with, such as Kobo, Barnes and Noble etc.

 

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You can access it via Amazon by following this link.

http://mybook.to/vengeanceofaslave

Here is a bit about it.

Adelbhert and Avelina, his sister, are forced to watch as the Roman soldiers crucify their father and other men from their village. They are only small children, but the Romans take them from their family and sell them as slaves.
They are bought by a rich merchant who takes them to the distant island of Brittania where they are treated as pets.
Adelbehrt has developed a hatred of the Romans because of his experiences and lives to gain his revenge, and to fulfill the promise he made to his little sister that they would escape one day.
Will Adelbehrt be able to escape? How can one man take on the might of the Roman Empire?
Can Adelbhert rid himself of the hatred that is eating away at his soul?

If you read it, would you mind giving a review. Reviews are very important to both authors and readers as it is the main way that people get to know about books, and lets readers know if they would like the book they are looking at. It does not need to be a long, comprehensive review. Just a few lines saying if you liked the book, and what you did or did not like about it.

Thank you for your time.

Please leave a comment in the comments box.

 

 

The Story of Cartimandua, a Queen of the Ancient Britons

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In Vengeance of a Slave, although she does not appear, there is mention of the Queen of the Brigantes, Cartimandua. Here is her story.

 

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You are certain to have heard of Queen Boudicca. She was the queen of the Iceni who raised a revolt against the Romans. She almost won, too. I don’t suppose so many of you have heard of Queen Cartimandua, though. She is the queen of the Brigantes, the biggest tribe in Brittania Her story is very different from that of Boudicca.

She inherited her throne at around the same time as the Romans came to Brittania. She was married to a man called Venutius, and when the Romans came north, they made a treaty with them in order to retain their power. Of course, this was only nominal. The Romans really held the power. Still, she kept something, which was more than Boudicca did, in the end.

Then the people in the west, the Catuvellauni, rose up under the leadership of a man called Caratacus. They led a hit and run kind of resistance against the Romans and were quite successful for a time. Of course, the inevitable happened and they were defeated. By a man called Osotorius Scapula, I believe. Caratacus managed to escape and came to Cartimandua for refuge.

Of course, our queen was none too pleased. This might affect her relationship with Rome, and thus her position on the throne. What did she do to this man asking for her help? She put him in chains and took him to the Romans in Eberacum. The Romans were delighted and heaped great wealth on her, but her husband was not so pleased, nor were the people.

What will happen to Cartimandua? Will her people revolt and will the Romans protect her?

If you enjoyed this and other tales of Ancient Britain, please leave a comment, and sign up for notification of further book releases and blog posts.

If you like to read about this period, here is a link to my novel, Vengeance of a Slave. http://mybook.to/vengeanceofaslave/

Here is a little more about Cartimandua, Qyeen of the Brigantes.

Cartimandua and her husband fell out over this, of course. But it was not the only bone of contention. For a while, it seems, Cartimandua had been having an affair with Venutius’s armour bearer. After the betrayal of Caratacus, she decided to divorce Venutius and marry her lover, whose name is Vellocatus.

It wasn’t long before Venutius led a rebellion. Only to be expected. He was much more popular than Cartimandua, especially after the betrayal of Caratacus and his divorce. He started to make alliances with other of our tribes, and was all ready to invade Brigantia.

Cartimandua went to the Romans then, andthey sent troops to defend her. A battle was fought, and both sides seemed to be evenly matched until the arrival of the IX legion Hispanica from Eberacum.

This was a lucky break for Cartimandua. She very narrowly escaped being captured by the rebels, but the rebels were defeated and Venutius once more had to leave Brigantia.

It seems he hadn’t given up his rebellious ideas, though. He bided his time until Emperor Nero died in Rome. At his death, the Roman Empire fell into chaos. There were several emperors in quick succession, and many of the Roman troops had to go back to defend Rome and the empire. Other groups of people took advantage of this, and so did Venutius.

He attacked Brigantia once again, and this time, the Romans could only send auxilliary troops to defend Cartimandua.

She was forced to flee to Deva and abandoned the Brigantes to Ventuvius. No-one heard any more of her after this.

In spite of his success, once the Romans had settled their problems they attacked him and ousted him form the kingship, thus Brigantia became completely under Roman rule.

That is the end of the tale of Cartimandua and the Brigantes.

This story is not integral to Vengeance of a Slave, but is briefly mentioned, just as Boudicca’s rebellion is mentioned.

If you are interested in reading historical novels, and like this period of history, you can get a copy of Vengeance of a Slave from Amazon, as an ebook. I am currently doing some more work on it, and have unpublished the paperback. It will shortly be re-published, though, and I will let you know when that will be. The updated version will also be available as an ebook as well, at that time.

Follow this link: http://mybook.to/vengeanceofaslave/

Don’t Miss This Offer

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On March 5th and 6th The Wolf Pack will be available on Amazon.

Hurry. don’t miss this opportunity to get Book 1 of The Wolves of Vimar Series for only $0.99, £0.99.

Two days only.

You can get it by clicking on this link. It will take you to the book’s page on Amazon in your country, or you can click the book image in the sidebar,

http://mybook.to/The WolfPack

About the book.

When Carthinal leaves Bluehaven to go to take the tests that would end his apprenticeship and make him a full mage, little does he realize the changes that are about to take place in his life. Strange prophecies dog his footsteps and he meets new friends. They are sent on a quest to discover a long lost artifact. On their journey they meet with sorrow and pleasure as well as many dangers. Help is found in the most unexpected places, they face their innermost fears and have great surprises. None of them returns unchanged.

 

 

 

Review of Echo. Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

 

Blurb

In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

 

 

Review.
I read this book a few weeks ago and I have to say, I enjoyed it very much.

The main character, Atriya, is a man who pushes himself to the limit. During the course of the book, he comes across a variety of things that make him question what he had accepted previously. An encounter with a previous officer, under whom he worked, and who hated him, is the trigger for the change that begins in Atriya. A conversation with a friend also sows seeds of doubt in his mind.

The writing of this book is excellent. Wayne gives a clear impression of the unpleasantness of the world of Echo, and how the people, and even the enforcers, are treated as of no account. He clearly shows the changes beginning in Atriya.

The book ends at this point, with Atriya setting off on a mission that might well be fatal, but which he has no choice but to take. the alternative is not acceptable.

I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

I have no hesitation in giving this book 4 stars.

The Batavian Revolution. Ancient Roman History.

 

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This took place between the years 69 and 70 CE. The Batavi was a small tribe living in Germania Inferior, near the Rhine delta. They sent some conscripts to Rome, who became what was known as The Germanic Bodyguard and were personal guards of the emperor. When they revolted, they were joined by other tribes in the area as well as some Gallic tribes.

Julius Civilis was a Batavian prince. He was also a Roman citizen and a prefect in the Roman army. He was stationed in Britain, but when his legion returned to Germania, he and his brother were arrested on trumped up charges of treason. His brother was executed and Civilis, being a Roman citizen was taken to Rome to be tried by the emperor himself.

The emperor Nero had been becoming more and more despotic, and so Julius Vindex, the governor of Gaul, decided to try to do something about it. He found what he thought as a worthy successor in a man called Galba. He fomented a revolution, Galba became emperor and Nero committed suicide.

Galba disbanded the Germanic Bodyguard because he mistrusted them as they had been loyal to Nero. The Batavian people took this as an insult.

After the death of Nero, Rome was plunged into civil war. There followed what is known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Galba’s deputy, Otho, overthrew him in a coup, then Vitellius prepared to take the Rhine legions to Rome to overthrow Otho. Once there, Vitellius released Civilis in order to gain his help. This Civilis did, and the Batavi joined the Rhine legions and overthrew Otho at the battle of Bedriacum.

After the battle, the Batavi were ordered to return home, but then Vespasian, commander of the forces in Syria, revolted. He was joined by the legions of the Danube.

Vitellius tried to conscript more than the agreed maximum number of conscripts from the Batavi. This, the brutality of the conscripting centurians and the sexual assaults on Batavian boys brought things to a head.

In the summer of 69, Civilis was commander of the Batavian troops in the Rhine regions. He persuaded the tribe known as Cananefates, to revolt and to attack a number of Roman forts.

This was a good time to do this since most of the troops were off fighting the civil war in Rome. The commander of the Rhine regions then sent troops to put down this rebellion, leaving the rest of the area vulnerable. Civilis and his men defeated the Romans near what is now Arnhem.

To deal with this insurrection, the commander sent two legions, V Alaudae and XV Primigenea to fight them. These legions included some Batavian cavalry, who defected to their countrymen during the battle and so the Romans lost after which the Batavians were promised independence.

Civilis wanted vengeance, however. He wanted to destroy the two legions. He besieged their camp. With the civil war in Rome, the Romans could do little about this. They did not have the troops to spare.

Then came the news of Vitellius’s defeat. This had been helped by Civilis pinning down two legions, but his aim was not to help Vespasian. He launched an attack on Krefeld, sending his eight best cavalry troops. This time, the Roman army was successful, destroying all eight troops, but at great loss to themselves.

Civilis then lifted the siege, saying that the legions could have free passage providing they left everything behind for his men to loot. The two legions left with nothing, but a few kilometers away, they were ambushed and all of them destroyed.

Vespasian, once he had established himself on the throne, sent an enormous army to deal with Civilis and his rebels. On hearing of the approach of the army, one of Civilis’s allies surrendered, but Civilis himself continued to fight.

He made a series of raids from land and from the river, once capturing a Roman flagship. The Romans then invaded Batavia and the revolt was over.

It is against this chaotic part of the Roman Empire that Vengeance of a Slave is set. Adelbehrt’s father and some of the other villagers take the opportunity of a weakened army on the Rhine to raid across the river into the Roman lands. This leads to the terrible punishment of the men at the beginning of the book.

 

If you are interested in reading more about Adelbehrt and his sister Avelina, and how they come to be in Britannia, click on this link. http:/mybook.to/vengeanceofaslave

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