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.

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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.

http://mybook.to/TheWolfPack

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 Part 2

This is the second part of the story of Kimi and Davrael from The Wolves of Vimar Series.

wild_horse_marsh_pony_assateague_island

Kimi shivered as she contemplated her fate. These men were not going to kill her. That was not what they wanted or they would have done so already. Did they want a hostage to ransom? That was not the style of the Tribes. They simply came and took what they wanted. Horses mainly. They did not use money and they measured their wealth by the number and quality of their animals.

Her musings came to an end when she found herself pulled roughly from her horse. Someone untied her feet so she could stand, and a tall man came over.

‘Who is this?’ he queried in a booming voice.

‘She’s a settler.’ one of her captors replied. ‘She came after us so we ambushed her and brought her here.’

The tall man circled Kimi, looking her up and down as if she were a piece of horseflesh.

‘Not much to look at, is she?’ he said. ‘Plain face, and small. Still, she’s got nice eyes, and lovely, thick, brown hair. I’m not sure how she’ll be at bearing children, though.’

Kimi’s eyes opened wide as she realised what this man was saying. They were going to use her as breeding stock, just like a mare. Something snapped in t he girl’s mind and she kicked out at the tall man.

‘I’m not a mare to be put to the stallion,’ she responded, eyes blazing.

The men all laughed, and the tall man called another young man over, who was looking the stolen horses over. When he arrived, Kimi saw a likeness between him and the tall man and concluded the younger one was his son.

‘What do you think of this girl?’ asked the tall man.

The younger man looked her up and down as his father had done and said, ‘She’s very plain, and a bit small. She may not be able to bear children successfully.
His father frowned. ‘She has spirit, though. That is what we need in the tribe. None of your submissive women. That’s fine in a woman, but not if she breeds children like herself. We need women with spirit. I like this girl. You will marry her.’

With that, he stalked off. leaving the young men all staring at Kimi.

The chief’s son, for the tall man was the tribal chief, told the others to take her to a tent and to make sure she could not escape. Struggle as she might, Kimi was not strong enough to break the hold of t he man holding her and she found herself thrust into a tent. The man then tied her to the tentpole by her wrists.

Kimi struggled to no avail, only succeeding in chafing her wrists. Then the tentflap opened and the chief’s son entered.
‘What’s your name?’ he demanded.

Kimi made no reply, but turned her head away. The chief’s son grabbed her chin and turned her head back towards him.

‘Answer me when I speak to you.’

Kimi spat in his face and received a blow across her cheek for her insult.

As he wiped the spittle from his cheek, the young man stood.

‘We have your best horses now, and you, so we’ll be leaving in the morning. My father says we must be married, but that won’t happen before we get far away, back to our own territory, the territory of the Prowling Lynx. I will have my tattoos done to show I’m the son of the chief and then we’ll be married.’

He started to leave the tent, but turned and kicked out at Kimi, landing a kick on her left leg.

‘You’re not what I’d have chosen. There are plenty beautiful women in the tribe who would jump at the chance of marrying me. Still, my father says I must marry you, so I’ll do so. Those other women will still be anxious to be my lovers.’

He laughed as he left Kimi alone to consider her fate.

Kimi could not help it. She tried not to, but tears pooled in her eyes, and try as she might, they overflowed and fell onto the tent floor.

During he next few days Kimi had some relief from the taunts of her husband-to-be as he was busy erecting and taking down tents before moving off, or herding the horses, who tried constantly to turn back to their old home.

It started again each evening. though. The young man came to her tent and insulted her, or kicked and hit her. Kimi determined not to allow him to make her cry. At least not in front of him. but once he left for his own tent, she allowed the tears to fall.

How long would it take to reach the lands of the Prowling Lynx tribe? She hoped it was a very long time, She prayed that her father could raise some of the settlers and come after her. Then she prayed they would not, because many would be killed in the fight that ensued.

Eventually, she decided she would be co-operative in order to lull this raiding party into thinking she had become resigned to her fate. Perhaps she could manage to spot an opportunity to escape.

Horselords

Kimi and Davrael are two of the group who call themselves The Wolf Pack. I have been serialising some of the earlier stories of these friends on the first Tuesday of the month. so far I’ve done Carthinal’s parents and Aspholessaria, known as Asphodel.

horses

Kimi woke to hear sounds of horses whinneying. A gate creaked and then she heard galloping hooves. She quickly jumped from her bed and went to the window of her small bedroom. There, in the darkness, she could just make out a herd of horses disappearing across the plains.

She ran to her parent’s bedroom and woke them.

‘The horses have been stolen,’ she called as she turned to her brothers’ bedroom.

Her father leaped out of bed and ran to his window. This looked out over the back of the ranch where there were two corralls of some of the best horses on Vimar. He saw that these had not been touched, but these were not his best animals. The one Kimi’s room overlooked held those.

‘Are you sure, Kimi?’ he called to her as she woke her two brothers. He knew she would not have made such a mistake, but he felt he had to ask.

The girl came out of her brothers’ room, followed by the young men,Yeldin and Olias. The boys were older than their sister, Yeldin being the elder at almost twenty, and Olias was eighteen. Kimi would be seventeen at her next birthday in two months’ time.

‘Of course I’m sure,’ she said. ‘I heard the gate creak, then galloping. I looked and saw them galloping off over the plains.’

Olias looked at his sister. ‘Are you sure they didn’t just jump the gate, or otherwise break it themselves. Did you see anyone?’

Kimi looked at her brother and sighed.

‘I’m not an imbecile, Oli,’ she told him. ‘The gate was open. Unless the horses have now developed a way of opening the gate, someone did it for them.’

‘The Tribes,’ said her father, pulling on his trousers as he came out of the room he shared with his wife. ‘It must be one of the Tribes. Thieving scum that they are.’

The family was one of a number of settled folk living close to The Barrier, the range of mountains that cut off the Western Plains from the rest of the continent of Khalram.

Once they had been of the Tribes themselves, following the herds of wild horses that roamed the plains Several generations ago, some of the people had decided they could rear better horses if they had more control and so they settled in one place. There had been enmity between the Tribes and Settlers ever since.

Kimi looked hard at her father.

‘Not all the Tribes are thieves, Dad,’ she told him. ‘Some are, yes. They are jealous of the progress we’ve made in breeding, but not all of them.’

‘A Tribe member is always a thief,’ replied her father in a tone that said he could not be convinced otherwise. ‘Get dressed quickly, pick up your weapons and come with me. We’ve some horses to get back.’
Soon, Kimi and her brothers were cantering westwards after their animals, alongside their parents. All carried bows, and the men were also armed with knives. The tracks were easy to follow. The thieves had taken around twenty of the family’s best animals and they left plenty of signs of their passing.

Then the tracks split into three. Kimi’s father pulled his horse to a halt.

‘They want to confuse us so we don’t know which way to go,’ he said. ‘We’ll need to split up to find them.’

Kimi’s mother pulled her horse nearer to her husband.

‘Do you think it’s a good idea to split?’ she asked him. ‘We’ve no idea how many there are. It might be that there are too many for a couple of us to take on alone. Perhaps we should just go after one group and get those horses back. At least we would have some of our stock.’

‘These are our best animals,’ said Kimi’s father. ‘We need to get them all back. If we allow the thieves to gain even one, they’ll spread the word that we’re easy and keep coming back till we’ve no horses at all.’

The argument went on until Kimi, ever practical, pointed out that while they were arguing, the horses were getting further away. They took a vote, and all voted with their father and so the group split into three.

Kimi found herself with her elder brother, Yeldin. They followed one set of tracks to the south west.

‘Any idea how many are in this lot?’ he asked her. Kimi was a good tracker and she descended from her horse and studied the tracks.

‘I’d say there are nine horses here, but how many are ours and how many are being ridden by the thieves I couldn’t say.’

Yeldin smiled at her. ‘Well, little sis,’ he said, ‘I’m sure we can take them on. Let’s get going.’

They had ridden for several miles when they spotted dust on the horizon.’

‘There they are,’ called Yeldin from ahead. ‘I’ll circle round from the east and you approach from the west.’

Kimi pulled her pieballed horse round and galloped of in a westerly direction. She had her bow ready to fire at any enemy who approached, but she was not prepared for the five warriors who came from out of a stand of trees and surrounded her. They quickly pulled her from her horse and bound her hands and feet, then put her back across her horse so she could only see the ground below as they cantered southwards towards their camp.

What will become of Kimi, captured by one of the Tribes? Find out next month.