Free Book

theneverdyingmanFrom today, October 18th, The Never-Dying Man, Book 2 of The Wolves of Vimar Series, is FREE on Amazon.

It is only available for 5 days, until 22nd October, so hurry and get your copy.

Here is a bit about it.

After finding Sauvern’s Sword, the companions set off to help a friend rescue his child from kidnappers. Instead, they stray into Erian and find preparations for war. They are drafted into the Erian army but are recognized by an old enemy, who arrests some of them and takes them to Frelli, the capital of Erian, where they are put in jail.

The Master of Erian frees them and offers them work. Meanwhile, Carthinal has to face some unpleasant truths about himself. Is his desire to further his magical career more important than his friends and country? After they discover terrible truths about the Master and his magical research, they will need to escape in order to tell the leaders of Grosmer about the plans for war.

Why not get a copy of Books 1 and 2 as well? Click on the links to buy.

The Wolf Pack. Book 1

The Never-Dying Man. Book 2

Wolf Moon. Book 3

 

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An Interview with Basalt Strongarm from The Wolf Pack

After much persuasion, I managed to get an interview with Basalt, the dwarf friend of Carthinal.

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Me: Good morning, Basalt. Thank you for giving me your time.

Basalt: Hmm! I’m very busy. I hope you don’t intend to be too long.

Me. No, this shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Just trying to find a bit about you.

Basalt: Well, what do you want to know?

Me: You’ve lived in Grosmer for a long time, but you weren’t born here, were you?

Basalt: No, I was born in the Dwarven homeland of Graal. It’s at the southern end of the Western Mountains, you know. As far away from those flighty elves as we can get.

Me: But one of your friends is an elf, and another a half elf. Surely you can’t think all of them are flighty/

Basalt: Did I say I thought of them all as flighty? Of course not. Asphodel and Carthinal are just normal folks. So is Yssa. But they will give their children such unpronounceable names.

Me, smiling: So you are not against all elves, then?

Basalt: It’s not me you should be worrying about, but the other dwarves who still think like that. I’m willing to accept that elves, like dwarves and people, have all kinds of folk.

Me: Tell me about your early life,

Basalt: I was my parents’ second child. My brother, Schist, is much older than I am. My parents, Granite and Emerald, had given up hope of another child, then I came along. I guess they spoiled me because of it.

Me: How did Schist react to your birth.

Basalt: He was very good to me. He played with me, looked after me when my parents were down the mine and we got on very well.

Me: Why did you leave Graal then?

Basalt: Everything was fine until my parents were killed in a mine collapse. Then Schist took over the running of the mine. (It belonged to my parents, see). We were supposed to be joint owners, but then she came along.

Me: She?

Basalt: Opal. She set her sights at him when she realised he would be part owner of the mine and rich. They got married, and gradually she poisoned him against me. They gave me all the worst and most dangerous jobs.

Me: But if Schist was so fond of you, how could she manage to turn him.

Basalt: Well, when our parents died, I was still only a little whippersnapper. I’d only just started my apprenticeship. Opal argued that as I was not a qualified miner, and had not worked to build up the mine as had Schist, then it was unfair that I should have equal shares with him. Somehow she managed to convince him. I think she hoped that by giving me dangerous jobs she hoped I’d be killed. So I left.

Me: And made your way to Grosmer where, I believe, you learned the trade of metalworking.

Basalt nodded: And I’ve never regretted it. I love working with metal–making beautiful things as well as useful ones. I also taught myself to carve wood, I make toys for my friends’ children, and I made an amulet for each member of The Wolf Pack, indicating their character as well as showing they are members.

Me: Well, I’ll let you get back to your work. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Basalt: Well, I’ll be off. Work to finish. Goodbye.

A recipe from 1909

I inherited a small book of hand-written recipes from my Grandmother. The back of the book had some of her household accounts and they were dated, so I know the date of the recipes was around 1909.

I found it interesting to peruse these old recipes and compare them with the food we eat now. There was so much more fat then, and it was mainly animal fat.

I thought you might be interested in looking at some of our history, as far as food is concerned, and so here is one of the puddings from Grandma’s Little Book.

Of course, the weights and measures were in imperial measures, so I changed them for a more modern audience. If you live in the USA, I’ve put Grandma’s measures in brackets.

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This is not a picture of the Amber Pudding, but the nearest I could find as to what I think it is. It will not have the sauce.

 

Amber Pudding

Ingredients

Just over 100g (8oz)  breadcrumbs

100g (8oz) beef suet

60g (2oz)moist brown sugar

2 eggs

3 dessertspoons marmalade

Method

Mix all ingredients well together.

Put into a buttered basin.

Steam for 2 hours.

If you find these old recipes interesting, you can find out more in Viv’s Family Recipes.  See the book on My Books page. Click on the link here and it will take you directly to the book’s page on Amazon.

A brief look at Vengeance of a Slave

Today I’m giving you a look at Chapter 1 of Vengeance of a Slave. It is the story of a young man, taken as a slave by the Romans in 70AD, how his hatred of the Romans grew and how he extracted his revenge on them.

I hope you enjoy it. If you want to purchase a copy, follow this link. or click on the picture of the book cover below.

Vengeancecover

AD 70

CHAPTER 1
The boy tried to hold back the tears pricking the back of his eyelids. His mother stood next to him, holding his hand while they nailed his father to the cross. Some Roman soldiers lifted five other crosses in the field just outside the town. He covered his ears against the screaming of the women as they tried to rush forward to their men folk, who now hung on the crosses.
He looked up at his mother who stood calmly and with dignity, knowing hysterics would not help her husband, nor her small family. He tried to ignore the screams from the men as the nails entered their flesh.
The boy understood little of what had happened, but he knew a man named Julius Civilis led a rebellion against Rome and the Roman Legions on the Rhenus went to put it down. He knew his father and other men took advantage while the soldiers were away and they launched their own attacks across the Rhenus and even laid siege to the town of Mogantiacum. He understood the legions coming back from the north had relieved the siege and now the Romans had come to punish them. What he did not understand was why.
When the Romans arrived across the river, they lined all the men up and took every tenth man to be made an example of and then set about making crosses for their crucifixion. The Romans pushed the boy along with the rest of the population to this field to watch.
The commander of the Romans told them they must see what happened to those who challenged the might of Rome, even though they were not in the Empire. Rome must exact punishment for the raid.
The boy pushed back the tears forming in his eyes. He could hear his little sister crying as she hung onto their mother’s leg, burying her face in her mother’s skirts, but she was only four, so she could be excused. His baby brother slept in his mother’s arms blissfully ignorant of what happened around him. He would never know his father, the boy thought, looking up at the baby. He almost wept then. He would never see his father again after today, either.
He forced himself to look at the crosses, searching for the one on which the Romans had nailed his father. He knew it would be the last chance he had of seeing him. He caught his father’s eyes. In spite of the pain in them, his father gave a half smile and mouthed ‘Look after your mother and sister.’
The boy was six, and the eldest, so he had to show courage. A slight breeze ruffled his ash blonde hair and he raised his hand to push it back out of his eyes. He didn’t want to see the horrible death his father was undergoing, but he felt, somehow, he owed it to him to watch and remember. A tear trickled down his cheek, and he brushed it away. He must stay strong for the rest of the family.
After the soldiers had lifted all the crosses, the people turned away to return to their homes. Some women tried to rush to the crucifixes, but the Romans beat them away. They would allow no one to try to rescue the men.
As the boy and his family walked sadly away from the field of death a legionnaire approached his mother. She stopped and shook him off as he touched her arm.
‘These are your children?’ he asked in their language.
His mother looked scornfully at him. ‘Of course!’ she snapped. ‘I wouldn’t bring anyone else’s children to a crucifixion.’
The legionnaire reached out to the boy and touched his hair. The boy pulled back, not wanting this man, who had been complicit in his father’s death, to touch him. He shivered as the strange man smiled at him. The boy thought he looked like a wolf.
The legionnaire spoke to his mother again.
‘I’ve never seen such pale hair. I see your little girl also has it. They’ll make a fortune on the block.’
Their mother looked at him in confusion.
‘What do you mean, “on the block”?’ she asked.
‘Oh, we’re taking a few of you as slaves. We always need more and it will teach you not to attack Rome in future.’
‘You’re taking us as slaves?’
The man laughed. ‘Oh, not you. Just these two children. You’re not particularly valuable, but these…’
‘No! You can’t take my children,’ cried the boy’s mother. ‘Take me, but leave my children alone. You’ve taken my husband and put him to death. Isn’t that enough?’
She grabbed onto the boy and his sister, nearly dropping the baby as she did so.
The legionnaire pushed her away and roughly took the boy and his sister by their arms. The boy struggled, understanding this man intended to take him and his sister away from their mother. The legionnaire pushed them in front of him towards where a group of crying children and screaming mothers stood.
His mother’s composure broke then, and she began to scream along with the others as she tried to wrest her two children from the officer. It was to no avail. Seeing his mother crying broke the child’s resolve and he broke down into sobs, struggling against the man. He was no match for the strong Roman soldier, though and the man pushed him towards where more soldiers held the other prisoners.
No matter how much he struggled, he could not escape the firm grip of the soldier holding him. He turned and tried to bite. The man laughed and said something in Latin to him that he did not understand. His mother tried to come to him, having handed the baby to a neighbour, but a centurion knocked her to the ground. The boy heard him speaking to her in their language,
‘Don’t try that again or you’ll regret it. Your tribe deserves all the punishment we mete out after your attack on us. Those children will bring a fortune with their light hair. Never seen hair like that. Almost white. They’ll go mad for them in Rome.’
Then he understood that they would be very unlikely to escape and that, in all likelihood, he and his sister would be separated. Would some rich Roman buy them as pets? What would happen to them when they were no longer pretty children?
The legionnaire dragged the two children to where the boy saw a small group of others being guarded by more soldiers. This group consisted mainly of young boys and men over the age of ten, with a few of the prettier teenage girls. He could see no more small children on the group.
One of the girls, whom they knew quite well as she lived near to them, came and picked his sister up, soothing the sobbing child as best she could.
‘Hush, hush,’ she whispered to the little girl. ‘I’ll take care of you and your brother. I’m sure no one will hurt you.’
‘They killed my father,’ sniffed the boy, wiping his nose with his hand and then smearing it over his face as he wiped his eyes.
‘Yes, but they were punishing him for attacking their city. You haven’t done anything, so they won’t hurt you.’
‘Then why are they taking us from our mother and little brother?’
‘You’re both very pretty children, you know. They haven’t seen anyone with hair as light as yours, I don’t suppose, and they think you’ll bring them a lot of money.’
‘Then we’re to be slaves!’
‘Yes, I’m afraid so.’ she replied. ‘So am I, and these others too. They’ve taken all the boys of an age that might decide to try to take revenge, as well as a few of us girls.’
Just then, his mother managed to break away and she rushed towards the little group of slaves, calling out his name.
‘Adelberht, Adelberht. Look after your sister. Don’t let anyone hurt her.’
‘I won’t, Mamma. I’ll take good care of her. Odila’s here. She’ll help us.’
They crossed the river to the Roman fort of Mogantiacum. Adelberht did not notice much about the place, concerned as he was about their situation. He understood he and his sister would probably be bought by different people, and wondered how he could then fulfil his promise to his mother that he would look after her.
He felt a growing hatred for the Romans. They had first crucified his father, a terrible death for the young boy to witness, then taken him from his family, home and friends. He thought he would also have his sister taken from him at some time, so he subsumed his sorrow and fear by building his hatred of his captors.
The soldiers took the prisoners to a compound in one corner of the fort and locked them in. His sister, Avelina, had stopped crying and clung to Odila. He was glad of that, but wondered what would happen when she was not only taken from her mother, but from him too. Where would they take them to be sold? Would they be sold here or taken elsewhere? Maybe even to Rome itself. What was his mother doing? Was there any chance there would be a rescue party? Could he make a break, somehow rescue his sister and get back across the river? All these questions went through his head as he sat in the compound.
Soon, a legionnaire brought some food for them to eat and water to drink. He picked at the food, but drank some water. Odila tried to persuade Avelina to eat something, but the little girl still sobbed between the small mouthfuls the older girl managed to get into her mouth.
Eventually she fell asleep in Odila’s arms while still eating. The day’s events had all been too much for her. Adelberht himself began to feel tired, but before he went to sleep, he enumerated the reasons he hated the Romans.
‘They crucified my father: they took my family away from me: they took my home from me: they took my friends from me: they will probably take my sister from me.’
The next day Adelberht woke wondering where he was. Then it all came flooding back. Tears again pricked at his eyelids, but he determined he would never again cry because of a Roman. One day he would have revenge for all they had done to him. One day he would be free again. He would also find his sister and free her too, if they were separated. Wherever the Romans took her, he would find her. Then he would try to get back to his home across the Rhenus. He did not think about how he would carry out these plans. He would just take any chance he could when it came.
They sat in the compound all that day. The commander of the fort came and looked them over. He took a couple of the girls out and marched them over to his rooms. Adelbehrt wondered what was going to happen to them. Were they going to be sold separately from the rest? He thought about it for a while, then forgot about them as he tried to comfort his sister, who had begun crying again.
‘Don’t cry, Avelina,’ he told her, ‘Everything will be all right. Somehow we’ll get away and go back to Mamma.’
The little girl looked at him trustingly, and a half-smile appeared on her face.
‘Back to Mamma?’ she asked him. ‘I miss Mamma.’
‘Yes, so do I. It may not be soon, but one day we’ll escape these horrid Romans.’
‘I don’t like the Romans. They killed papa.’
‘No, I don’t like them either. We’ll get away sometime, I promise you.’
He did not know how or when he would be able to keep his promise to the little girl but he determined to do so, whatever the cost. He smiled to see his words had comforted Avelina somewhat, and that she had dried her eyes and sat more quietly.
Towards evening, the two girls, whom the commander had taken, returned to the compound. They entered the compound in tears. Adelberht wanted to ask them what had happened, but Odila kept him away from them. He wondered why, but she managed to distract him by talking about Avelina. The little girl had once again started to cry, seeing the tears of the two older girls, so he did not find out what caused their upset. He did notice one of the young men, who had been courting one of the girls before they were taken prisoner, became very angry and some of his friends held him back as he tried to attack one of the Romans.
OoOoOoOoOo
Two days passed. Avelina cried less, but called for their mother in the night, every night. She also began sucking her thumb again. She had almost stopped that childish habit before their capture. Adelberht also missed their mother, but he stuck to his resolve not to allow the Romans to make him cry. Even when the tears pricked the backs of his eyes he managed to prevent them from falling.
Each day, the commander took one or two girls and they always returned crying. Sometimes one of the legates or centurions took a girl. They took Odila on the second day. When she came back, Adelbehrt asked her what happened, but she refused to talk of it. She seemed withdrawn after that, and sat in a corner with the other girls, not talking, but staring into space.
On the third day of their captivity, a civilian man came over to the compound with the commander of the castrum. He looked the slaves over and called for Adelbehrt and Avelina to be brought to him. He asked a few questions in Latin, which Adelbehrt did not understand, but assumed they were about him and his sister. Then the man smiled. The two men walked away, talking.
On the following morning, some men came and took all the slaves to the baths and stripped them. They washed them all thoroughly and took their clothes away. What would happen now? That question soon had an answer.
First, the men who had washed them took them to a building in the market. The man who looked them over the previous day came in. He ordered that the men take the girls out, with the exception of Avelina. Avelina cried out to Odila and tried to run to her but one of the slaves who had bathed them, grabbed hold of her as she ran past. The Romans had taken seven girls from the village, and shortly afterwards, a slave brought two of the less pretty ones back into the room. Odila was not one of them.
Adelbehrt heard them saying the others had been bought by a brothel. He did not know what a brothel was, and the others deflected his questions when he asked. He decided, when he saw the looks on the faces of the remaining two girls, that it could not be a good place. Something else to hate the Romans for. He mentally added ‘Taking Odila to a brothel’ to his list of reasons to hate them.
The man, who seemed in charge, hung a board around the neck of each slave. Adelbehrt later learned it gave some information about the slave, including his likelihood of running away or committing suicide as well as his name and where he came from.
They took the slaves out one at a time. He could hear noises of people calling out something outside, but could not understand the words. When a man brought the slaves back in he took them to a different part of the room where another man sat at a table. People came into the room, handed over money to the man at the table, and then left with their purchase.
Eventually their turn arrived. The slave merchant had left them until the last, and as they were led outside, Adelberht realised they were being sold as a single lot. He felt he could breathe once more. He could keep his promise to his mother to look after his sister.
The warm air met them and he felt the sun on his naked skin. Adelbehrt became embarrassed to be nude in front of the crowd filling the market place. He looked round and wondered at the large numbers of people still left, since all the slaves had been sold except the two of them.
The auctioneer picked Avelina up and another man did the same with Adelbehrt and held them so everyone could see the two children. The auctioneer spoke to the crowd and pointed at the children’s blonde hair.
A few aahs came from the crowd, then people began to call things out. Adelbehrt thought the people were making bids for them.
They were a popular lot, if the number of bidders was anything to go by, but soon almost everyone dropped out leaving just two men in the bidding. Eventually one of them held up his hand and turned away, thus indicating he had dropped out of the bidding. The man who had brought them out led them back into the room and gave them tunics to put on.
Their purchaser walked over to the man at the table and handed over a purse of money, which the cashier counted carefully, nodded and handed a paper to their new owner who then came over to them, took each by a hand and led them out.
Adelbehrt looked at this man. He was a tall, clean-shaven man with an aquiline nose and dark hair and eyes. He did not look unkind, but still the sort of man you would not want to annoy. He spoke to the children in a light tenor voice, but they did not understand him, so he called to a man standing near the door.
‘This man says he’s your master now and wants to know how old you are,’ the man interpreted.
‘I have seven summers and my sister four,’ answered Adelbehrt, quietly, looking down at his feet.
The interpreter spoke to their new master in Latin and then interpreted the next few sentences.
‘He says you are to be gifts for his wife and daughter. He’s on his way back to Britannia and you’re going to accompany him there. You’re to call him ‘Dominus’. That means ‘Master’, or ‘Sir’. You now have your first word of Latin. You’ll soon learn to speak it though, so don’t worry.’
‘I’m called Adelbehrt, and my sister is Avelina.’ Adelbehrt told him, not knowing his name had been on the scroll round his neck.
‘Well. Adelberht, you’ll be all right just as long as you do as you’re told, and show proper deference to your master and mistress. Good luck.’
And with that, he left them.
‘What’s going to happen now?’ whispered Avelina.
‘We’re going to Britannia. We’re presents for his wife and daughter, that man said. We must call the man who has bought us ‘Dominus’ and do as he says.’
Avelina began to cry. ’You said we’d go back to Mamma. You said you’d escape and take us back.’
‘We will still escape,’ he told her. ‘Somehow we’ll get away, but I can’t promise you it will be soon.’

To find out more about this book, and others I’ve written, go to My Books page.

Your comments are always welcome, so please add them to the comments box and I’ll get back to you.

Another Freebie

 

The-Stones-Of-Earth-And-Air-Promo-Hardback-Ereader

 

From 23th to 27th August, The Stones of Earth and Air, Book 1 of Elemental Worlds will be free on Amazon.

To get your copy, click here.

Here’s a bit about it.

After the Crown Prince of Ponderia starts behaving strangely, his best friend Pettic discovers that the prince has been replaced by a doppelganger, and the real prince kidnapped.

Unable to accept the loss of his friend, Prince Torren, nor the cruel impostor to become the new king, Pettic sets on a quest to rescue his friend. After he sees the fake prince meet a mysterious man, Pettic discovers that the prince has been imprisoned in another plane of existence.

With the help of Blundo, the court magician, Pettic finds out that the only way to enter this another world are four keys, each of them associated with a different element. As Pettic sets on his seemingly impossible quest, he discovers that the four lands that hold the keys are all vastly different… and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.

Free Book

thewolfpack1
From tomorrow, 19th August, The Wolf Pack will be free on Amazon until 23rd. Just log in to http://mybook.to/TheWolfPack for your copy.
Whle you’re there, why not buy books 2 and 3, The Never-Dying Man http://mybook.to/NeverDying and Wolf Moon, http://mybook.to/WolfMoonVM
Little does Carthinal know that the journey to Hambara for him to take his mage tests will lead to a great adventure and the making of new friends.
But when he is asked to go to find a long-lost artifact, he and five others set off on the quest. This group is made up of a very disparate bunch of people who need to learn to get on with each other before they can complete the task. There is the threat of fireworks erupting between them due to their different characters.
The quest leads then through many dangers and their lives are threatened in many ways. Each of them needs to face their own personal fears, and none of them returns unchanged.

Wolf Moon is Free from tomorrow

Wolf-Moon-Promo-Paperback

Tomorrow, 20th July, Wolf Moon, the third part of The Wolves of Vimar after The Wolf Pack and The Never-Dying Man, will be free on Amazon. This offer is until 25th, so don’t miss your opportunity to get your copy.

This book follows adventures the five members of the group calling themselves Wolf, who had become separated from the others. They need to escape back to their homeland of Grosmer to tell of the plans they had discovered of the Leader of the land of Erian’s plans for war, after centuries of peace.

They have to travel through mountain caves where they discover a hidden people. They need to convince them to allow them to continue on their travels, as the people are afraid of being discovered by the outside world.

Can they manage it, and can they reach home in time to warn the King and his council before war breaks out?

This book, although part of a series, can be read as a one off, although, of course, it is better if you have read the other books. To buy the others, and claim your free copy, follow the links.

The Wolf Pack

The Never-Dying Man

Wolf Moon

Other books by V.M.Sang are:

The Stones of Earth and Air,

The Stones of Fire and Water

Vengeance of a Slave

Viv’s Family Recipes

Book Launch

Wolf Moon, Book 3 in The Wolves of Vimar series, is ready for publishing. Not sure of the actual date, but I’ve just had the word from the Publisher that they can go ahead just as soon as I approve the copies.

Wolf-Moon-Promo-Paperback

I’m going to do that asap. I need to just check them first. As soon as the book is on sale, I’ll let you know.

This book follows the half of Wolf who were not captured and taken to Frelli, the capitol of Erian. They have some exciting times before they get back to Grosmer to warn of the preparations for war that are happening in Erian.

The Finding of the Prophecy from The Wolf Pack. A never-before seen part of the story.

I originally wrote this as the first chapter of The Wolf Pack, but I had a comment from someone who read the book that it was too slow to start and so I eliminated the first few chapters. It has not been published before and so you will be getting a very first glimpse of the earlier time. before the actual story starts. I hope you enjoy it.

wolf1

 

The half-elf leafed through the book he was studying. He was due to take the tests to end his apprenticeship soon. Mabryl, his master and adopted father had sent off to the Mage Tower in Hambara asking for the young man to be considered for the tests at the next opportunity.
He was a tall, handsome young man, just over six feet with shoulder-length auburn hair, a closely trimmed beard and eyes of an intense blue. He was sitting in the study at the home of Mabryl in Bluehaven, which was situated on the south coast of the land of Grosmer. With him were Mabryl’s other two apprentices, 14 year old Tomac and 16 year old Emmienne. Tomac pushed a lock of his unruly dark hair out of his eyes.
‘I think that’s the Master coming in now, Carthinal,’ he said. ‘You’d better look as though you’ve been doing something instead of moping around waiting for that letter or you’ll be in trouble.’
Just as he said this, the door opened and Mabryl entered shaking his cloak out as he did so.
‘It’s cold out there,’ he said, ‘and it’s turning to snow if I’m not much mistaken. Unusual this far south.’ He turned to his three apprentices. ‘Have you finished the tasks I set you?’ he asked as he hung his cloak on a stand by the door. Carthinal stood up and walked over to the fire, putting a fresh log on to the flames.
‘Come and get warm, and, no I’ve not finished. I can’t seem to settle down to anything until I hear about whether I can take the tests soon. I think Emmienne has finished though. I can’t say about Tomac.’
‘Nearly,’ replied Tomac, jumping down from his chair and carrying his workbook to his master. ‘I was a little stuck on the moon phases though. It’s complicated trying to work out both moons at the same time.’
‘Stick to it, youngster,’ Emmienne said from the window seat. She grinned across at the younger boy, the grin lighting up her otherwise rather plain face. ‘I had problems too, but it comes eventually.’
Tomac groaned and went back to his seat.
‘I’ve finished though, Sir,’ she said. ‘I’ve learned that new spell you gave me and am sure I can make it work. When can I try it?’
Mabryl laughed. ‘Such enthusiasm. We’ll try it out tomorrow, I think. In the meantime, I’ve made what I think may be a big discovery. Perhaps the most important one for many, many years. Look,’ and he put an ancient looking book on the table. The three apprentices gathered round.
‘I think it may be a spell book from before the Forbidding,’ he went on.
Emmienne gasped. ‘That is old, and if it is, we’ll be able to find lost spells. You’ll be famous, Sir.’
‘Calm down, Emm. It may not be the spell-book of a magister, or even an arch-mage,’ smiled Carthinal. ‘It may have just the spells we already know and not any of the lost ones.’
Just over seven hundred years previously there had been a war between conflicting mages. It had caused such devastation and hardship to everyone that the king had forbidden the use of magic on pain of death and all spell books were ordered to be burned. Some, however, had been rescued and these came to light occasionally. During the time of the Fobidding, as it came to be known, much knowledge had been lost and there were currently mages working to try to re-discover the lost spells. If this book were to be of use, it would need to be taken to one of these mages.
Just then the door opened and Lillora, Mabryl’s housekeeper entered.
‘Sorry to disturb you, sir,’ she said, ‘but a bird arrived a few minutes ago. I thought you should know.’
‘I’ll come and look then,’ replied the mage and left the three apprentices to their own devices.
Carthinal picked up the book that Mabryl had bought and began to leaf through it. He could understand little of what was written there. Firstly it was in an archaic script and language and secondly he was as yet only an apprentice and had not the knowledge to understand more than a limited number of spells.
He frowned as he tried to read the words on the page. He lifted the book from the table to take it nearer to the light when a loose page fell onto the floor. He stooped to pick it up and realised that he could read it, unlike the rest of the book, and that it was not a page that had fallen out, but a note that had been inserted. He took it to the window seat and sat down by Emmienne to read it.
‘What’s that?’ asked the brown-haired girl, straining to read it upside down.
‘I’m not sure,’ replied Carthinal, wrinkling his brow. ‘It fell out of this book that Mabryl has bought but it doesn’t seem to be the same writing, nor is it in the same archaic script. It’s a note of some kind.’ He paused to read it.
Just then, Mabryl came back holding a piece of paper in his hand.
‘It’s good news, Carthinal,’ he told the young man. ‘There is a space for you to take your tests in the next batch, which takes place just before Grillon’s Day. That’s in about five sixdays time so we’ll need to leave here in three sixdays to allow us time to settle in before your ordeal.’ He saw that Carthinal was holding a paper. ‘What’s that you’ve got there?’ he queried.
‘It fell out of the book you bought,’ replied Carthinal. ‘It doesn’t seem to be by the author of the book though. It’s in a more modern script that I can read. It doesn’t make much sense though.’ He handed it to the other man who read it, then read it again, this time out loud.

‘“When Kalhera descends from the mountains, and orcs once more roam the land,
When impossible beasts occur and the Never-Dying man is once more at hand,
Then the Sword that was lost must once more be found; only it can destroy the threat
And kill the immortal mortal to balance out his debt.”

Well,’ he continued, ‘it seems a rather strange thing to write and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. How can Kalhera descend from the mountains? She’s a god and the gods don’t come down to Vimar.’
He turned the page in his hand and saw some more writing on the back. ‘This says that it is a quotation from something that the writer heard and wrote down. The author says he visited the Oracle on the Holy Island and this was what he was told the oracle had said earlier in the day, but to no one in particular. Only the attendants were present it seems.’
He replaced the paper in the book on the table and turned to Carthinal.
‘We must take this to a colleague of mine in the Mage Tower when we go,’ he continued. ‘She is working on finding the old spells, I believe, and this may be of use to her. The loose note may be a prophecy if it came from the Oracle, but who knows when it was made? It could be that it was centuries ago, or yesterday; and it could be referring to a time well in the future or even in the past. I think we should ignore it for now. Lillora says that our lunch is almost ready, so I suggest we go to the table before she gets mad.’
So the three apprentices forgot all about the book and the note as they enjoyed Mabryl’s housekeeper’s excellent cooking. After the meal they returned to their studies. Mabryl gave them all tasks to complete and then went out again to visit the Duke of Bluehaven, who was an old friend of his, taking the book with him.
Duke Danu of Bluehaven had trained at the Mage Tower in his youth. He had some talent for magic, but with the death of his elder brother in an epidemic, he had to take over the duties and prepare to become the Duke one day. He had never taken the tests to end his apprenticeship, but he retained an interest in magic and still practiced it in a small way. ‘To keep my hand in.’ he told people.
Today he was sitting in his study going over the accounts of the duchy when a knock came at the door.
‘Arch-mage Mabryl to see you, sir,’ said his butler.
‘Send him in, then,’ replied Danu, rising from his seat and walking over to clasp Mabryl in a hug. ‘You’ve not been to visit in some while, my friend,’ he scolded the other man. ‘Busy with your three apprentices, I suppose.’
Mabryl smiled at the Duke. ‘Yes, they do keep me busy. Carthinal is ready to take his tests and become a full mage now.’
‘Is that so?’ Duke Danu raised an eyebrow. ‘Hardly seems any time at all when you took that scruffy little urchin in off the streets. Everyone thought you were mad, you know. Taking a street child to be your apprentice; and then adopting him. Well, it seems we were wrong. He’s turning out all right.’
‘Considering his background, yes. He still has his faults and I can’t say there weren’t times when I agreed with you that I’d done the wrong thing. But I didn’t come here to talk about Carthinal. I’ve made a discovery and I want your opinion.’ He pulled the spell-book out of a bag at his side. ‘I’m going to take this to Yssa at the Mage Tower when I take Carthinal. She will be the best to decide how important it is.’ He handed the book to Danu.
The Duke whistled. ‘This is important, Mabryl. I can’t read it, but it certainly looks like a spell-book to me. It’s old and could easily date to before the Forbidding.’ He picked up the note that was still between its pages. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.
‘A little note that was in the book. Carthinal found it. It doesn’t seem to belong to the book though, and I’ve thought it could be a hoax. Someone putting a seeming prophecy in an important old book.’
‘Maybe, but I don’t think so. Some research I’ve been doing suggests that Grosmer is about to face some danger. This may be a prophecy about that. I would suggest you take it to Rollo in Hambara when you go. His library is much more extensive than mine is and he can find out more. I’ve been in touch with him about this possible danger so he knows a little of what I suspect.’
‘I don’t know Duke Rollo,’ Mabryl replied. ‘He may not believe me. I’ve heard he’s a suspicious man. I think that this note maybe a hoax even if you don’t. I’ll need to prove that I’ve come from you.’
‘I’ll write you a letter to give to him,’ Danu said going over to his desk and picking up his pen. ‘I’ll also give you this.’ He picked up a small statuette of a trotting horse about three inches long and two high that sat on his desk. ‘It’s one of a pair that we found in our adventuring days. He has the other. He’ll know that I’ve sent you when he sees that, especially if you ask him about the other one. Now, sit down and I’ll get some wine for us to drink while we talk about other things.’
So the two old friends passed the afternoon remembering past times and gossiping about the goings on in the city of Bluehaven as the afternoon passed into evening and the Duke’s work lay unfinished on the desk.

 

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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.