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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My Visit to New York

In April, my husband and I went to New York for the first time. I thought I would share some of the photos with you all.

We had a wonderful time, seeing all the sights. It was very exciting being in the city we had seen so often on the television, in both films and news. My only regret was that we did not have enough time to visit all of it, but spent most of our time in Manhattan. Perhaps another time?

We had a wonderful time. I’ll post some more in the future.

 

Please feel free to add a comment to this post. I love to hear what you think.

Horselords 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘I…I’m not with them,’ she stuttered.

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

‘Then what are you doing here?’

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

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

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

Shortly, the young warrior returned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out on the first Tuesday of next month.

An Interview with Magister Robiam, the chief Mage in the land of Grosmer. From The Wolf Pack–a fantasy adventure.

This month I have managed to prize an interview out of
Magister Robiam, the chief mage in the Mage Tower in tower-2410961_1280
Hambara.

Me: Thank you very much for allowing me this time in what must be a very busy schedule.

Robiam: Not at all, my dear. We must keep the press happy. Magic is still not fully trusted you know.

Me: After the Mage War and the Forbidding I suppose you mean. Arch-Mage Yssalithisandra told me about that.

Robiam: Yes. I can’t understand why it is taking so long for people to realise that
magic isn’t evil. It’s just a tool, and the users can equally put it to good or bad use. Just as a knife can be used to cut up food for the preparation of a meal, and also to kill or injure someone. The knife isn’t evil, just the user.

Me: Quite. You are a magister, sir. Tell me what that means.

Robiam: It is the highest rank that a mage can reach. When an apprentice passes
his or her tests, they are welcomed into the ranks of mages and go by the title
of simply ‘Mage’. The first year of their ‘mageship’ if you wish to call it that, is a
probationary year. They cannot ‘fail’ this year though. It is mainly to let people know
that this person is very newly qualified. Thus, folk know that their experience is limited
and not expect too much of them. The probation can be extended or shortened.
depending on the mage in question.

Me: What happens after the probation is finished?

Robiam: The mage continues to be a simple mage until, or if, they reach a certain
standard when they will become an Arch-Mage. Many do not progress beyond
being a simple Mage of course.

Me: And to progress to Magister an Arch-Mage must reach another, much higher
standard?

Robiam: You’ve got it; but the level for Magister is extremly high and few manage
to make it.

Me: So there are only 3 ‘levels’ in the magic profession?

Robiam: Yes. Of course, once there were many more. Newly-qualified mages were
known as a Conjurors, then they would progress to Magicians, Sorcerors, Wizards etc.

Me: Why was this scrapped?

Robiam: It was too cumbersome, and mages are rather fond of their independence. They are free spirits, if you like. They do not like to be regimented, and so it was simplified.

Me: Why not do away with ranks completely then?

Robiam: It was suggested, but the Magister in charge of the Tower at the time thought
that the general public should have at least some idea of the power of the mage they
were dealing with, and so it was decided to retain 3 ranks. (Although if you consider it,
there are really 4, including the probationary mages.)

Me: Thank you for making that clear, Magister. I was wondering, however, ahout those
who fail their mage tests. What happens to them?

Robiam: Unfortunately there are always a few who have a little magic but insufficient to pass the tests. We do not turn them out into the world to create havoc, which they could easily do. We make them associates of the Tower and they become entertainers, keep shops selling magic items, become adventurers etc.

Me: Thank you very much, Magister for your time.

If you would like to know more about the magic on Vimar, the world in which Magister Robiam and the other people I’ve interviewed live, you can buy the first two books in the Wolves of Vimar Series, available from Amazon in ebook ot paperback formats. They are The Wolf Pack and The Never-Dying Man. Follow these links.

http://mybook.to/thewolfpack/

http://mybook.to/NeverDying/

If you have read either or both of these books I would be most grateful if you would post a review, Reviews are important to authors because it is the main way that other people find their books. If you have done so, or are going to do so, Thank you very much.

In Defense of Grammar Schools

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There is a debate going on in the UK at the moment about education. As an ex-teacher I am interested in the arguments.

The Conservative Government wants to allow Grammar Schools to be re-established. Before the 1960s there was a system of Grammar Schools and Secondary Modern Schools.

In order to get into a grammar school, all children took an examination at age 11, in the final year of their primary school. It was called the 11+ examination. Those pupils who were in the top percentage got a place in the grammar school. I don’t know what that percentage was, but I have heard it said that the top 25% went to grammar schools.

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The grammar schools were academic schools, and they taught academic subjects. secondary moderns tended not to teach much in the way of languages, for example.

It is said that the future of children was settled at 11, and that was not good, because some children developed later. But the 11+ was not the end. There was a 12+ and a 13+ that pupils could take if they seemed to be developing in a more academic way.

At that time, the school leaving age was 15. The pupils who went to grammar school had to stay on until 16 so they could do the GCE ‘O’ level examination. A few pupils stayed on at secondary modern and did ‘O’ levels as well. If they did well in the examinations, they could then go on to the 6th form in the grammar school or at a college. I have several friends who did this.

During the 1960s, came the advent of the comprehensive school. These schools were deemed to be fairer than the old system. Each neighbourhood took in all the pupils from its catchment area. All went to the same school, regardless of their academic ability. This, it was said, was much fairer. It did not create an elite and a lot of ‘failures’ at the age of 11.

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On the face of it, this seems to be fine, only I think there are a number of flaws in this argument.

The main one, I think is this. Pupils from a given area all go to the local comprehensive school. There is no examination for entry, so no feelings of failure by those who did not pass the 11+.
That sounds fine, but if the neighbourhood school is not very good, all pupils from that particular neighbourhood are being failed.

Children do not get the chance to meet children from a different background, either. They are living with these people, have been brought up in the area, either rich or poor, and so they do not get a rounded picture of society.

The idea was the opposite of this. Pupils attending comprehensive schools were supposed to see all the different types of people. Yes, they saw all the different academic types, but not people from different social backgrounds.

Comprehensive schools were supposed to prevent the feelings of failure by some pupils failing the 11+. I don’t think you can stop pupils from feeling inferior intellectually by lumping them all together. They can see the brighter pupils doing better than them in their academic work. That will make them feel inferior just as much as ‘failing’ the 11+.

One other thing brought about by the introduction of comprehensive schools, is that the education given is a watered-down academic curriculum, which is not suited to all pupils, and has lowered the academic standards for the very brightest pupils.

Grammar schools, they say, create an elite. This is supposed to be bad. In a perfect world, I suppose everyone would have the same academic capabilities, but everyone does not. There are some people who are much cleverer than others. Some say that it is solely due to their background how some people develop, and a middle class background is advantageous. This I would not dispute, but only to a point. There are middle class children who do not excel, and working class ones who do, in spite of their background.

They say that comprehensive schools help social mobility. How? Pupils live and learn in the same area with the same people and values.

In a grammar school, pupils come from all backgrounds and all areas of a town. They mix with each other and get to know something of the lives of each other. Pupils from working class backgrounds can get an academic education, and get away from the schools in their area where ambition is perhaps not so great.

Bright pupils who live in an area with a poor school can get away from that as well.

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It is said that grammar schools have more middle class pupils than working class ones. That is something that can be worked out. ‘They’ say that the exam can be coached and middle class parents are more likely to put up the money for coaching. Well, I went to a grammar school and was coached for the exam, but not by private tutor, which is the perception, but by my primary school. Encourage primary schools in working class areas to coach. Or develop an exam where coaching is no advantage.

There’s always an answer, and in my opinion, the advent of comprehensive schools has lowered standards. When I look at the exams I took at ‘O’ level and the exams pupils take at GCSE, there’s no comparison. We had to write essays. They just have ‘structured questions’, or fill in the blanks.

I see grammar schools as promoting social mobility far more than comprehensive schools in contrast to what the detractors say, that they are elitist and prevent it.

I would love to hear what you think of the grammar school debate.

Aspholessaria. Bluehaven

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The journey continued. There were, as Trinelli expected, a number of times her healing skills were called upon. True to her word, Asphodel helped as much as she could. It was little enough, because the girl had not been trained in healing. She knew nothing at all. Not even the simplest remedies used by almost every housewife in the land.
She had been brought up as a privileged daughter of one of the ruling families of Quantissarillishon. Although only minor royalty, she had not had to work, The result was that she knew little of how life would be for most people. She was fascinated by Trinelli’s healing, both the mundane and that which the goddess channelled through her priestess.
One day, after they had been travelling for a week, Asphodel asked Trinelli about her religion.
‘Well,’ began the other woman, ‘What do you know about Sylissa?’
‘Not much, really. We elves tend to worship Grillon, as the god of nature. We know a little of the others, but Grillon is our god, really.’
‘Well, Sylissa is the god of Life and Healing. She is the twin sister of Kalhera, god of Death. They are like two sides of one coin. Sylissa’s colour is white, as you can see from my robes, while Kalhera’s is black.’
Asphodel settled down to listen as Trinelli told her about how Sylissa and Kalhera were the daughters of the Chief of the Gods, Kassilla and her consort, Zol the god of Knowledge and Learning. how each chose some aspect of life to be their jurisdiction.
Because she chose to aid those who were sick, occasionally there were disputes between the two sisters, if Kalhera thought Sylissa were denying death to people, but generally they were on good terms.
The clerics of Sylissa were the doctors and nurses of the world, but they did not rely wholly on the power of the god to cure sickness and injury. No, they learned other ways too, such as herbs, and manipulation. They could set broken bones, although sometimes they would call upon Sylissa to help.
Asphodel became fascinated by this and began to ask questions about the various herbs and other methods Trinelli used, She fould the rest of the journey passed quickly, especially as Trinelli sometimes gave her little things to do.
Just as they approached Bluehaven, Trinelli turned to Asphodel and said, ‘You seem to have some aptitude for healing, you know. Have you ever thought of becoming a healer.’
Asphodel was amazed. The idea had never crossed her mind.
‘I’m not sure I’d make a very good cleric,’ she said.
‘You don’t have to. We have some lay people who help us. Why not come to the temple with me and see the Great Mother there. You can decide then what to do.’
So Asphodel went to see the Great Mother and decided to become a lay healer.
Soon that was not enough, and one night she dreamed of Sylissa.
‘Come and join me,’ the goddess told her. ‘You have great potential. It’s wasted here. Join my clerics.’
So after a year in Bluehaven, Asphodel joined the novices at the temple of Sylissa.

All went well during her first year as a novice. Mother Caldo, the Great Mother of the temple praised the young elf, saying she thought she had great potential, and could rise through the ranks quickly. Mother Caldo told Asphodel that she could probably become a Great Mother herself, such was her potential in healing.
‘There’s just one thing, though,’ Mother Caldo said one day, in conversation with one of the archbishops. She sighed. ‘The girl is lacking in discipline. Sometimes she seems to think she knows better than her superiors.’
One day, the Great Mother called together all the clerics of the church of Sylissa in Bluehaven. She stood in the pulpit of the temple and began to speak.
‘As you all know,’ she began, ‘the annual meeting of all the Most Highs of all the religions was held recently in Asperilla on Holy Island. There, they decided that all the sickness and other problems that surround us are a punishment by the gods for the evil that we do.’
She looked at the paper before her before continuing.
‘The consensus of this meeting was that we should try to eliminate evil from the world. The best way to do this, they said, is to refuse aid to those who perpetrate evil. The discussion, apparently, decided against the active persecution and killing, as this would make us as bad as them. The Most High of Sylissa, therefore, has decreed that we will not give aid or healing to such people.’
She shuffled her papers and left the pulpit. An astounded Asphodel followed her fellow novices from the temple deep in thought.
This cannot be right, she thought. Surely we are supposed to give healing to all comers, regardless of anything they might have done. At least, that’s what I understood I was promising when I took my vows.
She listened to her friends talking, and they all seemed to think it was a good idea to eliminate evil in this way, and so she said nothing.

 

Please leave a comment in the comments box. I love hearing from you.

Spring. A poem

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Dandelions, like gold, cover the meadows.
Newborn lambs frolic in fields.
New leaves on the trees are casting their shadows
And winter’s cold grip quickly yields.

At the edges of woodland the primroses glow
And cowslips their scent fills the air.
Anemones dance when the breezes do blow
And birds sing with never a care.

Then bluebells and campions come into bloom
Their colour the blue of the sea.
The cuckoo, that herald of spring, will come soon
His call echoing over the lea.

The song of the blackbird is like molten gold.
His notes are so pure and so clear.
Hearing him seems to banish the cold
And brings joy to all those who hear.

Robin is nesting, and other birds too,
The hedgehog is active once more.
The young of the deer and the badger and shrew
Play their games as in old days of yore.

The sun climbs higher and higher each day
Giving more of his heat and his light.
It sparkles like stars fallen into the bay.
All smile at the beautiful sight.

Hope and excitement come with each spring morn.
What blessings will come with this day?
New starts can begin once again with each dawn
And send us all hopeful away.

Winter Night. (a poem)

This ought to have been published in the winter, but I didn’t get round to it, so I’m publishing it today. Anyway, it’s still technically winter! Hope you enjoy it.

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Snow covers the ice-hard ground
And ponds and lakes are frozen.
All is muffled, every sound.
The birds are silent in the trees,
No moths or butterflies or bees
Just snowflakes by the dozen.

The moon is full and her pale light
Shines gently through the flakes.
But creatures shiver through the night.
The icy wind makes branches quiver
And every living thing to shiver
In trees and hills and lakes.

Across the field there trots a fox.
An owl flies by on silent wings.
On the frozen lake, some ducks.
As snow falls gently on them all,
And cattle low within their stall
We are waiting for the spring.

I welcome all your comments, so please add yours.