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The Travels of First Horse

The Entire Third Story of the Ehvelen

The Travels of First Horse by Dr. Bob Rich
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Book I: To Assyria

   Horse was a fifteen-year-old youngster who qualified for adulthood by participating in a hunt for brown bear. During the return trip, he and his five friends encountered an enemy patrol of twenty-eight warriors, and found a way to kill them.

   The other youngsters married, and joined the desperate war of survival against the savage Doshi, but the Mother had other plans for Horse. He accompanied Moustaf the wily Areg trader, crossing the Doshi plains in disguise. He became a travelling entertainer, married the strongest woman in the world and made an alliance with the young king of Scythia against the Doshi. On the way through Elam he learned how the Hittites made iron.

Book II: The Secret of Wootz

   Horse's remarkable abilities and quick thinking put him in the good favors of Sennacherib, King of Assyria, who gave him a course of instruction in Assyrian military knowledge, then sent him on his way. This led to trouble later in Egypt, Assyria's main enemy. Horse and his friends could only escape by committing an ingenious crime. Horse then crossed a great desert and achieved the impossible by penetrating the hidden city of Meluhha, and stealing the secret of steel.

Book III:From Ice to Magic

   Alone and hunted by every man, Horse made his way north through the foothills of the Himalayas, when he was suddenly attacked by a great tiger. He killed the mighty beast with only the hand weapons at his disposal, then adopted her cubs. Months later, he and his two half-grown tigers saved Gorrok hunters from a Meluhhan patrol. The Gorrok treated him as a hero, and among them, young virgins sought a hero for the father of their first child. Passed along from village to village, he was eventually escorted over the Roof of the World, to the Hun. The Dreaded Lord of the Hun offered him passage home, the Prince of the Magyar personally escorting him to the far north, to the Herdsmen of the Frozen Wastes. After fathering a child and enduring the adventures of the coldest winter in the world, Horse at last reached home, ten adventurous years after his departure.

   His mother Heather, War Leader of the Ehvelen, had become old before her years, though still a mighty warrior. Finally Horse organized a magic show that tricked the Gret Khan of the Doshi into a truce.

Anina's Book Company; May 2003
282 pages; ISBN 9781877053047
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: The Travels of First Horse
Author: Dr. Bob Rich; Martine Jardin
 
Excerpt

Prologue

   For untold ages, the Ehvelen had enjoyed the wealth of their Forest, serving the Mother. Because She was with them, and within them, they had no conception of murder, cruelty, greed or selfishness. They were hunters: children became adults, and were allowed to marry into a Family, only after killing a dangerous animal. 'The Mother's work' meant caring for nature. Each woman was named after a plant, each man for an animal, and the Being of the name was the person's Responsibility for life.

   Then the Doshi came. They were warlike nomads of the plains, where all women were slaves, and a man's status depended on how many sons he had. Daughters were sold in order to buy women for breeding sons. A boy became a man by killing an enemy -- and in Doshi, the word for 'foreigner' was the same as the word for 'enemy'.

   A small patrol of Doshi crossed the great river and blundered into a Hunt of five fifteen-year-old children. They killed the three boys and captured the two girls. One of these, blonde Oak, escaped that night after killing the man who'd raped her, but Heather, the other girl, had to endure captivity for a year. When the annual round of the nomadic Doshi approached the river again, she escaped, taking her two-months-old son Horse with her, and bringing warning of a coming invasion by five thousand warriors. No slave had ever managed to escape the Doshi until her feat.

   The Ehvelen had not encountered horses before the advent of the Doshi, so Heather's baby was the first of their kind to be named 'Horse'.

   This was the start of the terrible thirty years that forged the fun-loving, peaceful Ehvelen into the Mother's sword, Her weapon for defending the wild places, and opposing slavery, cruelty and exploitation everywhere. First Horse was one of Her most important instruments in achieving this change. His travels, described in this Story, shaped the history of an entire race, and through them, of all the people of the great Eurasian land mass.

   He and his friends grew up knowing nothing but war, war that escalated over the years. By the time Horse, and Oak's daughter Razor Bush, were ready for their Hunt, their people were fighting for their very existence, and Heather had become their War Leader.

   Her Family was unusual. Ehvelen Families were permanent, a new partner marrying into a Family every fifteen or sixteen years. A Family's name was intended to bring the Mother's peace into a person's mind. But Heather formed the first new Family for generations by marrying three freed Doshi slaves: Waleed, a tall man born in Aregia, Grodek, an even taller black man, and Doltu, an Areg girl whose daughter Pretu was one month older than Horse. They gave their Family a name to reflect the new times: 'Killers' Lair'. Oak never married, but lived at Killers' Lair more often than anywhere else.

***

   Time passed, in constant battle and grief, and with no end in sight. Then at last the children were ready for their Hunt...

 


1. Hunt

Killers' Lair
High Reaches
Lookout
Heather
The Hunt
Five days later
At the camp
The Hunt
Hink
Razor Bush
Hink
Razor Bush
Hink
Next afternoon
High Reaches
Bare Top

Killers' Lair

   Even here, shaded by the leaves of oak and chestnut, the sun was hot where it touched skin. Overjoyed to be home again after their year's training, Horse ran fast, the two girls right behind him, though all three were burdened with backpack, bow, sword, and quivers of spears and arrows. They jumped the creek, the sun's reflection from the water blindingly bright, then Horse shook the dark brown curls from his eyes and sprinted ahead. There was the dwareif -- neat rows of food plants stretching from the creek, the bulk of the tall oval adobe house with its peaked bark roof, the sunshine bathing the wide clearing. The workshop and stable were just visible, partly hidden by the house. Horse slowed, rounding the house. He noted that the fruit trees were laden with half-grown fruit, and he enjoyed the scent each step released from the ground cover.

   "Hola," he shouted, echoed by Razor Bush and Pretu.

   Doltu rushed from the house, her dark hair a following banner, and screamed in delight, "Here they are! The children're back!" The message had come to the children at High Reaches that Oak and the Killers' Lair Family were home, resting from battle, so of course they knew that they were expected.

   "Yes, Mother," Pretu said, embracing her, "we're still children, for one last time."

   Oak was by then hugging both Horse and Razor Bush, tiny next to them.

   "Where's my Mother?" Horse asked in Areg, for practice, though inside he was glad that the meeting was deferred, if only for a short while. He had bad news for her.

   "Out hunting with Waleed. She should be back any moment," Doltu answered in her native language. "You haven't forgotten?"

   "Stop jabbering you lot, and come in," Oak called impatiently. "I just happen to have some nice cookies fresh off the fire."

   They left bright sunshine for the pleasant coolness of the house, walking through a doorway tall enough for big People. Horse saw the home of his childhood almost with the eyes of a stranger. The interior was a place of beauty. Sunlight entering through four round windows and the high smoke hole illuminated a merry little fire on the raised stone hearth. Away from the fire, the floor was covered with soft furs of many colors, brown predominating. The walls were almost wholly hidden by colorful works of art, made of felt, and by the newer craft of weaving. Nor were these wall-hangings only for show. Bedding was hidden behind them during the day. Graceful but sturdy timber furniture formed a harmonious pattern: racks and cupboards against the walls, a table, comfortable chairs, low chests holding possessions and serving as beds at night. A pottery vase on the table held a brilliant, heady-smelling posy of flowers.

   Grodek stood up from his chair, a white grin splitting his black face. "Welcome back, brave hunters." His voice was a fluting contralto, odd from such a big man until one got used to it.

   He got his share of hugs as Horse replied, "Not quite yet, but almost. This's one last visit before our Hunt. Liana let us off the lead for one day."

   The limp from her old wound not slowing her at all, Oak handed around cookies and gourds of cool herb tea, her shoulder-length blonde hair shining in the firelight. "So, my dears, you're ready for it?"

   "The others are," Pretu complained, "but I'm always the slowest. I haven't been bred to it like you native born Ehvelen."

   "Auw, auw," Razor Bush sounded an uncannily accurate wolf howl. "Poor me! Don't fall off your branch, Pretu. You're as ready as any of us. Doltu, I'll prove it to you." She whipped out her dagger and flipped it at Pretu's throat.

   Without thought, the slender, tall, dark-haired girl allowed her body to collapse towards the floor. Almost casually, her right arm floated up, her hand took hold of the dagger's haft, and she threw it back at Razor Bush before her knees touched the floor.

   Razor Bush swayed sideways, allowing the weapon to pass her, snatched it out of the air and sheathed it. "See?"

   "That's not what I mean. You lot learn faster than me. And you clamber about trees better than I can."

   "Well, Horse can climb trees better than I can, too, but I'm the best at tracking. And you've got great night vision. We're all good at everything, and excel at some things. So stop being 'poor me'."

   "Razor Bush, leave her alone," Horse interrupted. "She can have her own opinion without you bashing her over the head."

   "Do you lot go on like this all the time?" Grodek asked.

   Razor Bush gave him a grin. "Of course. We need some fun too, with all the work Liana has us do. She works us twice as hard as any other team, just because we're the first Hunt she's ever trained."

   A shadow crossed the door and Heather walked in, her red hair glowing in the sunlight. "Welcome home, Mother!" Horse called. Nothing about him showed his apprehension -- within, he was trembling. He knew she'd be hurt.

   She dropped her load of birds with a joyful little scream and rushed to put her arms around Horse. He swung her off her feet and danced her around a circle.

   "It's been such a long time!" Heather looked at the three youngsters. "You've all grown even taller. Pretu, you'll be as tall as your mother."

   Oak gave her a gourdful of tea and some cookies. "Pick up your birds, love, and come properly in."

   "Do I get some cookies too?" asked another male contralto at the door.

   "Of course, Waleed." Oak passed the goodies to the tall ex-slave. He dropped his handful of birds next to where Heather had put hers. "Well, the almost-hunters. Have you got your Families picked out yet?"

   "We must kill our brown bear first," Pretu answered. "But I think Hidden Dale're interested in me. At least, Dragonfly's been saying that he likes tall women."

   Razor Bush swallowed a mouthful of cookie. "I'd love nothing better than to marry into Roomy Cave. Not only because Bee's so cute, but because Willow's senior, and she's just wonderful."

   "What about you, Horse?" Heather fondly smiled at her son.

   His insides were churning with apprehension. His next few words were bound to be a wounding spear to her, and she was the person in the world he least wanted to hurt, but the moment could not be delayed. "Actually, I've something to do before I can marry."

   "What?" chorused several voices.

   "You all know that I've been learning Areg for over two years from Doltu, Waleed and a few others. That's how long I've known what the Mother wants me to do, but I kept quiet about it. I didn't want an argument. When Moustaf comes I'm going with him."

   After a long, shocked silence Heather almost wailed, "But, but, you can't trust that man! He's a liar, the most treacherous person I know!"

   "I don't need to trust him." He took two large gold nuggets from a pouch. "I show him these, give him the smaller one as an advance and the other when I return safely. He'll care for me better than for the son he never had. Besides, I'm your son. The Areg call you our Vizier. He'll do nothing to compromise trading relations with the Ehvelen. Can you see him enslaving someone whose mother can interfere with trade?" He had endlessly rehearsed these arguments.

   "But, Horse, we need every fighter we have," Grodek objected.

   "I plan to be away for a year or two and learn as much as I can. The Ogres'll still be with us when I return. And my knowledge'll help us to fight them better."

   "Well," Oak said, "you'll be an adult soon, and an adult does as she sees fit. You've obviously thought it through. But have you considered this: here you're the tallest native born person. Taller than anyone other than ex-slaves like Doltu, Grodek and Waleed, or their children like Pretu. But out there, you'll be tiny. You're shorter than any Doshi, and they're short compared to the Areg. You'll be a mouse."

   Horse tried to change the topic away from himself. "You know, it's funny. In Areg, if you don't know someone's gender, you call her 'he'."

   Heather wouldn't be sidetracked. "So what? Answer Oak, love."

   "I have thought of my size. Moustaf's told me that some people earn their livelihood by making others laugh. Powerful people use them to entertain their guests. We know that our everyday hunting skills're considered to be unusual by others. The Doshi call them magic. So, I can go to all sorts of places doing things like dodging spears, wrestling people twice my size, climbing onto high places, whatever. And I can spend my spare time learning anything that may be useful to our People."

   Heather was tearful for the rest of the day, but couldn't shake Horse's resolve. Within, he felt the Mother's approval for his decision. Still, his heart withered at the thought that in all his fifteen years, this was the first time he'd gone against her wishes.

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