Sunday, December 30, 2018

On The Ten OSR Concepts, Plus One

The Gadabout by Tomek Larek

As our corner of the hobby matures. more and more real good thinkers get involved and put the intellectual framework together for us, plainly, so we can begin to hang things on it in an orderly way. 

Here are The Ten OSR Concepts (in capital letters of course) that were thought up and put down to paper by Gregory Blair, Brian Harbron, F.M. Geist, Zedick Siew, Brian Murphy, Dirk Detweiller Leichty and Daniel Davis. I put a little extra commentary in for #5 which is original.

1. This is a game about interacting with this world as if it were a place that exists.
2. Killing things is not the goal.
3. There is nothing that is "supposed" to happen.
4. Unknowability and consequence make everything interesting.
5. You can play as your character, not as the screenwriter writing your character.
5a. OR use your character as a kind of complicated pawn in a complicated board game. It’s OK to not inhabit your man.
6. It's your job to make your character interesting and to make the game interesting for you.
7. If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics stink.
8. The answer is not on your character sheet.
9 .Things are swingy.
10. Your paper man will die. Celebrate his life and make a new one. 

5a is my own contribution. 

In my opinion, both 5 and 5a are appropriate ways to play your man. As long as you're taking his world as he experiences it seriously for him, then you can add as much or as little of yourself to him as you like.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Of Gnomes and Gnomons

Maybe that's why the tall, pointy hats

This is probably some word play that I should save for a sequel to Lions Red and Gold should I ever write one, but I'll try it out here to see what you think.

Both "gnome" as in "a short, pithy expression of a general truth; aphorism" or "an expert in monetary or financial affairs; international banker or financier;"

and "gnomon" as in "the raised part of a sundial that casts the shadow;"

come from the same root word: from Latin gnomon, from Greek gnomon "indicator," literally "one who discerns," from gignoskein "to come to know."

Therefore: gnomes know gnomons.

Is CON the Physical Beauty Stat?

Previously in this space I've spoken about my conception of CON and CHA in old-style games. Constitution shows generally how healthy you are and Charisma shows how effective you are at communicating. 

One thing that I specifically reject about CHA is that it reflects physical beauty (despite what Gary would say and later authors would almost unanimously echo during the TSR era.) Charisma only talks about persuasion and leadership capacity, not about whether someone is handsome or not. 

But what stat does, if it isn't Charisma?

For a long time I thought physical appearance was largely divorced from stats. Maybe you could say that Strength has some bearing on your size, but maybe not (Hobbits can have a STR of 17 after all.) Outside of that, there's little in the stats to inform what you look like. 

That's okay, by the way.

But upon looking around in the real world, I can see healthier people are more physically attractive, all other things being equal. We tend to prefer the strong horse to the weak one, for instance, or youth over agedness. Again, all other things being equal. 

Therefore, it struck me that CON may be the stat which best maps to physical beauty. Not completely by any means, but to some great degree.

What do you think? Is CON the physical beauty stat?

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Western Terminus: Finished

I have finished my draft of Western Terminus. That means I've written it and re-written it. I've knocked out all the dodgy plot points and fixed the grammar. It's as good as I can make it without inviting anyone else into the process.

What I need now is beta readers.

A beta reader is someone who is not a close friend or a member of your family, nor someone who relies on you in some other context, who will read your manuscript and pull it apart. To tell you what sucks. To red line what needs red lining.

I need someone like that. 

But while I'm looking, here is the draft manuscript.

Get it here --> Western Terminus

Monday, December 3, 2018

Meeting the President

It was the week before Halloween before Jim, Ellen, Heather, Valentine and Elias got to meet the President. They had to fly to Reagan National from SkyHarbor, but at least the White House sprung for first class tickets. From there they took an unmarked car to Camp David, about an hour or so away in the Catoctin Mountain Park. Security to enter was incredibly tight, even though everything had been planned ahead right down to the minute. They gave their biometrics and signed in and were given visitor badges quite similar to the ones they’d used to get in underneath Building 9.

The main lodge was nice, but not too nice. Kind of like it should have been redecorated about twenty years ago. There was a huge pool out back but it was covered over this time of year. There was just a little snow on the ground. For Elias, it reminded him of winter in the Hamptons when he was a teenager.

The party were vaguely aware of two Marine mudpuppies standing guard, several Secret Service agents at the entryways and windows, and two plainclothes private security men sitting in the pantry in the next room with earpieces. The place was buttoned up tight on the ground and they imagined it would be just as tight from the air and even space.

The President and his daughter received the group. They were dressed down a little, with the President in a green sweater with his initials monogrammed in gold over a polo shirt and his daughter in a sweater and slacks, all in white. Elias couldn’t get over how tall and attractive they were in person, much nicer-looking than they looked on TV or in pictures. Each had a dazzling smile and a warm, graceful affect. They made you comfortable. It seemed they had been briefed on the lives of each of the party. The president and his daughter asked all about Heather’s time in Afghanistan and asked Elias about Liberia and his opinion about what foreign policy footing the US should take with her. The president had been a fair pitcher and quarterback in high school and college, so he talked sports with Jim. After luncheon, the president pulled a minor league baseball card from a portfolio: it was Jim’s card from the late 80’s. He asked Jim to sign it for him, which suited Jim just fine.

The First Daughter asked Valentine about how she came from the reservation to work for the Bureau at such a young age, but Valentine was fairly noncommittal. It turned out they shared a passion for the vampire soap opera Dark Sister that was on the CW for a few years. Later on, after the president departed, she promised to Heather and Valentine out to the stables to see the horses.

They had been there for about an hour and nobody had talked any business. But a Secret Service agent came and whispered in the president’s ear and he realized the time.

“I think what you all did was very brave and very American. It was a huge relief to me to hear that we have brave men and women like you working in the great American frontiers and on the borders. Very brave,” he said, making a ‘c’ shape with the fingers of his right hand. “I would say we want people to be safe in our country no matter where they come from. Don’t you think so?”

They nodded. Ellen said, “Did you know about this, sir?”

“No, I can’t say that I knew about it, to be honest with you,” he said.

Ellen pressed him. “How can the president not know about such a thing? Didn’t you find it strange, all the people in DC getting sick and dying?”

The president picked up his Diet Coke and leaned back into the white overstuffed couch. “Dr. Ellen, do you know what you’re liver is doing right now?”

“Well, basically,” she said.

“What about your white blood cells? What about your mitochondria? Do they give you progress reports or the whatever, emails or something, telling you what they’re eating or doing or whatever?”

“No, of course not.”

“See, the President of the United States is the single most powerful person in the world. But our great country is far too large and far too powerful to be harnessed by any one person, even me, if you can believe that. So I can send the electrical signals to America’s hands to work on going to Mars or make the country’s feet walk toward North Korea or something if you can accept the metaphor, but most of the country is like the stomach or the blood vessels; it’s on autopilot in terms of what the president does and what the president knows.”

Jim said, “See, Eli, I told you it was too big.”

The president continued, “Every day I hear about ten or twenty enemies of the country, foreign or domestic. I’m a very hard worker. I work harder than any other president in history, believe me.. But I can only counterpunch maybe three or four of those enemies every day. So I count on the other parts of the government to do the right thing. And when they don’t, I pray for people like you five. God, do I pray for them to come. And God loves this nation and He sends them to us. He sent you to me, did you know that?”

The president was not known for public displays of evangelical faith, but he was famous for ubiquitous hyperbole. Whether this was the former or the latter, Eilas would never know.

“So what I don’t want is to have some witch hunt where they throw the book at you for doing your civic duty to America. I had the Office of the White House legal staff prepare blanket pardons for the five of you, okay? Because I want you to know that when you do the right thing, America loves you. That’s very important for people to know.”

A man in a charcoal suit brought out five maroon leatherbound portfolios and opened them up on the coffee table. Each had a blanket pardon for any crimes related to their adventure.

“So I want you all to sign off on these, and then I’ll sign off on these as well, and we can reach a great conclusion on this.”

Elias was ecstatic and the others seemed to be, too. Ellen had a pen and so did Valentine. They were ready to sign right then.

“There’s one more thing though,” said the president. “This is a very sensitive issue. Having it get out right now is going to make a really big mess and make everyone look bad right here before the election. Maybe someday down the line people can know what happened here, but for now it would be much better if nobody talked about it. Can you all agree to keep quiet about this for now?”

Ellen looked unhappy at the request, but they were all in agreement: they would not talk about what had happened.

“That’s wonderful, because if you look and flip the page over here,” said the president, flipping one of the pages to show another document, “these are NDAs. Non-disclosure agreements. What is says is, if anyone talks about it for the next twenty years, then it will void the pardons and someone will have a very bad time of it, with the media and the legal system. In those terms it would be very bad for that person.”

Elias’ stomach went in knots. His palms and armpits got hot and moist. He’d heard governments talk like that before and it never went well for the dissident who bucked the system.

“And the other thing that I didn’t mention to you yet is that I really am so very proud of you all. I can’t give you a medal, because of the NDA we’re going to sign together, but I want to give you something really nice. Something you’re going to really like. Something really special.”

The five of them looked at each other. Jim picked up a pen and signed the NDA. Then Valentine did. Heather did. Finally, Elias and Ellen signed theirs.

“That’s really great. Thank you all,” said the First Daughter.

The president signed the NDAs and the pardons and handed the portfolios back to the lawyer in the charcoal suit. Then he took his wallet out of his back pocket and pulled some business cards out. “Here, I want you all to have one of these. These are special. I had them made special. These cards have my iPhone number on them. Not the White House or the Red Phone or whatever it is, but my personal number. The only catch is, you only get to call me once, so make it really important when you do, okay?” The First Daughter passed out the cards to everyone.

Elias marveled at his and put it in his wallet. “Mr. President, I’d like to give you my card, too,” he said.

“No, no, that’s okay Elias. I have a secretary who is the very best in the world when it comes to calling people on the telephone. The best. If I need to call you, she’ll help me do it. Believe me.”

Friday, November 30, 2018

I've Won NaNoWriMo 2018

I'd like to thank all the people who made this win possible: 

Thanks to V.S. Valentine for help with viruses an epidemiology.

Thanks to Flight Er Doc from the Internet for help with law enforcement equipment.

Thanks to Ciara Lauren for help with national park procedures and equipment.

Thanks to John Rymell for information on firearms transactions.

Thanks to Hornswaggler for local flavor.

Thanks to AJ for technical support.

Thanks to my kids Nate and Jules for ideas and alpha reading.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Join My Patreon and I’ll Personally Sign Your Skateboard

My wife, God bless her, fixed the computer. It was the BACKUP hard drive that had failed. She did a lobotomy on the thing and bam! Started right up.

It’s a NaNoWriMo miracle!

I’m on track. The beat goes on.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Like and Subscribe, Like and Subscribe

During the football today they showed an ad for one of the DNA companies where the guy is talking about how he always thought he was a Chinese and he loved his Chinese culture and celebrated it and married a Chinese woman and had Chinese kids, but then his DNA kit came back and it showed he was really an ostrich.

My PC died. It’s the hard drive. I’m going to fall way behind and probably not win NaNoWriMo this year, but I won’t give up. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Western Terminus - a NaNoWriMo Story

It's November 15th. That's halfway to the end of the month. I've just crossed the 25,000 word threshold, which is halfway to my goal of 50,000. 

Like and subscribe, as the kids say these days.

GET IT HERE ---> Western Terminus WIP

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Western Terminus - Writing Underway

Rookie FBI Special Agent Elias Tucker is the son of Liberian immigrants and he's living his American Dream. He graduated from Brown and turned his attention to the law. His first assignment with the Bureau is the Phoenix satellite office in Cochise County, Arizona, just a short drive from the Mexican border. His work involves the cross-border drug trade, missing persons, and tracking foreign nationals who have entered the country illegally. 

Out in the red Western desert, he's a fish out of water. Adjusting to the culture and pace of life on the American frontier will take time, but time isn't something he has.

A string of mysterious disappearances among migrant communities has shocked the locals, but the brass seem unconcerned. What's happened to them? Where did they go? And how does it relate to the unusually high number of retirements and medical leaves being taken among lifers in DC?

A never-ending wave of Central American caravans. Disappearing politicians.  A mystery epidemic. A wonder drug. And a green FBI agent named Elias Tucker who won't take no for an answer. Can he solve the mystery before time runs out? And will the truth die with him?

Get It Here --> Western Terminus

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Western Terminus - Bisbee

Let me show you one of the exam rooms where we administer the vaccinations.”

8:55 AM. The mercury had hit 105 right before Elias turned off the ignition and headed into the clinic. But it was a DRY heat. Ha, ha. He left his sport coat in the car, and made a mental note to invest in short-sleeve dress shirts, something he would never have worn back East. Dr. Ellen wore a lab coat, stethoscope and a BIA name tag over an Ann Taylor blouse and a skirt in navy blue. She walked fast and Elias walked in her wake.

“We can’t keep every migrant out, and Lord knows we can’t send them back where they came from. But with this pilot program of free clinics from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and HHS, we can be sure to vaccinate everyone and prevent dangerous pathogens from becoming epidemics on the North side of the border.

“The illegals, well, you just never know what they’ve been vaccinated for and what they haven’t. If you ask, they will tell you they’ve had all their shots and they’re perfectly healthy. They don’t want anyone questioning. So we start from square one and give everyone a full workup, shots, and scripts for whatever they need. An ounce of prevention and all that.” She turned the corner and knocked smartly on the flimsy door inside the building, a re-purposed mobile classroom. They had them back in Monrovia when he was a kid.

“How do you get them to come in? I mean, how do they know they won’t just get shipped back?”

“Education. We make sure the coyotes know we don’t do that here. That they should come here and get free healthcare. Obamacare, that’s all you need to say. They get the message. And after a few have been through, word gets back to relatives in Sonora.”

A tech opened the door in front of them and Dr. Ellen introduced Elias. “Marta, this is Special Agent Elias Tucker from the Phoenix office. He’s been assigned to Sierra Vista and Cochise County to keep tabs on the drug trade and so forth.”

Elias could see there was a Mexican woman with three children about to be examined. She heard “Special Agent” and became alarmed. Dr. Ellen could see her alarm reflected in Elias’ face.

She turned to the woman and said something soothing in Spanish. The woman calmed down and released the death-clutch she’d put on her youngest, a girl of maybe two years. Still in a diaper.

Elias took a step into the room and smiled at the child. “Me encanta,” he said. That put everyone at ease. Dr. Ellen and Special Agent Tucker left. The baby cried when she took the wicked needle. They could hear her down the hall.

“The worst is the UACs,” said Dr. Ellen. “The unaccompanied children. The coyotes will sometimes take them this far, but usually they just end up with the border patrol.” There were two bored, dirty kids in the next office perhaps ten years old, chucking pencils at each other. Boy and a girl. They barely looked up as Elias peeked in.

“Thanks for showing me all this,” said Elias. You have my number. If you see evidence of an uptick in drugs or if anything else weird happens…”

“Thank you, Agent Tucker.” She took his hand in both of hers. They were small and cool. She lingered and then stepped back. She looked very tired.

As he turned to go, she stopped him. “Oh! Agent Tucker! One more thing. While you’re in Bisbee, stop in and say hi to Sheriff Funk. He could be a good asset to you while you’re here.”

“Thank you,” he said, and put his mirrored sunglasses back on before crossing the hellish tarmac back to the car.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I've Finished My Novel

And I'm very proud.

Here: have a look if you want to. This is a PDF of the manuscript. It has not been touched by an editor, not at all. At some point I'll have it edited properly and get cover art and put it up on Lulu and Amazon.

Not because I think it will make me rich, but because I want to be able to say I did it.

It was important to me to get the copy finished this week so I can start my new novel on 1 November for 2018's NaNoWriMo. It will be a contemporary thriller set in Arizona called Western Terminus. Murders, shadowy conspiracies, green FBI agents, crazy gunfights, all the normal stuff.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Approaching Hastings By Sea

Rucher approaching Pevensey Bay, 28 September 1066

Young Benouét perched in the netting on the bowsprit, eye toward East by North-East hown. He looked out for some greensward dear to them, beyond the morning mist. Instead, upon the fo’c’sle, lit a raven, like in elden days. Carried in its beak a sprig of mistletoe. Benouét thought nothing of the portent, for this was the way of things momentous in this time. The raven was as good as sighting land. He sprung along the railings, barefoot, calling to the host assembled there that landfall, was it nigh.

So how it came upon our Guytonnet the monk hailed from Balun, that Benouét called to the men that Pevensey was nigh. Awoke he, Guy, sat up and shivering with nothing in him but poor humor. There was a cold salt mist hung down on that dawn hour which soaked the whole the galley, through and through. The men were soakèd through and through as well. Waves slapped on the hull and halyard strained.  The single-masted Rucher[1] on a bead was run unto the naked shore.

Rucher had anarrow beam and shallow draft. Fleet she under oar. Her forebears were the longships of the Norsemen. The morning fog had kept her hidden from the Saxons. God was with them on this day. While the pilot slept in the one aft-castle state room, twenty men were there at oar; Guytonnet, some other monks, and coursers three of 14 hands and goodly breadth were at the centerline awaiting landfall and debarkment. Guyton rather earnest hoped that Rucher’s sister, Nef,[2] would be along a-present, for she held the soldier’s armory and food enow for two days’ march. More’s would be for taking from the Saxon curs. The sisters had been separated in the darkness of the passage. Although the passage narrower than nine leagues wide, it took nine hours to find the Saxon’s side. Here at the commencement, Rucher was she all alone.

The morning was within the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time. Guy wore underthings of linen and some socks of wool. His stole, collected up from Saint-Valery-sur-Somme and local folk who wished him well, was green to mark the season. His sandals (woe to him these sandals!) were of leather in the color of Burgundians, and still they felt him fairly new. His gros ortieil d’gauche were sore at the conclusion of each day of walking to and fro. These sandals from the city, a rare treat for Guy who was used to going barefoot, would break in over time, he still held hope. As soon as he was back in Normandy, he’d buy some salve and lanolin to work the sandals into shape and ease his ailing toe. Not long now, did he still hold hope.

The Sergeant of these men, whose name Guy did not know, called then upon the host: “Préparez-vous à débarquer!” One courser sneezed with great delight and all three shook their manes out  with anticipation. T’would be hour now before the sun burnt off the mist; the bow and stern of Rucher were now strangers to the other, so it held upon the deck. Half the men pulled oars and ambulated to the bow. Shortly, sand hissed underneath as Rucher found her purchase on the rocky beach beneath.

[1] Beehive
[2] Nave

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Novel Progress

I feel like I have been almost done with this beast, Lions Red and Gold, since about January 2018. That’s not true, but it’s felt that way. I wonder if a lot of writers feel “almost done” a lot more than is realistic? Looking at the progress on word counts, it appears the earliest that I could have reasonably said it was almost done was this July when I crossed the 90,000 word threshold. Less than that isn’t really a NOVEL, but more like a novella.

In a little more than a week, NaNoWriMo 2018 will be here. I am 100% certain this novel doesn’t need another 50,000 words. I have 110,000 good words down after cutting about 30 pages/15,000 words in September. They were good chapters, but not for this book. I’ll save them for another time when I write a Viking story.

The story is completely complete - no more little bits necessary - up until the battle of Fulford when Harald Hardrade invaded Northumbria in August. I don’t think I will actually cover that. I will cover the subsequent battle of Stamford Bridge because that’s germane to the battle of Hastings, which is the story’s climax.

The other thing I needed to decide was the disposition of the main characters. I had already decided that Imogene and Hyacinthe would be married. But the other two, the younger pair, I hadn’t really decided.

What I have decided is that Nesta likes Guy, but not in a romantic way. She feels like she owes him a debt of gratitude. The Archbishop is going to send him West to Wales. Nesta will escort him as far as the western border of Wessex. She still needs to gather her own forces to retake Northumbria but William isn’t turning northward quite yet. A recruiting trip through her old realm would be just the thing.

The book ends with Hyacinthe and Imogen being married, and a very short postscript.

All of this could be done in a week if I really rushed it, but I think I’ll do it over the course of the month.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Dour Médée

Journey of the Magi by Sassetta

“I cannot rid myself of dread,” Guy marked to Médée. “Upon a morning fair, while tending to the hares, I mark remarked unto myself and ere The Lord above me… something fateful.”

“The Lord is always listening, and making plans to trip us up if we don’t do what’s good,” replied sour Médée. He had blond hair and ruddy skin. His nose was red, boxed square upon the tip.  His eyes were pale, like light through stratic clouds. He smelled a little rancid, like a cut of pork bemaggotted. He was a young man, not much older then than Guytonnet; but kept he down a sour disposition in all things. Even in The Lord, this Médée held equal parts of fear and dread; if some love for our God abid within his heart, he kept it hid.

Guy stared dumbly then at Médée whilst on they trod from Alençon. His gauche gros orteil had started to complain to him, for as he walked, his sandal strap dug in beneath the thing. Guy hopped along a little and removed the brown, insulting leather espadrille.

“What’s your dread, specifically?” asked Médée, with mischief on his lips.

“Just about the time the troubles started, Médée. After Father had been laid to rest; I chanced to ruminate upon a fancy thought that passed, where I should like to aid in turning heathens there in other lands to God’s own truly lambs. And in this dream, I pictured us in valor-fields, and men there grasping sword and shield. And marry, Médée: God heard my dream and put us here!” 

No Father here to guide him. No Jean-Rémin to grant him any succor. No Archard’s snoring to bring Guy to sweet slumbering these nights. And far away from Florentin; as far as ever had he been. All to bring him discipline for this stray thought that morning when the coneygarth be in.

Médée offhandedly: “Good. I know now who to blame for this discomfort.”

Guytonnet, with sadness in this voice: “Tiens!

The word he said, Tiens, pricked Nesta’s ear. She turned about atop her Frisian to see who might have said the thing. For this, a saying she herself would use, rang true upon her ear and nary did abuse.

“Who says this thing? Tiens?” Asked Nesta of the men.

“It me, Dame Lady Knight,” reported Guytonnet.

“This pleases me to hear. My mama used the word in moments rueful,” she replied.

Guy was lost at this. He smiled and he nodded to the little dam who seemed to pick him out, a single raven from the flock. She turned back her attention to the road ahead, and smiled to herself. Mama, you are always near me, thought she then.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Ultima Thule

The men and dames took time to rest and eat upon the noontime. The sun today was very warm, and most the men decided then to put their feet into a little stream beside a meadow, home to sheep and also several palfreys. The water in the stream was very clear; both some soldiers and some monks walked up the bankment nearer to the Sarthe to take a drink. Others walked downstream a ways to let their bladders empty and their under-regions breathe.

Nesta and the monk named Guytonnet stood leaning on the wooden paling rail which held the livestock in. A pair of ewes came curiously up to them. Guy put his hand to them to sniff. One of the ewes took in his manalet and rand her tongue and teeth about it. He pulled it back away, enstartled, fearing that she’d bite, and Nesta laughed.  Guytonnet laughed too.

Sinalunga by Marc Dalessio

“You don’t sound like most any other person here around, m’lady,” Guytonnet observed. “Do you hail from far away?”

“Mmm. Le Mans. My papa is a man of some repute therein. And farther than that, if you care to know.”

“Farther than Le Mans?” Guytonnet could scarce imagine this. “Where father then?”

Nesta smiled with some mischief. “A land called Ultima Thule.[1] Where men wear pretty dresses and women have the tonsure shorn. And… we eat breakfast late at night and sup upon the morning crow!”

Guytonnet knew not this place. He stood dumb before her. “No wonder you wear trousers and you cover up your hear so strangely!” Then, “You raise up rabbits there? To eat?”

Nesta smiled and looked off to the distance then. “Oh, no. The rabbits there in Ultima Thule are far too large for men to raise! They’re bigger than a draft horse from Ardennes!”

“Then what would some ascetic monk like me take in for all his hassenpfeffer? Woulds’t thou have meat for men like me?”

“Of course we do. We dine on tiny horses. Also, tortoises in Thule are made of meat. It’s quite convenient, actually.” She couldn’t help but laugh a bit.

Guy caught on, “This is not true, is it? You’re joking! Very funny! Where could ever be a place where God might make a tortoise out of beef and rabbits bigger than a man! It makes no sense at all!” They laughed, and Nesta then appeared to bough her head a bit – but kept his gaze. She wished to win his fancy, mayhap did she then.

“Still,” said Guy, “I should rather like to see your Ultima Thule one day. Perhaps once we have gone to war and gotten back to Normandy.”

“Yes, after the war,” the dame agreed, in partly of a dream, reaching down to stroke the other ewe.

They stood in quiet for a lingering, and quite enjoyed it, both of them.

Guy asked, “What’s it like? To ride a courser, wearing armor, holding up your sword? To lowborn common folk it seems quite dreadful. I – I mean to say, it fills us up with dread to see the beasts, magnificent and horrible, and riders with such absolute control about them.

“But what does it feel like to be a knight?”

Nesta hadn’t thought about what commoners or monks might make of her; only nobles and the greater clergymen who orbited her uncle and her pa.

She shrugged. “Perhaps I’ll teach you how to ride. You have your armor now. We’ll make you colors and a crest and William can endow you up a knight.”

Again, Guy stood before her, dumb. “I have no palfrey, nor a courser.”

“I’ll get one for you.”


She dipped into her wee musette and pulled from it a golden coin.

“It’s quite dear,” he said. “What is it?”

“One livre caroligienne. 20 sous make up one livre, and twelve denier make up one sous.”

“That’s a lot of eggs,” said Guytonnet, impressed. “But will it trade in for a horse?”

Nesta laughed, “No! Not only one! I have enough though. I could buy a courser and the tack, and find a boy to mind it for you if I truly wanted to.”

Guytonnet could scarcely hold the thought to mind; it seemed to him far in excess of all the metal wealth he’d ever seen. “And do you have a lot of these in Thule?”

“Don’t you know nothing, monk? You foolish man! There ain’t no Thule! Not really! It’s all part the game we played! The land I come from is North Humberland, across the sea in England!

“I truly thought we done swack up[2] together, monk! Ain’t you ken me accent and me cheek, ye pretty to me? Me slurf,[3] me notches,[4] Ilka[5] dam meself like looking wacht’s from Umberland, in’t we?” She laughed. Guy scarcely understood her as she broke into her Anglish moot, but laughed he then along as well.

“Now let’s us pick you out a sturdy palfrey to take to you.”


“We can see some pretties in the meadow, non? Which trotter there will suit m’sieur to ride?”

Guyton could not tell if this was yet another poke at him. He was but a lowly monk, and never had a nobleman or woman spoke to him in such a manner. Nor had any in the Holy Church above him spoke to him like this in all his sixteen years. His lips involuntarily made up a little circle and he scratched his head. His tonsure had returned to Nature’s rule and covered up the top of him again.

Nesta pointed to a chestnut colt of thirteen hands and mane of black. “There. That one. You think?”

And then did Ludovi approach, and clucked at them. “It cannot be that one. For never shall a Benedictine, past or present, ride a horse of fauve.[6]

The horse just then bucked at its counterpart, and bit at it. In sport it seemed, but also there was some unrestfulness about this colt. Each of them could see.

Nesta turned to Ludovi and  said, “In Anglish we would call that color ‘fallow’ like the lonesome earth.”

Oui, mademoiselle chevalier.”

“Why won’t you ride a fallow colt?”

“For they are ferocious.  Les bête fauves is to say ferocity and wildness in animals.”

“One might wisheth for his mount to be thus, brother.”

Ludovi bowed before her in good deference to her station, for before he then explained to her the Norman view of horses of this gravid hue. “Of course, mademoiselle. One may wish for this. But also do we say about les chevaux fauves, or perhaps les chevaux ‘Fauvel’, that they betray their masters at the worst of times. They are, it is a little joke perhaps? They are sinful creatures, my dam.”

“That is a funny claim. How can a courser sin? It has no agency apart from what we lend to it. What kinds of sins are these that such a fallow horse should carry out?”

Flatterie, avarice, vilenie, variété, envie, et lâcheté.[7] Of these, the cowardice is damning most of all.”

Nesta well considered what the elder monk had said. “These do sound like the qualities a nag or hairy biter might he have. And these are qualities of every fallow steed?”

Non, mademoiselle. Only of those chevaux fauves that carry forth a Benedictine monk.”

“Then rather,” Nesta countered, “might those qualities endwell within the monk and not the beast?”

Ludovi was silent. Guytonnet was silent, too. They were astonished at this claim!

“Never mind,” said Nesta. “We shall claim a different-colored courser for you. Or perhaps we won’t!” She smiled as she said it with a star within her eye of black and turned and skipped away to join the fellows cooling off their feet.

[1] Latin: Metaphysical. A place beyond the known world.
[2] Swack up: to play a game together, to conspire.
[3] Torso.
[4] Cut of neck, chin and supper shoulders.
[5] Each, from ilk. In this case: “Each lady who looks like me is from Northumbria, isn’t she?”
[6] A color alternatively translated as chestnut, reddish-yellow, tawny or fawn.
[7] Flattery, avarice, depravity, fickleness, envy, cowardice.