Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Posts Tagged ‘book excerpt’


Armor and Swords Did Not Change Overnight

For someone living in our standardized age it is frequently confusing and even difficult to grasp that nothing was consistent or standardized. Uniforms were still several hundred years in the future. The Viking Age didn’t end at 12 midnight October 14, 1066, with everybody jumping around shouting “We’re now in the Middle Ages.’ Armor and swords didn’t change overnight, and a blade could be in use for well over a hundred years, and a mail shirt that belonged to grandad might just fit you.

One of the hardest things in discussing this subject with someone who is just getting started, is that there are no hard and fast rules. If someone doesn’t have a helmet, and gets hold of one that is two hundred years old, he’ll wear it. Better to be old fashioned than to have your skull split!

Hank Reinhardt, The Book of Swords, pp. 98-99

Being Tough

“Winning fistfights means being good at fistfighting,” Susan said. “Being tough means looking at something ugly, and saying ‘That’s ugly; I’ll have to find a way to deal with it.’ And doing so.”

Robert B. Parker, Sixkill

From the last Spenser novel completed before the author’s death. 🙁

The Dominance and the Crease

There were two terms Master Thomas had taught her in her first week of training. “The dominance” and “the crease,” he’d called them. The “dominance” was the clash of wills, the war of personal confidence fought before the first blow was struck to establish who held psychological domination over the other. But the “crease” was something else, a reference to the tiny wrinkling of the forehead when the moment of decision came. Of course, “crease” was only a convenient label for an infinite set of permutations, he’d stressed, for every swordsman announced the commitment to attack in a different way. All fencers were taught to look for the crease, and competition fencers researched opponents exhaustively before a match, for though the signal might be subtle, it was also constant. Every swordsman had one; it was something he simply could not train completely out of himself. But because there were so very many possible creases, Master Thomas had explained while they sat cross-legged in sunlight on the salle floor, most swordmasters emphasized the dominance over the crease, for it was a simpler and a surer thing to defeat your opponent’s will than to look for something one might or might not recognize even if one saw it.

But the true master of the sword…was she who had learned to rely not on her enemy’s weakness, but upon her own strength. She who understood that the difference between the salle and what Honor faced today—between fencing, the art, and life or death by the sword—was always in the crease, not the dominance.

Honor knew she’d taken longer to grasp his meaning than someone with her background should have. But once she had, and after she’d studied the library information on Japan, she’d also realized why—on Grayson, as in the ancient islands of the samurai—a formal duel almost always both began and ended with a single stroke.

David Weber, Flag in Exile, Chapter 29

Emphasis mine.

There Is No Pain

Honor watched [her opponent] with the eyes of a woman who’d trained in the martial arts for almost forty years, and the hard-learned, poised relaxation of all those years hummed softly within her. She felt her weariness, the pain of broken ribs, the ache in bruised muscles, the stiffness of her left shoulder, but then she commanded her body to ignore those things, and her body obeyed.

David Weber, Flag in Exile, Chapter 29

Quite a run-on sentence. 🙂

Walls of Air, Bars of Light

There were things that Merlin had taught him. Defenses against dark things. Walls of air. Their like had imprisoned the enchanter in the wood; but in lesser strength they could protect a man—or a woman—beset by ill magic.

…[Roland did not need] to go into the tent for this. He had simply to know what the boundaries were….

True magic was quiet, a thing of the spirit. It had no need for extravagant displays. He spoke the words softly, without drums or trumpets, magic gestures or sleights of the magician’s art. He raised the walls as Merlin had taught him, secured them with bars of light, and bound them with the chains of the earth. He delved deep in his strength for that, but there was enough. He even kept his feet after, bowed to Sarissa without falling over, and walked away.

Judith Tarr, Kingdom of the Grail, Chapter 8

The Armour of Contempt

Chaos claims the unwary or the incomplete. A true man may flinch away its embrace, if he is stalwart, and he girds himself with the armour of contempt.” — Gideon Ravenor, The Spheres of Longing

Dan Abnett, His Last Command

Equipment of an Aristocratic Soldier

[In 1062 C.E.] a certain Pedro Rúiz, of whom we know little save that he was a courtier of [King] Fernando I…, granted some land to the Castilian monastery of Arlanza, and threw in with it

my equipment, that is my gold-embossed saddle with its bridle, my sword and sword-belt, my spurs, my shield with its spear, my other decorated swords, my coats of mail and my helmets, the other swords which are not decorated, and my shields and horses and mules, and my clothes, and my other spurs, and the other bridle chased with silver.

This is as good a description as any of the equipment of an aristocratic soldier in the middle years of the eleventh century. Pedro Rúiz was approaching the end of a successful career and had amassed great riches…. Swords were often richly decorated about the hilt and pommel, and this is presumably the meaning of the word ‘decorated’ (labratas) in Pedro Rúiz’s list; though it could alternatively indicate that the swords in question were damascene, a technique originating in Damascus by which the metal was worked into wavy patterns. Sword-belts too were often decorated….

…Saddle, bridle, and spurs offered further opportunities for display….

Richard Fletcher, The Quest for El Cid, pp. 110-12

Lower-Order Spirits and the Ancestral Dead

In the underworld dwelt the spirits of the dead, who could affect the living, along with a range of other devils, potentially troublesome. Gods were treated respectfully at all times, but lower-order spirits and the ancestral dead could be cajoled, mistreated and forced into acts through binding oaths or attacks on their effigies…. Spoken or written spells produced powerful effects.

Chris Gosden, Magic: a History, p. 83

The Magic of the Past Is Reworked For Each Age

The Lady of the Lake drew out Excalibur and placed it in Arthur’s hand. The past is a lake from which we draw resources, which come to exist as part of our present. But things have power not just because they derive from a past, but mainly because they can help with contemporary problems, whether these are to do with identity, our connection to the cosmos or more everyday, practical issues. The magic of the past is reworked for each age, and dies only when it has no present use.

Chris Gosden, Magic: A History, pp. 237-38

To Shed Human Blood and Think Nothing of It

The rise of knighthood did not produce a submissive, nonviolent peasantry in [Medieval] Europe. Habits of bloodshed were deep-seated, perennially fed by the fact that Europeans raised both pigs and cattle in considerable numbers but had to slaughter all but a small breeding stock each autumn for lack of sufficient winter fodder. Other agricultural regimes, e.g., among the rice-growing farmers of China and India, did not involve annual slaughter of large animals. By contrast, Europeans living north of the Alps learned to take such bloodshed as a normal part of the routine of the year. This may have had a good deal to do with their remarkable readiness to shed human blood and think nothing of it.

William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power, p. 64

An Art of War Was Needed

[By the thirteenth century C.E.,] crossbows and pikes had to be supplemented by cavalry for flank protection and the pursuit of a vanquished foe. This obviously made war far more complicated than it had been when a headlong charge by a group of knights dominated the battlefields of Europe. Simple personal prowess, replicated within knightly families across the generations, was no longer enough to win battles or maintain social dominion. Instead, an art of war was needed. Someone had to be able to coordinate pikes, crossbows, and cavalry. Infantrymen needed training to assure steadiness in the ranks, for, were their formation to break apart, individual pikemen would find themselves at the mercy of charging knights; and the time required to cock a crossbow meant that archers, too, became vulnerable each time they discharged their weapons, unless some field fortification or an unbroken array of friendly pikes could protect them until they were ready to shoot again.

William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power, p. 68

Zakal the Terrible

Zakal spent the first half of the night coughing up green-black blood and listening to the wind hurl sand against the side of the mountain fortress. The cavernous chamber was windowless and dark, save for the feeble light emanating from the initiates’ room, but Zakal had seen enough sandstorms to picture this one clearly in his mind’s eye: a huge, vibrating column of red sand that blotted out the sky until nothing remained but moving desert. Any creatures foolish enough to venture unprotected into the storm would be found the next day, mummies leached of all moisture, their skin crackling like parchment at the slightest touch.

Around the middle of the night, the stains on his handcloth changed from dark green to bright, the color of a d’mallu vine after a rare spell of rain. Shortly thereafter, the healer left him, a sign that there was nothing more to be done, no more easing of pain possible; a sign that he would be dead before sunrise. The relief on her drawn face was all too evident. She was not of the Kolinahru, and had attended her charge with a mixture of loathing and terror. For this was Zakal the Terrible, the greatest of the Kolinahr masters, with a mind so powerful he had twice used it to melt the skin of his enemies into puddles at his feet.

He said nothing to stop the healer from going, merely closed his eyes and smiled wanly. It was fitting to lie here and listen to the roar of the storm on the last night of his life. Eight hundred and eighty-seven seasons ago, he had been born in a storm like this one, and so his mother had named him Zakal: the Fury, the Desert Storm.

He was drowsing off when an image jolted him awake. Khoteth, lean and young and strong, furling himself in his black traveling cloak, his expression severe, brows weighed down by the heaviness of what he was about to do. Khoteth was crossing the desert, Khoteth was coming for him. Zakal knew this with unquestionable surety, in spite of the three initiates in the next room who stood guard, not over his aged, dying body, but over a far more dangerous weapon: his mind. Even their combined efforts to shield the truth from him could not completely sever his link to the man he had raised as his own son. Khoteth had sensed his master’s impending death, and would be here well before dawn.

The new High Master was risking his life by crossing the desert in a sandstorm…and oh, how Zakal listened to the wind and willed for Khoteth to be swallowed up by it! He tried in vain to summon up the old powers, but fever and the continual mental oppression caused by the initiates made it impossible. Zakal contented himself with cheering on the storm as if he had conjured it himself. Even so, he knew that Khoteth would complete his journey successfully.

So it was that, a few hours later when Khoteth’s soft words drew Zakal from a feverish reverie, they brought with them no surprise.

“Master? I have come.”

Outside, the wind had eased, but still moaned softly. Zakal kept his face toward the black stone wall and did not trouble to raise his head. The sound of his former student’s voice evoked within him a curious mixture of fondness and bitter hatred.

“Go away.” He meant to thunder it with authority, but what emerged was weak and quavering, the ineffectual wheezing of an old man. He felt shame. Could this be the voice of the Ruler of ShanaiKahr, the most powerful and feared mind-lord of all Vulcan? He had known more of the secrets of power than the rest of the Kolinahru put together, but fool that he was, he had entrusted too many of them to the man who stood before him now. He turned his head—slowly, for any movement made him dizzy and liable to start coughing again—and opened fever-pained eyes to the sight of the one he had loved as a son, had chosen as his successor, and now despised as his mortal enemy….

J.M. Dillard, Star Trek: The Lost Years, Prologue

Achieving Life After Death

The Maya believed that there really is continued existence beyond the grave. They also knew what the earliest Christians once knew as well—that “many are called, but few are chosen.” The only important question for the ancient Maya, as for the most insightful in all religions, was, “What do I need to do to be ‘chosen’?” As we’ve seen, for the Maya shamans, the answer to this question was: Embrace death from a condition of intensified Being.

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, pp. 194-95

Emphasis mine.

Shamanism in Ancient Maya Life

Shamanism—the powerful psychological and spiritual process for re-creating the cosmos and turning death into life in all the dimensions of Reality—was the driving force behind every aspect of ancient Maya life. It always required that the shaman-creator sacrifice himself or herself, allow himself or herself to be struck by the terrible lightning of the gods, descend into the Abyss, and die in the Black Hole at its center. Death in its many forms—emotional, spiritual, and physical—was the price all creative individuals paid to become “Lords of Life.”

Douglas Gillette, The Shaman’s Secret, p. 117

A Ruthless Model

“The selection of a primary disciple is not an easy thing. It is often marked by blood.”

Yamashita looked at me significantly. The founder of his style, Ittosai, dealt with this issue centuries ago and had left his successors through the generations a ruthless model. The master, blessed with two remarkable students of apparently equal skill, had brought them together. He had placed the scrolls of the style and the document of succession on the ground, along with a ceremonial sword. Then he had calmly informed the two disciples that the individual who left the room alive would be his successor.

John Donohue, Sensei, Epilogue

The Game of Arts and Powers

The prior of Bec…waved away her honest respect. “I’m a man like any other, lady.”

She arched a brow. “Truly?”

“Truly,” he said.

“There is the matter of…” She flicked her hand. The lamps went out. In the sudden dimness she bade a light grow, shimmering over her fingers, unfolding from them like a strange flower.

He quelled her working with a gesture. That same gesture, completed, restored the lamps to their former condition. “This too is God’s gift,” he said.

“Surely,” she said, “but it’s given to few, and to precious few in such measure as yours.”

“Or yours, lady. You will be stronger than I.”

“But not yet.”

“You are young,” he said, “and while not foolish, perhaps not granted such judgment as will be yours with greater age and maturity.”

She had had enough of dancing around the point. “Yes, I made a mistake. Yes, I know what mistake I made. And what part do you play, Father Prior, in this game of arts and powers?

“A small one,” he said, “by the grace of God.”

That was disingenuous. She swept it aside. “So. You’re a Guardian of Gaul. Have you come to impose sentence upon me for dereliction of duty?”

“If anyone is to do that, lady” he said, “it should be your father. No; I came to offer such aid as I could….”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 10

Emphasis mine.

Too Much Power Expended Too Quickly

He was all alone in the empty land, surrounded by people whose souls he could not sense at all. He was in hell, with no hope of earthly salvation.

He lashed out, still in a fit of panic—even knowing it was folly; knowing he hovered in delusion. Fire surged up out of the earth and poured down from the sky.

In the last instant he flung it away from the crowd, but he had neither the strength nor the speed to unmake it. It plummeted into the midst of the city. Blood-red flames roared to heaven, then sank down into mortal gold and blue and the black of smoke.

The crowd fled in a chorus of screams. The few with their wits about them surged toward the flames. The rest scattered in panic no less mindless than Henry’s, but far less perilous.

Only the monks were left with the king’s body, and Henry with the drawn and empty sensation of too much power expended too quickly….

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 7

Emphasis mine.

The Lady of the Lake Had a Secret

The Lady of the Lake had a secret. It was nothing mortifying or dangerous, but it might have caused difficulties if certain persons discovered that behind the veils was a maiden younger than Mathilda. Mortals, especially men, needed to see an aged face before they would believe in either power or wisdom.

Her name was Etaine. It was not something she shared with the world, any more than her face or her manifest youth. When she walked abroad from the lake of Avalon, she walked veiled, stately, and mantled in mystery.

Mathilda did not make the mistake of discrediting her wisdom because she had, at the most, fifteen summers on this side of the Otherworld. She remembered who she had been. Her knowledge passed from world to world, life to life, Lady to Lady, back beyond Morgaine and Rhiannon to lives so ancient that even bards had forgotten them.

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 29

Conversing With the Dead

Robin sank down where the shade had been sitting. With its passing the air was noticeably warmer, but Robin had begun to shudder. Even for one of his arts and powers, it was no easy thing to converse with the dead.

Judith Tarr, King’s Blood, Chapter 12

Emphasis mine.

Ignorance Is Deadly

“…We are no friends to the prince below,” she said, “or any other force for the world’s destruction.”

“Including me?”

You are no more or less dangerous than ignorance ever is.

“That’s deadly.”

“It can be taught,” she said, “and will. I am bound to it….”

Judith Tarr, Rite of Conquest, Chapter 8

Emphasis mine.