Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

One question often asked of those of us who were around at the time is, “Where were you when you heard that President John F Kennedy had been shot?” I remember the day clearly even though it happened fifty-seven years ago.

I’d like to share with you a poem a poet friend of mine wrote.

22/11/63

A shot rang out across the years

embedded itself in a nation’s fears.

November the month with stains on its soul

history stilled near a green grassy knoll.

The New Camelot was shattered

and everyhing that mattered

suddenly not an issue

as fragile as brain tissue.

poem by John McGilvary

John F. Kennedy May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

It was a sad day indeed. I remember it was recess time at school and one of the boys said that Kennedy had been shot. I said that it wasn’t funny and he shouldn’t joke about things like that. Once we returned to class, the teacher was visibly upset and broke the news that the President of the United States had indeed been shot. I couldn’t believe it. I thought about his beautiful wife and adorable little children and cried. There have been many other sad events since then, but this sticks with me as it was the first international news that affected me as a young girl living a sheltered life on the Canadian prairies.

Do you recall that day?

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” JFK

Guadalest is a great place and only about a little over an hour from our home in Spain. We often take out-of-town guests there for a day trip. I plan to write a post about it soon. But for today, I want to tell you about one of the many museums in this amazing place. The Torture Museum, perfect for Halloween! For those who write horror stories, you may get some ideas.

The museum is housed in a heritage building that feels creepy as soon as you enter.

The buliding consists of eleven small rooms on four levels with displays of more than 70 instruments of torture and execution used by the Inquisition, royalty and governments, not only in Spain but throughout medieval Europe. Some of the detailed descriptions were too gruesome for me to read. But the displays were well done and not too terrible to look at. Here are a few of them.

Hanging cages

The French Bishop who invented the hanging cage ended up in one. How ironic is that? They could be seen hanging in alcoves of the royal castles to warn others what might happen should they disobey the king. Prisoners were often left to starve to death hanging in the cages, like this poor fellow.

The barrel pillory

The barrel was used to humiliate drunkards and people who spoke against the government or king. An iron mask was often put on the subject who would have to walk around town in the barrel while people threw slop and garbage in it.

The rack, used for interrogation since the Roman times
The grill, as old as the Roman Empire or maybe older.
Chastity belts, humiliation for women
Don’t touch or you may lose your fingers, or your head.
The wheel, a nasty means of execution.
I didn’t need to be reminded not to touch the guillotine.
Lots of cool old doors in the building leading to rooms holding more torture devices
Don’t ask. I stopped reading the descriptions by then.

I know these were used a long time ago, but I still couldn’t get over how cruel mankind can be.

We eventually found a friend who seemed harmless enough.

I am delighted to have as my guest today John Howell, a fellow blogger, author, dog lover, and friend. He is here today to tell you about his latest book which I think you will just love. Take it away, John.

 

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Darlene, and thank you for helping me launch this book. I know you are busy with your projects and Dot so thank you for taking the time to help. Speaking of the book, let me describe it. Eternal Road is the story of two people finding their way through the selection process leading to the place where one will spend eternity. Yes, it is true. They both have passed away. James Wainwright just died in an auto accident. Samantha Tourneau died seventeen years before. Sam is James’s guide to help him decide where to spend eternity. This is not your usual thriller or paranormal romance. It is a piece of fiction that is a combination of inspiration, adventure, time travel, sci-fi, a touch of erotica, and a dash of spiritual. In short, it is a lot of things, but hopefully, a story that will make you happy to have read it.

It is now available on Amazon in paper and Kindle. The Kindle edition is introductory priced at 99¢ until October 15th

Here are the universal links for both editions

Kindle

Paper

The blurb

James Wainwright picks up a hitchhiker and discovers two things 1. The woman he picks up is his childhood sweetheart, only Seventeen years older. 2. He is no longer of this world.

James began a road trip alone in his 1956 Oldsmobile. He stops for a hitchhiker only to discover she is his childhood sweetheart, Sam, who disappeared seventeen years before. James learns from Sam falling asleep miles back caused him to perish in a one-car accident. He also comes to understand that Sam was taken and murdered all those years ago, and now she has come back to help him find his eternal home.

The pair visit a number of times and places and are witness to a number of historical events. The rules dictate that they do no harm to the time continuum. Trying to be careful, they inadvertently come to the attention of Lucifer, who would love to have their souls as his subjects. They also find a threat to human survival and desperately need to put in place the fix necessary to save humankind.

The question becomes, will James find his eternal home in grace or lose the battle with Satan for his immortal soul and the future of human life with it? If you like time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural, this story is for you.

An Excerpt

“The date on the paper is October 26th,1881.”
Sam grabs the news sheet. “The date of the gunfight at the O. K. Corral? We have to find out what time it is now.”
“Why does that matter?”
She gives the paperback to James. “The gunfight happened at 3:00 PM. We might have missed it.”
James shakes his head. “Don’t you think a newspaperman like John Clum would have dashed to the scene instead of sitting in his office if we’d missed it? The sun looks fairly high. What about my watch?”
“Go ahead and look at it.”
James glances at the watch and then back at Sam. “Oh, man. It’s smashed.”
“Yup. The accident.”
James puts his hands to his face. “Why didn’t I notice that before?”
“It didn’t matter before.”
“So, let’s say we are on time—where should we go to view the gunfight?”
Sam chews on her bottom lip. “Might be best to go to the photographic studio right next to the vacant lot where the fight took place. We could stand on the porch and look around the building. I’m curious as to why you actually want to see the battle?”
“This is history. I would love to see the most famous gunfight in the world. Who wouldn’t?”
Sam puts her hand on James’s shoulder. “People get killed.”
He touches her hand. “So, we shouldn’t see it?”
Sam draws her hand away. “I’m just saying that real life and legend are two different things. When people get killed, they bleed, and it isn’t pretty.”
James stands with his palms open. “But the historical part?”
Sam shrugs, “I just want to warn you.”
Sam and James walk down the street and eventually come to the place where the shootout will take place. Sam points to the porch of the photography building. “We can see everything from there.”
James points at the porch. “Of course, we’d have to look around the corner, which means we won’t stay out of sight. What if a stray bullet hits us?”
Sam chuckles. “You’re dead already. So what if a stray bullet hits you?”

The trailer

John’s bio

John is an award-winning author who, after an extensive business career, began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written five other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. The paperback versions are also available in the Indie Lector store

John lives in Lakeway, Texas, with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Contact John

Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Twitter –https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave

Goodreads –https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Amazon Author’s page –https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

John’s other books

My GRL,

His Revenge

Our Justice

Circumstances of Childhood

The Contract: between heaven and earth

It was great having you here, John. I wish you all the best with your latest book. Dot says hi to Twiggy and Lucy!

Part of the Estacion Inglesa experience was a field trip to the medieval village of Trujillo, in the Cáceres province of Extremadura, 40 kilometers away from the resort. For a history buff like me, this was a real treat.  

We started our tour in the Plaza Mayor where an equestrian statue of Trujillo´s famous son, the conquistador, Francisco Pizarro takes centre stage. The Spanish participants gave us presentations, in English, at each point of interest. From the presentation by the statue, we learned it is believed Pizarro’s ghost lives on in the statue.

Listening intently to the interesting presentation

I loved wandering the labyrinth of narrow streets in one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Spain. Old stone walls overhung with gorgeous flowers, impressive mansions, churches and monasteries, echoed the past as time stood still for me.

A monastery, now a secondary school. Note the faces above the door.

We learned about tenth-century cisterns built by the Moors, as explained by a participant.

At the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, we learned he was a poor, illiterate boy who sailed to the Americas in 1509 where he discovered new lands and made his fortune. A local boy done well! There is also a small museum attached which unfortunately was not open.

The birthplace of Francisco Pizarro

We ended our tour at the exquisite castle overlooking the town. Trujillo’s castle is of 10th-century Arabic origin later added to by the Christians. Magnificent views of the town are visible from the battlements as well as views of the rural countryside from the back of the castle.

Castillo de Trujillo
The Moorish entrance to the castle
Inside the castle walls
View of the village from the battlements
The rural countryside from the back of the castle
Our Lady of the Victory

A short climb took us to the hermitage of Our Lady of the Victory, Trujillo’s patron. She faces out toward the town above the castle entrance. By inserting a 50 cent coin, she will spin around in her alcove to bless you.

We had time to explore on our own, take pictures and do some shopping in the unique little shops around the plaza. I bought some smokey paprika, a specialty of the area, and some lovely tea. The area is well known for its cheeses and the national cheese festival is held here in early May. But I didn’t think cheese would travel well in the near 40 degree celsius temperatures, so refrained from purchasing any.

Stork’s nest in the clock tower means good luck

Local storks make their home in many of the towers around town. Black storks are common in the area.

Palacio de la Conquista

Some of the buildings are elaborately decorated, like the Palacio de la Conquista where carved images of Pizarro and his lover Inés Yupanqui (sister of the Inca emperor Atahualpa) along with their daughter Francisca and her husband Hernando Pizarro are displayed.

What a delight to visit a village mostly unchanged from the times of the conquistadors. I recall learning about these people and times at school in Canada many years ago, never for one minute imagining I would one day be able to visit.

A magical day I will never forget.

When Pete asked for photos he could use as prompts for short stories, I sent him this one of a church I came across in Spain, that no doubt had seen much history. What a marvelous story he created from my photo. Be sure to check it out.

beetleypete

This is a short story, in 1048 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Darlene Foster.
https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Pablo looked back at his platoon following in a ragged line. They were exhausted, clothes in tatters, and their eyes stared blankly ahead as they trudged along. Sixteen men, two young women, and a mere boy, with not a recognisable uniform on any of them. Even the armbands had lost their colour, now more pink than red. The rucksacks were slack and empty-looking, with little ammunition in them, and all the food had been eaten last night.

Pulling the cap tighter on his head, he tried to cheer them along. “Come on friends, once we get over the hill, you can rest”. He didn’t blame them for not being interested in his false enthusiasm. They all knew that they were probably going to an eternal rest. When Captain…

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During my recent trip to Canada, I stopped in to see my Great Aunt Meta and Great Uncle Lex at their new apartment in an assisted living complex. Aunt Meta is the last of my maternal grandfather´s siblings. They are both doing remarkably well considering they are in their mid-90s. As I was about to leave after an enjoyable visit, I noticed a black and white picture of a large ship hanging on the wall beside the door. I leaned closer for a better look and saw it was a German ship called The Kronprinzessin Cecilie. Uncle Lex said, “You know what ship that is, don’t you?” Then it hit me, it was the ship that brought my great grandparents over to North America in 1911. I was so excited, I had to take a picture of it.

My Grandpa Mehrer had often mentioned this ship. He would have been 4 years old when they made the journey. Years later, he named his fourth child, Cecilia, after the vessel, Kronprinzessin (Crown Princess) Cecilie.

My cousin (Aunt Meta´s daughter) had been in New York and while doing a tour of Ellis Island, looked for the Mehrer records in the research area, where she found information about the ship and the ship´s manifest. She ordered a copy of the picture of the ship and the manifest for her parents. Some very interesting information was included in the manifest. When she learned of my interest, she sent me the link to the website. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to see the names of my great grandparents, my grandfather and his three siblings listed on the ships manifest. It gave me goosebumps.

Here is some information I found about the Kronprinzessin Cecilie from the website. The ship was built in Germany in 1906 and carried 1,970 passengers (558 in first class, 338 in second class and 1074 in third class). The ship sailed under a German flag from 1906 until 1917 when, during WWI, it was seized by the United States Government. Under the American flag, it was renamed Mount Vernon and was used for the US transport service. It was scrapped at Baltimore in 1940.

Just think how many immigrants were brought to the new world on this vessel in its early days. The Mehrers, a German family originally from Johannathal, Russia, sailed second class from Bremen, Germany in 1911 with four children ages 4 years to 6 weeks. Because they traveled 2nd class they would have had their own cabin and were not processed through Ellis Island. US Immigration would have boarded the ship and processed them there and they would have been free to catch the train for the Dakotas as soon as they disembarked.  (This information from the manifest was given to me by my cousin Jean Saunders)

From North Dakota, they proceeded to Canada to their homestead where they eventually had 8 more children.

Andreas and Katharina Mehrer after settling in Canada and raising 12 children. My grandfather, the oldest, is sitting on the far left.

I recalled that my father’s family also landed in New York before they came up to Canada. I found their ship, The S.S.Scotia, and its manifest with their names on it as well. It is such an amazing site. If your ancestors came to North America through New York harbour, you will most likely find the name of the ship and the ship´s manifest. Keep in mind, the spelling of names was often incorrect so if you know the year they arrived, that will help. https://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/passenger

The manifest of the S.S. Scotia listing my father´s family who immigrated in 1891

How exciting it must have been for my grandfather, a four-year-old, traveling on a big ship to a new country. I only wish I had asked him more about it when he was still with us.

I have blogged before about my amazing great grandmothers here and about my Mehrer great grandparents here. I consider myself blessed to have had ancestors with the fortitude and vision to embark on a voyage that changed the course of history for our family.

During our stay in Tarragona, we took a bus to the mountain monastery of Montserrat, a place I have been wanting to visit for some time. The bus wound its way up into the Montserrat mountains in what seemed like hours. Why would anyone want to build a monastery all the way up here?  Our guide, a pleasant and well informed young man named Victor, explained it to us in three languages, English, French and Spanish.

The Montserrat mountains through the bus window.

Legend has it that shepherds discovered a Black Madonna in 880 AD when they heard music and saw a light coming from a cave high in the mountains. The statue, the oldest Black Madonna in Europe, is only 60 cm tall but when the bishop from the nearest town came to have it removed and taken to his cathedral, it proved impossible to move. So pilgrims began coming to the cave to see it. Eventually an abbey was built around the cave.

Once we reached our destination, the view from the top was incredible.

The sanctuary is built against the mountain to include the Madonna in her cave.

 

The Bascilica of Montserrat

Montserrat is home to the Sanctuary of Our Lady and a Benedictine monastery and has, for almost 1000 years, served pilgrims and visitors to the mountain. The building has been destroyed a few times over the years, including during the Napoleonic wars, when many of the monks were killed. It was also damaged in the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939). The building standing now was completed in 1949. Many pilgrms come to venerate the patron saint of Catalonia daily in La Santa Cava at the back of the cathedral. Montserrat has been modernised to continue attending to the needs of pilgrims one thousand years after it was originally founded.

Sculptures of monks killed by Napoleonic soldiers. Sad times.

 

Inside the chapel

Pilgrims and visitors lineup to ascend the stairs and view the Virgin.

The Virgin’s Chapel from inside the Basilica

The Black Madonna

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures while paying homage to the Black Madonna. But Victor explained that from inside the basilica, from the floor of the chapel, I could take pictures. Later by enlarging and cropping, I was able to get a fairly good picture. It is amazing to see and left me awestruck.

Saints in the courtyard of the Basilica surrounded by amazing views.
A funicular takes visitors even higher up into the mountains
It was wonderful to wander around the grounds and take in the peaceful scenery.

Montserrat means Saw Mountain, as the range looks like the serrated edge of a saw and is the name of the Mountains and the sanctuary. It is a perfect place for walkers with many hiking trails available. A place to enjoy nature and contemplate life. There is also a fabulous art museum onsite which I will tell you about in another post.

I purchased a jar of honey made by the monks. I left feeling refreshed and at peace, satisfied I could tick off another place on that long list.

I love everything Gaudi and was delighted to learn that his birthplace was very near where we were staying on our recent holiday in the province of Tarragona. So, of course, we made a visit. Reus is another charming Spanish town with its own flavour. It is known as an important producer of wines and spirits, texiles and the birthplace of architect Antoni Gaudí.

Plaza del Mercadal

We found the old town square, which is the best place to start when visiting these towns as everything stems from there. There are always plenty of cute coffee shops with outdoor terraces, great for people watching and grabbing a snack. 

An interesting building around the square is Casa Navas, a house built in 1901 in the Catalan Art Noveau style designed by a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi, for the textile dealer, Joaquim Navas. Surprisingly, there are no buildings designed by Gaudi in Reus.

Casa Navas

In the town hall stands a bust of their most famous resident born in 1852, the son of a coppersmith. He left Reus at age 16 when he moved to Barcelona to study and begin his amazing career.

The bust of Gaudi in the town hall.

A modern building houses the Gaudi Centre Reus dedicated to the life and work of the brilliant architect. The excellent interactive displays on three floors include examples of his inovative structures and details of where he got his ideas, many of them from nature. I noticed a number of school children being taken through while I visited. They appeared to be enjoying the centre. 

Inside the Gaudi Centre


A replica of part of Park Güell in Barcelona


The San Pedro church where Gaudi was baptised and confirmed.

I wandered down the side streets, imagining I was treading where Gaudi once walked as a young boy, his imagination already running wild. Looking down I noticed the paving stones are Gaudi inspired.

And then I came across this intriguing statue on the side of a building. Fortunately there was an explanation on a plaque.

The figure is called the Jew of Arrabal. In the mid-eighteenth century, the owner of this building erected a satirical statue pointing an accusing finger to the home of a neighbour he had had a legal dispute with. It became a popular sculpture in the city over the years. The original, from 1768, was badly damaged and has been recreated using the same colours.

These are the gems you find when you venture down the side streets of these wonderful Spanish towns. I’m sure Gaudi had passed by the statue many times.

Note – I didn’t take many pictures of this visit as my camera’s battery died just as we arrived. The pictures shown were taken with my cell phone and aren’t very good. But I hope you get the idea.

I love history and can never get enough of it. Visiting sights and structures from long ago makes it all seem so much more real to me. On a recent visit to Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, much to my delight, I was immersed in it.

The entire city of Tarragona was deemed a World Heritage Site in 2000. And I can see why. Roman ruins are everywhere and appear naturally amongst more modern apartment blocks, restaurants, coffee shops and commercial buildings. It is fitting as, after all, they were there first.

Amphitheatres always intrigue me and the one in Tarragona, built in the time of Augustus, is quite intact and overlooks the Mediterranean sea. Imagine watching a play there. It is still used for reenactments of gladiator fights, plays and even weddings.

Imagine having lunch with a view of the sea and the amphitheatre!

Not far from the amphitheatre are the remains of the Roman Circus built in the first century which was used for horse and chariot races. It doesn’t take much to imagine the excitement of such an event.

A museum inside the Roman Circus held interesting artefacts

The old indoor market, Mercat Central, still sells fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables and was worth a visit. I bought some lovely tea to bring home.

Coming across the Forum, the remains of a Roman street and basilica, in a residential area, was incredible. It was as if timelines had blurred together. And I had the place almost to myself!

This would have been part of someone’s home two thousand years ago. I touched the walls and my Roman heart sang.
The base of a sculpture

Tarragona is famous for its Concurs de Castells where people called Castellers in matching outfits and sashes, compete for building the tallest human pyramid. This exciting and well-attended event is held every other October at Plaza de Toros, the former bull ring. (Bullfighting is outlawed in Catalonia.) I found posters for the event and in the middle of the Rambla Nova, the city’s main business street, is a bronze sculpture commemorating the .

A poster for Concurs de Castells. Look at all the people cheering them on.
Hubby contemplating climbing the tower of people.

Tarragona has wonderful buildings, fountains and statues everywhere and much to see is in walking distance.

Mosaic on the sidewalk outside the theatre

As if all this wasn’t amazing enough, we drove 4 kilometres outside the city on a quest to find a two-thousand-year-old Roman Aqueduct. We drove past the entrance three times but eventually found the parking lot. A short hike through the forest and there it stood as it has for centuries. I truly felt time stand still.

The Romans built things to last!

I touched the stones that centuries of folks before me have, and all that history ran down my arm and into my heart. I was so happy.

I am pleased to be part of the book launch blog hop for Survival of the Fittest by the fabulous author, Jacqui Murray. Jacqui has put so much effort and research into this prehistoric novel. If you enjoy the novels of Jean Auel, you will love this one. Even if you don’t normally read prehistoric fiction, you might want to check this one out.  Here is a bit about the book.

Survival of the Fittest, by Jacqui Murray

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her. Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Cover by: Damonza

Available at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

An early review, “Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Xhosa (my favourite!) is an unusual character, but she is fierce, powerful, intelligent and follows her instincts. A must-read if you like adventure, survival and strong female characters.”  Ronel Jaanse van Vuuren

Jacqui was asked, is there a goal to writing this story?

All the books in this series, Man vs. Nature, will be written with a goal of explaining how man’s essentials–art, music, culture, body adornments, religion, counting, spoken language, critical thinking, and abstract thinking—bloomed from our earliest roots.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Learn more about Jacqui by visiting these sites

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://worddreams.wordpress.com

https://jacquimurray.net

https:pinterest.com/askateacher

Be sure to ask Jacqui questions here in the comments.

To whet your appetite check out Chapter 1

Chapter 1, Survival of the Fittest

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

The People’s warriors had been away hunting when the assault occurred. Xhosa’s mother pushed her young daughter into a reed bed and stormed toward the invaders but too late to save the life of her young son. The killer, an Other, laughed at the enraged female armed only with a cutter. When she sliced his cheek open, the gash so deep his black teeth showed, his laughter became fury. He swung his club with such force her mother crumpled instantly, her head a shattered melon.

From the safety of the pond, Xhosa memorized the killer—nose hooked awkwardly from some earlier injury, eyes dark pools of cruelty. It was then, at least in spirit, she became a warrior. Nothing like this must ever happen again.

When her father, the People’s Leader, arrived that night with his warriors, he was greeted by the devastating scene of blood-soaked ground covered by mangled bodies, already chewed by scavengers. A dry-eyed Xhosa told him how marauders had massacred every subadult, female, and child they could find, including her father’s pairmate. Xhosa communicated this with the usual grunts, guttural sounds, hand signals, facial expressions, hisses, and chirps. The only vocalizations were call signs to identify the group members.

“If I knew how to fight, Father, Mother would be alive.” Her voice held no anger, just determination.

The tribe she described had arrived a Moon ago, drawn by the area’s rich fruit trees, large ponds, lush grazing, and bluffs with a view as far as could be traveled in a day. No other area offered such a wealth of resources. The People’s scouts had seen these Others but allowed them to forage, not knowing their goal was to destroy the People.

Her father’s body raged but his hands, when they moved, were calm.  “We will avenge our losses, daughter.”

The next morning, Xhosa’s father ordered the hunters to stay behind, protect the People. He and the warriors snuck into the enemy camp before Sun awoke and slaughtered the females and children before anyone could launch a defense. The males were pinned to the ground with stakes driven through their thighs and hands. The People cut deep wounds into their bodies and left, the blood scent calling all scavengers.

When Xhosa asked if the one with the slashed cheek had died, her father motioned, “He escaped, alone. He will not survive.”

Word spread of the savagery and no one ever again attacked the People, not their camp, their warriors, or their hunters.

While peace prevailed, Xhosa grew into a powerful but odd-looking female. Her hair was too shiny, hips too round, waist too narrow beneath breasts bigger than necessary to feed babies. Her legs were slender rather than sturdy and so long, they made her taller than every male. The fact that she could outrun even the hunters while heaving her spear and hitting whatever she aimed for didn’t matter. Females weren’t required to run that fast. Nightshade, though, didn’t care about any of that. He claimed they would pairmate, as her father wished, when he became the People’s Leader.

Until then, all of her time was spent practicing the warrior skills no one would allow her to use.

One day, she confronted her father. “I can wield a warclub one-handed and throw a spear hard enough to kill. If I were male, you would make me a warrior.”

He smiled. “You are like a son to me, Daughter. I see your confidence and boldness. If I don’t teach you, I fear I will lose you.”

He looked away, the smile long gone from his lips. “Either you or Nightshade must lead when I can’t.”

Under her father’s tutelage, she and Nightshade learned the nuances of sparring, battling, chasing, defending, and assaulting with the shared goal that never would the People succumb to an enemy. Every one of Xhosa’s spear throws destroyed the one who killed her mother. Every swing of her warclub smashed his head as he had her mother’s. Never again would she stand by, impotent, while her world collapsed. She perfected the skills of knapping cutters and sharpening spears, and became expert at finding animal trace in bent twigs, crushed grass, and by listening to their subtle calls. She could walk without leaving tracks and match nature’s sounds well enough to be invisible.

A Moon ago, as Xhosa practiced her scouting, she came upon a lone warrior kneeling by a waterhole. His back was to her, skeletal and gaunt, his warclub chipped, but menace oozed from him like stench from dung. She melted into the redolent sedge grasses, feet sinking into the squishy mud, and observed.

His head hair was sprinkled with grey. A hooked nose canted precariously, poorly healed from a fracas he won but his nose lost. His curled lips revealed cracked and missing teeth. A cut on his upper arm festered with pus and maggots. Fever dimpled his forehead with sweat. He crouched to drink but no amount of water would appease that thirst.

What gave him away was the wide ragged scar left from the slash of her mother’s cutter.

Xhosa trembled with rage, fearing he would see the reeds shake, biting her lip until it bled to stop from howling. It hardly seemed fair to slay a dying male but fairness was not part of her plan today.

Only revenge.

A check of her surroundings indicated he traveled alone. Not that it mattered. If she must trade her life for his, so be it.

But she didn’t intend to die.

The exhausted warrior splashed muddy water on his grimy head, hands slow, shoulders round with fatigue, oblivious to his impending death. After a quiet breath, she stepped from the sedge, spear in one hand and a large rock in the other. Exposed, arms ready but hanging, she approached. If he turned, he would see her. She tested for dry twigs and brittle grass before committing each foot. It surprised her he ignored the silence of the insects. His wounds must distract him. By the time hair raised on his neck, it was too late. He pivoted as she swung, powered by fury over her mother’s death, her father’s agony, and her own loss. Her warclub smashed into his temple with a soggy thud. Recognition flared moments before life left.

“You die too quickly!” she screamed and hit him over and over, collapsing his skull and spewing gore over her body. “I wanted you to suffer as I did!”

Her body was numb as she kicked him into the pond, feeling not joy for his death, relief that her mother was avenged, or upset at the execution of an unarmed Other. She cleaned the gore from her warclub and left. No one would know she had been blooded but the truth filled her with power.

She was now a warrior.

When she returned to home base, Nightshade waited. Something flashed through his eyes as though for the first time, he saw her as a warrior. His chiseled face, outlined by dense blue-black hair, lit up. The corners of his full lips twitched under the broad flat nose. The finger-thick white scar emblazoned against his smooth forehead, a symbol of his courage surviving Sabertooth’s claws, pulsed. Female eyes watched him, wishing he would look at them as he did Xhosa but he barely noticed.

The next day, odd Others with long legs, skinny chests, and oversized heads arrived. The People’s scouts confronted them but they simply watched the scouts, spears down, and then trotted away, backs to the scouts. That night, for the first time, Xhosa’s father taught her and Nightshade the lessons of leading.

“Managing the lives of the People is more than winning battles. You must match individual skills to the People’s requirements be it as a warrior, hunter, scout, forager, childminder, Primary Female, or another.  All can do all jobs but one best suits each. The Leader must decide,” her father motioned.

As they finished, she asked the question she’d been thinking about all night. “Father, where do they come from?”

“They are called Big Heads,” which didn’t answer Xhosa’s question.

Nightshade motioned, “Do they want to trade females? Or children?”

Her father stared into the distance as though lost in some memory. His teeth ground together and his hands shook until he clamped them together.

He finally took a breath and motioned, “No, they don’t want mates. They want conflict.” He tilted his head forward. “Soon, we will be forced to stop them.”

Nightshade clenched his spear and his eyes glittered at the prospect of battle. It had been a long time since the People fought.

But the Big Heads vanished. Many of the People were relieved but Xhosa couldn’t shake the feeling that danger lurked only a long spear throw away. She found herself staring at the same spot her father had, thoughts blank, senses burning. At times, there was a movement or the glint of Sun off eyes, but mostly there was only the unnerving feeling of being watched. Each day felt one day closer to when the People’s time would end.

“When it does, I will confess to killing the Other. Anyone blooded must be allowed to be a warrior.”

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