Kieri’s First Command: Part VIII

Posted: November 22nd, 2022 under Background, Characters, Excerpt, the writing life.
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Kieri knew that despite the acquiescence the boy was boiling with indignation: he had been humiliated in front of everyone by his horse, Kieri, the prince, his own father, and he was in no state to think clearly.  “Do you have a halter or lead for this horse, so we can take him to the saddler?”

“In my father’s wagon,” he said shortly.

“I don’t know which it is,” Kieri said.  Ahead of him, the Prince’s wagon lurched into motion and he turned to his sergeant.  “Sergeant, take over for the moment. The Prince has ordered we get this horse to the saddler.”

“Captain.”  Siger’s face was as blank as his own, he saw.  They were all on bog ground until they got the boy and the horse both sorted out.  One wrong step and they could be in it to the neck.  And no grant of land.  And a boy mired in helpless anger, and a horse mired in bad training, bad riding, bad saddle fitting.  He understood now, though he still wished it to have been different, Aliam’s refusal to hire him as a junior captain.  He pushed that aside and looked at the boy again.  “Can you take me to it–either your father’s supply wagon with horse tack in it, or the Prince’s saddler?”

“They’re both with the other horse supply wagons,” Kirgan Marrakai said, with slightly less stiffness.  “Back this way.”  They walked toward the tail of the line, the horse snatching now and then at grass.

“How old is he?” Kieri asked.  “Five?  Six?”

“Five.  He was backed last year by the trainer.”

“Still quite young, then.”

“Yes.  I thought–the trainer let me sit on him last year, because I was so light.  Then I grew, but he was a year older and also grew two fingers, so I thought–I thought I was doing well.”

“You grew taller; did your trainer explain what that does to your seat?”

“Taller?  I thought only heavier mattered.  That’s all the trainer talked about, how young horses should never carry too much weight.”

“That’s so, but when boys grow into men, they change the shape, where the weight is, as well as how much.  Where you can put your leg on a horse, how your balance changes when your shoulders broaden.  When did you start drilling with the sword you carry, instead of a boy’s shorter one?”

“Last winter; it was a Midwinter gift.”

“And have you done mounted exercises with it?  Knocking rag balls off poles?”

“So you have more weight in your sword arm and as you reach out to do that, more weight shifts onto that side of the saddle and your horse tries to hold steady–with the muscles that are now developed more than those on the other side.”

The boy stopped short.  “I–I never thought of that!  The riding master never mentioned that!”

“And then after a few minutes it doesn’t feel good, so he hollows, to avoid the pressure–”

“Yes!  I know he does, and when I try to make him lift his back he bucks.”  He looked at Kieri wide-eyed.  “How do you know that?  Why doesn’t our riding master?  He just says ‘More leg, more leg, ride him into the bit.'”

“Did he tell you to wear spurs?”

“Yes. Because my legs aren’t strong enough, he said.”

“Um.  There are ways to strengthen legs, if you care to try.”

“You don’t have spurs.”

“I did.  I sold them”

“Because you don’t use them?”

“No, because I needed the money for something else.”



  • Comment by Caryn — November 22, 2022 @ 11:18 am


    This is wonderful! Thank you!

  • Comment by Jace — November 22, 2022 @ 1:50 pm


    Grooming a butter bar. An NCO’s second most important job.

  • Comment by Leslie — November 22, 2022 @ 5:02 pm


    Lovely seeing Kieri begin to establish a relationship with the Marrakai.

  • Comment by William — November 23, 2022 @ 12:43 am


    Thank you for taking the time to post this additional tidbit!

    Good luck with work on the new forward. With as many books as you already have in the series, you face a challenge of including the right amount — enough that readers NEED to know to enjoy Horngard I, but not a complete info dump. Ideally, they’d be motivated to find the earlier books, to learn not only more about WHAT specifically happened, but HOW, and also WHY. Oh, and make it a good read, too…

    Whugh! That *IS* rather a tall order! Did you say you liked a challenge?

  • Comment by Gareth — November 23, 2022 @ 8:56 am


    So enjoying this series – can we know how many parts there will be? Wondering if perhaps there is a charity you would like us to donate to in lieu of buying this as a book, or an author’s coffee (or similar) fund donation box.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2022 @ 5:35 pm


    Exactly. Blessed are the NCOs who bring up a better novice officer, for they shall save more than they know.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2022 @ 5:40 pm


    I realized only in rewriting this story how a situation in–whichever Paladin’s Legacy book it was in which Dorrin, at dinner in the Marrakai city house, sees how Gwenno’s parents handle their children–developed in the first place. Kirgan Selis never forgot how Kieri, Siger, and the cohort acted in all this, and resolved to treat his own children differently than he’d been treated when he had them. We can all think of the bad habits of parents being passed down the generations, but if a parent or parent-substitute has good ones–even one good one–that, too, can pass down.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2022 @ 5:59 pm


    Yes…yes, I did say I liked a challenge. I said it at thirteen, in one of those wild spasms of emotion that young writers indulge so eagerly…not realizing that if you actually utter–aloud or in a work of art (bad art can still function as art)–something like that, it’s going to stick to your self-image for a very long time. That poem, that I was so proud of (!!), announced my determination not to seek an easy life but–as I put it and please don’t cringe too loudly–“a life of fire and a death of flame.” (Hint: I’d been reading a lot of Shelley and Byron and had discovered Shakespeare’s Henry V, plus the works of Robert Lee Scott starting with his books on the Flying Tigers in WWII, which I took as literal truth. Flying a P-40 held together with baling wire and glue, dog-fighting with the enemy..yeah. Perfect fantasy for a near-sighted girl.) It did however send me in the direction of Rice, and later the Marine Corps, because OK I’m not good at A,B,C, D, but maybe R? T? So ridiculous as it was, looked at one way, it’s certainly nudged me past the “girls should be quiet, tidy, obedient, submissive, impeccable housekeepers, obsessed with clothes and looks and then with children and Duty” that girls in my generation were offered and the GOP wants to force them back into.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 23, 2022 @ 6:06 pm


    Tomorrow’s–the 10th part–is the end of this. There was more in the original that I can’t find–the surprise attack on the Tsaians’ camp one evening, the death of the Prince, the serious injury of Duke Marrakai, Kieri and his cohort stopping a rout and managing an orderly retreat, Duke Marrakai standng up for Kieri to the then-King. I may include this much in the next collection of Paksworld fiction, now that I’ve dug it out.

  • Comment by helen liu — February 13, 2023 @ 7:16 am


    surgeon removed a benign tumor from my frontallobe recently. i do know about memory loss! very frustrating for everyone. i enjoy your books. daughter rides horses. i recognize some of the things you write about.. im not a computer writing writing expert. hang in there

  • Comment by Miichael — May 6, 2023 @ 2:41 pm


    oh man. I really must come back by here more often. Much more often.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 28, 2023 @ 10:16 pm


    Oh, my! Glad it was benign, but still surely not a fun day in your life!! Thank you for your encouragement to keep at it.

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