Kieri’s First Command: Part X

Posted: November 24th, 2022 under Background, Characters, Contents, Excerpt, the writing life.
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Part X

One evening, coming out of the daily conference, Duke Marrakai asked Kieri to walk with him.  “The lad’s different.  I thought he’d sulk and complain and you have him smiling and cheerful.”

“He’s a good boy,” Kieri said.

“Sometimes,” the Duke said.  “And sometimes I’ve wanted to put a knot on his head.  You have no children, yet, do you?”

“No, but I watched Aliam Halveric and his wife with theirs, and I remember them with me.  I ignored your lad’s sulks and treated him as a sensible person, which he’s turned out to be.  I’m going to put him back on his horse tomorrow.”

“Well.  You should have a horse.  You ride very well and you know horses. And apparently, boys.”

“I will have again someday.  Someday, I want one of your breeding.  That horse is the best I’ve ridden.  Aliam had a halfbred of yours.  Tell me, what do you charge for the fullbred colts?”

The Duke looked at him squarely.  “They don’t come cheap.”

“No good horse does, but by accident. I will have one someday, and you can tell it will be treated well.”

“Indeed.  The Prince says he’s thinking of giving you that barren mess up north as a grant, if you do well in this campaign and another one or two.  No one else has wanted it, at any price or reward.”

“It would suit me,” Kieri said.  “In time it would thrive, with good management.  Hard at the start, of course, but are not the best horses often those difficult to train well early on?”

“You are not afraid of challenges.”

Kieri laughed.  “No, my lord, I am not.  Challenges come to all, early and late, and Aliam taught me that the measure of men is how they meet them.  Let me have some land, or a young horse–”

“Or a young boy?”

“I cannot speak of your son in such terms; he is yours, and a future Duke of Tsaia.”

“Well.  I see him as a challenge; he has been for me.  And I like what I see, Captain.  Teach him to ride better, and care for horses better, and we shall be friends a long time.”

“If you knew Aliam, my lord, he would tell you tales about me at your son’s age that would curl not only your hair but your horse’s tail.  If I am able to help him through this, I am happy to do so.”

Later that evening, the boy said, “We should not have done what we did.  I should not have done what I did.”  None of the boys had spoken to Kieri about it before but there was no doubt what the boy meant.

“You’re right,” Kieri said matter-of-factly, setting the stallion’s saddle on its rack.  “But you did, and it’s done, and you’re not doing it now.”

‘No, but I…I needed to say that.  I’m sorry I did it.  I’m sorry I spied on you.  I’m sorry…”

What would Aliam say to that?  What had Aliam said to so many of his own unwitting cruelties, blunders, thoughtless deeds, including those that got men killed?

“Listen to me,” Kieri said.  “You did something you knew was wrong, and you know that some things cannot be undone.  You can’t forget what you saw, can you?”

The boy’s head shook side to side; his eyes glistened.

“So when I was your age, and Aliam Halveric’s squire, I did things I knew I should not do, and some of those things could not be undone.  Men died, for some of my mistakes.  To be good men, when we are grown, we must learn to think.  Beyond what feels good, beyond what feels like fun, beyond what feels like it will win us points: we must learn to look ahead and think.  And it’s hard.  You have learned important things in these days: about your horse, about me, about yourself.  Now you know you can learn.  And I know you will learn.”

“Will I make more mistakes?”

“Oh, yes.  If you’re like me you will make mistakes over and over.  Men do.  Women do.  Everyone does.  It’s how we learn.  When you started riding, you fell off a lot, didn’t you?”


“So as you move into adulthood you will continue to make mistakes, and when you don’t make any mistakes at all, you’ll have made the worst, because you’ll have quit learning.  Keep learning, keep failing, but then go back and get it right.”

“I don’t think I’m ready to ride my horse again.”

“Why not?”

A mischievous grin this time.  “Because I’m still making mistakes here, walking.  Because my horse shouldn’t suffer for them. Teach me to ride your way, please, and show me by riding him yourself.”

“Now that will require your father’s permission: who’s going to ask him?”  Kieri grinned back at him.

“I will,” the boy said, with no hesitation.  “I will, and he will say Yes, and then he’ll tell me he told me the horse was too much for me in this situation, and I’ll say he was right, and then he’ll say I can ride his old horse, his second.  We can ride together.”

The End

Happy Thanksgiving


  • Comment by Annabel — November 24, 2022 @ 5:14 am


    Thank you! That was absolutely lovely. And a very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  • Comment by Jim DeWItt — November 24, 2022 @ 7:53 am


    Thank you, Elizabeth. A lovely gift. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

  • Comment by Jazzlet — November 24, 2022 @ 12:20 pm


    Good story sigh 🙂

    I hope you are all having a happy Thanksgiving.

  • Comment by Gus Hinrich — November 24, 2022 @ 4:03 pm


    Wonderful story, and a wonderful end.
    Thank you!!

  • Comment by Lindsey — November 24, 2022 @ 9:37 pm


    Thank you!!! Really enjoyed reading these.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 24, 2022 @ 10:20 pm


    Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 24, 2022 @ 10:21 pm


    Good to know it worked for you.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 24, 2022 @ 10:22 pm


    Wet and drippy…we’ve needed wet and drippy but the horses are disgusted…yet they go out and roll. Stange creatures sometimes, horses.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 24, 2022 @ 10:23 pm


    We had turkey, dressing, gravy, and pumpkin pie…it was good.

  • Comment by Leslie — November 24, 2022 @ 11:21 pm


    Delightful, thank you for the gift. Good news on the wet and drippy, all we have is dust and wind

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 24, 2022 @ 11:36 pm


    So glad you enjoyed it. We had a very small party (just the three of us) but good appetites and goodwill.

  • Comment by William — November 25, 2022 @ 1:03 am


    Glad you had a good meal and some moisture. Happy day after Thanksgiving to you, and R____ and M____, and your other family and friends.

    I also was a member of a dinner party of three, with a cousin and her husband, down near Pasadena. Turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce, followed by two pies, pumpkin with whipped cream and a family tradition, Osgood pie with ice cream. It’s a pecan pie with 3/4 cup of pecans, 1/2 cup of raisins, and 1/2 Tbsp of red wine vinegar of all things. Weird, but good, or at least a familiar tradition.

    Thanks again for the story! I do enjoy your writing and your storytelling.

  • Comment by Moira — November 25, 2022 @ 6:21 pm


    What a lovely surprise to see this! (And to see Kieri, Aliam et al again!)

    Reason enough to give thanks – I hope you had a wonderfully warm and renewing holiday with your loved ones, Elizabeth. Thank you for the wonderful treat!

  • Comment by OtterB — November 25, 2022 @ 8:55 pm


    I enjoyed that. Nice to get this glimpse of a younger Kieri.

  • Comment by WendyE — November 26, 2022 @ 2:14 pm


    Thank you for this story, Elizabeth. It has been a delightful break from some hard stuff for me. It’s also lovely to see a story of someone handling a tough situation well. And it’s fun to see some of Kieri’s experience that adds in to his character as we know it later.

    Is there a way to search on this website? I’ve looked but not found one and would love to read the Cracolyna backstory that I saw mentioned somewhere.

    I thoroughly enjoy your writing and am so glad you are able to continue to write!

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 26, 2022 @ 10:20 pm


    That Osgood pie sounds…interesting. Friends of ours made a buttermilk-raisin-pecan pie for our dinners for years…I’m not fond of raisins in pies, myself, but Richard liked it and so did a lot of other people. My variation on pecan pie works off the brownie pies I used to make for T-day…it combines brownie batter, pecans, and caramel sauce (replacing the Karo syrup). With what won’t fit in the pie plate, I think bake the rest of the brownie and smaller broken pecan bits in a well-buttered small casserole dish, and dribble the caramel sauce on top. That comes out as a sort of crisp thing with the caramel crackly on top.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 26, 2022 @ 10:21 pm


    Thank you, Moira; I’m glad you enjoyed it. We did have a nice holiday.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 26, 2022 @ 10:32 pm


    Kieri in the period between starting his career as a mercenary commander and starting to grow his domain and influence was far more civilized than his earlier years at Aliam’s…Aliam and the south did a lot for him, but the Falkian training school put the polish on, even as the Knight Commander agreed with Aliam that he must be kept from court…the resemblance to his father (and even to his sister, then about to be crowned) was far too noticeable. They thought he was–surely, had to be since the elves didn’t claim him–a bastard of either his father or his human uncle.

  • Comment by William — November 27, 2022 @ 1:44 am


    Osgood pie, from Ethel Riddle Watson, 1894-1982
    Filling for one nine-inch single crust

    1Tbsp butter
    1 Cup white granulated sugar
    2 eggs, separated
    1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
    1/2 Cup raisins
    3/4 Cup pecan halves

    Cream together butter, egg yolks, and sugar.
    Add vinegar, raisins, and pecans. Stir to mix.
    Beat egg white to soft peaks, the fold into the other ingredients.
    Pour into prepared pie crust. It will not look full.
    Bake at 375F for 30-45 minutes, until top is browned.
    Cool before serving, ideally with ice cream.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2022 @ 8:49 am


    WendyE: Thank you for reading it, and I’m glad it was helpful. There isn’t a search function for this site. Cracolnya’s backstory isn’t “done” yet..I hope it comes back to me. I’d like to use the first part of it in another indy collection of Paksworld stories involving younger people (this story would fit into that, too, but I need to check lengths of everything again.) I don’t think it’ll ever come to me as a whole book, but two particular segments of his history are worth telling–the first being the one I think you’re referring to. I do have that whole-ish (whole-ish meaning I’m not satisfied with the ending yet) and could email it to you if you wish. I’m too smothered in Stuff right now to try to back through this to find it. Its title is The Dun Mare’s Grandchild and if I remember right I did it as a “twelve days of Christmas” thing.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2022 @ 8:50 am


    Thanks for that recipe.

  • Comment by WendyE — November 27, 2022 @ 10:44 am


    Thanks for confirming the lack of search function, and for the title of the excerpt. That title plus Google got me to one of your posts. If it fit in one post and the ending started with: “Horsefolk don’t walk,” his grandfather said from ahead of him.
    (this is just the opening of the story that wants to grow too big.)” then I’m all set for reading it. If there was more to it than the one post, I’d be delighted to have it e-mailed to me. And if you’re not sure, then don’t bother about it.

  • Comment by Richard Simpkin — November 27, 2022 @ 11:55 am


    WendyE, there are four parts June 18th 2016 June 26th July 12th July 17th


    12 days of Christmas (2011) was another story: Vardan’s tale (sergeant Linnar Vardan of Halveric company’s part in defeating the Pargunese invasion). I didn’t write down the p-numbers for that but try

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2022 @ 6:04 pm


    Richard, she was looking for the Cracolnya story, not Vardan’s Tale.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2022 @ 6:43 pm


    And I misread your reply…sorry. You were exactly right, as usual.

  • Comment by elizabeth — November 27, 2022 @ 6:52 pm


    Wendy, Richard Simpkin’s given you the links. I have recently made a slight change in the penultimate paragraph and stopped there. This new version should go into the DEEDS OF YOUTH collection when I talk my agent into doing that…

  • Comment by Jace — November 28, 2022 @ 1:01 pm


    Thank you Richard, I just used your sites to reread those background stories from a few years ago. I had not forgotten them, but really enjoyed revisiting them. Elizabeth, l could never decide if your horse people were based on mongels or plains Indians. Comanches??

  • Comment by WendyE — November 28, 2022 @ 1:38 pm


    Thank you, Richard! And as always, thank you Elizabeth for your wonderful writing. It has given me joy, satisfaction, and many wonderful reading hours for many years!

  • Comment by Leslie — November 28, 2022 @ 4:35 pm


    Happy week after Thanksgiving to you all; I enjoy reading all the comments everyone posts. Is there a Paksworld Fan discussion group anywhere? If so, I would love to participate in a group read and discuss. I just found out my class next semester doesn’t have enough students so it’s been cancelled. I will have lots of time for something other than attempting to teach geology, physics, and chemistry to business and elementary education teachers. Elizabeth, thank you so much for Universes and this blog so I can get my “Moon Fix” 🙂 It’s so helpful to have things to think about other than the overwhelming stuff of life…

  • Comment by Moira — November 30, 2022 @ 4:36 pm


    Richard – thanks!

    I remember those snippets, and I’ll be very happy to revisit them thanks to you. (And to Elizabeth, of course!)

  • Comment by Moira — November 30, 2022 @ 4:49 pm


    And now I have to be a pain in the patootie – Richard, did you find the 5th part of The Dun Mare’s Granchild? Was it ever posted (seems strange if it wasn’t)?
    The calendar thingie won’t let you change year, only month, so before I wrestle with that and get carpal tunnel whotsit, I thought I’d ask if you already braved the pain!
    (Damn cheek, I know.)

  • Comment by Richard Simpkin — December 1, 2022 @ 1:47 am


    Those snippets were no pain at all for me to find, Elizabeth, thanks to having diligently included source references with everything I had copied-and-pasted into my Paksworld scrapbook file. Which stops at the 4th episode, where boy and grandfather met the outlying tribesman and the dun mare. I’m as sure as I can be that you never posted the prospective fifth episode or I’d have copied that too.

  • Comment by Moira — December 1, 2022 @ 8:35 am


    Richard – that was my thought, too, but thank you for confirming (and saving me from Calendar hell ;)).

    If there *were* a fifth part… *whistles innocently*

  • Comment by Moira — December 1, 2022 @ 8:36 am


    (And P.S. Richard I am WAAAAY impressed by your diligent and organized archival system!)

  • Comment by Leslie — December 8, 2022 @ 3:12 pm


    I have read this again for about the third time and every time I pick up something new. Elizabeth, your philosophy of life shines through your writing and you continue to inspire me.

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