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They were the Mother's warriors, defending the wild places from the depredations of Man, and opposing slavery, cruelty, exploitation everywhere. A thousand years ago, they lived from Ireland to China, Finland to India, the Dead Sea to the Himalayas. Their memory persists as myths of Elves, Fairies, Leprechauns, Pixies, Dwarves, Gnomes, Trolls, Djinns.
What were the Little Folk really like? How did they get that way?
The five great Stories of the Ehvelen describe two generations of warfare that forged the playful, fun-loving hunters of the Original Forest into the Mother's sword. They were then scattered all over the land, to carry on Her work.
For a millennium and a half, winter evenings in every Ehvelen family were spent on the retelling of the Stories. They were finally recorded by Grasshopper of Quicksands, at the end of the 9th Century AD. He was the General of the Ehvelen of Western Europe for thirty years, but it was only after his last disastrous battle that he realised the purpose for all his sufferings: the Mother had been hardening and tempering him into Her scribe.
The Stories tell of troubled times that threw up great heroes:
As well as war and conflict, the Stories describe love and hope, grief and the help people can give one another. To the Ehvelen, the act of reproduction was 'the Mother's gift', to be performed with enjoyment and reverence, rather than hidden with shame or debased as dirty. So, the Stories happily describe the coupling of men and women.
This series of books has three parts:
The First Story
The First Story describes one year, the year of first contact between the warlike, nomadic Doshi and the peaceful, fun-loving, previously isolated Ehvelen. For untold ages, the Ehvelen had enjoyed the wealth of their Forest, serving the Mother. Because She was with them, and within them, they had no conception of murder, cruelty, greed or selfishness. They were hunters: children became adults, and could marry, only after killing a dangerous animal. 'The Mother's work' was caring for nature. Each woman was named after a plant, each man for an animal, and the Being of that name was the person's Responsibility for life.
Then the Doshi came. A Hunt was attacked: the boys killed, Oak and Heather abducted and raped. Oak escaped that night, after becoming the first Ehvel to kill a person.
Heather had no conception of murder, but had seen her friends slain. Rape and slavery were unthinkable, yet she suffered them. She was overawed by these gigantic people, and terrified by the unlimited vista of the plain, so different from the forest. A whipping by young, cruel Daril scarred her for life.
Porcupine was devastated at the loss of his daughter Heather. He and Oak became among the first of the Mother's warriors. He invented new weapons to fight these vicious Giants. More and more Ehvelen were affected by repeated contact with the Doshi. This was the start of the terrible times that would forge the gentle, fun-loving little people of the forest into the Mother's sword. By the start of the next year, over six hundred were ready to face the dreaded Suletain Harila's five thousand savage warriors.
Heather was taken unimaginably far away. She studied her captors, gaining knowledge to help the Ehvelen after she escaped. Only, no slave had ever escaped the Doshi, and soon she was pregnant. She learned a great deal from the Areg Trader Moustaf, who wanted to help her escape, but for his own ends. His plans were frustrated, and he had to leave.
Separation from her people was nearly fatal, but her deadly depression was lifted through witnessing the cruel gelding of new slave boys. She swore to do this to a Doshi man one day. Then she overheard the plans of invasion: next summer, her people would be savagely attacked. She and Horse, her baby, needed to warn them. So, she, her friend Doltu and their two babies, and highly pregnant Clarystra did the impossible and escaped, though Clarystra sacrificed her life in the act.
Moustaf arrived in the Forest, bringing new weapons. Heather got them to the battle zone, on the very night of the Doshi's first attack.
She didn't know that one day she'd be Heather the Mother, the Ehvelen's greatest hero.
The First Story has been divided into two volumes: The Start of Magic and The Mother's Sword.
The Second Story
Suletain Harila had sworn revenge for the killing of his son, and now five thousand warriors are attacking across the great river. They expect complete surprise and a swift victory. Unknown to them, Heather had escaped slavery, to warn the Ehvelen. Six hundred people gather in defense. Few of them had ever killed a person. The Doshi cross, but suffer great losses. Elder Edoran builds a floating bridge, young Gardel becomes a hero and Daril distinguishes himself. After this first battle, Heather and her father Porcupine devise ingenious strategies to hurt and frighten the enemy, but Edoran finds a way of paying for the war: selling trees to Areg Traders. A near-stalemate results. The Doshi slowly expand their area, but at a punishing cost. Then Porcupine devises a new plan. A huge treetrunk is prepared for an attack against the bridge. In anticipation of the coming battle, many people go home to rest. But the Doshi strike first, breaking out of their area and devastating nearby homes. During the heroic defense by the few caretaking Ehvelen, and then the Battle of the Log, the Doshi are so mauled that they find an excuse to withdraw until the next year. But Moustaf the Areg had made a suggestion that Edoran would remember.
The Doshi return next Spring, with ten thousand additional warriors. At Edoran's suggestion, they strike well to the north. Meanwhile, Moustaf, touring the Forest, sees Green Mountain: a huge cone of copper ore; and an Ehvelen patrol contacts his rival Irahim.
A bitter struggle develops. The Ehvelen keep surprising the Doshi with new tactics, mostly disguised as magic, while Heather concentrates on stopping the Doshi trade in trees. Once more, the Doshi feel tied down, so Edoran leads a patrol into the Forest in order to force the 'Midgets' to disperse. Irahim notifies the Ehvelen of this, so Porcupine plays a trick on the patrol, convincing the Doshi to send out many such vulnerable groups. Occasional bait of gold is put in their way, so they keep returning despite horrendous losses.
Moustaf tries to renege on an agreement. The result is defeat, and worse, financial loss.
Heather develops a new tactic: attacking the Doshi on the plain, instead of in the forest. One of the slaves freed is Grodek, a black man who becomes a warrior. The rest of the summer is bitter fighting in the forest and on the plain. Waleed, another freed slave, is also able to become a warrior. He and Grodek marry Heather, forming the new Family of Killers' Lair.
The Doshi return in the third Spring. In an early engagement, Heather fights her old enemy Daril, the best warrior of the Doshi, and defeats him.
The fighting continues, until Heather and Porcupine devise a plan. They lure four large armies of Doshi into the forest, opposed by only small forces. Meanwhile, most of the Ehvelen attack Harila's camp. The Suletain himself is killed in a duel by Grodek, bringing the war to an end.
One book has so far been extracted from this Story: The Making of a Forest Fighter: an account of Harila's War by the Doshi Hero Ribtol.
The Third Story
This Story starts when Heather's son Horse is fifteen, and becomes a man through a Hunt for brown bear. The entire Story forms a Trilogy: The Travels of First Horse. The three volumes are To Assyria, The Secret of Wootz and From Ice to Magic.
Although in Grasshopper's times this was the third Story, the original Storytellers composed it years before the others. The first Ehvel to be named 'Horse' went traveling in the strange, wild world of us Giants. His task was to learn military secrets and form alliances against the savage Doshi who had been attacking his People for the past sixteen years. He left when fifteen, returning ten years later. Meanwhile, he had been the Shah champion of the Areg empire as 'Mukil the Monkey' (wearing a chimpanzee suit); married the strongest woman in the world, only to lose her in a fight while she was defending his life; was befriended by Sennacherib, King of Assyria; had to perform a daring crime in order to leave Egypt alive; gained a great fortune, only to lose it again; stole the secret of steel, and evaded a determined hunt by thousands; killed a mighty tiger with only hand weapons; passed through the land of Gorrok as a hero, and Gorrok maidens sought a hero as the father of their first child; survived the coldest winter in the world...
His story will make you see life in a new way.
The Fourth Story
The Great Khan is the story of twenty-five years of warfare.
Edoran was rejected by the Gelders as Acting Suletain, so sought his death in the forest. Instead, he met crippled but beautiful Ryegrass, the newly trained second Storyteller. They fell in love, and he became Horse of New Beginning, her husband. Meanwhile, young Gardel was Messenger for the Gelders, at the distant camp of the great Khan, who decided to punish these 'Midgets' for daring to oppose the Doshi. Dosharet, War Leader of all the Doshi, accompanied Gardel back, then appointed him Suletain.
Ten thousand warriors attacked at each of twenty-eight widely spaced locations, while Dosharet, advised by Gardel, struck with thirty thousand men in the centre.
Over the years, the war developed into a giant game of wits between Heather and Gardel. Conflict centered on wealth to finance the Doshi effort, so treachery by Irahim the Areg was a blow: he told Gardel of Green Mountain, the cone of copper ore. After years of fighting, the Doshi could use Ehvelen copper to keep their war going.
Another Areg, Moustaf, arranged winter garrison for the Doshi by the terrible Sucurr. Thereafter, the Ehvelen had to fight continuously.
Finally, Heather's son First Horse returned from his ten-year journey, and organised a magical show to trick the Khan into a truce. This involved a threat: if the truce was broken, Heather would personally kill the Khan. Peace didn't suit the Areg, so Yussuf, Moustaf's nephew, interfered. War resumed. Heather therefore crossed the plains, penetrated the great Doshi camp, and killed the Khan, but only after he had revealed Yussuf's treachery.
The Fifth Story
The Areg Wars is the story of the destruction of three cultures, and the scattering of the Ehvelen throughout the known world.
Having returned from killing the Khan, Heather penetrated the war camp of the Doshi. She and Dosharet, now the Khan, agreed to a new truce, and formed an alliance against the Areg.
Horse secretly traveled to Scythia with a talent of gold, while Heather went on an apparent embassy to the Shah of Aregia. She killed both the Shah and Moustaf. During her escape, the Shah's palace burnt down, destroying all records and the Royal treasury.
Chaos resulted. Thirteen Princes fought each other for the throne, while Doshi, Scythians and Ehvelen attacked simultaneously. Elam decided to support one Prince, so Assyria supported another.
Aregia was utterly destroyed, its land partialled out among Scythia, Elam and the Doshi.
With no Areg Traders, Doshi commercial life came to a standstill. Even the essentials of existence like flint became unobtainable. Despite Gardel's advice, the Khan's Council was swayed by hotheads, and decided to attack the Huns in force. The result was utter defeat. The Hun Federation (now led by Horse's old friend the Magyar Prince) swallowed the remnants of the Doshi nation.
The Ehvelen were also in a poor state. Many years of depredations by Doshi and Sucurr had converted a great deal of the forest into grazing land. Over the years, the Ehvelen had taken in many freed Doshi slaves, and had bought slaves from the Areg and liberated them. These ex-slaves performed many domestic tasks, freeing Ehvelen for fighting. In order to produce enough food from a reduced land area, the Ehvelen were forced to change from hunting/gathering to agriculture, using the labour of these freed slaves. This destroyed more of the forest. Also, the new people of the forest were culturally distinct from the Ehvelen, and this caused tensions.
The result was that a majority of the Ehvelen decided to move to wild places elsewhere. A few, including Heather, stayed, but Horse took a group into Scythia. Others moved west, and south-west.
The book, and therefore the series, ends with a lament from Grasshopper of Quicksands. The Diaspora was as painful for Ehvelen as for Jews except they no longer even knew where the Original Forest had been.
Warrior is the life story of Grasshopper of Quicksands, the Mother's scribe.
For fifteen hundred years, his people, the Ehvelen, had been feared by the powerful, but loved by the poor and helpless.
Grasshopper, was born in Happy Cave, western Ireland, at the time of the first Viking raids. Like all Ehvelen, he became an adult at fifteen through a Deed of Daring. In his case, this was assistance to the people of a small island in repelling three shiploads of Vikings. He then married into the Quicksands Family in Gaul (what is now Normandy).
At his prime, he was the most formidable archer and sword-wielder among the Ehvelen, which meant in all of western Europe. He rose to become General, his military career culminating in leading the Ehvelen forces during the successful defense of Paris against a great Viking raid in 866. In 888, at ninety-two years of age, he was instrumental in having Odo elected as King of Francia, and Arnulf as Emperor of the Carolingian Empire.
Grasshopper's life was full of adventure, as well as the usual joys and tragedies: love, children, the death of his favourite sister in battle by his side, daring raids, victory and defeat.
Unknown to him, all this was training for his life's real task. The Mother was hardening and tempering him for the most important job of all, becoming Her scribe.
Several individual characters within the Stories had fascinating lives well worth the telling. Volume 1 is completed.
Volume 1: His Name Means 'Courage': The life of Swallow born The Rapids.
We meet Swallow as a likeable seven-year-old boy: "He was an unremarkable boy to look at normally. But now, now he was a running statue in oozy black mud. His straight brown hair was usually a tangle. Now it was a semi-solid black maelstrom that trickled rivers of mud down his bare back, over his face, on top of mud caked there so thickly that none of his hundreds of freckles were visible. Two excited blue eyes glittered through long eyelashes bedecked with mud as he forced his sturdy little body into a last desperate sprint towards the oval mudbrick house " We see the excitingly terrible events of first contact with the Doshi through Swallow's eyes. Two years later, he is the only defense of his Family and their visitors from an approaching group of twenty-eight Giant warriors. He dies in order to protect them, but lives on forever in his People's memory.
Volume 2: Ogre.
Despite his ugly face, young Grasshopper of Trout Pond was liked by everyone, and was married to Blackberry, one of the most beautiful women. He was intelligent, helpful, and fun to be with. When the war started, he quickly became one of the Ehvelen's leaders, a formidable warrior.
Time passed, in constant warfare. Grasshopper's son Wolf became a man, and the Trout Pond family were ready for a new junior wife. Wolf's Hunt mate Broom was a beautiful girl of fifteen, who wanted nothing better than to marry Grasshopper. Blackberry and Broom, Broom and Blackberry, an ugly fellow like him was so lucky to be loved by two such women!
Then, at the second Battle of Trout Pond, both Blackberry ad Broom were killed, the house destroyed. Grasshopper became bitter. He left his children to be cared for by others, shunned company, and started a campaign of his own. Doshi a few steps from their comrades were found maimed, so that the victim's closest relation had to kill him. Each had heard, "Doyt el Shickel Shickotel did this to you!"
Others were caught in wicked man-traps, with the word 'Doyt' written nearby. Soon, all Doshi were terrified of 'Doyt Shick-Shack', the Midget from Underworld.
Grasshopper was living for revenge, for the compulsive joy of inflicting terror and suffering. He had become an Ogre, the only Ehvel ever to have done so.
It took the love and ingenuity of Porcupine the Inventor to cure him of this terrible malady.
Volume 3: The Greatest Warrior.
Daril was a tall fourteen-year-old boy when a patrol across the river returned with two captured little women. One of these kicked him, breaking his leg. Ever after, Daril walked with a limp. He swore that he would kill more Midgets than anyone else. He became better at every manly activity than any other man of the Sabad, and distinguished himself from the very start of Harila's war. At the First Crossing, he joined in the fighting despite being left out of the Sabad's war group, and killed eight Midgets. As proof, he cut off their pointed ears, and later made a necklace from them.
Despite his youth, Daril became a respected leader, with the highest number of kills. Other young men admired and copied him.
Then at last he fell into a trap. The entire patrol he led was killed, and then Lyalla the escaped slave woman faced him alone. He was known as the best scimitar-wielder in three Sulets, and yet Heather challenged him to a duel. One of them had to die.
Volume 4 is a collection of shorter stories: A New Friend for the Ehvelen is the story of where the Ehvelen's dogs came from; Singer with a Scimitar tells the story of Tillem, the Doshi who was not much good at fighting, but loved to make up songs about it; To Die for Honor tells the story of Chamomile of Happy Dell who killed herself to atone for a terrible error.
Volume 5 The Slave Who Killed the Suletain, is the life story of Grodek, the black slave who became Heather's husband.
Volume 6 is My Uncle the Suletain. It is the story of Harila's War, as seen through the eyes of his Nephew and Chief Advisor, Elder Edoran.
And there is scope for lots more.
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