The Travels of First Horse:
A Trilogy

The entire Third Story of the Ehvelen

ISBN 1-877053-04-X

Now available, three books for $12.00 Australian (you can pay in Australian dollars via Paypal).

   The three books are To Assyria, The Secret of Wootz and From Ice to Magic.

   Buy this trilogy, and you can have any other of my electronic titles, free. Check the list of available titles.

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Other books in the series:

The Start of Magic. The story of one year of slavery, suffered by Horse's mother Heather. It is a tale of courage against hopelessness.

The Mother's Sword. While Heather was gone on her involuntary travel, her loving relations and friends believed her to be dead. They in turn suffered increasing contact with the warlike Doshi. Could they defend their existence without becoming savages themselves?

The Making of a Forest Fighter. This is a view of the conflict from the other side, a young Dohsi warrior's account of a three-year war. He ended up a hero, because he was terrified.

Series Summary: Stories of the Ehvelen
Discovery of the scrolls
About the Author


An extract from The Secret of Wootz :

   Hundreds thronged the hall. Unlike other People, Assyrians wore arms in the Royal presence, but Horse had no eyes for them beyond observing this. The room, the crowd, were dominated by one person. His face clearly provided the original for those of the bulls and lions, but real life was greater than art. He stood in front of his golden throne, taller than those around him. His black curly hair and beard glistened with gold thread, but there was no jewellery on his short white tunic. He wore a sheathed sword. He stood relaxed, but as if he was full of pent-up energy, like a hunting animal. Not the lion whose statues wore his face, but perhaps a lynx on a branch, waiting for prey, or a wolf spider who has no web but stalks her quarry on the ground.

   They stopped in front of the Surru and bowed, Petal bowing with the people. "Stand," Sennacherib commanded, smiling a little smile. He sat down on his throne and invited them to start. After a few minutes' feverish preparation, they got into the program. A high cable was impossible here, so the four acrobats went through a routine where in effect Gart and Dovid juggled the two women.

   Two acts had not been previously performed in Assyria. Jebal knew that a message could reach Nineveh in a week from anywhere within the Empire, and he wanted to keep some surprises.

   By the time the acrobats had finished, Jebal, Horse and the stage hands had set up most of the equipment for the disappearing lady act. Horse now demonstrated Petal's counting ability. Like everywhere else, a counting horse provided a great novelty. During this time, Selena had a cold wash and changed clothes, then Jebal launched into his speech, and, cool and calm, Selena stepped into the box.

   Sennacherib himself thrust his sword through the box and opened the lid. Selena had disappeared, despite the red liquid staining the cloth underneath. She stepped out from between the double row of drapes while the multitudes's eyes were focused on the box, and called out, "Majesty, were you looking for someone?"

   Sennacherib grinned at her. Shielded by the drapes, foot on the smoke-making device, Horse saw that while every other face showed awe and startlement, he looked calm.

   Jebal did his threatening act, Horse lifted his foot, and the great hall was filled with the stench of brimstone. Under the cover of the rising cloud of smoke-like dust, Selena raced back into the box, where Sennacherib discovered her.

   He rewarded them handsomely at the end. Just the same, a knowing, self-satisfied expression on his face suggested a lack of surprise.

   "Your Majesty," Jebal said bowing low, "the next item will surely appeal to you, who rule the most warlike Nation in the world. Behold this young man!"

   Horse stepped forward and bowed low.

   "There are a people many think to be a myth. In Areg we call them Pixae , which means 'Little Fair Ones' because they are tiny, and have very fair skins. Fered is a Prince of these people. Like all of them, he has magical skills. He can snatch an arrow out of the very air."

   "Ha, this I've got to see!" the Surru exclaimed, stroking his elaborately dressed beard.

   "Your Majesty," Horse requested, "ask your best archer to shoot an arrow at me."

   Sennacherib looked around and motioned to a man in his bodyguard.

   The soldier stepped forward, already pulling an arrow from his quiver. "Please," Horse asked, "Stand at that wall. I will stand here. You can hit me with one arrow?"

   "Oh yes, I can hit you," the archer answered confidently. He walked to the place indicated by Horse, and shot his arrow even as he turned.

   Horse fell sideways and pulled the arrow out of the air with his left hand. He stood, and holding the arrow up, bowed to the Surru.

   "Remarkable!" the Surru complimented.

   "Your Majesty, can I try again?" the soldier asked. He looked offended.

   Sennacherib nodded.

   He smoothly drew and let the arrow fly, then reached behind, nocked a second arrow and shot it while the first one was still halfway to its target.

   Time is stopped by the emergency. Horse twists to his left, avoiding the first arrow without attempting to catch it. His right hand snatches the second arrow from the air, spins it around and throws it back before his knees touch the ground. All this happens too fast for thought, but as always when under pressure, he acts with the practised intuition of the hunter: he simply knows the right strategy.

   The arrow hit the archer in the stomach. With a look of surprise on his face, he dropped his bow and slowly doubled up.

   The rest of the troupe went pale. The Surru opened his mouth -- and bellowed with laughter. "Ho, ho, hahahaha!" he roared. "That's the best joke I've seen in years!" He reached into a pocket of his tunic and threw a pouch to Horse who easily caught it. The pouch jingled as it flew, and was gratifyingly heavy.

   "You, fellow!" the Surru snapped at the archer. "One arrow was stipulated, was it not?" He turned to one of his functionaries. "Harandapal, get the physicians. This man's life is to be saved. When he is well, have his right hand cut off."

   The archer groaned.

   I must do something! Horse thought, horrified. Aloud he said, "Your Majesty, may I make a suggestion?"

   "Go on, little man."

   "With respect, have the physicians save his life, then let him keep his right hand. That will make far more suffering for him."

   "Hey? How's that?"

   "He will continue to be a useful soldier. He'll have to serve the person who said 'Cut off his hand!' He will remember this day every time he shoots an arrow. Cut off his hand, and he cannot serve you. You lose a soldier, he can learn to live a new life. If he stays a soldier, he'll be useful for you, but cannot make a new life."

   The king scratched his beard. "There is something wrong there. I understand what you are saying all right, and it makes sense, yet it goes against common practice."

   "Isn't common practice boring? Maybe there is more entertainment in doing things in a new way."

   "All right, done," the Surru ordered as two robed men came hurrying in. They put the wounded archer on a stretcher and carried him out.

The Travels of First Horse

   Although one and a half thousand years later The Travels of First Horse was the third Story, the original Storytellers composed it long 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.

   Though the size of a ten-year-old boy, Horse was stronger than most men, and agile enough to become part of the best troupe of entertainers in the Areg Empire. During his travels, he married the strongest woman in the world, was befriended by many men including mighty Kings, fought a tiger with only hand weapons, faced overwhelming dangers and gathered knowledge for his belaguered people.

    His story will make you see life in a new way.

Discovery of the Ehvelen Manuscripts

   Where did the Stories come from? On the 12th of August 1993, two students, Colleen Little and her Danish friend Lief Olesen, were rock-climbing in County Clare, Ireland. They stumbled upon a cave, and found some artefacts. Professor Patrick O'Loughlin, head of the Department of Celtic Archaeology at the National University of Ireland, has explored the huge cave complex with his students, and found it to have been inhabited for hundreds of years by a small people, about four feet tall. Their occupation ceased some time in the tenth Century.

   The portal into the complex was roughly round, its diameter twenty-five feet. A sloping tunnel with twenty worn steps led down to a much larger cave with a deep, black pool. Two tunnels rose from this space, to a maze of passages and caverns, many of them used by the ancient inhabitants. One of O'Loughlin's Ph. D. students, Harold Smith, made the most important discovery. He cataloged everything in a cave that had been the workshop. A stack of steel ingots stood by a wall, near the ruin of a great bellows. He weighed and measured each brick, an essential step in deducing the method of manufacture. He found a box in a cavity in the cave wall behind the stack. It was the size of a large suitcase. The hinged lid had an airtight leather seal and fitted so tightly that there was great difficulty in opening it. Beautiful beaten relief work decorated the lid and four sides.

   The box was found to be almost pure gold. Its contents were even more precious: hundreds of parchment scrolls, preserved from decay by the tight seal of the box. The University's technicians unrolled the brittle parchment without damage.

   One bundle was an illuminated Bible, the work of monks of the early Irish Church. Under each Latin line there was writing in an unknown language: a key to the little people's culture. Dr Tony Beadle, an Irish philologist, has used the Bible to decipher the language. He found its grammar to be unique, but much of the vocabulary is common with other ancient languages, indicating extended contact with other peoples. Dr Beadle found forty-nine letters in the alphabet, probably in one-to-one correspondence to the phonemes of the language.

   There were a number of small sheets of parchment, the words of the strange language joined with lines as in a genealogy, the writing in a variety of immature hands. One further sheet was in Norse, another in Latin. The rest, 831 large sheets, were covered in tiny black marks, mostly the writing of one person. This proved to be the history of a people: the description of how the Little Folk became a race of warriors, scattered all over the great Eurasian continent.

   The author, Grasshopper of Quicksands, followed the literary tradition of his people, which were very different from ours. Instead of chapters, he told a Story within a story. In each Ehvelen Family, winter evenings were spent on the retelling of one of the Stories. Grasshopper recorded his childhood, his first experience of this tradition. Thus, he described something in Happy Cave, when he was a child, then switched to the next episode of the Story. He was very old when he recorded the Stories. As old people will, he reminisced about his eventful life. Something he was describing in Happy Cave, or something in the Story, brought back a memory, and he recorded this. So, the information in the scrolls is readily separated into two parts: the Stories, and Grasshopper's life in Viking times.

   Dr Bob Rich won the tender for translating the scrolls, and has at last reached the point of publication. The Stories were made up by six Storytellers: Earthworm born Green Mountain and his five disciples. This Story, The Travels of First Horse, was the first they composed, immediately after Horse's return. As a matter of urgency, the Storytellers used it to acquaint their people with the strange, wild world of Giants, and to disseminate the great deal of technical information Horse had collected. So, in effect the Story was an anthropological survey and military instruction manual. Fortunately, the Storytellers didn't know that textbooks are supposed to be boring!

   The other Stories were composed years later, their purpose being to acquaint their descendants with the history of how the Mother had forged the Ehvelen into her sword against slavery, cruelty and exploitation during the thirty years of war. They served the same function for the Ehvelen as the Books of Moses do for the Jews.

   To Ehvelen of Grasshopper's time, The Travels of First Horse was the third Story. The first covered the year of Heather's slavery, the second, the three years of following warfare. The rest of Horse's childhood was the first half of the fourth Story. However, it seems more appropriate to follow the order of the original Storytellers.

About the Author

   Bob Rich is an Australian writer, mudsmith and psychologist. He has done enough different things to fill a couple of lifetimes, but is too busy to worry about it. Since 1972, his main preoccupation has been to try and preserve a future for coming generations. The trouble is, he doesn't believe in salesmanship, the missionary spirit. This approach is part of the problem, so mustn't be part of the solution. So, he has lived a low-impact lifestyle for 20 years. When things go bad, he can at least say, 'It wasn't my fault!' Read the reasoning behind his lifestyle.

   He is cursed with a sense of humor that gets him in trouble all the time, creativity that makes it impossible for anything he does to fit into categories, and an intense empathy for other people, even if they are very different from him. This is his main tool in two very different endeavors: psychological counseling and writing.

   He and his wife Jolanda haven't had a television set since 1975 -- they dont' have the time to watch anyway, and the absence of a TV meant that their children were raised to their values, not to external brainwashing. In particular, Bob is convinced that the commercialism of TV (and of the Internet!) is part of the enemy: the force that is threatening the very existence of mankind, and is causing a great deal of unhappiness. Therefore, like Oberin the Mage, he was delighted to find an entire race of like-minded beings, the Ehvelen. When reading the snippets of philosophy from Horse, Bob said, "This is wonderful, that could be me speaking!"

   Bob is a grandfather (called 'Grandbob' by four lovely young people), an effective psychological counselor, a teacher of skills like building and woodcraft, a nurse, and a few other things that are none of your business. He offers counselling through the internet.

BobRich.JPG (3859 bytes) He's been writing magazine articles since 1980. His Earth Garden Building Book has been in continuous print since 1987, and has been reviewed as 'the Australian owner-builder's bible'. His second book, Woodworking for Idiots Like Me is a collection of autobiographical short stories, but teaches woodworking skills as well. You can read reviews of these books.

   Bob now has an impressive list of prizes and awards in short story competitions, and spends every possible moment writing.

   Also have a look at Bob's short story collections, Striking Back from Down Under and Through Other Eyes, as well as his award-winning Science Fiction story, Sleeper, Awake.

Contact the author by email.


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