Jim received an Aeronautical Engineering degree from Purdue University in 1957 and went into the Air Force right after college. He worked on several space program projects including; Titan III Space Booster, Space Shuttle, Star Wars and several other special studies for the Air Force. He attended the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College. He served in Viet Nam from 1971-1972. His decorations include The Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, The Vietnamese Honor Medal First Class, The Vietnamese Gallantry Cross and five unit excellence awards. He retired from the Air Force in 1980 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and came back to Indiana where he joined the Indiana Corporation for Science and Technology. He is now fully retired and writing.
A member of the Carmel United Methodist Church, Jim has served his church in several capacities. As President of the Indiana Mathematics, Science and Technology Education Alliance, Jim helps further technical education in Indiana. He also served on the Home Association Board of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, Beta Phi Chapter at Purdue University and is still an emeritus member. Jim is an active member of the Carmel Lions Club and has held all offices in that club. He has also served as District Governor for Lions District 25D in 1998-99. Lion awards include: Melvin Jones Fellowship, William P. Woods Fellowship, Richard T. Miyamoto Fellowship, the International President’s Medal, and three International President Certificates of Appreciation.
A boy struggles to pass Mauhad, the manhood test of his people, and falls in love in the process.
Javik lives in a country surrounded by mountains and covered in old growth forest. His ambition is to become a warrior like his father, Tolda, but he must pass Mauhad before he can realize that ambition. When is father is killed saving the others in his raiding party, Javik despairs of ever reaching that goal without his father’s training. Goldar, who led the raid when Tolda was killed, convinces the King to allow Javik to train with Tao Shan, the finest mentor in the kingdom. Javik finds himself among the sons of the wealthy and must adjust to the situation quickly. While in training he encounters a girl in the forest. She is Allana an escaped slave, but Javik falls in love with her. He convinces her to come out of hiding, and she teaches the sling to Tao Shan’s students.
To all of my old Boy Scout troop pals.
I gratefully acknowledge the support of my wife and family in this project. They provided many helpful suggestions and a good deal of editing support.
A boy struggles to pass Mauhad, the manhood test of his people, and falls in love in the process.
avik admired the brooding mountains surrounding Berglaundia, his homeland. They stood like ranks of white-haired giants standing shoulder to shoulder to protect the woods and vales below. The green fir trees climbed their slopes in a vain attempt to overwhelm their masters, and the dark forbidding forests of oak, beech, maple and elm spread out over the land like a protective blanket. Farmland was scarce and purchased at the price of back-breaking labor to clear the forest away.
He was thankful he was not a farmer. The cool, misty glades of tall trees called to him like a siren. It was fall, and the forest had exploded into an array of color not even rivaled by the wool dyers in his village. The woods teemed with life, and he was a hunter—a hunter learning to be a warrior. He’d lived fifteen winters, and next year he would go on Mauhad, the manhood test of his people, but now he was concentrating on finding game.
He stopped short as he spotted a slight movement in the clearing ahead. He crouched low and approached silently. A quick test showed he was down-wind of whatever made the movement. He found cover just short of the spot and saw a doe standing in the clearing before him.
It stood deathly still while its long, broad ears scanned the dank brush for some sound of danger. Her wet, black nose twitched to extract any scent of trouble from the crisp fall air. Javik pulled the arrow slowly to full draw and raised the point to the spot where it would find his quarry’s heart. He began to relax his fingers just as the fawn rose behind its mother. A smile spread across his face as he watched the deer’s child search for a teat under the doe’s belly, and that moment of hesitation was just enough to allow the clamber of the village alarm bell to send the pair bounding off into the brush.
“The men are back from the raid,” he almost shouted as he un-noched the arrow and returned it to his quiver. The boy sped off toward his village, anticipating the celebration following a successful raid on the Sentii villages beyond the mountains.
As he entered the stockade gate, his elation quickly turned to foreboding. Everywhere he looked women wept on their mothers’ shoulders, and the wails of mourning told him many houses would be without their men tonight. He made straight for the common house where the raiders would gather, but he was not prepared for the sight greeting him there.
Wounded men lay everywhere. Their women attended to them, unwinding bloody bandages and replacing them with new dressings. In the center near the hearth fire Goldar, the raid leader, sat in a chair with two healers hovering over him. He was bare from the waist up, and Javik could see the scars of many wounds suffered in previous raids marring his muscular torso. A fresh wound gaped on his left shoulder, and this was the subject of the healers’ attentions.
“Ahhh! Confound it, man! Quit probing and put an iron to it!” the war leader shouted, sending the healers scurrying for the brazier of hot coals holding the cauterizing irons.
Javik looked around for his father but didn’t see him. He was about to leave for his own hearth when Goldar called to him. “Javik, come here, lad.”
Javik knelt before the war leader, showing him the respect due from a lad not yet mature. “Yes, sir.”
“I’ve sad news for you.” He paused trying to find some way to deliver his terrible story more gently. In the end, he could find no better words. “Your father’s dead.”
Javik looked up at the sad face of the great man and fought back his tears. A boy who aspires to warrior status must not break down and cry even at such horrible news.
“How did he die, sir?”
At that moment the healer applied the cauterizing iron. Goldar flinched but did not cry out. The smell of scorched flesh almost made Javik sick, but he fought the urge to vomit with what was left of his resolve. Goldar recovered quickly.
“He was leading the advance guard through the high pass when the Sentii ambushed us. They let his party through before they attacked, and Tolda could have saved himself, but he led his group back and cut an escape route through the Sentii lines for us. His action saved many lives but it cost his own. A Sentii arrow struck him down, and the last thing I saw was their war chief holding his severed head high for all to see. We had no hope of recovering his body. I’m sorry, Javik, but your father died as he would have wished to die.”
The implications of Goldar’s words began to dawn in Javik’s mind. “What’ll I do now, sir? My mother and I have no other family. We’ll be assigned to some house as wards of the king, and I’ll have no mentor. How will I be able to complete Mauhad?”
Goldar placed one hand on Javik’s shoulder. “I’ll speak to the king. I’m sure he’ll recognize your father’s bravery. I remember something about a blood price in our ancient laws, but it hasn’t been invoked in many years. Don’t worry. Everything will turn out well. Now, go to Dana. Your mother needs your strength.”
Javik rose and bowed to the warrior his father respected above all other men and went directly to his mother’s hearth. He found Dana staring into the embers with her hands folded in her lap. Swollen red eyes and the tracks of many tears clouded her beauty and she looked suddenly old.
“Mother,” Javik sobbed, losing all control of his emotions. He fell into her arms and let the tears flow freely.
She looked at the boy, and her eyes brightened. “My son, my lovely son,” she murmured as she embraced him. Her boy was almost a man, but he was still her baby. He’d seen fifteen winters, and his beard was showing a golden color a little darker than his hair. At 18 hands he was as tall as his father and every bit as muscular. With his deep green eyes and a chiseled face, every girl in the village wished he would woo her only, but he was too deep in training to notice them now. Next year he would go on Mauhad, the manhood test of his people, and join the warriors going off to raid as his father did before him. After that, he’d have time to notice their obvious signals.
“He’s gone, Javik,” she whispered. “We can’t change that. He died the warrior’s death he always hoped for, saving the lives of his comrades. Now’s the time for mourning, but we must also prepare ourselves to face the future. Think of the great husband, father and warrior he was, but think also of what he’d want us to do. We have to go on with our lives in spite of our loss.”
“I’ll kill fifty Sentii swine to avenge his death,” Javik boasted, breaking free of her embrace. In spite of his bravado, the tears ran down his face.
“I’m sure you’ll kill many Sentii, my son, but you must grow much stronger before you can challenge such mighty warriors. Besides, you haven’t yet completed Mauhad. Stay with me for a while. There’s plenty of time left for killing.”
“I know, but if we’re assigned to another house as wards of the King, it may be a bleak future.”
“I know, I only pray it will be someone who’ll honor your father’s memory.”
Javik was well aware of the customs of his people. Widows and orphans must be cared for, and their own families usually took them in. If they had no family, like Javik and his mother, they were assigned to one by the King. No one wanted another mouth to feed, but if the sons were strong and the women healthy, they could carry their own weight well enough. The very young and very old fared the worst.
Sometimes the wards of the King were treated no better than slaves. Javik knew he would have no status in any family they were assigned to, and his mother would be given the hardest and dirtiest work. Their prospects were not bright.
“Why can’t we just stay as we are, Mother?”
“You’re not yet a man, Javik. You’re strong and an excellent hunter, but you must complete Mauhad before our people recognize you as a man, and allow you your own hearth. With your father dead, you have no mentor. Who will train you?” Once more the tears welled in his mother’s eyes.
“Tao Shan serves as mentor for many boys my age. I could join him.”
His mother smiled, “We don’t have the gold Tao Shan requires for his services. Only the most wealthy families can afford him.”
“But, Father was a great warrior. He must have kept some gold from his raids, surely the game he brought to the long-houses was worth something?”
“What gold we have must last us the rest of our lives. We’ll receive little enough from the family we are assigned to. I know what my lot will be, but I may be able to bribe the head of our new family into adopting you as a son. That’s the only way to insure you’ll be treated fairly.”
“I’ll speak with the King myself. He must allow us to stay together as a family. Many of the men know my skills; they’ll vouch for me, and I can complete Mauhad without a mentor. Others have done it.”
“Javik, why would the King speak with a boy not yet through Mauhad? Know your place, my son. We must accept the customs of our people.”
“Father wouldn’t want me to sit idly by while you’re made little more than a slave.”
“You’re very brash, Javik. The ways of our people are wise, and we’ll do whatever the King commands.”
uran, the village law keeper, arrived at Javik’s longhouse two days later to inform them the King’s audience was set for of the next day. Javik questioned him about the blood price.
“Young Javik, the blood price is an old custom long abandoned by our kings. I’m not sure King Olgar is even aware of its existence. Don’t pin your hopes on that piece of tradition.”
Dana spoke. “Good Buran, we’ve no horses now that my husband’s mounts are lost to the Sentii. Will you help us travel to the capital?”
“Oh yes, I have some errands there myself. I’ll take a cart, and you’re welcome to ride along, but I leave early.”
“We’ll be ready with the sun,” Dana assured him.
The next day Dana woke Javik early. “Get up, son. It will be dawn soon, and we must be ready for Buran.
Javik pulled the furs over his head and moaned, “I need more sleep. I’ll be ready when it’s time to go. Leave me alone.”
“Nonsense. Get up now and you can have some breakfast before we go. We may not get another meal until late today. Get up.” She pulled the furs off her son and threw them aside.
Javik grudgingly rose to a sitting position on the edge of the sleeping platform and rubbed his eyes. Sleep would have been welcome, but the thought of a day without food was all the motivation he needed to rise and shine.
They were both ready and dressed in their finest clothes when Buran arrived.
“Good morning lady,” he greeted her. “My aren’t we lovely today.”
“Thank you, Buran, but we need to make a good impression on the King,” she said.
Buran smiled and held back his laughter. Even the finest clothes in their small village were rags in comparison to the finery of the court.
“I’m sure you’ll do that,” he said. “Climb aboard.”
The journey to the King’s castle was not long, and the fall scenery along the way was breathtaking. The trees and grass sparkled in the early dawn from the hard frost of the night before. Javik dressed in his best clothes, and he thought his mother never looked more beautiful.
When they reached the castle, Javik was awe-struck by its size. “Look, Mother! It’s larger than our whole village, and there are more longhouses here than I ever dreamed existed.”
“Your father should have taken you to our capital long before now, my son,” she said. “It is really just a very big village.”
Javik did not agree. People swarmed everywhere, and the marketplace boasted many amazing things. They passed a man eating fire and belching flames like a dragon. Another man juggled daggers. Four boys leaped about and tumbled through the air to land on the shoulders of huge men in crimson clothes. A minstrel sang and played his lute while the crowd threw copper coins in his hat. Several stalls featured freshly cooked food, and the aromas assaulted Javik’s nose like a besieging army, reminding him there would be no meal until after the audience with the King.
The guards at the castle gate were bigger than his father or Goldar, they each leaned on swords nearly reaching to their chins. Their helmets shone brightly in the morning sun, and a fine, plate armor cuirass covered their chests. King Olgar was a mighty king, indeed.
Javik was even more impressed with the interior of the castle. Fireplaces ringed the great hall, and a fire burned in each one. Minute tiles arranged in intricate patterns covered the floor. Weapons captured from enemy warriors hung on the walls alongside the heads of fierce looking animals. Windows high in the walls admitted sunlight in golden shafts illuminating massive paintings of epic battles on the far wall. Torches blazed where the light from the windows or the fireplaces did not reach. Men and women dressed in clothes Javik never imagined could be so fine stood in groups around the King. The men were groomed to perfection, and the women were so beautiful Javik thought they must not be real. He looked down at his homespun attire and felt very poor.
The King sat on a gold, jewel-encrusted throne at the north end of the room. Four men stood around the throne, two on either side of the King; but the only one Javik recognized was Goldar. The first man on the King’s left was an elderly fellow in a bright blue tunic and buff-colored pants. His boots were soft brown leather, and a large, gold medallion hung from a heavy chain around his neck. Next to him stood a fierce looking man in black garb embroidered with silver thread depicting the symbol of his family. Goldar was on the King’s immediate right dressed in his battle clothes. The man next to Goldar was one of the priests of Zhou. Javik could tell this by his modest clothes and the wreath of holly on his head.
An older man, whom Buran identified as the Royal Seneschal, greeted Javik and his mother. He said they would be the first item the King would decide that day. They must be patient and only speak when spoken to. Javik thought King Olgar must be a very lazy man. By this time of day he’d finished all of his exercises, run his snare lines, cut several day’s supply of wood and practiced archery and fencing with the other boys. The King had not yet decided one case.
The hall began to fill with people. Some wore fine clothes and some were dressed in rags. Some held animals or led them with ropes. The smells of perfume mixed with the aroma of animal dung teasing his nose then evoking revulsion. The room buzzed with conversation in spite of the warnings of the Royal Seneschal. Javik had never seen so many people in one spot before. The Royal Seneschal moved to the front of the room, pounded his staff on the floor to gain silence then spoke in a voice resembling summer thunder.
“Hear me! Hear me! Hear me! All who have business with the Royal Court are urged to draw near and present their petitions to our most gracious King.”
He stepped back and the old man on the King’s left stepped forward. The Royal Seneschal handed him a scroll.
“That’s Nungore, the King’s chief counselor,” Buran whispered.
Nungore unrolled the scroll and called for Dana and Javik.
Javik felt his knees wobble as he walked to the throne. He was relieved when he knelt before the King.
“The Lady Dana and Javik, Son of Tolda, are here to accept your assignment, my lord,” Nungore intoned.
“Rise Lady Dana and Son of Tolda,” The King’s voice was soft, and he took Javik’s mother’s hand to help her up. “No warrior in my kingdom could compare to Tolda. We all feel his loss.”
The King moved to Javik and extended his hand palm down. Javik did not know what to do, but an unfamiliar and heavily accented voice from somewhere behind him whispered, “Kiss his ring.”
Javik took the King’s hand and pressed his lips to the large stone. The King grasped his hands and pulled the lad to his feet.
“Goldar tells me you’re worried about passing Mauhad.”
“Yes, Sire. I fear we will be assigned to a family where I will have no status, and no one will mentor me or recommend me for the test.”
The King studied the boy for a moment while the assembled crowd regained its composure after so brash an outburst by a mere boy. “Our law is clear in this matter. I have no choice.”
“But, you do, Sire,” Javik blurted out. The crowd gasped in astonishment. A boy not yet through Mauhad dared to remind the King of his duty. He could be whipped for such an insult. One of the King’s guards moved toward Javik, but the King held up a hand to stop him.
“You have your father’s audacity, young Javik. Your father often tried to remind me of my duty, but he was a valiant warrior and not a green lad. I will pardon your outburst for his sake, but I’ll not warn you again to hold your tongue. I am aware I could invoke the Blood Price. Certainly, your father’s bravery would warrant it; but that is an old custom last used by my grandfather. When the Kings were poor they needed the Blood Price to give rewards for bravery they could not give themselves. That is not so today.”
The King continued, “No, Javik, I will assign you and your mother to Browdat’s house. He is of your village and has asked that you be assigned to him. I believe he is sincere in wanting the best for both of you.”
Javik’s heart fell. Now they would be little more than slaves. Browdat’s son, Zuban, a young man recently through Mauhad, had a reputation for cruelty. He would have to live under Zuban’s thumb until he could complete Mauhad and set up a hearth of his own. That could take years – years of suffering the abuse of a cowardly bully. He fought back tears as the King continued.
“As a reward for Tolda’s service, I grant his lady twenty gold crowns.”
The crowd gasped again.