A novice #fivewords

Weekly Writing Challenge #167



Their clear voices rose above the valley, as the bell called the novices to practice. They were there to serve, to prepare for the day when they might be accepted, but none of them had any clue as to what they would have to endure.

Picture: South Portal of Chartres Cathedral, Martyrs, By Medieval sculptor – photo TTaylor, 2005, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=888289

Circle #writephoto




They were six of them, and their leader may have been Galahad. There, they fought, back to back, from one dawn to the next, for days and nights, against the armies of Evil.

There they died, for, then, knights never surrendered. And there, the circle of stones remind us: the battle continues, and they watch us, puzzled, at times amused, more often annoyed. So much effort, for such so small people…

Distant #writephoto




Around them the circle of stones would be their refuge, their protectors against the demons of the night. She looked away toward the snow-covered hills:

“There will be our home. In the morning we will cross those fields, and then climb up. But tonight we will rest. The ancient warriors are there: look! They were expecting us…”

She showed him the stones, some erect, some lying, as if asleep.

He felt, somehow, reassured: they were now in her country, not so far from them, he knew, they would soon meet her tribe. He would follow the rites. He would shed his blood. Later, they would receive him in their rank.

Later still, they would have a child.

Mists #writephoto




The ground was frozen, and as he looked up at the pale disc of their star, recognising the landscape in the mists, inhaling the air, he remembered the desert, the infinite sand, the temples in the dunes. He was back. After all these years. Who would recognise him now? He had been a young man then, almost a boy still, who liked to play in those fields, who enjoyed feeling his growing strength, his supple body… He remembered their departure, the colours of the flags, the hymns, the long line of young men, just like him. He remembered her face, the laughter, the cries, the prayers – the wind in her hair.

He remembered the sand, rivers of blood flowing in the sand, the scorching heat of the day, the frozen nights… So many dreams scattered to the desert winds. Now, he was alone, perhaps the only one to have come back.

But who was left who would recognise this ghost, lost in the mists?


A new mission




This was the city of her childhood, the young officer knew its streets and buildings by heart. On the newly opened strategic highway she’d overtaken a long line of armour and missiles carriers, moving north in the direction of the ceasefire line, shaking the ground at the slow pace of prehistoric giants. “Someone is on the move,” she thought, “and not lightly armed”.

The austere building of Military Intelligence HQ, in D…, was off the new road, near the reconstructed airport, where, for months, fierce fighting had raged, only fifteen years back, when the enemy’s hordes were shelling the city, days and nights. Sophie Lavinsky was a little girl then, and she remembered the bombing, the dark basement, the fear, her mother’s anger. She also remembers the days, when, finally, the province had been liberated, the celebrations, the overwhelming sense of triumph, and her decision, at seventeen, to commit her life to the defence of her country. As she approached the entrance, and showed her pass to the guards, she thought of her mother, who had taught her the lessons of the Great War, and the sweet taste of victory. She parked her car near the Commanding officer’s building. Near the door a platoon of troopers in combat gear saluted her, she returned the salute with a smile. She climbed the stairs, checking her uniform and cap.
She knocked at the door, under a sign that said: “Colonel Maria Suvorov, 3rd section”. The third section was the German section, charged with intelligence gathering on Alliance troop movements in Germany, and in Eastern countries. A clear authoritative woman’s voice told her to come in. At the door Sophie saluted, a little stiffly, and stood to attention. Colonel Suvorov was walking toward her and shook her hand: “Welcome comrade! Sophie, this is general xxx who is taking part in our our briefing this morning.”
The older man stood up, and smiled. Sophie saw the lines of campaign colours on his uniform jacket: from all parts of the world where the Federation had fought in the past decades… A single golden star medal was pinned to his breast. “Good morning comrade, please sit down. Colonel Suvorov has told me about you, lieutenant Lavinsky, and of your exploits at the last joint forces olympic games.” Sophie blushed.
She had won the gold medal at the pentathlon, no small feat given the level of competition. They sat around a round table. A young NCO brought tea in silver cups. The small office was spartan. On the wall hanged various photographs of soldiers, in majority women. One photograph was of a younger Maria Suvorov, in the Syrian desert.

Colonel Suvorov looked at a note pad in front of her, and then to Sophie, a direct gaze the young woman held. “There is very likely to be a change in… “our friends’s policy,” she said addressing Sophie, and looking from time to time to the general. “Our friends” was pronounced with only a thin veil of irony. “Soon, events on the northern coast cities will force us to intervene. The intervention will be massive, and there will be no cease fire line, this time, until we are deep, deep enough to eliminate any shred of doubt about our resolve, in the minds of their politicians.” She added, after a pause, “of course we will limit the casualties.”
“You should know,” the general said, while Sophie was registering the meaning of the colonel’s words, “that the mission we are about to explain to you, is of the utmost importance to that future campaign. We need, promptly, better intelligence on the population mood in the old territories, and specifically, Berlin. We have agents there, but we need fresh eyes and ears to confirm, and possibly correct, some of the intelligence we have.”
There was another pause, Sophie was listening, knowing better than asking questions at this point. The colonel resumed: “We are sending you to Berlin for a short mission, a snapshot, with two main objectives. One, as the general just said, is to take a view of the spirit of the residents, their state of mind, now, and after the events I have alluded to. We expect a favourable change in popular sentiment after that, but we have to be sure. Two, is to probe the stance, particularly, of the English speaking expatriate community in the city. As you know US neutrality, now that they are virtually out of of the Alliance, is no longer an issue: it’s an incontrovertible fact. Yet we have to know what westerners there think, what their concerns are, how their views of the Federation change, before and after we take action. I should add, for your understanding, that, in due course, there will be a new division of the country…” Colonel Suvorov smiled before adding, “this time not temporary.”

The general asked Sophie: “Do you have any burning question so far, comrade?” Sophie realised a new step was about to be taken in her life. “Only about the timeline for those events, and my move, Sir.” – “You are leaving tomorrow, the rest of today is about providing you with detailed information about where, who and what, and your contacts there. You are fluent in both German and English, as well as French,” the colonel replied, “so, in addition to your well honed skills as an intelligence officer, you are the perfect choice for this mission. Events in the north are already at boiling point, as you know. We expect a serious provocation to take place within two or three months, possibly earlier. Our response will follow swiftly, within a couple hours…”

Viktoria Park II, ©2017 Honoré Dupuis

Photo: The reconstructed Cathedral of Transfiguration of Jesus in Donetsk. Source: Sergiy Klymenko

#AtoZChallenge2015: Jousting

Feeling in a medieval mood? Well, read on, damsels and jouveanceaux!

Two knights in jousting armour, from the Turnierbuch of Maximilian I (Hans Burgkmair the Younger, ca. 1540)Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horsemen each wielding a lance with a blunted tip, often as part of a tournament. The primary aim is to strike the opponent with the jousting sticks while riding towards him at high speed, if possible breaking the lance on the opponent’s shield or jousting armour, or unhorsing him.

Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. It transformed into a specialised sport during the Late Middle Ages, and remained popular with the nobility both in England and Germany throughout the whole of the 16th century (while in France, it was discontinued after the death of King Henry II in an accident in 1559).[1] In England, jousting was the highlight of the Accession Day tilts of Elizabeth I and James I, and also was part of the festivities at the marriage of Charles I.[2]

Jousting was discontinued in favour of other equestrian sports in the 17th century, although non-contact forms of “equestrian skill-at-arms” disciplines survived. There has been a limited revival of theatrical jousting re-enactment since the 1970s.

The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism and hence in the depiction of the Middle Ages in popular culture. Jousting matches were notably depicted in Ivanhoe (1820).

The term joust is derived from Old French joster, ultimately from a Late Latin iuxtare “to approach, to meet”. The word was loaned into Middle English around 1300, when jousting was a very popular sport among the Anglo-Norman knighthood. The synonym tilt dates ca. 1510.”

Image: “Turnierbuch (Hans Burgkmair) 13” by Hans Burgkmair – http://www.uoregon.edu/~dluebke/Reformations441/441Week02.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turnierbuch_(Hans_Burgkmair)_13.jpg#/media/File:Turnierbuch_(Hans_Burgkmair)_13.jpg