Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A National Anthem for England?

I’ve posted on this before, but I want to be more specific this time.

The British Government has recently debated whether there should be a National Anthem for England, specifically to be sung at sporting events. Scotland has Flower of Scotland, Wales has Hen Wlad fy Nhadau and Northern Ireland uses Londonderry Air. England has used the UK National Anthem, God Save the Queen but does not have one of its own.

Many people have asked for England to have its own Anthem for events when England competes alone. There have been three main ones and one other that does not seem to have many in favour, although personally, I think it would be the best. These contenders are: Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem. The unfavoured one is I Vow to Thee My Country.

1. Rule Britannia is not good because it is not England. It’s Britain. The name itself implies Britain. Also, most people don’t know the words except for the two-line chorus. (Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons {Not English, note} never, never, never shall be slaves.) Not a good anthem for England as it refers to Britons, which includes Irish, Scots and Welsh.

2. Land of Hope and Glory is a little better. It is very patriotic and a brilliant tune, but also very much of the 19th century. Can we, in all honesty, in the 21st century sing ‘Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set’? Imperalism gone mad!

3. The seemingly favoured one and one that has already been used at some sporting events. It was sung at the Commonwealth games, I believe, and I have heard it myself being sung at the current series of cricket matches against South Africa.

This is Jerusalem, of course. Brilliant tune, but what about the words?
Well, as I see it the title of the song is suspect. It’s Jerusalem, for goodness sake. Not London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, etc All good English cities, but Jerusalem, a city in the Middle East. Yes, it is important worldwide as the birthplace and holy city of 3 great religions, but it’s NOT ENGLISH. It’s a national Anthem for England we’re talking about here.

Then there are its religious connotations. It is quite unashamedly Christian.
‘And did those feet in ancient times...’ Whose feet? Jesus’ feet.
‘And was t he Holy Lamb of God...’ Who is the lamb of God? Jesus.
‘And did the countenace divine...’ Whose countenance was divine? Jesus’ countenance.

There are many people in the UK who do not subscribe to Chrisitianity. There are, of course, Hindus, Muslims, Buddists, Sikhs, Jews and many others who won’t be represented by this song, but also the atheists and agnostics and other non-church-going people. We are constantly being told about how the ethnic groups (specifically Muslims) should be encouraged to integrate, and yet a national anthem that will not include them is being seriously discussed.

Finally, on Jerusalem, it is associated with the Womens’ Institute. They sing it at all their meetings.

No, Jerusalem ought to be scrapped as an idea for an English National Anthem, as should any other with overt Christian overtones.

I Vow to Thee My Country is a hymn, yes, but the first verse certainly has no religious implications, just talking about loyalty to one’s country, which is what a National Anthem ought to be about. not vague wishes that Jesus may or may not have come to England, and a wish to build Jerusalem, a city torn apart by religious strife, in our country.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The story of Noni and Jovinda, Carthinal's Parents (The Wolves of Vimar Series)

A special messenger delivered the letter. Jovinda’s father took it into his study to open it, but Jovinda had already seen the Royal seal pressed into the wax sealing the message. She burned with curiosity. It was not often that a messenger came with a letter from the Royal Palace. She had to wait, though, until after the evening meal before her father told her what was in it.

The family sat down at the long table in the dining room. Jovinda fidgeted on her chair while Promin, the butler, served the soup.

‘Sit quietly, Jovinda,’ her mother said. ‘You’ll jog Promin and he’ll spill the soup.’

‘Besides, it’s not polite to squirm around at mealtimes,’ added her father. ‘I know why you are wriggling though. You are just curious as to the letter that came earlier. I’ll tell you about it after dinner, so have patience until then.’

Jovinda had to be satisfied with that and she managed to sit still while she ate her meal. Afterwards, her father called both Jovinda and her mother into his study. After they had sat down, he picked up the letter, lifted his glasses onto his nose and read it to them.

Jovinda was excited at what the letter said.
‘So I’m invited to the banquet as well?’ she queried, hardly able to believe it.

‘You are sixteen now, Jo,’ her mother said. ‘It’s time you went to be presented at court.’

Her father smiled at her excitement.

‘This banquet is in honour of the trade delegation from Rindissillaron,’ he told her. ‘All the leaders of the guilds and their families will be there, and as part of my family, and a young lady now of age, you are quite rightly included.’

Kendo, Jovinda’s father, was the supreme leader of all the trade guilds in Bluehaven and as such, would be involved in any trade treaties that might be signed between Grosmer and Rindissillaron, the elven homeland. This banquet, given by King Frome, was of great importance.

Ellire, Jovinda’s mother, smiled at the girl’s excitement.

‘We must get you a new dress,’ she said. ‘Tomorrow we’ll go to the dressmaker and choose some fabric and a style.’

The day of the banquet arrived. Jovinda’s parents had booked rooms in the Swan in Flight in Aspirilla, the capital of Grosmer. It was on an island known as Holy Isle because all the churches of the various gods had their headquarters there.

They took the short passage from Bluehaven to the island in the Inner Sea. From there it was a short journey to the Swan in Flight, where Kendo had booked rooms for them. It was the most expensive inn on the island, and probably in the whole of Grosmer. The landlord was more like the host of a large country house and treated his customers as important guests, leading them into the dining room from a comfortable lounge. Jovinda was most impressed.

Also staying at the inn was Jovinda’s best friend, Salor. Salor had been to Aspirilla before as she was almost a year older than Jovinda and so she was not quite so overwhelmed. Never-the-less, the two girls sat in a corner of the inn’s drawing-room chattering.

‘Do you think Prince Gerim will be there?’ Jovinda asked.

‘He might be, I suppose. Why are you asking? There’ll be elves there, Jovinda. Elves! I’ve never seen an elf. Do you think I might be seated near one?’

‘Why are you interested in elves?’

‘And why are you so interested in the prince? He’s younger than you, after all.’

‘Not by much, and anyway, he’ll be king when his father dies and whoever marries him will be queen.’

Salor laughed. ‘He’ll be able to have his pick of all the girls in Grosmer. He’ll pick a noble girl I expect. I don’t think he’ll look at the likes of us.’

The girls continued to chatter until their parents told them that, of age or not, they should retire for the night.

Jovinda and her parents stood at the top of the stairs leading down to the reception room in the Palace. Jovinda scanned the room looking for Prince Gerim. The prince was not quite sixteen, but would probably be at such an important banquet as the heir to the throne. She did not notice the young elf watching her as she descended the stairs.

Ellire had wanted Jovinda to have her hair done in one of the elaborate styles that was so popular, but the girl refused. She was proud of her auburn locks and the way they curled gently round her face. She wore it in a simple style that made her seem rather vulnerable. She had refused to wear an elaborate dress as well, and the simple folds of the green velvet she wore enhanced the look of innocence.

She partook of a glass of Perimo, a sparkling wine from the islands and spoke to many of her parents’ friends and acquaintances, feeling very grown up. Then she was presented to the king and royal family as it was her first adult social occasion.

Prince Gerim was indeed there, and she agreed that he was indeed a handsome young man, and thought that if she could catch his attention, the fact that he was younger than she was, would not make any difference. It was only a few months anyway.

Then the call came for them to go into the banqueting hall and be seated. Jovinda was surprised to be seated well away from her parents. She found herself seated between a young man she knew slightly, as his father was the head of the leatherworkers’ guild, and a handsome young elf.

This elf had been watching her as she walked around talking to people in the reception. He turned to her and asked her name.

‘Jovinda,’ she replied. ‘What’s yours?’

He laughed. ‘I doubt you’d be able to pronounce it,’ he said with a smile that lit up his deep blue eyes.

‘Try me.’

‘Well, it’s Nonimissalloran, but you can call me Noni. All my friends do,’

Jovinda thought the young elf very handsome, but then all the elves were. His extraordinary eyes fascinated her. They were slanting, like those of all elves, but it was their colour that took her attention. They were a deep blue. Much deeper than any eyes she had ever seen before. And his conversation amused her too. She found that she was no longer interested in capturing the attention of Prince Gerim.

All too soon the evening ended and Jovinda and her parents took a carriage back to The Swan in Flight. They were leaving the next morning for the ferry back to Bluehaven. Jovinda found herself hoping that she would see Noni again. After all, if he stayed with the delegation, then he would be based in Bluehaven. She smiled at this thought.

The day after they got back home in the richer quarter of Bluehave a bouquet of flowers came addressed to Jovinda, the most beautiful girl at the King’s banquet. It was signed Nonimissalloran of House Diplomat.

Jovinda was delighted with the thought that Noni had remembered her, and especially as the most beautiful girl at the banquet. She told Salor, who laughed and told her that she had soon forgotten her ambitions of being queen.

Jovinda looked at her and smiled. ‘Oh, I’ve not forgotten that,’ she said. ‘Can’t I enjoy the flattery of a handsome elf as well?’

But it was not just that. Noni came to call on her a few days later. The two went for a walk in a park not far away from Jovinda’s home. Jovinda found that she liked the elf more and more, and as the day wore on, it became obvious that the feeling was returned.

She could hardly believe that such a handsome man as Noni was could be interested in her. She talked to Salor about him until the other girl said. ‘It seems you have now forgotten about marrying Prince Gerim, them.’

‘Oh, that was just a silly girl’s pipe dream. Noni is so much better than any prince could be.’
‘Are you sure it’s not just his difference that attracts you?’

‘Oh, Salor, how can you say such a thing. He’s handsome, witty, kind, interesting and oh, everything a girl could wish for.’

But that was not what her parents thought. One day Ellire called Jovinda into the drawing room.
‘Jo, dear,’ said her mother, ‘Please sit down. I must talk to you.’

Ellire looked so serious that Jovinda thought that someone must be sick or even have died.
‘What is it, Mother?’ she queried as she sat in a comfortable chair opposite Ellire.

‘We must talk about that young man, Noni, dear.’

Jovinda was on her guard immediately. What was her mother going to say? They liked Noni, she knew, and while they had not exactly encouraged their friendship, they had not prevented the pair from seeing each other. She waited to see what was coming next.

‘While it seemed the pair of you were just friends we had no worries about you seeing each other, but recently it looks to both your father and me that you are becoming more than just friends.’

‘And what if we are? He loves me, Mother, and I him.’

Ellire sighed as tears came into her eyes

‘Darling,’ she said, ‘this cannot be. You are human and he’s an elf.’

Jovinda pressed her lips together and clenched her fists.

‘Don’t tell me you’re objecting because he’s different? He may be an elf and have had a different background and upbringing, but we agree on so many things. We’re friends as well as lovers. We laugh at the same things, get angry at the same things, enjoy the same things...’

‘Jo, Jo, I’m not against him personally. I think he’s a very nice man, and if he were anything other than an elf I would not hesitate to agree to your relationship, but he is an elf.’

‘What difference does that make?’ retorted her daughter.

‘Quite a lot, actually. Elves live very long lives. I’m not quite sure how long, but some say nine hundred years. Humans live for seventy or eighty at the most. Darling, you will be an old, old woman while Noni is still young. Do you think he, a young man, will want to stay with an old woman?’

‘He will. We’ve talked about this Mother. He’s promised he won’t abandon me when I get old. He says he’ll love me forever. Do you and Father not love one another even though you are both getting old?’

Ellire laughed. ‘Hardly old, dear. I’m only forty and your father forty-four. Anyway, we are both growing old together. That makes a big difference.’

‘Does it? What about Indro Manibrow? He left his wife for a younger woman only last year.’

Ellire sighed again. ‘Your father and I are both in agreement that this must end before you get hurt, and get hurt you will if it goes on. It cannot be allowed to get to the point where marriage is being considered. You must not see Noni again, Jovinda.'

At that, Jovinda burst into tears and fled to her room, threw herself onto her bed and sobbed herself to sleep.

Little did Jovinda know, but Noni was having a similar conversation. He had come to Bluehaven in the company of his father. As a novice in diplomacy, he had much to learn and his father thought his son would learn a lot from seeing diplomats working at first hand.

‘Son,’ said Noni’s father, ‘I must ask you to desist from seeing this human girl.’

Noni wrinkled his brow. ‘Why? Don’t you like her?’

‘Yes, I like her a lot, and if she were an elf, I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage the relationship. But she’s not an elf. She’s a human and that makes all the difference.’

‘Father, surely you aren’t one of those elves who think all humans inferior to us?’

‘Of course not, boy. But humans are different. They have very short lives. How will you feel watching your love grow old and infirm while you are still young and healthy? How will you feel when she is sick and in pain and you watch her dying?’

‘Father, I love her and I will to the end of my days. I will love her young or old, healthy or sick. I will not abandon her as she grows old.’

‘I’m sorry, my son, but I must forbid you from seeing her. I speak as both your father and the leader of this mission.’

Noni turned and stalked away, back to his rooms and stood at his window brooding and trying to think of away out of this.

Find out what happens to Jovinda and Noni next month on the third Tuesday. Will they overcome their parents’ disapproval or will the affair have to end?

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

5 more commonly confused words

Since I started writing about these words, more and more are coming to my notice. I suppose it’s because I’m now looking out for them. Some can be quite amusing, like in a previous blog when I talked about vicious and viscous.
A pupil wanted to say that a liquid became more VISCOUS, i.e. thicker and less runny. In fact, he said it became more VICIOUS.

Here are this week’s words.


Advise is a verb. It is what you do. You advise someone.
e.g. I would advise you not to put all your money in the same shares.

Advice is a noun. It is what you give.
e.g. My advice to you is not to put all your money in the same shares.

 Comprise/Compose

Comprise means to include.
e.g. The house comprised five bedrooms.

Compose means to make up.
e.g The hamper was composed of a bottle of wine, a ham, a box of dates and a goose.

 Lie/lay

Lie is to recline.
e.g. My back hurts when I lie down.

Lay is to put an object down.
e.g. The man came to lay the carpet in the hall, or Lay the book on that table, please.

 Defective/Deficient

Defective means that something does not work.
e.g. When I tried the new camera I had bought, I found it to be defective.

Deficient means that something is missing.
e.g. When the doctor analysed the results of the girl’s blood test he found she was deficient in iron.

Oh, here is one that people always get wrong.

 Hung/Hanged

Hung refers to an object.
e.g. He hung his coat in the cloakroom.

Hanged refers to a person or other living thing.
e.g. One argument against capital punishment is that if a person is found to be innocent after they have been hanged it’s too late to do anything about it.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Wolf Pack. Mountains. The companions meet with cold and danger in the Mountains of Doom.


They walked on for the next couple of days, a growing companionship gradually forming between the disparate members of the group. It was true that they knew little of each other, but none of them felt it was important. What lay in the past of each individual was gone, and what they were now was what was important.

There was still some uneasiness between Asphodel and Carthinal. Carthinal was determined that he was not going to allow any deepening of the feelings he had towards the elf since he was convinced in his own mind that he would bring her nothing but grief. She was a cleric, after all. How could she possibly care for such as he, and so he treated her with some coolness determining not to show her that he cared for her. Anyway, he reasoned, she had given him little reason to be encouraged. She had implied that what had happened on Grillon’s night was just that—something that happened to celebrate the Equinox and Parador’s return to Grillon.

Asphodel in her turn, believing that Grillon’s night had meant nothing particular to Carthinal, was treating him with the same coolness, equally determined not to show him her hurt.

Then at about noon, they reached a place where the road split. One road, a narrower path, continued on the right bank of the Brundella, in a northeasterly direction, while the other road, obviously the main road, crossed the river by a bridge and continued eastwards. There was a stone set at the junction that had an arrow pointing to the north, with the legend: High Pass to Pelimor. The other arrow pointed south, and read: Berandore, Erian and Rindissillaron.

They had not banked on this split in the road, so they stopped to decide the way to go. Several of the group thought they should continue southwards across the bridge since that was the main road, but Asphodel did not join in with their assertions. In fact, her face suggested that she did not wish to travel that way. Basalt ventured to ask her what was wrong, but she did not reply.

Then she said, realisation dawning on her face, ‘I recognise this place. It’s the place from my dream. The man, the scribe, was sitting on that stone.’ She pointed to a large boulder at the base of the signpost. ‘He said....’ here she paused, frowning as she tried to remember... ‘He said: “Here lies a choice. You can take the easy road and go to Berandore and the lands to the east, or you can take the difficult path through the high mountains towards the land of Pelimor. Much rides on your decision. You must choose correctly or you may be too late.”’

Basalt sat down heavily on the stone that Asphodel had indicated that the stranger had been seated on in her dream. ‘How are we supposed to make a decision then,’ he asked. ‘We may just as well toss a coin.’

They all seemed to slump.

‘“If we make the wrong decision, it may be too late.” What does that mean? That the Sword will be gone? That we may never find the valley? Or that something else will happen?’ asked Randa.
Then Thadora’s eyes lit up. She pointed to the left, up the road to the High Pass. ‘That’s the way,’ she exclaimed.

‘How you know?’ queried Davrael. ‘How you so sure?’

‘You remember th’ fortune-teller in Roffley? Yeah? Well, I didn’t tell you what she said, did I? She said some damn weird things that I didn’t really understand, but she told me that th’ easy path were not always th’ correct one. If I chose that, I would live a comfortable life, but that it would, like, be so bad for the world, or somethin’ like that. So we take the difficult path—the High Pass, right?’

‘Hmmph!’ grunted Basalt. ‘Those fortune-tellers are usually charlatans if you ask me. They seem to say what you want to hear. Wouldn’t base my life on what one told me.’

‘He’s right there, Thadora,’ responded Fero ‘but there are some genuine ones,’ he told the dwarf.
‘Maybe yours was one of them,’ he said, turning back to Thadora.

‘I think she were. Genuine, I mean,’ replied the girl. ‘She told me things she shouldn’t have been able to. It so spooked me.’

‘Even if she were genuine, I think she was probably referring to life choices, not an actual physical path,’ Randa said.

‘There’s another thing,’ Thadora spoke quietly. ‘I went back to ’er wagon th’ next day. I wanted ter know ’ow she bloody well knew so much about me. Not to consult ’er again, but ter snoop around an’ see ’ow she operates, like. It was bleedin’ gone. ’Er wagon, that is. Maybe there’s nothin’ real strange about that, but when I asked th’ other Wanderers, they seemed ter know nothin’ ’bout ’er. She’d arrived just afore we went ter see ’er, an’ ’ad gone th’ next mornin’. Almost as if she came specially ter see me. That’s so creepy!’

Then Carthinal spoke. He had been listening to the arguments carefully and had come to a decision. ‘We’ll take the High Pass,’ he said. ‘We have to go one way or the other, and as we have no other clues, we must decide based on what we know. The only help we have is Thadora’s clairvoyant, genuine or false. I think we should eat something before we continue too. It’s nearly the sixth hour and I for one am getting hungry.’

After they had eaten, Asphodel suddenly said, ‘I remember now. The man in my dream also said something along the lines of not taking the easy path. I think he pointed towards the High Pass, and told me of unexpected help along the way too.’

‘Hey, that's what she said an’ all.’ exclaimed Thadora. ‘Th’ bloody fortune-teller, I mean. She said I’d find unexpected help or summat too.’

They decided to take the northerly path. Not all of them were entirely in agreement, but since they had to go one way or another, and they had all come to look on Carthinal as their leader, with perhaps the exception of Randa, they reluctantly went along the road leading to the High Pass. The road, if it could be called such, continued to wind its way through the foothills of the Mountains of Doom. The mountains towered above them and it began to seem that they would never reach them. They had finally crossed the river, which continued in a more northerly direction, whilst the road carried on towards the northeast.

It took them several days walking over these wooded hills before the track began to ascend the mountains proper. They were all carrying wood that they had collected in the forest since in the high mountains no trees would grow and they knew they would need to light fires at night as, although spring was coming in the lowlands, it would still be very cold in the high mountains. Each carried as much wood as they could manage, but Carthinal still worried that it would be insufficient to get them over the pass, not knowing how long it was, nor how high it went.

Soon after leaving the woods, winter seemed to descend on them once more. There were pockets of snow lying in shady patches where the sun had not warmed the ground, and it became noticeably colder. They all donned warm cloaks and pulled them tightly round their bodies to protect themselves from the teeth of the icy wind. There was less and less game the higher they climbed and eventually Carthinal called for rationing of their supplies of dried food. They ate only in the evening, and, having walked all day with gnawing hunger, slept at night to the sound of rumbling stomachs.

‘In ’Ambara, it seemed so cool to run away and join this adventure. Now it just seems cold,’ Thadora remarked to no one in particular. ‘Even sleepin’ in th’ soddin’ sewers sounds good. At least it’d be out of this blasted wind.’

‘Down there in the valley, I felt I never wanted to eat rabbit ever again,’ observed Randa pensively, ‘Now a nice rabbit stew would seem like a king’s banquet.’

‘Sleep,’ put in Asphodel. ‘A nice warm hayloft. Even prickly hay would seem a comfort.’

Carthinal looked at her sharply, but her face was blank and she was not looking in his direction. He shrugged.

‘The desert,’ Fero recollected, ‘Is hot and dry, but it would be preferable to this cold, wet snow,’ as he shook some of the offending stuff from off his boots.

They trudged onward and upward, through the mountains, making only very slow progress. Maybe they would end their lives in these mountains. One day seemed to flow into the next, until it seemed they had never done anything but climb and shiver. Their fires at night did little to warm them. The air seemed so cold that it sucked all the heat from the fire. Basalt even considered if it was possible for a fire to burn with cold flames instead of hot, but he was so cold and exhausted that his mind refused to co-operate with his musings.

They climbed for several days. Carthinal had strapped his staff onto his back, as it was now a hindrance since he required both hands free to climb. Each evening he studied Mabryl’s spell book to see if there was anything to help them. There wasn’t. The path became narrower and narrower until they thought they would be unable to pass. In places it seemed to cling to the side of the mountain, and they had to travel in single file and shuffle along close to the mountainside. Cloud descended from time to time, they became wet with the condensation in it, and the path climbed relentlessly, ever upwards.

‘I can’t go on. Leave me ’ere,’ cried Thadora one morning.

‘Get up and stop whining, girl,’ snapped Carthinal.

Tears welled in her eyes and she turned away, but made no move to rise.

‘Do you make a habit of upsetting women, half-elf?’

Basalt came up and gave Carthinal a push. The mage’s face took on a feral and dangerous look. He looked like the wolf from which the group had taken its name.

‘Don’t push me like that, dwarf.’ he snarled. ‘Don’t ever push me like that again.’

‘You deserve pushing,’ growled the dwarf, not at all deterred by Carthinal’s look. ‘First Asphodel, now Thadora. You’ve twice upset Asphodel. Once when Mabryl died, with your thoughtless comments, and again after Grillon’s night when you ignored her after spending the night with her. Now you’ve no consideration for a young girl not yet sixteen! Look at them, Carthinal. They’re spent. We’ll not make it over the mountains like this.’

Carthinal looked round. Thadora was still sitting wrapped in her blankets, sobbing. Asphodel was slowly and reluctantly folding her blankets, looking pale and drawn. Kimi and Davrael sat, arms around each other, all but propping each other up. Randa was listlessly pulling a comb through her silvery hair, and even Fero was standing slumped against a rock, not even watching Randa comb the hair that so fascinated him.

Carthinal’s anger evaporated as quickly as it had come when he saw his little band.

‘Accept my apologies, Bas,’ he said, ‘You’re right. We can’t keep pushing ourselves. I’m anxious to get over the highest part of these mountains before we run out of fuel and food, but I don’t suppose it’ll help if we die of exhaustion in the process.’

Therefore, he called for a day of rest. Thadora curled back gratefully into her blankets and was quickly asleep again. Carthinal spoke to Asphodel about the food situation and they agreed to have an extra ration that day, even if it meant going hungry later. So they rested and slept for the rest of that day.

During the following night two things happened. Firstly the wood ran out, and then it began to snow. Carthinal and Randa were on watch when the first few flakes fell. It was an hour before dawn, and by the time it arrived, the snow was falling heavily.

‘We should find some shelter if possible,’ said Randa.

‘We’re out of wood, too,’ remarked Fero.

They shook the snow off their bedding and rolled it up into their packs and then with cloaks pulled firmly round them and hoods over their heads, they trudged on.

It was Davrael who first saw the footprint (to Fero’s chagrin, as he felt he had let them down by not noticing it.) It was huge. Much larger that the largest human footprint could possibly have been. It was also the print of a bare foot.

‘What is it? What could possibly have made such a footprint?’ asked Kimi, drawing closer to Davrael. He absently put an arm round her.

‘Yeti,’ responded Fero, hunkering down to look at the print more closely.

‘What’s a Yeti?’ asked Thadora.

‘A large beast of the mountains.’ Fero looked up at her. ‘Few people have seen them, but then few people come so high. They are said to look vaguely human, but are much bigger. Some say nine or ten feet, but that may be an exaggeration.’

‘That print’s big enough for that,’ pointed out Randa.

‘They’re supposed to be covered in long white or grey hair,’ continued Fero as though no one had spoken, ‘And are said to be very savage. It has been said that they’ll eat human, dwarf or elf flesh if they can get it. That may well be true as there’s little enough to eat up here, and the only reports brought back have been distant sightings. No one seems to have seen them close—or at least to have returned with the tale.’ He stood once more, then continued, ‘That print must be quite fresh. It would have been covered in snow else.’

‘Even a blind gnome would be able to tell that,’ mumbled Basalt. He was ignored.

‘We look out then,’ said Davrael. ‘Maybe we take turns for scout ahead.’

‘No!’ Carthinal was adamant. ‘We stick together. In this weather it would be too easy for someone to get lost. In fact, Fero, where’s your rope?’

The snow was continuing to fall, perhaps even harder. It was beginning to become difficult to see the path.

‘Good idea, Carthinal. Everyone slip the rope through your belt so no one can get lost.’

This they did, and then they continued on their way. None of them were happy at the prospect of running into the large, fierce Yeti, and everyone listened and strained their eyes to see any shadows looming through the snowstorm. Eventually, Randa realised that they seemed to have lost the path. At least to her feet it did not seem to be a path they were on.

She called to Carthinal to tell him. It was nearing nightfall, although the day had been so dark it was difficult to tell, so Carthinal called a halt, hoping to retrace their steps if the snow stopped the following day if indeed they had lost the path.

There was no fire that night. They huddled together to try to get some warmth from each other. A watch was set, but it seemed useless in the blizzard as nothing could be seen. Soon, they did fall asleep one by one, even the watch. They all drifted into that pleasant dreamy sleep said to overcome people lost in the snow. They did not hear the soft footsteps approach, nor see the gigantic shadows fall over them.