Archive for November, 2009

Horses I Have Known: Captain

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2009 by Jaym Gates

No, there’s no horse-training for a couple of weeks. However, I am with my own horses in CA, and so my cup runneth over with happiness. I’ve missed the boys.

I’ve talked a lot about Big Man and Romeo, who might as well be twins (similar age even), but I’ve not mentioned Captain too much, and that’s a shame.

See, this is a horse of many names. Many, many names. They range from the relatively dignified ‘Captain’ to the not-so-dignified-but-more-apropos ‘You goddamned bastard LUG!’. Yeah.

We’ve technically owned Cap for…almost 11 years. Which means he’s about 18 I think. Getting up there. We actually bought him literally a few days before Sep. 11, two days before my baptism, etc. We paid a grand total of $950 for one of the best horses I’ve ever had.

The official story is that was imported from New Zealand as a harness-racer. He’s got the neck-brand and lip-tattoo (it’s quite fun showing people the lip tattoo, because Cap does not approve.), he’s got the speed, etc. etc. His papers were apparently lost at some point though.

Cap is one of those horses that, taken as the sum of his parts, is one fantastically comical-looking creatures. He’s so slab-sided you could use his ribs for a table. He’s got a Roman nose on a hammer-head, mule-ears topping it off (and those ears never point the same direction). His neck is thin and what is called a ewe-neck: curved underneath rather than crested like it should be. He has thick knees, huge hooves and a big belly. All together, he should be pretty ugly, and to be honest, he was when we first saw him.

Riding him at first was like trying to pilot a twenty-mule wagon by yourself. I seem to recall having to literally drop one rein, grab the other in both hands, and brace against his sides with my knees to turn him. He has the remarkable talent for walking straight ahead while he nibbles at your feet. I could sit and kick him for five minutes before he’d get annoyed and walk off, swishing his tail, and he stopped about half a mile after he was told to. He could sort of coil up his neck and toss his head with the accuracy and lethality of a mace.

Altogether, I remember wondering, how the hell did I get myself stuck with this?. At the time we got Captain, my riding horse was a neurotic Thoroughbred/Quarterhorse cross with more beauty than brains, so Captain’s solid, quick intelligence made them somewhat of a Beauty and Beast pairing.

I remember the first time we started seeing Captain’s real…personality. My grandmother and I were riding out on the extensive roads around our property when Captain just decided to stop and take a nap. We couldn’t budge him. We kicked his sides, pulled on his bridle, slapped his rump, everything we could think of. Nothing. He just stood there and grunted. Of course, being about two miles from home at this point–and trust me, riding boots are not made for walking cross-country–we rather wanted him to move.

I finally broke a twig to use as a switch. Extreme, as I don’t use crops on my horses, but we couldn’t think of anything else. At this point, my grandmother was sitting on his back, holding my horse.

Captain opened one eye. He stared at the switch for a moment, sniffed it, and snorted. Well, that was a start. I handed it to my grandmother, and Cap came alive. He swung off down the trail, dragging my horse behind him. (For the record, he has long, long legs. And about a ten-foot stride, at a casual walk.)

We’d found his kryptonite. From then on, all we had to do was REACH for a bush if he stopped, and he’d snort, fling his head and huff off.

It’s his only vice, stopping.

He’s learned to steer. He jumps amazingly, although he has bad knees and we don’t jump him. He’s only bucked once, because my uncle was riding and decided to try and make Cap run. Cap doesn’t like men telling him what to do, and so he tossed his heels once, and never again.

Captain protects the property. For a while, we had at least one mountain lion living near us. Since we were out in the country, on property with a lot of oak trees, I worried incessantly about our yearlings and our old pony. So we put Captain, big, aggressive, dog-killing Captain, out in the big pasture with the weaker horses.

One night, the dogs were barking. They barked for a while, and we heard a ruckus in the pasture, but couldn’t see anything. The next morning, when I went out to feed him, Captain came strutting in, high-headed and lathered. He wasn’t interested in food, he wanted to see me, which was the first indication that he was upset. Nothing distracts Cap from food. He was muddy, his eyes were rolling and white-ringed, he snorted like he’d just run a race, and he kept circling, staring out over the pasture, rattling his nostrils in an exceptionally aggressive show. He was acting like a herd-stallion with a predator nearby.

And his legs were cut and caked with mud and blood. So were his hooves. Claw-marks, quite a few of them, but only on his lower legs. Mtn. lions lie in trees and drop onto their prey, breaking the prey’s neck with a bite. Most horses can’t get rid of a lion. Captain had been fighting one though, I’d bet anything on it. It was summer. There shouldn’t have been mud on his hooves, and he didn’t bleed that much.

After that, we never worried about the yearling’s safety. Oddly, there were no more mountain lion sightings either. We still call him Killer and treat him like the herd stallion.

Captain has too much story to fit into one post. He loves water. He swims, he drinks from a hose and sprays it at the humans. He chases dogs with the intention to kill, and cats too, but he’s never been the slightest bit aggressive to a human.

But my favorite memory of him is from a few years ago, after I moved out. He was by himself, out in the big front pasture. I went outside, long after dark, because it was summer and I needed to see the stars. I sat down on the driveway that went through the pasture, and he came over to see what I was doing. With a 1200 pound horse nosing around in my lap, lipping at my pockets and nipping at the dog, his hooves literally brushing against my hips, I knew I could trust him not to hurt me. And finally, he stood behind me, his front legs against my back, and his head hanging in my lap, and went to sleep. We must have been there an hour. I was never afraid that he would spook and run me over, never worried about him charging a dog over me, or stomping or biting.

Not many horses you can say that about, and I’d be the first to say, I’m glad Captain made a long, long trip from the other end of the world to come live in my pasture. I like to think he’s happy with the journey too.

Bestiary: Shep-Sin

Posted in writing with tags , , on November 25, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Shep-Sin: A creature of myth. Vampiric, it feeds on human flesh and blood of people it kills. Only targets people that are not known to be dead. A particularly gruesome creature… it assumes the form of the victim and slips into the victim’s family, where it kills as many as it can. As long as it can kill, it maintains form. When there is no more blood kin, it has to go out and kill again.

Feeding is done by gutting the victim and feeding on the heart, brain, reproductive organs, eyes, tongue, liver and stomach. Steals bits of hair, teeth and nails to keep in a pouch around neck. This ties the ghosts to the beast. These will be slowly melded together until another Shep-Sin is created. These are the ones who do not have to be summoned, but they are weaker and cannot procreate.

Shep-Sin is a name also given to outcasts or lost kin. If someone has been gone for more than a believable amount of time, they are automatically assumed to be a Shep-Sin, and are never allowed into the family again. Such people, if they are Shep-Sin, are usually either killed on sight or simply waste away because the community bands together to starve the creature out of existence.

So, you want a sacrifice?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Chai, cookies and…human sacrifice? I can’t wait to see who finds my blog using what search-terms now.

Nightmare has a very, very strong religion ruling the country of Haven. It’s based somewhat on the major modern religions in its view of purity, sin and salvation, and based on the old religions in its ceremonies and rites.

One of those rites is human sacrifice. Willing (sometimes) human sacrifice.

Which meant I have to do research to figure out how many ways people can creatively off themselves, and others, in the name of worship.

Never do this before breakfast. It’s horrific. The sheer numbers and sadism in the name of worship…*sigh*

Examples to come…later. Much later.

Nightmare Excerpt: 11/21

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2009 by Jaym Gates

“Welcome to the Free Army,” said Dream softly. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

“How are they doing?”

“There have been clashes between the Remnants and the Restless, but so far, we’ve managed to control the chaos.”

“Lots of Remnants?”

Dream nodded.

“Do we have the power to run all of them?”

“Mask visited the Sky People last month, brought six more shamans with her. They are exhausting
themselves, but our Remnants are running fine.”

Dream grinned suddenly. “We have two Behemoth Remnants. Our Bloody Bones got ahold of them, and they didn’t know what had hit them.”

“Show me!”

Like two little boys with candy, they trotted through the camp to the holding pens, where the Remnants were kept until they were trustworthy. The haul had been impressive, half a dozen Bloody Bones guarded three chained Memories, several new Bloody Bones, a Greenteeth Hag, and there, at the back, two sprawled Behemoths.

The guards clicked and clattered, picking open the gates with clever-quick fingers, letting Chance and Dream enter. The Remnants, mindless and drugged, barely moved.

Chance leaned over the smaller Behemoth, his nose wrinkling at the smell of so much unwashed flesh. Muscle, armor and bone twisted around what had once been a man’s body. Ten men had been dismantled to make each Behemoth, and this one still retained two heads. Stumps showed where two more had been, and where the beast had lost arms and legs.

“It’s old,” said Dream. “Probably cast out because it wasn’t useful anymore.”

Chance nodded. “Still dangerous.”

The second Behemoth was young, thick-bodied. It only had three heads, two on its shoulders and another on its back. Seven arms and four legs, quadruple-jointed fingers.

“This is the worst one I’ve seen,” said Dream. “There’s no attempt at normality whatsoever. Its completely insane, although the older one seems to have some control of it.”

Chance wondered who the unlucky men had been. He touched the beast’s shoulders and felt the slumbering power of the thing.”

“I want these two rehabilitated and guarding Mask,” he said.

“Gladly.” Dream called in the Bloody Bones, who levered the Behemoths onto sledges and hooked the sledges to the roan mules.

The Big Brat

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2009 by Jaym Gates

A few weeks ago, I posted about the Big Blind Man’s giving us a work-out. This week, he made up for it. There’s actually not much to say, except yet another amazing moment of absolute calm. Six months ago, he couldn’t be dragged near the trailer, and he flinched at the touch of a brush.

Monday, he stood with drooping ears, a flapping lip, half-closed eyes and let us groom the hell out of him. Just when we thought he couldn’t get any more relaxed, he shifted onto three feet and went to sleep! We groomed and clipped him, then took him over to try blanketing him again.

Well, ok, so there was some excitement there. We found out that he crowhops like a bucking bronco. It’s really good for aerating the lawn! He’d been dancing around the blanket, playing, being a pain in the ass. So M dropped the blanket onto his back. STRAIGHT up. All four feet off the ground. He went about two steps, stopped, listened to us laugh. M held the blanket up to his nose, and you could just see the thoughts passing through his head.

Horses have such expressive faces, but it’s incredibly hard to describe their expressions to someone who isn’t familiar with them. But if you’ve ever seen a truly quizzical dog, you can sort of imagine a horse’s quizzical expression, just multiply the dog’s look by about ten. Both ears pointed in different directions, ‘riffling’ snorts, an expression of amused disgust in his eyes as he sniffed the blanket. He sort of scrabbled his upper lip on it, then started nibbling at it.

Rinse and repeat a couple of times.

The bridle posed about the same amount of annoyance on his part. He just doesn’t get the human’s obsession with all these straps and icky cloth! There was a fair amount of running around, and then the heart-attack: he jumped away and got his head hooked to his heels. He’d effectively hobbled himself in the bridle.

This isn’t too big a deal with a Western-type bridle. There’s a reason it’s held together with little leather ties: a horse or human gets caught, the ties break. It saves a lot of grief, and money. I can break the ties with my bare hands, so if something really bad happens, the bridle pretty much just disintegrates into component parts.

The big deal is that very, very few horses will tolerate being hobbled without extensive training and desensitizing. Old trainers used to hobble horses and let them stumble around until the animal was either so exhausted and scared he couldn’t move, or until the horse went down and couldn’t get up. A horse is a flight animal, and hobbles make it a stuck animal.

Big Man is an abused horse who couldn’t stand being tied, while I’ve had perfectly solid horses panic at having something caught around their foot.

He spooked a bit, he staggered some circles around us, but he stayed remarkably calm. He just wanted the thing off, and we could see that in his eyes. A tie finally broke and loosened the tension enough that he stepped right out of it. Emergency averted.

He’s an amazing animal. When we went out to catch him, he walked away–until M called him. He followed her voice back to us. At one point, he tried to detour through the fence, but a sharp word from Monica, he stopped, stuck his nose out and sniffed the fence, then shifted course and stopped right in front of her. This is a horse with MAYBE 10% vision.

Dumb horses are easy to train. It’s just the same thing, over and over and over until they’ve got the patterns established. I’ve had a couple of dumb horses. No fun, but predictable.

It’s the smart ones like Big Man, Romeo and Captain (all bays, incidentally), who are hard to train. They get it. Usually the first time we go through it. I don’t even remember training Romeo to a bridle, because the first time I combined me being on his back with him having a bridle on his head, he was reining. I’d never even gotten around to using long-lines to teach him to rein! He just knew.

Captain can be the most bull-headed sack in the world. He’ll play dumb, because he knows exactly what you want. Show him the error of his ways, and he’ll still out-think you without even waking up.

Big Man doesn’t have any problem with intelligence. He knows what the bridle is, what the blanket and saddle are. He just doesn’t want them, so he makes us work instead of him. Captain is the same way. (Thank the lord, Romeo wants to work with his humans, or I’d never have gotten him trained!) On top of the intelligence, the Arabs and their derivative breeds-which I am convinced Big Man is related to–are known for their sense of ‘fun’. Said ‘fun’ is worst with the stallions, and usually involves trying to inconvenience the humans. Yes, I know exactly what I’m talking about. I can’t tell you how many time an Arab cross has played me for a fool. Embarrassing, really…

Big Man is on his way to being a spectacular horse. M and I have talked about his potential as a show horse. He moves beautifully, he’s intelligent, he’s got lots of energy and he shows off all on his own (not, however, always a good thing with a show horse. The intention is that the human and horse show off together, not that the horse shows off how dumb the human is!).

Also, I got a chance to look at his eyes, and there’s hope there too. Apparently M talked to the vet, and there’s a chance that the damage is only to the outer layers of the eyes, similar to cataracts. There’s a possibility that they could be repaired. Would he be able to see perfectly? Doubtful. But, it would probably clear his vision up a bit.

It would cost a huge amount of money, and he’s not suffering, so it’s a distant thought, but one that we’ll be pondering for a while.

But really, he’s got us running in circles half the time, even without sight. I must wonder if we really want him to be able to see what he’s doing to us…

Nightmare: Update: 11/19

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19, 2009 by Jaym Gates

I can’t write a blog post after that scene! Too draining.

One of the recurring themes in Nightmare is sacrifice. Willing sacrifice, ‘Cleansing’, ‘Purging’ and unwilling sacrifice. It’s fascinating, but way too draining.

However, I am happy to report that I’ve hit, and surpassed, 20,000 words. Not too bad, I’m a little ahead of schedule. I do need to do some plotting and figure out where I still need to fill in.

A lot of what has been written is basically fancy outline. It’s pure telling, with little scenes of show thrown in. So, once I get the outline done, I’ll add detail. Looking forward to that!

The setting is going to have strong Industrial Fantasy elements. Nice and gritty for the countries outside of Haven, peaceful, shiny fantasy inside, most likely.

Aiming to exceed 30,000 before I leave for CA, wish me luck!

Nightmare Excerpt: 11/18/09

Posted in Uncategorized on November 18, 2009 by Jaym Gates

Never walk into a war without a plan, Snake said. Never underestimate the enemy. Never let your guard down.
Death looked at the squad of Behemoths around him and had the uncomfortable thought that dying here might be preferable to telling Snake why there were three dead men.
In his favor, Death hadn’t been planning on war.
In Snake’s favor, that didn’t matter. Death should still have been ready. He hated explaining his follies to Snake.
Fury poked his shoulder. “Are you just going to stand there until more arrive?”
He also occasionally hated his wife.
“None of them are moving,” he complained.
“Because they are waiting for more.”
“But I hate attacking stationary opponents.”
“Then think of them as rocks.”
“I don’t like hitting rocks.”
Fury shoved him forward, right into the arms of a very startled Behemoth. Instinct took over, and Death ripped out the creature’s throat with his bare hands.
Then he drew his sword and crouched, prepared for them to come at him.
They tightened ranks. Their wings flared, billowed. Claws slid out of sheaths.
They waited too.