The Strike of Wrath

While reading up on long sword fencing, I learned that there are five “master strikes.” They are named master strikes for two reasons.

First, they have a simplicity that makes them accessible to beginners, but they also possess complexity and subtlety for the advanced swordsman.

Second, they combine a strong defense with a strong offense and excellent options for follow-up actions.

An expert swordsman will know many more strikes in addition to the five master strikes, but the five will form the heart of his repertoire.

The five master strikes are:
• Strike of Wrath (Zornhau)
• Crooked Strike (Krumphau)
• Cross Strike (Zwerchau)
• Squinting Strike (Schielhau)
• Scalp Strike (Scheitelhau)

In this blog post, I’m featuring the strike of wrath.

It’s a powerful cut, performed with strength and conviction. It moves from the high reaching roof guard, down in a sweeping diagonal cut, to end in the plow guard.

Those names don’t mean much without more description. Since a picture is worth the proverbial thousand words, I’m sharing some diagrams that I drew, as well as doing some describing.

There are two variations of the roof guard.

One features the sword hilt held slightly above the head and centered, with the blade slightly tilted back.

The other version of the roof guard has the sword hilt held at shoulder height and to one side. Either side will work, depending on the handedness of the swordsman and what he intends to do from that guard.

The plow guard, in which the hilt is held at roughly hip height with the blade angled up, can also be assumed on either side, depending on which foot is back and which is forward.

So the strike of wrath goes from the roof guard to the plow guard, and the momentum generated by the blow requires a powerful step forward while performing it.

Two-dimensional pictures are less than ideal for showing the three-dimensional reality of a sword cut. They can give a general idea of what is involved, but videos of the movement are much better.

The first one I’ll share is an instructional sequence. This was perfect for me, a complete layperson regarding long sword fencing. I needed to see the individual segments in order to understand what was going on.

So that was a nice controlled strike of wrath, but not at all how it might look in a real fight.

For a sample of the power and ferocity of the strike, we have another video.

This version of the strike of wrath started from something called a wrath guard and seemed to end in a guard similar to the near guard. The swordsman certainly covered a lot of ground, and he generated a lot of power with his forward motion.

I suspect different schools may teach slightly different versions of each technique.

(Keep in mind that if this post creates a longing within you to learn swordsmanship, you should definitely seek out an instructor. A short text description and a couple of videos might be enough convey a conceptual understanding sufficient for the reader, but are nowhere near enough for learning how to do this stuff.) 😀

Most of the schools of swordsmanship seem to use the German terms for the guards and strikes. No doubt this is because the surviving manuals on swordsmanship from the 1400s and 1500s were written in either German or Italian.

Neither of those languages seemed quite right fro my story Blood Silver, which takes place in a fantasy milieu resembling ancient Ireland. But I didn’t want to use merely the English translations. I wanted something with a little linguistic color. So I created French-influenced terms.

In Blood Silver, the strike of wrath is the coup de colere. 😀

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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Rope Climbing and a Cliff

Near the beginning of Blood Silver, Tahaern finds himself at the top of a precipice. He absolutely must find a way to descend it safely. But he has no rock climbing experience. And even if he did, he’s not had a chance to study this rock face and plan a safe and workable route down it.

As a writer, I needed to figure how I was going to get my protagonist down this cliff—although I did not have as great an interest in the safety of the descent as Tahaern himself would possess! 😉

But I also wanted to really feel in my own gut what it was like to confront a considerable height. When I am out hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I stand well back from the edges of any clifftops. What must it be like to stand at the very brink?

YouTube came to my rescue with a video record of one Laso Schaller jumping from the top of a 59-metter cliff into a deep pool of water. It gave me a very clear experience of what standing above a big drop is like. I can tell you that I absolutely never want to do anything of the kind!

I’m going to share the video, but a few cautions first.

Number one: do not try this at home! Seriously, this was a crazy thing to do. I’m sure people must have been killed trying similar things. So, do not try to copy this guy. Do not.

Secondly: I recommend you turn off the sound while you watch, because the video includes annoying music, clearly added afterward. There’s nothing else on the sound track, so there is no need to listen to the jarring music.

Thirdly: if you have any fear of heights, you might want to just skip it. I do possess a fear of heights, and I found that even video exposure to a height like this was scary!

That said, for those of you who want to give it a go, here is the video:

So…did you watch it? Did your heart pick up its beat every time the video cam approached the edge? Mine sure did. That pool looked way too small.

The things a writer will do to make sure she gets an event in her novella right!

But I certainly felt I had a better appreciation for what Tahaern would experience. And I was grateful I could get it vicariously.

My next step was to generate the means by which Tahaern would make his descent. Could he weave a rope out of vines?

I located some videos showing how to braid an adequate rope for climbing and quickly decided this was not a feasible option for Tahaern. Oh, he could make such a rope. But it would take him all day. And he didn’t have all day.

What if he found a vine so sturdy that it could bear his weight? Would that work?

I went searching for rope climbing videos. There were a lot of them. And it looked like standard rope climbing would work for Tahaern. He’s very strong, with excellent upper body strength, plus he has all of the physical training for knighthood behind him. This was something he could do.

I studied the videos carefully, since I am not a rope climber.

My only exposure to rope climbing came in the third grade in phys ed class. I was one of the kids who never got beyond the knot at the bottom of the rope. There were many of us in my class, especially since the teacher didn’t actually teach us how to do it. We were supposed to simply hop onto the rope and go up. I believe one child did just that. In fact, he did it twice—at the teacher’s behest—to show us how it was done. He slapped the beam at the 15-foot-plus ceiling from which the rope was hung. Some of the other kids got part of the way up. Good for them!

The video below is one of the clearest that I reviewed.

It was good to see the details for proper positioning of the legs and feet.

It meant I knew how to have Tahaern succeed. And it meant that I also knew how to have him fail!

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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What If the Sword is Wrong?

I was smack in the middle of writing my novella Blood Silver when a sudden qualm attacked me. Had I gotten my protagonist’s weapon of choice wrong?

Oh, no!

I’ll admit that I hadn’t researched it ahead. I just knew that Tahaern wielded a hand-and-a-half sword. It felt so right to me that I’d never questioned it until after I started writing the sequence of battle scenes.

In preparing to write those battle scenes, I investigated plate armor thoroughly, in addition to researching long sword fighting techniques and how to “give point” on horseback.

But it wasn’t until the middle of the battles that I said to myself: “Wait a minute! I researched long sword techniques. But my protag wields a hand-and-a-half sword. Have I just made a huge mistake?”

I stopped everything and started digging.

The video below set me straight.

I found Skallagrim’s explanation of the differences between swords (arming swords), bastard swords, long swords, and great swords to be enlightening (as well as entertaining). And, of course, I was relieved that I had not erred. A bastard sword—or a hand-and-a-half sword—is a long sword. Whew!

Would I have revised my novella, if I’d proved to be wrong about my faie knight using long sword techniques while wielding a hand-and-a-half sword? Yes. I would have had to. Leaving in something I knew to be incorrect would have itched at my soul most uncomfortably!

As things turned out…I was in the clear!

But what Skallagrim implied about carrying great swords intrigued me. If the scabbard on the back, as depicted by Hollywood, was all wrong, how did the knights carry their great swords? And did my faie knight face similar difficulties with his hand-and-a-half sword?

I figured I’d better find out!

So I was safe again. Tahaern faced no extraordinary challenges in the carrying of his weapon. 😀

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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Blood Silver: A Song of Peace

The faie knight of Blood Silver—Tahaern—first encounters a mortal when he discovers the healer woman of Gleannbaile at work in her garden. She sings as she gathers leaves for an herbal remedy.

Tahaern is overwhelmed and awed by the density of experience that is the bright world, so different from the darkness of his birthplace under the knowe. Mortal beauty possesses an irregularity that is so much more appealing than the smooth perfection of faie beauty.

I listened to the healer woman through Tahaern’s ears and was nearly as charmed as was he by the melody of her song. I imagined it to be similar to “Deep in the Meadow” as sung by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie The Hunger Games.

The words to my healer’s song were her own, of course.

Deep in the valley, beside the water
A song of peace from wisdom’s daughter
Open your heart, sing with your spirit
Then while you dance, hope will arise

Now brings wonder, now brings awe
Now opens the kingdom, the heart of every choice
Now your dreams shine golden and beckon you anew
Now is the time when I love you

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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Wielding the Long Sword

The protagonist of my latest work is a faie knight who wields a hand-and-a-half sword, which is a specific type of long sword.

Because my story includes a sequence of battle scenes, I found myself doing quite a bit of research on plate armor, medieval weaponry, and fighting tactics. History books weren’t the best places to find the kind of detail I needed.

What did it feel like to wear plate armor and fight in it? Was it really heavy? Did the knight have a decent view through the eye slits? What specific techniques were used with the long sword? Did these techniques have names?

Fortunately, historical re-enactment is a robust hobby, and many re-enactors are passionate about historical accuracy. They were well equipped to answer some of my most fiddley questions. Additionally, the field of experimental archeology, in which historians build accurate replicas to learn about the people who built and used the originals, has grown considerably during the last few decades. This provided another rich source of answers.

Between the two, I was able to find out almost everything I needed to know.

One of the earliest sources I discovered was a video showing long sword fencing techniques. It was made by the Gladiatores, “a professional school for historical European martial arts, teaching different styles of European fencing.” The Gladiatores focuses on “tutoring a lively historical system of martial arts, combined with transferring knowledge in culture and philosophy of ancient fencing masters.”

I found the sparring sequences shown to be aesthetically beautiful as well as simply fascinating. Naturally, as I’ve started to emerge from my writing cave, I’ve wanted to share some of the cool things I’ve discovered with you.
 

So how is the novella progressing?

The first draft is not only done, but I’ve received feedback from my first reader, made revisions based on her input, and sent the next draft out to my second reader!

It will be a few weeks before I get my second reader’s feedback. After I make those revisions, I’ll still need to proofread the manuscript, format it, and acquire a cover. But I’d love to release it before June. Fingers crossed! 😀

Oh! One other exciting tidbit of news…

The novella has a new title.

Blood Silver.

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana

I love Alex Butcher’s trolls! They are so exactly the opposite of mine.

Mine possess aching bones and sore joints, along with enlarged ears, curved and lengthened noses, reddened watery eyes, sagging skin, twisted thumbs, and hunched spines. Even worse than the physical deformities is the progressive madness that compels each to destroy all that is good in the world around him or her.

My trolls come into being when a spellcaster in my North-lands forces too much power into a spell, ripping the energetic lattice within his or her being and bringing troll-disease in the wake of this destruction. Greed or hubris or simple desperation—nothing wholesome—lies at the roots of troll-disease.

But in Alex’s magical world of Erana, the troll kind are shapechangers, seers, and oracles who dwell in the secret fastnesses of the mountains and worship the beauty of nature. The gods walk among them, and they are faithful and wise.

One of three mortal races—elves, humans, and trolls—the trolls of Erana are strong and comely. In “The Tale of Treyna the Beloved” (a short story in the collection Tales of Erana) Alex gives this description of the troll daughter Mira:

“A child, golden-haired and dark-skinned stood with her grey eyes wide at the magnificence of the world. Small twisting horns poked from her bright curls and her small mouth creased in wonder.”

I can see her in my mind’s eye, small and sturdy with her face full of reverent awe, her golden curls contrasting with her velvety dark skin, her horns forming a delicate coronet.

I wish I could visit her mountain meadowland and play tag with her!

Tales of Erana is one of the fourteen titles in the Mythic Tales bundle. So if you share my yen to visit little Mira . . . well, you can’t visit her, of course, but you can read the legend of Treyna as her grandmother tells it to her. 😀

To pique your interest yet further, Alex has interviewed the protagonist of “The Moon on the Water” (another story in Tales of Erana). Acionna is a goddess born of rock and running water and snow.

Which book/world do you live in?

I live in the Jagged Peak mountains, they are in the world called Erana by those who live there. I am in a book? I know of books and lore. Then am I not real? – I feel real, and the mountains around me seem real. Is it, perhaps, that I am real here, and you are the myth, you are the imaginary?

Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.)

I am an ancient elemental, a Goddess to some. Born of the mountain, and the pounding waterfalls when the world was young and the magic free. It was so long past I could not tell you how many years or centuries of your time. Once there were many of my kind – creatures of magic and wild places but the magic was chased away, corrupted and sickened and many of us fell, or hid, or faded. Now I am a myth, a legend told around the fire and a drop of blood here and there in lineages old and noble. The Plague came and everything changed. The land changed, the magic changed.

I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me?

I have had my adventures, I have warred, and lost all save myself. I have walked the mountain paths and fought with monsters and men who would seek to kill every last trace of magic. Why should I wish to adventure again?

If I were to consent I would bring you elemental magic, of the oldest sort. The Power of the elementals, the Power of nature and the furious waters and mighty peaks.

Tell us about your companions?  How do they see you?

I have none. My mate is long dead, now nothing but a statue and even I cannot undo the curse. My daughter is gone, fallen to wicked magic and I walk these peaks alone. Sometimes the trolls come and bring offerings but they see me not. For I know now that mortals and immortals should not mix.

For Acionna’s views on the future, the past, heroism, and her most grievous mistake, I urge you to visit Alex’s website, where the whole interview is present. Here’s the link:

Library of Erana

Bundles remain available for a short time only, usually for about 6 weeks, sometimes a bit longer.

The Mythic Tales bundle is now gone, but the stories that were in it remain available separately. A few are so good that each was worth the price of the bundle all on its own.

I urge you to check out the individual titles with an eye to purchasing the ones that particularly appeal to you.

For reviews of the stories and novels from the Mythic Tales bundle
(plus the odd character interview), see:

Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: Caught in Amber, Character Interview – Fae
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview
Mythic Tales: Raziel’s Shadow
Mythic Tales: Magic for a Rainy Day

 

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Character Interview: Fae of Caught in Amber

The Mythic Tales bundle includes fourteen titles:
    • 8 novels
    • 1 novella
    • 4 short story collections, and
    • 1 short story

Thus far, I’ve read Beneath the Knowe by Anthea Sharp, A Sword’s Poem by Leah Cutter, Tempus by Janet Morris, Raziel’s Shadow by Joseph Robert Lewis, and Magic for a Rainy Day by Alexandra Brandt, and enjoyed each very much.

Of course, my own Caught in Amber is one of the novels in the bundle. For those of you who haven’t read Amber yet, here’s a little bit about it:

When young Fae awakens in a locked and deserted castle, she remembers nothing. Who she is, where she comes from, none of it.

Beauty from all the ages graces the castle – medieval towers, renaissance columns, and gothic vaults – but underneath the loveliness a lurking evil stirs.

Fae hates the loneliness and the sense of hidden malice oppressing her. Even more, she hates the feeling that just around some receding corner of lost memory lies the answer to her predicament – an answer just out of reach.

An answer essential to surviving this castle’s dangers – both subtle and not so subtle.

Somewhere in her forgotten past lies the key.

A mythic tale of family and betrayal told with all the twists and moments of sheer joy that epic fantasy allows.

The curator of the Mythic Tales bundle, Alex Butcher (byline A. L. Butcher), has been presenting interviews on her website, both of the bundle’s contributing authors and of the characters who appear in the stories. Just a few days ago, she featured a Q&A with Fae, the heroine of Caught in Amber.

I think you might find Fae’s thoughts (outside the covers of her book) to be interesting. Here are the first few of her answers to Alex’s questions…

What is your name?

Oh, I wish I could remember my name! I wish I could remember anything. I feel so . . . lost, knowing nothing of who I am, where I come from. Yesterday, when I was pretending to be brave, I gave myself a name. It feels right, but it might not be right. How could it, when I remember nothing? But . . . I’m Fae (she raises her chin) and I’m going to pretend to be brave again. I have to.

Which book/world do you live in?

I seem to be trapped in a castle. It’s very beautiful, with marble halls and tall windows looking onto flowering summer gardens. But it’s utterly deserted; I’m all alone and locked in! None of the doors to the outside seem to even have functioning latches and hinges. And when I tried to break a window with a paperweight, it bounced off!

Tell us about yourself: (Name, race/species, etc.)

When I look in the mirror, I look human. But something tells me I might not be. Oh, I’m not anything truly strange, like the creatures in fairy tales or the monsters in myths and legends. Yesterday I thought I might be the granddaughter of a goddess, but that’s not it either. I’m trying to figure it out, because I think that if I can only remember something, that’s the key to escaping this castle and finding . . . home? Oh, I wish I could go home, wherever home is! (She raises her chin again.) But I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out. I won’t give up.

I’m an adventurer – why should I recruit you to accompany me?

Adventurers . . . (Her tone is musing.) I always thought they were ne’er-do-wells, the black sheep of their families. But sometimes they’re soldiers of fortune, aren’t they? I wonder if a soldier—a warrior—could help me? I don’t think so. This castle, this situation, is a puzzle, not a battle. And I’m going to solve it. (She sighs.) But I wish someone were here. Besides me. It’s so lonely. I miss my friends, even though I can’t remember who they are. Oh, I hate this!

I don’t want to steal Alex’s thunder, so I’m not going to reproduce the entire interview here. Instead I urge you to visit Alex’s website to learn Fae’s views on heroism, failure, love, and more. Here’s the link:

Library of Erana

Bundles remain available for a short time only, usually for about 6 weeks, sometimes a bit longer.

The Mythic Tales bundle is now gone, but the stories that were in it remain available separately. A few are so good that each was worth the price of the bundle all on its own.

I urge you to check out the individual titles with an eye to purchasing the ones that particularly appeal to you.

For reviews of the stories and novels from the Mythic Tales bundle
(plus the odd author interview), see:

Mythic Tales: Beneath the Knowe
Mythic Tales: A Sword’s Poem
Mythic Tales: Tales of Erana
Mythic Tales: Tempus
Mythic Tales: Author Interview
Mythic Tales: Raziel’s Shadow
Mythic Tales: Magic for a Rainy Day

For more about Caught in Amber, see:
A Castle That Might be Amber
Amber’s Inspiration
Amber’s Suns

 

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Belzetarn’s Battlements

In The Tally Master, the elite of the citadel possess quarters in the uppermost levels of the tower. Its warlord, Regenen Carbraes, inhabits chambers with an internal stair connecting several lower spaces with others on the upper floor.

Gael, the protagonist of the novel, chooses not to use the official apartments that go with his position of Secretarius, but he pays an unplanned and fateful visit to his empty rooms one evening.

Another turning point in the story occurs on the terrace ringed by the quarters of the elite. Carbraes and the general who commands his legions (the March) are enjoying a rare moment of conversation and leisure under the summer sun, when Gael brings them startling news.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

 

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Belzetarn’s Great Halls

The tower of Belzetarn possesses three great halls. Too many trolls dwell in the citadel for one hall to hold them all, and even so, many of the craftsmen and craftsmasters dine in the mess halls of their lodges, located in the artisans’ yard or the bailey.

The topmost hall (level nine) serves as the official hall of the regenen, the warlord who rules the citadel. But Carbraes’ practical instincts push him to dine in company with more than the elite, and thus he randomly takes some of his meals in the middle great hall (level six) and the lower one (level five).

When Gael goes seeking the castellanum one evening (the castellanum manages the domestic concerns of the citadel), he starts by checking the topmost great hall, but comes up empty. The middle great hall is equally bereft of the highest officers. Carbraes dined in the lowest great hall that night, and the castellanum, perforce, dined there with him.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
The Fortress of Belzetarn
The Dark Tower
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Treasures
Bronze Age Swords
Brother Kings

 

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Belzetarn’s Treasures

Belzetarn’s wealth is measured in its metals and the war gear made from those metals.

Great vaults at the core of the tower hold stores of weapons and armor for the legions. Smaller vaults, stacked within the thick outer wall, guard the swords and breastplates intended for officers, as well as the ingots of tin, copper, and bronze from which they are forged.

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Gael’s tally chamber lies off the lowest great hall, where the lowly in the tower take their meals. Gael’s personal quarters sit immediately above the tally room, while his assistant’s apartment perches third in the stack.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Gael’s Tally Chamber in Belzetarn
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
The Fortress of Belzetarn
The Dark Tower
Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars
Belzetarn’s Formidable Entrance Gate
Belzetarn’s Great Halls
Bronze Age Swords
Brother Kings

 

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