Training With Koolaen, Part 8 (fantasy soccer writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

We jogged over to the farthest of the four full-field pitches. In the wingers group was Dehm Bæsknuh (the wingers coach), then Oadvee, Mae’dohs, Gorseithoo, and komAhnsesh from the first team, plus Dohbee’ae, tewkKyoo’ihf and Ahr’pahn’ro from the reservers and myself. We were joined by 4 trainers. It wasn’t lost on me that this was a collection of people that included at least 5 individuals who had been capped by the Kyrum National Team — Bæsknuh having been an occasional starter in Kyrum’s famous 17,894 World Cup winning squad.

The trainers went to work immediately, setting up a square approximately 10 yards by 10 yards. Bæsknuh clapped his hands, “Ok, let’s do it. Dance in and out.” One player each got on a corner. Oadvee went to the center. A trainer kicked a ball to Dohbee’ae on a corner. She immediately one-touched it into the center to Oadvee, then Oadvee passed it to a corner following his pass. Dohbee’ae then moved into the center spot. Bæsknuh yelled, “That’s it. Pass and move. Pass and move.” He made a whistle call at me and pointed me to a corner, “Just rotate in, laddie.”

We did this movement for about 10 minutes, then one of the trainers stepped into the square to press us and try and win the ball off us. I was holding up, connecting clean, crisp passes. The collective rhythm and flow felt great. The fresh mountain air, scent of the cut pitch and fragrance of the garden felt calming and inspiring to breathe in.

Finally, Bæsknuh motioned and an additional trainer stepped in to press. As they did, the other two remaining trainers took up positions a bit aways from the square — one down the touchline, the other in the center of the pitch. Bæsknuh pointed at them and said “Exit to Meer’roll and Ed’dehvehr on the call. Though be in shape to receive the ball back.”

As we passed and moved, the two trainers pressing us, we shuffled our positioning a some to survive the pressing. Bæsknuh barked, “Pass… pass… pass.” The ball rolled to me, then he called, ”Exit!” Shit I thought. My pass to the center of the field was cut off and my back was to the trainer down the touchline. I received the ball and rolled it under my right foot, pivoting my body around. It was a smooth, suave turn. I released it down the touchline. Sure enough, the trainer received it and immediately returned it back… but not right back to me, to the position in the square where I had originally received my pass from. The space was vacant, I was supposed to be running there. Mae’dohs was running towards my own space in the center of the square. All this transpired in about 1-2 seconds. Sharp. Sharp. Sharp. That was the difference between me and the pros. I froze.

Fortunately Bæsknuh piped in to provide guidance, “Complete the triangle! Triangles and squares, sometimes circles, but always complete the triangle.” Somehow in the impulse of the moment, the instruction just made sense. From my earliest days of playing I always looked to create and counterbalance triangles. In the speed of play of the moment and once we changed the flow of the drill I lost my natural impulse. Bæsknuh’s prompt reminded me. I ran into the space just in time, stretching to contain the pass on my right boot. One of the trainers was closing me down, so after controlling the ball, I flicked a backheel pass into the corner behind me. The players and trainers let out an ah in either surprise or delight.

I stood there panting, nervously catching my breath. I’d almost been the first to fuck it up. I must admit, the ahing made me feel special. I talked to myself internally, “Come on Jhol, focus, stay in the game. Feel the rhythm. Ahgae. Ahgae. Ahgae.”

I squared up. Another pass was headed my way. The two pressing trainers were closing me down. Bæsknuh yelled, “Exit!” Damnit! My only option was to make a hard pivot and hoof the ball to the center. Bæsknuh waved his arms up, “Stop! Stop! Stop! Pause.” Everyone froze. He walked towards me, “Your decision here,” he grabbed one of the trainers about to close me down by the arm and walked her back about four steps, “your decision should’ve been made here. Look at your hips right now. You won’t complete this pass. It will be a very difficult pass for a central player to control.”

Normally, I would have felt low on myself, but there was something about Bæsknuh’s matter-of-fact tone. His manner was demonstrative. It was teaching. The way he walked back through time in the play, something about that was helpful. He got into my head and utilized my own perspective.

Bæsknuh then took it as an opportunity to give context to the drill. “Now yous all might be wonderin’ why we have a bunch of wingers starting off with a drill typically used for tuning up central midfielders. That’s because from now until the final whistle against Glawnjheur yous will be playing as central midfielders, just stationed out on the wings. We’re more interested in spreading the play across the field. Keeping Glawnjheur stretched. They tend to play across the field and stretch teams laterally, but they use the wings regularly to go forward — move from wings to forwards either diagonally or direct down the line to a wide-moving forward. We’re gonna use our wings to block their advancement down the touchline, then dump the ball central, and from the center use our center mids to hit our forwards moving into the channels. Of course in these movements, as we advance, you all will move up the touchline to provide wide support for the forwards. But you have to understand, as we’ve demonstrated here — you are primarily support for the internal structure of the team. Outside passing posts.”

Throughout Bæsknuh’s entire spiel he signed with his hands. Not body language, but the actual Kyeurmic signing. I picked up the few words I knew. It was a way of offering multiple modalities to learn. In between the signs he pointed at the parts of the field and trotted into those areas.

“Alright, back and at it.” Bæsknuh snapped us back into the groove. He gave me a positive nod and a smile. I took the ball and passed it on. We got back into our groove. Did that for just a little longer, then Bæsknuh had us rotate in as the pressers, with some of the trainers being the passers. By the end I felt tuned up on my passing, focus, rhythm, and movement.

After that we broke into what they called mixed-squads, and it was us essentially blending in with the other parts of the formation. So as wingers we worked with coordinating our passing, movements, and pressing with the defense, the center mids, and forwards. As we rotated, the other pods rotated too, so while we worked with the forwards, the center mids and defense worked together. It was an interesting approach. We built up modularly until we brought the whole team unit together at the end of training. Later, Kældurn told me that was the point in fact, to build up in iterations, small understandable fluency, until the whole unit worked. He said Koolaen had used this approach for a long time and for each game it allowed them to gradually build a unified strategy of play and to give the players and the pods the attention they need to understand and build on the execution. By working in the mixed-squads it allowed each pod to then appreciate the focus and needs of the other pods.

Another attentive element — while we trained Aer’loy’ee, Lo’o’toag, and another person, Dwah’ahlai, moved around, watched players and occasionally would talk to them. They’d either assess someone physically and give them suggestions, show them how to orient, position, or stretch their body. Or, Dwah’ahlai focused more on psychological and emotional aspects.

Aer’loy’ee at one point asked me in Mehthurnic, “how you holding up?” She knew I was hungover. And she reminded me I needed to keep my hamstrings loose and drink regular small amounts of water — that my hamstrings being a large area of muscle were very susceptible to dehydration given my “overindulgence the night before”.

Dwah’ahlai took me aside at one point when we were working with the forwards. I’d attempted to take on a trainer down the line playing in a wingback position. The ball got caught between us and we battled a dirty, messy duel. She won the ball, but fortunately it pinged out to tewkKyoo’ihf who collected it and reshuffled it along. Dwah’ahlai walked up to me gently, she softly patted me on the shoulder, “Myeurnawn.” She leaned towards me easily, “Don’t be a hero. Be a helper.” She pointed at and touched my heart, then gestured to her eyes and gestured around, out towards the field and the other players. “Be a helper.” Again, she drew the movement from my heart to the eyes and outward. “How many passes can you complete today? Tell me at the end of training.” That was all she said and moved on as gently as she had walked up.

I’d known playing as a defensive midfielder the past few years that in that position that is a key responsibility of the role; to help your team. But, something about Dwah’ahlai’s direction and presence resonated deeply with me. It is one of those moments that stays with you. A paradigm shift. The difference between the Pov and the Kroon — the Pov lives to justify their self, the Kroon, to justify their society, to help others. I recognized in that moment how much I yearned to be the latter, both in football and in life. I believe a key to the success and dominance of Kyeurmic football is their learning to play to help each other.

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We’d been out there training in our pods and the mixed-squads for a little past an hour. Froy’yees stood with a few coaches in the center between the four fields. He had the drone pipes and gave out a loud tritone riff. Across the fields all the players and trainers stopped and looked his way. He raised his arm. Everyone migrated towards him.

Still holding the pipes at his side, with his devilish boyish grin, he spoke to the group, “It’s match time Koolaenatho! You know the rules. Two 30-minute halves. 100% intensity. Whoever wins rides bikes back into town. If you lose you walk, or run — your choosing,” he smiled and winked at them. “Now the first team has a record of 10-5-5 this season, and the reserves, the inverse of that of course. Ah’moan (Dahl’ai) will you do the honor of reading out and leading out the first team and Roo’oolda (Mehrnoath) please do the honor with the reserves. Now, let’s play some beautiful football, you wild ass banshees! Remember to create time, stop time, control time. Ahgae! Ahgae! Ahgae!” Froy’yees wildly patted the players closest to him with his one free arm and ushered and pushed them onwards. The players clapped in a unified, building rhythm, gathering pace as they neared the end, belting out Koolaen, Koolaen, Koolaen!

The starting eleven lined up with Ah’moan Dahl’ai. The reserves with illa Mehrnoath. I milled about amongst the trainers. Froy’yees found me. “Myeurnawn, let’s let you have some fun with the pros. Starting winger for the reserves, first half – right side.” He pulled me close with his free hands, the drone pipes squeezed against us, “As Dwah’ahlai said earlier — helper, not a hero.” He let go of my top and patted me on my arm. “Kick some ass old man! Do it for the rest of us oldies. Be a kid again.” He pushed me on.

I walked towards the reserves. Dohbee’ae, tewkKyoo’ihf, and Ahr’pahn’ro from the wingers pod was there, so too were veteran Koolaen substitutes Stahdyoad and Hoamsheet. Mehrnoath greeted me then introduced me to the team, “Jhol Myeurnawn welcome. Thanks for joining us. Everyone, this is Myeurnawn. Football writer from Povrai. Played at Nawntloo as a youth with Amelle. He’ll be starting winger, first half on the right side.” Mehrnoath turned back at me, “Now Myeurnawn, we do just 30 minute halves, but the intensity is all out. We’ll ask you to give everything you’ve got. That doesn’t mean run out of control crazy, but when you do run and make bursts, be prepared to give it all from the deepest parts of the lungs and heart. You know the feeling I’m talking about — where the flow of blood unifies with emotions and that energy carries you forth in rhythm and passion.”

I smiled. She was hypnotizing me. I did know the feeling. My admittedly tired body began to feel new, uplifted, “I know what you speak of, illa Mehrnoath .” I nodded, then made eye contact with others, looking around. The rest of the team looked at me. We all nodded and smiled in agreement.

Mehrnoath continued, “Tactics this week mirror what Glawnjheur do. Possession game, use full width, patience and timing, look for quick lateral switches and counterattack overloads down the wings. Wait for my counterattack call, hoolaekoy.” She looked around the team, looking us in the eyes, “Any questions?”

“Two pivots back or a single?” a youth player I was unfamiliar with asked.

“Ah yes, thank you Dawnyo. I have forgotten a standard. We’ll start with two pivots. We’ll go with a 3-4-3. We want those central four to hold a steady, anchored line, spread across the field. That should let us get the attacking wingers higher up and allow the central forward to have more space, alternating between the role of forward and attacking midfielder. Now, let’s line up and I’ll bring you on the field.”

We organized ourselves to the left of the halfway line, a few feet off the pitch. Mehrnoath stood in front of us on the field. She directed us into order in the line by traditional Kyeurmic numbers that reflect the positions. I was in the number 7 spot — indeed, the first half right wing. Dahl’ai was still talking with the first team squad. I looked around while half-consciously shuffling and stretching my feet and legs with my internal rhythm, with that excited buzz, ready to play. Many of the players were doing the same.

Up to that point just a few locals and villagers had been out watching the training, but as we lined up, throngs of a couple hundred people rounded the bend by the club house and started making their way towards our field. Typical Kroons, they brought drums and flutes and played a menagerie of folk, battle, and temple music. It was both lively and stoic. Noticeably, many of the crowd wore red tunics. A slightly smaller amount, about a quarter of them wore Koolaenic yellow.

Mehrnoath shouted out to a trainer, “Bring the shirts for the Reserves!” A young trainer jogged out to her with a perfectly folded stack of red shirts. Ah, I realized the red tunic folks were fans of the reserves. I was curious why they outnumbered the yellows.

I leaned into Dohbee’ae beside me, “Why more reds than yellows?”

“More locals on the reserve squad.” She pointed around, “And all these folks gathered here are mostly locals. You’re with the homegrown babes today, Myeurnawn.”

That felt like more my style and I was even more excited and inspired upon hearing this. Here I was experiencing home field advantage on a mountaintop in Kyrum.


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Training With Koolaen, Part 7 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

We stepped up on the terraced patio where the players and staff dined. The foot stones were beautiful, patterned stones, not vine-like, but rather just a mix of diamond and circular patterns with wedges of hard wood at spaces in between. It was a fun texture to walk on.

Many of the players looked up at me, smiling hello with their eyes and nodded greetings. Even though I’d been around thousands of players at this point, interviewed some of the most famous, it seemed like I hadn’t ever really seen any in this light — dining in what alone was an amazing mountain vista.

Milling around Taegmahn Deenahr back in Mehrthalb was pretty special, having been to a few World Cup finals too, but here I felt like (and was treated) part of a football family. It reminded me of the way football felt as a youth. How you might go hang out with fellow players and their parents at a picnic table in a park, in between games in a tournament. Something similar to the purity and non-pretense of youth.

Aer’loy’ee led me by hand to the back of the patio where the kitchen extended out of the hillside of the club house. “Ah Mahshwehr, you’re doing some fine work yet again!”

“Oh, it’s a sunstreaming day, right Aer’loy’ee.” She continued on, “But feel that slight west breeze, ae’nahlarth — the late autumn storms feel like they might be butting in in a bit.” Aer’loy’ee nodded and smiled gently. Her mouth dropped. She wanted to talk. And Mahshwehr continued, “Yes now, what shall we get you two fixed up with?”

“One dollop of curried potatoes, cut with asparagus chops, torn with basil, rosemary, and coriander for our trainee here, Jhol. For myself, I’m good, I’ll just grab some cherries and trout eggs from the hutch. We do have those?”

“Ah, indeed. Bormrai and I trekked down to the river in the middle of the night last night and gathered a couple ounces. Hiked back up under moonglow.”

Although I hadn’t recalled much from last night, I did remember the magical moonglow floating over the city and the mountain hills. “Yes, it was quite a lovely light.” I added.

Mahshwehr threw a sign and gave me a good pat on the back. It was affirmation. “Well, grab some chairs wherever. I’ll get the vittles.”

“Go on Jhol, I’ll draw us some water.” Aer’loy’ee motioned me on.

I made my way through the chairs and tables of players and bowls of food, beakers of water and stolker. Some tables talked. Some sat meditatively. Some signed to each other. And not everyone had food, I assumed this was per Aer’loy’ee’s assessment.

Interestingly, although Koolaen was a 100% Kyeurmic team this season, not one foreign player on the squad, one table sat chatting away in Tro’vehric. It was Hahrld tewkLoy’eed and two younger reserve players. tewkLoy’eed explained and demonstrated with his hands how when the number 5 sits in a central position at the back of the midfield, how counterintuitively the outside mids need to always be hugging the touchline — to create maximum advantage of exit space and angle. The players questioned him if the far-side mid should pinch in. “That more times than naught will attract opposition into the channels, setting them up to pounce on a counterattack, exposing that lone number 5.

Light bulbs went off in their heads. They leaned back understanding.

Aer’loy’ee returned from the hutch. She sat down two beakers, a small one and a large one, and also a carved wooden bowl. She slid the larger beaker over my way. The beakers were made of polished steel. Her bowl was textured with porous bumps and what looked like constellations. Her bowl brimmed with cherries and had a good dollop of bright orange-pink trout eggs. They were large and looked perfectly fresh, glistening but not soggy. The table had a small pale. This was for compost. Aer’loy’ee began tossing cherries in her mouth and tossing the stems and pits in the pale.

“Help yourself, or make a plate up. This trout roe is some of the best on the River. Comes from a little upstream from the City.” She pointed ahead, towards the training fields and curved her hand over and down the slopes, in the direction of the River. “It’s the earliest in the season, when the origin mountains have started really chilling the river. So the eggs, they’re a little watery, fresh and light in flavor.”

“They do look delicious Aer’loy’ee.” It was true. I love trout roe. And those looked prime, grade A. But with my hangover still a little present, I wasn’t craving a fish taste.

Mahshwehr walked up whistling. She slapped down a bowl of potatoes yellow from curry and oil, chopped asparagus and topped with all the herbs. It was a modest serving, maybe three small potatoes worth. Different types of salt and pepper dressed it — maroon, orange, and red crystals, cracked brown and black bits. It had a slight sweet and garden herb smell. The smell was rich and intoxicating. My stomach growled. From her whistling she sang, “Let the herbage give you song and the starches move the bones.” Then, she was off to another table, carrying other bowls.

After a couple paces she turned around, “Oh yeah, I forgot… Povs.” She smiled, placed her free hand in her pocket. “Here, utensils. A lover made these for me when I was 18. Just leave ’em in the wash fountain.” She handed me a quilted pack. It felt like felt, dyed turquoise with white Kroonic script sewn in, a draw string secured it. The writing read shol mro’prahbehd ahdwahth, ahdwah mro’prahbehd ahnoth…”love becomes fruit, fruit becomes humans.”

I undid the string and unfolded the utensils from the felt wrapping. The string smartly attached to the wrapping and the utensils inside, of which there were two. At the base of each utensil you could unclip them, so the parts with the string could lay with the wrapping while you ate. Typical of utensils in Kyrum, they were carved ornately. Often the carvings of them are similar to ivory pipes back in Povrai — many geometric patterns or patterns of vines and blossoms. These were patterned in a way to be functional, to provide grip for the hands. And a typical custom of utensils is that either you make some for yourself in your youth years, or at some point, a lover might give you a set. There was a spoon cum fork, what we’d call a spork, common in Kyrum, carved of a highly sturdy fine white element that I could not figure out what it was made of. The outside finish had a smooth, silky hardness, almost enamel like. There was also a knife of a sharp steel blade with a handle made out of the same white matter. I stood there inspecting them.

“Deer antler from the Sunland. They were carved, then sandblasted, then put before very gradual high heat with more sand to essentially be glazed in glass.” Aer’loy’lee read my curiosity. “Given to Mahshwehr by a lover many moons ago, as you say in Povraiian. Deer grow large down in the Sunland and the Sunlanders know everything to do with them and their remains.”

I hadn’t taken notice of Aer’loy’ee’s utensils yet. They were made of glass beads and steel. It was pretty cool how you could see the steel run into the glass.

My serving being slight, I ate rapidly. The textures of the potatoes with the salt crystals and the plant parts was satisfying. Aer’loy’ee ate her fish eggs and cherries happily, smiling while she ate and looking around at the players. Most of the conversations continued, but a few players where already making it over to the fields and some trainers attentively followed them. Froy’yees had made his way over to the garden. Aer’loy’ee told me he often liked to mill about and wander through the garden to collect his thoughts. He was just now making his way out from the garden and towards the fields.

“Well, that hit the spot, though I probably could have eaten three more bowls.” I shared with Aer’loy’ee.

Tehr. You don’t want to be full. Then you’d get sleepy. Just enough to get your blood sugar up, but leave enough room for your body to work some. The body has to work to sharpen endurance.” Aer’loy’ee sensed my anxiousness to be out on the pitch. She reached into her pocket and handed me a skinny one hitter made of wood with a small metal bowl at the end. It was about four inches long. “Here you are. Packed with fresh stolma. Not more than two hits.”

I took it from her dark hands across the table. She dug back in her pocket, then flipped me a small wooden match. It floated away in the wind, but I managed to catch it. Good sign, my reflexes were keyed up.

I lit the match on the table. Kyeurmic matches you can light from practically any surface, and they burn solidly too. Drawing the one hitter to my mouth I took a deep draw, thanks to the mountain air my draw didn’t feel as deep as back in the lower lands. Maybe that was good. I exhaled. Aer’loy’ee winked at me. I took my second hit. This time it felt a little easier. The stolma was delightful — fresh, grassy, and light, just a slight hint of the tart sweet flower in the draw. I held that second hit long and thought about being a kid again and remembered what it was like to warm up and play in front of Amelle. Even though she was younger than my age class, we all knew she was a hot shit, so it was always a time to show off anytime I played in front of her. I exhaled and cleared my mind as I did. I was ready to play. I stood up from the table, handed Aer’loy’ee back her one hitter.

“Ok Aer’loy’ee, thank you for the kind hospitality, assessing me, and getting me fixed up. I’m ready to see what I can put this old body through.”

Aer’loy’ee softly laughed, “Great Jhol, good friend, great! But let me see you down that beaker before you leave.”

I smiled. She was a good doc — even if she wasn’t a doc. I nodded to her and raised my glass. It was more delicious mountain water, milky and silky, cold but not too cold. I guzzled it down easily. It felt perfect. “There you are. Thank you again!” I bowed to her. I don’t know why. People in Kyrum don’t generally bow to each other, but it felt deserved. Then, I turned and walked briskly towards the fields, jogging as I got closer. More players were wrapping up their food and conversations now and were gathering around Froy’yees and the other trainers.

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It felt absurd to be lining up with Timtwa Gorseithoo, T’yoos’eel Mae’dohs, Yooluhs Oadvee, and Hahrld tewkLoy’eed — all players who had played for the Kyrum national team. I was excited, nervous, still hungover, and with gently tired legs though feeling a bit uplifted from the food and stolma. It was a strange mix of feelings and I wondered if the pros ever feel this before a big game; excited and nervous. Amelle had never mentioned it to me. I certainly felt keyed up, ready to focus, ready to attack. I could feel the kind of achy tiredness that kicks my endurance, and ego, into top gear.

The coaches gathered around Froy’yees in different groups and I realized it was in the different positional pods. Typical Kyeurmic teams are organized by goalkeeping groups, defenders, midfielders, wings, forwards — and there’s a coach and sometimes even an assistant for each group. These pods will train specifically on movements and tactics for their roles and positions, then they’ll combine towards the end of training to work on the big picture. Players generally have a primary pod, but regularly will serve time in another position’s pod to expand their mental and tactical elasticity.

I had no idea where I’d be going. I grew up playing wing, but in the recreational leagues back in Awborne these past few years I’d turned into a pretty solid defensive midfielder. All the players had parceled themselves into the pods in front of the respective coaches. Kældurn stood in front of the forwards. He made eye contact with me and nodded to his right. I think he was saying I should go with that group. Mae’dohs and Gorseithoo were in that group, so I assumed it was the wing players. It was also the smallest pod. “Great,” I thought to myself, “I’ll be slow for a winger and stick out in the low numbers.” I had to remind myself — this was just for the experience, I wasn’t a pro, nor was I expected to be.

Froy’yees raised his head in conviction, the pristine pitches, wild arstol buds and vines, the river valley behind him. Thin clouds had floated into the midday light. “Koolaenatho, thank you all for endearing me to another day of Kyeurmic collectivism. Nice work with the movements this morning and the jog up!” He smiled his happy wryly smile, his crazy hair poking out from his headband. “Playing Glawnjheur this week, as we covered in the tactical talks yesterday, we’ll be playing a tighter press and faster, more responsive attack. So all week we’ve raised our conditioning levels. And the pace on the run up reflected this. Yous were 20 seconds faster on your miles per minute. That’s pretty damn good!” He paused, held his hand up into the air. Players nodded. “No, damnit, that’s really fucking good!” The players and coaches laughed. Then he commanded, “Hugs, pats, high fives, damnit!” Deeper laughter erupted as everyone mingled together clasping and embracing.

There was an irony watching a Pov prod a bunch of Kroons with motivation. I stood at the back of the wingers. Ahr’pahn’ro, the waterbearer on our run up, turned around to me to make sure I was included. She gave me an awkward high five, “This is what they do in Povrai, right?” She held up her skinny, boney wrist.

Froy’yees stopped all the activity, “So all this right here. Stop. Hold it as you are. This eruption of appreciation, celebration, togetherness. I want you to stop it, store it. Place it in your hearts and heads. In this practice today, and while playing Glawnjheur this week, remember one word as the mantra of our togetherness — ahgae.” He said the Kyeurmic word for now. Everyone paused. Froy’yees repeated very slowly, “Ah…gae.” Everyone looked at him like he was both a madman and truthspeaker. There was an unmissable suspense in the air. I myself wondered where in his Povness this came from. “Ahgae is us, eternal, together, on a call in a forever instance, in the tissues of muscles and neurons. In this air between us that makes us us! It’s explosive. It’s calm. Ahgae.” He waved his hand, sort of cutting through the air, signing he was done.

In this moment I had an epiphany about Froy’yees. What he was doing in Kyrum. Why he had come here. Why he had been drawn to the ancient, everlasting culture… You could never say such things to pros back in Povrai. They would not get it, they wouldn’t tolerate it, stomach it, and they’d think you were batshit crazy. But, there is a spiritual and biological cognizance in Kyrum that had let Froy’yees feel welcome in the art of his own humanity. An art, that we just don’t know, understand, or practice back in Povrai.

Understanding the closing stillness in their manager’s words, the players bolted off towards the pitches like finely tuned, contemplative, focused warriors. I still had the word ringing in my ears. I jogged over to the fields with Kældurn.

“You peg me as a winger, aeh?” I barracked him.

“Oh Myeurnawn, there’s a certain type of wide player with a build similar to you — a little tall, but not too tall, gently stout with good posture. They’re often good at possession. We’ll see. Glawnjheur has good possession from their width. It can keep teams stretched. Let’s see if you can give us a taste of that.”


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Training With Koolaen, Part 6 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

As Kældurn and I were winding down with our stretching a trainer came up and introduced herself to me as Lo’o’toag. She knelt down by Kældurn as he bent my feet back and held my knees. “Is it ok if I touch you? I’d like to check out your muscle and tendon tension.”

“Sure.” I replied. She had a very calm presence about her. Her head was large and broad, her forehead especially. Her hair was dreaded, but short. A headband pushed the short dreads up, but it wasn’t the yellow and black headband. It was white with outlines of blue flowers and yellow stars in their center. She smelled like fresh cedar.

Lo’o’toag pressed behind my right knee with two fingers. She motioned to Kældurn to continue stretching me. “You’ve had this knee replaced, haven’t you?”

“Wow,” I thought to myself. I’m sure the wonder showed in my eyes. She knew the answer.

“I wish they wouldn’t do such unnecessary surgeries in your parts. With needles, salts, and microbionics we can work with the body to heal itself.”

“Microbionics?” I asked.

“Oh, they’re electrical, but they’ll dissolve. They’re chained cells of calcium, sodium, and potassium that the network guild can access and give instructions to. We’re able to wirelessly monitor and distribute the compounds over a couple weeks. Ascorbic acid in the salts is critical to spur collagen uptake. You can have a completely torn ACL healed in two months, be back playing in four months. You could possibly still benefit from the treatment.”

She stood up. Knocked grass off her taught training pants. She wore football boots. “And you’re a little dehydrated. Your muscle twitches indicate ethanol consumption. I’d not drink again any night before you come train with the Club. You could have had a seizure on the run. I’ll have Aer’loy’ee test the salt levels in the blood.”

Lo’o’toag moved on to some other players. I watched her walk away with my jaw dropped. Her presence was so casual, calm, yet full of conviction. She touched me with two fingers for a few seconds behind each knee and ran her fingers down the front of my legs from the top of my thighs over my shins. That’s it. She had assessed all that from just feeling the structure and tension in my body.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Isn’t that how they say it in this tongue?” Kældurn spoke to me in Povraiian.

I answered him back in Kyeurmic, “You don’t understand Tomawsh. I’ve never experienced anything or anyone like that. Lo’o’toag seems like she’s from another realm.”

“Another realm? Hah!” He laughed, “No, she’s definitely here with us. Been with the Club for some years. Joined a few years before I played first team.”

He yelled out at Lo’o’toag, now tending to Yooluhs Oadvee, the team captain, stretching his arms and shoulders. “Eo, Toag’ihlla, Myeurnawn thinks you’re from another realm. You been faking us out?”

The players and trainers close to us looked up and looked at us. Lo’o’toag grinned and waved Kældurn off, sort of hushing him off. She then spoke to him in the signs. I’m not sure what she said. He grinned it off, stretched me just a little bit more then stood up.

“You my friend are almost good to go, but that’s Aer’loy’ee. She’ll confirm your vitals and salts.” He pointed to a woman who reminded me of Tahkmeeluh. Skinny, lanky, boney, with modest breasts. Tall for a Kyeurmic person, a little over 6 foot. She had a sharp nose and angular face like Tahkmeeluh. Her hair was long. She had it pulled back in an orderly design of four to six braids. It was quite artful. She had a mix of orange and red poppies braided into the hair.

On the backside of the earthen club house was a patio that looked over the fields and the river valley. Tables and chairs were sat out. The patio had what looked like canvas awnings that had been drawn down to the side of columns, so the whole area sat open in the rich sunlight and parade of clouds. Behind the patio, coming off the far backside of the slope of the house was a garden, partially tiered. It had tall lumber walls and woven trellising all around it. I assume to keep critters out. 100 feet above the garden was a raised promontory with a grove of squatty and wired oak trees. You could see the grove on the sloping mountain from the approach on the road up.

Kældurn made his way over to the tables. A number of players and staff were already finished with their stretching and assessments and had begun gathering for light food and drink. I walked over to Aer’loy’ee.

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“Greetings from a mountain high.” I attempted a random Kyeurmic style greeting. I needed some work on this.

She answered back, “Yae, where the birds and sun fly two but turn to one all in night. What avian spirit shouldered you on the journey?” I didn’t know how to answer. Not sure if she wanted me to stay literal or metaphorical. She sensed my confusion. “How are you feeling? How’d the run do you? Your eyes look taught. But your legs look nicely set, toned but relaxed.”

I sensed her assessment. “The run was tough. It kicked my…” I was uncertain of the Kyeurmic word for ass in this context. Aer’loy’ee helped me finish my expression with tail. I continued, “But this paired stretching you all do is really brilliant. Revived me quite a bit.”

She nodded slowly, her sharp angled face, her smooth dark skin showing even smoother in the midday sunlight. “Well, are you up for football then?” She asked how a parent might playfully prod a kid.

My face lit up with a smile, “Oh absolutely! What an incredible place to play.” I responded with joy and energy.

She reached towards my left hand. “And what do we call you here?”

I was tempted to introduce myself with a fictitious Kyeurmic footballer name, but that would have been absurd. I clearly look Pov. “I’m Myeurnawn, Jhol Myeurnawn.”

She repeated Jhol slowly, happily tossing the o vowel in her mouth. “Ah yes, an old friend of Amelle. It is a delight to meet you.” She said that last part in Povraiian. She touched me on my fingers, turning my hand and gently directed me, “Now show me that beautiful wrist your mother gave you.” I twisted my arm up.

She took my hand and arm and moved it a little higher up in the sunlight, looking at the veins in my wrist intently. Her bottom jaw dropped and furled in thought, “Hmm. Looks like you might need what you all call manganese and folate. But let’s see. I’m just gonna swab this small bit of glycerin and enzymes on your wrist here.”

She reached into her trainer pocket, opened a little vial, swabbed it with her finger, then swabbed it on my wrist. I was complacent and curious. I watched her the same way I’d seen Pink or Blue watch me trustfully yet tentatively as a veterinarian inspected and annoyed them. I wasn’t annoyed though. It was just that same basic intuitive, animal — I’m trusting you — look. I don’t know why, but I expected it to hurt. It was sticky but it didn’t hurt.

She patted and smoothed the gel out. “There we go. Now let’s see what it tells us in a minute.”

“Is this sorcery?” I asked in Mehthurnic because I wasn’t aware of the Kyeurmic word.

She answered in the common tongue, “Saltery, Jhol. Saltery. At least a systemic dermatological technique of a certain kind of saltery. There’s also yeast and serotonin mixed in with that paste, as catalysts. But it’s from the Kro’ahv Morric Saltists Guild, so it’s formulated to account for mineral assessment at higher altitudes. And no, there’s no difference in your current baseline mineral levels at zero altitude compared to this altitude, but the altitude does affect the metabolic activity of what’s in that paste, so there you have it.” She spoke like a scientist, absent minded professor, and kindergarten teacher, all mixed together.

Amelle had told me about the saltist. She may have mentioned her name, but I didn’t honestly remember. I’m certain now Aer’loy’ee was the saltist she had mentioned. She would be about the same age, probably 55-60 years old and had the motherly, happy scientist-mentor sense about her that Amelle had described. Amelle had also said that the saltist monitors all sorts of data; nutrition, caloric, barometric pressure, air moisture, air particles, outside temperature, body temperatures, oxygen and mineral levels. She analyzed how all that affected individual and collective performance and could provide the coaching staff with an expected performance output for any given match.

Aer’loy’ee held my hand as she talked and we waited for the paste to do its magic. I shared a summary of my internal thoughts to her, “Yeah, Amelle told me a little about you and that you’re quite the studious saltist, studying all sorts of data and variables that contribute to the collective and individual performances.”

She grinned humbly, “Oh, I hope my work helps out the Club, though I’m more than just a saltist — I’m also on the ground crew for Muhr Gee, get to help trim the turf and cut the patterns into it.” She signed scissors cutting with her other hand.

“You folks cut that big pitch with scissors?”

She answered in Mehthurnic, “Yes, you smart ass.” Her eyes winced a smile with her reply. Returning back to Kroonic, “Arbah! Now let’s see what we’ve got with you Jhol.” She raised my wrist to her eyes. She took a ruby jeweled monocle out of her pocket.

Aer’loy’ee held and stared at my wrist for over a minute, her head tilted, breathing calmly through her nose, one eye closed, the other looking through the monocle. After that drawn out minute of silence and focus she laid my hand down by my side, “Ok, Jhol, make your way over to the kitchen. We’ll get you a bowl of curried potatoes, asparagus, basil, rosemary, and coriander leaves. And make sure you drink two larger beakers of water. Not goblets though, we don’t want the minerals completely to flush out.”

“Potatoes?” I retorted sardonically.

“Well, it’s more about what’s in those greens and herbs — folate, copper, and vitamin K. The copper, I suspect you’re lacking from your normal metal-infused industrial diet and environment. That looks very low. Not critical, but low. I can tell from this spectrum, you have a higher genetic requirement for copper than Kroons typically do. But yes, the pyridoxine in the potatoes will help your stomach metabolize all these nutrients in a unified, evenly distributed manner. I’ll chat with Mahshwehr about getting you the perfect bowl mixed up. And speaking of bowls, I recommend a toke of stolma. Your potassium is low, but its decay patten indicates that happened in the past two hours.” She looked at me directly in the eyes like a detective, “Inflammation. The stolma will get you ahead of the curve on that, but not too much, ya heathen.”

Aer’loy’ee rubbed and rolled the paste off my arm, then she put away the monocle, patted it in her pocket. She turned to the sky and said, “We can see because of the stars.” I wasn’t sure exactly what she meant, but it felt like a personal expression of thank you to the greater cosmos. She took me by the hand and gently walked me over to the patio where many of the players and staff ate and refueled.

“I never imagined a doc would recommend I smoke stolma, or smoke anything for that matter.” I mused while we walked.

“Well, I’m not a doctor, I’m simply a conduit between the continuum of your body and the continuum of the environment.” Her arm gestured across the moutainscape.


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Training With Koolaen, Part 5 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

Up ahead, on the trail, the rest of the players had filed back into line. They were about 30 yards ahead. Kældurn looked back, to check on me I assume. I lowered the water bag down and gave him a thumbs up. He shot me a salute back. I sprinted a few steps to tewkKyoo’ihf and the trusty waterbearer, handed her back the bag, helped her swing it over her head and shoulder, then grinned at them, “Come on, we’ve got a little catching up to do.”

We bolted forward, the team and the hills gaining ahead and leaving the city back below to the right. It wasn’t a dead sprint by any means, but probably a good solid 5 minute-a-mile dash.

“You made it, survived one of the toughest parts.” Kældurn welcomed us back.

I huffed and puffed, “One of the toughest parts? That wasn’t the toughest, Tomawsh?”

He laughed, “Hah! No, well, I guess it depends. Wait until we get the sprints going. The first few aren’t bad. But after about five of them, it can be pretty brutal.”

He turned back to the youths, “Ahr’pahn’ro, pass the bag on up for the players.” The waterbearer lifted the pack of water up, handed it to me. I looked to Kældurn to offer it to him and he said, “Just pass it on forward.” So, I politely nudged the player in front of me, an outside midfielder in the starting eleven, Mehrwee kom Ahnsesh. He looked back and nodded sort of an oh, swiveled back a little, still in his trot and took the bag from my hands. All the players took long draws of the water and then passed the heavy bag along. The bag eventually made its way to front.

The team was cruising along, freshly hydrated after our last urban climb. We were probably at a solid 7 to 7 1/2 minute-a-mile. It was tough for me, but this is about what I expected, considering the elevation. I couldn’t help but think of the classic cartoons I watched growing up. We seemed like a band of elves running along happily into the mountains. It was a perfect crisp day. The romance of our perfectly synced strides and breaths with the song of the pipes resumed. Clouds were sparse up here. Mostly rich sunshine and rich blue sky. Occasionally a patchy cloud ran into the mountains or hung over a peak.

To our right, low below, the Pros’sholth River pummeled into a green hilly valley. Further ahead I could see where it started to bend into the east, where just about 12 miles east of Koolaen the river originated. All along the banks and slopes down to the river you could see rich vineyard land of arstol and grapes.

Exasperated from our recent ascent, my head was pounding again and already my legs felt burned out. I remembered the feeling from my playing days. But, also from my playing days, I remembered how in a way, the pain felt comfortable, cozy, and good.

Mirial tried to convince me I was addicted to pain back when we were together and I was still playing and managing an over-30 men’s team in Awborne. I’d play my heart out on Friday nights, then drink heavily and sleep all Saturday. The pain I was trying to sleep through was more than tired legs. But, in a way, she was right, I did enjoy the raw burning feeling of mortality. I knew my family came from a long line of physical work horses. In the same sense, we were also serious drinkers. I’d lived long enough to know, these were all different notes of the same song.

As I chugged along with Koolaen F.C. on that mountain trail, I thought about my roots, could feel the visceral core of my body. I’m not sure if it was the breathtaking surroundings, the brisk pace, or the intensity of training with pros again, but I remembered what it felt like to be a young midfielder, controlling a game, with my dad looking on proudly. He didn’t make too many of my games due to his dutiful working class package deliverer schedule, but the ones he did make, he took serious and felt pride in watching his son lead on the field. We were such a serious breed, us Myeurnawns — and also such a deeply indulgent mold. My father was now a burned out alcoholic in the slums of Awborne… and here I was burning through a hangover, high in the mountains of Kyrum, on a training run with pro footballers.

The trail gradually sloped up. We had climbed some ways above Koolaen at this point. It sat behind us in the open gorge of the river valley. Smaller trails on occasion rolled off to the left or right, down to farms or vineyards or who knows what. Kældurn was right. It was definitely the most beautiful backdrop I had ever “trained” in. Something about the breathtaking aspect of the vista eased the pain and stress to my body. I felt uplifted to press forward.

The music of the pipes helped too. tewkKyoo’ihf had upped the pace and the piece a bit. It was quicker and more rushed and choppy sounding. No longer the long drawn out pushing calls of our climb earlier. It felt like a song of bees being busy, out doing their work.

And they were out too, dancing from crop to flower to crop. Dragonflies buzzed all around as well. Rolling down hills and slopes you could see red and white deer and on occasion, wild roaming horses. On some of the mountains and hillsides were even lone ramblers here and there. Folks doing who knows what. Maybe living amongst the flowers and animals. Maybe just out wondering for the day. Maybe doing some research or study of some sort.

The two mountains ahead weren’t the tallest in Kyrum by any means. Maybe 8,000 to 9,000 feet. Much larger mountains rose off to the west. Some bare and rocked-topped at their summits. Some snow-capped. Woods mixed of giant cedars and hardwoods entwined all across them, with an occasional jagged cliff, open meadow, mountain stream, or small village. I felt silly looking at it this way, but it was a backpackers or campers paradise. Or, it just is paradise.

Two villages sat up on the peaks ahead. One on each side. Our trail continued to rise up between them. I estimated they were probably about two miles ahead. I was hoping Osadahsh was just around the bend of the peaks.

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Not too far up, just a couple hundred feet, another trail climbed up from the left and merged into the thoroughfare we jogged along as finely tuned thoroughbreds — aside from myself of course. I’m sure I was spewing out fumes of ethanol as I exhaled. In fact, I could smell them myself.

But, up from that side trail ahead, suddenly people on bikes came vaulting up onto our path. One after another. It was like watching kids scramble up a dirt mound in a BMX rally. A gnarled competitive scrum. A couple folks even almost vaulted down the other side of the hill, skidding a bit off the slope and path… It was the coaches and trainers. And there was old Froy’yees wild blue eyed, bald bushy hair puffed up under his headband, and smiling devilishly at us approaching them, brisk and focused, in the zone with the pipes. He waved his hands at us like a conductor a bit, then clapped heartily. The rest of the staff gathered their bikes. They were lining up to continue on ahead.

Simultaneously, the posture in our already focused group stiffened up, got more stern and tight. Froy’yees yelled something. I think it was, “Koolaenatho, dahmahth eh’vethahd!” — let’s go, Koolaenatho! He raised his hand then dropped it. The bikers were off ahead of us. tewkKyoo’ihf fumbled with the pipes a bit. They let out an odd shuffling sound — like ducks honking and such.

Then… Kældurn tagged me on my arm, “Dahmai, Myeurnawn, dahmai!” He bolted off to his left.

“Shit!” I thought, “It’s the sprints!” My lungs sighed deep. My heart jerked up. I lunged out. Made one deep dig into the trail with my right foot, then was off after Kældurn. He was easily 10 feet ahead by now. tewkKyoo’ihf piped over the hills and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. How he knew this, I’lll assume the mad Froy’yees hummed it in front of him one day. I had no time to chuckle, but it was fucking funny.

I gained on Kældurn a couple strides but never caught him. As I got to the front of the line, he held his right arm out to reel me in. I tried not to stumble or lessen my pace. We continued on back at the brisk jog with group. It was a smooth delivery, aside from the fact that I probably looked like an old man run ragged to the young pups. I felt like my lungs were going to fall out. My head was about to explode with pressure. Kældurn asked me, “You alright?” I just gave him a sigh and an oh through my mouth. He laughed.

It wasn’t but maybe 5 seconds later that the next sortie of runners arrived. “My god,” I thought, “this is gonna be painful. Hopefully it’ll go quick.” The line continued on rapidly shuffling as we approached the peaks. Kældurn and I made it through five more rounds. His intensity didn’t let up until the last one. I could taste blood and alcohol coming all off my breath. Only the brilliant sunlight and mountains, and the spirit of the team kept me going.

On our last sprint, we were rounding the bend and could see Osadahsh. All the bikes were gathered at its main house and the staff were dismounting. The main house was an earthen dwelling, built into the side of a hill coming off the mountain, with bulbous stonework and arches in areas, broad glass views in, what looked like solar panels of some type, then a waterway ran out of its center to a fountain or drinking well out front.

We had a couple hundred yards to go. Kældurn and I were in the sprinter spot. I tapped him on his arm. He looked at me, as he did I bolted. I gave it everything I had. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my legs fell off or my knee blew out. But I chugged, hitting muscles in my hamstrings I hadn’t felt in years. We were on a mix of cushy turf and gravel. Bits of earth flew up behind me as my steps dug into the ground. tewkKyoo’ihf piped on. It sounded like a righteous rock and roll solo.

As we neared the front of the line, headed towards the club house, Froy’yees stepped out from the coaches. He held both his hands out, perpendicular from his chest. Damn, he wanted us to run it out. Kældurn drew even with me. I clawed through every calorie of energy I had left, called every muscle to duty. I could feel the taughtness of my chest and neck. Everything I had. Then, I had the most random thought, “What would Amelle do? Well, she would win! But how? It doesn’t matter, she would just win!”

Setting my eyes dead cold zeroed-in on Froy’yees’ left hand, I imagined his hand was a magnet, pulling me faster than any human could run. I pulled ahead of Kældurn. I kept thinking of Amelle and the magnet. I was not letting go. I kept thinking, thinking. Froy’yees was 20 feet away, 10, five. Bam! Slap! The coaches and staff behind him caught Kældurn and I. I’d beaten the old pro barely! Probably by a quarter of a second on the hand slap. The staffers were clapping along and singing a song. It was a Koolaen football chant, “There goes Koolaen, with a toke and a song, a pass short then long, like smoke that’s gone, there goes Koolaen, there goes Koolaen!” Hands reaching in, hugs and pats, voices at the top of their lungs.

Froy’yees turned and squared me up, “Myeurnawn, you bastard!” He looked serious. Then, he broke a smile, “You’ve beaten a pro, and one of the fastest ones this club’s ever trained. Nicely done! Now get some stretching in.” The crowd of coaches and staff broke up and moved out to the turf just to the east of the house, where the training fields laid out in perfect almost midday splendor, sparkling in softly dewed crystals of sharp greens.

The team jogged in. tewkKyoo’ihf unceremoniously wrapped up the rock solo. The team looked like they were ready to get down to business, Ahr’pahn’ro carried the water and stolker around. Most took a couple good chugs of water. A few actually gave some hearty draws on the stolker. Mae’dohs being one of them. They all caught some breaths, caught a couple thankful and reflective views of the vista. I could feel them acknowledging the vista with considerate thoughts. It was a subtle Kyeurmic thing. I wondered what their thoughts were. After their moments of thoughtfulness, business as usual, they made their ways to the coaches and staff to stretch.

We laid out on a patch of soft tall turf and stretched for a good 30 minutes. The trainers and coaches moving around to help. As is customary in Kyrum, stretching is regularly a partnered activity. The coaches chatted with the players as they helped stretch them. Asked them how they slept. Talked about dreams they had. Mentioned a play from yesterday or the past week, something new for the player to focus on, or even discussed the principles behind a current strategy the team is working on. Kældurn and I took turns stretching each other.

“Looks like you enjoyed the morning jog,” his voice showed a sarcasm that was aware it was indeed no morning jog.

Me laying back on the grass, I laughed as he pushed my leg towards my head, “Oh yeah, just the regular old casual trot at 7,000 feet.” Changing my tone, “Seriously though Tomawsh, I might be done for the day.” I let out a deep breath on the push of the stretch.

“Nah. Stretching and a light meal will get you sorted out. Aer’loy’ee will also check your vitals and mineral levels. Whatever you need, we’ll just pluck from the garden.” He nodded back behind him and continued, “Then, best of all, you’ll be playing football.”

The run had kicked my ass so much that I had forgotten about that major detail. It had been a few weeks anyway since I’d played football. And so far my play in Kyrum had only been playing in the streets and court football, which I was digging. Everyone’s touch and rhythm, young and old, was amazing. You could feel it tapping the ball around. They all had a subtle dancing posture, slightly swiveling their hips as they moved. As Kældurn reminded me of the basics, I got excited and childlike again, “Yeah, that’s true, the football! That should be pretty damn fun!” On that realization, my mood improved. I relaxed and gave into the stretching.


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Training With Koolaen, Part 4 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

It was striking how much sound rang out under the rafters of Muhr Gee Roln. I can only imagine the cacophony on game days. Froy’yees’ call to Kældurn had hushed all the chit chat. That was equally impressive. Kældurn jogged out from the coaches.

For bloody sake, he still looked like a pro. Tall for a Kroon, a little over 6 ft. While not bulky, his arms were cut. His legs lean but muscled. He had medium length bushy hair tucked into that yellow and black headband. All the coaches wore it and about half the players.

I got to the lines. The players looked at me. Some smiled. Some looked indifferent. Timtwa Gorseithoo nodded at me and winked with a smile. That eased my nerves a little. I made it to the back of the line where the youth players were. tewkKyoo’ihf spread a big grin with the mouthpiece of the drone pipes still in his teeth. I felt like a schoolboy again who’s start of the season training apprehension had been calmed by the presence of a classmate.

I moved to file in at the end, behind the youths, but they politely corrected me and stepped back. tewkKyoo’ihf mumbled with the pipes still in his mouth, “We’ll always stay at the back. You two will start in the sprinter spot. That starts in front of the piper and the waterbearer.”

“Ah yes, two old men get to start off the sprints.” Kældurn stepped up. He extended his broad forearm, for the Kroonic forearm shake. “I’m Tomawsh. The forwards coach.” No mention about being a long time player or club legend, nothing to the effect — you may have heard of me.

“To that U.R.F.A. Cup winner, it’s a great pleasure to meet you Tomawsh, I’m Jhol Myeurnawn, football writer from Povrai, long time friend of Amelle Uh’nyeur and known Froy’yees since his playing days.” He nodded with his eyebrows and we embraced in the arm shake.

“Well great, maybe you can get Amelle back down here from the big city.”

“Let’s see if I survive this training session first.” I quipped.

“You’ll be fine. If anything, just enjoy the view. It’s one of the loveliest training grounds in all of Kyrum. And don’t hesitate to step out if you need a break. Even on the run up, the coaches and trainers will be following on bikes.”

“On bikes? That damn Froy’yees! I thought he was running with us.”

All the players abruptly stiffened up and looked serious. I turned from Kældurn to my left, Froy’yees walked towards the line. Calling to the collective group, “It’s a Kyrum blue sky day…” The group answered, “It’s a Kyrum blue sky day!” Froy’yees repeated the line. The group repeated it, all building up into song.

I recognized it as the taunting chant that the Kyeurmic fans sang whenever Kyrum played the Povrai national team… “You’ll drink the stolker. You’ll burn the hay. You’ll take it all away. But we’ll be damned if you take that Kyrum blue sky day!” The group rose up in raucous passion at the end. tewkKyoo’ihf started his pipes to the tune. They were blaring full blast.

Froy’yees yelled, “To the mountains Koolaenatho!” His arm slicing over towards the corner of the stadium where I had entered. We started our jog. The pipes in full booming through the rafters, over the stones of the plaza, between the stones of the grand staircase. We were off. I beamed with a grin.

Once out onto the plaza, then the promenade, people waved at us as we passed. Some reached in and patted us. Some sang as the tunes of the pipe passed their area. My head was pounding back at the back.

I looked at Kældurn, still grinning. He laughed and winked, then threw his right arm up into a fist. It was a way of saying, “be strong” or rather, “we are strong together.” My burning hangover legs suddenly felt stronger. I still felt like shit though. Aye, I huffed out into the mountain air.

So far, our pace had been leisurely, a light jog. I’d estimate close to a 9 minute-a-mile trot. We were headed north where the promenade led down into the lower north side of the city. The buildings seemed a little shorter over here. Probably on average, about three to five stories tall.

I didn’t see any signs of the coaches and trainers on bikes. tewkKyoo’ihf continued on with the pipes… “Kyrum blue sky day. Kyrum blue sky day. Hey!” No one sang. I still sang it in my head though.

Everyone seemed focused and calm. I began to notice we were all in rhythm with our breathing. In through the nose. Hold for a half-beat, out through the mouth. In between the pipe tones, we sounded like a band of horses perfectly in tune. Something about the pipes blaring helped with the pacing of our breath.

Our leisurely pace was warranted naturally by the crowdedness on the promenades and in the intersections leading down into gardens. Still I was impressed and had even more appreciation for how the gardens and plots of crops ran across the entirety of the city. Where a Povraiian city would have had hundreds of miles of streets, Koolaen had a continues stream of gardens, crops, groves.

Once on the north side, the crowdedness thinned out some. To the left, to the west, behind the city, the foothills into the mountains rose up.

We got to a big open square of lovely colored tile work with a massive fountain of an arstol bud, probably the size of a three bedroom house in Povrai. Colorful streamers and banners ran across rigging lines high above the square and giant fountain. The materials were sparsely spaced though, so sunshine still poured through.

The fountain was made, or covered I should say, of what looked to be a polished acrylic glaze. It’s shine matched that of the tiles. Water streamed out from it in multiple places. There were parts of the fountain that folks drank from and parts where they filled up pales. Other areas people bathed naked there in the open. Not a to-do about it, from no one. A mix of probably 20 people doing their daily bathing, women, children, men. A couple other folks laid out on the tiles, casually drying in the open air.

We rounded the square on the eastside. Timber sign posts pointed to our left up into the mountains. Written in both Kroonic glyphs and the common Mehthurnic script it read; 6.5 rolth ar Osadahsh Koolaen B.E. and Koolaen F.C. Training Ground 4 miles ahead, respectively. This was good, we’d already covered a mile.

As we turned towards the northwest corner of the square, where I could see a cobbled walking street leading up into the hills, Kældurn leaned into my ear, “This is Grobahn. A very prized stolker making neighborhood. Make some of the finest stolker in Kyrum, especially for a city area. Lots of these folks work in the press houses here.” He nodded around. Indeed, all around the square were pressing warehouses and stolker houses. I hadn’t really noticed. I’d been transfixed on the fountain and bathers.

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We headed up the steep walking street. Just as we did tewkKyoo’ihf merged into a new tune. It was a bit deeper, slower, drawn out sounding. I hadn’t registered yet how impressive it was that he was playing the pipes through his mouth and running at the same time. He sent the steady, echoing, contemplative notes up and down the street. The buildings climbed with us. The street was a good 30 degree incline. Our pace lessened none.

We’d covered about 100 yards of cobble street and I could see up about 150 yards more to where it looked like the buildings and the street stopped, or opened up. My breath was starting to get that bloody lung taste to it. I reminded myself easy through the nose, out through the mouth. Though I noticed the players were breathing all-nose. I tried not to think too much about their ease and my strain, but the more I did I felt a need to gulp air through my mouth. I reckoned by the time we got to the top, we’d have climbed 500 yards or so in elevation.

So far, my knees felt ok. My ankles however were already feeling tender and achy. The incline was adding extra stress. “Just keep going. Just keep going. Lengthen your stride if needed,” I told myself and pushed a little more with my hamstrings and breathed a little more solidly in my chest. One thing I can say, the pristine air, even if it was already at elevation did help. I never breathed air so clean back in Povrai.

tewkKyoo’ihf pumped the notes a little longer and drawn out now. It was like long trumpet blows, holding and carrying of notes. Calls, if you will, with long suspended rests between. They must have represented his breaths. But as he did this, the steady, uniformed two lines of runners began to break off.

Wahseld Faleech was first. The veteran outside defender, oldest player in the starting squad, her big hunking legs digging into the cobble stones. Her back angling down into her strides. She bolted off a bit to the right. But what seemed like disorder, was competition. Her lunge out was into a quickened pace. T’yoos’eel Mae’dohs, the lanky, pacy, goal-scoring winger, a couple players behind her, broke too. Within seconds, the line was a scattered spread of players trying to overtake each other. “Oh shit!” I thought to myself, “No way am I keeping up with this.”

We had about 75 more yards of street ahead. I glanced at Kældurn. He had stepped it up some, but hadn’t completely bolted out. I was stepping it up to match his pace.

tewkKyoo’ihf played on. He and the waterbearer strode on in a cool stride right behind Kældurn and I.

Kældurn glanced at me now. “Go on,” I puffed to him, “go on.” He smiled and dug into a deeper stride. I told myself, “Most importantly, just don’t give up. Stay with tewkKyoo’ihf and the waterbearer.” Every breath of mine was blood and the taste of the earthy stones of the road and the fresh blooms of the arstol vines running all down the walls of the buildings.

I couldn’t believe I was here. I was digging in now too. Not to sprint ahead, but to keep a respectful steady pace. My head bowed in. I could see the strong whipping legs of the youth players behind me, their wrapped Kyeurmic style cloth-footed trainers on their feet chucking over the stones sharply. Further back, the square we’d passed and the lower rises of the southside of the city were starting to layout below us. “Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.”

The first of the players had made it to the top where it leveled out. A young player who’d already made quite splash this season, Geeldae Dorfawna, was the first up. He finished just ahead of Mae’dohs, with her tugging and wrestling on his shirt in jest as he leveled up and she followed right behind.

I thought the players would make it to the top and rest. And while there was a bit of playful jabbing, back slapping, and high-five giving for a second or two as more and more players made it, they didn’t stop completely and continued on in a light pace to the right, to the north, where the trail into the mountains led.

I almost had no more to give on this god-awful climb, but only had 15 yards left. tewkKyoo’ihf and the other player had kept a perfect steady pace. They upped it just a bit and evened up to me, each one on a side. The young player carrying the drinks leaned into my right ear and said, “We’ve got this!”. tewkKyoo’ihf played on, but he nodded at me, holding a long drawn out note in acknowledgement.

As we neared our last strides, tewkKyoo’ihf embellished the playing a bit, a flourish. How he could do this, I can only grant that to the pure energy of youth. My foot grabbed the last cobble stone, turning over to orange dirt and gravel trail and… we made it! I tumbled over just a bit, just wanting to touch the trail, almost crawling. “Level ground,” I thought thankfully.

Though hillsides and cliffs led straight ahead, forested with gigantic cedars and an occasional booming oak tree. The trail led off to the right and I could see it was a long winding path into the mountains. In this direction, the vista was more open. A mix of patchwork of green grassy hills spotted with wildflowers, farm and vine lots, occasional mossy boulder, all amongst rising slopes heading towards an elevated split between two modest mountains to the north. The brilliant late morning sun rained down sharp over the postcard perfect 40 shades of green that is Kyrum.

Recovering from my thankful, return-to-earth tumble, the waterbearer steadied me back up with her arms. “You did it! You did it, Myeurnawn!” I didn’t want to appear too much of a weak link, so I continued on in a trot.

“Thank you,” I gasped and gasped for breath and sighs, “thank you!”

I didn’t have to ask. She lifted the water bag off her back and swung it over to me. Goodness, the damn thing was heavy! It must have been nearly four gallons of water and weighed near 25 pounds. And she carried another bag too! Oh, to be young and invincible.

“Go on, drink, drink, drink. Air’s not the only way you oxygenate your body.” I hoisted the bag up and drank. It had the silky, crisp, yet untearable texture of plant bags. It was that perfect milky mineral mountain water. Just a bit cold, but not too cold. Some spilled down my neck. I felt like a dog at a park after a long morning of exercise. I’d stopped my trots to guzzle the water.

The waterbearer and tewkKyoo’ihf trotted on, chuckling. “I hope I can still do that when I’m 45,” she said to him. It wasn’t an insult, just an honest Kyeurmic to Povraiian miscalculation on age. Kroons age slower. Povs look older to them.


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Training With Koolaen, Part 3 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

Due to my hurried jog and athletic attire, people cast glances my way. I walked on like I belonged — an old journalist’s trick. I got to the multicolored lava rock stairway. Atop, it opened broad to the sky, bringing the city up to meet Muhr Gee Roln. Before ascending, I stopped, caught my breath, and looked back.

Peering through the high rise buildings and beyond the garden path below I gazed all across the city. My eyes caught the Nedyahr Toln rising in the heart of the city, where the great Pros’sholth River cuts underneath the massive structure.

It stood grandiosely smack in the middle of the powerful mountain river — supported by giant stone arches. Another work of massive stone masonry, stucco gables and friezes textured in more motifs of vines and gigantic flowers graced its design. Nedyahr had four broad towers at its corners. Rectangular, they were a patchwork of green marble and melded glass panels, in a style that looked simultaneously ancient and futuristic. The large hall, an enclosed square, had a rounded angled roof stacked with timber and tiles. The tiles were a mix of terracotta and polished lapis lazuli. The stucco parts of the structure finished in the granular mustard-clay plaster common around Koolaen. Oor Toln; built 13,000 years ago over the course of a 1,000 years.

I glanced back down the way and Pah’rolsh still looked at me. I waved at her, then took my steps up the rounded-edge basalt rock stairs. The stairway could likely fit a stream of 1,000 people at any time. It climbed up about three stories. It felt like I was rising up with the town.

The faint music grew louder as the wind and my breath offered molecules for the notes to cling onto. It was Povraiian classical music indeed. Upbeat, lively, sweeping, passionate, with a striking four beat cadence. Still not fully crisp in my ear, as I climbed I wanted to hear more. I upped my climbing pace. Mounting the top step, I looked back one last time. The buildings directly across the way looked like mere steppingstones I could easily peer over.

I turned to face the stadium and directly ahead of me the stucco and timber panels and frames of Muhr Gee Roln stood before me. Its glass sections jutted out of the top tier looking over the stadium square. Modern black steel beams combined with the stucco to provide a mix of old and new, homely and strong. Large giant cedars rimmed the square. A giant oak tree curled over a low lying fountain to the right. The fountain had stone-carved seats all around. Elsewhere around the square were more stonework benches and stone planter boxes bursting with herbs, berries, wildflowers and small vegetables. The floor of the square was tiles and stones, which wound into a mosaic of arstol buds and vines.

The plaza wasn’t exactly hopping, but felt like a mellow community living room, not as busy as more central areas of town. People lounged on benches, stood around chatting. Some were stretching each other. A couple moms were playing a game of pass-away using the benches and planter boxes as additional “players” with a small gaggle of giggling inexhaustible kids.

I continued across the plaza towards the music. I felt giddy. The corners of Muhr Gee are open, without any stands at them. This is how you enter. Rusted iron gates guarded the corners, garnished with more motifs of leaves and buds. I didn’t know this at first glance, but at half time during games the gates are lowered down into the pediment, so the exit way is entirely open at game’s end. Though the gates were up, just like at the beginning of a matchday, no one specifically tended them to count people entering.

Like all football grounds in Kyrum, and practically any structure, the stadium was always open. Town folk could come hangout, sit in the stands whenever. Hell, people could sleep in the seats at night if they wanted — and they often would the night before important games. But the pitch, that was saved for the teams, staff, and ground crew. And the work of the ground crew; that was highly revered and respected. So, while you had this stadium that anyone could enter any time, the general public’s behavior to keep off the grass was impeccably observed. And all without any signage or barriers. Clubs satiated any desire to get on the pitch by having regular open pitch play for pickup games, usually about once a week. Often players would mix with the locals in these open-house kickabouts.

I stood at the gateway to enter through the southeast corner. The music was clear now. Obviously live music coming from musicians. I could see them at the base of the southside goal stand. A quintet of strings and two wooden flute players. Three violins dueled and exchanged high pitched fluttering squeals. Violas breathed and carried the bass more predictably. The flutes provided melody and flourish. It was pure, beautiful, deeply passionate and striking Povraiian classical music from the later days of the Empire. I was astounded by the music and how richly it resounded out of the stadium and the arching tiers of the covered stands.

Someone’s voice was yelling out occasionally over the music… “Pivot! No, turn! Pivot now. Ok, hold. Now rotate, exchange space. Alright, pivot again!” It was Kyeurmic, but with a Pov accent. It had an air of demand to it. The calls matched the cadence of the music.

I wore the biggest grin in the world and though I had paused at the gate with my mind blown, another young trainee, hospitality attendant, waved me on to enter.

“This is amazing!” I said like a child in Kyeurmic to him. He was a stocky teenager, strong legs, short, with a broad chest for his age. He looked about 17.

“Yeah, it’s a beautiful day,” he said, gesturing to the vista behind us of the town, river valley, and mountains. That really amused me. The spectacle of impressive court musicians playing at a training session of pros was apparently business as usual. Froy’yees has found a natural home for his eccentricity.

“So, I’m supposed to be in the training session, but I suppose I’m a little late.”

“Ah yes, you’re Myeurnawn. Pah’rolsh told me you were headed up and Froy’yees said you’d be joining us. I’m tewkKyoo’ihf. Go on in. Water, broadwater, tea, stolker, and fruits are just down the touchline. I’ll see you on the run a bit later.”

“Well alright, thank you tewkKyoo’ihf! And yeah, I’ll see you on the run.”

I must have looked like a teenager myself as I stepped in towards the field. My eyes lifted up to the great roof overhangs. On the far side of the pitch, the western stand, three decks stacked on top of each other in sharp angles, protruded out of the mountain behind it. As I got closer and the pitch came into view on my right, I saw what has to be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and heard on a football pitch.

Grown adult professional players were dancing upon the grass, just as the Kyeurmic word for football literally means. They danced in pods of twos, threes, and fours, rotating in elaborate patterns, exchanging space. Sometimes they had a ball and passed it to other parts of the dance, sometimes they just moved. I counted about ten footballs whizzing around crisply, all simultaneously in rhythm. They danced to the court music, harmonically in sync, across the breadth of the pitch, the whole team of thirty or so players, the starting squad and the reserve squad.

Coaches stood behind them gesticulating and conducting simplistically. The coaches stood at the base of the center circle nearest to me. In the center of the coaches was Froy’yees, conducting more complexly and passionately. His hands struck up into the sky, like spinning cotton through the air. Balding, but still with long gold hair on the sides, he wore the yellow and black Kyuermic diamond headband, and bunches of long wild hair bunched out disorderly from it. His handsome, brilliant blue eyes could be seen from where I stood, now at the corner of the pitch. Froy’yees yelled out more. The players continued to dance, pass, and move. I was at a loss for words. I stopped, folded my arms and just watched, tried to comprehend the patterning.

I must’ve stood there for a good five minutes, mesmerized. The musicians played on, up and down in color and feeling. The piece was long. It must have been Florvau or Dihnel. It definitely sounded like a later Empire period piece. It sounded somewhat familiar.

I watched and debated how the heck was I going to join in the training. I mean, I have the skill to do what the players were doing, but shit, I’m not sure I could process that fast or feel the rhythm of the music at the same time as the players. I also didn’t think I should interrupt their “dance”. So, I stepped onto the pitch briefly, just to feel texture of the pristine grass underneath my running trainers.

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The pitch was immaculate. Trimmed to a perfect 1 inch height; dense, lush, moist, glistening with morning dew. It vibrated with 30 hues of green, mowed into stripes and lanes of about one yard each. It smelled like heaven, damp earth singing out. Every footballer, pro or recreational, stores the memory of fresh cut grass deep in their brain. Catching myself in another daydream, I grinned, then turned to my left and ascended some stairs into the southside stand.

I stepped up about ten rows, then cut into the center. I sat above the musicians. They looked to indeed have authentic Povraiian classical instruments. But, they were unmistakably Kyeurmic. You could tell from their dark skin and colorful attire, their ornate hair fixtures and adornments. They played on passionately, sweeping notes through the sunshine and cloud cover, resonant under the tall overhanging roofs. It was incredibly loud where I sat. Froy’yees still barked his commands. I continued with my baffled smiles.

The musicians wrapped their number. The players wound down their dance. The coaches stepped in and ushered them into stretching groups. Froy’yees paced a little with his arms folded, watching, looking like he was thinking. Then, his bright blue eyes flashed up sharp. He was looking in the direction of the musicians. He began walking our way. As he walked he began smiling.

“Nothing better than Coushae herself,” he said smiling and laughing, extending his arms for hugs and pats to the musicians. They shuffled their instruments around for the embrace. The strings ringing dissonantly as they sat them down.

Ah yes, I remembered Coushae. She was a musician, composer, and a nun, a Povraiian who lived at a monastery in Tro’vehr, during the later days of the Empire. She wrote and performed music secretly, as those kind of endeavors were forbidden of women back then. Actually it’s only been for the past 100–200 years in Povrai that we’ve allowed women to publicly play or compose music. Such a strange contrast to the longstanding liberty of gender practiced in Kyrum. The specific piece the musicians played I remembered now. I think it was her best known piece, The Five Springs Of Life.

Froy’yees was jovial. He hugged the musicians heartily and shared a little small talk with them about the piece. He thanked them for making our players move so eloquently. He created his own possessive pronoun out of the Kyeurmic “eveth” — we. Dangling in his last embrace, he cast his eyes up to me.

Throwing his voice in my direction, “Do Povs not shave their beards?” The musicians turned around, looked at me, then all started chuckling. It was a historical reference to the Povraiian Occupation leader, General Bohvahn. He once issued an edict to his troops, “The Kyeurmic animal runs around with flowers in his hair and long scraggly beards, but we, we Povs, we shave our beards.” So Froy’yees’ call up was a bit of a dig at our own peeps.

“You’re one to speak, old man! Is that a face full of sandpaper speaking up to me?” I riled back.

“Old man, eh? Too old to rise with the big sun and work out with a bunch of 20 year olds? Too old to go for a run in the mountains…” He paused, “Of which I hope you’ll be joining us Jhol.” He smiled broadly, extended his arm and waved me down.

I got up out of my seat, “I didn’t travel all the way ‘cross the world Seyñor Sætehrawn Froy’yees to miss this!” As I stood, I was suddenly cognizant again of my hangover. My pulse pounded at the back of my head and my vision blackened just a bit in a lightheaded fog. I think the reality of what was about to happen seemed an actual reality now. The gaffer had called upon me. I started down the aisle, then the stairs. Froy’yees gave parting pats to the musicians and they gathered their instruments and made off.

Behind him, back on the field, his trusty troops had formed two lines of 15, near the corner of the field closest to us, where I had entered the stadium. The coaches stood back behind the gathered lines. Two youth players lined up at the rear of the lines. I recognized the short stocky tewkKyoo’ihf from entering a few minutes ago. He held a bag of drone pipes snuggly to him like a babe. He breathed into them and tested their call. “Drone pipes,” I thought to myself, “… interesting.” The other, a young lady probably close to 20, medium build, just about my shape and height in fact, carried a couple large plant bags. I’ll assume one was of water, and the other, I’ll venture to guess, filled with stolker.

When I descended the stairs down to the pitch, Froy’yees angled over my way. He extended an arm excitedly, “Jhol Myeurnawn, good to see! Glad you made the day.” His hearty arm pulled me in with a handshake. His other arm rounded for a hug. He patted me on the shoulders, then pulled back. All hearty, warm, and succinct. Of course, there’s business to get on with. His charismatic blue eyes filled with smiles, life, and enthusiasm looked upon me.

“Thank you Seyñor. I’m excited to be here. And thanks again for letting me join in with the team.”

“No problem. Always fun to turn the pitch back over on the journalists.” His smile widened, showing small sharp white teeth behind his bottom lip. He looked over his shoulder, “Ah good, looks like they’re all ready. Well, I say file in order. We’ll get Kældurn to pair up with you.”

Kældurn was Tomawsh Kældurn from the great Koolaen team of the 17,890s. Scored the winner in the U.R.F.A. Cup final in 17,894 — hell of a rising header from a corner kick. He jumped high above everyone else and thundered the ball into the far upper left corner. He retired just a few seasons ago and was now the forwards coach.

I gave Froy’yees a clap to his hand. Turned and jaunted towards the lineup, trying not to look too excited. Froy’yees whistled over my head and yelled out, “Eo, Kældurn, give my countryman here Myeurnawn a good run up into the mountains!”


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Training With Koolaen, Part 2 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

I bolted down the promenade. The first couple blocks flew by in flashes. From everywhere in the city, looking down the open avenues of gardens, you could see mountains as backdrops all around. And the buildings, as Koolaen is known for, all rise upwards, 5–20 stories high, climbing with the rugged green and gray slopes of the mountains ringing the city.

Although there was uniformity in the buildings being tall, they varied much in their textures, masonry, mosaics, color schemes and patterns, and the unique blocks of graffiti at their base. On some buildings, there were even different masonry and painting patterns per each floor. And as noted earlier, balconies or terraces commonly opened up to bring the outside air and light inside. Gardens sprouted from the roofs of many of the buildings and even at different tiers and often around the balconies. Occasional floors on some buildings were committed to mid-air gardens. The buildings were living beings, and the people; their microbes.

At the base of the buildings, the promenades pushed out, usually about 15–20 feet off the buildings. They had the presence of broad raised sidewalks, but in reality they’re the main thoroughfares or streets of Koolaen. The gardens flowed where streets normally would, almost always the width of a 4–6 lane street in Awborne, and you could, if you wanted, make your way through them, albeit at a more meandering pace. The promenades pushed the buildings back, so the gardens were certain to have ample sunlight, not being crowded out by tall shadows.

At the corner intersections, where the promenades met the gardens, there where often either bridges, some arching, some flat, or ramps that took you down into a brief cross section of the garden and then back up to the other side. In the middle of the intersections were occasional trees and groves, mostly a mix of larger, towering giant oaks or equally towering red cedars and firs. The oaks and cedars, a well known symbol of Koolaen.

The Koolaenatho were out and about. Different from a city in Povrai (and even the larger hub of Mehrtalb), almost no one was rushing frantically. There were some runners out, winding their ways up and down the promenades and around people who had stopped to chat. People were out talking, hanging in the kitchens, eating food, speaking in a mix of languages and many folks sign speaking with their hands. Even the stolker houses had sunshine and life brimming in and out them. A jolly, contemplative, gently smiling middle age woman with thick dried braids of gray and maroon hair winked at me as I ran by. She smelled like rosemary and lemon.

A couple impromptu street football games were already taking place on the promenades, occasionally down on patios in the gardens. Sometimes games of youths only, sometimes a mix of old men and women, young adults, and children, danced and flicked, passed, rolled, and snuck the ball around each other.

Animals galore mingled amongst the city life — red mountain deer here and there, white deer, sheep, ducks, dogs, bobcats, caribou, squirrels, all sorts of colored birds, and large ravens winging from building to building, tree to tree, all on the same esteem as their human counterparts as citizens of the city.

As the fixtures and the architecture of the city burst with color, so too did the people and their varying ways of dress. As Kroonic as Kroonic can be, bearded men wore headbands and wildflowers in their hair, wrapped their upper bodies and loins with psychedelic patterns of pink, orange, gray, green plaids or light blue, yellow, navy patterns, all sorts of configurations of the linear weave. Both genders wore sheen green plant skirts with loose blouses, necklaces of ancient beads of jade, and hairstyles ballooned up, or slicked back… so gender but for beards, buxom breasts and curves, was almost indistinguishable by dress.

Many people painted their faces subtly, alluring streaks of gold or blue eye shadow across their eyelids. But a few others had meticulous Kroonic face paint — what we associated with the ancient Kroonic warriors of Hair Printh ko’ Lihdee’air, except these folks painted their faces in the art of life, not the art of war. Some of the patterns were pensive, lean, stoic, reflective, deep — other patterns were silly, bulbous, almost comedically theatrical, joyous.

One consistent element that caught my eye was the same yellow and black headband that many of the footballers from Koolaen F.C. wear during matches. Lots of people around the city sported this headband.

Congresses and guilds amassed in different nooks and crannies of the promenades and blocks. A crew of about 20 were working through a garden section, picking and pruning vegetables, fruits, herbs, and nuts. Laborers calling and signing to each other as they turned a large scaffolded crane, doing renovation work on what was probably a 7,000 year old building while artisans laid new masonry and plaster. Engineers inspected water wells and waterworkers descended into sewage drains. Schools of children and their parents out doing their lessons in the sunlight, drafting their first strokes of the Kroonic script and learning to garden themselves. All of the Koolaenatho doing their jobs and none of them earning any kind of income for their contributions.

Music played everywhere, rare was their a block where I didn’t hear music. Musicians played folk music and mountain folk music on guitars and banjos, set up on the promenade, often opposite from a kitchen. The vibrating baritone strings of a lone meditative temple musician bristled with the leaves of the garden plants and the ribbons and streamers hanging between the buildings above the gardens. Birds had gathered on the streamers to listen. The deep ringing tones from her strange 20-string instrument entranced me as Sha’no’een may have first heard Shae’nehb tewkOrnwee’ehl play her temple music. I made note of the area to come back to, but I had to continue on with my run.

As I cranked up my pace and bolted up another block, sonic electrified rock music blared out from a ledge about eight stories up — youths riffing some ear-bleeding, crunching, cracking rock and roll. The music style having originated in Koolaen and then took the industrial world by storm. It was subsequently the name given to Koolaen’s mix of quick short passing and long passing football around the same time, back in the ‘890s. Koolaen won both the Kyeurmic league and the URFA Club Cup playing that rock and roll style just as Yawnwinth Albo established themselves as the band of choice for millions of angst-filled teenagers across Povrai, Brawndwa, Mehthurnee, the entire world. A rare Kyeurmic crossover into commercial music markets. These days, Yanwwinth had settled back into Koolaen and Hirta and Mae’oo had already promised me we’d catch a show at the great music hall in the city.

Every block I passed was a world of discovery, like being a kid again and looking into an aquarium brimming with every type of fish and sea life. But, unlike looking into a captive aquarium in a sterilized zoo or science museum, the city brimmed with otherworldly smells — sweet, pungent, piney herbs from the garden, burning spices from the kitchens, rows and rows of the tart, quenching smell of arstol buds, the dank tart grassy plume of stolma smoke puffed by wise old folk and giggling teenagers. All of this mixed with a clean scent of water that ran in fountains throughout the gardens and streams hugging alongside the promenades. I’d never thought of the scent of water before, but here, mixed with so many buoyant scents and flavors, some olfactory nature of its cleanliness stood out to my nose like a crystalline tone of sobriety and purity.

The combo of all these rich, life-singing scents with that grounding scent of fresh water everywhere was a perfect analog for Koolaen itself — flavorful, eccentric, out of this world, yet somehow calming, rooted, recognizable, reflecting of some broader web of life. The people of Koolaen sang a song of earth and as her buildings rose up, they sang higher, a song to the skies and to the universe beyond. And all of this filled my eyes, my ears, my lungs, on my first run across Koolaen. I felt no pain. No tiredness. No sluggishness. I felt high on pure energy, lifted up by all I ran amongst.

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I made a couple turns to my right and from a distance could make out the rafters of Muhr Gee Roln’s high awnings rising up above the surrounding blocks and the shorter hilly mountains off to the west behind the structure and its neighborhood.

Suddenly, as I approached, I had to bring my run to a stop. Mesmerized as I looked up at the stadium standing above the blocks, overwhelmed with emotion, I found myself laboring for breath. The promenade and garden way straight ahead lowered as it continued running north.

High rise buildings rose up on the promenade’s east side, opposite the stadium, but on the other side of the promenade to the west, a large square arose the length of a couple blocks. The basin of the square built from smooth carved and curved gigantic boulders fitted together to form an organic tapestry of stone. No mortar, just perfectly placed ginormous stones. There, Muhr Gee Roln sat atop the square — it’s walls of plaster and timber combined with black steel, glass, gardens, moss, and vines. Trees grew around the stadium plaza, a couple booming tall cedars towering up above the square and the neighborhood below. The raised plaza had breaks along it that opened into broad stairways leading up to the main entry square. The stairs made of a mix of orange and gray volcanic rock.

From the lower promenade where I’d brought my run to a halt more discreet entrances led inside to the lower stadium’s innards, where the passing lanes and training courts would be. Occasionally along the wall, jutting out, looking up from the lower level I stood, were terraced arrangements of idol arstol plants blooming their brilliant sky blue in the sharp morning sun slicing through the few puffy mountain clouds.

The clouds moved slow but brisk as mountain clouds do, and I had to collect myself. Maybe the journey of my jog had entranced me and I’d not really noticed my hangover, but now, here again, I could feel the pulse of my head at the back of my neck. In through the nose slowly I breathed, closed my eyes, took in the clean air. Faintly, I could here music, string music, classical Pov string music. I opened my eyes and still the beautiful clouds rolled west to east in the north sky and sunlight sent down glorious rays across the mountains and river bend to the north.

I focused to make sure. Yes, I was hearing the music, though with my eyes open, it seemed fainter. I must have looked focused, odd, or confused — a young lady standing against the boulder basin, leaned forward concerned. Lanky, awkwardly tall for her age, long bird legs, with a buzzed head and wearing the Koolaen yellow and black felt headband. Probably about 14 years old, she had a yellow tunic with patterns of darker yellow diamonds wrapped up around her upper body as a shawl and had on black football shorts. Her feet wrapped up in Kyeurmic court soccer shoes. She formed Kyeurmic sign language to me. The only thing I caught was “music” and she insinuated inside, as inside a tunnel entrance just to her left. I furled my brow to ask “huh?”

“That music is for the players. That’s what you hear. They’re up on the pitch right now. Froy’yees likes it like that.” She said to me in Mehthurnic.

I chuckled, wondering what the heck Froy’yees had concocted. He was a strange Pov. Speaking back in Mehthurnic, “Yeah, Froy’yees, he’s quite a unique one of us,” revealing my origin.

“I thought you were Pov. Your shoes and that boot bag you have there. They’re nothing like we have around here. Your hair is too neatly balanced. There’s no color to your dress either. But you look curious enough. What brings you to the home of Koolaen B.E.?” She asked using the Kyuermic initials for the equivalent to F.C. — bawn ae’goo’osahd. “Are you a coach, a scout?”

Either because of my age or just my condition, she apparently didn’t take me for a player. I smiled warmly. It was football talking time. “Nah, neither. I’m a journalist, a writer, for the Awborne Football Journal. I’m Jhol Myeurnawn. I DID grow up as a player, actually from Nawntloo, knew Amelle…” She cut me off.

“Uh’nyeur? You know Uh’nyeur!?” A couple other people along the promenade and around the entrance looked my way.

“Well, I was going to say, Amelle actually brought me here, rather I should say implored me to come here, to Kyrum. But she was absolutely adamant I come to Koolaen. And yes, we’ve been friends since I was 16 and she was 12.”

“Then you’re a friend to Koolaen and Koolaen B.E!” She replied affirmatively. “I’m Fonayuh Pah’rolsh. Trainee, play for the U18 team, and also do hospitality on training and game days.”

“What, are you 14?”

“Close. I’ve been around Ohmehdol (the big sun),” she pointed into the sunlight, “just a few days over 15 years now.” Then, she gestured to her shaved head and ran her hand across the textures. A reference that must have been obvious to her, which fortunately I understood. One of the rare common rituals across Kyeurmic culture; not all, but some people shave their heads on their birthdays. They say it’s like watching a plant grow over the course of a year.

“And you’re already playing for the U18s? That’s pretty damn good Pah’rolsh!” I couldn’t remember how to pronounce her first name.

She seemed either humble or indifferent, I honestly couldn’t tell. “Yeah, it’s just where I’m at right now. Putting in all the work I can and making sure I play with others, first and foremost.”

I wanted to chat with her more, but realized I still needed to get to training. I’d already made a mental note that I wanted to catch her training sometime or watch her in a U18 game.

“Hey listen, Pah’rolsh, I’ve actually gotta get up to that training session up there.”

“Seriously?” The interjection of this common youthful inquiry in Mehthurnic I found amusing coming from a Kyeurmic teenager. “You’re training with the town’s club? And you’re a journalist?”

“Hah! That’s what I’m asking myself! Yeah, I’ve known Froy’yees for over a decade, interviewed him a couple times. Amelle sort of worked this out.”

“Very cool.” Pah’rolsh again confirmed in lax Mehthurnic.

“So how ‘bout we catch up later. I’d love to catch you in a training session or game sometime in the round of days?”

“Yah, we’ve got a game five days forward, in the morning at Muhr Geeleelee. It’s right down there.” She pointed to where the promenade and garden way curved down going north. The north part of the city lowers into the river valley. “Kickoff will be when Ohmehdol is on the midstone.” Kyeurmic for noon.

“Excellent Pah’rolsh! I’ll be there! Now, what’s the quickest way to the pitch?”

“Quickest is through this tunnel here via the training courts and housing. But appropriate is via the broad stairway up.” She motioned down the way to her left. “The team always takes to the pitch that way. It’s how the club…the town, enters the stadium. We all make the same entrance.”

“Oh aye, gotcha Pah’rolsh. Guess I’ll do it the right way. Thank you! And I’ll see you in a couple days on the pitch at Muhr Geeleelee.” I clutched my boot bag and jogged on down the promenade, reaching out and feeling the smooth stone of the giant basin boulders as I ran. The first few rows on the bottom were all about the size of bedrooms and fit perfectly against each other. The sizes got progressively smaller as they stacked up, again, with perfectly fitted masonry. It was a unique blend of engineered and organic. The mounted arstol flowers added an element of art to the imposing wall. A wildflower or herb on occasion sprouted from a seem.


To catch the latest from the Kyrum League and Kyeurmic football… and learn a bit about the magic of Kyeurmic culture along the way — follow KyrumFoot! And, thanks for reading here

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Training With Koolaen, Part 1 (fantasy nonfiction travel writing)

By W.T. tuqMairtin, an excerpt from the novel “Povs In Kyrum”

I had a bit too much to drink the night before. Why I’d been drinking copious amounts of wine on my first night at 8,000 feet, in the heart of stolker country, I can only blame this on the exuberant effect of three old friends meeting up in an enchanted foreign land at the far edge of the world.

Stolker was by far the drink of choice around Koolaen. They drank it almost as much as water. I believe this practice plays a role in the eccentricity about the city.

A celebratory mountain town, it descends out of a gorge on its western side, with a roaring river running straight through its center. Rare for Kyrum, block after block of tall story buildings, some of them 10,000 years old, adorned with ancient friezes and facades, are the default building style of the city. Down in its basin, where the network of streets and automobile traffic would normally be in an industrialized city — produce, herb, flower gardens and tree groves trail all along. Music scatters from one block to the next. Puffs of piney flowery stolma bud pepper the damp and clean mountain air.

Now, why I had been drinking wine the night before I’d be training with a professional football team and running a 10 mile round trip up into the mountains, with a team managed by one of the greatest footballers of the past 20 years from my own home country? I had no valid answer for this.

It would be easy enough to simply blame it on the altitude, or again, hanging with my fellow compatriots, Hirta and Mae’oo. But, I knew from my established habits (or shortcomings, depending on your perspective), I quite honestly love an impromptu party. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better at reigning it in, but I still fall prey to those vices on occasion. And when I do, it’s most usually with full throttle party force.

Now to be honest, I always drank heavily before facing uncertain tests of physical conditioning…

I did when I was a teenage trainee, the day or night before scouts would come check me out, or just before the start of preseason. I did it to take the edge and pressure off, but I also think the pain of a hangover made me work harder. Of course, this never worked in the long run. It’s probably not a practice too many elite athletes follow… though there are a few known boozers in the Povrai league (Kerree Hoerr and Martiln Cwoir come to mind). But, I am honest enough with myself, having seen thousands of professional football matches at this point, to know I just don’t have what it takes.

I woke up with my body feeling rickety from the wine and the altitude. But, mentally, I felt strangely calm. My tongue was dry and my mouth had a horrible cheese taste to it.

Down in the kitchen last night, Hirta and I had bombed back countless pieces of baketh bread with herbed fresh cream that was Mae’oo’s handiwork.

We tossed back glass after glass of wine, actual high-altitude pinot noir from a farmstead in the Vinyaland that Hirta and Mae’oo had been making treks to.

Hirta wanted to get the lowdown on Amelle and also how I was recovering from Mirial. The local folk were lively, but I spent most of my time with Hirta, ’til she left around midnight. And then I danced… oh yeah, I danced all over the kitchen with a dozen or so Koolaenatho. Some folk musicians struck up a couple numbers — droney, jangy, clangy, stringy river valley music. Clapping, stomping, hooting and hollering, swinging and swapping — the celebratory, wild ass, yet cultured mountain Kroon.

The room I slept in was lovely, with high ceilings. The bed was a mattress of compressed hay that smelled like it had dried lavender woven into it. The sheets were padded cotton, probably from the plains of the Sunland, and felt heavenly. Half of the room opened up to an open air balcony that stood about 5 stories above the street, or well, gardens. Sunlight flooded in gently, leaving the entire room a perfect tonal balance of half-lit. The walls were painted in blended streaks of orange, pink, peach, and light blue at places. The texture was Kyeurmic plaster, similar to stucco, with trim of timber that looked gold leafed all around the ceiling base. Someone had unKyeurmically added a draw sheet over the large oval doorway. As someone knows; Povs are creatures of privacy.

I thought a shower might do me good, but I was also cognizant I would be training hard, so I laid on a yellow, pink, and swilling light blue tapestried rug on the floor and stretched. Ooh, it felt good to stretch. I breathed the clean air. The air was so deep and fresh, it was almost as good as drinking water. Each breath felt purifying and after stretching for about 15 minutes I was already starting to feel renewed. I grabbed my kit bag and headed down stairs.

Hirta and Mae’oo’s “place” was through the oval doorway. I recognized it by their “stuff”. It was funny and strange to see knick knacks I remembered from a world away in Povrai.

Rooms led into rooms. Typically Kyeurmic. I passed by people — some people making nookie, some singing soft morning poems to themselves. All smiled with their eyes undisturbed. Until finally, in the center of the floor, I found a grand, wide staircase, painted with Kyeurmic diamond patterns of yellow and wood timber. It led down to the front corridor of the building and opened onto the “street” level, a broad portico walkway flanking above the gardens in the center, where the street would be.

The aforementioned kitchen, which had been commandeered by Mae’oo, was down to the left of the corridor’s opening. Planter boxes brimmed with gigantic orange and red poppies all along the wall to the kitchen. It sat, largely open aired at the building’s corner and looked out over an intersection of gardens.

Specifically, Mae’oo had picked out that kitchen because the gardens right beside it had over 33 varieties of vegetables and 20 something herbs. And rare for Kyrum, not too far around the corner, where blocks of buildings backed up into the mountains and a little slope of thick green mountain turf had some space, a small herd of six cows grazed openly. Locals came ‘round and helped them with their grazing, feeding them herbs and wildflowers and of course talking to them and just hanging out.

Now, the side effect of the herbs, flowers, rich mountain grass, and lively social activity was delicious milk, which led to delicious cheese and butter — almost never a part of Kyeurmic food. But, Mae’oo worked the artisanal dairy into her dishes and was rolling out at unbelievable hybrid of Kyeurmic and Pov cuisine in “her” kitchen.

I say she commandeered the kitchen because she had compulsively taken over running the cooking and the operations. From about 6 AM to a little after midnight every day, Mae’oo could be found intensely whipping up dishes, directing the local Koolaenatho in cooking, and bussing tables and cleaning dishes herself. In between all that, she’d be drinking tea with the locals, chatting and cutting up, and somewhere after 4 in the afternoon, be drinking wine or stolker depending on her mood.

The folks in the neighborhood found it entertaining and amusing, yet endearing that this eccentric A-type Pov had “taken over” the local kitchen. Kitchens in Kyrum might often have the equivalent of what we’d call a director back in Povrai, or even a few working in rotation, but for one person to be compulsively and tenaciously calling the shots, that was quite rare. There was usually more democracy to the dishes and the types of dishes that got made. I guess Mae’oo, just like her food, was mixing the best of Pov and Kyeurmic traits.

I stopped into the kitchen after I got downstairs, before I walked over to Muhr Gee Roln. My head was pounding and inside the kitchen, near the back, was a low lying lounge area where we had all been laying and drinking the night before. There was a mix of 10 or so of us, and it showed by the combination of 15 empty bottles and wine bags left scattered around. The pounding in my head made sense. I really had to reckon with myself — was I ready to train with a professional club today and do a 10 mile run into the mountains?

Image & link to buy the Koolaen shirt from the 17,894 URFA Cup final
Order your own classic Koolaen shirt

“We did quite the damage to the Domathold inventory, you think?” Mae’oo came up behind me. “How’d you sleep?”

“Like a rock at the bottom of a river. I don’t even remember making it to bed.”

“That’s ’cause you had a helper. Pihnarae and a friend of hers walked you up. You passed out over there. Knocked those bottles over.” She pointed to a spot in the lounge den where two bottles lay on their side and empty cups were strewn about the rug. “I take it you don’t remember dancing and singing through our quarters? You made up a little ‘Hirta and Mae’oo’ jingle.”

I half laughed, “No, don’t recall that. All I know, I woke up in a lovely spacious room with relaxing natural light and rich fresh air.”

“Oh yeah, they build buildings right around here. Been doing it for thousands and thousands of years. Incorporate lots of space that opens to outside. Fresh air flows all around and it ain’t polluted with car exhaust. It’s quite nice! But it’s not just nice, there’s function to it. There’s interior gutters which capture rain water and draw it into the building’s water supply.”

“Ah yeah, a friend back in Mehrthalb explained that to me.”

… Then suddenly I got panicked, realizing I hadn’t really checked on the time that morning, “Hey Mae’oo, what time is it?”

She pulled a small jeweled handmade pocket watch out, popped it open. “It’s a half past eight.”

I clutched my kit bag tighter, “Shit, I gotta go. Froy’yees starts the team at 8:00.” Then, I remembered something, having completely spaced from my heavy sleep and the antics of the night before… ”Uhm, where are Pink and Blue!?”

“They milled around the building while we drank and partied. Actually killed a mouse on the backside of the building, bottom floor, where the tewkOoskwah family lives.”

“No shit?” I asked proudly. They’d already made themselves useful.

“Yeah, and the tewkOoskwahs are great! Bevihnlol, the great grandmother told me this morning. So, at some point they took care of that business. Then they ended up crashing with Hirta and I. It was sweet, like the summer of 1783, when you went to the World Cup and they stayed with us. Blue cozied up with me. Pink with Hirta, ” she said referencing the Povraiian calendar. “Some time around sunrise they crept into your room to check on you.”

I interrupted her, worrying about time, “Well Mae’oo, where are they now?”

“There’s one of them,” she raised her arm and pointed over her shoulder, directly behind me. Between the wide open-aired opening of the kitchen, out into the gardens, a large stone rose up. I think it was a sun stone for counting time. It was in the center of what would be the street, but instead, all gardens. On top of the stone laid the majestic Mr. Blue sprawled out in the sunlight comfortably. A king amongst his crops.

“Hah, that cute bastard! Well, where’s the Pinkster?”

“I don’t know Jhol. She was exploring through the plants, think I saw her around the basil earlier.”

“Hmm, well, I gotta split. Think they’ll be ok around the gardens and the block?” I asked worryingly.

“Sure. They’ve already got some fans around the hood. Me and Hirta will keep checking on them. You won’t be back until nightfall, right?”

I started walking briskly off, satisfied with my trust in my two old friends in looking after P&B. “Yeah,“ I yelled back as I got to the promenade walkway right above the gardens. The flowers and crops looked beautiful. So many shades and shadows of green, with occasional color from blooms, there in the morning sun, some still with dew. “See y’all later!”

As I turned to break into a jog, a little “pruh prowow?” question caught my ear. It was the Pinkster down in the garden somewhere. I stopped my jog immediately. I looked down. In a broad row between some squash and beets, she stood there looking up at me inquisitively.

“Oh shit, sweetheart,” I knelt down to talk to her. The garden was probably about 8 feet below the promenade. “I’m off for the day to train with Koolaen, the football club. Hirta and Mae’oo will look after you. You’ll be good, yeah?”

She answered “preh”, short and flirty, then sort of did a circle walk around and “preh”ed again.

“Oh Pink, we’ll get lots of hanging out time. I’ll be on duty the rest of the week to play in the gardens with you and Blue. We’ll even walk around the city, go all over. I promise.”

She sat back, looked upright at me. Her green eyes shined glossy in the sun. She blinked her eyes slowly. It was a compromise or acceptance on her part.

“Ok dear, I’m off. Love you!”

I stood up, straightened my back, looked out at the sun stone, cupped my hands over my mouth, then threw my voice, “And Bluewae!” The handsome bastard raised his head slow and cooly, looking in my direction. “I love you too!” Lowering my voice, “See y’all later. Hit up Hirta and Mae’oo.” I pointed back at the kitchen.

Mae’oo had watched the whole exchange and was standing with her arms crossed, smiling. I shrugged my shoulders at her, like what else would she expect from me. Turning back into my formerly disrupted jog, I bolted away to the left, heading up to the northwest side of the city to Muhr Gee Roln in a schoolboy flash, high on pristine mountain air.


To catch the latest from the Kyrum League and Kyeurmic football… and learn a bit about the magic of Kyeurmic culture along the way — follow KyrumFoot! And, thanks for reading here

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Announcing KyrumFoot (and a little about soccer on another planet)

Hello World, Soccer Fans, And Fantasy Readers

For 30 years I’ve held an alternate world in my head. Well, mostly in my head. Bits of it have slipped out here and there. With modern civilization on the verge of falling apart, I figure now is as good a time as any to share the stories of this world, its model of civilization, and its ways of liberation – true liberation. Seems like we might be able to learn a thing or two in these areas. Let’s start first with how this world came into being…


Background & Beginnings

Originating from a 7th grade geological mapping project (thank you Mrs. Perrin), the land of Kyrum was launched on paper and in my imagination in the Spring of 1990. Heavily influenced from my later childhood obsession with Irish and British history and culture, I named cities and places in Kyrum from towns in Wales, old maps of Scotland, and old Celtic folklore. The strip malls, superstores, and cookie cutter track housing of my North Texas suburban upbringing fueled a desire of escapism. Still young enough to possess a child’s imagination, I longed for a world with more vibrancy; with textures, tastes, scents, jovial openhearted characters, free roaming animals, overflowing flowering plants and the artisanal architecture of the ancient civilizations once known on Earth.

Photo of me at 13 years old with my cat Horace and the original map of Kyrum on the wall of my bedroom in the background
Me & Horace (1990) and the very first map of Kyrum (then Cymry)

I didn’t set out to make a world of war and conflict, much as has been our legacy on this planet. I craved a world of altruistic high civilization; something we’ve yet to see surface and really thrive with on large scale on our dear planet Earth. A place of joy, grace, acceptance of others, and liberation from myths, authoritarianism, power, and insecurity. Only the purity of a child’s mind would dream in this way. And as I reflect, I’m grateful it was still with a child’s mind I dreamed the world and culture into being. It wove a craft of integrity into it, that to this day serves as its nucleic force. The creation of the world was a form of Design Thinking’s “how might we…”, some 15–20 years before the concept was coined. And, it sprung up not from the adult world of producing products/services/solutions for a corporatized marketplace, but from the unadulterated mind of youth wondering, “certainly, there must be a better way (for civilization to unfold on a planet)”.

Now sure, I didn’t linguistically formalize all these concepts at the age of 13. But the angst of my suburban environs, drove a hunger for an otherness. Nor did I sit down and say to myself back then, “there must be a better way for civilization”. Spiritually malnourished, as I shuttled in our fossil fuel guzzling LeBaron twin turbo sedan to our local mall to eat McDonald’s and buy the latest New Order (or last) Smiths album — I just sort of knew there could be a better way. And sometimes, you have to start off with just knowing, just feeling…

Sometimes that is how real change begins to happen in the world… when we come to know the way we’re doing things just ain’t quite right.


World Building & Fantasy Soccer

So where does football/soccer come into this? As it turns out, just at the time I created Kyrum I started playing soccer (as we call it in the States), and thanks to a couple very talented friends I began really getting into the sport. I quickly took to English and Scottish football. So as I created Kyrum, I did what any child would naturally do, I incorporated my interests. With a growing hunger and love for the sport, and with the U.S. not really having an established top tier pro league at the time, I decided to create a soccer league and teams for Kyrum. I dove head first; making up cities, making up teams, making up players, initially injecting the league with money and valuation (which as I matured the culture, ripped out money and marketization [more on this in due time]). I also designed team patches and their strip colors / kits.

Map of Kyrum, showing the cities and football clubs of the current season of the Kyrum League, Division 1
The current Kyrum League, Division 1

Initially a lot of this was quite naive and directly ripped off of existing teams and places. An example; there was a Merthyr United — ripped from a combo of Merthyr Tydfil, Wales and Manchester United. Again, I was 13, so I can forgive my 13 year old self. As this all matured and as I matured, Kyrum began to very much have its own unique feel, identity, and linguistics; that Merthyr United evolved to become Ahroontho Mehrtalb. I went even further, developing languages, a couple of writing scripts, numeral scripts and systems, specific regional cultures and cuisines, Kyeurmic music, etc. And also, importantly, I developed the entirety of the world, the whole planet beyond just Kyrum.

Kyrum is an island, just about the size of Britain (another reference of my early influences), but the island sits way off in the middle of a vast ocean — much like New Zealand, except without any Australia nearby. This isolation is what allowed Kyrum to develop culturally for tens of thousands of years and has since left it a very distinct and colorful culture. It experienced a colonial occupation some 1,500 years ago by a rising empire on the planet at the time — Povrai. And this is an important historical undercurrent and key technique for cultural contrasting. As you’ll see and as I explain this project, the main contributing voice of the project is actually a football journalist from modern day Povrai (we’ll get to that in a bit).

Map of the world of Kyrum, Ah’mawn
Map of the world; Ah’mawn

The contrast of Povrai presents an industrial-consumerist superpower culture that’s vastly influential, and intrusive, on Kyrum’s home planet. Just as Western culture on our planet assumes that they are the way — the end all, be all, so does Povrai consider itself to be the zenith of civilization. Yet, far off in the ocean sits an island home to a civilization that is nearly 16,000 years older than Povrai, and in fact has technology far more advanced than anything seen in the commercial markets of Povrai… and they’ve had some of this technology for thousands of years. The difference being that in Kyrum they don’t create technology to commercialize, commodify it, and make a profit on it (to take it to market), rather they create it to solve problems and needs, and to study the basic principles of reality and the universe. But I digress a bit. I’m a geek. Let’s jump back to our story…

The Aha Moment (Fantasy-Realism)

Then one day, riding the subway in New York City when I was about 27, the idea hit me — dude, don’t put out anymore good vs evil fantasy into the world; how about something different, something called fantasy-realism?

My imagination kicked on full speed and I conceived the idea to write stories set in the modern times (on Kyrum’s planet) and for it to be written from the perspective of a Pov traveling in Kyrum, writing about authentic, raw, emotional moments and memories. I’d recently spent a year traveling and living around Mexico and that otherly experience, that otherly perspective was intoxicating and invaluable. I was more or less doing the same thing at the time, a 13th generation Native Texan living in NYC. Those cultural and travel experiences were certainly key setting factors for that aha moment on the subway.

I developed the idea more over the next few months, honing in on the project’s scaffolding; storytell from the perspective of a Povraiian football journalist in modern day Kyrum; learning about, following, studying the Kyrum football league. It would be like Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Except with greater page real-estate given to the sport; and that sport being football, not bullfighting. And instead of Spain, it would be in a totally made-up fantasy land… thus, fantasy-realism.


And To Our Current Project

Fast forward 15 more years, and here I sit with two novels in the works, based on the travels and experiences of our football journalist from Povrai; Jhol Myeurnawn. Recently divorced, he leaves his home in the capital city of Povrai (Awborne), goes on professional sabbatical, and takes his two cats to live and travel around Kyrum, watching football matches, visiting teams and stadiums, interviewing Kyeurmic football greats, meeting colorful characters, and falling in love along the way (who doesn’t like a good love story? 😉 ). After being in Kyrum for about a year, he ends his sabbatical and returns to Povrai to report on the World Cup, being hosted in Povrai. Because of his recent travels, his employer assigns him the Kyrum National Team coverage during the cup.

Kyrum wins the 17,907 World Cup in legendary style and from that Myeurnawn spawns the idea to go back to Kyrum to report on the remaining couple months of the Kyeurmic season, posting Kyrum League match reports online for the Awborne Football Times. It’s a watershed idea in the industrialized world because up to that point no person or publisher or media company had ever consistently reported on the Kyrum League in real-time; despite the fact that the Kyrum League is generally revered as the top league on the planet (… and it maintains its status as being the top league in the world despite the fact that it is and always has been a gender-integrated league [coed] AND none of the players are paid — currency and marketization don’t exist in Kyrum).

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