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Through The Ages - chapter 7
By
Kari

Through The Ages - chapter 7

Before our widened eyes in walked the biggest, blackest bull I had ever laid eyes on.

Chapter 7

Training

All eyes were on Duris as he slowly walked over to the end of the long table so everyone could see and hear what he had to say. Nina followed but stopped just a few feet behind the girls. He first looked at the boys seeing how they were reacting to this new situation before he glanced down the row of girls.

Duris put a small smile to his lips before he began, “I see that you are all curious about your attire.”

He watched as they looked at each other nodding their heads in agreement. He liked the way they kept their wits about themselves even though they wanted to ask questions. He nodded his head again before continuing, “These kilts are what you'll be wearing when training. That means you will be wearing them pretty much each and every day. As for you girls, I know it's not the norm to be baring your breasts before your coming of age at 16. I have a good reason for asking you to wear the kilt. When working with the live bulls it is vital that you wear as little clothing as you possibly can. The horns won't be able to hook onto the small kilt you are now wearing and you won't be encumbered while moving swiftly around.”

He waited while this information was digested before carrying on. He could see that most of them realized that this made sense since some were nodding their heads in agreement. He smiled slightly again as he went on, “I think after a few days you will not be bothered one bit by your clothing. You will be way too busy learning to be the greatest bull leapers in our long history of bull leapers. I hope you realize what an honor you have been given.”

He looked to the far end of the room noticing the servants had their breakfasts ready to bring in. He nodded his head, letting them know it was fine now. He turned his attention back to the youths smiling, “Your breakfasts are ready, think about what I have just told you. OK, you have 30 minutes to have your meal then I want you all ready to start the day. I'll be waiting in the courtyard for you. Oh and one other thing, don't overload your stomachs, we have some strenuous exercises this morning and I wouldn't want anyone to have to miss them because of a belly ache. Enjoy your breakfasts.”

With that being said he turned around walking towards Nina, he nodded to her to follow him outside.

Nikos;

I listened intently to all that Duris had to say. It was really starting to sink in. The honor and distinction of being a bull leaper and all that went along with that. Our world revolved around our religion of the Bull. It was in every aspect of our everyday lives. You could see it everywhere, such as our pottery, cemeteries, jewelry, frescoes on walls all over the palace as well as private homes.

Once Duris and Nina had left the room, the servants started to put bowls of fruit and bread down before us. There was even some cheese as well. We filled our plates as watered down wine was poured from clay jugs into our cups. I noted the quality of the pottery that we were served with. This was certainly an impressive place that we found ourselves in. I had been keeping my eyes on the food and servants until I finally decided we had to look at each other sooner of later.

I slowly brought my eyes across the table and looked at Kori. I could see she was pretty uncomfortable, but at least she had put her hands on the table. The other girls soon followed her example. We all didn't know what to say, so I jumped up, lifting my arms up to show my small kilt and rather a thin body. I was after all only 16 at the time. Everyone turned towards me in surprise. I turned around for them to see me as I laughingly announced, “Well everyone, this is me....I don't think I look any worse than the rest of you. Come on lets all just stand up and show what we got. It's no big deal really.”

I had waited a few seconds before Kori stood up too. She started to smile and yes even chuckled as the rest of the boys and girls got up as well. Some did a wee dance to lighten up the mood. Once we were all smiling, I said, “Well, what are we waiting for? We now have less than 30 minutes to eat. Let's get to it!”

Everyone agreed quickly found their seats and started to dig in. When I looked at Kori, she smiled at me whispering, “You are amazing. I want you to know, we are really lucky to have you as our leader.”

I know I blushed at this compliment, but it felt good that everyone did seem to have gotten over their first uncomfortable situation. I knew there was bound to be many more in our future but for now we were doing well. Soon enough we heard a bell ring once. We were to learn later there would be different rings for different activities. We wiped out mouths and had a last drink before we left the table and walked out the doorway.

The sun shone brightly as we made our way over to where Duris was seated alone with some tablets.

Nina was to take care of the girls in their chambers, but otherwise she was seldom seen outside. I learned that Duris was never an idle man. There was always something he was doing or reading. As we came up to him, he looked us over before standing up, “I hope you've enjoyed your breakfast, I do have a busy morning planned for you. We will start with some exercises between showing you the grounds. Different areas are for different activities. I will welcome your questions as we go along. The main goal is to get you in shape for leaping over the bulls. That will take some doing, but I know you are all capable of it. The first thing I want you to do right now is to run around the entire grounds and come back here to me. It's not a race at this point. I just need to see what shape you're in. Do the best you can, now go.”

Kori and the girls took off first but were soon overtaken by most of us boys. I looked at the area we were to run and shouted, “Everyone take it easy, we all want to make it back in one piece don't we? Just pace yourself you'll be able to go further if you do.”

After this, everyone did what I suggested, with a few of the boys fooling around and laughing. We got into a mood of easy enjoyment, after all we were young and thought this was not going to be bad at all.

As I ran along, I found myself glancing over at Kori. After all, she was a beautiful girl, and I did enjoy looking at her lovely body. I am a man after all so give me some slack will you? Soon enough we were running side by side and I have to say, it was better than anything I could have imagined. She once laughed and slapped me when she caught me looking at her too closely. It was all good as we got used to seeing ourselves half naked. I believe the running did help us with that.

By the time we got back to Duris, I'm sure we must have run a couple of kilometers. We were all out of breath as some of us stood with our hands on our knees, others lay on their backs on the grass breathing heavily. But we had all made it, which is what I had hoped for. Duris seemed pleased as he put his tablets down on the bench beside him. “Well, I am glad to see you all made it back here, you could have been a little faster, but I have no doubts you will improve. I will give you a few minutes to catch your breath before we move onto the next item on my long list of things we need to get done today.”

He bent down and picked up one of his tablets looking it over as we rested. He nodded his head as he went through the list on it, looking like he had made up his mind. He glanced at us and said, “OK, I want everyone to line up in front of me. We will be working on getting upper body strength now. Nikos, I want you to lay on the ground face down, and then I want you to push up using your arms only. Keep your back straight while you go up and down. OK...can everyone see how he did this?”

They all acknowledged that they had, as they watched me do it several more times. It didn't seem to be too hard a thing. Duris then told everyone to get on the ground and do twenty of these push ups as he called them. As this was done, he moved between us straightening a back or giving advice. Once we were done, he asked us to do another twenty. There were a few groans from a couple of girls, but in the end the task was completed. He seemed satisfied and gave us 5 minutes to recover before carrying on, “So far so good, now I want you to turn over and lay on your backs. Kori you will demonstrate this time. I want you to lay on your back. That's right now, sit up using only your stomach muscles to lift yourself up and at the same time I want you to reach forward and touch your toes. Nikos, you hold her ankles down will you?”

Kori was able to do this with no problems. Once she was done, Duis told everyone to copy that and do twenty sit-ups as he called them. He gave us a few minutes, then had us do another twenty. By the time we were done, more than a few groans could be heard. We were encouraged when he pointed out, “Well done everyone well done, now there is one more thing to do before you can have a dip in our wonderful soothing pool.”

At those last words, we all perked up. One of the boys asked, “And what is that Sir?”

Duris indulgently smiled replying, “I want you all to run around the courtyard again, but this time I want you to do it twice. Then you can spend the rest of the morning in the pool before you have lunch.”

At the groans that came from us, he laughed out loud before adding, “Get used to it boys and girls, this is to be your morning routine for the next few weeks. OK...get going, the sooner you complete the route, the sooner you will be enjoying the coolness of the pool.”

I stood up and pulled Kori up after me. We then got the rest of the team mobile and a minute later we were on our way around the huge yard again. I now was wishing I had eaten a little more breakfast since I was feeling tired and it was only the beginning. I glanced around shouting, “OK everyone pace yourselves, and we will get there, I am looking forward to that refreshing pool. Come on we can do this.”

The rest of the morning went well. We all ran around the courtyard twice and then stumbled to the poolside. To our surprise, there were servants that rubbed our sweaty bodies down with warm oils before they washed it off and then we were allowed to swim in the pool. Afterward, we were given fresh kilts and escorted back to the eating area. As we eagerly took our seats at the table, Kori looked across the table inquiring, “Nikos do you think that we can do this? I mean the things they want us to do...yes, you boys can do it, but we girls have never had to do such strenuous things before. I don't know if we can do it, and if we can't what is to become of us?”

The food was being placed on the table now, so I put my hand up indicating we should wait until we were alone. I felt, we needed to keep our thoughts just between our group for now. Besides, I knew I was famished after this morning's workout. I took some flatbread and a piece of meat and started in on it. The others soon followed my example.

The noon time food was much more substantial than the breakfast. It consisted of grains, bread, meats, vegetables, fruits and the usual watered down wine. Duris joined us briefly letting us know he we had one hour to rest after our meal. The bell would ring twice to let us know when to head back outside. The afternoon was going to be similar to the morning. He chuckled at our expressions as he left.

Once the servants were out of the way, I looked at Kori and the rest of the girls, “You wanted to know if I thought you could do the training that we are to be given. My answer is yes, you can, we will all help each other to become the best we can. Have no doubts we can do this, and do it well. We'll work harder than we ever have in our lives, but I am sure it will be worth it. So, let's finish our meal and take a rest. I saw a room just off this hall that looks like it is a rest area...there were mats, blankets, pillows, as well as stools inside.”

Everyone nodded their heads as they went back to eating their meal. Soon there were girls and boys drifting over to the room I had mentioned. I sighed as I lay down on one of the soft mats next to Kori pulling a light blanket up to my chin. I saw the rest of the group do the same. We were soon either resting or fast asleep.

Before we knew it, we were awakened by a loud bell that rang twice. I stood up and stretched yawning mightily. I did feel better after the nap and could see everyone else looked a lot better too. Within minutes, we were marching out of the building and towards the place that Duris had been in the morning. He quickly explained our activities for the afternoon saying he was going easy on us as we were new to it all. I raised my eyebrows at Kori over that statement. First activity for the afternoon was to do two laps around the courtyard. But this time before we started on our run he had us do some stretching movements so there would be no cramps. Then again with the push-ups and sit-ups. That was to be the main type of exercise until we built up our strength and stamina sufficiently to his satisfaction. Our afternoon ended with the rub down and pool again. At least we had that to look forward to as we worked ourselves to death.

Afterward, we had a fine meal of you know, grains, meat, bread, cheese, vegetables and fruit. We were given the evening off, which we really needed. We boys went to our building and lay on our beds like dead things. After awhile, we were brought a light snack of fruit and watered down wine. I'm pretty sure the girls did the same. We went to sleep at sundown knowing full well that sunrise would come faster than we would have liked.

The next few weeks were spent in a similar fashion. Only as time went by, we got stronger. But the thing was, as we got stronger the exercises became longer and harder. After a month, our next big challenge was to train to run and jump into a somersault and to land on our feet. Once we were proficient at this, we started to work on a wooden replica of a bull. Running up to its head and leaping forward into a somersault before landing behind it on the ground or landing on it's back flipping off and hitting the ground running. We did these feats over and over again until we could do it in our sleep. I have to say all the girls did very well, in time they were equal to us. The rules were that the bull-leaping was always done in teams of three....one girl to two boys or the reverse. So there could be no weak links in our ranks. We were becoming athletes, in fact, we were becoming bull leapers! Or so we thought at the time. But there was to be more to our training then we thought.

In the meantime, Kori and I became closer. We looked after the younger ones, encouraged them when they needed it and in turn we got the same back from them. We were truly like a family in that way.

The more I came to know Kori, the more I was to fall in love with her. She had spirit and a love of life that I never got tired of watching. She was to become one pf the most outstanding athletes in our group always putting others' welfare ahead of her own.

After about three months, there came a day that Duris announced that we would be working with our first live bull. Even though we knew, we were fit and capable. The real thing was intimidating to say the least.

The bulls that were used in those days were of a cross breed giant “Auroch” bull that is now extinct in Europe. It had a shoulder height of over 6 feet and a hoof size similar to the size of a human head.

He indicated that we follow him to an area we had not been invited to before. He opened the gate and with a sweep of his arm had us all go inside. He came in after us shutting the gate. With a nod of his head, a man at the far end of the fenced in yard opened another gate. Before our widened eyes in walked the biggest, blackest bull I had ever laid eyes on. His horns were long and curved upward ending in wicked points. He pawed the ground once then spotted our little group looking at us for a few seconds before he started to trot quickly toward us. We all stood frozen in terror, rooted to the ground.

Duris proclaimed, “Meet .....Hercules.”

Foot note;

Archeological evidence has now uncovered that the type of bull used by ancient Minoan bull leapers was a cross breed giant “A urochs" bull, now extinct in Europe. It had a shoulder height of over 6ft (180cm) and a hoof size similar to the size of a human head.

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