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Morthander Deville with the Elevens - Part 3

Gunnar Varandsson of the Varmandi clan glanced up from his carving to check on the cows munching contentedly away on the tall Earth Season grass. The wood he worked was damp from the rain and didn't cut well - he was growing frustrated with it but uncle Illig had insisted that he learn. Illig was a marvellous carver - his goods always brought good return in Clearwine in the great market there. Gunnar doubted that he would be up to Illigs standard no matter how hard he practiced but tried nontheless simply because Illig deemed it important and Gunnar so wanted to be like his heroic uncle who killed three Lunars in the battle for Wilmskirk.

Looking quickly about he saw no danger. He wasn't worried about wolves anymore, not with the breaking of the Telmori by the Lunars - the packs had dissappeared of late - no, what worried Gunnar most was the Orlevings.

How he hated them.

For generation the Varmandi had fought the Orlevings over the lands of Ormsthane vale. Blood beyond blood had been spilt in the Tula of the Varmandi and the Tulas of their many enemies and Ernalda took such offerings well, giving good bounty in return and though the Varmandi held their lands once more after years in the Staels hills, the Orlevings grew strong again as they sponsored the Lunar Way like the cowards that they were.

Uncle Branthus, the Goodvoice, had explained it all to Gunnar as he and several other young men had huddled around the fire to listen to the terrible feud story and the war with the Malani. Branthus told them of how the clan had struggled to survive in its first settlement, told of the great heroes of the day like Varmand the Strong, the founder. He spoke of wars with Kings, struggles against whole tribes and through it all, the Varmandi survived and grew fierce of reputation and strong in honour.

Gunnar was thinking what it would be like to kill his first Orleving when he caught movement on the hills. His spear was set ready in his strong hands in a moment and when he got a better look he stared in awe at the column of men advancing over the ridge into Varmandi lands. There were a lot of them - near 300! Armed, armoured and marching with a steady step to a heavy drumbeat. Strong discipline ordered them and a strange wailing dirge of doom hung in the air like a miasma around their souls as they came on like a marching column of War Ants.

Gunnar stood his ground - this was his clans Tula, he was an inittate of Orlanth and Barntar and knew the Greeting and knew he must give it

Before long the column reached his postion. Most of the men in the column were small but heavily built - they were dark skinned and all had thick black beards that shot out from under their helms. Their armour was like the scales of a dragon. Each man carried a spear in hand, a shield over their backs and a mace on their belts such as the Trolls used. Heading this force were two men - both were completely different from each other in appearance but Gunnar grouped them together as Lunars. The smaller man was almost pretty, like a girl, he had paint on his face and long flowing robes with many strange glyphs and runes sewn into them. He bore a sword of iron on a bejewelled belt and an expression of infinte hautaur bedevilled his features.

His companion was big, even bigger than most Varmanid who were counted the biggest folk of the Colymar and all Sartarites. He wore beautifully crafted plate and scale armour which showed signs of much wear, his shoulders were immense, as were his arms which bulged with muscle and strength. He too bore a mace and his face was scarred from many burns and cuts. Plainly he was a warrior and a practiced killer of men.

As they rode up Gunnar yelled out the Greeting: "Do you come to steal from the Varmandi? Tell me the name of you Clan and what right you claim?" he was proud that his voice was clear and unbroken.

Deville sighed. Always the same with these barbarians - following their silly rituals. However, he knew he had to answer or else they'd be considered invaders and that wasn't an impression he wanted to give - yet. "I am Morthander Deville, priest of the Red Moon, this is Vrantharus Urashmallek, commander of the Elevens. We have come to see your chief."

Gunnar frowned at the strange accent, barely following his speech but he seemed to be claiming foreigner rights so Gunnar relaxed as that part of the ritual was fulfilled. He carried on with the next part loudly, sure of himself now. "Welcome Foreigner to the Tula of the Varmandi - follow me and you shall come before our mighty chief Vargan Bloodspiller but you must leave your force of men on the borders of our Tula or the Fyrd will muster against you!" He warned.

Deville smiled warmly. "Ah! Vargan Bloodspiller? Your Chief sounds like a charming fellow - yes, we'd be happy to meet him and we will happily leave our men here, but for a small honour guard. Lead on my fine young friend!"

Vrantharus scowled at all this nonsense as he issued orders quickly. He muttered his displeasure to Deville as the boy lead on and the mounted Eleven honour guard of Eleven men followed leaving the rest of the ment to make camp. "These people understand only three things; farming, fighting and how to bedevil you with endless talk. Best we kill them all and bring the to the Enclosure than put up with their jabbering!" Growled Vrantharus.

Deville shook his head sadly and spoke reproachfully to his big companion. "Now Vrantharus, these good folk are subjects of the Empire, they must have some of their little quaint customs to follow or I fear they will feel persectuted. Show a little understanding, they are poor, barbaric and ignorant - enlightenment will come to them in time." As he said this Deville unconsciously laid his hand on the hilt of his sword, the sword he called "Enlightenment"...

Word had spread to Varmandshall like wildfire. Vargan had mustered his Huscarls and highest ranking Thanes and Carls to greet the Lunars. His brother and Clan Storm Voice - Heorl Thunderfist came into the hall wearing the full spendour of his iron chainmail and regalia.

"The damn Lunars have come Heorl - Shepelkirt sends her minions to spy on us I think!" Scowled Vargan.

"Aye and its your feud-seeking with the Orlevings that brings them here I reckon!" Snapped back Heorl who was never one to cloak his opinions.

Vargan reflexively spat at the name of the Orlevings. "If they had taken the beatings we gave them with courage instead of running to the Malani for help we'd not have needed to call on the Colymar for their support. Blame Orleving cowardice and not Varmandi courage for the brewing war between the tribes!" His voice was beginning to rise as the two brothers faced each other like angry bulls over a long suppressed disagreement. Both men stood so tall that their helms nearly brushed the roof of lofty Varmandshall, both men were built with the strength of their ancestor who had been called the Strong and both men were filled with the temper of the Varmandi - hot, violent and flled with the grim ability to hold a grudge for decades, to seek vengence without end and to fight endlessly for their wyrd and kin.

Hands were on sword hilts before Myrdis, their mother and Ernalda priestess came in and smacked them both on the head with her stick to attract their attention. "Fighting again boys?" She screeched. "You'll be fighting each other when the Orlevings come to tear down our stead won't you?"

Shocked out of their rage, both men managed to look somewhat sheepish when faced by the wrath of their diminutive mum who was so old and frail that she looked like a dry twig that had been left in the Fire Season sun till it was blackened and brittle. "We are sorry." Said Vargan, Heorl nodding his agreement.

"Thats better. Now go on out there and see what the damnable Lunars want and be careful. If they've got three hundred warriors outside our lands then they aren't here to talk trading rights!"

Vargan bristled. "If they come seeking battle then we'll give it to them by Orlanths sword! Not a man of them will survive the Varmandi wrath!"

"Maybe. Maybe you could kill all thrre hundred Vargan, no one doubts the way of battle is strong in you but the next three hundred, then the next? How many will they send and worse, will they send them to the Orlevings to aid them against us? Think on that my son before you think of war."

As ever, Vargan listened to his mothers wisdom, thought it through before nodding his agreement - he wasn't a stupid boy thought Myrdis, just hot tempered like all men. Menfolk always needed the calming influence of a good woman to keep them straight - they were so emotional, so prideful that they were likeley to get themselves killed for no good reason.

With their minds calmed and their thoughts clear they strode out to join the Huscarls and the Lunars as they came through the stockade gate led by young Gunnar Varandsson.

<< Part 2 | The Deville page | More coming ...


May 31, 2000

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