Excerpt from ‘The History of Vanagard – The Reuniting of the Tribes of Hastur’ by Professor Albert Lynath
The Chronicles of Hastur, taken from verbal story telling’s and combined into one written form.
Sverdoff walked over to the men with a grace and confidence that Hastur recognised as that of a skilled fighter, the pair of matched but plain looking short swords on her belt testified to that fact.
“So, do you have food? And water, my head is banging like the war drums of the southern tribes.” She asked, softer this time.
Baltan acknowledged her request and went off to find what she asked for, leaving Sverdoff and Hastur alone.
“It seems I forgot to ask your name.” Hastur was keen to break the silence, he was not uncomfortable around the opposite sex, but hated uncomfortable silences.
“I am sure that dog Baltan told you it’s Sverdoff.” She replied.
“Yes, and I am grateful he did, but it does not excuse me my manners.” Hastur said.
“Why? Why should it even bother you? I am a free woman of the tribes, free to give my name, or my self to those I wish to give it to, you were not the first and you won’t be the last so don’t flatter yourself Hastur, by thinking this show of decorum matters to me.” She stated, her feet planted firmly and her hands confidently on her hips.
Hastur felt the blood stirring within himself. By the gods, he thought, this was a woman that we would fight to be worthy of.
“Good, it’s good that we have that at least sorted out… I think. Listen Sverdoff” He paused as he took a draft of water, she took the waterskin off him and drank deeply herself. “I would like to talk to you about your experiences of the steppes and the lands that border them. You understand my desires for the tribes, yes?”
“I understand, and I agree with you, we have been too content for too long to sit on our haunches and watch the sheep around us get fat. There needs to be a cull of the fattened sheep so we can feast again.” There was a fire in her eyes as she spoke, he watched her hands slip, unconsciously to the hilts of her swords. She was a fine woman.
“I would suggest.” She said, pausing to take another deep drink of water. “That we start with some of the smaller villages and towns that surround the steppes to the south. They are used to being raided by the tribes there.”
“Why do that if they are used to it? They will be ready for us, surely.” Hastur asked.
“Aye, but they won’t be expecting such large numbers of us attacking. If a village in the south falls to the barbarians, by the time the news reaches the cities and towns of the west, it will just be dismissed as a lucky raid by us and nothing more.” Sverdoff said.
“But when we turn to the west, having removed any threat from our backs, they will not be expecting us to attack at all!” Hastur exclaimed, “I like your thinking Sverdoff. Which village should be first do you think?”
“Forgespark Crossing” She replied “It’s well defended, it has two wooden palisade walls and a small wooden tower inside the walls. The villagers are well prepared and wary of anyone approaching from the steppes.”
“Why, by the gods, do we attack there then first?” He asked, his eyebrows raised questioningly.
“Why not? You haven’t travelled much, have you?” Hastur gave a non-comital shrug, “All the villages along the edges of the steppe are like this, this will be no more or no less difficult than any of the others. Plus, it is also one of the most southerly outposts, and besides, it will be a good test for the un-blooded members of the tribes.”
Hastur nodded at that.
“Are there many do you think?” Has he asked? “Unbloodied I mean.”
“In all the gathered tribes? A few hundred, why do you ask?”
“I want them to form a cohort of their own, I want them to fight as units in their own right, not to mingle in with experienced fighters.” Hastur said. He stood as Baltan approached them carrying steaming meat, a large chunk of bread and another skin of water.
“Getting to know each other now, are you?” He smirked at the pair.
“We’re planning, something a war dog like you would not understand.” Sverdoff said with a haughty sneer.
“War dog I am that is right, and I have no fondness for plans and tactics. Give me my axe and point me to my enemy and I will fight! But talking about fighting is for the elders and the camp keepers.” Baltan retorted.
“We need to plan my friend, I do not want us to do what we always do, which is to form up in a mass and just scream and run at the enemy. This may work for a while, but when we get to the city states, they are going to come at us with huge numbers and using the tactics and intuition of the finest minds of the city dwellers. They may be soft, but they are cunning, and we need to be as cunning as they are if we are to win.” Hastur stated, he turned and looked off to the south. “I don’t want them to think of us as mindless killers anymore.”
“I have traded with some of these people.” Sverdoff said, in between mouthfuls of meat and bread “The villagers on the steppes are tough, some of them you would not be able to tell apart from the men and women we call brothers and sisters, but they rely on their walls to protect them and that is a weakness. We can move, and ride, fight and ride.”
“I hear you my sword sister.” Hastur said. “But fight and ride would only work if it were a tribe or two, there will be hundreds of tribes, thousands of sword brothers and sisters. We will stand and fight and then march over the corpses of the fallen to the next battle.”
“Well, if the truth be known” said Sverdoff, “It is not for us to decide, you may be the High Chief, or whatever it is you want to call yourself Hastur, but you know this is not the way we do things, there has to be council and meetings and then you can announce your war council and your leaders.”
“Aye, that is the way of it. Slow and steady as always, it’s not the way I want to do things. I am a free man of the steppes; the wind is in my hair and the cry of the eagle is my voice.” Hastur paused. “But I, like the rest of my brothers and sisters are slaves to the traditions of our people, at some point we need to break these chains, or we will be slaves forever.”
Hastur turned and stalked off into the gathered tents and huts, leaving the other two to stand there looking at his massive back as he walked away from them.
“He’s going to put a bugbear amongst the sheep that one is” Baltan said with a chuckle.
“Aye, he is, and I want to see what happens!” Sverdoff replied, she spat the gristle out that she had been chewing and thrust the remaining slab of meat back into Baltan’s hands, catching him by surprise and ran off to catch up with Hastur.
She caught up with him, but she was grimacing as she did so, her head was still pounding after all the beer she had drank the night before, she smiled though at the thought of the time she and Hastur had had. Big and terrifying in a fight he may be, but he was surprisingly gentle in the sleeping furs, almost shy.
“Hastur!” She called out, “Wait up, you can’t just walk in there this morning. There is a coming of age today, only the boy’s tribe is allowed in the circle. You must wait until it’s over.”
“What?” He turned and scowled at her.
“You know the law Hastur, and you would be killed like any other if you break the circle this morning.” She went on.
“Damn them all! Do they now want war?” He almost shouted at her but caught himself before he raised his voice more. He paused. “Sorry, Sverdoff, I forget myself, I am just caught up with the bloodlust and the thought of what is to come. Of course, we must wait, I remember my coming of age ceremony.” He stopped and looked down at the scars on his massive chest, lost now in the maze of other scaring from the many fights he had been in.
“It is a beautiful thing Hastur, we can watch if you want?” She gently took his hand and led him over to the circle of tents, where drumming and chanting could now be heard.
To be continued…