The Chronicles of Hastur: Part 7
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.
The smell inside what passed for the tent was even harder to deal with than it was outside, Hastur had to breathe through his mouth and was cursing still the fact he had celebrated so much the night before, his stomach started to convulse and stir as he fought to maintain his composure. His discomfort was not lost on Belaadry who cackled.
“Ha ha! Does the stench of an old woman disturb the mighty warrior?” She giggled. Hastur, in extreme discomfort forgot himself momentarily as he answered.
“By the gods woman, how can you live like this? It smells like you eat ogre dung and then rub what’s left over your wrinkled body!” He gagged at her, this just caused her to laugh even more.
“Oh, Sverdoff, I like this one, he’s got spirit, most men make the sign of warding towards me or cast foul words or even stones” She was suddenly silent and stared at Hastur, there was a tension in the tent now that made Hastur forget the vile stench. “But this one, no, he will speak his mind and speak what he feels to be the truth.”
“Young man” she went on, “I do not eat ogre dung although I would relish the chance to use some for my ceremonies, you willing to go and collect some for an old woman? Eh? Though I do not doubt your bravery and skill, I doubt very much now with what is about to start you will be willing to spare the time or the man power needed to go on such a hunt.”
“What do you know of what is about to happen then Belaadry? Have you seen visions?” Hastur asked her, leaning in towards her despite himself and instantly regretting it, his face twisted involuntarily, this set off more chuckling in Belaadry.
“Oh ho! Forget yourself there? My you are keen aren’t you? Can you feel your destiny calling you, tugging at your very bones? I bet you can. But no, it was nothing so mystical my handsome young man, people talk and there are some people who still talk to me. Sverdoff being just one of them, I have my sources young man.” She said, looking outside through the torn and rent fabric of the tent.
“So, why are we here if you are just going to discuss gossip and cooking fire tales?” Hastur looked at Sverdoff, with more than a little anger in his eyes.
“Because Hastur, I do know things, things that untold years of life with the tribes has told me, life with not only the tribes but seeing how we live with the outsiders. I am not denying I have my powers, but I also have common sense, something that is sometimes lacking from the younger generations.” She started to fuss about with some small leather pouches and dried bundles of what looked like twigs and dried plants.
She had a small fire going in the middle of her tent, barely a few embers of dried animal dung burning in a small circle of blackened stones. Broken clay pots and wooden plates clattered as she moved about She grunted as she moved, obviously in pain and discomfort, muttering to herself as she added more dried dung to the fire and gathered some more odds and ends from various parts of her small tent. Hastur just sat and watched, glad she was no longer sat breathing on him.
The small tent started to fill with not only the acrid smell of the burning animal dung, but now it was mixed with a bitter sweet smell of whatever Belaadry was adding to the fire, her muttering was now becoming lower and more rhythmical. She had sat now and was starting to sway, gently as she started to chant, engulfed in the thick smoke that was now pouring from the embers in front of her.
Hastur’s eyes started to sting in the smoke and he felt himself starting to feel light-headed as the smoke started to effect even him. His troubled stomach now long forgotten as he sat, transfixed by this strange old woman sat a couple of feet from him. Time started to have little meaning, he was not aware of how long he had sat there now, close by huddled to Sverdoff, her warm body pressed against his. He felt her leaning in against him and the feeling was very welcome, but still felt distant and dislocated.
Belaadry’s chanting suddenly stopped, she sat now head down and totally still, the smoke now thinning was still burning Hastur’s eyes, the fog in his head though was still as thick and he had no idea they all sat there for, silent, breathing slow and calm. He jumped when Belaadry suddenly sat up straight and said “Hastur!”
“Yes?” He replied groggily.
“The dwarves Hastur, you need to meet the dwarves.” She replied, she sounded exhausted, she started to slump over to one side and Hastur, moved as swiftly as he could to gather her in his arms. She weighed next to nothing, her arms felt like sticks and he could feel her ribs through the foul rags of her clothes.
He gently laid her on the ground of her tent, little more than trampled grass and the odd badly cured animal skin.
“Do you have the honey you brought her?” Hastur asked Sverdoff.
“I… I think I can find it.” She sounded as groggy as Hastur still felt, but she was also starting to move. It took her a couple of moments but she soon passed him the small earthenware jar of honey she had brought the old lady.
Hastur took it off her and dipped his thick finger into the golden liquid, he then placed his finger into the ruined mouth full of blacked stumps of teeth of Belaadry. He slowly licked her lips with a pale tongue and swallowed.
“Thank you Hastur, I was right about you, you are a gentle and noble man despite your scars and muscles” She smiled weakly up at him.
“Yes, the dwarves of the mountains, they have something for you that without you will never see your dream realised. Find Skrannol Firehelm, he and his family will show what you need to know. Now, I must rest. Peace be upon you young man, you have a heavy life to live but you will have good companions to live it with you.” With this she looked over at Sverdoff. “And keep her close at all times. She is precious not only to you and your future, but to the tribes.”
Hastur looked about to see what he could cover her with, he could see nothing so removed his own woollen cloak. He laid it over her and found some furs to place under her head. She was already asleep before he had finished. Hastur and Sverdoff exchanged looks and then left her tent.
The fresh air was a shock to them both, like they had suddenly been splashed with cool clear water.
“Can you see the sun Hastur?” Sverdoff asked him “We were in there for much longer than I realised”
“Hastur squinted through suddenly watering eyes up at the sky, it was indeed much further over in its daily traverse of the sky.
“By the gods you’re right.” He paused, looking at her now. “Her words were pretty clear; do you trust her Sverdoff?”
“I would trust her with my life Hastur. I have seen her say things that have come to pass every single time. She has never been wrong in all the time I have known her. This is my clan Hastur.” She looked at him, almost shyly.
Hastur turned and looked at her directly, he gently took hold of the tops of her arms.
“You are of the tribes Sverdoff, as are these people, I will no longer see people like this shunned and outcast. If you trust her then I trust her. But what are we to do? How are we to find a named Mountain dwarf just like this? And how can I spend time going off to find him? I have work here Sverdoff, I am needed here to plan our campaign.” He spoke to her as gently as he held her.
“We can’t ignore her. I can’t ignore her! She’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember, even my mother used to speak of her from when she was a young girl. All of our clan respect what she says. You have to go to the mountains Hastur. Speak to some of the clan dwarves and see what they say perhaps some of them have heard of this Skrannol.” She said.
“But what of the clan chiefs? They are going to think it mighty strange that one night I call for the clans to unite and fight the outsiders and the very next day I am announcing I am going off to find some mountain dwarf no one has ever heard of. This whole venture of ours hangs on a thread and I can’t see that thread cut.” He replied.
“The clans are not going to go anywhere for some time… Besides, I have an idea of how we can deal with it the clan chiefs.” Sverdoff said, and with that she started to walk out of the camp and towards the main throng of the gathered tribes.