1627, Fire Season, Season, Movement Week, Godday
Berra looks to Rajar, and says, “Right. Let’s go get you some details.”
Rajar smiles. “let’s go see them”
Berra breaks into Praxian once they are at a short distance. <<Well, fuck.>>
<<they take turns being in charge. Hohoho>>
<<axe lady. Stabbed in back in battle by a man?>> Berra wonders.
<<they’ll be arguing who’s fault it all was when they’re standing before Daka Fal >> Rajar answers.
<<Should have started dealing tonight. Need to rule them tomorrow. Stay, not go back.>>
Rajar shrugs non comittally.
<<My duty. Stand guard. Try to keep them all apart. Can you show boys javelins? And how to cook? Is that a woman thing?>> Berra asks.
<<I can show them >>
<<Plan. Send Xenofos for things. I split up troops. You drill cavalry, teach boys. Keep all-them busy.>>
Xenofos looks around as they walk through camp apparently not listening. “Oh, Berra, by the way… Some of the riders who came to meet us were probably from the Greens. And some others probably from Golden Racers. Man carrying the baton today, Irillo, looked like one of theirs.” Scribe says when there is an interlude in Berra’s chatter in Praxian.
Berra nods. “Thank you.” That seems to make sense to her.
Berra considers a moment, and then asks Xenofos, “Any idea who should head the Cavalry?”
“Not yet, to be honest. We have not seen who and how many? ” he adds a bit hesitantly “that Vingan, Aranda, did not look like one who understands horses?”
“Alright. But I’m thinking we need splits of each… let’s walk around the site, see how it’s looking, and then… no, let’s go check the pickets on the far side now, while there’s any light in the sky.”
Xenofos nods. “Splits of?”
“I’ll explain once I know more. And once we’re out of earshot. Camp. From the outside. Maybe Rajar can tell us how we’d over-charge things. It’ll make him happy.” She gives the big man a calculating smile.
The light keeps draining slowly from the sky over the Quivin range.
Men are huddled by around fires scattered around the meadow on both sides of the road. Curious looks follow the adventurers as they walk past.
Berra looks them over, gives a brief nod to a few who have made eye contact, and walks out past the edge of the camp to see what is there, and count those on guard. And, naturally, to have somewhere out of the way to talk.
There is a small thicket of trees and bushes about a bowshot down the road from the last fire. (With a pair of guards looking down the dark road with great concentration.)
Berra grunts, holds out two fingers to point that way, and says, “Let’s let ’em know we’re leaving.” Tradetalk now, so she can be best understood by both of them.
Rajar takes a long drink from his mug, emptying it.
He then drops it into his belt pouch and grips his axe in both hands.
Xenofos looks around “You want to check the perimeter?”
“Yep. And get out beyond and see how they react.” The little Humakti rolls out her shoulders like she has a new challenge ahead.
Rajar finds the perimeter which tells how far a lazy man will go when he has to go.
Not very far.
Hmmm. Rajar sighs.
Berra lets the guards know they are going out and will not be long, and then walks a little further, looking around her. Then, when they are clear of people, she says, “This is a disaster waiting to fall over, split open, and spill milk and maggots.”
Rajar nods. “I’m disappointed not to fight them but with them. The pile of bodies were meant to be foes”
“Were I a Khan I would use them as a distraction or to patrol the block. We could kill the idiots who think they are in charge. That might help.
Xenofos raises an eyebrow.
“We’re going to take over, split up the idiots, and hopefully save their lives. But we’re not going to kill anyone dishonourably, and I don’t think they’ll stand by to be executed, or want to be sent back home.” Berra sighs. “Xenofos, tomorrow you need to go back and get the things they need most. We’ll find out later if that’s things like javelins and wasters, or things like food and cook-cauls.”
Xenofos closes one eye for a while. “Tomorrow I need to relay Varanis’ words. After that. Well, we’ll see. I do think it is better to find out what is going on before trekking back. They seem to have alternating command as normal, but be a bit lacking in harmony.”
Rajar smiles “you can tell Esrolia has not been invaded lately. Its not their fault. But where I come from life is battle. One leader. Unquestioned. Their order is law. Until they die. Then the new Khan is the law. Discord gets you killed. All of you. These children will die in droves. “
“You may know ways of Prax. But when you speak of Esrolia you speak of matters of which you know little, Stormbull. Western barbarians, Lunars, Grazelanders, Wolfpirates, ourselves, We have fought them all.” Xenofos says.
Not recently. You are a tried warrior. These are not. They may know how to fight but not how to go to war.
“You will not make a Praxian warband out them even if you tried to make yourself their khan.” Xenofos shakes his head. “I will speak no more of this lest I insult a friend. We do not know enough yet. We will know more when Yelm sets tomorrow.”
Berra turns to Xenofos and sort of stares. “Normal? You… bloody hell.” She looks away again. “It hasn’t been normal since… well, I’ve heard of it happening.” He gets another stare. “Ugh…..” It is obvious that the little Humakti is both disgusted and horrified, but despair and disdain are creeping up as well.
“Council of elders. Nominating the leaders, affirmed by the troopers and the patrons.” he shrugs “Leaders changing baton from day to day. We used to have four who rotated. Golden racers had five. I heard Copper axes had twelve. Levy of Sarli only one, though.”
“Ay… so… and they don’t have any signallers here, as far as I can tell…” Berra looks genuinely shocked. “And they don’t know how to pull together a regiment at a moment’s notice. This isn’t a fighting force. It’s… I don’t even have WORDS for it.”
“I have not heard any drums or horns yet.” Xenofos admits. “And just one banner to rally under.”
“Yeah. It’s a shit-show, kept together by violence, and Lord Eril says we’re not allowed to split it up and embed it with other troops because it would break their drill and discipline. And he wasn’t talking about this lot here when he said some soldiers had some.”
Xenofos raises an eyebrow. “Allowed to? What in name of sweet Imarja makes you think these people would go along with that?”
Berra shrugs. “I stopped giving a shit about now, to be honest,” she says, turning away once more. She starts looking peaceful, calm, cut off, but she tells Rajar, “They have a traditional command structure.” There is another shrug. She has given up.
“Well, you have the option. You belong to the temple.” Xenofos says quietly. He turns facing the camp. “Perimeter or straight back?”
Berra shrugs, her attention apparently elsewhere. It is her currently-thinking shrug, or else her currently-absent shrug.
Guided by the fires Xenofos starts to return towards the camp. Guards nod to them as they pass. By the smell of it meat is beginning to be ready. Some have stopped waiting and are eating their share greedily.
The tent is visible by light inside. There is no guard outside.
Xenofos calls out a greeting and adventurers are asked in.
Inside Lenta is sitting on a small rug on the ground holding a small steaming bowl in his hands. A woman with her hands resting on a battle axe looks at the comers.
Berra has shown interest in those eating, but rather more in those who are not.
Inside the tent she bows politely, and says nothing. Everything about her indicates deep thought, to those who know her. To those who do not, it may seem she is sad, or thoughtful, or murderous, depending on how one reads her.
Lenta puts the bowl down and looks at the woman with the axe. She nods and disappears for a while, returning with a small tray holding bowl for everyone and some hardtack. She leaves these and returns with a plate holding a roasted slice of meat for everyone. Lenta picks up her bowl and rises it in a greeting “Welcome under my roof. Or technically it is Hofhrai’s, he lent it to me. Make yourself comfortable, please.” The young woman looks and sounds quite tired.
Bowls hold thin soup, amount of crackers is quite small and portion of beef is not too large.
Xenofos nods and thanks quietly settling on the earth floor.
Berra says, “I can’t eat vegetables,” and eyes to soup prior to taking any. She settles into an easy infantry squat, helmet finally getting pulled off to go beside her. Wearing metal armour does not seem to make it more difficult for her to do that, but getting up might be tricky. Of course, she only has to use one hand to be ready to rise instantly.
Lenta looks at Berra then at the other woman. “Nettles. Chives. A bit of beef and some marrow. I think.” the axe maiden tells.
“When is Varanis coming?” Lenta asks and bites her lip. “Sorry, I have not let you eat in peace. I am a bad hostess.”
Xenofos looks at Berra before answering “Day after tomorrow, I think.”
“Nettles are vegetables, and so are chives,” Berra replies. “Please don’t waste it – share it among others.” To Xenofos she replies, “Probably the end of Freezeday.” To Lenta, “Yes. The day after tomorrow.”
She nods. “You said you bring words? Does she know where we are going and when?”
Again Xenofos looks at Berra. And then shakes his head.
“I need to speak with the commander,” Berra says. “But it turns out that’s difficult. I thought this was going to be a Regiment. Got to do new thinking.”
“No one commander, I am afraid.” Lenta says “Council deciding together, or more often arguing. Twelve commanders who change daily, trying to get us to the direction agreed on. Not a regiment. Not really a hundred either even if most men come from the hundreds. Or so I have been told. I do not claim to have military expertise. “
“Today it is Irillo Norinel, day after that Nersteva. She is one of the Vingans, but a bit more open to negotiations then some of her sisters.” She looks around “They have told me they should be in charge because Varanis is Vingan. So while she is absent they should have command.”
“They’re taking the pi… that is, no. But if you want to let her let them know that, it’s fine. But we do need to know why everyone is here – different people for different things. Can you tell me… us… that?”
“Because Varanis lit a fire in their hearts? She made a call and they answered? To fight for freedom and against Lunars?” She shrugs her shoulders. “For honor and adventure? To protect Esrolia? Because they missed the glory last war? Because they can no longer live in peace? Why did you come Harunelda?”
“Because you are too stupid to be left travel alone, cousin?” axe maiden says deadpan.
“Irillo, I think regrets he was too young last time Racers rode to war. Kesten Evaneo’s father was killed at Pennel ford he has told.” Lenta continues. “Some of the Sarli boys have heard of the old country and want to fight to defend it, even if they have never left Nochet before…”
“Right. So far, I haven’t seen any practice weapons, and there hasn’t been much chance to practice. This whole lot needs a lot of drill, and the people who don’t are the problem.” Berra managed to keep a straight face at Harunelda’s comment, but it came at the cost of concentrating on her food for a while. “Even if they have seen combat, I doubt that any of your command team has stood to a line fight. My first command was at Pennel Ford. Rajar’s been raiding, warring, everything. But if they can’t take advice and they won’t take a commander over them, then they’re going to get people killed. So… who is going to be most trouble?”
“They will follow Varanis and that banner. Everyone swore on that when we set out. But between themselves and Varanis?” her tiredness seems evident. ” Most trouble? I don’t know. Depends on how you ask I guess. If i were a gambling woman I would put even money on Aranda and Oralartha. They might co-operate. But that I would not put money on… Sartarites are not really in favor right now and both despise men on general principle.”
“Oh, is that where the hand came from?” Berra looks up from slicing her beef into tiny fragments. “Or do they just not like Sartarites at all.”
“Sartarite hospitality is not much valued after we were not allowed to buy foodstuffs when reaching Boldhome, but were escorted here. So we have bought cows and eaten them.” She looks worried. “What hand?”
“Sartarite Hospitality would have preferred a food caravan to children who have never seen battle coming unannounced to a hungry land,” Berra says quietly, “And they food you want to buy will be supplied to you, but you didn’t have the experience to know you should have made arrangement first. Who was it with the horsehair crest, and the hands around her neck?”
“That would be Varaneva, I think.” she looks at the tent door. “Big woman with a great axe, vest of bronze and death scars on her arms? She was in command yesterday…”
“Yeah. What was the fresh one about?” Berra looks confused. “Because if it wasn’t a local, was it one of yours?”
“I have not heard of any fight in the camp…” Lenta says.
“Right. How many people do you think you have here? And how many hands should they have?” Berra looks up from her minced beef, a small amount of which is now piled onto a fragment of hard tack.
“I don’t know the exact number, Berra.” Lenta says seriously. “But I think I would have heard if someone was killed in the camp. So I fear what may have passed outside it. And I am concerned I have not heard of it.”
Berra just nods a little. “What’s the law on what this kind of organisation is, in Esrolia? I know what I’d call it here, but it’s not really a muster. Which we WILL gotta practice. A lot.”
“They spent time riding together and forming lines and whatnot when we were waiting for everyone to arrive before we set out.” Lenta notes, her mind perhaps on something else.
Xenofos looks thoughtful. “I don’t think if Esrolian law discusses a unit like this. It is not paid by Varanis so they are not mercenaries, and they are not of her clan. Some kind of Free company maybe.”
Berra nods, taking that in. “So anyhow. Tomorrow we need to start finding all that out. You’re going to have to fit in an army.”
Berra, Rajar, and Xenofos take stock of the Esrolian troops. They aren’t impressed with what they’ve seen.