1628, Earth Season, Stasis Week, Freezeday
The group emerged from the Six Stones in the Lismelder Tribe. Now they have to get home without their stuff. Session SA3.07.
On the road out of the Lismelder Tribe, three figures ride on borrowed horses. Well, two ride and one walks along, because she is a natural infanteer.
“Berra, I know there’s a long-standing feud between the Grey Dog Clan and the Orlmarth, but is it bad enough to affect tribal relations in general?” Varanis asks.
“Urrrm. I don’t really know how to explain without knowing what you know.” Berra tilts her head as she looks up at Varanis. “But… usually not. I mean, that’s kind of what tribes are about – bigger than being pushed around by a clan.”
“I suppose what I’m wondering is if the level of hatred we observed is long-standing or if Leika’s recent… decisions… have caused things to escalate badly.”1Insight: ‘decisions’ was not her first word choice.
“We’re not Orlmarth. It wouldn’t be about us, and they aren’t Greydog. That’s not… I mean, they didn’t even know us, I think. It was the Colymar name.” Berra shrugs it off – and then winces a tiny bit towards the end.
“Life in Sartar is interesting. We’re hated by the Colymar for angering Leika and hated by everyone else for being Colymar.” The Vingan laughs without mirth.
“Most of the Colymar doesn’t care,” Berra says. “Just the ones that follow her. About two clans really do that hard, and for the rest she’s more just the Queen.” This might be one of the times she is wrong, of course, but she seems confident.
“Which two follow her most strongly? She’s Taraling, right?”
“Yeah, so them, and the Black Spear. The Kingmakers. The Ernaldori like her as long as she does what they want.” Berra picks up a small stone from the road and shies it into the nothing to the side.
“What happens if the other clans turn against her because of recent events?”
“Then there’s not a King, or not a Tribe. Probably not a King.” Berra shrugs a bit. “Someone else would have to step up though, and be better.”
Varanis twists her lips as she tries to remember something. “Do the Colymar kings usually come from one tribe? I really only know the most recent few. Kangharl Blackmor and Kallai Rockbreaker, both Taraling Clan too. Relatives of Leika?” Rockbreaker, Rockbuster – these are probably very similar in Esrolian.
“Not beyond being Taraling. They were families that didn’t much like each other. But the Rockbuster – Kallai Rockbuster – was related to the Channya. The High Priestess at the Temple is a Chan.”
“Sartarite tribal politics is easily as confusing as Esrolian,” Varanis muses. She seems blithely unaware how patronizing (matronizing?) that comes out.
“Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s all different but a pile of armed bastards is a pile of armed bastards.” Berra nods wisely. “We got a lot of those. It complicates things as well as making them simple.”
“I have a dumb question, but have to ask it anyway. If Leika were to lose her throne, for whatever reason, the Colymar would definitely look internally for a new ruler, right? And likely from the Black Spear Clan? Right?” There’s more to the question that what has been said aloud.
“No, the Black Spear – the Anmangarn – are the ones that hold the Wyter if there wasn’t a King. They send it into the wild and everyone who wants it has to look, and the worthy ones find it. Sometimes more than one. It could be anyone who says they should be, but usually it’s gonna be someone noble.” Berra pauses as her horse stops, and lets it crop grass for a few moments.
(“So as long as I keep my head down and don’t go hunting for any spears, I’ll be fine,” Varanis mutters under her breath.)
Berra says, “It’s… each level in Sartar rules itself. So families rule themselves. But when you get an argument you need someone that has enough… authority, I guess, over the families, that they can bang heads together and bandage wounds. That’s a clan. If two clans start shouting, you need a tribe to get them to talk, because they won’t accept each other’s rulings, but they both agreed to be ruled by a King, in a Tribe. And normally, tribes bow to the King of Sartar, but it’s all about the area. Clan and Tribe are most of what most people know. Only powerful people would ever talk to Kallyr.”
Her friend listens, taking it all in. “A bit like the Houses and Cities and Queens, then. But only similar enough to cause confusion at awkward times.”
“Yeah. I thought they were once, but they ain’t. I can’t see you could replace your grandmother. As a house, I mean. We can tell a Chief we ain’t having him. Often happens.” Berra grins.
Varanis bursts out laughing at that. “Replace a Grandmother? The Queen is more replaceable than a Grandmother. Grandmothers have required queens to retire in the past. Sometimes with the help of a well-placed dagger. But the Grandmothers are untouchable.”
“Yeah. Big difference. And that goes all the way down, so you think – if you come in – that it’ll be like a Clan. But it’s not. It’s whatever the grandmother wants it to be.”
“What do you know about Nameless? Is she Leika’s bodyguard or the Queen’s bodyguard?”
“One of her old friends. But the Queen is Leika. In the way you mean. Not many people are… no wait. Not many posts are like you’re thinking. Maybe lower down you’d get that, like in a Temple if you are a certain rank you get a certain guard because they guard your room. But Nameless and Leika were friends from long ago. They fought together a lot.” Berra knows a bit, it seems.
The Humakti adds. “An’ we know she… probably know she does some of the negotiating. That level of trust.”
“So Nameless is unlikely to remove her queen and highly likely to protect her if trouble comes from outside,” the Vingan muses. “I mean… it has happened before. Bodyguards who remove rulers they no longer find fit to rule.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so. And it’s pretty rare. For all you hear about it when it happens. We don’t need to up here. I bet Grandmothers get killed more.” Berra finally gets her horse moving again. “Chiefs know when to step aside.”
Varanis rides her plodding mare in silence for a while.
Berra pipes up, “The Colymar are gonna get raided. We should maybe talk to the Alynxfish about helping out.” Because they cannot be on their own Tula, perhaps.
“Wait… You think it’ll spill over into Blue Tree? Even though it’s so far away from the heart of the Colymar?”
“It’s not about the heart. If everyone knows that the King ain’t going to judge for the Proud Tribe – us – against their tribe, anyone who fancies it might have a go. The Alynxfish owe us a bit so they’ll probably not, but the rest up there? We look fat and the harvest is just coming in.” Berra sounds like she wants to fight someone.
“We can’t allow that to happen! Kallyr can’t permit it. Berra is there!” The storm rises suddenly.
“Raiding isn’t war,” Berra says, like she is confused. “They won’t harm her by coming over the border.”
“People will go hungry. And raiding always spills over, sooner or later,” Varanis argues.
“No it doesn’t!” More incredulous than confused now. “Raiding is a … no, it doesn’t. But yeah, we’ll have to help out again. That’s part of what being noble is. Or rich, obviously.”
“But Berra, raiding leads to unnecessary deaths. That’s one of the reasons the Grandmothers forbid it. And probably part of why Mellia’s bride price was so high. Sending her into a Sartarite marriage comes with risks because of how the clans clash…” Looking at Berra’s face, the Esrolian trails off. “I’m wrong, aren’t I?”
“I’m… yeah. Pretty much. Or Esrolia is. Raiding’s about cattle. And sometimes it goes wrong but how else do you teach young warriors? You gotta form bands or you end up without skill in battle or bravery. And if you raid too much nobody stands by you.” It seems like Berra takes her position as gospel.
“Can we at least warn Dogva to keep the livestock close to home?”
“I think he’ll probably know. But you don’t keep livestock close to home. That’s kinda the point. They need to range.” Berra gives Varanis the benefit of her wide-eyed peer.
“Normally, yes. But surely when raiding risks are high, there are alternatives? Less than ideal, but safer? Just until things calm down a bit.” Varanis frowns. “I hate not being able to protect them. Curse Leika and her ill-temper!”
“He knows. He’s chief for a reason. If you wanna make sure he has information, write to your advisor, not to the Chief. Venlar is there, right? Don’t bother the Chief while he is thinking.”
Varanis directs a disgruntled look at Berra. “Fine. I’ll figure something out. Why does Xenofos have to be in Prax when I need him?” Unlike Manasa, the mare Varanis is riding now is completely oblivious to the Vingan’s temper. There’s not even a flick of an ear.
“That’s not one of those I have to answer, right?” Berra checks.
She gets a growl by way of reply.
Berra shuts up.
Finally, Varanis says, “Do you think Leika will ever reconcile with Kallyr?”
“Oooh. If Argrath messes up? But I dunno. She’d have to be able to show she was being big about it and Kallyr would have to accept that.” Berra is not sanguine, it seems. “Sounds like we get old and die first.”
The Vingan sighs heavily. “So things could be difficult for Blue Tree for a long time.”
“Always have been. Orlanth changes. I bet that’s why grandmothers can stay the same. But if you want to be in Sartar you fight against something all the time. It’s … how to be. Or else you’re old.”
“Fighting should involve warriors and leave the farmers and crafters out,” Varanis argues. She’s taken on belligerent look. Perhaps she’s found something to fight.
“Try telling a troll raiding party that,” Berra replies. “Or tusk riders. Or Broo. But raiding isn’t fighting, anyhow. If that’s what you meant.”
“So what is it, then? Wait… Berra, have you been on raids?!”
Berra looks wistful, nearly blurts something, and then starts again. “I.. I was in Esrolia by then. But no, raids are about stealing cattle. You take your weapons, but not your shield, and you probably only want light armour – you sneak in and take. It’s a way young men can prove they don’t get scared, mostly. But I never got to. I wasn’t in the right place.”
“And what about the people guarding the herds? They don’t get killed? Surely they’d fight to protect them! Or… what happens if the herders are children?”
“Err… alright, if they spot you, then they generally try to get away to get the warriors. S’fine to tie them up or make them walk away a bit. You only take them for ransom if you want to cause a real row. If it’s kids I guess you just hold ’em still for a bit so the herd can be taken? Never heard a story with that in.” Berra is on firm ground with her explanation now.
“Does anyone ever put warriors to guarding the herds?”
“Yeah, but not in armour. I mean, I went and did it the first time we went to Blue Tree together, and helped move them. I do it whenever I get home for long enough.” Berra looks guilty about that.
“And if someone came raiding while you were guarding?”
Berra shrugs. “I’d warn them who I was and that they should go away. I’d try not to kill them. But I’d have my sword, maybe a spear – if they didn’t back off, I’d try to take them prisoner.”
“Maybe we can take a trip up to the Alynxfish and have them send a message on to Venlar for me,” Varanis says. Then, “Do you want to raid someone?”
Berra laughs. “Yeah. I mean, I’m a scout. That’s like raiding in some ways, but… well, scouts are lousy lovers. In and out without anyone noticing.”
Varanis bursts out laughing, her temper finally easing. “I don’t like that Blue Tree is a target,” she admits. “And I’m not sure how I feel about the whole idea of raiding, but I’ll try trust Dogva to know what is needed.”
“I don’t know if people like us can raid without it being news – but maybe we could make sure anyone who steals from the Blue Tree gets stolen from.” Berra suggests it hopefully.
“That will have to do, won’t it?”
“S’good enough. And it’s what raiding is, anyhow. A lot of it.” Berra looks up at her horse, considering. She has ridden already today, so has no geas-reason not to, but she does seem to prefer being on foot. “Let’s stop for lunch soon.”
- 1Insight: ‘decisions’ was not her first word choice.