So-called Fragment 0

Heark to the words of the saga of Berra
Listen with wide open eyes to her lineage
Far from the place of her death was her father born
Far from the place of her life her grandfather

Rathik the Redsmith walked with Sartar’s forces
Nurtured their weapons and quenched their hot sword-blades
Fisher of spear-heads from smoking-sand birthing
Strengthened their shields with bands and strong nails

Stood he at Grizzly Peak hot from the forging
Saw his King fall and heard the grief-singing
Passed on to Alda-Chur saw the new Prince rise
Forged from the battle like new hot bright metal

Stout were his sandals hobnailed in bright bronze
Scattering dust and eating the road up
Bronze hobnails bore him on paths and plain-crossings
Before him lay lands of the high Holy Country

There he saw violent murder done darkly
Royalty cut down by curved Lunar weapons
In his confusion he swore family vengeance
Let this pure anger be passed to my children

Rathik stood by at the slaying of Boldhome
Over the plain as the Lunar advance came
Swift he passed off but misfortune became him
As argument started with proud Balkoth soldiers

Rathik defended his wares and his honour
Red was his blade then and red was his lifeblood
Red in the roots of the grass all around him
Red in the hands of the soldiers who slew him.

Word came to home to his proud daughter Heri
Wife of bold Jerang and widow made lately
Word as she sat at her hearth in the homelands
Wailed not for fear of disturbing her daughter

Child Berra slept with her childhood around her
Wise mother wept in the woods near her hearthing
Told three days later the honour of Balkoth
Berra saw death in the stars up above her

On the warm hillside her mother’s herd rested
Rested in cold earth the bones of her father
Berra was sharp as the thorn on the berry
Swift as the high hawk that swoops in the morning

Rivers would race her, Berra outpace them
Boys would not capture nor broken ground slow her
Deep in the herdlands she grew to her full height
Flexing like grass and as swift as the horses

One dreadful day when her mother stood watching
Broo came to capture her up by the cliffside
Knowing her fate if her capture was certain
Heri approached the tall cliff with her head high

Swift as her daughter and swifter than mercy
Straight as the reed rod and straight as the arrow
Heri trod midair and welcomed the rock face
Kinder a lover than ever the Broo were

Fatherless motherless Berra swore strong oaths
Never to be as a herder defenceless
Death would she bring to the Colymar’s foemen
Death would she be to the Lunars and Chaos*

Walking on leather and then on her bare soles
Berra found war as her feet found the horse-path
Pulled to the Holy Place Country of Heroes
As the self-fighting descended in earnest

Nochet she saw and was in the siege wounded
Heart-struck it seemed but the blow turned by heartbone
Death stood before her and Berra embraced him
Turned from his side to continue her journey

Deep in the stream Harrek strode with his wolf-pelts
Screaming his anger and roaring defiance
Weapons broke on him and foe-folk downstream went
On the right flank was the spear of pure Berra1This attempt to equate Berra with the god-sized Harrek is an obvious attempt at hyperbolic fame-making. No contemporary account survives which has Berra near to Harrek.

Broken was spear and hacked was her shield
Drawing her sword Berra smote on regardless
Fury within her was lodestone to arrow
Pennel Ford gave her the god-mark upon her

Marked by the cross as she wielded the cross-form
Berra had drawn sword and been touched by Humakt
Now she was blessed with his mark on her sword arm
Honour in scarring to strengthen her shoulder

Following Harrek she passed through the plainlands
Into the City of Wonders to sack it
Alleyways dark were too perfect for ambush
Briefly she stood with him shoulder to shoulder

Pavis soon held her and loud she cried Argrath
Calling the King’s name and plighting her sword-arm
Then in the name of the Rhino’s old Rider
Ordered from Venna she smote cattle-raiders

Context

Berra’s people, the Blue Tree Clan, live on a tributary of the Creek, in an area with good horse grazing, and a cliff on which there grows a sacred tree, its trunk blue from some trick of the area, or long years of the application of woad. The area below the cliff is good land, but for the lethal windings of the local river, which can change course several times in Storm season and Sea season, as rains or meltwater come down.

Events

Berra counts her years with a handful of Clacks, putting each one into a line and saying a thing of import that happened. It is possible for the numerate to work backwards. Special years are represented by a Lunar.

1604: “This was the year that your grandfather’s death was told to us. He died after Boldhome.”
1605: “This is the year of the three head fight. The Turtle Clan was friendless.”
1606: “This is the year that you were born. The river made many forks and small islands.”
1607: “This is the year Chief Ganah died. The harvest was good and the river was kind.”
1608: “This is the year of strong colts, and a horse that had a golden mane up on the cliff. Your sister was born.”
1609: “This is the year your father died. Your mother stayed with the clan and your cousins’s cousins. The wine branch of the river flooded the ox hall.”
1610: “This is the year the Trickster made the dunghill disappear. A skeleton walked into the Tula.”
1611: “This is the year that your cousin Ilda was married to a Turtle Carl. It was a year marriage that lasted until his death.”
1612: “This is the year the Lunars tried to tax Coppit twice, and he became an outlaw to them.”
1613: “This is the year that Sartar rose up against the Lunars.”
1614: “This is the year of Cold Sorrow, when wives had greater number than husbands.”
1615: “This is the year the Grazelanders savaged the Lunars.
1616: “This is the year of three raids by Dark Trolls.”
1617: “This is the year that your mother died. It was in Storm Season, on a clear day.”
1618: “This is the year that you are sent away. Now you must begin the telling yourself. This is the year I was sent away from home. I swore to be a warrior. I went to live with kin in the Holy Country.”
1619: “This is the year I first saw Nochet.”
1620: “This is the year I became an adult. It was in Storm Season. I began training with the militia.”
1621: “This is the year of the Great Winter. Orlanth and Ernalda died.”
1622: “This is the year the Great Winter’s ice cracked. There was a battle at the Auroch Hills.”
1623: “This is the year that Nochet was under siege. In Sea Season, I was initiated with Humakt. I fought.”
1624: “This is the year of Pennel Ford. I was marked by Humakt on the shoulder, and rallied my troops. I went to the City of Wonders.”
1625: “I fought for Argrath in Pavis and acclaimed him King. I journeyed to Whitewall and Heroquested.”
1626: “I travelled on a river. I was Humakt. I was tricked and Voria lived. The Truth Sword was made for me.”
1627: “This is my year now. I saw the Feathered Horse Queen. I was Humakt, and lost a curved sword.”

Family Tree

Berra's family tree
Berra’s family tree