Story Seeds: Lagerwater Tales

Lagerwater Tales are a corpus of Far Place vignettes.  Each has a number of characters associated with it, and supplies a number of story seeds, sometimes with relevant game statistics. Each description sheds some small light on clan history. And it is my hope that they function as short stories in their own right.

The Yelmalians

I know their stories as I know their spears. Though blood of our blood, they live in their own lodges, their own quarter of the stead—for purity they say!—set apart from the rest of us. As though their cult were more important than their kin! A hateful arrangement, though perhaps we are all the better for it. As they live apart, there is less chance of quarrel.

Yelmalians. Their kind have split our clan, and brought many cruel deaths upon us. The shadow of kinstrife falls upon us all. I curse the day the first of them set forth from the plains below.

They are kin however, and our ways honour them, for all their strangeness. We toast their deeds and their boasts in hall, and they are welcome always at the moot, though usually only their elders attend. Even when they are all present, they’ll seldom argue, and leave all the talking to just one or two whitebeards, and vote as one. The women never speak to a man in public, save their husbands, who they pretend to obey. Can you imagine! They act as if a bloodline all their own, ploughing and planning and quarrelling as one.

Only Ernalda in her wisdom holds our clan together, for the yelmalians honour her as we do, and count her as wife to their god. It way be true, for the Lusty Earth has taken many lovers, from Fire Tribe as well as Storm. Yet even in the Ernalda rites they will sometimes worship apart.

There is no taint to my tongue—they are good farmers and warriors, and stand steadfast in the wall of shields. I should know, for I’ve faced them down as enemies often enough. Hard workers too—backs to the plough sometimes even on holy days, when they should be with us at the altars. As spearmen, as fine as any elmali. But they are different, and always seek to keep themselves apart. Their god weakens our clan.

Always they must make a different way. They will not eat risen bread, and they butcher their meat with strange rites and golden blades. Their women are never warriors, and cover their head amongst strangers. The men wear slit capes hemmed with yellow, and coil their beards like a city dweller, and seldom boast or quarrel. And they marry only their own cult, as if the good of the clan counted for nothing! They mock the precedents of Heort, for they have their own strange customs of justice and marriage and burial. They never try to fit in, they think they are a clan apart.

This I do know. Yelmalio was a wounded light that shone through the darkness, a follower of Elmal: in this we honour the god and remake his hero deeds in the rites. And this much is plain. The Thunder Brothers rescued him from the Ravaging Dark, and the women of Thunderhome succoured him until he again stood proud and bright and was counted as one of the fyrd, a spearman of Elmal. He took our bread and salt, but never joined our tribe.

In the days of the Far Walkers, Vantar son of Taros discovered a Yelmalio temple amidst the ruins of Alda Chur, and he made the god his own. Perhaps this was just, for the golden wheat plains of the Sharl belong to the yellow-fire god, and no one doubts his sovereignty there. The plains might be his, but the uplands are a realm of storm. For this our fathers fought.
Vantar quarreled with his father the Ridgeleaper, and wrought a heavy wyrd against his kin, and between the future tribes of plain and height. Peace was made—for was not a Vantaros our first Prince of the Far Place, acclaimed by all the clans?

Yet the seeds of strife remained, nurtured deep in fertile ground.

In the time of my grandfather the Alda Churi made war upon Elmal in the name of their own god, and many was the clan—even in the wild gors!—who tore down the altars of the Loyal Spear and erected golden sundisks in their place. Yelmalian missionaries came among us with new ways from the north, from the land of the new-risen moon, and they challenged our own sun warriors in the hero rites. In the Sunspear ritual they showed us all the Yelmal light that the Elmali could not face, the golden light that blinded and burned. So it was that many embraced the power of the bright new god. Then came Harvar Ironfist, and he tore the ancient wounds anew for private purpose, for his enemy is the Storm and he hates the free clans of the high country.
There have always been yelmalians in our clan: they are my kin, and I embrace them, and honour them, for all their strange ways. But the servants of the demon moon have broken us apart, and made us enemies, and the Orlanthi and Elmali clans of the gors are harried and warred upon by the men of the plain. Even our tribal king has swallowed the lowland sun, and he plots against the free men of the Tresdarnii. Conla Brightshield has broken apart the tribal ring of our ancestors, and he chants new laws and new customs, new ways of making kings and heroes.

I say the reckoning must come.

We in the wild gors defy our king, and keep close watch upon the yelmalians within our gates. The reckoning must come. Elmal will protect our stead, and will guide our spears in the necessary hour. But can you turn a blade against kin, your own kin? To strike a kinsman is to strike yourself. It cannot, it must not be. But the reckoning will come.

Gaumata Lynx Eye, Speaker For Fire
Relationship Tribal King 3W, Relationship Clan Chieftain 12.

Yestus Golden Throat, Yelmalian Champion of Vatar
Brave 9W3, Defy Magic 12W2, Hold Ground 8W2, Close Combat 8W2,
Obey Gaumata 3W, Relationship Clan Chieftain 3W.

The Palisade by Night

A stout wooden palisade protects the main lodges and byrnes of Lagerwater. Towering three times the height of a warrior, rough-hewn of elm and oak and sacred yew, its stalwart beams are deep etched with protective wards and runes, and the jagged knife carvings of many a bored watcher. By Elmal’s light the palisades are overseen by the Gatekeeper; and under Rigsdal’s gaze by the stalwart men and women of the star watch.

The men and women of the star watch are a patient, hardy breed. Through each five season span they tramp the palisade by night, and in close darkness patrol the boundary stones of the meadow fields. Through the creeping mists of Dark and beneath the diamond gaze of the star captains of the Fire sky, huddled about their braziers or trampsing the lonely circuits of their sentry walk, they watch, they wait, they listen.

For the darkness is pregnant with menace, and many enemies course the gors by night. Elmali are first to stand guard in darkness, but they cannot be too long without their beloved sun, and so stand guard week and week about with the yelmalians, whose god also stands defiant as a light against darkness. The stead’s rigsdali are more constant, happy to keep duty beneath the unblinking and watchful eye of their god. And now, as in times before, they are sometimes joined by a solitary vingan. She stands alone: her spear-sisters of the Tresdarnii now feast in other halls.

Some nights these steadfast watchers are joined by Animal Twins initiates enacting their own star-rite, or restless yinkini, or godar tracing the path of some wayward star javelin as it courses above the gors.

Few others of the clan are prepared to sleep by day and keep watch by night: each man and woman of the star walk is here for a reason. Some follow the ways of their cult; others are driven to this solitude by some secret or lonely burden. Perhaps the silence and darkness brings healing, or at least forgetfulness. They come and they go, their reasons and their wyrd are their own.

Night makes us all kin, and fast be the friendships forged by the burning brazier coals. Here in the chill silence is founded the true friendship of Vinga and Elmal, for all their rivalry and tongue-thunder in the moot. And here too, the yelmalians and elmali stand true together, and wonder in the enemy darkness if their gods are really so different after all.

Sometimes Climbtree the trollkin braves the palisade in company of the vingan, though the yelmalians and elmali despise him, and will chase him from the sacred walls. His enlo range the tula by night, unseen and unheard, watching and listening, wreaking mischief, and stealing what they will. Yet more than once it has been they who have first roused the stead as raiders crept upon the cattle or the lodges. For this reason the vingan has set them walks and duties, and taught them to fight with sticks and knotted clubs. Yet the elmali and the yelmalians know a higher truth, and they too watch the enlo, and wait.

Bhorghil One-Eye, Gatekeeper and Second Reeve
(Heldarnii, Male, 23 years, Devotee of Elmal the Reeve)
Unfaltering Defence 8W, Eye for Detail 3W, Make Demand 1W, Fiery Temper 19,
Rile Vingan 16.

Cold Keranas, Star Watcher and Tower Thane
(Validor, Female, 21, Devotee of Rigsdal)
Never Sleep 7W, Vigilant 8W, Summon Star Javelin 1W, Night-Long Story 17.

Brokal the Silent
(Validor, Male, 34, Initiate of Barntar)
Terrifying Nightmare 3W, Visions of Past Horror 19, See Spirits of Dead 18,
Sense Touch of Humakt 15.

Calfbane, a typical Enlo of the Watch
(Stead Enlo, Female, 9, follower of Climbtree ‘Raksbane)
Squeal 16, Darksense 12, Hunger 3W, Fear Alynx 14, Knotted Club 8.

Harmony Lodge

‘Her soul is darkly sad. She pours her words on wind.’

Surrounded on three sides by herb gardens and flowering vines, Harmony Lodge sulks behind the loom hut, within easy watch of the women by day. Its lowfires are banked and welcoming, its straw and floor rush always fresh, but no windeyes open to the sun, and its single great oaken door can barred from the outside. In a clan where the freedom wind blows strong, shackles of bronze are bolted to posts by each sleeping platform within.

For Harmony lodge is the mishap house, home to those broken by sickness or the raw power of the rites, wounded in ritual or revenge, by paw of broo or harsh pathmaking of heroquest or initiation. The heroes of this house will fight no more forever, save midst the mockery of nightmare or torture of false vision.

A tiny hut sits beyond the lodge ‘mongst garden rows of soothing herb and healing loam. Gamla the Healer oft keeps vigil here by night, offering succour or strong potions to the sore afraid. Her tiny hearth is sanctified by a cedar statue of Jera, rough-hewn as though by hand of child. The goddess smiles on Gamla’s labours across a flickering hearth; myriad clay jars of earth and animal organs crowd the floor about the sleeping platform, and rich-scented herbs hang drying from the rafters above.

By day the lost ones of Harmony lodge share the warmth and love of kin, they sit by warm fires in the lodges of their blood, they watch children, and lovers, and women at their looms. By night they are returned to their lodge; the great door is bolted and they are abandoned to their terror.

There are wounds beyond the touch of any healer, wounds of the flesh, wounds of the breath, of the soul. The Other Side is a realm of grim and deadly power, it can tear asunder the unprepared, the ill-wyrded, or those who must stray from well-worn paths. And Unlife stalks the gors, inflicting hideous wounds upon us all; wounds whose blisters sear and weep, and deeper, less obvious wounds that never heal.

Tresna, Askul and Desrad are brothers three, once elmali weaponthanes whose feats of spears brought terror to our foes. Coaxed by yelmalian enemies of the plain, they entered the Yelmal paths on the Other Side, and there faced a light that did not heal, a light that blinded and burned their bodies and their breaths. They sit silent now, bathed in the warming light of the true sun, the god they will never abandon. Age’s stained cloak is wrapped about them, and hoar-white hair grows from their skin like rot on an ancient tree.

Nevarna Amadborn was a fletcher and huntress; raided by goatkin, she watched her husband and children raped and mutilated, and herself endured more than I dare say. A white woman healed her body, cut out the twisting unlife from within, but could not heal her soul. Hers was a small lodge, a forest stead far from the blade-strength of kin. And small steads die. (This is the wisdom of the gors, easily forgotten, yet carved anew in suffering with each generation. It is better we gather in might, behind strong palisades, with weaponthanes and fyrd and strength of kin.)

Nevarna still carries the breath of broo thick about her; she sits apart, and cannot be comforted. She bleeds silence and want. There is none still living to whom she can open the heavy doors of her heart.

Minar the Gatherer has been building his funeral pyre for nine seasons now. You can see it on Hero’s Height above the urn field, piled high to the height of a man and a half. Minar fell on his first journey, his making way of initiation, braving the eternal battle of IFoughtWeWon. On return, his grieving bloodline carved warrior tattoos with pride into unknowing flesh. Now he gathers wood for his pyre by day, and the children are told to steal from it by night.

Reydalda Manycalves was the Laughing Daughter of our clan, as well-loved as her goddess, a ring-voice and a storm godi who braved many a hero path in the Greater Darkness. In the hour when Harvar Ironfist burned our steads and smashed the altars of the Storm, Reydalda joined many warriors of our tribe and tribes-true at Gamla’s Leap.

The heroes gathered to summon the Righteous Wind as of old, to drive the sun-men of Ironfist back to the plains below. Yet two days into the rite, an enemy wind, a Bigger Wind, fell upon them all, and it broke and twisted altar and warrior both. Then screaming gargarthi fell upon the survivors from the mists, and with them strange golden warriors who spat red balls of madness.

Reydalda was one of the few to survive the slaughter, plucked from the gors by a wandering odaylan. Her body is now whole, but her breath is tainted forever: when the demon moon rides full Reydalda screams loud in aching, empty anguish.
The outstead vingan sits with her often now by day. Cradledaughter holds her kayling sister’s hand and sings the songs of the goddess they love, she gently dyes with henna her sister’s close-cropped hair, she wipes the tears that spill silent down the aged face. And she whispers words that none beyond may hear.

Remember brave warrior, the price that others pay, and pledge vengeance for the fallen ones of mishap house. May the song of your deeds lessen their screams, and may the justice-bringers grant them final peace.

No stats are given for the kinsfolk of Harmony Lodge.

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