Elyria at War Part 2: The Brudvir

Elyria at War: The Brudvir

“Once you were wolves.” The old man intoned, white canines showing through his grey beard. He was speaking to the a gathering of cubs, all listening attentively except for one who was preoccupied drawing in the dirt with a small twig.

“You lived as wolves, you played as wolves, you died as wolves and once you had learned all there was to being a wolf, you ascended. Now you are menn. Cubs, but still menn.”

Bann frowned at his son to stop drawing in the ground but his son was ignoring him. Intentionally. Sometimes Bann thought there was a little too much wolf in him. Too much of that wildness left in his spirit.

Grandfather Omenn continued his stories but Bann turned away, walking past the large building that served as the Pack hall. Smells like snow, he thought as he looked at the darkened sky. It was the end of autumn, so snow was to be expected. He’d need to make certain that the Pack stored as much food for the winter.

He sat down on the nearest porch and watched life in the settlement happen. Bann enjoyed these rare moments of quiet when all he had to do was sit. To pass the time he took out a small wooden block and a carving knife, feeling the small intricacies in the grain trying to gauge what shape it would become. He knew he didn’t decide what he would carve, the wood knew what shape it would become, grain, knots and shape determined that.

He was only the instrument, not the artisan. That was the wood itself.

Sometimes he immediately saw what it could be, at other times he had to start carving to find out.

His hands worked slowly, skillfully, the knife peeling bark from wood. This was a tough one, he decided as he looked at the naked pale wood. No faces or shapes leapt forth.

Bann sighed and was about to continue his work when he was interrupted.

“Bruégot,” one of his bondsmen, Koll, said rushing up to him. “I bring tidings of great import.” The young warrior was out of breath and sweat covered his brow. Bann remembered he’d been in the south, hunting or trapping or some such thing.

“What is it, Koll?” Bann asked setting aside the block of wood.

Koll turned to look and Bann followed his gaze. Around the corner two others emerged, strangers yet also kin. Their faces were drawn and haggard. They limped like wounded animals too long chased, there was no fight or vigor in their eyes, only pain.

“An attack, chief. In the south. Found these two in the forest limping away. Fed them, sheltered them and brought them here.”

Bann nodded, such was the way of things. Pack aided pack. When the winters came, all they had was each other. Winters of the season, or winters of the spirit.

Bann’s mind started racing, instinct taking hold. “Where? Who? And how many?” He asked after a brief moment of reflection.

Koll looked to his companions.

“Gulden, Bruégot.” The elder of the two and wearier replied. He was holding his side as if his ribs were broken and each word seemed to pain him.

Gulden was a three day run south, near the border to the grasslands… and the Neran. Bann growled.

“Ironshirts.” He spat. “Barbarians.”

“Yes, Bruégot.” The younger replied. “At least two hundred that we could see.”

Two hundred Ironshirts. Not a raiding party then. An army. Another growl came to Bann’s throat, unbidden but he didn’t force it down. Let them see his anger.

He nodded to Koll. “Tell the Den to gather in the Pack hall and send runners to all the Dens in the area. Summon the warriors and then get these two seen to. Have Omenn take a look at them.”

Koll nodded, though tired, near exhausted there was a fierce gleam in his eye. “It shall be done, chief.”

“Oh and Koll?” Bann said to the young warrior before he could leave. “Tell no one what you saw.” Koll nodded and led the two towards the Pack hall leaving Bann alone.

Bann sighed and rolled his shoulders, loosening them. It would take about half an hour for the Den to gather. Time enough to think.

The hall was packed by the time Bann entered. The noise of the pack reaching a fevered pitch as they saw him enter, his face a cold mask of certainty.

“Brothers.” Bann said quietly. “Sisters.” Such was their respect for him that he needed no growl to quite them. “By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news. If not I shall tell you.”

They looked down then, none daring to meet his eye. This was how he ruled, by respect, by his words. Not by whispers and rumors. He walked the length of the hall, each step like a bell that made his pack shy away from him. He walked straight onwards, projecting an air of confidence. His people might be strong, but only if they held together.

Fear was what would break them, whispers of the unknown. A pack was only strong if it held together.

“Koll,” He nodded to the young mann standing in the corner looking more interested in his boots and the knot in the floorboards than anything else. “Have our guests been seen to?”

“Yes, chief. The old mann’s with them now.” Koll mumbled.

“Good.” Bann replied easily, no anger in his voice. Some might see Koll’s speaking out of turn as a challenge to their authority but Bann knew it wasn’t so. Merely an overeager young warrior, a cub almost, still incapable of thinking straight.

He turned to his packmates. “Brothers and sisters. I have received grave tidings from the south. Three days ago our brethren in Gulden perished.”

The shock in their eyes was palpable, the news a fist to the gut. Yet here and there he saw mirthless smiles. Their blood was rising. Their instinct taking hold.

“I have sent word to the other Dens.” Bann looked to Koll who gave a brief nod. “To warn them and to prepare.”

“Who was it?” An old greybeard asked. His eyes white with cataracts, blind and half deaf. “Who dares?”

“Ironshirts.” Bann said.

A collective hiss rose from his people. Over the centuries quite a few wars had been fought between his people and the Neran. Sometimes they came to plunder, sometimes to convert, sometimes to take the ancestral lands and sometimes, sometimes just to kill. The reason mattered not, only that they were here.

“My people, my pack.” Bann said, knowing the answer long before he posed the question. “I find myself facing a difficult choice. Should I command the pack to fight? To die? Or to flee into the woods, to roam and gather strength, to wait for word of the Bruérag?”

That last addition was deliberate. While all Brudvir were pack, so did every Alpha bridle under the jaws of another alpha and so did his closest pack.

The angry growl that rose from the masses was answer enough. His people would fight. Spill the blood of the invaders.

He saw Omenn enter then. The old mann gave him a brief glance then shook his head sadly. He would not condone this course of action that much was obvious.

As his warriors prepared for war, Bann found his footsteps taking him to Omenn’s hut. The old mann lived a outside the perimeter of the Den, preferring the company of animals and trees.

He stepped on to the porch, the boards creaking under his feet when he was stopped by a warning growl. Hashvir, Omenn’s old wolf stood by the door, all fur and fang and openly hostile. “Hush.” Omenn said from inside the hut. “The chief doesn’t mean me harm. He’s here to talk.”

Hashvir seemed to grasp the gist of Omenn’s words for he sat down and cocked his head slightly. Watchful but unthreatening.

“I’ve come to talk Omenn.” Bann said. “About events in the hall.”

“I’ve got nothing to say to you. It saddens me that you haven’t learned my lessons.”

“What lessons are those?” Bann said as he entered the hut. He was genuinely confused. Omenn sat in an old chair by the fire smoking a long thin pipe.

“The lessons of the wolf.” Omenn said. “You fan the flames of war in our people, stoke their bloodlust. Those are not the actions of a wolf brother. Those are not the lessons of a wolf, but the false lessons of menn.”

“Then what would you have me do?” The audacity of the old mann appalled him. He was the chieftain, not this old fool. It was his role to determine what was best for his pack. “Roll over and let the Ironshirts stab my belly while waiting for a rub?”

A bitter laugh came from Omenn’s throat. “I want you to think. What makes us strong? What makes us weak? Is it the hunt that strengthens us? Or the pack? A lone wolf will not survive the winters, nor a small pack. Yet the Great Pack will survive.”

“So you want me to call the Bruérag? To gather more warriors?”

“What I want is irrelevant.” Omenn said, blowing a thick plume of smoke into the air. “You are chieftain. The Alpha of this pack. Your actions determine our fate. By all means, avenge our fallen brothers. But don’t do it out of hatred or bloodlust. Don’t do it out of instinct. The lessons of the wolf and the wisdom of menn. Instinct is half of what makes us wolf brothers, reason the other. You are not whole without both. Our people are not whole. When the pack is threatened, what must you do?”

Then he saw it. The one thing he’d been missing. He didn’t matter, his warriors didn’t matter. All that mattered was the future of the pack. He’d been too blinded by the prospect of the hunt, when in fact he’d been missing the obvious.

“The cubs…” Bann sighed. “Protect the cubs.”

Omenn gave a chuckle. “Glad you aren’t as foolish as you look.”

Five weeks of near constant battle, Bann thought, yet still they kept coming. Swarming the woods like vermin with their foul trappings of Virtue, spreading filth and flame like unruly children. The moss compress against his forearm stung, a token of affection from a Neran suitor of considerable skill. Bann had taken his head though, rather than his heart.

He had taken Omenn’s words to heart, much to the detriment of his marriage. Radda, had almost clawed at him when he told her she needed to take the children north, further into the Heartlands and away from the fighting. She’d known his reasoning was sound, but it had galled her and her final revenge had been nasty indeed.

In front of his gathered warriors, menn and womenn she’d given him a goodbye kiss of such ferocity that she bit through the skin below his lip, deep enough to scar. Marking her territory. The warriors had cheered and laughed as Bann stood there bleeding, to dumbstruck to respond.

He’d promised his warriors a fight and a fight they were going to get, but instead of heading straight for prey, he’d headed to the smaller Dens in the area and gathered warriors, advising the packs to flee, to seek shelter further inwards.

So here he was with two hundred of his own warriors, waiting for the enemy to move, sitting on a moss covered stone, axe by his feet and a weary sigh on his lips.

It was a good weapon, proper steel, bought from the smallbrothers in the east; good hardy folk of stout hearts but strange beliefs. He was stopped from further thought by Koll who approached with spit roasted squirrel in hand.

“Food chief?” He asked, handing him the spit.

Bann took it silently. The young Brudvir had grown in the last weeks, from childish over eager cub, to a proper mann. War had a tendency to do that to the young.

There was a question in the warrior’s eyes, like a puppy that needed to go outside.

“Spit it out.” Bann said wearily. That was the part he would never get used to, people coming to him for advice.

“I was wondering about… womenn.”

Oh great, romantic advice. The worst kind.

Bann watched Koll’s gaze focus on a campfire in the distance. Ah… her.

“You know she’s packless.” Bann said. “If you were to bond, you would have to leave ours or she would have to join.”

Koll nodded. “There’s just something about her.”

Bann gave a rueful chuckle. Well did he know how tempting the call of the wild could be.

Two weeks ago a group of packless had joined them, fierce and independent. Lone wolves that wandered the lands. Among them a young womann, Isilde, of great beauty perhaps but also a dangerous temperament. When the bloodlust was upon her, she was unstoppable. Bann had seen her tear menn’s throats out with her teeth when her weapon had failed, howling with fierce joy.

Bann was about to warn Koll about the dangers of people like her, but stopped himself. There was a war on. Every day could be their last. Let the boy enjoy himself. After… was after. The moment was all that mattered during war.

“Be bold.” Bann finally said. “Overcome your fears and rush headlong into the fray. Win or lose, you’ll take the lessons to heart.” He didn’t add, ‘in this life or the next’.

Koll nodded slowly, chewing his lip. “Thanks, chief. I needed that.” Bann watched him go into the darkness.

Tomorrow, they’d bring an end. After five weeks of hunting, of nipping at the enemy host’s heels, of killing stragglers, of ambushing, his warriors were restless. Bloodied they’d all been, but there was blood and then there was blood.

The enemy camp was well ordered. Bann saw as much in the pre dawn light. A few sentries stood guard, horns in hand ready for trouble. Rows upon rows of tents surrounded by a palisade of freshly cut timbers. It rankled him to see such crude craftsmanship, such wanton destruction of their homeland. Over the past few weeks it had become obvious as the Neran’s numbers swelled that they had come not for plunder or glory, but for conquest.

“Is he ready?” Bann asked of his packmate, Gurdun.

Gurdun grunted in acknowledgement. “He’s ready. He’s just not happy.” A mann of few words, he was a master when it came to speaking with the beasts of the land.

Bann’s gaze was drawn to the huge behemoth behind them. The bull Ursaphaunt had an unquiet look in his eyes, the presence and smells of so many likely made him nervous.

“Have him charge that section there.” Bann pointed to a part of the palisade. “It’s uneven, one good charge and it’ll fall.” His expert eyes had seen it in an instant. Amateurs.

“Hardly subtle.” Koll put in, leaning against a pine directly on the treeline, two hatchets in hand.

“The time for subtlety has passed.” Bann grunted. “The time for blood has come.”

Koll grinned. “As you say, chief.”

Gurdun whispered something in the Ursaphaunt’s ears, pointing straight at the section of the palisade. It’s trunk swayed in acknowledgement and Gurdun patted its hindquarters.

“Luck to you my friend.” He said mournfully.

The great beast gained speed surprisingly swiftly, its legs carrying pound upon pound of flesh and fur forward with unstoppable determination.

Bann grinned as the sentries stood there wide eyed and gawping as the wild bull came charging. A sight to see indeed.

He hefted his axe, feeling the wooden handle beneath his fingers. When the crash of flesh and wood came, he was ready and so were his pack.

“Charge!” He cried at the top of his lungs, sprinting forwards. The howl that met his roar was deafening.

The palisade came crashing down like a pile of kindling.

The bull’s charge continuing forward carrying the beast into the camp proper.

Bann was hot on its heels and his army directly behind him. His axe took the first Neran’s arm at the elbow and a backhand sent the man sprawling.

His blood pumped fiercely as he saw the circle of carnage spread outwards from the palisade, the Brudvir barreling into recently awakened Neran, their superior strength easily overpowering the smaller menn. The Bull was still moving forward and Bann kept at its heels. Again and again he encountered Neran, some alert others still shaking off sleep. His axe was merciless, taking life after life with ease.

The battle dragged on as more and more of the enemy woke and his people’s fewer numbers became apparent. Bann kept pressing forwards.

In single combat each of his warriors was superior but if he allowed the Neran a chance to organize, to catch their breath superior numbers and discipline would win the day.

So he kept at it, barreling into clusters of menn, disrupting them and taking them down piecemeal. Again and again, like a single stone parting the tide. Yet always they reformed, fewer in numbers but still numerous.

His blood sang and his body hummed as he felt it rise. Bann let out a wild howl of abandon. Grinning at a group of three Ironshirts, their weapons shaking in their hands.

“Run!” He roared and they scattered like frightened mice.

Forgotten were his wounds, forgotten was the tiredness he’d felt in the last weeks. Only the moment mattered.

A tall mann, standing almost eye to eye with him approached through a row of tents. Clad head to toe in iron, he bore a sword and shield.

“Heathen beast!” The Neran Holy Sword cried. “Face me!”

Bann chuckled and charged.

They met with the force of two titans, steel grinding against steel. Bann swung his hip sideways to avoid a swordstrike while his axe glanced off his opponent’s breastplate.

A furious exchange followed, as Bann weaved and dodged, unburdened by armor. His opponent was exceptional, moving with grace while burdened with too much iron.

They met again, a storm of steel and flesh. This time fortune wasn’t with Bann. His foot slipped in mud and the Holy Sword’s shield caught him in the jaw.

Bann spun and fell, losing the grip on his axe.

He rolled as the arc of the sword landed where his head had been mere moments before.

Instinct took hold and Bann grabbed his opponent, tripping him. His opponent floundered and Bann sprang upon him on all fours. Long canines met flesh and the acrid taste of iron filled his mouth.

Before he realized what he was doing, the mann was dead. Throat torn out. Bann spat out the hunk of flesh in his mouth.

He felt the warm blood run down his chin. He spat on the ground a fierce grin on his face, beard dyed red. Perhaps there was a little too much of the wild in him as well.

He howled in triumph, arms spread wide.

Intuition told him the day was won, but as he looked around the bloodlust faded, and he saw the dead and dying all around, both Brudvir and Neran.

He began to wonder what exactly they’d lost in victory.

Part 1: The Kypiq

Part 3: The Janoa

Part 4: The Neran

Part 5: The Waerd

Part 6: The To'Resk

Part7: The Hrothi

6/26/2017 10:26:15 PM #1

well written... and there had been a time when even Brudvir ran away as every decendent of Mann once did. And a time will come when pyrovians return. We, that we live in New Elyria, should be prepaired and united.

House Pyrros

6/26/2017 10:54:40 PM #2

Poor Neran, getting trapped by Kypiq then eaten by Brudvir.

6/27/2017 6:18:24 AM #3

Excellent write-up especially the balancing between Mann and Wolf!

6/27/2017 6:29:20 AM #4

YEEEEEESSS! I can't have enough of these stories ! Loved it!!!

6/27/2017 7:16:14 AM #5

Great read :) Love it!

6/27/2017 8:15:33 AM #6

Janoa, next!

So, uh, here's a question: do Brudvir eat people?

6/27/2017 8:29:43 AM #7

Great work, Scy, a riveting read, and just the right length. :)

Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

6/27/2017 9:21:48 AM #8

I love these stories of yours! They provide an interesting glimpse into how the tribes could function. The voices of your characters come across clearly and the story flows well too, which makes it a compelling read. Thank you :)

6/28/2017 6:02:15 AM #9

If I had to choose between my favorite chocolate or more of your stories as a treat. I would definitly pick the latter. 😘

9/14/2017 11:28:03 AM #10

Another great read! I'm looking forward to the rest. Is there a way to "subscribe" to something like this so I'll know when more come out?

3/31/2019 1:43:32 PM #11

Oh that was a good read!

9/29/2019 6:14:39 AM #12

Very well written, and the first one i read. Looking forward to reading all the others now :)

Thank you.