Answers to Heorl's Questions

by Jeff Richard

This is background information for Jeff's "Taming of Dragon Pass" campaign, which portrays the resettlement of Dragon Pass (specifically, Ormsthane Vale). This is much the same premise as my PenDragon Pass campaign. The following information is accurate as of 1346 S.T.


1. How much livestock can the family afford to keep alive during the winter?

According the geniuses on the HârnDigest, it takes approximately one bushel of hay for each ten pounds of animal to keep it fed through the winter.

Quick bit of cattle information:
Heortling cattle are bred in early Fire Season to drop their calves the following Sea Season. The calves and their mothers are then driven to the pasture lands and stay there until Earth Season, when the calves, by then weighing around 300 pounds, are weaned. By the next Earth Season, the full-grown yearlings probably weigh around 500-600 pounds. A cow generally goes into a decline after its seventh year of life and, in normal circumstances, only two out of every five cows raises a calf each year.

2. Just how bad are the winters in Ormsthane Vale?

According to the great Hendriki sage Joerg of Jansholm, the highlands around the Upland Marsh are some 5000 feet above sea level (as compared with 1000-2500 feet for most of the Heortling plateau), giving them an elevation similar to Denver or Boulder, but with considerably more precipitation. Seasonally, the Quivini Highlands can be described pretty simply:
Sea Season: A southern wind bringing heavy rain (beginnning during late Storm Season) quickly gets rid of the snow and begins to slowly taper off. Lots of fog. On the clear days, the spring flora is spectacular with blossoms and flowers.
Fire Season: Rain more or less stops as the warm winds begins to blow from the East. It gets quite hot, with summer highs routinely in the mid-nineties, although it does gets cool at night. Occasional thunderstorms.
Earth Season: This is the fairest time of year, according to the Quivini. The temperature begins warm and becomes chilly later in the season, the winds are mild to non-existant, with occasional sprinkles. Near the end of the season, the temperatures being to rapidly drop.
Darkness Season: Winter arrives quickly in the Quivini Highlands. The killing-frost generally hits between the last week of Earth Season and the first weeks of Darkness Season. The northern winds begin to pick up strength, and the first snow usually falls in the first four weeks of darkness season. It can get viciously cold in late Darkness season and unprotected animals can die from exposure.
Storm Season: The Heortlings claim that the storm gods whip ferocious winds and dump precipitation during this time of year. It tends to be cold, although not nearly as cold as late Darkness season, and during the late weeks of Storm Season, there is often heavy rain, although it can quickly become snow, sleet or hail.
Sacred Time: This is usually the time of the spring, although sometimes it occurs a bit before (a good omen) or a bit after (a bad omen).

3. Can we offer people cattle/sheep in exchange for the first born or can we ask people to take care of some of our stock and then they get the first-born of them?

The answer to this would have to be yes. The Heortlings have a myriad of livestock arrangements, involving reciprocal responsibilities. The two basic arrangements are the cattle loan, where a loanee borrows cattle and pays the loaner renders for the privilege; and the cattle gift, where cattle is given in exchange for ongoing debt. A handful of these possible arrangements:

4. Who can afford to take care of some extra animals and who would be disposed to doing so under reasonable conditions?

Most of the more ambitious carls would be interested in discussing some sort of livestock arrangement at reasonable rates. By reasonable I mean with minimal advantage to yourself, of course. Since your family is unproven, your status is not particularly high, thus an association with your family is hardly worth paying for. However, cattle are cattle, and there are always those interested in building up their stock.


5. Who are the leaders of Clan Varmand?

At the core of the clan is the household of Varmand the Strong, consisting of Varmand's war-companions (his ten huscarls), his offspring, his wife, his aged mother, his younger brother and his family, his war-thralls and all of the wives and dependents of the household. In all, there are some fifty folk living in Varmandshall.

At the center of the household, is Varmand the Strong, the master of Ormsthane Vale. A large bear of a man, Varmand has energy, courage, pride, and generosity in abundance, as well as cunning, vengefulness and a notorious ruthless streak. He is a man who should never be underestimated, for he has literally fought his way up in the world, ever since he and his family fled to the Oakland Back after the Tree Brothers killed his father Orlmandan. His initiation into the honored status of Wind Lord was recognized by none other than Chief Colymar.

Although Varmand was rudely raised and thoroughly illiterate, his wits are sharp and he is known for his shrewd cunning. He is also known to appreciate staves and good poetry, despite his own lack of talent at the art.

Varmand's household was formed during those years that Varmand and his brothers indiscriminately raided the lands between the Creek and the Stream. Ruthless and violent men joined Varmand and his brothers, swearing oaths of fidelity and sword-brotherhood to Varmand. These years of cattle-raiding, hired raids (as mercenaries of a sort), and during the lean seasons, hunting in the Oakland Back, formed their outlook on life. Varmand, his brothers and his war-companions are a very tight-knit group, well accustomed to hard-ship and brutal violence. By and large (with two exceptions- Varmand and Urenstand) they are indifferent to their new role as clan leaders.

Varmand's aged mother Penene is of a different mold than his companions -- although she is just as ruthless. Penene long goaded Varmand into avenging the death of his father, Orlmandan the Traveller, and ever since her husband's death, it has been her goal to make her bloodline as feared and respected as possible. Her motives are understandable -- her grandchildren, at least, will never see their father cut down like a nameless dog -- rather if he is to die, he will die like the kings of ancient legend. Penene is behind Varmand's decision to make a clan and is perhaps the wily chief's closest councillor, she encouraged Varmand to recognize five of the wealthiest settlers as elders and to seek their support of his actions.

Varmand's young wife Eonislara is the daughter of Kulbrast Blackmood, a powerful thane of King Mad-Blood Malan, with lands on the far side of Two Ridge Fort. Attractive and clever, Eonislara seeks to insure that her husband be respected as a thane or a chief by the Three Kings. Eonislara oversees her husband's stead and insures that the food-stores are well stocked. Because of her youth, Eonislara is often concerned that she might not get the respect due a woman of her status and is quite insistent that she does.

Of Varmand's two brothers, the elder is Urenstand. Practical, self-reliant and independent of mind, Urenstand is totally devoted to his older brother and his companions. His counsel is usually quite accurate and often profound. It is said by dishonorable wags that he does not fully trust his mother, believing that the intrigue that she weaves is as dangerous as his sword to the unsuspecting. He lives on his own stead with his wife and children.

The younger brother, Argrand -- more reckless -- more dependent on Varmand

Kaelor Warwind -- ruthless in battle, utterly loyal, a hunter/warrior with no time or patience for farming or farmers. I praise him in war, avoid him in peace.

Arndala the Priestess -- ever since Orlmandan died, Arndala has looked to her older brother Varmand for protection and leadership. After the hardship of her upbringing, Arndala understands and approves of Penene's drive, however she does not share it. She is most pleased that Varmand decided to settle the Ormsthane Vale and it has truly become her homeland. It is her vision that this Vale be a fertile and domesticated oasis in the Wilds and she can often be found working with the elders on plans to increase the productivity of the land.

Five carl families can be called clan elders because of their wisdom and their importance within the clan. Varmand usually heeds the council of the elders when it comes to internal clan affairs like land grants.

Snorri Stormblown and Renedali were among the very first farmers to settle in Ormsthane Vale -- he and his wife were here in the Vale before Varmand even came here. Snorri and his wife are exceptionally independent, they avoid borrowing anything, although Renedali is generous with advice and aid. Snorri has a flinty personality and is quite suspicious and easily annoyed, although he is a tireless farmer and a fearless warrior.

Lod the Hunter is practically a member of Varmand's household and knew Varmand back when he was a landless wanderer in the hills. A mediocre farmer, Lod supports his family by hunting and trapping on the Oakland Back, and by aiding Varmand on his raids. Lod is proud and suspicious, and tries to stay out of what he calls "disagreements of land boundaries." Lod's wife, Neneva, generally negotiates the family's affairs with the rest of the clan.

Personal observations about Hrothgar: An excellent and very energetic farmer, Hrothgar divides his time between the fields, his livestock and the clan hall, entrusting his children and kin to follow up on his instructions. He has a well-developed sense of hospitality, and Elgane always makes sure that guests are fed first. During the harvests, Hrothgar "hires" several young men without land, for Hrothgar has more land under the plough than any other carl. Most of the families on the north bank of the Ormsthane Stream defer to him and he generally organizes and oversees the seasonal labor projects.

Gunnar the Good is thought to be the wealthiest carl in the Varmandi. He owns five horses and keeps a winter herd of twenty cattle! He firmly supports Varmand and his sons Hoskuld and Hrut are often found in his war-band. However, Gunnar is an exceptional just man and an able friend. His wife Grizel is known for her hospitality.

Gulik the Fat and Vostena head the only carl family that rivals Gunnar in wealth. Vostena is a shrewd negotiator and runs the stead with talent and inspiration. It is said that she knows secrets that will let her herd drop three calfs for every five cows each year! In contrast, Gulik is a generous, indulgent and often impulsive man who is well-liked by the clan's farmers. Each year, Gulik and Gunnar help organize a cattle drive to either Two Ridge or Clearwine (depending on which of the kings Varmand is on worse terms with) and sell some of the clan's yearlings for finely worked goods.

Besides, Varmand's family and the five elder steadholders, several other families are note-worthy:

Volund the Smith is an important man, even if he isn't considered an elder. If you ever need bronze worked, he is the one to do it. He makes swords, spear and mail for Varmand's household and can rim a wheel in bronze! He is from Hendrikiland and is said to know many magical secrets. He enjoys the full patronage of Varmand.

Honey Elena, who tends the clan's beehives, is a healer and has the ceremonial robes of the White Goddess. She is a gentle person, although she has little patience for stupidity. The honey her bees make has curative powers.

The steads of Argalant Millmaker, Hoskuld, Harstaglar Woodcarver, Geidman, Apple-Dronlan, Stone-Erik and Algaar are all doing quite well. One day, Argalant will actually build the watermill that he keeps working on, and he might become quite well to do. Apple-Dronlan's orchards are finally taking shape -- and his cider is a great friendship-gift!

6. Who are our neighboring clans/families/tribes?

Near our vale are the forts of three kings. These kings lead confederations of clans, and can lead great war-parties against their foes.

The Colymar - Clearwine Fort -- clans include the Arnoring, Ernaldori, the Konthasos, the Orlmathi and the Zethnoring. Currently Kagradus Colymarson is King of Clearwine. He is getting quite old, I suspect his son Borngold will succeed him. Kagradus is the most powerful of the kings and both the Malani and the Hyalorings pay tribute to him. He has even tried to make the slave-taking Grazers pay tribute.

The Malani -- Two Ridge Fort

The Hyalorings -- Runegate Fort

The Chiefs

The Hiordings -- Swan Vale

The Antorlings -- Arfitha Vale -- tend to be allied with the Malani -- enemies

The Lysangi -- Arfitha Vale -- tend to be allied with the Malani -- enemies

The Namolding -- Arfitha Vale -- tend to be allied with the Malani -- enemies

The Vostang -- Starfire Ridge -- tend to be allied with the Colymar

The Karandoli -- Brambleberry Hills -- tend to be allied with the Colymar

The Rangdani -- near the Upland Marsh

The Peluski -- near the Upland Marsh

The Jenstali -- in the southern Thunder Hills -- tend to be allied with the Colymar

Other Folk:

The Grazers -- vicious slavers, who live from horseback and hate farmers. Their king has a feud with the Colymar King Kagradus.

The Northerners -- near great Wintertop. Don't know much about them.

Last updated 5 Jul 00 drd

David Dunham Page | Glorantha Page