The Varmandi clan now consisted of 60 adult men, 100 adult women, 130 children, and 20 elders. Their surviving priests and godis were Urenstand, Heorl, Vargast, Honey-Elena, Arndala, Theya Two-Mothers, and Vostina. Old Hrothgar, the oldest member of the clan at 67, was still alive.
They still had 150 cattle and 50 horses.
Vargast proclaimed his intention to be chieftain, as did Horselegs. The elders put them to the chief tests. Vargast's honor was found lacking, but Horselegs failed the test of loyalty. Vargast won acclamation as chief. As the Orlanth priest, Heorl charged him with placing the survival of the clan above all, and gave him command of the winds. Theya, as Ernalda priestess, said he must never rest until he had gained vengeance, and had regained their lands. She blessed him with the bounty of the land.
Vargast appointed a new war ring, with Heorl as Thunderer, Honey-Elena as Asrelia, Theya as Kero Fin, Horselegs as Warrior, Svar as Raider, and Arndala as Ernalda. The ring decided to live on the other side of the hills, in lands claimed but only lightly settled by the Hiordings. As a group, the Varmandi rushed to the river, capturing all steads in between, and taking all the food. They killed four Hiordings and wounded others.
Aslandar and 40 Hiording men showed up, threatening the Varmandi with their alliance with Gudvingkor, king of the Hyalorings, and saying the Varmandi were unjust for claiming more than they needed. Vargast said he was now chief, and that these were the Varmandi lands. Aslandar replied, "You are no more just than the men who killed your father. You cannot take the land which the goddess gave my father. You are a thief and a taker." Vargast replied that Kero Fin had granted them the lands. He swore to pay a just wergild for the men who were killed. Aslandar warned that he would seek recourse with the king at Runegate. Vargast said, "We have come to take new lands and settle as farmers." Aslandar replied, "You will have to farm with your swords at your sides," and retreated.
The Varmandi marked lands north of the Swan River, as far west as the Hyaloring boundary stones. They built a hall in a very defensible spot, and many steads nearby.
The Lonisi clan (one of the Hyaloring triarchy) threw one of the boundary stones into the river, and. grazed on the new Varmandi lands.
The four priestesses sanctified a new site to Ernalda, though the relationship with the land was not as strong as at Ormsthane Vale.
News came that the Orleving clan had moved to a new village at the base of Ura's mound, and King Baranwolf had built a small stone fort near Varmand's hall. Baranwolf claimed to have killed Varmand.
During the Storm season ritual, Old Man Varmand appeared and gave his blessings to the new ring. He said he'd protect his clan. In exchange, he demanded that the priests never forget the sacrifices that he had made so that there could be a clan. He was not attached to Ormsthane Vale, but wanted his grandson to farm over the two ridges where the birches grow -- the Arfritha Vale.
Ten boys and ten girls were initiated.
Dark season was a time of of sickness and starvation. Korol's youngest daughter Kallyr died, as did two of Baranthos's children and one of Horselegs'. In all, thirty children and five elders died. Only five children were born.
Part 21 | Part 23
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