How Illig Barntarsson Became Illig Steadburner

by Pam Carlson

"Come, children. Help me churn the milk so we will have cheese for the winter. While you shake the milk-gourds, I will tell you a tale of my brother Illig, father to some of you and uncle to he rest. I will tell the story about how he came to be known as "Steadburner".

"Illig used to be known as a calm and gentle man, a man who loved farming. He was strong in the magic of Barntar. He could work twice as hard as any other man, and he enjoyed it like nothing else. When he went raiding, he would bring home sturdy ploughs and fat cattle! Even now, when he comes in at night, he helps care for all of you -- a task that would make strong warrors flee in terror!

"One day last winter, your fathers were out helping our cattle find forage. They were attacked by Intamorl Utagsbane, the foul Orleving bastard who killed your uncle Utag that night the cowardly Orleving crawled into our tula to burn cousin Baranthos's stead! Intamorl had prepared well for a fight, because he was in his warpaint. He and three of his brothers came to murder us all!

"True to Orleving honor, Intamorl threw a javelin into poor Svarr's back before announcing his intent: "I have come to kill Theya Earthwitch, because she used her magic to attack my chief's hall! I will kill you all here, then go to the witch's stead and take your families!

"....Gretchen! Don't you cry. Crying is for boys.

"The fight was a tough one. Svarr was hurt outright, and two warriors attacked Illig at once. But my husband Venharl became filled with the wrath of Orlanth the Best Protector. Venharl cut down Intamorl and his brother with mighty blows, and crippled another so that he could not escape. This Gudric Oddisson called for mercy. But Venharl would offer no mercy to a cur who came to murder his family. Your father rightly butchered that Orleving even as he begged.

"The next day we took our story, along with the sorely wounded Umatand Oddison, to Varmand's hall. Illig told the tale in a beautiful, terrible poem, one that will be remembered for years. Illig called for a raid on the Orleving, to teach them that no one can attack a Varmandi stead without suffering worse themselves!

"Heorl the Lawspeaker and Varmand's son, Vargast the Giant, tried to calm him down. Heorl said that the Orleving reavers had had insult enough when they were driven off and killed by mere farmers! Vargast reminded us all of our unsettled debt with Mad Blood Malan, Orlev's king. But Illig replied angrily: "Heorl! When Orlev raided Varmand's hall last year, trying to slay his family, the whole clan followed him into vengeance! His women cried: 'No one must be able to attack our halls, or our children will be made thralls!' Why should it be any different for a carl -- or a gyda? Has Varmand's family more rights than any other?

"Now, this was a painful issue. A good chief cannot be known to place himself above the carls. But the payment to Malan had not been made, so raising our fyrd to attack the Orleving would bring Malan into our valley in such a way that he need never come again. Varmand would not raise the fyrd, nor would he allow any in his family to accompany the Jarangi in their vengeance raid. But he could not stop a feud.

"Illig went around to all the carls at the moot, asking them if they would avenge Theyastead. He asked our kin. He asked those I have healed. He asked people we have loaned cattle to. He asked those to whom we have gifted cattle and grain in the darkest of winters, that they might not starve. Nearly all were keen to go. Even Maniski Varmandsson chose to disobey his father and go with Illig. Twenty one warriors chose to go on Illig's raid, all to avenge our stead. That was a great honor, children, and you all never forget it!

"Because it was a feud, the raid was limited to destroying Oddisstead. Illig and Venharl attacked at dawn, in honor of my name. Illig threw the first brand on the roof. Killer Korol, our Herald, announced that the Jarangi had come in vengeance for Intamorl's cowardly raid. Old Oddi charged out to defend his stead, but even he was disheartened when he saw a full score Varmandi warriors. All of Oddi's sons and warriors defended their stead bravely, but our men killed every one of them like the dogs they were. Oddi's wife tried to insult our warriors by refusing to flee and burn in her stead! This is typical Orleving stupidity, because we Varmandi do not kill women and children. Well, Baranthos and Miniski tried to, but Korol and Venharl stopped them. While Illig rounded up Oddi's cattle, Venharl rode up to Intamorl's wife. He told her this would happen whenever any Orleving brings sword against us.

"Remember that, children. We Varmandi are a small clan with few friends. We must make sure all our enemies fear us more than they hate us. They must fear our vengeance more than they fear the loss of their honor. And they must know that Vamandi vengeance is more certain than Elmal's rising. So, it is an honor that your Uncle Illig is known as "Steadburner".

"After all, when Illig and I stood in Kerofin's Hall, the Goddess pronounced it his wyrd."

Theya Two-Mothers, Gyda of the Varmandi Clan, 1355.

Last updated 13 Feb 97 drd

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