Varmand's booming voice cut through the din with a command directed at his youngest son. "Vargast, grab four others and guard the back entrance. Get the women, children, and livestock to safety." He then began to gather the rest of his men around him and head for the main entrance.
With Killer Korol, Heorl, and a pair of huscarls, Vargast Varmandsson took to the back entrance. It was a narrow space that five stout warriors could hold abreast. Vargast took the center point of honor, with Killer Korol at his sword arm and Heorl guarding the edge.
Looming out of the gloom came a howling line of foul Orlevings followed by the mounted huscarls of Erland, son of Malan. The Sword-bastard himself drove his men forward with cries of "Death to Varmand -- we'll kill his whelps and bitches too!" And the Orlevings replied with all the bloodlust of their leader; "Erland, Erland!" they roared. Vargast and Korol cried their defiance. Though they had both been struck down by Erland in the last fight, they were eager to trade strokes with him once more!
"Foul piglet" retorted Heorl, "we will tear out your entrails and feed you to the hounds".
The thoughts of his son strong within him, Korol wavered but stood firm. Loosing this battle would leave him with no one to bear his grandchildren, a thought that stiffened his mind with resolve.
For the newly-married Vargast, the threat was taken much differently. "Dare to threaten my wife will you runt? It will that more than a pack of piglets to do that. Varmand!"
The five brave Varmandi warriors braced for the charge of six spear-shaking Orlevings, two against the bulk of Vargast the Huge. But these were mere gagarthi against hardened Varmandi warriors filled with the power of Orlanth, and had no chance. The first took a slice from Heorl and barely stood. The second barely blocked Killer's mighty blow and was still knocked off his feet. The two on Vargast fared poorly too -- one received the gift of a Varmandi sword in his gullet, and the other's feeble blow bounced off Vargast's shield. The huscarls managed to drop another Orleving and injure the last one. The line held.
Yet there was scant time for jubilation for onward came Erland and about him charged his personal Isolting guard. Orlevings were flung left and right as Erland and his men showed their impatience to be at the hated Varmandi and surged forth for battle. This time, the line staggered back like a ship turning into the Storm yet holding firm with the courage of Orlanth at the baths of Nelat.
Vargast ignored the lesser huscarl, it was Erland that threatened him, and Erland that would taste his blade. Their swords struck against shields, and the earth shook. But this time it was Vargast's turn to triumph. The cub proved had the teeth and claws of his father, Varmand the Bear. He cut through Erland's shield and laid him a grievous, perhaps mortal wound. The Humakti fell as swiftly as his master toppled the evil emperor. Vargast himself was not without a wound, for the huscarl beside Erland dealt him a strong blow. But Orlanth was with the Varmandi, and Vargast was not felled. The Varmandi huscarl beside Vargast dealt Erland's partner a deadly blow of his own, knocking him to the ground.
Killer Korol, used more to attack than defending in a line, blocked the blows of the two other huscarls but was driven to the ground briefly. Beside him, Heorl drove down one the of huscarls. The sharp Varmandi blades tasted Orleving and Isolting blood.
Within moments the tide had turned. The huscarls dragged off their fallen leader, and the Orlevings retreated with them. A Varmandi huscarl raced forth to ensure their retreat wasn't a feint while the rest collected the women and children. The way was clear, and the warriors let them to the safety on the other side of the creek. No cowardly Orleving would dare cross the creek.
By the time they returned, the rest of the Orlevings were gone. The stead was saved, but not without terrible losses. Kalor Warwind, champion of the Varmandi was down -- slain protecting a wounded Varmand. Another huscarl had joined Orlanth's eternal hall. Only Maniski's valiant efforts saved the life of his father -- driving off Orlev before he had a chance to finish his evil deed. The bear was grievously injured, but then is at his most dangerous.
The house of Varmand was in turmoil. Cries of "revenge, revenge, raise the fyrd" rocked the stead, lead by Maniski Varmandsson, but the more prudent Vargast managed to stem the anger and warn that a direct counter-attack would be expected and planned for.
"Brave Varmandi, we must avenge this terrible blow,
but to charge against them now would lead to certain woe.
Let us lick our wounds and plan in our stead,
So by the end of the season we'll see Orlev dead."
Heeding Vargast's wise words, the clan ring was summoned to plan, but the fyrd was still raised in case the Orlevings dared to show their ugly faces in the tula again. There would be revenge for Wakboth's foul deeds.
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