Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
The Saga of Skerri Brightspear
In the land that our ancestors came from once lived a chieftain called Skorri Helgisson who led a clan called the Urlanging, part of the Heortling tribe. He was a good chieftain and a true follower of Orlanth the King. He had once been the bravest of chieftains and quite warlike but now he was old and not as brave as he had once been. Because he had so many sons he was called Manysons. (He was also called the Good Farmer. This was due to the fact that whenever he plowed a furrow a son would be the result.)
Now in those years a bad man called Belintar had swam ashore from the deadly sea and onto the neighbouring land and was making everyone do exactly whatever he told them to do. This man who worshipped no gods known to men, claimed sacred kingship and did battle with our ancestor's king, the Only Old One. More and more of the Only Old One's kingdom fell to Belintar and he even began to conquer our ancestor's lands. This of course did not sit well with our ancestors so they resisted his rule. Unfortunately no matter how brave our ancestors were Pharaoh had great evil magic and many followers on his side and despite the odd loss he usually defeated his enemies.
Because of this many Orlanthi clans in Hendrikiland had to make some hard decisions. Should they stay and become Belintars subjects or should they flee and settle elsewhere? Some years earlier a portion of the Orshanti under a man named Colymar had headed north into the lands that the dragons had scoured clean of humankind. At first it was believed that they had been eaten by an enormous two-headed dragonnewt but later it was learned that this had been a magical lie and they were still alive and prospering. After that was learned, and the Only Old One was killed by Belintar many more Orlanthi, whether in clans, families or singly made their way northwards.
Wishing to know what sort of ruler Belintar was Skorri had sent three of his followers to spy on Belintar some years earlier. Their names were Archon, Fenoal and Cedric the Fox2. After five long years only Cedric the Fox had returned. On his return he hastened to Skorri's side.
"The news is not good, Belintar conquers all before him. He rules fairly and well, but he tolerates no independence. You will kneel and bow your head, or die. Belintar leaves those in each land mostly to their own nature, be that for good or evil. But Belintar does rule, kings and queens, priest and sorcerer must bend knee or be destroyed. Where Belintar brings changes by and large those changes encourage peace and enrich the lands. In short, he is a good chief, but he is not our chief and he will not ask our premission to be our chief."
Skorri thanked Cedric and gifted him with a gold torc worth 20 cattle. He told Cedric that he would announce his decision the next morning before the people.
A Decision is Made
Skorri Manysons gathered the clan and spoke to the people saying, "I am an old man and while I have done many great things in the past it now seems to me to be a good thing to stay here in the home I know and love and die at Belintars hands rather than to leave this place and wander far away." All of his fifty sons spoke up in a great clamor saying that they would stay with their father and protect him. The old man sat silent for a moment and bowed his head. When he looked up again he had tears in his eyes and he said, "The god was wise when he said that no one can make you do anything, though I think you are all fools to stay and die with me. It is a hard thing to see all your sons stay and die beside you. The rest of you I urge to go though and be smarter than these young fools."
Then Skorri called forth a shaman that was not known to anyone present to stand at his side. "This man who calls himself Bjarni Bare-skin3 came to me saying he was looking for some clan his visions had shown him. He claims the spirits have sent him to guide this clan to new lands. I believe that Orlanth moves through him and I believe that those of you who are prepared to follow him shall make a new clan." This Bjarni was of the clan but no one had seen him for years.
A great noise arose as the people argued whether they would stay and face a certain glorious death or go and face an uncertain, perhaps less glorious, life. Both young men and women and old men and women said that they would rather go than stay and die and no one thought the less of them for this. They gathered up their possessions, their arms and their armour, their servants and their chattel, their sheep and their cattle and made ready to leave.
A Leader is Chosen
Skorri came and gave them his and the gods blessings. "But who," he asked, "is going to lead you? A people should have a leader for while you can follow a shaman to a new land he cannot be a true leader."
In that land at that time there lived a man from another clan with a dire reputation called Blunt Ash-bjorn4. He had killed three men, yet had not paid out one coin in wergeld. Ash-bjorn spoke up and said, "I am going to be your leader and any man who wants to disagree with me I will let my axe persuade." No man spoke up but redheaded Skerri Brightspear5 the only daughter of Skorri spoke up saying, "My brothers are fools to stay and die but I am not certain that I would like to follow you Ash-bjorn. What if a woman disagrees with you, does your axe persuade women as well?" "No", replied Ash-bjorn, "for persuading women I have another tool that I employ. If you give me a chance I am sure that my little friend can persuade you of my worthiness." "Perhaps not if your friend is as little as you say," Skerri said, "but I am prepared to be persuaded anyway." So the pair went off together while the people waited. Skerri took quite a bit of persuading and in turn persuaded Ash-bjorn as well. When they were both fully persuaded they returned to the people. Skerri said, "I am prepared to follow Ash-bjorn and you all would be sensible to do so as well." Skerri proved her skills in persuasion when Ash-bjorn surprised the gathering by announcing that he and Skerri would immediately be joining in a year marriage and her word as leader would weigh as much as his.
The people agreed that Blunt had all the requirements of a chieftain as Andrin had put them down. All three candidates in the Chieftain Tests, Blunt Ashbjorn, Jarang Hauberk also known as Unasson, and Oski Urlikson, did well and the final choice came down to a vote of the people. It is said that more women than men voted for Blunt due solely to his charm but he did get the most votes.
When the great time of renewal came around Blunt re-enacted the sacred hero quest of the Making of the Storm Tribe. He had the support of the people and did quite well on the quest returning with the Amber Crown6. He was acclaimed as chief by all who were going north and in honour of the Amber Crown the new clan was named the Amber Clan.
The Way North is Scouted
Skorri and Blunt sent a party north to negotiate passage and find a new homeland for the Amberi. The party was led by Skerri Brightspear in all matters but war where leadership devolved to Orlev Askisson, also known as Ice-Eyes from his piercing stare. This Orlev followed both Humakt and Lhankhor Mhy and was infamous for his devotion to truth. Others sent under Skerri and Orlev's leadership were Per Rasmusson, a sworn follower of Skerri and initiate of Odayla, Cedric the Fox, Hend Alynxfriend, a Yinkini also known as Cat Boy, and Snorri Horse-thief, a man who was as comfortable in the saddle as any Horsespawn. Bjarni Bareskin also went along to offer spiritual guidance but he left them at Smithstone to find their own way north. Later some fyrdmen joined them to help protect the wain full of treasure they had taken.
The party travelled north to Smithstone where they met Korol the Tight, trader of the Balmyri. This Korol was to be their access to the Balmyri ring. This Korol was in the region buying as much cattle as he could so he could take them north. Rumour said that the Balmyri needed them for tribute to another tribe.
The ring ruling Smithstone had quickly decided to throw their lot in with Pharoah as their first devotion was to trade and trade they thought would be better not worse under Pharoah. While in Smithstone waiting for Korol to collect his cattle Skerri met one of the sorcerorous horsemen known as knights who had many years earlier taken over the southernmost reaches of Heortland. This knight, known as Sir Withal made the mistake of openly abusing a young woman in Skerri's presence. One of his followers suggested that the Orlanthi would not sit by and ignore this action. Sir Withal laughed and said "None of these sheep would dare raise their hand against me when I am merely chastising a servant." Skerri, emulating her goddess leapt across the inn and smashed her fist into Sir Withal's nose. She laughed her mocking laugh and said, "Sheep indeed, if perhaps you had experience of sheep other than as bed partners you might know more about them. I would suggest a hasty departure would best suit your continuing health." As cowardly as all sorcerors Sir Withal beat a hasty retreat. Skerri accepted the grateful young woman as one of her followers. The rest of their stay in Smithstone was uneventful. Once Korol had his cattle they were free to leave.
The first group the scouts needed to negotiate
passage through were the Lonisi. The Lonisi were led by their famous leader Elusu
Half-hand. Elusu and Skorri had once been as close as brothers and their people had
willingly followed their chieftains lead in this. But now Pharoah had come and all
had changed. The Urlanging decided on war while the Lonisi decided on peace.
This placed a seemingly unbreakable barrier between the two peoples and Skerri knew not
what sort of welcome they would face in Lonisi lands. Yet when they reached the
Lonisi lands representatives of the ring met them and made the following greetings :
A bountiful woman then stepped forward bearing a cup
in which an ember glowed in a bed of earth, "I, Elgane Endalsdotter, Earth Mother of
the Lonisi Clan Ring welcome you to our homes and fires. As long as you are on the lands
on the Lonisi no door shall be closed to you."
The Amberi were taken aback at this effusive welcome and wondered what was behind these honeyed words. Yet they replied in kind.
"I am Skerri Brightspear, daughter of Skorri Manysons, wife of Blunt Ashbjorn. I come to you bearing Blunt's will and carrying his words. I speak for the Amber Clan and we in turn deny you nothing."
Per Rasmusson stepped forward and presented a bowl of trail dust. "I, Per Rasmussen, Oathfollower to Skerri Brightspear and the Amber Clan, offer you the dust from our trail. We welcome you to join us in our journey to new lands."
"I, Cedric the Fox, Weaponthane of the Amber Clan, offer you the wind of our faith". He called upon the wind of our father and was rewarded with a much stronger wind than he expected. All agreed later that this was a good omen.
Orlve Ice-eyes stepped forward and said, "This sword is placed at your disposal. As long as the Amber Clan breathes Lonisi air and eats Lonisi bread none may come against the Lonisi without facing this sword beside yours".
The Amberi then travelled to speak with Chief Elusu himself and when they met that notable they received rich gifts. Chief Elusu gifted them from his own hands and handed them the gifts saying,
"For Skerri, a bright shield to match her bright spear. For Cedric, these gloves that have traveled far. For Per, this cloak that travels well. For Hend, this bag will be very useful. For Snorri, a bow which shoots straight. For Orlev, a helm to ward your keen sight."
The Amberi were very grateful for these rich gifts and praised Elusu effusively. All save Skerri for she still smarted at the seeming betrayal of her people and her father by Elusu and the Lonisi. Chief Elusu spoke to her saying.
"Ah but Skerri, it tears my heart that you treat me as your father does. Will you turn away my words as he turned away my messengers? I thought to talk with him but he would not even listen and now I fear for him and all with him. People who are as close to me as my own flesh and blood marching to their death and for what? Yes, as Umath said, 'No one can make you do anything' and 'violence is always an option' ... but 'there is always another way'."
To this Skerri made reply.
"My father is an old and tired man and he does not want to pull up his roots and find a new land like we do. It is a great sadness to him and to me that so many of our people are devoted, foolish or scared enough to die with him. I do not look forward to losing my father and fifty brothers but they have made their minds up and they are determined to die."
She covered her head with her cloak and stood silently for a while. She uncovered her head then and with a suspiciously wet gleam to her eyes she said.
"The Urlanging have sharpened their spears and turned their backs on peace and are ready to die for what they know is right. I will not hear words against them. Indeed, "No one can make you do anything", and that is what they are doing. What we are doing is something else and that is what I will speak about. The Urlanging are the past, the Amber Clan is the future. Let us look to the future while never forgetting the past. Now let us talk about the present and the future."
She paused and then said further.
"Your welcome and that of your people has been more than generous Chief Elusu. Its extreme warmth and generosity frankly puzzles me and I would gladly take this chance to sit and understand the import of all this."
The Import of the Lonisi's Greeting
When they spoke further over mead Chief Elusu made the Lonisi behaviour clear. He told the Amberi that some of their number wanted to head north to Dragon Pass like the Amberi but the hatred of the next clan, the Brown Boars made it impossible for the Lonisi's daughter clan to move north. As part of their deal with Pharoah the Lonisi had agreed not to let any clans travel south through their lands for this entire year. Clans could travel north but not southwards. When the Brown Boars learned that they would be unable to move through the Lonisi tula on their way to fight Pharoah they were sorely angered.
When the Lonisi asked them whether their daughter clan could pass through Brown Boar lands the Brown Boars smiled hard and said, "Certainly our friends from the Lonisi can travel through our lands. As long as they do so in the form of smoke from funeral pyres. No Lonisi will travel through our tula this year." Since their deal with Pharoah precluded warfare for the year the Lonisi were unable to send their daughter clan northwards. That is until they learned of the Amberi heading north. Iskalli Endalson, leader of the daughter clan petitioned Chief Elusu to ask the Amberi permission to join their clan and thus circumvent the Brown Boar's denial of passage rights.
What the Lonisi Offer
Chief Elusu thus asked Skerri whether the Amberi would adopt the Lonisi as part of their clan. In return he offered free passage, food and water while on the tula, and a senior apprentice of the Voice of Gustbran. The Voice of Gustbran was the leading red and blacksmith in the land who travelled from clan to clan staying with many but being a member of none of them, sharing what skills he wanted with whoever he wanted to share with. Getting someone as skilled as even his senior apprentice was a great gift.
Skerri leapt to her feet, eyes blazing.
The Brown Boars
The next obstacle to their passage north was the Brown Boar clan. This clan hated Pharoah and anyone allied with him. They refused all passage through their lands as they had been denied passage through Lonisi lands. Yet Skerri had to negotiate passage through their lands for the Amber clan and their new Lonisi members who the Brown Boars had specifically prohibited from passing through. Skerri and the scouting party reached the boundary between the Lonisi and Brown Boar tulas. There they met two of the Brown Boar fyrd who were extremely unfriendly. They were rude and ignorant and Skerri had to force herself not to kill them. She wanted to speak with their chieftain but he refused to speak with her directly, instead forcing her to negotiate with his followers, another insult.
Skerri asked under what conditions the Amberi would be allowed to pass through the Brown Boar's tula and was told that the Amberi would either have to fight them or go on a raid with them against either the Lonisi or the Brown Boars neighbours to the east, the uz of the Troll Woods. Skerri had no real option so she agreed that the Amberi would go on a raid with them against the uz. Her only condition was that all the Amberi were to be accepted as Amberi regardless of their past origin. To this the Brown Boars agreed and the scouting party was allowd to pass on through the Brown Boar tula. Orlev Ice-eyes was sent on his magical horse which never tired to bring the news to Blunt. The night they left the Brown Boars tula five of the scouting party had a dream...
The Bear and the Hunter
Skerri dreamed that she stood watch and was startled
by the sound of something large moving through the bushes towards her. Shielding her
eyes she unleashed the bright daimone in her spear and attacked the figure. It
turned out to be a large bear who asked her why she had harmed it. She replied,
"Well I could have let the unknown attack me and now lie here dead but instead I
choose to defend myself. Never before has a bear spoken to me and never before have I
chosen to listen to one. Can I do aught to heal you?" The bear replied,
"Oh, perhaps you're not with him after all. I am hunted. If you help me to escape I
will grant you a boon." In the distance they heard the sound of a horn and
movement. Skerri asked, "Who is hunting you bear? I am
sorry but I cannot offer you my aid if you do not tell me. I have greater oath sworn
duties than to you and I will not risk offending kin or someone I need to stay friends
with in order to help you."
The bear went and the hunter entered the clearing,
riding an elk and accompanied by two large dogs. he said, "Ho Lady! I see
that you've wounded the brute. Since you have drawn the first blood I
"Then I must do my best to see that your quest fails as I promised the bear I would. Prepare to defend yourself." Skerri replied.
A short battle ensued in which Skerri fatally impaling the hunter on Brightspear. He faded out of existence saying, ""What will become of my clan now?" The Bear reappeared saying, "Your bright spear has protected me when I was unable to protect myself. It is only fair then that I protect something of yours that cannot defend itself. Your child shall carry my blessing."
"Child?" Skerri whispered. The whole business left a bad taste in her mouth and reminded her that sometimes it is better to think a bit before committing oneself. Later Skerri asked Per Rasmusson to help her make a sacrifice to Odayla on behalf of the hunter. Perhaps, she thought, that might help a little to alleviate what she had done.
The next obstacle to pass was the region north of
the Brown Boar's tula up to the start of the Balmyri lands. This region was
terrorized by the followers of a notorious Gagarthi bandit named Red Kare and his
followers as well as by the Horsespawn. The scouting party argued over which tactics
to best employ to cross the gap and Skerri became angered at her swornman Per Rasmusson.
Angered at his seeming disagreement with her she stormed off. He went to
apologize to her for any offense he had given and she replied, "No. it is I who must
apologize. I let my temper and frustration get the best of me. I long for nothing more
than to get to where our new home will be and let others bear the responsibilities."
She laughed and said, "See how I try and fool myself. Never again will I be
Skerri, the rakehell, those days are gone forever. Now we must find a way past these damn
A Surprise in the Night
A few nights later two Vanganthi raiders were discovered raiding the treasure wain (sent along as gifts to those the Amberi needed to buy passage from). Orlev, who had just returned from bringing the news to Blunt attacked them with the aid of his horse and killed one of them while the other was captured with the aid of the fyrdmen who had gone along. Skerri, in no mood for such nonsense ordered the captive bound and tied to the wagon. His dead friend was taken along for a proper Orlanthi funeral later. The next day scouts were sent ahead to check out a waterhole on the track which was a known bandit handout. The scouts captured two renegades who said that they were followers of Red Kare. They offered to sell each other out as well as Red Kare and Skerri decided that they were only good for hanging so they were.
As they marched on a few days later the storm feather Skerri kept in her backpack for communicating with her father exploded. All feared that this was a bad sign and agreed that it must mean the end of the Skorri and probably the Urlanging as a people.
Cedric the Fox meanwhile had been communicating with the other captive and discovered that he had been seeking the return of a holy relic of his people that long before had been lent to Vandarl the Binder7. by his clan, the White Sky. Cedric asked Skerri to let him take the relic, a rope, and go and at first Skerri was unwilling since she was in an unforgiving mood due to the death of her father but eventually she relented and agreed that he could take the rope and go. He flew off swearing his people's gratitude and undying friendship with the Amberi.
Attack by Horsespawn
The thing the Amberi feared the most was an attack by Horsespawn as these mounted raiders were the biggest threat that they faced.
1. Skorri Manysons was the son of Helgis Hrutson who was the son of Hrut Hegelson who died infamously at the hands of the dragon lovers. None of Skorri's brothers or sisters are known to us and none of his fifty sons are known to have survived Belintar's attack. Skorri was famous for recognizing and supporting every single one of his bastards that was brought to him. All of them resembled their father. Return
(According to Holy Country records stored at Notchet when Belintar's men came to the Urlanging tula to ask whether Skorri would submit to Pharoah's rule, Skorri replied, "You must think you are seeing a slave when you see me for you obviously do not seem to be able to recognize free men when you see them." When the herald told Skorri that all resistance would be met with death he replied, "Better to be a dead free man than to live as a slave under someone's unjust rule". Negotiations ended at that point and Skorri and all his followers died).
2. Cedric the Fox son of Gelti Thorn, son of Ulmar Kettle was a kinsman of Skorri's who was named for an outlander friend of his grandfather's. Return
3. Bjarni Bare-skin son of Kettle the Earth Witch was plagued by visions from birth. Some images made easy sense but more often than not they made no sense. He was most fey and shunned by all except his mother. A divination cast on his behalf had said that "The winds speak to him of what they see, have seen and will see" so he was left alone. When he was ten he wandered off and was not seen again until years later when he reappeared to tell Skorri that he was there to lead the clan to a new land. Return
4 Blunt Ash-bjorn's was called so because his father Lars Larsson made his cradle for him out of the spears he captured from his enemies. (He was called Blunt for an incident that occured when he was eleven when he brained an opponent he was losing an argument to with a large rock). His mother Astrid Blancher got her name from an incident when she pushed an enemy chieftain's head into a pot of boiling soup after he had raped her. She made a cover for the infant Ash-bjorn out of the hair taken from her's and Lars enemies (and they had many enemies). As Ash-bjorn grew he became very gifted with words as well as weapons. He grew to be a man of action AND words. Return
5. Skerri Brightspear was the only daughter of Skorri and an unknown woman. She was a redheaded follower of Orlanth who stole a spear from a sun worshipper. Return
6. According to Skeli Redbeard's Record, a contemporary account, Blunt did not perform well in the hero quest coming close to failure if truth be told. The subsequent early history of the clan does not show great evidence of the gods favour either. Return
7. Vandarl the Binder is the Urlanging hero who was famous for his prowess at fighting the beast folk, the Urlanging's traditional foe. He provided a hero cult to the Urlanging and the Amberi. Return
This page last modified March 21, 2001
Last updated October 07, 2016
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