Wednesday, February 1, 2012


War Song II - Northend
By Ram Iyer

The North Land is a cold place and the weather is only partly to blame. The North Landers are not a rich people, not traders, nor merchants. They’re people of the land, farmers, tillers, hunters, soldiers, warriors.

As the scribe, Yohanas once put it …
“These are not men of opulence and plenty.
Not Olothians nor Varn.
for even the Lord L’Skarr,
Resides in what can only be called a glorious barn.”

What they lack in gold and jewels, they make up for, in food, ale and land. The North Land extends from the Briar’s Bridge at the borders of the Lost Forest to the Andheste Peaks, at the northern edge of the world. Of the twelve kingdoms, the North Land is the largest.Land is by far their greatest treasure and they have vast expanses of it.

The most fertile land, in all of the twelve kingdoms is in Northend, the capital. It is odd for such a cold place to have such bountiful soil. It is the warm currents of the sea of Horingas, which flows to its shores that makes it so.

Yet the northerners do not till more than they need, nor do they graze their stock, for more than their feed. The land is a gift from their gods, and is to be treated so.

They will not let other kingdoms have use of it, and they will bleed before an inch of it is taken by other men.

For this, they are at war; always.

There are times when there is peace and people talk of growing things and life. Such times are fleeting and rare.


“Did you hear, Valko ? They say we may ride to battle again! This time, against the armies of Torvenfell!!”

A young man spoke to his companion at the table. One could be forgiven for mistaking his tone for confidence, for it was only the slightest quiver in his voice that gave away his nervousness. It was a particularly busy night at the tavern in Northend and yet, over all the voices in the tavern, the young man spoke louder.

“About time, eh?” he laughed. “I was wondering if there was any fight left in these lands or had all the men taken to wearing skirts and tilling their land along with their women!!”

This drew a chorus of grunts and table thumping. He tossed his empty pint at the old man serving them. The pint hit him on the shoulder which drew laughs from all around the tavern. The old man pulled on his hood, picked up the pint and continued with his work. You learned to grow a thick skin, working in the taverns of Northend; especially, if you were a southerner working in the North Lands.

The young man’s friend Valko, nodded and spoke. He was a big man. Towering in height and bearing a girth, worthy of a bear.

“I hear there is talk of a treatise!!, to let those bloody Varn’s use our land to grow their stinking crops!”.

It was true. There had been talk all over the land of such a treaty. The Varn emissary had travelled to Northend several times to hold talks with the Lord L’Skarr. The North Land, was a proud kingdom, but years of war had made it poor and tired. Perhaps, the Lord L’Skarr’s age drove him more toward a path of wisdom than that of pride.

“I’d slit my own throat and die before I let some Varn plant seeds in my yard!! “ Valko declared with finality.

His young friend retorted “I’d slit that boy Varn’s throat first!!”

More laughter ensued. The lack of years behind the Kingship of Torvenfell’s new king, Carsedius Varn was a subject of jest in many kingdoms. But the lords knew better. Carsedius Varn was as vicious and ruthless, as he was young and he had the immeasurable riches of the Varn dynasty to fuel his thirst for conquest.

Now Valko threw his pint at the old man in belligerent petulance, and missed. This drew laughter from the tavern again, but more directed at Valko this time. The alcohol and embarrassment only served to fuel Valko’s rage.

Valko got up and walked to the old man who in comparison was a shorter, thinner man unlike most of the Northmen were. He was certainly not from the North Land. He did not have a northerners build and had black hair, which no Northerner could have possibly had.

“Why’d you move south-blood?” Valko asked with contempt.

The old man hadn’t moved. Valko’s aim had been so off the mark, that there had been no need for the old man to move.

The old man did not answer, but stood his ground. His eyes to the floor, he did not look up.

Valko, put his hand on his sword and spoke “Pick up the pint … and hit yourself with it.”

The old man did not move … the tavern crowd had turned quiet save for a lingering uneasy murmur.

“Pick it up … “

The old man bent down and picked up the pint.

“Now hit yourself with it on the head. I want to hear it … “

The old man stood motionless, eyes still on the floor.

“Do it … or I’ll bloody cut your hea …”

He did not finish the sentence. The old man leapt up with startling speed and drove the pint’s lip into Valko’s temple hard. It made a sickening squishing sound as it slammed into the side of his face. Valko staggered as blood poured down his face … and fell heavily onto a table near him.

His companion drew his sword and lunged at the old man, who leaned out of the way to avoid the sword. As the young man’s momentum took him past his target, the old man reached out to grab his shoulder and with a single motion, shoved it down. The companion crashed heavily into the floor and slid along it for some distance knocking over chairs and stools … sword still in hand.

The old man, held the groaning companion’s head down with his foot, while he pulled up Valko by the collar.

“You know nothing of War, Soldier Valko … you have been in one battle by my count and it would be a injustice to other battles to call it that.”

He looked around the tavern at slightly drunk, slightly startled faces. There was a glint in the old man’s eyes that pierced deep.

“There is no bloody glory in war … no greatness in killing or dying. There is only blood, pain, desperation, un-kept promises and if you are fortunate, perhaps death.”

The old man’s face shone from under the hood. It was a hard face, scarred and worn and his voice was calm yet sharp. There was something very quietly murderous about him.

The tavern turned quiet. The old man dropped Valko onto the floor, with a bloodied face and a broken ego. He looked around again, this time with some degree of disappointment showing on his face.

“War is on these lands … but you are all fools, if it is by choice.”

He turned and walked toward the door. The tavern-keep came up to him with an old bag, a water skin and an ornate sword. The sword was crafted with a mark. Two silver serpents on its black hilt. It was not a symbol that was well known and with good reason. The Lord L'Skarr's “Blades” wished it so.

“I’m sorry Selhem” the tavern keeper said.

“ So am I,Haar … So am I” The old man said as he walked out into the cold dark.

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Ram has been making up stories since he was a kid. It was only recently he decided to put them down on paper and tell other people about them. When he isn't writing, reading or generally concocting devious ideas, he enjoys being a musician, an engineer and a marketing professional. His area of literary focus is fantasy, horror, sci-fi and similar forms of fiction. He lives in India with his amazing wife.


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