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 Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Mon Aug 27, 2012 2:35 pm

Mud’Bone watched, as did the rest of the clan, as Pela presented the hearts to the gods and placed them on the Ever Fire. The clan, though they were not yet openly saying it, were finding themselves more and more respectful of Ice’Rocks leadership. Word was spreading quickly of the things she said and did, and now, before them, she was offering up their dead in a way that not only honored them but for a select few, actually caused a fluttering sensation in their hearts.

As Ice’Rock took the wounded warrior to her own personal quarters, many rumblings about how this had never happened before, that a warrior be brought into the very home of the Chieftain. Many followed at a distance and huddled themselves around the entrance of Ice’Rocks domicile, waiting patiently to hear what news he brought back with him.

Mud’Bone was unsure what to say or do, he remained silent during the ceremony and even when she praised his actions. As she brought him into her very home he was uncertain and could not piece together why on Krynn his Chieftain was not tending to these matters at the town seat but in her residence. When she asked him to sit he did not hesitate out of disrespect, but more out of confusion, but at her words to not be disrespectful he sat himself and took the water.

When the healer finally left Mud’Bone looked at Olwa and then to Ice’Rock who’s facial expression communicated that he would be staying for the duration of their meeting.Mud’Bone then looked to Gore’Rock who stood behind Ice’Rock and to her right, watching and listening to what he had to report. Mud’Bone took a long drink of the water and began, “All credit to the victory cannot be claimed by me my Chieftain. It was the Elderwild who saved us, had she not come along the whole patrol would have certainly been killed.”

Ice’Rock turned and looked at Gore’Rock at this news and she saw just the faintest of smiles crack his face, so minute that it was barely noticeable, but it was there, “Go on,” his Chieftain said and he continued, “It was also the Elderwild who removed the hearts from the fallen, I… I am not certain how, but she knew the ceremony as if she had been raised among us…”

He paused and inhaled deeply before looking up, there was no shred of emotion in his face, “We were patrolling two days journey from our southern borders along Sable Swamp, the leader was ready to ambush us, it was obvious but the Elderwild… she managed to snap a twig though she was nowhere near me, it broke, right in front of me, made me look up, put us on alert. Those of the Swamp came off the underbrush and attacked, the skirmish was short, of the six that we killed the Elderwild counts for two, and she would have had a third but she let him go.”

Gore’Rock stepped slightly forward and spoke with a slight hint of anger in his voice, “Let him GO?”

Ice’Rock reached up and touched him on the chest to calm him and looked at Mud’Bone, “Continue.”

Mud’Bone looked uneasily at Gore’Rock and continued, “I too was perplexed and angered my Shaman, she had him dead in her sight, the arrow was drawn and all she needed do was release to pierce his skull… but she said to me later that he was now a messenger to deliver the news of Those of the Snow, that we would fight and not allow our territory to be taken easily.”

Gore’Rock leaned back and didn’t say a word, but his face gave himself away, he was deep in thought about this action on the part of the Elderwild. Mud’Bone looked at Ice’Rock and he spoke, “I too would be dead if not for the Elderwild my Chieftain, if she had not stopped the last of Those of the Swamp his blade would have fallen on me. I deserve none of the credit this day for what happened. She also wanted me to tell you that she is going all the way to the border and will return in three settings of the white moon.”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:02 pm


Pela listened intently as Mud’Bone relayed the story of what happened. She could hear the story being relayed to those gathered outside and knew word would spread quickly about what happened. She knew many of the others would share the same reaction Gore’Rock did in regards to letting the one lone survivor go. But she knew why Branch had done so and Mud’Bone confirmed her thoughts as well. Standing, Pela paced as she took all of this information in and thought of her next move. She had to do something. Finally she stopped pacing and turned to Mud’Bone again.

”Thank you, Mud’Bone. Return to your home and rest.”

She waited for him to leave before she turned to look at Gore’Rock and furrowed her brows.

”I do not want an all out war on our hands. But if Those of the Swamp keep hitting us like this, we will have no choice. And I cannot let this go unanswered. I want to gather up a party and return the favor they did to us but I know if I do that, we will be no better than they are.”

It was clear Pela had gone from remorseful to angry as she listened to Mud’Bone and the clenched fists at her side coupled with the falling temperature in the room were clear signs her anger was still rising.. Those of the Swamp had attacked with every intention of killing her clansmen just for the sheer sake of grabbing up the territory her clan claimed their own. She glanced at Olwa then to Gore’Rock.

”Until Branch comes back with definite word on the larger movement, what should I do?”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:47 pm


Gore’Rock watched as Mud’Bone left and waited for Ice’Rock to get her thoughts out. As she turned to him and asked what she should do until Branch returned he cleared his throat gently and spoke, “You need to remember my Chieftain, and I say this respectfully however the point stands, you have grown up away from the Netherman. Just because you don’t want an all out war doesn’t mean that Those of the Swamp don’t.”

As she turned and looked at him he continued, “This is and always has been the way of the Netherman, we are warriors, we look for gaps in the power and we gain what we can while we can, for if there is anything we have learned from the outside world, nobody will give you anything, you must take it. You loved my brother as your father, and my father loved you like a daughter. You are human and therefore you will have emotional responses we are not accustomed to regarding what goes on in the borders of the Nethermen, but you and your emotions alone won’t stop several million Nethermen from doing what they have done since The Seven established our laws and our ways. You are our Chieftain but you are not above The Seven. Every meter of land the Nethermen hold was taken from those around us, from our very beginnings we were hated by the rest of Krynn, all we have ever known is war.”

As she turned to look at him again he took a step towards her and knelt down. It was the same manner in which Bad’Rock used to approach her when he needed her to listen to him. He looked at her with his black eyes and spoke softly, “You will not change the Nethermen in a day, or a week, or a year daughter of my brother. In fact you may not change them in a whole lifetime, thousands of years don’t change because one person comes along. If you really want my advice in this matter you need to start thinking like a Netherman, if you don’t you will not only lose this war, but the respect of your clan. You are introducing a new type of leadership to Those of the Snow, they fear you now and many are beginning to accept your place at the Seat of the Chieftain, but if you remain idle and allow any of our land to be taken the loyalty will sway as quickly as the sun withers a rose. The Nethermen respect strength first, then thought. You won’t get them to change their minds overnight about that, if ever.”

He looked at her and placed his finger on her shoulder much like he had seen Bad’Rock do to her, “Always be prepared for war and lead your clan, that is what is expected of the Chieftain. There will always be ware within our borders, that is our way.”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Mon Aug 27, 2012 4:48 pm


Pela listened to Gore’Rock just as she listened to Bad’Rock when she was younger. Only now, she had the mind set to listen instead like an adult. When he knelt before her, she saw so much of Bad’Rock that she couldn’t help but pay extra special attention to what he had to say to her now. And what he said hit her straight in the heart. He was right. She couldn’t change these ancient people in a day, or a week or a month. It was going to take time. Or it may never happen. But right now, she had to retaliate against what had happened.

”Wiser words were never spoke, U’mesh. Now I know why you are Shaman of this clan.”

She turned to look at Olwa.

”I have no choice but to retaliate against the clan that attacked and killed my clansmen. When I do, we must prepare for war. While I wish we could avoid such a thing, it is not what the clan will accept of me right now. I would be honored if you would join me but I would understand if you chose not to.”

She looked at Gore’Rock then, her blue eyes now hardened with the reality of the situation and her mind made up.

”Gather up the seven best warriors we have as well as The Seven and meet me in one hour at the village center. We will send a message to Those of the Swamp loud and clear so there will be no mistaking on how we feel about hostile invaders.”

As Gore’Rock stood, she placed her hand on his forearm.

”And thank you. I am glad you are here to help me.”

War. It both revolted her and excited her. Ice’Rock, as she was now known, was a battle mage at heart and to think she may have the chance to actually engage in battle drove every ounce of exhaustion she had from her body. There was planning and strategy that needed to be done first but in the end, she would make sure her people spoke loud and clear for Those of the Swamp to hear without ever opening their mouths.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Mon Aug 27, 2012 5:13 pm


Gore’Rock inclined his head and was about to leave when Ice’Rock touched his arm, he listened to her words and he spoke in return, “I never understood why my brother didn’t kill you. It never made sense why he insisted that you join our clan and be one of us, nobody agreed with him, it was in fact why those seven attempted to kill you when you were almost five. They decided it was best to go against their Chieftain and take the matter into their own hands. They did so knowing that after they killed you they too would be put to death, but you took care of that for them. That is the Nethermen way, to put the clan ahead of yourself, to put the future ahead of the present. I know understand that is why Bad’Rock left with you, he put the clan ahead of himself, he put the future leadership of this clan ahead of his own being leader in the present. Branding you as a member of the clan is the obvious sign of his forethought on the matter, somehow, someway, he knew that you would return and lead us… perhaps into a new era.”

“Daughter of my Brother, I am honored to give you whatever aid I can.”

He turned and left, the words “daughter of my brother” ringing in Ice’Rocks ears… this was the most affectionate way in Netherese to indicate a member of the family given their position to one another. In his own way, Gore’Rock was giving Ice’Rock a place in the family, in that statement she was not a human outsider but a Netherwoman.



As Ice’Rock turned to Olwa and spoke he smiled and walked up to her, “I thought we established that what you want is what I want, I thought that ring indicated that what you do and where you go is where I will be. I have my things, and I will prepare to see this village defended to the best of my ability.”

Ice’Rock would see it in Olwa’s eyes, he was always the poet and artist that could be a warrior, but this time there was something in his look that screamed his intent to finally fight for a purpose and cause he believed in, “Because of their proximity to our borders the Ranger Corp had lessons regarding the Nethermen. They were presented to us in a manner that was not complimentary at best, and we were taught that the main reason they were not a threat to us was because they warred against themselves so ferociously we would never need to face them. I wonder if…”

He stopped and she looked at him, pleading to finish his thought. He hesitated at first but finally continued, “…perhaps you are meant to do more than just lead Those of the Snow.”

She looked at him and he smiled softly, not able to help himself when he looked in her eyes, “Though I still can’t understand most of what Gore’Rock says to you I can tell by his facial expressions that he is warming to you, though Nethermen might not be capable of love as we know it, they are clearly capable of caring on some level, at least for one another of their clan. There is a fierce loyalty to each other that I have never experienced in my life, and I don’t need to hear their words to understand it. To that end, if I am to be living amongst this clan then I will fight alongside them and see that what is theirs remains theirs.”

He looked at her with conviction in his eyes, “I will prepare to face Those of the Swamp at your side, like we faced the wizards at Heartlund but this time, I will be fighting for my home, not someone elses.”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Mon Aug 27, 2012 8:41 pm


Ice’Rock felt a lump form in her throat when she heard the way Gore’Rock referred to her. He had accepted her as a blood relative and if she died before the sun rose the next day, she would die happy. It was all the m ore reason she needed to stay alive. To prove even more Bad’Rock taught her more about clan life than even Gore’Rock knew.

She turned to Olwa and smiled as she listened to his words. The conviction she saw in his eyes told her he was more than ready to give what he could to these primitive and sometimes downright hostile people who were misunderstood. She glanced at the ring on her finger when he mentioned it and when she looked up into his eyes this time, she saw the love he held for her.

”Very well. Change into your leather armor and meet me back here in 30 minutes. It is time to prove to these people you are a part of their clan and there is only one way to do that.”

With a brief but firm kiss, she bid him goodbye until they met again. And in 30 minutes, he stood in her home and saw a transformed woman before him. She donned the leather armor that had been given to her in Heartlund that used to be Kellan’s but she had removed the arms so it was now sleeveless.

On her arms was dark paint that was a stark contrast to her pale skin. The paint on her right arm was placed in the same design as the brand upon her thigh. But the paint on her left arm was a new design. It was a rock and sword like the original but there was also what appeared ice encasing the rock. She had taken her father’s original design and made it her own now. It was an honor to him but held her own signature and identified the name of the new Chieftain.

Some strands of her hair had been gathered together and twisted then held in place by the same dark paint. And on her face were two lines of the dark paint across her forehead, down the bridge of her nose and across her cheek and on her chin below her bottom lip. She looked more wild now than she ever had. And she looked like she belonged with these primitive people.

Ice’Rock gestured for him to come closer and when he did, she smiled and dipped her fingers into the small bowl that held the paint. Reaching up, she hesitated just before she would have touched his forehead and let her eyes settle on his. She could see the understanding in his eyes and gently placed her fingers to his skin. Forehead. Bridge of the nose. Across the cheeks and finally, the center of his chin. When she was done, she took what was left of the paint and spread the paint through parts of his hair. Stepping back, she admired her own work and had to admit, he looked like he belonged here now. Her final gesture was to gift him with a bow and a quiver of arrows that had been taken when his fathers group had been taken prisoner.

”Now you won’t stand out as much. And I know the bow is not yours, but I thought it would be better than nothing.”

Gore’Rock knocked on her door and let her know they were all waiting for her. She looked over at her uncle and saw the way he was looking at them, and the way he was eying Olwa in particular. Picking up the leather bag that had carried the hearts of her clansmen, she draped it cross ways over her body as she walked towards the door.

”It is time they see him as much a part of this clan as I am.”

She stopped when she reached the door and turned to look up at her uncle. Leaning in closer she spoke quietly

”When I leave the village, make sure you discreetly send a group of warriors to the eastern borders. Tell them to be extremely cautious for I suspect there will be a group from Those of the Swamp waiting for them. If not, then my suspicions are unfounded and all the better they are not.”


Ice’Rock noticed most of the clan had turned out for this sudden meeting. Apparently no one could sleep knowing they were on the cusp of a war. Good, she thought. The more we have alert and on edge, the better. As she took her place at the Seat of the Chief, she saw the many black eyes that looked to her now. She inclined her head respectfully to The Seven then looked over at the seven warriors. They were a fierce looking group and Gore’Rock had done well in choosing them. Her voice lifted as she spoke so all could hear what she had to say.

”Those of the Swamp think we are weak and easily defeated because of the new Chieftain. The attack tonight has proven their intent to try and take our lands. We will show them none of us are weak as we repay them for what they have done to us. But I will not send out warriors to do my work for me. I will meet them in battle to prove to them Those of the Snow have a Chieftain worthy of the clan. I charge each and every clansman and clanswoman to defend our village and our people while I am gone. Show Those of the Swamp we are not weak but strong because of our ability to band together as one and defeat those who try to force their will upon us. VICTORY TO THOSE OF THE SNOW!”

IceRock stood as she shouted the last words and threw her right fist into the air. The cheers and beating of chests and thumping of weapons was deafening as she walked down from the Seat of the Chief and walked towards Gore’Rock. She spoke directly to him, her eyes settled upon his.

”While I am gone, you are in charge. You are the only one I trust.”

Her small hand slipped onto his large wrist in the tradition of clasping wrists. When she saw him look down and see the difference in their hand sizes as well as the difference in the color of their skin, he glanced back up at her.

”As you wish, My Chieftain.”

Ice’Rock nodded then and walked over to where The Seven waited. When she approached, they formed a circle around her and she let her gaze settle on each one of them, As she looked at them, she received an affirmative nod they all agreed, unanimously with her, on this decision to engage Those of the Swamp. When she received their blessing, the circle was opened up and she walked over to where the seven warriors awaited. She looked at each one as she spoke to them knowing her plans woujld be overheard by anyone who wanted to overhear them.

”The Elf will accompany us. His abilities are an asset we cannot overlook. Do not think he is weak just because he is small and uses small weapons. The Elderwild has proven this. We will move to the eastern border with Those of the Swamp. They will expect us to attack on the southern border but we will not do what they expect. When you fight, kill all but one. I want one left alive to return with a message to the Chieftain.”

Ice’Rock waited to see if any of the warriors seemed to dislike what she instructed. If they did, none of them showed it openly. With a nod, she turned and walked back to Gore’Rock.

”Watch over our people, U’Mesh.”

Turning, she walked towards the east with the seven warriors and Olwa with her. When they cleared the outskirts of the village, she stopped and drew the warriors together.

”We will double back and strike the western border.”

She noticed the look of confusion on their faces and assured them what she was doing was right.

”I would not do harm to any of you or your families. Trust me. This is the way we need to go.”

Taking a wide turn around the village, Ice’Rock and her group doubled back and headed towards the western border of their lands. As they grew closer, she halted their stealth like movements and looked over to Olwa. When he shook his head she knew there was no sign of any life forms he could pick up on. When he signaled to her he was going to take to the trees, she nodded and had the group move forward again but stay well within the boundaries of their own lands. They had gone about one hundred more feet when she heard Olwa’s voice in her head telling her there was a patrol headed their direction. Seven in all and they were definitely not of her clan.

Giving hand signals to the warriors, she indicated what Olwa had relayed to her and they all quickly sought shelter in the trees and waited for the groups approach. Four members of the warriors still moved on the outer perimeter so they could close in behind the intruders while Ice’Rock hid with the largest warrior and through hand signals, relayed to him what she was going to do when the time was right. It wouldn’t be as smooth as it was with Bad’Rock but the warrior would soon find out the advantages of having a petite, ice magic wielding sorceress fighting with him.

Olwa was reporting the distance the patrol was closing and as they grew closer, he could tell they were definitely from the Swamp clan. Like the ones Branch encountered, they had hides protecting them from battle and the colder climate they now traveled in. Closer and closer they came. Clearly they were trespassing and Ice’Rock made sure they were well within Those of the Snow’s territory before she would attack.

Closer and closer they moved until finally they were within a few yards of Ice’Rock and her warriors. The sky was just starting to change from total darkness to the slightest hint of light when a war cry erupted from her lips soon followed by the war cry of her warriors. The time for revenge had arrived.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 10:51 am


Olwa recognized the bow immediately, it belonged to Cael Whisperwood, a middle ranking Ranger of high stature, the son of Ther Whisperwind, an under-general in the Ranger Corp. He admired the craftsmanship and lovingly stroked the limbs as Ice’Rock watched him with a soft smile. He looked up and nodded as he spoke, “Thank you Chieftain,” with a wink he snapped the bow into the holder on his pack, checked his arrows, and the group moved out.

As they moved along through the forest Olwa was grateful for the clothing that he had spent the last couple days gathering and modifying for his size. He had been given some of the Nethermen childrens sized garments and he had pinned them in temporarily until more time was available for true alterations. The cold in these high mountains was unlike anything he had ever experienced, it was almost magical in nature and the whole forest tingled with untapped energy. He felt himself attuning quickly to the tree around him, doing as Branch had spoke of while they traveled together. Many times he caught the Nethermen eyeing him suspiciously and he would simply nod in return. Ice’Rock had told him several times that the only way to become trusted by them would be to fight beside them and prove himself in battle. He understood this, and he was prepared to show that Branch was not the only Elf who was capable of fighting when necessary. He knew that Branch had been accepted more quickly due to the face she had single handedly killed six Netherman the night she was captured, though she was an outsider she was immediately respected for that feat. In addition her being an Elderwild Elf made her more relatable to them, he as a ‘civilized’ Elf would have a long road of proving his worth, but it was a journey he was willing to take. As far as he was concerned this was his home now, and he would see that it was defended.

The group traveled the better part of a day to reach their border along the Western side of Snow lands, as Olwa took to the trees and gave his words to Ice’Rock via missive he could not help but smile at her leadership. The Nethermen that were with her didn’t hesitate to follow her instructions. Those of the Swamp moved closer and Ice’Rock sprung the ambush, her war cry echoed out, as did that of the other Nethermen, and Olwa stood, string pulled back to full tension. He whispered to Ice’Rock and fired as she charged, it was like in Heartlund, they had planned to work in unison, her magic and his bow. He fired and arrow and it passed inches from Ice’Rocks ear, just as it did she charged the arrow with an ice spell and the bolt smashed into the throat of one of the Swamp Netherman, exploding into hundreds of razor sharp shards, killing him instantly. He drew again and began to sight down the arrow, the forest echoed with the sound of clashing metal, growls from the Nethermen, and the high pitched voice of their Chieftain, dead in the midst of the melee.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:50 am


The temperature around the area began to drop, quickly as the fight began and while the Swamp warriors were well aware of it, Those of the Snow were unaffected. This time, the surprise was on the Snow clan’s side the Swamp clan took advantage of such a strategy. As Olwa’s bolts fired past her head, Ice’Rock would charge the bolts so when they struck, it was instant death. Half of the Swamp clan’s party was dead before they could fully comprehend what was happening.

As the seven warriors Ice’Rock took with her engaged the remaining raiding party, Ice’Rock knew this was just the beginning. Had even hoped it was just the beginning. And sure enough, she wasn’t disappointed. She heard them charging at the same time she heard Olwa’s voice in her head warning her another raiding party of seven was advancing quickly through the trees to engage in the battle.

Ice’Rock advanced towards the charging group of Swamp warriors and stood, legs shoulder width apart, hands at her side and clenched into hard fists. They were so caught up in the frenzy of joining the battle, they didn’t feel the pull of magic all around them. When they were about a hundred yards from where she stood, she lifted her hands and thrust them forward violently. Ten razor sharp ice spikes penetrated the tough hides of the front two warriors moving the fastest and they fell, hard to the ground, skidding to their final stop.

Almost instantly she cast another spell and this one caught the remaining five by complete surprise. As they continued to charge a layer of ice formed beneath their feet that was as smooth as glass. As three of them went down right away, she yelled at Olwa and felt the air of the arrow as it passed by her head. Charging the bolt with her spell, it hit the charging Swamp warrior still charging dead center of the forehead and his head exploded on contact.

The three Swamp warriors were able to get to their feet and attempted to charge forward once more. The dropped temperature that had started when the battle began was now so cold that a fine mist of ice crystals began to fall all around them. As the ice crystals landed on the Swamp warriors their movements slowed. It was like watching a windup toy finally run down and when they finally stopped, they were just mere feet from Ice’Rock with their weapons raised high and the look of rage on their faces intent on striking her down. Their bodies as hard as stone and as brittle as a frozen twig.

She heard the last of the fighting end behind her and she turned to see her warriors. One was dead, another wounded badly but all in all, they had been the clear victors of this fight. As instructed, they left one of the invaders alive. Wounded, but alive none the less. Even though it was against every fiber in their being to let him live, they had not gone against their Chieftain’s wishes. Even as three nasty, razor sharp spears were pointed at his throat and so close it would be very easy for them to end his life now.

Ice’Rock looked around when Olwa appeared, panting softly, and she smiled, lifting her face and arms to the sky, she gave another cry, this one for victory and was joined by the warriors who had gone into battle with her. When the shouts and cries of victory were done, she walked over to the wounded warrior, Trunk’Smash, and checked out his wound. It was bad enough that if she didn’t do something, he would die before they made it back to the village for proper care.

Placing her hand over the black, oozing wound, she closed her eyes and concentrated. The skin around the wound began to turn an ash gray color and the bleeding slowed until it eventually stopped. When she opened her eyes, she looked at him and nodded.

”That should hold until Heal’Stone can tend to your properly.”

She looked over at the wounded prisoner but said nothing. Walking over to her dead warrior, she was given a knife and proceeded to cut his heart out. Treating it with the utmost care, she gently set it into the leather sack Stone’Crunch held out for her. She then proceeded to do the same to the fallen Swam warriors and collected them into three sacks. Once they were collected, she cast a spell that instantly froze the hearts to preserve them and turned to the wounded prisoner.

”Return to your Chieftain and inform him he may have these hearts for his Ever Flame when he and his The Seven of Those of the Swamp come to retrieve them from me personally. Until then, they will remain in my village.”

She reached out and laid her hand on the gaping wound on his huge bicep and did the same for him as she had done for Trunk’Smash. When she opened her eyes, she leaned in closer so she was almost nose to nose with him.

”And tell your Chieftain Those of the Snow will not be pushed around. Are we clear?”


She stood back up and walked a few feet away then turned to face the Swamp warrior again. With a curt nod, the next thing he knew was total blackness as the blunt end of a large club cracked the back of his head enough to knock him out but not kill him.

”Come. We must return to the village.”

Ice’Rock knew from this day forward when, the Swamp people attacked again, they would be more prepared. It meant every Snow clansman, clanswoman and child would have to be on high alert until Those of the Swamp finally realized Those of the Snow were not to be taken lightly.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:10 pm


The battle wound down and Olwa emerged, watching as Ice’Rock spoke to the last remaining Swamp warrior. As the large club knocked him unconscious the six remaining Nethermen of the Snow turned to Ice’Rock, the senior of them, a massive Netherman named Grub’Trunk looked down at her. Olwa swore that the Netherman’s head was the size of Ice’Rock’s whole body.
Ice’Rock looked up at him, her face asking him to say what he wanted to say. He placed the head of his battle hammer at her feet and knelt on one knee, the rest of the Nethermen following swiftly in kind. He knelt his head and spoke, his voice was deep and ferocious even in the passive tone he was using right now, “My Chieftain, forgive a doubter. I was not certain that your leadership would lead to victory…,” he looked up at her, his head was as large as her entire chest, “…I know now that I was wrong.”

Olwa hid his smile but he glanced from the six kneeling Netherman to Ice’Rock, never in all his days had he seen anything like this.


Branch had spent three full days on patrol, sleeping only a few hours a night. Her solo reconnaissance had resulted in a wide, massive, sweeping path along the entire border of the swamplands.

She looked up, the third setting of the white moon was approaching swiftly and she could see the Ever Fire in the village center. She smiled softly and made her way to the massive log gate and stepped out of the trees about fifty meters from the walls. The seven Netherman on the ground guarding the gate snapped to ready but when they saw it was her they relaxed and one yelled in Netherese to tell the Chieftain of her return.

Branch walked through the gate, every Nethermen on guard came and watched as she passed, her clothing was stained in black splotches and her face was filthy from her patrol. There were new trinkets woven into her hair, clearly she had done this to become more ‘one’ with her environment, much as Pela had seen her do when they traveled those first days to come here. She approached Ice’Rock, sitting on the Seat of the Chieftain, and knelt to one knee, “As promised Istar’Ostring, Branch has returned before the third setting of thes white moon.”

Olwa stepped up beside the Seat of the Chieftain and looked at Branch, his smile widening. He could see along her belt were about a dozen braided locks of hair, all in different colors and lengths… She was keeping trophies of her kills. Truly Branch was becoming a Netherwoman.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:42 pm


Since the few, short days that followed the battle Ice’Rock had with the Swamp warriors, reports of only skirmishes had come back to her. It seemed as though Those of the Swamp were taking things a bit more seriously with her clan. No doubt they were preparing for a massive push against Those of the Snow. She still kept the leather sacks of hearts in the village center and on display. They were preserved with the spell she had cast upon them and would remain that way until they were claimed. If they weren’t claimed, they would remain that way until the next Chieftain decided to do something with them.

The exhaustion that followed the victory return to the village finally claimed Ice’Rock and after her cold water bath, she sunk into the soft folds of her bed and slept until late in the afternoon. Even when she awoke, she was still tired and more than ready for bed when the village finally settled down for the night following the morning of the battle.

The meeting with The Seven the next day proved to be interesting to say the least but thankfully it didn’t last long. And it seemed like more and more of her time was being taken away from Olwa so when she finally DID retire from official Chieftain duties for the evening, it was always spent in his company.

In fact, she and Olwa had been enjoying each other’s company when word of Branch’s return was announced. Eagerly stepping out of her home with Olwa right beside her, she quickly moved to her official greeting post of Seat of the Chief and watched as her dear friend and mother like mentor move towards her. The clan was starting to gather as word spread of Branch’s return and the condition in which she returned in.

As she grew closer, Ice’Rock studied her intently and couldn’t help but smile proudly at what she saw. There was no doubt Branch would fit in just fine with this clan. And since the battle with the Swamp warriors, Olwa was well on his way of securing his place with these people as well.

As Branch knelt and announced the fulfillment of her promise, Ice’Rock nodded then stood up and walked to where Branch knelt. Holding out her hand for Branch to accept, she welcomed Branch back into the village and back into the clan.

”Welcome home, Silent’Oak. It is good to have you back with us.”

Ice’Rock grinned when she used the name the clan had given Branch. As Branch took Ice’Rock’s hand, Ice’Rock smiled even more and nodded.

”I’m certain you have much to tell us and we are most eager to hear your reports. What news do you bring us?”

Ice’Rock knew business must come first and then she could let Branch get some much needed rest and food and water.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:44 pm




Branch looked up and heard the name that had been bestowed upon her. She smiled and looked from Ice’Rock, to Olwa and finally to Gore’Rock. The shaman approached and looked at the twelve trinkets that hung from her belt and Olwa swore that for the briefest of seconds he heard a huff which resembled a laugh, “Little Silent’Oak, your ways in the forests are unmatched by any Netherman.”

Branch looked up and nodded softly as she spoke in Netherese, “Branch is Elderwild, her kind was created from the greystone in order to oversee the woodlands.”

Gore’Rock nodded respectfully as she spoke in his native language, turned and looked out across the village center and spoke, “Warm yourself by the Ever Fire, welcome home.”

Branch smiled and looked at Pela who was smiling proudly back at her, “Istar’ostring, our borders along the swamp are seeing small incursions, Branch was able to kill two war parties, but sent one from each back with messages. Branch swept from the valley we originally crossed and went all the way to the coast before coming back up the pass. From what Branch was able to sees, there was no massive movements of Those of the Swamp to invades us. Just small war parties. Branch did find in six places where thes boundaries markers were moved into Snows lands, but Branch moved them back, and 100 meters into THEIR lands.”

Branch had a slight twinkle of mischief in her eye when she said this. Gore’Rock who was sitting nearby and listening spoke up, “Was there any sign of war camps?” Branch looked up at him and shook her head, “No Mr. Gore’Rock, theres was just some small raiding parties, Branch only killed the two insides our borders.”

Gore’Rock turned to look at Ice’Rock and his face was confused, perhaps Those of the Swamp were only intent on making small movements for now, or perhaps they were massing the bulk of their forces beyond the horizon line.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:05 pm


As Ice’Rock listened to the report branch gave, she was both proud and confused at the same time. When Gore’Rock turned to give her the confused look, she had one of equal confusion as well. She was CERTAIN Those of the Swamp would be preparing for all out war after what happened not only with her but with Silent’Oak as well. The clan would be crying out for revenge. Of that there was no doubt.

So why were they not making any moves to rise up against the clan?

Ice’Rock pushed that thought aside for now and smiled then embraced her friend affectionately. Leaning back and holding Branch at arm’s length, she crinkled up her nose and grinned.

”Silent’Oak may be silent, but she is quite…..smelly. Go get washed up and rejoin me at the Chieftains home. The Seven will want to meet about this news you have brought back. It would be best if you were there with us. Nothing is better than firsthand account of things that happened.”

She glanced to Gore’Rock then who was already preparing to gather The Seven for the meeting.

”I will have food and drink waiting for them when they arrive.”

She looked back at Branch again and smiled brightly.

”I too have news of my own to share.”

Holding out her left hand, Ice’Rock let Branch see the ring that now shimmered on her finger. Glancing over at Olwa, who had now moved closer to the women, she smiled lovingly at him.

”It seems your charge is intent on marrying a Netherman Chieftain. And I would be happy to be his bride.”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:15 pm




Branch looked at herself and then back to Ice’Rock as she mentioned the scent. She reached up and rubbed some of the mud from her face and looked at it before quickly thrusting her finger forward and rubbing a long dark line down Ice’Rocks pale nose. Ice’Rock recoiled and then gave Branch a look before bursting into laughter together, “Now Mine Chieftain looks like Branch.”

With a wink Branch was about to turn and leave when Ice’Rock mentioned having news, she looked at her as she tilted her head curiously and looked down at the hand which was thrust in front of her. Branches eyes went wide as she saw the silver ring and heard Ice’Rocks words, without thinking about it she rushed forward and practically knocked Ice’Rock off her feet in a strong hug. She squealed in Ice’Rocks ear as she let out the excitement she felt within her and then drew back, grabbing Ice’Rocks left hand and looking at the ring again. She turned to Olwa and again thrust herself at him, grabbing him in a strong hug. As she finished and leaned back she looked at him and spoke in Elven, “My littlest one, I am so very happy for you! I knew this day was coming, and I am so happy it came with the woman you have chosen to be mates with! Anything you need from me, you let me know, understand?”

Olwa nodded and Branch looked at him as she grabbed him by the cheeks and looked lovingly into his eyes, “Anything.” She turned back to Ice’Rock and smiled with more affection on her dirty face than she had ever shown to her, “Branch loves Istar’ostring, more than she can say. Branch is going to go get clean and meet Istar’ostring at her home.” She turned and looked at Olwa again before walking away to the bath house.

An hour later Silent’Oak as she was now known by the Nethermen walked into Ice’Rocks residence. She was now clean and her cloths had been changed. Her hair was clean now and all the new trinkets she had found on her patrol were rethreaded and tied into her hair. Olwa noticed that many of the Elven trinkets that were always there were now gone, replaced by those of her new home. It was as if she was letting go of the old and embracing the new, he saw it as her committing more and more. The Seven came to their feet as she entered and she brought up her hand, telling them that it was unnecessary, but Gore’Rock stepped forward and spoke to her, “They honor you for your service, you must not stop them or it would be dishonorable.”

Branch stopped in her tracks and looked at The Seven, nodding to them and speaking in Netherese, “You honor me sirs, with your gesture. I give you my thanks.”

She turned and looked at Pela who was standing with Olwa and smiling at her. Branch smiled in return and walked over to her, bowing onto one knee as was the custom when approaching the Chieftain and spoke, “Silent’Oak reporting as requested my Chieftain.”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 3:34 pm


Ice’Rock was elated that Silent’Oak was embracing her new life. While things were still new for all involved, it was easier to when all seemed to find common ground. Even the small gestures Silent’Oak was doing with her attire and hair were subtle but firm ways of showing the clan she wanted to be a part of them.

”Thank you, Silent’Oak. The Seven and your Chieftain thank you for your service.”

As Ice’Rock sat, so did all the others. As Glub’Lug entered bringing a tray of food and several pitchers of water, Ice’Rock waited for her to depart before she officially opened the meeting. Once it was opened, she gestured for Silent’Oak to give her report, in detail then waited for The Seven to ask any question they had. The ceremonial rock was passed from one hand to the other as they asked several questions. Nothing complicated, just the normal stuff of troop movement and what have you that they may have thought Silent’oak left out.

Finally the rock was passed to Ice’Rock and she picked it up set it in front of her then spoke.

”To say I am confused is putting it lightly, Elders. I was certain Those of the Swamp would be amassing a force to attack us but they seem as though they are licking their wounds, so to speak. I have never known Those of the Swamp to avoid confrontation. In fact, with the earlier attacks, it seemed as though they were looking for a fight with us. The only thing I can conclude is that they are still gathering a force but making sure it is far enough away from the borders we cannot see it. And since their Chieftain has not answered my invitation, if you will, I think we should prepare for the worst case scenario. Do you think I am correct in doing so or should we consider this an unspoken truce for now?”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:05 pm


Branch listened and responded as best she could, the fact was she wasn’t a tactitioner or battle planner, she was an Elf who knew the woods and could scout, but as the questions of tactics came up she could offer nothing.

She turned as Ice’Rock spoke and listened. She was about to speak about how she hadn’t seen any smoke from fires or indications on the horizon line of an army massing when the village bell rang three times, the number used when an enemy was approaching. She turned to Ice’Rock who was already springing out of her chair, as were The Seven. Branch sprinted to the front porch of the Chieftains residence and looked out towards the main gate, twenty one torches were approaching just outside the trees and stopped just as they entered the open space. Though it was dusk Branch could see that the torches surrounded one very large individual dressed in dyed crocodile skins and wearing the upper jaw of a crocodile on his head. He was an impressive sight to say the least, even from this distance.

The Nethermen began to gather along the wall and Branch, Olwa and Pela ran down to the gate, Branch speaking to both of the in missive as they made their way, “It looks like the Chieftain of the Swamp might have decided to accept your invitation Istar’ostring.”

Ice’Rock turned and looked at Branch as they ran and Branch winked. The three of them assembled on the wall above the gate and looked out as the Chieftain of the Swamp took a few steps forward upon seeing Pela, “I Blood’Scale of Those of the Swamp seek audience with the Chieftain of Those of the Snow!”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:59 pm


Ice’Rock let her gaze move about the group as she studied them closely. Her warriors were already letting soft growls fill the air, an indication they were quite ready for battle. She could see the muscles rippling in their bodies and she knew it would only take one word from her and they would spring at Those of the Swamp without hesitation. She turned to look at both Olwa and Branch and spoke softly.

”Be prepared for anything. When I walk out to greet them, I must walk out alone to show I mean no hostility towards him.”

She moved off the wall and when she reached the ground, she looked at Gore’Rock.

”Make sure the perimeter of the village is not left unguarded.”

She moved to the wall of Nethermen bodies blocking her way and gently touched the arm of Grub’Trunk and spoke softly to him.

”It is OK, Grub’Trunk. I shall greet them.”

Grub’Trunk moved just enough to allow Pela to leave the protection of the Nethermen and approach Blood’Scale. Holding her arms out in front of her, palms up, to show she was approaching on peaceful terms, she stopped within five feet of him. He was, to say the least, massive in size. His scarred body as proof he was battle tested and proven to be the Chieftain of the Swamp clan. Squaring her shoulders, she stood proud and let her gaze settle on his black eyes.

”I, Ice’Rock, Chieftain of Those of the Snow welcome you….and your group, into our village. Please make sure your warriors keep their weapons by their side in a non hostile manner while they are guests here.”

She saw the way he looked down at her and knew he was weighing his options carefully. Glancing past her to the massive group that was now standing there, he knew he and his group would be slaughtered in the blink of an eye if any of them raised a hand to harm her. Finally he nodded then turned and gave the order to his group to adhere to her rule.

She turned her back on him, a sign she was trusting him so far, and announced to her village the guests they had visiting.

”Make way for Blood’Scale and Those of the Swamp.”

Grudgingly, the wall of warriors parted to allow not only Blood’Scale but those traveling with him entry into the village at the heart of Those of the Snow’s territory. The village was eerily quiet as Ice’Rock, followed by Blood’Scale and his group, with warriors from Those of the Snow on either side of them, walked into the village.

Ice’Rock walked to the center of the village and took her place up on the Seat of the Chief, Branch and Olwa on either side of it with her, and watched as Blood’Scale and his group fanned out before her. She could tell which ones were The Seven from his clan..Their wrinkled, aged faces and bodies spoke volumes to that fact. She also saw the way they looked at the sacks containing the hearts of their fallen clansmen which was another reason she had them come to this area of the village.

The Seven from Those of the Snow fanned out in front of Ice’Rock and sat down directly in front of The Seven from Those of the Swamp with Blood’Scale directly behind them with the rest of his group behind him.

When they were settled, Ice’Rock spoke, her voice loud enough for her clansmen and women to hear everything she said.

”Welcome, Blood’Scale, and Those of the Swamp Elders. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

Ice’Rock’s words were not spoke with malice intent nor were they sarcastic in any way. While she knew very well what they were visiting for, she needed to have them state, formally, what they were there for. It was, after all, Nethermen tradition. And she knew she had to keep with the rigors of tradition right now more than ever. The tension in the village was already thick and poised on the tips of a taut bow string. One small thing could release that string and there would be no way she could prevent or stop the fighting.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Wed Aug 29, 2012 10:03 am

Blood’Scale and his 14 warriors, along with The Seven of the Swamp settled in before the Seat of the Chief of the Snow and remained silent for several moments as they looked at the individuals gathered before them. Blood’Scale was in a word, massive. He was a younger Netherman, and by the look on his face it was obvious he was battle hungry and aggressive, truly a representative of Those of the Swamp who were always known as being the most ferocious warriors of the Netherclans. His eyes narrowed in on Branch who stood tall and looked right back at him, knowing that to break this locking of eyes would be a display of weakness. He finally looked down at the 12 braids of hair that hung from her belt and he spoke, “So, the words of my returned are true, an Elderwild walks among the Snow and hunts Those of the Swamp.”

Branch looked at Pela who nodded softly, giving her the floor to speak. She stepped forward onto the stairs that lead up to the Seat of the Chief and looked Blood’Scale directly in the eyes. She spoke in Netherese, “It is not hunting when Those of the Swamp enter the boundaries of Those of the Snow, it is the way of the Nethermen to kill those who intrude on the borders of another.”

Blood’Scale’s tell-tale temper caused him to take an aggressive half-step forward and the sound of metal scraping metal penetrated the cold air as dozens of weapons all around him became half sheathed at this move. He stopped and looked around, knowing he would be cut down in seconds if he did anything stupid. Frozen in his tracks he looked at Branch and spoke, “You are NOT Netherman!”

Gore’Rock spoke, his voice rising slightly above the crowd, “She is an outsider of this world, denied by her own kin and forced to make a life for herself apart from all the other races of Krynn, driven from her own lands but still strong in her heritage and traditions… She is as much Netherman as you or I Blood’Scale.”

Blood’Scale turned and looked at Gore’Rock, “Brother of a fallen Chieftain, you are in no position to lecture me on who is what, she carries no Netherman blood, much like your Chieftain. I vomit at the thought of where Those of the Snow, allowing vermin to infiltrate their very ranks, and it all started when Bad’Rock let a human child live within your borders.”

He turned and looked at Pela now and his brow dropped in anger over his inky black eyes, “Don’t think that because you sit on that chair that you are recognized as Chieftain by any other clan, acquiring that place by non-traditional means proves that you are an outsider, and it is only a matter of time before that catches up with you.”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:51 pm


Ice’Rock watched Blood’Scale intently as he spoke. When he made half a step towards Branch, she knew he would rethink his actions when he realized he was treading on very thin ice. She knew he was angry, and she accepted that from him. After all, many of his clan had fallen to the skills of a petite Elf and even Ice’Rock herself. No doubt he was feeling the sting from his own clan because of it. But when he resorted to slinging insults at her, and her clan, that was when Ice’Rock knew she had to step up.

And as with all things, she knew she as being watched, and judged, by her actions with her own clan.

”Enough!”

She saw the twitching of muscles from not only her warriors but the warriors Blood’Scale brought with him. Her ice blue eyes bore into his own black eyes as she slowly stood from her Chieftain seat and walked down the steps to stand a few feet in front of him.

”Non-traditional, Blood’Scale? Tell me something, if by non-traditional, do you mean the fact that I am human and defeated a Netherman, than I accept that. But, let me ask you a few questions just to clear the air.”

She began to pace slowly back in forth before him as she asked her questions. Each time she asked her question, she would stop, glance at him then continue her pacing and asking her questions.

”Is it not tradition to openly challenge the current Chieftain to a battle to the death to gain the Seat of the Chief?”

”Is it not tradition for the challenger and Chieftain to use whatever skills necessary to win the fight without the dishonor of cheating?”

”Is it not tradition to use the ancient weapons Nethermen are accustomed to using?”

Finally she stopped before him once more, her eyes holding his hate filled glare.

”And is it not tradition the victor of that fight be proclaimed Chieftain of the Clan?”

When there was no response to her questions, she turned her back and walked back up the steps that held the Seat of the Chief elevated. Standing before the seat, she looked out at Blood’Scale and her voice hardened.

”Not that it is any of your business but I did not use magic until the former Chieftain used it first. However, if it is proof you seek, you are welcome to ask any of my clansmen or clanswomen if I in any way took the Seat of the Chief non-traditionally. Rock’Crunch died an honorable death when the point of my spear penetrated his body from the front and exited his back.”

Ice’Rock purposely sat down slowly on the Seat of the Chief to make her point before she spoke again.

”I will ask you again, Blood’Scale, in terms you may understand better. Since you obviously did not travel this distance to trade insults with me, what is it you want? The hour grows late.”

Ice’Rock knew she needed to keep her anger in check and as much as she wanted to lash out at this Chieftain from a visiting clan, she would not do so unless she was given no other option. Right now, things were too volatile to let herself lose control.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:14 pm

Blood’Scale listened and could offer no answers to her questions. He looked around as she mentioned the clansmen and clanswomen of Those of the Snow, and every face stared back at him with resolve, truly they had accepted her as Chieftain, there was no arguing the fact. He turned to look back at her as she mentioned the spear exiting Rock'Crunches back. It was perplexing to him that one so small could defeat one as ferocious as Rock’Crunch was. Blood’Scale himself had feared Rock’Crunch.

As she sat and spoke again he narrowed his eyes on her and then shifted his gaze to Branch, “I have come to challenge that little one to a death match. By the writings of The Seven I formally challenge the Elderwild.”

Gore’Rock felt his stomach sink, he stepped forward and spoke, “The Elderwild is not a member of the Clan, the writings of the Seven are clear that challenges can only be issued between members of the seven clans.”

Blood’Scale turned and looked at Gore’Rock, his eyes shimmered with resolve and he spoke through a gravely voice, “You yourself have just told me she is as much Netherman as you or I Gore’Rock, and I hear told she has been renamed by Those of the Snow and is known among you as ‘Silent’Oak’,” He turned and looked at Branch again, “By the writings of The Seven any outsider that is living amongst a clan by invitation or by protection is subject to the laws of the Netherman and the writings of The Seven. By that I evoke my right to challenge Silent’Oak the Elderwild to a death match for the honor of those felled by her hand.”

He turned and looked at Pela. Since the challenge had been issued across clans it required the approval of the Chieftains of both clans. As Chieftain of Those of the Swamp it was obvious that HE approved, but he watched Pela carefully as he awaited her response. He had truly put her between a rock and a hard place, to deny his request would be to break the laws of The Seven and would not only dishonor her among her own clan but would most likely put their clans into an all out war. To approve his challenge would most likely mean the death of Branch, Blood’Scale was without a doubt the single most accomplished warrior of the living Nethermen.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:32 pm


Somehow, Ice’Rock felt this was coming. In his eyes, Branch posed the single most threat to his clan and he was going to do anything he could to eliminate her from being that threat. She felt her heart drop then jump back into her chest and beat wildly all the same. Branch meant so much to her. She either had to sentence Branch to a death sentence or sentence her clan to a bloody, vicious and long war with Those of the Swamp.

Her eyes scanned those of her clan and again she could see how closely she was being watched. Especially now. They knew she was emotionally attached to this Elderwild more so than they were attached to their own children. At least openly. It was a difficult decision she now faced and one that would ultimately define her for the rest of her life. No matter how brief or how long that may be.

She glanced down at Gore’Rock and saw the trepidation in his black eyes. Branch was as much a respected member of this clan as any true Netherwoman was. And it was because of that she knew what decision she would have to ultimately make.

Her eyes strayed to Branch then and she saw the way the Elfess was looking at her. As much as it pained Ice’Rock to do this, she knew Branch would understand. But there would be no way she could ever forgive herself for what she was about to say next.

Standing, Ice’Rock held her right hand out, palm down and raised her voice so that all could hear her.

”As Chieftain of Those of the Snow, I approve this challenge.”

Ice’Rock wanted to run away now. Hide from the responsibilities of being clan Chieftain. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but to have to stand up and sentence the only female she considered to be anything like a mother to her shattered her heart into a million tiny splinters.

Swallowing hard, she glanced down at Gore’Rock and nodded.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:16 pm

Gore’Rock heard Ice’Rocks voice rise above them all and approve the challenge. He turned to look at Silent’Oak who was looking at Blood’Scale. Her face didn’t change in the least except that her eyebrows dipped ever so slightly.

Blood’Scale did one of the rarest things any Nethermen did, he smiled at the approval of the challenge. His clansmen roared their delight and he spoke, “Very well! Then by the traditions of the Nethermen tomorrow at sunrise we finish this!”

Gore’Rock stepped forward and walked up to Blood’Scale, “If you and your clansmen will follow me we will escort you to your quarters for the evening.” He turned and looked at Ice’Rock just before stepping away, she could see it in his eyes, he knew she made the right decision though it pained him as much as it pained her.

Branch watched as Those of the Swamp were escorted back towards the main gate where the quarters for visitors from other clans were always kept at the ready. She turned and looked at Pela and it was obvious by her facial expression that she was in no way disappointed. She spoke softly to her, “Istar’ostring, worry not, you made the only decision you could. Worry not about Branch, no matter what happens.”

She smiled and turned to look at Olwa before nodding confidently and turning to walk up the hill that lead to her domicile near that of the Chieftains. She went alone, the clansman of Those of the Snow whooping in support as she made her way up the gravel road. Olwa turned and looked at Pela and spoke to her in a missive, “Truly she has been accepted as a representative of this clan.”

The next morning came quickly for everyone, those who slept and those who didn’t. As the roosters began to crow Nethermen and Netherwomen began to gather outside the gate on the large, open, grassy area that separated their wall from the dense forest. Blood’Scale was there before any of Those of the Snow arrived, he and his contingency of 21 were gathered in the grass and speaking of the upcoming death match with the Elderwild.

The sun was just beginning to crest and the whole village, along with many along the inner lying areas where world had already traveled were gathered and crowding around, a make shift ring of logs had been laid out for the battle and Nethermen were squeezing in as close as they could so they could watch. It was obvious that these kinds of events were what all Nethermen thrived on, despite the life of one of their own being on the line, the air buzzed with excitement.

Olwa and Pela stepped out of the gate and made their way to an area up near the ring so the Chieftain could observe the battle, as well as announce its beginning. Silence filled the air as all eyes rested on Ice’Rock and those who looked around noticed that Silent’Oak still wasn’t present.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:13 am


Ice’Rock didn’t sleep well that night. The full weight of leadership was heavy upon her and she knew there was nothing anyone could do to help her. She had made the right decision for the clan but in doing so, she most likely sentenced Branch to death. She knew Branch was capable of fighting the massive Chieftain. The Elfess had proven her fighting abilities already with the braided trophies she sported. What worried Ice’Rock was the fact Branch would not be able to use the element of surprise like she had in the woods. Still, Ice’Rock knew that would be a minor setback and Branch would quickly adapt to the situation.

At least that’s what Ice’Rock had prayed for all night long.

As morning came around, Gore’Rock came to get her and escort her and Olwa to the hastily but sturdily built ring for the fight. With each step closer to the ring, Ice’Rock felt as though her feet grew heavier and heavier. If it hadn’t been for Olwa letting his hand touch hers from time to time as they walked side by side, she was certain she would have not been able to walk the entire way.

As the crowd parted to allow them an unhindered path to the area designated for her and Olwa to observe, Ice’Rock glanced at the sea of Netermen and Netherwomen faces that surrounded her. She saw the anticipation and excitement in their black eyes. They were eager for the fighting to begin. She was wishing it never would.

Finally, as the crowd grew silent, she knew they were all waiting on her to give the command for the fight to begin. She stood, letting her gaze once more sweep over those of her clan and then to those from the Swamp clan before her eyes settled on Blood’Scale. If Nethermen could wear smug looks, he had one and it infuriated her. The air immediately around her suddenly grew almost frigid, a clear indication of her mood, and it would have grown had it not been for Olwa’s hand slipping so gently into hers, no one even noticed, but Ice’Rock herself. And while she couldn’t see Branch, she knew the Elfess was there, watching. Waiting.

Holding Blood’Scale’s black gaze, she lifted her right hand and lifted her voice for all to hear as her left hand curled around Olwa’s and held it tightly.

”Let the fight begin!”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:44 pm


As Ice’Rock called for the battle to begin Blood’Scale looked around with his eyebrows raised and put his hands out at full arms length while spinning slowly in a circle, “And if the fight is to begin, where is Snow’s champion??” He turned and looked at Ice’Rock, his eyes mocking her as he spoke, “Interesting strategy under your leadership Chieftain, one can only wonder what other great accomplishments you will lead this clan into!” Those of the Swamp laughed at his words and Those of the Snow grumbled as the whispered to one another.

Suddenly a whooping war cry erupted from the tree line and Silent’Oak emerged. Her face was painted with war stripes and camouflage. The left side bore the markings of the Nethermen, stripes in jagged patterns that were much like the ones she had seen the other Nethermen sporting when they went out on patrol. The right side however was painted in the elaborate patterns of the Elves. Even the Elderwild were known from their intricacy and detail in the arts, and their camouflage was no different. The only untouched areas were her chestnut brown eyes which were focused with intent on Blood’Scale. He turned and looked at her as she made her way across the grass and the gathered Nethermen parted enough for her to pass. She looked even smaller than she was as she strode past these giants of beings, and her head was held high and confident.

She was dressed in the simple clothing of the Kagonesti Elves. A dark green tunic made of cotton with darker brown leather patching, light leather pants made from deer hide, bracers of the same leather and soft leather boots made from the hides of a wild boar. Criss crossing her chest was a set of straps that held her two, thin, curved short swords and on her belt was the dagger that was always there. Her trusted bow and arrows were gone, clearly she intended to fight this massive creature without them.

As she approached the ring she leapt up onto one of the mighty tree trunks and crouched low, rubbing her hand along the bark and whispering softly in Elven, “I am sorry that you had to die so that I might face this trog. Go with the winds knowing that your saplings continue your legacy in these mountains.”

The seemingly dead tree trunk beneath her feet shuttered softly and then went still again, as did the rest of them in the circle around her. Blood’Scale watched this and narrowed his eyes as he pointed at her aggressively, “No tricks Elderwild!” Branch turned her head upwards to stare at him as he stood tall and strong in the middle of the ring, “Is it a trick to see a friends passing be done with honor?”

He snarled and looked at her, “It’s a tree!”

Branch spoke back to him, her voice strong and bold, “Far be it from you to see there is so much more in these mountains than perception alone can hold.”

She leapt off the trunk and landed with cat like grace, walking towards Blood’Scale and stopped roughly 20 meters from him. Her eyes turned and locked on those of Ice’Rock, “My Chieftain, your champion is ready to fight and die for her clan, and to face this challenge with honor.”

Pela looked at her with sadness in her eyes and Branch winked her eye ever so subtly, communicating that all was well. In a flash Blood’Scale charged and was nearly on top of her. His massive battle axe hissed as it broke the air and smashed into the mushy tundra with a sloppy ‘THUMP’, right where Branch had been standing. He spun quickly as he felt her feet tap off his shoulders. She slid down his back leaving two muddy paths from the soles of her boots and turned as he swung a backhand which missed her by several meters, she was already stepping away and staring at him defiantly, “You are a slow one Mr. Blood’Scale.”

Many Nethermen recoiled slightly at how amazingly fast Silent’Oak was, and Those of the Snow laughed as they saw the two muddy tracks that paralleled each other from Blood’Scales shoulders and over his rump. Blood’Scale roared in rage as he recovered instantly, his huge battle axe coming up and over his head in a sweeping motion, the motion of swinging only becoming visible as it came over his head, it was obvious that he was a veteran warrior who knew how to hide his actions from his opponent. Branch side stepped easily again and the battle axe hit once again with a mushy thump where her feet were only a millisecond before, the blow was so string the axe buried almost halfway into the soft alpine mud and would have cut her clean in half from head to legs had it connected. Silent’Oak looked at Blood’Scale who tugged on the stuck axe and rubbed her finger along the under edge of the blade as she looked at him with a whisper, “It is not all brute force that wins the day.”

Blood’Scale lunged at her with his hands out to grab her, she jumped, tipped her feet off his forearm, sprung off the top of his head with her right foot and did a flip in the air with a half twist, landing in a crouched position several meters behind him as he came up short of grabbing her. He turned quickly and she looked up at him, she had not even drawn her swords yet. He turned and slowed down, walking in a sideways step and started slowly circling her. Silent’Oak only turned her head as she watched his movements, “You can’t keep this up forever Elderwild.”

Branch looked at him and barely smiled as she responded, “I only intend to keep it up three seconds longer than you can Chieftain.” His face twisted and he lunged at her again, diving to smother her with his massive body, clutching with his arms to trap her and press her into the mud just below the alpine grasses. Again he hit the ground and slid to a halt, short one elf in his grasp. As he started to pick himself up he felt the gentle impact of her feet on his back and he spun to grab her. She leapt into the air and his arms missed as they criss-crossed his body. She came down and landed on his stomach and looked him in the eye, her finger poking him just above the belly button, “Imagine if this had been my sword Chieftain.”

Blood’Scale once again grabbed at her and his movements were becoming more obvious and reckless with his rage, this was the longest any fight he had been in had lasted, and it was obvious that he was becoming more and more angry by the second. Silent’Oak easily side jumped from his grasp and landed again on her feet facing him. She motioned to his battle axe and gestured that she would wait for him to retrieve it but instead he drew the sword that was on his belt. It was smaller in size and weight than the battle axe and it was made of black steel that was dull except along the edge where it was honed to a razor sharp, shiny edge. Even at the ‘smaller’ size it was as big as any two handed horse sword the Knights of Solamnia used while on horseback. He swung this weapon in a figure eight a couple times in the air between them and spoke, “Let’s see if your fancy footwork can out pace my sword.”

Silent’Oak looked at him defiantly and a small crooked smile broke the stone face she had been holding, “Let’s.”

He didn’t move, he simply watched her while he remained in a crouched, ready position. He saw in her eyes that she was not intimidated by him, not even a twinkle, for the first time he was facing an adversary which he was having doubts about defeating, she did not fear him. Silent’Oak remained perfectly still and studied his face, she could see the subtle hesitation and that brought the window she was looking for. She sprung like a cat going after a mouse, The motion was so quick that Blood’Scale was barely at a twitch when she passed his blade and slipped between his legs, sliding along the grass and coming to her feet behind him, her blades sang as they came out of her sheaths and etched an ‘X’ in his armor right in the center of his back. His face went pale, or as pale as a Netherman’s face can go and he waited for the pain that was sure to follow, but nothing came. He spun quickly and looked at Silent’Oak who was standing up straight, her blades already at rest at her sides, “I win Blood’Scale.”

Blood’Scale looked at her and narrowed his eyebrows, “I don’t see it that way Elderwild, there is no blood.”

“By my choice.”

He looked at her and spoke, “A death match can only end with blood being spilled.”

“Can it?”

He looked at her and furrowed his eyebrows while speaking through grit teeth, “Yes.”

He lunged again, his sword coming up and making a fast slash at her face, she brought both blades up and trailed them along his own blade, lifting them just as they were about to strike the hilt. She brought them down and drew them across the top of his right and left hands, cutting deep enough to draw blood and cripple them, but shallow enough to not do any significant damage that wouldn’t heal in time. Blood’Scale howled as the pain hit him and the blood oozed out and covered his hands. Instinctively the injured hands released the sword and he spun around to face her. Silent’Oak was standing upright again, both of Silent’Oaks blades sporting his black blood along the last few inches, “Now blood has been shed…”

He stood silently and stared at her, the whole area was deathly still as the Netherman watched. Blood’Scale narrowed his eyes and his shoulders dropped softly. Those of the Snow erupted in cheers as Blood’Scale came to one knee before Silent’Oak and Silent’Oak turned to look at Ice’Rock. Per the traditions of the Nethermen when an opponent yields the Chieftain decides the death blow.

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:47 pm


When Silent’Oak emerged from the trees wearing both Nethermen AND Elven war paint, Ice’Rock couldn’t have been any more proud. And she emerged at just the right time to wipe the smug look off Blood’Scale’s face. Still, Ice’Rock didn’t breathe the entire time the fight took place. Or at least, she didn’t think she did. Her eyes were riveted to the moves both opponents made. Each time Blood’Scale lunged at Silent’Oak, Ice’Rock gasped ever so slightly. Even though she had every confidence in her beloved friend, her opponent was not to be underestimated. And it was clear Silent’Oak was doing no such thing.

As Silen’tOak moved around, under, and over Blood’Scale, it was clear what she was doing. While she didn’t wear a smile outwardly, inside, Ice’Rock was beaming from ear to ear. While she didn’t relax any at all, it did help knowing Silent’Oak was fighting more with her head than with her hands.

When Silent’Oak moved in for the kill shot, Ice’Rock narrowed her gaze. Would she or wouldn’t she? When Silen’t Oak didn’t make the killing shot, Ice’Rock felt the air finally release from her lungs as she exhaled slowly. But just as quickly as that air left, it was sucked back in when Blood’Scale lunged at Silent’Oak again. When Blood’Scale howled in pain and dropped his blade, Ice’Rock saw the black blood oozing from his hands. The cheers were deafening that followed Blood’Scales kneeling and Ice’Rock finally let her inner smile show on her face for all to see. That cheering died the instant Silent’Oak and Blood’Scale turned to face Ice’Rock.

As all eyes turned to Ice’Rock, she stood and slowly walked towards the make shift arena. The large forms of her clansmen and clanswomen parted to make a path for her and when she reached the ring, she easily scaled the logs then jumped into the ring to join the two fighters. While it was not tradition to show affection publically, she couldn’t help herself and when she walked to greet Silent’Oak, she embraced her tightly and whispered softly in her ear.

”I never doubted you for a moment”

When she pulled back to look at Silent’Oak, she was rewarded with that wink.

Finally she turned to Blood’Scale and saw he had bowed his head, waiting for her to deliver the death blow that was coming. She moved to stand directly before him and knew he could see her booted feet. Reaching forward, she took a hold of his very large, bleeding hand. Holding her left hand beneath his then touching the palm of her right to the back of his, there was a moment of instant cold he felt. While it didn’t heal his wound, it slowed the bleeding tremendously. Her voice was quiet and spoken for his ears alone

”You have done nothing to lower your head in shame, Blood'Scale. Raise your head proudly and look at me.”

When he did so, his eyes were not exactly level with hers, but close enough where she didn’t have to worry about craning her neck to look up at him. Still holding his massive hand, she spoke loud enough for all to hear her. There was no pull of magic, no build up of power to indicate she was doing anything to cast a powerful spell. Her words were sincere and true.

”Nethermen, no matter what clan they belong to or who their Chieftain is, are Nethermen. It is the common thread all possess. Even if those of a clan do not physically look like Nethermen, it does not mean they do not have the heart of a Nethermen or think like Nethermen. To spill the blood of another clan is like spilling the blood of your own. For far too long we have fought each other for land and power. Only when we learn to live and fight as one will we be stronger. I offer peace to you and your clan now, and welcome you as brothers and sisters to Those of the Snow. What do you say, Chieftain to Those of the Swamp?”

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PostSubject: Re: Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship    Thu Aug 30, 2012 2:05 pm

Blood’Scale watched the feet of Ice’Rock, and when she grabbed his hands he closed his eyes and waited, surly the cold would envelope him quickly, but he would face his death with honor. Then, as she lifted his eyes to look at hers he knew it was coming, she wanted to stare her opponent in the eye, as a Netherman.

Her words hung in his ears as he furrowed his brow in confusion, what she said made sense, but broke the traditions of the Nethermen. It was tradition however, not law. Not since The Seven had there been peace between the clans, but here were her words, and small, ice cold hands, telling him that he would live.

He looked at her and then to Gore’Rock who had made his way to the arena now. Gore’Rock spoke to Ice’Rock, “My Chieftain, by the writings of The Seven, Blood’Scale can not be Chieftain of Those of the Swamp any longer, he has been defeated in a one on one battle, this loss means the loss of title as well, whether he lived or died.”

The entire assembly whispered in unison, “Whether he lived or died.”

Gore’Rock turned and looked at Silent’Oak proudly, “By rights, the leadership of Those of the Swamp falls to you Silent’Oak, however you are not a Netherwoman, you are not branded of a clan, you are a guest, and one that is not branded of a clan can not lead a clan by the writings of The Seven.”

He turned to look at Ice’Rock and Blood’Scale, “By the writings of The Seven, the leadership of Those of the Swamp falls to you Chieftain.”

The words hung in the air and the 21 members, including The Seven of the Swamp knelt on one knee in fealty to Ice’Rock, Ice’Rock stood in the center of the arena, those under her leadership had just doubled.

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Book 2 - Ch 6: Brinkmanship
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