Again the prisoner considered the question for a moment. “Before I met my mate, I desired only a warm fire, food, and a place to lay my head at dark. For a while I lived in a dream but now that dream is gone and I am awake again. I desire only a warm fire, food, and a place to lay my head at dark. If you will grant me these things, I will serve faithfully.”
A month passed and Bard had spent many hours in discussion with Beren who had a very different way of looking at things and helped Bard to look at things differently also. For one thing, Bard had formed an ‘unofficial’ council, outside the Elders. There was Bard and Beren and Eerika, a woman almost as disturbing as Beren himself. She had a mind of wheels, numbers and metal and was constantly writing numbers on her clay tablets and drawing careful designs on the few scraps of parchment that the clan possessed. Freja was the only Elder on this council, and she gave sound advice relating to the disposition of the very young and the very old and, finally, was his captain, Fell, who initially had kept a close eye of suspicion on Beren but seemed recently to have developed … not a friendship, more of a grudging respect for his former captive. They had been discussing many things over the last month of Winter and from these discussions had grown plans. The clan would leave the forbidding snow covered hills and move to the plains where it was warmer. Logging operations would commence in the forests to the West enabling the clan to build some permanent structures for better shelter. Also, the clans pitiful supply of weapons would be bolstered by enough clubs for every warrior. Beren had pushed for this plan early on and this had probably been the first crack in the wall between him and the captain.
Although mining operations would be temporarily abandoned, the clan would return to set up mining camps in the next few months with regular supply routes established to the main encampment on the plains. Beren, Fell and Eerika had mapped out a plan that should see the production of three thousand spears within the next year. Enough to make the Wild Angel clan a force to be respected in the region. Eerika had already recruited ten journeymen who had in turn recruited ten apprentices to facilitate the engineering and trades skills base they would need in the coming years.
Bard felt excited and a little nervous. Here was change on a scale he had never expected or anticipated. The tribe was leaving in a few days and Eerika was even now talking about the building of giant stone walls and defences, in addition to a possible shipyard and village to take advantage of the lakes and ocean coasts nearby. Freja had proven surprisingly adapt at looking into a coordinated farming program that would relieve the reliance on the hunters for food, and yesterday had seen her, and Eerika, heads together, as they worked at the need for tools and quantities of metal and coal to produce the quantities needed to be ready for full scale farming next Spring. Bard had glanced at the calculations and quickly decided they needed no supervision from him. (God’s but he hoped they didn’t).
This was a different way to the traditions of his forefathers but he believed his father would approve. Soon The Wild Angels would cease to be nervous itinerants and become masters of their own fate. The Elders were largely unsuspecting of these changes and had heard only Bard’s plans to relocate to the plains. Their approval was forthcoming, many of them had aches from the cold and the ore which was to save the clan would still be theirs. Even stern Fell was slowly being caught up in the excitement. He had posed the question of further military resources, careful not to sound greedy after the promise of spears and had been thoughtful ever since Eerika had absently given him a clay tablet and asked him to make a list, warning him that he may need to wait till the farming implements were ready. Bard had seen him, tongue caught between his teeth, as he carefully scribed lists and then erased them to start again. He had snuck a glance and seen words like, ‘swords’, ‘chain mail’, and ‘bows’ written down, and always with large numbers next to them. All Bard had really needed to do was to sign off on the plans and priorities and arrange resources. Still this had taken a surprising amount of his time and when he returned to his tent that night and found Agmar waiting with her arms akimbo, he had tensed and made ready to dive for cover. Instead, she had smiled and stepped forward to fold herself into his bemused embrace while she spoke softly of pride.
Next month would see them out of the snowy hills and the month after would see them on the plains making ready to start a village. The month after they would establish mining camps for iron and coal and each month after that entailed more progress, more planning and the fruits of their labours flowing inwards in a steady trickle that would soon become a river. A year would see them mighty and three would see them indomitable and unassailable. That night Bard went to sleep dreaming of what the shape of their empire should look like.