The Stead

“Tell me about my stead”

The Blue Starling Stead

Blue Starling Stead sits at the head of the mountain pass, a few miles beyond the strong house at Ridge Inn and a mile from the border stones with the Grey Coat clan. Here, the sharp winds whistle around the edge of the mountains, bringing comfort to the Orlanthi steadmen, but making strangers feel this is a lonely place. Sometimes the goddess Brastalos of the No Wind settles here to rest and the women give thanks, for she is the calm at the eye of the storm.
The heart of the stead is a big, strong-walled farmhouse with cottages, barns, sheep pens, storage and a smithy clustered around it atop a low hill. A wooden palisade protects the stead from raiders.

A watchtower inside the walls keeps one eye on the King’s Road and another on the nearby hills. Several outlying cottages rely on the protection of the main house in times of trouble. When warning comes the families will take their chattel and drive what animals they can inside the walls.

The walls also enclose a loom house, and the small square-walled shrine to Ernalda Bevara, the goddess commonly known as ‘Stretcher and Sticker’. The healer Tara Redbraid, who married into the clan from the Elkenvale, does the daily rites here.

At the foot of the hill there is a sauna: a stone hut with a peat hearth that is used as a place of informal gathering and gossip.

Some strips of land are gentle enough in slope to plough and some cattle are raised on the nearby pastures, along with great flocks of sheep. An apple orchard below the hill supplies enough fruit to distil a special applejack that must be drunk in small quantities and turns men into fools.

Great flocks of iridescent starlings nest in the trees near the stead and can be seen to rise in a chittering mass when threats appear. They are associated with Yossi Greenwing, an ancient hero who delivered the ‘Seven Blows of Sorrow’ and whose deeds live in song. He is the stead’s guardian spirit who can inspire the steadmen to Fight For Family.

Mighty Goose is another strange protector, a great honking bird more fierce than any guard dog. A gift from the Dragonewts, many believe it is possessed by a draconic spirit.

The People of the Stead

There are six hearths at the stead, with two inside the walls and the rest without. Each hearth averages a dozen people, usually an elder, three mature adults, three young adults and five children.

The Arynwar bloodline is based at the stead. The Arynwar ancestors remain angry about the burning of Eoric’s Stead by the Grey Coat Clan. The bloodline’s spakeman, the Carl Jarstak Trollspear, is head of the big house. He is also speaks for the householders in the clan ring. His spouse, Swena Far-Blessed, is Blue Starling Stead’s young hearth-mistress and second wife to her much older husband.

The Laronil bloodline is also well-represented at the stead, particularly in the outlying cottages. Darrold Sheep-Warden is the senior householder of the bloodline.

The population of the stead and surrounding land is around 75 souls, and breaks down as follows:

Newborns: 4
Children (1-14): 23
Initiands (15-19): 6
Young Adults (20-34): 17
Mature Adults (35-59): 17
Elders (60+): 8

Of the adults there are 12 wives, all originally from another clan. There are 22 adults of a Kendring bloodline: 17 men and 5 unmarried women.

The stead can muster around 19 members of the fyrd.

The stead’s status as the first outpost of the clan encountered when travelling the King’s Road means it is often used as a stopping place. If the Greeting is given and accepted, important guests eat at the Big House and guests of low status eat in one of the cottages. Guests are expected to share news, and to entertain with stories or song.

Characters of the Stead

This lists some of the people who live at the stead, as at Earth Season 1618. (Update: Since this was written, Swena Far-Blessed is with child and Swen Willemsson was killed at the Battle of Castle Blue.)

The Big House has two hearths. Jarstak’s Hall and Finn’s Hall. There are four other hearths.

JARSTAK’S HALL

Hall Head: Jarstak Trollspear. Spakeman of the Arynwar bloodline, and lay worshipper of Orlanth Destor. A granite-faced former weaponmaster turned farmer, now in his late 40s, Jarstak is a member of the Destor’s Breath and Night Brother factions. He also represents Ginna Jar on the Clan Ring. Jarstak’s first wife Theya died three years ago. He has since remarried.

Hearth Mistress: Swena Far-Blessed. Just 21 years of age, Swena is a vibrant and attractive woman from the Underwillow clan. Her marriage to Jarstak–the head of a bloodline and important member of the clan ring–was clearly a great step-up in the world. However, a year on from the wedding and the hearth mistress of the Big House remains childless. Though she tries to put a good face on things she seems troubled.

Arnal Wolfsplitter. Jarstak’s eldest son, a tough herdsman who once killed a wolf in spectacular fashion.

Ingana Paleskin. Arnal’s delicate wife, married from the Frithan clan and rarely in good health since she moved to the hills.

Broyan Bear-Cloak. Jarstak’s youngest son. An accomplished bear hunter. Married to Nevana.

Nevana the Weaver. An initiate of Ernalda Orane, she appears to be every inch the perfect steadwife.

Jara. Jara is a daughter from Jarstak’s first marriage. Now around 20 years old, she was possessed by a spirit as a child when she wandered into Eoric’s Stead. She has not been the same since. She is clumsy and slow-witted, so does simple tasks around the stead.

Snorri. Arnal’s 8 year-old son, a young boy with a perpetually runny nose. Often called ‘Snothead’.

FINN’S HALL

Hall Head: Finn the Heavy. Finn is Jarstak’s younger brother, a stocky, tough sheepman in his 30s.

Hearth Mistress: Tara Redbraid. Tara is Finn’s wife, a Bevaran initiate who came from the Elkenvale clan. She is a skilled healer who always supports the fyrd muster.

Elder: Arkell All-Talk. An uncle who survived The Burning, Arkell is too old for heavy labout, but he does odd jobs and still has his wits and memory. He is the stead’s informal skald and storyteller.

Orvald Furious. A young Orlanthi weaponthane.

Neela Zealoushands. A female redsmith and initiate of Gustbran.

MANISKI’S HALL

Maniski Half-Man has one of the furthest cottages from the Big House, on the far side of the King’s Road.

Hall Head: Maniski Half-Man. Maniski is a middle-aged half-Carl of the Arynwar who lost his right hand and one side of his face years ago when fighting the Three Tin Ton. He owns a half-share in a plough-and-oxen team with Jarmast Big-Laugh.

Hearth Mistress and Midwife: Frieda Told-You-So. Frieda is Maniski’s shrewish wife and notorious gossip. As an initiate of Ernalda Eninta, she is the stead’s midwife.

Elder Grandmother: Ostra Many-Sorrows. An initiate of Asrelia and Ty Kora Tek, Ostra lays out the dead of the stead.

Eric Smallhand. Eric is a cottar who helps out his father Maniski but also works part-time for Jarstak.

Aska Three-Sticks. Eric’s wife. An outrageous flirt who has some skill as a herbalist.

Sarossa Ewe-Maiden. Maniski’s unmarried daughter. A worshipper of Ernalda Vorela she is often asked to treat the sick animals of the stead.

Fastulv Restless. A young shepherd.

DARROLD’S HALL

Darrold’s cottage is near Whistling Hill and houses one of the wealthier sheepholding families.

Hall Head: Darrold Sheep-Warden. Darrold is a relatively well-to-do Carl and the head of the Laronil line at the stead. He has a large flock and three hearty sons who stand to inherit his wealth.

Hearth Mistress and Godi: Erissa Swan-Neck. Darrold’s wife, a striking, well-bred Frithan woman who serves as the stead’s Ernalda godi. Since Jarstak’s first wife Theya died, she has become the unofficial head woman of the stead, a status she will continue to enjoy while Swena remains childless.

Elder Grandmother: Aileena the Proud. Darrold’s mother. Aileena was once a healer from the Elkenvale, but now mostly helps with the children. She has a reputation as a snob.

Jonrik Backfist. Darrold’s eldest son. A dissolute, dangerous man, known for hard drinking and fighting.

Brena Three-Tears. Jonrik’s long-suffering wife, who puts up with her husband’s violence and her mother-in-law’s constant criticism.

Ingard the Tall. Darrold’s handsome middle son, at present wooing an Elkenvale maiden.

Harmast Twin-shield. Darrold’s hotheaded youngest son, as yet unmarried.

WILLEM’S HALL

Willem has one of the bigger cottages to house his large household of the Arynwar bloodline.

Hall Head: Willem Outlaw. One of Jarstak’s brothers, once outlawed years ago for a crime no-one talks about.

Hearth Mistress: Yrsa Goodhands. Willem’s wife, a slightly pushy but essentially decent woman whom everyone agrees has tamed her wayward husband. Has something of a blind spot for her thick-headed son, Swen.

Elder Grandmother: Leika Line-Breaker. Jarstak, Finn and Willem’s mother. A fierce old biddy who cannot resist needling Jarstak, she prefers living in a cottage to life in the Big House.

Magana Redspear. Willem’s eldest child. Taking after her grandmother, Magana is a feisty initiate of Vinga and turns out for the fyrd.

Jarmast Big-Laugh. A cousin of Jarstak’s, Jarmast is a hearty man who married well and has enough wealth to afford a half-share in a plough team with Maniski.

Ivara Copper-Pot. A homely-looking woman, Ivara is wise and thrifty. Originally from the Elkenvale, she has found a good man in Jarmast. A worshipper of Minlister, she is the clan’s Master Brewer. She makes ale and cider, and also mead from the honey of the hives around the cottage.

Swen. A boyish and somewhat dim cottar. He is handy with sheep but does not seem likely to make a good householder. His father, Willem, despairs of him.

ORLGARD’S HALL

A tiny cottage by an orchard, populated by members of the Laronil bloodline.

Hall Head and Elder: Orlgard Crookstick. An ancient and taciturn sheepman with a liking for drink and good stories.

Hearth Mistress and Elder Grandmother: Hemradi Pig-Mistress. Orlgard’s wife Hemradi knows more about raising pigs than anyone in the clan and still keeps a small pen of special porkers for feasts.

Sigmund Forkbeard. A charming farmer, most of whose prosperity comes from his talent for barter. Married to Sora.

Sora Barleybread. A quiet, but cheerful woman who married in from the Frithan and whose baking is legendary. Whenever the clan chief visits he always takes time to stop off at Orlgard’s Hall and sample Sora’s cake.

Gustand Fairhead. Sigmund’s son, a stickpicker with ambitions and something of a reputation as a womaniser.

Important Places

First Sword
A stone cross in the shelter of Whistling Hill. Sometimes bands of Humakti come on pilgrimage there to make their geases. When they appear adults shut the children indoors and avoid the severed men at all costs.

Masiri’s Grove
In this place the air is magically still and it is said a nymph watches over it. Custom has it that a woman who conceives here will always bear triplets. However, few couples take up the offer as they would have to, as the law demands, hand the third child over to the chieftain.

The Dragon Ruins
An old ruin sometimes visited by the Dragonewts. Used as ‘Second Safety’, a fallback position should the stead be attacked.

Big Flint
A hidden shrine to Hedkoranth.

Thunder Oak
A place of Orlanthi worship on Dwarf Ridge.

The Fingers
The fingers are a marker stone indicating the current border of the Kendring and Greycoats.

The Hungry Stone
A statue to a troll deity. When trolls come to raid, sometimes the steadsmen leave a sacrifice of meat at this stone to make them go away.

Eoric’s Stead
Eoric’s Stead was named after Eoric Plough-hand, an old thane turned farmer who died forty years ago. Eoric had found he had a talent for pastoral farming and had made his stead one of the most bountiful despite the thin soil of the hills. It was, until The Burning, the stronghold of the Arynwar bloodline and with the Blue Starling stead represented the front line against the Greycoats and the Greenhaft.

The Arynwar spakeman was Branbrig Two-Skies on the night the stead was burned. Branbrig and his brothers and cousins tried to escape their longhouses and rush the raiders, but their storm magics failed them–extinguished by some mighty weapon of the Greycoats. The women, clutching their children, cried for mercy but were either cut down or barred inside the burning houses, where they were roasted alive with their bairns.

A few steadfolk, including some children, escaped with their lives. All that remains of the stead is now squares of stone where houses stood and cursed fields that have become overgrown. The ghosts of the slain will not permit anyone to resettle the land or grow anything until they are avenged. But as yet the clan has not passed the Black Arrow that would initiate a war with the Greycoats.

The Stead

The Book of Kendring Percyprune