It had been an otherwise pleasant day.   The heat wasn't too excessive.  The older boy and his middle sister hadn't been arguing loudly and not doing their chores.   His father and his mother-in law had slept most of the day, so they hadn't been telling everyone, again, how things had been done 'in the olden days'.    He was getting ready for supper after his day plowing in his fields. His.  That was one of the things that separated him from the 'olden days' his two elders liked to harp on.  This was his land he worked. Not some arrogant noble. His hold.   A proud smile crossed his face.  It had taken years of marching to the songs of the Iron Road, but he walked away with a stake to buy this land.     He looked at the manse he had built for the young woman he had taken up with and that then little knucklehead older son.   He took a deep breath of the evening air on his land.    The first horseman was outlined on the hillside to the left of his house. He could make out that that one was bearing a spear or a lance. 


 Another joined the first rider, the setting sun reflecting off the polished iron helmet that one wore. Both riders started off the hilltop and towards the manse at a fast trot.    The man stood for a moment frowning, then hurried towards his manse.  By the time he got there at a run the riders had reined in at his approach away from the manse.  One dismounted.   He took off the helmet. His braids were now dyed red.     "Hail Diagasse! I take it the news you bring is not good!"   His oldest daughter liked this young man.   Second generation Freeholder. The one still mounted and holding the reins of Diagasse's horse, was Diagasse's first cousin, Meroqola.   Both were fully accoutered for the Iron Road.    "It is not good!  Chief Beokiza summons all to his hold across the Shemaor, to get ready to repel the Masohirlaners!   It seems they've found an energetic ras who wants to rearrange the border between our lands."   " The garrison-" the man started to say, as his wife, children, and the two old ones now stood in the yard. " It was one of them who broke the news to the Chief," Diagasse added, giving a slight nod in the direction of Onaedre, the man's daughter.   She looked much as her mother did when the man marched into her mother's birth town that now ever so long day ago.

 "It's a 'high tide'. This ras of theirs seems to be aiming for being hailed as a conquering king."   The man balled his hands into fists.     He looked at his family. The oldest boy was clasping his hands in anticipation.       His wife was looking back at him with apprehension.        The man looked out upon his hold.   " How far away are they? "   "About three days away the main pack is. Our provincial army is at least a week or so away from here.   Chief Beokiza wants to keep their raiders hemmed in."   The man took a deep breath.   " I'll get me gear. You fellows might as well come inside and enjoy some good cooking before we all take that walk on the Iron Road."

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