This sea of grass seemed too good a place to leave, Hild could see that. They had travelled East from the sea of Rhun, wandering south from the main trade routes. The grassland was open with stands of trees in its folds and springs feeding streams into the river. She could imagine that no one had set foot on it before them since the world was reshaped and burned in the great wars of legend. The land showed no sign of inhabitants, it was remote from any settlements they knew and would be harsh in winter. They stopped by the river, as was their habit, to hunt and rest, but as the season wore on, more and more people spoke of settling there, and thus it was brought to the council where all gathered to speak openly on the matter.
Hild stood silently beside her father as the council began, as the first light of dawn spread across the camp. They had all lived their lives on the move from one camp to another, but all remembered the myths that spoke of cities in their past before the time of fire and the world twisting. The cities were gone, burnt, buried, flooded, or simply lost. Yet this land was suited to their horses and empty of people - none of the scouting parties had found any sign of others within several days ride in any direction before they had had to turn back in time for the council.
“Would you leave the traditions of our people and split us apart?” Saewine's anger was obvious - he must have called the council to be allowed to speak first. Hild glanced at where his mother was sitting - she would usually have spoken for their family - did this mean a divide in their views or that she did not have an opinion? Hild could read nothing but worry from her face and that said nothing either way.
“This is a good land and waiting for us. Our legends speak of cities in the part, before the world changed,” Sigrun, their senior healer spoke up.
"That time is past, and past by many generations."
“Yet all must be free to choose their paths,” Sigrun said firmly.
“What glory is there here for our warriors and shieldmaidens? Will they be content to put aside their swords and grow crops?” Aghi asked, looking around. He was the nearest they had to a chief in the way the people of the settled lands seemed to - due to his seniority among the warriors - surviving so many battles took both skill and luck.
“I will go on at least.” Eadric was a leader, despite his age, one of those to distinguish himself in the fighting over the river crossings last summer. His father had died young and his mother was not forceful, so his voice led their family and many others would willingly follow him. As they now demonstrated by moving around the council to stand behind him, while a few moved away, but not may from those who were generally his allies. Hild would gladly have followed him, but she knew her father intended to remain, and she would not leave him and her younger siblings behind. She stood straighter, but did not move. Eadric looked slowly around the circle, his eye catching hers for a moment before he moved on. She knew that he had closed the question overall - their people would be splitting apart, but others would speak before this was accepted.
After the council had finished, Hild wandered down to the river to check on the horses. The grassland on the other side was proving to be their favourite roaming area. She whistled softly to draw her family's horses close, and stroked and checked over each in turn.
"You are determined to settle here?"
"My father is determined and I will not abandon my family."
"Yes you are abandoning your dreams and chances for glory. What would the life of a shieldmaiden here be? What great enemies could you fight? What wars would you win? What great leaders slay or save? What glorious cause would you die in?"
"War may come here, and I would fight to defend my family and home."
"You would not have said that before - you were ever determined to be among the warriors, not the protectors of our camps."
"I know, but I have the choice between the possibility of glory and the knowledge that I would leave my family behind - probably never see them again, my choice is hard, but I have determined the course that is right for me."
"You will give up the chance to go down in our histories and legends like your namesake. You were always one of the best at fighting - and looking towards the glory that could come our way as we explore and find new battles to win."
"I was, yet I choose my family and to remain here. I will teach my children - there will be shieldmaidens and warriors here to protect us and our horses. There will be glory if any enemies come, but I choose my family over the glories that I could win."
"You do not see the waste in this - you do not want to throw your likes away on training and this fantasy of a home."
"I do not see it as a waste. You go and earn glory - you go and win your place in the legends and maybe someday the stories will reach back here or our people reunite, but this is my choice and it is mine to make." And we will not fail, but she did not say that aloud, wanting to part without a quarrel. She would never see him again and knew that her words would not change this. "May you find the glory you are seeking, and joy."
It was very quiet the next morning with most of their people gone. The land seemed emptier than ever, and Hild wondered how they could make a city here – she hoped the elders knew, as she had no idea how they would even start. The sun was not yet high in the sky, the wind blew the scent of grass over the camp. She walked back to the certe of the camp, where many of those remaining had gathered.
“Will you continue with your training, Hild?”
Thi was no council meeting, and no one was keeping order - many voices spoke over each other. Hild struggled to sort out the words, let alone the speakers.
“We all should – who knows what dangers may come. Even as we have wandered here, will not others and desire all we have.”
“As we will have lost the ability to move on easily away from any danger, there may be more need for warriors in the future.”
“First we will need to decide plans. Let us send out some of the youngsters with the horses – there is plenty of space to allow them to roam widely and no dangers around at this time.”
“This is a good place to settle – good springs and the river if we later want to trade, as we have seen others do along such in the past.”
“In time merchants will find us here, even if we send none out.”
“Yet for now, we need settle without them, and it would be for the best if we remain isolated until we are ready to defend ourselves.”
“We could do that already – the horses and children would disappear into the plains with the guards, and the rest of us could fight as always.”
“Come away, child,” her father said softly. “They will argue for many hours. It is time to get started.”
He led her back over to their wains. Her aunt and uncle were already unloading everything, helped by the younger children – her nearest agemates had already gone out to help herd the horses.
“What are we to do first?” Hild asked.
“First we choose the best of the three wains to keep intact. The other two will be taken appear to form the frame for our house.” He looked at her and her aunt. “Is this a good place to start or nearer the trees?”
“Here – we are far enough from the river to be safe from floods, yet near enough for carrying water to be convenient and in the shelter of the trees, but far out enough for the branches to not fall on our roof in a storm,” Hild's aunt spoke up first.
Hild looked around at what was to be their home. In her imagination she could see it as a village, as one of the small towns they had often seen, and even as a city - as had been described in so many stories. She staggered, wondering if she had been granted a vision of the future, or if it was only her imagination bringing their dreams to life.