Copyright 2015 by Michael O’Gara
First Release 2018
All Rights Reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher Heartland Indie Publishing LLC. This e-book is licensed only for the personal enjoyment of visitors to this site.

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Chapter 5

Mir and Lex arrived at the great meeting place to find only Wald and Cormard present.
Lex asked, “Where are the others?”
Cormard said, “Dead. We captured and burned the port but at a great cost. We killed every enemy soldier but lost two thirds of our men.”
Mir sat down, “It was too great a cost.”
Wald said, “The only good thing is that between the two ports we have killed more than half of the enemy army.”
Lex said, “But that still leaves about half.”
Wald ask, “I suppose you had heavy casualties?”
Mir said evasively, “More than I would have liked.”
Cormard said, “We are the only four independent chiefs left.”
Lex said, “Three. I have given my allegiance to Mir as queen.”
Cormard looked at Mir and said, “So your casualties were not that great and you intend to force us under your rule?”
Mir said in a quiet voice, “No. I do not want to lead anyone who does not willingly follow.”
Wald said, “I am glad to hear that.”
Cormard said, “We must follow up and attack now.”
Mir said, “That is what they are expecting.”
Wald said, “Then what do you propose we do?”
Mir smiled, “Let them retreat to the coast. I have fought this general for years. He is an intelligent man and will not stay where his army will starve. He knows we will attack his men when they leave their fortifications to go foraging. I expect he will go to the coast to protect his arriving ships. The sea is his lifeline.”
Cormard said, “It is the act of a coward.”
Mir said, “I think you underestimate this general.”
Wald said, “Then what do you propose to do?”
Mir said, “Just what we have done. We have deprived them of profit for years. It has cost them much more to stay than they have gained. We need not kill them all but continue to bleed them until they leave or are too weak to resist.”
Cormard said, “The enemy is on the run. I am no coward to sit around and wait.”
Wald said, “I agree.”
Mir said, “To attack when there is no advantage would be a mistake.”
Cormard said, “So you will hide in the forests while we go out to do battle.”
Mir nodded and said, “I will remain in the forests.”
Cormard and Wald rose and stomped off.
Lex said, “They are going to get themselves and their followers killed.”
Mir nodded agreement and said, “It is unnecessary. Time is on our side.”

Chapter 6

The officer entered the general’s tent and saluted, “There is news, my Lord.”
Azar asked, “Well?”
The officer said, “The northern port was attacked and burned. The garrison there was overrun. All our men were killed or maimed.”
The officer took a breath, “Only fifty four of our men survived. They are all blind, have been whipped, and have lost a thumb.”
The general cursed. He paused and said, “Do the men know?”
“Yes sir.”
The officer said, “It is the first time I have seen so many in fear of an enemy.”
The general said, “Burn the nearest town.”
The officer said, “It is already burned.”
The general said, “Good work.”
The officer said, “The Battle Queen of the Forest ordered it, Lord.”
The general cursed again and looked at his second. The second looked at the officer and asked, “And the farms.”
“Abandoned and the fields have not been planted.”
His second said, “They mean to starve us.”
Azar nodded and said, “And they just might succeed, if we stay here. Give the order; we retreat to the southern port. Send messages to all the outposts.”
The scouts Mir had sent reported that the enemy was retreating to the coast.
General Azar thought to be deliberate in gathering his army and retreating to the coast. He would gather all his outpost garrisons to him as he retreated. The army would bring every scrap of food and everything they had of value.
Azar expected the savages would not meet him in open battle. They had no need to. Azar knew he was in a very difficult position. This Queen of the Forest was a formidable enemy. For the first time in his career, Azar had been fought to a standstill.
The army had only been travelling for a day when a scout returned with the news. The southern port had fallen and been burned. There were no survivors.
That night when the army camped, Azar paced. He knew he had few options open to him but the sea was his lifeline. Unless he colonized an area, there would be no staying here. The best option was to settle an open area but it would have to be done quickly.
Azar was walking the camp when the attack came in the early morning hours. A sentry sounded the alarm. Still, many of Azar’s men died in their bedrolls. Azar’s troops were professionals and soon rallied and formed up and were fighting fiercely with the enemy. The battle raged for several hours and then, as suddenly as it had begun, it ended.
Azar saw the carnage as the sun rose. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Azar could see half his wagons had been consumed by fire as had many of the tents. The battle had been one of attrition. Azar awaited the reports.
His second came to him, “My lord, we have suffered fourteen hundred and eleven killed and about another seven hundred wounded. About half the wounds are serious.”
Azar said, “May the gods protect us from these madmen. How many of them died.”
“Sir, at last count, just a little over twelve hundred.”
Azar asked, “And their wounded?”
“Sir, there were no enemy wounded on the field. It seems a few who were wounded took their own lives rather than be captured.”
Azar nodded. He hated this enemy, but he also respected them as warriors.
The army did not take the days it would require to dispose of their dead. The stripped the bodies of valuables and left the next morning. The bodies of their comrades, as well as those of the enemy, were left on the battlefield
The army made for the port. It took the army five days to reach the area. Azar had his men establish camp on a bay adjoining the burned port town. Ships could beach there at high tide and unload at low tide.
Well before Azar’s army reached the coast, the survivors of the attack on the army returned to the forests. A scout came to report to Mir. It was Bel. When she entered the Queen’s cave, Mysha and Skjold were there.
Bel came before Mir’s throne and gave a head bow and said, “Majesty, Cormard and Wald are dead. Just over three hundred survived the attack and many are wounded. They are coming here and they ask for sanctuary and will pledge allegiance to you as Queen.”
Mir asked, “How did they fight?”
“Bravely until it was useless to fight anymore.”
Mir said, “We will take them. Who leads?”
“The man Bange.”
Mir said, “Bring him to me.”
Bel gave a head bow and said, “As you command, my Queen.”
When Bange arrived with the survivors, he was brought before the queen and took a knee. He said, “My Queen, your fierceness in battle is only equaled by the mercy you have shown me and the men with me.”
Mir asked, “How is it you live?”
Bange said, “There comes a time in every battle when one is victorious and one is defeated. It was our time of defeat. There were only three hundred against almost three thousand. To continue was to waste lives. The sun was rising and they would have killed us. We would not have taken as many of them as there were of us.”
Mir said, “So it was reason and not cowardice that resulted in retreat?”
Bange was still kneeling and said, “Majesty, I ordered the retreat. The men but obeyed. If you find fault in my action, then the fault is mine alone.”
Mir could see Bange was wounded and bandaged in several places. Mir asked, “Would you make the same decision again under the same circumstances?”
“Yes, Majesty.”
Mir said, “Good. It was wise under the circumstances. Go rest and recover from you wounds. I fear I will have need of you and your men. You may leave and join your men.”
Bange said, “Thank you, Majesty.” He got up and left.
Mir looked at Lex. “What do you think?”
Lex said, “I think I would have done the same in his position.”
Mir nodded agreement. “Though they died bravely, it was folly for Wald and Cormard to engage the enemy in open battle when they did not have to.”
Lex said, “They did bleed the enemy heavily.”
Mir said, “Knowing this general, it is not over yet.”

       Copyright 2015 by Michael O’Gara

This is the second installment of the serial book Mir. 

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Chapter 2

For two days, it was quiet in the camp. On the second day Mysha returned. On day three, Mir asked the men and women to gather.
Mir addressed the group, “Tomorrow I will leave for a better place to winter. There is natural shelter and much game. I will take all those who wish to go. I advise you to come because the elevation here is high and there will probably be heavy snow and game is not as plentiful.”
Mir stepped down and there was much discussion among those who had listened.
Mysha came to Mir, “I will go and the best women hunters have already decided to follow you.”
Mir said, “Good. I think it is time.”
Mysha knew what she meant. She gathered those that believed as she and Mir did. They hunted a prize worthy of sacrifice. They took it to the top of the nearest peak and made a burnt offering to the Creator.
On day three, Mir was surprised to find that everyone including the men had decided to go with her. There would be no further violent disagreements. Those who were going with her were the strongest, smartest, and most independent of the tribe. They were warriors or huntresses. The huntresses had roamed far and wide with their husbands or fathers before those men had died in the fight against the invaders.
Mir’s band travelled deeper into the woods than any of them, except Mir, had ever been. Mir led them for two days to the fertile valley that teamed with game. She had discovered the caves when she’d hunted here. Her special gift had enabled her to find this place.
Mir said as she dropped her pack, “The caves are cool in summer and warm in winter. The largest has a spring and pool deep inside it and there is a narrow chimney from which smoke will escape from a large winter fire. The cave has many alcoves which will make good sleeping areas. We just have to clear out any creatures now here. Mysha, choose five and bring us venison. Bel, take some women and gather edibles.” Mir pointed, “You will find berries and nuts about a half mile that way near a stream.” Mir said, “The rest of us will make camp.”
It did not take the women in camp long to clean out the large cave which had two entrances. They soon had a fire pit ready outside and had explored the inside. This one cave would easily accommodate a hundred people so they had plenty of room.
Skold took some of the women and went to cut wood. As dusk approached three of the women who had gone with Skold had returned. Skold and one woman were still gone. Mir was worried and went looking for them. She found them.
Mir found old Skold coupling with a woman, Gaylee, who was a third his age. Skold who was on the bottom, looked at Mir and said, “I’m old, not dead.”
Mir turned and walked back to camp. When Skold returned to camp, Mir took him aside.
Mir said, “Friend Skold, we cannot afford for all the women to end up with child. I require that you restrict your recreation to the one.”
Skold smiled and said, “A most reasonable command. I will obey.”
Mir was not worried about the other men who were married. It would turn out that Skold may have been old, but he could still father children.
The next day the men and several women started construction of a palisade in front of two cave entrances. It would keep animals such as wolves and bears at bay.
Mir and Mysha and a few close huntresses went up the mountain. They hunted and killed a mountain goat and took it to the top of the mountain. They built an altar and slaughtered it. They built a fire and offered the goat as a burnt sacrifice to the Creator. These women all believed there was only one God and not a myriad of competing gods who struggled for dominance.
It was dusk when the women returned to camp.
Skold came to Mir, “I assume you were making a sacrifice of thanksgiving?”
“Yes. Do you have a problem with that?”
Skold said, “What is one more god?”
Mir said, “It is not one more, but the only one.”
Skold said, “Well, if we survive the winter, I may just believe in your Creator God.”
Mir said, “Good.”
Skold was obviously taken aback.
Throughout the fall the group fished, hunted, trapped, and gathered. They prepared, preserved, and stored up more than enough food to get them through the winter. The group had sufficient salt and tanned furs to augment the fur winter garments they had brought with them. They cut and stored a lot of wood for the winter fires.
Each day, Skold would train the women in small groups for at least an hour. They learned how to use battle weapons. Though most could use the bow and spear well, few were good with sword and shield. Over the winter that changed. The women got stronger, harder, and more accomplished.
Each full moon, Mir would go to the mountain top to make a sacrifice. The group of women who went with her increased as the weeks passed. At first, it was the success they were having that made the people believe in Mir’s God. As time went on, they grew to see the logic of it in all that was around them. Mir pointed to the unity and complexity of nature and the laws which governed the natural order. She explained that such a grand design could not exist in the presence of competing gods.
As the weather got colder, the group made one of the smaller caves into a shelter for the horses and gathered winter feed for them. Through the fall, the horses were pastured under guard to protect them from the wolves that roamed the area. In the process the guards obtained some nice wolf pelts.
The winter was harsher than usual that year, but the group wintered well. There was only one sickness and the woman died. The only time that winter that most of the group left the cave at once was for the building of the funeral pyre and the funeral ceremony.
Finally, spring broke. It was a sunny day and the snow was melting. Skold came and stood beside Mir who was looking over the valley. The scream was quite loud and Skold winced.
Mir said with a smile, “Her suffering is your fault.”
Skold sighed, “I know.”
Mir smiled, “She’ll soon forget the pain and enjoy that she is a mother.”
Skold said, “I hope it is a son.”
Mir said, “I have often wondered if you followed me not out of loyalty but out of lust. Being the unattached male seemed to have its advantage for you.”
Skold smiled, “Indeed. An old man, when he is the only available man, still may have some appeal.”
Mir said, “I will be taking a dozen with me to see how those who stayed behind have fared.”
Skold said, “I fear not well. They should have followed you.”
One of the women came to Skold and said, “You have a son.”
Skold smiled and followed the woman. Gaylee had given birth to the first child to be born in the group and Mir hoped there would be more. Mir knew Gaylee’s child, once weaned, would be cared for by one of the four older women who would be the camp keepers. In the meantime, Gaylee would stay close to the camp.
The next morning, Mir went hunting. Later, she climbed the mountain with most of her tribe. On top of the mountain, they burned the meat as an offering to God.
The next day, Mir, along with two warriors and a dozen huntresses, left for the fortress. They took horses packing what they needed and relief supplies for any survivors at the fortress.
Mysha, who was walking next to Mir, said, “I fear those left behind are dead.”
Mir said, “Even if the enemy did not attack, I doubt they wintered as well as we did in the caves.”
Mysha said, “It was a long winter. A few times I even considered that Skold didn’t look so bad after all.”
Mir laughed and Mysha smiled.