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Librarium

A Meeting of Minds

"I'm not sure about this," the first figure said, ruefully.
"You don't need to be sure, Hjartvar," the second replied gravely, his eyes twinkling in the dull light of the tunnel, "Merely prepared to follow your Warlord – fully." Snaevar saw Hjartvar bristle – though flatteringly, Snaevar considered, he struggled to hide his reaction. I have you now, old friend, Snaevar thought to himself.

In the gloom, Hjartvar looked down, and tugged at his beard. Eventually, he lifted his gaze to meet the Ancestor's, and nodded curtly.
"The answer is yes, but it is not a simple matter. I do not know how long the supply chain will take to..."
"Holocaust Hold will not long stand firm, Hearthguard." Snaevar interrupted, placing emphasis on the warrior's title. "I must prepare my laments for the Saying. Ensure the Sjalvstyri stand ready." He turned on his heel, and began to walk away.
He could sense Hjartvar's apprehension palpably through the Farinfadir, the skein of the warp that allowed him contact with the True Ancestors, and he had almost turned when the anticipated hand fell on his shoulder.

"Ancestor..." Hjartvar began, before the elder interrupted.
"Hjartvar; you have nearly sixty years of battle behind you. I have seen you fight the hrk," here both turned to ritually spit out the name of their most-hated foe, the greenskins, before the Ancestor continued. "I have seen you fight the youngers, and the aelf-folk in turn. Nothing has turned you. I have seen you take a backwards step but once; and that in the face of odds at which the True Ancestors might have balked. What fills you with such trepidation –" he raised a hand to stop Hjartvar interjecting, "– what fills you with such trepidation this day, when the foes you have to face are your comrades; and the death you have to deal is to the hesitation in their minds?"

Hjartvar tugged as his beard in agitation as he replied.
"Ancestor, my arm is stone and my grip is steel; as you say. But I have not a tongue of silver, nor the wit to slay the mind-devils against which you send me to battle." Snaevar tipped his head to one side, and turned to face the hearthguard more fully as he continued. "At the side of my brethren is my place; not ranged against them."
"I cannot compel you to summon the Hold, Hjartvar. None but you – and Young Oddur, of course – can do so." Snaevar rested his hand on his cane, and chewed at his moustache. He looked into the hearthguard's flinty eyes, and further, into his heart.
"With Oddur lost; who then will do so?"
Hjartvar looked down, troubled. Snaevar touched the hearthguard under the chin with the end of his cane, lifting his face upwards. He was pleased – and though he did not show it, a little shaken – by the fire in Hjartvar's eyes. He pressed on, "With Oddur lost; whose hearth are you guarding?"

The moment seemed to stretch. Snaevar wondered if he had misread the hearthguard. The true hearts of the Kin were hidden even from the living ancestors, just as the dimmest tunnels were hidden from sight. Hjartvar was loyal, and true, and held to the precepts of aldur virdingu – the old ways – but for even an ancestor to touch a warrior's face, and to slight his oaths, even by implication...

Snaevar held himself deliberately; his face a mask of iron and stone, facing down his kinsman, who was not nearly as adept at holding his temper inwards. Hjartvar's eye twitched, and his hands opened and closed fitfully for a moment, before he appeared to gather himself a little.

"It... it is well, Ancestor. I will ask no forgiveness, for I have made no fault. I will be about gathering the Sjalvstyri Host." He turned and began to stomp away down the passage.
Snaevar quietly let out a breath he was not aware he had been holding, and composed himself. That had gone about as well as... he started at a  flash of metal as Hjartvar turned.

"Ancestor!" yelled the hearthguard into the gloom. Snaevar turned to face Hjartvar once more, his heart uncertain. "I thought you should be the first to know!" he yelled, then continued without waiting for the Ancestor's response, "We go to fight the borda daudra!"

The Ancestor's face split into a broad grin as Hjartvar turned again, his hearty laughter echoing down the tunnel.