Host Of Black Iron

By Charles Ferguson

Spoken by Thursik Ten-Lashes to the Boy's Sept

Remember the Three Sacred Things of the Hosts of Black Iron!

The First Sacred Thing is the aurochs. Their meat feeds us and their milk suckles us. The swiftest of them pull our chariots, the strongest pull our yurts, the wisest are our Oracle Cows. Wherever the Oracle Cow leads, our Host follows.

The Second Sacred Thing is the chariot. Without it we would walk everywhere, like the Godkillers, or be forced to ride on lesser beasts like Bone People or Elephant Soldiers. Fauugh! Riding on animals is unclean. It crushes a man's stones, making them soft like marrow-jelly, so he can only breed slaves and clay-men! The only fit way for a man to travel is running on his two legs or riding in his chariot.

The Third Sacred Thing is iron. In the Boy’s Sept you will learn to smelt it and to fashion everything you need: javelin-heads, knives, a shield, a broadsword, wheel-rims and fittings for your chariot. Others say that our iron is weak because it's heavy and breaks easily. They do not know its sacred purpose. Its weight makes us strong. Its brittleness teaches us to fight just as skilfully with a whole blade, a broken blade, or no blade. Iron teaches us that the only thing a man can rely on is what's inside him. That's why we go naked except for our aurochs-skin cloaks, our skull helmets, and our spirit-tattoos.

Next summer those of you who survive will be warriors. You will follow our Spirit Hero, Kahasek Hundred-Skulls, when he rides ahead of our Oracle Cow to clear her way. If the Oracle Cow goes south, you will fight the Elephant Soldiers. If she goes north, you will fight the Bone People. If she goes east, you will fight the Godkillers. Pray to the spirits she does not go east. The last time was in my grandfather's youth. They killed our Spirit Hero Yahumka, and half of all the Host’s people and aurochs and spirits. That winter our Host nearly perished.

Now I will tell you something else. In two more summers, or three, our Host will go against another Host. The winning Host's Spirit Hero will eat the losing Spirit Hero and swallow his power. All the people and aurochs and spirits who are left will become a single Host.

In my grandfather's time, Hosts would fight this way only once or twice in a man's life.

But now the Oracle Cows seek each other out. Every few summers the Hosts fight. In a few years, there will be a single Host whose aurochs herds will cover the whole Wastes, and the Spirit Hero that leads them will be a god: the God of the Wastes.

Then we will smash the Elephant Cities like rotten fruit. We will drive the Bone People into the frozen sea. The Godkillers will fall to our iron like children.

Then the whole world will be our pasture.