But this particular Spring morning there were other things on everyone's mind. Herul was playing Fantan at pack wrestling. Fantan was a slightly larger tribe, which gave them a small advantage. Everyone was gathered at the Herul end of the pitch. To one side standing in a line were the thirty women put up as the forfeit for the match. A similar line was visible at the other end of the pitch, but the Fantan women were too far distant to make out their details. But you could be sure that the Heruli stewards had picked the choicest and most attractive females available just as the Fantans had selected the pick of the Heruli.
The rules were simplicity itself. All the men of the appropriate age were stripped to their waists but were not allowed any weapons. The obect was simply to grab members of the other team and lock them in cages at your end of the pitch. You could not leave the pitch under any circumstances. Rescues were permitted. At the end of the two hour span - without breaks - the score was simply the difference between the numbers of captives on either side. The winning side would then pick that number of women from the forfeits. The women would be allocated by the chief, with the expectation that those that played the most prominent role in the match would be awarded the prizes.
Fantan had a good track record at pack wrestling and there was some trepidation among the Heruli that this match may not be one that would have a good ending. But they got off to a good start. They had some promising new younger men who had done well in previous matches, and who had - secrectly because it wasn't really in the spirit of the game - been training and practising. Chief among this group was Astric. He had been working to perfect the trick of one man bending down to produce an obstacle over which a larger player could be pushed over.
It didn't take long for Astric's tactics to start to take effect. The Fantans were soon pushing hard against the Heruli, but although they outnumbered them about 60 to 50 and had several much larger men leading their charges they were not making much headway. This was largely because the Heruli led by Astric targeted and frequently felled the most threatening of their enemies. In fact the way the play was largely in the Heruli half was almost an advantage. They were nearer the Heruli cages and amazingly managed to spirit one of the Fantans into captivity almost unnoticed in the first hour.
As the game progressed the Fantans got steadily more frustrated and more aggressive. But they also got more tired. As the game got into its last half hour they fell still more frequently, but were now less able to recover. With so little time left, Astric and his friends started dragging their victims off once they had felled them. This was risky because it weakened the Heruli still further. And this led to the capture of a couple of Heruli. But they had captured more. As the horn sounded to end the match the score was an amazing five Fantans down to only two Heruli lost.
The captain marched to where the now dejected Fantan supporters were standing. Bows were exchanged. The stunned Fantans congratulated their opponents on a noble performance. The three most attractive women were selected and led back across the pitch to the cheering Heruli. The men were bruised, bleeding and exhausted. But full of pride at what they had achieved. Elm, caught up in the excitement of the game, was jumping up and down clapping her hands drenched in joy.