The ring held its first meeting in the fortified central building, which had been built by Hestenus in the Dara Happan style. Furlam invited everyone. Many citizens showed up, but many of the cities noted leaders, including the Nealda-Oria priestesses and the craftsmen, didn't attend. Unfortunately, Furlam's opening words confused everyone. A large number of townsmen then raised the issue of compensation for damages suffered during the attack. Verdun tried to sway the leaders, but it took all the Odrangings to quiet the crowd. Furlam argued that there could be no claims made for deeds that occurred while the city warred against him, but promised that the reborn city would be even wealthier in the future.
The ring repealed Hestenus's tribute, but proposed the traditional city duties and fees, the traditional rights of an Orlanthi chieftain, and membership fees for the new cult of Ernandel. There was little support among the people, and the ring announced that the city cult would welcome all who dwelled within. The people accepted this.
Trade began again upriver. But Gulhenth the guildmaster and the artisans refused to sell in the market, or provide skilled crafters. Elarandra went to visit Gulhenth, who demanded wergild for twelve deaths. She convinced him to drop this demand, but he insisted that the guild be free of fees, have self-rulership, and have a seat on the ring.
Furlam asked Gulhenth to discuss this with the ring, and he showed up with thirty supporters. The ring granted them the right of self-justice, and the right to determine the rules of the guild. Gulhenth accepted this as just.
Sekinmor visited other cities, and told their craftsmen that they could move to Ernandel and have self-rule. None were willing to move.
The farmers and Nealda-Oria priestesses were concerned that the harvest would be bad, because the Sea season rituals had been conducted by Ketisum, who was now dead. They were also concerned that at the end of Earth season, Lord Demon of Death and his army would be returning on his way to Dorastor.
The ring decided to attempt to enter the harvest ceremony, and prove that Orlanth was the protector of Nealda-Oria, who was really Ernalda.
When they arrived at the Orlanth temple to begin the Rescue of Ernalda ritual, Hastingas, the local priest of Orlanth, raised a token objection, but let the ritual proceed. Furlam led the rescue party to the Other Side. They arrived in the ceremony just as Henemara, acting as Nealda-Oria, was bemoaning the loss of her consort. Furlam, acting as Orlanth, said that he had slain the Evil Emperor, and was here to liberate her. Henemara protested that Nealda was the goddess of blood and sex, but Furlam identified Nealda as goddess of women and rulership, the same as Ernalda. The companions drove off her guardians, and they carried her to the fields, where Furlam consummated the harvest ritual. The harvest turned out to be good, exceeding everyone's expectations.
Furlam then gave generous gifts to his wife.
Lord Demon of Death passed through on his way back to Dorastor, but his army did little damage.
They began repairing the city walls.
During Storm season, one of the patrols reported a group of 20 strangers at the perimeter of their range. A group rode out from the city to meet them. Their leader was Jarstangulf, brother of king Joristan of Cafol. One of his men, Karlinlog, rebuffed Nallindia's friendly conversation, insulting all Heortlings.
Jarstangulf presented rich gifts on behalf of his brother, and Furlam gave equal gifts in return. He said that Ernandel had traditionally paid tribute to Cafol, and asked Furlam to fulfil the normal requirements. Hrothgar said that the city was a grant from his brother, the warlord of Lakrene. Jarstangulf replied that they would hold it at the pleasure of his brother. Furlam gave an additional two pounds of silver as a friendship gift. Sorel advised Furlam that indeed Ketisum had paid tribute, but earlier lords of the city did so only infrequently. During the feast, Borgalof the Strong challenged Hrothgar to a contest of strength, which Hrothgar easily won. Karlinlog insulted Heortlings further, boasting how Cafol had taken much of norther Terarir from the Council and the Heortlings.
The Orlanth rituals were a mixture of Voranel and Ernandel.
Near the end of Storm season, a dozen Heortling riders arrived. Hend Stallion of the Berenethtelli tribe, a hall-warrior of the High King of the Heortlings, was their leader. He gave three marks of silver as recognition that the Lakreni had retaken Ernandel, and said that there was more from the same source. Orlmast the High King was seeking friends and allies against Erilindia, Director of Terarir. He planned war against her people next year, and offered full shares of plunder to anyone who would follow his banner. Ernandel promised to send at least twenty men.
Nallindia made a quick trip to Voranel, but was unable to recruit anyone since several warbands had been raised already. Kuleneth told Hrothgar that the Heortlings had already fought for four years against Erilindia without success, and he doubted this year would be any different.
The war party marched for two weeks to Uraldasstead and joined the muster of the High King in good spirits. Only about half the tribes had mustered but Lord Demon of Death had brought a contingent of about 150. They enjoyed Orlmast's hospitality. Orlmast was a big man, nearing his old age. He had a bald head and an impressive beard. He wore the torc that Heort himself had worn.
Orlmast's campaign consisted of extracting tribute from small towns, and sacking towns that refused. But they were never able to meet Erilindia's forces, and his army became frustrated. Finally they decided to attack the rich trade center of Fandara. They briefly besieged the city, then enthusiastically sacked it. A hundred citizens were killed outright, and many were injured. Nallindia was forced to kill a Zorak Zorani Death Lord who was attempting to kill a group of women. Lord Demon of Death demanded compensation for the killing, which Hrothgar paid out of the plunder.
Before the army disbanded, the High King gave rich gifts to Hrothgar.
Sekinmor led the Lakreni through the hills of Sylila, along fateful paths. Jangi was the first to see a twelve-foot tall, reddish man, sitting by an oak whose top had been blasted by lightning, accompanied by several huge mastiffs. Nallindia gave the Greeting, and the giant replied that he was King Baradom, and he could not let the group pass until his crown was restored. He said his crown was broken when his wife Redalda was taken by Eliakos. Nallindia told everyone that Redalda was Vingkot's daughter and Vinga's mother, and had married Beren the Rider, one of Vingkot's house warriors. Together they founded the Berenethtelli tribe. She figured that Beren rescued Redalda from Eliakos, and that Baradom never got her back.
Eliakos was a minion of the Evil Emperor -- some say one of his sons. When Orlanth killed the Evil Emperor, Eliakos was one of those who fled the field. But he continued to rule as a tyrant over the lands north of Kero Fin. He took as his thrall concubine a woman later called the Winter Wife. The Winter Wife beseeched Vingkot for aid. Vingkot defeated Eliakos, defeated the river dragons, and married the Winter Wife. One of their daughters was Redalda. Redalda married Beren the Rider, a foreigner who brought his warriors.
Nallindia offered to have Kothar Fire-Tamer repair it, but Baradom said he couldn't leave the spot. He said that if his crown were restored, he would restore peace to his lands. Folk once came from the east, and he gave them his son Balurgan to help look for the crown, but they never came back.
Baradom agreed to answer three questions. Nallindia asked how he came to marry Redalda. Baradom said that he was her brother, and they married because they were the two people of the land, so of course they married. "Where can we find your crown?" "Eliakos travelled off to the northeast." Nallindia asked what else they could do, other than restore the crown. He considered a long while, then said he was incomplete without Redalda.
Nallindia tried to claim kinship, since her hero, Dronyesta Foxhair, was Redalda's granddaughter. But Baradom asked if she were related to his daughter, the Red Haired Woman, and Nallindia said that the Red Haired Woman was Beren's daughter.
Sekinmor said he would help, and Baradom said he could pass if he swore by He Who Keeps Oaths and the Black River, to find his wife. Sekinmor agreed, and Baradom let him reach the oak.
They returned quickly to Ernandel, to learn that several local clans had tried hit-and-run raids in their absence.
Furlam decided to bring 40 warriors and gifts to the Gardar sept, the royal clan of the Orlanteffings. They were met by a dozen warriors on foot, and escorted to King Terumath.
Terumath's village was about 500 people, and he controlled seven other clans. Tarumath was a broad-backed man, whose hall was full of warriors. He offered client status and protection to Ernandel. Furlam pointed out that Ernandel was friends with the warlords of Lakrene, and of Dorastor. Terumath then asked if they were Lord Demon of Death's proxy. Furlam repeated that they had not come to pay fealty, and that Ernandel was an independent city. Terumath asked what would happen if he took Ernandel tomorrow. Hrothgar said that those who took Ernandel were in this hall. Jangi spoke up to the king, who said he was a brave man, and could be his friend. But he would not be the friend of weak mercenary captains. Terumath said, "Furlam Rich-man's son did not conquer Ernandel." The Warlord of Lakrene had other distractions, and at least two other kings, plus the Sylilans, all claimed the city. Furlam composed a fine poem in rebuttal, but Terumath answered that his ancestor Gardar divided the world into three kinds of people: the strong, Gardar and his family; the weak under his protection, the other seven clans of the Orlanteffings; and those who were neither strong nor protected, his enemies. After some discussion, Terumath asked again if Furlam would accept his protection. Furlam refused, and Terumath said he would consult his council, and asked them to leave the tula. The message eventually came that Ernandel would learn the value of Orlanteffing protection.
Lanad, the priest of Lod-Barntar, complained that the temple had not received many endowments lately. Furlam once again participated in the harvest ritual. The harvest was not as good as the previous year, but it was adequate.
Jangi attempted to contact the troll warbands he had fought alongside, but was attacked and wounded by trolls, and had to flee.
The city's Orlanth rituals focused on his Lifebringer aspect. But before they travelled to Orlanth's hall, they were challenged by Terumath Broad-back, who cast himself as Gardar, master of the winds, and attempted to cast Furlam as a recalcitrant chief. Furlam identified Terumath as Vadrus, and himself as Orlanth. Terumath's storm magic prevailed, but it was a difficult fight. Furlam was able to continue with the ceremony.
Hrothgar led a cattle raid against one of the Orlanteffing septs. They killed four men, and captured 20 cows.
Part Four | Part Six
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