During Darkness season, Hrothgar put together a band of 15 warriors to recreate Kulebras's quest to smite the Jenarong warlord and gain the favor of the earth goddess Vyrope. Murhardavu's wife Ezelethia, as a priestess of Naveria, would act as Vyrope, although her blessings were more city-oriented.
Acting as Kulebras, he began the quest by summoning a sky bull. Nallindia identified herself as Red Woman, Murhardavu said he was Khordavu, Furlam was the Thunderer, Martog was Black Eater, Verdun was Elmal. Hrothgar then brought everyone effortlessly to the Other Side. The weather was blustery, and there was no sun. A woman approached wearing a square hat woven of reeds. Kneeling before Hrothgar she said, "I am oppressed by a warlord who seeks to kill me and enslave my children." Hrothgar offered help in exchange for her blessing, and she told him three things about the warlord, who was a minion of the Emperor: he could ride down his foes, he could kill men from across the field with an arrow at a full gallop, and no footman could stand against him.
Hrothgar and his band rode north along the river, and soon found a small encampment. Six men on horses were giving orders to about fifteen footmen.
Hrothgar announced himself as Kulebras, champion of his people. The leader replied that he was Dardeshkorgos, servant of the Emperor. "You have a rebel in your custody. Release him and the Emperor will pardon you of your crimes." Hrothgar laughed loudly, and said, "You are merely a Jenarong warlord. The real emperor is dead, and you will fall beneath my sword." Murhardavu denounced him as Kazkurtum, and proclaimed him devoid of justice. At this, he and his horsemen began galloping around, loosing arrows at Murhardavu and wounding two of his bodyguards. Hrothgar struck down two horsemen with a lightning bolt, and Verdun felled one with an arrow. Nallindia disemboweled a footman with her Twirling Blade Feat. Dardeshkorgos then decided to charge. Hrothgar cast more lightning at Dardeshkorgos. Nallindia waded into the footmen, cutting down two. Dardeshkorgos tried to leap into the air, but the sky bull flew down to prevent this. Hrothgar called down one extraordinarily bright bolt of lightning on Dardeshkorgos, which left no identifiable remains. They took eleven footmen captives, but later realized that one got away. They also captured a dozen large white horses and the accoutrements of a Dara Happan nobleman.
They returned to Ernandel, where the priestess was waiting. Hrothgar asked her to devote herself to blessing the fields of Ernandel, and offered to set up a shrine to her goddess, Naveria. He gave her some of the Dara Happan regalia.
Hrothgar gave each participant a horse, and equivalent wealth to the two trolls. He donated to the Orlanth temple, and held a feast.
Hrothgar turned the captives over to Furlam, who asked Murhardavu to be responsible for them.
Nallindia and Furlam travelled to Grizzley Peak. The four most prominent kings of the Heortlings were Deskedov Peacemaker, king of the Liornvuli, about 65 years old and one of the greatest warriors and most learned lawspeakers of the Heortlings. The Liornvuli were known for their long hair. The wealthiest king was Bolthor Bronzebones, king of the Orgorvoltes. He was known for his friendship with trolls. Antler Karnstal, king of the Penentelli, was famed for his magical talent and for being the best hunter of the Heortlings, having hunted God-time animals. The youngest was Haradangian the Proud, king of the Berennethtelli, said to be the greatest orator and proudest man of all the Heortlings.
Bolthor Bronzebones offered gifts, and Antler Karnstal offered friendship in exchange for support. It seemed that Deskedov Peacemaker had the most backing among the leading men.
Korolf Greybeard, greatest of the lawspeakers, had been Orlmast's advisor. He asked them to support Haradangian.
Nallindia supported Karnstal, while Furlam supported Bolthor. However, both kings soon fell out of contention, leaving Deskedov and Haradangian as candidates, and Furlam and Nallindia both gave their support to Haradangian. Everyone expected Deskedov to win the contest of combat, but Haradangian produced a young thane named Rastalulf the Thunderer, who summoned a tremendous storm. Everyone realized that Rastalulf was a true hero.
Haradangian was acclaimed high king, and assembled his ring. He named Rastalulf as Champion. Haradangian's oratory spoke for a return to the old ways, when the Heortlings were strong.
Nallindia joined with the other Vingans who swore personal oaths to Haradangian.
By the end of the year, the population of Ernandel was up to 800 -- a quarter were Dara Happan, and one in ten Lakreni. The top social tier were the Orlanthi thanes. The old native leadership generally supported the Orlanthi, since the city had prospered under them. The artisans fiercely protected their independence. The majority of the population were farmers, fishers, Dara Happan peasants, and unskilled laborers.
There was tension betwen the three ranking priestesses. Henemara, priestess of Nealda-Oria, was the most popular with the people, and with the Dara Happan farmers who already loved their goddess Oria. Ranella, Furlam's wife and priestess of the spiritual earth Ernalda, also had a substantial following, especially among the Lakreni. Ezelethia, the priestess of Naveria, was mostly popular with the Dara Happans, though she acknowledged the superiority of Oria in the fields.
Oswind approached Murhardavu and offered him wealth if he would free one of his women, to be his wife. Murhardavu was confused at first, but finally found a young woman willing to marry him. Oswind gave her a wooden sword as a wedding gift, and began instructing her in its use.
Oswind laid down black tiles to create a shrine to Humakt.
By Sacred Time, the frost was gone, and flowers bloomed during the ceremonies.
Part Six | Part Eight
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