Nallindia hastened to High King Haradangian, along the same paths that Vinga used to reach Vingkot. Although she encountered opposition, she arrived at the small city of Otryga, *** km to the south, in just 12 hours.
Haradangian and his army were encamped outside Otryga. His campaign had been very successful so far: Rastalulf had defeated several of Erilindia's champions in single combat, and Haradangian had led the army to victory. There had been a battle outside Urar Baar, and the trolls there had acknowledged the High King's overlordship.
Nallindia obtained an audience with Haradangian, looking her best by using Dronyesta Foxhair's magic, aided by Calla, the flower spirit she had befriended in Rist. After delivering the news, she tried to convince him to march north to fight Erilindia's army. Korolf, king of the Infithitelli, pointed out that there was rumored to be another army somewhere near Mammoth Gate, and that the army was already about ready to go home. After persuading Haradangian that the military situation would not allow a battle with Erilindia this year, he tried to ridicule Nallindia, but she spoke well for herself, and Haradangian gave her an impressive spear, inlaid with silver. She left the High King on very good terms. At the camp, she recruited Indern, a well-spoken warrior of the Liornvuli.
The scars of the recent attack were everywhere. At least a third of the buildings were burnt husks.
Hygleaf arrived to escort a group to Erilindia, Director of Terarir.
Hrothgar assembled an entourage, including Oswind, Murhardavu, Verdun, Martog, Henstal Hendsson, and Kaliach.
As they entered Erilindia's camp, they realized she had 500-600 men. They were ushered to a large pavilion guarded by two Humakti. Inside, it was lavishly appointed. There were a score of earth priestesses, dedicated to some aspect of Oria. There was a huge green-haired bodyguard with an axe. Erilindia herself was astonishingly beautiful, with long blonde hair. She was often called the most beautiful woman of the Orlanthi. Erilindia smiled. Henstal ignored her, Murhardavu held pious thoughts, but the other men were smitten, Oswind most of all. Erilindia gave her titles: Queen of the Oslira, Director of Terarir, Lord of Durleel, Granddaughter of Orlanth. She said, "You have trespassed against me." Oswind replied, "How can we make it up to you?" Erilindia's lawspeaker answered, "According to the Ledger of Terarir, the value of the town of Jillaro is $$$. Blue Rock is worth ###. There were also lost revenues." Murhardavu asked if they could calculate the value of the lives of the soldiers Erilindia would lose taking Blue Rock the next time she faced the Heortling King. Martog also argued that rooting out the army would be time-consuming and costly, and the city would be devoured first. Erilindia smiled, but it was a cruel smile, and said, "The High King is many days to the south. He will not come to your aid before my army, if I so choose, seizes Blue Rock. But it would be expensive to do so, and I would like to avoid it if it is not absolutely necessary. And it appears that the majority of your ring members would agree to any settlement I propose." Erilindia made several demands. Martog, Henstal, and Murhardavu negotiated for several days. They finally agreed to acknowledge Erilindia as Queen of the Oslira, pay 50 marks, provide followers for annual military service or a scutage of 15 marks, and guarantee a trade market in Ernandel. Erilindia's sage presented a document. Only Oswind was unwilling to swear an oath to anyone but his god, but he did agree to the terms. A few of the men worried that they had originally set out to support the High King.
The Army of Dara-ni marched out of Blue Rock and joined Erilindia's army. She now had nine mercenary captains under her, only one of whom had a larger company than Hrothgar's. Her force now numbered about 1000. The Nogtenos river folk fully supported Erilindia. She had another army to the south, of about 300-400. They were surprised by Haradangian, who had moved overland and taken Urar Baar despite being outnumbered, largely due to the heroics of Rastalulf. Erilindia now planned to retake Urar Baar, using the magic of the Nogtenos to travel upriver as if it were downriver.
They passed Durleel, which had imposing walls, and made it to Urar Baar. It was built at the junction of the Black Eel and the Oslir, under a huge bluff called Glacier Break, where Orlanth had stopped Valind. The army camped outside. Erilindia negotiated with the Uz overlords, who proclaimed Urar Baar an "open city." Erilindia then camped and waited for Haradangian to return.
Haradangian's army marched by, on the other side of the Oslir, and camped at a ford. There was a magical duel, where Haradangian proved that Erilindia had no power to the south of Glacier Break, but she retained her dominance to the north. Rastalulf and about 20 men went into the river, and began taunting Erilindia's army, trying to call out a challenger. Oswind accepted.
Rastalulf was standing atop the river, which was actually a horse ford, and he congratulated Oswind as the only one with any bravery, taunting the others. He then blew the waters away so that Oswind could join him in the ford. Oswind drew his iron sword, and Rastalulf said he would defeat him with his spear. Rastalulf struck him down with single blow. Oswind weakly said, "Next time, let's both fight with swords." Rastalulf then continued taunting the warriors.
Hrothgar then pitted his lightning against Rastalulf's thunder. Rastalulf knocked him down with a clap of thunder.
Rastalulf called out several more champions, and easily defeated each of them.
Erilindia approached the ford, and repeatedly tried to seduce him to her side. Rastalulf kept repeating that he owed allegiance to only one person, the High King of the Heortlings. Finally, Erilindia said, "No man can spurn me without my curse," and pronounced a curse on Rastalulf, saying "You are not a man." He replied, "I am a hero."
Meanwhile, Haradangian's army was crossing the Oslir, and then marching back north towards Urar Baar.
Erilindia said that the magic was not good to stand at this point, and ordered her army to move north.
Martog tried to challenge Rastalulf, but he told her it was not her fight, and refused to leave the ford.
Martog healed Hrothgar, and he decided to challenge Rastalulf again. Once more, he was knocked down.
Once Erilindia's army retreated, Rastalulf left the ford.
Haradangian eventually retook Urar Baar.
The two sides sent messengers, and it was agreed that the Jader River lands were still Erilindia's. The Heortlings had lost more men, but Erilindia lost more champions.
Nallindia had somehow gone past the army while it travelled south on the river. She arrived in Blue Rock after her friends had left. She summoned Snapper, and made it back to Ernandel just before the Army of Dara-ni.
Furlam threw a feast for the returning warriors. He and Nallindia were aghast to learn of the bargain they had made with Erilindia. Furlam offered to release him from his oath to the city. Finally, Furlam distanced himself from both Erilindia and the High King by proclaiming his support for the High Council in Dorastor.
News came that Mahzanelm had defeated his foe, and was sole Emperor of Dara Happa. Murhardavu was upset.
Part Eight | Part Ten
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