They returned to the Forest of Rist, where they were greeted by "Speaks-To-Meat." He seemed impressed by the troll heads, but asked, "Is that it then, city-lord? You have fought with some of the Takers?" Furlam said that they had determined that the trolls were indeed outlaws, and that the Council would support their destruction. "You and your folk will accompany us."
"Speaker-To-Meat" led them into the woods, which seemed to move as they passed. They continued after sunset, despite Nallindia's complaints. Furlam got them to slow down slightly, but they pressed on. Finally they stopped, outside a grove of huge trees. There were lights ahead, coming from several warriors wearing copper armor.
Their leader spoke in perfect Theyalan: "Greetings, Furlam of Ernandel. You may call me Taris Sharpthorn. You may consider me the King of Rist." He had everyone sit, then asked how the negotiations went. Furlam said that they had indeed determined that the Zorak Zorani were acting independently of the Queendom of Yolp. Taris said that he was perfectly aware of this, for they have raided Rist since the Darkness. He said that Furlam was known to be skilled at gathering humans together to fight, and would like his help gathering humans to fight. Furlam answered, "Yes, Heort's mutual support helped both people survive. But it's easier to raise an army in summer"
Taris said that the daughters of Aldrya cried to him to protect them from the Taker. "The Eater is stronger now than when the Sun returned, and it is harder to carry out my duties each year. I had heard that you were an open-minded thinker, and had hoped that during darkness you would be able to raise your army to help, as your ancestors did." He said that they'd be friends of Rist, and "I will support you where the High King will not." Furlam promised to go home and raise an army, and return to support him, but he asked how many Zorak Zorani there were.
"It is not their numbers so much as their magic. Orlanth cannot defend the forest, but he and his sons can break trolls. Do you give me your word, as a descendant of Orlanth, that you will gather an army to bring to Rist next darkness?"
Furlam gave his word to gather as large an army as possible. Nallindia also promised to defend the green valley. Martog tried to offer aid, but Taris said that they couldn't accept succor from the slayers of Arroin.
They returned to the Ernandel.
Erilindia sent gifts, and strongly expected Dara-ni support against the Heortlings.
It was said that the Emperor of Dara Happa held a celebration in Earth season, of his victory over Pelanda. It was attended by representatives of all his cities. Murhardavu said that this meant he had passed the test that Shargash put to an Emperor.
Murhardavu's emissary brought several captives to Alkoth, where the Red King told that him that this was proper behavior for defeated barbarians, and ignored the ransom offer for the remaining prisoners. He returned, but was unable to convince the Orlanthi to return the rest of the Alkothi.
During Storm season, a large, impressive boat came up the Erinflarth from Dara Happa, carrying about 40 men. When they were challenged, a tall man with a long robe spoke in Dara Happan. He was Darvdashu of Raibanth, the voice of Mahzanelm, bearing news from the Emperor. An Orlanthi with them said, "My master is the man of the Great Emperor, here to give the Emperor's decree." Furlam offered minimal hospitality. The emissary said, "Is this the love you give to the Emperor?" and threw aside the cup of water he'd been given. "The one true emperor brings peace and order to the lands of the rebels. He knows your people have long rebelled against the true order, but the Emperor is a merciful man. He wishes to offer the opportunity to return to the empire." Needless to say, the offer was refused. After a few more exchanges, the Orlanthi began a wapentake. The Dara Happan recited a ritual poem, and Furlam challenged him to a poetry contest, but the Dara Happan kept his cool and embarrassed Furlam. Martog kept the fyrd from rushing him, but Furlam blasted him with a lightning bolt. At this, the archers loosed a volley. Martog went down. Hrothgar and Oswind led the attack. Nallindia took down the leader with her Twirling Blade Feat, after which the boat was easily captured. Half of the Dara Happans were killed, and most of the rest seriously wounded, but Murhardavu pleaded for their lives, and had Darvdashu cared for.
They found gifts on the boat, including rice wine.
Hrothgar started preparing to repeat the quest to gain the Red Destroyer's lightning, and gave gifts worth a horse to several leaders.
Hrothgar convinced Kaliach Mountain-Leaper to join the quest. Martog brought an alynx named Fang, which had been hanging out at her temple. Nallindia talked to the Orlanthi translator, Hortu of the Bisoi. He was not happy in captivity, but was not willing to go on the quest. Oswind and Murhardavu convinced one of the high-ranking Alkothi named Shadasgavu to bring them to the Enclosure.
Furlam offered the full support of the local Orlanth cult. Hostingas the Storm Voice warned Hrothgar about the omens. Thanks to the warning, Hrothgar was able to perform the passage to the otherworld very effectively. The winds picked up as they climbed the great mountain to Umath's camp. A group of gods argued about what to do, now that their father was dead. Nallindia goaded Vadrus to avenge himself on the Red Destroyer. He took a swing at her, just on general principles, and knocked her down. Oswind then stepped in, and rather than fight Humakt, Vadrus leaped into the sky. There was a cataclysmic fight, but the Red Destroyer knocked Vadrus out of the sky ninety-nine times. Finally Vadrus didn't get back up.
Nallindia guided them to the north, but the landscape quickly became unfamiliar. They passed through a salty marsh dotted with ruined forts and huge bronze skeletons. Oswind spotted a giant uzuz approaching, and an army of trolls in the distance. The war leader called out, "Orlanth, your father wounded us, and you have stolen from us. I will now kill you and avenge us."
Martog saw that it was either Gore or Gash. She said, "Mighty twin, Orlanth seeks to steal power from one who would harm all of us. Let him go." He ignored her, and charged forward.
But Hrothgar brought forth the Scarf of Mist, and used it to conceal the entire group.
They managed to find Shadasgavu, who was very confused. Murhardavu said that it was the Age of Shargash, and that he was Antirius. He commanded him to show the way to Shargash's hall. But Shadasgavu denied that he was Antirius, since he was travelling with barbarians. Murhardavu convinced him that Antirius had bound together many different people. Murhardavu asked him for the secret path to Shargash's Enclosure.
"I will take you there, but you must find the great river." Fang the alynx led them to a vast body of water. They couldn't see the other side, but it was flowing in a single direction. Huge currents sometimes coiled up out of the water. Shadsgavu warned, "It is important not to enter the water." They travelled for a great distance until they saw the towering green walls of Alkoth. "The Enclosure is within. It matters not what path you take, for all paths take you to the Enclosure." He pointed to a gatehouse built outside the walls, well defended. Martog threatened him until he admitted that there was another route into the Enclosure. He led them to a smaller gate, guarded by four Shadzoring demons. Hrothgar freed him from servitude to the Red Destroyer, and he ran off.
Verdun fired an arrow into the eye of the large-mouthed demon, and Hrothgar fired an arrow which went in up to the feathers in the long-toothed demon. The long-necked lizard-headed demon knocked Martog reeling. The long-toothed demon attacked Nallindia, but Wrathful saved her from injury. The lizard-headed demon grabbed Kaliach in its jaws and ground him to a paste. Murhardavu healed Oswind. The crocodile-headed demon wounded Rastagar. Murhardavu healed Nallindia, not even leaving a scar. The lizard-headed demon spit out Kaliach, and Hrothgar wedged his shield in its jaws until it collapsed, choking.
Martog was unable to save Kaliach, so she ate most of him to restore her strength to continue the quest.
Fang guided them through a labyrinth of dark tunnels unti they arrived at a vast cavern lit by smokey torches. Countless Shadzoring demons were organizing the dead in some unfathomable fashion, and burning them like logs.
A guant old man, naked but for a loincloth, smeared with ashes, came forward carrying a curved scepter. "You were not sent here by the Red Detroyer. What are you doing here?"
"I am Hrothgar, and I have come to claim the sky bolt."
"You can take it if you wish, but you are my prisoner, and you will never leave the Enclosure until the world is destroyed."
"I wager my breath against you." Hrothgar won the bet, and took the Sky Bolt.
"Everyone who gave breath, I recognize as being alive. You, troll, do not belong here. Go!"
Everyone shakily returned to the surface, and came out blinking in the light. They found themselves back in the sacred grounds of Ernandel.
Everyone acclaimed Hrothgar as Hrothgar Lightning.
Part Thirteen | Part Fifteen
David Dunham Page | Glorantha Page | Dawn Age