News came that Lagnal Blue-eyes had managed to install himself as lord of Laradana, backed by displaced Dara-ni and former outlaws.
After receiving the news of the heroquest, the three closest clans sent gifts.
Oswind noticed an unusually large flock of ravens, so many that they were picking on the corpse of a raven.
Furlam and the city ring presided over a moot.
A delegation from Thubana, led by Aski Longbeard, wished to bring up issues of trade and demarcation. They complained that the Kanakorings and Kastangings were traditionally associated with Thubana, and were not rightly clients of Ernandel. The ring agreed to give seven pounds of silver, essentially affirming the status quo.
Kaledin the Fox of the Kastangings brought gifts, and asked the Ring of Ernandel to resolve a dispute between his clan and the Orlanteffings. Kaledin claimed that the Orlanteffings had illegally expanded their boundaries, and were building settlements in Kastanging hunting lands, in particular Blue Spotted Woods. Two Kastanging carls, Bragi and his father Ernulf, were hunting, and Alebard the Skald, a thane of the Orlanteffings, claimed the lands as his. The three men quarrelled, and Alebard and his kin killed Ernulf and wounded Bragi. Kaledin said, "It is undisputed that Ernandel had jurisdiction over the Orlanteffings. I have come here as a friend, and the first king to acknowledge your rule." Since no Orlanteffings had come to the moot, Kaledin asked for judgement. Furlam said that it would not be just to rule without hearing both sides, but unfortunately the next legal moot would be next Storm season. Nallindia recalled Heort's decree that it was be possible for someone to take over a legal case. Oswind agreed to pay the wergild of 15 cows in exchange for rights to the case.
The final issue was whether to send troops to Erilindia. Hrothgar wanted to go. Several people suggested sending the captured Alkothi as the contingent. However, everyone wanted to see what omens were discernible in Sacred Time, and agreed to wait a few weeks to decide.
There were generally ill omens which suggested trouble from the north, war, and the danger of fighting between Orlanthi, so the city decided to send payment to Erilindia in lieu of warriors. Hrothgar and Murhardavu added gifts of their own.
Hrothgar wanted to ask the aid of the Lord Demon of Death, but he was known to be in far-off Kethaela.
Murhardavu questioned his prisoner Darvdashu about Emperor Mahzanelm's plans. He learned that Mahzanelm had received items from all parts of the world, just as Urvairinus and Murharzam had. Darvdashu pointed out that after those great emperors had defeated the forces of the west, they went after the Ram People of the south.
Verdun began improving the city defenses, although he was not able to complete his ambitious plans.
Furlam and Oswind recruited the local clans. Guntorl of the Orlanteffings reminded Furlam that the Blue Spotted Woods were well outside the Kastanging tula. Furlam asked for his aid against the Dara Happan emperor, but Guntorl said that the Emperor was too strong to stand against. Furlam pointed out that this time all of Orlanth's mysteries were arrayed against the Emperor. Guntorl agreed to help with 50 warriors, but made it clear that Furlam would have to agree that Blue Spotted Woods was not originally part of Kastanging tula. The Sardarkestings were only willing to help once Ernandel was under attack. The Kanakorings agreed to send a full complement of warriors. Wolenath of Thubana agreed to meet the army to the north, as long as the two city lords were treated as equals. Kaledin agreed to send his normal contingent in response to the war arrow.
Hrothgar went to Lakrene to recruit help, and managed to gain 20 warriors.
Nallindia, Martog, and Murhardavu went to Dokat. It proved difficult to see the Council through channels, so Martog approached Charmilla, the Xiola Umbar representative, but her response was noncommital.
Nallindia spoke with Rastazar. He said that Urar Baar was again paying tribute to the Heortlings. He complained that many Heortling clans claimed the High King's protection, but wouldn't support him. "The enemy of my enemy is not my enemy." But Nallindia convinced him not to oppose their bid for council support.
Murhardavu met Saratin Seomale, who blathered on about various topics. Finally Murhardavu managed to explain the threat from the Burners. Saratin was still confused, and said he had to speak with the other six.
The hastily gathered Council listened to Murhardavu's explanation, then deliberated in private.
Apparently the Council could not agree on what to do, since the Heortlings didn't want to move their main army, and the Aldryami wanted to wait until there was a clear incursion. Finally, they decided that Furlam, as a Councilic Diplomat, would act as their observer.
Everyone discussed how to defend against the Dara Happans. Nallindia retold the story of how Vingkot defeated them, though people were concerned that his Sword and Helm would be required as regalia for performing his quest.
Shortly after shearing was done, a fast boat arrived from Thubana, with news that an emissary from the Emperor had arrived. Lord Wolenath wanted to know if the army was coming. Furlam sent out the war arrow, but it took four days to gather all the clans. 330 competent warriors assembled. Nearly 130 were mounted. Nemed was left in charge of Ernandel, and the army marched to Thubana.
Wolenath greeted Furlam with an embrace. He explained that the Dara Happan emissary had demanded submission to the Emperor, and a tribute of 50 marks from each city. Laradana had already paid. Wolenath had replied that he couldn't speak for Ernandel, and the ambassador returned to Alkoth, but would be back in three days.
Wolenath had mustered 150 weaponthanes, including some from Laradana. He suggested that all the weaponthanes go to meet the ambassador, and perform wapentake to confirm the leaders' decision.
Sarashnazar, the ambassador, was elaborately dressed in a long gown made of gold thread. He made sure to invoke the herald's peace. Speaking in heavily accented Theyalan, he said that the Orlanthi had been proclaimed rebels against the natural order. They had claimed the lands of Nivorah, which had since the beginning of time belonged to the Emperor. They were no longer paying proper respect to the Emperor, and had shocked the universe by striking down messengers of peace. The Emperor was prepared to unleash his terrible swift justice, but Sarashnazar said, "I beg of you to avoid that fate and submit to the Emperor's mercy," pointing out that the rebels of Pelanda had refused the Emperor's mercy and been crushed.
Furlam replied that the children of Orlanth would never submit to the Emperor's bondage. Sarashnazar said that only the leaders were Orlanthi, but the people were of Nivorah. Furlam gave a detailed account of his lineage, but Sarashnazar called him a descendent of Erlandus the Midget. Things deteriorated into name-calling, but Sarashnazar was able to leave with most of his dignity.
Murhardavu related the myth that he thought the Dara Happans would use, of an Emperor avenging the sack of a Sylilan city. He marched south, set up his forces in rings, and the Orlanthi broke themselves on his formations.
Wolenath suggested taking up positions on a rise south of Laradana, then moving south to hills north of Thubana.
Oswind, Martog, and Verdun took a group of Terarir mercenaries north to harass the Dara Happans. They skirted Laradana, and spotted a large dust cloud, perhaps 100 riders on good horses engaged in competent scouting. They also noticed that it was unseasonally clear and sunny.
That night, they scouted to the camp, which was illuminated by dozens of huge bonfires. Oswind made out many pickets, and estimated that this was one of the biggest armies he had ever seen. They decided to avoid any engagement.
The Dara Happan army continued its advance, and the scouts returned to report. A council was held, which decided on ambushing the mounted scouts
Furlam held the ambush until just the right moment, and Verdun led charge against the horsemen. Their leader rallied well, but then the footmen rose from cover and ran among them. The riders were devastated, and the Orlanthi suffered only minimal losses.
They returned to the southern camp and interrogated captured officers. There had been 100 Rinliddi riders, now out of action. There were still 500 Suvarians (peltasts and archers), 250 Zarkosite slingers, 700 Pelandans (heavily armed spearmen), and 100 holy warriors from Alkoth. They were led by the Emperor and nine officers.
Part Fourteen | Part Sixteen
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