Four years(?) after he set out, Sekinmor returned from his quest. He had faced horrors in Terarir, aided a powerful Vanchite chieftain, and become involved in a skirmish between Sylilan chieftains. He made his way to the army, and was promptly dispatched to ask the Sylilans for help.
The army leaders planned to line up the cavalry to force the Dara Happans to line up their army, then withdraw from the field. This would delay their advance. Meanwhile, the infantry left to prepare an ambush.
Nallindia and Murhardavu left for Rist to ask the aldryami for assistance.
As the cavalry lined up, Janalath Cloud-Waker saw many hawks circling high above the Dara Happan army. Around mid-day, the forward scouts reported that about 400 Dara Happans were attempting to flank the cavalry. The cavalry slowly pulled back.
The next morning, the drums began again. Gleaming rows of soldiers were soon in sight, advancing cautiously. Some of the Dara Happans split off and moved to a hilltop. It was decided to attack them at night.
Furlam managed to keep the main group from getting separated in the darkness, without causing any sound. They achieved utter surprise. Martog summoned shadow demons to cover the attack. The attack was a huge success, causing massive damage and confusion, and killing the general. Suddenly, it was as bright as day. The Emperor's blazing magic incinerated 32 people on the spot. Nearly 60 were seriously burned. Martog was saved by her lead armor. She found Furlam, who had been at the center of the blast, and kept him from dying. When the light went out, many were blinded. The survivors routed.
Kaledin the Fox and most of Wolenath's subordinate chiefs took the opportunity to return home. The army was reduced to about 300 warriors. Morale was low. Hrothgar used Kulebras's leadership magic to hold the troops in Thubana.
A day later, the Dara Happan army advanced and seized the holy center. They camped outside the city, and Oswind estimated about a thousand warriors. They began their siege.
Sekinmor, Elerandra, Feolam, and Wolenath's brother $$$ arrived in Cafol. They received an audience with Juristan, the king of Sylila. His hall had a bronze roof and elaborate decorations, and there were many well-armed weaponthanes in attendance. They gave many expensive gifts. Juristan was impressed, but summoned the "other foreigner" -- Sarashnazar, the Emperor's emissary. The two sides put forth arguments, but Juristan was not impressed. He offered to mediate the dispute between Ernandel and the Emperor.
Elerandra diplomatically thanked him for his offer, and they returned to Thubana.
Thubana's population had swelled with refugees, as well as the remaining 300 warriors. There were between 1500 and 2000 people inside the walls. There was adequate food for the people for about a week, but not for the cattle or horses.
Meanwhile, Nallindia and Murhardavu were guested by the Kanakorings. Vareshgata, their queen, thought Nallindia was rude and haughty while describing the defeat of the cavalry force. She wanted to know why they were only now asking help of the Aldryami , and whether Furlam could defeat the Emperor. She refused to send any more warriors, saying she needed to retain a hearthguard.
They continued to the edge of the forest, and Nallindia sang a song. Soon, Oakneedle appeared. Nallindia asked him to advise her how to get the help of the aldryami against the bad Emperor, the Burner. Oakneedle agreed to guide them. They followed him for three days along a path that disappeared as soon as they looked back.
They arrived at a huge, ancient grove, full of runners and aldryami. Oakneedle introduced them as "Nallindia Elf-friend, Murhardavu Brightness-of-the-outside, and their companions." Nallindia and Murhardavu argued that they needed help against the Emperor Burner. Taris Sharpthorn said that he had fought against twelve Dara Happan emperors. He refused to send assistance, but allowed Oakneedle to go.
Oakneedle gathered six archers and 23 runners.
Furlam held a big ceremony designed to improve morale, sacrificing 50 of the captured horses. A wind sprang up, and everyone was in good spirits. [Dara Happans: "They're sacrificing horses! Have they run out of babies?"] 200 more men were willing to man the walls.
Martog led the construction of a tunnel, and others began reinforcing the walls.
The Dara Happans began assembling siege engines. Verdun figured they would have seven towers within a week, and several stone-throwers.
The high priestess of Oria brought 60 Dara Happan soldiers onto the walls, and began castrating them in full view of the Dara Happan army. But the Dara Happan emperor opposed the ritual, appearing as Brightface. Some of the priestesses dropped dead, and the others were terrified.
Oswind read the omens, and said that the attack would happen five days after the disastrous sacrifice.
Sarashnazar came to the city as the Emperor's ambassador. Wolenath and Furlam received him. Sharashnazar said they had been corrupted by the Hinds of Pelanda, and offered the Emperor's mercy if they turned over the Oria priestesses, turned over anyone who wouldn't submit to the Emperor, provided 200 warriors, compensated the Emperor for the price of liberation, and open the gates. If they insisted on continuing their rebellion, every man, woman, and child would be impaled. He was refused -- Wolenath thanked the Emperor for sending his Fool, and said he would be glad to listen to any serious offer.
Nallindia and Murhardavu returned to Thubana, finding the Dara Happan army besieging the city. Murhardavu figured that with the engines, the city would fall on the first assault. He noted a lack of cavalry and skirmishers, but said the boats were well-defended. But it would be possible to enter the city. Oakneedle said, "This is an army on the move. The king was wise." Nallindia asked him to help attack, but he preferred to help defend the city.
Nallindia snuck the group into the city, though Murhardavu's servant kept the horses on the far side of the river, and the runners remained on the far side as well.
Part Fifteen | Part Seventeen
David Dunham Page | Glorantha Page | Dawn Age