Meanwhile, the sheep began doing poorly, and blight hit the crops. Elgane suggested waiting two weeks to see if Kerenath returned. The community continued to put their hopes in his quest.
Despite everyone's tears and sacrifices, Kerenath did not return by the fourteenth day. Havarnstal declared that the chief had not returned from the Other Side within the traditional period of waiting, and declared Kerenath dead.
Hindala proposed that the women dominate the new ring. Kjarr opposed her. Ellena entered the argument, but Skolli protested. Skolli convinced everyone that Hindala didn't speak for any of the deities. "The new chief must demonstrate their ability to appease the gods."
Havarnstal began the process of selecting a new chief. Skolli and Vastyr put forth their qualifications. Vastyr brought his magic plow and his mighty ox, One-Horn. Skolli said his ally was Hantrafal. Markalor, a young warrior, stepped forward, and said that he knew Orlanth's trick of leaping over a wall and slicing a man before he knew it.
Skolli prevented Vastyr from invoking Barntar's magic, and interrupted Markalor's feat.
The elders conferred, because although Skolli had won the test, they lacked the regalia to properly convey chieftainship on him.
Kerad and his company tried to enter Wind Temple, but were stopped by the winds. Kerenath called out the Greeting. He was challenged: "Only those with the right to may enter our tula." Kerad demonstrated his mastery of the storm, and the group were invited into the temple with full hospitality. The halls were all impressive, and had roofs of bronze. The high seat was made of bone. Kerenath asked the Storm Walkers to help in exchange for sacrifice and worship. They asked, "Do you know the secret of Orlanth's Ring?" Kerad gave a good answer, but they said, "That is true, but it is not the secret. It is not yet in the right position." Kerenath asked if they would give some other assistance, and they asked if he wished to stay. Aslandar simply gave his fur cloak. In return, Vantaros gave him a gold arm ring, and said he owed a favor. The hall had no talk of the outside world, but Kerenath learned more of Narsendor's deeds.
But after feasting, they decided to leave, and left into bitter cold. Kerad flew everyone home.
Ellena tried to gain Hindala's membership in a new ring, but she rebuffed her, still smarting from being publicly humiliated by Skolli. Skolli, drawing on the magic of Chalana Arroy the Conciliator, reconciled with Vastyr. Skolli told Vastyr that he wished to form a ring balanced between fertility and war, and asked Vastyr to represent Barntar. Vastyr was very pleased. Vastyr tried to gain Ellena's support, but she rejected his arguments. Skolli asked Elgane Keeper-of-Secrets, but she declined, saying she was too insignificant. Skolli asked Vastyr for a recommendation. He suggested Randella, a widow who was nearly an elder.
The harvest was poor. Ellena spent all her efforts on the welfare of the children. But there was still no chief or ring -- and no chiefly regalia.
The six who'd agreed to serve on the ring decided to obtain the regalia the same way Varmand did, by defeating the bear. They performed the ritual, and Kerenath, Kerad, and Aslandar came flying in from Stormwalk. Since Kerenath was wearing the bearskin, he appeared as the bear. Skolli fought him with storm magic, and took the skin, thus becoming chief of the Varmandi.
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