A wooden box carved with draconic scenes was unearthed in Baranthos's lands; they decided not to open it. Horselegs became Baranthos's hired man.
Vargast married Karendra. Korol commissioned a fine cauldron from the Culbrea smith as a gift for them.
The Karandoli clan moved nearby.
A group of over 50 Malani snuck into the vale at night, though Korol spotted them just before they rushed Varmand's stead. Vargast dealt Erland a terrific blow, and with Korol led the women and children to safety. The defenders drove off the attack, but Orlev gave Varmand a serious wound, and Kaelor Warwind and Orlorri Snorrisson died. A few buildings were burned, but the hall survived.
Maniski and others clamored for immediate vengeance. The Ring decided on a more deliberate plan, using elementals to strike directly at Orlev.
Theya travelled to Clearwine to sacrifice for a gnome. Korol had her deliver a poem and a silver brooch to Onelisin. People in Clearwine were talking about Arim's claim to have married Kero Fin, which he said make him King of "Dragon Pass." Closer to home, the Boskovi clan was nearly wiped out by horse people raids.
Illig proposed using a myth of when Ernalda was stolen from Orlanth. She sent an earth snake to Orlanth, who followed it to where she was being held, took his enemies by surprise and laid waste to them, and returned home with Ernalda.
After much discussion and preparation (including waiting for a cloudy day), seven set out at night, each more or less taking the role of a Lightbringer: Vargast, Baranthos, Illig, Theya, Karendra, Heorl, and Horselegs.
As they crossed into Orleving lands, they were met by a crone bearing an axe. Theya challenged her, and she replied, "You trespass in my children's lands." Theya ordered her to let them pass, using her authority as a priestess of Ernalda. She complied, but said, "Methinks at least one of you will stay with me."
Outside Orlev's fort, Theya called upon Ernalda for an earth snake, and Heorl loosed a sylph from his bag. They rode inside the earth snake, given life-sustaining air from the sylph, and rose inside Orlev's hall.
[big fight, 3 thunderbolts, killed 5 housecarls, didn't kill Orlev, took a box (with valuables worth 6 marks of silver) and woman from the hall (Orlev's kin) -- Vargast kept her as a hostage]. Korol made this poem:
A storm of slaughter swept through Orlev's hall,
leaving piglets squealing for their master.
The fyrd had followed them into Orleving lands, and raided for cattle after hearing of the successful mission. Maniski Varmandsson took thralls, as did Horselegs (who was looking for a woman).
Malan sent Angorri the Herald demanding wergeld for the five housecarls by Sacred Time. Heorl rejected all claims on numerous sound legal precedents. Varmand sent Angorri off with more honeyed words, then exploded at Heorl for his lack of political acumen.
Baranthos wouldn't have an Orleving woman under his roof, so Horselegs tried to leave his female thrall with Theya. She sent her home the next day.
The clan figured how to pay compensation to Malan. Korol led a group to Clearwine, to trade Orlev's treasure for something that could be given back to the Malani. On the way, Horselegs found a semicircle of standing stones, which everyone agreed was a magical site.
In front of King Barngradus, Korol gave a stirring rendition of his poem about the raid on Orlev's hall. Barngradus responded with a couplet about the skill of the Varmandi, and gave Korol an ornate silver ring.
Vargast overheard rumors that Barngradus was coming to the end of the seven year Sacred King reign; nobody was sure what would happen, since he had been crowned with Alakoring's rites. There was also news about the horse king Jardanroste Polestar, who was laying waste to the western clans. Luckily, the Black Spear could drive him off.
Korol visited Barntadus the Trader, who had visited King Arim. Barntadus had many good words to say about Arim. He was said to be blessed with men and friends, but not gold, and to have chieftains of the horse folk in his hall as hostages. Korol made a small profit trading with Barntadus, but Illig didn't do as well exchanging the bulk of the treasure.
Vargast helped arrange a marriage with Onelisin, for a bride price of 10 cows. Korol was despondent at the bride price, far greater than his wealth, and started having second thoughts about the marriage.
Horselegs challenged Kallai, the priest of Elmal, to a horse race, and lost.
Meanwhile, Maniski had taken 21 warriors to raid the Hiording clan, and returned with only 5 cows.
Vargast offered his courser to help pay the wergeld.
It was a cold winter, and Alegar became very ill. He died, despite Theya's care.
On his patrols, Korol was careful to solicit the opinion of the families not represented on the Ring.
While patrolling the valley, Vargast came upon odd tracks near Rainbow Mounds. He and Korol followed them into Giant's Table, the ancient tomb of a giant. Noticing the melted snow outside the entrance, and the acrid stench of the underworld, Korol was sure they would find a dragon. In fact, they did spot a legless, black wyrm over 16 metres long. The two snuck back out, but the wyrm followed them, bellowing. When it couldn't find them, it roared again, shaking the snow off the trees where they were hiding. The wyrm flung itself into the air, its fiery spittle melting the snow, and its wings blotting out the sun as it soared off to the southwest.
The Varmandi decided to warn the Tree Brothers and Karandoli clans. Namold wasn't pleased at the news, and Heorl offended Maniski Firebreath, who sent them packing.
Intamorl Oddisson and three other Orlevings attacked Theya's stead, blaming Theya for the attack on Orlev's hall. Intamorl attacked Svarr from behind, giving him a serious wound. However, Venharl, filled with love and concern for his wife, slew Intamorl with one blow, then rushed two at once, killing them, and badly wounded the fourth before he could finish off Svarr.
Illig was incensed at the attempted attack on his stead, and rushed to Varmand's hall to demand vengeance. Heorl pointed out that three killings more than offset an attempted burning. Although his sound arguments swayed most of the clan, Illig wouldn't have any of it, and Vargast tried to calm him down. He replied, "Vargast! When Orlev raided your hall last year, trying to slay your family, the whole clan followed you into vengeance! Your women cried: 'No one must be able to attack our halls, or our children will be made thralls!' Why should it be any different for a carl -- or a gyda? Has Varmand's family more rights than any other?" Varmand refused to commit the fyrd, but allowed Illig to raid Oddi's stead. Korol was the first to follow him, closely followed by Maniski. Many farmers also joined him. They attacked at dawn, in honor of Theya's namesake. Illig threw the first brand, then Korol announced the burning. Oddi himself rushed out and killed Darrold Lodsson, then Illig thrust a spear through him. He continued to give a valiant account of himself, but he and the defenders were all killed. As the women and children came running through the smoke, Maniski killed the first one and would have finished them all, but Korol restrained him. Oddi's wife refused to leave the burning stead, saying, "The killers of women and children may claim their final victim, but I am too proud to go to the other side on your terms." Illig rounded up the livestock and drove them home. Korol composed this poem:
Oddi's son played with Lodril's toy once. *
He tried his game a second time, but
Venharl's gate-flame singed Utag's killer. *
Wretched heir's brand-shot struck father's stead;
His proud mother chose a bright finish,
But blood, not soot, stained sad Oddi's corpse.
When they returned, Varmand said, "No compensation can end this feud now," but all agreed that the clan would still pay Malan the wergeld he'd demanded. They also decided to become a war clan, and Varmand appointed Theya as to Maran Gor's chair, the Thunder Brothers were represented by Korol and Varmand's sons Maniski and Vargast, Baranthos represented Orlanth Thunderous, and Illig was designated Humakt the Avenger.
News came that the Malani had held a tribal moot, which ended in bloodshed as Lismelder's men came to blows with Erland's, over vengeance for his killing her husband Frohdi.
Onelisin gave birth to Korol's son, Dangmar. Karendra and Vargast had triplets, and Varmand adopted the youngest as was the custom in those days.
Part 9 | Part 11
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