Theya proposed sacrificing Intamorl's brother Orlori to Maran Gor, but the clan decided against it.
The clan managed to get the necessary cattle together, and a few volunteers started driving them to Two Ridge Fort. Unfortunately, Orlev was patrolling his lands, and spotted them. He had about as many men, but more of them were housecarls. Korol and Vargast tried to negotiate. Orlev claimed, "I see compensation for Oddi." When Korol told him the cattle were for his king, Orlev threw one of Orlanth's thunderbolts at Korol. It struck him, but left him standing, proving that Orlev's side lacked justice. Korol said, "I am the Thunder Brother," and rejoined Baranthos, who had lined the men into a shield wall. The battle was fierce. Hendest broke Illig's spear, but Venharl cut through his armor and dealt a major wound, then struck him again as he tried to regain his feet. Korol found himself double-teamed by Orlev and his brother Orlrik, and was wounded and near death, and captured by the Orlevings.
At this, the two sides separated, and Vartalor challenged Baranthos to single combat. They exchanged mighty blows until they were exhausted. Summoning all his reserves, Baranthos chopped through Vartalor's shield and cracked his neck. Orlev, seeing that Baranthos was so tired he had to prop himself up on his axe, attacked, despite the agreement to let the challenge decide the issue. Vargast and Venharl rushed up and interposed their shields before Orlev could strike. Orlev fell back, and said, "Take your cows and run." Vargast then tried to exchange prisoners. Orlev refused at first, but Baranthos and Vargast convinced him.
Although five cows had strayed during the battle, they made it to Two Ridge Fort. Erland nearly attacked Vargast, but was restrained by some of the other housecarls. Indrodar Greydog was noticeably absent from Malan's warriors.
Noticing Korol's wounds, Malan spoke: "It is good that you didn't cross Orlev's lands without any rain falling on you." Korol replied, "Orlev's thunder is not as loud as it used to be." Then Malan accepted the animals on behalf of Orlev's claim. Korol warned him of the wyrm.
They were offered hospitality in the hall, which was on edge, and had very few Greydog clan members present. A thrall woman took pity on Korol and put him to bed and changed his bandages. Harran accused Illig of being a stead burner, and tried to provoke him, even throwing his plate of food at Illig, who remained as calm as Barntar.
Despite the situation, the Varmandi learned that blood had indeed been spilled at the last Malani moot. The Greydogs had come armed, and Lismelder demanded justice. An Isolting man killed a Greydog man, and Erland threatened to kill his sister Lismelder.
Although Erland was looking for them, Korol and Vargast managed to wait him out and find a safe path home.
Korol took a long time to recover from his wounds.
Dangmarl, a tribal thane of the Colymar, came with impressive gifts, and spoke at length with Varmand and his son Maniski.
Harran Hiordsson led a raid on Rurik's stead. Rurik's men killed two and drove them off, but lost two men themselves, and one wounded. The Ring recommended seeking compensation.
Penorri Snorrisson brought the news that the black wyrm had killed his father and family, and burned Snorri's Stead. The Ring discussed the story of Orlanth and Aroka, and Orlanth and Enkoshons.
Illig, acting on Rurik's behalf, brought 17 Varmandi to the Hiordings to demand compensation. Heorl swamped their lawspeaker's arguments with numerous compelling precedents, and Hiord decided to pay on the spot. Korol then threatened him with the wyrm.
The Varmandi sent an expedition to Clearwine to trade. King Barngradus treated them very well. Maniski the Thunderer had given up chieftainship of the Orlmarth clan, and was now supported by the tribe as a full-time priest of Orlanth the Thunderer. Baranthos gave generous gifts to the temple, and Vargast became an initiate. Theya bought grain to bake seven loaves of Splendorbread.
Jardanroste Polestar had raided to the south again, effectively eliminating the Boskovi clan. Korol convinved three young Boskovi men to join Baranthos's stead: Arnbord, Brandgor, and Annstad. Illig attracted another, Hend, to Theya's stead.
They learned that the Dangmarl had given even larger gifts to the Greydog clan. Lismelder had given him hospitality, when Erland and two dozen warriors showed up and tried to force her to turn over her guests. The Colymar ended up heading south.
Korol gave ten cows to Onelisin's family as bride price; her brother Endaros gave them to her as dowry. Korol and Onelisin were married by the king. Baranthos gave them a horse, Vargast gave needles and cloth, Heorl gave a fancy tunic, Endaros gave a fine shortsword. Theya promised that they would have a child within a year, and Horselegs promised it wouldn't be his.
Horselegs bought a Grazer thrall woman, Horsewife.
It was a bitterly cold winter, with much snow. Korol's oldest two children were gravely ill, but Onelisin nursed them back to health.
Theya led the annual ritual to Neera, one of the local darkness spirits. Before clan members could ask her blessings, Vargast spoke up asking her help, then recited a love poem to the Dark Lady of the Woods, and went off with Neera.
Bantradus, the Colymar herald, stopped by on his way to Two Ridge Fort to demand the Orlkar Tribute, and gave more gifts to Varmand. He returned two days later, and said that Malan had given him an insultingly small gift, from booty taken from Borngold's forces.
There was a massive windstorm east of Two Ridge Fort. Thunder pealed, but there was no rain or lightning, and Humakt himself was seen. Theya Two-Mothers was so terrified she refused to leave her stead all day. It turned out that the storm occurred as Lismelder ritually severed herself from her father Malan, and declared herself Queen of a new tribe. She set her Crown Test as finding new lands for her people. Malan spoke this verse:
Slain grey dog's proud bitch,
a boar's only daughter
Betrays her kin when she
Leads now the grim ring
Of the foemen of old.
A son is the best
Vengeance beyond the pyre.
Malan appointed his son Erland chief of the Isolting clan. Erland led raids against the new tribe, but avoided battle with the Lismelder Humakti.
Part 10 | Part 12
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