The seven chiefs returned to camp, with some tension among them. Barngradus granted Lismelder's tribe land west of the Starfire Ridge.
Korol and Vargast spoke with Lornar Greydog, and traded food for some of his Auld Mutz ale, which would serve as widebrew on the quest.
Orlmarl Stalker-of-the-Print, an Uroxi sell-axe, joined Varmand's household. Baranthos adopted Horselegs into his household, to honor his extreme loyalty on the battlefield.
There was a funeral pyre on Two-Ridge; most of the leading Varmandi stood silently, wondering what it would portend.
Among the Malani, there was no king, but Erland announced he would challenge anyone claiming the title.
The Black Wyrm was eating cattle in Karandoli lands. Korol and Vargast led a group looking for the dragonewt klanth they would need to fight it using the Orlanth and Aroka myth.
The Varmandi gave gifts to Skeggi Longchin, who hosted them in his hall. Skeggi was worried about who would become king -- or kings. Namold was considering claiming the crown. Korol determined that Skeggi had an unmarried son, who could be married to a Varmandi girl.
When they arrived at the nymph pool, Orlmar and Theya swam in it, much to Korol's amazement. The nymph gave no sign of displeasure at this.
They continued to Fox Hollow, where Culbrea received them gladly. Pleased with the news, he gave Varmand a mark of silver. He had news of his own: his priests had found Orlanth's Hill, where his stead stood. On Orlanth's holy day, Vargast, Korol, and Baranthos attended, and as the Thunder Brothers, asked for Orlanth's aid on the quest. Vargast sacrificed the sword he had used to fight Erland.
Korol was finally able to give Vargast the fine cauldron he had commissioned.
Hearing that there was a dragonewt tula in the Quivini Hills, the group set out for the mountains. Theya found wild cherries, while Orlmarl hunted, and they were well-supplied. When they had their first clear view of the mighty peak Quivin, Korol, Vargast, and Baranthos asked him for help. They found a valley of eagles large enough to carry off a horse, and a giant eyrie. Vargast spoke to them and gave gifts, but they remained aloof.
Theya found a dragonewt, and they followed its tracks to a large rock marked with Issaries' rune. Several small dragonewts came dancing out of the hills, followed by fierce warrior dragonewts, and finally a leader. Korol offered to trade a sword for a klanth, and "Head of Shame" answered on behalf of "Master Two Weapons Dance," adding three rocks to the deal. Korol didn't really trust this, but was talked into agreeing. He, Vargast, and Baranthos each ended up with a rock from the dragonewts. "Head of Shame" quoted from Heort's Laws, then left. Korol composed this poem:
More snakes live in the mountains than any old fool thinks,
Shrewd traders of stones.
Masked ones danced deceit and
Exchanged blade of old for god's bone.
They returned to Orrmsthane Vale.
During the Earth Season festival Theya ground the grains for Splendorbread. To the South, Namold formed a tribal ring for the Three Trees tribe. Varmand's father-in-law, Kulbrast Blackmood, was killed by one of Namold's warriors.
Gulik the Fat died at age 58. Nearly the entire clan gathered to burn him. Korol threw a half mark's worth of jewelry into the fire, and others gave generous gifts as well.
Korol and Vargast met Erland Malansson, who was accompanied by six warriors, and escored them to the clan hall. As rudely as his father, he demanded full hospitality from Varmand, who answered, "This is uncharacteristic of you, Erland Kinslayer." It turned out that Erland had chosen to kill the Black Wyrm of the Gejay Hills as his Crown Test, and needed a guide. There was much deliberation, since Korol and Vargast had been preparing the quest of Orlanth and Aroka for nearly a year, and were just about ready to deal with the wyrm themselves.
Volstang Darndevson, son of one of the Ernaldori who'd been adopted into the clan after Borngold was killed, was the only one to speak up before Varmand rose, and offered to guide Erland. The clan ring had all had dealings with Erland, and were not so quick to speak, though Korol made a rude kenning. Finally, Heorl accepted Erland's offer of help. "The hedgehog thinks it's a bear," said Erland. "And the bear hedges,"replied Horselegs. Finally, Erland said that if the Varmandi wished to wait, he would leave without them. Baranthos said he would follow Korol. Maniski told Erland that he could help us. But finally the clan decided to lead Erland and his men to the wyrm's lair.
Korol and Vargast decided to continue to perform the quest as best they could, passing by Larnste's Table (where they had seen dragonewts) to represent the Place of Strangers of the myth. Theya baked Splendorbread, and they broke out Indrodar's brew.
Erland became suspicious when they got to Larnste's Table, but Horselegs impressed him that this was the correct route. They continued on to the Rainbow Mounds. Vargast pointed out the lair to Erland, who announced that he was Wyrm's Bane.
The huge wyrm shot out of the ancient grave in a cloud of flames. Penorri went mad and fled. Several men were engulfed in fire. Korol and Horslegs shot arrows at it, but they glanced off its scaly hide. Baranthos's axe bit deeply into the dragon, but it lodged in it and was jerked out of his hands. Vargast gave the dragon a deep wound with the klanth. But Erland gave a mighty stroke with his iron blade, cutting off a wing and sending the beast crashing to the earth. After it fell, Korol joined in the rush to finish it off. Vargast broke its jaw, then Erland cut off its head. Vargast made sure to cut out one of its sinews. Theya tended to all the Varmandi, no matter how lightly wounded, before dealing with Rostandos, who'd been poisoned. She healed him despite the fact that he was a Humakti, and had been trying to kill her kinsmen.
Korol composed a poem, then he and Heorl convinced Erland to befriend the Varmandi. Erland gifted everyone with a mark of silver, and returned to Two-Ridge Fort in a good mood.
Heorl's wife Arene nearly died giving birth to a stillborn child, but Vargast's wife Karendra saved her. Horsewife had twin girls, and Theya had a second son.
Korlmar, son of Jonrik, son or Orlgard, son of Fantor, became king of the Colymar, and announced that his crown test was a Westfaring to see Arim.
Part 12 | Part 14
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