An uneasy truce prevailed between the Varmandi and Orleving, though many bloodlines would have preferred continuing the feud.
Varmand argued against raiding Namold, since he was under Malani protection for the year.
Some Orlevings tried grazing on Baranthos's lands, claiming that Erland had authorized it. Baranthos and Horselegs drove them off. The Varmandi made a show of force near Ura's Mound, and the Orlevings didn't trespass again that year.
Heorl tried to rally the clan's support for a pilgrimmage to Old Wind temple. There was much dissension, but Vargast swayed them. The clan performed the Arming of Orlanth ceremony for the six questers. They crossed Karandoli lands, guesting with Maniski Firebreath, who thought that the Varmandi were getting too close to Erland. In Clearwine, they were guests of Korlmar of the Zethnoring clan, the young king of the Colymar.
Heorl learned that the Dundealos tribe had moved north, forcing the Torkani out of their tula, and now claimed to protect the Old Wind temple (said to be the site of Umath's first stead, and also known as the birthplace of many powerful storms).
They gathered on Thunderer's Hill, and Heorl sacrificed a fish, a bird, a sheep, a pig, and an insect. His ceremony was especially effective, and a breeze sprung up as everyone donned the ceremonial attire of pilgrims.
As they travelled, they were met by Orlkarth, of the Otter clan of the Balmyr tribe. He asked them, as holy pilgrims, to be jurors in an inheritance case. Brandig, the older brother of Dangmar, the chief of the Otter clan, died childless, killed by Kitori raiders. Fardros, a wealthy carl, and Dangmar's cousin, was Brandig's closest friend. Bastakos, the chief's younger brother, also had a good claim. The property in question was a suit of chainmail, a sword, a magical whetstone, and 7 horses. After consulting with the others, Heorl announced the verdict. Bastakos would get the sword, the whetstone, and 2 horses, along with the responsibility to avenge Brandig. Fardros received the remainder, and the responsibility to defend Brandig's stead. Korol composed a poem commemorating the verdict.
As they left Otter lands, a Balmyr tribal thane named Hofstaring barred their passage at a ford. After trading insults, he challenged Vargast. After a terrific battle, in which both were wounded, Vargast defeated Hofstaring (who was then healed). Korol composed this poem:
Crossing-pool ran red with Hofstaring's blood.
Vargast's sword opened Balmyr's gates.
They headed into the hills, but got lost. During the night, they heard many large insects. After the last watch, it remained dark. Korol was convinced they were in the Storm Age, when the Sun had been driven away. A troll approached, and responded to the greeting in a mangled Kitori dialect: "Grovel, slaves, and you might live." The Varmandi refused, and several trolls attacked. Horselegs and Baranthos killed the smaller one. Vargast and Heorl took out the huge troll. After they died, dawn broke.
Continuing into the hills, they found a female windchild named Verenendela. She'd wounded her wing evading a wasp rider. The Varmandi helped her, and were led to "the place where gifts are given" by her brother Athenonamarl. Korol composed this poem:
Zephyr's gentle daughter,
Wounded by striped one,
Sure-strike led her to mountain-stead
and learned of ancient shrine.
The vale was constantly windy. The temple was run by Loricon Forkbeard of the Dundealos, called Highest Stormvoice. He claimed to know all aspects of Orlanth. Indeed, there were shrines of many subcults there, and the men all renewed their magic. Heorl brought back a large sylph.
Vargast remained at the Old Wind temple to undergo the tests of a Wind Lord. The others returned from their pilgrimmage.
During the auguries, the clan's priests noticed that the Red Moon had risen in the sky. Heorl performed a divination, and learned that the King had been wounded. He interpreted this to mean that Orlanth had been wounded by chaos. The local manifestation was the plague which had nearly carried off Varmand. They decided to perform a ritual of Chalana Arroy healing Orlanth, but Honey Elena dropped the bowl of healing wine, and Maniski was dressed in the wrong costume, and people worried that the ritual may have failed.
A delegation went to Clearwine for the cattle fair. They learned that the omens had been bad throughout Quivini lands.
Illaro, one of King Arim's thanes, was in Clearwine, as a friend of the Colymar king. Illaro was looking for warriors to fight against the Empire of the Red Moon, whose despot rode a chaos steed. Korol volunteered, as did the other Varmandi. Illaro said that the horse raiders paid tribute to Arim, and would not attack during the campaign next Fire season.
Korol conferred with Barntadus, who told him that Issaries Lightbringer and Orlanth Goodvoice were masks of each other, and reminded him that kings are the sponsors of poets.
At the Old Wind temple, Vargast passed the tests to become a Wind Lord, of the Regal Varnorl subcult. He returned to the tula, and was challenged. Until now, Varmand had been the clan's only Wind Lord. Korol recited a poem reminding everyone of Orlanth's different paths, but Horselegs mentioned that the season's ritual had portended a change in Orlanth. At this, Maniski demanded that his brother prove himself by flame, as did Vingkot. Vargast thrust his hands into the fire, and passed. His return as a Wind Lord inspired a spate of poems about Orlanth.
The clan decided to send Arim some help, but to leave enough in case Orlev attacked.
Three men of the Karandoli clan arrived: Frithorf the Crooked, his son Leikan, and a man as big as Vargast: Kentvent the Walker. Frithorf was acting on behalf of his daughter Tovtara, who sought a return of her dowry. She'd been married to Garstal Hrothgarsson, but he abandoned her for a mistress, and she divorced him. She was seeking not only the return of her dowry, but also the bride-gift as compensation for the adultery. Frithorf asked Heorl to be juror, and Varmand decreed that he would hold court at the Storm season moot. It turned out that Korol's wife Onelisin and Theya Two-Mothers had loaned cattle to Garstal, and they agreed to pay his fine, which totalled 10 cows. Frithorf and his daughter accepted this.
Varmand and Heorl had joint worship of the Warrior and Thunderer aspects of Orlanth. Vargast once again demanded recognition, and passed the tests of a Wind Lord of Vingkot the Victorious.
Varmand wished to avenge the plague in his hall, and decided to ask Erland for protection so that he could lead the clan against the Red Moon Empire. He also reorganized the Ring as a war clan. Maniski, Vargast, and Baranthos were the Thunder Brothers; Illig had the position of Issaries the Psychopomp; Horselegs was Trickster; and Theya had the Kero Fin seat.
Part 15 | Part 17
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