Korol was asked to bring 20 cows tribute to Erland in exchange for protection from raids. Although he didn't get binding guarantees, Korol drank at the king's table. Heorl complained, but his legalisms didn't prevail.
20 Varmandi, led by Varmand, left for Tarsh. Jarstakos Gunarsson was appointed Hearthguard.
They were joined by 200 Colymar and some Karandoli, who held mighty rituals (the Westfaring and the Arming of Orlanth). Illaro was rumored to have given more than 10 marks of silver to Korlmar, the Colymar king.
The march north was slow, with stops for hunting. King Korlmar got the obeisance of the durulz. The army crossed Dragon Pass and headed for Kero Fin. They were met by Kerofini (who had heads on sticks), who said another king had passed by to pay tribute to the high king.
At Fort Wintertop, Korol gave a small sacrifice to Yinkin.
The army arrived at Shaker's Temple, which boasted a dozen Maran Gor priestesses and many "Esrolian" Axe Maidens. The head priestess told Korlmar that he was the last of the Three Kings, and that Arim had granted him safe passage.
They joined up with Arim, who was about Varmand's age, but shorter than Korol. He claimed to be High King of Kerofinela. King Erland of the Malani and King Gudvingkor of the Hyalorings were also there, swelling the ranks of the Quivini to 500 (mostly footmen).
Bagnot Fort, where Arim had his hall, was bigger than Clearwine, and traded with foreigners.
The Varmandi learned that the Winter Tribes had in fact survived the Dragonkill, but Arim was the last king of the Winter tribes &emdash; all others paid tribute to the Red Moon Empire.
Arim had 2000 Tarshites or allies on foot, and 1000 Grazer horsemen, led by Wanasdral Polestar. The huge army travelled west, crossing the Teslir river, then travelling down the Oslir. The Grazers led the van. The Varmandi were in the rear, then the left.
Arim marched to the hillfort of Goldedge and commenced attacking one of the Lunar tributary kings. Our forces outnumbered theirs. The Quivini lined up across from the Ommo, horsemen from Sylila. In the mêlée, Korol knocked a rider off his horse (who was then taken prisoner). Vargast cut two men in half. Varmand whowed he was still the Bear, striking down any foe who dared attack him. Baranthos and Maniski both took critical wounds. After three unsuccessful charges, the Ommo horsemen retreated. Korlmar ordered a charge against the center, which broke the enemy.
Arim rode up to the hillfort. At least six Elmali were among the delegation from the fort, leading some to think this was a tribal center. After an hour, more folk came from the fort, and began a kingship ceremony around Arim.
Arim gave very generous gifts to the three kings who had supported him. In turn, Korlmar gave Varmand 7 marks of silver.
Korlmar decided the Colymar troops would remain with Arim; word had it he was a good friend of Arim's. Erland said the Malani would leave immediately. Varmand then said he would escort the wounded Malani back when his own men were ready to travel.
Goldedge was a typical hillfort, but the buildings were covered with plaster, and the inhabitants had terrible accents. They used weird geometric tattoos, and the men shaved their faces and wore large moustaches. They didn't seem as prosperous as the Quivini.
Elmal priests were far more common than in Quiviniland. They said Goldedge was sacred to Elmal, so they had resettled it when Tarsh was settled.
In the ceremonies for Orlanth's seasonal holy day, Elmal handed the ring of rulership back to Orlanth upon his return from the Lightbringers Quest.
The Varmandi were given one day in the fort to conduct any trades. Korol decided that, like Vingkot, he would have a Winter Wife. However, she fell for him in a big way, and when he told her he was returning to his Summer Wife Onelisin, she became upset, and laid a curse on him.
Arim gave Varmand a mark of silver before he left.
On the return trip, Varmand intimidated several clan chiefs into giving the group hospitality.
At the Shaker's Temple, Theya paid her respects. The goddess Sorana Tor lived there with her twin children from Arim, whom Theya met. Korol had his curse removed.
While Theya was at the temple, Svarr was smitten with a lovely girl named Stravelda, and began a courtship. With the aid of Korol's love poem, he convinced her family to agree to a year-marriage, and the ceremony was held before the group travelled south.
The folk were richer than people at Goldedge, and the festival was fine.
Vargast wanted to climb Mt Wintertop and throw himself off, a custom which had been popular before the Dragonkill. He convinced everyone that the clan needed a strong chief after Varmand, and that this would contribute.
At Fort Wintertop, Horselegs became initiated to Yinkin the Hunter.
Vargast purified himself, and used several sylphs to climb almost all the way to the top. He then leaped into the air, and was carried down by the World Storm.
A feast was held in Vargast's honor, during which a huge alynx showed up, and lay down at Vargast's feet. Korol made this poem:
On wings of the wind, Varmand's son's ambition soared.
On his liege's steed he returned in glory,
Blood-brother to storm's brother
They continued home. Korol shamed the ducks into giving hospitality, then bargained shrewdly for duck down and coral.
They returned just after the beginning of the harvest ceremonies. Unfortunately, it was a poor harvest.
The Orlevings had grazed in Varmandi lands during their absence, and performed a rite at Ura's Mound.
Baranthos threw a huge feast in honor of the return from the war.
During a patrol, Vargast and Korol surprised some Orleving raiders. When Vargast slew one in a single blow and Korol wounded another, the survivors fled.
The clan reorganized as a normal clan. The ring consisted of Baranthos, Heorl, Illig, Arndala the Priestess, Theya, and Honey-Elena. Vargast was appointed Champion. Varmand charged Korol and Illig to renew friendship with Erland.
Part 16 | Part 18
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