It was a mild winter, and the rains came early.
The elders prepared to initiate 20 boys.
The boys were taken away in an old-style initiation.
Meanwhile, the clan held a summons of evil, and summoned a huge, goat-headed figure. Most of the women fled. The priests called Orlanth's thunder, and Heorl threatened it with the law. The men rushed it, and hacked it to bits. Then Vargast brought everyone back to the village. His alynx told him there were many men in the hills. The clan decided fight a duel of champions. Svar armed Horselegs, and the two walked out of the palisade. A host of Malani were forming up, led by King Baranwolf. Heorl announced the challenge. Baranwolf called his champion, Endanarl, Humakti Sword of the Malani. Endanarl announced himself as the Sword of Baranwolf, killer of Maniski, who used to beat up Horselegs. Horselegs drew first blood, then Endanarl called upon Humakt, and struck him back with his iron sword Boar's Tusk. Realizing that the fate of the clan rested on him, Horselegs thrust his sword all the way through Endanarl. Standing over his foe, Horselegs shouted to the Malani to leave. Endanarl pulled out the sword. Horselegs wounded him again, but from the ground, Endanarl sliced through Horselegs' legs, and proclaimed, "Death has taken his." Horselegs called on the gods, and was healed by Ernalda (though he was never quite the same afterwards). Then Horselegs struck him one more time. This time he cut off Endanarl's head.
Baranwolf agreed to leave, but a woman came forward and asked for the body. Horselegs kept the sword, and let her take the rest.
All twenty boys survived their initiation, and were welcomed with a feast.
The clan council decided to remain a war clan, then discussed the pig Theya had summoned. Although even Theya thought it should be killed, how and when was an issue. They decided to wait until Earth season, and make it an agricultural killing.
Horselegs was sick most of the spring.
The Hyaloring sent 18 men to steal cattle, but Ingard and Horselegs spotted them. Their leader was Heortarl, new chief of the Lonisi. Horselegs called on Orlanth's thunder, and dropped two riders. Heortarl threw a lightning bolt at Horselegs. The Hyalorings charged, but none of the Varmandi fell, and they pulled back, then charged again, dropping Rastolanth Varmandsson. Horselegs called for a retreat, and the Varmandi scattered. Horselegs was left by himself, and challenged Heortarl to single combat. Horselegs cut deeply through his armor, then told him to leave. Heortarl replied, "You try to match me gift for gift," referring to the wound he'd given Horselegs earlier, "but a chief has more gifts." But Horselegs rushed up and gave him another deep blow. Heortarl said, "You are a richer man than I thought. I will repay your generosity, Horselegs." The Lonisi got away with 25 cows.
A small caravan arrived from Runegate. Yaloring the Hendriki was returning from Tarsh. He gave a friendship gift of an amphora of red wine, saying it was important to give gifts to the Varmandi because they were known as fierce warriors. Vargast held a feast, but Theya refused to attend an event in honor of a Hendriki. Yaloring relayed the news that King Arim had gained the submission of all the "old tribes." His court was very wealthy, and he had begun constructing several great temples. At Runegate, he said that King Ermanoring kept a big hall. The wealthy carl Tanara Mistorangsdaughter, who was Vargast's mother, had died without heirs, and there was a dispute about her inheritance.
Yaloring offered Vargast some Dara Happan rice beer. Vargast bought a tapestry worth three marks, captured by a Tarshite weaponthane. Heorl traded for a votive shrine of Orlanth the Thunderer, made of stone and painted.
Dunorl Heorlsson spoke with the one woman in the caravan, Lindelya. However, she was more taken with Ingard, and the two left the feast together. Lindelya was from the Eriddi clan of Tarsh. She told Ingard she was Yaloring's year-wife, and was unwilling to go live among the Hendriki. Ingard swore to defend her from her husband. Rastolanth, who had been drinking heavily, came to roust him out, and they scuffled. Rastolanth fell and struck his head, passing out.
Ingard and Lindelya returned to the hall together. Yaloring was outraged, accusing Vargast of being a wife-taker, and ordered his men to seize Lindelya. Ingard appealed to Heorl to perform a divorce. Lindelya announced she didn't wish to be an underwife. Yaloring said he'd been insulted, but Ingard replied that he'd brought the insult on himself for mistreating a beautiful woman. Yaloring rushed him, decking him with a blow. Horselegs kept Ingard from getting back up. Vargast then used a war shout, and said, "You have attacked my man in my hall! I will pay her bride-price. The Varmandi are always just. This feast is over, and you will leave at first light." Vargast paid the one mark bride price on the spot, and yelled at Ingard. Lindelya stood up to Vargast, and said Ingard was only protecting a woman from a man who didn't love her. She clung to Ingard, crying.
The ring discussed what to do with the two. Vargast ruled that Ingard would stay in Illig's stead and Lindelya would stay in his stead.
Part 24 | Part 26
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