Gulik turned over his stead to his son Baranthos. Varmand asked Korol to become a member of his household, and he moved there with his family from Gulik's stead.
Baranthos proposed ransoming the prisoners in exchange for a truce. Along with Korol and other leading members of the clan, he took Orlkaring of the Isolting clan (the ranking captive), 25 cattle, and Orlev's banner up the pass to Two Ridge Fort.
They were received with great discourtesy by Kolbrast Blackmood, who treated them as outlaws until his step-grandson Vargast shamed him into offering guest-rights. The Malani then kept them for four days in a squalid cottar's hut, posting a guard outside and forbidding anyone to leave. An old woman brought peasant's food, and seemed terrified of the Varmandi, even after Vargast carved her a kitchen ward. They industriously kept themselves and the hut tidy. Finally Korol said, "I did not realize Malan was making us members of his household."
This enraged the guards. They were summoned before Malan, who asked, "Why shouldn't I kill you bandits and murderers for coming to my tula?"
Korol answered, "We didn't think you'd come to talk with us." Malan was pleased by this answer, and by the return of Orlev's banner, which he waved tauntingly at his son Erland. However his mood varied between angry threats and laughter. He traded kennings with Heorl, then demanded tribute from Varmand. Heorl presented him with Varmand's gifts, but Malan said he reserved the right to crush the Varmandi, though he now had no feud with Varmand. Satisfied with this, the delegation returned to Ormsthane Vale. Theya vowed never to visit Two Ridge Fort again.
Korol acted as Varmand's agent at the cattle fair at Clearwine, though Illig spent much effort trading shrewdly. There was news of large raids by the horse folk on western Colymar lands, and of a powerful king to the north, whom Barntadus the Trader had visited. He was called Arim, was surrounded by many warriors, and claimed to be king of all Kerofinela. This was important news since it meant that the entire North had not been destroyed by dragons two centuries earlier.
Baranthos set off for Culbrea lands to marry Uma Dronyansdaughter. The wedding party was once again challenged by Skeggi Long-chin of the Tree Brothers clan, who once again let them pass when Korol asked with honey-sweet words. They were greeted warmly by King Culbrea, who helped perform the wedding. Korol helped arrange a marriage between Vargast Varmandsson and Karendra Umatkoringsdaughter.
On the return trip, five Tree Brothers carls gave the Greeting, but then attacked. Korol, Vargast, and Illig dealt them serious wounds, and the survivors fled. They healed the wounded and returned to Ormsthane Vale.
That winter was extremely bitter, and there was little stored food, since the Varmandi had been a war clan for so long. Theya went among the carls healing the sick and distributing a few cows to the most desperate families. Varmand and his household spent much of the winter at Baranthos's stead; Baranthos had invited them for fear Orlev would attack. Frohdi Greydog came stealthily to visit Varmand. Baranthos gave him the ring he had received from Borngold. Frohdi accepted, but said that he feared that such a gift was fateful.
Back at Varmand's stead, Vigdis died giving birth to a daughter. When he learned the news, Korol was heartbroken, and composed the masterful lament still known to this day.
During the darkest part of the winter, one of Heorl's twin infant daughters became ill, and died despite Theya's care. Heorl was beside himself with sorrow, but Theya told him not to grieve, and pronounced that the Goddess had taken one child so that the other would have a twin in the Underworld. The surviving daughter would be a great priestess someday! This cheered Heorl considerably.
During the Sacred Time rituals, Varmand disbanded his War Ring and appointed a new one. Theya Twomother held Esra's position, Arndala the Priestess represented Eiritha, Baranthos Guliksson represented Barntar, Heorl spoke for the Thunderer, Gunnar had the Voriof position, and Korol had the role of Warrior.
Part 7 | Part 9
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