The afternoon blew in cold and dreary. Freezing sleet assaulted our village. We were busy butchering the Long Nosed Hairy Tusk Monster that we had barely managed to kill. (Don't mention it to Boltho -- he'll rave for hours about the fight.) A woman from our sister village of Narund came running in, begging for help from our healers. (Most of the people in Narund had moved in with us during the winter.) As I had more experience with healing than food preparation, I volunteered. Yaril Dog-Brother was out hunting, and Khorvash of Alkoth was busy building something mysterious. To see me safely through the wilderness, I took Boltho of the Orgovaltes, Mirkhel of Imther, and Ettiko, a savage but curiously charming little Pentan who claimed to worship the sun goddess, Karg's Aunt.
We rode along the path to Narund as evening fell. The weather improved not a bit. Finally, as night fell, we took shelter in an abandoned stead. We had just made a cosy fire when something scratched and whined at the door. Ettiko carefully opened the door, ready to face something terrible. A little dog scampered in -- the kind kept to chase off rats and foxes. The dog seemed anxious. It kept wanting in and out. Suddenly, it grabbed my healing bag and ran off into the darkness!
We all chased the little dog into the night. I swear it would allow itself to be seen just often enough for us to follow it. After an hour or two, it stopped raining and just grew colder. Finally, Ettiko spotted the dog on the top of a small hill, next to a little house. The dog dropped the bag and ran inside.
We all dashed to the top of the hill. Once there, the little house seemed different. It was a finely built, open topped circular building, with openings to the north, south, east, and west. Inside it, on a column carved with runes I have never seen, sat a red, burning crystal. Outside of the building, about six cubits away, stood a large, carefully stacked pile of wood. Boltho looked curious; Mirkhel looked pale, and Ettiko was staring at the wood. The air changed, and magic pervaded everything. Suddenly, Boltho boasted a fine suit of iron chain and Mirkhel wore shining golden plate. The sides of the hill, now much bigger, were green and lush, with large, heavily veined gold-rocks littering the sides. Mirkhel looked even more worried.
Ettiko reached for the crystal, as if to remove it. As he did, the most horrific troll I have ever seen charged into the building. A terrible battle ensued. Ettiko had been nearly killed by the Tusk Monster two days before, and was still too wounded fight. Instead, he kept trying to ignite the wood outside with burning arrows. Botho and Mirkhel needed help, so I laid in with my axe. I have had some dealings with trolls before, and can read a little of their expressions. This one seemed surprised!
I despise the florid battle-poetry of the warrior scalds, so I will be brief. We won. Mirkhel nearly died, and Boltho was sorely wounded. The Troll disappeared as he died. Ettiko, quiet as usual, took the red crystal over to the pile of wood, which was still unlight. He carefully held it to the wood. The pyre quickly burst into an impossibly bright flame, which steadily warmed the hilltop. Mirkhel returned the crystal to the column. Boltho still looked confused.
It was then we noticed Ettiko's horse had wings. Ettiko whooped and weakly climbed on, flying his horse into the night. Slowly, the sky in the east grew brighter. Yelm seemed larger and brighter than he had the morning before. We were all mesmerized by the rising disk. Even Ettiko landed to watch the rays of light pour over the valley below. Once Yelm had completely risen above the Gates of Dawn, we were released.
We were again on a soggy little hill in the wilds of Saird, next to a decrepit herder's shelter. The shack was empty. Mirkhel and Boltho stood in their sodden old clothes, but their wounds were real. The stack of wood smoldered nearby. Ettiko still sat his horse, once again merely a beast of the earth. I retrieved my bag. The dog had gone. There was, however, a lovely warm wind blowing in from the south -- a wind that smelled of spring.
At Narund we found that no one was ill; the woman who supposedly fetched us had died that winter. Ettiko says that the the little dog must have been SnowFox in disguise, come for him so he could be a part of the Signal for the Sun Path. Usually, on the first night of the new year, the shamans of Karg's Aunt light the Signal across all Pent from east to west, to show the sun the new path. But this year the dragons ate so many, they must have needed even a mangled warrior to help.
Since that day, Ettiko swears his horse runs a little faster than she did before.
Because so many rituals were lost with the men in the Dragonkill, the boys of Endaga learned a new Spring Ritual. Even a hundred years later, Endagan warriors go to FoxDog Hill to slay the Dark and perform the ritual of Helmal, Orlanth, and Kazaga. (And a nearby clan of trolls has lost fire for their Zorak Zorani.)
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