News came from the coast that a ship had landed two years before -- the first in four centuries! It was sailing on to the west.
The Melvori clan was suffering raids from several clans in its old tribe, the Atnakol, so Ekel sent several of his tribal hearthguard to guest there.
Kolkel, a horse-lord of the Murendi clan, showed up at Ekels court on behalf of Ashanth the Grey, the new thane of the Murendi. They had been troubled by bandit raids led by Jarkoring, now known as Badbone. Ashanth worried that some of his people were still sympathetic to their old king, and asked Ekels help. Few had openly sided with Jarkoring, but one of his hearthguard, Orlkan the Staunch, had apparently joined him.
Ekel appointed his brother Konall in charge of a group to deal with the bandits. They figured the bandits probably worshipped Urain, the Nasty Rain, which the Bemurok cult considered to be chaotic. Konall forged a ring against outlaws, and everyone wore a strip of the cloth he used in the ritual. Jornast decided to bring his wyvern armor.
They travelled to the Murendi hillfort, and were guested by Ashanth the Grey. He seemed very loyal to Ekel, but eager to get rid of the bandit threat, which had apparently hit the neighboring Taskenth clan as well. Harmast heard it said that Fann the Clatterer, who had been Jarkorings lover, had her sights set on Ekel. Just what she had in mind wasnt clear.
Ashanth provided a guide, Altamorl, a member of the Orlanth the Hunter subcult. Altamorl led them to spots he thought might be good to hide out. They found a weeks-old campfire at the first. Harmast spotted smoke, which they headed towards. They were ambushed by eight bandits, led by Gabran Strife who wore a midnight-black bear skin. Nath Brawl was Befuddled, but eventually realized that the bandits were tainted by Chaos. Although he knew he was doomed because he was outnumbered, he still struck one down. Jornast took down one bandit with a javelin. Konall gave a serious wound to Kethel Stormbreath, but he was inspired by the Unholy Rage, and gave Konall an even worse wound. Seeing his uncle down, Vargast rushed over and killed Kethel.
Harmast was fighting Gabran Strife and another bandit, but dismounted to face Gabran alone. He was attacked by a spirit, which he ignored. He gave Gabran a tremendous blow, splitting his ribs so that his lung flopped out, but Gabran too had the Unholy Rage, and somehow kept fighting, striking Harmast. Finally, Harmast and Jornast finished him off. Moments later, Harmast was possessed by the spirit, and fainted.
Altamorl tried to bandage everyone. Only two of the bandits were likely to survive, so they took the heads of the others. Konall turned the other two over to Jornast for questioning. They revealed that Jarkoring had indeed taken up with Gabran Strife, pronouncing himself Outlaw Rex. Gabran agreed to become his war leader, since the band was always at war. Jarkoring and Orlkan were still in the camp, with perhaps a dozen other outlaws. Since they admitted that they worshipped Urain, Nath killed them.
Harmast woke up barely able to move, feeling as if salt had been put under his skin. Makkekt pronounced him possessed by a pain spirit. At the nearest stead, they were told of the Young Girl of the Woods, who had run away before her initiation, and now dealt with spirits. She was somewhat hard to approach, but the carl led them to the standing stone where gifts could be left for her. Makkekt, Nath, and Harmast waited there with gifts, while the others went to the Taskenth hill fort so that Konall could be healed. After some time, Harmast saw an unkempt woman about his own age. She asked him to fetch gold-daisies from the next valley. Unfortunately, he wasnt quite sure what one was, and came back with the wrong flowers. She told him he hadnt looked hard enough. Makkekt composed a tragic poem, and convinced her to give Harmast another chance. She agreed to help if he made her smile. Nath taught him a bull dance, and Makkekt sang along. The girl relented, and drove out the pain spirit. She told Harmast it was a very large one. He promised she could call on him for help in the future, and gave her a gold arm band. She said when she saw him again, he could call her Gold-Daisy. Harmast said, Then you were the gold-daisy I was looking for. You didnt listen, she replied. Pay more attention in the future.
Orlandan Wide Hair, the Taskenth thane, received them with great hospitality. He was very pleased that Gabran Strife was dead, and loaned two warriors to help find Jarkoring Badbone.
Amagorri the Smith told his foster-son Jornast that the tribal ring was getting worried about Ekels age.
While Konalls wounds were skillfuly tended to by Ornell Blue, the Chalana Healer, the others returned to track the bandits. They followed chariot tracks to the edge of Virichani lands. This clan was in the Gesain tribe. It was not long before two clan hearthguards found them and escorted them to their thane, Dangarl Mighty Stride. He questioned them closely on Ekels ascent to kingship. Harmast saw a suspicious-looking shamaness watching them.
While they were waiting for that nights feast, Harmast asked a local woman to show him gold-daisies, which she did, but found his looks too plain.
As they were seated at the feast, they saw Jarkoring Badbone sitting at the other side of the hall. Next to him were Orlkan the Staunch and the shamaness. Vargast, backed up by Nath Brawl, accused Jarkoring of consorting with chaos. Jarkoring called him Arkat the Deceiver. Dangarl invoked hospitality, but Vargast stomped off with his friends.
They decided to go as far as possible, even though it was dark. They heard sounds, and Vargast cast Lightwall. They saw a troll caravan, with six huge beetles laden with goods. Vargast called out in Travellers Talk, and was answered by an ornately-dressed troll. They traded for some healing leaves and a small piece of blood-red wood.
They returned to the Belovaking tula, where they learned that the Wolnarhi and Kortling clans had been raided by Surkori people, Orlanthi from the far northwest. They were presumably allies of the Naskori, since they had raided from Naskorion.
At the same time, clans of the Atnakol tribe had made several raids on the Melvori. Vargasts father-in-law, Dungalak Cloud-Eye, spoke on behalf of raising the tribal fyrd and attacking the Atnakol. Although Tuala, Er-Ralia priestess of the Wolnarhi clan, lobbied on behalf of a raid on Naskorion, most people agreed that this could wait a year, but the Melvori could not. Ekel decided to send two-thirds of the fyrd, under Etarkel Longblade.
They marched north, burning a few steads before being met by the hastily-gathered Atnakol fyrd. The Riagos outnumbered Atnakol by more than two-to-one, but Etarkel had hidden many of his troops so they caught the Atnakol by surprise. In a pitched battle, the Riagos were victorious, and Adonnan Thunder-Arm, the Atnakol king, paid tribute to Ekel Field-Destroyer.
Makkekt gave many gifts to Kar Kervalsdaughter, but she had two other suitors, and didnt react to the Orlanth Woos Ralia quest that Makkekt had hoped to perform. He begain considering the daughters of Ingolf Wryneck of the Belovaking.
Harmast asked Dorn Sparrow, Chalana representative on the tribal ring, about regrowing his ear. Dorn said it would be possible, but he couldnt risk his position in the cult for a cosmetic repair, without some reward for the cult. He told Harmast there was a spring in the heart of the Wonderwood, in which lived a nymph. If Harmast could learn her name, he could have his ear regrown.
Ekel became gravely ill. The harvest was a disaster, and people saw the two as connected. Konalls son Asvak died.
Makkekt befriended the Hawk Spirit.
Harmast One-ear became a rune lord of Orlanth, learning the secret shout from Left Stone Shouter.
Konalls wife Fola Giver gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.
Part 7 | Part 9
Info Plaza David Dunham Page | Glorantha Page East Ralios