Tales of Ralios

Year 17 of Ekel Field-Destroyer

The morning of Windsday, Death week of Sea season, was cloudy and windy, an auspicious sign for the six members of the Belovaking clan who were to undergo the final tests of initiation.

Konall was the youngest brother of the clan thane, Ekel Field-Destroyer. He could play any musical instrument he set his hands to. He had been fostered to Hruktuk, shaman of the Ochre Top clan of the Alekki, or moose tribe.

Ekel Field-Destroyer's two daughters were also being initiated. Minara had inherited her mother Ornai's stunning beauty, as well as a chariot with bronze scythes, inlaid with lapis lazuli and shell. She had been fostered to Orlmand the Listener, Lawspeaker of the Galdring clan in the Nardain tribe. Una was Lina's daughter, and was noted for her fine style of dressing. People said she had the healer's gift. The sisters shared their father's love of horses, and both planned to follow Vinga's path and seek adventure.

Jornast was the son of Ekel Field-Destroyer's brother, Harstov the Saddle Maker. He had been fostered to Amagorri the Smith of the Taskenth clan, and seemed to dislike his own kinsmen.

Harmast Dailgusson was a great-grandson of Ingkel Hundred-Fighter, who had been thane when the White Horse Troop passed through. He was a large man, well-trained in the ways of war and seemed destined to become a gifted orator.

Aidin was the daughter of Dathen the Poet, and a great-granddaughter of Ingkel Hundred-Fighter. She was blessed with an excellent memory. She too planned to cut her hair and wash it with lime as a Vingan.

The first six days of the initiation were full of instruction, memorizing the seemingly endless poems that Orlanth worshipers were expected to know, hearing again how Orlanth almost destroyed the world, but then made it right, learning the rules of law that would soon apply to them. The most unusual lesson was when Halvar Stormeye, the clan's priest of Orlanth, summoned a sylph so they could learn Stormspeech.

On Windsday, all seven members of the Clan Ring were there, though Artri Madcap looked like he had just been dragged out of bed. Led by Methe the Traveler, the procession headed south into the Barren Hills, a bleak region which acted as a buffer between the Belovaking and Kortling clans, which had several active feuds. They spiraled in a counterclockwise direction, ending on a hilltop with an old three-sided standing stone. Each face had a crude figure carved in it, and one of Orlanth's runes freshly painted in yellow ochre.

Ekel raised his voice: "We are the Belovaking clan. We came here long ago, when there was famine throughout Delela, and we met Left-Stone Shouter, who helped us drive out the Naskori sorcerers so we could graze our cattle here. Our distant grandfather Aranast Hill-Poet placed this stone here so we would never forget Left-Stone Shouter.

"We are not as many as the Kortling clan, but we are braver, wiser and above all more honorable than them. This makes us a greater and stronger people. But we must not make too much of our superiority: Orlanth's virtues of generosity and justice apply equally toward the Kortling clan. Even if they are devious and shifty.

"As this will be your most important test, I cannot tell you what to expect. But I can tell you what is expected of you. An Orlanthi must always take action, even if it is not always the right one. Seeing to it that something happens is the main thing; mistakes are made to be corrected, and also to learn from. You will probably make many mistakes -- this is no cause for concern as long as you maintain the virtues of Orlanth and set things right in the end. Orlanth himself grew by admitting his errors and correcting them."

As Halvar Stormeye raised his hands, a powerful whirlwind rose around them, blurring their vision. They were swept into the air, finally coming back down in a valley that looked much like their own, but greener and brighter, with taller hills and a fast-flowing river in place of the stream.

Between them in the spot the stone had been was an odd person with legs as long as a man is tall. Aidin recognized him as a Flint Slinger, a spirit which often punishes initiates who break their vows. They gave the Orlanthi Greeting. He answered and introduced himself as Left-Stone Shouter, and said he would be their guide.

The valley contained no steads, but Left-Stone Shouter pointed them towards some trees. Sitting in them were two winged men, arguing about who had first spotted a bag of sand. Konall suggested splitting the sand, but they told him it was the bag that was magic. Minara proposed taking turns using the bag, and drawing lots to see who would have it during Sacred Time. They agreed to this, then brought them to their tree-top stead where they were greeted by the thane and given meat and water. The thane, who had magnificently dyed feathers, asked them to entertain the assembly. Konall played his flute, Harmast and Jornast told stories, and Una made whirligigs for the children. The thane was well pleased, and gave them each a feather bracelet.

Left-Stone Shouter leaped into the air to the height of 20 men, and described the green-skinned lady he saw. When they got to her, she asked them to rescue her herd, which had been stolen by men of darkness.

They followed the tracks into what would be Kortling territory if the land truly corresponded. Six large alynxes claimed they were trespassing, and heaped insults on them. Minara challenged one to single combat, but was laid out by a vicious slash to the head. Una challenged him to avenge her sister. She allowed the alynx to stand up after he fell down, then defeated him. Jornast defeated his opponent and skinned him. Aidin fought honorably, but was seriously wounded in the stomach. Harmast avenged her, and took his opponent's head. Left-Stone Shouter healed their wounds. The remaining alynxes let them pass.

They lost the trail, but spotted a coyote, who offered to get them the cattle if one of the women slept with him. Minara scratched behind his ears and flirted with him, and managed to trick him into revealing the direction of the herd.

They set out at a trot, and soon found a cave. They fashioned torches and entered. The cows were being guarded by five trollkin and one dark troll. The trollkin were defeated easily, but the dark troll cracked Harmast's ribs before he killed it. They found lead coins with a troll head on one side and a boat on the other.

On the way back, they met a woman dressed in white. She healed Harmast, and touched the wounds of Aidin and Minara. When Konall asked her name, she replied, "You can call me Chalana."

They returned to the Green Lady, who thanked them and gave them milk. As she drove her cattle away, they found themselves lying on the ground on the hilltop, with their elders just having finished tattooing them. They each had a feather bracelet tattooed on one arm, a stylized design for defeating an alynx or troll, and a small circle for each troll coin they found.

Halvar congratulated them, and explained each event. The number of tests was more than anyone else had gone through, and Ainmir Sloweye said this meant they were chosen by Orlanth for some great fate.

After the celebratory feast, Ekel offered to take the new adults on a cattle raid. They decided to raid Naskorion rather than the Ilmoshi clan.

Ekel and three of his hearthguard, Niul, Ingolf, and Dandern, came along as guides. They stayed the first night in Wolnarhi lands. The next night they were in Naskorion. Ekel's alynx went out scouting, and reported a herd nearby. Jornast and Aidin tried to sneak up, but were spotted, and one of the guards started sounding a horn. They killed both guards, and started driving the cattle back to Delela.

Konall, who had the fastest horse, rode back and saw a group of spearmen and a rider answering the horn. The horseman, who bore a white shield with two blue circles, was riding ahead of the footmen, so they set up an ambush in some trees. The Naskori rider threw a javelin at Konall, and charged Harmast with his lance. Although he was a good rider, he couldn't manage to avoid being double-teamed, and was taken down before he could ride back to his men.

Ekel distributed the plunder, and distributed the 30 cows to the two bloodlines.

Part 2

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Last updated 25 Nov 95 drd

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