Trannsi of the Roseberry clan of the Alekki made his way to the hillfort. His mother's brother had married the sister of Konall's foster father. Trannsi had been hunting in Vustria with two clan brothers, and had discovered a rune-carved plinth when they were attacked by Telmori. He was saved by a whirlwind that formed around the plinth, and tossed Telmori and their wolves around. Since this was powerful Air magic, he headed for Konall, the only Orlanthi he knew. Konall and his kin agreed to help avenge Trannsi's clan brothers and investigate the plinth.
As they passed through Melvori clan lands, they were met by a group of warriors. One was Kuan, who recognized the kinsmen of Una, whom he'd sworn to marry. When Nath Brawl said that she was his wife, Kuan challenged him. They dealt each other two mighty blows, then Kuan gave Nath a deep wound in the side. Since his own men were evenly matched by Nath's friends, Kuan decided not to take Nath's head, but refused to let them cross Melvori territory.
Nath was too embarassed to return to Una for his wounds to be treated, so they found a healer at a stead of the Kiftori clan. The Kiftori were curious about the "shaggy man" travelling with the Orlanthi.
Trannsi was able to find the site where he was attacked. A tree had fallen, exposing an opening under its roots. The plinth was taller than Harmast, and carved with many runes as well as other symbols.
A huge, grey slug came oozing towards them. Nath tried to become inspired by Hate Chaos but became Melancholic. They killed the slug with missiles, but not before it spit slime at Jornast.
They dragged the tree back over the hole and camped. That night, four Telmori stole Jornast's horse, but were discovered. Two got away, but their wolves didn't, and Trannsi skinned them.
They returned to the Kiftori for Konall to heal, gifting them with the wolf skins. They were joined by Ort, a Humathi from the Karbaring clan. They showed a rubbing from the plinth to the Kiftori lawspeaker, who claimed the writing was ancient Naskori.
They returned to the site. Ort scrambled down into an underground chamber, and was attacked by a two-headed broo. Since the opening was narrow, only a few people could get into the fight, and the broo gave Ort several nasty wounds before being dispatched. They tried to continue into the next underground chamber, but were unable to cross a large pool of slime, which oozed up over anything they touched it with. Harmast collected some of it.
Twelve Telmori and wolves showed up, and they decided to leave the plinth to them. The Telmori set up camp. A couple hours later, three more Telmori arrived, supporting a shaman who limped painfully. The shaman began some sort of ritual drumming.
They decided to leave, but soon ran into 10 Galanini. Nath and Konall negotiated for their help against the Telmori. The horse people were no friends of the Telmori, but asked for two horses in payment, and reiterated the Code of Galanin, that only the horse's kin could ride. Konall finally decided not to accept their offer, since he wanted to be able to ride into battle (despite being more skilled fighting from foot with his craisech).
Frustrated by the Telmori, they decided to raid the Melvori herds. They were able to find 44 cows and killed two of the herd boys. Hours later, 8 Melvori chariots caught up. Although they were disappointed that Kuan was not among them, they managed to defeat them all. Jornast challenged the last one to single combat. Hostaran, the Melvori warrior, struck first with a terrific blow, and was allowed to leave in Jornast's chariot. They ended up with 15 ponies, 5 chariots, and 7 heads, in addition to the cows.
Shortly after their return, rumors began reaching the Belovaking of a group of strange people who claimed to have crossed the Rockwood Mountains, and were slowly heading down the Doskior. Nobody had crossed the mountains since before Ingkel Hundred-Fighter became thane, over 60 years ago, after High Llama Pass mysteriously closed.
Ernaran Longtongue of the Taskenth clan (and Talking God member of the Riagos Tribal Ring) showed up to let the Belovaking clan know about the raid that the King, Jarkoring Backbone, was planning on Naskorion. All the clans would be going, aided by the Galanini horse people. Ekel Field-Destroyer couldn't bring himself to raid alongside the Galanini, but he allowed Egan Big-Blade to lead any Belovaking warriors who wished to go with the king.
Jarkoring Backbone led, but put Etarkel Longblade, cautious but victorious in battle, in charge. Other members of the Ring who went were Harran Aurochs-Horn, Amagorri the Smith, Ernaran Longtongue, Rastov the Fosterer, Dorn Sparrow, Heorik, and Fann the Clatterer. Nearly 300 chariot warriors mustered, and were allied with 100 Galanini horsemen.
The raiders swiftly travelled deep into Naskorion. The scouts finally reported opposition forming outside a walled town, and the two sides lined up and charged.
Ort's Humathi blade cut one rider completely in half, and he took out three others. Jornast took out four horses and two riders. Konall killed one and knocked another off his horse (he was then taken captive). Harmast took out two, and leaped on a horse to help rescue fallen Belovakings. Nath Brawl felled two. Korun fought well from his borrowed chariot, but was finally taken down, and used his Fireblood ability to heal himself.
As the Naskori brought their crossbowmen up and the cavalry retreated, Etarkel Longblade signaled for disengaging. Ort and Nath didn't fall back with the others until they'd taken a head. Konall, filled with hatred for the Naskori, continued to fight until an enemy shattered his craisech. He and Jornast each grabbed a corpse to assure there would be loot. Jornast's driver took a crossbow quarrel through a lung.
Although neither side achieved victory on the battlefield, the raiders lost only eight dead, and the Naskori losses were much greater.
Jornast snuck back to the battlefield to collect horse tails.
The stray horses that had been wandering the battlefield all showed up that night in the Galanini camp.
Harmast presented his horse to Jarkoring Backbone, who praised him as the only Orlanthi to capture a horse. Harmast was disappointed that it was given to the Galanini as per Jarkoring's promise to them.
Since the Belovaking warriors distinguished themselves, Jarkoring gave each a silver armband, a sword, and three cows.
Shortly after they returned to the tula, Uan Arthansson, Lawspeaker of the Melvori clan, arrived with a dozen warriors.
Uan and his kinsmen asked 100 cows in compensation for the deaths of 7 warriors and 2 herd boys. Ekel Field-Destroyer received them with all honors, respecting the fact that they were offering to settle without a suit (which would have had to be resolved by the King of Delela, since the Melvori clan was part of the Atnakol tribe, and the Belovaking clan was part of the Riagos tribe. However, the Belovaking lawspeaker raised the issue of offsetting wounds suffered by the Belovaking and Karbaring warriors. When he saw the negotiations were going well, Artri Madcap reminded everyone of the Orlanthi proverb, "Violence is always an option."
Konall wanted to avoid any chance of a blood feud, but Jornast didn't want his family to have to pay. However, he went along with Ekel's decision to pay compensation (after adjusting for the wounds suffered by the Belovaking). Ekel also paid the compensation due the Karbaring clan members, with the expectation of repayment.
Hostaran challenged Ort to single combat after he belittled the Melvori warriors. Although it wasn't a Humathi duel, both swore oaths absolving the other of blood debt. Ort switched to lighter armor so the fight would be fair. Hostaran nearly felled Ort, then Ort's magic blade cut him in half, accompanied by a great rush of wind.
Ekel Field-Destroyer was annoyed that a peace mission had ended in a killing, and asked Ort to leave the hill fort the next morning.
They decided to go to the Karbaring lands, since Nath and Una needed to return home anyway.
At the ford over the Doskior, they heard about a giant which was ravaging the herds of the Aryatling clan. They managed to follow reports and found footprints about twice normal size, leading to a long-abandoned hillfort. The tracks led around, but not up, the hill. They decided to camp in the middle of the ruins on top.
That night, Konall saw a spectral bull, which charged him. He tried to attack it, but his weapons passed through it. Konall tried dodging its attacks, but it gored him several times, greatly weakening him. Each time the bull charged by, he was nearly overcome by a strong emotion.
The next morning, they saw the giant, twice as tall as any man, clad only in a loincloth made of two bull hides, walk three times around the base of the hillfort, shaking a partially butchered cow. After the third time around, he disappeared. Everyone had expended much magic when the bull appeared, so nobody dared do anything about the giant. Konall and Ort agreed that he had hsunchen tattoos, but didn't know which totem.
The next night, Ort dodged a ghostly raven which swooped at him and tried to peck out his eyes, until it finally alighted on his shoulder. Ort too felt various emotions as the raven flew at him.
The next day, Ort suddenly saw the giant walking away from the hillfort. While everyone else peppered the giant with missiles, Ort rushed up, dodged the giant's huge club, and gave him three grievous wounds, and he fell. After he was dead, the bird tattoo on the giant's back faded, and he shrunk somewhat. Ort cut off his head, and brought it to Dorn Windbrother, Thane of the Aryatling clan. Dorn gave him a helmet with silver inlay, said to be made by the dwarves of Nidan.
Fintan Bone Eye, the Karbaring clan's Breath Shaman, told Ort that the raven was something like the spirit friends of the hsunchen. However, he warned against messing with spirits at an old ruin.
Part 3 | Part 5
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