Tales of Ralios

Year 21 of Ekel Field-Destroyer, Year 6 of Kerval Very Tall

There were many stories of the travellers from the north who had strange pack ponies, and gave gifts of wine to clans along the river. A beer blight hit the Chilaning clan, but most clans had a good harvest. A white alynx was born in the Belovaking clan. Westerners tried to hire mercenaries from the Karbaring clan, and the King of Keanos sent messengers to the West.

Una's and Nath's son died of consumption, but she gave birth to another son. Fola had Konall's son. When they got together, they held a ritual to make the two infants friends.

Everyone enjoyed the Children's Festival, though people wondered why the King of Delela had sent One-Horse Vustal.

Nath and his friends decided to investigate some unusual occurrences in Wonderwood. On their way, they met Penet Greenback, a raccoon hsunchen from the Copper Mask clan. "Give me shiny, I give you story." Konall played his flute, and Una gave him an earring, and after falling out of the tree he was in, he told them about a "cloud-man" with tattoos like Nath's, who quarrelled with another man over a woman. The first man died in the woods, and the other married the woman. Nath figured this might be his cousin Bodan Amonson, missing for 20 years. Penet led them to the spot the next morning, near two standing stones leaning together, carved with scenes that might have been Gerlant Flamesword's army. Nath gave him a silver arm-band. Konall suggested staying until night to see if a ghost appeared. Una found some ghostweed, though nobody was sure how to use it. The ghost appeared, and confirmed his rivalry over Magann of the Stabaring clan with Ganen of the Thondroni clan. He was stabbed in the back and couldn't rest. Nath swore to right the wrong. The next day, they dug up a fingerbone and some teeth, the only remains, and returned to the Karbaring tula for advice.

Astoring Long-words, the Lawspeaker, advised Nath on how to press a charge of secret murder. Fintan Bone Eye confirmed that the relics were Bodan's, and suggested setting things straight before burying them.

Konall suggested asking for compensation, but Nath wanted to kill Ganen, so he obtained proper witnesses and they set off. Nath announced himself properly to the Thondroni, and was brought to their thane, Briun Brawn, who summoned Ganen. Ganen protested his innocence, and demanded his right to trial by combat. Nath agreed, and Bodan's brothers put up the sureties.

The next morning, the duel was held. Ganen dropped his sword, and Nath nearly cut his leg off. Briun sent one of his hearthguard to finish Ganen, fulfilling his oath that there would be no secret murderers in his clan. They left the silent Thondroni assembly, as Ganen's son was held back by his kinsmen.

Bodan's remains were given a proper burial; Jornast gave his sword.

Vargast Ekelsson was finally ready to find a new wife, and Konall wanted to find the northerners who had given wine to other thanes, so they set out with gifts from Ekel Field-Destroyer. They managed to find the northerners floating down the Doskior on five rafts laden with 50 odd-looking long-eared horses and many gifts. There were also four riders of fine horses and two dozen guards. Nath was suspicious when one of the rafts pulled over to the opposite side of the river, convinced they were hiding Chaos from him. Their leader, a woman named Anntippa the Watchful, put on a red cloak and exchanged gifts, including wine (the color of her cloak), raisins, colorful cloth, and preserved fruit. Nath refused the wine, and Una reluctantly followed his lead. Vargast was able to talk to Anntippa using Traveller's Talk. He learned that they had crossed the haunted land of Dorastor using powerful magic, and served the "Wine Emperor," who they also called "The Military," and said had dominion over the Red Moon. Konall gave a fine rendition on his bagpipe of "The Drunken Reel" in his honor. Finding the Wine People appreciative of good music, Konall went on to play "A Hundred Heads from Naskorion," while Jornast waved his carefully preserved Naskori head for emphasis. The rafters apologized for not giving gifts to Ekel on their last trip, since they had to stick to the river until they reached Lake Felster. Konall warned them to be wary of the Naskori.

They returned to the Belovaking clan with the stranger's gifts, and decided to accompany Alabron Ekelsson on a cattle raid to Naskorion (Harmast was tempted to go on Darstal Egansson's raid instead, since it was to raise support for Egan's possible candidacy as thane). They found a herd of 51 cows and defeated the guards (who had lightning bolts on their shields), preventing any from escaping. Both Nath and Una dropped their swords and were knocked from their chariot and horse, respectively. Jornast killed one horse, and Harmast wounded another so it had to be killed. Vargast wanted to take the Naskori back as prisoners, while his brother wanted to just take their heads. Harmast proposed a compromise, and they took the three least wounded back. Ekel turned them over to the clan elders to kill as sorcerers.

With their new wealth, they set out for Melvori lands (over Nath's objections). Vargast told Dungalak Cloud-Eye, the thane, that Ekel wanted to make sure their quarrel was patched up, and offered to marry Dungalak's daughter Brenna. Harmast was also interested in the match, but Dungalak picked Vargast. Brenna was not overly fond of Vargast's son Kolla, but helped the sickly lad grow strong.

They continued east to the Gesain clan, to Hostban's stead. Hostban had three times refused Jornast's request to marry his daughter, Aibell of the Red Hair. Una, Vargast, Konall, and Harmast spoke to Aibell and her father on Jornast's behalf, and Hostban finally agreed. Jornast and Aibell didn't have any great affection for each other at first, but their love slowly grew.

Part 4 | Part 6

Copyright ©1996 David Dunham. Last updated 11 Jun 96.

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