Ekel recovered in time for the clan heroquest, though he failed to sneak past the guard, and almost didn't escape with the Red King's head. To set to rest the talk that this started, he gathered his kin and told them he would go on a grand adventure that would either prove he was still thane, or give him a chance to die gloriously in battle, rather than slowly of old age. The majority felt that he should once more lead the clan on a raid of Naskorion.
Vargast visited his father-in-law, Dungalak Cloud-Eye, thane of the Melvori clan. He persuaded 20 Melvori warriors to come on the raid. They were led by Konall Dungalaksson. Keitall Egansson spoke privately to the thane, presumably about his father's possible bid as thane of the Belovaking.
Neighboring Riagos clans didn't join the raid. The Karbaring clan couldn't send any warriors because Keanos had been raided from Helby, and was suffering an incursion of hsunchen from the south.
The Belovaking clan mustered 200 warriors, leaving Tanek Apple-Cheeks to guard the stead. Uathne swore that this would be her last raid, since she would resign as hearthguard when she returned.
Ekel's plan was to lure the Naskori to an open battle, so once they were defeated he could take cattle with impunity. They decided to attack a small village of about 600 people with part of their force. Alabron Ekelsson led the attack, with Egan Big-Blade's sons Darstal and Keitall under him. They made crude ladders and swarmed over the wall during a rainy night. They quickly dispatched the ragged resistance. Alabron fell with several crossbow quarrels in him, but was not seriously wounded. One woman spoke Traveller's Talk, and Vargast questioned her, apologizing when he found out that the villagers didn't worship Arkat. He learned that they had raided the town of Bantost, and that the nearest sorceror was in Kantara. They hastily looted, and took the translator and 20 women. Konall made sure he had one of the hated Naskori accordions as a trophy before all the houses were burned.
They waited for retaliation. Ekel lined up the chariots in an ambush, and signalled the charge, catching the Kantarans unaware.
Jornast hid himself at the edge of the battlefield, and waited until he could attack the sorcerer. His javelin struck true, but the sorcerer's magic protected him. His mounted escort charged Jornast, who took the blow on his shield, crippled the horse, then ran his rapier into the knight's eye. He then threw another javelin, felling the sorcerer's horse.
Ekel's forces won a stunning victory, with only a handful dead, and 40 important prisoners, including the sorcerer. Ekel generously accepted a ransom, and released the lesser warriors when it was delivered.
With the local defenses out of the way, Ekel sent out forces to round up all the local cattle.
The raiders returned driving 600 cows, as well as much armor and treasure, and 20 thralls. Vargast suggested that his father consider becoming King of the Riagos tribe. Ekel distributed most of the wealth, keeping a large share for a possible bid at kingship.
Jornast and Harmast asked Ervak Venallsson to travel to Helby and trade for some iron.
Although Ekel wanted to become king, Jarkoring Backbone had done nothing wrong, and would be difficult to depose. Ekel decided the best approach would be to convince the Melvori clan to join the Riagos tribe. This could justify a new king election without a lot of legal trickery.
There was some discussion of forcing the king to break a geas, but most of the plans involved maiming the clan Trickster, who objected strenuously. They planned to distribute nearly 300 cows to the different clans as evidence of Ekel's power and generosity. Jarkoring Backbone and the largest legal entourage showed up to enjoy Ekel's hospitality, so he had to send Vargast in charge of the gifts.
Vargast was inspired and spoke eloquently to the Taskenth and Zoraling clans. At the Melvori clan, Vargast was again inspired by familial pride, and convinced his father-in-law to switch tribes, promising him a seat on the tribal Ring.
They returned home, to find Jarkoring still visiting Belovaking clansmen. They set out again with more gifts. Harmast spoke of the evils of Naskorion, and persuaded the Wolnarhi and Aryatling clans to back Ekel.
Ervak returned, with only enough iron for one sword. Jornast went to his foster-father's smithy to enchant the iron, and forged a fine sword he named Kingmaker. He decorated it with gold inlay.
Ekel formally called for a moot to discuss the question of Melvori membership, and consider a new king. Konall, Vargast, and Harmast each contributed 5 cows toward's Ekel's bid, and convinced their kinsmen to also donate.
At the moot, everyone welcomed the Melvori clan. Jarkoring and his men also distributed gifts, and were partially successful at swaying the clans back from their support of Ekel. However, Harmast gave a stirring speech in favor of a strong hand against Naskorion, while Jarkoring's rebuttal was uninspired.
Ekel had warned of the possibility that the king would kill the hostages each of the clans had given. Ort was able to determine that they were being held in the stead of a man newly elevated to horse-lord status. However, they were guarded by a fellow Humathi, Orlkan the Staunch.
Jornast presented Ekel with Kingmaker. Ekel called for a Naskori sword, and broke it with the iron one.
The election gave Ekel a solid majority as king, but Jarkoring exercised his right of challenge, and refused to use a champion. Ekel accepted personally, and managed to take down Jarkoring while only suffering a light wound. At this, Jarkoring's hearthguard, who had sworn to avenge him, rushed onto the dueling field. Jornast had prepared magic for such an event, and threw a javelin. Harmast, Nath, Konall, Vargast, and Ekel's hearthguard ran to protect Ekel. Asvak the Strong knocked Harmast down, and ran to engage two more men. Konall and Nath were wounded. Vargast felled Ernandan Bloodeye, and cut off his head.
When Orlkan heard the noise, he told Ort that he had to carry out his orders. Ort tried to stop him, and they fought. For several minutes they were evenly matched, then Orlkan gave Ort a serious wound. Ort healed it, then took another grievous wound. Orlkan killed the hostages, then bandaged Ort.
Konall tried to find a lasso to stop Asvak. Several people ineffectually tried casting spells. Harmast continued to fight, though he was wounded several times, and would have died if not for his Fireblood ability. Nath reentered the fight, but Asvak cut through his shield and into his side. He then nearly disemboweled Harmast.
At this point, Ekel stepped forward, and Commanded Asvak to stop fighting and swear loyalty to his new king. Asvak again swore his life to avenge his king, and became the first of Ekel's new hearthguard.
Jarkoring's body was never found, though nobody admitted carrying it off. Ekel had him outlawed for the killing of the hostages, but had compensation paid out of the king's estate, instead of forcing his kinsmen to pay.
To nobody's surprise, Ekel Field-Destroyer announced that his Crown Test would be another raid on Naskorion. While he waited for warriors wounded at the election to heal, he made a quick circuit and appointed a new Ring. He also appointed Harmast as a Belovaking hearthguard.
Ekel mustered the tribe in Kortling lands, taking 1000 warriors divided between mounted, chariot, and foot. He brought the Belovaking war spirit, Left Stone Shouter, and several other clans' spirits. They marched south, sending some of the footmen to attack a small town. The main group met resistance outside the walled city of Theewer. They outnumbered the Naskori troops, but decided to attack just after sunset. However, the Naskori sorcerers illuminated several spots outside the city. They also had additional mounted troops hiding behind and inside the city. Konall distinguished himself in battle, killing several Naskori with single blows. Left Stone Shouter flung his thunderbolts, and the Storm Voices caused a fierce hailstorm over the city. Eventually the Naskori retreated back into their walls. When Ekel sent his men to pursue, they got too close to the city, and were hit by shrieking bolts of sorcery from the walls.
It was called "The Battle of Evil Lights." The Riagos tribe lost 20 dead and 80 wounded in the battle, and another 100 dead of sorcery. They managed to get 800 cows worth of battle loot.
Everyone agreed that Ekel had proved himself a worth king. The army made many small raids and burned fields on their return, eventually returning with 600 head of cattle.
Ekel's wife Ornai, Vargast's mother, became quite ill over the winter.
In Keanos, there were more reports of seeing ghostly lions, and another year of poor hunting.
Part 5 | Part7
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