Ephemera — The Companions Of Indrodar
????, Dark Season
Each year that he searched, Indrodar scarred a mark into his shield arm. So it was that the third year was known as Harmony Year, for there were three lines together.
In Dark Season of that year, when the Upland Marsh was frozen over and the ice was thick enough to bear a warband, he took a dozen thegns to search out the small bands of undead left above the surface. All were experienced men and some had fought Ice Demons.
For a week they searched, and fought, and searched and fought again, until all had wounds, save Indrodar himself, who had been the first to draw a weapon each time, and the most eager to do battle. At length Thegn Imilso said to him, “Lord, we are dying by shadowcat scratches, for between each battle is not enough time to heal. Let us return to our Steads and come again.”
Indrodar replied, “Your wisdom is great, Imilso, but let us go by a different path, for the way back will be watched by dead eyes,” and so saying he lead the way across the ice.
Imilso followed, but he had taken only a single step when Indrodar fell through the ice with a cry, and was dragged under. Havna of the Clear Eyes called that he was being taken away, and bare moments later they saw him struggle up onto an island in the distance, transported far out of the way they knew, and there he lay, and even Havna could not see if he was dead.
Imilso set out onto the ice, going far to the side, but soon felt it creaking beneath him, and Havna called that bodies moved beneath. As they debated how to cross the ice, and not one of them thought of going back, Jang Jargalsson, mighty in war, and a son of a devotee of Babeester Gor, dived shoulder first onto the ice, breaking through it into the water beneath. He was a worshipper of Engizi, and could breathe water as if it was air, when the God was with him, and so he had no fear in the chill waters, but cleared the ice with his axe so that his friends could strike from above, as the death things walked to him.
Havna of the Clear Eyes could see beneath the ice, and stood where the attack was thickest, and beneath the water the son of Jargal slew many, and above those with spears and pikes accounted for more, until Hanva said there was nothing more to come. Then Jang put his axe up, and stout Farharst pulled him up, and he stripped off his clothes and rolled in snow while others scouted the best way across the frozen water, and Aran the Fair swapped clothes with him, so one was cold within, and one cold without, and another man gave up his cloak.
When they reached the island where Indodar lay, the sword Wrath was beside him, and his hand was clutched around it. He was lying on his side, half frozen, but he roused himself when his followers reached him, and saw the wounds on Jang, and the shivering of half of the band, for all were wet from the battle or the travel, and he said, “I cannot go on. It is–” And he would have given up his oath there and then, and died, but Laisdan Kanlaison emptied out a helmet full of frozen water on him, and he was unable to speak, and so he lived on.
“It is well for you that nobody of my mother’s temple is here,” said Jang, “For Babeester Gor would see you dead if an oath-spirit did not,” and Indrodar replied, “Better dead than trapped in a living death.”
“Well,” asked Imilso, “What of our Queen, who is so trapped? Come, brother – rise and we shall go rest, and once more try this cursed place.”
Indrodar looked at him with eyes more dead than alive, and said, “I have no strength to go on.” But Jang said, “I have strength. If I cannot carry you across the ice, I will carry you below it.”
Indrodar looked at Jang and made reply, “The cold enters my bones, and my heart stops on ice.” It was Aran the Fair who replied, shivering, “We will warm you with our bodies, and you will warm us,” and he lay down beside Indodar, and beside him Farharst lay down also, and others covered them with cloaks, but nobody touched the sword in his hand.
Then Indrodar said, “A spirit spoke to me, below the ice, and told me that my cause was useless.” Then clever Laisdan asked, “How did it breathe there? Was it a servant of the river, or a dead thing, left to rot and lie?”
Indrodar admitted he did not know, and in doing so he was free of the spirit’s fear, and found himself warmed by his companions and cheered by their loyalty.
Then they made their way back into the Greydog lands, where Indrodar gave his companions rings of gold, and they gave him oaths in return, that they would always follow him.