The Rune Of Unlife

Ephemera — The Rune Of Unlife


At the start of the fifth year of his search, Indrodar went into the wilderness to lament for his Queen, and he cut another line on his arm, and at the end of the third night he woke, and saw that the marks had changd to the Rune of Unlife. Loyal Indrodar fell to his knees in horror, knowing that the mark would set him apart from his Tribe. He set no traps for the next day, but he drew water and purified himself with dust, and prayed for guidance, and at nightfall his companions came to find him. “Friends,” he said, “I cannot return while this mark is on me.”

Jang offered to take off the arm cleanly, but Laisdan said the mark would still be there even if the arm was gone, and that was agreed to be wise.

None of the band thought to strike Indrodar down, but when he said he would go into the Marsh alone, all of them said they would follow if they could not prevent him, and so he waited while they prepared themselves, and then he led them into the shallows and the mudbanks.

Soon a mist came up, and they held close to each other and waited, but it thickened, and Indrodar knew it for a fell working. He ordered a shield wall and put himself between Aran the Fair and Mirilip his brother, for it is a shame for a brother to see his brother die. Indrodar wielded the sword Wrath with two hands, and trusted in his shield companions.

Soon Havna called out that she saw shapes in the mist, and then a moment later there came a terrible attack, broo made into zombies and ghouls, biting and rending at any part of the heroes that they could reach. Mirilip fell beside Indrodar and was dragged away, and the shield wall shrank until Indrodar stood with only three; Havna clear-eyes, clever Laisdan, and great Jang with his axe. Then the greatest of the broo stood forth, half living and half dead, dripping with rot, and Jang screamed a challenge and charged, and cut it in two, but as he did its blood sprayed on him.

Then the others began to panic, for their leader was gone, and they fled into the mist, and the mist lifted, and Indrodar looked on the dying and dead around him, and saw the faces of many friends, and he wept for them as he set the mark of Death on each, but still he set it. But many were wounded only, and magics saved them, so that half the company lived, although they were beset by pain.

“My lord,” said Laisdan, “Things are worse than they appear, for only two Humakti remain to you, and only one child of the river titan.” “Worse even than that,” said Jang, “For I am poisoned, and a shaking begins within me.”

“Then let us press on,” said Indrodar, “For I feel doom upon me.” His companions followed, but Jang slipped into the deepest of the ways they crossed, and was lost to them, as his grip loosened on a stone.

Indrodar found an islet and on it he set up a cross, and waited with his companions, who knoew that doom was coming. Finally Havna said, “It is here,” and soon all of them could see a dark figure rising from the waters, and they lamented for they knew it for Jang.

Jang Jargalsson, he of the great Axe, stood thigh deep in the water, and roared a challenge to the band, and Indrodar stood. “I will not kill a friend,” he declared, “But I will lay the dead to rest without further tears.” So saying he stepped into the water, and he and Jang hewed at each other and his helmet was shattered on the cheek guard and his right arm bloodied, and Jang’s great muscled body was cut open and his thigh pierced by a blow from Indrodar, and still they fought.

As they fought the water roiled around them, and lesser beasts came to snap, and Indrodar’s band drove them away from the blood in the water. At the final stroke Indrodar and Jang fell together, but Indrodar rose, and alone dragged the corpse to shore, where he laid great Jang to rest. Then he turned to his companions and said, “I too am poisoned by my friend, and a shaking begins within me. But if I should die, I charge you to take up my task, for my sword’s destiny must be answered.”

Havna knelt beside her lord, and from her pack took out a wooden box in the shape of an earth temple, and slid it apart. From it she spread a green salve onto Indrodar’s wounds, saying, “My wife gave me this, to keep me safe, and I give it to you. If strength of spirit is yours, it will strengthen your body.”

Indrodar passed into a fever then, and Aran would have lain down beside him, but Laisdan said, “The heat of this death would pass from him and save him, but into you.”

Aran replied, “I will do it to save my Lord,” and Laisdan said, “Your Lord would never forgive you, even in death, for giving him such a burden. You are cut about and wounded, and if you die for nothing, we will lose you. We have already lost more than we can afford.”

So Aran stood and sang for his brother, who had been killed by the undead broo, and Indrodar heard the song in his dreams.

Indrodar walked on the Hero Plane, as his body lay shivering, and he fought with the foes of Humakt, and was defeated by nobody, until he came to a statue of a great warrior with an axe and the signs of water and movement on him. There he stopped, and said to the statue, “You seem familiar to me. Are you my friend Jang?”

The statue replied, in a voice like water crashing, “No, I am Engizi, come to take your friend home in honour,” and Indrodar bowed, and the Sky Titan lifted him back up to the Middle World, and took Jang’s spirit down, and Indrodar woke.

Then the scars on his arm were five lines in a row, and he led his companions that still lived out of the Upland Marsh, but he never again wept for a death.

Appendix 1: Archaeologists make Grisly Discovery in Lizmander Bog, Gloranthan Archaeology Magazine, September 2012

Warriors cut down in battle in the Lizmander Bog were decapitated, cremated, and buried on a small island. At least one of the bodies appears to have been a woman. Who were they and why were they buried like this? Dr Tatiana Ivanova reveals her discovery of a grim Heortling mass burial.

Peat cutters working in Lizmander Bog reported a discovery of charred human remains to county archaeologists last year. Dr Tatiana Ivanova of Lizmander University’s Department of Archaeology headed up the project.

As excavations begin to wrap up, archaeologists are finally talking about what they’ve discovered. “It was really weird,” reports Aralee Baker, a postgraduate student studying with Dr Ivanova. “They all had, like, their heads cut off. And they were stacked like firewood. But, it was also exciting because one of the bodies is a woman, so we know Heortling women really were warriors too.”

During the excavations, the cremated bodies of eight warriors came to light. Each person was decapitated shortly after death, but most showed signs of other wounds. Bioarchaeologist, Dr Kay Knights, says that seven of the bodies were male, but one is a female. The youngest warrior was 19 and the oldest was probably around 40, which was especially old for the Bronze Age.

“The dead were placed in two layers of four prior to cremation. As the bodies burned, they collapsed downward, causing the bones to intermingle and this made analysis difficult at first,” Knights admits.

The dead warriors were well armed. Seven swords, seven shields, two spearheads, and one massive axe were all cremated with the bodies. Buried near where the heads should have been, were hundreds of boars’ teeth from ancient helmets.

What happened to their heads? According to Ivanova, we can’t yet be certain, but she proposes they might be among those found at the Stone Compass over a century ago. It might be possible to match DNA from the skulls to the bones, but the fire that burned the bodies 3000 years ago may have destroyed the DNA.