Marshing Orders

S01 — Session 42

1626, Fire Season, Movement Week


Fire Season, Movement Week, Godday to Illusion Week, Windsday


Dramatis Personae

PC

Berra, when not NPCd
Dormal
Irillo
Mellia
Nala
Rajar
Varanis

NPC

Berra, some of the time
Tiwr the Magnificent
Salid the Sniveller, Guardstrollkin
Thirteen other trollkin who are also not Salid
Two Ghouls
A Ghost
Uncountable zombies
Also some skeletons
Lots of bodies
Some very lost frogs
Silor Cracks-Rock and his children:
* Habela, an Earth Priestess
* Venlar, a nice person and Orlanthi
* Yamia Humakti, not a nice person, but very cute if you are a Storm Bull
* Hengrast, a great big puppy of Orlanth
Thenaya, Thrallmistress
Silor’s Warband
Events

As before, the log will be recounted with extracts from Berra JarangsdottiHumaktisaga, NalaTiwrSaga, and The Death of Rajar. There will be extracts from the Sonnets in Praise of Xenofos and The Sonnets to Mellia, Sweetest of Healers, White Lady of Esrolia. There will be reference to the Accounts of the Travels of Irillo Goldentongue. Editorial commentary will be recorded [thus]. The {“D”} voice appears.

[Good afternoon, estudentia. Except for Professor Tomm, joining us by video link. To him, good evening. We have a lot to cover today, so we will be diving straight in. Not into the Marsh, but Rajar’s emotional state.]

The girl over there
Looks AMAZING. Oh so cute.
Death Rune just like mine!

And she likes axes
Enough to tell me mine’s great,
And she … walked away…

[This is believed to be his reaction to Yamia Silorsdottir, unusual because of its explicit existence. She takes up more room than Kalia, a known lover, and yet seems to have no feelings for the Storm Bull. The question I would like you to answer, in five hundred words; from the known works we have that mention Yamia, does she have feelings at all?]

[We do have an example of those who have feelings for each other. A small pack. NalaTiwrSaga]

Distant view of foes
A band altogether, high
Hilltop Triumphant

Dash and ride and run
Carry and sit and keep by
Pause and pause and pause

[We know from the fragmentary SiloriSaga that Nala brought the news of raiders to Venlar, who took it to his father. The Silori, his children, were not all present. It was understood to be Venlar’s place to guard the stead while Yamia guarded him; Jengharl, on the other hand, was volunteering for war, along with his own dedicated band. However, the message arrived. Most sources agree this, and that Silor set out to guard his Clan – or seize whatever was found. Meanwhile the others were fighting their way through this odd fragment of the Upland Marsh. Rajar again and then Berra.]

It is not often
This very thoughtful Urox
Gets to make a splash

Mighty marsh murder
Maiden mauled [word lost]
Finding foes foul
Fighting fierce unforebearing
Reed refuge refused
Repulsing raft raiders

{“Berra is on the other raft? I’m sharing with the goat!”}

[And another five hundred words on whether the murder is the death that Berra brings, or the death that was already there. And while you are digesting that, we shall pause, or at least, our heroines and heroes will. Back at the Tula of the Cinder Fox Clan, Varanis has been left behind to sooth ruffled feathers, or prepare the way for the group to return.]

Around her self she pulled her cloak of Sky-dyed blue,
And in her ears set drops of gold and jems of every hue.
Upon her arms the ring that Kallyr gave and more,
And pinned her hair and in styling such that Hengrast must adore.
Around the Tula walking in her finest Esroli’n gear,
Her voice in fine song did she lift that all might know and cheer.

[SiloriSaga does mention the stay of Varanis, in Hengrast’s Lament. However, SiloriSaga also mentions a very important relationship at this early stage. Mellia appears to Venlar. One of the great love stories of our time? A tragedy? Only time will tell. If you have NOT read ahead, next week’s spot exam will shock you all. If I decide to set one.]

She walked towards the Upland Marsh alone and unafraid
From Xenofos’s sick bed coming swift to give her aid.
WIthin the den of foxes of the hearth of Silor free
She paused to offer help to all, for generosity.
When from afar young Venlar kind saw Mellia by the gate
And felt his young heart quicken as he understood his fate.

[And, if Professor Tomm is available, we will allow him to reveal what was found, with his excellent understanding of the Accounts.]

[“Ah yes, thank you Professor. Now, the Accounts give a very clear and informative description of this period. It allows us to get to the heart of the psychology of both Irillo and his reading of Eril. The phrasing is particul….”

Static]

[Aaah, tuned to a dead channel, I see. Never mind – catch up on your own time, and let us see if Professor Tomm is superfluous. Five hundred words on what you think he was going to say.]

_[!–This line should allow spacing. Please don’t delete it. If it doesn’t work, delete this comment.–]

Thenaya opens the door, and Eril, who tells himself he can face any truth, yet again fails to admit that his sudden fast heartbeat means anything.1Irillo passes Insight (Own Species), a roll which Eril managed to fail whenever he saw Thenaya. He obviously does not have feelings for her that are in any way important. It will be very awkward explaining this to her if she is visiting for the reason young women do slip into young men’s private rooms, but she has not ever tried that. But it is late at night and she is here, and he’ll have to tell her that a relationship is inappropriate and her love is just a crush based on his kindness to her, and he’s gone over that in his mind already, and he absolutely knows how to walk her gently out of his room after that, without taking advantage of her closeness or noticing again how her hair smells of elder blossom or her arm is exactly the right height for him to take or the dimple at the side of her lips is so eminently there or her heart-shaped face is unique in the Clan or —

It’s absolutely and in no way a crushing disappointment when she says, “There’s trouble, Lord. The thrall house.” But that’s good, because Lords don’t love cottars, especially not cottars they have freed personally. It would be wrong. Not technically unlawful, but the law is written to support behaviour as it should be.



((From Berra’s Thread: ))
[[include berra:swamp-things]]



Of course you were a tight band, bound to each other. That group of companions was a triumph of politics, woven under your father’s gaze, without him ever realising. Setting up careful rivalries, the amusement inherent in nobody else spotting what you were doing, until one day Silor looked at the fact that he and his brother both had equally matched thegns who were competing to do great things for the Clan. Each one of them genuinely a friend, but you chose them to be certain that you would not overbear Silor, and he would not overbear you, and by the time you were eighteen your band was almost exactly as famous as your brother’s, and he was twenty.

He asked about it, directly rather than roundabout, just before you went raiding. You explained how to earn a man’s loyalty – that it was done by being worthwhile, but you were allowed to make sure he saw that. You even, once he got over the shock of realising how famous you were making him, suggested a future path for the two rival companies. He planned it with you. Always keeping the competition in check, always being certain to show your genuine appreciation of those things that men under his command did. He really understood in a way that father would not. Then you were sent into Firebull lands, and you don’t know who betrayed you. Someone must have. Nobody would perform that Heroquest, unless they were of Delecti’s … corpus. Not unless they knew exactly who was coming.

Twenty warriors. The ground went soft, suddenly. Twelve survivors by the time you got out, and you already knew what was coming. You’d had to order the horses abandoned. You all knew the ambush was coming, but that did not stop it. Then Humakt was with you, and you were leading your friends, none unhurt, out of the snare that death laid, and nobody else could have brought back any more. They were not trying to take prisoners. They were trying to take you.

Five walked back with you. Three were later ransomed. Twelve separated, gone on too early. Humakti shouldn’t cry for Death, but you’re allowed to miss those who are gone, surely?

Losing friends always hurts. All people can be of equal value, if you do not dare to have friends.

And, maybe, safer not to have rivals.

_


On the road to Boldhome, Mellia and an unconscious Xenofos met Jaldis, who gave Mellia an impromptu but rather snide lesson on politics, and took Xenofos from Mellia as a patient, to give him care. Mellia hurried on to the Cinder Fox Tula.

Meanwhile, there had been a feast at which many of Silor’s children were present. Hengrast was a near-perfect copy of his father, only younger. Venlar was identical to Eril, but for a long, puckered scar over his eye. Irillo recognised Yamia as being identical to Thenaya, the thrallmistress, in her youth. Yamia got into a staring match with Berra and lost very badly. The Clan Eurmalite tried to beat Rajar in an eating contest, which he won despite her use of Rune Magic. Venlar sang a song of welcome, and was joined by a lot of Trollkin, creeping in from the stables. Varanis and Hengrast got friendly for a while overnight, but when she came back to her shared room, Thenaya visited to check on her, and pronounced she was highly dehydrated. Irillo and Berra woke her up to make her drink and get her talking.

The next day, Irillo had done a morning’s trading, with the only problem being that Silor’s Eurmalite tried to pick his pocket to plant money on him. This was smoothed over with a modest payment and Silor tying the offending hand to a horse and sending a rider out to take it for a long trot, whether or not his Trickster wished to go with it. He also promised Irillo a favour.

The band set out, minus Varanis, who was not ready to face that much water, and felt that the Marsh might be a turning point in her destiny. She stayed at the Tula to make friends, and talked for a while with Thenaya, the thrallmistress, as well as generally making herself agreeable to earn allies for the group.

The others went out of Sambari lands, and into land owned by the Enstalos Tribe, where they spotted what looked like a raiding party. Tiwr saw it, but Berra saw it and was sure it then faded away. Nevertheless, Nala and Tiwr went back at full speed to warn Silor, who was their previous host, and still hosting Varanis.

Silor had asked Varanis for an official meeting, during which he angled to get the story about what she was doing, and then helped her to read a letter from the High Sword, Eril, about the group. Eril had asked for Silor’s help in giving aid to them at a distance. Varanis then told him a little more. Silor called for his warriors, preparing to set off to help. Nala arrived to say there were raiders and set off to keep Zinat ahead of the alynx pack that would be following, while Mellia joined the warrior group, being dropped off with her friends by four veteran warriors shortly before dark.

After some discussion, Salid and Berra took out the Trollkin as night scouts to try to spot the raiding party, while keeping the Trollkin from encountering Silor’s warriors. Four of the twelve decided they did not want to be associated with the deadly game, and left. No raiding party was found.

In the morning, Berra performed the Morale Ritual, cheering everyone up and bonding them as a unit, even the trollkin. Nala danced for them as part of the bonding ritual, making such an impression in the world that the ground she had used for her dance became a square of fertile green grass, dry and firm on the boggy ground. They held the ritual there, and went into the Marsh. Pretty soon they found they were in a Heroquest. The trollkin had become Bolo Lizard riders, and the Unicorn was a goat. Berra kept to the raft that the goat was not in.

After some time, they were attacked by ghouls, the howling of the sounds they made not penetrating the Ritual of Morale for most people. There were only two, but with no way to attack their spirits, they kept on coming until Irillo cast Turn Undead on one, calling on Eril’s knowledge, and the group began to flee through the swamps. Half of the trollkin were killed on the way2Fumbled battle roll for that boat. and most of the group were wounded when they found the land rising around them and they approached a broken-down barn that made Mellia nervous. Irillo remembered it, and remembered at least one ghost guarding it. He went in first with Nala, and the others filed in. A ghost formed, and he tried to tell it its time was over, but it attacked him, nearly rendering him unconscious in one blow. Everyone else attacked it too, and it dissipated, going to its judgement.

The barn was searched. Dormal spotted the cross shape in the wood of the roof structure, and a hollow beam that held something, while Mellia found another hollow beam. They scraped away the wood, and Berra very carefully pulled out a banner and a rod of iron from their hiding places, which were beams that had been hollwed then repaired with spaces inside. Meanwhile Nala spotted Silor’s troops outside, and after some discussion it was decided that if Yamia was required to help Berra get the cross down, they might as well have help from the people who massively outnumbered them and were heavily armed.

Silor explained he was there as an ally, and wanted to deal with the people who had caused his brother to be ambushed, and believed that some were still alive. He had ‘come for a ride’ with his ‘friends’, some of whom were from the Firebull Clan, before it was dissolved. He sent for a chariot so that Yamia could drive the cross back to the Tula.

That night they camped out. Mellia saw to someone with a cut on his foot, and in the morning made washed frog drink to help keep Berra and Irillo awake. Irillo was not tired, but his pupils were hugely dilated. They returned to the Tula, where Berra had the cross put into a bothy where she could sleep in front of it, and everyone settled down to rest for the evening and the night.

_

Formal written greetings from Eril Sambar Humakti to Silor Tamainsson, Chief of the Cinderfox Clan.

It has come to my attention that a group of travellers is investigating my whereabouts and actions after the fall of Boldhome. While this was begun without my permission, it is continued with my support. Should they visit you, do not feel any need to protect my name within the Clan, for my sake. For Sartar, I understand it appropriate that they should be rendered aid. If calling on my name to do so will assist or expedite this, please do so.

Those involved are ~ Berra Jarangsdottir, a Humakti of the Boldhome Regiment ~ Irillo, Issarian of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Mellia, Chalana Arroy Initiate of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Varanis, Vingan of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Xenofos, Lhankor Mhy Initiate of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Dormal, worshipper of unknown god of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Rajar son of Ranulph, Praxian of the Bison Riders ~ Nala of the Unicorn Tribe of Prax.

Notably, the circumstances surrounding their approach to knowledge are shrouded in deceit. The honour of Berra Jarangsdottir is not in question. My word should suffice to obtain her admittedly limited understanding of the current situation, if someone she trusts will read the above for her. Others who are making enquiry or following the group should in my opinion be apprehended and questioned. Having no call on you, I ask this as a favour, which I shall return if the call from Sartar is insufficient.

On the way back, all is good, and although Berra and Yamia are giving each other a LOT of very wary room, all is going to be well. You get to be escorted by Silor.

“I have questions,” he admits. “Chief among them being what in hell is happening, of course.”

It is just before you settle down for the night, a discreet distance from the pond and the barking of terrified frogs.

“In short, I’m not sure. Someone I think has been manipulating us. For these. The who will determine the what.”

“That’s the raven-eye view. Give me the wolf.” He looks at you, old and shrewd and big, dangerous for many reasons. “You came to my Clan, and did not tell me you had information about my dead brother. Call me nosy, but I would like to know more about this.”

“It is unclear. We were locked into his acts. Perhaps an apotheosis to herodom.”

“If he is dead, it is a loss to the Kingdom,” Silor says with a brief moment in which sadness shows. “And he would do something spectacular like this. He was always a showman. Any hope he caused it?”

“It is possible… if he had caused himself to forget. I wrote him a letter.”

“Mm. He wrote one to me, too. As of two days ago the High Sword of Boldhome lives. He still remembers, too, how to prick through armour. What sort of favour should a clan ask of such a man, do you think?” Behind the smile, this a test. Silor looks like he is waiting to hear certain things.

“Of the man? Whatever you want. Of Sartar? Well… I am a foreigner “

“That is a diplomat’s answer, not a merchant’s. Come, be the Issarian here. At least a generality on how to come together? Something soothing about harmony?”

He laughs. “Why do you suppose we aren’t diplomats? Well… for Sartar … no price. The lunars are your foes too. For the man? I would ask for a future favour, myself.”

“He offered that. Strange to be given such a chance by a dead man.” Silor reaches into a wide pouch, and pulls out a flat letter case, offering it over. “His hand is largely unchanged, but his style is different. Read it while you still have light, if you like. I’ll be keeping that for a while.”

He does so

It is a little odd, the words unfamiliar even when the syllables are known, but with a little work Irillo can puzzle it out.

Formal written greetings from Eril Sambar Humakti to Silor Tamainsson, Chief of the Cinderfox Clan.

It has come to my attention that a group of travellers is investigating my whereabouts and actions after the fall of Boldhome. While this was begun without my permission, it is continued with my support. Should they visit you, do not feel any need to protect my name within the Clan, for my sake. For Sartar, I understand it appropriate that they should be rendered aid. If calling on my name to do so will assist or expedite this, please do so.

Those involved are ~ Berra Jarangsdottir, a Humakti of the Boldhome Regiment ~ Irillo, Issarian of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Mellia, Chalana Arroy Initiate of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Varanis, Vingan of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Xenofos, Lhankor Mhy Initiate of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Dormal, worshipper of unknown god of the Esrolian Saiciae ~ Rajar son of Ranulph, Praxian of the Bison Riders ~ Nala of the Unicorn Tribe of Prax.

Notably, the circumstances surrounding their approach to knowledge are shrouded in deceit. The honour of Berra Jarangsdottir is not in question. My word should suffice to obtain her admittedly limited understanding of the current situation, if someone she trusts will read the above for her. Others who are making enquiry or following the group should in my opinion be apprehended and questioned. Having no call on you, I ask this as a favour, which I shall return if the call from Sartar is insufficient.

“He makes no mention of the fact you are, in effect, being him,” Silor muses. “Perhaps he thought that would be obvious.”

“Or unnecessary or embarrassing “

“Well, you know him better than I.” Silor takes the papyrus back. “But you need help, and he is offering it through me, and the more I help you, the more my Clan can ask of him. If, of course, there is an insufficiency in helping purely for the sake of Sartar. The little bastard. He was always like that. Would make you do the right thing just by mentioning it.”

There is fondness in Silor’s voice, and nostalgia. Mourning seems absent.

“I expect to be ambushed by whoever set this in motion. I would like to prevent that. “

“I’ve got enough people who know the area with me to keep an eye on things, and enough people who don’t, to keep an eye on them. I can escort you to Wilmskirk. If I go any further, the Sambar Ring will find out, and the Wilmskirk Council will notice a few moments after that. Can you find protection there? Are you taking it to Boldhome?” Silor gives the cross and its two Humakti guards a distasteful look, despite one of the guards being his daughter.

“Probably to the army. But that would be up to the High Sword.”

“Burn it. Burn it and be done. Can you not feel what it is?”

Silor shudders, and looks away from the Humakti again.

“It is death. But death is part of the plan of the Gods.”

“It’s more than that. Look at her.” Silor’s eyes go back to his daughter. “Never mind. It’s… it’s just an old man thinking too hard. You’ve fixed the Marsh. We see you safe from here. It’s well.” Whatever mood came over him, he dismisses it.

Clearly, into Irillo’s head, drops a rationale. If leaving someone dying here means he can come back and fix the place, then he needs to come back and fix the place. That is the only justification for what he has just done. Otherwise it was …

The thought trails off, splintering away.

… it was legal. No human law forbade it. Only morality. So it was not murder, but it felt like it.

How does that even work? Why should the feeling be different? The fear of death is in so many men already. They did not fear for long.

He left them. He meant it. He killed them on purpose to create a situation in which he would manage to advance his plan.

Not again. Never again. Cannot go back now. Not thinking clearly. But there are dead men and they will take a long time dying, and it’s because of him. Maybe that is why he feels so dull and flat. This is the end of that part of the plan.

Almost finished now. Drained and defeated by himself, but almost done.

It was murder, a part of him knows. It was entirely justified, another part of him points out. It was good to feel that power, he almost thinks. To use Death so easily as a servant of Death. Then despite the tiredness and the possibility he should be feeling crushing guilt and the pain of the wound over his eye, he rallies himself, because no, that is NEVER a reason for killing. Get back home. Find Silor. Talk about money. Ask his help. Sleep. Pay for the dead, and for the living as if they were dead. Say nothing. Keep going.

Oh. Not murder. Just not honourable. The two parts of thought come together. He was allowed to. He just should not have. He’s failed to keep himself free of the mire.

Still got to get home. A few miles more. Some bastard keeps leaving trees and rocks in the way. It was not so far on the way out.

Dreaming is strange. Irillo wakes unsure when he stopped talking to Silor, and why there is no sword in his hand. His head stops hurting as it clears, though.

Odd, because you found the thing. That was the end of it. But you almost feel as if you are still questing somehow. But you have the Cross and the Iron and the Banner.

Raven’s Wing Banner.

Give it its proper name.

Much Esrolian Swearing!

Important things to do. Because some idiot failed to realise the Royal Treasury was an asset. And maybe a bit of wandering around in circles really wishing you had not lost your pack to a skeleton who was probably not going to use the food in it anyhow. Selfish. And your head hurts, and your spirit is hardly touching the world right now. That Ghoul was not a mere servant of undeath. Do Ghouls have chieftains? They certainly have graves, and thank Humakt for the gift of knowing where the undead are. The God prepared you well. He only chooses the best.

Maybe best not to go in through the gate. Lord Tamain may be back by now. No point in facing him until you’re ready to leave. That way, you’ll have the time you need. It will hurt to leave the Clan, but they will live on, even if they are cut off, and you can’t be traced there if you are not a part of it.

Sad, because you do really like most of it. But at least you’ll get to tell Tamain Cracks-Rock to go get lost in a forest and die. Every storm brings some good.

Speaking of lost in a forest, you’re lost. In a forest. Ironic, really.

After some time…

You’re still lost. And you’re going to be cut off from your Clan. Unless you die here. All the people… well, the ones you didn’t get killed. But nobody will be able to trace your Clan if you are cut off from it. One last pain, before the agony. First, have to live that long. Bad, bad, bad feeling. Only time for one thing. Face hurts. Ghoul poisoning, but worse. Infected wounds don’t care about careful planning. Pour everything you have into a solution – but should you ask Humakt for help, or rely on yourself? A tenuous connection to him. But you don’t seem to be reconnecting to the world, and if you try to heal yourself and your spirit does not swell with magic, you’ll die of exposure. God, or self? Man, or God?

God.

There is a sudden image of his private shrine, the touch of Humakt, the smell of the air in this charcoal-darkened room, the soft embrace of the flagstone floor accepting you…

And Irillo has clarity, at least for now.

Eril’s last thoughts, as he loses consciousness, are that it would be really awkward to be found here, that Thenaya will almost certainly clean his room in the morning, and that as Humakt was not kind enough to take him, he is going to have to go ahead with his plan. Unconsciousness is better than sheer terror, but he still does have to write himself some coded messages, get his brother onside, plan a revolution or two and let Silor know about how to communicate safely with unknown writers by letter, and even as passing out, do not think about the thing ahead, which will make him turn aside from his course. The money must stay in Sartar to do most good, so he must stay in Sartar. Humakt has not called him. He must go on.

Yelm is slipping down the sky and Irillo is back in the Tula.3Fumble on Moon Rune. Bad Things Happen to Berra and Salid’s Darkness Runes, and Irillo sees through the worst lens Eril has.

After various conversations, and planning, and with the confusion of a place that he half knows all around him, Irillo finds himself in an old, familiar room. The walls are swimming but if he closes his eyes, he is almost steady.

Silor and Thenaya are fussing around him. Around you. Silor. The only man who seems entirely immune to whatever you have so much of, the cold, calculating thought. Silor can reach the same conclusions but for good reason. Simple. There will be little joy in the pain there. Silor is vital to your sanity and survival, but his light is too strong, and sometimes you cannot look at it. Another reason to be grateful to your father; the shadow on you is the shadow in you.

The cold, cruel, articulate, analytical feeling wells up. Of course, if you were the sort to take joy in power over others, and if you spent your life forcing that down and doing the right thing, that brings you to Thenaya. And why shouldn’t something bring you to Thenaya? You deserve her. She owes you. All of your life has been spent selflessly, because of her. A thousand people know their rights, know what the collar means as a shield as well as a restraint, because of you. Did you ever ask anything in return? Not even that she stay with you. She could have left. She did not. That is sufficient to know what you read in her eyes, what her lips never say.

Eril’s sense of entitlement, his anger, his desire, his possessiveness, overcome him only for a few moments, but it is enough to put a hand on hers and hold it, in a way that only a lover would, once Silor has gone. Even the curl of his thumb to stroke hers is calculated. A purely theoretical calculation, of course. Only a person who was interested purely in the reaction, as an intellectual exercise, would do such a thing without meaning to carry it through. To make sure that someone in love will stay in love, will be a partisan for him over the next years, will support him from afar if needed, with all her heart. Caging her is the same as creating any asset. He cannot lie to himself around his brother. He cannot tell himself the truth about her, which is that he wants her so badly he pauses in what he calls asset creation. He justifies it with the notion he must get the words exactly right, but deep down the satisfaction when she kisses him is complete. Whatever he pretended to himself, he knew just what he was doing.

Then again, to refuse her now would also put her in his power…

Cruelty within him is astounded as it is met with his determination, side-stepped, and tripped. His own talent used against himself, for the sake of what is right. Eril triumphs over himself, deep in exhaustion. Then she says, “Please?” as he starts to pull away from her.

She owes him so much that this can never be a free decision. Her freedom, her safety here, and her position. Her whole life was given to her by him. Honour dictates he refuse her. Honour drowned in the Upland Marsh. He could compound failure, and embrace her, and be happy. Just one night of rest will be enough. Her presence is a joy and she is the one offering more. Happy. With her. Free from this fear and able to think clearly, and know his next steps are worthwhile. It would help him, surely. Help Sartar. And it’s what she wants. A life of self-denial awaits. Surely, just one night? Just one?

Honour, or love?

Love



It should all be over. But some IDIOT failed to get the Royal Treasury out in time. So; Ask Silor for help. Brief him on politics and how to use money, on the way back to Boldhome. Cannot go to Prax. Or even Esrolia. The money must stay in Sartar to be used most effectively.

So he, Eril, must stay in Sartar to use it most effectively. Therefore… Get exiled from Clan on way out. Make map, use stone-breaking dance – hooray for being of the Cracks-Rock Clan. Father’s gift of life to you is useful yet… Hide map in Lhankor Mhy stone.

Arrange betrayal by Eurmalites. Don’t puke in fear. Ikadz the Torturer. Ensure he cuts out memories. Rescue by Eumalites (Silor is the back-up plan, but who would make his brother face that if he doesn’t have to?)

More betrayal by Eurmalites, to the Lunars. Be freed, innocent.

Wait a year, or more, if memory enough survives. Timing will make it easier. Retrieve map. Very important to remember the stone IS important. Just not why. Coded messages to himself, sent now, delivered later, will help.

Split the rock, retrieve the thing. That’s all you need to know. Failing that, Silor must do his best with the treasury and Humakti will mourn Humakti. The stone will take sacrifices. One day the Truth will be known.

Complicated moving parts are easy. Undergoing the worst Heroquest that a Humakti can manage is called for. So the decision is easy, at least. The only way. Just don’t go so far with father that he calls you unblooded as well as Clanless. Don’t make him admit failure.

Is it kinstrife to manipulate him so? Or is it just learning from him?

The queasy feeling of fear stays with Irillo as he blinks back to being himself, in a room that was once Eril’s, but the terror has gone. The writing stool is too tall for him. The documents left on the tilted scribe’s table are in decent calligraphy, on parchment. The great house is quiet around him. The shadows in the corners are representative of Darkness, but could always be kept away with lamps. His shrine is charcoaled, but this room, where he slept and worked, has chalk-stucco walls.

A few things have changed. There is no longer a stone cross with the Y-Rune beneath it, hanging on the wall. There is still a woven rug, imported from Esrolia, but it has been turned around, so the wear patterns are all wrong. The sword that hangs by the bed is not there, but neither is the owner. Adding a small loop to the buckle so the belt leather would not be damaged by folding over the nail in the wall was a reaction to Tamain telling him he should put a proper peg there. The nail is still there, a tiny spike of bronze rebellion.

It’s dark, so it must be Clayday by now. Irillo is in someone else’s room. Nobody else seems to be occupying it.


Irillo is finding that he should be having visions, but is not. They keep on failing to materialise for him.4Six failed Moon Runes in a row, after the fumble that gave him a vision from the selfish point of view.

There’s a Raven, and it should trigger a thought, or a memory. Ravens were so important. But it doesn’t.

Then Aelna. The chief’s wife. Something about Tamain and marriage. Something that slips away before it is thought, leaving only a mud-trail in the mind.

Warriors in the hallway. A packed house with men in armour. And again it SHOULD mean something. And nothing. Nothing at all.

The weight of your amphora in your hand. Still a fortune in gems inside it. But no hint as to what it means or why or how or… anything. No context. Just that it was about to happen.



It is easy enough to find Silor. Even in a crowd of professional warriors, even at the age of fifty, greying of beard and hair, he sticks out. Still tall, still strong, and still smart, he spots the approach of the pair before they are anywhere near his bodyguard, and leaves the men there while he goes off to a quieter part of the village, pointing the way so Irillo and Mellia know he has seen them.

Mellia walks to the indicated spot, staying with Irillo on the way.

Irillo also ambles along.

Silor leads the way to a quiet part of the rocky area, and turns around with a smile. “Do choose a chair,” he says, and sits down. There is an odd CRK like stone breaking, and he says, “I’m not that heav–” and then he and Irillo swim in silver.

Silor seems to grow, broader and heavier and harder. His expression is one of displeasure and disdain. Irillo looks taller, and his stance somehow has something of the older Eril’s confidence in it – or at least, the arrogance. And in his eyes, taking the place of colour in his irises, are infinitely deep Darkness Runes.5Mellia passes a Scan Roll to see this.

Mellia murmurs, “White Lady, help me.” She shifts position, so she can interpose at a moment’s notice.

Within the Quest, Tamain Cracks-Rock folds his massive arms over his chest, looking down at the spot where he expects his son to stand.

Erillo steps foward. Not quite to the indicated spot.

That earns a tiny sneer, and Tamain looks up. “You’ve done it again. Another failure.”

Mellia watches closely, body tensed to spring between them.

The deep voice of the Thane, not fully present in Mellia’s world, can nevertheless be felt through the soles of her feet.

The smile is placid, and self confident. “I have succeeded more than you would ever know, Chieftain.”

“Another dozen warriors dead, and you dared not even do it when I was home. Did you need to wait for a war to call me away before you could slaughter my property?” He is, oddly, not building up to rage yet. It is still the part of the conversation where he despises his younger son. Theoretically at least this is bad news.

A snort, “Your war? And where are your triumphs, then?”6Mellia rolls a special on First Aid: Eril, as she sees him now, has a nasty cut over his right eye, in a way that is familiar, both in shape and in colour. In shape, it is just like Venlar’s, making it hard for him to see. In colour, and the redness around the edge, it is like she treated on Geriol, with the suggestion that the infection is probably fading – the puffiness she would expect has gone.

As for the rest of him, he looks tired, and thin, close to the point of exhaustion behind the arrogance. She has seen young Eril in visions, on this Quest. This is half him, half the High Sword, as if the pride were always there and waited only to be revealed.

He freezes. “Do you think even I can stand against the Crimson Bat? We needed every man, and you have taken them from me, for your own pride. I, who gave you command, should never have done so. It was ever my error.”

“Then own your error, and do not blame others. Accept your failing.”

“You. You are my failing. I should have had that soothsayer beaten. You are no hero, no great warrior. You’re nothing. Yet it is not your fault.”

“Is that then why you keep me? Because you trust the Soothsayer’s judgement over your own? Aye, a good choice.”

“Because you fled, rather than face me last time. Because I could not take the shame of casting you out, or Silor’s remonstrations. Why can’t you be like him?”

“And here I am. As myself. Facing you.” He curls his lip slightly7Which is made easier by being wounded, and the pull of damaged skin. And is familiar on his face, for Mellia, watching., “And you lack the courage.”

“And for your mother’s sake.” No remorse. Nothing. Just that.8Eril knows that his father drove off ravens when he was being born. Ravens can control Death Spirits.

“And you tried to stone the birds the God sent. What of that, Chieftain?”

“What of it? You should have been for Orlanth, all along. That is what a Hero is. A leader.” He stands, massive and overbearing, and says, “For your brother’s sake, and her memory, I kept you here. You look like her, not me.” He walks closer with the arrogant swagger of the strongest person in the room. “Ask, only ask, only show me the respect that is due a father, and I would welcome you ever. But admit what you have done. Give up this foolishness with the Firebulls.”

“You are not worthy to be my father. Perhaps you aren’t. As you say, I do not look like you.” Again that easy sneer. “Respect is earned, amongst the brave.”9Mellia passes Insight (Human): It is hard to tell what is keeping him upright, but sheer determination would be the fore-runner. A low grade fever, blood loss, pale skin. Emotional outbursts would be bad for Eril right now.

Mellia says, just in case she can be heard, “Please, Eril is ill. I beg you, calm yourselves.” She tries to touch Eril on the arm and get him to back away, sit down and be healed.

That accusation from his son, finally, brings the rage. Tamain is big enough to lift Eril up, but he does not bother. He goes straight for the punch. And there is someone in the way, one of Eril’s distant cousins, a healer pushing herself into the way, and a sudden, horrible choice. Save her, and take that massive punch, and maybe end up unconscious and be unable to goad him the RIGHT way, or let her be hurt, and make sure of his plan to save the Clan from him. Family, or Clan?

Clan.

For Mellia, everything goes silvery. There is Eril, and then there is Tamain, in one of his rages… And she is in the way.

“Stop, I beg you!” She stands firm, casting Shimmer.

Tamain’s shoulder brushes against the girl, and that is enough to cause him to pull the blow, but there is a casual, dismissive backhand instead. Easy enough to block, or dodge, if Eril has the strength to try.

Eril decides to block, as movement is difficult and he is having trouble standing.

Tamain pauses when the deed is done. “No kin of mine would take a blow,” he says. “You are no kin of mine.” To the healer, he turns, and while the anger is still there, it is not aimed at her. “Go tell his woman to pack his things. He has until noon to leave the Tula.” And to Eril, his last words are just, “Get out,” snapped in a way that indicates he has had enough of this conversation and is ending it.

He stands, and nods, “Very well, Chief, you have lost another battle.” And he bows, stiffly, and turns to stalk away.

The grass re-establishes itself where the hall was. The caw of a raven is in both worlds briefly, and then Silor’s awed, horrified voice says, “Oh Orlanth… Did I hurt you?” Naturally, he is speaking to the White Lady.

“It is alright,” Mellia reassures him. “You weren’t yourself. The blame lies with your father.”

Irillo turns and says with faint amusement, “No. No, it hurt a lot less than the arrows. Sorry, I wasn’t expecting that.”

Silor turns his attention to Irillo, and blinks. “I was him. I… I was my own father.” He looks shattered, although he looks back at Mellia again, obviously giving her the once-over for injuries or maybe even emotional evidence of them.

Mellia is being brave right now.

She may be rubbing her shoulder, though.

“Yes. Yes, you were. You were play acting, in a Hero Quest. It does not reflect on you. If it’s any consolation, you did what was needed.”

“I struck out and I hurt a White Lady,” he says, and bows his head. “No matter who did it, or how, it is on me.”

Mellia bends to look Silor in the eyes. “I forgive you. I forgive you.”

“I don’t,” says Silor quietly. “In all my life, I have done as a Lightbringer should. Would you let me alone a while?”

From above, big raindrops start to fall.

Irillo says gently, “Your father struck his son, and missed. That is not on you. You are a Lightbringer. It pales before killing Yelm.” He looks to Mellia, “I’m sorry I let you down there. It was…. how he is. But… Xenofos needs me. Perhaps I need him also.”

“Perhaps so, Irillo. I forgive you, too. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I am going to the altar of Chalana Arroy.”

Silor goes down to a knee to say, “As you desire.”


++++ Notable Moments and Quotes


“CHICKEN!!!!!!!” – Rajar

“Can I do it a second time?” – Varanis
“YES!” – Varanis

“Esrolian girls….” – Irillo
“Wish they could all be…” – Nala

“I’ve been a bad host.” – Silor
“I’ve been a bad host. The poison is unforgiveable. I do apologise.” – Rajar

“Oh! I can read today!” – Varanis

“…Why are you not ON the sofa like the rest of us?” – Nala
“Low table.” – GM

“Respectfully stalk out of the room. – Varanis

“Not Rajar’s bad wind of doom.” – Rajar

“ZINAT IS HAPPY! ZINAT IS RUNNING!” – Nala

“He’s not invading. He’s merely moving into space that is about to be vacated.” – Nala

“It’s like that time I tried to eat two roast bison…” – Rajar

“The Trollkin are playing a drum-beat song and drawing attention to the area.” – GM
“But it’s a rousing song to make us brave.” – Rajar

“In fact, that is the IDEAL dance.” – Irillo
“Ooh ooh oooh ooh, stayin’ alive’, stayin’ alive!” – Irillo

“Indrodar II: The Need for Reed” – Dormal

“GOATY!” – Rajar
“GOATY McBOATFACE!” – Irillo

“I am going to go get a cup of tea, because there is about to be action, and I would hate to have to break halfway through.” – GM

“Dammit should have parsley.” – Rajar. Context lost.

“I can’t figure out what to use for throwing rocks.” – Mellia

“Hmmmmmmmmmm were we not meant to lose that [fight]?” – Rajar
“We did. We ran away. And now we’re here.” – Berra

“Toss the Eurmali like a salad!” – Nala

“I managed a climb roll!” – Nala
“DON’T CROSS THE BEAM!” – Dormal

“This is totally not going to scar you for life. Eril doesn’t leave scars. That’s not his MO.” – Nala

“Ironic… wait, bronzic? I don’t know what the word is.” – Dormal

“Tell me no one died!” – Varanis
“Nobody died, V.” – Irillo
“Um.” – Dormal
“Yeah. Nobody died. Totally. Uh huh.” – Nala
“Quite a lot of Enlo.” – Dormal
“She didn’t ask for the truth. She asked us to tell her.” – Irillo