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Everyone is tired, and that includes the 'herds', if such a word can be used for the few straggly beasts they had managed to bring with them. At least they weren't going to stray far. River to one side, dense woodland to the other, and mud in between. The children, not yet old enough to have their feet tattooed, had had to be carried for much of the day, or rode the land-sledges dragged by the few horses.

Garnatha pauses, feeling something pulling her. "There used to be a path here."

"Alongside the river? Now, there's a surprise!"

"No, away from it. Uphill."

Darvor looks at the thick undergrowth to their right. "There's been nothing bigger than a rabbit gone through there for seasons. Years."

"I know, but there's something about it... Look, get them to rest here for a bit, all right? I'm sure no-one'll object to an excuse. I'm going to take a look."

Morith stumps up, one of the few not carrying a heavy load for some reason.

"Lost again? There's no path there, girl, and you'll be all day cutting one."

"Oh, I wasn't going to take the low road. Not when I'm on my own."

She fingers a leather bracelet, rubs the red fur woven into it, then grabs the nearest low branch and pulls herself up. And up the trunk. Straight up, "running" with hands and feet.

Angor, on his father's shoulders, giggles. "Auntie Garnatha's a squirrel!"

She laughs back, from further up the tree, and throws a hazelnut at him. A flash of red hair - or was it a red tail? and she's gone, moving through the tree-tops.

It's perhaps half an hour later when she returns, from along the river ahead of them.

"There was a path, once. But to get up there now, we'll have to go along here another mile, then the woodland thins out and we can get uphill."

"'There'? You've found something?"

"I think so, yes. It looks as if someone lived here, a very long time ago. It's overgrown now, but up on top of the hill, there's the remains of walls, and you can see where it was ploughed in places. I'm no expert on harvests and herds, but if it was good enough for them it must be good enough for us, surely? Defensible, too, with the ditches there. And not far to water, especially if we re-cut the original path."

"I am filled with fear and loathing," Vizz confides. "For from the sound of this place it stinks of chaos, or dragons or other foulness. Perhaps my fears are unwarranted, and my loathing merely that of ancient things best not disturbed, but then again, and given our fortunes of late perhaps they are, on the other hand, speaking as if I were a monstrous three armed Grotaron, the law of averages would incline us to hope that disaster does not emanate from said ruin."

...and he talks some more, in a like manner, preposterous and long winded, to calm his own fear even if such talk kindles it in others. He concludes that, in his opinion, weighing all matters carefully it is indeed wise to progress to the old fort and see if it is a fit place for heroes, and a good spot to rest a tired old mule.


Although exhausted from the night's talk, and somewhat saddened by Darvor's quiet exit, the Exiles feel, for the first time in weeks, a genuine peace which comes from having told their tales. Perhaps it is a healing Earth magic which their priestess has blessed them with. As they smile at one another in the dim light of dawn, the rain has stopped and a gentle breeze, with the sounds of stirring outside remind them of the new day, and they lazily stretch their cramped muscles.

Vizz watches the smoke from Silverquill's dying cigar trail away into nothing; he is at first surprised but then appalled to see a mist, turquoise, amber and crimson, in fact a mist of many colours, taking its place. The others notice him looking down and see for themselves that their feet are almost covered by the swirling colourful mist, the many hues reminding them of a worse time.

Garnatha tenses and reaches for her spear. If those warriors are coming again, here...

Then a wail from outside the lean to startles those within. It sounds like a child - she jumps to her feet.


Leaving Wilma and Angor behind as they rush out into the strange light, the first thing they see, down the slope, past the fields they have cleared and into the trees, is the glint of metal as of twenty or thirty spears. But as they all jostle to leave the lean to, its supporting poles are knocked and the structure begins to rock, the flimsy roof to cave in.

Garnatha pauses at the scene on the slope. And just one Warrior of the Sun had been bad enough. Twenty or thirty, when there are only about forty of their own people in total...But they're not here yet, and of more immediate concern to Garnatha, that wasn't who was wailing.

In fact, this is not what has attracted their kinfolk. For they are staring aghast at the small form of a boy, a beautiful blond and sunkissed boy, naked apart from a downy fluff on his legs, his chest glowing with vigour, his face radiant as the sun, his feet covered in colourful mist. As the lean to crashes finally behind its former occupants, the Danlarni exiles are taking out knives, picking up hoes as if to strike the boy, all of two, for he reminds them of the strife they thought they had left behind. As he looks up at the adults, they see a group of unknown armed fyrdmen emerging from the trees below, and the boy looks unhappily up at them and seems ready to burst into tears. "Odi hungy", he cries...


Silverquill cries to his companion Skullcleaver; "Pwotect the boy - unless he weeks of chaos!". The brutal storm bull, bellowing a war cry, charges, his axe glinting in the dim morning sun, to sweep the boy up with one arm and try to protect him. Vizz too yells, "By the gods, a chaos spawn come to eat us!" and runs to grab a spear while muttering invocations to the mighty Urox, to the Black Thunderbird and other chaos fighting divinities...

Realising that Wilma and Angor were both left behind in the lean-to, Gyffun acts quickly to rescue them from the wreckage of the structure. After the mad scramble to leave the lean-to Entislar takes in the scene and sends Enothan Saronilsson to get his weapons and Angtyr Rollosson while he and his alynx Kollos help Gyffun with the collapsed lean to.


There are too many conflicting calls on Garnatha's attention - enemies, if only human ones, Wilma and Angor left behind under a collapsing shack, though Gyffun is with them - but a child being threatened comes first.

"Leave that child be!" She runs forward, putting herself between the boy and his attackers. "That's the smallest warrior I've ever seen - you scared of him? Leave him alone!" She's got their attention now, she hopes, and points down the slope. "There's the danger for now - we've got visitors."

Despite Morith's goading, the child's sheer beauty and Garnatha's shaming of them leads them to surrender the child to Skullcleaver but the brute picks the child up by the arm, whereupon he starts screaming.

Meanwhile, guided by the two men, Kollos sniffs Wilma out. Her bulk has protected her and Angor from harm, and Entislar hastily stops a falling branch that was about to land on her face.


Vurth has followed Silverquill and Skullcleaver out of the collapsing lean-to. He sniffs the air for any sign of the pre-dark but, sensing none, heads off to intercept the approaching spearmen, hailing them (Uroxi style, calling up battle magics and starting to chew on the edge of his klanth).

The new arrivals seem impressed by Vurth, as they slow a little as they advance up the slope, but soon Vurth is surrounded by men holding spears pointed at his chest. Aren’s voice then booms down the slope, "With the Wind behind us we have little to fear!" and they back off, their spears shaking.


Silverquill tenses, trying to keep an eye on both the child and the advancing warriors. He knows that chaos can come in many forms but is confident that Skullcleaver can sniff out the stench of entropy. He checks that his short sword is easily reachable. Somehow, the fates have conspired to link his life-path with this group of bedraggled exiles and he is determined to stand by them to face whatever dangers next assail them. Morith glowers up the slope as Skullcleaver strides back, and gestures with his eyes at the armed men below as if to say, "And what are you going to do now?". Calmy watching Morith, Silverquill issues a command, "Skullcleaver, hand the child to Gawnatha, please".

Offering a brief prayer to the all-seeing Lhankhor Mhy, the duck tries to detect how troublesome the new arrivals are. He wants to determine their origin, based on their equipment and any markings or tattoos, but he senses no immediate danger, more of a large potential for danger.


As a semblance of calm descends, a mailclad figure steps forth from the row of spears, hand resting softly on the hilt of a sheathed sword. Standing but a foot from Vurth, the warrior’s eyes flicker beneath his helm as he looks the shorter man up and down. Spitting on the floor, he looks past the Uroxi and calls up the slope, "I am called Hahlgrim." Scraping the spittle into the mud, he continues, "and this is called my tula. By what right do you cut our trees and mark out fields on our land? Who speaks for you?"

The heroes pause and consider this: as far as they had known, they were on Orlanii land (and the Orlanii and their totem owls did not give a hoot). Hahlgrim is plainly a weaponthane and has a strong Tarshite accent which likely makes him Tres.

Vizz clears his throat and swaggers forward in a confident manner, making sure all can see the wealth of his accoutrements - his fine cloak, his corselet of bronze his manly mustache, he is tall and towers over the warriors when he does not stoop to speak to them.

"Indeed I shall speak for us, friend Hahlgrim, and we shall follow he customs of our people and of our gods and, I earnestly hope that you too shall also follow the ways of Heort and of Orlanth and the other good gods. I expect you have heard of me, for my name is Vizz and I am one of a line of illustrious warriors and magicians famous in these parts for their power and wisdom. My grandfather famously...

Hahlgrim cuts Vizz off, “I am not interested in your family but in my land. I am Hahlgrim Thane of the Ochre Fallow and I know not you or your gang of stickpickers. Call off this festering dog,” he gestures at Vurth, getting a laugh from his fyrdmen, “and tell me when you intend to move this rabble of yours on?”

“Alas, my kin has fallen on sad times,” Vizz replies, “as all do on occasion, even the gods! We seem beset by tentacled things, bird-men, dark trolls and other horrors. Indeed, it is at times like this when a man may call upon his neighbours to cease their raiding for sport, to offer them the chance to be truly generous, a virtue that is often hard to meet..." Vizz trails off momentarily as he sees that the warrior has been been distracted by the activity around the boy further up the slope. "..but I sense a rain storm coming and us with our shelter collapsed. Come, if you would be friends, and help us razzamafazza this lean to back together."

At this, the warrior laughs, "Such activity is not for my hands. I see your shelters know that this is not the place for you and are packing themselves up." Ordering his fyrd to retreat, he addresses Vizz one last time, "You have one week, and," looking at Vurth, "please clear up after you."


"Wait! Do not leave in such haste, friend Hahlgrim!," calls Vizz, "Generous thane of the Ochre Fallow, you may not have heard of me yet, but at least give me the chance to make up for that deficiency, as indeed you can then tell us of your mighty deeds, and glorious conquests, war prowess and noble virtues. None can face the world alone, one good deed deserves another. You have stated your terms for our stay, now let us not quibble on such points and be foemen, but drink and laugh lustily while we can, for we may not live long and the terrors of chaos may stalk these lands and all men will need to fight the menace."

As Vizz speaks, though, Vurth's outrage is mounting, "Why you useless clot of dung! Who are you to tell us anything?" He pauses to get the gist of Vizz's words then continue louder and closer, "Oh yeah, let's hear all about your glorious victories over the women and children of your tribe and the mighty trollkin you have slayed. You dirt between a Broo's toes I've eaten things that would make you faint!" He moves his Klanth to a more ready position and starting to froth continues in a much louder voice from the nose to nose range.

"Or maybe you're willing to try your luck with something a bit more of a challenge you foul odor!" the froth begins to accumulate in Vurth's beard as his rage grows.

Having turned away, Hahlgrim cannot ignore Vurth's insults and stands stock still, his shoulders trembling with a barely concealed rage. Turning, he removes his helm, revealing a youthful visage and indeed a beauty which surprises even the grim Uroxi warrior.

"Ah! well!" says Vizz, a trifle surprised at Vurth's shouting. "It seems my best boast was left till last, for we have the most rude and obnoxious Bull man in the whole of Dragon Pass...".

Pleased to be dealing with Vizz rather than his companion, Hahlgrim takes a moment to compose himself and manages to produce a generous smile, "You at least know the way of things, you at least know which was the master out of Urox and Orlanth. You know too the proper order. Come, this is our tula. We will let you stay, provided you control your beasts," he adds, with a look to Vurth, "and accept the order of things. I see from your state that you are no nobles, but this is of no matter. We will allow you this patch for your vegetables and you will pay my uncle the respect, and the cattle, he is due, as is proper."

Seeing Vurth's agitation out of the corner of his eye, Vizz is momentarily tempted to use his spear haft as a cudgel on the back of Vurth's head. He mutters to him, "I have no problem dying a hero, but give me a fair shot." (not that Vurth's listening). As Hahlgrim's words sink in, however, he merely grips his spear tighter, readies himself for trouble and prays to Orlanth.

The bandying of words has finally tipped Vurth over the edge. As he puzzles out the insults and after a moment's delay (scream then charge or charge then scream?), he leaps forward, grabs Hahlgrim and smashes him to the ground with the hilt of his klanth. There's a sickening crunching sound and Hahlgrim, surprise still on his face, collapses to the ground. Vurth then spins to face the fyrd. He leans down and grabs Hahlgrim and holds him up with one arm while waving his klanth in the other. He scream and prepares to launch Hahlgrim (in pieces) and then himself at them (guess it was scream then charge this time).


Oh no, thinks Garnatha... the idiot might well have deserved the thrashing, provoking a Bull, but he didn't deserve to be spread all over the field in small pieces. Vague memories of her mother's comments about Sacred Kings go through the back of her mind, and she dismisses them firmly. She runs down the slope, noting without surprise that the spear line behind her is edging backwards, not forwards.

"Vurth, put him down!" Oh - possibly the wrong phrase there. But he hadn't even noticed. Were Hahlgrim's own people going to intervene? Nope... loyalty, isn't it wonderful? Only thirty to one, that's not good enough odds against Vurth.

She reverses her spear - she wants Vurth disarmed, not hurt. He's still a friend, even after - all that. He still hasn't seen her - and the butt of her spear strikes hard into his left shoulder-joint. Hahlgrim drops to the ground as Vurth's left arm goes numb.

Fine so far - but that he'd noticed. And when Vurth is this angry, he doesn't know who he's hitting. He spins to face her, the klanth whirling, and she dodges back fast. The memories come back. Darkness, at the Gap shrine. Facing him before, knowing she can't win, that he didn't mean it but she was still going to die...

But this is daylight, not darkness, and his eyes are still his own. And she isn't alone. Vizz has his spear-butt ready, too, and strikes. A blow to the head, half-stunning him - Vurth spins again, and she has a second chance as Vizz drops to the ground, under the arc of the klanth. She shifts her grip on her spear, drawing her hands together as she swings it round, putting every bit of body weight and momentum behind the blow to his leg. And Vurth collapses, still conscious but no longer standing. She kicks the klanth away, panting.


The quiet moments that follow are tense and expectant, disturbed only by the nervous shuffling of the fyrdmen's feet and the laboured breathing of the four combatants, two of them now prone. Many eyes are focused warily on the fallen warriors, and many hands clench nervously on the hafts of spears.

When at last the silence is broken, it is by an unexpected sound: the clear and breathy voice of flute. The music is haunting and strangely familiar, rising at first like a mournful cry on the wind, then descending in a cascade of notes like a soft and plaintive lament. As a host of questioning eyes are drawn to Gyffun, he lets his flute fall from his lips and starts to sing.

The melody is immediately familiar to most of his kinfolk, but, strangely, the Ochre Fallow fyrdmen also appear to recognise it. The words of the song speak of the importance of kin, the value of friends and the folly of strife between them. They describe the woeful consequences of excessive pride, of mean-spirited dealings with those who would otherwise be friends, and the paramount dangers of kinstrife.

In the course of his song, the skald walks over to Vurth and helps him to stand. As he does so, the words that he sings seem to be aimed specifically at the fierce and intimidating warrior:

"I sing -
Sing of the wounding words,
Their sting -
Breeds anger in hearts of peace.

Harsh words ill-spoken, turn friends to foes,
Turn courage to bluster, and pride to spite.
Set sister 'gainst brother, turn joys to woes,
Rend daughter from mother, and kin
From kin."

Leaving the dazed Uroxi to lean heavily on the still-wary Vizz, the skald next approaches Hahlgrim and extends a hand. Scowling, the thane reluctantly takes it and Gyffun hauls him unsteadily to his feet. Once again, the words of the song seem pointed.

"Heed not -
The poison these cruel words bring,
Fear not -
To meet those who come as friends.

For Honour and Justice shall be your guide,
And Courage and Wisdom, your sword and shield.
Treating with strangers may hurt your pride,
But cast friends away and you hurt

The song concludes by reiterating its basic message: while it is certainly true that "violence is always an option" and "no-one can make you do anything", remember also that you can never have too many friends and "there is always another way". Strangely, the presence of these rather familiar truisms seems neither trite nor patronising in the context of the song...


Ignoring the scene below, Silverquill addresses Odi, who seems to be petrified, and sings that ol' classic..

Old Man Donal had a farm,
kwak kwak kwak kwak kwaaaak
And on this farm he had a durulz
kwak kwak kwak kwak kwaaaak
With a kwak kwak here
And a kwak kwak there,
Here a kwak, there a kwak,
Evewywhere a kwak kwak,
Old Man Donal had a farm,
kwak kwak kwak kwak kwaaaaaaaaaak!

Aren, nearby, moans, "There goes the neighbourhood. Well if no one objects I will blow the noise the other way"

Just about to start on the second verse ("and on this farm he had some more durulz"), Silverquill's melodic singing is interrupted by a fierce gust of wind, blowing his words away. With an annoyed squawk, he glares down at Aren. "I was just about to calm the child, you know", he mutters.

But then the fracas in the field behind Aren catches his eye and, ever curious, he waddles down to see what the whole snazzlefrazzle is about


Vurth shakes his head to clear the last effects of the berserkergang. He doesn't seem particularly perturbed about his leg, or in pain, just a bit groggy from 'calming down' so quickly.

As Gyffun completes his song Vurth seems to snap back into focus. Attempting to walk he stumbles and seems to become aware of his injured leg for the first time. He absentmindedly sheathes his Klanth and, while leaning on Vizz, uses it as crutch to help him maneuver over to a nearby stump. Once there he seats himself and waves awkwardly at the assembled.

"So, all the shouting over or what? Somebody help me with this leg, I seem to have bent it somehow. Hey ... that pretty boy still alive? Must be more to him than I thought."


A drizzle falls and steams off the now calm boy.
Newborn rivulets search for routes down the slope.