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Rika tells a story


The sudden influx of beserkers, sniffing like mad at Lodi and shaking their heads, are demanding ale, which is in very very short supply, and having doe eyes made at them, especially by Rika.

While Vurth is happy to have his brethren around he finds that he is less that happy with them sniffing about Rika. He'd thought at first that he would be happy to have her attention distracted from him, but now he has taken to be quite gruff when any get to close to Rika (especially that lout Burkl he thinks hes so hot hot with that necklace od Gorp ears). Why, if Vurth wasn't the gentle, restrained creature that he was, he would just go over there and... Suddenly Vurth recalls that he is not gentle and restrained and goes over there and...

Silverquill discreetly whispers to Wilma that it might be a good idea to send the Uroxi off on a short chaos squirrel-killing expedition while the Exiles discuss what to do next , but she is mostly looking admiringly at Rika who seems to have these Bulls wrapped around her little finger.

Once the scuffle is over, Vurth pinned to the ground despite his best efforts, Rika calls Burkl off.

"Boys, boys, please," she gloats. "I have an important tale to tell and the way I see it, one of you is going to have to volunteer."

Soon she has the Bulls sat on their haunches in a ring about her, and has drawn the rest of the Exiles in by this curious sight.

"I shall tell you of the deflowering of Belveren," says Rika, stilling the boyish titters from among the Bulls with a fierce glare. "And you had better listen carefully, for at the end I am going to need that volunteer."


And this is the tale she tells:

Belveren's Deflowering

In the Silver Age, when all was twilight, Heort had led an army against Chaos and defeated it at the Unity Battle. Only fragments remained and Urox stalked the land in bloody triumph, seeking new foes. Those fragments of Chaos, though, had been forced to find new ways to survive and so they hid in all sorts of places, in the hearts of men, in deep caverns and in wild forests. Many were the beings who, unsuspecting, fell prey to Chaos and were corrupted and it was these beings which Urox sought out and slaughtered.

Many were the beings that Urox found and trampled into the dirt. Each time he returned for the telling, his hooves covered in ooze and gore, the Storm Tribe would quake in fear, for each time, among the number of the slain, was one of theirs who had been lost, corrupted by Chaos and then hunted down.

Now Ernalda's grief was the greatest, for her compassion knew no bounds. She took the Tribe's sorrow and, as Heler had shown her, shed it in an eternity of tears. She had sewn herself a new cloak which was all of nature and which recorded all those who had been lost and were still being lost. As she cried and wailed in grief, she stitched into her cloak a little bit of each of those who had been lost and so it was that she brought life back to the world.

Many are the lesser gods whose names have been lost and who are remembered only by a stitch in Ernalda's cloak. Many of these lost their names when Urox slew them for their corrupted nature, and buried their names in the Earth for Ty Kora Tek to wear in a string about her neck. Rantana, the Goddess of Small Mudpools, was one such, easy prey to the fragments of Chaos and corrupted by it, transformed into an evil ooze. But we recall her, so this is the story of how she was saved from Urox's rage.


Now another of the lesser Gods was Belveren. She still wore her hair as a maiden, but Ernalda had gifted her so that she could see past the corruption of Chaos to the goodness within. This meant that, each time Urox set off hunting beings which had fallen prey to Chaos, her grief was sharper than Ernalda's, for she knew there was another way, but could do nothing about it. She had learnt how to remove the corruption from a being and leave it alive and whole once more. But Urox's rage was too great, Ernalda's grief too consuming and the King of Gods was too high and mighty to worry about mudpools and the like. So each time, Belveren felt the pain of knowing she could save a lesser god, but could not bend anyone's ear to do so before the god was slain.

But this time, when Urox set off into the heart of the badlands, Belveren hatched a plan. She had watched all the Earth Goddesses, so it seemed, show Urox another way, and now she felt it must be her turn.


First, she sought to distract her Queen, by shaming her. "Ernalda," she said, "We all marvel at your mastery of grief, at how you take it from us and turn it into good clean water. But you only grieve when Urox returns. Surely it is better to grieve when he sets out, for we already feel the terrible burden of pain. I am but a small goddess, and this is too much for my poor shoulders."

"I know this," said the Queen in her majesty, "But it is grief which stiffens our resolve, which makes us strong. In my wisdom, I have chosen to leave you with this grief."

Dismayed, Belveren stared blankly at Ernalda on her throne, the Queen smiling beatifically at her subject. She was no good at this trickery, thought Belveren, as her plan, sketchy at best, seemed to crumble around her. "Oh Elmal help me!" she muttered to herself. Normally the Trickster would jump at the chance to sow confusion, so as the moment stretched on and on, she finally realized her mistake and was grateful that Elmal was off atop Kero Fin. "I meant the other one," she said to herself. "The tricksy one." Belveren was never any good with names, but it was this which she now turned to her advantage.

"Ernalda," she addressed her Queen more boldly now, "What I meant to say was, by the time Urox returns, we no longer even know the name of the god he has slain. Surely each of these gods, however, humble, deserves that you grieve from them properly, wailing their names and stitching their name into your cloak?"

Now Ernalda felt ashamed. Here was a minor goddess showing her wisdom and compassion. "You are right. I will grieve now for Rantana." Almost immediately, the Loom House was aflood with tears and Belveren had to make haste to escape before drowning.


Feeling pleased with herself, she sought an audience with the high king. But by the time she reached his Great Hall, a feast was under way. Orlanth had heard his Queen wailing, knew she was busy, so had called a feast. Belveren sat outside and waited politely. And she sat. And she sat. Wailing from one side, raucous merrymaking from the other, until finally she got fed up. Getting up on tiptoes to peer through a crack in the wall, what should she see but Eurmal making ready to pee in her corner! Well that was it!

Storming through the doors to the Hall, crashing them to one side, she got silence. Orlanth looked up from his haunch of venison. "Yes?" his voice boomed from behind his greasy beard, almost sending her flying back out the way she had come.

"I, er... I..." she quailed, suddenly unsure of herself. "I need some... ummm... help." Her tremulous voice seemed to touch a chord with the Storm God and, bit by bit as she stammered under the eyes of the Thunder Brothers, he dragged her story out of her. When she explained how she had distracted Ernalda, though, by making her grieve even more, his brow creased and he didn't look pleased at all.

"Well, for her sake," he said forcefully. "There is little I can do but help. But you will need to make haste if you're to stop the Bull."


So she found herself on a plain outside the Storm Village scanning the horizon. Eventually, through the gloom, she could see a cloud of dust in the distance. Working out its direction, she hitched her skirts and sprinted off and in an instant was bowled over as she collided with a chariot. Stunned by the shock of the impact, she watched for a moment as the chariot sped off, her heart sinking, but then she remembered what she was about and let out a tremendous scream of agony, some physical, some emotional but a large part just for show. Well, that was enough, and so the dustcloud took a long arc and circled back to her, Mastakos bending down to lift her up on to his chariot. "Whither to, oh vociferous one?" he asked, once she had explained her business.


Before she knew it, she was racing through the Badlands ducking out of the wind but peeking up to direct the charioteer toward the black stormclouds where she knew Urox must be. As Mastakos drew up beside the warrior, she saw that he was mightily peeved. "Where are you?" he raged, stomping across the ground and splashing through puddles. As she realised his problem, she couldn't help but laugh and in a flash a pair of red eyes were bearing down upon her. "What are you doing here?" he fumed.

"You'll never see her for all this mud you're making," said Belveren, jumping down from the chariot and standing there with her arms folded confidently. She was beginning to enjoy this!

And so she just stood there smirking as the angry God stomped around, trying to find a mud goddess in the middle of a mudbath. Eventually, defeated and feeling ridiculous, he came back to the infuriating woman. "Go on then, name your price," he said.

"Weeeeellll, first off, when we find her, she's mine, and you have to do ex-act- ly as I say..."


"No, I won't tell anyone, deary," said Belveren, scowling at Mastakos to stop his tittering as she directed Urox across the plain. As he cast flowers down at her behest, marking everywhere where the Goddess of Mudpools wasn't, they eventually narrowed it down to a small area with a foul sulphurous smell which set the Bull's scars a-burning and his mouth a-foaming.

Seeing his fury rising and fearful he would go into a beserker rage, she placed one hand on his forehead and scratched him behind the ear with the other, singing a lullaby. As he calmed down, she said, with more satisfaction than she had ever done anything: "You know, there's another way to do this."


Mastakos' humour had turned very sour by the time Urox dumped the last shieldful of the foul-smelling, filthy mewling mudpool into his chariot, but after a while, they managed to set off.

First they travelled to the icy wastes of Dozaki Uz. "Dinner time, girls!" Belveren cried as Mastakos drove the chariot around, Urox heaping shieldfuls of muck off the back. It was only the charioteer's skilful driving which ensured the hordes of trolls set upon Rantana and not the three of them, but soon, she had been all gobbled up and they drove to the midden where Belveren pointed handed the shield to Urox again and smiled at Urox.

Next, they sped off to Kero Fin. Here on the slopes, Urox summoned the winds to suck the foul stench out of Rantana and to bear them to the top of the mountain.

At the top of Kero Fin, in the brightest part of the world, they scooped Rantana into a mound and set her before Elmal's fire to dry out the seeping ooze which remained.

At the foot of Kero Fin, they entered Maran Gor's Underworld Palace and persuaded her to pound the goddess into dust, which they scooped into a bottle.

Finally, they sped back to Ernalda's Loom House, where the Queen was weeping and wailing for Rantana. Opening the door, a flood of tears swept them away and, contentedly, Belveren uncorked the bottle and poured Rantana into a pool.

There, the Goddess of Small Mudpools was restored. Urox crouched down and sniffed madly away at her. "Well, it worked," he said. "But it wasn't much fun."


And so it was that Ernalda stopped her mourning, for now there were no new deaths at Urox's hands for which they should grieve. And so it was that Rantana the Goddess of Small Mudpools survived, and we can still stomp away in her mud with our blue feet. And so it was that Belveren claimed her price of the Bull God. She had shown him another way and in return he took her maidenhead.


When she has finished the story, Rika looks calmly at her audience.

"Now", she says, pausing to ensure she has absolute silence. "I need a volunteer."

Leaving the request hanging in the air, her eyes wander over those before her and come to rest on Vurth. "Well?" she asks...

Vurth who was pondering both bruises, causes of bruises and the story snaps to attention. He answers quietly but stares at Rika the while.

"I'm your bull. What is I have to do?"

Silverquill had eagerly been taking notes as Rika told her tale. After she is finished, he approaches her and says:

"That was a fascinating stowy, Wika. I have heard a slightly similar vewsion before, but not so detailed. I pwesume you intend to cwoss over to the Hewo Plane and weenact this quest in owder to cleanse the land. I would love to accompany you - as an aspect of Belveren of couwse. I would have some insights that you would suwely need. I've alweady made a pweliminawy list of what we need to start the witual. What do you think?"

With that, the small duck shows Rika what he has written in his notebook:

"The last bit might be a bit difficult to awwange", says the sage, blushing slightly.

Vurth is paying very close attention to Silverquill now.