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O SUN of real peace! O hastening light!
O free and extatic! O what I here, preparing, warble for!
O the sun of the world will ascend, dazzling, and take his height - and
you too, O my Ideal, will surely ascend!
O so amazing and broad - up there resplendent, darting and burning!
O vision prophetic, staggeríd with weight of light! with pouring glories!

Wilma calmly listens to the Exilesí recounting of Sea Season, admiring the robust lean-to that Entislar had crafted for her. When all have said their piece, she smiles warmly at her brethren. "The Ruby Flux raged and we lost many good people. In the end, our lores and our loves may have saved us, or it may be that Mallia was sated. Many we sent back to Ernaldaís hearth, and for this we may yet be punished for this, but it was the best we could do."

"The skies to the west continued their colourful display, and we got used to this. Perhaps only because of our other worries, for the soil was baked hard as rock and what grains we had ripened and the vegetables and the beasts did well, for we brought them water. We had to keep the animals close for only our prime pastures were good, and so the squabbles began, as we argued over the grazing.

"Our feet grew sore on the hard ground, and the clay began to split open. Then it was that we were visited by the Warriors of the Sun. The skies grew red with dust, the cracks beneath us grew ever wider and then one night, we saw the many coloured miasma come up from the ground. Each night we saw these gases glowing in and about our fields until finally they took shape. At our stead, we found a man in a field, his legs bedecked in feathers and a leather helm covering his head. Most terrible was the barbed spear he carried. When we challenged him, he just carried on eating the grains off the stems, and at such a rate! Some of them he crushed in his hands and covered his chest with the oils."

"We sent word to Berrance to summon the fyrd, but no help came so we took up our spears ourselves. This man continued to ignore us and as he ate, and as he smeared himself in the grains, his chest began to glow a bright yellow and the feathers on his legs burst into flame. As he walked our fields, the plants took fire and he just carried on eating. Our spears and our magics had no effect on him and he didnít even spare us a glance. When most of our crops were burnt, he left, travelling south. Relieved to see him go, we sent word to the Tresdarni, but then more came from the north. They came south from Uzdark and Shadowdeep and again, we could not harm them, and they burnt what crops we had left."

"Those were the Warriors of the Sun. We donít know why they came or anything of their nature, but they didnít lift a hand against us, but took what was ours."

~oOo~

Silverquill stubs out his cigar on a nearby barrel and watches as the breeze created by Aren sucks the fumes up through the air hole. He nods wisely and strokes his fake beard as he listens to Wilma. When she is finished, he speaks. "Wawwiors of the Sun... what a stwange bunch they were. Of course I had to go and see this marvel for myself. Skullcleaver and I went to the fields and challenged them. Skullcleaver was convinced he smelled chaos, but I've seen him being wrong before, especially the time he thought he saw a chaotic sloth... The wawwiors didn't speak or weact to anything I had to say to them, even though I spoke to them in all the languages I know - and that's a lot! Skullcleaver sort of lost his temper at this stage and swung his axe at the thwoat of the nearest wawwior, but to our amazement it just bounced off! I twied calling on Lhankor's wisdom to detewmine the owigin of these fiends, but all he could tell me was that they were 'The Ideal'. Wak! Some ideal, I say! Howwible fiewy monsters... not a decent soggy person in sight. I have heard that some Lunar pwiests can summon soldiers from the Wed Moon and I think this has some wesemblance. But these wawwiors seemed to come fwom the Sun itself. Very stwange. Of course I documented the whole thing and went back to my temple to weport, but then there was that whole business with the tusk widers and no-one seemed to care."

Silverquill shrugs his shoulders and helps himself to a slice of bread, dipping it in water first.

~oOo~

"Fire Season, yes I remember it well," said Vizz Vollesbrother. "A season of hard trading as I used Bluefoot cunning to buy foodstuffs for our beleagured, and hungry, clanfolk. With the distain for lowland goods that we all can affect so well I was able to purchase a great deal more than would have been the case if those greedy lowlanders had thought we really did need it. Aye, canny, shrewd, and able to invoke the "You Have Nothing We Want, (at that price)" trade magic. I never did find out what we did well with though ("What grains we had ripened and the vegetables and the *?* did well"?). But, aware as I was of news of the terrible Flux and hearing rumours of the multicoloured miasma I slept one night a restless sleep. and did dream a strange dream, where voices of spirits or daemons or perhaps the gods themselves spoke to me and gave me visions. Their words I shall relate:"

Vizz - Aha! - Saviour of the Far Place
Vizz - Aha! - He'll save ev'ry one of us

spoken:
"Seemingly there is no reason for these
Extraordinary inter-tribal upsets (ha ha ha)
Only Apprentice Silverquill formerly of Alda Chur
Can provide any explanation"

Vizz - Aha! - He's a miracle

spoken:
"This mornings unprecedented Solar attacks
Are no cause for alarm"

Vizz - Aha! - Godi of the impossible
He's for ev'ry one of us
Stand for ev'ry one of us
He'll save with a mighty hand
Ev'ry man, ev'ry woman, ev'ry child
With a mighty Flash

spoken:
"General Tatius, Vizz Vollesbrother approaching
What do you mean Vizz Vollesbrother approaching?
Open fire, all magics
Dispatch Warriors of the Sun to bring back his body"

Vizz - Aha!

spoken:
"Vollesbrother's alive!"

Vizz - Aha! - He'll save ev'ry one of us
Just a man with a man's courage
He knows nothing but a man
But he can never fail
No one but the pure in heart
May wear the golden cloak oh oh oh oh"

I was awoken by my sweetheart in Alda Chur, who hastened me on my way, saying:

"Vizz - Vizz I love you
But you only have fourteen days to save the Clan"

Vizz!

And so it was that I returned from foul Alda Chur, happy to leave it's rancid smells and ancient ruins, and took the trail to the hills of my clan, remembering the wise words of my illustirous ancestor: "Be careful, take care, be fearful, night and day look sharp...we do not stumble on mountains but on clods, and fall."

My noble steed was less keen for the return journey, perhaps sensing danger or smelling the mysterious miasma. I recalled a song that had assisted many a traveller and sang it lustily. I admit I am no fine voiced skald and can only holler in the raucous manner of a big bold hero." He gives a brief glance at the 'less-than-big' Gyffun. "But it seemed to spur him into action:"

"Had I an ass averse to speed
Deemst thou should I strike it? No, indeed!
I'd give him hay and cry "Proceed!"
and "Go on, Forward!"

As I arrived at the clan lands, by chance I came across Berrance, looking grim and disturbed. He recounted what had happened and I was most upset to hear more desperate and sad news. What curse had been lain on our folk? I grieved most, of course, for Uncle Kartyrus, whose tread had worn too thin, even for a Bluefoot.

I did not see a Warrior of the Sun then, they had passed on their way. But I resolved to remain with my kin and clan until the curses and fiendish warrior demons could be stopped.

~oOo~

Like many of his fellows, Gyffun cannot keep a smile from his face during the 'prophetic dream' section Vizz's ebullient narrative. He acknowledges the godi's gently-barbed reference to a 'fine-voiced skald' with a small bow, and claps his hands together in delight after his enthusiastic rendition of the mule-spurring song. When he rises to speak, his eyes are still sparkling with amusement, but his tone is serious.

"I too was mystified and alarmed by these manifestations. These strange warriors do not appear in any of the songs or tales of our folk, nor in those of the many other clans that I have visited. We struggled to comprehend their behaviour, or to divine the significance of their appearance, but no answers were forthcoming. Their senseless ruination of our crops and maddening imperviousness left all of the warriors of the clan fractious and argumentative, and this may have contributed to some of the other events of Fire Season."

"First there was the endless raiding. I am ill-equipped to judge, perhaps, but this activity did seem to involve even more recklessness than usual. And then there were the brawls at the clan-moot, and the deepening of the blood feud with the Orlanii. None here will dispute the fact that strong provocation was offered to us in both cases, but if calmer and wiser heads had prevailed, at least some of the subsequent bloodshed might have been avoided."

There are a few nods of agreement, and some frowns and muttering.

"I had other reasons for frustration, of course, not least of these the suspicion and resentment with which my presence was greeted by most of my kin. There were jeers and frowns when I joined a raiding party, and undisguised scorn when I mustered with the fyrd against the Orlanii. I hope that you all know by now that my sword is neither a decorative adornment nor a musical instrument."

Some nervous laughter greets this last remark, but more of the clansfolk are frowning now, and most of the others look uncomfortable. The skald pauses to stare at them all, as if challenging them to dispute his words, then gives a rueful smile.

"But I have said more than enough of Fire Season and its frustrations, I think," he says, returning to his seat. "How petty some of those frustrations seem now..."

~oOo~

Entislar spotted Wilma admiring the lean-to and stiffened slightly - had she spotted the rough spots he hadn't time to finish properly? The thing was sound enough but it could have been better; he was, after all, more used to working in metal. Entislar grinned when the obnoxious cloud of smoke was whisked away through the smoke hole.

"Ah yes, the Warriors of the Sun, those accursed things, I had the misfortune to be here for their visit, we tried to fight then, to expel them but had no luck. The cursed sheep didn't fare too well either with the fodder burnt." Entislar looks round and grins as his gaze settles on Silverquill, "Like our elegantly bewhiskered friend here I tried to find out what they were with an equal lack of success."

~oOo~

"More enemies we couldn't fight", Garnatha says ruefully. "We tried, though. But our spears and javelins bounced off, the warriors didn't even seem to notice them. In fact, they ignored almost everything we did - and when I talk to a good-looking man, I expect him to at least notice I'm there!" She grins, mischievously, looking younger than her 25 years. "So I thought he'd react if I made a grab for his spear - no, shut up, you!"
(Over to other players to say who it was starting the obvious comment there..............?..........).

"That fancy barbed spear. The one he put down to grab our food with both hands. It looked kind of lonely and unappreciated. And it might be something he'd take notice of, I thought."

"But, of course, as soon as I got the thing in my hand, it caught fire. Ashes, in seconds, all except this bit of barb I pulled off. It looks like a tooth, but no-one there at the time could say what sort of animal it was from. And I was right, he did take notice. He looked at me. Not through me, like they'd been doing before, but at me, in that sort of way that says "right, I'll remember you". No more than that, though, then he went back to eating."

"Well, since I obviously couldn't have any effect on them, I stopped trying. I'll leave it to men to keep banging their heads against walls. Aunt Elgane was organising what spears were here into bucket chains and so on, so I went off to see if Berrance could do something useful for once. And, no surprises there, no he couldn't. You'd have thought his Elmali would have had something to say about Sun warriors, but not a thing. He managed the standard smart remarks about how if Elgane couldn't cope he didn't see what he could do, which would have been fair comment if he'd meant it, and I left him to it before we got on to discussion of women needing protection. After all, no doubt his wife thinks he's good for something, and she might not have liked what I'd have done to him."

"Well, if Elmali were useless, I thought I'd ask the Yelmalians. Give them the chance to prove they're better than the competition. So I headed off down south to see Jaspar and his crowd. Haloric had got the use of his arm back, more or less, only a few trollish tooth marks showing, and Jaspar...", she laughs, delighted at the joke against herself. "All that about a celibacy geas - some truth cultist! He's got a new wife and two gorgeous twin daughters."

"Anyway, they were delighted to show up the Elmali, like I thought. But they couldn't tell me a lot. There may be some cult secret here, or something - they muttered something about "The Ideal", but wouldn't or couldn't say any more. And they didn't know what that bit of tooth was, either. Still, it was good to see them again."

~oOo~

"Yes the plague of Solars" snorts Aren. "I had not heard of such a thing before. The gods, that would speak me, would only speak of vague Solar myths that referred to them. My magic had as much effect as your spears". He grins ruefully at his wife "And you all know what happened when we tried the ritual to call Heller down to damp there flames. Well it was a week before either of us could even pee. When the signs said the time is bad for that ritual they were not kidding." [Sigh]

"No in the end this was just another test of our endurance and cunning. Little of practical help could be done then." "As for the behaviour of our kin Gyffun spoke well. I think the heat had addled more that a few brains. A cool breeze between the ears was long over due. But even then the writing was on the wall for the clan, had we only the eyes to see it with."

~oOo~

Darvor looks thoughtful as he takes his turn, recounting what he did during Fire Season.

"I wasn't there. I thought I'd seen the great deer and had been following the tracks for days, but nothing. I should have been trying for some easier prey, not that there was much to be found, but I thought I could catch him and win a favour." The hunter looks down at his feet, splendid with their tatooed blue whorls and other signs of power, but seems to take no comfort or pride in the achievments they represent.

"I failed. And I failed the clan when I returned. When I saw our burned and pillaged fields I followed the tracks in fury. I went south following the scent of burned oil and feathers and came upon him in the morning by Silverbrook Hill. He was facing the Gates of Dawn and made strange bird sounds and flapped his arms as if they were wings. I could smell the evil power befouling the clean air and rushed him. I don't remember what happened exactly, but I think he stabbed me three times before I even reached him. The first stab removed my pelt. The second, my footing. The third my heat."

The hunter glances at his son, dozing in his aunt's lap.

"When I returned I found he couldn't take my pelt from me, my footing returned. But my heat is lost to me."

~oOo~

"By the Bull's hairy balls," Vurth exclaims. "Have you forgotten my great victory so soon? True, few of you were present, but is there any here that deny this is so?"

[No one in the audience seems inclined to do so. Vurth continues, so excited in the retelling that he leaves off cutting himself.]

"I could have told you of how that outlander Berrance would respond to our call for the fyrd. That useless outlander is every bit as worthy as our beloved chief. So I knew that I had to take matters into my own hands.

"Morith can vouch that I came upon that their flaming chicken man that was spoiling his field. Isn't that so Morith?! Drat .. where'd the fellow go .. well if Morith was here he'd tell you it was so. Anyway, first I sniff about to see if the chicken man had ought of the pre- dark about him for it is surely unnatural for a fellow to be burning like that. Still, I sniffs nothing so I ask him real polite like to push off and take him and his feathers elsewhere. You know what he did? Can you get this? He didn't go nowhere no how. Right away I knew the problem was in politeness which I can tell you never gets you nowhere and aint that the truth!"

[Vurth pauses and looks about for agreement and there is a hasty mumbling of concurrence that indeed politeness causes more problems than it solves.]

"So I prods this fellow once or twice with my trusty klanth but I can't seem to find him with my edge. This is powerful strange I tell you as I never had trouble putting the edge of my klanth to anything before, cept maybe that ghost giant but that's another story."

"Well, once I see this I started getting a bit sore and I kind of lost my temper then and tried to twist the chicken man's head off for him. Slippery fellow that he was though, I couldn't get a good grip on him. That was when I really got mad and pulled that tree up and started bashing away at him. Trees being a might bigger than my klanth ... he seemed to have a bit of trouble sliping away from that and sure enough he stopped eating when I started bashing him about the field."

"Then I caught him a good one and knocked him clear into the pond that sits next to Morith's field. As I was somewhat upset I charged into the pond but that cowardly chicken man had evidently decided he had had enough and slipped out the other side while I wasn't looking. When I finally gets to listening Morith tells me that the chicken man hightailed it into Tresdarni lands so I figure they are welcome to him and its no more my business, Tresdarni being so friendly to us and all."

"So don't be telling me how mean this lot were. You just have to go after them right. And that's the Bull's Truth."

The audience sits there stunned. That's more words from Vurth than they usually get in a season. And of course, they all remembered Morith coming down and remarking to the other victims that at least their field was only burnt down and their crop stolen as opposed to their whole field being all tore up and being useless for further planting or anything else for that matter. Still no one seemed inclined to relate this to Vurth and after some hasty congratulations the crowd turned to other matters and Vurth returned to his.