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As Wilma continues to slumber, Gyffun once again stands to speak.

"When Entislar showed us the fine gift that he has made for our fledgling community," the skald begins. "He called it 'a fire sword for the fire tribe'. I'm sure that you all heard the ring of truth in those words. For a Fire Tribe we most certainly have become, forged like Entislar's sword by the Sixfold Fires that have beset us over the last year. And now, having been plunged into the icy waters of Exile, the time has come for us to test the mettle of this new thing that we have made together."

"None of us yet know where this path shall lead us, nor what this Fire Tribe of ours is doomed to become. But Entislar's phrase called to my mind other words, words that first came to me in a dream; a dream that was more than a dream. I spoke earlier of my recollections of Dark Season, of how I found myself drawn into the quest of the Dark Folk. I spoke of the Snow Queen, and our moment of recognition, of connection. I did not tell you all of that tale, for parts of it even now burn in my mind like an ill-healed wound."

Gyffun pauses, and runs a shaking hand through his ill-kempt hair.

"One part of this tale," he continued. "Lay hidden even from me for a while, locked in the dark recesses of my memory. Hidden, that is, until the Sacred Time came upon us, and with it the last, and worst, of the Sixfold Fires: the Bloodfire. These words, I remembered, were whispered urgently in my ear as I lay, broken and bloodied, on the field of battle. Their meaning eludes me still, but their import quite clearly relates to all of this: our troubles, our wyrd and our hopes of a new beginning."

"These are the words that I heard:"

Oh most noble, most shining idea of perfection,
Take back thy form, recover thy bronze hue,
Mantle thyself in gold.
Gather thy flaxen sinews tight and strut once more, Oh proud regal cockerel,
Cry thy madrigal challenge.
Glisten once more and ascend most fulsome,
Engorge and reclaim the Earth, for she is thy drudge,
Be no more the Mortal's bauble, sear the binding hand.
Oh most caustic, most infernal, most beloved of Gods
Thy Tribe awaits, legion, redolent and reborn.

Envious Dark God's sacrifice, We!
Burnished and brazen, forged of rock,
Tempered by frozen tomb, oh barren Womb of ice and acid.
An Age aflame, ardour undiminished,
The Ideal, we beckon to thee oh Lord.

We sing thee thy Nature,
We call thee to arms, we tell thee to gather thy spears.
Thee and thine we muster.
We bleed the sky and crack the ground,
We glory in thy form and sing thy doom,
We stop the Wind, that all might hear thy purity, thy virtue,
Thy chorus, thy clarion!

As Gyffun recites, to Silverquill's eyes he takes on the appearance of a handsome man in a cloak and a staff, bronzed and with a white beard, and the duck realizes that this is the legendary figure The Man of the Sun, said to have been a great leader of a human tribe which was destroyed by Zorak Zoran in another age. The background, of a fire and vague figures which resemble the earlier Warriors of the Sun briefly comes into view and then fades.


Volle, slow and with a voice deep and rumbling, speaks. As if unaccustomed to dialogue, he is relentless and unpeturbed by interruptions, his sonorous drone not loud, but as he speaks all gradually fall quiet to listen:

"Every Gors and Gallt is sacred to us Bluefoot. Every damp hillside, every sodden valley, every boggy plain and willow grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of our tribe. Even the rocks, which seem to lie dumb as they drip from constant rain, thrill with memories of past events connected with the lives of my people."

"The duck boards under our feet respond more lovingly to our footsteps."

"Yonder sky, that has wept tears of valour upon our fathers for generations untold, and which to us looks eternal, will change. Today it is tainted with chaos and filled with tentacles things, tomorrow may be overcast with clouds and then, yet again, Elmal and Heler may frolic, as rain showers follow sunny periods . My words are like the upper wind that always blows. What I say the good gods and goddesses can rely upon with as much certainty as my brother can rely upon the return of the seasons."

"Hatred is impulsive. When young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with anger, their hearts also are disfigured and turn black, and then they are often cruel and relentless and know no bounds, and our laws and customs are unable to restrain them. It is true that revenge by young warriors is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have lost sons, know better."

"Our exile seems to have been spoken by the iron heart of an angry chief. We will never comprehend it, but it is not so, for it is to avoid further kinstrife. Our tradition is the tradition of our ancestors - tales of our forefathers and their brothers, given to them in the solemn hours of night by skalds and the songs of our hearth mothers - and is written in the hearts of our people. But remember the Sword God, who saved his kin by leaving them behind, and speaking Truth."

And so he turns to Vizz, and all eyes fall on Vizz, and silence descends.


Vizz tells his tale without ornament.
"The swelling bellies of the Tresdarni girls had seemed a good omen. But it seems there is a thin line between a blessing and a curse. But I must stick to facts. Facts and nothing but facts, rooting out all else leaving nothing but facts: 'Ignorance is temporary; stupid is forever'".

"Brenessa had married Garang Cunningbeard, of course. She was due, yet still wandered errands far across the tula. Garang had found her, beneath some trees, dead through loss of blood, but with no babe, alive or dead. Just a few feathers amidst the gore. He had carried her body back to the stead distraught."

"Soon after Derekessa was also found dead. Her husband, Cabath had then accused me of being cursed and causing the calamity. Offering no evidence or reason I was not going to take the blame for this tragedy. I noticed that Cabath seemed to have something to hide. The baby, Cabath claimed, had been a monster-spawn."

"Saroosa had married Zarask, a cousin and firm friend of Cabath, but something of a hot head and dull wit. Zarask soon after that attacked me allegedly for some insult but really just blaming me for the malady. My friends were able to disarm Zarask and pull him off. He disappeared that night, not to be seen again. Saroosa is still pregnant."

"Darna the Lovely had married Andarin Quickblade, whose spark lit the Bloodfire. Andarin found some bloodstained possession of Zarask, and assumed I had killed Zarask in secret murder. Andarin called for compensation from the bloodline for the death of Brenessa and Derekessa, for the secret murder of Zarask. He went to the Tresdarnii to find a juror, and pursued his claim with a particular single mindedness. All the while, amidst the other disasters falling on our clan, Andarin seemed sure that I had brought some foreign evil into the clan."

"Kierston had married Kocho the Sloth. Kocho must have been less slothful when he ripped open his wife, seemingly with his bare hands - Kierston was killed, Kocho was found unconcious next to his dead wife; a mutilated baby in his bloodied hands. This seemed the last straw for a clan in desperate straits."


As Vizz's sobering tale finishes, the assembled exiles reflect on the events of Sacred Time, recent yet now seeming so long ago. They recall how the gods seemed once again to have naught to say, how the winds were still and how alone all felt. How the terrible words they heard put a chill into their souls, how they knew that something terrible was afoot. How the thick gloom was pierced one morning by a shriek from within the pallisades. A cry of anguish, a cry which signalled the last day that the Danlarni were one.

The scene within was one of blood and of struggle. Kierston, who until so recently signified peace for the Danlarni and their neighbours, lay slain in the hall, her belly ripped open. Her husband, young Jarang, awash with blood, sat clamly stoking the fire, the tang of blood in the air, the smell of burnt flesh cloying at the throats of those who surveyed this scene. It was Wilma who had screamed. Wilma who now lies asleep in the lean to, exhausted by the long night, little Angor lying curled up in her arms.

Looking at the bulky form asleep by the dying fire, the exiles recall the blood that was shed that morning, how Jarang took his own life, but not before calmly stating that he could not brook the birth of a monster in his hearth, how he had ripped a feathered chaos thing from his wife's womb and had burnt it. How he knew he had murdered an innocent but it was to protect them all from a greater evil. They recall how bright the young woman's blood seemed, how her life flowed into the dusty cracks of the swept floor, how it seeped into the fire, fizzed and crackled along with her dead child.

At each of the steads, another of the Tresdarnii girls had been murdered, each time by her husband. No-one ever knew the true story, whether they were truly monstrosities the girls had been carrying or whether their husbands had fallen to a sickness of the mind. So it was that each stead was split at last, cracked apart by the chaos of the year's events. Some left for distant, some left to seek refuge among the Torkani. All left as the price to spare their clan from reprisals by the Tresdarnii. Some felt the clan had been abandoned by the gods and so sought to look for them elsewhere. Hest remained and assembled treasures and cattle to send with Berrance to the neighbouring clan.

Wilma led her band of exiles north and east, seeking to cut a new stead beyond the Cordali, or else seeking refuge with the Tres. The Cordali chose to let them past but had taken ten of the exiles in as thralls. These were volunteers, preferring a life of poverty to one of danger. The remainder trudged on, deperately tired yet somehow optimistic that they had left the greatest of their troubles behind. They found a wild spot yet one where the ground seemed good, and took to cutting the brush and preparing the soil for the seed they had brought, little though it was, reassured by Wilma's cheerfulness and the happiness displayed by the children.

As the exiles gaze at the sleeping forms by the fire, they notice that Darvor has sloped off into the coming dawn, yet they feel a calm knowledge that his is a happy future and that one day he will be back, with marvellous tales of buck and boar and of the dryads he has courted.

As the first fingers of dawn creep into the lean to, the assembled exiles stretch and yawn and look upon one another almost with embarassment. They know that they have done well to recount the terrible recent past and that they can leave this behind and look to building a new life for themselves. Maybe one day they will return to their tula, receiving the blessings of their kin and being hailed as heroes, for their tribe is the Source of heroes, and they know the greatest heroes are those forged in fire.