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This is part of Jane's series of "Twelve Days of Stories" for Xmas 2007/2008.

Ten lords a-leaping

And I apologise to my non-Gloranthan readers, but this story's about as immersed in Glorantha as you can get. If you don't know the place, and the people, you're not going to understand much of it.

The view from the Top Pocket, above and behind him, would have been even better, but Tosti could see most of Boldhome from where he stood. Upper East Pocket to his right, and far below, the river, the East Wall, and more importantly, the Lunar barracks. Up here, if the Lunars realised that they were up to something, they would have to run, panting in their heavy armour, up half a mile of steep, twisting road: and that gave more than enough time to get away. It was just a shame that they posted guards up here, too... not many, though.

"Tosti. You know what to do?" His father might be too old to run the streets, but he knew how to stay still, motionless, unnoticed. Tosti had always found that hard.

"Watch the guards in case they change their routine - as if! Tell you when the left one's at the far end of his beat. On your word, distract the right one, lead him off downhill. It's easy, dad, we do this all the time. I still don't get what this is for, though. There's no caravan due in, nothing coming up or down this road, nothing happening at the Picture Door. What're we covering for?"

"You don't need to... " his father sighed. "All right, maybe you do. I don't want you distracted yourself staring at it when it happens. Do you remember what I told you about how the city was founded?"

"There was a prophecy... and Sartar got the Mostali to build it in a single night? So the prophecy would make him King?"

"Right enough. Now, how do you think he marked out the boundaries, for the dwarves to build to?"

Tosti shrugged. He'd never thought about it. Never even really thought about where those boundaries were: the city stopped where the mountain got too steep to build on.

"Think about back home, with the clan. We mark the edge of the tula every year, right? Walk round it, gift the stones. A good day's walk, that."

Tosti nodded: a steep day's walk, too, up in the Quail Hills. He looked round at the Quivin mountains that surrounded the city. "He can't have walked all round this, surely?"

"A good climber might have done it, but no, and not the whole way in the same night that the Mostali built the city, either. But that was what had to be done. One night: mark the boundaries with magic, then build within them. So he didn't walk. He jumped: or rather, he and his ring did. Himself and nine thanes, leaping from peak to peak, circling the city."

Tosti looked round at the peaks, miles apart, unbelieving. "I know he's a god, but his thanes, too?"

"They had great magic, back then. Some still do.... Anyway, today is the day the magic gets renewed. It won't take long: a few minutes, no more, but the... people doing it.... have to get in, do what they have to do, and then get away. It won't be as easy as it was for the Great King. He didn't have Lunars to contend with."

"And one of them's leaping from here? Where to?"

"Across the valley. Then the next goes from there to the Storm Bull Hill."

"From there... Dad, that's nearly two miles! And uphill."

"And into the sunset. That should tell you who's doing that leap."


His father touched his finger to his lips. "We don't say the names, not today. Not the great names. The Lunars have ways of listening for them."

"So you can't tell me who's going to be here? Not leaping, or landing?"

"You won't be here when they land, anyway, though coming down off Thorgeir's Cow without her waking and mooing... well, never mind. But leaping... you can't work it out?"

Tosti looked across the valley, considering. "It's about a mile, slightly downhill. Not as hard as the jump before, or the jump after. Straight over the barracks, though... not someone as great as - as the one doing the Sunset Leap. Probably someone the Lunars don't know much about, yet."

His father snorted with suppressed laughter. "All true things and good reasoning, but not quite right. I know what magic's being used, at least. That's a river down there, and the Lunars have left the sluice gate closed again. Plenty of water. Vingans can leap over water."

"All right..." Tosti thought through the Vingans he knew. His big sister had dyed her hair red.... but he couldn't see her jumping a mile, even over water. He shook his head. "There's something more I'm supposed to get?"

"Maybe, maybe not. You never did pay much attention to the histories, did you? Still, the Lunars pay even less. That valley that needs jumping over - what's it called?"

"Boldhome Valley."

"Up here, yes, but what's the main valley called?"

"I suppose... it's the top of Killard Vale."

"And surely you remember how Killard found the Vale?"

Tosti shrugged. "Not really. There was a war over it, and he stopped it, I know that bit."

"There was a war between the clans who were trying to find it. They found all the other sacred places, like Sacred Top, and Crow Top, and Lookout Hill, fought over them, loosed their spirits to do battle. But the Hidden Vale where Heort was born stayed hidden, until Killard not only found it, he persuaded it to come into the open. Then, there was enough rich land for everyone, and the wars ended. And again, every few years, he, or later, one of his descendants, renews the magic that keeps it open. But here... when Sartar wanted to build Boldhome, he needed to persuade this part of the Vale not to open any further, so he could build his wall across it. He stayed down in Wethersfield for a long time in preparation, trying to balance his magic and that of Killard. It's important, even now. If the magic to leap the Vale made it close: and that's what leaping magic does, you know, makes a mile into a yard, for a moment: if it overpowered Killard's magic, we'd lose the Vale. It would be hidden again. All very well for those inside, not too good for us."

Tosti tried to imagine that, failed. A mile was a mile: even if someone was jumping it, it couldn't just shrink. "So what does that mean - who does that mean?"

"Come on, boy." His father always wanted him to understand this mystical stuff, and he never did. "Someone will have to balance Killard's magic and Sartar's, to make that leap and not make things worse instead of better. Who do you know of who's left of Killard's line - the old line of the Kheldon kings? Who do you know of who can manage even a flicker of Sartar's magic?"

"It can't be.... she can't come here! Not here, not right on top of the entire Lunar army, that's ridiculous! It's far too dangerous, she.... oh." He suddenly realised what he had been about to say about his Queen, and just how untrue it was. But it was true.... he looked across the valley. "Only" a mile. Not just one lot of ancient, powerful, barely understood magic, but two at once. Getting there, getting away - and the consequences if she failed.... "Dad? Can she do it? Really?"

His father was silent for a moment, remembering the past. The other times when his queen had tried the impossible, knowing the dreadful consequences if she failed, and risking it anyway. The Righteous Wind. The rebellion here. Far in the past, her previous attack on Boldhome. Whitewall... And then he remembered the way she'd smiled when she was asking him to set up the guards here. His queen. "Oh, yes, lad. Never doubt that. She'll do it."