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

Five gold rings

It might be an ordinary Orlanthi family. Or it might be "King of Sartar", pp 62-64. As I used to say in my sig: "The answer to any either/or question is YES".

The five brothers gathered in the fresh air outside the longhouse, glad to be away from the stale smell of their father's sickbed.

"So that's it. The old man may not be dead yet, but his rings are ours."

"The rings of leadership - I wonder what they do?" That was the youngest, turning the great golden arm-ring over and over as he tried to read the runes upon it.

"Let us command the winds, of course, as he used to." The eldest had always been the closest to their father's powers, the least interested in the more normal pursuits of drinking, wenching, or brawling.

"And fighting. Power over the Pre-dark, got to be. He was good, before he got old."

"Yeah, fighting! And without him telling us what we can't do, and who we can't hit." The middle brother eyed the youngest with a mixture of malice and speculation.

"Some possibilities might still be inadvisable." It was rare for the fourth brother to speak, but the cold, hard, warning in his voice made his older sibling step back.

"Yeah, well. There's lands to the north that aren't ours - yet. I've a mind to change that. Anyone else coming?"

But the eldest had already flown off, and the second shook his massive head. "The East, for me. Drier."

"Scared I'll show you up, again?" He paused for an answer, but the baiting was ignored. "No objections from our strategic advisor? Then I'm off to carve out my own kingdom - who needs this one?"


The youngest watched as they left. "Thanks. Without dad there, I'd thought...."

"They learnt, once, that bullying a younger brother was - inadvisable. It seems the lesson has stuck."

"They tried that on you?" The shock in his voice said all it needed to of his opinion of his brother's prowess.

"Once. Why do you think I learnt to fight well enough to beat them?"

"I.. don't know. Because... that's what you do? That's who you are?"

"Now. I learnt, changed. You can learn other things, and change in other ways. I did that. You don't have to."

"So what shall I do, as my father's son? I'm not ready to carve out my own kingdom, yet." He slipped the great ring onto his arm, and it slid down again, too loose for the youngster. "Not even ready to wear this."

"You'll grow into it. Wear it some other way, for now, it's almost big enough to be a torc, on you."

"If it would go over my head." He tried, laughing, and it stuck on his ears, looking like a parody of the circlets worn by the leaders of the Fire tribe. "Father used to wear them linked, as a chain." He pulled it off again, looked it more closely. "I'm sure they were linked, like the rings in a byrnie. But there's no join, no rivet."

His older brother shook his head, examining his own ring. "To join those, you would have to cleave at least one, and methinks it would take a very great need to persuade any of us to do that."

"To damage the thing that marks us as brothers, as our father's sons - no." He looked ruefully after their vanished elders. "Anyway, we can't re-join what we don't possess. And, rejoined, the chain could only be wielded by one."

"To make this family act as one was beyond even our father's powers of leadership."

"So, whatever they did for him, joined, is not what they will do for us. Perhaps they do not give power at all, they just mark us out. Perhaps what they confer is - responsibility?"

But he was alone, with only the wind to hear his words. He shrugged, and pushed the ring into his pouch. There were girls to charm, adventures to have, a world to explore. Responsibility could come later.

The King of Sartar version:

The Sons of Umath
Umath was no longer able to lead the gods in the struggle for freedom. He had been wounded too many times, and he was no longer safe if he went outside of the camp. When it was clear that he would no longer be leader, he turned over the ring of leadership to his sons.
Umath had these sons:
Kolat, the father of the winds, who comes when humankind calls for them. Some are gentle, and others are fierce.
Urox, the beast-wind, is also called Stormbull. He is revered in the wastelands, for his is the dry desert wind which bears the stinging grains of sand upon it. He hates chaos, which always pains him deeply, and has dedicated his life to destroying it.
Vadrus was the next, a fierce and mindless wind of violence which led the attack of the Storm Tribe upon the other gods.
Humakt was next, a noble and upstanding warrior. He gained Death as his tool, and now he is the god of death and of war.
Orlanth, the youngest, was last. He was thoughtful and considerate of other beings, and a natural leader among the gods. He is now the ruler of the heavens and the earth.