Corflu to Horn Gate

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1 - Across the plains

Having left the Cradle, the company spend 4 days with the newtling riverfolk to rest, recuperate & stock up a little before hand, and travel up to Five Eyes on their boats. During this time, Hrolf asks the river priest at Five Eyes, who is widely respected as knowledgable and wise, about Elmeh Saif.

They have heard that he has been found, and are greatly excited. the priest says that Zola Fel himself is pleased that the Herewardi are committed to freeing his cousin. Zola Fel says that in ages past he remembers the legion, and he remembers the deeds they did for the river people - he is pleased their descendents are as devoted to goodness, and he is sure that great things lie in the future of this friendship between river and sword.

Few stories or myths are known about Elmeh Saif. He was a great warrior of the rivers - his name means 'the Water Sword' but was lost in the Darkness.

The group will also have stocked up on various things, and possibly got some delayed tattoing done.

Three days travel follow across the North Head Acres. Time for some navel-gazing and weapons drill.

Here's near the start of day 1

The days spent with the newtlings had been awkward: cramped into hiding in tunnels never designed for humans. Their group had been forced to split up, at just the time when Dori would have preferred to have kept them together.

But now Five Eyes is falling into the distance behind them and they are out on the plains. She estimates that they will have three days march before Horn Gate. Enough time to start to forge this disparate group into a team again. There have been so many new arrivals, barely known to each other.... she looks around, counting heads. This was scarely a "ten" any more except in the most literal sense: less than ten of them are actually Herewardi. So far. She has every intention of changing that once they reach Pavis and Illig, and that will mean making sure of her candidates well in advance.

It will be a long, hot, thirsty march today: a good chance to see which of the newcomers cope and which lag or complain. Who is best at keeping watch for any approaching movement, who can read any tracks they come across. At the moment, of course, Hrolf and the ducks are scouting ahead, and if a trail is discovered, Kristen will join them. She checks round: of course, Kristen is near Janeera. For once, she has a woman to protect, so that's what she's doing. Perhaps some of the new people can scout...? Vastyr's wolf friend....? and that's something else to find out about. She could have sworn she'd heard the beast speak at least once. And it looks far too intelligent.

She starts mentally planning for the evening. Their normal watch pattern will have to be altered. Use those trolls, at night. As long as they can cope with travelling by day, of course: that's something else to keep an eye on. And a training session, once it got cooler, would teach them all a lot about each other. With this many, organising it.... she works it out as they march on. It needs to be organised. When they get to know each other better, she will be able to rely on people automatically working together, but not yet.

And having seen what those Orlanthi called a shield wall... she grimaces at the thought. That, too, will take practice. And with so many in the line who are not in the Legion, it will be difficult. Trust takes time to build.

If they knew each other... yes, that would help. She'll get them talking, round the fire. Or even as they march. Somehow. Another job she does not relish: perhaps back in those carefree days in Nochet she might have enjoyed socialising, but since then she has prefered to stay apart. Too many subjects that were painful to speak of, at first, and then just habit. Well, that's another habit she'll have to break. Or she could get the other "old-timers" to help? She runs through names, looking round at the group. Light social chit-chat is never a Humakti strong point, and at the moment... Hrolf has always stayed as aloof as she has, Jamal might normally have been ready with the right word, but at present is too concerned with Abul, Aelf is... yes, well that's another problem, Malan barely speaks more than once a week anyway.... no, she's probably going to have to do this herself. A shame Fynn is no longer with them.

And here's the end of Day 1

DoriThe cool night air, a gentle breeze tugging at Dori's shirt, is welcome after the heat of the day's travel, and infinitely better than the cramped tunnels of Five Eyes. Grateful though they had been for newtling hospitality, humans needed more space. And here, out in the Wastes, they have all the space they could ask for. The camp is secure, watches arranged, evening training over, and everyone fed. All more complex than it used to be, now that their Ten had grown into a small horde, but surprisingly easy. Maybe she's getting the hang of this job. She runs through the checklist in her mind - surely there must be something left to do? But no. At last, she has time to think and reflect. Whether she wants to or not.

There has been no recurrence of the memories that had assailed her on the Cradle, no more spasms of paralysing fear. Perhaps it had only been the effect of so much Life magic so close to hand that had made it so overwhelming. Cautiously she tests the memory again, as if probing a broken tooth, waiting for the pain to hit her. But perhaps the initial shock is over: she finds she can face it, even examine it.

It had been true then, the story Levru had told her. She had hoped not, but... ah well, wishful thinking and the Truth rarely went hand in hand. And she had been about fourteen. She examines her memory of the pain, now with far greater knowledge of injury to guide her. Yes, it had been exaggerated by the fear and inexperience of a child. But not by much. Blood loss, internal injuries: she undoubtedly owes Levru her life. And if that flashback hit her again...? She tests her reaction to it, now. She could handle it. Unpleasant, but not overwhelming.

Now. What else does she need to deduce from this? It is still hard to think about it, not to push it away as she has done for so long, but it has to be done. Other, less friendly people than Levru might know something about this, about her, already. She does not want to be ambushed by her past. Who might be waiting to act against her?

Her former family. Well, that was a given. They had not parted on the best of terms: had never been on the best of terms.

And... there was something her mind kept shying away from, what was it? A baby. Being pregnant. It was all so alien. What followed? No, that was it: what preceded? A man. There had to have been.... she recoils. It's logical, it makes sense, but imagining it... she can't do it. But it must have happened. And when she was... thirteen? That seems wrong? She runs her mind over what she knows of "normal" society: that's far too young, surely?

So, at least one unknown: enemy, ally, she has no idea. Nor any idea what to do about this. And there must be more lost memories in there, waiting to trap her. If they turned out to be as bad.... she doesn't know when they might strike. And freeze her, in the middle of combat. When she was supposed to be defending her Ten. That couldn't be permitted, not when they were all relying on her. How likely is it...?

That's the trouble, this isn't just her, not any more. Any enemies in Pavis will strike at the whole Legion, not her alone. Because she isn't alone. She has to warn them... no! Oh, gods, no, she can't tell them about this! But she can't decieve them. Not her troops. Unless she can somehow deal with it herself, make the problem go away?

She can't just hand her personal problems over to the others, either, they've got enough of their own. She doesn't want to ask anyone for help, really. It feels all wrong, always has. Why would anyone want to help her? Something Brenna had said...? A faint memory, this one... oh, that was a long time ago! An alley, in Pavis. Brenna, sword in hand, standing over her, helping her up. Asking why she hadn't called for help, surely she must have kin nearby? Her brother lying on the ground, where Brenna's sword-pommel to the jaw had put him. And she'd laughed, and laughed...

That was it. Brenna would help. At least, she can tell her, and maybe together they can see it more clearly. Brenna will be at Horn Gate... yes, that will do. And after that, perhaps, she'll have to tell the others. Before they get to Pavis, anyway. No rush.

2 - Shield walls

Already perspiring under the morning heat Yrsga glances at Aelfwyrd out of the corner of her eye. She had know the Far Walker for many seasons now, and knew that she could read him well, one of the few bonuses of a life in the gutter. Arching an eyebrow Yrsga shakes her head, he was lost in his own thoughts again; no doubt the battle on the Cradle, or perhaps his recent affliction?

Taking a long swig of water from his canteen the Kargani regards the Kralorean weapon as it flashes brilliantly in the morning sun. It seems as if he had owned the Seven Dragon Blade for an eternity, yet it had been in his possession for but a season, two at most. Strangely he could not imagine wielding any other weapon now, but why should he, it was flawless.

To most the sinister looking weapon was perhaps some nightmare instrument of torture but to his mind it could not a faulted, a perfect union of sword, spear, staff and trident. Having the poking and snaring capabilities of the trident, the ripping, slicing, and thrusting ability of the bladed spear, the cutting of the sword, the block and strike hit of a staff, and pull slice of a hook sword.

Running a blistered hand down a blade edge he follows each twist and bifurcation, touching every razor sharp point in turn. Musing how such a weapon would be forged he tries, for perhaps the thousandth time, to discern the strange runes carved deep into the ebony and ivory that run the length of the haft.

None the wiser he snorts, concentration returning to the present for the moment he feels the pain return, the blisters were like needles and the puss stank like month old animal guts. Feeling the sun burning his pox marked skin Aelfwyrd thinks about today’s training with Yrsga and Korol; it should be started before the heat becomes unbearable. Going without food and sleep was one thing, missing a day training ritual was an affront to the Lord himself!

With an absent smile he remembers his own harsh training, when his was still Tresdarnii. Yet his mind drifts from Broddi Clapsaddle and settles instead on the words of the diminutive sensei, and his strange eastern teachings;

“Harmonising oneself in action” and to “wield the weapon: not to control the enemy, but to control myself” and of "posture, movement, grip, and swing" and to "cut away unneeded movement so combat becomes all out attack; simple and direct and granting immediate counter to surprise or ambush”

Tracing a finger over flat of the blade he touches the intricate etching of Korgatsu, The Mountain Dragon and with furrowed brow he recalls the lesson;

“Each blade a dragon, each dragon a name;

Tarn Gat Ha, The Heavenly Dragon,
Thrunhin Da, The Ancient Water Dragon,
Heen Maroun, The Storm Dragon,
Han Soo, The Blazing Sun Dragon,
Korgatsu, The Mountain Dragon,
Sekever, The Night Dragon,
Imin Long, The Oracle Dragon

Each blade part of the weapon, each dragon part of the whole;

Un Lo, The Cosmic Dragon”

The meaning of the lesson was still lost on him. Absently swatting a fly from his face he fastens his canteen, stands and shouts over to Yrsga.

“Where is Korol?” and throwing his shield over to her “Your shieldwall is weak, you know its grading is mandatory. Smithing Day and Pavis are weeks, not seasons away!”

Catching the shield and swiftly jabbing it hard into the Far Walkers gut Yrsga manages to wind him momentarily “I’ll be sure not to embarrass you!” and smiling she trots away then turns to face him, taking up a textbook shieldwall stance.

Severely lacking good humour Aelfwyrd manages to force a smile but then the pain get the better of him. Barking at the Yrsga and Korol he begins the daily training rituals.

For those not familiar with the Ten it would be an easy mistake to think that Aelfwyrd and Yrsga were brother and sister and Korol was some family retainer or bodyguard.

Dori stops and watches. Aelf was brooding too much, alone too much, and taking it out on his pupils too much. Both of them seemed able to cope with it, but...

"She's doing well", she comments. "Let's see how she manages in with the rest, now. She won't learn much more from a shield-wall of one, that's missing the entire point."

Yrsga looks doubtfully over at where the more experienced warriors are lining up for the morning practises Dori's been insisting on, then back at Aelfwyrd.

"You'll cope", Dori assures her. "Or at least, you'll learn. We're a team, remember: we fight as a team, we train as a team, and that includes all three of you." She ushers them firmly over to the centre of the main group.

Even by Far Point standards Aelfwyrd was barely a man when he initiated to the God yet now finds himself one of the youngest of the Legion's devotees. Like many from his cult this Kargani is fiercely independent and prone to arrogance. Only rarely did personal conflict arise and never in mixed company; this was a Humakti Battalion after all, if nothing else there was discipline.

Interrupted before starting his daily training ritual Aelfwyrd scowls under the heat of the ever-present sun, but nodding to his Ten he breaks off. Wiping the sweat from his face he is clearly annoyed but listens to what is said with good grace.

Dori notices his expression and ignores it. She still half-suspects Aelf is waiting for the rest of the group to push him out because of his illness, and whatever it takes to convince him he's still one of them, she'll do. Whether he likes it or not.

"We'll keep it simple to start with, a wall of three, you're in the middle. Korol on the right, and..." she looks around: who was steady and experienced enough to catch on to what she wanted without being told..? "Vastyr, on her left".

" Now remember, the whole point is you don't use that shield to defend yourself. You defend the man on your left. The man on your right defends you. That's why you're holding your shield so far out to the side instead of in front of you. Keep it at that for now: just defence, don't try to attack. It doesn't feel natural to start with, so concentrate on one thing at a time. Ready?"

The attacking line moves in, and Yrsga concentrates on the moves she's been taught, eyes slightly to the left of centre, wielding the heavy shield much more easily than a few days ago. Out of the corner of her eye, something bright flashes towards her face, and she instinctively parries it, her shield hitting Korol's as she does so. And something happens on her left...

"Stop there." Dori lowers her sword. "Vastyr seems to be dead, Yrsga. How did that happen?" As she'd hoped, he'd deliberately trusted his defence to the girl, even when he could easily have dodged or blocked the blow himself. Point made....

"It's harder than it looks, isn't it? When you're used to working alone, it's hard to trust someone else to defend you. But you've got to learn, got to make it instinct to trust the man on your sword side with your life, or you'll never be any use in a shield wall. You do trust Korol, don't you? You've known him for long enough, after all. Let's give you some more incentive... Vastyr, move up a bit, Aelf, come in between them. And don't bring a weapon."

With raised eyebrows it's clear he thinks this point is being laboured but takes up his position in the shieldwall all the same.

Dori smiles slightly to herself. Yes, a point is being laboured: that there are people here who need you, and would be devastated if you were hurt... let's make it as clear as we can, shall we? She wonders just how big a hammer it might take to drive the idea home.

"Now, Yrsga, you concentrate on defending Aelf. He hasn't got a shield or anything else, so he's relying on you. It could happen: he might be injured, he might have thrown his only weapon at the enemy or something daft like that. Either way, it's up to you to keep him alive."

And they move in again: this time Yrsga keeps her concentration where it belongs, ignoring the action to her right.

"Better." Dori stops them again. "Now let's make it a bit harder. Korol, Vastyr, swap places."

Yrsga looks sideways at her new defender: older, scarred, unfamiliar...

"At ease. I don't want you to do anything just yet, just think about it. Let's pretend this is a real battle, you've been initiated, you're in the Legion. And you're going to have to trust your life to Vastyr: you've known him barely five days. Why would you do that?"

Yrsga swallows, unbelieving: you didn't ask that sort of question, not unless you wanted death duels....

"Just answer it. I'm sure you've got an answer, so there won't be any insult to deal with. I trust him with my life, and I've known him no longer: tell me why?"

"Because he's Humakti?"

Dori nods. "That's a good start. You know he isn't going to run away, no matter how bad things get. What else?"


"He's in the Legion", Dori says gently. "And we're pretending you are as well, remember? So just because of that, you don't need to have met him before, or know anything more than that about him. He's in the Legion, so you can trust him absolutely, with your life, your honour, anything. That's what being in the Legion means. That's why it isn't open to just anyone. And it's why we can do shieldwalls better than anyone else, because we've got that absolute trust in each other. Sure, we can work with other Humakti, even non-Humakti, at times. But that's not the same. The Legion is special."

She stops, seeing the bemused incomprehension in the girl's expression. "It'll make more sense once you're initiated, once you can feel Humakt guiding you to the truth. Some things can't be explained, you just have to know them. And you will."

Putting a protective arm around Yrgsa's shoulder the Far Walker forces a smile "Yrsga is strong of mind as well as sword arm. She learns quickly and will serve the God well." and with a hint of irritation "The shieldwall is a fell weapon and is well taught yet it is but one style. I have much to teach before a path can be chosen in Pavis."

Dori considers the girl thoughtfully, then turns back to Aelf. "I think you underestimate your ability as a teacher. She has much to learn, yes, we all do. There's always more to learn. But she's already as good as many who've been in the Legion for years, as a solo fighter. Only her teamwork is weak." She smiles at them both. "One of the penalties of being too competent, perhaps: there's rarely a need to trust to others to help you when you're perfectly capable of managing by yourself."

Aelfwyrd looks at Dorinda and Vastyr thoughtfully and with nod his mind seems made up. "It is a point well made, Yrsga has much to learn and Aelfwyrd cannot teach it all. I would have Yrsga and Korol train shieldwall until Pavis, ask of me what you will in return."

"In return?" Dori raises an eyebrow at that. "I keep forgetting how short a time you've been with the Legion. You're one of us. There's no question of payment, or favours in return, between us, and never will be."

3 - Herewardi propaganda and Elendala

This fits somewhere between leaving the Cradle and the main action in Horn Gate. Can be moved as needed if anyone else joins in. Dori has been ten-thane for about 2 weeks, the new followers acquired on the Cradle have been with the group a few days.

Yelm has descended into the Underworld again. The Humaktis' devotions are over for the day, Dori ending, as always now, with a prayer for Garrath, as she had promised.

"I don't get it", Elendala says. "You pray for him, you obviously respected him, you literally went to hell and back for him, or so I hear. But you wouldn't accept him as leader."

"We can't", Dori points out. "Hereward's Code: never give allegiance to anyone outside the cult. Not that I'd want to swear loyalty to someone I'd only just met in any case, but it wasn't even a possibility."

"That's an odd bit of Code, isn't it? I know you people put a lot of emphasis on honour, but why the distrust of others?"

"Because of the last time the Legion gave its allegiance to an outsider." Dori laughs mirthlessly. "Arkat. He let us down rather badly. As he did to everyone else he encountered, of course, but for us it was about as deep a betrayal of trust as it's possible to get. It took even Hereward a very long time to see through his lies, and we don't want anything like that to ever happen again. So no matter how trustworthy an outsider may seem, we don't give our allegiance to anyone."

"That must make it awkward, as mercenaries. You never obey anyone outside the Legion?"

"Well, not quite. In theory we could obey someone in the cult, but not in the Legion."

"They'd still have to be Humakti, though? And there's not many Humakti rulers, and even fewer of those who hire mercenaries."

"No, Herewardi don't have to be Humakti. He's the Truewind sub-cult, yes, but he's also a hero-cult. Look around you: Jamal isn't Humakti, Fynn isn't Humakti. Hereward's a lot of different things to different people. They each have their own facet of the Truth, I suppose. He's the answer for anyone who's been betrayed by a leader and doesn't want it to happen again, like we've been saying. He's the hero who will do anything to discover the Truth - not just knowledge, but the true understanding behind the bare facts. He commands the Truewind - I've even heard of Orlanthi joining to learn more about that. Anyone can join, just as long as they swear an oath to follow Hereward's Code. And that's usually the sticking point, because it's quite demanding." She shrugs. "Anyway, we hire out to all sorts of people, as long as what we're being asked to do is honourable. We just don't swear to obey them."

"It sounds good. But - don't take this wrong, but how do you know someone in the cult is any more reliable as a leader than an outsider?"

"Because of the Code. As I say, it's a bit restrictive." Dori sighs. "I've been thinking about that a lot since this mob," she waves her arm vaguely at the rest of the group, "voted me in as ten-thane. To a leader, it's very restrictive. Not quite as bad as I'd thought at first, since I realised that honest mistakes are allowed, b ut some of the things Garrath was trying on his troops, for instance, would be out of the question. No deception, of any sort: not just lies, but no evasion by omission, either. And "do not shirk responsibilities" covers a huge area, too. The you add "behave honourably" and you've got something so general that there's just no loopholes at all, even if it wasn't dishonourable to look for them. No excuses. Get it perfect, or nothing." She shrugs. "Which is what I'd try to do anyway, of course. But you see what I mean. There's no way anyone sworn to do all that can betray their people."

"Do not shirk responsibilities," Elendala repeats, and nods. "That covers everything, really, doesn't it? And it would make a nice change."

"It would?" Dori glances across, concerned. "Something I've done?"

"No, no!" Her obvious horror at the unintentional implication makes apology redundant. "I was thinking of the past. Far past, at that."

There is a pause, as Dori concentrates on a link in the mail shirt she's repairing, and Elendala watches her expectantly.

"You never did ask, did you?" she says at last. "About my clan, I mean."

"Nope." Dori does not look up. "And I'm not going to. If you want to tell me, I'm listening, but I'm not going to pry. I know you still use your clan magics, so you can't have Separated from them, but you're not with them, defending them, either. And that's unusual. But it's your business, not mine, unless it affects the Legion, or unless you need help with it. After all, you're one of my responsibilities now, too."

"Help?" Elendala laughs, startled at the new idea and touched by the offer. "That's a first. But it's far too late for that, now. Which is the point, really." She pauses, thinking. "I don't see how it could affect the Legion, myself. Not here. If things change, if we went back to Sartar... well, we'll deal with that then. If I tell you, but leave the names out, that seems fair."

"Sure. Though if the names ever become relevant, you'll fill me in?"

She nods, accepting the implied trust. "My clan… I call myself a member of the White Quartz, I use the clan magic I got from my mother. But the clan was destroyed when the Lunars invaded, when I was a small child. I grew up elsewhere. So I never separated from my clan, because there's nothing left to separate from. It's already dead. Which is the problem…." She gazes into the fire, into the past. "There were a few survivors. Children, like me. And a very few adults, who'd been away from the clan at the time. One of them in particular… the clan could have been saved. Perhaps. If something had been done, right then. But…. this person… decided not to. Decided to go away, and do other things. Leaving my clan to die. By the time I was old enough to do anything, it was far too late. And I was supposed to look up, to respect…" She shakes her head. "It was a long time ago, and I don't know what other influences there were on the decision. But I can't forgive that betrayal. When you've had a childhood hero, and they've let you down, not with something childish but with something real, you can't just let it go."


Xenophon: "From the beginning the gods did not reveal all things to us, yet through searching we may learn and know things better. But as for certain Truth, no man has known it, nor shall he know it, neither of the Gods nor yet of all the things of which I speak. For even if by chance he were to utter the Final Truth he himself would not know it, for all is but a woven web of guesses."

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