Devotion discussions

"There is one other thing," Dori says slowly. "You remember years back, in Nochet, when you said I was using Hereward's magic accidentally, sometimes without even noticing?"

Illig sighs. "Yes. All too well."

Kristen, positioned protectively between Dori and the edge of the camp, looks alarmed. "You're not doing that again, are you?"

Dori laughes. "No, these days I'm in control of it - I hope. Not me, Egil. There's been a few times today I've got the impression he's using Hu's magic without noticing: or possibly, it's using him. And if it's the same problem - it'll have the same solution?"

"Devoting yourself to Hereward put you back in control, certainly," Illig agrees. "But Egil? You think he's ready for such a step?

"I don't know," Dori says soberly. "But I suspect he may not have a choice."

Egil nods in agreement "Something has happened to my magic, spells I would normally use are gone. When I look into my mind to find them, Hu's rune stares back at me. And when we fought that demon plant, I was not in control. Hu took over me and guided my arm and blade. This was done without my bidding, well as much bidding as I usually give in a fight. Which is something like 'Hu help me'."

"It sounds as if you're still in control to some extent, then," Dori remarks. "At least you're noticing what's going on."

"You think so?" Illig shakes his head. "Dorinda, look at him. Really look at him."

"I - oh, I see what you mean. Like that." She concentrates, her eyes unfocus slightly - or sharpen? The latter, from Egil's viewpoint. "Oh. Oh dear. That's.... well, we never did formally close the ritual, back in that underground temple. And - Egil, have you eaten anything, since? That can settle you down. But...."

"Exactly," Illig agrees. "Even allowing for that, he should be back to normal by now. Egil, you're sleeping in the temple tonight. And tomorrow, Yodi will find out what further needs doing to take you all the way through to full control."

Egil's eyes widen "So Hu still has me?"

"You're on the wrong plane," Dori says simply. "Partly, at least. You're at least as much on the Heroplane as you are on the mundane at the moment, and that's dangerous. So you sleep in the temple for safety, though I'd have thought...."

Illig raises an eyebrow, and she blushes. "Oh, yes, of course. Silly of me. The sword has two edges. Safety, yes: whatever happens will be under our Lord's control. But being in a weak spot between the planes makes it more likely that something will happen. Better to get this over with, though."

"Well then I'll get to the temple and sleep as best I can, if something wakes me at least Hu will know where I am."

While all this girly insight and deep reflection is going on (that's a joke, alright?), Vesekor is just trying to get settled and figure out the camp, the cult, etc. His method is to keep mouth shut and eyes and ears open.

"Look guys, I'm not sure if this is a temporary situation, or somethimng more permanent, so no fights, not even any disagreements - especially not with that Carmanian. We're going to have to get along with these people for at least a week, I'm betting.

"I'm going to ask the local boss if Devekor can hold services for us - Just because we're in foreign lands doesn't mean that we should abandon our Gods. I'm also going to try to get rations and such - I think they mentioned somerthing about hiring us, but I'm not sure what, exactly they meant by it.

After Illig leaves their fire the legion relaxes. Not that they disliked having their leader at the fire, it was an honour, but his questioning and teaching was intense, not because he was hard, just because everyman wanted to live up to their leaders high standards and was afraid that their best efforts would not be enough. Those questioned take longer to come round, they have been given much to think about. Soon the celebrations were in full swing, quiet because they were still in hostile territory. Graylor eventually gets a chance to speak to Dori quietly.

"I am sorry if my actions caused you problems with Illig. I am so used to having the Unbreakable Blade as my own power that I quite forgot that Ashar may be offended at my creativity."

"That's OK Graylor." Dori says with a rueful smile. "I've been through this a few times now, one more won't hurt. You know it would be easier to handle if he just shouted. It's the look of disappointment he has it destroys me every time I see it. But then that is Hereward's way, you need to find your own path, and he is so firmly on the path, it makes the rest of us feel inadequate as we stumble around trying to see in the darkness."

Dori straightens up a little and a half smile flashes across her face. "Anyway enough of the self-pity. We have been shown the way back to the path. Looking at you, you wanted to ask me something?"

Slightly taken aback, Graylor responds. "Well, yes I do. Who do you think would be best to perform Santhis' severing? I am worried that there may be other Oilamley worshipers about who could send agents against Santhis, so he should be severed from that link as soon as possible for his own safety. I would have liked to be the one to perform the ceremony; unfortunately I don't know the magic, though perhaps I could learn it?"

Dori thinks for a moment. "Yodi would be your best option. He is quite taken with your philosophy. I am sure that he would be willing to show you the Severing Quest while he releases Santhis. Go to him in the morning, I'm sure he will help."

"Santhis would like to join Hereward, for some reason the idea of a leadership that don't abuse their followers, appeals to him." He says with a grin. "I know that you said that I should instruct him, and I will, but with your permission I would like to go to Vur. Firstly since he did help us I need to report to him and secondly I have a recollection that there is supposed to be some magic that is supposed to be effective against demons. I want to check with him and his men if they know of it. I want to be present for Egil's devotion and I'm guessing that the preparations will take a day or so. That will give me plenty of time."

"It should do, yes," Dori agrees. "By all means, learn all you can from Vur. I know Yodi is."

"I'm not sure how much I'll learn. I spoke with some of Vur's men on the way back and they didn't have much of a clue. My guess is that they will just direct me back to the temple here. It is supposed to be a repository of all the lost knowledge of Jalmar!" He looks round and sees Vesekor and his men sitting together apart from the rest of the men. "I think that I'll go and join Vesekor, he and his men look a little isolated at the moment. Do we have any plans for them or are we as usual making this up as we go along?"

She shrugs ruefully. "I'm making it up as I go along. We couldn't just abandon them, they're bound to be useful for something even if only as a source of information on the Lunars. And just having other perspectives is always a good thing. But specific ideas? Sorry. We'll need to get them out of the area soon, and there's a trip to the far north planned, putting them as part of that will keep them well away from Lunar eyes. That's as far as I'd got."

On the way across to Vesekor Graylor rescues a couple of flagons of ale.

"Hey Vesekor, thought that you might appreciate another drink, it looks like you are dry. Helping us out with that demon was thirst work." He grins, filling Vesekor's tankard, passes the flagons to the other men and settles down with the Rinliddi. "You can see that we're a mixed bunch and don't much stand on ceremony. Is there anything you need?"

"Thanks for these, and for the welcome. Can't think of anything at the moment, we'tre still trying to find our feet."

Dori joins them. "One more thing we can mention, now Illig's approved you. The temple we said Egil should sleep in tonight. It's not the one back in the New City, it's the one we've found here. Only the underground section, so far - the entrance is under that tent." She indicates what looks like a storage tent. "I'd strongly suggest that you don't go down there, certainly not alone. It was pretty thoroughly trapped and guarded when we found it. Someone very paranoid had gone to a lot of effort to be sure that only Humakti, and preferably the right sub-cult at that, could get in. We think we've found all the traps and disarmed them, but we might be wrong: there could still be something that we haven't triggered but you would."

"Watch who you are calling paranoid!" Graylor quips, grinning at Dori.

She grims back. "I thought you people took it as a compliment? Anyway, unless you're a few centuries older than you look, it wasn't you."

"We do, but we don't like to let on that we do. I'm sure that you'll find that they were merely a few sensible precautions in a dangerous time." Laughing now he adds. "It's just that after a few hundred years your mind starts to go and you forget things... like how to cancel your wardings! Anyway enough of the private jokes we are supposed to be welcoming our allies."

"Well, we're not big on being underground anyway - open skies for us! So thanks for the warning, and I'll tell my folks not to bother going into that tent."

"By the way, do you think it's alright if Devekor here leads worship services for us? Or who should I ask? We aren't Death worshippers like you all, and my folk would feel better if we can worship our own Gods."

"Seems reasonable to me, plenty of people here have other gods they worship. You've met our healers, for instance. What god are we talking about here? Nothing we're likely to have objections to, I take it - no undead, or Zorak Zorani, or anything like that? And I believe you said you're only Lunar in the sense of being hired by them?"

I dunno who Zorik Zorinini is, or whatever you said. No, we worship Vrimak the High Flier, Tholm the Decender hawk, and the rest of the Holy Birds of Rinliddi. Our own particular regimental patron is Oreortyx, the Mountain Quail.

I joined the Lunar religion because it was suposed to be a way to get ahead in the service, but it always took more than it gave. My troops never joined it, and I'm sorry now that I did - it hasn't been anywhere near as useful as it could have been. Four years and I'm still a Vrimon. A tie easily broken!"

"Zorak Zoran's one of our particular enemies," Dori says abstractedly, "and no, I didn't really think he was your style. Troll god of berserkers. Worth knowing about, in Pavis: if you see a troll wearing red, that's who he worships, and you probably don't want to stay around."

"Oh, you mean har-Soranj. Yeah, we know about him and his blood-mad digijelm. What was that you called him, Dzorek Dzuran?"

"We'll have to get Vern or someone to give you a run-down on the local cults, it sounds like your intelligence didn't brief you too well. He'll be down in the library, though - no, there he is."

Vern is indeed appearing from the "storage" tent that covers the temple entrance. A middle-aged man, with a fine beard down to his waist, whilst his hair falls loose to his shoulders. His robes look as if they were bought recently, but not cared for since. He looks round nervously, as if trying to avoid someone. Dori waves, and he comes across to join them.

Graylor takes one look at Vern's ashen face. "Sit down here Vern." He spots Santhis nearby and asks him to fetch some spirits for the sage. Santhis runs off and returns in a few moments with a promising looking bottle of brandy.

"Here take this. What has got you into such a state?" Everyone waits patiently whilst Vern settles himself with a large gulp of the fiery spirits. Santhis pounds his back as he chokes.

Meanwhile Dori attracts Graylor's attention and, using sword speech, signs. "Caution, query found secrets? Query inform allies?" Graylor puzzles on this for a few moments before the truth hits him. He nods to Dori.

"Ah, Vesekor, it occurs to me that Vern here may have discovered something of a sensitive and secretive nature." He waves them back to their places as they immediately rise to leave. "No, don't go. This is one of Hereward's teachings. There should be no deception from leaders to the men that follow them. Nor can they get away with leaving out important information. However none of the information in the temple comes from Hereward, it comes from another and in order to even mention his name I need a binding oath from you never to reveal his existence. Santhis you know nothing of this yet and I need an oath from you too. If it makes you feel any easier; all the Seventh swore such an oath blind, as you are, having only met me for a matter of minutes."

Santhis replies immediately. "You know I would swear any oath for you Graylor."

"Let me think a minute." Vesekor thinks it over, then walks over to discuss it with Devekor. Finally, he returns. "Normally, I'd say 'no' to such a request, but Devekor tells me that you are Warriors of the Oath, and that you'd not try to trick a stranger into an oath that was against their interests this way, so yes, I will swear. And since you would have no secrets between a leader and his men, my troop will swear as well." He grins. " It looks like we'll be stuck with you, then."

"From what I've seen so far that should be no hardship." Graylor smiles somewhat relieved at way things turned out. "Thanks for your trust, it means a great deal to me and says a huge amount about your character. Dorinda, could you lead the oath please? I have not yet learned the full ritual for oath taking."

Dori draws her sword intones the prayer to initiate the oath taking. Graylor directs the Rinliddi to swear on the sword, as the Seventh had witnessed before, the sword that holding the oath startes to glow and as each person adds their oath the glow gets brighter. Finally Graylor closes the ritual with the words he used before.

"Jalmar receive this oath of silence, watch over those who keep their bond and punish any who break their word."

The light from the sword streams out from the tip touching each of the oath takers briefly before flashing off in the direction of the temple entrance. Dori, Vern and Graylor can see in their minds the image of the statue in the temple, its sword glowing brightly. Then in their heads a resonant voice echoes: "Done."

"Thank you my friends. For none that have sworn that oath to me have not become my friends." Graylor smiles warmly at the group.

"Now to continue with the main point. The temple is a joint temple for my Lord Jalmar and Karag. Jalmar is the hidden aspect of Humakt, a fighter against the hidden face of chaos. His cult is unknown except to its members, a few sworn people like yourselves and as they die the chaotics that we are sworn to detect and destroy." Graylor pauses for a few moments to let his words sink in.

"This temple is reputed to hold many of his lost secrets, Vern has been looking through its library to find out what is there." Turning to the now restored Vern. "What have you found, that scares you so?"

"Scared? Just a little apprehensive, no more." Vern's confidence seems to have returned, in this company. "And not so much what I've found, as what I've been asked to find, because I don't believe it's there." He takes a longer and more controlled swig from the bottle. "The other aspect of Humakt this temple is devoted to is Kaargan. Note the long AA. A very similar aspect to the Kargan we are all familiar with, but, as we have seen from the statue, with tusks. A decidedly trollish variant: odd, when so much of the history of this place is concerned with conflict between troll and human. Lady Seledd," - he stops and looks around again - "asked me to go through the histories to find out what this "Kaargan" is really about, since to her mind he obviously cannot be trollish, and to investigate any records of battles between this temple and the Uz."

Dori grins. "I see why you might be a little apprehensive, yes." Then, to Vesekor: "Lady Seledd is our senior hundred-thane, and was a Light worshipper before she joined Humakt and the Legion. She has a certain natural dislike of trolls."

"Hmm." Graylor ponders. "So Kaargan is a troll god, interesting. Is the similarity in name to Kargan Tor a coincidence? If so then Seledd has a double shock for Humakt would have been taught all his fighting skills by a troll ! Has your research encountered the reason why both gods should share a temple and why the Jalmari should be so friendly with the trolls?"

"Nothing," Vern says bitterly. The brandy is disappearing quite fast. "The troll statue was obviously here from the start, the whole underground complex is unusually extensive for a temple of that period and indicates strong Underworld connections, but I am supposed to be looking for evidence of battles with trolls. Not an explanation for the friendship, but proof that it did not exist. Oh, I've found battles involving trolls. One of the last Lords of the temple, Berendor, seems to have died defending "the last route to our Uz allies". And there may yet be some evidence hidden in the records I can't read - because they're written in Darktongue. But as far as I can see, I'm wasting my time."

"No, no you're not. Just because Seledd is determined to have you prove something that is not true. As you say there is ample evidence that the Jalmari and Uz Kaargani were co-operating. Wasn't that young Kargani, Aelf in the middle of the ecstasy of embodying Kargan. Close enough for a devoted follower to recognize him, but not for Seledd? Any bets against the Darktongue documents saying the same thing as the ones you could read?" Graylor looks round to see if there are any takers.

"Thought not. Hang on what was that you said about a last route? Do you think that there could be a tunnel from the temple? That would be worth investigating. It's always good to have an extra exit, stops you getting trapped. Though the flip side is that we need to know if anyone knows the other end."

Vern shrugs. "We could look, I suppose. I could see if I can find any more about the end of this Berendor, there may be more details there."

"What else have you found? Anything about demons? I have a recollection that Jalmar found magic that's effective against demons. Considering our recent experiences it would be useful."

"Only if you count trolls as demons. There may well be something in there, but that isn't the area I've been studying."

Just then a new voice joined the conversation. "I'd like to find out more about these Troll relations." It was Yenda, hand resting lightly on Graylor's shoulder. She had made her way over to the group when she saw Vern talking. "I think it is time I went back to the scrolls Graylor. I know that I asked you to get me out of the main temple library, but this is something new. The more we know about this place the better it will be. I mean what happened in the seven years between the trolls invading and cutting Pavis off from the outside world and the Jalmari, I guess, sealing the temple off from outsiders." She looks in amazement at the blank, staring faces round her.

"Oh, come on! It had to be the Jalmari that sealed the entrance. Karrag would not have known the unbreakable blade and few people can see in the dark with out a torch. Something happened to the friendship in 1244; either the Uz were all slain or the friendship was broken."

She smiles brightly at Dori. "You seem to have contacts everywhere. Do you know where we can get hold of a reliable reader of Darktongue or someone who can teach me, Vern too if he wants?"

"I'll try," Dori says doubtfully. "Troll scholars aren't exactly common. Geran's never mentioned knowing anyone who could read. I could get Vindana to ask at the Library, I suppose."

"You could," Vern agrees, "but any such scholar would want to see the writings you are so keen to read, or at least to know of them. Keeping the secrets of Jalmar secret under those circumstances would be difficult at best."

"And as for you young lady," he glares at Yenda, "you are an example of why warriors are best kept away from scholarship. You are not just speculating beyond your data as badly as one of those Ulflodell charlatans, you are ignoring what data you possess. The "trap" was specifically described as being built at the request of both cults. Trolls were not mentioned, but the cults were. It does indeed seem strange that the Kargan side of the partnership should seek to install a door that they themselves could apparently not open, but the fact remains that they did so. Possibly preserving what lay inside was seen as more important than their own access, possibly they did in fact learn how to use the powers of the Sword themselves, possibly there were other ways of opening the door that we have not yet discovered. But we should not assume any one explanation to be true until we have more evidence."

It is Yenda's turn to stare open mouthed at Vern's words. Her amazement turns to anger as he proceeds, though out of respect she waits for him to finish. "Actually Vern you need to check your facts. I did not know that the temple was closed at the direction of both cults. Is that what the plaque says? I can't read the inscription, but recognised the numbers. Remember we only arrived after you lot had entered the temple."

She continues somewhat calmer now. "That being so you are right there could be other explanations. We had better pool our abilities and find out what was going on. Actually I've just had a thought; I remember meeting a sage that used magic to translate documents even though he only spoke the language in question. If you or Vindana can do this, can you cast the feat on someone else who does speak Darktongue?"

Egil has so far been standing at the back of the group contemplating going to sleep but an idea strikes him. "What if we catch a troll and get the troll to read it for us? Of course we don't want trolls knowing our secrets so afterwards we offer it its freedom in a duel of single combat. Dorinda may want to represent the legion in this or maybe Aelf." He smiles slightly as he says this.

Graylor and Yenda stare at Egil, trying to determine if he is joking. It is difficult to see as his eyes are strangely flickering in and out of this world.

"Egil, we can't do that, not only is it not honourable, the whole point of this is that the Jalmari were Uz-friends. It's hardly a good start to be killing any that help us!" Graylor exclaimed.

"Not only that, you'd be breaking your own oath as soon as you showed this hypothetical troll the writing," Dori points out. Her voice has gone hard and cold. "You know what happens to oath-breakers."

"Also, if you want to kill this troll as soon as he's done his work, say so. A duel is to prove who's right and who's wrong, to find out Humakt's will. It isn't an excuse for killing someone because you feel like it. If you need to execute someone so as to keep a secret safe, say so: if it's something to be ashamed of, twisting the words makes it worse, not better."

Graylor turns to Vesekor. "Forgive my friend here. He walks close to Humakt at the moment; so death is foremost in his mind." He looks thoughtful for a moment.

I don't suppose that you or your men have had any dealings with the Uz before? Perhaps one of you can speak their language and help us in our predicament."

Egil looks at Dori for a minute as a though strikes him, "What about Timmy? Can he read darktongue? I expect you could get him to swear the oath without too much in the way of violent threats."

Vern for a moment looks incredulous before he snorts his derision "That snot nosed little runt? Its about all he can do to walk and breathe at the same time never mind something complex like reading."

Egil raises an eyebrow and answers "I can walk, breathe and chop sage's heads off at the same time and can give you a demonstration any time you please."

"Egil, are you turning into Aelf?" Dori asks. "We'll believe you without the demonstration. Remember, it isn't what you can do that matters, it's how, and whether, you use your power."

"I just don't like clever folk talking down to me and making light of my suggestions just because they think they're better than me."

"Using Timmy isn't a bad idea, though. He doesn't need to be able to read, just to speak the language, and we know he can do that. Or, better yet, I'll ask Geran if he can spare us a food-trollkin rather than wasting a value on the job. We'll need to back up the oath with
intimidation to get it to keep its word, I expect, but it sounds as if Egil just volunteered for that job."

"Fair enough, not too sure we need worry though. If its food it'll be gone in a day."

Dori raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't planning on changing my diet to include trollkin any time soon - were you? Even the wolf is probably more fussy about what he eats than trolls. No, once we've got through the problem of getting it to understand the oath, and to make it, then we keep the thing for as long as we need it, I'd say. It's just a question of exchanging favours with Geran so as to get a spare trollkin - oh, and one that speaks our tongue as well as theirs, come to think of it. There's not much point in it being able to read the records if it can't tell us what's in there. Or do you sages have an answer to that, too?"

"I could read the information directly from the thing's mind if I had to," Vern says reluctantly. "But that isn't easy, and the mind of one of those creatures..."

"Not pleasant, at a guess," Dori agrees. "All right, it'll have to be a value: a linguist."

"I'm not too desperate to eat troll just yet, although we could feed it to my machine to make some beef patties." Egil smiles at the thought.

Vesekor is appalled (and a bit queasy) at this (to him) serious discussion of eating digijelm! But he is too polite to say so (or to gag out loud).

Graylor, observant as ever, sees Vesekor's distress. "Hey, lets quit the kidding, our new friends are looking decidedly green. I'm for sleep we'll deal with reading trollkin tomorrow. Hmmm, if we do get one I'm guessing it'll be an all night session in the library. Just what I joined Humakt for! Good night all."

Graylor finds his bedroll and in seconds is contentedly asleep.

Yenda watches with slight amusement. "He's getting old," she remarks. "Well, the night is young, and no-one's told me what I can and can't read in the library. Vern, would you show me where might be a good place to start looking for what the ancient Jalmari knew about demons?"

"Don't stay up all night," Dori suggests. "I know the search for truth can be intoxicating in itself, but Graylor's caught on to the important things to any soldier: eat when you get the chance, sleep when you get the chance. And even after a day like today, sleep
in Humakt's Hall is free of dreams.... well, except for those He sends."

Thinking back over the events of the day, Egil can see her point. He does not really wish to relive much of that. He gathers up his bedroll and makes his way down into the underground temple: through the door from the outer chamber into the inner. Where to sleep? This place was never intended as a dormitory. Rustling and quiet voices from the library to his right. People came and went through the centre. To the left, the armoury: and he remembered, that was where Aelf slept, geased to only sleep under a roof if he was in a temple. No-one had objected when he had cleared out an area at the far end: no-one would object, or disturb him, if Egil slept there tonight as well.

The floor is hard, harder than sleeping on the ground, but he is very tired, and drifts easily into slumber. And dreams. The whole day, and the night before it, had seemed dreamlike in many ways. He relives them, now, his perspective almost detached.

Down, into the darkness of the Underworld, taken by a guide who was as untrustworthy as it was possible to be, his opposite in every way: and therefore, predictable. Facing, and challenging, Vivamort: taking a power from him that he did not understand. Using that power, testing it, making it his own. This could not be allowed to fall into unworthy hands. He had seen the horrors of power wielded by those with no honour. So, now.....? Anticipation, almost dread. What was to come?

He wakes, suddenly, with a sense that something is wrong. Silence. Darkness. But something, something, is not right. Something has happened. Instinctively, he reaches for Barzaad's Tooth: and does not find it.

Who's nicked me sword?
There are no comments on this page.
Valid XHTML :: Valid CSS: :: Powered by WikkaWiki