Pavis back

HQ: taking Vivamort's cloak

Dusk of Wildday comes around all too soon, and as Yelm sinks, the change comes that tells those with a feel for magic that Godday is here, and the other side is that little bit closer than usual. If they had been above ground, the flare of change would have been visible: down here, all that happens is that the Deathlight becomes a little brighter.

They are back in the underground temple again, and once more, Seledd is controlling the defences, though this time without commentary. The ritual props have been brought out of storage and prepared: most are familiar to long-term members of the Legion, even Abul, though a few are new: those found by Dori, and the great horn Gerras carries.

Uljar Breaknose and the rest of Illig's bodyguard will take the main part in his Arming, but Dori and Siggyr, both of whom will remain on the mundane, are checking that each participant has the right items at the right time, making sure masks fit, and other essential if trivial jobs. She does a quick check of each of her ten, and pauses at Egil. "Illig said that it's been five days, and Wolf will need his teeth. For the quest only, you get your sword back, since it's named as a tooth. Don't, whatever you do, betray his trust." Behind her, Siggyr is very obviously attending to his own duties and Not Hearing this as hard as he can.

Illig always looks the part of Humakt in any case: black hair, black eyes, and the bearing of a warrior: and as the Arming goes on, this effect intensifies. It isn't so much that he looks taller, as that the rest of the world seems lesser. Less important, less real, and above all, less dangerous. You all know the individual members of his bodyguard, but now, only Uljar has a face and voice of his own, the rest have become an amorphous crowd, less important to the point that you're not even sure how many of them there are. Illig's greaves are strapped on by these lesser servants: his embroidered, rune-encrusted arming jacket fastened in place.

Each item, he calls for, and names as he does so. His hair is barely long enough to be tied back: or hadn't been, this morning. This is new: the heart string of a dragon used as a hairtie really is from a dragon, now, and those members of the Seventh who were at Horn Gate will remember Dori leading the team that killed it. His mail shirt, named as "Impenetrable" is lowered into place: more black iron. The black belt, too, named as "Champion": no-one is quite sure where the leather came from, but it, too, is carved with runes. The gauntlets, his helm, Truth: and by now, Illig is barely visible to recognise. His voice has become deeper, colder. Finally, he calls for Luck and Skill, his daggers, and again, there is a substitution. "Luck" is now the dagger Dori had found in Cavos' house, the one that identifies Humakt in Oilamley rituals.

The first part of the Arming is complete: now for the part where new, named, participants enter. Uljar now offers weapons that have not been called for.
"Your mace, Lord." The weapon he hands over bears a remarkable resemblance to that born by the great statue of Kaarg. Illig - Humakt - does not take it.
"No. That is a weapon of the Darkness tribe. I am not a member of that tribe, though they are my allies in this. Bear it yourself, and use it as I command."
Uljar bows. "I will do so, Lord." He puts the weapon close to hand, since it is too large to put in his belt, and he needs his hands free for now.

Next comes an axe: copper, with thongs bound about the shaft and... things.... tied to it. "Your axe, Lord."
Again, Humakt does not take it.. "No. That is a weapon of the Earth Tribe. I am not of that tribe, though they are my allies in this. Let one who is of that tribe take it, and use it as I command."

At a gentle shove from Dori, Kristen steps forward, body paint newly brightened, hands out, and Uljar gravely places the axe within them. If she's nervous, it isn't showing. "It will be wielded as you say, Lord." As she steps back, she seems older, perhaps ageless, and there's a wild, feral light in her eyes.

The next object he offers glows gold in the darkness. "Your spear, Lord."

As you may have guessed, Humakt does not take it.. "No. That is a weapon of the Sky Tribe. I am not of that tribe, though they are my allies in this. Let one who is of that tribe take it, and use it as I command."

Boldly stepping forward Santhis receives the spear from Humakt. "It will..." Santhis clears his throat, to stop his voice squeaking and betraying his real emotions. "I will wield as you desire lord." He steps back his face is framed as always by his golden hair but now it is gently glowing and a look of confidence settles on Santhis' face, replacing the rather embarrassed look from moments earlier. The spear he now holds is not his own, it might possibly be one Seledd has supplied. It's very obviously golden, enchanted, and glowing.

Dori passes forward the Water Sword she had been given by a rivergod to slay that dragon: pale silver, made of pure lo-metal. In this light, it flickers: it's hard to see where the edges of the blade are, almost as if it's made of water, and rippling. As she hands it to Uljar, and it enters the fully ritual area, this effect becomes more pronounced, and what solidifies in his hands is...
"Your trident, Lord."
That's what Ulric is now holding, there's no question about it. A short trident, with a shaft made of some strange greeny-blue wood. Illig's response is that of Humakt, showing no hesitation or surprise at the change of form. "No. That is a weapon of the Water Tribe. I am not of that tribe, though they are my allies in this. Let one who is of that tribe take it, and use it as I command."

Yodi steps forward, and for the duck, the trident is exactly the right length - did it shorten as he took it? "It will flow as you wish, Lord."

Finally, the fifth and youngest element. Uljar holds a leather bag, now, swirling lines and runes painted on it, and a complex knot holding it closed.
"The North Wind, Lord."

For once, the response is not in quite the same form as the others. "No. That is a weapon of the Air Tribe. I am no longer of that tribe, though they are my allies in this. Let Hereward take it, and use it as I command."

Abul is waiting for his role impatiently, but when his turn comes, he has something like a slight hesitation. "I'm not either from the Air Tribe, I'm a carmanian" are his first thoughs, but immediatly the name of Hereward strikes his ears reminding him that he is in front of the Hum'Akt, the greatest tool of the Good God, and this shakes his doubt, fear or beginner's reluctance, whatever it can be called. Abul steps forward with a great seriousness to receive the leather bag from the Hum'Akt.
- "It will be wielded as you request, my Lord." He says focusing his mind to erase all emotions from his demeanor, but in fact fighting against his awe.
Suddenly Abul feels... changed, subtly changed. Of course he is Abul, but also he is Herw'Ard the Whistle Blower, Quester of Right Leaders, Prophet of the Karmanos to come and Teacher of Charmain the Oronin Lake Goddess. All the Carmanian mythology is suddenly taking life in Abul. Yes he is a foreign visitor, a former member of the air tribe, but he isn't linked anymore to Orlanatus the evil storm god, agent of Ganesatarus as the Killer of Light. This link has been severed a long time ago. His sight is keen. His sight is pure, because he is the wielder of the North Wind, the implacable wind of truth...

The next weapon Uljar offers brings an end to this part of the Arming. "Your sword, Lord."

Humakt takes it - the great black two-handed sword they are all familiar with. And again, there is something different here. As other items, and people, have stepped into their roles, they have changed, become something greater. This, the Unbreakable Sword, does not change, not as such. What changes is how the watchers see it - they suddenly become aware that this is what it has been all along. THE Sword, cloaked while in the mundane. Now, in its natural home, there is nothing to cloud it, nothing to give any deceptive appearance of normality. This is known as Godslayer for very good reason.

And finally, for this quest, a slight departure from the standard. An omission so deliberate that it requires ritual comment. "Your cloak is gone, Lord. Stolen. Only these scraps are left." Uljar holds out the short black cotton cloak Dori had found."

"Then we will find the thief, for he will have left his scent on the scraps. Wolf, Raven, come to me."

Both Graylor and Egil have already put on the masks of their roles: heavy, restricting, the eyeholes limiting their vision to that of a raven and a wolf respectively. Their companions are already with them. As they are named, and step forwards, they, too, feel the changes, as their roles become their own.

Initially Graylor feels horribly restricted by the mask, the eyes are too far apart and the beak on the front ruins what forward vision he has. Though as he walks to Humakt he finds that he accommodates to the mask. Or rather as he looks down on Humakt he realises that he is fulfilling his role and that without thinking about it he has taken to the air! His vision is now better, what he lacks in precision in front of him he gains by increasing the scope of his view so that he can see Dori who is standing behind him.

The colours have become subtly changed. Subtle patterns are revealed in his feathers that were not visible before and the light from the drawn swords is almost unbearably bright. The light reflects off the walls of the temple except for a patch on the floor near the doorway and an ark of dark splotches the wall. Graylor's mind flips back to the first time he was in the temple. A covered body was in that spot prior to its removal. Raven flutters to the ground at Humakt's feet, not daring to land on his shoulder, and waits for his orders.

Egil walks, as purposefully as he can, over to Illig. As he strides he feels his face fill the mask and become part of it. His senses now seem keener, he is more aware of sounds and smells than previously and also a desire for red meat. When he reaches Illig he bows his head and says "My Lord, how may I serve you?"

Illig - Humakt - holds out a scrap of cloth. "This is the scent of our enemy, the thief. Find him."

Egil had not know, before being Wolf, that scent could carry so much information. This is a cold, harsh smell, the smell of hatred and fear and resentment, with the rank purplish-greeny oilish brown overtones that mean Chaos. If he finds it, he'll recognise it: come to think of it, he already does. This is a known enemy. Vivamort..... a vague memory of following a trail of drops that sparkled with a bright scent drifts across his mind.

"So shall it be." Egil pats the great horn, Bellow of the Bull, that hangs at his side. "I will howl louder than any bull's roar, loud enough to put fear into our enemy's heart, when I send you warning."

Humakt nods. "Raven, look out for ambushes and traps, and Hereward, assist him. The rest, to me."

The cluster of his bodyguard form around him, Uljar at his right hand. Yodi, too, is at the fore, while Kristen and Santhis stay well to the rear of the group, in what Orlanthi would recognise as the "backboy" position, and also keeping an eye out to either side.

Wolf prowls to the front, as chief scout. Raven rises into the air and flies slowly above the party keeping watch from the air and keeping pace with his old companion wolf.

As taught in the Carmanian mythology, the Herw'Ardian truth wind was the air movement following the Death Sword Blow, thus a real clue of the Idovanian Truth's passage. After having waited for more instructions, Abul tried placing himself behind the Hum'Akt. The young man tried to analyse his sensations to feel the most appropriate place there and discovered that being behind the "backboy" and one step aside at the right to the Hum'Akt was the place he was breathing at ease. Hoping that this feeling was the right one, he waited bravely for orders.

The temple has faded from their consciousness, now. There is the darkness, lit by their swords, and a path ahead, of sorts. Rocks, low bushes... the details aren't important, but it is neutral territory, not home, and not actively hostile - yet.

They go forward, into the darkness. This is the Underworld - Humakt's domain, true, but others live here, too, older and darker, who might question that dominion.

It's hard, over the sound of clinking armour and tramping feet, but there's a whisper of wind blowing from the North, and on it, Hereward thinks he hears - something. A twig snapping? A rustle of leaves? He isn't sure, but it's coming from - which of those bushes might it be? Wolf is further forward, but he signals to Raven as he wheels overhead.

Something to the north side of the path? Raven flies over there, scanning, looking for patterns in the dark and light shadows, looking for movement. Yes, hidden behind that bush - or so he thinks. A human. Paler colours than the glowing black of the Humakti. He dips over the spot, croaking to Wolf.

Now it's pointed out, that same wind brings a scent to Wolf's sensitive nostrils. He knows that scent - not the one he had been given to track earlier, but another he has met before, followed before. Humans give names to these things, but to Wolf, this is the Brother-who-betrays, the Other. In his form as a wolf Egil's mind turns red, Dog is here! Ready to betray wolf again, Dog should be killed. He feels his muscles twitch and he makes ready to leap and fight but an image of the unbreakable sword cuts through the red fog in his mind with Illig holding it to his throat. He retreats slightly and hunkers down waiting for Illig/Humakt to arrive so he can give warning of the foul ambush by the betrayer.

As raven flies lazy circles round the hidden man strange things happen to his perception of the being. As wolf bares his teeth and prepares to attack the man becomes a dog, scared with its tail between its legs. When wolf reins in his anger and sits waiting for the rest of the party the man returns, but oddly flickering. Graylor recognises Herward's wind and drops clumsily into its path. The Truewind helps raven to realise what is happening. There are many potentials here, many paths open up. Some end with the man's dead body, some he walks constantly beside Humakt and others he walks with Humakt fading and reappearing at odd intervals. The man could be a true friend and help them on their quest. Though there is great potential for lies and falsehood, thus as the man's thoughts flicker between truth and falsehood he appears and disappears in the Truewind. Raven lands by wolf and Hereward.

"Here could be a friend or enemy. He is not hunting us but scared by us. I feel that we need his help but fear that we may not be able to trust what he offers us." Falling silent raven waits with his comrades.

Humakt watcfhes his scouts, and hears Raven's report, in silence, then turns to where the unknown watcher hides.

"Come forth."

The tone of command is such that all listeners, not just the one addressed, find themselves about to step forwards in response.

What comes forth is a man - he solidifies into that as Humakt sees him. A small, scruffy man, whose patched tunic and cloak blow in a wind that affects nothing around him: but not under his control judging by the way they tangle him. There is a torc at his throat - no, a collar. He shows no fear: wariness, perhaps, no more. Ignoring the gathered warband, he addresses Humakt as if no-one else were there - perhaps, to his eyes, they aren't.

"You're looking for someone, aren't you - and something? I know where he is, and it is. I can't get it without you, and you can't find it without me. Shall we work together?"

Before anyone else can answer, Babeester Gor steps forward, readying her axe. "You!"

He flinches back. "You! I can explain.... I brought beer!"

Humakt stops her with a flick of one armoured finger. "Is he guilty of that - now?"

She sniffs the air. "No. Fear, but no guilt. He may live, and unharmed." She steps back to her place.

Raven whispers quietly to Hereward. "Keep your wind on this one. Our lord is likely to use him and he will need to know if and when he veers from the truth and starts leading us falsely."

Flapping gently to the stranger Raven lands on his shoulder making him aware of his presence. "Wolf. What do you think we have here petitioning our lord. Trickster or thief or do you smell a rat?" Ravens claws are positioned to sense any flinching from the man to see if his guess hits its mark.

In North Wind's role, Abul observes Graylor faded into the Raven. As his mind accepts the wonder of this new reality, he stays quiet and silent, just staring on the situation with the beginner's amazement. Then remembering the demand of the Raven, Herw'Ard raises his hand holding the light of Idovanus and instinctively blows gently his breath at the stranger's head hoping to make his face free of any hair or darkness that would hide its features...

Wolf curls his lip in a snarl before answering. "He is a miserable trickster, he is Dog and without honour. Beware that all of his words are false and he will deceive us in the blink of an eye. Watch him closely friend, disbelieve each word he speaks and mistrust each deed he does, he will prove false ere the end of our quest."

Abul/Hereward may think Graylor is as absorbed into the role of Raven as Egil is into that of Wolf, but in fact the analytical Jalmari mind is still hanging back, trying to see the scene on both levels. He cannot, not truly. Even those who entered the quest with him would now be unrecognisable if he had not known already who they were on the mundane. Who this might "really" be... is, he realises, a meaningless question. This is the Trickster. That is the Truth, however one looks at it. Wolf sees him as Brother Dog. Raven sees him as a human - a disgusting, featherless, human. Herw'Ard's wind shows this just as clearly: no disguise is possible.

The same phrase echoes in his mind as in Wolf's: "the Brother-who-betrays". Raven's instinctive reaction doesn't make much sense to what's left of Graylor's mind: why the feeling that the lack of feathers is significant, on a human? He can, just, see those glowing lines of connection, strongest of course between the members of the team, binding them, but a line is also showing between Humakt and the Trickster. The Other. On some levels, he remembers, Humakt's Other.

Humakt himself watches the newcomer with an impassive recognition and acceptance. "Lead on, then. But know that if you lead me falsely, I will kill you."

The terror at that is genuine, too. "Nooo! Not that! I'll be good, I'll take you straight to him!" He starts to run, pauses a few yards ahead. "Coming?"

Humakt strides after him, the warband following. "Wolf, pick up the scent yourself as soon as you can: I would rather trust your nose than this. Raven, and the others, watch for ambushes and betrayal. He will, promise or no promise, that is his nature."

Egil walks slowly behind the trickster, keeping half an eye on him but mainly he sniffs everything, the ground, the air, trees and plants. Anything that can give him a clue of the scent, if he finds it he will wait until Humakt reaches him.

An impressed Abul/Herw'Ard follows trying to attune all his senses toward the depths of Darkness. "Trickster is a god from the Viziers' bad list," he thinks with a growing anguish. "He always cheats, some say that he even doesn't cheat when everyone expects or hopes he will do so..." The young man feels weak and inexperienced, more and more he misses the boring lessons of Lady Jakkanna. What will be the requested reaction if something unexpected happens in such an esoteric situation? He feels that before this heroic trip he has being foolish and careless but slowly, step after step, inner thought after inner thought, he also feels that his childhood dissolves in the shadows as ifeaten by doubts and consciousness, leaving him naked and fragile but perhaps more and more aware of his own self.

Inside him, while being pushed forward by the strong North Wind of Truth, Abul takes a firm resolution "I will study, I will learn the secrets too. Never again I will walk into Darkness, in my enemy's den, like a blind ignorant! Idovanius, protect me with Hum'Akt's blade until then!"

Raven takes to the air again and sours the landscape below for any signs of life and movement. Then it occurs to him that not all that reside in this realm are living so looks for death and chaos too.

They travel in silence for a while, and Wolf scents the air. The Trickster himself leaves no scent, so nothing to interfere there. But there's something... yes, he does recognise it. Faint at first, only in the air not on the ground, but that's the scent he was told to find, that's the harsh purplish-green scent he'd met before. He can follow this.

Wolf turns and looks at his master. His jaw starts opening and closing although no sound comes out. To those who can read Humakt's silent speech he says "I have the scent of the one we seek. I will follow it hard, you may need to run to keep up."

Then he turns back finds the harsh scent again, allows it to fill his nostrils and dashes off. He keeps a wary eye out for ambushes and keeps low to the ground to avoid detection.

As Raven flies on he can sense that brother Wolf has found the trail, there is a sense of purpose to his movements that wasn't there a few minutes ago. Graylor allows himself to fall deeper into the role of Raven, entering that meditative state where his awareness of his, Raven's physical body is suppressed and his awareness of his surroundings are heightened. This has the benefit that he now works with Raven helped by Irnar's perception magic to process Raven's superior vision. Patches of light become distinguishable against the background. They pique Graylor's interest as the patches look similar to the blood patterns on the cloak.

Raven swoops low over some of the light patches and realises that they are in fact dead animals. Graylor uses his link to Irnar to look using Yinkin's perception. He finds that there are differences in the light's intensity and texture with the bodies compared to the blood from the cloak.

While he is exploring the phenomena an image of his former Drulz master, from his Indrodar days appears in his mind. The duck is kicking the remains of one of Delecti's zombies. "Cursed false life." The duck is muttering as he spits. As the image fades Graylor's brain is already whirring.

"False Life? False death more like." Graylor thinks to himself and then more excitedly. "That's it!" He synthesises a new magic from the Raven's vision and Hereward's ability to see the truth to formulate a new feat to detect the presence of undead. Soon it is prepared and as a final element to the magic he adds Jalmar's ability to sense chaos as the one they are after is tainted with that horror too.

As they travel onwards, Wolf following the trail, the Trickster skipping ahead, the landscape gradually changes. It becomes darker, colder, more barren. What trees there are, are dead. At first, there had been pools of dark water from time to time: now, these are ice. The soil seems wrong: a dark dust, that even to a warrior’s eye could never nourish crops. Bones of long-dead creatures stick up from it in places. Yet this is not the land of Death: that, to Humakti, would be a clean, familiar place. This has a subtle wrongness about it: things linger that should have gone, soil exists, though in mockery of that in the world of the living.

Rocky outcrops lie ahead, a mix of black, white, and grey, and Trickster runs between them. “Come on! Not far now!” Beyond, the ground is almost white: snow? A dirty, grey snow, if so, with a black, dead tree against it in what should have been stark contrast, but is not.

Raven’s senses warn of – something. Something in those rocks. He can’t see anything specific, certainly no blood of any type, but there’s something wrong. A rock can’t be preparing to attack them, surely?

Wolf sniffs again – yes, the Trickster leads them true, the trail still goes this way, though harder and harder to follow on this surface. Those rocks ahead scream "ambush!", but the Trickster had passed through in safety.

Wolf growls and yaps to signal to Raven to keep watch overhead. Then he turns and runs back towards Humakt. He lays down in front of him "Not dead ahead of us, waiting in the rocks to attack. Brother-who-betrays passed safely but that is his way. Raven circles where the danger is."

Raven caws acknowledgment of wolfs signal and continues to circle the area. How can rocks be a source of danger. His mind screams at him to go and investigate, but his sense of duty holds him in the air waiting for his lord to cleanse the area.

Suddenly Illig's words echo through his head " watch for ambushes, changes in the path, and hidden foes." Raven holds to his purpose and widens his focus. He keeps the trickster in his vision and looks for other hidden foes beyond the ones he can't identify. Changes in the path registers in Raven's brain is there an alternative path that would allow Humakt to turn the tables on the ambushers?

"Hidden foes.." he studies those rocks, from above. Big jagged dark rocks, smaller rounder paler rocks. Why does he feel an urge to land on the smaller ones, even to peck them? The angle's odd, they're half-buried, but... could they be bones?

"Path" isn't a concept that comes naturally to a free-flying bird who doesn't need such things. "Game trail" is the closest he comes to it. Are there other routes a human could take? He looks, into the shadows behind the rocks, but it's hard to see there, as if it isn't quite real, as if something is making him look at the main path, to take more notice of that. He pulls back, mentally, into the duality of human and bird rather than bird alone, and as he does so, the dual bird-vision becomes more apparent. A eye on each side of the head, not the binocular vision of a human, makes him feel as if he's seeing double - he keeps wanting to check that both eyes are seeing the same thing. At the moment, he isn't at all sure that they are - things keep disappearing, or changing in... emphasis is perhaps the best word. Back at Graylor's level of perception, he is reminded of his first meeting with Krogar, and how the multiple possibilities had appeared to him, flickering in and out, some solidifying as choices were made. This is like that, with at least three similar possibilities showing: and he realises that in several of those possibilities, the Trickster is no longer visible.

To one side Raven spots Hereward, a fellow scout. He flies over and lands on Hereward's shoulder. "Have your wind blow over those small round rocks and see if you can determine their truth. I think they may be skeletons waiting, half buried ready to ambush our master. Be careful the paths diverge here and we may lose the trickster. I'll inform our lord so that he can make the choice he wishes and not just blindly stumble through."

With that Raven takes off rapidly and reports to Humakt.

Blurred in the shadow of the Great Humakt, Herw'Ard was surprised to see Raven "flying" directly at him. He listened closely to his fellow's hoarsing demand and looked at the rocks. Abul in North Wind's role had no power to specifically detect undead outside his own senses, so he relied on his potential Herw'Ardi heroic magic. He raised the hand holding the Idovanian light and once again instinctively blowed gently his breath, this time toward the rocks.

Was the sound of the blowing wind different there? Were some details changing under his magical breath?

The gentle, questioning breeze blew over and around the "rocks", and whistled through them. The dust half-covering them shifted, revealing empty eye-sockets, and teeth. Skulls, at least. Fingers, as more dust shifted: and those fingers were holding weapons. The wind couldn't tell if the bones might move in the near future, it could only say that they were stationary now.

It is not just Humakt to whom Raven is reporting: the news of multiple paths must go to Illig. It's hard to even see Illig, rather than Humakt, immersed as he is in the Truth: all paths, all visions from his two eyes, show Raven/Graylor the same thing, and it is only when he listens to what the wind tells him that he is able to pull back enough to know that Illig is behind the mask. A mask that smiles, on hearing the news. "Other parallel paths? But of course. The path we take is a minor one, which follows and shadows a much greater road. Trickster is on that road, not ours: though possibly Egil, were he alone, and not here as Wolf, would find the greater road fit his position better. For now, though, we continue. Hereward is on the path we follow, and not on the other: his acting, in any way, keeps us on the correct path."

Then the mask blurs back into Reality, and Humakt hears of the ambush ahead. "Good. An ambush is to be expected, and now we know of it, we have the tactical advantage. Let our scouts tell us all they can of its nature, but we cannot expect to know all. The warband will advance once the last report is in. Scouts, watch out for any further enemies in hiding, or on the path beyond."

Raven flies back to Hereward. "What has your truth discovered?"

To answer, Herw'Ard couldn't help using words in a way Abul had never done before: as he was speaking Abul got the strong sensation that a revealed truth could only lead to another mystery. "Beyond the dust of Time stay the remains of our enemies. In their hearts formerly burned the hatred and today weapons are still in their fists. Do they rest for ever or wait for someone?"

"Humakt commands us to scout the ambush, he needs all the information we can gather. We are to look out for other enemies beyond these as there may be more layers to this trap."

With these final words Raven flaps into the air. His eyes open to other enemies in the rocks and beyond. He also attempts to distinguish the various paths available and to see if enemies are hidden in any of these possibilities.

Wolf begins to circle the ambush spot using his keen nose and sharp eyes to spot anything out of place and likely to be more ambushers. He keeps low and moves as silently as a wolf stalking its prey can. Should the ambush be sprung he is ready to leap away from it as quickly as he can.

The main party continues to advance, though reforming slightly: Humakt has ordered that warrior who bears his mace for him to the fore, and the woman with the great axe follows him.

The wind Hereward sent into the rocks has brought a scent out with it, and a scent that Wolf recognises. The same general type as the one he had been ordered to follow, but there are several here. The skeletons smell only of bone, these smell of blood as well. He circles the rocks, not wanting to approach any closer.

Raven is oblivious to the scents wafting below him, but sees the shadows in the rocks from a new angle. The patches of dark and light don't quite match the shapes that they should, and some... yes, there's blood here. That long dark shadow could be cast by the tall boulder, but it isn't quite... no, from this angle, it isn't where he'd thought at all. It's human shaped. And so is the one next to it... tall, dark, very still. How many of them are there? He can see three, at least - more? He swoops lower, trying for another angle. Suddenly, one
vanishes - was it ever there? There's something behind him... and he wheels on a wingtip to find a shadow looming over him, black eyes staring into his, engulfing his vision.

Raven can't see anything but the eyes that are sucking him in, but the rest of the group see the bones in the dusty sand start to stir and rise.

Raven retreats from the baleful glare of those eyes seeking a safe haven. Around himself Graylor builds his Soul Fortress, its features locked in his memory by countless hours of meditation, a last refuge where his mind and soul are protected from mental attack. He forms a protective wrapping about himself from his discipline, he sharpens his claws with his hatred of chaos and shields himself with Jalmar's magical protection from chaos. Finally he sends Hereward's Truewind whistling round the fortress to repel all attacks. Rededicating himself to Humakt raven shrieks his defiance at the eyes.

Raven sits on the battlements confident in his defenses. Suddenly the eyes are no longer on the horizon, black beacons piercing in their darkness. But the day grows cold, something that shouldn't happen in his own mind construct. Then above him Raven noticed movement an encompassing blackness was covering his mental landscape from above, bypassing all his careful defenses. His world was crumbling to dust around him and his mind was beginning to panic.

The truewind fluttered past Raven stirring his feathers and something else, a shadowy link between Raven and those eyes hard to see against the blackness of the eyes. His mind more concentrated "Of course, the vampire's enthrallment is only another form of relationship and my lord Humakt has a way with ending those. Humakt aid me!" he cries.

In the air Raven forms a mind blade and swings it at the shadowy strand cleaving it cleanly in two. With the link broken everything returns to normal, Raven is in the air, falling but spreading his wings he halts his descent and turns sharply back to his friends to give them warning of the vampires ahead.

Meanwhile, the main party have entered the ambush area, and the skeletons are starting to move. Pre-warned, Humakt has ensured that the leaders are armed with maces, axes, and other crushing weapons more suited to fighting skeletons than swords. Raven circles round and comes in from behind, and his master hears the news with no surprise. "Three or four that you saw and probably more. As expected. You, Wolf, and Hereward are to keep clear of this: watch out for any further attackers, and find that trail!"

He moves on, and as he and his bodyguard approach the rocks, two dark shapes leap at him, one from each side, jumping clean over his guards in a frenzied attack that even Humakt barely avoids, his great sword swinging within a fraction of an inch of one before spinning to catch the second a glancing blow.

Further away, a howling sound begins, chilling the blood of all who hear it. Those who fought in the Rubble will remember it: the sound of a Ghoul.

Wolf keeps low and sets his nose to work once more, sniffing out the foul reek of brother betrayer to find where he has gone. He circles the ambush site widely, keeping an eye out for the places the dark creatures like to hide, hoping to spot them in the glow of Ashar.

Then the fearful noise of a howling ghoul. He silently calls on the 7th cohort to aid him and uses his own steely nerves to cast aside fear. He calls up a Howling Doomwind to shut out the noise.

Raven begins to circle in the opposite direction to wolf but alights on Hereward's shoulder. "Earlier Humakt said that your action would be key to finding our path. I can see only the main paths that Wolf or I would take. If in doubt let the wind guide you."

As Raven flaps off he offers one more piece of advice. "Remember you don't control the wind, you are the wind."

He has just enough time to complete the thought before the howling starts and once again he is under mental assault. Instantly he calls on Ashar to help him overcome the noise, the Truewind is under his wings protecting as always. Raven also calls on Humakt to help him fight off the attack of the ghoul and to protect his honour. The last thing he wants is to be craven in front of his lord. His mind castle appears and Raven flies inside where the sound is muffled somewhat allowing his natural bravery and calm a chance to reassert his normal discipline.

Abul looked at the dark patch with an anticipated anguish when further away, a ghoul's howling began chilling the blood of all who heard it. The young man wondered if the creatures could have seen him...

Anticipating Humakt's will to have his troop resisting the assault, Abul prayed the old Pelandan words against fear and gathered his strengths and all his Carmanian teachings about swordsmanship and self-discipline. Never would he surrender, he was a proud and uncompromising Carmanian after all!

The young Carmanian stiffened and his face became a visible mask of impassiveness just betrayed by a slightly nervous glance. At these signs, anyone knowing Abul well would have been able see the young man's internal struggle, but he unsheathed a brand new Carmanian long sword with controlled movements and he put his steps into Humakt's steps.

"The Wind of Truth should not fail in the Sword of Death" he thought with a growing determination.

Hereward, Raven, and Wolf have thrown off the effect of the Howling, but others have not faired so well. Of those fighting the skeletons, while the wielder of the great Mace of Darkness is unaffected, as is the woman with the Axe of Earth, the man with the glowing Spear of Light is hesitating, where previously he had been bashing skeletons into fragments with his shield. Others, too, with less individuality, are hanging back from combat, looking nervously over their shoulders. Even some of Humakt's own bodyguard seem to be reacting a little slower than normal!

Abul / Herw'Ard considered the effect of the Ghouls on the Hum'akt and saw that it had been slowed. Clearly some Ganesaterus' tricks were in effect. "Truth must prevail over Lie!" he thought with a stern determination.

He began to think about what he should do and tried to remember his Carmanian myths, especially those about the Hum'akt and Herw'Ard as Jamal and Daine had began to train him, but among various possibilities, his excellent memory preferred to bring him some teachings told by the dry lady, Jakkanna the Spolite. The idea wasn't probably fully Huma'kti, but Abul wasn't an initiate of Hum'akt and his role here wasn't the Hum'akt but Herw'Ard the Consciousness Awaker, the fore-prophet of Karmanos...

Abul / Herw'Ard left the protection of the Hum'akt and carefully approached the battle. As Sound was the weapon chosen by the Enemy, Then Sound should be the answer from Idovanus' champion to achieve the greatest victory of Good over Evil. That's why Herw'Ard didn't wish to be seen as a warrior. Helped by his magical talisman and his smaller size, he faded into the background to go as fast and as near as possible to the affected troop.

There, hoping to be unseen, Herw'Ard revealed his greatest weapon : Innocence.
Innocence was the ultimate protection against lies, fear and guiltiness.
Innocence of his childhood was his best assault against evil and dark sins.
Innocence was something that Ganesatarus couldn't stand.

To do this, Abul began to sing. He sang perfectly, like he has heard his father sing before, when he was a small Pelandan child.
He sang with the treble tone of a childish voice, trying to cover the disturbing growling and howling of the ghouls.
He sang about the indestructible truth of their master, the Hum'akt, and he praised their implacable master, the Master of Severing, preferred tool of the ever-victorious Idovanus.
He sang about the troop's loyalty to the legions of the Hum'akt, inspired by his own love and respect for the grim fatherly figure of Jamal, who was not so long ago his own master on the mundane plane.
Abul's child soul was pure, full of honour and honesty, and Herw'Ard offered it without hesitation to reinforce the moral strength of the Hum'Akti troop.

While he was singing, he understood slowly that this would be his last real song as a child, because Innocence can never survive the contact with Lie. With this song his Bhar'vat would be fully achieved. The razor edge of the Hum'akt would have to sever him from his own childhood and after... all the perfection of his child voice would be gone for ever... Anyway Abul continued to sing and the echoes of his voice resonated against Ganesatarus' magic.

Whether or not the mystical combat with the Lie was as Abul thought, the effects on the combatants were clear: the fear in their faces was replaced by resolve, protectiveness, even joy. None there would have known the Pelandan hymns Abul was basing his song upon, but to a few it seemed familiar, similar to, though not the same as, the Deathsong that every Humakti knows - the theme of willing sacrifice underlay both.

The position of the Ghouls is clear enough to Raven and Wolf at least: higher up on the rocky slope, above the path. They don't seem to be showing any inclination to leave their natural defenses and join in the melee.

Wolf looks to his friend in the sky, he signals that he intends to flank round the ghouls and come at them from the rear and that raven should mark their position for him.

He runs down the path some distance until he can no longer see the ghouls before turning up the hill and past the position Raven is marking, then he slows and moves as stealthily as he can until he is almost on top of the ghouls. He settles himself into as concealed a position as he can before plunging his dagger into the ground behind them he calls on Hu of the Nine Silences to give him the silence of the grave and cut of the daunting howls of the monsters.

All within 20m of the dagger are enveloped in absolute silence. Those on the outside notice nothing, yet to Wolf/Hu the world is now an eerily quiet place. The ghouls continue to howl but the sound does not reach even their own ears.

Raven again flies high to scout the path ahead, whilst keeping one beady eye on the ghouls to be sure they aren't moving. He looks at both the physical path and using Hereward's vision the mythical paths that are open to them. He sees a multitude of feint possibilities, showing that nothing has been decided yet. Mentally shrugging he looks for evidence of their quarry with all his senses. His hatred of the things of unlife nearly makes him turn back and kill the ghouls but instead he uses the feeling as a goad to keep his attention upon the task Humakt assigned him.

Raven sees ne change in the position or number of their enemies. In particular, he sees no sign of the greatest one, the one they came here to find, nor of his tracks.

Looking at the paths, though, as he looks back at the ghouls.... he can't find Wolf. Wolf isn't there! Yet something has stopped the ghouls, rendered them silent.... as as his vision switches, he sees the man - or possibly, the Sword - who has stopped them. A silent Sword, yet one with something missing. A path lies ahead of him, and it is not the same one that the rest of the group are on, yet curiously parallel to theirs. Whatever it is that is missing from the Sword, that is what drives this new, separate, Path, and the goal.... is the same as theirs, from another direction?

Raven lets out a caw of delight. He lands once again on Hereward's shoulder. "Wolf has found our path, However, he is not wolf at the moment but Broken Sword. As such his need for completion shows us the way. Can you not see it? Shine your truth on the path and check the truth I see. I do not want to be mislead by a self deception."

Was the path of the broken swordsman the correct way?
To Abul's ears following the path of the broken sounded wrong, but he was in the Quest as Herw'Ard and Herw'Ard was also the fore-prophet of Karmanos the founder of the Carmanian civilization.
Abul looked in the direction that the Raven was showing him, blew some of the True Wind then compared the echoes created with his own understanding of the traditional path to Solace of the Carmanians. Surely the carmanian teachings on the Hum'akt allied with the True Wind of the North should help him to determine if this way was a possible choice...

Abul knew something of the myths of Humakt as told here, and in any case had been reminded of the path they were on here before they left. Seeing the multiple possibilities open to them, the different stories, was almost easier for him than for others, simply because he knew of other possibilities where most knew only of one. This was a tale where the Hum'Akt took death from those unworthy to hold it: or another hero renounced it in favour of peace: or where those unworthy were taught how to be worthy.... there were many options, some closer to the version known to these Orlanthi than others. But as he looked first at the story Illig was in, and the one that Egil had found, he could see only the same story, that of Humakt seeking and regaining Death. Illg was stronger than Egil, his path was clearer, but it looked like the same path. He already knew that the Truewind would bring him only truth, not falsehood, so he used that to listen to each, listening for silence that should not be there.

He could hear Egil. Or he could hear Illig. What he could not do was hear both at once: or rather, when he concentrated on Illig, he could hear Egil only as a cawing sound, faint and far away. If he concentrated on Humakt/Egil, Illig was no longer present at all: Egil was alone, on a path that led to the same eventual opponent.

Abul listened to the True Wind's echoes and what his musical ear perceived was two slightly different sounds, similar but independant as if two flute players were playing a similar music, similar but with a quite different ending.

Herw'Ard looked at Raven and with an unusual foresight for a young man like Abul, he told him: "I think that Broken Sword is in danger. By rejecting the Wolf's trail, he has stepped out of the Quest, making his own parallel path to our target and if he keeps going on, he will achieve it, not as "The Hum'Akt Meets Aberration Again" but as "The Broken Sword Fails in Front of Chaos"."

Herw'Ard's face was full of sorrow as he pursued: "It is a sad story from the Great Darkness called in Carmanian mythology: "The
Despairing Warrior goes for a last despairing fight and gets sucked into the Void", a kind of negative version of "I Fought, We Won" that Viziers teach to warn against the temptations of Self-destruction sent by Ganesatarus in difficult times... yes it is a very sad story..."

Herw'Ard the Carmanian Fore-Prophet took the Raven and muttered to his ears: "You should go! Fly and warn the Broken Sword : Wolf should be back, the Broken Sword's Quest has no happy ending..."

Raven cocks his head to one side then the other. "You are right Hereward. As ever your truth is stronger than mine. I will fetch back Wolf, then we three will find the path. Though I feel that the path we will follow will be your truth not ours."

With a loud caw Raven launches into the air calling for Brother Wolf.

In the meantime, the battle with the skeletons now consists of a lot of smashed bone fragments, and the battle with the vampires involves beheading and burning the bodies. When left to do what they do best, Illig and his warband are very effective indeed.

Peace falls on the ambush site: the peace of death admittedly, but peace none the less. The Trickster has been nowhere to be seen for some time now, and there's no obvious path ahead. Beyond the rocks, the black sand and dust gives way to snow, with a dirty gray stretch in between. There are a few trees - dead trees, with snow, or dust, or both, on their branches. There are no tracks.

Enjoyment and pride invaded Abul when he saw that the Hum'Akt had been victorious, but he kept these feelings to himself when the next step of the Quest came to his mind. He had to find the correct path to their true enemy and at first he wondered how a profane person like him could be of any use in this test.

What had Lady Jakkanna and Ser Daine taught him ?
Abul exercised his memory, revising quickly the Carmanian myths, especially those of the Hum'Akt and Herw'Ard the fore-prophet. For an unknown reason to him, thinking about Death walking lost in Darkness reminded him about his own parents' death and a grieving feeling threatened to submerge him. Where do dead people have to go? In the true heart of Darkness, in Hell, where all Darkness demons were hiding and probably the one that the Hum'Akt was hunting now. From his teachings, Abul knew then what could be the next step: to find the bridge over the Sword River, the gate to the hellish entrance in the Sword Path to Solace.

Rivers flowing generally into the hollow of the landscape, Abul looked around him and looked for the direction towards which he would have been able to imagine a river presence. Was a way in this direction? Was it their way? Was he really able to see several paths departing from their position and select the right one? Abul checked his hypothesis by sending a blow of the True Wind. Would the North Wind bring back echoes of the Sword River? Would Abul be able to recognize it anyway?

Rivers... Abul realised that the path, the story, that the Legion would take would not normally be a Carmanian one. How did the River fit into their tales? Vampires could not cross rivers, because, because... because the River Styx hated Vivamort, who had stolen Death from her. He remembered also that when Egil had encountered a vampire, recently, it had tried to pass a boundary between Death and Life, and he had stopped it: and had to spot it to do so, it had been hidden from him.

So... perhaps the river he was looking for was a boundary between two things? And perhaps the vampire would be hiding, waiting for a chance to cross that boundary unseen?

There is a boundary ahead, of sorts. There's a dip in the ground, with black dusty sand this side, and white snow on the other, with a greyish mixture in between. It felt... important. It felt like more of a barrier than a simple dip in the ground had any right to be. The way across it did not matter, what mattered was the being that should be lurking in hiding nearby.

He blew the TrueWind at the dip, gently, and saw the black dust and white snow both lift, and swirl in the breeze. Both were true things, both valid, then, but in this "river" boundary, if that was what it was, they were mixed.

Herw'Ard knelt down, took some dust from the ground in his hand and observed : a fine black obsidian dust.
He looked then around and saw the river... not quite like the Sword River, as he was hoping initially, but not a living river too like he used to know before the Great Darkness, before furious Water rebelled against Solar Order... In fact they probably had strode in a dead river for a while. The black dip could have been its bed and the snowy bank above the blasted wintry land... Maybe some river god could have died here and left behind him only the ashes of his vanquished life, the remains of his battles against Fire and Darkness. Following it would have led them eventually to the final Border of Hell...

Herw'Ard observed with attention the snowy bank. Was the demon they were looking for outside or inside Hell?
Oilamey had showed curious abilities with Light, a fact which seemed to indicate that he had been out of Hell to reach Light somehow... and if a vampire would not be able to pass the Styx so easily, he would have to be still out.

Suddenly Herw'Ard stiffened and considered the surrounding with an other cautious interest.

A Vampire couldn't pass the Sword River as a champion of Vivamort, but would he be able to reach back its natural element of Darkness by cheating the lustral waters? Maybe by hiding himself somehow near or within the corpse of a dead river? Perhaps a river he killed for this purpose or even worse a river he sucked to death like a scavenger on a dying beast? Was he trying to mix his weird attributes to those of Water ?

Oilamey was a master at reflecting light... Herw'Ard looked at the snow, looking for tracks but like Raven and Wolf, he saw nothing more than the undefined wastes under a mantle of blinding white. He looked back at the dead river and again saw nothing else than the dark background covered by a imperceptible obsidian dust. Anyway as a Carmanian, Abul/Herw'Ard knew that if Idovanius sorted everything
into two clear categories, on the contrary, Ganesatarus was always hiding into Ambiguity.

Should he reveal Ambiguity, he would reveal Ganesatarus' work...

His tool, the Truth Wind, had now revealed a few whirlwinds of Gloomy Grey, was it Ambiguity?
If these dancing shapes were their target than the next universal move should be "Idovanius uses Death to separate Ambiguity into Truth and Lie".

He warned his companions, Raven and Wolf, to see if their acute senses were able to confirm his suspicions...

Wolf sniffed all round the area where they had fought, and the rocks where the lesser vampires had hidden, and the slope where the ghouls had been. He found only black, dry, sand.

Raven flew across the boundary, which to him was no barrier at all, to the crisp white snow that lay beyond. He flew to the north, the south, the east, and the west, but even his keen eyes could see no tracks.

Raven flew back, and settled on the dead tree in the river bed to preen.

Wolf trotted over to join him, curling up at the foot of the tree (and cocking a leg at it first).

They both looked at Hereward expectantly.

As Abul warned his companions, he felt something very strange and unique, something that he had already felt but just slightly since he has taken the Heroquest path of Hereward, the one among many of other Humakt's henchmen. Until now Abul, as a profane person, just had glimpses of the impression of being Hereward, merely playing the role than incarnating the Hero, but this time the sensation came so strongly that it felt on Abul like an heavy cover : he wasn't anymore Abul the young Carmanian trying to guess the best course for his
actions, but he was now fully the hero Hereward, focal point of many stories, myths and even faiths on the other side...

"Do not preach or claim to know the truth, but encourage others to find it for themselves" was the first command of Hereward's code. By putting his actions exactly into this defined and fixed behaviour, the young uninitiated Abul finally succeeded to trigger his place into the quest. He wasn't Abul, but just and simply Hereward.
With this realization came the fragile consciousness of what had been Hereward as a mortal and what he was now as a worshiped Hero, between the two were a continuity and also distortions... but Abul didn't and couldn't take immediate benefit from this new instantaneous knowledge, because Hereward being finally fully Hereward, the hero didn't bother too much about the discovery of what he had always known to be as himself and he acted immediately as only Hereward would act, using Abul's vanishing presence as a puppet under his powerful control.

"Do not shirk responsibilities" was the second command. Hereward stood up slowly and looked into the gray dancing shapes at the dead
river's bank. He was the only one able to act. He was brought here to act, so he acted.

"Do not lie to those who follow you" was the third command. "Even if we don't see it, I still think that the thing is very near, he told
to all with a loud voice, be prepared for combat! It's strong and dangerous!"

"Defend the truth" was the fourth command. Hereward took the bag containing the North Wind as his most precious possession, the only really mythic attribute defining himself as a Hero worthy of worship in various locations on the material world.

"Do not slaughter innocents; kill responsibly" was the Fifth command. He looked around to make sure that no one else would be caught into the terrible freezing blizzard he was about to release, a dangerous wind able to abrade people up to their inner naked secret truth: Mortality.

Raven takes one look at the fire in Hereward's eye and comments to Wolf. "Hereward is winding up for something big! I think I want to be behind him when it goes off." He flaps high into the air and glides down easily to Hereward's side. "I wonder if there will be eyes when this is over?" Raven thinks happily to himself.

As always, when Raven takes to the wing Wolf becomes wary. Heeding his companion's advice he begins a fast trot to the rear of Hereward's position. He drools slightly as his thoughts echo Raven's "Mmmm, crunchable bones!"

"Seek the Truth" was the sixth command. Hereward opened the bag and released the growling forces inside on the gray whirlwinds made from white snow and black dust.

Those who have seen Dori using the Truewind to "clear the air" in the past will recognise this effect: the floating clouds of dust separate, white snow going one way and black sand the other, leaving the air crystal clear, It's still hard to see, though - human eyes, even Raven and Wolf eyes, work best in the comforting middle land of greys. Here, the black death-light from the warband's swords, and Humakt's great Sword, is absorbed by the black sand, and reflected from the white snow beyond.

"Behave honourably" was the seventh command. Hereward challenged Evil by the ritual words that had passed a longtime after into the Carmanian prayers of the Herw'Ard, Hum'Akt and Karmanos cults. "I'm the holder of the Truth, you can't be the Spoiler of Truth, I'm your enemy!"

"Never deceive followers who are Hereward cultists" was the eighth command. As the North Wind deployed like an hurricane, raising tornadoes of obsidian dust and icy snow. Hereward made a step back and with his right hand showed to his companions the miracle of Truth cleaving Ambiguity, severing Veracity from Lie.

He passed the Wind along the grey boundary that lay before them: the river, where White and Black mixed. Dust and snow rose into the air again, and separated, falling neatly each on their own side. There was no longer a grey area, but a clear crisp dividing line between white and black.

"Never give allegiance to non-members of Hereward Cult." was the ninth command. Hereward spelled the next ritual sentences.
"I'm your enemy, never I will submit to the power of lie and falseness. Never I will follow you and always I will raise good souls into the love of Truth! Together will march on you and savor Triumph over your Emptiness!"

"Obey superiors within the cult" was the tenth and last command; without even looking at the effects caused by the devastating blast of wind. Hereward knelt down in the direction of Death...

And so he did not see when the Wind he controlled reached the dead tree that stood on that dividing line, nor see what was revealed as the cloak of grey dust that had weighed down its branches was blown away. Like the tall stones, earlier, that had turned out not to be stones at all, this was not a tree, but a thin humanoid shape, standing very still, with a strange mace-like weapon in one hand.

Raven, who has been watching with interest, is shocked to find the tree turned into man and even more shocked to recognise the hated one. Remembering his lord's admonition to stay clear he fights the urge to peck out the eyes of the hated one, instead he gains height to survey the scene. The dust that Hereward blew away was behaving strangely. The cloud instead of dispersing was still coherent and fluttering in the truewind like cloth. Raven drops down to Hereward.
"Noble Hereward, the dust trapped in your truewind is behaving strangely. Why don't you gather it in and see what it really is?"

Hereward looked at the weird dusty cloud. Effectively, as it was falling slowly down to the ground, it swirled around, showing alternatively a pure white side like snow and a pure black side like obsidian. "That's the power of Paradox that could hide in plain light or reveal in full darkness," answered Hereward to Raven. "So it is as it was said: Paradox was
useless against Death...."

Hereward thought quickly: "Let's try to catch it, perhaps can we use its revealing side to help our master and perhaps catch back what had being stolen to Egil! If we could just use this cloth as a screen on the background of the Enemy, we won't be in the fight, while still being useful..."

Images flash through Wolf's mind, sharp fangs tearing and rending the flesh of Brother Betrayer but then another image sweeps across. A large blade, a sword, an unbreakable sword wielded by his master. It plays very strongly as a symbol of Death, more particularly his own if he should disobey his orders not to fight. He shakes his head to free himself of thoughts of killing Brother Betrayer and sets about making sure there are no other hidden enemies to attack his lord.

Meanwhile, Humakt and his warband have spread out, surrounding Vivamort and stopping his attempts to flee. There was a moment whne he might have escaped, but a look at Wolf's fangs beyong the momentary gap dissuaded him.

He's dodging them, evading their attacks, though apparently hampered by his lack of any off-hand weapon or defence (*). That odd mace has a fork at its tip, and he's parrying with it as much as attacking, catching his opponents swords in it, trying to disarm them, or deflecting their attacks into their comrades. He's adept at using the light to his advantage, too, positioning himself so that the Deathlight reflecting off the snow dazzles his opponents, or making them look for his black outline against the black sand. The Cloak spread out behind him, though, controlled by Raven's wings and Hereward's Truewind, negates much of this, and the fight becomes more even. Its colour is neither black nor white, but changes as needed: but always, in that Wind, it shows only the Truth of Vivamort's position.

(*) the "cloak and dagger" technique, using cloak as defence, is genuine and effective: unless someone's nicked your cloak!

All of this reflection, deflection, and using Death against itself: Oilamley's tricks, not those of Vivamort: is in vain, and he seems to realise this, as he becomes clear to see, extends his fangs, and glares into Humakt's eyes. Not quite fast enough, though. It is not Humakt, but the Warleader of the Legion, whose Voice of Command orders the former hundred-thane to "STOP!".
For a moment, Oilamley: Fedarkor: does just that. And in that moment, Illig's Sword flashes down and removes that sword-catcher mace, and the hand holding it. It lands outside the fight, rolling away from it, dripping dark blood.

Raven keeps his eye on the place the mace falls. He tests it suspiciously with his new found vision. Concerned that the weapon is more than it seems as it seems to be producing an awful lot of blood for a weapon that has been mainly used for parrying. Raven wants to make sure that no new enemy can rise from the weapon and strike Humakt from behind.

The mace is indeed giving off a feeling of power, and it's changing as Raven watches it. The blood dripping from the severed wrist is chaotic: vampiric, even: as one might expect. The hand: chaotic, undead. The mace itself, though... it showed chaotic at first, but that's clearing as he watches. It's changing shape, even, changing from a blunt sword-catcher to its opposite. The hand withers. The weapon... is a sword. It's certainly more than it seems, but it isn't the least bit chaotic.

Humakt - no, definitely Illig, now - is holding his opponent at sword-point. Lots of sword-points, as the rest of the warband surround him: their target doesn't have room to dodge and weave without impaling himself, and is standing very still. The warband are facing him with Death: but the power they feel emanating from Illig is Truth. Justice.

"You stole a cloak from us. It has been returned. No further reparation is due for this."

Illig's voice is detached, inhuman, showing none of the anger or hatred one might expect, and the prisoner watches him warily, with perhaps a flicker of hope showing. "So I can leave?" Illig's forcing the switch from the known quest to the roles closer to the mundane has left everything uncertain: even this seems not impossible.

Illig continues as if nothing had been said. "You stole Death from one of mine. It has been returned. No further reparation is due for this." His eyes never leave the prisoner, but the focus of his voice does. "Wolf, take it."

Wolf stretches out a paw, which becomes a hand, as Egil grasps the hilt. A sensation of joining surges through him as the connection to his god is re-established. He bows low in thanks to Illig before he assumes the role of wolf once more. His lip curls in a snarl he aims at the stricken godling.

Illig continues: "You stole from many the ability to see Truth rather than your lies and deception. This cannot be returned to them, but it can be taken from you, and no further reparation will be due for this." Again, the order is directed elsewhere. "Raven, take his eyes from him."

Raven caws with delight. "Yes master." He flaps slowly to the prisoner who is shaking his head in denial. Undeterred Raven lands on the horrified head, his claws grasping tightly, digging into the wildly thrashing skull. Raven strikes once, twice; swift and sure he plucks his eyes out one by one. A quick toss of the head and his beak opens to catch and swallow the sickly looking orbs.

Oilamley/Fedarkor's shrieks are loud and pitiful, full of soul anguish rather than pain, for anyone who has passed through the vampire-forming rites is deadened to much physical pain. Raven launches himself into the air leaving behind empty, bleeding sockets.

As he returns to his lookout position above the group. Raven/Graylor is horrified by the enjoyment and satisfaction he felt in administering the punishment.

If Illig is still following any pre-existing plot, it seems to be one known only to him. Fortunately most situations on any heroquest consist of the roles doing what those roles would obviously do, with predictable inevitability, and that is what happens here.

It's hard to tell whether it's Kristen, or Babeester Gor, who steps forward now. Both would have done the same thing, in the same way.

"He has stolen more than that." Her axe is poised, malevolently.

Illig/Humakt nods in acknowledgement, but still does not take his eyes from the prisoner. "He has - but in the matter that usually concerns you, he has taken nothing directly. What he has stolen is innocence, and that can never be returned. Do not take your usual trophy, my Lady, but his nose."

The surrounding swords withdraw for a moment, giving room for that axe to flash down before they return, and the woman withdraws, pressing the bleeding thing she had caught to her own face, where it is absorbed. She sniffs the air, pausing for a moment as she scents Abul, and then moving on.

Illig continues. "You stole the power of sunlight, changing it from giving health and strength to a thing that drains. That can and shall be reversed, by he who was most damaged by it."

"Yelmalio, he bears an amulet in the shape of a mirror. Take it from him."

Santhis/Yelamalio lowered his spear and takes a hesitant step forwards. Because of the fear inspired by the creature in front of him he finds it difficult both to approach and to keep identifying with Yelmalio. That step would not have been possible but for his new found loyalty to the Legion and Graylor. He gives a quick glance to the sky seeing the Raven flying overhead. It caws, an encouraging sound to Santhis' mind, and a single word echoes through his brain "Believe".

He takes another step and the faint nimbus of Yelmalio's light that surrounds him touches Oilamley, who flinches away. Now with the recognition of Oilamley's fear, it drives back Santhis own fear. Yelmalio/Santhis begins to believe and light radiates from him as he steps forward. Oilamley feels the power of the hated light and cowers back heedless of the swords digging into his back. Yelmalio plucks a medallion from the breast of the prisoner who screams as wisps of smoke rise from the burning flesh. Yelmalio yanks hard on the medallion snapping the chain that holds it round Oilamley's neck.

"Let pure light cleanse this thing of its malady." Yelmalio intones as he holds the medallion aloft. Brightness gathers in Yelmalio's hands and engulfs the object. As the brightness dims the object becomes recognisable as a tiny hand mirror. The mirror reflects Yelmalio's brightness, Yelmalio shines the light on everyone, where it touches vitality is restored and wounds heal over. The prisoner fairs not so well the touch of the light causes his skin to blister and burn.

Yelmalio bows to Humakt. "Once again the sovereignty of light has been restored, thanks to your actions. We are most grateful." As he steps back he seems to diminish hiding his light in deference to Humakt.

Suddenly Hereward stepped out of the group with the usual kind of hurry he always displayed when facing a fact that revolted him.

"My Lord, could I open my heart to your greater wisdom? It appears to me that to the face of the Universe and its sweet promises, the greater sin of our Enemy was not the evil he made, which is only the logical behavior he could have when he decided to side against us, but in regard to my role of being your Truewind's bearer, the most shocking and unacceptable act he committed was to use Paradox to cheat the members of his own Hundred. Instead of elevating and protecting them, he deceived and sacrificed them. What kind of leader is that? At the time he joined the ranks of Death's servants, he had sworn to follow Truth's way, but instead he changed his ability from being a Truthbringer to become a Liebringer and exactly as he was wearing Hereward's cloak dishonourably, desecrating it, he used his tongue to spell out constantly the reverse of Truth. To me, there is no greater offense than that and he made it to the laws of the universe, to You my Lord, to his comrades-in-arms and finally to himself... to my humble judgment, this failed ability should be taken away from him, to make sure that Lie will be banned for ever from his foul-toothed mouth."

Having spoken what he felt the just truth, Hereward retreated to his rank among the others of Humakt's followers.

"You are correct," Illig says impassively. "Corrupting the Truth is the penultimate crime of which he stands accused. There is one greater offense, but this requires restitution, and you since you are the one to point out his crime, you should be the one to take his tongue."

"So it will be my Lord."

With the determination of an experienced Hero, Hereward made a step forward, opened the jaws of the blinded and nose-less vampire and summoned the "Cutting Wind of Truth" aspect of the Truewind. Like an icy blade, the wind plunged into the opened mouth and cut a long forked tongue with one single slash.

"In presence of Death, no one lies for long" simply commented Hereward over the despaired gurgling noises coming from their prisoner. He showed the dual nature of the organ to all and added:

"I will not tolerate to bear a tool of Lie" and on this sentence, he cut the tongue along in two different parts: one, even bloody, appeared to be human, while the other was corrupted and covered by a dark suppurating ichor: Lie!

Hereward, turned then on Yelmalio and called him:

"You're also a true bearer of Truth and great harm has been done to you by the power of Lie. Please use the power of Light to dispel forever the dark power of Oilamey..." and he gave to Yelmalio the squalid part of the tongue, so the light god might destroy its evil.

"In memory of Fedarkor the Humakti, I will keep the best part of this tongue, which in his time spelled sincere vows to our Lord before it failed and turned into an instrument of Destruction."

Yelmalio takes out the mirror and holds the piece of tongue between his own light and the mirror. The light both direct and reflected illuminates the evil in the fleshy morsel leaving it no place to hide. As always lies can't stand up to such close scrutiny and they fall to pieces. Yelmalio returns the portion of tongue to Hereward.

"It has been cleansed and will never more be contaminated with lies. However it will always have resonance with lies and should help you with your truthsaying."

Hereward bowed respectfully and added: "You're a great champion for Truth Yelmalio and a master to counter Lie"

The "penultimate" crime suitably dealt with, Illig continues, stilll addressing the prisoner, who can presumably still hear even if he cannot see, smell, or speak.

"For the greatest of your crimes, no restitution is possible, and no forgiveness is possible. Fedarkor Cairn-breaker, once hundred-thane of the Tenth Cohort, you betrayed the Legion. You were our brother, and you betrayed us. You betrayed those who followed you and trusted you, you betrayed those you guided. You reversed eveything we stand for, everything you once believed in, and became our Other instead of our brother. I told you not long ago that if you led me falsely, I would kill you, and you did so, yet again. It is time for you to die."

Egil sits an raises his head, then he lets out a long howl to accompany the final sword stroke. To some it sounds mournful but to most it sounds vengeful and victorious.

In an empathic move, Hereward pats silently the neckline of the great wolf. He, also, appreciates the moment.

Raven keeps his vigil aloft. He mourns the loss of a good man lost to the temptations of power and subtle manipulations of chaos.

Illig raises his great Sword aloft, and it seems almost as if it's raising itself, and his hands merely follow and guide it. The area around seems to be getting darker, with the Deathlight from the Sword providing the only illumination. In that light, the Herewardi can see the lines of support going from the warband to Illig, even though physically they have stepped back, and more support coming in from further away - quite where from, or from what direction, isn't clear, but it's there, and familiar to them.

This is not the physical plane: that has suddenly become more obvious. The Sword and its wielder are the focus of attention, and somehow larger than those who surround them: taller, stronger, more real. Only the prisoner has not shrunk in comparison: he may be crippled, blinded, defenceless, but he is still more significant than anyone or anything present except the Sword that is about to kill him, and the crisp line between Life and Death on which he stands.

The Sword sweeps down, cleaving all before it: cleaving the Air, cleaving Oilamley in two from head to foot, and carrying on to meet that line between Life and Death and Separate them. One half of Oilamley's body falls each way, crumbling into black or white dust as it does so. The chasm widens, the sand and snow start to slide into it, the ground seems to tilt in a dream-like fashion, and everything slides downwards, falling into that Darkness beyond Darkness, falling, falling.... and landing.

There's a non-physical thump, and each of you find yourselves constrained, limited, half-blinded, by something familiar... ah, yes. You're back inside a physical body, lying on the floor of a familiar temple.

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