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==== So we've killed a god - now what? ====

As Graylor struggles to revive, a blurry Elgan appears thrusting a drink into one hand and a hunk of bread and meat in the other.

"Eat, eat. You'll feel better after the food." Elgan commands solicitously before moving on to the next person.

The smell of fresh bread and hot meat does much to revive Graylor. Eating and drinking does the rest. In a moment he is on his feet checking on the rest of his men. First Santhis who was in the heroquest too, looking stunned and holding a small mirror amulet.

"Keep that safe." Graylor says. "I think that will prove very useful. Inadequate compensation for what he took but it is something. Don't worry I'm hoping that your initiation isn't going to be that monumental. Abul had a rough old ride to join Hereward."

Comfort too for Irnar and Yenda who were left behind but supported Graylor through the quest. Then he sees Abul and rushes over and hugs the young man.

"Congratulations and welcome to Herwards Legion." Graylor offers with great delight. "I guess you'll get a more formal welcome later, but you did a cracking job. I couldn't believe when the tree turned out to be Oilamley. Well at least Egil got to piss on him! Speaking of him, shall we go and find him."

Graylor looks around the subterranean temple. Most are now on their feet congratulating each other. Illig is being given a wide berth and many furtive, awestruck and fearful glances are being thrown his way. The man has just killed a god to protect one thane. Graylor senses a rapidly growing sense of euphoria and pride in their leader.

Dazzled, Abul looked around with a quite blank face. Suddenly, healers were giving to the young Carmanian an attention he wasn't used to. In his mind, as a auxiliary, he should have been the last to get support, but when Graylor came to cheer him, he realized that he had acheived his first heroquest and was part of its success. For a moment, he had to live with the disturbing feeling of a loss: just a moment ago he was Hereward and being him held more than all his secrets, and now he was back as Abul the simple mortal with only a faint remembrance of what the Sword Prophet was and had been.

However the realization came slowly that the link with the Hero would not vanish totally but last as long as Abul would maintain it. "This must be what everyone calls 'initiation', walking among gods..." he thought joyfully, "I'm no longer a running boy. Darkness be ready! My name is Abul Follower of Hereward and my weapon hand has now found its immortal guide!".

Abul smiled at Graylor's constant attention to him and, unused to be in a central position of attention, thanked him with a stiff bow. Doing this, he discovered that he was still holding Hereward's cloak in his own hands. The thing didn't vanish with the godsplane but materialized in old but still strong cloth. Made to be reversible with at least two different layers of fabric, one side was pure white, while the other one was pitch black, exactly as it was when floating in the Truewind of Hereward.

Perceiving Illig, Abul looked at the man with an impressed glance, made a few hesitating steps in his direction and then called him fearing to falter or stutter in front of the killer of Oilamey...

"Warleader..." he began.

But the voice out of his throat wasn't his own. It was a deep bass voice, something sounding like the giant bronze drums of the royal court of the city of Kendesos in his childhood, something loud and impressive. In a reflex, Abul cleared his throat and repeated.

"Warleader..." but again the manly voice rose and everyone had to stop and look to Abul.

The young man dared nothing else but to persevere and hiding with visible efforts his own surprise, he added.

"Warleader, this is Hereward's cloak, the Wyter stolen from the Tenth Cohort at the Battle of Dancing Sisters. You took it back from Vivamort!"

There was a space round Illig - the afterglow of Death around him had been so strong when he returned that only a few dared approach him, and the white-clad healers were staying as far away as possible. Dori was there, and the few other Humakti who had stayed behind, but even his own warband were keeping their distance. As Abul approached, Illig sheathed his great Sword, and returned to something approaching humanity as he did so: perhaps even more human than normal in some ways, because he was smiling.

"No, Abul, I didn't take that cloak back. You did that. I will take charge of it now, because it is too dangerous to be left in the hands of one who may be injured by it, but its return is your triumph, not mine. Well done, young man - very well done, and thank you. For the first time in far too many years, we have retrieved the regalia of a Cohort instead of losing them - long may this trend continue!"

That isn't just a smile. That's a semi-euphoric grin. "Egil - yes, fully recovered, I see, and lesson learnt. Graylor, too - well flown, my friend. And Santhis - now, that was a surprise. We will have to have words with the Sun Dome temple about you, I think, to make the most of your returning talents as well as the new ones."

Ilig's grin is infectious and both Graylor and Santhis find themselves beaming with pride from the compliments of the warleader. Santhis greets Illlig's words with enthusiasm.

"That would be fantastic sir! I never thought that I would be able to go back again and I have so wanted to," he exclaims. Then realising that what he has just said could be interpreted as rude and wanting to leave the present company, he hastily adds. "I want to be here too. Can I do that.. Have both lives together?"

"Why not? I think we have just proved that the Legion can do *anything*, impossible or not. Worshipping Yelmalio and Hereward, rather than Humakt and Hereward, seems comparatively easy: after all, Benlan here serves Hereward and Chalana Arroy without any difficulty. You will not be able to join the Templars, of course, and will have to be careful about what oaths you give, but I see no reason why your worship of Yelmalio should not be renewed. Dorinda, your contacts in the cult should be able to arrange that?"

Dori looks almost shocked, not just startled, at that suggestion. "They might, sir, but I think working through Landros would probably give faster results, and with less in the way of... side-effects... on other issues."

"Oh. Yes, I see what you mean." He considers it for a moment, then nods. "Do it that way, then. But, we have another matter to consider, and you have a decision to make, Raven." He holds up the cloak Abul has given to him. "We have here the regalia of one of our lost Cohorts: the Tenth, the scouts, who would normally have come under the Raven's command. Are you ready to use them?"

Dori's expression has frozen: she glances sideways at Siggyr, who has also gone extremely impassive, in that manner that means that whatever emotion he's hiding will make someone very unhappy once let out.

"That's.... a difficult question, sir. Or possibly several very easy ones."

She ticks them off on her fingers.

"Am I prepared to do the job of a hundred-thane? - yes. Just. Am I the best person to be chosen for that promotion, out of the options available? - no doubt you have your reasons for the choice, sir, but I would have said not." She glances at Siggyr again.
"And finally, should any of us be considering using an object that we believe led the last hundred-thane to wear it into corruption and betrayal, that we know has its origins in chaos and undeath? Not without serious investigation of what it does, and how it can be controlled, no, in my opinion. Possibly I've been spending too much time with our cautious Jalmari friends, but we've had recent experience of vampiric magic used to pass unseen, and this does not seem to me to be something to rush into."

Dori is white, not quite shaking: facing Illig at the moment, with the afterglow of the quest still on him, is hard for everyone. "Do I pass the test, sir?"

"Test?" He looks at her - through her - then moves on. "Does anyone else share that opinion?"

Abul, just back from the gods plane, hadn't yet realized that such a strong incarnation of Hereward couldn't just be a momentary relationship without long-term consequences on his own personality... but right now the young Carmanian felt in himself an unusual but pregnant new inclination for suspicion, a strong feeling meant to last as long as he would be loyal to the Her'ward's ways.

"If I'm requested to speak out my impressions, I would say that Dori is right," he said. "Having just manipulated the Powers of the Paradox for a few moments on the Other Side, I can tell it is full of potentialities. I'm suspecting that it was for a good reason that it was initially given to the Ravens. Ravens are cautious, observing, deducing, making reports and deliberating before going into action. This treacherous double-sided Wyter has to be studied, its dangers learnt or discovered again from the safest methods and then the Legion would be able to use it safely."

His new deep bass voice sounded disturbingly inappropriate for such a young person. Everyone could felt in these words that the innocent child in Abul was no more. Even if Abul had always been a cautious and severe child, thanks to Jamal's teachings (and never-told past experiences), his words were the ones of someone who had been in too close contact with the terrible realities of life. It was a style normally found only in experienced and usually jaded and cynical old people: however the advice by itself seemed to show that Abul had taken no delight in such knowledge.

"With your permissions, sirs, everyone sounds right to me. Dori has to take it. She has suffered from duplicity, she will take care. It is not an usual item, I'm quite sure about it... With its great powers will come greater responsibilities."

There was a silence for a moment, as if Abul's words were about to break the rejoicing atmosphere, but he smiled as he used to smile before, dissipating the threatening tone he had and he added.

"Whatever its potentialities, I'm pretty sure there is no safer place than under the Legion's watch. We took it back from Beyond after all, no?"

Graylor pauses to allow the more senior figures to make any comments. He can see the suppressed emotions of Siggyr and realises that Siggyr is incapable of speaking out for fear of disgracing himself.

Seledd is lowering the magical defences she had been controlling during the quest with her usual meticulous precision, and says nothing, though she too is watching both Siggyr and Dori. Yodi... it's hard to read a duck's expression, but he too is watching the reactions of others rather than making any comment himself. Watching, and judging: he's been spending a lot of time with the Jalmari recently, and much of their attitudes have rubbed off.

Graylor decides to tackle the easier topic first. "Dori and Abul have it right we need more information on the cloak before we truly inaugurate the Tenth Cohort. Many of the ways of vampires are truly subtle and hidden by subterfuge. I know a little of such lore but I am sure that my Jalmari brothers, and the legions newest allies, will know more. I am sure that General Vur will be willing to share such knowledge that is pertinent."

Yodi nods at this. "He will advise caution, also, that is the Jalmari way. Keep it safe, and keep it secret."

Graylor's brow wrinkles in concentration. A few moments later he continues. "Am I right in thinking that all the standards of the legion housed wyters? If they did would it be possible for Ashar to find out from the cloaks wyter what happened in the demise of the Tenth Cohort."

Finally Graylor works up the courage to address the most difficult point.

"I think you are right,sir, that Dori has the ideal skills to be the leader of the Tenth Cohort. I know that it is probably not my place to ask this of you. But, would it be possible to know your reasons for not choosing the more experienced person for the role? It would perhaps help, those who see this as a somewhat.. er.. how can I put it.. unusual decision, to understand you."

"Is it really not obvious?" Illig looks around the group, but no-one speaks to confirm or deny. "Yes, if the command of a regular cohort were under consideration, there would be more suitable candidates. But the Tenth, and the Cloak, are not a regular Cohort. What more experienced spy do we have in our number? None that I know of. If we follow up the clues we have to the location of Hereward's Sword, or indeed any other of the lost regalia, then there will be openings for others, and some very obvious candidates to fill those roles."

Egil slowly moves to the back of the group of Herewardi He has no wish to engage in conversations Illig is involved in and he has enough brain cells to realise he is not the sharpest sword in the armoury and anything he says may well be sneered at.

If an opportunity presents its self he will flee outside. Guard duty can be a simple enough task in stressful times.

Graylor allows relief to show on his face. "Now the legion has the possibility of a new cohort I guess we are recruiting. I wonder if any of my Jamari brothers like the idea of extensive traveling. What do you think Yodi should we pay them a visit soon?"

Cracking a grin Graylor asks his next question. "So when do we go for the next regalia? I hope it isn't before we at least get a chance to celebrate today's achievements!"

Illig grins back: you've never seen him anything like this relaxed before. "Oh, we were always recruiting. Our two existing Hundreds are a little understaffed, despite the recent successes of the Seventh. But the next regalia, yes. Dorinda found some clues on the Cradle to the possible location of Hereward's Sword - the Windsword. It, and its last owner, seem to have been taken north by giants. A visit to Gonn Orta might prove valuable, and once we are fully established here, I intend to send a group north to investigate. But, as you say, not today. There should be a black bull ready to give to Humakt in thanks for our success here, and that will be more than sufficient for celebration."

He's still holding the Cloak loosely in one hand, and Dori steps forward. "Sir, we have an excellent armoury here designed for holding items too dangerous to use. Shall I...?"

He hands it to her, and she takes it cautiously. "Yes, that would be best for the present. Properly warded and guarded - I doubt if the last thief to enter here will be repeating his attempt, but no chances should be taken.

She nods, "I'll do that. Vern, with me, please, we want this catalogued as well." They head towards the armoury wing, and eveyone else gradually moves up the stairs and into the fresh air.

It had been dusk when they started, and as they reach the surface, Yelm is rising from the gates of Dawn. Small campfires burn in sheltered corners, and the allies who had taken over the physical guard for the night - Vur, Karrath, and some of their men - welcome them back. While they had not been told the details of the quest, the fact that a dangerous heroquest has been successful is more than enough cause for celebration. As promised, a black bull has been acquired from somewhere, and led up to the ancient stone altar that stands directly above the even older one in the darkness below. It's a holy thing, but also very practical, with channels to drain the blood away, and a butchering block ready to take the body. Illig, almost the last back from the Underworld, dedicates the bull to Humakt in thanks for the victory given, and his sword swings down to decapitate the bull as usual. Or... not as usual. He pulls the blow, delivers a light tap on the bull's forehead, which does not even draw blood. The bull drops to the ground - dead.

There's a short silence after that, in which no-one knows quite what, if anything,to say, and then the butchering crew move in to deal with the beef, doing their best to pretend that nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

Abul within the crowd was looking to Illig in pure awe. So was the real power of Death. Was the warleader a living incarnation of the Death Rune? For ever, will this moment stay engraved in his mind.

Mundane practicalities resume, perhaps with a sense of relief at being back from the highly charged events of the night. There's food, rest, ritual props to be returned to stores. The smell of roast beef fills the area, and eventually there's lunch. Trivial, mundane conversations, as normal life resumes. Yes it's a celebration, but a strangely subdued one: and there's a new distance around Illig that had not been there before.

Like everyone, Abul avoided Illig, mostly because he didn't know how to act in front of the man and his followers. But he couldn't avoid looking at him when he was thinking that nobody was paying attention to him. Questions were rolling in his head and because he was just a fresh initiate, they remained unanswered. "Had Illig made a further step closer
to his god during the Heroquest or was he already hiding such powers before the Heroquest? Was Idovanius preparing Illig for some greater action in a near future? Would the Legion be involved in this? Would he, Abul, be involved?" The meal went without any importance but these questions...


Dori and Vern eventually return from the armoury, the Cloak presumably safely stowed in its depths, and join the rest of her Ten, continuing their conversation as they do so.

"...and I'm sure Vur and his advisors will be happy to test it under the Flame of Truth for you, probably using the temple to improve their sight," Vern is saying. "They haven't had access to such a place for a very long time. Another ritual - but not just yet, I think."

"No, not just yet," Dori agrees. "Let the energies from this one settle down first. Strange to think that it's all over, I've been concentrating on that for so long I've almost lost track of other things - the Lunars, for instance, and they're dangerous people to lose track of. What's been happening: any more interesting news from the famed Jalmari intelligence?"

Vern chuckles appreciatively at what isn't quite sarcasm, and accepts a beer. "There's quite a lot been happening with the Lunars, but "headess chickens" is probably a fair summary. More stragglers from the Cradle keep drifting in every day, and quite a few others who wouldn't have come into town when the Lunar grip was stronger. Hmm, yes, there was one in particular I was asked to mention to you - a lone Humakti, one servant. The usual lack of small-talk and weird dress sense you get with these loners, but this one's unusual in that he apparently claims to follow Humakt as the North Wind. He doesn't look Praxian, but he calls himself a Khan, and he came from the south."

Karrath, coming to get himself yet another beer, apparently recognises this description. "This the White Death? Pale everywhere, looks like he's already frozen, acts like it as well? Tell you something, then, he's one of the best swordsmen I've ever seen. Never seen him in a real fight yet, but in drill and training, he's good."

Dori absorbs this, nodding. "Which factions is he talking to - rebels? It sounds as if we're heading for another riot soon, with all these newcomers in town."

Karrath snorts. "White Death doesn't talk to anyone. You're right, though, plenty of useful lads, eager to do the right thing. We'll have the strength to move, soon enough."

Looking at General Vur Graylor asks: "Caspian, is he clean?" A simple nod is the reply.

"Sounds like we should be sociable Dori. Someone who has found the North Wind however strange the route has got to be interesting." Graylor adds quietly. "We can pop in and check him out as we escort Abul to his Darktongue lessons. Speaking of which, Yenda do you fancy learning to speak and read troll with Abul?"

"Sounds fun!" she replies. "Though that means you'll have to go through the records here. I can't do both jobs at once."

Listening the conversation, but keeping quiet in front of superiors, Abul wondered about this new humakti just arrived in town. Could so many followers of the Death God arriving in a place like Pavis just by coincidence? Or was Idovanius gathering a great force under Illig's command?

Abul thought that observing and assessing a potential new recruit was a job for the Legion's ravens and wondered if Dori would think about using an unexperienced raven like him. To Abul, it seemed a benign task but perhaps he was mistaking. The young man felt excited at the possibility to meet an other great hero who was already called the "White Death" by already formidable warriors. For a moment he missed somehow humility and let his own imagination exploring the possible reputations he could get in the future: "Darkness Splitter?" "Destroyer of demons?" "The Blade Singer"? Then he remembered how unfit he was for comparison and his mood turned gloomy. He kept ferociously his emotionless mask on his face and most of all he kept silent... especially when he saw Yenda the Pol-Joni turning around Graylor with her attractive hips moves and mysterious glances. At this moment, he was at least pretty sure that he would never an able swordsman, not at the level that someone like Yenda would ever consider.

He then raised his shoulders and bit furiously into a piece of steak to occupy his jaw and his spirit. He knew perfectly well that beer will also not help him but he took a mug anyway...

"The Orlanthi have been unusually active," Vern adds. "The Frees have been busy, Byrrgga in particular. There was quite a gathering up on Rich Hill on Windsday, all sorts of people heading up there in what they thought were disguises. Isn't there some special significance to the day, something to do with the Founder?"

"It's Founders Day, yes," Karrath agrees. "Never heard of anyone celebrating that since I was a child in Sartar, though, an' even then, paying taxes isn't something to celebrate as such."

Dori's barely listening to this. "Disguises, disguises, what does that make me think of? Windsday, four days back, I was tearing Cavos' place apart looking for clues, we went to the Pavis temple looking for the building records, there was something else, something irrelevant, A disguise.... that was it, a Sundomer woman, full veil, walking up Rich Hill. It seemed an odd place for her to go, and I had an idea I should have recognised her, I was trying to think who I might have known who'd have had anything to do with Cavos, and couldn't pin it down. If it was a disguise, though, an Orlanthi of some sort heading to whatever they were doing for this "Founders Day".... "

"Founder's Day, I remember parties on Founder's Day. Though what the real significance was I don't remember," Graylor muses.

"I remember the parties too when I was a kitten," Irnar muses. "Though one I remember most is the year when I missed the party back home. There was great excitement that year as the Balkoth were selected to provide the main dish of the feast. I know it was something to do with our special sheep, we had sheep back then, but can't remember the dish. I was newly initiated and no one could tell me what to do. So when I was told to remain behind, naturally I used my new skills to follow the chief and his party to Boldhome. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. I hated it and took to the rooftops, stealing food and watching from the peace above the crowds."

"My chief presented his tribute to Prince Terasarin who was flanked by his family. I remember that his youngest granddaughter was very pretty, I would have liked to have met her socially.." He peters out into silence, overcome by memories of the events. After a few moments he looks outwards again and continues with a wry smile on his face.

"Anyway, each chief paid a tribute to the Prince and put an offering into the Flame. Ours made the flame change to green, that caused a big shock I can tell you. Then a face appeared in the flame and it returned to normal. The feast afterwards was huge, but to be honest with you I stole some food and took it back to my rooftops. The chief was really pleased with the way things went that year, though he wasn't so pleased with me when I got careless on the way home and one of his thanes found me. Though in all honesty I think he was more cross that I was careless and not because I followed them."

"So that's what it is all about. Paying taxes and honouring Sartar. Only Sartarites could turn paying taxes into a party, aren't we great!" His laugh dies quickly as thoughts run through his head. "Though I guess that the whole sharing food does also engender trust and solidarity between the tribes. Could it be that that is what's happening here?"

"Dori, love, don't you think that those 'Orlanthi of some sort' could be our favourite Vingans?"

"It was only one, and no, they should be on their way to.... oh, //shit//!"

She looks up at all the people staring at her, who don't quite believe they heard her say that last word.

"Sorry.... I just realised who I'd seen, and why I thought I ought to recognise her. Vingan, yes, but not one of //those// VIngans. I wonder how far they had to go, if they even left the city?"

She's almost laughing, and it's not quite hysterical. "What the hell is she doing here..? ah well, no doubt we'll find out, far sooner than we'd like. Irnar, your wish is about to come true. You probably are going to meet that youngest granddaughter, though whether you'll still want to chat her up... That was her. On her way to a ceremony to honour Sartar the Founder, whose bloodline she's now the head of. Kallyr's in Pavis."

Irnar's face turns black as thunder. "I didn't know that she was Kallyr. No, I don't think there will be any socialising and the only talking would be with tooth and claw. I have a debt to settle with that one." Irnar wanders away muttering darkly to himself. The only intelligible words anyone can make out being "slaughtered brothers".


Leaning close to Yenda Graylor comments quietly. "Yenda, why don't you go and talk to Abul. Things are strange for him at the moment. He has done a great thing in his initiation, but I can see that he feels overshadowed by greater men. Reassure him that we all feel in awe of Illig. I must go to Irnar."

Graylor makes his excuses to the others and follows Irnar, he knows the right words to comfort his old friend. Yenda swishes over to Abul.

"What are you drinking?" She asks and not waiting for a reply she takes his tankard and has a taste.

Abul stays speechless and looks weirdly at Yenda, perhaps because of the beer or the last events, but his eyes are glittering when his glance falls and rolls on her.

"Mmm, good stuff. I think I will join you. Would you mind getting me one." She smiles enticingly at the young man. When he returns she links her arm in his and guides him to quieter areas of the celebration. "I can't believe you got to go on the quest. I wish I could have gone. But nobody thinks of me as more than a librarian." She sighs wistfully. "Anyway enough of my troubles. Tell me all about the quest, what went on."

Apparently quite surprised and embarrassed, the young man looks around as if Yenda must have spoken to someone else. Seeing no one but assessing the surroundings, a part of him takes note with satisfaction that the evening has come and that the correct hours for more private interrelations with women are before him. Is this realization or just the beer, but Abul stutters an awkward answer with his new disturbing bass voice.

"Well... well... yes, g-good b-brew... of course."

The effect of such a male voice with such lack of self-assurance is quite unusual and to dismiss it, Abul stands up quite hastily. While he is looking for an other mug, he fustigates himself "Stop immediately acting like an helpless idiot. It's only a girl..." but the word "girl" rings in his mind, triggering curious emotions in him... and never was he trained to manage such bizarre reactions in himself.

In the few moments that he is away she thinks. "Isn't he sweet. Though I'm not sure he is ready for the things I learned from the Vingans. I'm not sure I'm ready for that either. Let's just take it easy and not frighten the poor man away."

When he returns she links her arm in his and guides him to quieter areas of the celebration.

"I can't believe you got to go on the quest. I wish I could have gone. But nobody thinks of me as more than a librarian." She sighs wistfully. "Anyway enough of my troubles. Tell me all about the quest, what went on."

Everything seems suddenly terribly confused for Abul and like each time he is in a complicated emotional state, his back stiffens, his smile freezes on his face in polite but very stern fold and his mouth refuses to pronounce any sound. For Abul, it's like Ikadz's knife, the more he wishes to speak, the less is able to say. He finds his own silence very embarrassing but what can he says? That he doesn't see her at all as a librarian (what a strange idea while his own mind refuses to admit and reveal how he exactly sees her). That thinking "Yenda", like a lot of others keys related to "young and pleasant females" of the same kind, doesn't open a "book" section in his intimate thoughts but some darker area of quite shameful but very teasing unknown matters that obsess him every time his own disciplined concentration vanishes? No surely, no honorable gentleman would ever say such words... or certainly such a broo-like guy should die atrociously immediately after, disintegrated by Idovanius' infinite wrath or whatever moral authority reigns the universe.

But the human mind, even made clever, has its own rules and when pushed too hard, it always finds its own solutions and so Abul's mind solved its problem...

"But you're already Death" he says thinking she is initiated to Humakt and his Herocults.

Of course Abul discovers as the same time that introducing such a cold and negative notion within the warm atmosphere created by Yenda is the last stupid thing to do, but when words are spoken, a man should assume and Abul continues with an invisible despair and mental agony.

"I was just visited par Hereward's will. It was difficult and easy at the same time... Just a duty matter."

Yenda is slightly annoyed by the Death comment, but readily forgives the nervous youth.

Abul doesn't say a word but feels so grateful that Yenda doesn't notice his stupidity.

"I'm sure that it is more than just duty. Illig killed a god, that makes him on a par with them! That must have been something to see. You know that although I was being a supporter we don't actually see what goes on with the quest. We just felt it when Illig demanded all our power. But I'm happy if you aren't ready to talk about it yet."

"oh no... it is just... that... I'm not sure that I have understood everything. It was so eerie. The Darkness, the skeletons, the ghouls, the vampires and finally Vivamort hiding near the dead river. You know that Egil pissed on Vivamort hiding as a dead tree!"

The idea after all is so funny and Abul is so stressed that it makes him laugh nervously. Yenda has no such restraint and laughs loudly. "He didn't.."

"Vivamort was hiding under Hereward's cloak and I was feeling this urge in me... It was so strong... I knew I had to let it go but I feared to let it submerge me... then Hereward was there, me but not me... and Hereward uncovered Vivamort with his Truewind, then he was no match for Humakt... hu... I mean... Illig."

Feeling suddenly less and less clear while more and more talkative, Abul feels in danger again and just falls back into an embarrassed silence...

Yenda pats his arm comfortingly. "You must have been very brave, standing all alone in front of Vivamort."

She continues brightly.

"We are going to have quite some time together, it would be nice if we were friends rather than colleagues. Tell you what why don't we do our weapon practice together. You can show me how the Carmanians do it."

Taken by the casual tone of the confident Yenda, Abul answers without thinking...

"It would be unfitting because Carmanos taught us to kill by day and... at night... well..."

Arching an eyebrow. "Maybe not tonight, but in the future, who knows."

Abul looks nervous and unsure but in his eyes a great fire is burning, a living flame burning all his reasoning capacities. Without any obvious link to the situation, he admits in a serious but sincere deep and low voice:

"I would love to have a friend, Yenda. I fear I can't, but I would love it."

"Well that's settled then." She smiles warmly. "Now lets have another beer and enjoy the celebrations."

For flickering moment Abul rejoices, but quite instantly his sense of duty submerges him.

"No no, it isn't so easy... I mean... You really think that to be friends, you just have to decide it? Only strong people can stay around me... like my father... like the Legion... in case I'll become careless..."

The distress in Abul is visible, something, beer, Heroquest aftershock, Yenda presence or everything together, is destroying some resistance in him.

"if you think that we are friend, you should be warned..."

Yenda looks surprised but stays silent listening to the young man.

The effect is utmost and strange. Abul seems a young man, but his voice would normally be the deep bass voice of a experienced grown man, while the fear he is expressing now would appear to be a pure long forgotten child's one, if there was any charming innocence even frightened in Abul's tone...

It seems then to Yenda, that it will be impossible for anyone to dismiss such a feeling with just a gentle answer like the ones given to child after a nightmare. In fact, it is much more like if an abused child was trying to describe the indescribable, knowing vile things without being able to name them. Which girl wouldn't leave now, running away?

All sense of frivolity is gone from Yenda. "What do you mean that I should be warned? From what? Is there anything I can do to help you?"

Abul's answer is almost as weird as his former words, not only because his language is now heavily thickened with a Carmanian accent but because it sounds bloodily sincere.
"The Evil One wants the ones I love dead. He send minions at night. They slaughter merciless. I must choose people I love among strong people and I must not be careless." He recites like an old mantra.

On this, Abul put an hand on his chest, seeming to find some strength and reassurance in this move and make a step forward, taking Yenda in his arms. Not like a gross lover trying to force his way, but much more like a drowning man clutching his rescue or perhaps a protective father reassuring his own child.
"But everything will be fine. You're strong 'cause you're Death... and... I won't be careless any more. Hereward walks on my side now."

While perhaps Yenda remembers an half forgotten story from Jamal discovering Abul at the age of eight, shocked in the middle of a slaughtered family house, inside the young man commonly called Abul from the Woriani House al’Kathoum, a Pelandan child called Kovis the Bastard of the Spolite House Melch’Abukk reaches for his dying mother.
"Now you're warned... we can be... friends," admits Abul reluctantly... "and I think I'm drunk."

Yenda comforts the young man, holding him close. "We all have our demons from the past." But as she mentions the word demon she feels him jolt in her arms and a strange look passes over his face, hastily covered.

"It seems yours are more real that most. Mine was that my troop abandoned me for dead in the plains. I still have nightmares about that day. But since your demons are real then it may be a comfort that Graylor is looking for a spell the Jalmari are reputed to know that banishes demons back to their own plane. And given today's events how could anyone doubt that Illig would protect anyone in the legion from any foe from this world or any other."

The mention of Illig seems to be so strong that Abul appears to get his spirit back. He smiles confusedly. Step by step, Yenda can see the stern mask she used to see on Abul's face rebuilding itself. The flame in his glance has reduced, but not fully vanished. He still holds Yenda's hand and gets a new and unknown feeling from that simple gesture.
"Is acting like fool necessary the proof of being a fool?" he asks embarrassed while he makes a small step back.

"You're not acting a fool Abul." Yenda reassures him.

"If I'm a fool, then I can't make my case worse, but if we are... really... close... then... please, keep this to yourself. Nobody will be ever hurt if I keep my path in Idovanius' light and you will get someone who... well... someone who... cares. I never abandoned anyone. Carmanian oath!"

His head pulsing at every heart beat, reluctantly he lets Yenda's hand go. His mind refuses to analyse what has happened. Lost and alone in the crowd-noise from the celebration, he looks for the darkness outside the area with the only desire to vanish there. Why what is so simple for others so complicated for him?

Yenda regains Abul's hand. "What do you take me for? A morning friend, to turn away in the face of afternoon's difficulties?"

Abul says nothing but clearly doesn't agree.

She pauses a moment to gather her thoughts.

"Jalmar teaches us to fight the hidden chaos of the world. We are taught to gather information on the suspect, everything we can then make decisions on the course of action to be taken. If more help is needed it is summoned and then the problem is dealt with in one swift action. We will do this together, you and I Abul, this I swear. If we need more help then we will summon it when the time is right. Deal?"

- "I don't know much about Jalmarhood, but I trust you."

"Right, now let's have another drink to seal the deal then I think we can allow ourselves one night of drunkeness. The others are way ahead of us!"

Abul keeps Yenda's hand as if he was now unable to leave it.
"I'm done with beer for a while I think... but if you refill your mug and come with me I will show you a secret place where I climb when I can't sleep at night. It's a roof thatched thick with dry reed from the Zola Fel river on an abandoned house, a very comfortable place from where you can gaze at the stars. I don't know all their names but it calms me when the darkness oppresses me, especially the great one called Polaris in the North and Rigsdal in the South. You would tell me Pol-Joni stories and I would tell you stories about my city, Kendesos in Pelenda, for example how KetTuros made the city anew and redeemed the place, how the first pottery was there invented and why the Emperor from Dara Happa wished it broken..."

Abul's deep voice isn't so self-assured but has calmed down. His half-smile is more frank and honest than roguish. No trickery seems intended as if the tumult between juvenile desire, strict education and inexperience had finally lead to an honourable consensus in him. His dark and long lashed eyes wait for her answer...

"I'd love that." Yenda says a warm smile on her face. "Forget the beer and show me your hiding place."

Slowly his embarrassment and fear pass, or at least lessen somewhat Egil feels able to return to his comrades. Now followed by his cousin, he seeks out Graylor and takes a seat next to him. "Well that was a hell of a time, it felt good being wolf. What do think the chances of Dori allowing me into one of her tens would be?" He turns briefly to his cousin, who is not recognised by all due to being pink and clothed this evening "Mav, get some beers in. I'm sure Graylor would take one, or a mead." Turning his attention back to Graylor "I meant to ask about this sword of mine, did you manage to get it pull any tricks other than slicing rocks?"

"That was the strange thing. It would only cut rocks. It wouldn't cut the flesh of the Krarshtkids at all." Graylor replied. "I ended up getting a good lesson in the use of the Truewind."

After a long pause for a drink and reflection Graylor continues. "Well it wasn't exactly like that. I wondered if the sword would only cut stone and not flesh and then it did exactly that. It sliced through the wall as easy as you like but was stopped completely by the skin of the krarshtkid." He pauses for another drink. "Wierd that. Egil I suggest you don't doubt you own sword.. ever."

Taking a large gulp of his ale Egil nods "I had no intention of doing that before but now I definitely won't. I guess I'll just practice with it for now and see if it will let me know anything else. Mav! What are you snickering about?"

"The librarian has found a student, should I go and offer advice?"

Graylor looks at Mauvin. "Just leave the kids to play in peace you wouldn't want to have a crowd watching you..." Then realising who he is talking to. "Then maybe you would. I know I don't."

"I sell tickets for my performances, you can have a free one if you like." Mauvin is grinning broadly.

"I bet you would at that, 'cos you're incorrigible." Graylor laughs with Mauvin.

Egil morosely watches his cousin and Graylor before finishing his drink, he's just about to stand up to leave when a he gets a heavy slap on the back, "Bloody hell Egil, you look glum even for you." Gerras says with a laugh.

"Tsk, its alright for you, I'm in disgrace. I want to join Dori's new cohort but I doubt anyone will take me in until Illig says my punishment is over." Egil's voice is verging on whining.

"Gods man, listen to yourself. Go and see Illig and ask him if it's done or if not how long until it is." Gerras' voice betrays a little anger with his friend.

"but..but.. that sword..."

"What about it? You're already dead according to your own rules so you can't be deader can you? Listen last night while you lot were doing your thing in the temple I was at the pens. We had a bit of broo trouble, we lost three braves and two more have got something sent by Mallia and may well die. Four mares and a stallion have had to be killed. I can bet you a Wheel to a pinch of broo shit that each and every one of them would like to run round here fighting and carrying on and saying they were dead. Go, ask him, if he stabs you with it at least you'll know but stop being such a Helamakti about it."

At the last Egil snorts a laugh that shoots his beer out of his nose while Mauvin glares over before grinning impishly at his companions.

Encouraged by Yenda's trust, Abul takes her by the hand and lead her to a small building, perhaps an old sheepfold. Its walls are made of dried mud but effectively the roof is made of a thick layer of reef. In the night, Abul helps Yenda to climb on the top and there she discovers that the place has been made even more comfortable by an addition of straw and dry herbs.

"A long time ago, I have learnt a spell to help me to find my way home... and for years the spell has indicated nothing to me because with Father, we were travelling from various mercenary assignments to hiding places from the Lunars. Recently, I got lost in New Pavis and the spell brought me back here... So I think I can call this place "Home". It's near the temple, I can go here when I'm not on duty. Especially at night, you can guess why now... Well... you're welcome home then..." At this, he laughs.

"Why thank you good sir." She bobs a mock curtsy and laughs with Abul.

In the heat of this fire season's night, the sky is wide and clear. They lay and watch the stars. Each tells a bit of their young existences and while Abul is speaking about his life of Jamal's young weapon steward, she realizes that he probably never had a person of his own age to talk about some intimate feelings.
As the night goes on, he tells her a lot of anecdotes from various countries they had to cross, giving her the impression that the world is even bigger than she had thought. He told her then about Carmania today and before, especially about the ancient but merry gods of Pelanda, the mighty Turos and the generous Oria, the right Idovanus and the virtuous Entekos. No place like there can have a god named Bentus, God of pleasures, dedicated to all Joys of Life. It's a very long time since Abul has visited his own childhood memories and by some kind of unknown magic from this special night under the stars, his strict Carmanian education seems to melt away for a while, leaving him in a pleasant, funny and careless mood. As she insists, he even sings slowly old songs from his country to her, songs that he would never have guessed to be able to remember. If she hadn't climbed here with him, she would have thought that she was with someone else, especially with this new bass voice that he got back from his Herewardi quest.

Yenda enjoys listening to Abul share his childhood memories. His new voice, at first strange, but now comforting and pleasant to listen to. She relaxes completely in his company, well apart from the fluttering in her chest that she can't seem to still. She responds to his anecdotes with ones of her own from her dual childhood. She gives him names for the stars, both the Pol Joni names and where different the Orlanthi names. She does this so that he has more than one friend in the sky on his nights of lonely vigil.

A moment comes when no one has anything to add, they just watch the sky over them for a while and discover that it has moved during their conversation. Abul is exhausted by all the various emotions of this eventful day. Being near Yenda reminds him of some ancient and happier time and soon his weariness takes over him. His slow and regular respiration informs Yenda that for once, Abul hasn't fought for sleep but has find it peacefully. What better gift could he receive from her? Yenda smiles tenderly at the young man asleep beside her. She allows herself to drift off with him, only waking with the pre-Yelmrise glow. They rise together and head off to the dawn watch ceremony.

The following morning, after the Dawn watch, a small group leaves the legion's base and makes it's way through the rubble and into New Pavis. Dori, Egil and Graylor taking pains not to be recognisable, the others, Landros, Santhis, Abul and Yenda, have greater freedom as they are not yet know to the Lunar authorities. First port of call is the Humakt temple on Sword Street. After making their observances to Humakt the party split up. Dori goes to find Aurel, Santhis and Landros head out to the Sun Dome Temple and the others gravitate towards the practice ground hoping to spot Kahn.

Egil rises before Yelm, with Gerras' help he dresses himself and dons his freshly burnished armour. Then he bids his companion farewell and heads out into the temple grounds. He stalks across to Illig's quarters.

There are rumours among many in the legion that Illig doesn't sleep, Egil hopes this is true. He raps on the door frame with a gauntleted fist, after a short delay the familiar voice of the Warlord "What can I do for you Egil? Do I need to venture on to the godplane for you once again? Come in and tell me your woe."

Fear grips Egil like a vice but remembering Gerras' words he passes through the door. Illig motions to a small table where a jug of goat's milk and a pair of small leather cups stand. "Help yourself, I've been waiting for this visit." After Egil fills both cups and hands one to Illig he speaks. His voice is low and he talks slowly so that his voice does not betray the fear he feels, "My lord, I have come to ask your forgiveness for my previous rashness which put the whole legion in danger. I realise that this is an impertinent request and am fully prepared for any consequences that may come from it."

A smile flickers briefly across Illig's face before he resumes his stern countenance. "The request may be seen as impertinent by some but it, in my eyes, is necessary. I would have no forgiveness for you had someone else asked in your stead. But you performed your part well in the heroquest, although your nearly lost your role but found it a again, and help restore an important item of regalia to the legion. Now you have shown your mettle in coming to me here although I would have preferred a later audience with you. Your forgiveness is granted but remember the doom that is upon you should you interfere in a ceremony. Now you may go."

Egil bows his head, "Thank you my lord." Then he turns to leave, as he opens the door Illig calls to him "Egil, I think I will suggest you to Dori as a member of her new cohort." Egil turns and bows once more "Yes, sir, thank you."

Then he hurries back to his accomodation and meets Gerras and Mauvin. "I must find that boy and get my sword back, Illig has granted me forgiveness, I am free to bear my blade once more."

Onward to [[ChronP41 Footprints in the dust]]
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