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[[ChronPavis Pavis]]

[[ChronP57 They think it's all over]]

==== "He's not Humakti" ====
//Freezeday, Illusion week, Fire season - evening//

Dori steps back from the demon as it fades away, and looks round. "Anyone else hurt? I take it Abul is... yes, he is, isn't he? Right, let's get cleared up and back to base. I'll just report in."

She calls up the North Wind again, and not as a weapon this time. "Primary target destroyed. Secondary interference driven off. Three injured, none critical, one dead. We'll patch them up and return."

Elendala looks at the amount of blood on her, and round at the battered state of the rest of the group. "Three?"

"Three injured enough that they can't fight properly. Kristen you know about, Aelf's going to fall over as soon as he comes out of battle rage, he's walking on a broken leg, and one over there." She nods in Kallyr's direction.

"She's not one of us. Two injured."

"Try explaining that to Illig." She nods to Insterid. "You all right treating that, or do you want some help?"

"I could, but you're better."

There is a background protest of "it isn't serious, stop fussing," but both of them ignore it.

"Right, get some of that iron out of the way, I'll be with you in a minute. Landros, handle the perimeter, please. Graylor, get your people finishing off the enemy if there's any insufficiently dead, and you check our people for anything infected that needs immediate treatment. Yenda, Elendala, I want you helping me with Aelf."

Dori takes Yenda's arm and steers her away from Abul's body. "I hadn't forgotten your knack for getting dramatic results from a light touch in the right place. I take it you know the neck hold to put someone out for a few seconds? You're going to help me put a few people back together."

Yenda is still dazed from Irnar's revelation and follows Dori meekly and can only manage to nod in reply to Dori's question. Two phrases are dominating her thoughts "He's not a Humakti.", "There is a way back." It is tearing her apart on the one hand the loyal Humati is revolted at the thought of returning from beyond the grave and on the other the loyal friend exalts at the idea of Abul being returned to her.

Dori looks back at where the original fight had started. "Elendala, you've got Kristen stablised?

"Yes - we'll need to loosen the tourniquet eventually, but not till after we're back."

"And by then Benlan will have taken over. Fine, come and help me with Aelf."

With nothing left to fight, Aelfwyrd is swaying slightly, leaning on his ferocious weapon for support. Dori surveys the damage again. "Right, I know you'll say this is nothing to fuss about really, but you'll fight better if that arm isn't dislocated, and run faster if we fix the leg. Having a piece of bone poking out of it is probably slowing you down. Sit."

"Elendala, I know I've shown you this before. To fix a dislocation, or to set a bone, you have to pull it further out, then let it back in slowly and carefully in the right place. If the patient is pulling against you, that's harder, and causes more damage, so you want them unconscious. Usually we'd use herbs for that, or brandy, but the neck grip is much faster recovery - Yenda should be able to put him out for five seconds, with no after-effects. If she gets it wrong, holds for a second too long, he'll be dead, but I trust her not to do that."

She smiles at the girl encouragingly.

Yenda smiles back, the first cracking of the shocked expression she had been wearing since Irnar's comment.

"This will be easier if you don't fight me Aelf."

She kneels behind the young man and wraps her left arm round his muscular chest. He grins widely and starts to relax comfortably in her embrace. She presses one knuckle lightly into his neck. After a few seconds she frowns and presses harder.

"It's alright love I can stay here as long as you l...." Aelf falls unconscious midsentence.

"Now." Yenda says. "He's got thicker neck muscles than most, it provides him some protection against the sleeper hold."

"We'll do the arm first, that's easier. Elendala, hold him against my pull, and try not to damage those ribs any more in the process."
This takes a lot of strength, but the resultant clunk as the joint goes back into place is most satisfactory.

"If we were further from camp, I'd have you use your charm on the bruising, but that can wait, it's only pain, On to that leg."

Aelf wakes briefly between operations but is quickly sent back to sleep by Yenda.

Again, the 5-second operation is a success: the broken end of bone is matched up with its partner, with no further damage being caused. "This time you will use your charm I want that bone set, in so far as you can, and I know that won't be much. We'll put a splint on, too, then his greaves over the top, and that should stop him doing it too much damage before Benlan can fix it properly. If that comes apart again, the sharp ends could make a right mess of the big blood vessels in the leg."

"No geases?"

"None relevant, no, but good thinking."

Elendala pulls out a trinket from her pouch - a small white stone set into an arm-band sized for a child. There are markings in the band that Yenda finds vaguely familiar. There's no change on the surface of the wound as Elendala concentrates, but after a minute she looks up at Dori. "That's as set as I can get it. Another hit, or a fall, and it'll come apart again, but not if it's left alone."

"Good work. Right, next patient, and same again."

Rather than worrying at the nagging feeling the markings have caused. Yenda lets he mind go blank and lets it sort out the problem. Suddenly an image of black marks on a pale background coincides with a woman's grunt of pain. "Kallyr." She is so startled that she speaks aloud.

"What?" Dori asks.

"Those markings on the healing stone, they are the same marks that Kallyr carries on her wrists." Yenda replies quietly.

"Yes. Clan markings. That's going to make this very appropriate, but probably difficult."

She looks back. "Elendala, keep up. Next patient, and we'll need you to do exactly the same job on this one."

Irnar has none of Yenda's inhibitions but has been around Humakti long enough to not bother them with the idea. However, under the guise of co-ordinating the clean up and blessing of the corpses, he gets to talk to Gerras and Mauvin "Don't let them burn Abul's body. He wasn't a Humakti so we can bring him back. I don't have any skills to do so. Gerras is there some spirit ju-ju that you can do to help?"

Gerras, sitting on his haunches, shakes his head. He is looking a little perturbed by his failure in the fighting and looking for a way to redeem himself. "My magic with spirits is mainly through charms, my friend. In the pens there are some shaman, they have good ju-ju with spirits and may be able to work out what you require to save this boy's spirit from Humakt's embrace forever. Don't tell Egil though, he'll be mad."

"Yeah these sword polishers seem to get all stiff and excitable in all the wrong ways!" Irnar flashes a brief smile. "Graylor won't be as straight laced as many of them will be. I don't think any will actively stop us but they certainly won't give us any support. Except Yenda, in the end she won't be able to help herself. Part of her will be disgusted with herself for doing it, but do it she will."

He looks round briefly to see that they aren't being actively monitored.

"What about miss broken-arm?" He inclines his head in the direction of Kallyr. "Do you think she would help?"

At the moment, though, Kallyr is surrounded by people dealing with the aforementioned broken arm. They've been aware of some discussion involving Insterid being risk-averse, but that seems to have been resolved, and Kallyr's latest comment sounds amused. "So you've taken a method if doing an instant unarmed kill, and worked out how to use it for healing? Only Dori..."

"Death in the service of life, remember? When opposites work together, a lot of things become possible. Let's get this over with, anyway. Offir, you're stronger, would you...?"
There's a few grunts and a crunch.
"Sorted. Splints, that healing charm, then armour back on. Elendala..."

"No. That's for my friends." She's standing back from the group, arms folded.

Dori looks up at her. "I really don't care whether this is a friend of yours or a trollkin. You claim to be Humakti, that means you kill impartially, and in this case heal impartially. Just like healers - another case where opposites turn out to be identical."

"It's not important." Kallyr sounds completely neutral on the subject. "Insterid's got enough healing magic to do a quick fix."

"And she'll do that as well. There's a matter of principle here." Dori stands up, hand on her sword-hilt. "That was a direct order. You know the consequences of disobedience. Your choice." She also sounds completely neutral and unexcited about it, and Elendala does a double-take as she realises what that disinterested tone is implying.

"You can't be serious - you wouldn't....?"

"I think you'll find she would," Kallyr interjects. "I still say fixing the arm isn't that important, but your survival might be?"

Irnar has approached the group and is listening in to the conversation with interest. He is just about to speak out when Graylor calls him over. Sighing he moves away, but still listening.

Elendala looks from one to the other, then kneels down and pulls her charm out again, grasping Kallyr's arm without looking at her face.

"Concentrate on joining the ends of the bone," Dori says softly. "You can see, or feel, where those are, right?"

"Sort of... it's not quite like that.... I have to //be// the bone.... there, done."

She stands up, looking confused, and Dori puts a hand on her arm. "Well done. Now, take a break, and prepare to move out. You'll be helping Kristen."

Insterid watches her go as she applies her own magic, with considerably more ease. "She's right, you know. You //can't// use healing magic without feeling at least some sympathy for the patient."

"So I've been told, " Dori agrees. "But is that cause, or effect?"

"You mean you were trying to... Dori, how many levels were you working at once, there?"

"Mmm. To quote my teacher-by-example, work it out." She heads back to where the majority of her Hundred are now forming up to move off, and behind her, Insterid starts laughing quietly.

Graylor has called Irnar for two reasons, one is for the rope he always carries and the other is for his help in constructing a litter for Abul. Irnar shows Santhis the basics of how to weave a man-sized net. Once completed they will slot in long poles down the sides and layer cloaks on the net and finally Abul on top.

"We'll need your spear as one of the poles." Irnar tells Santhis. "I'll go and ask the Vingans about borrowing another, there being no suitable trees to make a pole."

Santhis grunts an affirmative, all he can manage whilst attending to the new and difficult task of net-making. Irnar also has a quiet word with Graylor. "Don't put any Humakti blessings on Abul. He isn't a Humakti and will not necessarily appreciate them."

Graylor raises one questioning eyebrow. "And you are also about to do something I will not approve of too."

They have known each other too long not to be able to read each other's intentions.

"Yes. He's **not** Humakti." Irnar repeats stressing the negative. "He has a way back if his friends will help him. I am going to ask for help. I know the Legion will be against the attempt, but there are others I can ask."

He glances meaningfully over Graylor's shoulder. Graylor has no need to turn round to understand. He is very conscious of Kallyr's presence.

"I certainly won't stand in your way. But there may be people who will. Oh and be sure to talk to Dori. She knows the Legion best."

"Okay"

Irnar heads back to the Vingans, intercepting Dori as she leaves. One gentle arm on hers, he steers her back to Kallyr.

"A quick word Hundredthane," His charming smile disarms any bristling offence at manhandling a senior officer. "I have been asked to talk to you about Abul. Do you remember that he is **not** Humakti." Again Irnar stresses the negative. But this time Dori is quicker than Graylor.

"And a non-Humakti has post-life choices that Humakti don't." She finishes Irnar's point for him. "You do realise that what you are contemplating is abhorrent to most of us here?"

"Yes, but then as you said earlier. 'Life in the service of death. When opposites work together, a lot of things become possible.' "

Irnar watches Dori with a twinkle in his eye.

"Yes, but that's not what..." and then the clack drops. "Oh, very good, using my arguments against me.

"Well, there's many paths to the Truth, and Humakt's is only one. I can't, and shouldn't, try to stop anyone using what's the right path for them, though obviously no Humakti will be able to help. Or at least...." her voice trails off. "No, leave that for now. Not all the Legion are Humakti: Hereward is a hero of many other gods, too. Jamal isn't Humakti, and he'll certainly have an interest: he'll have a pretty good idea what path Abul will be on. Even more importantly, Benlan Whitehands is most certainly not Humakti, not in this life, and he's exactly who you need to speak to. Whether he has the power to do what you want, unaided, I have no idea, but that's where to start.

She pauses, thinking. "There's no-one in the Legion who'd go so far as a Lead Cross, and Benlan is here with Illig's support, but even so... the idea isn't going to be popular. Be careful who you talk to, you don't want someone deciding it's blasphemy and acting on that, or there'll be two of you in need of help. If the first most people hear about it is Illig making an announcement, that's safest, though which way he'd decide isn't something I can predict."

"Thanks for your help. I wonder, would she help?" Irnar nods in Kallyr's direction.

"Probably, yes, and probably in ways you wouldn't expect. There's an old saying, 'be careful what you ask for, you may get it,' and it applies double to her. Good luck."

Irnar's mind is reflecting on the Whispering Swords and the lack of help the last time he had worked with Kallyr. Though, even Irnar had to admit there had been so much death and destruction that it wasn't surprising that one small scout band was overlooked. All the morbid thoughts do for him is to stiffen his resolve to test Kallyr's quality.

"Hi, Kallyr," he calls in a friendly way as he approaches. She is being strapped back into her armour, a difficult process with her damaged arm. Offir is putting the last touches to some hasty changes to her sword belt - the broadsword is now slung for a left-handed draw. "Can I ask a favour?"

"Certainly, ask away."

"Can I borrow a long spear? We have only one and we want to make a stretcher to carry Abul back to camp."

"I expect so." Kallyr looks to Insterid, who nods. "He can take mine - I'll carry the fancy one, you won't be using it."

"I am so sorry for his death. Yet one more person whose life was shortened by my presence, dying trying to help me. And such a waste - I said yesterday, he had the makings of a very fine Wind Lord, if he didn't eventually go Humakti."

"No, he wasn't Humakti. He only initiated to Hereward. His adopted father is in camp. I was thinking of asking his permission to try and bring him back."

"Bring him back? In a camp full of Humakti? That's pretty ambitious, but you're right, he's worth it. And you want a bit more than the loan of a spear, don't you?" She pauses for a moment, thinking - you can almost see this being slotted neatly into her web of plans and relationships. "You'll need to get the healing temple in town to help you with that - I'll get someone to have words with them if you like, they owe the Vingan temple quite a lot, one way and another. The other problem may be getting an individual White Lady to lead the way. Benlan, presumably, but if he's reluctant...." She hesitates slightly. "Ask him before I leave, if you can. If he doesn't want to, we can force the issue. There's things one Lightbringer can demand of another. Forcing him into it isn't ideal, but if that's what it takes, I'll do it."

"Thank you, you are most gracious," Irnar replies. "I don't know how we will be doing this but, if you like will keep you informed of the plans. But, now I have to see about carrying him back."

Mauvin walks along next to Graylor listening to the conversation. "If he comes back he'll be sicker than an Uroxi chewing on a broo, at least for a few days. I've heard coming back to life makes you very poorly for a few days. Still a small price to pay for being alive I guess. I can offer some help of some sort here if it's needed but don't tell Egil, he's likely to sever me again and possibly literally this time. I wonder how they'll do it, I've heard that they sometimes do it as a Lightbringers'. If they do and you need an Orlanth I can stand there as a Thunder Brother. Egil's fit for sleeping after tonight or might have problems with keeping his head and neck together if he's pissed off anyone less forgiving than Dori, Abul's father for example. Still that's a conversation for another day."

"Egil will be OK. He seems to invite trouble but everything usually works out well in the end. I am sure that finally killing Barefang will mitigate his incaution in returning through the Rubble late. That and having the new temple defences given an early workout," Graylor replies.

Irnar completes the stretcher and Abul is carefully laid on top. Graylor details Yenda, Egil, Santhis and Mauvin to carry the stretcher with Irnar and Gerras to spell them if they get tired. However, Santhis firmly stands between the poles giving Mauvin no chance to take his place.

"It will be better this way. Trust me," Santhis says.

The order to move out is given by Dori and Abul is lifted. As soon as Santhis takes hold of the spears they begin to glow and Abul's body is bathed in a soft radiance that makes the stretcher party look ethereal.

The return to the camp is uneventful, with the controllers of the camp defences whispering in Dori's ear all the way home. The healers meet them as soon as they enter the gates, Benlan and his team taking charge of Kristen and Aelf before dealing with the lesser injuries, and Ernaldesta intercepting Kallyr.

After a brief report to Siggyr and Illig (who have clearly heard most of what they need to know on the wind, on the way back), Dori looks round the camp, mostly dark except for the small fires. "I take it the cavalry are back by now? I'd better go and tell Jamal I've got his son killed."

Egil, walking quickly, catches up with Dori. "Excuse me ma'am, but I think I should come with you to see Jamal. I know you are shouldering the blame for Abul's death but as we all know the fault is entirely mine for traipsing across the Rubble after nightfall. I should at least be there ready to accept his challenge to a duel. My fault, my death. Seems only fair to me. I know you will say this is not so, but weren't we willing to execute Kallyr not so many hours ago for causing all those deaths whether by design or accident?"

"If he'd died on the original trip across the Rubble, I might agree with you, though I haven't heard the details of that yet. But going back to face Barefang instead of simply running was my idea, and it certainly wasn't your fault that the demons showed up, nor that he was alone when they did. No, I was in command, so I take the blame. Come along if you wish, maybe you can comfort Jamal by telling him how heroic Abul was before we caught up to you, but his death wasn't your fault."
She carries on walking, and her next few words probably weren't meant to be heard. "At least this time it was just carelessness. At least this time I didn't kill him myself."

Jamal has returned with his retinue, now his mounted "ten", from a long day of cavalry practice exercises, (and restraining Bolthar from attacking every bit of Chaos found, no matter how minor) though too late to have been able to go out in support of the rescue mission (where his group's speed could have been useful). Someday, they may all be cavalry rather than mounted infantry, but that day is not yet. He is now supervising the way the mounts are treated and how effectively his men can handle this last task.

While he was of course detected by the new camp defences, and briefed on the current situation even before reaching "home", he cannot help but brood on what might be happening to his comrades, and his former ward, out there in the darkness, and perhaps wish that cavalry was more effective in darkness. The honour of a Hazar does not sit well with others fighting while he remains in safety, and he knows from experience how dangerous the Death Lord is.

When he notices his former ten-thane, now hundred-thane, Dorinda and the young Egil walking directly towards him, he realises that the fight must be over, and successful - or is it? Their sombre expressions suggest otherwise.

"Waleesha" he says respectfully. "You appear to have been busy while I was otherwise engaged? How may Jamal bin Jaran al'Awara serve you?" Then, dropping the formality: "Is all well? You escaped the teeth of the Dark Hater?"

As Dori is about to speak Egil cuts across her "I'm sorry but I've killed Abul." He pauses momentarily before he continues "Well, when I say killed I mean he has died and the fault is mine. You see, I was to escort him back here from the new city, but we tarried a bit with the Zebras and by the time we started out on our return it was getting dark. I never knew the danger the night held for him, I just though he was spinning us a yarn. I am truly sorry for what has happened and offer my neck as weregild for him."

Jamal looks unbelievingly at Egil while the young legionnaire stammers the news. Confused words come to him as if he seems unable to grasp the full meaning of the message. "Abul?... Killed?" he mutters in shock. "This can't be..."

As Egil finishes his announcement, the Carmanian Hazar grabs him by the arm and demands with lightning-throwing eyes, "Where is he? WHERE IS MY SON?"

Egil casts his free hand in the direction of the underground temple, where Abul's corpse has been laid to be preserved by the chill and sanctity of the place. Without hesitation, Jamal releases Egil and runs to the temple, pushing aside harshly anyone who crosses his path.

Very soon, a long, terrible and desperate cry of agony resonates from the depths of the subterranean holy place.

"Demons kill efficiently," Dori notes, looking down at the still body. "He fought well, but he never had a chance. Egil's wrong - it may have been his fault that they were crossing the Rubble after dark, but they'd have been safely back in camp if I hadn't decided that the way to deal with Barefang was to go hunting him, and let Abul come with us. I'd kept him out of the main fight, but somehow his medallion came off, and at a time when he'd been separated from the rest of his group. And the demons came... if he hadn't been alone, he might have survived. I was in command, so if it's anyone's fault, it's mine."

Jamal reacts quite abruptly, his eyes glittering both from tears and anger. "Demons? What demons? Things summoned by Barefang? How did they get loose and past your vigilance, Waleesha?

"Not summoned by Barefang, unless they were delayed. He turned dead trolls into zombies and Abul was part of the team dealing with them, but he was dead when the demons arrived, if only just. When I say "arrived", they just appeared - materialised from the other side. Six of them, surrounding Abul from the moment they appeared. Afterwards, Yenda noticed his medallion had fallen off. He'd mentioned wondering if there was some link between that and the "demons" he'd run from as a child, but I'd assumed it was the exaggeration of a child's memory, and the demons were trolls or something. These, though - black skin, no eyes, four arms with a sword in each, and tails with stingers. Demons. They did what they'd come to do, then faded back to the other side, and a good job too, if they'd stayed to fight I'm not sure we'd have beaten them."

The Carmanian Hazar listens attentively to the hundred-thane. On his usually stern face, amazement and consternation are dislodging blame and aggression. "Black skin, no eyes, four arms with a sword in each, and tails with stingers..? May I add: fanged mouth, lustrous, jet-black skin with swirling orange streaks instead of a face?"

As Dorinda confirms this, Jamal passes wiry hands over his face and mutters with a shaky voice, "Then... neither you or Egil are responsible, but only me... Eight years later, I finally get the conclusive word of this awful nightmare... Oh Holy Bull, give me the strength to survive this!"

"Abul! Why didn't you tell me?" he laments desperately. "The Spolite medallion... I should have guessed, how can I have been so blind to the obvious...?"

Suddenly,he strikes his forehead with his two closed fists with rage, then grabs the blood-stained corpse in his arms and addresses it as if to a long-gone child: "Of course, you tried to tell me... when you were trying to hide at night in my journey chest, you were trying to tell me... when you were screaming in your sleep, you were trying to tell me... when you were so gifted to make magical light, you were trying to tell me... but I was too busy to listen, I just thought that you were broken and I have tried to repair you... teaching you how to trust again, teaching you how to speak again, teaching you how to sleep again, teaching you how to become strong and proud of yourself again... Teaching you! Teaching you!! TEACHING YOU!!! ...but never I have really listened because the more I was teaching you, the less you were complaining and I was so proud of your successes... in fact, they were MY successes and my own vanity blinded me and finally... killed you."

His eyes are now full of abundant paternal tears but his face displays a terrible mask of wrath and his voice is a frightening roar accentuated by, for him, an unusually thick Carmanian accent. "I should have been here to fight these infected beasts of Evil! I should have been here to protect you! I put you on the roads where I should have been hunting these cursed witches of the Enemy for ever... I deserved to die instead of you for such failure to my sacred duties..."

The internal turmoil between Jamal's fury and sorrow finds a temporary answer as the implacable swordsman falls on his dead son's shoulder, sobbing poignantly.

Graylor gently interrupts Jamal's grief. "I take it that you know of these demons since you are able to describe them so accurately. Abul talked to Dori and I about darkness demons, but we thought that he was talking figuratively not literally. So we can all take the blame in various forms. It doesn't change the fact that it was dumb luck on behalf of a creature of unlife that snapped the chain of Abul's medallion that made him detectable by these demons."

Jamal being fundamentaly a man of action, raises his head again and looks at the people gathered around him and the dead body of his son. There is no shame in his attitude for the tears he poured over his loved deceased heir, but only the wild energy of a wounded bull. His mind seems then to recall past events which fall down on him like a new heavy yoke. "Abul never described these demons to me precisely either, I suppose because he never took the time to observe them closely as he was trying to run away from them as were many survivors of that infernal night..."

The Carmanian pauses and adds, "My regiment was camping on the river banks, a stinking place near a tannery, when some crazed town militia-men turned up. Several of their patrols were fighting some mysterious darkness forces and clearly it wasn't going well. When we arrived, we found only dismembered bodies of inhabitants along a bloody trail of various massacres across a poor city district. Several patrols of militia-men had been killed there too, or to put it better, slaughtered by a visibly far superior enemy. We all agreed that some Spolite malice was at work here. We inquired all night long and the demon description comes from the convergent testimonies. What I found myself was a terror-shocked eight-years now orphan holding against himself what I took at that time for a weird magical luck-charm, the medallion he never took off after that..."

"Lady Jakkanna suggested that the medallion could be very important to his family," Yenda adds. "I think this may be one reason why the demons came. One to kill Abul and two to get the medallion back. They succeeded in the first but not the second. I think they were expecting it to be on Abul's body. Our attacks stopped them from being able to find it. Hopefully, now that he is wearing it again he will be able to avoid the one demon that seemed to follow him into the afterlife."

"I will then have a discussion with Lady Jakkanna as soon as possible." Jamal agrees.

Like a cornered bull in a arena finding a new path toward the fight, Jamal's mind begins to anticipate action again. "But if this turns out to be true, it would mean that the story isn't over and that this medallion will attract trouble again. The resting place of Abul will not stay a safe place for long..."

"Speaking of which," Irnar chimes in. "He needn't stay there. Abul is not Humakti and not bound by their strictures. With your permission sir, I would like to put together an attempt to bring him back before he walks too far along the Swordpath. I apologise if I have said anything out of turn or against your Carmanian background. But, it seems worth the attempt to me. If we are to do it then he needs to be out of this temple as soon as possible. Humakt's influence here will ensure the severing of any connection between his body and soul."

Egil's feeling of guilt is not abated by Jamal's or Dori's words but Irnar drags him away from his thoughts of self pity. He looks aghast at the suggestion, "That is a foul idea and repulsive to Humakt. Yes it is sad that he has died but when the Lord Death calls all must answer. It is not for us to decide against that. Only two have left his halls and that to stop the world from dying. I can't stop you from doing as you will with his body but I will not give you any help to retrieve his spirit either. Sorry Jamal, but Humakt has him now or will do once he is judged at the Sword Bridge."

"But, that's the point. Humakt doesn't have him, and never will. Abul is not bound to Humakt, and never has been," Irnar replies emphatically. "I am sorry that it upsets your Hu-driven sentiments Egil. I know that it will upset a good many here. But he is as free as Kallyr to come back from this. All I ask is the chance to let those who love him contact his soul and ask if that is what he wants."

Jamal considers both Irnar and Egil with, at first, an incredulous expression then with a sudden burst of hope. "If there is any chance to redeem my absence, to mitigate its consequences and to destroy the action of Evil, I must take it." Jamal's eyes flash, full of will. "I agree with your point Irnar, the Hum'Akt just forbids resurrection to his followers, blessing them with his eternal protection against Evil... but think of it Egil, the Hum'Akt has never forbidden to others powers to come back from the Dead and there are more than two examples... but, by Bisos' invincible hooves, how?"

"He's even freer than Kallyr, from what I've heard," Dori says soberly. "Persuading someone who's dead to retrace their steps is supposed to be extremely difficult, even if you'd think they'd want to come back, and the more strong-willed they are, the harder it gets. That's one reason why I think it isn't just Humakt's way to the Truth that that journey should be one-way, I think it's a more general principle."

She sighs. "Jamal, you're his father. I can't, and won't, deny you the right to carry out whatever rites you deem appropriate for him, as long as they wouldn't dishonour him according to his own truths. But nor can I help you in any way if what you decide goes so deeply against my own beliefs and oaths. I'm certainly not going to help you persuade Benlan Whitehands that he should attempt anything so dangerous - I'm supposed to protect the Legion healers, not encourage them to take unnecessary risks. Similarly, if you decided to use what remaining debt you might have with the healers at Horn Gate, I won't be helping you there, either. But nor will I prevent anyone under my command who is //not// initiated to Humakt from doing as they will."

Yenda abruptly interrupts speaking only to herself she loudly declaims, "Demons, we must know about the demons," and rushes into the Temple Library. An occasional "demons" can be heard amongst the rustling of paper. Graylor shrugs his shoulders at her strange behaviour.

"She is overwrought with loosing Abul. She and I can do nothing to help your endeavours, but knowing about these demons will certainly be useful." He follows Yenda into the library. A scene of organised devastation greets his eyes. Most of the scrolls and books are no longer on the shelves but placed in piles on the tables and floor. Yenda is bent over a book reading and flicking over pages with frenetic concentration. Graylor steps up to the few remaining volumes on the shelves.

Without looking up Yenda comments, "Those are no use, there is no sign of Jalmari writing on any of them, so Vindana and I dismissed them."

Indeed when Graylor has puzzled out the titles of a few of them he agrees. He knows his scholastic abilities are very limited but feels that being here would support Yenda. Really only to pass the time he pulls out one book at random. It is titled "Medicinal Herbs of Carmania: Part II". He is drawn to it partly because of Abul and partly because of his interest in herbs. Heavier than expected he puts it down on the only free bit of desk. It is bound in dark leather with gilded writing, a harmony rune formed of metal strips inlaid into the leather complete the otherwise plane cover, a heavy clasp locks the pages together but with no obvious way to unlock it. "Unusual precautions for an uncontroversial book." Graylor thinks. He rests his hand on the cover and a tingle passes through his fingers which have by chance touched the rune. Some unknown instinct causes him to press the back of his gloved hand to the rune. The Jalmari bands on his glove contact the book's inlaid bands accompanied by a bright flash and a soft click. The clasp falls open and Yenda jumps up in shock.

"What was that?" she cries.

"This book. It was locked, but my Jalmari glove proved to be the key," Graylor replies amazed. He opens the cover only to find a second cover inside. "I think you better take over now. You are a better reader than I."

"Holy Jalmar!" she exclaims. "This calls itself 'The Book of Shadows' and contains a dictionary of demons! What they are, how to fight them, banishment rituals and more. I think this is what we have been looking for, but it will need more studying for me to know."

Graylor goes back to the shelves and pulls down "Medicinal Herbs of Carmania: Part I". Identical to its brother, it responds to Graylor's glove in the same manner revealing 'The Book of Light'. A tome containing mystical aspects of Jalmar, that Graylor already knows, including the detection of illuminants and their testing, the Sword of Truth.

"These must be lost magical books of Jalmar," Graylor murmurs. "Though I didn't know that there were such things! I need to speak with General Vur. Don't let anyone know of this until I return." With the warning he departs.

As Graylor and Yenda leave for the library, Jamal looks at Dorinda with a stern face supported only by a slight smile of gratitude. He bows politely as he declares, "I appreciate that you recognize the legal aspect of my responsibilities for the ceremonies, Waleesha, and I agree on the limits of my fatherly wishes to bring Abul back. Maybe Seeker-of-Righteous-Death can become a good adviser on this case and help me to avoid some aberration. I will also seek advice of Lady Jakkanna, after all her primary function is to take care of the dead..."

Turning to the people gathered around he adds.

"Anyone feeling that duty or love is a reason enough to help me, please make contact with Irnar who seems to have taken the risk to split the Legion in two... and before it might cause a problem, I think I need a private interview with the Warlord himself. The last thing I wish would be to make the situation worse."

Yaren, who has been standing nearby, speaks up. "I didn't really know this boy but I'd like to help as it is my duty, I feel. I know the way to the Sword Bridge. I can guide anyone who wishes to go there."

On these words, he leaves the place hastily to give new orders to his retinue and find Illig Stargazer, sorrow contained by action as always with him.

"I should report to Illig, too," Dori says, "The rest of you - that's enough for today. We've had a busy day, and two hard fights this evening. Rest, and sleep. I'll make sure our guests have somewhere to sleep, too, it's far too late for them to go back home now. You might want to join Aelf on the Wake Floor, after today's events - remember, no dreams can enter Humakt's Hall except those he permits."

After a while, Jamal is back. His face seems worried as if he had to make careful choices, but anyway he calls his men in a firm voice to announce to them, "As you probably know by now, my son Abul is dead in the early hours of the night, killed by the Darkness Spawns he feared so much and not as uselessly I used to think during all his childhood... This seems to me to be a terrible injustice done to him, and the Legion gave me his body back to organize the funeral, as should fall to any father...”

His Ten, the Second Ten of the Seventh Cohort’s men, express some consoling words, but after everyone had the opportunity to speak, Jamal continues.
"But someone... Irnar, a devotee of the Cat Lord and friend of Graylor, Abul’s new Ten Thane, to be precise, proposed an alternative: instead of burial, we could try a recall of Abul’s soul. It may seem an anathema to our Hum’Akti friends but as long as I respect Abul’s truth I will get the neutrality of Illig and Dorinda... that’s where I need your help, especially of those here who aren’t Hum’Akti."

Only Malan moves as if to object, but Jamal stops him before he can formulate his words. "Even if I wish Abul back among us, I’m still not sure if it’s feasible or even desirable. That’s why early tomorrow we will bring the corpse to Duke Raus’ Mansion and seek advice there. Whatever the decision, Abul deserves at least a proper Carmanian funeral, and Lady Jakkanna is the best person for this task. For the moment all I ask of you is to watch over Abul’s body during the night and be ready for an escort at dawn.”

He turns then to the Praxian adept of the Iron Man, "Seeker-of-Righteous-Death, when we met you told me that you respect truth and honour, and you taught me that your occupation was to watch over the deceased to make sure no ill happens to the dead and the living. In fact, the same mission as Lady Jakkanna if I understand you both... Would you agree to tell me if Abul’s death was a righteous one?”

The shaman nods in agreement. "Dead and alive must stay separated and at rest. This night, as you will guard the body, I will watch over the soul. Unrighteous dead often rises as a vengeful ghost if left without proper rituals..."

"Surely not in Humakt’s own temple!" Malan interrupts.

“Nothing seems sure and usual here, Malan, and I will use any possible means to make sure that Abul will meet the fate planned by the Good Lord and not the doom schemed by the Master of Lies. Now... meeting at the temple for the rest of the night, I need to talk to Irnar.”

Graylor is standing in the doorway to the inner temple listening to Jamal. His rush to consult with Caspian is halted by the quiet, dignified words of the Carmanian. Graylor steps over to Jamal and salutes smartly.

"Abul was placed in my ten and in my care. That care was not sufficient to preserve his life but, with your blessing Jamal, we will make sure that that care does not fail his body. It will be an honour to keep vigil with him through till Yelmrise. Then we will bear him back to Pavis where the truth and justice of his death can be determined and the proper action taken."

"Thank you Graylor. Your offer is well meant and accepted. But you and your men have been fighting and need to recover too. Do not forget to care for yourselves in your willingness to care for my son. I will be back anon." He returns Graylor's salute and leaves with Irnar.

Graylor looks at the rest of the ten and starts to command. "I want..." he stops and starts again in a more personal manner. "I think it would be nice if we can arrange to keep at least two of us awake to keep vigil with Abul. I don't want to impose watches or any such formal arrangements. This will be done for the love of Abul. Santhis, can you go to his other friends and invite them to join us if they wish. I have an urgent errand to run and then I will join you. I for one will not be leaving this temple again until we carry Abul out again in the morning."

Graylor departs, returning with General Vur, who is yawning whilst trying to continue the excited but quiet conversation he is having with Graylor. They disappear into the library with Yenda and a low murmur can be heard in the temple. After half an hour Graylor emerges and joins the vigil.

-----

As soon as he and Jamal have left the temple Irnar heaves a sigh of relief and starts talking. "It seems somehow disrespectful to be talking about resurrection in one of Humakt's own temples. I hope I am not giving you false hopes. I really don't know what is involved and if there is anyone competent to perform this sort of magic. But I am betting that Benlan will."

"Irnar, no father wishes to outlive his son...." Jamal hesitates. "I really thank you for your interest... I know that any father would say the same thing, but Abul really deserved to get a full life. He is now like wheat harvested too early, only wasted promise..."

Memories and emotion make his voice shiver. "He was so dedicated, so eager to do some good down here, you know... Irnanr, take good care not to arouse the hostility of our Death worshipping friends and if I can be of any support, even the most costly tell me. I have helped enough people around not to try to request some favours in return... For Benlan, I can't guess his answer. He is a full member of the Legion, and still I don't know the reasons why a healer would spend his life among a company of dangerous mercenaries... probably some specific allegiance to our Warlord. Anyway, we have nothing to lose by trying..."

Irnar sniffs the air delicately: the distinctive metallic smell of fresh blood is much reduced. "There is much less blood in the air now, so I am guessing that he has dealt with all the major injuries and may be able to chat with me. Go back to your son and I will report when there is anything useful for you to know."

Jamal nods stiffly and smiles politely hiding his burden as much as he can.

He watches as Jamal turns sadly back to the temple then lightly runs off to the medical area. "Why is it always on the opposite side of camp?" he wonders to himself. "There again I can't see healing magic working at its best on top of a temple dedicated to death!"

Indeed, as he reaches the "hospital" area, most of the work has been done. Benlan always prefers to make sure that all injuries are healed, no matter how minor, saying that even a scratch is an opening for Malia. A few of the warriors are being treated by Arroin's arts, and here Benlan is giving very firm instructions about cleanliness. Normally at this stage his own white robes are rather more bloodstained than he would prefer, but today they're spotless. Other healers are moving around the area - Janeera, young Kaylee, earnestly discussing herbs with Benlan, and Irnar sees Ernaldesta smiling at him as she collects damaged clothing into a pile near a cauldron of boiling water.

Irnar smiles back warmly, he breathes in deeply to catch her scent. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a poor decision as his nose fills with the scents of a hospital: most notably a strong smell of drying blood assaults his nose. He shakes his head and snorts to clear the smell.

"What the hell do you think you are doing? Take you, your snot and your diseases out of my facility." Benlan's voice cuts clearly through the moans of the injured men. Irnar looks round wondering who the man is talking to, then with a start realises that he is the object of Benlan's displeasure.

"No snot and no diseases," Irnar replies to Benlan. "Just a nose full of unpleasant odours and an envoy from a father that has lost his son."

Benlan looks up from his work to take a look at Irnar standing in the entrance. "So you're the Yinkini. Haven't seen you before."

"No, I stay fit and keep clear of injuries just to avoid this place."

"But, not if there are pretty young ladies involved." Benlan smiles and glances over to Kaylee. "I do hear things despite being shut in this place most of the time."

Levity is immediately thrust aside. "But if you are here about a father that has lost a son that means Abul and we should talk more privately." Benlan gestures for Irnar to follow him to a second, smaller tent attached to the main hospital tent that serves as Benlan's office and living accommodation. "I got enough from the guys I have been healing to know approximately what happened," Benlan explains as he is seating Irnar and pouring drinks, water only.

"Shame" Irnar thinks. "I could do with a stiff drink about now."

"Good, I don't want to speak about it. It is enough that those images are still in my head." Irnar shakes it as if that could dislodge the painful memories. Then, remembering that Benlan's speciality is mind problems, Irnar continues in a rush as if getting it out in one go would make things easier.

"But, I am not here about me. I.. We want to see if we can reverse what happened. Abul is too young to have been killed and in such a way. It's wrong. We want to bring him back. Jamal too. He has spoken to Illig and he supports us.. Well at least he isn't going to stop us trying. He, Jamal that is, is going to Pavis to see if his death, Abul's that is, was justified and if we are right to try and resurrect Abul. He, Jamal that is, wants me to organise things and I have no idea how to do it, so I thought of you." He fades into silence and unusually he looks slightly embarrassed.

Benlan sits back and breathes deeply. "I was wondering if it might come to this. Have you any idea about how difficult and undertaking this is? Or how dangerous? One does not simply resurrect the dead."

Irnar is shaking his head and opening his mouth to reply as Benlan continues.

"Dangerous for Abul, he might not come back as himself and it may cause him re-life sickness. Though I have heard that there are ways to lessen the chances of that. Dangerous for me! Abul has to be persuaded back into his body and I have heard that you can end up exchanging the healer for the dead man." He shudders in horror but continues without pause. "Difficult too. First there is the crossing, then we have to find the soul, and that's not easy there are many paths the dead take depending on their culture, their gods, if they feel they should be dead. Do you know that some souls hide, to try and avoid the judgement? These are the ones that become ghosts eventually." He looks about vaguely, lost in his own world of thoughts. "Now, where was I?"

"Difficult," Irnar supplies: he realises that Benlan has been practising these arguments and moreover needs to talk them out to somebody. What he can't fathom is why. Is he trying to work himself into a state to do it or to refuse?

"Oh yes, difficult in the extreme. Once you have found them then you have to persuade them to come back. Imagine that, the ungrateful devils. You go through all the difficulties and dangers and they don't want to be returned! Sometimes they can be forced, but these are the ones that have the most difficulty adjusting afterwards."

Benlan pauses, Irnar can see that he is looking inwards and does not interrupt the silence. At another time or place Benlan's sudden resumption would have been shocking, however, here it just seemed natural.

"Then there is the issue of all the ceremonial accoutrements, they will not be easy to come by, I don't simply have a stock of appropriate items stored with the bandages and herbs. And a location, here is no good, too close to the influence of death. One needs a clean wholesome place, a temple dedicated to life. The temple in Pavis or at the Horned Gate would be ideal, but they would take some persuasion to have an unknown practitioner turn up and take over their facilities."

"Well, I can allay some of your fears. Taking them in reverse order. We do have some influence on the Pavis temple. Kallyr says the Healers owe the Vingans a fair bit and she is willing to use their influence to access the temple. I am pretty sure that they would have the appropriate regalia to hand too."

"Persuasion-wise we have a couple of trump cards, Jamal and Yenda. His filial loyalty is very strong and Yenda was destined to be his first true love." Irnar waves away the protest he can see in Benlan's eyes before it reaches his mouth. "Yes I know that she is Humakti and it would be oath-breaking for her to participate actively. But if the otherworld is so dangerous then surrounding yourself with Humakti guards would be sensible, and if she happens to be there in the front. Well what can I say! Well, actually I will say a lot because I will speak for her, say for her what she couldn't say for herself. Then all he will have to do is look her in the eyes to find that every word would be true."

"As for finding them, Jamal has an Iron Man shaman looking for Abul and tomorrow he will go to Duke Raus and petition the aid of Lady Jakkanna. She will know which path Abul has taken and if I get it right she worships the Carmanian equivalent to Ty Kora Tek. Abul is honourable, he won't try and hide from his judgement. He will no doubt hurry to face it early rather than wait his full allotted time."

"So the question becomes are you willing to do this?" Irnar watches the healer's reaction carefully. Benlan's face is a mix of emotions: fear, desire, self-loathing and love are all there but fear predominates and paralyses the medic's vocal chords.

"Look, it is OK to be scared of this. I am scared witless, but I know I would brave an awful lot to get this kid back on his feet. I have seen too many young kids like him killed with no hope of resurrection. This one has a chance, let him make up for the ones that could not be saved." Irnar's passion is clearly heard in his breaking voice.

"I would like to help but it is beyond my capabilities and I lack the courage to make the attempt," Benlan admits sadly.

"I understand, but just last week I would have thought it beyond any man's capabilities to kill a god. But Illig has done so, and why? For the sake of a member of the Legion. How else could we respond but to push ourselves and redefine our own capabilities for that selfsame goal. Illig can't do this, he is oathed not to. However, he has given his consent for the attempt."

"As for courage, how many times have you stood between an enraged warrior and one of your patients because they were enemies on some battlefield? Standing there halting death with nothing but your words and love. That takes more courage than most warriors have."

"Come on, I will make you an oath. If you do this, then I will stand at your side throughout and protect you with my life. I will carry you onward if your courage gives out and I will give my last breath if it helps to bring you home again. What do you say?"

Benlan looks in shock at Irnar. "If you are willing to stake everything on a kid you have known for only a few weeks, how can I do less who have known him far longer? Yes, I will do it."

He sits back rather surprised at his own relief and pleasure at making the decision.

"But now the work starts," Benlan states, passion rising in his eyes. "We have only 7 days before Abul travels past the point of no return. Though in truth the quicker it is done the better it is. We'll leave for the temple in Pavis at first light to see what we can get from them and how soon it can be prepared. Now go get some sleep. I will be running you ragged until this is done."

"Thank you Benlan," Irnar says gratefully as he hugs the aged medic. "May your patients never sicken and die. I will tell Jamal now and in the morning I am yours to command."

"I'll come with you to Jamal," Benlan agrees. "He may also need my help."

And a few hours later, the camp is dark, and silent. All of the Tenth are off duty, and while many take some part in the vigil around Abul's body, all (with Benlan's firm persuasion if necessary) spend at least part of the night asleep, many of them not far away, as they make the most of the blessings of the "Wake" Floor - as Dori says, no dreams can enter Humakt's Hall except those he permits, and dreams, after that evening, are not something many of them want.

[[ChronP61 Dreams]]

CategoryChronicle
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