The trial of Hrujjar Lichfoe

Clayday, Death Week, Storm Season 1620:

Dissolution Khan, Urush the Wolfrider and Twoveg the Deceptively Tall have finally gained access to the secret ice shrine in the remote mountains North of Dakori Inkarth.

Stepping through the high but narrow arch, the three companions find themselves in a huge cavern sheathed in ice. A soft glow from ceiling and floor illuminates magnificent stalagtites and stalagmites of water. The walls curve overhead, smooth as glass. Two statues in the center of the room formed of carved ice depict a pair of warriors armed with swords standing back to back.

Drawn to this centrepiece, the group approach the statues. Khan recognises the figures immediately: Valind and Humakt. A heroic episode
in the lives of the two gods is depicted, though he cannot remember the details. He has a feeling that they were defeated in the battle, perhaps that is why it has passed from his mind. Close up, the artistry is remarkable, and preserved as though the sculptor had left only
moments ago. Khan has a strong feeling of religious awe: this is a holy place for him, it is as though he is before the altar back in Borjahn's hiring hall.

::Gazing up at the statues Khan crosses himself:: {He hasn't turned catholic, due to the form of the death rune genuflecting seems pretty natural for Humakti}

[Khan] "We tread upon holy ground, act accordingly."

::The runelord draws his sword and falls upon his knees, resting the point upon the floor as he bows his head in devotion.::

[Khan] "Holy death, days since mine blade has served the spring. I have hewn the darkness that the last light might not fail. I have slain the devouring shadow that the green might prosper.
Each blow struck, each battle won, in accordance with thy code, the trust of all thy servants. No word have I spoken when none were needed. No enemy have I taken at disadvantage. No mortal blow was turned from its rightful place, not by charity, pity or by lust of life.
I have received this sign. My time of spring is done. I henceforth pledge myself to winter's service. By blade or ice all things must meet their natural end.
I ask now that the year's death that is winter's chill, and the death of all things that is thyself, bless this humble approach to the resting place of what was once Hrujjar Lichfoe, sword of Humakt."
::Rising, Khan gives an overhead salute to the statues before sheathing his blade and bowing deeply::
{Khan has a moment of religious ecstasy. He feels as though he had arrived at a junction some time ago, and having chosen a path and strode down it he can now feel the rightness of his choice to his marrow. He feels an urge to undertake a vigil of prayer in this holy place}
::Giving a small nod, the runelord begins to remove his armour. Soon he stands pale and naked in the chilly air in front of a meticulous pile of his arms. Unsheathing his heavy bronze blade he kneels once more and is soon deep in silent prayer, apparently oblivious to both the cold and events occurring around him.::
::In his minds eye Khan conjures up an image of the first sword, whose name is severance. Taking hold of the blade he begins to make precise strikes at all that impinges upon his senses. One swift blow silences the sighing of the wind, another, the chill air upon his flesh. A
flurry of cuts despatch stray random thoughts that attempt to ruffle the calm surface of his mind. As finally his mind becomes still, the silent priest turns the blade against himself, annihilating his own name, past and future with a single strike. An empty vessel, he awaits the word of his god::
The cavern is twenty below freezing, yet the naked runelord gives no outward sign of noticing as he continues his litany of devotion for an
hour or more. At length he registers other presences around him. Looking around as he continues his prayers he sees that he is being watched by four spectral shapes*, two to either side of him.
{Khan identifies these as spirits with visibility cast upon them}
All four figures are the faint outlines of men, but while both to the left and one of those to his right are man-sized, the last of them is
enormous: four metres or more in height. All appear to be clad in robes, but beyond this no details of their form or apparel can be made
out. All hold ghostly weapons before them: from left to right they are armed with a greatsword, a long sword and kite shield, an enormous
greatsword, and a pair of scimitars.

From the large humanoid in in front of Khan a deep tenor voice rings forth:
[Hrujjar] "Cease your prayers, human, for they have been answered, after a fashion. I am Hrujjar Lichfoe, faithful sword in death's hands and servant of winter's fury for these two centuries past. Now speak, that we may know who you are to disturb us, and your purpose here."

::Khan rises to his feet as he finishes a verse of his prayer and salutes each of the four spirits in turn.::
::Each spirit flicks the point of their blade upwards to acknowledge the salute::

[Khan] "I am Dissolution Khan, loyal servant of the North wind and numbered as one of his chosen blades. In death's service did I free your sword from the spoils of the moon folk. Hence it is now returned to rightful place in death's house, where it continues to serve him well."

::The runelord reverses the grip on his sword so it is held point down before him, clearly displaying the somewhat outsize pommel.::

::The largest of the spirits takes a step backwards, and the surprise is evident in his voice as he speaks once again::

[Hrujjar] "The sword? You have my sword? From those Lunar dogs you say? Well, that fits. Where did those chaos-fucking menstruating bumboys hide it away? And where is it now? Eh? Speak!"

[Khan] "It was in the tomb of a lunar warrior, a runelord of death's apprentice, Yanafils Tarnils. The blade now has a place of honour within the temple of Humakt."

[Hrujjar] "Death's apprentice, that scumbag? Tarnils the yellow? Death-fearing scum, he'd suck the cock of a zombie if it could get it up. Save your kind words for those that deserve them. Anyway, you got the blade back, that's the important thing."

[Khan] "And so I come, following the words of your sword, to speak of the oath and the bond."

::Silence follows for a moment, then Hrujjars spirit bellows with laughter::

[Hrujjar] "Ah, I see. You mean the map! Well this is a fine turn of events. After the loss of my sword we expected a visit from our enemies, not one of the faith. I must have my sword again! You must bring it to me! But first, tell me, you talk of oaths and bonds, what do you know of this?"

[Khan] "That a sword may be sworn upon as well as it severs, and thus we serve that which both binds and releases."

[Hrujjar] "Yes, yes. I know the teachings of our cult well enough, young pup. I have had ample time to reflect on them these two centuries past, while waiting for one worthy of the test. What's the matter with the cult these days: soft as a mothers teat, eh?"

::A soft cough from Khan's left makes him turn his head that way::

[Karann] "Those of us more recently travelled to Humakts Hall would take issue with that assessment, Hrujjar, though those that know you would not take offence..."

::The shade turns to face Khan and gives a small smile::
"...knowing that it is merely your way with words. Well met, friend. I am Karann, known as Coldsteel when I walked the Northern Lands not threescore years ago. I tried to live in this fellows shadow and it was the death of me, but a good death."

::A glance passes from Khan to Hrujjar at his mention of the decline of the cult, but the Lankstaner is distracted from saying more by the second shade.::

[Khan] "Hail then Karann Coldsteel, I would be honoured to hear the saga of your fall. I am doubly honoured that you fallen blades, though
separated from life by the touch of the first sword, do return among the living. Did not Humakt himself return to Orlanth's side, although he
had cut the bonds between them and was no longer kin to the middle air. Such change without changing is a lesson to me, for which I thank you."

[Karann] "There is change to be made beyond your life on earth, if you will it and Lord Humakt is willing. Having given myself to Hrujjars guidance in life, I have elected to continue to do so in death. I do not regret the choice, though it is hard at times. Valdir Foebreaker fell with me in battle, and was my companion for many years before"

::The spirit armed with sword and shield gives a curt nod::
[Loki] "And I am Loki, also called Fiveblades."
::Loki swings his scimitars up, out and down in a rapid and elaborate salute. Next to him, Hrujjar gives an impatient shrug::

{OOC: It probably wont be clear from the above (!) so names and locations are:
Khan stands before the ice statue. To his right is Hrujjar the giant and Loki, who holds two scimitars. To Khans left are Valdir and Karann
(Karann holds a greatsword, Valdir a sword and shield). Behind them at the edge of the cavern are TV and Urush, just entered from the rock passage.}

[Hrujjar] "You have a silver tongue, Dissolution Khan, let us hope that there is some iron in you also"

[Khan] "I speak truth, no more is necessary."

[Hrujjar] "Have you come to be tested? Step up and be ready if that is so, I itch to find one worthy -it has been so long, and I have scores to settle."

[Loki] "Do not be too hasty, Hrujjar. Though my love of blade-play matches yours we might as yet have been two rather than four had our other two companions not rushed to embrace their destiny."

[Karann] "Death comes to us all, and I thank you again for the chance to embrace it in glorious battle against a worthy foe that you gave me..."

::The spectral runelord bows to Hrujjar, and by his side Valdir gives another nod::

"...but I would urge you to think carefully before choosing a path, Dissolution Khan. The tests are severe, and you are probably not yet ready."

[Khan] "Tested for what purpose? albeit if all that is at wager is my life I see scant reason not to face your trial."

{OOC: It probably wont be clear from the above (!) so names and locations are:
Khan stands before the ice statue. To his right is Hrujjar the giant and Loki, who holds two scimitars. To Khans left are Valdir and Karann
(Karann holds a greatsword, Valdir a sword and shield). Behind them at the edge of the cavern are TV and Urush, just entered from the rock passage.}

[Loki]::As Two-Veg and Urush enter the cavern::
"Ahh, but what is this? We have company. Your companions, I take it? Of our cult?"

::Khan gives a slow shake of his head::
[Khan] "Nay, although Urush the Wolf-rider was most aidful in regaining your sword. Twoveg is of the Halfen people, I know not what gods they serve. Both are not strangers to death, although they lack piety."

[Hrujjar] "You are their leader, though, which is as it should be. Not very large are they? Well, welcome to you, Vassals of the Khan"
The low rumble of Hrujjars chuckle fills the room

::The Lankstan runelord remains silent at the giants remarks, although he gives another slight shake of his head.::

[Urush]::Muttering half to himself:: "What have you done to us now eh?"
::The rangy tusker takes in the four spirits with a long look::
[Urush] "These are allies aye?"
::Receiving an inconclusive tilt of the head Urush shakes his head and shudders.::
[Urush] "Well I'll just be going back to bed then eh? No need for me to trouble myself with yer religious bits and whatnot."

[Khan] "You would not join us then Urush, your skill with a sword might well suffice to enter you within the church of death. And tomorrow would be a most propitious day for such."

[Urush]::Shaking his head vigorously:: "Death serves me well aright, but usually other people's."

[Khan] "You spoke of a test, Hrujjar?"

[Hrujjar] "You would wager your life so freely? There is iron in you after all, little one. Very well, the trials of which I spoke were chosen to find one who has the makings of a true hero for the cult. The reward is great power, but at a great price: is that not so, Karann?"

::The giant spirit gives another low chuckle::
[Karann] "That is so. The trials may claim your life, they will certainly claim some of your power, and if you are successful your future path may make you wish that you had failed."

[Khan] "I walk the road that is the true end of all things. Should your trials test this way, then shall I find them upon my path in any case."

[Loki] "But if it is your rood to walk in the footsteps of giants..."

[Hrujjar]::Chuckling once again:: "Oh very good, Loki, very good. Well, Dissolution Khan, the first test is a very stern test of swordsmanship that will be the death of you if you are not ready for it, and perhaps even if you are."

[Karann] "There is no dishonour in waiting until you are ready, if you wish to take this path at all: if you were to come to us in Hell we could talk more on this. You should know also that there is a sylph who serves the shrine which will transport you around the mountain quickly and safely. You may summon it to bring you back to the shrine with a short prayer at the rock at which it takes you to. The sylph will take you to the holy place at the top of the mountain too, though climbing is a more devout route."

[Hrujjar] "Hrumph. You chatter like a kitchenmaid, Karann, though in your case there is too much meaning in your words rather than too little. Well, Dissolution Khan, what will it be. Do you wish to bind your fate to mine?"

::Eight ghostly eyes stare intently at the naked runelord standing before them on the ice::

::Khan gives a grave nod and then falls silent, a look of deep contemplation on his face. Finally he speaks, but to the statues before him.::

[Khan] "Let it be so. In sight of death I do hereby foreswear all methods that are not his own. Let the arms of darkness be forever shunned, as those of the seas and the sun. I renounce death in the service of the earth, and let not severance spill from mine hand at once remove, lest it be in accordance with the law."

::With a look of grim purpose the sword reaches into the piled arms before him and brings forth a beautifully crafted Lankstan longbow. Without a flicker of expression he jerks his hands down and breaks the bow upon his knee, placing the pieces reverentially at the foot of the statue.::

[Khan] "I await the trial."

[Hrujjar] "So be it. Your first trial is to fight each of us in turn. You may continue until incapable if you wish, though there is no dishonour in stopping sooner. We fight with our will, manifest as the swords that you see. It is these that you must overcome. You may cast what spells you wish to aid you, but before we begin there is a short ceremony to be done. Kneel, and hold out your sword."

::Once the Runelord kneels before him, Hrujjar steps forwards and places his ghostly blade atop Khans before murmuring a short prayer.
With a lightning quick thrust, his blade leaps forward into Khans chest. Khan feels not pain, but an unbearable coldness in the core of him.
Tears spring to his eyes, and he cannot help but gasp. Hrujjar pulls out his blade, and Khan slumps forwards onto elbows and knees. It is a moment before he can right himself, or speak::

{Khan has lost a point of power} ::The crippled Lankstaner remains slumped for a moment, every ounce of his will just sufficient to raise his head enough to look upon the statue before him. His blue eyes are unfocussed.::

[Hrujjar] "Stand then, when you are able, and choose your first opponent"

::Khan pulls himself slowly to his feet, hefting his blade once more. He gives a short nod to the giant.::

[Khan] "I do not foreswear mortal armour Hrujjar, will such be aught protection against the force of your wills?"

[Hrujjar] "Your armour will help you, but only a little. Put it on"

::Reaching forward to his piled arms Khan dons his armour, then takes up some small items and clenches them within his fist before beginning to speak incantations in a low voice. Stopping momentarily he slides a small object into his mouth before continuing with his magics.::*

::Finally the pale priest turns to the shade of Karann and offers him a slow salute.::

[Khan] "Let us begin with a conflict of like arms then cousin."

[Karann] "Aye, with reluctance. I salute your bravery, and I am unaccustomed to entering fights where I hope to lose, but the test will be a true one: I will fight to the best of my ability. Remember that you should aim for my sword, not for me."

::Moving lightly on the balls of his feet Khan slides into guard in front of his opponent, the point of his heavy blade unwavering from Karann's ghostly throat.::

::Karann takes a combat stance, and as he rests the edge of his blade against Khans, it most definitely does not feel insubstantial.

[Karann] "Let us begin"

::As Khan comes into guard his outline wavers, within moments he is as insubstantial as his opponent.::

::Karann is blindingly fast, moving an apparently heavy blade with the lightness of a dagger. His first savage horizontal cut is met with a
fluid parry from the Lankstaner, who flicks the blade aside and continues the moment into an ingenious stroke with the flat of his own weapon. The heavy bronze greatsword slams into Karann's ghostly blade with a force that would send it spinning from any mortal hands, but the shade's sword twangs away as if tied to him with sinew and snaps back into his grasp. A learned observer might equate the dip of Khan's helm with a nod of satisfaction turning into a more puzzled expression.::

::Without pause the Karann continues his assault. A tremendous overhead blow smashing his opponent to the floor, and most like splitting him to the groin was it not for a timely parry.::

::Karann lowers his guard.::

[Hrujjar] "Get up."
::As the giant speaks the mortal swordsman is already rolling to his feet.::

[Loki] "I will not be so charitable".::
::The twin bladed shade's words still hang in the air as Karann comes exploding out of his guard. For a few heartbeats a flashing web of
metal leaps into being between the combatants as they parry and riposte faster than the eye can follow. A high ringing noise signals the end of the engagement, leaving Karann standing with bowed head and broken sword, Khan saluting him with an intact blade.::

[Karann] "Well fought."

[Khan] "Likewise cousin."

::As the shade of Karann steps away, strangely it bears an intact sword. Few moments are given to ponder this oddity as Khan's greatsword flicks out in a half salute to the twice armed Loki. The shade steps forward without hesitation.::

::As the spirit advances he begins to twirl his curved blades. Starting with an almost mocking slowness Loki quickens the pace until there is a shimmering wall of flashing metal in front of him. If the first shade's speed was inhuman, the second's is unearthly. Khan appears to be grimly advancing into a metal hailstorm.::

::Two flickering lightning strokes flash out of the storm, one blocked by a purely reflexive twitch of the blade and the other slicing so close
to Khan's flank the trailing edge of the scimitar chimes a musical scale off the copper mail that wards the Lankstaner's arm. Leaping backwards gives Khan the space for an arcing cross cut that connects perfectly with his opponents left hand blade, shearing the lighter weapon at the hilt.::

::A flicker of annoyance crosses Loki's features.::
::A surprise thrust with his remaining blade is barely blocked an inch from the Northern runelord's cobalt surcoat. Capitalising on his unholy
quickness, Loki feints withdrawing into guard and continues his lunge, falling slightly short as his opponent back-pedals nimbly. The exposed tip of his blade is swept up in Khan's swift circular parry and bent almost into a circle as the heavier blade wraps around it. For a split second the combatants are cheek to cheek before the tortured scimitar sunders with the sound of cracking ice.::

::Khan steps away from his weaponless foe and bows.::

[Loki] "You were lucky, but you are good."

[Hrujjar] "So it seems, you almost have me excited."

::Loki too steps away from the combat circle, sheathing two apparently untouched blades as he does so.::

[Hrujjar] "Perhaps my long wait is over after all"

::Khan's impassive stance shows neither elation nor concern as he repeats his salute to the third shade. Valdir is as methodical as Loki
was flamboyant, moving forward in a careful guard that has the hallmarks of a veteran warrior. His first testing cut is easily lightly blocked
by the tip of Khan's sword, the Lankstaner's riposte equally cautious and sliding harmlessly off Valdir's shield.::

::The combatants disengage and circle again, testing one another's guard.::

::Abandoning caution Valdir hurls himself forwards into a brutal sideways swing that spews ghostly sparks as it crashes into Khan's
blade. The power of the blow sends him sliding bodily halfway across the cavern, countering as he goes with a wild swipe that parts air a
good yard in front of it's target. Valdir is on him in a second, raining strikes up and down the fast moving greatsword as Khan too takes
advantage of occasional lulls to smash heroic blows onto the shield. The longsword makes a high, musical note as it strikes the bronze, while Khan's double handed side strokes vent a thunderous boom as they crash like waves against the shore of Valdir's shield.::

::The cavern echoes with this violent symphony for an apparent age. At least several minutes pass as the duellists rage up and down the length of the ice shrine, their tremendous efforts never diminishing in intensity. Finally, as Valdir recovers from a cut, his opponent
launches himself upwards, his greatsword ripping a scream from the air as it carves down on the unprotected longsword in a flashing overhead blow.::
::With almost lazy precision Valdir slides his shield over his own blade and catches the strike perfectly on the targe's central rivet. The
clash sends a noise like thunder rolling across the cavern while the impact stuns Khan into momentary immobility.::
::Valdir grins.::
::Khan disengages, coming in again and meeting a cut with a reflexive parry. Although he easily blocks a blow that would have gutted a lesser fighter, the pale runelord's usual combat poise seems dented and a note of desperation has crept into his blows. Slashing far more wildly than before Khan hews air again and ploughs his blade into the floor of the cavern. Ice chunks scatter and the blessed bronze blade groans as it absorbs the force of its own blow. The Lankstaner has time for a momentary shake of the head before Valdir is upon him once again, driving him the length of the cavern with a relentless tirade of slashes.::
::As Khan back-pedals under the assault he seems to centre himself once more, parrying with less effort and more surety as he gives
progressively less ground. With his back foot but a few inches from the cavern wall Khan is on the offensive once more. Ignoring his foe's
blade, he begins to stride forwards, dealing an almost mechanical series of left then right cuts directly onto the shield's face. Valdir backs
halfway across the cavern, spectral splinters flying from the shield, before his targe finally sunders and disappears.::

::The shade's face broadens into another grin::
::Back in the centre of the cavern once more, the pair take up their original circling. Only the jagged gouge in the ice beneath their feet,
and Valdir's vanished shield, belie that this is not the beginning of their contest.::

::Valdir makes yet another of his supple rushes, cutting high as he comes. He is met with an almost dismissive parry close to the hilt of
his blade, followed by a fluid step back and crossing riposte with the pointmost edge of Khan's greatsword. The perfectly timed strike shivers the lighter longsword into flinders, Khan already stepping away and nodding."

::Valdir too nods curtly and steps back, his arms whole again.::

::No words are exchanged as the looming form of Hrujjar takes his place in the cavern's centre. As the giant raises his vast glaive, the frosty light sparkling on it's wavy edges, Khan grimly sets his footing as though determined not to give an inch of ground.::

::Incredibly, hold he does, as the giant begins to lay firm blows onto his guard. Khan replies with the methodical style he found against his
last opponent and deals back, if anything, more frightful swings than Hrujjar. Every whistling swing of the smaller figure is met with a perfect parry however, Hrujjar cunningly turning his sword to take the strikes edge on and close to the hilt, where his blade is strongest.::

::Soon the fighters have settled into a strange rhythm. Unlike the frantic to and fro of the proceeding conflict, this battle seems to be
more a co-operation than a contest. Each fighter strikes with the focussed timing of a pair of woodsmen felling a tree, matching each
other strike for flawless strike until the onlookers are hypnotised with the regularity of the blows and the seeming immobility of the fighters.::

::As the contest continues it becomes apparent that the smaller fighter is at a disadvantage. Hrujjar's perfect parries and huge sword easily deflect the most potent of strikes. Khan's smaller blade, although a testament to the power of his gods blessing upon it and the skill of the forgotten master smith who crafted it, simply lacks the weight to block the giant's ferocious blows. Each smashing sideswing knocks the bronze sword further and further from the centreline that Khan is determined to hold it to. Finally such a blow smashes past his guard and sends ghostly mail links, ephemeral as soap bubbles, spilling from his arm.::

::Unhurt or unnoticing Khan continues without breaking rhythm, to be met by another flawless block from his vast opponent, but the giant has his measure now. Repeating his previous strike from the opposite side, Hrujjar abandons subtlety for power and smashes sideways as a smith upon an anvil. An inspired block from the Lankstaner absorbs some of the fell blow's force, but his blade is batted aside as Hrujjar's sword carves remorselessly into his forearm, just below the cover of his mail.::

::Khan's supernatural vitality makes the blow seem to be cutting hardwood as opposed to flesh, but cut deep it does. White bone flashes
in a gaping red wound as crimson splatters the ice in mirror of the injury. The wounded runelord's right arm hangs limply by his side.::

[Hrujjar] "You may heal and continue if you wish."

::Khan mutters a prayer over his wound as the edges of the gaping gash knit back together. The healing is not complete however and a ragged red weal remains.::

::Flexing his fingers the wounded sword takes up a two handed grip once more and battle is rejoined.::

::The brief respite seems to have allowed Khan to refine his tactics, as he begins sliding the worst of the strikes past him while maintaining
his braced stance, bending like a reed in the wind rather than oppose the full power of the blows. One horizontal slash clangs off his
hauberk but for minutes more the conflict is back to a seamless trading of blows. The fight appears to have become more fluid and yet more focussed and a deathly silence fills the chamber, broken only by the dull clash of heavy swords.::

::Flicking out an almost routine strike Khan suddenly turns his wrists inwards and arrests the blow for a split second, before throwing the
blade forward with crushing force. The exquisitely timed manoeuvre throws off Hrujjar's parry as he is already turning his edge back
towards Khan for his own strike. The smaller sword strikes the flat of the larger with a resounding clang, carving a deep score mark into the ghostly metal.::

::Hrujjar raises his voluminous eyebrows in obvious surprise, before hurling himself upon his target with a roar.::

::The pace of the combat reaches fever pitch, Hrujjar smashing strokes like a deranged forgemaster on Khans protesting sword while the slight northerner replies with ferocious slashes that seem potent enough to bisect even a giant. As the speed of Khan's blows starts to approach that of his previous opponents Hrujjars supernatural defence begins to look almost stretched. In an inspired attack, the like of which has never been seen by even his oldest comrades, Khan strikes thrice with incredible precision, striking the left, right and lower sides of the giant's blade with a force that would sunder granite.::

::Three minute but flawless turns of the wrist turn even such blows perfectly. As Hrujjar spins his blade away from the cunning trap into a higher guard there is a gleam of understanding come too late from the depths of Khan's helm. He sees the wily giant has manoeuvred him back to an exact posture from the previous part of the duel. It is all Khan can do to throw his blade up in another artful parry, again not enough to stop the wicked sword slicing down into his unprotected arm. With a precision greater that any chirugeon Hrujjar's strike, stolen out of past time, rips open the previous wound and again the arm hangs limply by Khan's side."

::Once again the wounded runelord prays upon his arm, as he does so his ghostly form flickers and dims but the pale blood continues to course from the wound, albeit more slowly than before. Grimly he begins to bandage his arm, working the hand once again to restore use to his fingers.::

[Hrujjar] "You fought well, but the battle is lost"

[Khan] "I am still ready to fight."

[Hrujjar] "You fought like a champion, and you may be the one -but now is not your moment"

[Khan] "You stated the fight was over when I could not continue. Is this not so?"

::The giant shakes his great head slowly.::
[Hrujjar] "Let us end it here, I do not wish you to die at my hand."

::Khan's helmet swivels left and right as he looks to the other shades for assent.::

[Karann] "Dissolution Khan, your sword is strong and your spirit true, but listen to sense on this"

[Khan] "A lifetimes training might not allow me beyond this point. I see no reason not to fight on."

[Hrujjar]"Bring me my sword, and I will acknowledge the blow that you struck"
::The giant indicates his own badly damaged blade.::

[Khan]::With a slow shake of the head.:: "Your final word? You forbid me to fight on?"

[Hrujjar] "You are a free agent, but you have fallen twice."

[Khan]"Aye, but that is no reason not to rise"

::The smaller runelord is once again dwarfed by his looming opponent as he takes up his guard again, flexing the fingers of his right hand.::

::Hrujjar does not raise his own blade, instead his voice booms out.::
[Hrujjar] "I admire your spirit, the test is won if you bring me my sword. I do not wish you to die here, I might wait a long time for another such as yourself"

[Khan] "The test is yours, and if such fulfils its conditions I will accept your surrender for the sword."

[Hrujjar] "MY SURRENDER!?!"
::The giant's voice raised in anger is truly terrible, a booming roar echoing around the shrine.::

[Khan]::Dispassionately:: "How else might I pass?"

[Hrujjar] "FOOL! You pass by my consent. You think that you have been fighting my full self? This is a test of worthiness, not a duel"
::The giant's voice lowers but the anger is clear in it.::
[Hrujjar] "A duel would have been over in seconds"

[Khan] "You need but surrender victory in the test, not victory in a duel."

::From a corner of the shrine the calm voice of Karann intervenes.::
[Karann] "Hrujjar, Khan did not mean it like that, I am sure. No one has ever faced you single handed and lived, he would realise that."

::Khan gives a short nod of assent to the northerner's shade, before turning back to the giant.::

[Hrujjar] "Get into stance, you need a lesson"
::The point of Khan's blade remains unmoving as he glances down as his own arm.::

[Khan] "Hrujjar, you have already drawn first blood. No duel is at issue here. I speak of the test."

::The giant seems to consider for a moment before he brings his emotions in check. Finally he speaks with some of his previous gravity.

[Hrujjar] "Very well. As I have said, you have impressed me well enough. Bring me my sword, and this first test is passed."

::A pregnant pause hangs in the air.::

[Hrujjar] "Or fight on"

::Khan's helm tilts as he cocks his head momentarily, as if he fears some trick is being played upon him, or perhaps he has missed some piece of vital wisdom.::

[Khan] "To what end?"

[Hrujjar] "To no purpose at all"

::Khan lowers his swordpoint.::

[Karann] "So let us end it here, and save the loose spilling of blood for our enemies"

[Khan] "Thus the question is answered."

::Hrujjar too lowers his blade and steps forward with outstretched arm. The runelords clasp arms, a little blood seeping through the giant's
fingers from the wounds he dealt.
[Hrujjar] "We end it here then."

::Khan's image seems to flicker and shift again, as he becomes more substantial once more.
[Khan] "I have never had the benefit of such skilled and noble adversaries. For this I thank you."

::As the shades fade it is as though the fight had not taken place, except for the blood splattered around the base of the altar and a deep wound in the icy floor.::
{OOC: My god that took a while, didn't realise the fights were that long! three rounds for Karann, one and a strike rank for Loki, 38 for
Valdir and 67 for Hrujjar if there are stats junkies out there. Roll on the next part then.}

The battle over, silence descends on the ice clad cavern once more. Khan is before the altar-statues with spatters of his own crimson blood on the whiteness around him like the points of a star. He stands erect, and though his bandaged wound is still obvious he shows no sign of fatigue after his ordeal. Four ghostly figures face him and if it were not for his wound, and the deep bite taken from the icy floor by his blade, there would be no evidence of the grim contest that has just taken place.

[Hrujjar] "There is more than iron in your spirit. That was a battle to remember! May there be many more to come, with us as brothers, not as foes."

[Khan] "Strife comes oft to all Hrujjar, more so to those who seek it. I'd warrant the world is not done with battle. As for our brotherhood, so long as thou serve honourably the end of all things my sword is yours."

::The wounded runelord offers a small bow to the spectral giant before him.::

[Hrujjar] "I am more interested in the end of some things than others. Those abominations known as undead above all must be scoured from the land, and I bathe in their Lunar allies' blood when I can. What about your friends? You say that these are your comrades, not your vassals. I hope they fight as fiercely as you!"

::Urush's eyes flicker across the fresh blood daubing the ice then back to the giant. He appears to be searching for a hiding place that does not exist.::

[Urush] "I'se can use a sword well enough, and I'd stand in fer the Khan, but I'se strained my hand terrible against the trolls. Maybe next year eh?"

[Khan] "Urush kills, that I will warrant, and I have seen him stand firm in battle afore. The half fey has the temperament of a berserk, albeit I have not seen the full madness on him yet."

[Hrujjar] "Perhaps you should face a test as a group. One suitably terrible for stout folk such as yourselves, that would also aid our cult on its holiest of days. Will you venture into hell to keep the souls of the dead from rejoining the living?"

{Continued in "Seven Stones"}

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