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Pete sent this story to the Digest on April 1st, 1998. It disagrees with almost everything I believe about Vinga, Orlanth, and every other deity mentioned. It's also a very, very good story. Maybe I'll have to re-write Vinga (again).
Orlanth had gone. He'd taken all the best of his stead. The mightiest warriors and the most cunning advisors. Into the dark they'd disappeared on their dangerous quest to bring back Yelm. Behind them they'd left the old, the sick, the injured, the women. They left behind Vinga.
To say that Vinga was upset would have been an understatement. She was furious. All her life she'd tried to join Orlanth's warband and now, on the greatest adventure of all, he had left her.
"Look after the children and help Elmal whilst he defends the stead" was what Orlanth had commanded her. But being the storm god's little daughter, his rebelliousness ran strong in her veins.
Each day loyal Elmal took the remaining warriors outside into the darkness. Each day Vinga would secretly follow them carrying a sword she'd stolen from a fallen thane.
Each night Vinga would return to the stead radiant with her victories and hide her weapon under the bed. Each night Elmal would return wounded and with fewer warriors. And each night the darkness would creep closer to the stead.
Time passed till the darkness covered all of Orlanth's hall. Even the stars could not been seen. Elmal had no more warriors to help him, but even so he refused Vinga's help.
"Orlanth commanded me to help you" begged Vinga.
"And Orlanth commanded me to defend the women and children" countered Elmal. Then, once more he walked off into the dark knowing that this would be his final battle.
Vinga opposed his decision and followed him. All too soon Elmal came across his nemesis Zorak Zoran. He fought valiantly, but succumbing to his previous wounds Elmal fell before the rage of the troll god. Before his skeleton could be ripped from his body, Vinga strode out of the shadows and struck a mighty blow upon Zorak Zoran. The dark god ran away in fear.
Elmal accepted Vinga's arm and they returned to the stead together. He rewarded her for his rescue by granting her the fire sword charm. From then on both Elmal and Vinga stood atop the palisade wielding light against the darkness. Neither trolls nor chaos managed to breach their defence.
Then one day great Yelm rose back into the sky and soon after Orlanth returned home, weary but satisfied. He saw Vinga guarding the gates, sword in hand.
"Why have you disobeyed me little daughter? I forbid you to bear weapons. It is not a woman's way."
Elmal spoke for his new found friend. "Lord Orlanth, if it were not for the skill of your daughter's sword arm all of the women and children would be dead, and your stead would be a pile of rubble. She deserves a reward for her help. Not harsh words."
Orlanth was angry, but he offered Vinga a single boon.
"I have saved your stead, and I have saved your people. I wish to become a weapon thane!" was her answer.
"Skill in weapons does not a weapon thane make," he replied. "You must show cunning too. I will grant you position of Carl so that you may wear your sword lawfully." Then muttering under his breath about women warriors he entered his hall for a good long sleep.
Meanwhile Eurmal looked upon Vinga's angry face and fell immediately in lust. There was something about dominating women he could not resist. As he enviously watched Elmal hold Vinga he made plans for obtaining his own cuddles.
Years passed peacefully before trouble struck again. Orlanth was normally only grumpy when he saw Vinga wearing her sword. He regretted the reward he'd granted her. But today Orlanth was in a foul mood.
He walked through his stead picking fault with everyone. He pounded the table in rage when his porridge was cold. He shouted at Vinga when the noise of her weapon practice woke him early in the morning.
Finally Vinga tried to find out what was wrong with her father. Asking him was difficult since he usually shouted at her. So she went to her room and for the first time since being made Carl, she clothed herself in a dress. She asked Ernalda to comb her thick red hair and put on a necklace which Eurmal had given her. Everybody who saw her thought that Vinga was very beautiful indeed.
At the evening banquet Vinga took Orlanth's dinner to him. She acted on her best manners, and was so gracious that initially Orlanth did not recognise her. When he saw her wearing a dress he became mollified and allowed her to speak to him.
"Why are you so troubled my lord?" she asked.
"Because my child, who has now shown good sense, a new god has been born. The elder races have constructed a perfect golden god to worship. Ossenaka they call him, but perfect he isn't. I look upon him and I see Gbaji, the deceiver. He is stealing my people and using chaos to corrupt them!"
"So why do you not strike him down father?"
"My hands are tied. Our pact with Arachne Solara denies us all the right to walk amongst mortals. And that includes you too!"
Orlanth's gaze caught sight of the necklace Vinga wore. His face turned red with anger. "Why are you wearing my mothers jewels!?". Without listening to Vinga's excuse, he had two of his thanes pick her up and cast her out of the stead.
Vinga kicked the stead doors in frustration but they would not open. So she took Eurmal's gift and cast it back into the stead. Then the goddess walked of into the hero-realm to find another place to live.
On a whim she journeyed west. As darkness fell Vinga realised that she had left her sword and armour behind. From out of the evening mist came a figure.
Vinga picked up a stout stick with which to defend herself and turned to face whatever it was. The figure resolved itself as a man. In fact a rather handsome man. His eyes were wide with wonder as he looked about himself. The goddess knew it had to be young hero on his first quest. Not being one to hide, Vinga stood boldly on the path.
As he saw her the young man's face faltered for a moment and then became shy. "Dear lady, why are you here in this dangerous place. Allow me to offer my protection. I shall stand guard for you if you wish to share my camp this night."
Vinga was about to give him a piece of her mind when she remembered that she was dressed as a gentle woman. The young hero did bear a good sword which she could take if they were attacked. And he was very handsome.
The hero soon found a place for them in a secluded glade and made a warm fire. He made pleasant company though it was obvious that he was not a follower of Orlanth. He did not boast, he offered her all his food and blanket to use, and he did not try to woo her. Vinga was taken by his strangely modest and shy nature. By morning she had seduced him good and proper. With the morning light he proclaimed his eternal love.
Vinga sighed at this complication. "Tell me valiant warrior. What is your name?"
"I am called Sir Arkat. Might I stay here for all eternity and become your knight defender?"
The goddess had a cunning idea. With beautiful smile and fluttering lashes she said "My name is Vinga and I am the daughter of Orlanth, king of the gods. Though my heart might yearn, you cannot become my champion unless you perform a quest mighty enough for my station. If perhaps you brought me the head of some great evil, such as Gbaji, then my father would be more than willing to offer my hand. Until that time I cannot ever see you again."
The young hero stood proud and swore an oath "My lady. Even if I have to destroy the world I shall bring you this monsters head." Then strapping on his dark sword the hero resolutely strode off seeking a path back to the world.
Nearby perched a large crow. Its yellow eyes glowed with anger and it squawked in frustration. It was Eurmal who'd searched the night for Vinga, wondering if he could take advantage of her exile. He had seen the dying embers of their fire and the trickster had found his belusted in the arms of another man. Eurmal thought hard and decided what vengeance he would take on Arkat.
The crow flew after the hero, landing further along the pathway. Then Eurmal took the guise of Elmal the loyal god of light. As Arkat approached the trickster challenged him.
"Halt hero. I seek a hussy with scarlet hair. Vinga is her name. Do you know of her?"
Arkat full of love, boldly faced down the god. "Why do you see the goddess, and by what right do you sully her name with profanity?"
"Because little mortal she helped my enemy Zorak Zoran escape my clutches at the hill of gold," lied the trickster boldly. "Her mother was a mistress troll, and she would lay down her life for any Uz. She regards them as kin. Thus I will slay her if I can ever find the shadow loving trollop."
With a cry the young hero launched himself at the disguised Eurmal. But with a laugh the trickster turned into a worm and crawled away unseen. Even though later Orlanth caught him for the stealing of Kero Fin's necklace, Eurmal suffered his punishment with a broad smile.
Vinga returned to her fathers stead to collect her sword and found that her exile had been revoked.
Many years passed.
In the mortal realm a mighty hero rose in glory. The knight learned the arts of war and sought to defeat the empire of Gbaji. Vinga sometimes watched and sent signs to her champion, until Orlanth forbade anybody to use his cauldron of scrying. Soon after, Elmal appeared to be a shadow of his former self. He grew thin and drawn and Orlanth had to ask the stronger looking Humakt to take the champion's place.
An age passed and the compromise started to fray at the edges. Vinga had taken to walking the hero paths seeking knowledge of her champion. She walked with the lecherous Eurmal who seemed to be the only one who'd accompany her. No matter where he guided her, they found nobody who knew about Arkat.
One day she travelled to the clearing where she had seduced her hero. A great troll jumped out of the trees in front of her. Vinga drew her sword. "Be gone foul creature, else I smite you as I did your lord."
The troll's expression changed from joy to stunned amazement. "But Vinga it is I, Arkat. I have returned to you successful in your task. I have Gbaji's head." The troll lifted a red stained hessian sack.
"Arkat!?! Where is your handsome face, your lithe body?" said the disgusted Vinga.
"I though you liked trolls. So I quested to become a chaos fighter of Zorak Zoran."
"I loath trolls. Especially the fire eater himself. I can never love you as you are Arkat. Leave me else I become sick."
The distressed hero dropped the sack in front of the goddess. "I will always love you," he stammered and turned from the glade with a shattered heart. Then Arkat journeyed to a dead star. From that day he never left it, pining for his lost love.
Vinga sighed at the actions of love struck men, and eagerly took the sack and returned to Orlanth's stead. The great hall was full of singing and dancing.
"What is the celebration for my father?" asked Vinga coyly.
Orlanth was so happy that he gave his errant daughter a hug. "Gbaji is dead, the world is freed from chaos and my worshippers are praying correctly again."
"Then father you owe me a boon."
Orlanth sobered quickly, giving his offspring an appraising stare. "Why do I owe you a boon?"
"For I am responsible for the death of Gbaji." Vinga opened the sack and placed the head on the feast table. "Father, you told me that although I had skill with weapons I lacked cunning. I have now proved my cunning. I wish to be made a member of your Einheriar."
Orlanth bristled at being upstaged. "Daughter you might have skill and cunning, but you lack bravery. I shall make you thane. That is all you deserve."
Vinga was so angry that she almost started a fight, and punched Eurmal when he felt her breasts. But Humakt ensured that no swords might be drawn that night, and the disgruntled goddess pouted for the entire evening.
In time, Orlanth accepted his daughters promotion. Their usual feuds settled down and a period of peace was welcomed by all. Vinga worked twice as hard as the other thanes to prove her rights. She still thought that she deserved better, though she did not force the issue. It was a surprise to everyone when Orlanth got crotchety. Vinga wasn't the cause and nobody could discover any other reason for the foul moods.
So Vinga decided to follow her father. She watched him eat. She watched him sleep. She watched him fight. The only thing she noticed was that he scratched himself a lot. The more he scratched the more irritated he became.
More strangely was that Orlanth started watching Ernalda's sacred serpent dances. This upset the warriors who had always performed war dances for their lord.
The final straw was when Orlanth swallowed an entire bull whole before it had even been killed. He slept for a week afterwards.
It was then that Vinga noticed something lying on her fathers throne. It was a scale. Whilst Orlanth slept the goddess stole a glance into the cauldron of scrying. The answer came to her as she watched the tribes upon the world. All of the orlanthi were being seduced by the dragonnewts.
What could be done? Vinga thought hard and long. She asked Lankhor Mhy for scrolls and read them. She caught Eurmal spying on her whilst she pretended to have a bath, and discussed the problem with him. The trickster was so bored by the conversation that he jokingly suggested that it wasn't the dragonnewts who were responsible, but the cosmic dragons themselves. Maybe it was a punishment for the slaying of Aroka.
Vinga knew that Eurmal had unwittingly discovered the truth. Pausing only long enough to borrow her fathers great shield, she left the stead with the trickster in tow. They travelled a great distance deeper into infinity than any other god before them. Eurmal spent his time trying to tell jokes or see down Vinga's cleavage. All to no avail. It was during yet another silly trick that he tripped over a gigantic tail.
Knowing that they had found a true dragon, Vinga realised that slaying the beast was out of the question. It was just too big. Instead she would have to talk to it and discover if there was a reason for the curse on her father. She spent a day walking to its head and tried to wake it up.
She shouted and screamed as if she had been arguing with her father. Nothing happened.
She kicked it in the teeth and struggled to lift an eyelid. Nothing happened.
She even collected all the trees, put them in its nostrils and lit the branches with her flaming sword in desperation.
Eurmal laughed at her antics, till Vinga punched him and demanded he do better. So the trickster gathered his most potent power and cast it at the dragon.
The fart was so loud that universe trembled. All the other cosmic dragons believed it to be a clarion call to summon them. The dragon, trees still burning in its nostrils awoke and glared at Eurmal.
The trickster stopped laughing. Backing away slowly he started casting a spell. Vinga was left standing in front of the angry dragon, who inhaled an entire wind and spat the burning air towards them.
Whilst Vinga used her fathers shield to protect against the flames, Eurmal summoned his fleet feet and hightailed it out of there. With a roar the dragon climbed to its feet and chased after. Not knowing what else she could do, Vinga leapt the storm leap onto the head of the enraged being.
A dragon is fast, but there is nothing faster than a fleeing trickster. Eurmal ran blindly till he heard Vinga's wind carried words telling him to hide in the dragonnewts own cities. His head start availed him nothing though, since the dragon's eyes could find him across eternity.
The scared trickster ran down into dragon pass, flames licking at his bottom. He hid under the first city he found. But the other dragons who'd heard the mightiest fart had come to join in the hunt. With a single bite they swallowed the city, its farms and the hill it stood upon.
Vinga still clung desperately to the horns of the dragon she rode. From atop her mount she could see everything the dragon could. So using the secret wind words she told Eurmal to hide in the cities in which she knew the traitorous, dragon worshipping orlanthi lived.
Each place Eurmal hid in was attacked by a dragon. Each time the trickster managed to escape death by the skin of his teeth. Soon, the whole of dragon pass had been consumed and there was nowhere left to hide. Eurmal having nothing to lose, placed his thumb in his mouth and blew hard. He grew large, larger. He strained so much that he gave himself a hernia, but still he grew. When he'd reached the size of a mountain he changed into a dragon and tried to loose himself in the flight above the pass.
It was a valiant effort, but whereas all the dragons were of but a single colour, Eurmal was of every colour. The dragon Vinga rode extended a single claw and punctured the trickster's stomach. With the noise of the second greatest fart ever, Eurmal flew around, bouncing off of the hills and wailing.
The dragon then landed and carefully plucked Vinga from her perch. With what she could have sworn was a wink, the dragon flew back into infinity leading its brothers away. The goddess found the battered Eurmal lying in a river. She picked him up and together they returned to Orlanth's stead.
Orlanth was waiting for them sitting in his throne. In a ring around his seat lay a pile of dragon skin which he had shed, though Vinga noticed that his little finger was still scaled.
"Well daughter what will you ask for today? My stead?" The god thumped the arm of the throne and spittle flew from his mouth. "You have caused the deaths of thousands of my people. I should have you beheaded for this outrage." He scowled, waiting for her to submit to his authority.
Vinga stood proud with a fixed smile. "Father, you told me that although I had skill and cunning, I lacked bravery. I have now proved my bravery. Those who died were those who had turned from your true worship. They deserved to die for trying to change your very nature. Your other thanes will support me, for they saw the doom of your scales. I claim a boon for your rescue."
Orlanth furious, looked to his thanes. They all bowed their faces, and would not meet his angry gaze. He submitted to their judgement and said "You have proved yourself Vinga. You may join my Einheriar."
"But I do not want to," came the reply. "I have saved you and your people three times now. I demand to be your shield bearer."
"No!" bellowed Orlanth. "Humakt is my champion and I will have no other at my side."
"If you would rather have an ex-brother who turned his back on you rather than your own kin I shall not stay in your stead. I deserve better and you have taken my glory from me because I am merely a woman. You will need me again sometime, and I shall never help you again. Not until you get on your knees, beg for my aid and swear that women shall be given equal rights."
With that Vinga spat between them and left the stead. She took her flaming sword, her fine linked chain shirt, and Humath's horse which could gallop on the wind. A parting gift from the sad grandfather. She never looked back as she rode towards the sun, even when the unusually large crow settled upon her helm...
Orlanth paced his great hall in anxiety. The six winds had returned from their search and had still not found his daughter. The last anyone had seen of her was Zola Fel, who swore that she was headed out towards Magesta's whirlpool. The king of the gods didn't like the thought of his offspring riding into hell to escape him.
On top of that Eurmal had disappeared. It was bad when the trickster was in the stead, but a trickster out of sight meant something nasty was just round the next corner. Anxiety filled his bronze bones.
And if that wasn't enough, there was some new godlet born in Dara Happa. Didn't the sorcerers up there learn anything? A new goddess meant the compromise would crack once more. As if he didn't have enough problems with chaos. He would have to keep an eye on the problem.
Years flew by and the thrice damned Red Goddess had tricked her way into acceptance by the other gods of the compromise. Orlanth had thought that this would make her easier to contain, but she'd expanded her empire and created a new moon which floated in his realm like an angry drop of blood.
With each new year the cancerous growth the Lunar Empire spread further south. Orlanth spent all his time trying to encourage his people to band together to slow the approach. All he tried came to nothing. Orlanth's people were like Orlanth himself. They bickered and fought whilst the evil red glow took over his lands. The red moon rose ever higher, and he could see the masked goddess staring at him from her palace.
Sartar fallen! The cream of his worshippers. Orlanth groaned in shame. Why had everything fallen apart? Maybe it wouldn't have happened if Vinga had been here. No! His daughter had probably caused all of this. If I cannot beat the red moon by myself then I do not deserve to be king of the gods thought Orlanth glumly.
All that was left were the fringe peoples outside Sartar and the earth allies given by his wife. Each day he gathered storm clouds to hide the movements of his last heroes from the Red Goddess's masked eyes. He hadn't lost yet. With cunning he organised the slow building of his last army. It would be do or die.
The Red Goddess sat calmly on the red bat at the north of dragon pass. Orlanth Storm King fidgeted in his throne upon the southern mountains of the pass. Her gaze bored through to his soul, distracting him whilst the battles raged below.
Like a giant game board, entire armies marched back and forth. The heroes Orlanth had scraped together fought against elite units of lunar infantry. Harrek, Androgenous and Agrath destroyed anything they attacked. The Red Goddess had heroes too. Jar Eel scattered the Wind Walkers. Beatpot chopped up the head hunters. And the Crater Makers were destroying whole units with huge lumps of moon rock. If both sides had numbered equally then Orlanth might have stood a chance. But now the crimson tide was sweeping him out of Sartar. Soon he would lose the battle for the middle air and would be wiped out from the memories of his people.
As the red moon turned casting its sickly glow, the king of the storm gods noticed something in the pass below. The dragon tooth runners had left the battle, opening a huge hole in his strategy. Orlanth cursed the scaly warriors as they marched to the Dragons Eye. The Red Goddess smiled at him as she took advantage of the situation. A rabble of chaotic broo charged straight through the gap and started to roll up the Orlanthi line.
The storm king watched in despair as his dire enemy leant forwards atop the bat. Orlanth sent word for all the women and children to be saved. Word returned from his priests that the women had all disappeared a week before. It was then Orlanth remembered Vinga's promise.
"The cunning vixen has set up a plan," he thought miserably. "She's just waiting for me to beg and then she'll march out of hiding with all the women and rescue me. Oh the shame. But what choice do I have?"
So Orlanth climbed from his throne and went down to his knees. As he bent his head to beg for Vinga's aid he saw the dragon tooth runners again. They were dancing in a strange pattern. As they danced he felt his serpent touched little finger twitch in sympathy. The throb of their beat pulsed in his blood, and a new understanding blossomed. He surged to his feet shouting defiance as the Red Goddess flew towards him.
Orlanth took his sword and smite off his little finger. He then cast the sacrifice into the pass making a mighty magic. The finger grew into a true dragon. At the dragons eye, all the newts hissed in honour as their inhuman king simultaneously also achieved true draconian form.
The two dragons flew upwards to the glowing moon and tore into it with claws a mile long. From the moon came an awful screech, and it started jumping around as if in pain. It then flew down from the sky and hid behind Orlanth.
"Don't let them hurt me Orlanth. I didn't want to do it, she made me do it..."
The god of storms watched in amazement as the illusion dropped. There stood Eurmal. Trews around his ankles and one buttock painted red, the other black and both heavily scratched. The departing dragons who'd always been able to see through the glamour smiled toothily to themselves, pleased at the final punishment of the trickster.
Orlanth's brain laboriously worked through the meanings of Eurmal's involvement and looked down into the pass. As the tricksters magic slowly faded the once resplendent lunar regiments turned back into gabbles of Orlanthi women armed with cudgels. The chaotic broo which had given his armies such a scare were simply the children from their steads with vegetables tied to their bodies to make them look misshapen. The men he'd thought dead lay groaning on the ground with sore heads. With a growing fury Orlanth faced the goddess.
The crimson bat was now Humath's horse. Its head covered with painted pigs bladders and ropes dangling from its bridle. Vinga took off the now useless mask, and stamped on the mountain top in frustration. "I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those damn dragons..."
Orlanth reached for his daughter to kill her for once and for all. Then he stopped and all the colour drained from his face. Looking sick, he turned back towards the trickster.
"Eurmal," he whispered. "What were the Crater Makers summoning?"
Vinga sighed. Life had become so dull after her father had finally calmed down. He had granted her the position of shield bearer and placed his blessing on women being free to choose their own course in life. She was sure that he'd only done it to keep a closer eye on her. His bloody shield was heavier too after he'd asked Kigor Litor to bound it in lead.
Though the job was tedious, all the women now accepted her for they'd enjoyed the trick played on their husbands. The men respected her, although some still glowered behind her back.
Lankhor Mhy was very upset and would not speak to Vinga at all, for Orlanth had demanded that every single record of the entire incident should be destroyed. Scrolls in the thousands were burnt by the mortal Orlanthi priests. The sages had to take oaths to never speak of it again. Nope, Lankhor Mhy was somebody she'd better keep an eye on in the future.
Eurmal had not escaped Orlanth's justice either. He'd declared that Eurmal's bottom had made such a fine moon, that Eurmal had to remain in the sky, mooning at everyone. Though Orlanth had him wash his buttocks before he started.
Bored, bored, bored!
A large crow landed on her shoulder. "Pssst Vinga," it squawked. "Whilst I was floating in the sky I noticed a terrible chaos monster crawling over the eastern edge of the world. I don't suppose you'd want to come on a quick quest do you?"
When Orlanth awoke, all he found was his shield next to the bed...