How Polaris joined Orlanth's household

While the Emperor still ruled the world, Pole Star had the job of keeping all his warriors lined up neatly, with their armour well polished, and all their equipment in place.

When Orlanth defeated the Emperor and became King, Pole Star recognised that his place was to serve the new ruler, and came to Orlanth's stead to offer his skills. Orlanth did not particularly wish his warriors to stand in neat lines, but was pleased that he was being recognised as King of the World, and accepted Pole Star into his service.

Pole Star tried to keep Orlanth's warriors organised, but found it very difficult to stop them from blowing in all directions as the mood took them. Elmal had befriended him, as he too was originally from the Sky Tribe, and asked if there was anything he could do to help. Pole Star did not want to say that Orlanth's warriors were an undisciplined rabble, so he had to think of another reason. "I miss my wife Silonia", he said. "I had to leave her in the women's quarters of the Sky Palace. If she were here to dance for me, perhaps it would be easier".

Elmal thought of how he would feel if parted from his own wife and nodded sympathetically. "We will send a messenger to the Sky Palace to ask her to join you here."

Pole Star was shocked. "Naturally the guards on the women's quarters will not let her leave without the Emperor's permission. She is a lady of noble birth, and must be protected from any danger, especially from - ", he hesitated, before changing his words, "from those whom the guards consider to be barbarians."

Vinga happened to overhear this. "Will not let her leave?" she asked. "She is a free woman, is she not? Whose decision could it be but her own whether she goes or stays? No-one can make her do anything."

Polaris tried to explain how the women of the Sky Palace were protected, but the more he described the precautions taken to stop them from ever doing anything dangerous, the angrier Vinga became. "I will go and visit your wife", she said, "and if she wishes to leave then leave she shall, guards or no guards."

Elmal had seen the guards at the Sky Palace, and did not think it would be quite that easy, but he knew better than to argue with Vinga about such a matter. "But you should not go alone", he said. "Even Orlanth took companions with him when he stormed the Sky Palace."

Vinga had to admit that he was right. But for some reason, none of Orlanth's warriors could spare the time for such an easy quest as this, even after Elmal explained to them that Vinga should not go alone, and needed their protection. All of them turned out to have duties that prevented them from leaving the stead. Vinga was beginning to think that she would have to abandon her quest when a voice behind her said "I'll go with you!".

Eurmal had worked out what Elmal was trying to do, and wanted to stop him, just to show that he could. (Also, he had heard about the beautiful women in the Sky Palace, and wanted to see them for himself). Elmal was not particularly pleased at this, but Vinga had her companion and off she went, before Elmal could think of any more arguments.

Eurmal already knew the way to the Sky Palace, as he had been there before, when he dared Orlanth to challenge Yelm. They crept up to the gates, and counted the guards. Too many. Far too many for Vinga to fight her way past all of them. Even Orlanth had entered as a guest, not by force. "There must be another way," said Vinga. "No guests are invited, now the Emperor is dead, but who does get in?"

So they watched the gates. The guards could enter, of course. But they were all tall strong men, with beards, and neither Vinga nor Eurmal looked like that. The eunuch slaves could enter: but they were carefully inspected on entry, and neither Vinga nor Eurmal would pass that test. And women could enter. Beautiful women, in silk dresses. Eurmal looked at Vinga, and grinned.

Vinga never did find out where Eurmal got the clothes for their disguise. Best not to ask these things of the Trickster: he might answer. She only had to hit him once or twice for peeking while she changed. But she was dismayed to find that she would have to leave her weapons behind. Her new dresses could not conceal them. In fact, they didn't conceal very much at all, as Eurmal pointed out appreciatively. So her weapons were hidden, and together she and Eurmal approached the gate guards. He introduced her as his cousin, a kinswoman of the Emperor, who wanted to come to the Sky Palace for protection. This sounded entirely reasonable to the guards, and in Vinga went.

Once inside it was not hard to find Silonia, as she was well-known as the best dancer in the palace, and soon Vinga found an opportunity for them to talk privately. "Your husband Polaris misses you, and would like you to join him at Orlanth's stead," she said. "Would you be willing to do so?"

"I would love to join my husband if such a thing were possible," said Silonia. "But I would have to leave tonight, or not at all. I have been told that since my husband has shamed the Palace by abandoning me, I must be remarried, and the wedding ceremony is tomorrow. In fact, the celebrations begin tonight."

“That could be useful,” said Vinga thoughtfully. “We can use it as a distraction. Do you suppose you could arrange for the party to spread to the gardens as well as the main palace?”

Silonia said that she would see what might be done: and Vinga used the winds to take her voice to Eurmal, outside the walls, to tell him what was happening and what he should do. For once, he didn’t argue.

So the party began, and all the windows and doors to the gardens were thrown open. Not many people actually went outside, as the gardens were dark and cold now Yelm was gone. But the sounds of merriment reached the guards on the gate, as Vinga had intended. That was when Eurmal approached them, sympathising with their having to miss the party.  Fortunately he had brought a wineskin with him, which he generously offered to share….. And before long the guards were sleeping peacefully.  Trying to out-drink the Trickster is rarely a good idea. Eurmal sneaked inside, taking Vinga’s weapons with him.

Meanwhile Vinga and Silonia had managed to get out of sight of the rest of the ladies and into the gardens. Eventually they met up with Eurmal, and Vinga changed back into her own clothes and weapons with a sigh of relief. They crept back to the gate, hoping to get out quietly. But by now the guards had woken up, and were complaining loudly about how much their heads hurt. Vinga and her friends retreated and watched, hoping for another opportunity.

Soon they realised that they were not the only ones watching the gate guards. Yelorna was hiding behind the next bush, also hoping for a chance to escape. Eurmal eyed her rather skimpy tunic, and offered to help her get out if she let him get in first. And he dodged the blow he expected from Vinga: but not the one from Yelorna. Vinga was quite impressed. Not many of the Sky women had enough spirit to defend themselves. “Let us join forces,” she suggested. And she lent Yelorna her second-best bow, since an unarmed ally is of little use. “What we need is another distraction. I doubt if the guards will accept another drink from a stranger. What would tempt them from their duty? Not food, drink, or women. Is there anything else guards want?”

“Another duty,” Yelorna suggested.

“Yes, a fight, that’s it. But we can’t pretend to be an enemy outside while we’re still inside. An enemy inside? Ah, that’s it.”

And Vinga used the winds to carry her voice again, this time making it seem as if her voice came from further inside the gardens, and pretending to be one of the fragile beauties of the Sky Palace. “Help, help! Guards! I’m being waped!!!!” The guards rushed inside, and once they were past, Vinga and her friends rushed out. Only just fast enough: for not all the guards had left, and more were approaching the gate. Alone, Vinga could have out-run them, but Silonia could not. Fortunately Mastakos owed Vinga a favour, and his chariot swooped down to help them.

Well, to help most of them. Yelorna had had enough of Eurmal, and she made her own way to safety.

Back at Orlanth’s stead, Silonia listened to Pole Star's problems and sympathised. And she had an idea. On her way home, she had seen and admired Mastakos' chariot. "Look at the wheels" she said. "They turn continually, moving all the time just as Orlanth's warriors do. But the axle stays still, and without it all the movement would be wasted. That is how you can serve Orlanth. Do not seek to stop Movement, but rather, control it."

And if you look up into the sky you can see that that is what Pole Star did. He stays still, guarding the centre of the sky, and the stars wheel around him, as he controls them to Orlanth's orders.


Plot (and background music) from "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" by W.A. Mozart
Additional inspiration from "Silence in Solitude" by Melissa Scott