Vinga's Woad


From Rekojssaga, translated by Alexandre Lanciani and posted on the Glorantha Digest in March 2000

The Rekojssaga is an account of Rekoj's deeds. Rekoj was a trickster from Heortland, and lived in the mid third age period. He was once captured by the Giant of the Murmuring Forest. This giant had a strange custom: he killed every prisoner who could not tell him a Secret Story of the Gods which he did not know. The prisoner had three chances before losing the challenge. This is the story which saved Rekoj's life.

Vinga was a brave weaponthane of Orlanth, as good as any other thane of his household. She was also his beloved daughter. Nonetheless, some say that she gave him his most famous son, Vingkot the King, but that's another story altogether.

As I said, Vinga was a weaponthane of the Storm Tribe, and like all the warriors of the tribe she marched in battle naked but for the blue woad they all painted their bodies with. But she was a woman, and her naked voluptuous figure (with which she seduced her father, some say - but not I, of course) distracted her allied warrior's attention away from the fight, while it excited her foes' desire to capture her. The Solar tribesmen wanted to capture her for her immodesty, the darkmen to give her to Zorak Zoran, the mermen to avenge their sisters... Only Elmal, her loyal friend, was not enthralled by her looks and stood by her side, shielding her with his Light.

At last, fearing for her daughter's life, Orlanth ordered her to guard the stead instead of coming in battle with him. But she didn't want to guard the stead. She had to fight so hard before the other thanes accepted her and her message that she wouldn't surrender now! So she went to Ernalda and asked the goddess to make a set of clothes which would not disrupt the woad's magic. Unfortunately, Ernalda could not do it, because she understood nothing of war magics. But she knew who could help determine Vinga: her bloodthirsty sister Babester Gor.

So Vinga went to the Axe Maiden and asked her the same thing she had asked Ernalda. And the Axe Maiden gave her the same answer that Ernalda had given. "Such is the magic in the woad", she said. "And it cannot be changed."

"But", she then added as Vinga was about to leave her hut, "I can make for you another type of woad, better than the Warrior's, which will protect you not only from blows and magic but also from the only thought of which man is capable, so that you shall be judged only for your skills and not for your being a woman."

The Axe Maiden dropped a tear of Vinga's blood in a pot of blue woad, and the paint turned red. Then she added a spark of Elmal's light, and the paint began to shimmer. Finally, she taught Vinga a rhyme and commanded her to sing it over the woad.

The Red Woad of Vinga was ready. When she smeared it over her body, the paint would become as if alive, and would radiate heat as embers, and would cloak her with a mantle of haze which confused sight, making her not recognizable.

And this is the Story of the Vingan Red Woad, which can be used only by an initiate of Vinga, and must be prepared starting with a normal pot of blessed woad, to which is added a drop of blood from a devotee of Vinga and another from a devotee of Elmal, while the Vingan chants the secret rhyme that the Axe Maiden taught to Vinga before History.

What says my audience? Have I ransomed my head, or shall I lose it?

Copyright © Alexandre Lanciani
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