The Plundering of Aron

In the old days, the Vingkotling Tribe was the greatest in the world. King Vingkot and his wives sat in splendor in their tall, long houses of pleasure, justice, and good cheer. But others were always jealous, and plotted many terrible things to destroy the good king and his people.

In the time after the oceans withdrew everything was fine and well. Yet, overnight and with no warning whatsoever, all the animals in the Vingkotling lands disappeared. Every cow and bull, ram and ewe, cock and hen, stallion and mare, and anything else that served the Vingkotlings.

Vingkot asked his father what had happened, and Orlanth told him that it was the work of Seravus the Enchanter, a notorious shapechanger and enemy of Vingkot who was born when his mother became pregnant from a rock. Then Orlanth blessed Vingkot, and told him to call the Thunder Brothers together and ask for help. So the king did.

The Thunder Brothers at that time sometimes lived in a barracks near to Vingkot. They were like a warband without a local lord, but more importantly many were Vingkot’s brothers, and they’d been at dangerous battles together, and also known the long pleasures of peace. So when the king sent word for his thanes and adventurers to come, many of the Thunder Brothers came too.

Vingkot thanked everyone for coming, and then Issaries enlivened the listening warriors with the dire events of the situation. Everyone cheered, and then Vingkot sent everyone out to search for any trail, trace, or measure of the missing animals. The warriors went out into known and unknown lands in pairs and they were gone so long that Vingkot’s barracks got dust on the floor a half inch think. Finally, after he made it snow out of season, Odayla came to the king and reported that he had found the trail. Vingkot saw it then, too and gave Odayla the land of Sylila as a gift. Odayla thanked the king and afterwards went away to live there, among his people. They never again depended upon those prisoner beasts, even after they were freed.

Vingkot sent word on the winds for everyone to return to his hall. They sacrificed to Orlanth and had a great feast, and Vingkot told everyone of what Odayla had learned. Then Yinkin told what he had seen when he went afterwards, and how the land was a place no tribesman had ever been to. He described the trail over wild lands, across a great river, to the stone cold mountains that had to be passed somehow, where he turned back. “I can’t fly,” he said, at the last.

So Vingkot then asked who would go on the expedition to recover the beasts, and many great warriors there volunteered. Then Vingkot told them to pick a leader among themselves, and he went away with his own household to let them work. Everyone there agreed to let Finovan lead, because he was the best suited to this kind of task, like raiding and rustling and hiding in the woods. He agreed to lead only if everyone else agreed to follow, and then the people there named themselves and their loyalties, and each agreed to obey their leader and the leaders to obey Finovan. Once that was done he said, “Here is the plan.”

The next day the party set out. Tatouth rode far ahead, his steed leaping from hilltop to hilltop as he gazed through forests, inside of hills and streams, and across the nearby sky where hostile breezes lived. He saw where foes laid an ambush, so they were avoided. He saw where hostile spirits lay, and so they were avoided as well. At last they reached the mountains, and there they saw that there were a pair of mountain giants that were guarding the pass where many of them, bound as they were to the earth like mortals, had to cross. The pass is impossible for mortal humans today. The giants were five hundred feet tall and could throw a stone that could knock a wind out to crash into the ground.

Finovan asked Odayla and Hedkoranth to try to kill them from a distance. Of those two, Hedkoranth was always the louder and more boastful, and he had the knack of making everything into some sort of contest or rivalry no matter how great or trivial the matter was. Odayla, on the other hand, preferred to keep to himself and just do the job that needed to be done, without fanfare or blame. So when the pair were asked to do this, at the same moment, Hedkoranth took the chance to challenge Odayla. Of course, this was welcomed by all of Hedkoranth’s friends, who were used to betting on their leader’s prowess and winning. Odayla had his own friends and supporters who accepted the challenges, and urged the quiet archer on for their own purposes.

Finovan told them the precise moment that he wanted the giants to drop dead, and so each timed their throw separately. Thus, Odayla loosed first. The invisible arrow flew almost silently, faster than thought, and struck its target so that it shattered the giant’s life crystal. The giant did not die immediately, but had a moment to turn and look at its partner.

Hedkoranth loosed slightly later, because his weapon was faster. Great Weighty screamed as it streaked at its target, but the sound was slower than the bolt and the giant never heard it before its entire head burst asunder into a thousand bits from the thunderstone. At that moment the other, with its life box broken, saw that, then heard the crashing thunder of the bolt, and dropped to the ground like an avalanche thundering down the steep mountainside. Its mate, headless, is still there on the mountain.

The gamblers argued about which shot was better, and though Odayla was his usual quiet self, so was Hedkoranth, standing proud with this sizzling, steaming thunderstone in his hand. But at the end they said that Hedkoranth’s shot was better, because his weapon returned to his hand ready for another casting, but Odayla had to rearm. Hedkoranth made a big thing of this. Odayla said nothing, but afterwards went on fewer and fewer raids with the Thunder Brothers. He became content with feeding his kin, and still spends most of his time in the wild lands.

Once over the pass the raiders descended to a dense and thick wood that they called Greatwood. It was alive, all of it being both one entity and many small parts that worked together. Sometimes, like all vegetable things, it just worked slowly to accumulate itself for a task. But sometimes all the parts that could move would move quickly, and become an army of Aldryami that were movable trees, crawling bushes and the most dangerous of the plants: elves, with intelligence, weapons, and magic.

They made their woods dark, they made the leaves fall off the trees, and the sap run out to bog the trails and feet with stuff that was not mud. A flight of arrows cascaded upon the raiders, a cloud of evil seeds hurt them, and then the ground took everyone and held them into place. A horde of elves with spears, bows, and shields glowered from all around.

Helamakt then revealed his Sivin Feat. It was a great magical action, but he did it quickly. First he used his own dark friends to blind all of the elves. Unseeing in every way, many fled, others froze in place, and others yet covered themselves with magic. Then Helamakt slashed his great lightning bolt from the clouds upon the huddled elves and trees, and instantly a roaring fire swept across the crowds and burnt them to char and dust. Helamakt’s wind drove the flames on to burn hotter and harder, and the magic defense of the elves were overcome. Afterwards Finovan gave Helamakt a silver armband for his great victory.

The tracks of the missing creatures led across Greatwood and to Aron. This was an alien place, where their magic would be weak. Nonetheless, they pressed on without hesitation.

In Aron, Destor led the way. He could not go where he had ever been before, but no one had ever been in Aron. As he rode along he pointed out to his son Tatouth what he was seeing, what to remember and what certain signs and portents meant. He led everyone to the Fields of Aron, where they could see and smell their many animals all cramped together into a ditch in the ground. Finovan gave careful instructions on how to approach, who ought to go first, and who had to go last.

Donarlar the Herdsman was there to guard them. He had three faces looking in different directions, and was helped by his Donarlarings, a pack of things like dogs with shark mouths that roamed the perimeter while a great pack of them loafed at the herdsman’s feet. One of them, at the outside, saw the raiders and gave warning before it was killed. The pack rushed upon the raiders, who in turn now sprinted forward in fighting trim to get what they wanted. The Thunder Brothers rumbled over the things, but by that time Donarlar had summoned the Face Guards too.

The Face Guards were animals like those domesticate creatures that the raiders were trying to recover, but instead of their normal heads they all had faces of people. They also had great powers, where one blew out a huge wind, another like a cow spat out fire, and one like a goose vomited out fiery worms that bored through their foes, and so on. Since Donarlar was not occupied, he contacted Seravus for help, who made everyone of them bigger and more powerful than normal. But Seravus didn’t show himself, despite boasts and challenges of the raiders. Even Hedkoranth couldn’t shout loud enough to disturb him. But the enchanter made everything difficult for the raiders, who had a terrible fight on their hands.

Desemborth was the one who carried many of the animals out of the hole and drove them away as the fight was going on. [He didn’t get them all. Maran Gor came and freed the rest later.] He got away and left the Trail of Clues for the warriors to follow, and then erased his own tracks and hurried away.

The Battle of Aron was a terrible fight, and every one of the warriors was hurt. But at last the Face Guards were defeated, left dead, though some were skinned. The war band withdrew again, following the clues and caught up with Desemborth at the mountains. They helped get the creatures over the crags and cliffs and took them to their owner, Durev.

Durev accepted the beasts with great thanks. He made a great offering to Orlanth and the other gods, and held a feast for the victorious raiders. Then, as was right, he gave the correct share to Vingkot, his chieftain. Then, as was right, Vingkot gave a share of the herds to each of the warriors who were on that raid, to take to their own homes and to make them wealthy and happy.

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