Kuleneth mustered all the Lakreni at Relain, at the Hill of Kulebras. About 500 men gathered, and Kuleneth picked 200 of them, including many of the Odranging. «boasting of deeds» Nallindia convinced Gerenath the Wealthy to bring ten warriors, but the other leaders merely let Kuleneth pick from their men. Kuleneth left a guard of 25, and brought 50 of his mercenaries, and another 250 warriors.
An armored messenger from Lord Demon of Death arrived, announcing that the army was a day behind. He acted without any regard to custom, but Kuleneth extended his protection.
The next day, the army arrived. The valley where it camped was in shadow, even at noon. The army included 50 war-thanes of Humakt, 25 berserkers who worshipped Zolan Zubar, 100 experienced mercenaries, 50 barbarians wearing horned helmets, 10 White Ladies of Chalana Arroy, 50 fierce uz from the Yolp Mountains, and 15 iron-clad mostali. In all, Lord Demon of Death had 300 warriors. Lord Demon of Death was neither man nor uz, though he was as tall as a man and a half, covered with intricate tattoos which kept the power of Zolan Zubar from destroying him. Kuleneth offered his friendship.
Lord Demon of Death assigned Kuleneth to scout and skirmish, and commandeered boats.
The army of Dorastor marched far slower than the Lakreni boats, and Kuleneth called a council to deal with the impending shortage of food. They decided to attack Ernandel and see if they could take it before the army of Dorastor could get there.
Kuleneth attacked, but the defenders put up a fight before they retreated inside the walls. Nallindia and Furlam took prisoners. Kuleneth surrounded the city, and his forces gathered food from the countryside.
Furlam convinced Kuleneth to assault the city once the cavalry arrived. The prisoners revealed that there were about 100 defenders, but no Alkothi in the city.
Jangi tried to goad Ketisum to single combat, but Ketisum ignored him.
The next day, 100 cavalry showed up. Ketisum offered to fight a single combat, but everyone figured he was magically prepared, and decided to attack the city instead.
Kuleneth led the main assault on the wall, while two other groups were able to go over the walls where they weren't defended. Jangi and Hrothgar took out their foes, then fought Ketisum. Ketisum offered his surrender to Hrothgar, as Kuleneth's brother. Ernandel was plundered for three days.
The Odrangings held a ceremony, knocked down the tower, took the hair rope, and burned it.
Meanwhile, the army pillaged Ernandel. The mercenaries slaughtered civilians and set fires, but were mostly after loot, and thankfully there was little rape. One of the Humakti captains said, "You should be glad it's us and not the Zorak Zorani." The city burned for three days. Kuleneth received 50 pounds of silver, and distributed 30 to his victorious warriors.
Lord Demon of Death and the rest of the army arrived three days after the fall of Ernandel. Kuleneth welcomed him to Lakreni lands. Although the Council warlord respected this claim, he was not pleased that the city had been taken without him. He took out his anger on the clans of Dara-ni -- for a full week, his berserks ravaged the countryside outside the environs of Ernandel.
Kuleneth held a council to discuss the fate of the city. He proposed garrisoning Ernandel with 100 men, 25 of whom would be Odrangings. He would give whoever was willing to run the city 20 pounds of silver to hire more warriors.
Martorian Sword, his Champion, offered to hold Ernandel, but Kuleneth turned him down.
The four considered best suited to lead the city were Kuleneth's brother Hrothgar the Mighty, the golden-tongued diplomat Furlam, the clever and popular thane Hoskol, and the doughty and grizzled Nemed the Reliable. Furlam and Nemed both put forth compelling arguments, but when Furlam agreed to put Hrothgar's wife Elarandra in charge of the city market, Hrothgar began a wapentake on Furlam's behalf which drowned out all further discussion.
Kuleneth appointed Furlam as City-Thane, and Furlam, Nallindia, and Martog began reorganizing the city, once of 750 but now containing only 575 people. The old, the young, and the merchants had suffered the most. Among the survivors were about fifty leading citizens, with whom they consulted.
A Humakti Sword named Oswind, who led nine other Terarir mercenaries, offered his services after seeing auspicious signs in a flock of ravens. Furlam appointed him captain of the guards. He also named Hrothgar as his champion.
After the week of destruction, Lord Demon of Death led his army north towards Thubana. Kuleneth followed with the Lakreni heroes.
The leader of the Zorak Zoran berserkers was a massive uz named Kwarach Kang. He threatened Hrothgar, ordering him to surrender "the Solar shit" Ketisum to his warlord. Hrothgar was intimidated, and asked his brother for advice. Kuleneth said that turning down Lord Demon of Death would be extremely unwise, so Hrothgar handed Ketisum over. Lord Demon of Death promised Hrothgar a favor in return.
The army of the Unity Council and Lakreni marched to Thubana, and surrounded the city. The Zorak Zorani began loudly and incessantly pounding their drums. Lord Demon of Death told Hestenus that if he surrendered, he would only sack the city for one day. For every day the city held out, he would sack it another day. He also offered to fight Lord Hestenus in single combat. Hestenus refused, and Lord Demon of Death sacrificed Ketisum in a terrible ritual.
The priestess of Oria showed up with her bodyguard and dared him to strike her. Lord Demon of Death laughed, and said, "I will not fall for your trick twice." He ordered the temple not to be touched.
The walls held off the first attack. Lord Hestenus's magic held off the attacking berserkers and Orlanthi. Then the Iron Mostali set their great machines of war against the city walls. In three days the walls began to crumble. Lord Demon of Death ordered the Lakreni and Terarir mercenaries to assault the walls, while his berserkers and Humakti waited for the right moment to charge through the breach.
Hrothgar rushed over the wall after crushing his foe in a single mighty stroke. Verdun and Sekinmor were beaten back. The battle was very fierce, with 25 Lakreni heroes taking fatal wounds. Then Lord Demon of Death charged with his host and broke through. Lord Hestenus offered himself as a sacrifice for the city, saying that if Lord Demon of Death refused, he would be unjust. He accepted the offer and only sacked the city for a single day after receiving a huge tribute. Hestenus was sacrificed and Lord Demon of Death ensconced himself in the city. His Humakti and Terarir mercenaries went north to take the Lonadona. Thubana and Lonadona were made High Council cities, ruled by Lord Wolenath, and another Terarir mercenary captain.
Hrothgar recruited five Lakreni heroes and twenty Odrangings to join him in Ernandel. Nemed the Reliable also decided to stay.
Meanwhile, Furlam had decided on a Ring to help him rule. Tritta was a young priestess of the Erinflarth, who had taken over the position when Ketisum killed her predecessor. Furlam donated a pound of silver to the temple and appointed her as Provider. Sorel the Wise was one of the leading elders of the city. He was short of stature, but well respected. He held the Greybeard seat. Furlam asked his wife Ranella to serve as Ernalda. Nallindia represented Vinga, Elarandra acted as Issaries, and Martog was given the position of Midwife.
Herenmara, the priestess of Nealda-Oria, challenged Ranella's appointment, but Ranella showed that Ernalda was stronger than Oria.
When the Odrangings returned from Thubana, the Ring began the enactment of the founding of Ernandel. They travelled downriver on Nallindia's magical boat Snapper. After some difficulty, they sped through to the Other Side. Furlam spotted a blue dragon coiled around Erinflarth, threatening to drown the river in salt water. Furlam remembered the deeds of Hedbeday the Awakener, and called the Seven Singing Birds to confuse the dragon. It swallowed its own tail and disappeared, but Nallindia's Edgeless Ring took on this shape, and Martog caught the last drops of salt water in the Birthing Bowl of Urt-alzareck. Furlam and his ring revealed that Ernandel was the daughter of Erinflarth and the dragon. By wakening her spirit they showed everyone that they had the right and strength to rule.
They paraded through the city with their sacred regalia. Furlam wore the Ram's Horn of Orlanth. Ranella carried a loom. Elarandra held up a scale and honest weights. Sorel carried a new book, the Annals of Ernandel. Nallindia wore the Edgeless Ring. Trita bore a clay jar containing ashes from the rope which had bound the Erinflarth, and Martog carried the leaden Birthing Bowl. Everyone acknowledged them as the rightful ring of the reborn city.
Part Three | Part Five
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