In Poztar, the wood-built capital of Urd, King Hormerath, friend of Blue Wizards, is dying. Thingolodh of the Falas waits beside him, cheering his last hour with tales of the Great Sea in the West. Or so he told us later. Knowing Thingolodh, I'm not sure exactly how cheering that would be, but no doubt Hormerath was excited about going beyond the Circles of the World and discovering what comes next for Mortal Men, so he probably didn't mind too much.
The lords and notables of Urd come riding into Poztar, in preparation for the meeting of the Wiatt : the body that will choose the next king of Urd.
Hormerath had three sons : Feren, Murat and the youngest, Hidek. We did not met Hidek, because he was off on a hunting trip. Now, he returns to Poztar, where he is greeted by an accusation from his brother, Murat. Murat accuses Hidek of being a skin-changer - indeed, of being the very skin changer who had devastated the village of Bagu!
Murat also accuses Feren and Hormerath of having covered up Hidek's dark secret. Tableau!
Suddenly, poor Hormerath died. Thingolodh was surprised at the speed of it: he suspected the death had been hurried along with poison. The Wiatt was called, and Feren, Murat and Hidek, the sons of the old king, stood before the assembled multitude as candidates for the kingship. Feren, a man already in his sixties, was the candidate of the older generation. Murat was backed by many of the cavalry riders of Urd, and Hidek was the choice of the younger men.
Murat accused Hidek of being a skin-changer before the whole assembled Wiatt... and Hidek admitted it! He also told them that he was certainly not responsible for the raid on Bagu village. None the less, political support for Hidek collapsed. Skin-changers are not popular in Poztar, or indeed, I understand, anywhere in Urd.
At this point, Thorofin came speeding back into Poztar, reporting the success of our mission in Raku and made it clear that the werewolves that attacked the village had certainly come from the uttermost East, not from Poztar, and that Hidek had had nothing to do with it. Also that they should give him some replacement horses.
Thorofin was rather blunter about explaining this than the Wiatt felt was quite polite, and when Thingolodh nudged him, Thorofin said 'I'm Noldor. I don't have to be diplomatic.' I see his point, yet that lad does remind me of the lord Caranthir on occasion. Perhaps I should ask the diplomatic dwarf to give him a few lessons.
Anyway, it ended up that the oldest son, Feren became king, which all seemed very appropriate and in accordance with Elven ways of doing things, and Thorofin got some horses, including a short-legged spotty one for the dwarf, and came charging back to pick up the rest of us, where he was greeted with a chorus of 'where the hell were you?' from those who could still stand up. I had been quite badly bitten, so I wasn't one of them, though thankfully Sirithglor was able to use Elf-magic to heal the bites so they did not fester.
Our ferocious wolf-killer Gyula was not well pleased when he discovered that Feren had become king. He was an influential member of the Murat faction, and his stomping and muttering made it pretty clear that Murat's supporters were not going to meekly accept their new king. Thrandin the dwarf took him to one side and had a long talk with him, about the serious problems that a civil war could create, the importance of political stability, and the uses that dark powers could make of instability in Urd. Gyula had a lot of respect for Thrandin after our adventure, and took his advice very seriously.
We were standing in the wide space before the great hall of Poztar, watching the funeral pyre of King Hormerath burn, when Gyula's head was flung over the wooden palisade. Murat, it appeared, was not convinced by the argument for peace. Messengers came bearing news. Murat was marching on Poztar, with wargs in his train. He had made an alliance with Raku.
We rallied the remaining Urds under their new king Feren, and rode out to battle.
Here we are with our heroic troops.
And here are the terrible wolf-riders and werewolves of Raku and the rebellious Urdish cavalry under Murat.
The central problem for Murat was that his two sets of forces were extremely suspicious of one another, and did not work together well. The wolves of Raku were ill-disciplined, and the cavalry of Urd seemed to lack morale, perhaps because they had found themselves confronting their friends and relatives. Or perhaps it was because Murat had been strongly against skin-changers, and had accused his brother Hidek the skin-changer of terrible crimes, yet now they found themselves allied with savage beasts.
Murat's cavalry did make a brave attempt at an attack, and routed a unit led by the skinchanger Hidek, fighting in support of his brother, King Feren. But then, facing a charge led by Thorofin charging at full speed, several cavalry units broke and ran, leaving their leader Murat alone on the field. Murat, abandoned on the battlefield, spurred his horse towards Hidek, who had been dismounted in the earlier charge, and left without a means of escape or defence.
In this desperate strait, Hidek took to his last form of defense. He became an enormous bear, and slew Murat's horse with a swipe of his gigantic claws. The Hidek-bear's teeth were just about to end his brother's life, when from the sky, a great menacing bat-form came dropping. It was the monster Gulavar. He plucked Murat from the jaws of his bear-brother, and flew away with him.
The wolves, seeing that their allies had given up, bolted and ran, with their leader the werewolf Carangamp in the lead. We had won!
Our triumph was coloured with sadness for the heroic Gyula, who Thrandin had converted to the cause of peace, and had died for it. Sirithglor, who is the member of our party best skilled in singing, and Thrandin, who felt guilty, wrote a song about it, and very good it is too. The Song of the Urdish Men.
Before you ask, yes we did also trace his family and made sure that they got Gyula's bag of loot.
You thought that was it? You thought, how can there be more of this stuff? Well, there is....