Sparta’s Epic Pursuits – Chapter 4 – The Gathering

In the days and weeks after the Sparta and Dale return to Tangleton the Villa quickly takes shape. Then one night, while Sparta lies sleeping, Manty comes to him in his dreams.

Manty calls to him, “Sparta, my son, it is time to gather the clan.”

Sparta replies, “I know father. But the larder is bare. The forest can barely feed those we have here already. It will be weeks before the harvest comes in.”

“Don’t worry about the mouths to feed. Zenda’s music will sustain them. Winter is coming again and you will need your harvest to feed Tangleton.”

Sparta and Manty drift through his dreams talking of the past and the future.

When Sparta awakes, he sends runners out to neighboring towns and villages to summon as many Halflings as they can muster. Sparta and Dale personally travel to Rebelton to call upon their families and the rest of the clan. The Rebelton clans are still recovering the depredations of the Gaedracis. It was only at the beginning of summer that the Heroes were able to put down the Gaedracis and his army of undead that the lich had started to gather.

The Halflings of Rebelton are happy for a holiday and make the day-long trek to Tangleton with light hearts and quick feet.  For many of them, it is their first trip into the darkness of the wood. They are astounded by the size of the trees. But the peacefulness that Sparta and Dale noted on their return from Troll’s Bridge still seems to hold throughout the forest. 

Some of the Halflings find a mighty ironwood and amazed by its girth, they try to surround it. They find it takes 8 halflings holding hands to hug its enormous trunk. But they sing a little ditty and dance around the erstwhile maypole. The tree seems to sway and beckon in time to the music. Until the Halflings pass on deeper into the woods.

The Halflings follow the old caravan route from Rebelton towards Redemption, but keep heading south where the road turns west to Redemption. At the wye, the old road to Walton is beginning to emerge from the forest growth.  The small Halflings are slowed by the encroaching trees, but can still wind their way through the hillsides until they enter the vale where Tangleton sits. After the oppressive darkness of the forest trail, the sight of Nyza’s fortress rising high above the forest floor, and wide airy lanes lined with trees and friendly holes takes their breath away. At the far end of the valley, Sparta’s Villa stands betwixt the sparkling pond and the new clan hold.

“Welcome to Tangleton!” Sparta proclaims. They troupe of Halflings passes through the village gates and are welcomed by the villagers, renewing old friendships and making new ones.  All day and into the next, Halflings stream in from the surrounding towns and villages. Rebelton was the first to come, but Redemption’s few Halflings weren’t far behind. Late in the day, a troupe of Halflings from Trollsbridge parades up the south end of the vale. The next day Halflings trickle in on foot and cart from further afield, Tower’s Heights and the Castle of the Canyon Guardian. Somehow, just before dusk a large caravan arrives from The City.

That night, the clan hold is crowded as hundreds of Halflings fill the great hall. Sparta and Dale take their places at the front of the hall. The sweet, soft music of a dulcimer wafts through the hall, soothing and quieting the restless crowd. Sparta stands atop his chair as his voice carries across the hall. “You may be wondering why I’ve called you here, Blackfeet and Ferntops, Bagginses and Riverreeds and most certainly my own kin, the Mantyson’s.  I am here to tell you the latest chapter in the tale of Papa Manty and Nana Zenda. Most of you know that they are the forbearers of the Mantyson’s Clan. Some of you may remember that they met long ago in the days when Walton was at its zenith and that Nana Zenda at least escaped the fall of Walton and founded the Smoking Pipe Tavern in Troll’s Bridge. There Zenda fell while defending the new city from an influx of orcs.” The music accompanying Sparta sounds a minor key.

“But, the tale doesn’t end there. Zenda’s spirit stayed on, pining for the return of her love, for Manty to be returned to her. In the millennium that has passed since then, many of our clan have tried to reunite them, but none were successful. Then Lord Zodyu took notice of the Nana’s ghost and conspired to keep her from passing on. As the years passed, she amassed an amazing power and Zodyu had intentions to unleash it upon us a mirror shattering cataclysm.”

As Sparta speaks, Manty and Zenda materialize, floating in the air above and behind him. Though Sparta doesn’t notice, it becomes apparent to the crowded hall that the dulcimer Zenda plays is the source of the music accompanying Sparta’s speech. The massed Halflings are held in rapt attention, nearly entranced by the story and music.

“Thankfully, Zodyu’s plans did not come to fruition. The heroes of Redemption and I were able to call upon the other gods of the pantheon to foil his scheme. With the help of Emperor Ran MCXI Manty was reunited with Zenda and her cataclysm was averted. Together, Manty and Zenda ascended to join pantheon.”

The music rises to a crescendo and then falls silent. Sparta pauses to look about and finally notices his Nana and Papa. Sparta kneels before them.

The new Halfling God & Goddess float down to the table before Sparta and speak in unison, “Arise young Sparta. You have truly earned your title as hero.”

Sparta stands before the gods while they turn to face the crowd, “Master Sparta has spoken truly and he shall be our high priest. He shall act as our voice our hands here upon the mirror. We asked him to call you all here before us. We pledge that if you offer up your prayers, we shall work to help you be fruitful and prosperous. Tonight, let us celebrate, tomorrow you may return to your homes to spread the good word.” Zenda alters her tune slightly and a feast spreads across the hall’s tables. Food and drink from all corners of the mirror appears before the Halflings. Manty and Zenda descend gently to the floor and walk amongst the gathered Halflings. The party lasts until the wee hours of the morning and all who were there claim they got to meet the divinities and receive their blessing.

In the morning, the Halflings pack up and return to their homes, sated and happy. Everywhere they go, they spread the tale of Manty and Zenda. In the months and years that follow, the Halflings are certainly fruitful as a baby boom of young Halflings blooms across the mirror. Temples and parishes sprout up wherever Halflings gather and nearly every cozy hole has a niche dedicated to worship of Manty and Zenda.

As for Sparta, he takes up the role of High Priest and founds the first temple to Manty and Zenda in Tangleton. There Halfling priests and priestess gather to worship and practice their prayers.