The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 3
When Elmal rose into the sky, the companions were already faring to the mountains. As they drew nearer to their destination, they spied a camp on the massif's shoulder just below a wooden shack.
It came to be that, as the friends approached the shack, the 12 men from the camp quicky mounted their llamas and rode to meet the band. The llama rider's leader greeted them well and named himself Yurgwah Redspear of the Gyaldo clan.
Argrath, noting that the mounts were high llamas, greeted them in the traditional Praxian way and named himself and his companions. Yurgwah asked their business on the mountain and Argrath told of their quest to find the Grub Sisters and seek their aid in a great undertaking; he then asked the Llama riders if they planned on hindering him and thus gaining a quick trip to the underworld. Yurgwah assured them he would not hinder their way as long as they meant no harm to the Sisters; after taking Gudny and Argrath's oaths not to harm the women, he told them the shack housed three of the wise women and directed them to freely enter.
It must be told that the Grub Sisters have been on their mountain longer than living memory. When Orlanth lead his Storm tribe into the area, the Grub Sisters were there quietly tending the spirits of the mountains. It should come as no surprise then that they were nearly all a bunch of cantankerous old crones, with one exception.
When the Gwandor band begged leave enter the shack and spoke of their need for a boon, a shrill old voice told them to be off and described what they should do to some sheep rather than bother the Sisters. Gudny replied that they were bearing gifts for the wise women of the mountain and that perhaps they had mistaken this hut for the correct one. The door swung open and the voice asked, "Why didn't you say so before?"
It must be told that, as the friends stooped to enter the rickety old shack, they saw three women awaiting them. The first was a shrunken old woman with great wrinkles and an manic gleam in her eyes; muttering to herself and stirring a pot of slowly boiling gruel she looked the band over quickly. The second was equally shrunken, but her flesh was a dark black, and looked like parchment. Almost like a sow who has been cooked over a very hot fire. She merely stared at the warriors with a scowl. The third was a very shapely young vixen who immediately made and kept eye contact with Varax while making suggestive body signals in his direction. Varax's eyes were riveted to the coquette like the Bull with a cow in heat. The women were named Lessa, Mendeh, and Borsana Blue-eyes.
Gudny greeted the women well and gifted them richly with several marks of silver for seeing them, the crones were unimpressed with the gift. Gudny spake of the trolls and how Queen Martoraz had sent them to gain the Sister's aid in assailing the Lunars in the tower and asked if the women would help. Argrath and Gudny talked long with Lessa and Mendeh trying to convince them to help smite the red-men, they had to overcome many objections including the Sister's fear of retribution from the Brushies but prevailed; for a price. The Sisters demanded a boon. A band of warriors rode hard across the Praxian plains to see the women, they knew not for what reason. "Deal with them," they instructed the companions and dismissed them from their presence.
It must be told what became of Varax that afternoon, for when the
companions left the shack, they found the Uroxi had not accompanied
them. Varax and Borsana had not listened to any of the conversation
but had been busy flirting with each other and, as the companions
eventually found out, finally romping in the furs. Much to Varax's
shame, he was ridden to exhaustion by the fiend and did not satisfy
her. He slept the rest of the afternoon and into the evening not
awakening until the Llama riders brought out their drink skins and
the smells of cooking meat drifted on the evening breeze.
Now we must take up the story with the companions outside the shack. In the distance a large war-band could be seen riding rapidly up the mountain's flank. The companions seized their weapons and prepared to meet the riders alongside the High Llama warriors.
It came to pass that the companions met the new riders and greeted them. The new-comers were a war-band led by Vurthan Battlemood of the Dundealos tribe, the very same tribe that the Empire had destroyed for rising against them. He was on a hero-quest to slay the High Sage in Sartar's tower and needed the aid of the Sisters to gain access. The Gwandori accepted his oath not to harm the women and accompanied him to the shack.
This was when they discovered what had happened to Varax as they had to drag his naked and unconscious bod to one side to get at the door. When they sought entrance they were again instructed to go play with their sheep. Vurthan announced his purpose here and that he bore gifts for the wise women. Again, the door swung open and they were ushered inside.
Battlemood gifted the Sisters with fine silver mirrors and combs for their hair, the women were pleased with the gifts.
It followed that Gudny claimed their award for performing the women's boon and the Sisters agreed to summon a grub in the morrow to lead them to the tower. The companions accepted the Dundealos' offer of aid in their assault.
It must now be told that Argrath, having heard Varax lament over his lost shame, valiantly accepted the challenge presented by the young nymph drawing her eyes from Battlemood and to himself instead and gave selflessly of himself to prove the manliness of the Gwandor. When, after many repeated shrieks of womanly pleasure from the shack, Argrath staggered into to firelight, there could be no doubt of the Gwandor's prowess in the furs.
The rest of the night passed quietly. Gudny accepted Yurgwah's hospitality and supped at his fire, they talked long into the night and reaffirmed the friendship between the Gwandor and the High Llama with an exchange of great gifts and oaths of friendship eternal.
When the companions awoke in the morn, the Sisters were dancing in a small circle in front of their shack and chanting in an eery tongue calling their powers to them. The companions quickly girded themselves for the coming battle and then awakened Vurthan and his men. Before long, a large grub dug it's way out of the hillside behind the hut. Nearly as wide as a man was high the sight unsettled several of the high llamas who had to be soothed by their masters. The grub seemed to listen briefly to the Sisters, turned, and burrowed back into the mountain. The companions seized their weapons and quickly followed.
The worm took them to the other-side on the journey as it took but 10 minutes to pass the 7 leagues to the tower. They came out of the tunnel in the tower's dungeon and the tunnel closed up behind them.
Into this small cell, the seven companions, Gudny's follower Noh, and the 11 Dundealos were now crammed. Gudny had to offer Noh, the trickster, two days of no punishment for jokes on Killer-Klang when they got home before he would pick the lock on the door. Varax had gotten tired of the argument and decided to smash the door down with his immense shoulders. Unfortunately, Noh stepped up to the door just as Varax charged it and sent the little man crashing into the wood panels. The door was a very stout one and didn't even shudder when Varax hit it. It took much more convincing to get Noh to try the door again.
When the door swung open, Varax leapt through it and charged up the stairs with a roar of fury. Gudny followed close on his heels while Lothar and the rest of the band followed them.
The tower should now be described. It stretched 7 stories into the sky with another under the earth. The main gateway to the fortification was at the top of a flight of narrow stairs on the second floor. Dominating the second floor was the main hall. It stretched up to the third floor which was in-fact merely a balcony around the hall. The stairs in the tower were not much more than a man's shoulders across and the archways leading to the floors was less than man-width.
Varax came upon a luck-less servant on the stairs a struck off his head with his bill. Coming to the ground floor, he saw six half-dressed, though fully armored, men burst from two rooms off of the hall. With a cry he hurled himself at them. Gudny stepped from the stairs after him and, calling on Orlanth, smashed three of the foes against the far wall with a angry blast of wind. Varax, chanting his death song, smote another foe cleaving him from brow to belt. With an angry gesture, Gudny sent another warrior crashing against the roof with a Vadrudi whirl-wind. Varax gave the last his death-blow with a lazy back-handed chop. They ensured that there were no more warriors in the room on this floor and raced to catch-up the rest of the band.
While the fight raged on the first floor, Lothar led the charge up the stairs to the second to secure the main gateway into the tower. As they burst into the hall, Lothar spied evidence of men on the balcony and rushed up the stairs to deal with them. With his grim, expressionless battle-face, Lothar gave a guard on the stairs his death-blow and strode onto the balcony. Three of Shepelkirt's own spawn, the bent blades of Tarnils prepared to assail him.
Sigmund followed Lothar to the main floor and along with Katla, they closed and barred the door before running up the stairs.
Vurthen and his men brought up the rear, they spread across the hall ensuring the sleeping forms on the floor never awoke then called upon their magics to jump to the third floor where they took the Tarnils from behind.
Now, even as they turned their faces from Humakt, the Tarnils still held some of his magic to their bosoms and sent three of the Dundealos warriors to Orlanth's hall before falling to the other's blades.
The Dundealos gave a great shout and raced up the stairs to the next floor. They scoured the rooms clean in their quest for the Red-Sage. Lothar led his companions, including Varax and Gudny now, to the fifth floor and the last for this stairwell.
On the fifth floor, the sages and the sorcerer had set up their defenses and performing some chaotic ritual. In the centre of the room was a large tri-pod with a glowing red stone suspended from it. The sorcerer pointed at Lothar with a savage grin and the stone shot a bright bolt of corrupt red-light at the Humakti. Lothar smashed the beam aside with Deathgiver his left-hand sword. The sages finished chanting and sent forth an evil red cloud to drive Lothar mad but he ignored it. The sages fled before Lothar could reach them with his blades and the Carmanian grinned again. His smugly assured face turned to horror as Argrath called Mastakos to send the tri-pod down a floor and deprive the Carmanian of it's power. Despite his surprise, the magi still managed to concentrate his magic on Lothar and smote him to the floor with a crimson blast before fleeing up the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, Gudny and Varax waited to move to the fifth floor. Varax, behind Gudny, could smell the red-magic in the air. "It smells funny," he said, "like.....CHAOS!!!!!"
"Oh Mother-of-Life protect me!" cried Gudny(1) as the Uroxi went into a battle frenzy and tried to barge his way up the stairs. Gudny dove out of the stairwell to avoid getting trampled and saw the tri-pod appear in the middle of the hall. He immediately recognized it as the red-light that Queen Martoraz wanted destroyed. With a quick flick of the fingers, he freed the Duhari shades who swarmed the stone. Red spirits could be seen rising off of the glowing moon-stone fighting with the shades but the contest was over in moments and the stone, the moon-spirits and the shades, disappeared.
With the destruction of the stone, the chaos taint left the air and Varax calmed down before he hurt anybody and the friends regrouped on the fifth floor while Noh unlocked the door leading to the sixth. The Dundealos rejoined the companions here, after the fighting ended.
With the door open, Varax again led the charge to the top floor. They came to a small landing. Closed doors led off to left and right while a trap door led to the roof. Sigmund carried Lothar over his shoulder.
Varax swung open the left-hand door while Gudny prepared an icy wind. A young sage with a horse-hair beard was trying to lock the door when it swung open and Gudny knocked him sense-less with a sharp gust of wind.
The room was otherwise unremarkable.
Argrath swung open the door to the right while Gudny prepared another wind but found the room empty. On a table beside the bed was a lamp which did burn some of Argrath's blood when he tried it.
The Dundealos burst upon the roof and found the sages and the sorcerer trying to escape on a moon beam. He burned them all but for the sorcerer who laughed at his attempts and flew off.
The companions gathered all of the books they could carry and taking Lothar summoned their waiting sylphs to carry them from the tower. The Dundealos men called Mostakos to carry them to the ground.
(1) Ernalda is the mother of life. She also, incidently,
gave Orlanth the Shield of Arran so calling her for protection is
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