The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 8
As Kazokang was going to be spending a few days trading in Tink, the companions were free to deliver the package.
The friends fared north along "Dwarf Trail". They stopped for news and directions at the Town of Hamand and arrived at Dwarf Mine the next morning.
Dwarf Mine is a strange complex dug into the mountainside. The most obvious feature is two giant statues flanking the entranceway. Each is over 100 meters tall and carries an axe that matches their stature. It was later learned that the statues would come to life to defend the mine. There were many small windows with long metal tubes sticking out of them. When asked the mostali named them "cannon", they are apparently a form of defense.
As the companions approached the entranceway, they were stopped by an Iron Mostali. These are the warrior dwarves. He was encased from head-to-foot in iron plate armour. He pointed a short stick with a metal tube on the top at the friends and asked their business. Argrath told him that he was to deliver a package to Isildirian the Wise and demanded passage. In it's mechanical voice, the dwarf asked if it was "bar-coded". He directed the puzzled men inside to "registration".
Within the entrance hall were many desks in a row with dwarves sitting behind them writing industriously on pads of paper. People of various types were sitting in front of these desks and more were standing in queue. Argrath turned to address a dwarf sitting next to the door; the mostali pointed sharply at a sign on the wall:
Argrath tried to talk to the mostali again but it would only look at him angrily and point at the sign. Finally Argrath looked carefully at the sign and saw a dispenser on the bottom that held pieces of numbered paper.
After a while, the number on Argrath's paper was called by one of the mostali at the desks. Argrath stormed over and told the dwarf about the package he needed to deliver. The dwarf asked for his name. He wrote it on his pad. He asked for Argrath's homeland, current residence, and occupation. At this point Argrath started to get impatient and demanded to know what this was about, after a few more questions, religious affiliation and sub-cult membership, Argrath stormed off in a rage. He accosted another human entering the room and queried him about what was happening here and how to get in the place.
After several minutes of complaining, Argrath returned to the desk he had been at and tried to address the dwarf again. The Mostali only cleared it's throat angrily and pointed at the sign.
Several hours later, Argrath was finished, after learning that the mostali had no sense of humour and having to start again with the "registration process" he was lead into a small room and instructed to remove all "non-functioning organic and all non-organic" materials from his person and was handed a very thin, white, one-piece article of clothing. He was asked to press his fingers into a box full of ink and was then put in front of a box on legs which blinked very bright light at him, blinding him temporarily.
It now being nearly 9 hours since Argrath had entered the Dwarf Mine, he was lead to Isildirian the Wise. He introduced himself and gave him the package. The mostali opened it, read it, stroked his beard while he thought about it and walked over to a chess table. He moved a piece, wrote something on the back of the letter, resealed it and gave it back to the gaping orlanthi.
Isildirian talked to Argrath about a machine in the room called an "Alch-Transformer" which was supposed to affect a person's magic. He asked what Argrath would do with the device. "Kill Lunars," was the quick response. Isildirian gifted Argrath with a medallion that would allow him to by-pass registration next time he came to the mine and gave him this warning:
"Be wary of dragon powers. Their powers are deep and mysterious, beyond of the ken even of us immortals."
The companions fared back to Tink to meet up with Kazokang and for Argrath to deliver the letter to Ferang.
Ferang answered Argrath's question about the riddle. There is only one black dragon and it is enslaved by Cragspider a Uz demi-goddess. He gave instructions on how to ask for an audience with her and bid the companions fare-well.
So now the caravan busked home and did not draw reins until they spied a strange storm in the sky. Thick black clouds gathered, lightning flashed between the clouds and thunder echoed off of the hills. Gudny said the storm felt strange, it was not an Orlanthi storm, it was Uraini.
It must be told that Urain is the Bad Storm. He is seen when Orlanth is not ruling and justice has left the land. This storm foretold evil tidings.
Gudny rose into the air on a great sylph and flew into the storm to try and find its source. He spied a battle between Orlanthi spirits of the air and Uraini howlers. He was set upon by one of the Howlers throwing great gouts of lightning at him. He turned the hail aside with his shield and smote the spirit with Orlanth's thunder destroying it utterly.
Finding no further information, Gudny struck more howlers down and then descended back to the ground. The storm started to break up and the companions continued on their journey.
One night, Argrath was woken from slumber, he spied a figure sitting across the dying fire from him, smiling. It was his father's spirit. "Become Kodigvari" it said and faded out of view. None of the companions knew what Kodigvari was and when Argrath tried to summon his Great Grandfather's spirit he did not come.
The group rode quicker now sure that some evil was brewing in the land. They were blocked by 8 bandits on the road by the Dinacoli lands. Shadowstalker said that they smelt funny. There were signs of old runes having been removed from their belongings, clan and cult markings.
Gudny rode up to their leader and addressed him thusly, "What manner of folk are you?"
"Homeless wanders," the man answered. The man was a giant standing nearly at eye level with Gudny even though Gudny was still mounted, and the band fairly bristled with weapons. The leader's name was Borne.
Gudny probed asked further and it came out that the band had fled Harvar Ironfist's retribution for not converting to Bigger Wind. They wanted to stay true to Orlanth. Since then they have not found a home. To test their truth, Gudny leapt from his mount and told them to worship with him. They looked shocked, looked at each other and shuffled into the correct places. Gudny called Orlanth to bless them and to accept these wayward souls back. He asked for a doom from Orlanth and read the clouds for signs. A sharp wind blew among the band, the clouds moved and a peal of thunder crashed down. Gudny's ally, Shadowstalked strode over and rubbed against Borne's legs up-ending him.
As Gudny climbed back onto his horse, Nestin stood forth and address Borne. They all knew Nestin and had heard of his conversion. Apparently, it had driven Harvar wroth when he had heard the news. Nestin told the story and spoke well of Gudny. The newcomers took it well and 6 of them fell upon their knees and swore to follow Gudny to the end of their days, and beyond! Gudny drew his sword and they all swore on that glittering blade and took Humakt as witness to their oaths.
The newly enlarged band fared back to the Gwandor lands. Gudny wished Kazokang well on the rest of his journey and then went to visit his mistress.
It happened that while the friends were a-faring, a letter had arrived from Vistol detailing the money that Hamdir Hardbargain was making from Gwandor house. It was four times the normal amount and he was not sharing any with the clan.
Argrath sought out Yorden, for his knowledge of Orlanthi myths is rivaled by none. Yorden told the tale of the Kodigvari.
It seems that the Kodigvari were the royal bloodline of Vingkot. Only members of this clan could become King. When the decendants of Vingkot destroyed the kingdom with civil war, the Kodigvari were all but wiped out.
Gudny took his news about Hamdir's cheating to the Chief. Kulbrast was wroth and told Gudny that he would take suit against Hamdir at the annual moot next week. Gudny was pleased and returned to his home to prepare for Sacred Time ceremonies in the next weeks.
It came to pass that a large contingent of horsemen arrived on the tula at this time. 50 lunars of the Bell Temple heavy cavalry regiment, 50 of the Gintory medium cavalry regiment and 20 missionaries. Their leader named himself Lord Artamesh of Spol. He was a huge man standing nearly as high as Borne. He wore Red armour with deeply etched runes.
Artamesh declared that he was there to ensure the missionaries access to the people on this land and to heal the schism between the two Humakti temples in the region. As the commander of the Jonstown temple, he now declared the Death Hollow temple, located on Gwandor land, to be under his command aswell. Orgumleide the Sinew spake "I am the commander of this temple and it will not be joined with yours". Artamesh smiled at him and challenged him to fight in the Hollow in the morn.
Artamesh had other announcements aswell. A new 7 Mothers temple had been dedicated in Jonstown, and a Dobordun temple in Joralar's keep. Any who prayed at these temples were exempt from taxes for a year. Any who became initiates of these gods received automatic citizenship in the Empire. Artamesh had also come to collect the Clan's annual tribite.
In the morn, the clan came to witness the duel in Death Hollow. Orgumleide strode forth with his greatsword in his hands. Artamesh stood a-waiting him. Artamesh was larger than Orgumleide and nearly a head taller. They fought like a pair of alynxes trading great blows back and forth. Orgumleide was faster and more skilled. Artamesh was younger and had more reserves of strength. After half an hour, Orgumleide was visibly tiring, he drew Artamesh into a trap and made a blow at him severing his hand but Artamesh's sword passed through Orgumleide's breast and stuck out between his shoulders. Artamesh takes command of Death Hollow, appoints a deputy, bandages his arm and returned to Jonstown with his following.
Sacred time was upon the clan now. Gudny lead 30 boys, Nestin, Borne and his followers into the hills for their initiation into the cult of Orlanth. They all returned in three days, tired but happy and Orlanth was strengthened. Menja Boarscar had also initiated the clan's girls into adulthood and the cult of Ernalda.
The clan gathered at the temple in the hills. A drum beat its rhythm into the sky, now fast, now quick, now low, now loud. 6 other priests stood with Gudny in the circle wearing the masks of the 6 winds. At Gudny's feet a large fire was made ready in the centre of a large storm rune incised on the ground. Gudny summoned the blessings of Orlanth and the 6 winds to him, he called out: "I call upon you, Lord of the six winds! I call upon Orlanth. I call upon the Storm to receive our prayers and bless our people. We know that our strength is the Storm, our weapon is the Sword and our Shield our purity."
The new initiates danced the Storm dance spiraling inwards following the storm rune.
Gudny called out: "Valind's Wind?"
"I am coming, cold and unforgiving", said the Winter Mask.
"I am here, adventurous and bold", said the Hedkoranth Mask.
"I am coming, swift, honourable, and deadly", said the Gwandor Mask.
"I am here, warm and gentle from the south", said the Earthmother Mask.
"I am here, secret, steady", said the Sylphfather Mask.
"I am here, secret, hidden and vengeful", said the Kolat Mask.
"I call upon you to accept our offerings and give your blessings" cried Gudny. The storm clouds began to roil and thunder boomed across the tula and a heavy wind came up and blew across the knoll. A great bolt of lightning struck the sacred fire and it burst into flames showering sparks across the onlookers.
Great shadowy forms took shape over the 6 mask-wearers like the masks themselves had come to life. Gudny floated into the air and a great aura spread around him. The thunder was coming quicker and the drums could no longer be distinguished from the sounds of the storm. The warhorns were blown to scare off evil spirits.
6 cows, and 6 sheep, and 6 pigs, and 6 chickens, and 6 swords, and 6 helms, and 6 shields were brought forth and sacrificed to Orlanth, these were then tossed onto the fire and burnt, their ashes floating to Orlanth in the smoke.
The ceremony went well and Orlanth was greatly pleased.
Menja led the secret rituals to Ernalda and saw good omens. Hild Cowwise sacrificed a bull to Uralda asking for her blessings on the herds. She went around the tula and sacrificed a cow in each paddock to Uralda and asked the spirits to help guard the herds for the new year.
During the Sacred Season, Argrath courted Voydag the Bandageroller. She agreed to be his wife if he swore to avenger her last husband's killing and to slay many Gorde. Argrath eagerly swore to that oath and they were married.
Kamoar brought down the largest kill during the Odaylan ceremonies and thus became the Clan's Master Hunter.
At the annual moot, Kulbrast brought forth his suit against Hamdir Hardbargain for cheating the clan. He called to witness Gudny and Argrath and they swore their oaths on what they knew. Kulbrast called for him to be outlawed and his household fined the money he had kept from the clan. The clan was outraged and agreed immediately. Hamdir left with 5 of his house who refused to accept the judgement. Kulbrast would not allow the clan to kill him.
It also happened at the moot that the new year's ring was chosen. Yorden was reappointed as Farmer. Menja as Earthmother, and Hild as Herdmother. Kamoar was appointed as Hunter. Lothar was appointed Gwandor and took over the Sinew's old household and his property. Sigmund was appointed Warrior. There was no challenge to Kulbrast's chiefdom.
Kulbrast appointed Argrath his Champion.
Forbidding were most of the Sacred Time omens:
Uraini clouds were seen gathering over Boldhome and great storms played out.
During all of the ceremonies, the spirits of the Gwandor's dead walked among the people crying for vengeance on their foes.
The clan saw a vision of the mythic past. Their ancestors approaching a strange plinth and taking energy from it. A host of dragon newts came from the plinth and slew many of the people...
Another vision of Orlanth leading his armies against Wakboth's hordes. Just before the hosts clashed they changed. Orlanth's banners became the wolf's head of Gwandor and Wakboth's forces became the Gorde fyrd. There was a large evil shadow standing behind the Gorde forces...
Another vision showed a bleak mountain, Elmal standing on Kerofin providing light. A great gathering of people at the base of the mountain. A large throne with a man on it. Around the base of the throne were many noble-men. The crowd shouted, "By your blood you rule!" The king replied, "From your blood I come forth. Let no man dispute the blood of the Kodigvari!"...
The final vision showed a huge mountain, a camp of doughty warriors a-top it falls to a flood of chaos monsters and a great light was extinguished from the world...
Gudny freed half of his thralls and accepted their oaths to serve him in exchange for land.
As the new year dawned, Imperial heralds rode forth and proclaimed the fall of Whitewall, the last Orlanthi city. They cheerfully declared the cult of Orlanth dead, "Long live the Goddess!" They announced a year of celebrations including no taxes for citizens.
Just after this, a band of people arrived on the tula claiming kinship. 14 men, 5 warrior women, 6 childern and several old folk lead by Darund Batbane claimed their right to join the Gwandor. Darund is the son of Hanvan the Northron who served the Kings of Heortland and married into Volsaxi, he married Gess of the Julanduri who had a daughter named Shelva who bore Darund. He and his people had escaped from Whitewall and fled the Lunars. He had taken his name from the wild charge made that banished the Crimson Bat from this world.
The clan accepted them and they joined Gestan's household.
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