The Saga of the Gwandorlings 16
The news came to the companions that the Empire had declared the entire Firebull clan outlaw. All who had left the clan and joined others rather than go into exile with Argrath were found by the red-men and crucified before their new chief's halls; 600 men, women, and children. The survivors at Old Wind were outraged and demanded vengeance on the Lunars. Argrath promised them that it would come.
After talking with Norolf Four-hundred-fighter, the companions decided to fare into Sun County and help the Lismelder and Locaem tribes fend off the increasingly imperialistic Count Orgunjar Straightarm, commander of the Sun Dome Templars. Norolf had told the friends of Sota Lamplighter, High Priest of Yelmalio, and his disputes with Orgunjar.
Sota objected to the Count's growing alliance with the Dara Happans who most Sun County residents hated as much, if not more than, the despised Orlanthi. The companions decided to seek counsel with Sota and offer to aid him against the Count.
Argrath sent five Telmori to spread the news of his doings among their people and he sent messengers to Cragspider and his people there and with the Sazdorf relating the tales as well.
So the friends fared west to seek Sota. For quickness and obscurity, the party was kept small; Argrath rode forth with Sigmund, Gudny and Bron along with Gudny's warband and four telmori.
They journeyed through a secret mountain pass behind Old Wind and came out in Waspland. Several riders passed over them but none interfered with their travel. They passed the Hive and then passed old Kultain lands and through Sylangi land.
On the Sorang clan's tula, in Sylangi Tribal land, they were challenged by the Chief's weaponthanes and given the greeting. The thanes granted the friends guest right and took them to see their chief.
Chief Hakkon acknowledged the strength in the name Argrath and called for a telling of his story. Argrath agreed and asked Gudny to give the telling. Hakkon called for meat and ale and his thanes came to enjoy the feast.
"A Tale! A Tale! A telling! A telling!" cried the Sorangi as they beat their mugs on the tables. "I'd happily trade you tale for tale," Gudny told Hakkon. "A Skald-bout!" Hakkon cried and his men burst out cheering, he waved his skald forward to out-tell Gudny.
Gudny wet his tongue with ale, "Telling is thirsty work," he grinned and broke into verse. He told of the daring attack on Boldhome and Argrath's bold lighting of the Flame of Sartar; the Sorangi were impressed and one table collapsed under the pounding of mugs. Hend, Hakkon's skald replied with a tired tale of the Sorangi's fighting in Whitewall against the Bat; he concluded to a smattering of applause. Gudny strode around room telling of their battle with the Lunars along side the Firebull clan and the taking of the moon rock; the hall rocked with the crowd's cheering.
"A tremendous tale," roared Hakkon, "But you'd have fared better if ye'd had the Sorangi fighting with you!" "Yes, you're right!" cried Argrath, "with the Sorangi at my back we'd hound the Lunars from Sartar!" Argrath recited a rousing speech about his goals and where he was going.
Hakkon said "you tell a mighty tale but why would we follow you? Prove your might! Wrestle me!" Argrath agreed. Though they were of a height with each other, Hakkon was much deeper of chest and his arms were thickly corded with muscle.
They grappled in the middle of the hall and Argrath forced Hakkon to his knees before the chief wriggled away from him. Argrath realised that even half-drunk as he was, Hakkon was still a vastly superior wrestler. They grappled again and Argrath had to move fast to avoid being thrown. Hakkon grabbed him again and with a mighty heave sent Argrath flying over his shoulder and crashing onto a table.
"You may be a slip of a boy," boomed Hakkon between laughs, "But you have spirit!"
"My strength is in my friends," said Argrath. He spied a pile of barrels at the end of the hall and challenged the chief to a barrel-breaking game. "I have a Hedkoranthi Thrower in my following," he said. The Sorangi replied that they had heard of Hedkoranth but that no rock thrower could outdo an axe-man and that "We are the best Axe-throwers in the world!"
Sigmund threw down his drinking horn and demanded they bring forth their best thrower. The crowd cheered wildly as a hulking Uroxi, Bund the Axe, stood up. He seized a huge battle axe from the floor and grinned at Sigmund. To a loud chant of "Bund! Bund! Bund!" the warrior beat his head with the flat of the axe, "aaaaaaarrRRRRRRRGGGGG!!!!!!" He took two strides and hurled the axe at the barrels; the top barrel split entirely through and the axe sunk deep into the wall behind. "Bund! Bund! Bund!"
Sigmund smiled at Bund and threw Little Weighty at the next barrel. With a resounding crash the barrel shattered into splinters, Little Weighty snapped back into Sigmund's hand. "He must be a Sorangi!" cried the thanes. "He was stolen from us at birth!" "He's an honourary Sorangi!"
A good axe thrower like Bund would have taken eight or more throws to reduce a barrel to splinters. Sigmund had to drink fast the rest of the night to keep his drink-horn from overflowing. Bund made it his business to keep it brimming.
Gudny traded mythical tales with Hakkon's lawspeaker and awed the gathering with his tales of life in the Kodigvari.
Come morn, the companions resumed their journey to Sun County.
Sun County is in a valley to the south of Lismelder lands and borders the Duck lands and Beast Valley. Mounted patrols were visible moving through the fields and long the tracks and farmers could be seen working the fields. Gudny remarked on the strange planting methods: the fields were laid out in straight rows, there were few bushes or rocks in them, and even the crops were planted in straight rows. Everybody knew that the best way to grow grain was to toss the seeds on rocky ground and let it be, and why would the fields have straight boundaries? Nothing grows in neat little rows or in straight lines, everything grows as it will. The fields looked like something the Dara Happans would do, everything orderly and "in its place".
Borne called the powers of the Sandals of Darkness and he and Gudny slipped unseen down the track towards the nearest farmer. They stepped out of the shadows in front of the startled man and greeted him. Gudny complimented him on his farm; "Of course it's nice. It's blessed. Yelmalio gave the land to us so it's blessed and because of that, we're blessed." Gudny agreed with this and spake of his desire to meet with a priest in town. When asked why, Gudny told the farmer that he had come to learn more of the Truth of Yelmalio. "Oh, so you've come to convert? Why didn't you just stop one of the patrols and tell them?" asked the farmer. Gudny asked the farmer what a patrol would have done to him had he done so. The farmer grunted and agreed. Finally the farmer agreed to take Gudny to see the priest in the nearest village in the morn and grudgingly offered Gudny guesting at his home. Gudny asked if the priest ever traveled thinking he could try to send for him rather than risk going further into Sun County. "Oh yes," replied the farmer, "he is one the most traveled of all the priests, he has visited at least two other villages in my lifetime." The farmer himself, it seemed, traveled the two miles to village once a season. "Why would I want to travel that far except to take in my crops?"
At his house, the farmer knelt on the threshold and thanked Yelmalio for his blessings. He rose and blessed his wife. Gudny apologised for not performing the proper supplications but he did not know them. The farmer looked puzzled and gruffly replied that he did not expect the barbarian scum to know them. The farmer snapped his fingers and his daughters brought forth vats of water to wash Gudny and Borne's feet before they were allowed into the house. The women were heavily dressed and their faces were covered in veils. Neither girl would meet the visitor's eyes.
Gudny and Borne watched as the family spent the next two hours in prayer before dinner. The meal was as plain as the house, dry bread and a stew. The farmer blessed the food before they ate and thanked Yelmalio for his bounty after they had finished. Dinner was silent and the women did not talk at all during the evening. The visitors were shown to a bare room at the back of the house which was obviously only cleaned to allow people to stay there.
In the morn, after lengthy prayers and another bland repast, the farmer took a lunch basket from his wife and they set off to see the priest. The two mile journey took most of the morning with the farmer stopping every twenty minutes to replenish his energy from the basket.
At the village the farmer presented Gudny to Yondust Goldfeather the local priest. After dismissing the farmer Yondust sought the reason for Gudny's visit, "So you've come to convert to Yelmalio?" "Well, actually, I was sent by a friend of Sota Lamplighter to bring him aid in returning Sun County to the True Path of Yelmalio." "Oh, so a hairy barbarian is going to tell us how to worship Yelmalio?!" he sneered. "No, we have come to help you in a way that Sota will tell us." Yondust finally agreed to seek an interview with Sota on Gudny's behalf. Gudny sent a sylph to tell Argrath his progress and that it would take at least three days to hear from Sota.
Sota did agree to see Gudny and Yondast took them to him. Sota was an old man over 4 score years old. He was still active though and Gudny found him working in his garden accompanied by a large mastiff. As Gudny approached Sota, the dog lifted its grubby head and barked "Barbarian comes master. Smells bad, like cat. Must have smeared hair with shit." Gudny was surprised to hear the dog speak let alone be insulted by it. The dog continued to throw insults that grew increasingly course as the meeting with Sota progressed.
Gudny told Sota that he had been sent by his lord Argrath to seek an meeting and that Norolf Four-hundred-fighter had sent them to aid Sota. When asked by Sota what help they could give him Gudny spoke of the schism between Sota and the Count. "You are particularly well informed," grumbled Sota. Gudny told Sota that they knew the Count was straying from Yelmalio and leading his people astray with him. If they could it they would be able to oust him from his place of power and thus help Sota bring the people back to the correct path. Sota agreed to meet Argrath.
So Sota lifted himself, Gudny, and Borne into the air in a Sunbeam and they floated through the air to Argrath's camp.
Sota and Argrath talk long about their mutual trouble with the Count. Sota points out that if the Count were to be defeated in his quest to conquer the Lismelder and Locaem he would have to call on help from the Dara Happans to complete the task. This would prove to the people that he was not following the true ways of Yelmalio and Sota could sway them against the Count. He agreed to provide information on where the Count and his forces were so that Argrath and the two tribes could defeat his forces. How ever, if the Count succeeded in his quest then his "Holy" map that showed the borders of Sun County significantly larger than they were at that time would be proven as a holy relic rather than a hoax.
On parting, Sota blessed a golden wheel and told Argrath to use it to summon Sota's attention at Yelm's Height (noon) so that they could communicate.
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