The Saga of the Gwandorlings 26
The Companions returned to Horn Hill amid much rejoicing. Gudny gifted his helpers handsomely, especially Argrath to whom he gave the Malani Humakti's byrnie.
Hurred joined the Companions in council to discuss their next move. Hurred agreed to swear fealty to Agrath on the condition that Hurred was to be March Lord in the Dragonfriend's service. Argrath accepted and gifted Hurred greatly.
The Friends resolved to free Sota Lamplighter from Verthun and discussed how to do it. They talked long into the night of this and that until Gudny recited this tale:
There was once, just before Orlanth departed on his Lighters Quest that had to rescue his Hearthane Elmal from Gargath's camp. It seemed that Vadrus had found Orlanth's stead impossible to raid while Elmal guarded it and so sent forth his sons to take Elmal. Gargath tricked Elmal into leaving the stead and fell upon him with his warband. When Orlanth heard of this he was mighty wroth. He seized his wargear and set off free his friend. As Orlanth fared into Prax he was confronted by Waha who challenged his passage. Orlanth wrestled Waha and passed on. Orlanth met the Monkey King who agreed to help him. Orlanth met Raven who mocked his attempt to creep up to Gargath's camp. Orlanth said "Where I come from we deal fairly, but firmly with Tricksters," and smote Raven with lightning sending him squawking off into the wastes. Finally, Orlanth used his powers of the Thief to steal into Gargath's camp and free Elmal whereapon his Thunder Brothers came apon the ramparts to open a way for the two to escape.
The Companions all agreed that this was the best way to free Sota and immediately set about preparing.
In the morrow, Tharn performed the Arming of Orlanth ceremony on Argrath. Sigmund sang the songs of Hedkoranth to enact the leader of the Thunder Brothers. Gudny danced the dances of Varn the Sylph, one of the Thunder Brothers. Bronwyn danced the sinuous dance of Gwarlier the Wyrm another Thunder Brother. Kamoar purred quietly to himself as Yinkin did.
Argrath led his band from Orlanth's stead and fared east into Prax. As they rode, they passed into the Storm Age. The sky changed and grew stormier, light faded entirely from the sky as Elmal was no longer standing on Kero Fin. Thunder crashed and lightning danced through the clouds. Kolat's Childern  danced through the vales.
As Argrath approached Prax he espied a hulking man barring his path. Dressed as a Plains Kahn, the man had the head of a Bison, now an Impala, now an Emu. His head changed to each of the Plains herd in turn.
"What do you wish Storm King?" he asked Argrath, "Have you come to ravage our lands again?"
"We wish only to pass through," responded Argrath.
"Pass through?! Your kind never 'just pass through'," Waha replied. "What business do you have in my lands and why should I permit it?"
Argrath challenged Waha to wrestle for it. Waha agrees whole-heartedly and charges Argrath with his Rhino head held low to gore.
As Argrath charges towards Waha he grows in stature until he is the same size and looks more and more like Orlanth.
Argrath catches Waha by his horn and starts to twist him off balance. Waha changes his head to a Morocanth and Argrath finds himself holding nothing and almost falls. He recovers quickly and, seizing Waha around the waist, drives him backwards finally heaving him off of his feet and throwing him into the bushes.
With a hearty laugh, Argrath helps Waha up and they brush themselves off. "You are an honourable man Orlanth. You may pass through my lands."
Argrath leads his friends forth into Prax. As they passed a large wadi they could hear a frantic chattering coming from the far side of a huge boulder. Argrath strode around the boulder and saw a giant baboon halfway up the rock with his arm stuck in the rock. He was thrashing wildly trying to pull his hand out and screaming in monkey chatter. The baboon was wearing strange clothes and had a crown on his head though it looked to be falling off at any moment.
Argrath tried talking to the monkey but could not
be heard over its cries. He flew up next to it and yelled at it,
"Shut Up!" The monkey stopped and glared at him. "What is the problem?
Is there some way I can help?" Argrath asked.
"My fist is stuck in this hole," the monkey replied. "What can you do puny human? If I can't get it out, how are you going to get it out?" Argrath fought to keep a straight face and asked how the monkey had gotten stuck. "I can't get my fist out!"
"Why do you not open your fist so that you can get your hand out?" Argrath asked.
"Leave it to a No-hair like you to say that," the monkey sneered. "How do I get the fruit out then Stupid?!" "I'll get it for you," said Argrath. "But then I won't have the fruit!" the monkey screamed. "I'll get it out and give it to you," swore Argrath. "But, how do I get it?" Argrath promised to fly into the hole in the rock and that the fruit would then magically appear in the monkey's hand.
With a sour look at Argrath the monkey released his hold on the fruit and his hand came out of the hole with ease. His eyes opened wide in shock and he gaped at Argrath. "You smart for a No-Hair." Argrath reached into the hold and got out the fruit for him and gave it to him. "Orlanth is Wise. I owe you a favour. Orlanth is Mighty-Brain."
Argrath led his band further on until they spied Gargath's camp. As they crept through a wadi they heard a squawking above them. A giant raven was perched on a rock on the lip of the wadi.
"Hey Orlanth!" it called. "Sneaking around like a coward eh? Not as brave as you'd like to be!" The raven nearly fell out of the tree it was laughing so hard and it's squawks rolled across the plains. "Begone" cried Orlanth. "What? Disrespect? What is to keep me from raising the alarm right now," the Raven taunted.
"Where I come from, we treat tricksters fairly, but firmly," Argrath replied and scorched Raven with a lightning bolt. Raven leapt into the air and flew off cawing seeking a pool of water to put out his burning tail-feathers. "I'll get you for this Wind-Bag!" he cried.
Leaving his companions, Argrath called on the power of the Sandals of Darkness that Orlanth had taken from the Uz. He made his way into the camp, avoiding all of the sentries and lolling bandits. In the centre of the camp he found Elmal chained to a post. He had enchanted manacles on his wrists that drained his power and kept him docile.
Argrath freed him and had turned to sneak out of the camp when the entire area lit up like day-break. With cries of alarm, the bandits poured out of their tents to see what was happening. The sentries cried out that there was an intruder in the camp. Once the manacles were off, Elmal's natural light returned to him and his lit the camp up. Argrath and Elmal raced for the edge of camp and the Thunder Brothers crashed into the defenses to open the way.
Argrath fought his way through the first batch of guards and spotted Gargath racing from his tent. "Orlanth!" shouted Gargath, "Get him!" Gargath leapt onto his six-legged stead and took to the air. His beast cackled as its skull-head burst into flame and swooped at Argrath. Argrath leapt into the air and smote at Gargath with lightning knocking him off of his stead in one fell blow.
The companions journeyed back across Prax camping several times along the way. One morn, Argrath awoke and had the sense that something was missing. He searched all of his goods and found nothing missing. Next to Argrath's bedroll was a single raven feather.
Argrath learned later what Raven has stolen from him. Argrath had lost the ability to laugh, just as Orlanth had near the end of the Storm Age.
When the companions returned to Horn Hill Sota was with them and happy for the rescue. "They were going to eat me the next day, " he said.
Hurred had important news for them. Sir Guennvar had marched from Knight Fort with his army and taken Knifestead. The Knife had fled into the hills with his people and Guennvar had besieged Grim Keep.
Hurred had called Baron's council and was awaiting Argrath's return. The Brone and the Stollberg had sworn fealty to Hurred as the March Lord. When Kordur the Orrin arrived he did likewise.
The Drayce recounted what he knew of Guennvar's forces. "Five-score Rokari knights. Two times five-score warriors. Another five-score Impala riders from the Oldway Clan. Three-score each of Smord and Urluf warriors. A dozen Rokari wizards and a score of siege engineers."
Argrath asked for a telling of the March Lord's forces. The Drayce could summon 30 soldiers, 140 warriors and 120 militiamen. The Brone and the Stollberg could each call 10 soldiers, 50 warriors and 50 militia. Orrin could raise 5 Aeolian knights, 10 soldiers, 60 warriors and 80 militia.
Gudny sent a message to Rark Ironbear asking for a force of Uroxi to attend him for a fight.
Kamoar left to scout Redwater vale and return with news of Guennvar's disposition.
Sota Lamplighter agreed to help the Friends in the coming battles.
Argrath sent messages to The Vrance and to The Thren. Neither would leave their keeps and bade Argrath come to them instead.
In a fit of anger, Argrath summoned his boon companions to him, they mounted their flying steeds, and swooped down on Vrancehold landing on the roof.
The sentries were very startled and immediately summoned their lord. Argrath told him that he would fall alone if he did not help the rest of the barons fight Guennvar. "But if I do not fight him, the Rokari will not attack me," Vrance replied. "The Grim and the Knife are bandits, they deserve being attacked." Argrath argued with him, telling how Guennvar was using Praxians to conquer the Marches and how he had set out to form his own kingdom. He finally convinced the baron when he pointed out that Hurred did not levy any taxes on the Barons but that the Rokari certainly would.
The Vrance agreed to raise his people and swear loyalty to the Drayce. Vrancehold could supply 12 soldiers, 60 warriors, and 60 militiamen to the fight.
Next, Argrath and his flying band settled on the roof of Threnshold. Osbin the Thren was waiting for them. "What are your intentions?" demanded Argrath. "What are yours?" Osbin responded. "I have the choice of being dominated by Rokari or being dominated by Hurred! That is no choice at all," he declared. Argrath leaned down off of his bull and slapped Osbin loudly with his glove. "Hurred does not tell you what gods to worship! Hurred does not burn your fellow baron's lands. Hurred does not dominate you at all! How dare you compare them!"
Osbin stared at Argrath in shock. His soldiers reached for their arms but did not move under the gaze of seven massive sky bulls and their stony-faced riders. Osbin agrees to swear eternal loyalty to Hurred and immediately set about calling his levies. He could raise 13 soldiers, 60 warriors and 60 militiamen.
We must now tell of Kamoar's journey to Redwater vale. In the hills behind Knifestead he found The Knife and his people. Irkendor told his tale. The Rokari had come on them in surprise and stormed the stead. The Knife had gotten most of his people out into the hills and they were fighting a hit-and-run war. "We doin what we do best, stab'm in the back."
Irkendor then spake of Guennvar's mistake in besieging Grimkeep, "Dem Grim, dey been tunneling through those hills back there for generations. They get in and out regardless of siege." And with the hidden tunnels, the Grim was waging a bloodier guerilla war than the Knife was. "Yep, I sur feal sorry for dem Rokari," Irkendor said contentedly.
Kamoar learned that Guennvar was camped in a great pavilion next to Knifestead and nye 500 of his troops. The Knife agreed to swear fealty to Hurred if Argrath can defeat the Rokari.
Prowling the hills behind Grimkeep Kamoar espied two men stalking through the bushes. They looked battered ad hungry and wore the livery of Knight Fort. Kamoar stole up on them and asked what they were doing there.
Both men spun with a look of terror on their faces. "Don't hurt us! We're leaving. Really. Don't kill us!" Kamoar, better suited to talking to his many alynxi, asked the men to help him out. "Are you with the Grim?" they asked him. Aye was the response. Both men glanced at each other, nodded and fell on their swords.
The Friends learned later that many of Guennvar's levies had deserted or suicided in the face of the gruesome death that the Grim's marauders dealt out.
Grimkeep was surrounded by fortified siegeworks. 200 of Guennvar's men manned them and the siege engines pounded the walls.
Kamoar found a small siege outpost in the hills that had been burned out. There were a hand of bodies in there. All were horribly mutilated. All appeared to have been tortured to death.
Scouring the area Kamoar found a tunnel entrance and marked it before he turned for Horn Hill and Argrath.
It must now be told that Bronwyn had befriended a man who used to reside in Knight Fort. Koreno Fastladle was his name and he told Bronwyn of a man, Sir Dengthar of Durengard. Sir Dengthar had been an Aeolian knight but was forcible converted to Rokarism by Guennvar. Dengthar did not like Guennvar. Sir Dengthar was one of Guennvar's lieutenants in the Fort. The Companions thought that he might be convinced to let them into the Fort so they could slay Guennvar. With Guennvar campaigning in the field, Sir Renethon of Greenstead is Commander of the Fort and there are a few militiamen left to garrison it.
Bronwyn met with Dengthar and, using his knack to manipulate people to his will, he convinced him to let the band into the Fort in exchange for being made Baron of Greenstead. "Can I convert back to Aeol then?" Dengthar asked.
Argrath orders the Baron's forces to gather in the hills behind Threnshold and stay hidden. He and Gudny arrange the logistics and issue the orders.
On the third night after their return from Prax, the Companions set out from Threnshold with 40 warbanders and 20 of The Knife's men. They awaited Sir Dengthar outside the appointed sally port and passed within when it opened. Dengthar led them through the fort to Renethor's rooms. The warband spread through the fort securing it. Those who surrendered to them were spared, those who did not did not live to see another Elmal-rise.
As they approached Renethor's rooms, his guards sealed the doors against the assault. Sigmund hurled Little Weighty against the door, once, twice, and thrice whereupon it burst asunder. "Surrender!" shouted Argrath. "Death first!" came the reply. "Kill them all!" screamed Argrath and the Friends charged through the shattered doorway shouting their battle-cries and the fort rang with Djarn's war horn.
"Argrath!" cried Gudny as he leapt a makeshift barricade of furniture and bedding. Renethor's confessor, an aged Rokari wizard, struck at him with a great ball of fire. The flames smote Gudny's shield and engulfed him in their embrace. Unfortunately, the wizard's mind was fogged with sleep and he lost control of his magic, burst into flames, and perished. Gudny stood a little singed.
Kamoar charged into the room in a blood-frenzy. He took a half-dozen crossbow bolts in the chest but they failed to penetrate the hound pelt he bore. He flung himself at knight with a blood-curdling scream but the knight struck at him with his sword, the blow landed on Kamoar's leg tearing it open. But no blood flowed. The knight struck again and slashed Kamoar across his muzzle shearing off most of his cheek but the alynx-man never flinched and bored right in on him. He ducked under the knight's shield and his claws passed through the man's armour and on into his belly. Kamoar then tore at his legs with his rear claws felling him and finished by tearing his throat out with his teeth.
Bronwyn stepped through the door and smote at a knight with thunder. The knight tried to use his faith in Rokar as a shield but the blow passed through that, shattered his cuirass with the force of the blow and flung the dazed knight against the great bed. Another negligent blow sent the knight crashing to the floor unmoving.
Sigmund flung Little Weighty at Sir Renethor. The thunderstone blasted
its way through the barricade and struck the half-clothed knight
in the chest. The entire fort rocked with the force of the blow
and everyone in the room was deafened. When the dust finished falling,
all could see the crater in the back wall where Little Weighty has
struck. The entire back wall was coated in the remains of Renethor
as were most of the people in the room.
Some quick work by Agnes Bloody-Knife, a Dovoldan Bandage-roller in Gudny's service, saved Kamoar when he came out of his frenzy. More scars for the collection. "They are not Lunars," he said, "but their blood tastes as good."
Argrath left Rolf Skullsplicer with all of the warbanders and Knife's men to guard the fort and the Companions flew back to Threnshold.
In the day and night that it had taken for Knight Fort to be taken, Geunnvar had marched on Threnshold. Without orders to intervene, Argrath's army had stayed hidden in the hills and watched. Without the help, a furious Thren surrendered to the Rokari.
Gudny was told that 400 uroxi riders had arrived at Horn Hill and awaited his instructions. He summoned them to join them at Misty Vale, it would take them a day to get there.
Kamoar flew to Redwater Vale to see what had become of The Grim. Guennvar had abandoned the siege but burned Knifestead to the ground before he moved on.
Kamoar told The Grim of the attack on Threnshold, the seizure of Knight Fort, and the arrival of the Uroxi. He called on The Grim to aid the barons' attack.
"Guennvar is in Threnshold?" Aye. "With his entire force?" Aye. "Good! Then we know just what to do. I'll call the lads." Kamoar thanked him for his help and told him where to find Argrath and his forces. "What do I care about that for?" asked The Grim. "If Guennvar is in Threnshold then nobody is in Greenstead. Me'n me lads are going raiding. We'll sack the place." Kamoar convinced the baron to join with the Knife and harry the Rokari's supplies and to raid his camps.
It was about now that Guennvar learned of the fall of Knight Fort. He turned his entire army and marched back over the hills.
The Friends resolved to attack Guennvar directly. They gathered all of their companions who could take to the air and the score of them set off along with Sota Lamplighter.
They flew over the army and spied the Rokari in the center of it.
Like the winds of Vadrus they struck. Fast, hard, and uncompromising. They flew out of the sun and had slain 5 of Guennvar's wizards before any could respond. Guennvar's banner exploded into flame and the banner man collapsed into death.
Panic spread from the loci of the assault like waves through a pond. A stiff breeze sprung up and cleared the smoke. The Companions spied Guennvar. He had been struck by one of Sota's sun spears and died as his armour melted in the intense heat.
Gudny used The Thunder, Orlanth's booming voice to call on the army to surrender and it did.
A few days later the barons and the Friends feasted at Knight Fort. The Uroxi were along as well to mollify them for having missed all of the fighting. Argrath had taken most of a day to track down the Knife and the Grim and stop their rampage through the army's stragglers.
Argrath gifted the Barons generously for their help and was not stingy with his friends and warbanders either.
Most of the Rokari knights chose to move on with their families but had to surrender their wealth and lands to Argrath.
All of the March Barons swore fealty to Hurred the Drayce and The Drayce reaffirmed his fealty to Argrath.
 Kolat's Children - Umbroli – unruly air spirits
 We were expecting this guy to be an eternal thorn in our side.
He hated Hurred and thought that he should have been March Lord
himself. Fortunately, Argrath spent a plot point and then rolled
a critical success at the same time as Osbin rolled a fumble and
Osbin was convinced of the error of his ways permanently.
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