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Gwandor Saga

The Saga of the Gwandorlings 33

Week 3 in the Wastes

It must be told how the Quest was greatly distressed and bedraggled after fleeing through the swamp and assembling rafts large enough to hold the party and their mounts. They pushed off and poled their way down the sluggish, parasite infested serpent [1].

As they floated through the swamp and Storm Bull's storm raged over head the fog closed in on all sides, seemingly ignoring what little wind stirred the air between the mangroves. The smell of rotten eggs permeated the air and soon neither sun nor fellow rafts could be spied. On the last raft one of the Praxian guides struck spark to tinder to light a torch and an explosion boomed flatly in the fog. The nomad pinwheeled into the stagnant waters and had to be retrieved by a thrown rope from Garthael.

Gudny sat down and spake to mighty Orlanth calling the Umbroli[2] to dance with him and directing them to push the bewitched fogs away. The banks shifted minutely, the Umbroli strained and the fog drifted away to the banks of the river.

The Friends saw that they were now in the thickest depths of the turbid bog. The trees seemed to be watching the rafts and there were mouths in the some of the trunks. Tendrils swayed in the still air and reached out for the fresh meat floating slowly by.

Come nightfall, Storm Bull's storm abated a little and the eerie sounds of a bog in the night rose into the thick air. Kamoar arose after sleeping the day through and sat watch for the night. The rafts were drawn into a cluster in the middle of the current and anchored with poles. In the depths of the night one of the guides starts shouting, “Shut up!” in to the night. When asked he spake of hearing whispering in his ear, “You will all die” the voice hissed at him. Argrath soothed him and they returned to their uneasy sleep.

Come morning the storm raged on in full fury above the trees and lashed the pitiful party with rain and even hail. Two guides failed to arise when shaken it was found that they had falled prey to large parasites in the night. Creatures that looked like squids had wrapped their tentacles to the sleeping men, one was enveloped around his leg and the other at the groin; the creatures pulsed and sickening crunching sounds came from under their bodies. Varax nodded thoughfully, “Chaos, I thought it smelt stronger.” The Companions burned the monsters off of their men; one nomad had lost his leg to the knee, the other died immediately as his life's blood fountained into the air from his town and mangled groin.

As the party readied themselves to move on, the man who had fallen into the water doubled over and started gagging up bloody worms. Voydag could do nothing to help him and Varax, calling them Chaos worms, hewed his head off. His brother immediately demanded compensation and Argrath paid it.

Garthael blessed the corpses so they would remain dead and they were consigned to the filthy waters.

During the day, a sable birthed a broo, the mount and the foul offspring were slain. Two sables grew dreadfully sick and were slain. Varax bit into his food and chomped on a swamp slug. The creature sprayed acid into his mouth as it died and Varax screamed in pain and anger. Voydag did what she could but the Uroxi was left with no tongue and tattered remnants of his lips. Voydag spent the day with him performing a healing and regenerating ritual. A full third of the party's meager foodstuffs was found to be infested with parasites of one type or another.

As the Friends poled their way along the river, a disturbance was espied behind them in the water. Suddenly a great serpent arose from the river, 18 ells across and swaying 120 ells [3] in the air the creature swayed back and forth peering around at the world. The space it occupied was where the rafts had just been poled across and it appeared the party had awakened this behemoth. It stopped and coughed sending four objects flying through the air before sinking back under the waves again.

The objects quickly became recognisable. A four-posted bed landed heavily in the trees to the south. A giant cow with three-heads lowed as it flew off to the north and crashed with a scream into the trees to the north. A man looking very surprised fell towards the rafts and Argrath used Mastakos' magics to bring him safely to landing. The final object was a large box with cartwheels on the sides. Gudny caught it gently on a whirlwind and settled it on the riverbank.

The man was hairless and started about himself vacantly. He did not respond to any language the Friends knew and tried to eat anything given to him.

We must now tell of the strange metal cart that Gudny had saved from the bog. It measured eight feet wide and reached twelve feet long and was covered in strange runes and glyphs. A tall metal cylinder with splayed flanges pierced the top of the cart. The Friends opened a door and Argrath peered around the inside. The compartment was very short and the seats they espied there-in were obviously dwarven. Argrath pulled a lever and the carts emitted a loud “BEEP!” The Friends surged back from the cart reaching for their swords. Argrath leapt up from the chair and caromed off of the ceiling. He pulled the lever again, “BEEP!” “BEEP!” He pushed a button but nothing happened. As he scrutinised other controls the button popped back out with a click. Steeling himself against further surprises Argrath pulled on the button and it came off in his hand! As he turned it over it burnt his palm and he saw a tightly wound spiral of glowing metal on one side of it. At the rear of the cart stood a large metal objet with many tubes and pipes looping around it, it was the base of the metal pipe jutting through the ceiling. In several compartments at the rear of the cart Argrath found scores of small metal cylinders, metal and wood contraptions with short tubes attached to them, boxes full of small iron balls and bags of a gritty black powder.

Not understanding the mostali magics they had found, but certain that these were magic, the friends took the metal and wood contraptions and several bags of the powder. They took all of the iron balls as there was enough there to equip a small warband with iron equipment and they took a score of the metal cylinders.

The party moved on down the river poling like all of Shepelkirt's [4] demons were after them. That night another sable was slain after spouting blood from its ears and nose. Argrath attempted a mighty ritual to enhance the speed of the rafts, the task was too daunting and though he strained valiantly he failed. Sigmund let out a great shout and collapsed. Gudny leapt to his blood-brother's side and spied one of the squid parasites wriggling on the tip of Sigmund's spear, one tentacle wrapped around his ankle. Sigmund awoke an hour later and was fine having shrugged off the creature's paralysing grasp.

During the night, lights were seen approaching the moored rafts. They reached into to the sky when they reached the water's edge and danced before the party like Valind's aurora in the northern skys. Shapes and patterns formed in the shimmering curtains of light. A great golden army formed and marched through a verdant garden led by a great green-and-gold giant warrior. A formless black horde approached and tore the army into glittering pieces; a howling horde of shadows raped the giant to death.

It must be related now that Genert was a giant who ruled Genert's Garden. He was a wore green and gold and led a Golden Army. Genert and his army fell fighting chaos during the God's War. With the death of Genert all of his garden fell into waste and thus the wastes of Prax.

There were many similar images showing chaotic hoards rampaging through the land felling heros and gods and tormenting the land. Bronwyn, with his draconic knowledge of the cosmos discerned that they were seeing a manifestation of the chaotic void. The images continued showing the Companions views into chaotic hells and torments being inflicted upon the ravaged peoples there. Finally they spied a large, well built man with muscles of iron being lashed mercilessly by a demon. The man peered directly at them out of the void and spake, “Release me.” [5]

Our tale now moves on, the rafts fared down the river and out of the marsh with no further mishaps and reached clean air and solid land in three days. The Friends elected to remain on the river as long as it led them east towards to dreaded Plateau of Statues.

Later that day the party espied a large cloud of dust billowing across the wastes. As it neared the Friends recognised an entire Bison tribe making their war over the empty lands. All 2,000 of them were headed directly for the Friends.

Argrath met the Bison Khan when he rode forth with a warband of 200 warriors. The Khan came forth with two shamans that the Companions could see were festooned with powerful fetishes.

The Khan spoke and a shaman haltingly translated, “Great Khan Lurtah Bloodspear say you must pay tribute to walk our lands”. Argrath bows to the Khan and readily agrees, “I will pay a generous tribute and gift you besides. I would also trade for provisions and remounts for my band.” “You not understand,” intoned the shaman, “You pay veeery big tribute…or you DIE, and Great Khan may slay you anyway…for fun.”

It was at this time that a band of riders approached; bison, rhinoceros, llama, impala and sables; all of the gleaming white. At their head rode a large man on a white horse. “Send me back into the swamp,” groaned the Dragonfriend as Argrath White-Bull rode up to Lurtah. White-Bull struck the Khan in the face and berated him for harassing his friends. After a furious, and one-sided, exchange in Praxian the Khan turned and apologised to the Companions. He offered them guesting and gifts.

As the bison people set camp and took the party's sables to care for them Lurtah took the Argraths into his tent and sat Dragonfriend on his left with the Companions down from him and he sat Whitebull on his right with his men down from him. He then broke bread with his guests in the Greeting Ritual [6]. White-Bull inquired into Dragonfriend's business in the wastes. “We fare to the Plateau of Statues doing a favour for Cragspider,” spake Dragonfriend. “Ah, a good friend to have Cragspider is,” replied White-Bull, “do you need a guide? I've been to the Plateau before.” When Dragonfriend replied that a guide would have been useful in the bog White-Bull let out a cry of mirth. “Where do you keep them,” he asked Dragonfriend. “It takes balls like a rhino to enter the swamp.”

As part of his apology for confronting the companions the Khan had one of his shamans examine the hairless fellow from the swamp. The Friend's had decided that he was a herdman, the shaman agreed that he was but said that he was not born to it. He performed the ritual that returned the man's sentience and left. Bronwyn spake to him but got no response. Finally the man spoke and Bronwyn immediately saw his tongue was split. Splitting his own and speaking in Draconic Bronwyn learned the man's tale.

It seems he was from the EWF. The man named himself Monkun and said he was a cartographer sent with an expedition to the east to map the lands they passed through. His party had been forced into the swamp where they were assailed, eaten, drowned, sickened and more. He lost his parchments in the festering bog and was taken by Morocanth's when they finally escaped the swamp. His description and the dates matched those of the journal Wyrmquill bore, he had been on the expedition to the east with the war-banner. Monkun related that their party bore several wagons of treasure. They were supposed to meet somebody on the western slopes of the Shan Shan Mountains. After they trials in the swamp he said they were thinking of leaving some treasures.

At dinner that night a sudden commotion swept the camp. Riders rushed to and fro shouting in panic. White-Bull stood and told the Friends to “Get out of here!” before he rushed off into the night. The Friends made for their rafts staring at the pandemonium in the camp. The Bison were packing rapidly and leaving anything they could not throw on their mounts. The entire mass was charging off as fast as they could. White-Bull thundered by with his band shouting “Run, its Quim!” Behind him the Friends could see a great tornado bearing down on the fleeing Bisons and the leapt onto their rafts and pushed off.

We must tell of Quim. Quim is a chaos giant with one head and three bodies. Quim is 100 ells tall. He moves by spinning around his head and forms a tornado as he does. He wanders the wastes smashing what he finds and trampling the nomads when he can.

Quim passed the Companion and chased the tribe into the night.

[1] All rivers are serpents that invaded the land during the Storm Age.
[2] Wind spirits.
[3] Ells are roughly equivalent to yards.
[4] The chaotic red moon, this is the name the Orlanthi of Dragon Pass apply to Rufelza.
[5] Sheng Seleris, the greatest ravager of the Lunar Empire was cast into a lunar, read chaotic, hell.
[6] In the wastes once you have shared your bread with a stranger he is your guest and entitled to full protection while he is in your tent.

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March 27, 2001

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