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The Saga of the Gwandorlings 34

Week 4 In the Wastes

 

"You very stupid people"

- Kettul Black-Fur to Argrath

We now take up the tale two days hence. The Companions had fared further down the rapidly dwindling river, at times having to carry their rafts over the shallows, and were now approaching Dead Bottom.

As the rafts were poled into a particularly narrow defile a mass of small furry beings appeared on the crests and stared down at them. One jet-black baboon came forth and pumped his spear in the air and spoke to them in Praxian. Burgua Two-Scar, the leader of the surviving Praxian guides translated for Argrath and told how the baboon called it self Kettul Black-Fur and he was seeking Argrath Small-hand.

“I am Agrath Small-hand, so named by the King of the Monkeys,” spake Argrath. “Me have vision, to see Argrath” replied Kettul. He produced a dried monkey’s paw and gave it to Argrath, “Find this in camp. For you from King Monkey. Sign of greeaaat favour. When finger close King send help. When thumb close he come he-self.”

Argrath thanked Kettul for his words and his valuable gift. He gifted the baboon with a fine helm and two sturdy swords and earned great honour among the Baboon tribe for his generosity and favour with the King of the Monkeys.

Argrath asked Kettul what he knew about Dead Bottom. “Full of Little-Eating People,” was the response. “Tabooooo land, no one go there. Ten tribe of Prax fall in and they make dead.”

“This is a test of courage and honour for us,” spake Argrath. “We are brave people.” “You very stuuupid people!” replied a vexed Kettul. “It stuuupid to break taboo. That why they taboo!” “We are men of honour and bravery,” Argrath replied. “I tell your family you die like all taboo-breaking idiots.”

Argrath asked Kettul to lead them to Dead Bottom, “No lead. Go there,” he pointed. “You know you there because there none of us around.”

With this the Companions continued down the river and reached the top of the falls the next day. There was barely a trickle of water over the rocks and they could see down the length of the canyon. Lots of greenery, some trees. A large raven sat on a desiccated stump laughing at the Companions. “Who’s laughing now Orlanth?” echoed in their heads.

Burgua drew Argrath aside and told him that none of his men were going to break the taboo against entering Dead Bottom. The Companions left the guides with food and water, the Praxians agreed to await their return for seven days. The Friends then climbed and flew down the 300 ell cliff to the bottom of the canyon.

Kamoar, first down prowled the area seeking any sign of inhabitation. He felt gentle tugs on the great pelt he wore and noticed a dozen small arrows sprouting from it; none more than a hands-span in length. A strange smell rose from them suggesting a poison of some sort. As he pushed on into the undergrowth to investigate a horde of small humanoids rushed from the bushes, not a one of them reaching higher than Kamoar’s knee. They challenged his ankles with their small spears and then struck in a comical surge of ineffectiveness. Several tried to bite him when their spears broke on his hounds-pelt. When Kamoar shook them off they fled into a tunnel in the bushes.

Kamoar lay snares along several trails he identified as hunting paths of this small creatures, identified with the Giant-Eaters out of the EWF Journal, and caught one that Argrath tried to interrogate. None of them could speak with it and they let it go before pushing on into the canyon.

Moving down a large game trail the Companions came to a strange sight. A small brook meandered – artistically – through a well-manicured clearing. Many types of flowering plants were in evidence all arrange into pleasing patterns. A man-sized statue stood in the middle of the clearing, it was man-shaped but had no face. As they watched, it moved. It reached down and picked up a small boulder. The boulder dissolved into the hand of the statue, which then took a stride and pushed its hand into the earth. Around the statue plants burst into life. Doryl Safe-Path, Gudny’s Issaries follower picked his way gingerly through the clearing and called on the guidance of Issaries the Talking-God to speak with the statue. When he returned he told how the statue was “gardening” and had asked if we had seen any Jagged Ones or Genert.

The Companions gave this garden a wide space to avoid arousing the wrath of the Faceless One, as that is what it must have been, and continued down the valley.

In the distance they espied a mesa jutting into the canyon. Glinting in the sun on the side of the mesa was a great dragon sigil. They headed directly for it. Glittering in the underbrush beside the trail the Friends found a pile of golden nuggets. They were shaped strangely like animal dung. The Friends collected the small bounty and fared on.

They heard a great crashing and clangour in the trees ahead. Resounding crunches filled the air and they could see trees toppling. They courageously made their way to a clearing where they saw a wondrous sight. Two ten-foot humanoids were engaged in a mighty battle. They were the deepest black with wicked spikes jutting from every part of their bodies and smashed at each other with massive spiked clubs.

The Companions elected to pass around the clearing but the creatures spotted them and ceased their fight. They grabbed a massive tree and flung it at the Friends before charging them with a murderous cry.

Argrath called his lord Mastakos to shrug the trunk aside. Gudny summoned the Vadrudi spirits to cast trees into the path of the giants as their friends retreated to find better fighting terrain.

Sigmund stood his ground like Hedkoranth when faced with Jorgulti the Giant. He hurled Little Weighty at the behemoth. The giant paused and swiped Little Weighty with his club. The club shattered and Little Weighty returned to Sigmund’s hand burning in outrage and hatred.

Argrath attempted to levitate a giant but found it too heavy to lift. Gudny hurled his tornadoes into their faces but they ignored them. Bronwyn struck one giant with Orlanth’s javelin but left no mark on that black flesh.

Argrath gallantly leapt behind the giants and taunted them. They turned and pursued him through the trees. Sigmund called on Hedkoranth to lend him strength, poured his spirit and soul into Little Weighty and hurled it at the giant backs. The boom of the rock’s passage echoed down the length and breadth of the valley. Bushes and trees close to his path burst into flame at his passing and he struck the first giant with a great flash and deafening explosion. When the smoke and debris settled the first giant was no more. The other giant stopped chasing Argrath and tore into the other corpse with its teeth crunching happily at the iron bones of his companion. Sigmund dispatched the last giant and the Companions pushed on through the trees towards the mesa.

Bronwyn and Agrath flew towards the dragon sigil. It appeared to be carved of painted on to the cliff face. As they approached, they both blinked and were headed back towards the rest of the Companions. They tried it several times and the same thing happened each time.

Monkun, the EWF survivor whom they had pulled from the swamp, explained what they were seeing. This was called the Oroboros Layer. It was a great feat known to the masters with his expedition. It turns ones’ reality back upon itself and prevents you from entering the area. To pass, they would need to impose their reality upon the Layer and overpower it.

Bronwyn gathered the Companions and led them in a ritual to focus their power on the Layer. He called on his ancient training as an EWF battle-mage to gather the communal magic and passed the group through the layer.

Several startled people fled into the distance at their appearance. They could see cropland where there had been nothing before and atop the mesa they espied a small village. They had found those EWF survivors mentioned in the Journal.

From the golden sigil a small dragon, 30 ells in length, stretched and flowed forth to meet the intruders. Bronwyn smiled and his eyes flashed green. His tongue split and tasted the air. Wings burst from his back and scales glistened on his muscled arms. His face elongated into a draconic snout and he flew up to greet the dragon. Monkun named this a Consciousness Dragon. Similar to a Dream Dragon but formed from the consciousness of the people in the valley.

Bronwyn hailed the dragon in wyrmish. We have come following your ancient path he told it. We are pleased to see you and you are most welcome the dragon replied. You are much awaited. Welcome to our humble, humble home. The dragon turned and vanished back into the sigil.

The Companions spied a procession, come from the mesa, winding its way down a set of steps carved into the cliff. The leader wore several layers of ornate robes, Bronwyn saw the robes of six different offices and could tell that the wearer knew not how to use them. Ten men wearing mis-matched armour accompanied him and gripped unfamiliar weapons in their hands.

The leader named himself Iurn First-Wise and welcomed the Friends as brothers. “You spoke to our dragon and he greeted you. If he greets you we greet you.” Bronwyn frowned at this and remarked to the Friends that they did not know that the Consciousness dragon was of them. They thought it was a separate entity. They must have lost much knowledge in their exile here.

Monkun remarked on the sceptre that Iurn bore. He called the Cosmotic Sceptre and spake how it must be the source of the Oroboros Layer. The sceptre had the power to warp reality around itself.

Iurn waved the Friends into the village. “You are from the Empire? You will want to review our records and stores that we have collected as instructed. You will find them up to Imperial standards.”

He led them into a deep store-room and the Companions stared in awe at the fabulous sight presented. Suits of EWF dragon-scale mail lined the walls. Nye 200 books left behind by the expedition were still preserved. Mighty Dragon-Gut bows rested ready. Chests of gold, silver and diamonds, enough to buy the entire Border March, glittered in the feeble light. Emerald torques sat in silk bags glowing with magical power. Sets of weapons, clearly identifiable as belonging to the 3rd, Blood Wyvren ‘s Army stood in racks near the door [1].

Iurn now led the Quest to his hut and bade them enter in there. Iurn asked whom the ranking EWF officer was so he could show him to the high seat of honour. Bronwyn spake then of the Dragonkill War and the fall of the Empire. The listeners could not, and would not believe Bronwyn. Argrath spoke of his quest to recover the draconic knowledge and to recreate the Empire. Iurn then spake thusly, “Argrath named Friend-of-Dragon, you are a heretic and a blasphemer. Leave this place. You are not welcome here."

When Argrath addressed the room Iurn struck him with a stream of dragon-power from the sceptre and screamed “Kill the Unbelievers!” Argrath’s armour shrugged the blow off and the Friends leapt to the attack.

Dragon-thews heaved and Bronwyn made a grab for the sceptre but was forced back by another blast of power. Gudny set a whirlwind on the other villagers. The golden dragon’s head reached through the roof of the room and peered around. Argrath reached out with the power of Mastakos and plucked the sceptre from Iurn’s hands. The dragon immediately dissolved and the villagers shrieked. They ran around in panicked circles before falling to the ground whereupon their turned to dust settled into history.



[1] The 3rd Army of the EWF bore the EWF war-banner that the Friends sought.

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March 27, 2001

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