The Saga of the Gwandorlings 37
Immediately upon the Friends' return to Only-Safe they entire camp burst into activity making final preparations for the assault on Than Ulbar.
The Storm Bulls painted themselves in their war paint; their shamans fashioned last-minute fetishes, razor-sharp blades were honed even finer. One particularly massive warrior, Cuyteh Balls-like-Bull, was seen carefully folding a padded cloth and placing it in his pants for extra protection. Finally, the camp gathered to gain Storm Bull's blessing, they offered sacrifice to their frothing god and danced long into the night.
Argrath sat and offered prayer to Vingkot to boost his leadership abilities. Gudny stomped around his ritual rune repeating Vadrus' war-dance and empowering his magics with Vadrus' fury; his hair grew unruly and the light of madness lit in his eyes. Garthael chanted the Sword Centering Song and slowly drew his blade to and fro across the back of his arm leaving the blood flowing and the blade hissing for more. Sigmund danced the Dome-Cracker's dance and sang the Chaos-Breaker's songs until Little Weighty leapt and spun in his iron grip. Bronwyn sate on a rocky outcrop and turned his gaze inwards; as he sat there meditating the glow of magic grew about him, and when his eyes opened his pupils had slitted and glowed green.
With the rituals done the whole camp seized up their weapons, leapt upon their animals and rode off through the hills towards the Seething City. Thordah Spawn-Slayer and four other Khans led the warband. Eight shamans and 107 warriors fared with them.
They rode through the hills unmolested. They fared past a placed called Mostal's Graveyard, a land usually swarming in large bands of Chaos-Dwarves but saw narry a thing.
The band then entered an area called Akka. This is where many of Than Ulbar's fields were located and many slave pens squatted here. Thordah's scouts spake of watchers in the hills. The Storm Bulls methodically went through the slave pens and slaughtered the retched creatures therein. Aueh Dancing-Eye, a shaman with a bad tick, explained that the slaves had all been touched with chaos and the taint was such that it could not be easily cleansed so the slaves were put to rest.
The band now approached the final rise to Than Ulbar. It must be told that the city lies in the pit of a cinder cone for an extinct volcano. There were many vents that gave access to the city but Thordah and his fighters were wont to enter the main vent for they wished to penetrate to the Thanatar temple and crush the vile cult; the main vent led directly to the temple.
The band crested the rise and passed down into the pit of evil. A moaning wind blew across the bowl kicking up small dust devils and a fetid odour crouched over the city. As the approached the main vent in the land around them erupted into shambling life. From crevasses and tubes, caves and wells they came. Scorpion men, gorp, sky demons, weird chaos dwarves and other creatures too horrible to describe; there were nye two-score hundred of them.
The Storm Bulls flew from their mounts and formed a great ring around the animals and sang their songs of joy for battle. Argrath, Gudny and Sigmund leapt unto the air and made to smote about them.
Gathael, standing in the outer ring, hewed about him with his flashing sword. Clouds of foul gases rose into the air while acid and blood fountained about him. Within moments the tidal wave of horrors receded from before him unable to surmount the ramparts of gore he had built; the horrors there still tell tales about the Sword of Doom.
Gudny smote about him with lighting, transfixing demon and bird and floating gas-bags alike. When he was surrounded and assailed from all sides he struck out with a blazing ring of lighting burning the closest monsters to nothing and sorely wounding many others and raining burnt bodies and body parts upon the field of battle.
Argrath also lay about himself with lightning dealing much death. A strange creature, with the wings of a flying lizard, the head of a pterodactyl and the legs of a man struck the valiant king from behind. Though startled, Argrath retained his grim sense of purpose, spun on the spot and plunged his spear, the great spear of Vingkot, deep into the demon's leg. The creature screamed in rage and swung around on the spear shaft snapping at Argrath's legs with its beak, and scoring deep tears on his face with its dark claws. Argrath lunged again with the mighty spear reducing one leathery wing to tatters and sending the still screaming demon crashing to earth far below.
A horrible twisted red-dwarf charged at Bronwyn. Though it only stood four-feet high its right arm was larger than Bronwyn's and clenched a massive hammer a mailed gauntlet, the horror's left arm was withered and flapped uselessly against its barrel chest. Bronwyn hurled a lightning bolt at the creature and struck it a staggering blow on the head of the hammer. The energy coursed down the shaft of the weapon and rocked the shocked dwarf back on its heals; then it grew eight inches and rushed forward to attack again. Bronwyn's muscles bulged with draconic might and tearing talons grew from his fingers as he threw himself at the dwarf. His mighty blow was turned by that jagged hammer which swept back in a thunderous backhand strike and sent Bronwyn crashing in darkness.
Sigmund hurled Little Weighty into the horde time and time again with a savage cry of glee. The rock skipped through the mass of bodies ricocheting from stone to shield to earth to blasted tree and back to Sigmund's hand positively spinning in delight. Every chaos monster touched by its passage was shattered by the blow or exploded into a sticky black mist by the stone's Chaos Breaking magic – nine score of them died then and there.
Garthael turned now and stood over Bronwyn's still form and erected another fortress of bodies about himself. Gudny and Argrath continued to hew the sky hordes and another ten-score horrors were blasted by Little Weighty.
The horde gave one more frantic cry and fled into the shattered landscape.
Two-score hundred lay dead about the defender's ring piled over four feet high in places. Voydag moved among the jubilant warriors bandaging and healing. She awoke Bronwyn and sang the Bone Mending song to heal his cracked chine before bandaging him up and moving on.
The band now told off twenty warriors to guard their animals while they assaulted the city's gate. It barred the entrance to a great vent leading into the heart of the volcano. Sigmund strode forth and hefted Little Weighty , the Storm Bulls murmured in awe at the destruction he had wrought, and then, with an echoing shout, he hurled it at the gate. The stone struck the gate, passed through it and returned leaving small mark of its passing. The gate said “Ow” and shuddered a little.
Hurmeuh Scorpion-Bane, a mountainous Storm Khan from the Rhino nation, told the Friends that the gate was a giant creature with a soft rubbery body and great tentacles. The denizens of the city passed beyond by entering the monster's mouth and passing through its body and on into the city. The Warriors of the Bull entered the city by hacking a tunnel into the creature's flesh and passing through, the creature would regenerate the damage within a day or so.
So the Friends blasted the creature with magic, deeply pocking its sides and sent shudders rippling across its body and the Storm Bulls attacked the reaching tentacles hacking them off closer and closer to the quivering flesh of the Gate. When the last tentacle lay twitching behind them they attacked the Gate's flesh with their axes and hewed a tunnel into the city.
After a quarter of Yelm's passage through the sky  the warband formed up in the main vent of Than Ulbar.
And nothing happened.
They passed down a steeply descending tunnel that measured some 15 ells across. The tunnel was obviously heavily used and fungus growing on the walls cast a steady glow lighting their way. Smaller tunnels opened onto the main tunnel from all angles and in numbers and sizes too many to count.
And nothing happened.
1,000 ells in, they passed into a tremendous cavern. 200 ells high, 1,000 ells across and 2,000 ells long. The cavern was putrid, damp and pulsing with evil. Towering mushrooms dotted the cave liberally coated with a foul sticky liquid that dripped from the ceiling. A large lake of stagnant black waters soaked the far end of the cavern.
And nothing happened.
As they approached the lake they espied a causeway, 20 ells across and made of piled skulls, stretching like a bony finger, to a large pinnacle in the centre of the lake. Hurmeuh told them that the pinnacle housed the foul temple that they sought. The pinnacle and the ground surrounding the pinnacle was made of skulls and bones cemented together.
And something happened.
Five hundreds of black and silver-clad shouting warriors poured from the temple and advanced down the causeway towards the Storm Bulls. A huge roiling cloud of spirits and ghosts grew over the temple and a score of men with flowing robes and belts of heads strode forth to direct the fight. A score of 10 and 12-foot creatures swooped from the shadowed ceiling screaming in delight at fresh meat. The creatures were humanoid with bat-wings and the legs of a goat, they were fiends of Cacodemon.
The Storm Bull shamans immediately loosed their own spirits to combat the Thanatari shades and they met in a broiling battle over the lake.
The Berserkers loosed their control and charged frothing into the melee on the causeway led by their Khans: Thordah, Hurmeuh, Ilduey Three-Fingers of the Impala nation, Shukor Bull-and-a-half from the Agimori and Roileub the Limper from the Zebra people.
Gudny loosed Black Cloud and the great black sylph charged forth screaming in happiness, “I'm out! I'm out! Kill! Kill!” it cried and struck the centre of the black warriors with tornadoes and lighting and hurled bodies about.
Garthael stood at the back of the berserk host and battled with two fiends that tried to strike the Storm Bulls from the rear. He lunged with his flashing blade and they both leapt back with caws of dismay. The caws quickly turned to gales of laughter as Garthael faltered on a puddle of viscous liquid and stumbled, they both stepped forth to gut the warrior. But Garthael was waiting for that and his sword swung around in a deadly arc and struck once, twice and thrice leaving two headless and armless corpses standing before him.
Argrath led his warband into the air with a shout. He summoned Mastakos' powers to him and slammed a Cacofiend off of the ceiling. The fiend fought back and flew at Argrath seeking to rend and tear but the Dragon-Friend regained his hold with his magic and hurled the fiend once again at the ceiling impaling the creature on a glittering stalagmite.
Sigmund floated next to his King and espied the Thanatari priests readying a sending. He hurled Little Weighty at the ecclesiastical gathering. The rock's shattering arrival stunned the priests who starred at their smashed comrade before nine of them turned their attention on Simgund. The rest restarted their ritual. The nine stroked the heads on their belts and a glow sprang up around them. They all pointed at Sigmund and a dart of malignant red energy leapt at him across the lake; Sigmund threw his shield up and called on Hedkoranth to shield him from the blow. The dart struck full on the shield and vanished in a thunderous roar and a brilliant flash like lightning raced back down its path striking the nine priests who all burst into flames and toppled over like felled trees when their heads exploded in a rapid string of explosions. They didn't even have time to notice that they were dead. The heads on their belts also burned and writhed but they were all smiling in the knowledge that they were now free .
Gudny floated at Argrath's other elbow and concentrated all of his power into a massive lightning bolt that split the air in the cavern striking a fiend square on its distorted chest. The blast dazzled many in the room and no trace was ever again found of the fiend in this world, or the other.
Bronwyn's dragon wings beat at the air and his hurled a blast of dragon-flame at a swooping fiend. The demon curled its wings about it and plummeted through the flames striking Bronwyn full on. Razor talons ripped and jagged teeth snapped and Bronwyn fell from the air with blood spurting from a dozen wounds.
Two of the great fiends landed at the head of the horde and assaulted the berserkers. One twisted Shukor's head off and then tore two Bison riders into shreds. The other ripped Roileuh's good leg off before thrusting its hand through a Llama champion to grab a third warrior by the throat and tore his head off. A wicked rake with the other hand blinded two Sable riders while a swift kick gored another Zebra champion.
Thordah ordered a withdrawal and the host retreated from the cavern without any pursuit; the demons seemed content to let the berserkers leave. Ten of the Cacofiends had been felled, along with ten of the Thanatari priests and a good two hundreds of the black warriors.
The host had to fight its way back up the tunnel and when they finally returned to the bright light of Yelm they had half the warriors who had entered the city.
The Storm Bulls were ecstatic at the success of the raid. While they had lost 50 warriors and a Khan, they had slain two hundred warriors, 10 priests and 10 demons.
That night they feasted and celebrated at Only-Safe. The Friends were acknowledged as great chaos fighters offered their choice of the Bull's cows .
After four days of resting and healing the Friends were ready to continue their journey.
Week 7 in the Wastes
Thordah told the friends how to get where they were going and escorted them to the edge of the Tunnel Hills. The Friends rode hard the rest of the day to clear the chaos area and made camp many leagues into the plain. They set a heavy guard that night and slept fitfully.
When Theya spread her light into the world and Yelm passed through the Eastern Gates the Friends were surprised to find themselves ringed in a great encampment. 300 ells around them on all sides was a camp of Praxian nomads, four-score hundred of them they later learned. There were riders from every nation in the Wastes there and standing cheerfully waving at Argrath from 150 ells off was Argrath White-Bull.
“Are you awake yet?” he asked. “We though that you needed the sleep as you did not notice our arrival. Come and break fast with me” he offered. “You are just in time. We are about fight a horde of Pentans!”
So it came to pass the White-Bull guested Dragonfriend and his companions. He took them back to his tent and sate Dragonfriend on his immediate right with the Companions down the bench from there. On his left were his war-lords and sub-chiefs.
They spoke of this and that including their recent journeys and the encroachments of the Pentans. Gudny recited a stirring tale of their fight in Than Ulbar and pleased White-Bull with the telling.
Dragonfriend offered to fight with White-Bull and his fearless army and gained great honour from his words.
When they had finished their meal the army mounted up and rode north. Praxian scouts tracked the Pentan army and reported its position to White-Bull who decided they were probably faring for the Iron Forts to raid Kralorela. “But we are tired of them using our land,” he snorted and turned his host to intercept them.
Four days later the hosts met.
There were about two-score-and-five hundred Horsemen arrayed in their “Seleric Wing” formation. White-Bull arranged his force into four divisions.
In the centre were the Bison Khan Yeuhway Bull-Breaker and the Rhino Khan Gort March-Raider with their heavy riders. On the right was the Sable Khan Purwea Silver-Hoof with his antelope riders. On the left was the Impala Khan Dances-on-Air with his light riders. White-Bull sat his bull with the reserves, Khan Bailueh the Spitter and his Llama riders. The Companions rode with White-Bull.
The Pentans rained punishing volleys of arrows upon the Impala skirmishers and danced back beyond javelin range again and again. White-Bull ordered his centre to charge. The Bison and Rhinos rode down a few horsemen but the majority faded away and showered the huge animals with stabbing flights of feathered arrows. The heavy riders reformed under the cover of the light and repeated their charge, and again and again. For every Pentan lying in the dust, there were two or three Praxians down there with him.
Finally White-Bull pointed to a small rise where the Pentan Khan's standard fluttered in the breeze. White-bull took the reserve around the flank of the battle and sent them storming the hill. The Companions and White-Bull with his bodyguards flew to the peak and alight in the middle of the Khan's bodyguard. Sigmund blasted the Khan's yurt with Little Weighty and slaughtered his Blood-Riders. Gudny blasted more Blood-Riders with lightning. White-Bull hewed about himself like a true Hero. Dragonfriend smote a few Blood-Riders. Garthael moved up the hill like a whirl-wind of flying iron leaving a trail of broken bodies behind him. White-Bull's Shield-boy, Sigurd the Tarshite dragged the Khan from his horse and ran him through with his spear.
At this the Pentan's broke and fled the field.
White-Bull let them go. The Praxians celebrated that night and did
not stop until Elmal again rose in to the sky. The Companion's glorious
slaughter on the hill earned them high honour from White-Bull and
a generous share in the booty. They were given four-score horses
and as many pentan horn-bows and other arms. They received food
and supplies and 11 slaves: one shackled shaman, two defiant nobles
and eight sullen warriors.
 4 hours.
 Thanatari bind the souls of their victims into their heads and
then have access to the victim's knowledge and magic.
 Storm Bulls call their women “cows”.
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