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Gwandor Saga

The Saga of the Gwandorlings 38

It should now be mentioned that Thordah Spawn-Slayer gifted Argrath handsomely for the Companion's aid in Than Ulbar. At the feast after the battle Thordah called the shaman Aueh Dancing-Eye forth with a pile of goods heaped on top of a great shield.

Thordah took up a leather sack from the top of the list and told this story:

My grandsire's sire made this sack from the hide of his bull bison, Storm-Hoof, after it had been slain by the lion-men of the wastes. In the sack he placed one-score-and-four desert wind spirits who he knew would scour everything within an arrow's flight when released except for the holder of the bag.

He then gave the bag to Argrath.

Thordah took up four mighty bison horns, each was heavily carved and wrapped in sinew. “Aueh crafted these tokens to strengthen our cause. Four massive bison bulls gave up their Strength, which then agreed to reside in the horns until called. May the spirits serve your cause as well. I only ask that, when they have served, you release them to join their ancestors in Genert's Garden.”

Three more leather sacks were given to Argrath, they sloshed lightly and were full of liquid. “These are the red eyes of three angry bulls. Beugunastelathueh,” Thordah indicated the Llama shaman behind Aueh,” bound the Bull's Rage within the eyes and it will infuse those who swallow the eyes with Storm Bull's frenzy.”

Thordah took up a quiver of arrows tipped with antelope horn arrowheads. “The spirits of twelve of Storm Bull's staunchest warriors inhabit these Chaos Bane arrows. They will fly true and far to strike chaos and then the spirits will leap forth and smite the foul creatures of the Devil.”

The last thing on the shield was a horn shaped from a rhinoceros horn. The horn was bound about by rhinoceros leather and from it hung a thick leather strap. “When this horn is blown, any Storm Bull within a day's ride will come to you and fight for you. When the fight is done they will take the horn and return whence they came.”

Finally Thordah took up the shield. It was a heavy thing made of a black wood and bound about in a grey metal. There were no markings on the shield but it emanated power. Thordah explained that they could not ken the shield but that they knew that there was a spirit living within the boss. Aueh called it a “Dancing Shield” spirit.

Argrath tried to thank Thordah for his generosity and wisdom but the Storm Khan would not have it.

Argrath asked Thordah if he could ken the horn they had found earlier. Beugunastelathueh told the Friends that it was one of Genert's Horns of Plenty. When food and water was put in the horn more would pour from the horn's mouth than was placed within. It would easily turn a mouthful of water into enough to water a small herd.

Argrath gifted Sigmund with the shield, Gudny with the Sack of Winds and Kamoar with a Bull's Eye. The rest of the gifts were distributed among the rest of the band.

Our tale need now return to the north where Argrath was speaking with the Friend's new slaves. Doryl, Gudny's Issaries follower, translated for Argrath. It seemed that the Pentans came from two tribes, the Uris and the Chagan-Tay. The sub-khan Torenken Khan spoke for both groups.

Argrath spoke of the difficulty of their journey and his desire for the Rider's willing aid on it. He asked if the Pentans would like their freedom to which Torenken replied that “All life is slavery”. After much talking Torenken agreed to serve Argrath for one year after which he and his people were to be freed from obligation and allowed to return home. Argrath agreed and struck off their shackles and furnished them with weapons and armour from the battle's plunder.

Week 8 in the Wastes.

With the battle won and the Pentan horde scattered and returning to their lands in the north, Whitebull's array broke up and the warriors returned to their clans. Whitebull bid Dragonfriend farewell and good journey and rode off west with a strong warband.

The Companions rode east and reached the foothills of the Shan Shan Mountains in four days.

As the Journal spoke, they sought the Crown of Three. A mountain spur with three peaks. This they found and they fared into the foothills and behind the spur and into a jungle. They rode for two days covering 15 leagues when they came onto a shoulder of the mountain and could gaze into a small valley.

The valley was rich and verdant. Several streams fed it from the hillsides and there was a large village visible in a clearing.

Kamoar scouted ahead and found the village deserted except for some wandering bovine creatures and a small herd of deer. Drugos, the shaman of the Uris nation called the bovine beasts “Yak”.

The village should have had a population of nye 800 people and some of the fires were still smoking in the hearths.

The Friends spread out trying to find any hint of the residents but found naught. Kamoar finally noticed that many of the people's tracks would stop and vanish but that deer or yak trails would lead off from there. Gudny spake “Hsunchen” and they all nodded [1]. Argrath strode up to the nearest yak and demanded that it talk to him. The bull's eyes rolled in fear and it fled into the undergrowth. Suddenly every yak and deer in sight tore off into the jungle.

The Friend's decided to wait for the hsunchen to return to their village. They camped in the town's square and waited.

Two days later the Friends heard a strange metallic banging and horns blowing in the distance. The Friends formed up into a shield wall on the far side of town and waited to see who was coming.

In to the village came a column of footmen. They carried gaily coloured banners, there were men striking a hanging metal disc with mallets and others blowing on strangely fashioned horns. The column was led by a man riding a horse with silken clothes.

The leader snapped an order in a strange singsong language and the column shock out into a double line. The first knelt and brought wicked crossbows to bear on the Companions. The horseman sang an order at the Companions and Argrath turned to Doryl for a translation.

Doryl called on Issaries the Talking Man and listened. “He wants us to hand over the taxes immediately,” he reported. “What is the tax,” asked Argrath. “Don't be funny,” snapped the rider. “It is the same tax as laid down in the code of Kaolu six years past.” “Do I look like I am from this village,” Argrath asked.

The rider smiled wickedly, “You are foreigners?” “Have you registered and paid the foreigners tax?” Argrath replied that he would be happy to do both once he knew who to register with and what the tax was. “Tax is half of what you carry” was the reply. Argrath explained that he would be happy to pay any reasonable tax and that the last person who tried to tax him unreasonably was still trying to find all of his fingers.

The rider shouted one word and the Friends did not need Doryl to tell them he had said “FIRE!”

50 crossbow bolts tore into the shield wall and felled three of the Pentans. The rest of the Companions leapt into the fray. The second rank of strangers strode forward and formed a tight shield wall with seven-foot spears held before them.

Sigmund shouted a prayer to Hedkoranth and his sword-blade exploded into jagged lighting. He leapt at the shield wall and hewed at the three men before him. One panicked, dropped his spear and fled into the jungle. The other two screamed in fear but lunged with their spears. Sigmund turned both battle-shafts on his new shield and struck them both with his hissing sword. Sparks exploded on impact and both men fell groaning to the ground burned beyond recognition.

Kamoar stroked his leap-high tattoo and vaulted the shield wall. He un-shackled his anger and blood-lust and tore at a hapless crossbow-man in a berserk frenzy. Several spearmen turned and stabbed ineffectually at the slavering cat-man before them but Kamoar's dog-pelt armour ignored them.

Argrath hurled spearmen let and right with his movement magics. Gudny smote more down with a dancing whirlwind that sucked their breath and tore at their flesh.

The crossbows fired again but struck as many of their own as of the Companions. Kamoar tore into another man as the Companions shredded the enemy shieldwall.

Bronwyn approached the rider unnoticed. He summoned his draconic strength and made to tear the man from his horse, but strangely he could not budge him. The man turned to him and struck him with his open hand, once on the chest. Bronwyn awoke later, hanging in a tree 17 ells away and 4 ells off of the ground.

Upon seeing this, Argrath summoned Mastakos' power and tried to teleport the man before him. Instead, the man stood in his saddle and vaulted, spinning through the air and he came to earth before Argrath. He punched left and right and sent Von and Rolf flying through the air. They both had a five-inch dent in their shield bosses and both had broken their shield arms.

Gudny struck at the man with lighting but he waved his hand before him and the bolts careened off into the jungle. Gudny fell to the ground in a daze.

Argrath struck again and they both grunted with the effort of defend themselves. The man leapt into the air again, flying backwards and started to spin. When he struck the ground he augured in and disappeared.

When the dust had settled, Gudny had awoken and Bronwyn had been helped down from the tree, half of the enemy soldiers lay dead and the rest had fled into the jungle.

It was at this time that a herd of yak and deer approached the Friends and changed into humans.

“You have doomed our village,” a lady calling herself Farax Six-Fawn told Argrath. “Kuchjan Harder-than-Iron will return to burn our homes and slay our men. You owe us for our homes.”

Kuchjan, it seems, was a master warrior of a fighting order of monks called Black Iron. He was the rider that had so casually thrown Bronwyn into a tree and struck Argrath's bodythanes down.

Argrath spake that this would not have happened if the villagers had spoken to him when he had first arrived.

Farax spake of the coming of Kaolu, Warlord of Black-Iron to their lands ten years ago. She told how he demanded taxes and slew all who opposed him. It seemed that Kaolu was a renegade monk from Kralorela who had fled the Kingdom and built a fortress in the hills to the east.

Argrath explained his purpose for being there and Farax related to him that the Fuichau Hsao, Dragon's Rest, monastery would be the place to seek the banner. She told how Doiban the Serene, the leader of the monks there paid taxes to Kaolu and chastised those that opposed the Warlord.

Argrath chose to fare to the monastery. He would fly there with those of his companions who could also fly. The rest of the Quest were to hide in the hills. Argrath asked Farax if they knew places in the hills to hide from Kaolu.

Farax told him that they certainly did but that Kaolu had hired the Kobai clan of Tiger hsunchen to hunt renegades through the jungles. She suggested a place a day's ride north where the Kobai went not and selected a guide to lead the Quest there.

That afternoon the Friends, with Farax along, flew to Dragon's Rest.

They passed over a fertile land dotted with herds and animals and another three villages. They easily found Dragon's Rest as it perched on the side of a great rocky spur. Draconic motif decorated the walls and influenced the architecture. Monks wearing yellow robes scurried about on their tasks. The Companions were seen and the monastery burst into activity.

The Friends landed on the main stairs and were approached by a large band of monks. Many bore wicked looking spears and had twisting dragons embroidered into their robes and garments.

Argrath announced himself and told them he was not there to fight, he was on a quest. The band of monks parted and several older men came forth. The leader, a frail, old, bald monk got painfully down on his knees before Argrath and bowed deeply before rising again with the help of his companions. He spoke in the same singsong they had heard before and Doryl again translated, “I greet you. I invite you stay my bathroom.”

Argrath looked quickly at Doryl and replied to the monk in Auld Wyrmish, “Thank you for your generous hospitality.” The monk looked surprised to hear Wyrmish and greeted Argrath again and invited him to stay in his abode. Doryl shock his head, abode, not commode he muttered to himself.

Doiban, for that was the old monk's name, hailed Argrath as the Liberator, the Saviour and told how the prophecy had now come true. A warrior had come to save them from the tyranny of Black-Iron. He told how hard it had been restraining the hot headed monks of the Dragon style until his arrival. “We are truly happy to see you, oh Glorious Liberator.”

Argrath spake of how he would fulfil the prophesy and help free the monks and indeed the valleys from Black-Iron.

Mao Chien, the Dragon's Claw, was introduced. Kaolu had outlawed him and the monastery would be destroyed if Black-Iron knew he was there. He led a band of 30 outlawed monks and 15 hsunchen warriors. He was allied to the Eagle hsunchen of the mountaintops.

Argrath asked about the EWF banner and Doiban said that it was indeed one of the treasures guarded by the monastery…but…Kaolu had taken all of their treasures when he came to the land including the banner.

Doiban took the Friends on a tour of the monastery. There was a massive subterranean complex carved into the mountain. Everywhere there was evidence of great wealth that had been, mosaics and carvings where gems and gold had been prised out, missing tapestries and empty libraries.

That night the rebels held counsel.

Mao Chien told of Kaolu's strength. The Black Iron Fort, built with the labour of half the young men in the region was huge. Even though all of the workers had been slain after construction, several escaped slaves had given Mao a description of the interior. Kaolu's personal bodyguard consisted of his ten greatest students. Masters of the Black-Iron fighting style; Kuchjan was the greatest of the warriors. Another five-score elite warriors of Black Iron, identified by their iron headbands made up the bulk of his fighting strength. He had five-score spearmen and the same again of crossbows and there were three hundred Kobai mercenaries in the fort.

Kaolu, Mao said, is reported to have once punched a dragon in the head so hard that he shattered its spine.

Doiban spoke of the strength of the monastery. The Dragon monks numbers two hundreds, possibly as many as five could stand against Kaolu's Ten. The villages in the area could muster three hundreds of warriors and Mao could collect fifty outlaws from the hills.

Ulan White-Feather was the leader of the Eagle-folk and would help them if asked properly.

Doiban said that the people of the monastery, nye four hundreds of them, would help in any way they could. They could summon a small Dream Dragon to help but lacked a focus to make in very powerful.

It was at this point that Bronwyn produced the Cosmotic Sceptre and the monks stared in shock. “That will serve as a suitable focus,” spake Doiban.

[1] Shape changers like the Telmori or the Basmoli.

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March 27, 2001

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