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The Saga of the Gwandorlings 41

Fire Season/1623

"Note to Self: Don’t give speeches to dwarves."

- Argrath

Our tale now takes up in Stone-Storm Valley in the opening days of Fire Season, 1623.

Argrath had returned from the East with Bronwyn, Sigmund and their followers. The Companion’s reunion was joyful, though serene, and they updated each other with recent news.

It was at this time that stories began to come from Esrolia of the troubles there. It seems that the Empire sent an army of Grazer [1] mercenaries into Esrolia during Sea Season. King Broyan gathered another host and with the stout warriors of the Warm Earth Alliance and Argrath Maniskisson they defeated the nomads and sent them fleeing from the land. During the battles the Lunar Temple then being built in Nochet was destroyed.

In response to this Tatius the Bright interrupted his efforts at the new temple in Sambari Pass to send a formidable army into Esrolia. The tales told of twelve thousands of the Imperial army embarking on ships in Karse and sailing to Nochet. At Nochet they were refused access to the port and so landed around the city and laid the walls under siege.

A few weeks after Argrath’s return, Sigmund sent word from Knight Fort that Gettig Kingsvoice was there seeking audience with the Dragon-Friend.

Argrath departed immediately for the Fort saw Gettig straightaway. Gettig greated Argrath expansively and heaped praise upon him. He came, he said, bearing gifts from his lord King Broyan to King Argrath, Lord of the Border Marches. The first gift was a crystal sceptre, framed in iron, that glowed with an inner power. It was said to be an ancient artifact from Crystal City and was taken from the Red Earth Alliance [2]; the sceptre was rumoured to enhance a lord’s leadership. He then brought forward a chest which was full of rings. Gold rings, silver rings, bejewelled rings and other rings. He told how these were the rings taken from the bodies of the Red Earth Alliance after the great battle and showed King Broyan’s “Commitment to the freedom of Heortland and the eradication of the Imperial threat.” Gettig urged Argrath to use these gifts to “light the flame of freedom in Sartar”.

Argrath accepted the gifts and then sate with Gettig, they talked of this and that and feasted together with the Friends and Gettig’s band. During the meal Gettig told how Broyan was organising a new conclave of leaders in Refuge and told how Broyan was eagerly anticipating Argath’s attendance; Argrath agreed that he would be there.

As they ate talk turned to news from Esrolia. Gettig related the tale of the Imperial siege to-date at Nochet. The Friends all pronounced wonder at the Empire’s audacity in setting siege to the largest city in the world. They had all heard the Lunars say that Nochet would be a small suburb of Glamour but none believed them [3]. It seemed that the Empire was unable to blockage the harbour and so could not starve the city. Any attempt to stop shipping had failed when the Wolf Pirates and Trader Princes refused to comply. As a result, the army was assaulting the walls in a gruelling campaign of attrition.

Gettig spoke of Broyan’s desire to gather a large force and fall upon the Lunars before Nochet, smashing them on the rock of the city.

Gettig also had news of Argrath Maniskisson. It seemed that he was close friends with a faction of Grazer nobles that opposed the Empire and he was busy attempting to engineer the downfall of the current Luminous Stallion King.

In the morrow, Argrath called Gettig before him and gave him gifts for King Broyan. He gave him a crystal dragon’s eye in a gold setting. “This is the Eye of Serenity,” spake Argrath. “When King Broyan gazes within his troubles will seem less and his thoughts clearer.” Along with the Eye Argrath passed over a brightly dyed silken shirt with King Broyan’s chariot sigil embroidered upon it. When Gettig finished thanking Argrath for the magnificence of his gifting, Argrath brought out a byrnie of iron dragon armour. The shirt had a matching iron battle-sword and both were given to Gettig personally for his service and loyalty to his king.

Gettig was taken aback by the kingly gifts and almost forgot to pass on a note from Kallyr Starbrow.

Dragon-Friend. Heard about the East. We need to talk. I have some information and need your input.

With that Gettig was on his way and, gathering their warbands, so were the Companions.

The Companions fared north through Barbarian Town where Argrath left his Knowing Man and his Pentans to arrange purchase of proper horses. They passed through Old Wind where they paid their respects to Utgard and Norolf confirming their willingness to aid Argrath in his coming battles. They passed further north greeting Queen Sazdorf and finally Orgovalt.

Orgovalt was happy to see Argrath and greeted him warmly. They talked late into the night of the fight against Harvar. Orgovalt confirmed that the anticipated supplies of arms and armour had arrived from Isildirian the Dwarf and that he now had twenty fully armed huscarls. The extra weapons had been hidden in the swamp. Argrath gave him a chest of treasures and told him to get more troops and to increase their raids on the Ironfist.

Later that week the Companions journeyed around the lake and sought audience with Cragspider; they were granted immediate entrance.

The Fire Witch [4] told how pleased she was at Argrath’s return and the successful completion of his quest. She was also happy at the completion of the task she had set him even though it turned out to be more difficult than she had anticipated.

Argrath told her of his journeys and the results and he heaped praise upon the Companions.

Cragspider granted Argrath several boons for his service. Firstly, the Orgovalti clan were granted their land in perpetuity and were added to her protectorate; an attack upon the clan would be an attack upon Cliff Home. Secondly she assigned to Argrath ten Great Troll bodyguards, fully equipped, that would be kept up to strength; Argrath need only inform Cragspider when replacements were needed. Finally, the Companions were granted free use of the library and Cragspider told how she may be able to aid Argrath militarily if needed. Argrath thanked Cragspider for her generosity but she denied it was such but was merely payment for his service.

Cragspider had one more tale to tell before dismissing the Companions. She told how the Empire had hired a murder cult from the Rock Wood Mountains, the Mystics of Murder, to slay the Argraths. These mystics were fabled to be able to pass through rock.

Back at Orgovalt’s stead, Argrath made preparations to fare west and speak with Isildirian the Wise. He sent Gudny to the east to speak with the kings of the northern tribes and invite them to a gathering later in the year.

When his preparations were finished the Companions journeyed west.

With his dwarfish medallion Argrath passed quickly through “registration” and was shown to a waiting room where Isildirian would join him “shortly”.

“What passes as ‘shortly’” asked Argrath.

“Isildirian is nearing the end of his work shift and will join you when he has completed it,” came the mechanical answer.

“When is that going to be?” The dwarf asked if Argrath meant in human time and upon confirmation he left to seek a Gold Dwarf that could do that conversion. Until then, he said, the Companions were welcome to refreshment from the wall unit, which he showed them how to use.

Argrath tried it, pressing a combination of buttons, and leapt back when it discharged a gaily-coloured object into a receptacle at its base. He took the object and peered at it. It had crinklely skin, like fresh paper, and moved freely over something inside. It had no smell and no taste when he licked it. Argrath passed it to Kamoar who tried to bite it but had no luck. Kamoar invoked his Cat’s Teeth spirit and tore into the object, the contents fell to the ground and he finally managed to swallow the packaging. He agreed with Argrath that it had no taste but that that was not surprising in dwarfish cuisine [5].

Four hours later the dwarf returned with a pile of continuous paper as think as a hand. His eyes swivelled to Argrath and he reported, “He will be with you shortly.”

Again Argrath asked what shortly meant. The dwarf rapidly scrolled through his sheaf of paper and arrived at the numbers he wanted. “6,2,4” and he nodded at Argrath.

“624 hours? Mintues? What?” asked Argrath.

“Oh no, 6 of your years, two of your seasons and four of your weeks,” spake the dwarf. At this Argrath, his new found serenity severely tested, drew himself up to full strength and broke into an inspiring speech on the importance of his meeting and the goings on in the world. He espoused upon the evils of the Empire and the need to hasten its fall and the key role he was serving in that campaign. He called upon the dwarf’s sense of duty to Mostal and the World Machine. He called upon his decency. He even called upon his love of Life itself.

When he was finished the dwarf stared at him, blinked and asked if there was anything else he needed. Argrath sighed and asked to be taken to Isildirian. The dwarf agreed but stated ignorance of his leader’s location. He would summon a guide to take them there. “I will return shortly” he said.

Some time later the Companions were shown into Isildirian’s workshop. They had the same guide as in their previous visit and he continued to practise his sartari: Pointing at Argrath’s boots, “B-o-o-t-!”, his sword “S-w-o-r-d” and at Argrath’s head “t-u-r-n-i-p!”

Isildirian waved them over and greeted Argrath. “What kept you? You were gone a long time.” Astonished at the dwarf acknowledging time, Argrath mentioned that he had travelled into the wastes and back. “That is a long way to go,” Isildirian agreed. “Why didn’t you just go down the hall. There is a restroom around the corner. To think, you went all the way to the Wastes to go to the bathroom.”

Argrath spake with Isildirian at length updating him on his doings in the east and getting an update on the alchemical transformer. “Ah yes, the Mark 86 cart-transportable, horse powered version will be ready shortly.” Within two human years he said.

Argrath showed Isildirian the black powder and the metal cylinders that the Companions had discovered in the Bog. The powder was a rare alchemical compound used to power dwarfish magical weapons. The cylinder contained food and he showed Argrath how to open it.

They talked more about their plans for the future and the dwarf revealed that the next stage of the schedule was nearly upon them, the next stage involved cosmological rearrangements. He told Argrath that his part was coming and it would be difficult. “Prepare yourself”

[1] Semi-Nomadic horse riders from west of the Upland Marsh.
[2] Red/Warm Earth Alliances. Factions of Esrolian nobles that support the Empire or Esrolian independence respectively.
[3] It is true. Nochet is around 80-100,000 people. Glamour is over 500,000.
[4] Fire Witch = Cragspider.
[5] You guessed it, a chocolate bar.

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September 12, 2001

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