The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 42
Our tale need now return to Gudny Stormchaser’s journey to the kings of Alone, the Amad, Bachad, Torkani and Tres.
"It’s just as well that
I don’t like sleeping with you"
- Voydag to husband
To each king, Gudny brought gifts from good King Argrath; a finely crafted iron battle-sword, a mighty bow fashioned from a dragon’s thew and fine gems and spices from the east. The kings were properly impressed by the rich gifts and listened with eager ears as Gudny told the continuing saga of Argrath’s journeys. Gudny spoke of Argrath’s continued commitment to the cause of Freedom and his unflagging dedication to the overthrow of Harvar Ironfist.
When he rejoined Argrath, Gudny brought each king’s promise to meet with him, in Earth Season, at Cliffhome.
With that, the Companions returned to the Border Marches.
Argrath and Bronwyn set about arranging decoys for the rumoured assassins. Gudny recruited six hardy godi of Orlanth, they joined him in Stone-Storm Valley where he began to train them as a magical warband.
News arrived from Sigmund in Knight Fort that Joban Standsaddle, of the Arrowmane Poljoni, had come to the fortress and extended an invitation to Argrath from his tribal elders. Argrath was invited to attend the Poljoni tribal conclave in Storm Season. They were meeting at the Good Place in the Wastes – all ten-thousands of them – and Argrath would be an honoured guest. Sigmund accepted the invitation on Argrath’s behalf.
So the time for the council in the north arrived and Argrath fared to Cliffhome with his warband.
At Cliffhome Argrath learned that Cragspider was deep into a rite,
it had taken two weeks to date and was supposed to continue for
several more. She had made the arrangements for Argrath’s bodyguard
trolls before she began and they were awaiting their new master.
A small complex of rooms near the Library had been set aside for
Argrath’s use. Here he met Gruelok Crooked-Fang, First of Dragonman’s
Shadows as they called themselves. The Shadows were each champions
of the Cliffhome Uz, Great Trolls all, who towered half-again as
high as Argrath who was considered tall among men. Cragspider had
given each a stout shirt of lead chain mail, lead helmets, massive
lead rimmed shields that would have served as a comfortable bed
for a man, and lead maces that glowed softly in the dim lighting.
The Shadows greeted Argrath with boisterous pleasure and Gruelok said these words: “As a Mother to Uz you are and as loyal Son to you we be. By Great Mother, I, Gruelok so swear!” 9 other massive throats growled the same oath
It should be said that Argrath had spent some time studying Darktongue and was able to speak with his Shadows.
The trolls then instructed Argrath in the Mother-Son ritual where they each symbolically drank of his milk to seal the bond between them. They then drew new covers over their shields and donned new cloaks. Proudly emblazoned on each was a Shadow Dragon grasping a mighty spear and shrouded in a byrnie of cloud.
Argrath also checked on the sages he had left in the Library and found their progress to be…disappointing. He increased their budget, told them to gather more researchers and get him some answers. He also summoned his Steward from Stone-Storm Fort to administer the efforts.
It was later that week that the Kings of Alone arrived. First in was Ampkin Catclaw of the Tres, he was followed by Rind Redfur of the Bachad. A day later Barhath Strongspeech of the Amad arrived with Jafoksor the Short of the Torkani. Barhath’s entourage was the new chief of the Priderni clan, Norgth Ginijjiwalker a renown Hollowdancer.
The Priderni, you may recall, were of the Tovtaros tribe in the
Farpoint Confenderation. Norgth spake of the situation in the Tovtaros.
Since the death of the old king, at Sigmund’s hands, his son Bordan
was ruling. Bordan was universally disliked within the tribe and
they were becoming less and less happy with the rule of Harvar Ironfist.
The Princeros and Vantaros tribes were growing rich off of the spoils
of conquest but the Tovtaros gained nothing.
Norgth spake of Harvar as the linch-pin without which the entire confederation would fragment. He also spake of news from Alda-Chur, how their new walls were nye complete and the population was now seven or eight thousands – nearly the size of Boldhome! According to Norgth, Harvar was petitioning Tatius the Bright to make Alda-Chur the capitol of Sartar; he has even suggested that he himself, Harvar, should be the King.
Argrath spoke of his plans in the north and of goings on in the south. He pledged his support of the Kings of Alone and acknowledging Norgth’s hints he promised to do everything he could to make him King of the Tovtaros after the fall of Harvar. He accepted the kings’ pledges of support when the time came and was surprised when the offered oaths of loyalty and fealty to Argrath, King of Sartar.
Our tale now moves on to Dark Season. An early snow had descended upon the northern lands and the peoples settled in for a long winter. Argrath spent the rest of Earth Season tending his growing kingdom and the myriad problems besetting him.
When the time drew near for the gathering in Refuge Argrath gathered his entourage and set forth. The Shadows, his body-thanes Rolf and Von and 80 men accompanied him from his warband. Sigmund had a score of gaily-attired knights from the Keep, Gudny his Shieldthane Borne and Bronwyn only his plain brown cape. With the exception of Bronwyn, the band were all dressed in their finest with their arms wound round and round with golden bands showing the wealth and power of the king.
Argrath’s band reached Refuge a week before the other bands and he settled into the finest accommodations in the city, it took two inns to house them all.
Shortly after his arrival Argrath was invited to meet with the Talar Maron Garren, the Brithini Overlord in the Governor’s Mansion. Maron was seated with his Zzaburi, Vobeck the Younger beside him. He took no notice of Argrath when he entered except to switch his gaze to him. Recognising the rudeness, but refusing to return it, Argrath greeted the Brithini lord well. Maron came directly to the point. “We understand that you have dealings with the Stunted-folk of the north,” he said. “That they are extracting a quantity of iron from your mountain fastness and giving you a portion of it. We want a portion of your share.” Argrath asked why they wanted a part of his share and they replied that they did not wish to fight with the dwarves but that the humans were “easily crushed” and not in any position to resist, or negotiate with the Brithini. “Believe me, you’ll be dead long before I get my next headache,” Maron said. Argrath quickly weighed the odds of fighting with the Brithini and decided it was not worth the devastation it would cause on his other efforts. He also realised the futility of negotiation and agreed to their demand for 1 part in 5 of his iron.
So the time of the meeting came.
Manniskisson arrived with four-score warriors, Northerners, Tarshites and a few Grazers.
Whitebull arrived with a score of riders. He sought out Dragonfriend and greeted him as a brother. They spoke of this and that and swapped stories of their exploits. Whitebull expressed his reservations about Manniskison and his youthful inexperience. “He does not understand things like we do,” he said.
Kallyr arrived with her Vingan warband, ten-score red-women. With her was King Broyan with a strong force, they both camped outside the city walls.
Queen Joirada of the Warm Earth Alliance arrived with three-score Babester Gor Axe Sisters. She was accompanied by Lord Fengot of Nochet and his score of Aeolian Knights.
Several ships put in at the city’s jetties. Dordaraso the Swimmer came ashore from one. He was the leader of the Kaladraland clans. His ship also bore Yord Greymanesson who represented the Ditali, the clansmen from the west of Kaladraland.
From a sleek longship stepped Droak Foebane who represented the Wolf Pirates.
A glittering wargalley disembarked Admiral Lorish of the Right Arm Islanders Main Battle Fleet.
We need now tell of Bronwyn’s special task. Argrath had set him to finding some assassins that could be hired to ward Argrath from the Empire’s assassins. His search proved fruitless; he heard rumours that the five best assassins in the city had all been assassinated, on the same day, some two weeks before. Their bodies were left with a simple message, don’t hire out to the Argraths.
What Bronwyn did manage was to contact a local Arkati sorcerer who agreed to join the Dragonfriend’s forces and fight against the Empire. Dragonfriend’s first task for him was to ward his sleeping quarters against penetration.
And so we come to the night before the meeting. Argrath sleeps in his bed with Gudny and Sigmund. Two of the Shadows stand guard in the room with Rolf.
Attack came in the depths of the night. There was a mighty flash of light and an explosion under the bed as the magical wards went off. Sigmund surged to his feet and stood poised with his sword. Gudny and Argrath leapt roofward and floated in the air.
A massive spear thrust through the centre of the bed, which then split in two and flew across the room. Three strange warriors shouldered their way through the floor, as though it were water, and glanced about the room.
Gudny struck the man standing in the wrecked bed with a thunderclap of energy and staggered him. He hurled his spear at Gudny and it passed through his leg and on into the wall behind him.
One of the assassins stood beside Sigmund and lunged with his spear. Sigmund leapt into the air with a great “Hoi!” and the spear passed between his legs. He stepped forward and hammered the man across the brow with his sword hilt and felled him like a tree.
The third man assailed Rolf but fell back before his bladework and was struck down.
Argrath used Mastakos’ gift of movement to seize the first man’s spear and hurl it through his eye, but the mystic shrugged off the assault and reflected the magical energy back at him. The assault drove Argrath hard against the roof before dropping him to the floor in a moaning pile of broken bone.
Peering left and right, the mystic sank through the floor taking his companions with him. He ignored Little Weighty as it passed through his non-corporeal form and opened a crater in the back of the room and vanished from sight.
Voydag rushed into the room and used the powers of her goddess to heal Argrath’s wounds and saved his life.
Dragonfriend sent news to the other Argraths and learned that no other was assailed.
The meeting was convened directly as none wished to remain in the city longer than necessary. Dragonfriend stated his intent to leave that afternoon regardless of the state of the talks.
They immediately turned to the topic of Nochet and agreed to gather their forces at Pennel Ford, south of Nochet in the new year.
Broyan pledged his entire warband drawn from camps across Heortland. 500 warriors, many of them veterans of Whitewall.
Kallyr pledged 500 warriors of her own including her 200 Vingans. She could summon many of the Kheldon tribal warriors and other rebel bands across Sartar.
Whitebull stated that he would not come. It was too far for him to go and he had other plans for that time. But he promised that his other plans would distract the Empire and come as a large surprise to them.
Manniskisson pledged 200 of his own warriors and 800 Solonthans and Esrolians.
Dragonfriend pledged 700 elite warriors from the marches including 500 knights.
Joirada said she would bring 3,000 Esrolians including 500 Axe Sisters.
Fengot promised 500 knights and the entire garrison of Nochet when the battle began.
Dordaraso promised 3000 tribesmen and 1000 slingers.
Greymanesson pledged 2000 of his father’s warriors.
The Wolf Pirates and the Right Arm Isles promised to blockage the Lunar fleet and to escort the army’s shipping.
With that the meeting broke and the leaders went their ways.
On the road to Stone-Storm Valley Kallyr caught up with Dragonfriend and asked to speak with him. “You have the Left Hand and the Inner Eye.” Argrath agreed. She told how she had been planing several events with the Empire and their new temple. Argrath spake of the numbers and strength of the defenses. Kallyr agreed and said how they knew when the Lunar would be the weakest and they needed help to strike them, but not military help. Draconic, asked Argrath? Kallyr agreed that that was what they were seeking. She has planned a trip on the Boat Planet into the sky to speak with the Cosmic Dragon.
“I can get us there,” she said, “but I cannot speak to the dragon, none of us can. But you can.” She said that she did not like having to ask for Dragonfriend’s help but she needed it and so she was. Argrath said that he was interested.
They talked more of other support they could get and decided that Fazzur Wideread may be interested in helping overthrow Tatius and that they would try to get more information on him. Kallyr said that the sky quest was planned for late 1624 and that she would visit Knight Fort in the coming year to arrange the details.
With that they parted and Argrath led his Companions back to the Marches.
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