The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 46
There was a sturdy man at Orlanth’s Vantage named Korbin Orlanthsson. Korbin was the son of Hrut the Noble who was the son of Vorlaman Korbinsson who’s brother was the chief of the Round Rock clan in the Sylangi Tribe. Vorlaman was the son of Korbin the Sightless a sage from Old Wind who married the Dundaelos hero Gunteras Rhinobane. Gunteras was the daughter of Soralil Soronilsson who was the son of Soronil of Boldhome, brother of Joralar, King of Sartar. Korbin was a pious priest of Orlanth the Thunderous and was reckoned by all to be a fine man.
With the defeat of the Empire’s thrust into the city, Argrath was hailed as the hero that he was and hosted by Lord Fengot in his palace.
The following day the Earth Temple complex surrendered to the Rokari lords after intense negotiations with Lord Fengot. The new queen, Nerestina, agreed to reintegrate the Old Earth Faction into the city and help defend if from the Empire. Queen Nerestina also pronounced a sentence of death upon the traitor Varadis though the ex-queen was last seen in the Lunar encampment.
The most important concession that Fengot won from Nerestina was the formation of a city council with Fengot as the head. There would be three Rokari Lords, three Esrolian Matriarchs, one Lhankor Mhy Sage, one Heortling Thane and one Sea Lord. No longer would the Esrolian Queens rule in Nochet.
After two days of recovery and restoring order, the new council summoned Argrath and his followers before them. For his service in saving the city Argrath was gifted well: he received five iron-bound chests of gold, silver and gems; he was granted land in the Old City as a permanent land-grant; and he was given berthing rights for one ship at a slip in the Queen’s harbour with no port taxes.
The Companions were hard pressed to process all of the applicants for Argrath’s service. In the two days after the battle he had two-score knights and eight-score sergeants sign on to his mercenary company and he had fifty mighty orlanthi warriors join his warband. Korbin Orlanthsson joined Gudny’s magical warband and brought with him the godi Ymirandos the Grim, an exile from the Locaem tribe, and 18 warriors with sharp swords and stout shields.
Argrath gifted all those who fought with him on the walls with a strong sword and a gold finger-ring with his mark upon it.
One who had fallen upon the walls beside Argrath was Londal Hen-Pecked a warrior from the Old City. Londal was married to an esrolian named Iana called the Alynx for the sharpness of her tongue. Londal had four sturdy sons. His eldest was named Viga-Londal and was a renown man-killer from the Free Quarter. The second was Yanar Wrightweb a devotee of Issaries the Trader and known as a shrewd businessman able to make a profit from any venture. The third son was Londel Londallson who had maintained a berry farm up the river before the Lunars came. Londel’s wife was slain by the red-men and Londel had turned his face from Barntar, cut his ties with life and stepped onto the path of Humakt with the fires of vengeance in his heart. Londel bore an iron sword taken from a Lunar champion and wears the fallen man’s iron cuirass. The youngest son was Londal the Younger, a boy barely passed into manhood, who insisted on wielding a sword that was as long as he was tall. Fortunately for him his strength matched the task and he was already hailed as a mighty warrior.
Argrath was contacted by Baron Jascelin. The baron had taken service with Lord Fengot and would not be able to accept a contract from Argrath.
News reached the city on a fast-ship of war in the west. It was said that the king of Seshnela had declared crusade on the Duchy of Nolos to exterminate their heresy. It was also told that a large Wolf Pirate fleet had been sighted off of the coast of Ramalia led by the Ice Serpent, Harrek the Berserk’s ship.
With Hibbog the Sage’s aid, Argrath hired a trade factor to tend his business in the city. He hired Yanar Wrightweb and found that all three of the trader’s brothers had joined his warband.
Argrath left Yanar with three chests of gold and instructed him on a building programme. Yanar was to initiate construction of a cog that would engage in trade along the coast. He was also to build Argrath a walled compound on his land grant. The compound was to include a palace for the King, solid walls with a strong gate and barracks for two hundred troops.
It should be told that the land Argrath had been granted had previously been a shantytown but that the shanties had been burnt in the fighting and looting that overtook the city during the Empire’s attack. This land was equivalent to a large city block and backed onto the city’s outer walls.
At this point Argrath took the opportunity to return to Stone Storm Valley. He fared unto the Freeport and found three cogs willing to carry his band to the Marches and they arrived home two weeks before Sacred Time.
Argrath’s steward had nothing abnormal to tell his King and all was well in the Kingdom.
So it came to pass that the dwarfish work party had tunnelled into the caves that the Companions had espied during their Sky-Bull Quest. These being the caves buried by the Storm Dragon before it flew off. Argrath commended them on their work and assigned them the task of fortifying the valley.
Gathering what companions were present, Argrath set out to explore the caverns. With him were Bronwyn, Gudny, Kamoar and Sigmund. Also present were the shield-thanes Von, Rolf, Borne and Vedda. Gudny’s follower Aethin the Stormpriest also went along.
The dwarves had carved a tunnel 120 ells straight down into the mountainside. They then tunnelled across until they struck the cave. They hung rope ladders down the shaft and secured them with iron pitons.
The Companions flew down the shaft with torches burning. They passed through the dwarf-sized tunnel at a crouch and entered a cavern. Water shone wetly in the torchlight could be heard dripping in the darkness. Great stalagmites reared out of pools of water like the standing stones of Orlanth. Stalactites stretched to meet them from the ceiling and threw the torchlight back in multicoloured hues. Strange mosses and lichens hung from the walls and the air was stale, it had been trapped here a long time.
The cavern measured 30 feet to the ceiling and 25 ells long. The floor was rough and covered in shifting rubble.
The Companions passed through and deeper into the caves. They found a branch in the tunnel and turned left. There they passed into a large empty cavern. Kamoar spied small blind fish in a pool and ate them.
The Companions returned to the branch and fared along the straight path. There they entered another cavern that just as rubble strewn as the passageways. All could hear a faint wailing and voices of warning and a feeling of dim foreboding came over them all. Kamoar peered about with his spirit sight and spotted three spirits. They were very weak and their original form could not be distinguished though he thought they were probably human. They spoke to him but all he could understand through their weak voices were indistinct warnings of danger.
As they pressed deeper into the cavern they found a gaping pit leading into the bowels of the earth. At the lip of the cavern they found another rope ladder secured with iron pitons placed by the dwarves.
Argrath’s Companions vied for the right of first passage but were unanimous that the King would not go first. They decided that Kamoar would climb down the ladder while Gudny flew beside him.
They passed down another 120 ells and came to a yet another cavern. This cavern was wetter than the previous ones and rougher. They needed to struggle to pass over the fallen boulders and slippery rocks.
The rest of the band joined them and they passed on deeper into the caverns. Through another tunnel they entered a large cavern and were dazzled by an ancient warding that set ten lighting bolts flying at them. Argrath side-stepped one with the speed of Mastakos. Gudny was unaffected by another as he was an avatar of Storm. Bronwyn’s eyes flashed green and his chest sprouted thick scales under his robes from which the blast of energy scattered. His robes smoked sullenly from the abuse. Kamoar was struck by three bolts but the hound’s pelt he wore swatted two aside and the last struck him squarely in the back but failed to pass through the heavy fur. Sigmund swung his golden shield before the remaining two bolts and they caromed off and struck chucks of limestone from the walls.
In the walls of the cavern they found ten ancient and corroded blades hammered into the rock up to their hilts. They had been to focus of the wards.
At the back of the cavern they found several skeletons sitting in a semicircle. Their clothes had long ago rotted in the damp cave and the metal fittings were mere piles of rust. Kamoar spake that no spirit resided in this place and he smelled no further danger here.
Through a small opening at the rear of the cavern they entered a natural chamber with vaulted ceiling. There were three other passages from here and Argrath again indicated the left-hand way.
The cavern they entered had been enchanted to drop a hail of stalactites upon any who entered. Only Bronwyn was struck but again he shrugged off the impact on scale-armoured shoulders knotted with dragon-thews. This time the glow did not leave his eyes as his hands turned to claws and his entire body grew scales the glinted in the torchlight.
In the centre of the chamber they found a large form carved rudely from the granite. It rested upon a pedestal and bore this incription:
King Hrogir of Penethelli
Strong Sword, Soft Heart
Kind Voice, Great King
The statue was of a warrior-king wearing EWF garb. A massive stone sword rested across his knees and a heavy shield had been carved leaning against his seat.
Finding nothing else in the cavern and no way forward the Companions returned to the vaulted chamber and passed along the straight passage.
Here they found another large cavern. The stalagmites and stalactites had joined to form a pillared hall with very deep pools. Sigmund found two-dozen ancient corpses lying in neat rows upon the ruins of what may have once been beds. At the rear of the cavern they found an air spirit moving in endless circles, again it was very weak from its millennia of captivity.
They again returned to the vaulted cavern and passed through a very narrow fissure into another cavern. This time as the Companions fared into the room there was a crack and an arm, holding a sword, burst from a stalactite. With another crash of falling stone another arm broke forth bearing a shield. Finally a limestone-encrusted man emerged from the pillar bearing EWF armour and advanced upon the Friends, he was soon joined by 14 other stone warriors, all cursing the Companions in Theyan as being desecraters.
Sigmund turned to the nearest and hurled Little Weighty at him. The golem stiffly tried to interpose its shield before it but was struck upon the chest and shattered by the impact. Pieces of calcified armour, flesh and blood pattered upon the floor.
Kamoar launched himself at the spiritual core a warrior and sent it flying down the long path to Daka Fel’s Hall.
A warrior rushed Bronwyn and made to smite him with his encrusted sword. The dragonman turned to one side and seized the warrior’s arm in his left hand. He then took hold of the man’s chest with his claws and ripped the golem asunder with a convulsive heave of his thews.
Argrath called upon the Fingers of Mastakos and tore a stalagmite from the ceiling crushing another golem.
Gudny let forth a great battle shout that echoed through the halls as he smote a golem with Orlanth’s Battle Spear  blasting the stone man into fragments.
Rolf and Von leapt upon two golems that were menacing Argrath. Rolf hewed his foe in twain with a sickening crunch and glared in disgust the notch in his blade. Von fell from a fell blow to the head and lay in a puddle with wind-children dancing before his eyes . Borne lost his footing and fell full length upon the ground while Viga-Vedda’s spear passed through a warrior and lodged in the pillar behind him.
A golem struck at Aethin and his sword fell full upon the priest’s shoulder and clove the man’s arm from his torso and dealt him his death there.
Sigmund then turned and hurled his stone at Aethin’s slayer exploding the warrior’s torso and pelting the entire cavern with flying fragments of rock and flesh. Kamoar turned and rent another’s spirit from its body.
Bronwyn hurled his first attacker’s corpse aside and belched a cloud of fire at another golem. It staggered under the blast but still smote at the dragonman with its sword battering a scaled arm aside and landing a crunching blow to those mighty ribs. Bronwyn turned and dodged the blows and finally leapt full upon the warrior, seized its head in his iron grasp and twisted it off as Urox did to Jarand Vadrusson.
Argrath reeled back from a mighty sword stroke and brought another stalagmite crashing down upon his foe. Gudny ducked under a golem’s stiff swing and hewed the arm off before toppling the lifeless form into a pond. The remaining stonemen quickly fell under the Companions’ blades.
The Friends attended to their wounds and to Aethin’s corpse. When they left the caverns they bore him with them and set him upon a pyre in the traditional way.
Passing through the chamber they again encountered a fork in the passage. To the left they found a cavern filled with booty. This chamber was higher than the last and completely dry.
In the piles they found immense amounts of gold and gems. They found two-score sets of EWF armour and weapons with various motifs engraved upon them. Bronwyn named them as belonging to the Storm Dragon Guards. They found many tapestries and a war banner. Kamoar spoke with the banner’s spirit. It named itself as the regimental spirit of the Eleven Lights Regiment in the mighty EWF army. It should said that the Eleven Lights was a magical unit composed of EWF Battle Mages. The spirit told how it had been captured by Old Day Traditionalists in the EWF command tent and spirited away with much other booty and magic.
On one side of the cavern were the remains of a great bonfire. Beside the ashes were stacked hundreds of books. Glancing through them Bronwyn found them all to bear markings that restricted their reading to EWF priests only. The books include missives on Obduran Philosophy, introductions to the EWF magical colleges, texts on draconic powers and their uses and more. Bronwyn shed a tear when he thought of the number of books that must have gone into the devouring flames.
In a dragon-leather case, Argrath found a great sword with a blue blade. It was carved from a dragon’s tooth and was called the Ormsword. When Argrath took it up he felt the spirit of the sword and it was happy. When he swung the sword about the spirit began to purr in pleasure. The sword’s hilt was carved in the likeness of a dragon’s head and the blade could be wielded with two-hands or with one.
The Companions passed into the next room and saw a large tomb rudely carved from a block of stone. Argrath found this inscription upon it:
Tomb of Korval Dragonfoe
who struggled mightily against
the foe of Orlanth
who lies here defending his goals.
The Friends leapt back as a spiritual form materialised over the tomb. The spirit took the form of a large, burly man and peered down at the band. “Thou art desecrators of mine life and what we worked for. Thou are betrayers of Orlanth!” he spat.
Argrath strode forth and announces his lineage and states, “I am a mighty champion of Orlanth and strive against a monstrous foe.” Spirit-Korval snarled, “One sees how pious you are as you carry that cursed blade unto mine own tomb in spite.” With that he poured his entire soul, fired by flames of hate at Argrath in a dazzling lighting bolt. But Orlanth showed his favour that day and the depths of Spirit-Korval’s injustice by turning the spirit’s hate back upon itself and the blow destroyed the spirit and split the lid of the tomb.
Within Argrath found a great shield and a fine suit of iron-mail. All instantly felt the power in the shield and Gudny identified it as the Shield of Aran, taken by Orlanth from Babester Gor. Argrath gifted Gudny with the enchanted shield and gave Sigmund the iron-suit.
In the ensuing days Gudny’s person warband aided Argrath’s in secretly conveying the treasures of the caves into the deepest recesses of Stone Storm Keep where they joined Argrath’s other hidden treasures.
Argrath then summoned his forty most valiant warriors and gifted them with the Storm Dragon Guard’s armour and formed them into another bodyguard band.
Gudny was heard to say these words as the warriors proudly donned their new battle-skins:
Dragonlord fights a ferocious foe
With magic and menfolk a millennia old
His battle-kites fly
His gold ring-givers vie
The Dragonman’s Shadows and Storm Dragon’s Guard
Will lead the fight to free Sartar.
Bronwyn set about studying the new tomes and the ways of forming magical regiments, aided by Gudny who already had the nucleus of such a force assembled.
 Stars in his eyes.
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