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The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 47

"It's always Christmas in Vingkot's Hall"

- Argrath

And so it was Sacred Time 1623 and the Companions attended to their temples. People say that during the ceremonies semi-corporeal dragon newts were seen passing among the worshippers touching a person here and a person there. None could touch the spectres and no magic worked against them.

It should be mentioned that during Sacred Time, the priests lift the entire congregation to the God's Plane where they spend time with their god.

Bronwyn and his draconic followers meditated in the Obduranic Palace upon the head of the Cosmic Dragon – this was very different from his previous Sacred Time's where Oburan's Hall was within Orlanth's Stead. Bronwyn decided that his experience had changed as he had changed and become closer to his true inner dragon.

Sigmund and his Hedkoranthi spent the time in Hedkoranth's Hall drinking, wenching and breaking barrels before they passed north with Hedkoranth and struck down a legion of sky gods.

Argrath and his Vingkotlings joined King Vingkot in his Hall on Grizzly Peak where they drank, competed at poetry and conducted a north-faring against the Dara Happans.

Gudny led the ceremonies at Horn Hill for the entire Marches' Orlanthi. They joined the Thunder Brothers in Orlanth's Hall and feasted well between contests of strength, saga telling and a foray against the minions of the Evil Emperor.

It should also be noted that people witnessed a fluctuating red corona around the red moon. Some espied tendrils of crimson reaching out from the moon and touching the ground.

It is commonly known that Argrath made his kingdom a war kingdom for the year.

As Sacred Time neared its end news reached Argrath of several attacks on his lands. It was said that several steads near the mountains in Green Stead and Red Water Vale. When asked the three survivors could only say that it was a terrifying creature that appeared out of the winter storms and slew everything before leaving again.

Argrath flew to the steads and investigate. Morguth Crushing-Skull, a follower of Gudny's smelled a taint of chaos in the area but not much. Kamoar and his March Wardens immediately set off to follow the tracks that they found. They appeared to belong to a mountain bear, though it would have to be thrice the size of any bear ever seen before in these mountains to have made those tracks. Argrath's diviners told this tale:

“It was a dark and stormy night; five-times-five were the children of Valind pressed against the door. Four-times-four were the children of Orlanth within. Three times the wind stopped, two times a heart stopped, once the fire stopped. A Sending-Storm was it. Sent to cloak the foulness within. Twice the height of a man was a great bear that passed through the wall. Four-times-four less one were slain within, the one hiding under a bed. The storm passes, Valind's children depart, Orlanth's children are no more.”

The Companions found blood everywhere in the smashed steads but few body parts. Kamoar found that the tracks led towards the mountains and then vanished.

The attacks were taken as bad omens and the people were frightened.

The next day two steads in Cloudy Vale were attacked in the same manner. Again the tracks vanished.

Argrath decided that the bear would assail Brone lands next and gathered his warband there. His huscarls joined the Baron's knights patrolling the steads and the Companions were guested at Brone Hall.

Now everyone knows that Brone hall is a great stone keep in the Hendriki style but in those days it was a wooden hall in the same style. On the ground floor were the cattle. On the next was the hall and on the last the Baron's quarters.

As the night grew darker the winter storm grew thicker and the Snow Demons danced with delight. Ice demons hung from the eves and tried their best to penetrate the heated hall. As the companions sat there, there came a crash from the floor above and the entire building shook. The ceiling moaned and began to collapse. A large leg with a paw the size of a sturdy man's shield swept through a rent in the ceiling.

Gudny stood his ground and smote the leg with Thunder but the blow seemed to be drawn into the creature.

Argrath leapt up and bravely hastened the Brone's family out of the hall before turning to attend his own defence.

With a staggering crash the ceiling fell in and a giant bear landed before the Companions. The bear had crimson fur and giant wings that shrank and disappeared into the massive shoulders. The creature gave a mighty snarl and the Companions surged to the attack.

Argrath called upon Mastakos' boots and stepped first on the north wall, then on the ceiling and then landed astride the creature's neck where he struck valiantly at that iron skull with the Ormsword.

The bear's head flew from its body, with Argrath still taking mighty strokes, and took the head off of a great roll with one snap of those hellish jaws. Before any could act the head had returned to its shoulders.

Bronwyn's eyes flared brilliant green and his jaw elongated into a dragon's snout before he belched a gout of fire that enveloped the monster's leg. A glowing red paw materialised behind the dragonman and sent him cart-wheeling across the room before vanishing again.

Sigmund braced himself before the giant and hurled Little Weighty with all of his strength giving the bear its death right there. Such was the power of the blow that the bear never managed so much as a whimper before its fell down dead [1]. The headless body shrank to the size of a normal bear and a great bloody globe burst from the jagged neck, rolled across the floor shedding blood and finally revealed a small moon rock. Before any could act the rock hurled itself skyward and vanished into the screaming storm.

Great was the honour earned by Sigmund that night and he was generously gifted by Argrath and the March Lords.

Argrath later learned that every rebel leader of any power had been assailed that Sacred Time and that Tatius the Bright was responsible. Argrath also arranged for the damanged steads an Brone Hall to be repaired.

1624

It is told that Jaldon Tooth-maker reappeared in Prax at this time and that the Empire hunted the demi-god ruthlessly.

It was also at this time that Argrath learned of an army encamped before his western border town of Wallford led by Duke Gerard du Mantanpein of Mt. Passant, the outlaw knight who was fighting the Brithini.

Argrath summoned his knights and his warband and fared through the snow to Wallford to ken the intentions of the forces there arrayed. When he arrived he spied five hundreds of knights, ten hundreds of spear and a further ten hundreds of warbanders camped on the snow scraped fields. They appeared well equipped but ragged. When news of Argrath's arrival was carried to Duke Gerard he rode out to meet the King. Gerard rode under the banner of the Aeolian Church and was tightly wrapped in a bright green cloak.

We need say that Gerard had been a Rokari knight involved in the Heortland civil wars when he met and became enamoured with the daughter of Duke Coael the Hawk-eyed, then duke of Mt. Passant. Gerard converted to the Rokari faith after the defeat of King Richard and married his love. With the passing of Duke Coael he was the new duke.

“Greetings noble knight and may your St. Aeolus protect you,” bade Argrath. “He does,” replied the duke, “but thank you for the thought.” Though his tone was irreverent he was instantly likeable and Argrath gave a rare smile. “What brings such a gallant company before my walls,” he asked. The duke replied that he was gathering an army. “Pray tell for what reason,” quoth Argrath. “To fight,” said the duke with a twinkle in his eye. “I beggeth of you, keep me not in suspense, who doth you plan on fighting for such is a large force and verily it will cause some discomfort for somebody hereabouts.” “I am going to fight those thrice-damned Brithini,” the duke replied.

“But we have a problem.” Argrath inquired into the nature of the problem. “It's cold out here and we need some mulled wine inside us. Your place or mine?” Argrath smiled and said it should be his, as the King would undoubtedly have better wine than a campaigning army would. “Too right and you probably have more stone walls with more fireplaces as well,” replied the duke.

With that Argrath led Gerard and his retainers into Wallford where they were feasted and filled with steaming mulled wine.

They spent the evening speaking of this and that but mostly Gerard's campaign against the God-Forgoti. Gerard told of his marriage and his claim to the duchy of Mt. Passant. “So I am come to claim that which is not mine by birth,” he joked. The duke claimed to have slain two Horali with his own blade and his boone companions were said to have slain eight more. The Companions were rightfully impressed with this after having fought the Horali themselves and knowing that there were only five score of them in the region. Losing ten had to be a serious blow for the Brithini.

Gerard told how they were going to win their war with the Brithini, for with the support of Archbishop Gwydion of the Aeolian church and the blessings of St. Orlanth the Just they could not but win. “But,” he said, “once we win then there art land troubles between you and I.” Argrath politely asked which of his lands the Duke thought should be his but the duke laughed and shook his head. “You know the steads of Torry's Hall and Eight-Stead Vale?” Argrath nodded. “I don't want them. They are full of hairy, smelly barbarians. I want you to take them.” Gerard told how he would support the creation of a new duchy that owed fealty to the March. He also spoke of establishing the border between his lands and the Marches on the Bandari River, which was much further west than they presently lay. The new lands would increase Argrath's holdings by nearly a third again. All he needed from Argrath was his support to the Duke's claim of Mt. Passant. Gerard also asked that a fair price for Argrath's iron be included in their treaty, though he understood that he could only purchase what was available for sale. Argrath agreed and they exchanged oaths upon their gods. Gerard returned to his army and after a few days rest they departed.

Now one Koraluf Jagged-Tooth, a Telmori runner, arrived with news from Turrog. It seemed that Argrath's companion had taken a new name, GreatWolf and had successfully completed his great spirit-quest. It was told that Turrog had successfully arranged the birth of a Great Wolf with yellow eyes that flung lighting bolts and a terrifying howl that could strike a man dead just by hearing it [2]. Turrog GreatWolf now leads a mighty warband that included one of the nine chiefs and three great shamans of Telmor. He had called the band the Wolf Runners and was recruiting more warriors to fight the Empire in King Argrath's name. Turrog sent this message seeking aid from Argrath. He needed military supplies and money but asked that no troops be sent. Koraluf spoke of a fragmented situation among the tribe as some insisted that Temertain was the True King, others insisted that various people were the True King and more claimed that they had been betrayed by the king and should form their own nation.

Argrath dispatched Tumult with a score of warriors carrying arms and armour and gold for Turrog.

It was about this time that a message came to Argrath seeking his presence at Dragon's Rest. Argrath, Bronwyn and Sigmund passed along Mastakos' path across the Wastes and arrived at the monastery where Doyban the Serene awaited them. After several hours of meditation and purification the monk took Argrath to meet somebody.

That somebody named himself Great Brown Swooper. He was a tall man with yellow eyes and many feathers in his hair. He was dressed in old leathers and had the look of well-beaten leather himself. Swooper was of the Korgatsu, a mystical group of Hsunchen who spent most of their efforts defending their brethren from Kralori aggression.

Swooper told how he had spent the past twelve years meditating on a mountain about his purpose. He spake of a recent revelation he gained from the World Dragon and how he had come down from the mountain and acted upon it. “I am to travel to a foreign land and find the mountain hold of a great king. There I am to teach many warriors and magicians my magic.”

Argrath thanked him for his forthcoming aid and they returned to Stone-Storm Valley. Swooper came with size followers and a score of brown eagle familiars. He told Argrath that he would immediately seek recruits with the aid of the World Dragon and that he would begin training in a few seasons.

Our tale need now run forward to Stasis Week, Sea Season. Argrath gathered his army and many ships to carry them to Nochet where they would pass to Pennel Ford. He heard that Harrek was definitely leading the returned Wolf Pirates and they had passed east with a fleet of refugees from Nolos.

When Argrath arrived at Nochet he was dressed in his finest clothes. He wore a shimmering green silken shirt under a brilliantly coloured cloak. His helm was traced in gold and his shield in silver. With the Ormsword at his side and Vingkot's spear in his fist he made an impressive sight riding upon Viga-Holsten. With him were Bronwyn in his plain brown robes and travel stained cloak, Gudny in his finest wolf fur-lined cloak and his arms heavy with gold rings, Kamoar with a new necklace of red teeth and Sigmund with a light blue cloak of the finest silk and his Golden Shield shining in the morning sun.

Behind the Companions came 500 knights and sergeants, a score of warbanders from Knight Fort, 150 of Argrath's warband, and the nine surviving great trolls. There were also thirty of Gudny's warband and his 13 magicians. Combined with personal bodyguards, Argrath's force numbered 738 and, like any true king, Argrath was heard to say, “I'd really like to bring most of them home again.”

Nochet was teeming with troops and the harbours with awash with shipping. So many were the Wolf Pirates that one could have walked from Visel to Nochet from ship to ship.

In Nochet Argrath Sharpsword greeted Dragonfriend and they retired to Dragonfriend's pavilion to catch up on the news. Sharpsword was accompanied by a bodyguard of hardy wolf pirates all well equipped, though their arms were as varied as the pirates themselves. There were Agamori from Prax, beady-eyed Vithelans, a purple man who hailed from a southern land and more. All were heavily adorned with gold and jewels.

They spake of Sharpsword's journeys around the world and he congratulated Dragonfriend on his actions over the last three years. Sharpsword bitterly told how he could not return to Prax now that Whitebull had taken over his organisations. “It was I who held the Empire. I defended the Cradle. I spent 12 years building the resistance,” he spat. He heaped curses upon Whitebull and Maniskisson and appeared to be nearly frothing in his anger. The result was that he had elected to remain in Esrolia and “do what I do best lead large bands of wolf pirates.” Dragonfriend replied that he had no troubles with the other Argraths as they were all working together to throw down Shepelkirt and her minions. “After that is done, then we may have problems.”

Sharpsword finished with a warning to Dragonfriend. “Do not stand in front of Harrek. I did and he cut both my legs off.”




[1] This creature had skills in the w3 and w4 range and was supposed to give us a really hard time. Sigmund's skill was 3w3, he spent a hero point and Little Weighty gives him a bump resulting in a skill of 3w5; he bid all 63 of his AP. The bear also spent a plot point to have 10w5 in his defence. The bear fumbled and Sigmund rolled a critical resulting in a transfer of 3x (189AP) and the giant bear was dead.
[2] When the Companions defeated the hound of Baskelos on their sky-bull quest Turrog had taken the hound's scrotum as his portion. It seems that he had integrated the hound's magic with a wolf spirit.

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March 27, 2001

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