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Gwandor Saga

The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 48

Inexplicably, the Gwandor Saga has very little to say about the battle at Pennel Ford that finally broke the Imperial siege of Nochet. Several fragments have been found, but for the complete story this author needs turn to Esmarnela du Chaimpteau. Esmarnela was the chronicler for Fr. Gaurpin d’Elur, Knight Commander of the Seshnelan Brothers of the Sword. Fr. d’Elur was in Nochet following a vision from the Invisible God.

- by Myrinthal the Wise
Dean of the Argrath Chair
Harshax the Divine Academy

It was the 4th of Twomonth, what the barbarians called Fire Season, when the first of their armies arrived at Nochet. The Volsaxing kingling, Broyan of the Chariot, arrived with his consort Kallyr the Argrath. The kingling had 500 warriors, well equipped by their standards, with chain tunics, bronze helm, thick round shields, swords, spears and javelins. Queen Kallyr likewise had 500 warriors, though 200 were women, called Vingans after the demoness that they worshiped and the red dye that they bathed in.

Not a one of them could have stood before my Lord and Master the Frau d’Elur, Knight Commander of the Sword; but then none of them were blessed with the divine favour of God and the wisdom of the prophet Hrestol.

Lord Fengot led the local Rokari, 500 Knights, 200 cross-bowmen and 300 spear. The Lord was an honest man, though his heresy pained me, and he treated my master well.

The pirate lord, Harrek the Bear was there with his henchmen Argrath the Sharpsword and Mularik Ironeye. They led 1,200 of the most sinister brigands one would ever imagine seeing. The other leaders spent nearly as much time protecting their people from the pirates as they did preparing for the battle.

Last to arrive was Argrath the Dragonlord, a kinglet of small consequence from the east. He led 250 warriors, more ragged than the Broyan but generally better equipped, and 500 knights of Aeol. I thank God every night for my safe departure from those heretical lands with no taint.

There was another marked difference between the Charioteer’s men and those of the Dragonlord; the former’s wore that haunted look of men who have been crushed time and time again. They were nervous about fighting the Empire again, and it showed. The Dragonlord’s men were quieter, completely confident in their abilities and, more importantly, in their captains.

Oh if those captains could have been turned to God and from their false worship, they would have been mighty champions and deserving of places within the great Brotherhood itself; but God in his wisdom has willed it otherwise.

On the 14th the armies boarded large barges and sailed south along the coast to Rhigos, capital of the Warlords of Porthomeka. The Red God’s ships were no where to be seen and the pirate ships stalked to and fro clearing our path. At Rhigos, a huge city, dwarfed by Nochet, but large enough on its own, the barbarians joined with the waiting warlords.

Orthok of Rhigos awaited us with his army. He had 500 axe men, each built like a Fronela charger and carrying an axe fit to cleave an Ruelian Knight, even through his iron plate. There were also 2,000 sturdy spearmen; each wore a thick tunic of boiled leather and a metal helm. They hefted thick man-high shields and sturdy spears, each had an axe in his belt and their captains carried massive battle swords that only their giant race could have handled.

Dordorasa the Swimmer was a warlord from Caladraland. He led 2,000 mercenary spearmen and 1,000 skirmishers. His spear were equipped as the Porthomekans while his skirmishers wore light linen tunics, small shields and carried several javelins along side their small fighting spears; I could only hope that they were better at their jobs than they looked.

In Seshnela no Lord worth his rank would have fielded an army such as this, it would only take one charge by the Knights to break this horde like a rotten gourd.

I later learned that the Empire broke camp around Nochet the same night that the allies arrived at Rhigos. The Lunar’s marched down the Pharaoh’s road seeking the allies.

It took a day and a half to sail up the Malthin River to Pennel. There, in a surprising show of logistical acumen, waited another army, with camp sites and supplies waiting for the arriving armies.

These new additions were led by another kingling, Argrath, son of Maniski. The Maniskisson was a true noble, though still a pagan, and his breeding and upbringing shone through the grime that covered all of these barbarians. I was shocked at the lack of respect shown to this mighty warrior by the rest of the warlords and can only attribute it to their feckless religion and illiterate upbringing.

The Maniskisson led a cosmopolitan force of 1,000 warriors. He had Orlantus hillmen, horsemen from the Grazelands, more warriors called Tershites and a group called Moon-haters. With the kingling was a shockingly improper woman leading a rabble from the Warm Earth lands and an young matriarch leading those from the Old Earth lands.

Among the Earth forces were 500 axe-women, though I am still certain that they were demons from some terrible Hell set loose upon the land. Proximity to these terrors was enough to cause nightmares in the bravest knight for their goddess was a man-eater called Bab Eester of Gore; her worshippers were cannibals and displayed their gruesome trophies on necklaces and ornaments on their wicked axes. The Maninskisson’s companions also led 2,000 scantily equipped spearmen.

The final piece in this disaster called an army was a group of Ditali hillmen, 1,000 warriors led by Jord Greymane’s Son. My Lord wisely declined all offers to join this motley arrangement and remained steadfast in his resolve to watch the ensuing melee.

The allied armies numbered close to 14,000 while estimates of the Imperial forces ranged from 11 – 17,000. I had a quiet talk with the Dragonlord and learned what the allies faced.

There was the Doblain Dog-Eaters, the 3rd Thunder Delta Slingers and the Gem Line Watch, experienced, professional skirmishers all. There was the Greenbows and the Choralinthor Archers, the latter being a newly raised and un-blooded unit. There was the Bell Temple Cavalry, heavy horsemen nearly as good as an order of Seshnelan knights, the Gold Wave and Mirinite medium horse and the Antelope Sabres – a heavily armoured force riding large deer. Their line consisted of the Jasper Phalanx, an ancient Dara Happan regiment with a battle history that extended back 10,000 years, the Goldedge Foot, provincial spearmen, the Grim Soldiers, an elite Lunar regiment, the Forlorn Hope band of penitent shock troops and the new Karst Spear. There were also more of those demonic axe-women and local spear-levies from the Red Earth lands.

Of special note were the Torrangi Learned Few, the Sun Bringers and the Dobliani Minor Classes. These were three of the Empire’s dreaded magical units with 200 priests and wizards .

The barbarian allies were clearly doomed but they were oblivious to that fact.

That night the Empire camped at Belos, 4 leagues from Pennel. Cavalry skirmishes began in the afternoon and continued all night. A bloody shaft of light reached from the dark moon overhead and touched a glowing crimson dome encasing the Imperial encampment. From that camp came howling daemons and demons from the hells. These creatures of the pit blasted men’s minds and stole their valour. Across the allied camp men cried out in terror as their wardings failed under the relentless assault; few indeed got any sleep that night.

All attempts by the pagans to send their spirits and daemons at the Lunars failed to penetrate that crimson dome – and the Empire’s soldiers slept soundly restfully.

That night the allies held their first council with all of their captains present. There was King Broyan, nominal leader of the army, Argrath Dragonlord, Argrath Maniskisson, Kallyr the Argrath, Lord Fengot de Nochet, Harrek the Bear, Argrath the Sharpsword, Mularik the Ironeye, Orthok the of Rhigos, Dordorasa the Swimmer, Faladusa Crystala, Narestina of Nochet and Jord Greymane’s son.[1]

King Broyan called the assembly to order. “In the morrow we will meet the minions of Shepelkirt in battle,” he said. “The invader’s general has sent us this message:

To my dear enemies,

Tomorrow we shall meet on the field of battle in a duel of skill and honour. After I crush your army I will host the prisoners at my pavilion in Belos like the noble foes you are.’”

The kingling then opened discussion on how their disparate bands were to defeat the veteran regiments of the Empire.

The heretic-lord, Fengot spoke first. He stated the obvious, “Battle is decided by the charge. No army can stand against the shock of my Knights as God himself has given us this chance to defeat the pagans. All you need to do is fix their line. As God is my Sword, and Rokar is my Shield the Knights of Nochet will do the rest.”

The Dragonlord spoke next, “That is fine but Vingkot showed us that even the monsters of Chaos can’t stand when you cut their heads off. I think we need to follow his wyrd and take Vangath’s path over the enemy’s line to attack their officers with our flying thanes.”

Most of the barbarians were agreeable to that idea but only the Orlantings had flying thanes; and those thanes were their war captains and they could not leave their men leaderless.

Queen Kallyr claimed the centre of the line as her place in the battle to which the pirate lords hotly retorted. Harrek the Bear claimed that the centre was to be his or his men would go not participate in the battle – typical of the brigands.

“Harrek wishes the centre as that is the closest point to the red-men’s baggage train,” King Broyan murmured, to which Harrek smiled grimly.

Noble Maniskisson said that, “as Orlanth has ordained, I am the true King of Sartar. To that end the honour of the right is mine and I so claim it.” Oh he was truly a wise pagan and blessed by his godlets.

Lord Fengot smirked, “The flanks need to be warded by the Swords of God. You can stand on the right of the line but my Knights will ultimately sit on the right from where we can launch our charge like a bolt from Solace and smash our foe. And let the heretics of Aeol stand on the left where they won’t get in the way of the True Knights.”

Orthok of Rhigos spoke quietly, but firmly, “The spears of Lodril will stand in the centre as Lodril has always stood. We are one with the earth and draw our strength from it. With Lodril’s power…we…will…hold. We may bend but we…will…not…break. We…will…hold.”

The warlords looked at each other and they all nodded. “Lord Orthok will hold the centre,” intoned King Broyan.

After bickering for half of the night the allies decided on this. Lord Fengot would stand on the right. King Maniskisson would be next, then Jord Greymanesson’s division, Lord Orthok, Lord Dordarasa, Harrek the Bear, Queen Narestina and King Dragonlord’s Knights stood on the left. The right reserves were Queen Kallyr’s divison, in the centre was King Broyan and on the left was King Dragonlord. Lord Dordarasa’s skirmishers would cover the formation.

After my Lord’s morning flagellation and prayers we followed the allied horde onto the fields of Mulin. The two armies met mid-way between Belos and Pennel. While the skirmishers traded missiles and the lines shook out into their formations the Empire’s priests called on their gods and summoned an Earth daemon who created a 100’ hill in the middle of the field. The priests and wizards of the Red God soon settled atop it and used their vantage to great affect in their ritual castings.

The Lunar Army's Deployment
The Allied Army's Deployment

As the armies faced off, great glowing figures stepped down from the new hill. Vecors they were, Lunar demons wielding massive scimitars of ruby fire. A phalanx of them formed around the General’s standard and another warded the base of the magician’s hill.

The barbarians began as they always did, their champions strode forth and recited their battle poetry, grim and tedious it was. They issued challenges to the Imperial soldiers and scorned them when there were no takers.

With a blare of horns and the low rumble of drums the battle started. The Imperial slingers and archers raced forward in well practised rushes and slashed the Caladralanders with their exploding sling stones and sleeting arrows. The Dogeaters, Folorn Hope and the Gem Line advanced behind them showering the hapless peasants with professionally hurled javelins.

It took less than a quarter-bell for the Caladralanders to break under that well trained onslaught and they fled for the shelter of the shield wall.

The allied armies faced another trouble, the Imperial magicians hurled massive magical assaults at the line, breaking down the warbands' magic and smashing holes in the line.

My Master chuckled as the heretic-lord Fengot, typically for his ilk, charged into the massed Lunar horse before him. The Bell Temple cavalry shattered at the impact but the Antelope Lancers and the Mirinite horse soon surrounded the Rokari and the fighting grew bloody.

The Aeollings on the left advanced in a well-controlled line, they were faced by the Gold Wave horse and did not have the speed to catch them; but neither could the Gold Wave’s lighter troopers win a fight with the Dragonlord’s Knights and they gave ground slowly.

When the Caladralanders broke King Broyan sounded the advance and pandemonium erupted in the allied line as retched Jord Red-Dupe and his Ditali turned on their allies. Half of the hillmen fell on Maniskisson’s flank and the other hacked into the Rhigos Muster. Some of the Ditali were confused and a few even fought their brothers but the damage was done.

The drums roared and the horns brayed again and the entire Imperial line surged forward. The glittering spears of the Jasper Phalanx fell as one and the earth trembled as 1,000 men strode forth in time. Their battle chant, the same that has sounded across the millennia and driven the phalanx to victories uncountable rose from 1,000 throats and their glowing shields grew painful to watch. The Loyal Earth Spears and the Gold Edge Foot advanced at their side singing their own songs, next to the Gold Edge was the Kosh City Muster, next were the Hendrika's Axe Guards and then the Karse Spear. The banners of the Earth Axes fluttered behind the Kosh Muster and the Grim Soldiers' standard waved from behind the Phalanx as those golden spears advanced on the hole caused by the Ditali. The Red Mages hurled their magic and their demons at the Maniskissons and the Rhigos creating more confusion.

Queen Kallyr threw her division into the Ditali and filled the hole in the line. Harrek, as unpredictable as ever led his forces across the front of the allied line, apparently attempting to attack the Ditali. Instead, the pirates crashed into – and through – the Gold Edge Foot.

King Dragonlord moved his division into the hole created by the pirates while King Broyan’s division raced to rescue Lord Fengot’s Knights from their impudence.

The Dogeaters, the Gem Line and the Folorn Hope threw themselves at the hole where the pirates had been, they but they ran head on into King Dragonlord and were attacked in the flanks by the Axe-Demons of the Warm Earth and the spears of Lodril.

With a thundering crash and the ring of steel the lines collided. My Lord had told me the night before what would happen and I saw with mine own eyes that he had the right of it.

The Imperial troopers fought like the veterans that they were. While they sheltered behind their shields they would stab at the foe to their right. The barbarians, raised on the Milk of Heroes and the tales of their uncouth Orlantus fought as individuals, fought and fell, clawing uselessly at the solid line of Imperial shields, as that line ground over their bodies.

The only place where the Imperial line fares poorly was where the Bear led his horde. They smashed through the Gold Edge Foot like those soldiers were peasants under the lance. Then he struck the Phalanx from the side and that earth-shaking stride staggered, the 10,000-year old chant faltered and the regiment’s unstoppable magic died.

Then disaster struck the Empire.

The magicians on the hill turned their attention on Harrek and his pirates. The allies, previously reeling under that onslaught firmed up and fought back with redoubled ferocity when the Lunar magic stopped. Then every person within five leagues staggered as a great spear of golden sunlight, like the Finger of God Himself, struck the field. 100’ across it measured and all but my Master quailed in fear at that power.

When we could see again Harrek and twelve of his companions stood in the centre of a circle of burnt devastation and scores of dead pirates. He turned and charged the magicians on their hill. The hill itself was afire, many of the Empire’s priests were running in panic, many were buring, many more lay dead where the terrible backlash had struck them down.

I was told many years later, by Yveron l’Orael, that Imperial magicians throughout Dragon Pass were struck dead by the same backlash.

With the loss of their magicians, and the Vecors summoned by them, and the gaping hole in their line torn by the pirates, the Lunar horns sounded the withdrawal and they retreated, in good order, from the field. The allies sent bands to harry the Imperial army as it withdrew past Nochet, across the Shadow Plateau, past Karst and finally stopped at White Wall.

The barbarians lost 1,000 men that day while the Empire lost 3,000, most of them during the retreat. The warlords learned that Jord had fallen prey to the Empire’s oldest stratagem; play the barbarians against each other. Jord had been convinced by a very attractive Lunar missionary that the other warlords were going to betray him and he decided to knife them before they could knife him.

The Red Earth lands were occupied by the Warm and Old Earth. The Bear went on a three week bender in the bars of Nochet, celebrating the plunder from the battle and mourning the lose of so many of his companions.

Nochet held a great, pagan, festival that lasted for a week.

Here the Gwandor Saga takes up again.

…the Pirates off.

And now our tale needs tell of the happenings in the week after the Battle at the Ford. First the red-men had run all the way to White Wall rather than fight. The merchants told tales of the Grazers raiding into Tarsh and the Exiles at Wintertop expelling the Imperial ambassador. Broyan had left Nochet immediately and raised rebellion in Heortland; he had seized Duranguard and made it his capital. News reached the Companions from across the Bay that Gerard of Mt. Passant had defeated the God Forgoti and that Refuge had surrendered to him.

Before Argrath left Nochet, he was approached by Sharpsword. The mighty warriors exchanged congratulations on the successful battle and agreed to aid each other in their endeavours. “You’ll have trouble with Maniskisson,” Sharpsword told Dragonfriend. “He is not trustworthy.” Dragonfriend agreed and they parted ways.

Maniskisson also visited Dragonfriend in Dragonfriend’s Nochet pavilion. “This is the first step,” Maniskisson said. “Under my leadership we defeated the Lunars, for the first time, in a set battle.” Maniskisson claimed to have directed Harrek to charge across the field when he did and claimed complete credit for the ally’s victory. “Kallyr will be trouble. Now that you know your place, Dragonfriend, I need to be able to count on you when the time is right. Kallyr is in the way.” Dragonfriend nodded non-committaly and ended the audience.

Bronwyn told Argrath how he had suborned a man in Maniskisson’s warband.

It took Argrath a week to arrange shipping for his troops and then took another week to reach Crab Town in the Marches.

After the Companions returned to Knight Fort they were greeted by Gettig Kingsvoice, bearing a message from Broyan. Gettig told how Broyan had raised rebellion in Heortland and Hendrikiland. He then told of the Empire’s response. Seven thousand troops, led by Artemesh of Spol, had marched into Heortland. Broyan desperately needed help to defeat the Spolite and his army.

Argrath told how Kallyr was to winter with him and that he and she would be able to send help.

More news arrived from Bronwyn’s network and travelling merchants. Sartar was seething Shepelkirt’s minions had increased their troop strength. There were more regiments and double strength patrols.

We need also say that when Harrek was struck by Elmal’s Sun Spear at Pennel and survived, the magicians on the battlefield were not the only ones affected. Many of the chaos-priests at the Reaching Moon Temple perished in Elmal’s retribution for the misuse of his powers.

[1] For this part of the night the players each took on the role of one of the warlords, Dragonfriend was played by Eliot, Kallyr was played by Danny(appropriate as has a generous pony-tail), Wesley played Lord Fengot, Johnny, a new player played Harrek, Greg played Othok, Richard played Maniskisson.

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March 27, 2001

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