And so it came to pass that the red-men fled back to Jansholm and the allies held a great feast at Backford. King Broyan rightly gifted the great captains with shares plunder. King Argrath gained great honour and admiration when he dispersed most of his share among his captains and warriors.
Baron Tuag Slime-Bane summoned Sigmund to a ceremony that the surviving Tauroxi were holding in the Hurler's honour. The Baron greeted Sigmund and the assembled knights cheered as Tuag named Sigmund “Chaos Breaker”. An acolyte brought forth a small chest and from it Tuag withdrew a great helm of silver and gold; upon the peak of the helm was St. Taurox's crest. Tuag gave it Sigmund as a sign of the knights' esteem. “With this helm, chaos can never take you unaware,” the Baron said.
Baron Sanuel pledged his fealty to Garthael in return for his ransom. The Baron swore never to fight against the Champion, Garthael's lord or any host under Garthael's command. As a surety Sanuel gave his son Frengar to Garthael as a squire and hostage.
Kallyr spoke to Argrath of the quest to speak with the Cosmic Dragon and told how she wished to depart immediately. “The battle has forced my hand,” she said.
When Argrath inquired Starbrow gave more information. She told how they would all being flying to the Grazelands where they would meet with the Star Striders – a community of star worshipers that the Horse-spawn let be. She told how the Striders were loyal to her, though they had their own agenda. “They worship Pendandros,” she said. “A Sky God who grows grain.” She told how by joining a Strider ceremony they would gain access to the Sky Realm and thus initiate their quest.
“Why will the Cosmic Dragon help us and what kind of help will it give,” asked Gudny. Kallyr told how the dragon's head was part of Orlanth's Ring. She believed that a strong heroquest could reattach the head to the dragon's body. She did not know what the dragon would do nor what would happen at that point.
At this point Mynirith Purple, Kallyr's Knowing Companion spoke up. He told how his research over the last two decades all pointed to a growing movement towards a heavenly confrontation with the Empire. “The might of magic that the imperials are unleashing every day is having an affect on the cosmos,” he said. Mynirith went on to tell how he and his companions had been seeking a way of turning that power on the Empire for years and that they believed the dragon was the key.
Kallyr then told more of her plan. She told of a great event that was about to occur. “People from all corners of the world are working as one to ressurect the Great Navigator.” She told how the Great Navigator was a god, a boat and a planet.
Argrath named him Vendeni an ancient enemy of the Vingkotlings. He recounted a story about raiders swarming from a large ship on the Great River firing flaming arrows as they plundered villages.
Kallyr nodded and mentioned that the Lunars believed that the Navigator is an ancient Emperor called Anaxial who saved his people by building a large ship to avoid a flood.
Kallyr went on to explain that once into the sky, the band would need to ride Vendeni's ship to the Celestial Dragon. “To that end, we will have to participate in the resurrection of Vendeni.” While Argrath was less than happy about bringing an ancient enemy of Vingkot back, he could offer no other means of gaining their goal.
In the morrow the two bands gathered and made their preparations for the journey. Argrath kept 50 of his warband who could travel Vangath's path and sent the rest back to Stone Storm Valley, his knights were sent back to Knight Fort.
Kallyr introduced her companions. Orlaront Dragonfriend of whom Bronwyn had heard but whose knowledge was but a candle's light to Argrath and Bronwyn's sun.
Insterid Fireeyes her Sun Thane, Orngerin Holdfast her Steward and Olende Endalsson her Dish Thane. She was accompanied by two Vingan godyr, Randella Offirsdottir and Allurin the Shearer. Erneldesta was her Bandage Roller. Oranda Laugh-or-Cry was her Bard and Beltic One-Foot was her fool.
Beltic made to play a prank on Argrath but Noh, Gudny's fool, struck first planting a cow paddy under Beltic's only foot.
Kallyr would be meeting with five-score of her warband when they reached the Grazelands.
With Argrath was Bronwyn his Knowing Man, Garthael the Champion, Gudny the Priest, Kamoar the Path Finder and Sigmund the Warlord. Argrath had his Bodythanes as did Gudny and the fifty warbanders.
Our tale now turns to the Grazelands where the Companions came in two days. They had fared across Mirrorsea Bay, across the Shadow Plateau and stepped off of the Path south of the Runnel River. They found that they were roughly 5 leagues from the river.
Here they found a large camp, nye 150 people from all lands. There were Tarshites, Esrolians, Sartari and more. These people had all come here to answer Kallyr's call for aid.
Kallyr went among the people greeting them and thanking them for coming. She sent many home when she decided they would not have a good chance of survival and bade them save themselves for tasks that they could do.
After resting that day the quest set out north in the morrow. As they marched for the river they felt that they were being watched. When they reached the ford on the Runnel they found a large Grazer army encamped on the far side. The Luminous Stallion King's banner danced in the breeze alongside those of three full clans and Argrath Maniskisson.
The Companions noted that this was the new Luminous King; Jandetin the Avenger. Jandetin had slain the old king and declared war on the Empire – killing all of their tax gatherers and raiding the Kingdom of Tarsh. He was renown for his Vadrus-like temper.
A party rode from the camp towards the Quest. Kallyr, Dragonlord and their companions rode to meet them and they parleyed in the ford.
“I see you doth come to join mine quest,” boasted Maniskisson.
Kallyr shook her head resignedly. “When I found the spy in my organisation that told you about this I will send him to you in pieces,” she said.
“None told me about this! I organised it. Nice of you to come along; you as well Dragonfriend.” Dragonlord asked how Maniskisson had planned on speaking to the Cosmic Dragon without him and Manniskisson answered, “I'm Maniskisson! Once the Dragon recognised my divinity he would have gladly aided my quest against the Empire. And when the Empire was done the Dragon would have done my bidding. I'm Maniskisson! Of course it would.”
The short, squat rider beside Maniskisson grunted in some foul language and his translator turned to the Quest, “My Luminous King asks which of you two ladies is Kallyr.” It was a testament to Doiban's training that Dragonlord's serenity held and he ignored the insult.
After a little more banter, and more self-aggrandisement by Maniskisson the Quest gave up the argument. “I assume that if we refuse to allow you to accompany us then that large Grazer army will make itself…inconvenient,” spake Kallyr. Maniskisson replied that while he could not control what the Luminous King did he did have some small influence, “I'm about to marry his daughter,” and that if he was not along with them then indeed they may have some small difficulty passing the river.
Kallyr pointed out that she had an arrangement with Jandetin that the Star Strider's could pass through his land at will. Maniskisson replied that Jandetin did not believe that all of Kallyr's band were Star Striders and that even if he did, “The King has a short and maleable memory.”
Kallyr tried one final gambit, “You will do everything that I say during the ceremony?” “Aye”. Dragonlord said “You will do everything I say regarding the dragon?” “Aye.” “Right,” said Dragonlord, “do try to stay out from underfoot then.”
Between Maniskisson and the Luminous Stallion King a further 100 warriors were added to the quest, Kallyr predicted that they would find enough awaiting them at the temple to bring their numbers to 500.
And so, with the King's blessings, the Quest passed over the river and fared a further two leagues to the temple tower of Pendandros. The temple stood among wide fields of rich grain. It was wide and stood two stories tall.
The stone walls were thick and very old. Bronwyn thought that it may have been built 1200 years ago, during Pelangio's expansion. Kallyr confirmed that. She told how the tower had originally been a Sun Dome Shrine but that Pelangio had expanded it and consecrated it to Pendandros.
Now there was a man named Danar Orelos. Danar was the son of Hanar Orelos, a minor nobleman from Dara Happa. Danar had followed his father into the priesthood and chosen Buserian has his sire and his sire's sire before him. During his celestial investigations Danar adopted the worship of Pendandros, against the will of his temple, and refused to abandon it. Danar was exiled for his actions, sent to a distant village to count cattle. It was at this time that he turned from Buserian and found the Lunar Way as Irripi Ontor taught it. The Empire sent this new sage to Sartar, to count cattle.
It was during one of his visits to a Sartari stead when Myrinith Purple met Danar and rescued him from some rebelling orlanthi. Since then Danar has been loyal to Kallyr, and she to him. Danar and Myrinith found the old Pendandros temple and Danar reactivated it. He is now the chief priest there and head of the community and was thought by all to be a fine man though still possessing his imperial sensibilities and aura of superiority.
Danar greeted the arriving quest warmly and led the captains into the tower. He told of the plans for the morrow and what would be involved. Kallyr had previously told how all the participants would have to offer some sacrifice and small worship to Pendandros to partake in the ceremony to access the Sky.
Danar told how the Star Striders had conducted some small explorations of the sky around Pendandros' fort and drawn unwanted attention. Pendandros' fort was now besieged by the neighbouring forts to keep the Storm Barbarians from polluting the Sky.
Kallyr told how they would need to break that siege and race for the Celestial River before any other Sky Host could catch them.
As Danar's temple was not large enough to hold the entire warband, the transition to the otherside would be done in batches.
And now our tale takes the Companions within the temple tower of Pendandros. As the quest entered the first floor of the temple they were all handed a sheaf of grain by a radiant women clothed in shimmering white robes. In the centre of the room burned a brier upon which the sheaves were sacrificed to Pendandros to gain his favour for the questors. Danar chanted prayers to his god while the uncomfortable orlanthi mumbled along. It should be noted that the brier gave off no smoke.
From there Danar led the quest onto the second floor and closed the door behind them. This room had a blue domed roof supported by a single yellow pole in the centre. There was a large round slab of stone on the floor atop which was a large stone altar.
The room was functional. There were shallow carvings on the walls, the furniture looked like imitations of more ornate originals. More importantly, there were no windows, was no moving air, no sound, no wind. The Companions shuddered at this hideous prison but knew that it would not be long before they could leave.
Danar and the Star Striders sang and danced while they prayed. Their brass horns called, rising and falling. When the horns and singing reached a crescendo the Divine plane infused the air and the Companions could feel that they were on the God's Plane.
Peering about the Companions remarked on the changes in the room. The shallow carvings had become angelic choirs; the furniture turned to Fire Wood, a magical wood only found in the Sky and the yellow pole had become a radiant pillar of light.
Danar spake thusly, “Welcome thee and thine to the Land of the Sky. Welcome to the House of Pendandros.”
The Companions stepped outside into a massive courtyard and remarked how there was no sun for they were in the Sky itself. The sun would be below them. The entire area was lit as though it were noon but there was nothing in the sky.
The Companions found themselves in a town of tall towers and gleaming white buildings. This was Pendandros' Fort. Called the star Pendandros by the Knowing Men in Boldhome – for that is what it was. The stars, as seen from below, were forts in the Sky.
There were clouds of sky-folk going about their business. Everything was remarkably clean and the white buildings were immaculate.
The Companions wandered about the court peering at rich statues and attempted to speak with the denizens of this realm. First they noticed that none of the sky people had discernible features. They had features but they could not be made out. Dragonlord got no response when he addressed several passers by – they looked distracted and scratched at their ears before continuing on their way.
Kallyr told how weaker members of this realm could not interact with them. “They do not discern us and only hear us like a whisper or a buzz in their ear.”
Garthael found a small hole in the ground and peered through. It was like looking down on the world, but it was not the world from which the Companions hailed. He espied vast forests and smelt air cleaner than any he had ever witnessed for he was looking down into the Green Age.
Gudny looked into a stone well and espied, not water, but yet another world. This world was perfectly square and a large mountain stretched forth from the middle of this world. Gudny looked down upon the Golden Age.
Kamoar found and lifted a trap door. He saw a most beautiful sight. He saw a world awash in oceans and fighting armies. He saw cloud formations charging across the land crashing one into another. He saw lighting and tornadoes and he was happy for he was looking upon the Storm Age.
Sigmund saw a grey stone slab. He was cold to the touch and he felt a great sadness when he gripped it. Before he could do more two winged warriors, bearing flaming swords, dropped from the sky and landed on the slab. They told him to let the slab alone as no-one there wanted to look upon the world of Darkness.
It was at this time that Kallyr returned with the news that Danar had completed the rituals and the entire quest was gathering in the Assembly hall.
It should be said that the Fort was more than a town, more than a star. It was Pendandros. The god was the Star and he was the Fort. Standing in the Assembly Hall, the Companions were standing in the centre of the God. They felt rejuvenated and all their aches and pains vanished.
Danar bid the band ready themselves as they would soon make to break the siege around the Fort. The captains passed onto the fort's walls and looked about them. The walls stood 13 times the height of a man and were made of solid pieces of white stone. Around the fort there were encamped hosts with pickets watching all ten of the gates. There was naught to be seen from the walls but league after league of grain and plain.
Kallyr told how once they had broken the siege they would make for the Celestial River with all the speed tha they could manage. She pointed to a ridge , the only visible landmark, and told how the Quest would rush from the gates, 50 men to a party, and make for the highland. She told how that ridge was to the north, for there was no other way of judging direction without a sun nor star. Once at the ridge, they would pass west to Lorion . “We dost travel fast and cannot turn back for those left behind,” Kallyr said.
Argrath and Bronwyn looked about and could sense that the Celestial Dragon awaited them to the west.
And so it came that the quest burst from the gate and fell upon the pickets of the sky-hosts. The sky-spearmen sounded their horns as they were set upon and then the fighting grew fierce. The Companions led their band of fifty in a charge.
Garthael struck at the picket's leader and his gleaming sword fell upon the other's parrying blade. That massive sword broke the sky-man's sword at the hilt and passed on to cleave his torso from shoulder to hip leaving the body to fall in two pieces.
Sigmund called on Little Weighty to be the Bouncing Stone. He hurled the stone at a group of sky-warriors and laughed in joy as the stone bounced from man to man slaying a score.
Kamoar stroked his tattoos of power and called his spirits about him. Though he was not in his realm he was still deadly to all in his path. The cat-man pounced on a spearman with a yeowl and tore at his mail. The sky-man turned Kamoar's charge with his shield and made to strike in turn. Kamoar's pelt shrugged off the man's spear and Kamoar reached around the shield and struck the man with his claws. Those deadly weapons pierced the man's cap and split his head from peak to chine.
Bronwyn centred his draconic powers and burst in a cyclone of scales, teeth and claws. With one swipe he tore a man's shield from his arm and then he took hold of the man's arm and tore it from his torso.
Dragonlord threw men about with his powers over Mastakos and slew two whilst his bodythanes hewed about themselves.
Gudny hewed at another with his battle-blade “Humakt”. The blow fell upon the man's shield and turned harmlessly to one side. With a shout of triumph the man lunged at Gudny with his spear. The storm-man leapt high over the strike with a shouted “Hoi!” and landed upon the spear-shaft breaking it. He then spun on his heel and his blade fell upon the sky-man's shoulder severing his arm and dealing him his death. Gudny's bodythanes raced to keep pace with their lord.
At this point the Companions broke from the host before them and raced for the ridge. Before they could get there a host of Certami, the flying warriors of the Sky, descended upon them with flaming swords.
Garthael stood his ground, squatted under the first fiery blow and hewed the certami across the knees severing both of them.
A winged-man hewed at Sigmund with his burning blade but the Warlord leapt aside and the blow fell upon the ground and the blade stuck fast. Sigmund struck the struggling warrior across the head with Little Weighty and dealt him his death.
Kamoar was set upon by a mighty warrior with a blade larger than the cat-man himself. With a feline twist Kamoar avoided the man's mighty blow and then leapt upon his back tearing first one wing and then the other from the man's torso. He then plunged his bladed fist through the warrior's mail as though it were cotton and tore handfuls of his entrails from his thrashing body.
Bronwyn spread his mighty wings and sped upwards to meet his foe in the sky. He spun around the his flying foe and avoided his burning attack. Bronwyn seized the flying warrior with one scaled hand and struck so fast that others swore that Bronwyn had seven hands. He dealt the warrior his death there in the sky.
Dragonlord was assailed by three of the winged warriors and was mightyly tried indeed. Von leapt before one and fell back from the winged onslaught. Rulf spun on one and slew it with a desperate blow that passed through its shield and on into its torso. Dragonlord battled mightily but was forced back by a flurry of fiery blows.
A heavily muscled warrior alit before Gudny and wove a shield of burning metal before him with two great blades. The Storm-lord threw himself at the warrior with Borne and Viga-Vedda. The three of them were thrown back from that blazing flurry, held and pushed back.
Garthael stepped over the cloven corpse before him and slipped in the blood as another certami crashed into him from above. The humakti fell heavily but slipped and dodged the angel's burning blade. With a desperate thrust his flashing blade met the lunging certami in the chest and tore through mail and flesh to stand an arm's span from his back.
Sigmund struck at another angel but it dodged and smote at him with his burning spear forcing the warlord back.
Kamoar joined Gudny in his assault on the twin-bladed man. He struck low and swiped at the angel's hamstrings but the certami struck him on the temple with his sword pommel and send the cat sprawling.
Bronwyn leapt upon Dragonlord's foe and bore it to the ground tear at it with his claws.
Now the rest of the Companion's band broke free of the besiegers and the combined force overwhelmed the remaining certami allowing them to continue to the ridge.
The Companion's band lost 4 warriors to the sky-host, across the quest they lost a gross. Two entire bands – one Esrolian and one Grazer - were caught and destroyed by the sky-warriors while Maniskisson suffered a deep wound that all but severed his left arm.
The remaining certami were riding off on flaming horses, carrying a hue-and-cry across the sky.
Kallyr led the quest through lush fields of grain. They passed other forts and citadels, many with burning signal fires atop the keeps. Kallyr gathered the captains and they held conference while the trotted alongside the column. “They will assail is with great force,” she spake. “We cannot stop or we will be overwhelmed. The rear guard must not lose sight of the column or it will be lost.” She then decreed that the column would not, in fact could not, stop to help the rear guard. “Any who cannot keep up must be left.”
They moved for what seemed to be half of a celestial day before they encountered more foes. They espied flying warriors ahead of them and a shimmering in the air over the grain. The sky-men had set the fields afire to block the band's progress.
Gudny led the band in a magical assault on the fire. He unleashed Valind's winter winds whilst others hurled lighting and thunder at the fires. They created a narrow breach in the wall of flame and the band rushed through it.
They noticed that while the grain was afire, and was giving off flame and massive heat, it was not actually burning.
On the far side of the fire they fell upon a band of surprised sky-men with torches pushed past them, slaying those that stood their ground and scattering the rest.
Scouts reported that there were two great hosts pursuing the quest. Kallyr reported that they would catch up within the day. There were two-thousands to the north and one thousand to the south.
Wise King Dragonlord suggested that they use the fools to delay the pursuit. Manniskisson tried to take the credit for the idea.
So they gathered their tricksters, Noh, Gudny's trickster was there, as was Beltic One-Foot and Eskrel the Mute, Manisskisson's well battered trickster. Eskrel could not talk and it was said that Manniskisson used magics to seal his jaws until he wanted something from the fool. There were another half-dozen tricksters among the quest and they too were brought forth.
So the not-so-merry band of tricksters, their tingling bells and floppy hats, appearing comically sad were left to delay the sky-hosts. “Stop that army,” spake Kallyr before the column trotted off again.
A few hours later half of the tricksters ran up to the group. They were singed but merry once again. Beltic and Eskrel did not escape their foe but Noh did. It seemed that the fools had formed a noxious gas cloud that had exploded when it met the burning grain. The sun hosts were delayed, but not for long.
Kallyr told how the delay would give them time to get into the great port city of Princess Starry Eyes and blend into the crowds before the host could catch them.
And that is what they did.
The city appeared before them and was a magnificent sight. Surrounded in high walls the city's towers reached far into the heavens. Everything was made of white stone and gold. The city rested indolently on the banks of a vast river. The Companions assumed it was a river because there were no oceans in the sky but the river was so vast they could not see the other bank.
The city was said to be a great trading hub in the sky and peoples came from all across Glorantha to trade there.
The quest entered the city and the captains decided to break-up to better fit in with the masses. “Think faceless,” said Kallyr. “We will meet on the ship.” When the captains asked where the ship was and how they were to find the ritual she told them that they would and melted into the crowd.
Just after the quest scattered the hosts entered the city and also split their forces to search for the invaders.
The Companions found that the city was vast, ordered and very clean. As before, all of the citizens were faceless though they kept catching glimpses of people who appeared to have faces. Like everybody else in the city, the Companions were faceless to any that looked at them.
Bronwyn peered at a passing group and his draconic vision allowed him to see what he was looking at. He espied a band of Dara Happan nobles in their travelling finery.
Garthael summoned Humakt's knowledge of Truth and espied a band of knights, they bore runes and equipment similar to Artamesh of Spol's.
And so the Companions wandered through the city. They found their way to the city's twin harbour where the great ceremony was taking place.
Now this harbour was massive with a smaller bay opening onto the larger. The smaller bay, around which stood thousands of people, was a black pool. Gudny named those waters as belonging to the river Styx.
Looking around Dragonlord estimated that there were 200,000 people there, all of them singing and chanting. There was a haze of energy floating over the mass of people and from that haze mighty golden ropes plunged into the centre of the black bay.
The Companions debated trying to find the rest of the Quest but discarded that after looking at the number of people and instead stood watching the ceremony.
It need be told that they stood there for some time. They were certain that days had passed but they felt neither hungry nor tired.
Finally there came a disturbance in the water of the bay. It looked like a city was rising from the depths. As it came further out all could see that it was indeed a ship, but a ship of such dimensions as to dwarf even the fabled Dragon Ships of the Waertagi.
At this appearance people around the bay began to cheer and celebrate. Their chanting stopped, the ship lurched, masts broke off and it began to sink, once more, under the waves. The crowd redoubled its chanting and even the Companions joined in. The golden ropes grew taunt again, the masts reformed and the ship rose the final few meters to the surface where it floated in the gentle chop.
The crowd broke into cheers and rushed for boats, rafts anything that would float and made to board the ship. The Companions joined in this rush and were among the thousands who boarded the league-long hull.
It is important to note here that at that same instant people across the world saw a new planet appear in the sky.
Wandering the ship the Companions found Kallyr and eventually the entire band regrouped. “Now comes the hard bit,” she said. “We need to survive on this ship until we reach our destination.”
We need now describe some of the ship. On the prow stood a tall, skinny lady with metallic skin. She was wielding the lead plumb and calling the depth. On the stern stood the mighty helmsman. How he steered the ship appeared different every time one looked at him. Now he was straining on a steering oar, now on a wheel. The one constant was that he was straining, he looked like he was fighting a storm. In the centre of the deck, guards stood around a massive golden doorway. The guards were led by a mighty man with a giant bow. They all looked like Dara Happans .
Beyond the golden door were the giant holds, filled with lots of animals, frozen in time. Many of these animals were from the God Time and no longer existed in the Mundane Realm.
And so the Companions came to be on the great ship of Anaxial, Diros to some, Vendeni to the Vingkotlings, when it set sail again on the great Celestial River. They sailed for two days, still not feeling tired nor hungry, before their journey hit its next obstacle.
The vast ship shuddered and stopped moving. Rushing to the bow the Quest could see that there was a giant creature, a third the size of the ship wallowing in the river up to its shoulders. The creature looked like a fatter rhinoceros but had a spatulate muzzle and no horns. When it opened its mouth to roar great tusks could be seen within . There was an army of men standing on the creature's back, with heads like the creature itself. At first the Companions took them to be broo but there was no stench of chaos.
The vast creature reared again and butted the ship. A great golden man, armoured from head to foot strode onto the deck and peered at the monster. He turned and snapped orders to the crew. Kallyr named him as the captain, Anaxial the Mariner.
The beastman army roared to the attack flinging grapples onto the decks and swarmed aboard. The crew, led by Lukarius leapt to the defence. A great boom swung from a mast and a mighty spear, 200 ells long was winched over the side.
As the beastmen came over the gunwales most of the passengers fled their 10-foot frames and bloody clubs.
Garthael strode forth and hacked at one as it came over the railing. The monsterman twisted and the blow whistled past. Garthael spun from the wicked club and struck the man on his wrist, the one holding him to the ship, sending him falling to the water far below.
Sigmund knocked five warriors from the gunwales with a Bouncing Stone.
Kamoar tore at a beastman and dealt him his death with his teeth.
Bronwyn flexed his draconic muscles and hurled a warrior over the railing.
The rest of the Companions fought valiantly and slew many a pirate.
As they fought, the boom swung out and held the golden spear suspended over the monster. With a shout from Anaxial the spear plunged and struck the giant beast in the spine. With a wail of pain the creature sank beneath the waves and vanished. The rest of the pirates were quickly dealt with.
Sailing on the ship passed through a forest of giant flowers, many were a hundred ells in height. Hundreds of passengers took boats and sailed from the ship to the shore. As they left they lost their facelessness and were recognisable as elves.
Sailing on the ship passed into an area of river that was lined with marsh. This was where the chaos gods had invaded the Sky and were defeated. There were still many chaos horrors in the swamp, as became evident.
There was a large cloud over the marsh. As the ship passed into the region the cloud moved towards it. It seemed that the cloud was made of flying chaos horrors; large flying frog-like creatures with large tongues.
Anaxial came on deck again and began issuing orders. Lukarius opened the golden doors and the passengers fled below decks to escape the cloud. Before the Companions passed through they saw Lukarius standing on the prow firing his bow at the monsters. As they launched, the arrows grew to immense size and exploded on impact slaying hundreds of horrors. The god slew thousands but the cloud was undiminished and even he had to seek shelter.
The ship continued for a further three days before the doors were thrown open and the passengers and crew could again go top-side. The quest was greeted by a daunting sight.
A large army of sky-folk, led by certami marched along the bank beside the ship.
A massive range of hills was visible in the distance. Jutting from the hills and curving into the sky were great ribs. The ribs of the celestial dragon.
With a shout, a guard pointed over the stern of the ship at a black cloud that raced over the river following the ship. Crimson flashes lit the cloud from within and twin clouds, like thunderheads preceded it. Bronwyn named the apparition Shargash and told of his chariot. The chariot drew over the ship and all could see that above the wheels was a naught but a raging cloud. The thunderheads looked vaguely like rams and were drawing the chariot.
Mynirith Purple told how Shargash had been a foe of some of the Emperors and it appeared that Anaxial was one of them.
The ship's defences mustered. Lukarius fired his bow Moon-Breaker at the chariot while hundreds of red streaks fell from the cloud. The streaks smashed into the decking and when the smoke cleared a raging warrior stood there.
Each warrior stood as tall as Dragonlord and was wrapped around with a black scale-tunic. He bore a heavy red shield in his left hand and a red-glowing mace in his right. His face was deeply scared and soot covered him from the peak of this helm to the soles of his sandalled feet.
And they started to kill.
They were the Lords of Destruction. Heroes and daemons of Shargash who lived only to kill. And kill they did.
Garthael drew his mighty blade and struck at one. His blow sliced off a portion of that red shield but he could not avoid the return mace blow and it sent him spinning. Regaining his feet Garthael struck left and then right. His blow fell on the Lord's shield and clove it, passing on into his chest and dealing him his death. But in the Lord's rage he didn't know he was dead and kept fighting using his god's fury to fuel his body. The berserker threw his cloven shield aside and smashed the humakti throwing him to the ground. Garthael called on Humakt to let him die fighting and rose again with his Death Song on his lips. Such was his concentration and devotion that he ignored his broken shoulder and could think of naught but hewing his foe. And hew him he did severing both arms and then the head cutting the Lord's soul from that body.
Sigmund struck a raging warrior as the smoke cleared about him and sent him staggering. With another blow he slew the warrior before he could rise.
It was then that Lukarius' great bow struck off a wheel from that fell chariot and Shargash rode away across the sky. The remaining black warriors fell under the combined assaults of the remaining defenders, through the losses they inflicted were grievous indeed. When the fires had been quenched and the wounds patched there were naught but 100 of the Quest left. Over half of the ship's passengers had been slain by the shazdorings.
We need also tell of a terrible battle that had raged upon the quarterdeck of the ship. Whilst many of the defenders were forward battling Shargash, the sky army on the river banks had driven giant arrows into the sides of the ship with golden lines attached. The army then rode their horses across the lines and charged onto the boat assailing the quarterguard sorely.
And now Manisskisson turned to Kallyr and berated her most foully for the folly of suggesting this quest and declared that she had led them all unto death.
But fortune shone upon Anaxial and Antirius, Guardian of Emperors, sent his host of angels to defend a Just Emperor. The host annihilated the attacking host and drove the survivors fleeing across the fields.
And so the ship sailed on. When another day had passed they drew nye the sky-tickling ribs and the Quest took boat and made for shore. There they fared atop a vast ridgeline, the dragon's spine and passed along it to where the dragon's head should have been.
Dragonlord declared that they had reached their destination and that here was where they were to contact the dragon. He, Bronwyn and Orlaront joined together into an ancient draconic ceremony that would summon the dragon's attention, be it good or bad.
Without any warning a traitor struck. One of the few surviving Grazers drew a crimson sphere from his pack and hurled it to the ground where it shattered, releasing a blood-red cloud. The traitor did not live to see what transpired as Gudny hewed beard with his sword.
From the cloud formed a wide gateway, some 20 paces across, from which issued a force of vecors and lunar heroes. The Quest threw itself at this host to keep the ceremony from being disrupted.
But disrupted it was when Dragonlord broke from the circle and bravely leapt afor the red-captain. Bronwyn stabilised the circle and kept the ceremony alive.
“Is this how Iron keeps its word,” Dragonlord shouted at his foe. Kao Lu, the Black Iron Warlord, stayed his hand before he struck the valiant king and stared agog. “You vowed not to oppose me nor mine,” Argrath reminded him. “Ah, you,” stammered Kao Lu. “You here? How?” Dragonlord replied that it was not important but that Kao Lu was leading his men against the Dragonlord's band, “While ye swore unto me that this you would not bring to pass.”
Kao Lu nodded once, shouted a command to his host and led it back through the gateway which closed behind them.
And so it was with light hearts that the quest turned again to the matter of the dragon. With Dragonlord's aid they brought the ceremony to completion and the dragon's voice echoed in their minds.
Kallyr spoke of the dragon's head wandering apart from its body and how she thought that she could reunite the two, for a small time. She asked if the dragon would appreciate that and when it replied in the affirmative then she begged it to give her a boon. “Bring this deed to pass and I will indeed grant you a boon,” was the reply.
So Bronwyn opened a dragon road from their to the Mundane World and led the quest through.
 A constellation of stars.
 Lorion is the name of the Celestial River
 This was Lukarius the Bowman, son of Anaxial and Emperor of Dara Happa after his father.
 A giant hippo.
 Shazdoring is a Vingkotling name for those that hail from Alkoth.
<< Previous | Part 50| Next