The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 56
|"I wish I’d spent less time drinking in the pub and more time in Thaumaturgy class"
- Melsorkoth sophomore
at Sword Hill
The rest of 1626 passed quickly.
In Earth Season the Companions learned that Harvar was bound in chains and busked off into the Empire. It was said that he had quarrelled with Young Kastakos and the Dara Happan, unused to uppity barbarians, hadn’t liked it. It was at this time that White Bull returned to Prax and Maniskisson fared into the Grazelands.
Winter struck Sartar hard that year. No harsher winter had been seen in living memory, not even the previous year’s. With Earth Season not yet passed there was already three feet of snow on the ground and more coming. Many said that Orlanth was finally free of the Empire and they rejoiced.
In the south, the Enstelos tribe changed their name to Dundealos, Sharpsword was getting more involved in the civil war between the Rokari and King Korlaman in Heortland.
In Dark Season Dragonfriend learned that Fazzur had been re-appointed to the post of General of Tarsh. Dragonfriend also made arrangements for the kingdom to buy grain from Esrolia and hoarded it for the summer’s battles.
Venharlsson disappeared up Quivin Mountain. Soon thereafter massive clouds and bitterly cold valindi winds shrouded the peak. Venharlsson gathered the winds and storms and sent them at the imperials in Far Point. Storm after storm lashed the lunars while raiders burned their supplies and slew their sentries. Dragonfriend was the only Argrath left in Sartar and managed the kingdom’s affairs.
And so it turned to Storm Season and news came through the ice storms about riots and slaughter in Aldachur. It seemed that Young Kastakos had not taken kindly to the local Lhankor Mhy scholars initiating a public debate about his rule and had impaled them. Then he executed the kings of the Princeros and Tovtaros tribe when they complained. When the people rose in riot he unleashed a band of brigands called the PargAddi who proceeded to rape and pillage the city.
There was a man, long of leg and short of patience. Corbin Farstrider was his name and he hailed from the Tovtaros tribe. Corbin was the son of Corbin the Younger who was the son of Corbin the Elder who was chief of the Three Forks clan. Corbin was considered a sturdy man and wandered far in the service of his god, Mastakos, and his chief.
Now Corbin arrived in Boldhome and came upon Argrath in the Great Hall in the Palace. The Warlord greeted him warmly and bade him be seated beside him. He had food brought while Von spoke to Corbin of this and that until the bodythane was satisfied as to his intentions. Corbin then spoke with Argrath about the Far Point tribes and how they wished to meet with him in Alone. Argrath immediately agreed.
It was about now that Dragonfriend learned that Whitebull was questing to find Kallyr. Teurganeth Bullrider had been left to oversee Prax in his absence. Word also arrived from Sharpsword relating how he had hired the entire Army of Tomorrow to serve as his portion of the army of Sartar.
Now Argrath departed Boldhome atop his skybull and, with his Companions, flew to Alone to await the Far Point tribes.
Norgoth Ginjijjiwalker from the Tovtaros came and greeted Argrath well. He then named his companions as Dekarn Two-Axe of the Princeros and Ulara Scarlet from the Vanteros. Norgoth was known to Dragonfriend as they had spoken before. Dekarn had been captain of the Wind Lords, a warband in the service of Harvar, and had guarded Orgovalt when he was taken by Harvar. It was those same Wind Lords that had faced the full fury of the Companions when they assailed the keep to rescue Orgovalt and had been publicly mocked by Harvar for their failure. Ulara was not known to Argrath – though she wore the runes of Vinga.
“We want the Imperials out,” began Norgoth. “Their general is a monster,” spake Dekarn. “He goes insane when we try to discuss his decrees or argue law with him.” “Aye,” added Ulara. “He applies something called the Antirian Precepts and murders people.” The told more stories of the horrors of Kastakos and assured Argrath that if he could break their army in battle then the Far Point tribes would rise behind them.
They also spoke of the lunar forces. It seemed that Fazzur had withdrawn all of the Tarsh troops from Kastakos’ army. The battered Talford Foot, the Furthest Cavalry, Furthest Horsewomen and Lowland Horse had all returned to Tarsh. None knew why the general had done so.
They then told how the Provincial Overseer in Mirin’s Cross had been vexed by the arrest of Harvar, whom he had considered a prodigy. In response all of the provincial troops had been withdrawn from Kastakos’ force. The Foot Bison, Sword Thieves, Mirinite Pike, South Sun Dome, Chiton Horse and Saridic Imperial Horse had all returned to their homes in the north.
They related how the Melsorkoth minor classes, a magical unit, and the Tholmic Spearwomen had arrived to places the losses and that tales told of the imminent arrival of two troops from the Black Horse Troop.
Argrath ran through what he knew of the forces left and decided that there were a few more than nine thousands left. He smiled evilly. “Before we go any further, I needs to ensure that thou knowst that I will not accept any return of Harvar to Far Point.” The three envoys nodded and replied, “We wish that you knowst that given the choice we would choose Orgovalt as our new Prince.” Argrath turned to his follower and cocked his eyebrow at him. “It would seem that I have little choice,” Orgovalt growled. There were smiles all around and Argrath sent the envoys off with rich gifts before he returned to Boldhome.
During this time of waiting and preparing, Sigmund had returned to Knight Fort and readied the March Knights to ride forth again.
Now our reader may recall that Argrath had taken several Pentan slaves during his quest into the distant east. Torenken Khan has already been mentioned as the leader of those slaves and our tale has, earlier, said how they had agreed to serve Argrath for a year. Many years had now passed and Torenken and his followers still served Argrath. They had spent the last few years gathering and training a warband of horse archers to serve Argrath.
When Sigmund returned to Knight Fort Torenken awaited him and announced his satisfaction with his band. He had gathered five-score riders and trained them to use the bow a-horse. Sigmund thanked him and gifted him richly and named the regiment the March Light Horse – very imaginative our Sigmund was.
Bronwyn returned from the south bearing eagerly anticipated news: the magical units were ready for battle. There were five-score Kralori-style magicians in the Eagle Brown Warlocks who could unleash a horde of screaming eagle spirits on a foe or could manifest hsunchen-like powers of shape control and fly about a battlefield. The Eleven Lights regiment was a classic EWF Battle Mage unit. There were five-score of them who could unleash draconic forces over a battle field or manifest the storm dragon themselves and tear into a battle line.
Dragonfriend was pleased to see that he commanded a formidable personal host. His March Knights now numbered 600 – though 100 were always left at Knight Fort. His warband numbered 350, six-score of those could fly. Gudny’s warband numbered 50, all flying. The Little Shadows numbered 500 enlo warriors. The March Light Horse held 100 horse archers. Kamoar’s Border Wardens numbered 50 warrior-shamans with several score combat spirits. There were the 200 magicians in the Eleven Lights and the Warlocks. Finally there were the Wolf Runners, 300 in strength but Turrog could raise more if needed. All told Argrath could call upon over two thousand warriors without relying on any tribal levies.
Bronwyn fared to Dargon’s Eye and sought aid from the dragonnewts. “I’ll not ask you aid in battle but only to distract our foe, make it look like you may join.” The dragonnewts had a better thought and pledged to raid the Dinacoli lands during the campaign. Bronwyn was pleased at that and thanked Glowing Eyes.
All of the Argraths arrived at Boldhome after their Sacred Time ceremonies to prepare for the coming campaign season.
Whitebull would say nothing about his quests. “I cannot,” was his reply. He rode with the Krise regiment, 100 shamans and 200 warriors and the Potor clans from Prax. The Potor were one of the tribes in the Poljoni nation.
Manniskisson wore a crown. It seemed that he had become the Sacred King of the Kerofini – the Exiles. Dragonfriend smiled grimly at that for the Sacred King was sacrificed every seven years to Moran and her sisters. “He won’t be king in seven years,” muttered Gudny. It was also said that Maniskisson courted the Feathered Horse Queen. With Maniskisson were two regiments of his Bush Children. 1,000 horse skirmishers.
Jolmes Wulfe came with his 400 heavy horse. Turrog brought 400 Wolf Runners. The Alone tribes, now including the Torkani, promised 2,000 fyrdmen when the army marched. Each tribe in Sartar sent their warbands and when they gathered in Boldhome there were 1,500 of them. Queen Beti of the Colymar promised 2,000 fyrdmen when the time came. Sharpsword rode in at the head of the Army of Tomorrow: 300 knights and 700 foot. Sota arrived at the head of 800 templars.
In council Sota suggested a permanent contract with the Argraths to field 800 Sartar templars and 400 Prax templars. The Argraths agreed.
When the army gathered it would be over eleven thousands strong.
Now the remaining imperial forces amounted to a little over nine thousands. The Stalwarts were 800 mounted hoplites. The Jillaro Cutters were 300 footmen. There were 350 berserks in the Bear’s Claw, 1,100 skirmishers in the Penitents and 500 horse in the Flowers of Death. There were 900 hoplites in Kotor’s Wall, 900 foot in the Jahara and the Tholmic Spearwomen. The Moon Arrow had 400 horse while there were two troops, the Surgantur and Joristar, of 500 horse from the Black Horse. The Feathered Axes numbered 200 Imperial Guards. The Melsorkoth Minor Classes held 100 student magicians and 300 University Guards. There were 300 Servants of the Cleansing and 300 Aldachuri levymen. It was thought that 1,000 Dinacoli fyrdmen would join the army.
Dragonfriend happily announced that Sartar would outnumber the Empire. He told the council what he had learned in Alone and sought their approval for his battle plan. Dragonfriend told them how imperious Kastakos was and suggested that he would fight the same way. They all agreed. He suggested that if they stood forth and offered battle Kastakos would accept it – he would have to – and they could therefore chose their battlefield. The all agreed. Surprisingly, none of the Argrath’s remained to join in the battle. Venharlsson remained atop Quivin and shrouded the army in clouds to block Polaris’ vision but naught but Dragonfriend rode with the host.
Winter held the land long that year but finally gave way to Helamakts winds and rains. As Sea Season drew its last breaths the hosts of Sartar marched from Jonstown. They joined with the forces from Alone at Herongreen, abandoned by the Empire during the winter, and marched west on the King’s Road. They made for Sword Hill which lay just off of the road nye half way between Herongreen and Aldachur. To the south of Sword Hill lay Dinacoli land. From the top of the hill Dragonfriend could see most of the Far Point lands and all of Dinacoli lands. He could see the city of Aldachur and planted his banner atop the hill defying Kastakos to take it.
Kastakos could not, and would not, ignore that open defiance and marched his host down the road to meet the Sartari.
Once Dragonfriend knew where the attack would fall he straightened his line to meet it. The skirmishers waited for the Imperials to come to them.
Argrath stood atop the hill, flanked by Garthael, Lothar, Rolf and Von – he was concerned lest the Empire do to him as they did to Kallyr – and nodded at a messenger. The man rode over the back crest of the hill and gave the word to the Kamoar, who stood in command of the combined magical units. Kamoar nodded to Bronwyn, commanding the Eleven Lights, and to Great Brown Swooper, commanding the Warlocks. He waved at the Krise and all three units strode over the crest so that they could see the enemy spread out before them. A golden glow sprang up around the Warlocks and the men entered trances. Spirit Men sprang from the bodies and changed into eagles that then coalesced into a cloud of spirits. The same happened about the Eleven Lights where their powers formed balls of pulsing lights. The Krise shamans unleashed their hordes of spirits.
All three units hurled their assaults at the Melsorkoth mages. The students and their teachers could be seen frantically gesticulating and a red shield sprang up about them and flared an angry crimson when the powers clashed. The shield collapsed and the mages screamed in terror as the magical assault struck home. Spiritual claws tore and dragonfire burned and before the host could move more than ten paces the entire college had been destroyed to a man. The University Guards scattered.
Now the Warlocks turned their attention upon the Stalwarts while the Eleven Lights assailed Kotor’s Wall. The Companions watched as the magical forces ravaged the two phalanxes and a cheer arose from the waiting Sartari when the Kotor standard shattered. The two regiments broke and ran from the field.
Kastakos danced and screamed but was buried under a rush of bodies. The Black Horse halted their advance and watched the rest of the host. The light units turned and stared agape at the running hoplites before they also fled. The Jillaro Cutters turned and marched from the field while the Feathered Axes drove through the fleeing masses to rescue Kastakos.
The Black Horse banners flickered and turned to parley flags. Across the hills of the Far Point signal fires burst into flame and fyrds roused themselves hunting fleeing lunars through the hills. Dragonfriend unleashed his horse and flying thanes into the pursuit and then rode down to speak with the Black Horse.
The Marshal of Surgantur commanded the two troops. He was a tall, very pale man and his voice echoed strangely, it was as though it came from Humakt’s Hall, and it echoed from his horse as well. “We seek to withdraw,” he spake. “Our contract is ended and we wish to leave the field.” Dragonfriend asked if they were then available for hire but was declined. “We needs to return to Mouse Roost before we can re-hire.” Argrath nodded and bade them safe journey.
Our tale need turn to a small hillock north of the King’s Road for Kastakos stood atop the hill beside his standard. He was circled about by five-score of his house troopers and awaited death. Sigmund and Gudny rode at the head of Argrath’s flying thanes. Sigmund espied Kastakos and sang out in joy. He murmured quietly to Little Weighty and hurled the stone at the general. Little Weighty screamed from the sky trailing a long trail of smoke and fire. Kastakos watched the stone fall and coolly raised his shield to turn the blow. Little Weighty struck like a meteor and carved a twenty-foot crater into the hillock; there was nothing left of Young Kastakos .
The dismayed troopers asked for an honourable surrender and ransom. Captain Euranzash from Raibanth asked that they be allowed to take their lord’s body with them, “Such as we can find.” The Companions accepted their surrender and sent one of the troopers back to the Empire to collect the ransom.
When the host had reformed at Aldachur, Argrath found that he had lost less than a score of warriors and all of those had fallen during the pursuit. The Empire, he estimated had lost nye on three in ten.
Scouts sent to discover what had happened to the Dinacoli, for even with the raids from Dragon’s Eye some of them were expected, found the entire tribe burning. It seemed that 2,500 dragonnewts had erupted from Dragon’s Eye and laid waste to the land. 1,000 skirmishers, 1,000 warriors and 500 priests had ridden forth on demi-birds and overwhelmed the tribal fyrds.
In Aldachur, the tribes acclaimed Orgovalt as their new Prince. He immediately named Argrath Champion of Far Point and had him given the Shield Welcome.
We needs say what the Shield Welcome was. Argrath entered Aldachur in procession. First came ten of his largest knights, riding rive across, in their finest iron armour with gaily flapping pennants tied to their lance tips. Next came the Dragon’s Shadows, ten great trolls, marching in thundering step and warded in silent lead armour bearing their man-sized mauls. Next came twenty of the Storm Dragon Guards, wearing their EWF iron armour and bearing the Dragonlord’s banner before them. Then came Argrath, carried atop a large shield. The folk of the Far Point competed for two days to find who would have the honour of carrying the shield. The Companions rode at Argrath’s back followed by the rest of the Storm Dragon Guards and then a score of Argrath’s warband, all richly equipped and with arms heavy in gold. The feasting continued for three days with people dancing in the streets and singing until they grew hoarse.
With the victory over the Empire, messengers arrived from Boldhome summoning Dragonfriend to the Argrath Council. When he arrived all of the Argraths congratulated Dragonfriend on his stunning victory and asked after the magics he used. Dragonfriend stood mute on all maters relating to his magical warbands.
“We now control all of our lands,” spake Whitebull. “I hole Prax, Sharpsword is strengthening his hold over Katheala, Maniskisson holds most of the Exiles, Dragonfriend holds Far Point.” All of the Argraths nodded at this. “We need to choose a king.”
“What of Kallyr?” asked Dragonfriend.
“I quested long and hard,” Whitebull replied sadly. “Her soul is not to be found on the mortal plane nor in the Halls of the Dead. She has passed beyond the reach of the living.”
Dragonfriend looked around at the Argraths. “Is anybody ready to step aside from consideration?” Whitebull and Sharpsword both spake, “I will set aside my claim.” Venharlsson peered about thoughtfully and released a deep sigh. “I also will release my claim.”
Maniskisson nodded sagely. “You choose wisely. It is now between you and I,” he said to Dragonfriend. “Why do we not take a few days to think over our choices and gather back here to vote.” Dragonfriend thought it over and decided that he needed a day to talk with the other Argraths. He nodded ascent and the council broke for the night.
White Bull gave Dragonfriend a sharp look as the Argrath’s filed out and they met later that night. “I was hoping that you would not be taking the crown,” he said. Dragonfriend asked why he felt that way. “We have just embarrassed the Empire most seriously and I fear the retribution that they will visit upon us. I would have the retribution fall upon Maniskisson rather than yourself.” He went on to say that none of the Argraths liked Maniskisson and that he knew it, “It will make him more malleable.” “I see your point and will withdraw myself from consideration,” spake Dragonfriend. “You are a good man,” replied White Bull. “I will support you in all ways against him.” Dragonfriend said that he would do likewise. “Let us speak with Sharpsword,” he said.
Sharpsword repeated his words of praise for Dragonfriend’s victory over the empire. “Where do you stand?” asked Dragonfriend. “I will vote for Maniskisson, I hate him we can control him. I also feel that there will be hard times coming for Sartar and it would be better for us all if he is on the throne to take the responsibility – and blame – for them.” Dragonfriend and Whitebull agreed with him. “Good. You are a better man than he, Dragonfriend, that is why I’d never vote for you.”
In the morrow the council gathered again and acclaimed Maniskisson as king. Maniskisson came to Dragonfriend and clasped hands with him, “I thank you Dragonfriend. I knew that we’d see eye-to-eye when you thought about it and realised my divinity and that I was born for this task.”
And so the city and kingdom prepared for a new king. The tribal kings and many people gathered in Boldhome on the 88th day of the season, the traditional day that a new king lights the Flame of Sartar. There were thousands gathered below the sconce. All of the Argrath’s gathered on the steps of the Palace with their companions about them.
Maniskisson stepped forth. He bore the ancient regalia of Sartar. As he raised his hands to begin the ceremony there was a ripple in the crowd and a woman pushed her way into the fore and shouted “Stop!”
It was Kallyr.
Sharpsword reached for his blade but White Bull grabbed his wrist. “That flame is mine to light,” Kallyr boomed. “Thou art dead!” sputtered Maniskisson. “I sought for you in the Halls of the Dead,” said White Bull. “I was in the Sky with my lover Rigsdal,” replied the apparition. The crowd looked about themselves in disbelief. “Can this be true,” they asked. Lothar knew the truth of her words and raised his voice. “Aye,” he said and the other humakti around him agreed. The lawspeakers spoke among themselves and also raised their voice in assent. “She speaks true.”
Dragonfriend spoke up, “Kallyr is queen.” The Argraths looked to each other and they all nodded – Maniskisson looked shocked and the Companions were pleased to see his self-confidence so shaken. Kallyr climbed the stairs to the sconce, took the regalia from Maniskisson and pushed him aside. She raised her hands to the sky and enacted the ritual to light the flame. A great bolt of light speared down from Rigsdal and exploded into the sconce.
And the Flame of Sartar burned free again.
 Sigmund is 7w3 with his Thunderstone affinity. He gets +20 from Little Weighty and bid a hero point to bump his result. He bid all 67 AP and rolled a ‘1’. Kastakos had a w3 in his best magic and didn’t even bother rolling a dice.
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