The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 57
And so Fire
Season gave way to Earth and Kallyr set about reforming the Kingdom.
News came to
the Companions that the Rokari had crushed King Korlamon in Hendrikiland.
It was told that Sharpsword dealt the Hendriki their deathblow by
ambushing the King's retreating army and slaying Korlamon in personal
combat. Sharpsword now named himself Protector of the Volsaxi, Overlord
of Heortland and Chief Pirate among the Wolf Pirates - his fleet
was said to rival that of Harrek's.
news that Jaldon Toothtaker had begun raiding Pavis County and the
Grantlands. Whitebull returned to Prax with most of his forces to
deal with the troubles. All of the Praxian Sun Dome Templars returned
to the Argrath Ring. "We cannot stand against the Empire's
might." The Argraths agreed. She continued by saying that Sartar
could not rely on the Empire remaining divided and embattled among
themselves; sooner or later a united and overwhelming force would
march on the Kingdom. "We doth require more spears, and stronger
hearts." She proposed that the Kingdom would call on each tribe
to provide one man in every two hundred as a military levy. Each
tribe would be responsible for equipping the men in mail, helm,
shield, spear and sword - The Kingdom would feed, house and pay
them. Those men would gather in Boldhome and form the Boldhome Regiment
where they would be a standing force of spearmen. With the current
population of Sartar that levy would provide a little over one thousand
agreed to the wisdom and went about their regions gathering support.
sent Bronwyn into Tarsh to meet with Fazzur and to learn what he
could of the situation in the Empire. Bronwyn was also to continue
his work at establishing a network of informants in Tarsh.
As Earth neared
its close Kallyr gathered the Sartar Ring in conclave. The eorls,
tribal kings and high priests from across the kingdom gathered in
Boldhome. The queen formally presented her thoughts to the ring
and they accepted it, promising to send the levy's as quickly as
King Osmod Dashing-Blade
of the Dinacoli rejected the levy. "This is an unjust tribute
and we will not pay nor scrabble upon our bellies like yon other
dung-beardlings," he declared. "Thou art not a just king,"
he spat at Kallyr and stormed from the city. In the following days
the Dinacoli closed their lands to all of the Sartari. Dragonfriend
demanded that the traitors be banned from the kingdom's roads and
markets but Kallyr shook her head and forswore immediate penalties.
addressed the gathered Humakti lords, Sword Bork Great-Blade from
the Indrodari temple - the senior priest in Sartar - Sword Jorl
Boar-Cleaver from the Malani temple and Sword Lothar Twinblades
from the Gwandor temple, who - as is well known - was one of the
Companions. The queen asked the humakti to form their ancient Humakti
Battalion and place it at the kingdom's command.
Word came from
Sun County that Sota Lamplighter had left on a great quest to take
his message of Solar Unity to the Sun Domes in the Empire.
In Dark Season
word came from the south, applauded by some and bemoaned by others.
Harrek sailed into the Mirrorsea Bay with a vast pirate fleet and
did battle with Sharpsword. In a surprising twist, the Right Arm
Islanders sent their battle fleet to support Sharpsword and Harrek
was defeated. He withdrew, wounded, to Three Step Islands.
It should be
told that Sharpsword now called himself High King of the Right Arm
and High King of the Volsaxi. He now controlled most of the lands
of the old Pharaoh.
with more foul news. King Moriades of Tarsh was dead and Pharandros,
his son, was the new king. Fazzur Wideread had been seized and imprisoned
as a traitor. He was charged with corresponding with rebels from
Sartar and plotting a rising against the king. There had been a
battle at Bagnot where Fazzur's supporters were gathering.
Freidar Fazzurson, commander of the Yarandros Chargers, had fought
his way clear and sought refuge with the Exiles. He pledged his
loyalty to Manniskisson. There was a steady stream of refugees gathering
at Wintertop. Onjar, another of Fazzur's sons, had vanished into
Bronwyn back into Tarsh to find Onjar and discover what he could
of Fazzur's whereabouts.
came to Boldhome with Freidar seeking help for the refugees. It
appeared that the Exiles could not support that many more people.
Kallyr agreed on the condition that the refugees provide five-score
soldiers, training in Tarshite Foot tactics to act as cadre for
the Boldhome Regiment. Freidar agreed.
Now an Aeolian
knight came to Boldhome. He was Cuthred, son of Hurred the Drayce.
Now Cuthred was a renown warrior and mighty in his god's ways. His
massive great-blade had taught many a Ranth knight to respect the
forces of the Drayce.
word from his father to Dragonfriend. It seemed that one Sungger
Scorpion-Breaker had arrived in the Marches with ten-hundreds of
refugees from Hendrikiland. They had fled from Sharpsword's pogrom
and wished shelter from Dragonfriend. Sungger told how Sharpsword
was hunting All of Korlamon's supporters down and killing them like
a rabid beast. He had three hundreds of spear among his people and
pledged them all to Dragonfriend.
Now at this
time Sharpsword came to Dragonfriend and demanded the return of
the traitors and murderers who followed Sungger. "But surely
such retched folk are no threat to yon might," asked Dragonfriend.
"They have committed no crime and fled your lands so as to
cause no trouble there." Sharpsword demanded that Dragonfriend
guarantee their behaviour and to swear an oath to keep them from
raiding his lands. "Aye, that is reasonable," Dragonfriend
Cuthred back with word to accept Sungger's people among the Dundealos
tribe if they would swear not to raid Heortland. Sungger accepted
and moved his people to Dundealos Valley where they settled in the
Yellow Hills, around an old hill fort called Bull-No-Pass. They
formed a new clan in the Dundealos and called themselves the Sunggarlings.
Now we needs
relate a tale told by Wyrmquill to Boldhome. The sage bore some
information for Argrath that had been difficult to find. He had
news about the assassins that had plagued Argrath these many years.
It seemed that
in the late days of the EWF, during the empire's fall into decadence,
debauchery and repression, the Old Day Traditionalists grew in power
in the north. In response to this the EWF sponsored a small mystical
school, known as the Dragon's Fang. The Dragon's Fang were used
as a terror squad to hunt down the Empire's enemies and destroy
them. The school's main operations were in Tarsh and they had link
to Aram and his people - know called the Tusk Riders. From the school's
name Wyrmquill deduced a possible location for their keep, Ormsfang
Mountain in the Eastern Rockwoods.
thanked Wyrmquill for his work and set his researchers to work on
finding new rituals that may be useful against the Empire.
And so it came
to pass that Argrath travelled into Dwarf Run to visit Isildirian
the Wise seeking knowledge of the Dragon's Fang and any other aid
that the dwarf may be able to give Sartar.
upon the Dragon road into Dwarf Mine and found his regular guide
awaiting him. "You
quick," the mostali
said. The Companions were led through the now familiar tunnels to
Isildiran's workshop where they found him fiddling with a large,
gaily coloured cylinder. Isildirian barked a command and a tremendous
roar filled the cavern. A dwarf with a white helm flew from the
cylinder in a cloud of grey smoke and landed across the room on
a net . The watching dwarves applauded politely.
weapon is this?" asked Argrath. "Dwarf-day," replied
Isildirian. "Entertainment device." Gudny smiled at him,
"We assumed it was to deliver an Iron dwarf over an enemy's
walls." Isildirian blinked at Gudny, "I had not considered
that, it bears investigation. I shall have to appoint a committee
to look into it."
then with Isildirian about his Alchemical Transformer and learned
that the modifications were complete. The Transformer now fit into
a normal ox-cart. "What does the device do?" Argrath asked.
"Well, once I had overcome the difficulty of the solvents mixing
and reacting with the beakers to form clouds of
interrupted, "please explain it so that a human may understand."
"Ah," replied Isildirian. "In your primitive terms,
it takes the energy of a magical unit and doubles the power and
range of their abilities." Argrath smiled, "Not that's
what I wanted to hear." He asked Isildirian if he would allow
the Sartari to use it. "Well, it does need field testing."
Argrath told him how he would very rigorously test it and Isildirian
turned to the matter of the Dragon's Fang. "Dost thou knowlest
of them?" he asked. "Yes," was the reply. Argrath
gnashed his teeth as four years of fruitless searching. "Are
they on Ormsfang?" "Yes." "Do you have tunnels
into their keep?" "No, but the Great Way mostali do."
"Can you show us how to speak with the Great Way dwarves?"
"Yes. But they will not allow you into their secret tunnels."
"Can you tell us anything about these assassins?" "Yes.
We have a comprehensive dossier on them. Just recently updated as
And so Isildirian
sent for the dossier and led the Companions back to his office.
When the file arrived he looked through it. "Ah, this was recently
updated, in your terms it was revised in 1021." The Companions
groaned - that was before the Dragon Kill. It was revealed that
at that time they were seen to send an army of 2,000 men out of
their keep on the mountain. Isildirian sent for something called
a "CAEA". He explained that it was a "Cartographic
Associate Engineer's Assistant", what ever that was. He gave
a page from the dossier to a dwarf that came in and the dwarf left.
Soon afterwards the dwarf returned with something called a "three-dimensional
Bass Relief Scale Representation" of the Fang's keep. "A
map," Isildirian explained.
The keep was
perched on an out thrust crag below the mountain peak. It measured
one-score and five paces a side and was five stories tall. "How
could they fit two-thousands within that keep," wondered Gudny.
"Unless it is larger within than it is without." Isildirian
assured them that there were no underground structures, "We
And so Argrath
thanked the dwarf and arranged for the Transformer to be delivered
to Boldhome in utter secrecy and took his leave.
gathered in Alda-Chur. Argrath, Gudny, Garthael and Kamoar. Argrath
had his bodythanes and the Stormdragon Guard, his forty best warriors.
Gudny and Garthael had their closest companions and Kamoar had his
shamen with him.
flew to the base of Ormsfang and Kamoar went ahead to spy what he
a ruined keep, long empty. He spied tracks and trails in the rubble
that suggested people had passed that way, and often over many centuries.
He spoke to the birds of the mountaintops and they confirmed that
men had passed through the rubble several Sun-times ago.
with his band into the ancient courtyard before the abandoned keep.
Garthael led the way into the tower. Within, they found a room filled
with centuries of dust, and cutting across the dust, they found
tracks. The tracks vanished in the middle of the room.
Now Gudny called
up a gentle wind and whisked the dust from the floor and they found
ancient runic carvings on the floor and ceiling. None knew their
ken and so Argrath stepped onto Mastakos' chariot and travelled
 to his rooms in Crag Spider's keep. He gathered Wyrmquill and
fared back to Ormsfang in the same manner.
the markings and told that they were ancient high EWF mystical markings.
They marked a portal into a Short World, a small pocket of existence
separated from the Middle Realm. He said that any powerful magician
could force a passage. Argrath gestured at Gudny to proceed.
attempts, Gudny forced open the portal and Garthael led the warband
through and into a world of mist. He forged forward and stepped
into an alcove in a cliff-face. Two startled guards jerked awake
and died under the humakti's great blade without uttering a sound.
Behind Garthael was solid stone and one-by-one the rest of the warband
strode from it.
guards was a surprise. They were both tusk-riders, but were meticulously
groomed, clean and well dressed - they were even shaved.
We needs now
tell about the short world that the Companions had forced open.
From their alcove a broad stair led down onto a plateau carved into
the side of the mountain. Around the plateau, terrace after terrace
climbed towards the surrounding peaks and were surrounded by thick
clouds. There were many people out working the fields. There were
a few neglected orchards and a few derelict buildings but most of
the area was well maintained. On the far side of the plateau stood
a great keep.
up a lonely peasant with Mastakos' chariot and brought him to the
alcove. The tusk-rider dropped his hoe and fell into a fighting
pose. He grunted a challenge and lunged at Argrath. The Stormdragon
Guards leaped upon the hapless peasant and he was soon restrained.
It took Wyrmquill
to try Ancient Aramite before they could communicate with the aramite.
He named himself Gurug and said that he was a Servitor. When Argrath
asked, he told how many there were in the valley. "There are
Seven Masters, fifty and eight Adepts, twelve-score and eight Acolytes
and one thousand Servitors." The warband shuffled nervously.
"You are all dead. The Masters will slay you all for this invasion!"
"Well," replied Argrath, "If they are going to kill
me then I have no further use for you." With that Von severed
his head from his shoulders.
It was about
then that the warband heard gongs ringing from the keep. The farmers
in the fields ran for the keep as a file armoured troops made their
way out of the gate.
to begin the ritual to again open the portal.
A cloud formed
before Argrath and resolved itself into the shape of a dragon. The
cloud then opened and the Companions could see seven men sitting
in a spartan room. "Interlopers! We have not had interlopers
in many a year. Who are you and what bring you here in such a moment
of rashness?" "I am Argrath Dragonfriend and you have
been trying to kill me," Argrath spake. "Ah yes, you were
one of our contracts. Have you come to subject yourself to an easy
death?" Argrath sneered, "We have come to negotiate with
you." They asked him what he wished to negotiate. "I want
you to cancel your contract on me or I will return with enough force
to smash you valley. I would also like you to work for me."
The heads turned to each other and spoke quickly. "There is
no contract on you." Argrath snorted at that. "We said
that you 'were' one of our contracts. There is no longer any contract."
It seemed that Harvar had failed to pay the Masters for their repeated
attempts on Argrath and had terminated their contract. "Why
should we work for you?" Argrath spoke of having all of Sartar
behind him and being able to pay in gold, if that was what they
required. "We have little need for gold, though we accept it.
Our main requirement is to exercise our skills." Argrath assured
them that there would be no dearth of opportunities in his employ,
beginning with the opportunity to slay Harvar. "We will discuss
this manner," the Masters replied. "You may be contacted.
For now, leave us. Do not attempt to enter our realm again. We have
many entrances and can easily bar this one from you. You are alive
now at our sufferance."
 A circus
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