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Gwandor Saga

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.

Whitebull received 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 with him.

Kallyr spoke 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 of spearmen.

The Argraths agreed to the wisdom and went about their regions gathering support.

Dragonfriend 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 they could.

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.

Kallyr also 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.

Dark Season

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.

Bronwyn returned 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.

Fazzur's son, 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 Tarsh's countryside.

Argrath sent Bronwyn back into Tarsh to find Onjar and discover what he could of Fazzur's whereabouts.

Manniskisson 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.

Cuthred bore 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 replied.

Argrath sent 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.

Now Argrath 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.

Argrath travelled upon the Dragon road into Dwarf Mine and found his regular guide awaiting him. "You…back…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 [1]. The watching dwarves applauded politely.

"What wondrous 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."

Argrath spoke 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…" Argrath 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 agreed.

Argrath then 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 well."

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 would know."

And so Argrath thanked the dwarf and arranged for the Transformer to be delivered to Boldhome in utter secrecy and took his leave.

The Companions 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.

The warband flew to the base of Ormsfang and Kamoar went ahead to spy what he could.

Kamoar spied 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.

Argrath flew 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 [2] to his rooms in Crag Spider's keep. He gathered Wyrmquill and fared back to Ormsfang in the same manner.

Wyrmquill studied 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.

After several 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.

Studying the 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.

Argrath scooped 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.

Gudny turned 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."

[1] A circus cannon.
[2] Teleport

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August 6, 2001

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