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The Gwandor Campaign
Gwandor Saga



The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 61

"Oh god! This is worse than dwarves!"

- Dragonfriend, about Maniskisson's boasting

Our saga needs turn to Wintertop where the Companions arrived ahead of the first valindi storm of the season. As the winter winds screamed and the snow shrouded the sky, Dragonfriend claimed guest right from Maniskisson and had it granted with great glee.

Now, it seems that Wyrmquill had found some scrap of lore about a missing piece of the regalia of the Emperor of Dara Happa. Before Argrath departed, Wyrmquill spake of a heortling warlord, Harangot by name, who had been a War Captain of Arkat's. While Arkat turned his troll armies on Dorastor and crushed the Deceiver, Harangot fought north and conquered the Dara Happans. After that, Harangot collected vast tributes from the Empire and the Heortlings grew wealthy.

Well it came to pass that the Solar Empire rebelled and treacherously attacked Harangot in the citadel of Raibanth. Now Harangot was a hero of Orlanth and gathering his companions, much booty and pieces of the imperial regalia about him, he flew from the city and was never seen again.

Argrath resolved to travel to Orlanth's hall and speak with Harangot hoping to find the regalia.

And so we find the Companions in Wintertop where Argrath had decided to conduct his rituals and pass over to the God Time on Orlanth's High Holy Day.

Maniskisson feasted Dragonfriend well and treated the Companions to a reading from "My Glories as Argrath", Maniskisson's newly commissioned biography.

The Companions gathered in the temple on the holy day. Gudny stood in the center of a storm rune formed by Argrath, Sigmund, Kamoar and Lothar. Also joining the quest was Doryl Safepath, Gudny's Issaries Pathguide, Nestin Hollowdancer, Von Heartstopper, Wyrmquill and Stonehead-Ureg.

Stonehead-Ureg was a great troll and one of Argrath's bodyguards. He was the most perceptive and sharpest eyed of the Stormdragon's Shadows but was a little slow of thought, even for a great troll.

With the support of the congregation and Argrath's warband Gudny easily led the band into the Hero Plane. Their souls joined the winds about Kerofin and blew off into the Storm Realm. They passed over the endless forests and passed through Adin's Gap and came to rest on the threshold of Orlanth's Hall.

Argrath led them in and jostled his way to a long table. He filled his horn with Minlinster's Inspiration, mead, and set to boasting about his battles with the Evil Emperor. He counted the warriors of Yelmalio that he had slain. He numbered the years he fought with Hengal the Second Son. He named the Lunar champions he had slain and gloated over the widows he had created. Soon the he had a cheering gathering about him as Orlanthi champions from all ages toasted his accomplishments.

And then Orlanth's voice rolled across the room. "You are truly a fine son of mine," spake the Adventurer and he beckoned Argrath to his high chair. "You have done many mighty deeds and earned great honour among us. But I sense that you are not here merely to boast of your prowess. What brings you to my hall?"

Argrath spoke of his desire to speak with Harangot, "a mighty champion who drinks among the warriors here."

Orlanth frowned. "I know not this Harangot." He raised his voice and called to the room, "Know any of you this Harangot that Argrath seeks?" A chorus of no's came back. Then a man asked, "Dost thou mean Harangot the Bull-biter from Brolia?" No, replied Argrath. "How about Harangot the Sailor from the Kodigvari?" No, spake Argrath. "What about Harangot of Raibanth?" cried a voice from the back of the hall. "Aye," spake Argrath, "that is the one."

"Speak now," cried Orlanth. "Tell us of Harangot of Raibanth." And so the champion came forth and spoke of Harangot. Much that he said was told in this saga already. The teller was Broad-Bord the Axeman and he had fought with Harangot in the siege of Yuthuppa.

"But I keep poor news," he said. "Harangot never made it to this fine hall." Broad-Bord told how the Solars had unleashed the hounds of hell to chase Harangot after he fled from Raibanth. He went onto speak of the chase up the Oslir and how the hounds had dragged Harangot back to Hellgate. "His soul must be trapped within," he concluded.

Agrath leaped atop the nearest table. "Hear me, this is my oath!"

"An oath! An oath!" cried the crowd.

"I will fare into Hellgate and free Harangot from the Jagrekriandi or die trying!" The room erupted in applause.

Orlanth smiled at Argrath and pointed to one of the doors along the side of the hall. "You will need to use that door to get to Hellgate," he intoned. "But the boar has arrived, eat and drink." And the Companions did.

Eurmal must have been elsewhere that night for the Companions awoke without difficulty in the morning.

Now the doorway was dark and emanated dark power. "You stand before the passage to Orlanth's Ring," spake Wyrmquill. It must be in the Underworld now, which is where Hellgate's foundations rest. "I recommend against this journey as it is fraught with danger. None have tread this hero path [1]."

Passing through the doorway, the Companions found themselves on an eternal plain. Black broken rock stretched to the horizon. Two monoliths stood to each side of them, hard, cold, black rock. The sky was grey, dark and forbidding. The stars feeble for they were the Dead stars. Directly overhead was Orlanth's Ring on its passage through the Underworld. The air was still, dead and it was hard to see much further than one's spear tip.

Argrath looked about and pointed straight ahead, our goal lies there. Doryl agreed with the King.

"Uh, Boss," grated Stonehead-Ureg. "Boss! Stuff coming." "Stuff that eat uz," he replied to Argrath's question.

With that, the Companions could hear thundering footfalls and leapt into the air. A host of Jakhars, guardians of the Underworld roared up and shouted their impotence at the flying thanes.

Now a Jakhar was a horrible sight, each was over eight feet tall with four arms, each wielding a wicked blade, and a prehensile tail. There were seven-score of them.

The Companions flew off over the plain but could not outpace the demons. Sigmund stopped and began to smash at them with Little Weighty. One fell, then two, a dozen and then a score. When eight and thirty lay dead the rest fled.

The companions landed and continued their journey.

As they fared over the plain they found themselves following a faint trail through the shattered rocks. They came upon a bunch of humans trudging along the road towards them. All could see that these were nothing more than souls, lost souls.

Argrath addressed them and asked who they were and where they were going. They sighed at the first question. "No where, and everywhere," they replied to second. "We are trapped and cannot leave unless we are released." They no longer remembered who they had been or where they had come from.

Lothar drew his swords, "I can release you from this world and usher you on your way." The souls cheered and swarmed about the Deathlord clamouring for release. Lothar turned to Argrath. "We need to find Hellgate," spake Gudny. "Tell us the way and he will release you," spake Argrath. The souls told them to find the Light of the Underworld. "No enough," replied Argrath. "Remain on this road and you will find it. And we will each gift our Releaser."

Argrath nodded and Lothar turned Severance upon them and slaughtered them all. As each died they dropped a small black crystal upon the ground, a piece of their soul's energy. Lothat took them up and put all twenty of them into his pouch.

The Companions continued down the road and soon found themselves on a rise overlooking a small town. The buildings were all grey or black. In the centre of the settlement stood a small citadel. A few lights in the tower glowed with light and music drifted through the still air.

"We needs avoid this place," spoke Argrath for they had decided nothing was going to be friendly down there. They finally decided to seek directions from one of the inhabitants that could be seen walking the streets.

The first person that they found bared wicked fangs at them before growling something unintelligible when Argrath asked for the town's name. Doryl called upon the Goldentongue and understanding dawned. The town was called the Town of Light. Argrath asked after the tower and learned that it was the Light of the Underworld.

They approached the tower and spied a sign over the door. It shifted and flowed before resolving into Sartari letters that named the tower. A large warrior, eight feet in height stood before the door, his eyes glowing red behind his helm. "None shall pass but those that pay in blood - for blood sustains us. Who is your champion and how many rooms?"

Argrath clapped Lothar on the shoulder. "Yon Deathlord is mine champion and we will require 10 rooms."

The warrior clapped his hands and a wizened old man appeared before them. "Take them through the side door for they are yet to become guests of the Light. Their champion will stand in the Pit," he finished with a snarl.

The old man limped through a side door and beckoned the Companions to follow. They found themselves on the lip of a fighting pit, the sand stained black with blood. "Send forth the challenger!" came the cry from the crowd. Lothar strode down the ramp and strutted to the centre of the arena. A great multi-armed figure slithered towards him - with the body of a slug. He turned and looked at the old man, "You want me to kill it?" The man replied that he must if they wished to become guests of the inn.

Lothar shrugged and drew his blades. He chanted his death song and raced across the sands in a whirlwind of iron-edged death. He leapt through the air and landed upon the slug's chest. He struck with both blades. Death passed through creature's helm, pierced its eye and passed on to stand a hand's breath from the back of its skull. Severance fell full upon the carapaced neck and passed on through the armour, cutting sinew and bone leaving the head free of its body. The slug fell down then with its death wounds.

With that the Companions were welcomed as guests of the inn, the Light of the Underworld. They were led into the common room and introduced to Frandor Blacklord, the inn-keeper.

Frandor was a huge figure, a black-skinned demon-man with oiled muscles and red eyes. The bar was packed with people from every place and every time. "The first drink is on the house," Frandor said. "After that you pay in blood." Argrath replied that what he really wanted was information. "You hear that Venden!" laughed Frandor to a friend, "He wants information."

Frandor's friend was a head, sitting in a saucer of beer. "Did you hear the one about the headless body?" asked Venden. No, replied the Companions. "Oh, okay."

Argrath asked for directions to Hellgate. He told them he sought a friend who was within the fortress. "Are you Jagrekriandi," asked Venden. "No", said Argrath. "We are going there to kill jagrekriandi."

"Oh are you now," replied Venden. "Who are you seeking?" Harangot, replied Argrath. "You sure you're not shargashi?" Argrath scowled at the head. "I killed more shargashi than you have ever seen!" "I hardly think that 's likely," replied Venden. "Ya see; I was in Harangot's warband."

And so it passed that Venden told his tale of woe. He spoke of how Harangot had been prepared for the solar soldiers but hadn't been ready for the Shazdoring demons that the Alkothi unleashed. "We took the Girdle of Strength when we left, and that was the part of the Regalia from Alkoth." He went on to describe the frantic flight with the demons on their trail. "We split up when we reached Sylila and I don't' know where Harangot went." Venden told them that when Harangot joined them in Saird he had hidden the plunder. "We were caught and taken back to Earthgate. They tortured us seeking to find the regalia but we wouldn't tell them. They cut my head off and threw it into the river. Luckily my family has long known the secret of how to live without your body - a secret with limited usefulness let me tell you."

When asked, Venden said that Earthgate is what the people of the Underworld call the Hellgate, "because it is the gate to the Earth."

Argrath promised to free Venden's body when they freed Harangot and so allow them both to pass into the Storm Realm.

It was about then that several of Sir Ethilrist's knights came across the Companions in the inn. The first that the Companions knew of that was when several pieces of sharp iron flew by their heads and smashed the bottles on the back wall. The knights quickly died under the well used blades of the Companions - Frandor slew several on his own.

Argrath smirked at Frandor, "does their blood pay for some food?" Frandor smiled at him. "You were attacked in my establishment while under my hospitality. You will eat and stay for free as long as you want." When Argrath made it known that he was leaving right then Frandor made him a chit. "Present that at the door anytime you wish and you will get free access to the Light of the Underworld."

With Venden's head under Von's arm, the Companions returned to their journey.

And so the Companions fared further down their road, directed by Frandor. Venden was a ceaseless talker - probably the result of several centuries with no body. Stonehead-Ureg came to an abrupt halt and cocked an ear. "Boss," he grated. "Stuff come. Many stuff." Argrath asked him what kind of creature and would they want to eat us. "Don't know. Many stuff."

With that the measured tramp of thousands of feet came to them through the ground. A great column of trolls came towards them on the road. As the column neared the Companions were awed to see thousands of Mistress trolls [2] marching across the Underworld.

"Humanz! Good eating!" said the leader. Gudny stepped forth and named himself and Argrath Trollfriend. The leading troll squinted at them, "Trollfriend? Prove it." Argrath nudged Ureg, "Tell them." "Uhhh…I dunno." Argrath addressed the mistress before him. "I am Argrath Trollfriend. I march into battled with the Stormdragon's Shadows, ten of Cragspider's best great trolls. Cragspider is my patron." The troll scowled at him, "The Fire Bitch?" "Yes the Fire Witch," replied Argrath. "Where you go'n?" Hellgate, spake Gudny. "Oh, you not come back then."

With that the trolls resumed their march. It took several hours for the column to pass the Companions.

Some time later the earth began to shake and undulate like the water in a lake. The Companions again took to the air. A giant earth serpent burst from the ground below them and snapped at their heels. Sigmund hurled a thunderstone at it to no avail. The serpent belched a gout of black ichor and Stonehead-Ureg gained his death then.

Sigmund stood steady on his breath and hurled Little Weighty at the serpent. A snake flinched and blood flowed at the thunderstone tore into a vast coil. Another fountain of ichor flew at Wyrmquill. The sage quite luckily avoided the stream. Sigmund wound up again and ran at the snake. He released a mighty shout and hurled Little Weighty. The thunderstone smote the snake between the eyes and crushed its skull. The mighty serpent was still writhing in its death throes when the Companions flew over the horizon.

It was then that the Companions came upon a dead forest, its trees petrified, across the road. They head a sad and poignant song from among the bare trunks and sought its source.

They found a grey elf sitting in a clearing. It greeted them well, but with no enthusiasm. Argrath returned its greetings thusly, "Why do you sit here crying Greyone?" The elf replied that he sorrowed over the death of the forest. He told them that he was trapped here and could not be released. He explained that the forest had been Yelm's underworld forest and grown and thrived under his light. "But my forest will never see Yelm's light again." He then asked the Companions if they were from Above. "Aye," replied Argrath. "Would you take these seeds and plant them under the light of Yelm," he asked. Argrath agreed to do so and the Companions resumed their journey.

We needs now tell what the Companions found when they reached Hellgate. This was Shargash's fortress. His castle. It was a giant stone tower that reached all the way to the roof of the Underworld. The tower was surrounded in mountains of slag and garbage. Chutes uncountable discharged a constant stream of refuse and a sickening red light glowed from thousands of windows and openings.

Venden told them that he could feel his body and that it was high up in the fortress so the Companions flew as high as they could up the side of the tower. As they neared the roof of the Underworld they passed into the tower through a small archway.

They then wandered through endless tunnels and covered in ash and bone. Guttering torches made from human tallow lit their way. The entire building reverberated to the beat of Shargah's drum. Demons and other creatures were everywhere shovelling ash from place to place. The companions could see that new life and souls were being born from the refuse of the old.

Most of the denizens of that hive ignored the Companions. Those that didn't were easily avoided in the maze of corridors. Venden guided them to and fro, ever closer to his body.

Finally they stood outside the cells of Torturous Abandon. "These are the suffer cells of Jagrekriand where he seeks to gain that which he cannot find. My body and that of Harangot lie within."

And so the Companions burst into Shargash's torture cells and did battle with the demons within.

Sigmund vaulted a pinioned crocodile daemon. His lightning sword crackled and he dealt a twenty-foot shazdoring his death right there. Kamoar rolled under a rack of nails and his claws passed through the abdomen of a smaller demon. So hard was Argrath's spear trust that he took several moments to pull his battle-shaft from the wall in which it had pinned a mewling demon. Gudny thundered about the room. He axe Babeestor clove a demon's arm off and the shazdoring fell down dead on the spot.

The Companions were very careful not to free any of the other inhabitants of the room while they released Harangot and Venden reattached his head to his body.

With the rolling of the alarm drums the Companions fled the cells. They fought their way up the tower and finally reached the bottom of the Great Shaft. High above their spied a spot of light and new this to be the way out.

And so the Companions flew up the Great Shaft of Hellgate. It took them nye on two weeks to fly through the thickness of the Earth. They had to constantly dodge falling objects, armies, villages, towns, mountains, as they flew through that twenty-mile wide shaft. They faced very little opposition as the passing demons were so surprised to see anything flying up the shaft.

As they stood on the lip of the shaft, they saw that they were in the Solar Realm during the Great Darkness. Two massive columns reached into the air on either side of the shaft - when they looked high above, the realised that they were in fact Shargash's legs. The mighty god stood far above with his red crown on his head - a red orb, like a planet. The destroyer was reaching out and throwing things down the shaft.

When last the Companions saw him there was an entire elf forest in his grasp.

And so the Companions returned Haragnot and Venden to Orlanth's hall. The dawn-age heroes thanked them mightily and Harangot offered to aide the Companions if they needed. He taught them how to call him.

Argrath asked Harangot about the regalia taken from Raibanth. Harangot told them how he had a hidden world in the Autumn Mountains [3] and had concealed his treasures there. He spoke of using that pocket world all through the Gbaji wars and told Argrath how to find it and open it.

He concluded by hoping that his descendants would aid the Companions as the Companions had aided him.





[1] Wyrmquill was worried because the Companions were about to set out on an experimental heroquest.
[2] Mistress trolls are extremely rare in the current times. They are god-like in their power and to see ONE is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
[3] In Aggar.

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October 30, 2001

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