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The Gwandor Campaign
Gwandor Saga



The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 64

"So we're in a recession?"

 

And so the Free Army limped back into Sartar. The fyrds returned to their homes, the standing regiments returned to barracks and the mercenaries marched away. Sharpsword sent most of his host down the King's Road and then through Volsaxiland to his realm in the south.

The Argrath Council convened in their hall in the Palace. Dragonfriend sat at the head of the table. Maniskisson sat to his right; Sharpsword on the left; Venharlsson at the foot and Fazzurson next to Maniskisson. As expected, Whitebull did not attend. King Harrek also declined to join them - he was drinking heavily trying to douse the discomfort of his wounds, wounds that the healers could not heal.

They had but one thing to discuss: "What next."

Dragonfriend spake of continuing the campaign in Tarsh but told of some difficulties in that plan. "The High King did agree to pay the Poljoni one wheel per rider per day." He paused while the others did the mental arithmetic, "that means that the kingdom owes the horsemen sixty and five hundreds thousand marks. The treasury has about a tenth of that." He remarked that the situation was made worse by half of the tribes refusing their tribute to the "Pirate King". He asked them if they had any suggestions.

Maniskisson told how he had paid a bounty to Iron Hoof for the Beast Riders, given most of his plunder to the Grazers, supported the Yarandros Chargers and heavily supplemented the Exiles. "Harrek hasn't paid me for this - now I know why," he spake. "I have no gold to help Sartar."

Sharpsword also claimed to have nothing in his treasury. "I invested heavily in infrastructure development and grain futures. Then the junk bond market collapsed and the luxury market dried up. I was expected Harrek to help pay the costs of bringing my army here."

Dragonfriend looked at them both with exasperation. "I think you are both full of shit." He then told them both that if they were owed money they should take it up with Harrek. Maniskisson replied that, "As his Warlord," Dragonfriend should take it up with Harrek and represent the council.

Fazzurson spake about hoping for funds to support his rising in Tarsh. "Without the support of Sartar we will still throw down the King - but it will take much longer." They all agreed that with Jareel gone only good could come of it.

It was then that the council doors flew open and Durak Bloodblade, boon campanion of Harrek entered the hall. "Lords! Your King wants you to join his party." The Argraths looked at each other and replied, What party? Durak grinned, "A great party. He's invited the whole town. He's got cask after cask of beer and wine and girls."

Dragonfriend groaned, "The treasury is now empty," and obediently joined the party.

Harrek was on his high seat drinking like there was no tomorrow. He appeared unhappy. "Dr'gonfrn!" he shouted. "Have a flagon! Your face is as long as a donkey's!"

Dragonfriend took the flagon and quietly addressed the King. "Indeed my face is long for your kingdom is broke. There is no gold and no silver left in the treasury."

Harrek looked surprised, "But I'm King! My cash is limitless. Look at the Emperor. He never runs out of money." Dragonfriend replied that the Empire was much larger than Sartar and had not been fighting for its survival for several years. "Well," was Harrek's drunken reply, "we'll have to raid for money then. That's what I always did with my pirates, we'd just go and loot another town."

Dragonfriend looked thoughtful for a moment, "Surprisingly that sounds like a good idea, with one problem. You need to pay your soldiers for the last campaign before they will go on the next one."

Harrek snarled at him, "You'rrrr annoying. Fuck off!"

Our story now follows Dragonfriend as he returns to his palace in Boldhome. Before the gates a large cowled figure stepped out of the shadows and said "Good-day". Argrath's bodythegns released their weapons when they recognised Whitebull. "I came to visit," he spake. "But Harrek musn't know I was here. You have a problem."

Dragonfriend acknowledged that he did but Whitebull cut him off. "No, you have another problem. We will speak within."

And so Dragonfriend bade Whitebull enter and be his guest. He sate him down on at his right hand and had bread and salt brought forth. They shared mugs of spiced ale and spoke of this and that. Finally Whitebull spoke of the reason for his visit. "Sartar has a problem, Peace broke out in Prax."

Dragonfriend had to think a moment to understand the trouble with that, "Jaldon's been raised again!" "Aye," intoned Whitebull. The Praxian went on to explain that somebody had managed to perform the ritual even though the tribes were not all united and that the entire Zola Fel was being heavily raided. "You will not see or hear from me for a while after this as I must deal with this trouble." He sipped from his flagon. Then he spoke of Dragonfriend's trouble. He told how the Army of the Reborn Sands had resurfaced and gathered several thousand warriors. They were last seen passing the Paps headed west.

Dragonfriend was thinking furiously, "They are moving on my Marches. They are less than four days from Knight Fort. Why?"

Whitebull nodded and told of a secret society called Genert's Blessing, "I've used them from time-to-time," and how they were dedicated to reincarnating the ancient Praxian hero Tada. "The Poljoni met with the Bison tribe who they had been warring with. They made peace. Two days later Jaldon rose from his rest." With that, Whitebull took his leave and returned to Pavis.

Dragonfriend summoned his companions and champions.

He ordered the Royal Army, now loyal to him rather than the Pirate King, to march for Knight Fort. With them would ride his knights and the March Light Horse. King Erdhar of the Dundealos would raise his fyrd and command the host. "Seize Barbarian Town on your way. I would show the Poljoni what it means to attack my holdings."

Dragonfriend directed the Eaglebrown Warlocks to fly to Knight Fort and join the garrison there, currently made up of militiamen from the Marches. He flew there himself with his flying warband and his Companions.

Gettig Kingsvoice was sent to Duke Gerrard in Mt. Passant seeking help for if the Praxians could defeat Knight Fort then all of Hendrikiland would be open to them. The March Barons were warned and told to make their preparations.

Then Argrath stood upon the Keep in Knight Fort, looked about him and was pleased. The Fort had been besieged before, by larger hosts, and never taken by storm. The coming host would quickly run out of food before the walls and would then melt away.

The Companions gathered and flew out into Prax seeking to parley with the nomads. Before long they spied the horde moving quickly across the plains. A wind arose and buffeted the skybulls. It began to form a whirlwind about them but Gudny turned the winds aside.

Argrath summoned his storm-voice and called a greeting to the nomads who were a half-mile away. "I come with my sword sheathed and my hands open in peace. I would speak with you."

Gudny stared at them through his helm of farseeing and quickly counted their numbers. He saw some 2,000 Sable riders and 500 Rhinos. There were 1000 blue-painted,shambling footmen, 1000 Basmoli and further 3000 human-looking footmen with hide shields and maces. There were 5000 Morocanths and a batch of wagon and donkey-riding men.

When the Praxians gave no sign of hearing or caring what he had said the Companions turned to leave. Those winds whipped up again and Argrath's skybull got caught up in them and whipped about in the air. Argrath said a quick prayer to Mastakos and the Running God's chariot whisked him away.

Pausing further from the host, Argrath borrowed Gudny's helm. He found a powerful looking khan among the Sables and snatched him from his mount with Mastakos' Chariot. With Rolf and Von holding him securely the Companions flew to the Monkey Ruins.

Once at the ruins Argrath spoke with the khan but received no answer. "I wish you no harm," the King spake. "I seek only to know why your army makes war on me. Once you have answered my questions I will set you free."

"Speak then, I may answer." And so Argrath learned that his captive was Murdost the Reaper, leader of the Lost Moon faction among the Sables Riders. Murdost was an ardent Empire hater and held sway over an eighth of the Sable Nation. "We come to take back that which was ours and was taken by the Ancieint Ones and trapped within your pile of stone." Upon further questioning from Argrath Murdost told that they sought the Heart of Tada. "This is the courage of our people. With it we can unite and retrieve the Loincloth which will return fertility to our land."

Argrath spake thusly to the khan, "Were I to know what this Heart was I would give it to you. Tell your priests, that if they can describe it to me and I am able, I will let them enter the fort and take the Heart."

Murdost grunted at him, "I will tell them." With that Argrath sent him back to his people upon Mastakos' chariot.

With that the Companions returned to Knight Fort. Argrath summoned Wyrmquill from Cragspider's library upon another of Mastakos' chariots and sought from him the location of the Heart. Wyrmquill went through the Fort's history and found what he was looking for.

As we all know, Knight Fort was built by the God Learners to protect Heortland from the Praxians. We also know that the God Learners were reviled for their practice of taking one people's magic and twisting it against them. This is what they did to the Heart. The Heart had been turned into the foundation stone of the Fort and bound to empower the defenders against Praxians. The Heart could not be removed without destroying the Fort.

Argrath thought long and hard about the value of making peace with the oncoming horde or keeping his fortress. He finally decided that making peace with this horde would not help him against the next horde and the people of the March would feel betrayed were he to leave them open to the nomads. "We fight," was his decision.

Gudny flew to the Block where he knew several Fury Jarls one of which, Rark Ironbear, owed the Stormlord service. Rark was pleased to see Gudny and made to throw a great party in his honour. Gudny accepted his hospitality but spake that he was on a mission of great urgency. He gifted the Uroxi richly and the Fury Jarl became very serious, very fast. "My King, Argrath of the Marches, would have your help defending his people from the Army of the Reborn Sands." Rark agreed to ride to Barbarian Town and join Erdhar's host with seven score riders. Gudny thanked him for his help and gifted him again. Gudny gained great honour among the maniacs there with his obvious wealth and honour.

Rark then spoke of the Reborn Sands and he knew quite a bit about them. "Borron Stone-Breaker leads them. He is of the Rhino Nation and is said to be able to incarnate the Rhino Founder. That would make him the most powerful Rhino hero in several centuries." Gudny grimaced. Rark continued, "Borron is said to have a Great Horn of Cornucopia and his entire life has been surrounded by prophesy." Rark spoke of Dukarek the Lone Eagle, the First Shaman of the Wandering Band, the focus of the society. He spoke of Gepir Hardfur leading the Morocanths. He described the Morocanth herdwarriors, herdmen trained to fight. "They don't fight well but they will trap your spear by dying on it." He then identified the shambling men as part of the Cannibal Cult - maniacs who ate their fallen foes to gain their powers.

When he had finished his description Gudny thanked him for the information and returned to Knight Fort. Rark led his riders off before nightfall.

That night Wyrmquill spoke with Argrath about the Heart. He thought that it was also possible to use the Heart to attack Praxians rather than wait for them to attack the fort. He didn't now how to do it yet but was working on it. "These histories are written in Old Seshnelan and I am not practiced at that tongue. You should have some wizards in here looking at these tomes." Argrath made a mental note to bring some in later.

It was about then that a dehori, a spirit of the Darkness, brought word to Argrath that his patron Cragspider wished to speak with him. "My mistress has a boon to ask," hissed the spirit. It was not necessary for the spirit to remind Argrath of the many favours he owed the Fire Witch.

And so Argrath strode along Mastakos' path. He jumped to the top of Sjorscliff Mtn. Placed his right foot on Quivin Mtn, his left next to the Chalkman and skipped into Cragspider's Library. He was ushered into the Fire Witch's hall and greeted her well.

Cragspider came straight to the point. "I thank you for retrieving my ancient husband's talisman from the Wastes. With it he and I have conceived a child. I need you to place my child where it can grow properly." Argrath asked where that would be. "My child must be reared in the Underworld and we have decided to use the Giant's method. Two days ago a large floe broke off from the Great Glacier and now floats on the Ocean. You will take my baby to it and deliver it into the hands of its kin. The floe will then sail down Magasta's Pool." Argrath stared at her thoughtfully and then asked how large her baby was. "Twenty human feet. You own a shipyard in the Only Old One's city of Nochet, sail my child to the floe. I understand you have some nagging difficulty in one of your lands. I will give a few days to resolve it before you take my child."

When Argrath returned to Knight Fort Kamoar had news from Bronwyn to relay. It appeared that the Imperial army had withdrawn from Tarsh in some haste. News had reached Bronwyn of Pentan nomads overrunning the Satrapy of Oraya and that the ancient land of Rinliddi had declared its independence from the Empire. The vast majority of the warriors from the Reaching Moon Temple in Tarsh had ridden north to battle the nomads. All of the Provincial Army troops rode with them except for Harvar's host.

Bronwyn also spake of growing troubles within the Tarsh Royal Army; several regiments were openly supporting Fazzursson and many of the rest were of questionable loyalty.

Harvar's host had moved to Bagnot where he could ward the Kingdom from attack. He left three troops of the Black Horse Troop in Slave Wall to guard the road from Alone and sent a force of engineers to fortify Dendrogi Pass. He then started to build a military road from Bagnot through the Coffer Hills to link up with Trader Valley.

The Tarsh King made it known that he wanted to make Harvar a Phagentite but the Phargentites refused - several were imprisoned over the matter.

Gudny shared what he had learned from Rark.

Argrath nodded in satisfaction. "Let us see what we can do about that Horn of Borron's." With that the King gathered his Companions again and flew to the Monkey Ruin. He took out the monkey paw given to him by Kettle Blackfur so long ago and bent one of the fingers over. "I wish that the Great Horn of Cornucopia would be stolen and lost to the Army of Reborn Sands." With that the King returned to Knight Fort.

Sigmund brought the news that much of the Fort's supplies had gone missing. Voydag screamed at her husband when her jewellery was stolen. A good third of the stockpiled arrows had also vanished.

Argrath set his humakti to questioning all within the keep. He set his Knowing Men to viewing the past. The humakti found that all were loyal. The Knowing Men found that flocks of raven spirits were assailing the fortress. They were fouling the well, stealing the food and leaving droppings on Argrath's bed.

Argrath turned to Wyrmquill and asked about the fortress' magical defences and why they were not blocking the ravens. Wyrmquill blinked and screamed in delight. "We had wondered what that blessed was for. Now we know." The sage ran off and soon the spirits were barred from the fort.

Word came from the north where King Erdhar had besieged Barbarian Town. He had defeated two clans of the Poljoni and drove off the Krise warband. He was preparing an assault on the rickety walls.

That was the day that the Praxians arrived before Knight Fort and laid their siege. All told, there were about ten thousands of them.

As night fell over the fort, the defenders spied the Morocanths beginning a great ritual.

Sigmund hurled his thunderstones into the enemy host until they withdrew beyond his range. Argrath used his powers of Movement to augment the range of the castle's catapults. Kamoar slipped over the wall to stalk the enemy camp like a vengeful spirit.

We needs tell what the Morocanths got up to with their ritual. As it progressed the darkness grew thicker and solider. When the Companions realised what was happening it was too late.

The darkness solidified and formed a vast ramp up to the ramparts. 3000 screaming herdwarriors swarmed up that ramp. Hundreds of bows sang as one and arrows fell sleeting in to the charging mass. The ballistae snapped and the catapults thudded and still the horde came on.

Gudny gathered his warband, the Third Thunder, around him. With their support he attempted to summon a great hailstorm and blast the attackers off of the ramp. A countering magic rose from the Morcanths and battled with his. The Calming Air overcame Gudny's Ohorlanth storm and stilled all of the winds in the area.

The herdmen crashed into the defenders atop the wall and the fighting was terrible. The attackers knew no fear and cared nothing for their lives. They were content to thrust themselves upon a defender's sword to allow their companions to kill him. They died in the dozens and then scores but they were pushing their way onto the wall. The Basmoli berserkers climbed the ramp behind the herdmen and crashed into the defenders. The Cannibal cult began collecting bodies and carrying them back into their camp.

Gudny smiled and shifted his prayers. If his foe was going to still his storm then Gudny would simply remove his foe's breath. Joined now by Sigmund the two slew hundreds of herdmen by snatching their breath from their lungs.

Argrath directed the Eagle Brown Warlocks to counter the ramp and they began their draconic chanting.

The Basmoli gained the ramparts and the fighting again grew fierce.

In the midst of the enemy camp a crimson glow grew up. The wagons could be seen encircling a group of magicians. Sigmund smashed a wagon with Little Weighty and all could see the band of priests around an altar of some sort. A red cloud formed over a section of rampart and the defenders scream in madness before running about in panic tearing at their faces. As the cloud moved along the wall more and more defenders fled from before it. The Basmoli reached the courtyard but were hemmed in by the Argrath's cavalry.

And then the cloud died.

We needs tell of Kamoar's adventures that night. He stalked the enemy camp killing a man here and another there. He lamed an entire Sable clan's mounts but left them standing behind him. He followed the red glow, properly recognising the magic as lunar. He snarled his hate when he saw the Red School of Masks arrayed about their high priest chanting over an open book. Kamoar stroked his Alynx tattoo and burst into the circle of priests. The high priest spun around and thrust his glowing staff out to smite the shaman upon the chest. When that sickly red glow struck Kamoar's spirits, the staff burst in slivers of burning wood. Kamoar leapt over the sprawling priest, grabbed the book and scurried off into the darkness with a scream of malicious glee.

That red cloud did not bother the defenders again.

With the entire Morocanth host turned to stifling his magic, Gudny took up his sword and shield and charged into the melee atop the ramparts with Sigmund at his side.

It was Gudny drawing their attention that allowed the Eagle Browns to finally dismiss that black ramp and break the assault.

The Basmoli trapped within the fort surrendered and were led to a dungeon under the keep. The Chalana Arroy healers from the temple rushed about healing who they could.

Argrath urged them to greater efforts for nye upon half of his eight hundred defenders lay wounded or dead upon the walls. Fully two thousands of the herdwarriors had fallen and several hundreds of the Basmoli with them but the Fort had held.

Come morning Kamoar returned to the fort and gave Argrath the book he had taken. Argrath gave it to Wyrmquill who looked it over.

Wyrmquill told Argrath that he thought that this was "the Book of Dale" written by a mad sorcerer some time ago. "It is said that this book will augment any magician, of any tradition, who reads it and uses it as a talisman when he summons his powers."

Argrath was impressed and gifted it to the Eagle Browns. "Use it well," he said.

As Elmal lifted his torch into the sky the defenders could see a great disturbance in the Praxian camp. Warriors raced about seeking something. Scouts scattered across the valley and hills. Argrath smiled coldly, "What think thou my Companions. Hast our foe lost a Great Horn?" The Companions smiled back, "Aye."

Sigmund spent the better part of the morning enchanting a pile of catapult stone to make them into thunderstones. Argrath used his movement blessings to enhance the range of several catapults and soon exploding stones were falling within the enemy's camp.

At mid-day, the enemy gathered, outside the enhanced range, and began another ritual. As the defenders watched one of the Rhino tribes' mounts began to pulse with earthly magic and then grew to an earth-shattering height of 30 feet at the shoulder. A giant of a man, fully 10 feet tall, leapt atop the rhino - Borron had incarnated the Rhino Founder.

Sigmund hefted a thunderstone. He swung around twice, hopped and threw the stone with a great shout. The giant rhino swung its horn around and batted the rock from the air ignoring the explosion. There was an uneasy muttering along the walls.

Then Borron lifted his spear over his head, it shuddered and spat in his hands like a living bar of lightning. Gudny opinioned that Borron was using Lightning Boy as his weapon. With a shout, Borron charged towards the barbican.

Argrath and Gudny stood behind Sigmund and poured their magic into the Hurler. Sigmund took a firm grasp on another thunderstone and hurled it with another great shout. With a resounding crash the stone struck Borron on the brow and rocked him in his saddle. Borron cried in anger and hurled Lightning Boy at Sigmund. The Hurler threw Little Weighty at the spirit-spear.

There was a flash and an explosion. Everyone on the field and in the Fort were blasted from their feet. There was an earthquake. Little Weighty blew up. Lightning Boy blew up. The barbican was blasted off of its foundation and landed in the dry-moat. The giant Rhino was thrown thirty ells. There were cracks in the walls of Knight Fort. When the dust settled there was a twenty-foot crater before the barbican. Erdhar later reported that they heard the explosion at Barbarian Town. [1]

It took two hours before anybody could hear anything and several days before the ringing would go away. Those closest to the blast were permanently deafened.

Gudny gathered his warband and set about augmenting his Vadrudi deva, Black Cloud. They could see that the Praxians had recovered from the blast and were doing the same with the rhino.

Borron was striding through his host readying them for another attack when horns sounded from the hills around the Fort. Ranks of glittering spears and lances appeared over the hilltops and dropped horizontal as the knights of Mt. Passant charged into the nomad horde, smashing them against the fort. The Praxians scattered across the plain. The siege was lifted.

We needs not take up our tale at Sacred Time.

Heavy raiding by the Telmori and the loss of Barbarian Town convinced the Poljoni to settle a peace accord with Dragonfriend. They agreed to take fifty thousands in silver, in instalments, to cover the debt owed by Sartar.

As tradition demanded, the King came before the people of Boldhome and re-lit the Flame of Sartar - barely. The flame flickered and most people couldn't see it.

Shortly thereafter, King Harrek called for the Argrath Council to attend him. Once again, Whitebull did not come.

Once all of the Argraths were gathered in his hall, Harrek had this to say: "This King thing isn't going too well. I don't like it anymore."

To that, Sharpsword said, "I should hope not, you suck at it!"

"I'll kill you for that!" spate the King.

Sharpsword was quick in reply, "No you wont. You are half crippled and can barely walk. You may have been able to kill me once but not now."

"Yeah, well," spake Harrek, "I'm bored of this place. I think that I'm going to leave." Sharpsword urged him to do just that for "were it not for your having saved us in several battles I'd kill you myself, now." Harrek scowled but Sharpsword wasn't done. "Were ye to leave now I'd let you live."

Maniskisson nodded his agreement, as did Dragonfriend.

Harrek snorted, "Well, like I said, I'm bored. I'm out of here." He tossed a key to Dragonfriend, "Here is the key to my office. There's a bunch of paperwork in there that I never bothered doing."

With that Harrek limped from the hall. In the coming days he gathered his Wolf Pirates and made for the coast.

Now we needs tell what Dragonfriend found when he checked Harrek's office. At the mention of paperwork the other Argrath's made themselves very scarce and Dragonfriend was left alone to handle it. Argrath found a room, thirty paces by twenty, that was piled to the ceiling with gold, silver and gems. On a table near the door was a note, "Use it and abuse it as you would. I will return."

Argrath was very careful to conceal the treasure's existence from the rest of the Kingdom. Using Mastakos' road he transferred it all to Stone Storm Valley.

 

 

1 Sigmund was running at 7w4 with the augment from Gudny and Argrath. Little Weighty gave him a bump and he spent a plot point for a total of 7w6. Borron unleashed Lightning Boy who had a might of 15w5 and also spent a plot point. He bid 100AP in his attack on Sigmund and rolled an 18. The GM expected his prime NPC to get smashed. Sigmund rolled a 20. Rather than kill everybody in both armies with the AP losses, the GM ruled that the hero-weapons had destroyed each other.

 


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March 2, 2002

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