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Gwandor Saga



The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 65

That winter the Argrath went to the Poljoni and negotiated trading rights in Barbarian Town. To the horsemen he offered tax-free trading and toll-free access to the town. Other Praxians would have to pay both taxes and tolls. The Poljoni suggested that Argrath return the town to them accepted his offer when he flatly refused any other. Argrath placed the town under the protection of the Dundealos and named his follower, King Erdhar No-Horse, Eorl.

During Sacred Time Gudny passed onto the Heroplanes where he climbed the Ice Mountain and stole a kiss from the White Queen while doing the "Sitric and the Mountain of Ice" quest. Upon his return his followers were amazed to watch him stride through the snows sky-clad and suffer no ill.

Sea Season 1631

As Sea Season came, following a week of thunderstorms, the Argrath's gathered in Boldhome once again. Even Whitebull came for it was told that Jaldon had ridden off into the Wastes.

Maniskisson opened the meeting by saying that, with the departure of Harrek, he should be King.

Sharpsword forcefully stated that he should be King.

Whitebull said that Dragonfriend should be King.

Fazzursson said that Maniskisson should be King.

Venharlsson said naught.

The discussion went to and fro with each Argrath arguing his point most eloquently. When the meeting ended they had come no closer to choosing a new king than they had been before.

Afterwards, Dragonfriend spoke with Whitebull about that matter. Dragonfriend spake that the situation had not changed from when last the council pondered this issue. "Sharpsword is too dangerous to us, but Maniskisson can be manipulated," Dragonfriend stated. Whitebull agreed to vote as Dragonfriend wished, "I will vote for Maniskisson."

Then Sharpsword came to speak with Dragonfriend. "I know that you dost not wish to see me on Sartar's throne," Sharpsword said. He then offered to abdicate and make Dragonfriend an Underking. "Thy place would be as King of Dragon Pass and I would be King of Kethaela." Dragonfriend acknowledged Sharpsword's generosity in making the offer but declined saying, "It would be better for the Kingdom at this time if Maniskisson were King." Sharpsword thought briefly and agreed.

Later, Maniskisson sought out Dragonfriend. "Arst thou going to be foolish and oppose me as King or will you prove your loyalty by putting the rest of these Argraths in their place?" Dragonfriend smiled serenely at Maniskisson. "I would that you were King of Sartar," he said. "But," he continued before Maniskisson could reply, "I would that you left some things unchanged." He went on to make Maniskisson agree to maintain the Argrath Council, keep Dragonfriend on as Warlord and leave Dragonfriend's power structures intact. Maniskisson thought long and hard but realised that he could never be king without Dragonfriend's support and agreed to his terms.

Then Dragonfriend told him that the other Argrath's would vote as Dragonfriend did.

With the Argrath Council reconvened they all voted for Maniskisson, excepting only Venharlsson who still said naught.

With that, Sharpsword gathered his warband, passed out of Boldhome and made his way back to his own lands in the south. Gudny opinioned that he was bound to the Three-Step Isles to challenge Harrek for command of the Wolf Pirates.

With his immediate business taken care of, Dragonfriend gathered his Companions and made his way up the King's Road to Aldachur, where he spoke briefly with his follower Prince Orgovalt, and thence on to Cragspider's realm.

He was ushered into the demi-god's hall and gazed, with growing horror, upon her child, Gergak the Younger. Now it was mentioned before but finally seeing Gergak in the flesh was quite shocking; for he was over 10 paces long and weighted more than two sky-bulls did. Cragspider opinioned that the Companions may have some difficulty moving the baby and said that she had commissioned some aid for Argrath.

With that she waved Isildirian out of the shadows. The Companions greeted the dwarf properly and but couldn't hide their surprise at finding a dwarf in the midst of a troll fortress. "Cragspider and I have been friends for over … well 2,000 of your years," explained Isildirian. The dwarf went on to say that he had some items tested but that he could not generate the winds needed. "And you owe me a favour."

Dragonfriend agreed that he would do what he could to help Isildirian and asked what was required and how it would help Cragspider. "The RX4943 project -" he began before Argrath's confusion cut him short. "Ah, I call it a 'Ship-of-the-Air'." He went on to tell how he had gathered 'High Air', or air from beyond the Sky Dome and enclosed it within a flying vessel. "The High Air naturally tries to rejoin the rest of the High Air over the Sky Dome and thus lifts the RX4943." He then told them that his only problem was propelling the vessel and that he thought Argrath could help there, "I have modified the Alchemical Transformer into a device called the Atmospherer that will allows on of your followers, the type with mastery over the Air, to move the RX4943 about. I also need you to deliver a message to Nida for me." The dwarf finished by saying that the vessel would be ready to leave in two weeks.

Argrath spent those two weeks making his arrangements for the journey. They knew from Isildirian's instructions that the Ship-of-the-Air would travel about 30 miles a day and that it would take them about two seasons to reach the ice island where they were to deliver the baby. Argrath did not relish the idea of being away from Sartar for two seasons but it had to be done. He nominated Tumult, the captain of his warband, as his replacement as Warlord in his absence and Maniskisson accepted. With Hurred the Drayce watching the Marches; King Erdhar watching his southern and eastern Sartari domains; and Prince Orgovalt watching northern Sartar and the Far Point; his lands were as well taken care of as they could be.

And so it came about that the Companions gathered again in Black Mountain. With Argrath was Wyrmquil the Sage, Gettig Kingsvoice and Von the Bodythane. With Gudny were Nestin Hollowdancer, Korbin Orlanthsson, Doryl Safepath and eight Stormpriests from his warband to help move the vessel about. Lothar, Garthael, Kamoar and Sigmund also took up their weapons and joined their King.

Began Ok, with whom the Companions had travelled across the Wastes, was on the journey to watch over Gergak. She had four great trolls to help her. A dark troll trader, Orbal Bluenose by name, was along to help the expedition speak with the trolls that they would meet on their way.

We need now describe the Ship-of-the-Air that Isildirian was so excited about. It hung below a balloon, fully 200 paces long. The vessel itself was laid out in three stories, Isildirian called them 'decks'. The top floor had nine of Isildirian's cannons arrayed on each side and two great siege guns on the front. The middle floor had quarters for the passengers and were open on the side to form boarding galleries. The final floor was the cargo space and it was here that the baby was carefully placed. The child was to be fed by fungi grown in the dark holds.

The ship was heavily manned. There was a score of iron dwarves, each with a foul meldek-sylph bound into their armour to allow them to float in the air. A salamander was bound into a backpack that Isildirian thought would allow them to move about rather than just float [1]. There was another score of Morloks, humans bred to serve the dwarves, aboard to man the cannons. There were three lead dwarves, two quicksilver, three copper, four tin, three brass and two silver to manage the various devices and tasks required to make the vessel fly. There were three gold dwarves commanding the crew.

Along with the cannons, there was a smaller version of the Alchemical Transformer and several assault jolanti - designed to be launched at a foe through the siege guns.

And so Argrath and his Companions set out on another world-spanning expedition. They sailed west and south passing quite close to Kero Fin. At the Mother of Orlanth the Companions left the ship to climb the mountain and leap from the peak. After a short time on the heroplane they rejoined the still sailing ship as it passed south of the Glowline. The ship fared further west making for Helikiv, a troll-land on the other side of the Mislari Mountains. They passed over the Grazelands and spied Arrowmound to the south.

As they passed through the mountains themselves a harsh clanging broke out and the dwarven crew began to run about standing at what they called "battle-stations". The vessel's captain, a gold dwarf called Captain 44393 told Argrath that they had detected a "spiritual spatial anomaly". Kamoar peered about and espied a seething manifestation of spirits about a nearby mountaintop. "I have not seen their ilk afore," he growled. Dragonfriend was taking no risks with Cragspider's child and ordered the vessel to turn further south and avoid the spirits.

The ship continued to climb over the mountains. The temperature grew bitterly cold and the air thinned.

The next day was when the Companions found a plateau high in the mountains. They sensed a lot of magic on that plateau and so Gudny used his Farseeing Helm to look closer. What he saw puzzled them. The plateau was covered in ice floes, but ice floes that looked like they had climbed the plateau to cover it rather than formed there and flowed off.

Argrath sent his Companions to investigate the plateau while he guided the ship further from the mysterious magic. Once they flew down and landed on the ice they realised that it was like fingers of ice had reached over the edges of the plateau and encased an object, a giant pyramid, in ice. Gettig could make no sense of what this edifice was or who may have built it. Gudny and Sigmund called upon the Thunderer to gift them with a warm spring rain. Then they called down lightning bolts and split the ice away from the pyramid.

It was about then that they noticed the flurry of Hollri skating across the ice towards them. Lothar, Garthael, Kamoar, Sigmund and Gudny stood their ground and shattered the daimones in the scores.

With that they turned their attention back to the pyramid and cleared all of the ice off of it.

When the Companions studied the pyramid closer they found that it was covered in strange runes and pulsed with a strange, yet familiar magic. It was Sigmund that first realised at what they stared. "Tis a dragon plinth," he spake. "A very, very large dragon plinth." And he had the truth of it - it was the largest dragon plinth that any of them - Wyrmquill included - had ever seen. When Argrath received word of their find, he flew down with Wyrmquill to look it over. The Dragon-sage said that it was very old and may even predate the Gods' War.

From the plinth, the Companions could see into Dragon Pass to the east and Ralios to the west. "Mayhap this is part of a dragonroad," suggested Kamoar. With that they returned to the ship.

And now it came to pass that, ten days after their departure from Black Mountain, they arrived at Helikiv.

Now Helikiv was a another great troll land, much like Dagori Inkarth, complete with their own Castle of Lead. The Companions knew that they had arrived when they espied the gloomy land, shrouded in shadows, and the towering fortress engraved with giant troll faces. Before the keep they watched a vast host mustering, large bands of trolls flowed in from all directions and joined the horde below.

"Watch thyselves humans," grated Began.

The dwarves brought the ship into a hover before the castle and a large party of trolls came forth to meet the Companions. Orbal climbed down from the ship and spoke with them for some time. What they talked about could not be heard but that he was displeased was obvious. After some time he turned and called out to Argrath, "Defender of the Babe," they would that you came down and spoke with them.

Began snarled again and repeated her warning, "Be very careful."

We must say that the ship was surrounded by over two thousands of dark trolls and that again in trollkin. The Companions could see a score of mistress trolls. It is a credit to their courage and their loyalty to their king that none even considered hesitating in the face of that force.

Once Argrath was on the ground the crowd parted and a massive mistress troll strode forward. Now we needs say that the name mistress is misleading and that not all mistress trolls are women. The troll now lumbering towards Argrath was most certainly not a female. He named himself Gudrad Bloodspiller and challenged Argrath to the right to defend the baby. Before Argrath could reply Began argued his right to challenge them. She spake of Cragspider's desire to have the babe reared by his kin in the Underworld. Gudrad spake of wanting the babe reared in his Castle of Lead under the spirit of Kygor Litor.

Dragonfriend held his hand up to silence the argument. "If thy wish is to challenge me, the babe's Defender, then that is thy right. You shall meet my champion." With the Dragonlord waved Lothar forward. The horde broke into a loud chanting and cheering, "Gudrad, Gudrad, Gudrad." The two heroes called on their gods for blessings and readied their weapons. Lothar started his death chant - this would be a fight to the death.

Gudrad smiled a toothy grin and stared down at the humakti. "I am Gudrad, Son of Roilgak, Daughter of Cag, who is the sister of Grey Shadow and the Daughter of Xiola Umbar. I am the Champion of Helikiv and a Disciple of Zorak Zoran. I will feed you to the Dark Hater!"

Lothar drew his twinned iron blades and spake thusly, "I am Lothar and I am no-man's son. I am called Twin-Swords. I am the Deathbringer and the Truthteller. I have fought in the front for ten years and never been defeated. I stood upon the wall at Knight Keep and slew fifteen lionmen with each of my blades. At the Battle of Heroes I stood before the Moonswords and slew nine Imperial Champions at my king's side. Your hate is nothing to me. You are nothing to me."

At that Gudrad released his hate and charged in a berserk frenzy, his ten-foot burning maul held high. He made to strike Lothar upon the crown and had his blow landed he would have driven the champion deep into the ground. As it was, Lothar stepped to one side and then struck the troll seventeen times with his iron swords. Fingers, hands, arms, legs and then Gudrad's head flew off and the mistress troll's millennia-long life ended then and there. [2]

The horde's cheering was cut off abruptly and the square fell silent. Then the gathered trolls started hooting in approval. The Queen's delegation nodded in approval and bid the Companions join them in a celebration for a fight well fought and even better won.

Now the expedition stayed at Helekiv for several days and Lothar had many trolls come to him to learn of Humakt. Several of them wished to join Lothar and worship the Grim Slayer. "I am on an errand now but I will stop here on my return and you will fare with me back to my land to learn what I would teach." They all agreed that that sounded fair and stated that they would await his return.

And so the ship turned north and west and fared over a land that was once called Ormsland. "There were once many dragonewts here," said Wyrmquill. Dragonfriend directed that one and all keep a sharp watch for another dragon plinth for the plinth in the mountain had to be part of a longer network.

One day, as they were still over Ormsland, a dream dragon approached the ship. Argrath used his stormvoice to great the dragon properly and he said, "Good day". The dragon paused and replied with mindspeach, "We would speak. Follow."

And so the Companions left the ship again and followed the dragon to a hilly area where they espied primitive dragonewt buildings. Even Gudny, with his discomfort and deliberate non-knowledge of things draconic, could tell that these buildings were older and less advanced than those in Sartar. The settlement was spread out and half engulfed in the forest. A great horde of dragonewts awaited the Companions.

A large tailed-priest strode forth and greeted Argrath, "I am Gemmed-Wandering-Tail and I speak for our community." Argrath greeted the priest well and named the Companions to him. "I foretold your coming," spake Gemmed-Wandering-Tail. "I saw you in my dreams. You are the Speaker-of-Names. From whence do you come? How did you enter my dreams?" Argrath spoke of his communing with the Cosmic Dragon and his words with the Inhuman King. The priest stared at him in shock, "You are from the east?" The dragonewt spoke of the great sky-path plinth that had once linked them to the east. He told how the magic had been blocked for thousands of years and they could no longer use it.

At that Argrath told the dragonewt to try it again, "for we hath cleared the path and your sky-plinth would work once more." The priest gaped once more and said, "come," before racing off with his people in tow. They swarmed over a small hillock and pulled several feet of rock and soil off of a great plinth, a twin to the one on the plateau. The priest touched the plinth and leapt for joy, "The path! It is open!" Argrath suggested that the dragonewts could now visit the Inhuman King.

Gemmed-Wandering-Tail thanked Argrath most profusely for the great gift his people had received. He gifted Argrath with a set of rods, there were four of them and strange green stones topped them. "If you would plant them in the shape of a plinth an army of my people would come to fight for you." With that, the dragonewt spoke of making preparations for an utuma ceremony in the morn and bid Argrath remain for it.

Now we needs mention that utuma is a sacred dragonewt ceremony where the dragonewt sacrifices this life to return to his egg to begin another.

Come morning the Companions followed Gemmed-Wandering-Tail to a large clearing where three thousands of crested dragonewts [3] awaited. As one the crested dragonewts bowed to Argrath and then as one committed utuma. Argrath's rods began to glow a brilliant green. He asked the priest what that meant and Gemmed-Wandering-Tail replied that those dragonewts had linked their souls to the rods. "They will remain in their eggs until you call them. At that time they will step forth to fight for you." Argrath was honoured at the sacrifice of one in ten of the communities dragonewts and said so. The priest replied that it was a small thing compared to what Argrath had done for them by reopening the sky-path.

And so the Companions flew back to the ship, which had continued on its way. The ship turned west and left Ormsland behind. After a time they began to see steads in the forest below and the Companions remarked that it looked a lot like Sartar, only flatter.

A few days later they passed over a large river and spied a large battle raging on the plain. Twelve thousands of what looked like Heortlings stood before a small city defending it against some twenty thousands of western-looking troops. Behind the attackers stood a massive black banner guarded by one thousand iron-armoured knights.

Argrath flew down to a nearby stead to find what happened and who was fighting with whom. The hall door was securely barred so the Dragonlord teleported himself and his Companions inside. Within, they found a huddled group of women and children. Argrath greeted them properly and gifted them with a silver torque. He asked them who was fighting and why.

Now there was a woman named Olgreda and she was the wife of Yann Woadbrewer. Olgreda was the one who replied to Argrath's questions. She spoke of the musters of the Confederation of Jofrain and the people of Lankst fighting against the Arch-bishop Surantyr of Octorion. It seemed that Octorion was the leader of something called the Henotheist Church. "Meldek's," muttered Garthael. Olgreda agreed and continued by saying that their peoples had been fighting for over six years. It seemed that the city they had seen was Jofrain, the capital of Lankst. "Octorion rides with the Banner of Arkat," she cried. "Our people are doomed."

With that in mind, the Companions chose to join the fray and to do what they could to drive off the sorcerers. Began argued that this was no business of theirs and that defending the babe was more important than this city. Argrath told her that he was not going to let the meldek's overrun Lankst and that the babe would be fine. He turned to the Companions and the dwarves and gave his commands. The ship turned towards the fighting and they all made their preparations for battle.

Now Gudny and Sigmund got together and decided to surprise the Arch-Bishop. Gudny took his sky-bear bag and turned out Black Cloud. "Yippie! I'm out, I'm out! Woohoo!" the daimone screamed. Gudny called him to heel and then he and Sigmund poured their magic into the spirit. They granted Black Cloud blessings of crushing noise, tornadoes, hail, killer rain and more. The deva swelled and power crackled through him. When the two storm-warriors were done Black Cloud was thrice his normal size and barely under contro. Gudny shed his clothes and leapt atop the seething storm daimone with a shout.[4]

And then disaster descended upon the army of Octorion.

Gudny rode Black Cloud into battle and they struck the battle-standard and its defenders with a fury. Tornadoes spun off, lightning crashed and hail smashed down. Debris flew and bodies were flung around. The elite Knights of Pride, one thousand of Surantyr's elite bodyguards, were destroyed and the Banner of Arkat smashed. Surantyr and the bodies of his priest-guard were never found.

The ship-of-the-air flew into the fray as well. The assault cannon launched jolanti after jolanti into the fighting. The cannon fired volley after volley of grapeshot while the iron dwarves thundered away with their muskets.

The Octorion line staggered, then buckled and finally broke when Black Cloud tore into it. The footmen and knights of Octorion turned and fled for their lives with the host of Lankst in pursuit.

As the Companions stood about regaining their breath a warrior, standing on a flying spear, approched. He was covered from chin to shin in woad and tattoos and the power of the Thunderer was very strong in him. He named himself Garundyar the Stormhero, High priest of Siglalf Cloudchaser. He thanked Argrath for his help. "That was a most potent spirit you released, you must have been sent by Orlanth to save us." He invited them all to feast with his king in Jofrain to celebrate their victory.

That night the king, Kocholang, who was the brother of Garundyar, guested them and they feasted well. King Kocholang spoke of his trials fighting Surantyr and Garundyar spoke of his hatred for the Red Moon. Now it appeared that neither brother had encountered the Lunar Empire but both knew that the Red Moon bode no good for Orlanth.

Gudny stood and traded tales with Beilrunya Buttertongue, the king's saga-teller. He spoke of Argrath's quest and won great honour for his king in the telling of how he kept his word to Cragspider.

Then, before all of the gathered thanes of Lankst, Garundyar gave his great horn to Argrath and spake thusly, "Blow my horn and I will come; I will fight with you."

 

[1] Yes, floating armour with experimental jet-packs. "The Dwarf is your friend …"
[2] With their augments both fighters were over w5 in close combat. Both spent a heropoint. Gudrad bid 100 AP and failed his roll - Lothar criticalled his. The 83 AP left after Gudrad's armour was taken into account was doubled for the die result and then doubled again for the iron swords.
[3] Scout dragonewts.
[4] When the two of them had finished, Gudny and Sigmund had pumped Black Cloud up to 13w7.

 


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March 2, 2002

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