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Gwandor Saga



The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 71

 


"I would laugh were I able."

- Argrath to Armsman Kettil

Sea Season/1633

Now as Sacred Time turned to Sea Season and the new year dawned, King Argrath sat in Bagnot and received much news of the world around him.

Voydag, called the Throat-Slicer, his wife, brought news that the Provincial Expeditionary Force had fared north to do battle with the rampaging horsemen from Pent. They were also to trample any dissent that may be shown against the Overseer's continued rule.

Lothar Twinblades, his War-Captain spoke of some difficulty among Argrath Sharpsword's contingent in the Free Army. It seemed that Sharpsword had failed to pay any of his troops and they were all readying to busk home.

Ingiald Rough-Shod was the son of Kettil the Black who was the son of Angmar the Feral who had captained a Wolf Pirate fleet of three-score ships. Ingiald was a wedded man and had to wife Auth the Saucy though he was no more loyal to her than Eurmal would have been. Ingiald was a rough man with an easy temper. He was strong of arm and had slain fourteen Imperial champions at the Battle of Heroes. He was Companion and Wolf-Brother to Argrath Sharpsword and commanded Sharpsword's contingent in the Free Army.

Now Dragonfriend called for Ingiald and had him brought before him. To the Wolf Pirate he said these words: "Thy host readies to return home and I have heard that they depart for lack of funds. What canst thy tell me of this, thou who art Wolf-Brother to mine Brother Sharpsword."

To this Ingiald replied thusly: "The grubbing traders in Nochet have summoned mine king to pay his debts and he has found himself currently unwilling, nay, unable to do so." It came out in their conversation that Sharpsword had taken many loans to pay for his recent campaigns and could no longer make his payments.

This left Dragonfriend in the position of losing Sharpsword's mercenary forces. The phalangites from Vaantar [1], the Army of Tomorrow, the Wind Children and all of the others were returning to their homes. It was rumoured that the Wind Children would soon be raiding Sharpsword's realm to recover their back wages.

Dragonfriend called upon the High King to step in and pay the mercenaries' contracts but Maniskisson's treasury could not support the costs. Unwilling to lose the meldeck warbands - Sir Narib's Company and Sir Nandara's Company - Dragonfriend offered those units new contracts with silver from his personal treasury. They accepted.

It was about now that High King Maniskisson gave Baron Sanuel leave to take his cavalry regiment and return home for rest and to refit his knights. He gave the Twin Spears permission to return to Prax for their Fire Rituals and he gave Dragonfriend permission for the shattered draconic bands to withdraw and reorganise.

Bronwyn Fallenstead, Dragonfriend's Seeking Companion brought him word from Furthest. The EWF mage spoke of the new Phalangite Fort being connected to Furthest by tall walls, some ten ells [2] high. The walls enclosed the camps of refugee Lunars from southern Tarsh. Bronwyn spoke more of a great chain that the Red-King Pharandros had stretched across the Teslir River blocking all riverine movement past Furthest. Finally, Bronwyn told how the Red-King had told one and all that he would fight to the death to defend Tarsh from the rebels and that Shepelkirt would protect them.

For several years now, Dragonfriend's Orlanth-Companion, Gudny Stormchaser had spent all of Storm Season and most of Dark Season on the Hero Planes. It was only now that Dragonfriend began to learn of some of the quests that Gudny had performed. It happened that in 1631 Gudny had journeyed to the Place of Strangers and successfully wooed the Dark Woman. He spoke of the great preparations that he had done for that quest and how he had managed to draw Aranzkag, Queen of the First Tribe of Dagori Inkarth, in as the Dark Woman. "It is mine intention this spring to visit the Queen and solicit her support for our efforts." Argrath frowned at the amount of time Gudny was taking for his questing but commended his results.

And High King Maniskisson issued another of his Directives.


Directive for 1633
As dictated by Argrath Son of Maniski, High King of Dragon Pass, Prince of Sartar, Protector of the Grazelands, Champion of the Pol Joni, Liberator of Tarsh, Esrolia Victor, Moonberg Breaker, Wolfslayer, Beastfriend and servant of Orlanth.

This year we begin our offensive to reduce the Lunar presence in Tarsh and to weaken their hold over the Provinces that was planned for in 1632. Supplies sufficient for this campaign have been gathered in Bagnot, Dunstop and Wintertop thanks to the efforts of the Sword of Sartar and the loyal King of Tarsh.

The year will see a three-pronged assault on the Empire. Under the King of Tarsh, the Tarsh Army, the Esrolian Expeditionary Force and the Grazer Great Army will march on Goldedge forcing a crossing of the Teslir river. The Sartar free army and associated elements will march from Too Far and assail Slavewall.

Once these objectives have been attained and secured by Fire Season's end, all efforts must be made to ready forces for the assault on Furthest. Prosecution of this stage of the offensive will be left to the direction of the Sword of Sartar, our loyal servant Dragonlord.

The third prong of our offensive will be dedicated to the reduction of Imperial counterattack potential from the Provinces. Once Goldedge and Slavewall have been taken, a raiding army shall be dispatched along the western side of the Oslir to undertake a year long Finovani into the heart of Lunar Tarsh, Holay and Aggar. This force should avoid combat with major Imperial or Provincial forces unless battle favours them. Command and disposition of these forces will be determined by the Sword of Sartar.

We expect severe resistance from Furthest but have taken several steps to guarantee that Imperial forces responding to the siege will be limited. However, a prolonged siege will increase chances of effective Imperial response, therefore the city must be taken with sufficient speed to minimise this risk. The Sword will ensure that a covering army protects the siege.

We trust that these directives will be carried out with the utmost haste and alacrity.

Argrath Maniskisson

Argrath Maniskisson
High King

And so Dragonfriend set about accomplishing the High King's will. Over the past year much in the way of provisions and fodder had been gathered in Too Far, Bagnot and Dunstop in preparation for this campaign. Dragonfriend spoke with King Fazzursson of Tarsh to coordinate their assaults. King Fazzursson said that he would need some two weeks to muster his host and a further week to move it from Dunstop to Gold Edge. They both agreed that they would time their assaults to fall in Stasis Week.

There then ruled in Slavewall, Kettil the Unruly, Armsman [3] of the Mellmuri Tribe. Kettil was a vast man and said to have vast appetites. He was a grasping ruler and much tended to taking all that he could. It was known that he held the Tarsh Light Foot and the Slavewall Foot regiments within the walls of his city in readiness for the long prepared assault from Too Far. All tallied, he led some three thousands of spears.

Against this host Dragonfriend mustered some fourteen thousands in the Free Army and a further forty-five hundreds among the Grand Company of Tannisor under Mularik Iron-Eye. They expected little opposition to their seizing of the city.

Dragonfriend divided his host and assigned captains to the parts. Kamoar, the Shadowstalker, led the scouting screen. Mularik Iron-Eye was appointed Siege-Captain. Lothar Twinblades was made Infantry Commander. Gudny was once more upon the Hero Planes and though it vexed the King there was naught that could be done about it. Argrath assigned Gudny's follower Nestin Hollowdancer as his Magic-Captain and Jolmes Wolfe was made Captain of Horse when Sigmund declined to position.

It took the host two days to busk to Slavewall. They stopped each night and build a fortified camp with the help of the Exiles' earth magics. Every morning the fortifications were thrown down and the host moved on. Upon their arrival at Slavewall, the city was surrounded. The cavalry ranged through the country-side seeking fodder, provision and danger.

Argrath rode Vigga-Holsten, his skybull, into the air before the main gate clad about with his hero-light [4]; about him flew three-score of his warbanders.

Taking a firm hold on his crystal sceptre, Argrath's storm voice rolled across the city: "I am Argrath, called the Dragonfriend, Warlord of the Argrath Council and Champion of the High King of Dragon Pass. I am the victor of the Battle of Heroes, Conqueror of Esrolia and am the Reaching Moon's Bane." He paused for a moment and then continued: "I came here at the behest of the King of Tarsh. Your King. King Fazzursson. With me are twenty thousands of your neighbours, come to help you throw off the yoke of the Poison Moon's rule. None will be harmed and those in power will retain their places. Throw down thy spears and take up the banner of your rightful king, King Fazzurrson!"

After the deafening roll of Argrath's well-trained oration had passed, Armsman Kettil's piggy-voice called for a parley.

The Armsman met Argrath before the gates of Slavewall, each with seven of their body-thanes. Argrath stepped from his skybull and was flanked by Lothar, Garthael, Von and Rolf, behind them stood three of the largest uz in the Stormdragon's Shadows.

Kettil was flanked by Osborn Thrice-Flayed, Laughing-Kiallak, Bjorn Kingsman and four others of his huscarls. The Armsman was everything Argrath had been led to expect. He was overweight with a round face and beady red eyes - even his hair was bristled. "I have heard thy words and they sound fancy. Now let us speak of details. You said that there would be no changes in rule. Do you really mean that? You ask that I break my sworn oath to King Pharandros. It is an expensive thing breaking oaths."

Argrath commented that it would not be as expensive as a sack of the city would be. "But come, I am not here to threaten you. Yes, you are the Armsman of the Mellmuri and that would not change. What would it cost for you open the gates and declare thy support for King Fazzursson?"

Kettil replied that he had three things he required. "First, I would retain my position as Armsman. I would demand that I march with you and I would bring the Tarsh Light Foot along. Second, I want Too Far to be officially added to my tribe. I already own much of it but it is not official. Finally, I want three clans of the Breagalos tribe, of my choice, added to my tribe."

Argrath nodded immediately. "Listen to mine offer. You will swear a Death-Oath to serve King Fazzursson," and he indicated the four Humakti in his company. "Too Far, now belonging to no tribe or kingdom, will become Mellmuri. You will remain the King's loyal Armsman of the Mellmuri, bound by thy Oath. I have not the power to agree to your request for the Breagalos. If you and thy followers serve well and fight bravely I will support thy petition to King Fazzursson."

Kettil agreed to Argrath's terms. "This calls for a feast. I will swear my oath before my people and overseen by thy Grim Swords."

Come the morn, an umbroli came from Fazzursson bearing grim news. It seemed that Fazzursson had marched with some fifteen thousands of Tarshites, Esrolians and Grazers. They had laid siege to Gold Edge when it refused to surrender and then, with the Grazers away raiding, King Pharandros' army fell upon Fazzursson unexpectedly. Some five thousands of foot and two thousands and five hundreds of horse force-marched from Furthest. They fared over fifty miles in two days and struck the besiegers like Gustbran's hammer. The main blow fell upon the Esrolian host who broke and fled the field. The King heroically rallied his host and withdrew south along the road stopping some miles away. Phandros' host camped outside Gold Edge.

King Dragonfriend was infuriated. His famed emotionless air was torn asunder. He ordered his host to immediately ready itself to march onwards. His temper was not helped when Nestin Hollowdancer, leader of the Snakepipe Hollowdancers and follower of Gudny came and told him that his band of warrior-priests was leaving the army. "Why fore art thou abandoning thy oath," the King demanded.

"Mine oath is to the Stormchaser. He has completed his last test and truly become an avatar of our god. Gudny, called the Stormchaser, your follower, has become a Disciple of the Thunder and unfurled the banner of the Righteous Wind. The magic of that banner calls bands from across Sartar, mine included. We go to join him and for him to lead us into battle against the Empire."

Now it needs be told that there was more than a score of warbands that heeded the call to the Righteous Wind and that these warbands counted nye upon four thousands of followers. Though Argrath new naught of the full strength of the Righteous Wind, the thought of the extra forces that he did know of settled his temper and his impassive mask slid once more across his visage.

It was about then that Argrath gathered more tidings from the Empire. Harvar, it was said, had defeated the nomad incursion. The Provincial Overseer had been assassinated and the feuding in the civil service threatened to boil over into overt war. Harvar was said to be moving to crush any dissent and claimed to speak with the Emperor's Authority.

Argrath briefly considered marching through the Breagalos lands, north of Dogar's Hill to Stopover and then faring straight down the road to Furthest. His thinking being that the host at Goldedge would be forced to withdraw or would be caught between he and Fazzursson. Kettil quietly informed Argrath that the Breagalos lands would be hard going for they were criss-crossed with thick hedges and ditches and the Breagalos would undoubtedly harass the marching host. "In that case, we march down the road directly to Gold Edge. I will send Kamoar and his March Wardens into Breagalos lands to keep them … occupied." Argrath was pondering who else to send with the berserker when the Armsman quietly suggested that he might be interested in accompanying Kamoar. "I do know a small amount of their lands and the Tarsh Light Foot does know a small amount about raiding." Argrath smiled at that colossal understatement and agreed.

Come the next dawn the Free Army was marching for Gold Edge. Argrath sent Sigmund ahead with his warband to see how the Tarsh Army fared and to give what help he could to King Fazzursson. "We will be there within five days," spoke Argrath. "Try not to let Fazzursson lose too many more of his men before then."

And so it came to pass that Sigmund and his band of hurlers busked themselves quickly down the river and found King Fazzursson again besieging Gold Edge. Sigmund was taken to speak with King Fazzursson where the King sat in his booth with his Armsmen and Huscarls about him. Fazzurson's wounds were being attended by a White Healer and he greeted Sigmund well: "You are Sigmund the Hurler who stood before JarEel at the Battle of Heroes and emerged alive. King Dragonfriend sends one of his most trusted Companions to us. I welcome you to my booth."

Sigmund thanked the King for his kind words and sought news of what had transpired here. Fazzursson was only too eager to tell him: "We brought the red-men to battle once anon and they withdrew from the field. King Jandeten of the Grazelands is pursuing them even as we speak."

Sigmund congratulated the king on his great victory and then took his leave to observe the siege. He spoke with many of the captains and warriors in the Tarsh Army, all appeared battered and tired. He learned that the king had indeed lost the second battle. Pharandros' host again broke the Esrolians and then scattered the Grazers. The enemy withdrew from the field when word of the Dragonfriend's advance had reached them.

Sigmund spoke with the king again and said that he could open the city for the Army of Tarsh. Fazzursson bade him do so if he could.

And so Sigmund gathered his band before the main gates of Gold Edge. As one, the forty and two Hedkoranthi hurled their thunderstones at the massive gates. With a massive crash the gate and most of the gatehouse exploded into splinters and rubble. Sigmund turned to Fazzursson and spoke thusly: "Wouldst you like to pass within now oh King?"

Fazzursson smiled at Dragonfriend's man. "I would indeed. Very impressive. Wouldst you like to pass within at my side?" Sigmund agreed and he led his warband through the gates with the King and his huscarls. The army sacked the city. Many of the people were taken into thraldom and great was the merriment of the sacking host in the days that followed.

Three days later the Free Army arrived and camped outside the charnel-house walls.

Our tales needs now speak of Kamoar's campaign among the Breagalos. Perhaps the Cat-man's enthusiasm for the task clouded his judgement for his Wardens fell into several ambushes and took some small losses in their raiding. Were it not for the presence of Armsman Kettil those small losses would have been much larger. As it was the Breagalos suffered horribly from the raiders.

At Gold Edge, the two kings spoke of the campaign to date. King Fazzursson was quite defensive over his progress and grew irritated when Dragonfriend suggested that he command the entire host in their advance on Furthest. To avoid any rift, Dragonfriend wisely and generously agreed to maintain the two hosts and their command structure as they were and he spoke no more of Fazzursson's poor showing.

Instead, their words and thoughts turned to Furthest. They agreed to take a few weeks to move their supply stashes up to Gold Edge and to Heruvernelda. While the suppliers were being shifted the hosts would be dispersed to forage. Dragonfriend maintained some six thousands within Gold Edge to ward off any sally from Furthest. The light horse and the Wolfrunners ranged across the hills and valleys between the two hosts.

With the army preparations proceeding, Argrath fared to Dragon's Eye to make some inquiries of his own. He knew that Furthest had been founded upon the ruins of an ancient EWF city and he sought knowledge of Dragon Roads in the area. "Is there a plinth within Furthest and can it be used," he asked the Tailed Priest that would see him. The priest replied that there had been a plinth in the old city but it was no longer active. He told Dragonfriend that he would have to create a new dragon road complete with several plinths leading to Furthest and then find the plinth with and activate it if he wished to use it.

Argrath returned to Gold Edge and summoned Bronwyn to him. "Fare thee into Furthest and contact this Union of Sanitation Engineers. Find their allegiance and if they are helpful recruit them in thy search for the plinth within the sewers of the city."

Argrath visited with Gudny in Aldachur where the Righteous Wind was gathering and learned that the new host was not ready yet. It would take another season for the bands to gather.

Fire Season

With their supplies moved up, the two hosts were ready to continue their campaign to seize Furthest. The Free Army fared up the road, passed through Stopover and came upon Furthest from the east. The Tarsh Army fared down the Teslir River by barge and came upon Furthest from the south.

Dragonfriend commanded Sigmund to take his warband across the river. They were to stop any boats from entering or leaving Furthest. He also told Sigmund that he would like to see the chain blocking the river to be sundered and collected for his own use.

Bronwyn sent word from within the city that the Northern Tarsh regiments had been sent home to defend their lands from scavenging and raiding parties. Even with those troops gone, the city's defences were formidable. Bronwyn told of the Kingslayers, 1000 huscarls. Four regiments of the Furthest Foot, 1000 spears each. He spoke of a new regiment called the First Blood, another 1000 heavy foot. He spoke of the Sun Dome Phalanx, nye upon 1000 phalangites. There were some 2000 archers in the Green Bows. He also spoke of the Phargentites Horse, the Retired Veterans Cavalry, the Furthest Horse and the Furthest Horsewomen. Finally, he warned that the University of the Provinces had been preparing for some time to protect the city.

Argrath divided the combined host into three Battles and had fortified camps built before each of the city's gates. Mularik's siege engineers worked at building assault towers. The Exiles' priestesses built earthen ramps that did not, quite, touch the walls thus keeping the city wyter from interfering. The regiments set to building walls around the city and a further palisade around their own camps to defend against any relieving host. Mularik's Grand Company, except the siege engineers, fared north to raid the countryside.

It took the hosts a week to complete their preparations.

 

[1] Sun County in Sartar.
[2] An ell is roughly equivalent to a yard
[3] Armsman, in Tarsh refers to a tribal king.
[3] Hero-light, refers to the glow that appears around a person when they are blessed by powerful magics. In Argrath's case he was brimming over with magical charisma and honeyed words.

 


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July 9, 2002

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