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The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 72

 


"Jolanti are over-rated. It must have been defective."

- Argrath

The Siege of Furthest, Part 2

Harmony Week, Earth Season

As Earth Season came, the hosts of the Warlord Dragonfriend and King Fazzursson finished building their camps and siege lines around Furthest and the Warlord met with the King to finalise their plans for the siege.

"I would that you could summon the Earth Shakers to aid us in this great endeavour," spake the Dragonfriend. King Fazzursson replied that they would not come for him as he was not the Sacred King. The Dragonfriend noted that High King Maniskisson had renounced that title so that there was no Sacred King. "Could they be bought?" he asked.

"It may be that they could, but gold and gems have little draw for them," replied King Fazzursson. "Myself, I will have naught to do with them. They are madness and hatred incarnate. They decorate their axes with men's jewels."

Dragonfriend replied thusly: "I care little for their means and motivations. I care only for their results. We are here to fight for your kingdom and your city. I will speak with these great defenders of the earth and gain their aid." The opinion within Dragonfriend's Companions was that the Shakers would demand payment in sacrificial blood.

Now Sigmund had taken his band of hurlers, The Breakers of Jelmir, across the Oslir with the March Light Horse to trouble the city's shipping and break the chain that warded the river. He found that there was a keep, named Dervanax, that stood over the chain.

Dragonfriend spoke with King Fazzursson of his plans for Dervanax Keep. "I have asked my Companion Gudny the Storm Lord to fare across the river with his band and have sent the Axe Brothers to accompany him. They will stop any vessel moving into or out of the city and, when we are ready for our first assaults here, he will seize the keep and break the chain." The King agreed that this was a wise idea.

Then Dragonfriend suggested that the Ernaldan magical bands should work at raising earthen ramps against the walls of Furthest and the Phargentite Keep. King Fazzursson agreed. Dragonfriend spoke further of mining the city walls and of building boats down river to interdict the city. Fazzursson agreed to it all.

Now King Dragonfriend summoned his wife to him. To her he spake thusly: "I would that the Earth Shakers of Maranaba were here to aid our cause. Brave wife of mine, take thee those from my warbands suited for this task [1] and busk thyself to the Shakelands. Bring me the Shakers. I would offer them one from every ten of the thralls taken in the siege."

Voydag replied: "Thou hast given me a thankless task. Little do I wish to know any more about the dark forces in the Shakeland. Were you any but my great husband I would slit your throat for even suggesting this. I will return when I am able." And with that she gathered a score of Argrath's warrior-women and rode out for the Shakelands.

We needs now describe the fortifications of Furthest. The city itself was warded by stone walls 100 feet high without any battlements - the walls were sheer, front and back - 2 thousands of meters to a side with one major gate in each. 27 towers guarded the walls; each was 40 feet tall, 40 feet wide and 40 feet deep. Arrow slits speckled the towers. A stone-faced ditch, 40 feet wide and 15 feet deep surrounded the city. Two towers and curtain walls had recently been added to ward the docks. They measured some 40 feet in height.

Map: The siege of Furthest

One thousand meters to the north and east of the city was the Phargentite Fort. This keep was the home of the Red King's generals and their personal forces. The stone walls here were 60 feet high with towers nye upon 80. There was one major gate opening into the fort and it faced east. There was a postern gate that faced into the fortifications between the city and the fort.

The refugee camps and Furthest-Beyond-the-Walls were warded by two earthen walls, some 40 feet tall and faced with timber. There were two gates in it, one to the east and another to the north. This area was open to the river.

Across the river was Dervanax Keep. This fort was the home shrine for an ancient Tarshite hero of the same name. The stone walls were some 60 feet high and surrounded by a ditch.

And so with the siege camps and walls built, the engineers of the Grand Company set to building catapults around the city. Soon the city was being bombarded by stone and flame from four score of machines.

Argrath Dragonfriend took this time to round up more support. He stepped onto Mastakos' road and fared to Aldachur where he spoke with Prince Orgovalt. Argrath greeted his follower well. Orgovalt replied properly and they spoke of matters in the Far Point. "There is dissent and grumbling from the clans," spake the Prince. "They feel that the tribute to support the war is too high, nearly as bad as under the Empire some have said." Dragonfriend agreed that these were hard times for the Kingdom and expressed his hope that they would soon be over. Orgovalt then spoke of what the traders were saying. "There is no trade to be had from Heortland with the King Sharpsword being bankrupt. There is only expensive trade to be had within Sartar due to the tolls on the roads charged by High King Maniskisson. And there is no trade to have from Tarsh with the fields plundered and the cities besieged." Argrath expressed his sympathy for the troubles of the traders and told Orgovalt to do his best.

From Aldachur, King Dragonfriend rode to Dwarf Mine to speak with Isildirian. He passed through the 'In-processing' area quite quickly with the pass that the dwarf had given him and was taken directly to see Isildirian. "Greetings Isildirian," spake Argrath. He asked the dwarf if he could hire the Cannon Cult and field test the newest version of the Alchemical Transformer. Isildirian turned from some contraption that he was tinkering with and replied thusly: "Argrath! How do you like being Emperor?" Argrath stared back at the dwarf and asked if he was on the correct page of The Schedule. Isildirian looked embarrassed and quickly grabbed a book off of his desk. He flipped through a few pages and replied, "Ah, yes, you want to hire the Cannon Cult." He slipped through more pages in the book and spake that they were available. "How much," replied Argrath. "Owe me," said Isildirian. He read a few more pages in the book and look up furtively, "How about a Jolanti?" Argrath looked startled. "A jolanti?" he asked. "What would that cost along with the Transformer?" The dwarf replied that he wanted all of the iron in Furthest. Dragonfriend smiled, "Surely that is a very high price. How about one part in three?" Isildirian referred back to his book and replied, "That would be fine, as long as it totalled 26 metric tonnes."

Now, it should be said that Argrath had no idea what a metric or a tonne was. "Your schedule there wouldn't happen to mention that all of the iron in Furthest weights 26 of those tonnes would it?" Isildirian replied that it did. Argrath agreed to the terms. Isildirian said that the forces would be at Furthest in three weeks.

Argrath took his leave of the dwarf and fared into the Rockwood Mountains. He journeyed to Ormsfang Mtn. and passed within to visit the Ormsfang Assassins. He briefly discussed his desire for the assassins to aid in the siege and for the price of 27 ox-carts of Kralori silk they agreed to send 100 warriors for the duration of the siege. They would arrive in two weeks.

Returning to Furthest, Argrath found disease in his camps. Black Boils and Blood Lung had broken out. Voydag lead the counter attack. Kamoar and his shamans reported that the diseases were born by mighty spirits, dread spirits of Malia the Chaos Shaman. His band battled valiantly against the spirits. Argrath put out word through the lands of the disease outbreak and healers came from all over to battle the spirits. By the end of the week the spirits had been defeated but one in every ten of the army's warriors lay dead.

Argrath ordered the diseased corpses hurled into Furthest.

Now Gudny the Storm Lord came to the Warlord in his pavilion and greeted the king well. We needs speak of the change that was easily noticeable in the disciple. His very touch was electric and sent sparks dancing along metal. Ribbons tied in his hair fluttered on invisible breezes. His eyes were a roiling mass of grey clouds. There was no mistaking the immanence of the Thunderer when Gudny entered the tent.

As this was the first time Argrath had seen his Companion since his ascent he was taken aback by the changes. "Greetings Storm Lord," he said. "Greetings Lord Dragonfriend," was the rumbling reply. Gudny continued thusly: "I received thy kindly worded invitation to participate in this siege. Though the Righteous Wind has not yet gathered I did bring some seven hundreds my host to aid this effort to destroy this last great bastion of the Poison Moon in Dragon Pass. Orlanth will be freed of this corruption!"

Gudny spoke of the bands that had accompanied him. He named the Wild Storm, lead by the disciple Elmalandti Bluespruce - five score flying thunderous warriors. He spoke of the Cloudstriders, led by Argrath's ally among the Stormwalkes, the disciple Utguard Cloudstrider - a further five score flying warriors. Gudny spoke of the Brekuni Shieldfighters, four score weaponthanes from the Dundealos. He spoke of Ingard Wyrmbreaker and his four score Dragonslayers. He spoke of the Brooding Rain, four score Ereltharoli Helerings; the Red Bears, two score Odaylings who worshipped Horrast Ironclaw the fighting hunter; he spoke of the Battle Daughters, a band of four-score and ten Vingans and finally he told of the Night Watch, six score Rigsdali from across the Pass.

He finished, "As you suggested, we have encamped with Sigmund and his Breakers across the river from the city. Sir Hulborn and his Axe Brothers joined us there." He then spoke of seeing the warbanner for the Crimson Rams, a band of Yanafal the Ram worshippers, within the bastion. "The bastion is a shrine and their magic is strong, but it is not strong enough to stop us."

Argrath thanked Gudny for his assistance and turned to Voydag. "Speak thee on thy journey to Shakeland." Voydag refused to tell anything of her journey except that the Shakers had agreed to come with some five score priestesses and their bodyguards for 1 out of every 5 of the thralls. They would take close to two weeks to arrive. "They would not negotiate." Argrath thanked his wife for her efforts and commended the bravery of his warriors for accompanying her.

Wynorthrida Bare-Foot was the daughter of Aesthra the Udder and the grand-daughter of Aesthra Too-Many. Wynorthrida and her sister, Reathra No-Voice, were born among the Creek-Side Clan in the Dinacoli Tribe to a long string of powerful Ernaldan godyr. The sisters were twins and were acknowledged as the senior priestesses and leaders of the Earth Twins magical band.

It was about now that Wynorthrida came to see the Dragonfriend and spoke of their efforts to raise ramps against the walls of the city and the fort. Argrath greeted the tired woman well and bade her sit at his side while his dishthane brought food and drink for her. She came directly to the point, "Their magic is as great, or even greater than ours. They throw down our ramps as fast as we can raise them." Argrath thanked her for her efforts and when she was ready, bade her good day.

There came a time during the preparations when word came that King Pharandros wished to speak with Argrath. The Dragonfriend agreed to parley before the main gates. The Red-King, Pharandros strode from the city warded about in rich, finely etched plate-armour from Carmania. Each king came with ten of their body guards - King Pharandros with ten of his Kingslayers and King Dragonfriend with ten of his Storm Dragon Guard.

The kings greeted each other civilly and Dragonfriend asked if Pharandros had come to surrender. Pharandros shook his head, "I come to bid thee gone from my lands. We seek only peace. Return to your lands and we can have peace and trade once again. Remain, and you will lose more of your people to the Underworld."

Argrath replied thusly: "Lord Pharandros, if thou dost truly seek peace you need only swear allegiance and loyalty to the King of Tarsh, King Fazzursson. Then there will be peace in your lands and in mine."

The lunar replied that his people would fight to the death. As a token of their resolve he gifted Argrath with a small box. Within, Argrath found a man's finger bearing Bronwyn Fallenstead's EWF ring. "Know this rebel-king," growled Argrath. "Release my man now or I will kill every living thing within the city walls."

Pharandros smirked, "You would have done that either way." Then he strode back into the city.

Stasis Week

And so it came to pass that a host of dwarves busked into the siege camps with a score of heavy cannon, one of Isildirian's 200-foot tall jolanti and the Alchemical Transformer. Soon after their arrival the Earth Shakers rumbled in with their thunder beasts.

To the Cannon Cult, Argrath pointed out a tower on the eastern wall of Furthest. I would that you battered a way into the city through there. The dwarves nodded curtly and set to work building what they called a 'battery'. He looked at the jolanti and commanded a platform to be built that would hold some 200 warriors. The jolanti would lift it over the city walls when the time came.

Argrath then spoke with Ubmaran-Shaker, the high priestess of the Maran Gori. He pointed out the wall between the city and the fort and asked if the Shakers could flatten it. The priestess replied that they could. Argrath asked the dwarves running the Transformer to aid the Shakers.

That night, an Aramite slipped unseen into Argrath's tent. He awoke the king with a soft touch and greeted him politely. "I am Adept-Seven. You have a task for me and my brethren." Argrath thanked the adept for his presence and asked that he and his brothers pass into random towers around the city and the fort slaying the defenders. "I do not ask that you seize and hold anything, just that you kill them. Incite terror within the walls. I am particularly interested in dead officers." Adept-Seven acknowledged the instructions and slipped from the tent as secretly as he had come in.

Argrath spoke again with Fazzursson and suggested that the host storm the area between city and fort. "Much of the city's spare food is kept there in the cattle pens and the horse pens. The village and the refugee camps hold many people who would be an additional hardship on the city were they forced within the walls. Fazzursson agreed and was quite pleased when Dragonfriend suggested that the Tarsh Army have the honour of the initial assault.

It was known that the eastern wall between the city and the fort was defended by the 3rd Furthest Foot. The northern wall between the fort and the river was defended by the 2nd Furthest Foot. Within the enclosure was camped the Furthest Horse. Some three hundreds of the Female Green Bows stood on each wall as well.

And so it came to pass that, on the night of the Dying Moon King, Fazzursson gathered his entire Tarsh Army, some five thousands of foot and five hundred of horse, supported by Wolfe's Heavy Cavalry and prepared to assail the camps. The Earth Twins and the Warm Sisters prepared to raise an earthen berm before the main gate of the Phargentite's Fort. Queen Nerestina and her Esrolian host prepared to assail a bastion on the southern wall of Furthest as a diversion. Garthael Flashing-Blade was to lead the Goldgotti Foot against a neighbouring tower with ten of Argrath's Vangath Brothers. The jolanti would strive to break an opening for the Esrolians. Across the river, Gudny would lead his host against the Dervanax Keep and take it by storm.

Throughout the night, the Maran Thunderdrums rolled. Come the dawn, the priestesses unleashed their horrible magic. The earth under the gate erupted and sent boulders flying a hundred feet through the air. Ripples raced through the earth like a rock had been dropped into a pond. Everything within two hundred meters was destroyed utterly. Within a thousand meters all buildings were smashed. The cattle and the horses in the pens were knocked from their feet and buried. The Furthest Horse's camp was destroyed and most of their men slain. The nearer refugee camp was smashed. The further took serious damage. King Fazzursson's host, arrayed before the gate, were smashed from their feet and several hundreds were slain by flying stones or buried in the earth. His horsemen were scattered by panicked beasts. Dragonfriend's main siege camp was flattened and many of his siege towers toppled. Foragers as far as six miles away felt the shaking.

At the Phargentite Fort, the priestesses were too stunned by the tearing of Ernalda's body. They could not muster their magic to raise the berm. But it mattered little. The ripples moving through the earth had piled drifts of soil against all sides of the keep.

There were also drifts, twenty feet high, against the northern walls of Furthest, the ditches there were completely filled.

Seventeen of the Shakers died when their hearts burst from the surge of magic through the Alchemical Transformer. The survivors were quite angered but were too stunned to do much about it.

To the south, the jolanti hurled a dozen giant boulders over the walls and smashed several buildings. It then lumbered forth and struck a great blow with it axe. The mighty blade struck a bastion on the wall and clove it in twain. When it lifted the axe again there was a twenty foot wide slash in the stone. The jolanti struck again and again at the tower tearing it to pieces. Then there was a blast of sickly crimson light from the centre of the city and the jolanti's head exploded. The giant body toppled forward and fell upon the smashed tower. The beam had come from the Temple of Lunar Resonance.

Queen Nerestina led her Axe Maidens in an assault across the giant body and into the rubble of the tower. Catapults within the city hurled jars of noxious gasses as the attacking warriors and drove them off with heavy losses.

The siege tower that Garthael intended to use sank up to its axles into the earth after the earthquake. He quickly took over the one that the Queen had abandoned and had it pushed up to his bastion. When the bridge dropped he was the first besieger onto the city's walls. Glowing in his full hero light he struck at the Tower Captain and cut him two. He swung left and right and set three more men on the Raven road. The Goldgotti soldiers poured onto the tower at his back easily pushing the defenders back. Again, that crimson beam lanced out and bathed the tower in a blinding light. When it vanished, three score of Shepilkirt's heroes stood atop the tower. Dressed from head to foot in silver and iron, they hacked their way through the Goldgotti. Garthael slew two and leapt to the attack. The Goldgotti withdrew from the tower. The Vangath Brothers began falling. After watching three more of their confederates slaughtered by Garthael, the lunars paused, stepped back and formed a shield wall. As they readied javelins the siege tower behind Garthael bust in to flames. The champion turned and strode from the wall.

Across the river, the assault went much better. Sigmund and his Breakers burst the bastion's gate. The Axe Brothers pushed a siege tower to the walls over a ditch filled with fascines. When the bridge dropped Lothar Twin-Blades stood there glowing with Hu's blessings. Before him stood Cherek Dead-Fast, the leader of the Crimson Rams. He also glowed a ruddy red from his corrupt god's magic.

Cherek was a mighty warrior, a full head taller than the Dragonfriend who was accounted among the tallest of men. His arms were as thick as tree trunks and his heft a silver scimitar that most lesser men could not have lifted. In his left hand was a heavy shield, studded with moon-rock, that he was said to have taken from Shepelkirt herself. On his head was an iron helm with enchanted ram's horns jutting from the temples. Cherek was called Dead-Fast for what happened to most of his foes.

At Lothar's appearance Cherek's warriors stepped back and the Ram called out to Lothar: "Have ye come to die grim-one?" Lothar stepped onto the wall and said: "I will die when it is mine time. For now, I bring thee Death and Severance."

With that the two heroes launched themselves at each other. Lothar made to strike Cherek upon the shoulder and his blade struck sparks from his foe's shield. His other blade passed under Cherek's guard and struck upon his leg dealing him a horrible wound. Cherek staggered back and swung his blade with deadly accuracy. Lothar caught the blow on his, squatted onto his heels and hewed Cherek's left leg at the knee. He stood and spun on his right foot, both blades flashing in the sunlight, and struck Cherek across the neck and hips. The Tarnils-man fell down dead on the wall. The lunar tried to defy Death and leap back to life but Lothar severed the ghost's connection to this plane and sent it onto the Halls of the Dead.

At the now smashed gates, death in a different form came to the bastion. Kamoar Shadowstalker named his spirits and stroked his fetishes. He invoked his talents and released his hatred. Claws burst from his hands; his eyes slitted and glowed yellow; his cloak bayed in anticipation and the froth of madness burst from his mouth. The berserk cat-man tore his way into the keep slaughtering all before him. Gudny, garbed in naught but the storm strode through the air behind him with lightning and thunder lancing from his hands.

A sturdy axeman stepped into Kamoar's path. He named himself Kallar and made to issue some challenge to Kamoar but the beserker rage was upon the shaman and the high priest of Dervanax never had a chance to finish his sentence. Kamoar snatched the sacred axe from his hands, bit through golden shaft and punched Kallar. His left hand passed through the man's iron cuirass, burst his ribs and closed into a fist around the priest's heart. Kamoar was already seeking his next victim as he flung the corpse from his path.

With Lothar carving his way along the walls, Kamoar slaughtering his way through the courtyard and Gudny rolling balled lightning into the shrine the defenders threw down their axes and begged for their lives.

Then Sigmund came on to the keep's wall and broke the chain barring the river.

The surviving refugees fled into Furthest and the besiegers let them go. With the extra food stockpiles from the camps destroyed, every extra mouth within the walls shortened the siege. Warlord Dragonfriend extended his siege lines to encircle the Phargentite Keep.

Come the next morning, High King Maniskisson rode into the camp with five-score of his bodythanes. He greeted Dragonfriend well and asked after Voydag. Dragonfriend replied properly and bade the High King join him on the ramparts. "How does the attack," King Manikisson asked. "Have you taken the city yet?" Dragonfriend replied that they had the city still resisted. "Why?" came the imperious reply. Dragonfriend explained that it took time to establish the siege lines, probe the defences and gather the forces required to exploit them. Maniskisson nodded his acceptance. "I heard that you had a mighty jolanit here. Where is it?"

Dragonfriend frowned, "It seems that jolanti are over rated. King Fazzursson and I believe that we were provided with a defective one." [2]

The High King listened quietly and said nothing more about the jolanti. He spoke of trouble within Sartar. "The Malani refuse to pay my tribute." He spoke of his impending meeting with King Sharpsword regarding the finances of the alliance and then he bade Dragonfriend continue his good work and departed.

 

[1] He means for her to take the woman warriors from his bands. Most men would refuse to go and they are banned from the temple either way.
[2] It took us some time before we could wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes after this…

 


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July 19, 2002

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