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The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 73

 


"Yellow corn IS people!"

The Siege of Furthest, Part 3

Stasis Week, Earth Season

Earth Season was quickly passing when the army's leaders met again. King Fazzursson, Warlord Dragonfriend and the General Mularik joined Queen Nerestina in her pavillion in the southern encampment.

The leaders spoke first of news that Mularik brought to them. It seemed that the Poison Moon's sons, the Imperials, were gathering a relief army in the north. An unknown number of soldiers were seen debarking a fleet of transports at Mirin's Cross, sent it seemed, by the new Emperor in distant Dara Happa. Mularik suggested that they would most likely take some weeks to muster their host before being able to move south and that when they did he would be able to contain them with the help of the Grazers. His informants also indicated that no Provincial or Sylilan troops were with the army and that it was a purely Imperial force. The Companions decided that the Emperor probably wished to aid Lunar Tarsh as a symbol of his authority and a political statement to Sylila.

Then the King and Queen turned their frustrations on the Warlord: "What hast thou done to hasten this grinding siege?" asked the Queen. "Thy stratagems have all failed," added King Fazzursson, "and killed more of mine host than of the Usurper's."

Warlord Dragonfriend nobly shrugged off the criticism. "With the exception of our good friend Mularik here none of us has fought a siege before - and I have yet to hear any complaints from him that we are fighting this one incorrectly." Mularik agreed that sieges take time and eat men. The Warlord then continued to explain his thoughts for the next assault. He spoke of having the hero Sigmund the Stormblade hurl thunderstones at the evil temple that had slain the jolanti to smash the idol that had released the beam of chaos. Then he told of making a dozen siege towers to assail the city wall. "With a champion atop each we will cause great concern within the walls." King Fazzursson impatiently asked if it would work. "There is no way of knowing that until we try it," the warlord replied.

At this point Mularik spoke up and suggested a variation on the siege tower idea from his own extensive experience. He spoke of laying parallel ramps of wood up to the city walls that would be bridged by logs used as rollers for a tower built atop them. "This way," he said, "thy towers could be much larger and would move to the wall much faster." All agreed that this was a fine idea and the meeting broke up.

And so Warlord Dragonfriend set about preparing for the next assault. He asked the Earth Shakers to widen the ditch before the Phargentite Keep so that their drawbridge would no longer reach across it, isolating them and reducing their ability to sally. He set 4,000 men working at digging siege-works close under the city walls in two places and laying the wooden ramps that the towers would travel along. He selected one place on the southern wall and one on the eastern wall that he would assault. He had the dwarves move their siege cannon in closer to make a breach in the eastern wall. The Dwarfs dug what they called a "sap", a meandering trench directly toward the walls and three "parallels" across the sap, the final parallel being dug into the ditch of the city and being emplaced with all the weapons of the Cannon Cult to bring down a section of the walls.

These preparations would take 2 weeks.

Finally, he spoke with Sigmund and Gudny about the temple that he wanted smashed. "Stormlord, I would that you used thine magics to suppress the city wytr whilst your blood-brother Sigmund smashed the temple. To aid you in this I have asked the gold dwarf with the alchemical transformer to work with you." Then Dragonfriend sent Sigmund back across the river to Dervanex Keep where he could see the temple. "On Dying Moon we strike."

When the Poison Moon finally turned her bloated face from Furthest, Gudny stood with the dwarves and Sigmund stood atop the Keep with a thunderstone he had taken three days to bless.

Gudny turned his concentration on the machine, the alchemical transformer, and suddenly realised that it was a foul construct of Zistor the Machine-God and that its insidious powers were trying to lure him into falsehood, as Zistor had tried to lure Orlanth. Seized with righteous fury, Gudny smashed the evil machine and scattered those that served it - those Sons of Stasis - the dwarves.

He turned to Argrath in a rage and said: "Think thee that I would pollute mineself with this foul magic? For the sake of our past friendship I chose to believe that you did not know that this was a construct of Zistor. I warn you oh King, do not entangle yourself into any more foul magics than you have to. You already court disaster by consorting with the dragons. Do not further befoul thyself by trying to harness Zistor for that is a task that even you cannot succeed at."

Now, Gudny turned to complete the task he had agreed to, but there was to be little warmth between he and the Dragonfriend henceforth.

Gudny and his warband struck the wytr of Furthest and stunned the priests directing it with the power of the Thunderer. That was when the hero Sigmund summoned all of his magics and hurled his stone over the city walls. The very air burned with its passage and the crash of it striking the temple rolled across the plain. A large piece of the dish on its roof cracked and fell off. Then the priests within the city poured their support into the wytr and Gudny's magics were defeated but Sigmund's throw had been true and the idol was broken, it continued to glow but much reduced from before.

Well, the allies' preparations continued but the priests of the host could no longer penetrate the city's magical defences. Summoned storms were stilled by a temple to Molanni the Still Air that was active within the city. Thunderstones were turned by the priests of the Great Temple to Doburdath who used tightly wound tornados that swirled in the air around the Temple of Lunar Resonance to deflect the stones.

In Movement Week a great trebuchet battery built within the city by Jordhil Gatebreaker, the greatest Phargentite siege expert, hurled dozens of jars into Queen Nerestina's camp, the one south of the city, the one that was supposed to be outside the range of any catapult. Lothar surmised that the machines were being magically aided. When the jars landed they broke and released a foul green fog that slew over 200 soldiers by making them cough their breath out of their bodies so violently that blood and organs came with it. Then the catapults hurled dozens of glowing red rocks into King Fazzursson's camp, the eastern one. These stones released a horde of lunar daimones into the camp that drove men mad, saw them kill themselves or each other and fight all efforts to aid them. Another hundred died before the daimones were suppressed.

Dragonfriend sent his Mastakosthane into the air to spy out the catapults and to direct the return fire of his own trebuchets that were quickly set up to return fire.

Queen Nerestina and King Fazzursson met with Argrath as he rode between the camps and demanded to know what the warlord was doing about this attack. Then they demanded to know when the next assault was going to be launched. Trizm, Dragonfriend's Mastakosthane, returned about then and reported that the warlord's catapult-stones, blessed by Sigmund, had smashed the enemy trebuchets. Dragonfriend told the other leaders that the assault was nearly ready.

Trizm also spake of an inner wall being built by the Lunars around the areas that the allies' towers were being built in front of as a second line of defence should Dragonfriends forces effect a breach. Dragonfriend directed his trebuchets to turn their fire on those inner walls while the Cannon Cult worked on the outer walls.

Later that week word came that the patrols between the city and the Phargentite Keep were being attacked at night. Several squads of trollkin from the Little Shadows had vanished and a group of Gudny's Night Watch had been slain. Dragonfriend called his Companions to him and directed Kamoar, Garthael and Lothar to take their bands into that area on the next night. "Teach these Tarshites a lesson in night fighting."

Well indeed, late that night Kamoar heard a postern gate open in the city walls and he led the two humakti towards the sounds. They all heard the death gurgles of a squad of trollkin and espied three men standing over their corpses.

Lothar sensed the power of Humakt emanating from the one that turned to face them. The stranger named himself: "I see you Grimblades. I am Asladan Curse-Quest of the Ditali. I wish to meet Humakt but must die in battle. Are you the man to grant my wish?" This last was said to Lothar who stood closest to the Ditali. Lothar had heard the name, for who among the Humakti of Dragon Pass would not know the name of a Disciple of Humakt from a land so close to theirs? The warriors of Death kept a small but aware circle at the pinnacle of their cult. Asladan was famed for the Three Score Duel Year in Esrolia and for the killing of Fredalat Kingelf, hero of the Arstola forest that caused a thousand trees to shed their leaves a season early in grief.

Kamoar went to move closer to help fight such a doughty foe when an arrow whistled past his ear. "I am Peradis Bearbow," declared the second figure in the dark, a man clad in a black bearskin and scale armour, clutching a bow as tall as he. "I am the greatest Rathori archer in the world. Let the Deathfighters finish it or I will take an eye, not a hair next time."

The two Humakti squared off, adopting the stance of salute and respect as formalities in the cult proscribed. Asladan lifted his great sword over his head and charged at Lothar shouting "Give me death!" Lothar spun out from under the furious assault and drove his foe back with a storm of sword strokes. Asladan laughed after the exchange was over and opinioned that Lothar was a truly fine warrior and may have what it takes to send him on to Humakt. Lothar leapt to the attack with Severance and Deathbringer dancing in the night. He struck from the left and the right. He sung low and then high but each time Asladan's mighty blade stopped his attack and then he drove Lothar back with a flurry of his own, laughing all the while. Lothar leapt over a knee-high strike, he squatted on his heels to miss the return stroke and then struck at Asladan with Deathbringer. The iron blade passed through Asladan's byrnie and on into his torso. The Ditali fell down on the spot, gasped out "Thank you" and met Humakt as he so dearly wished with blood in his mouth and a sword in his hand.

The sudden silence was filled with a nervous cough from Peradis who said: "Um, we'd best be going now. Unless, well, I guess there are two options here. One, we all die. Two…" and with that he turned and loosed an arrow that passed straight through the eye-socket of the crimson robed figure behind him "… I change sides. I never liked that Kerishadner of Makabeaus anyway."

Illusion Week

Come the morning of Dying Moon, Illusion Week there was a coppery smell in the air, like that of fresh spilt blood, and the entire city was surrounded by a field of corn; corn that had not been there the night before; corn that was now fully grown and completely ripe. All of the men manning the siege lines in the night, some 500 of them from several different units, had vanished, though the priests said they could hear their ghosts wailing amid the swaying corn.

The Companions decided that the defenders had enacted some ritual to their chaos-tainted goddess HonEel and grown the corn in the night. The smell of blood seemed to be coming from within the city; they thought that some thousands of people must have been sacrificed to create that miasma.

The leaders raged at this further setback, though the Dragonfriend's famous impassive mien remained. He shrugged off the losses and ordered the towers forward as planned.

To the south of the city, some 5,000 Esrolians were sent forth with their tower to assail the second bastion west of the gate. The Bush Children provided cavalry support, the Earth Twins magical support and the Righteous Wind provided reserves. Queen Nerestina joined her host. Kamoar stood atop the tower and would the first over the city wall.

To the east, a further 5,000 men were sent forth with their tower. They were to assault the breach that the Zistor-men had battered in the walls. Kings Fazzursson and Dragonfriend watched that assault with their reserves. The champions Lothar and Garthael would lead the Axebrothers through the breach.

When the tower was rolled forward the defenders set off a great explosive mine beneath the earth and destroyed the tower. Lothar was hurled through the air and smashed to the ground a hundred ells back. The healers raced over to save his life. Garthael rode the explosion and landed on his feet before the two kings. The Axebrothers lost 4 in 10 of their remaining men. The Tarsh Medium Infantry and the Wolfrunners each lost 3 in 10 of theirs from the blast. The Cannon Cult's weapons were upended and their breastworks thrown down. The Iron Dwarfs dug themselves out of the rubble and informed the stunned Companions that the defenders had somehow acquired a large amount of Dwarfen blasting powder, a holy item to the Mostali. From the smell of the powder, the Iron Dwarf, Vrudal Rockhead, determined that the powder came from the Jord Mountain enclave far to the north within the bounds of the Empire.

In the south the city gates swung open and some 2000 cavalry streamed out of the city. Half of them, light horse, all formed up and charged the milling Esrolians. The rest of them, all heavy horse, formed up and charged the Bush Children and the Righteous Wind. Around the tower Queen Nerestina formed a shield wall and held the Tarshite charge, though barely and then requiring the sacrifice of many of her Axe Maidens. Javelins flew fast and true and the foe were forced to withdraw. Gudny flailed the charging horsemen with crashing hail. He unsettled their horses with terrorising storm and led his flying thanes to strike at the horsemen more directly. There was a horn blast from the gate and the heavy horse turned and followed their lighter kin back into the city.

 


 


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September 26, 2002

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