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The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 75

The Siege of Furthest - Finale


"He's Taz!" in reference to Kamoar

As the Battle of Denston commenced the storm priests shrouded the advancing Allied host under Orlanth's scarf of mist. All of their attempts to summon Ohorlanth's storms failed for Shepelkirts's magicians were well prepared and had chained every breeze and every cloud in the area.

Mularik's cavalry charged from beneath the drifting scarf with a glorious blare of horns. The Grazer archers wheeled before the Pentans and disordered their front ranks before turning to the west. Then the grim knights of Tanisor and the laughing, bison-riding Bullocks crashed into and then trampled over the milling Shomandini, the Pentans shot arrows that stuck from plate armour and chain bardings but had no affect on their murderers.

On the right flank of the allied host, skyclad on Brunjarl's great back, Gudny released Black Cloud and commanded him to assail the Lost Sky horsemen. As the spirit rose into the air, a malevolent lunar spirit rose from their magicians to do battle with the valiant Vadrudi. Black Cloud utterly destroyed his foe after a fierce fight but was too spent to continue.

In the centre the battle did not go well for the allied army. The Imperial phalanxes showed their iron discipline as they all poised their spears, at the exact same angle and held rock-steady while the Tanisor Javelineers hurled their useless shafts among them.

The allied footmen bravely advanced to do battle with the deadly phalanxes while the Deretinites and the Thunder Delta Slingers sowed carnage among the ranks with exploding ballistae bolts and sling stones. The Storm Walkers, through titanic effort, unchained a cross breeze to throw off their aim but to little effect. When the lines met, the elite hoplites lashed out as one and delivered death onto the allied ranks. Chanting their ancient war-songs, the remorseless phalanxes ground forward, step after step, killing as they went.

Gudny led his hand-picked flying thanes through the air over the village of Denston and spied the Jasper Phalanx marching to the Imperial right flank to block Mularik's attack for he had broken the Pentans and was wheeling his forces to his right for an advance on the Imperial centre and rear. The Shodmandini were destroyed and the cowardly Redechanu had scattered before his knights. King Jandetin led his lancers and Golden Bows in pursuit while his horse archers harried the Redarm Peltasts, forcing them to stay in the woods on the extreme left of the allied line.

That was when the Shargashi berserkers positioned behind the Steel Sword Legion as a reserve launched an insane charge at the Bullocks. The riders swung around with the Sword Brothers in-line and met the attack head-on beginning a great slaughter on both sides.

The well-drilled ranks of the Steel Swords, with their ancient dwarf-blades, butchered those few bison riders that rode too close to their serried ranks. The swordsmen refused their right, redeploying with consummate skill, and formed a new line with the Long Axes of the Imperial Guard.

Gudny took his picked champions into Denston and struck like the tornadoes that they were. Lightning-riding Vangathi tore through the village streets slaying the imperial soldiers of the Blue Boys Peltast regiment with ease; rock hurling Hedkoranthi smashed strong-points and Helemakti blew aside barricades. Gudny floated over the village green smashing all opposition with furious thunderbolts and crushing noise. Other forces of the Righteous Wind stormed the bridge into the village or scaled the palisade to join the flying warband inside. In short order the Blue Boys were reduced to a few cowards hiding in cellars and the village seized.

About then Mularik finished reforming his blood-drenched knights and turned them towards the magicians on the hill - many of the students among the 4 Colleges of Magic on the hill could be seen nervously eyeing the steadily advancing horsemen. Moon-magic lashed the Tanisori but their alien meldek blessings warded them from most of the god-driven assaults. Mularik urged them into the charge and they roared up the hill, thundering through the hapless Colleges and the Blue Moon School slaughtering fleeing magicians on their left and their right. The Blue Moon school escaped annihilation by becoming invisible. The Comet Seers called a desperate but still devastating meteor shower down on the knights and checked their advance long enough to run from the hilltop to the cover of the advancing Jasper Phalanx. Though many escaped, the Imperial magicians were shattered.

To the north on the left flank of the allied line, the surviving Pentans reformed and did battle with the Grazers that left many saddles empty. The Luminous Stallion King Jandetin the Avenger bravely fought the Pentan Khan in personal combat and slew him with a golden sword-blow. After that the remaining Pentans fled the field.

Now, the cowardly Redmen pulled back into a square and their elite phalanxes snapped around to cover their straggling magicians. The unbending discipline of the Imperial infantry gave pause to the allied host, for the allied centre was close to breaking, few of the infantry there wished to close once more with the Imperial hoplites, and the allied cavalry was spent in its successful charges. Polemarch Daveresh Oarbreaker called for a parley and wishing to avoid further battle against an unbroken enemy, Mularik and Gudny went to meet with him.

Daveresh Oarbreaker was every bit the Dara Happan nobleman. His carriage was unbending, his hair golden and his visage autocratic. His armour was gold-encrusted and his staff of rule glowed with the Evil Emperor's power. Before him, Mularik looked shoddy. His armour was rent and bloodied. His helm was missing and two of his four iron-clad bodyguards lay dead on the field. He stood tall though, for he knew the day was his. Beside the two heavily armoured generals, Gudny appeared primal. He was skyclad, naked under the sky bearing only his spear Thunderbolt and his axe Babeester. What portions of his skin were not covered in deep blue tattoos were covered in war-woad. His beard was unruly and static crackled in the air around him.

Daveresh greeted Gudny properly and surprised everyone by giving Mularik a slight bow. "You fought well and the field is yours. I would offer you terms for our withdrawal, though we will not surrender for our army is not broken and there would be a great effusion of blood on both sides should you attempt to pursue the matter."

Gudny nodded at Mularik saying, "this victory is thine," and so the Tanisori spake: "I would have it that you took your army back to Raibanth with you with full honour. They will not stop in their journey nor will they engage any of our hosts while they remain under your command. You will never lead this host against us again."

Daveresh agreed saying, "I don't think that you will have to worry about any of this host fighting you again. There is too much trouble in the Empire for the Emperor to bother with you again. I also doubt that we could pass through Sylila in the future as they have refused to acknowledge the Emperor!"

With that, Daveresh gathered his host and they fared north. In the seasons to come they re-embarked on their vessels and fared back to Raibanth as promised. The Polemarch was true to his word, as Mularik new he would be.

It needs to be said that the knights of Tanisor had lost half of their number while the Bullocks and Sword Brothers - who killed every last Shargashi - had lost one from every three of their own. The infantry had suffered significant loss and the Grazers mourned their empty saddles but the morale of the army was jubilant and high. Mularik ordered a feast for the troops that night proclaiming that northern Tarsh was his once news came of Kamoar's victory.

South of the Battle of Denston the Northern Tarsh Army in Talfort had marched out on the heels of the Allied host to link up with the Imperials or better yet, to trap the allied army between the two forces. Four thousands of infantry, including the Yelmalian Glory Spears and the Bovakite Light Foot formed a marching square with a small band of horsemen in the centre. Kamoar, left behind with his warband, the Wolfrunners, the Antler Chase, the Headhunters and the March Light Horse harried them ceaselessly. Kamoar had obstructions thrown across the road and threw slashing cavalry raids at the sides of the square. His host could not stop the Tarshites but he could, and did slow them down so that they did not reach Denston in time to join the battle.

As it turned out, the Tarshites had nearly reached Denston when King Jandetin rode up with his Grazer host and surrounded them. Shortly after that Gudny and Mularik arrived with their infantry and called on the Tarshites to surrender.

There was then among the Tarshite army a templar from the Sun Dome called Koresten Six-Shields, so named because he could leap over six shielded men while wearing his full panoply. Koresten was the captain of the Glory Spears phalanx and he stepped forth to speak with the allies. He threw down the head of General Pharon the Snake, the Phargentite commander of the host and said these words: "We will no longer fight for the Lunars. We have long sought a way of honourably leaving his service and now we have it."

And so the Tarshites were disarmed and guarded. The allied host made camp and Koresten was brought to speak with Mularik, Gudny and Kamoar. "As you are a friend of the Dragonfriend, who is a friend of Sota Lamplighter who showed me the way of the Monrogh Doctorine, my phalanx will fight for you," he said to Gudny. Now this was good news to the allies and more was to follow. Koresten spoke of using his host to garrison Northern Tarsh while the allied forces returned to Furthest to complete the siege. He introduced Heleric the Hurler who commanded the Bovakite Light Foot and both swore their allegiance to King Fazzursson. The remaining footmen in the Tarsh army were naught but fyrdmen and they were sent home without their weapons to bring news of the defeat to their people.

In the morning the army marched back to Furthest proudly displaying the captured banners, battlefield plunder and the head of General Pharon on a long pike. The victorious army paraded around the beleaguered city showing their spoils of war and though the grim defenders gave no sign of despair, all knew that a great blow had been struck against the morale of the Furthest garrison. Warlord Dragonfriend once again appealed to the city to surrender and generously offered amnesty to any who would abandon the defences. Once more, he was ignored.

It was about that time that the Tarsh Light Foot returned to the host around Furthest as the Breagalos Tribe near Travelling Stone had ceased their futile resistance to the King's rule.

By now, winter was beginning to show itself and so the Warlord planned one last assault before the weather grew too harsh. The siege lines had been extended right up to the city gates blocking any future sally. Sigmund had spent the last weeks widening and flattening the eastern breach with artillery and his own thunderstones.

Argrath chose to assault the breach again and to use the southern siege tower once more for a two-pronged assault. Kamoar and Garthael would lead the Bovakite and Tarsh Light Foot over the siege tower while the Ormsfang assassins would strike from within the tower using their power to travel through stone. King Fazzurrson claimed the honour of assaulting the breach. He would lead the Tarsh Heavy Foot - "The Quivers", his own bodyguard elite, the Palashee Axemen and the ferocious Quintus Valemen. Lothar and Sigmund accompanied him with their warbands.

On the day of the Dying Moon the assault was launched and fared better than the last.

In the south, the mighty tower was pushed forth against the city's defences. The defenders lashed the attackers with ballistae and boulders hurled from their war-engines and inflicted heavy losses upon them. The attack moved resolutely forth and when the assault ramps dropped Garthael leapt onto the ramparts glowing with the dread-light of the Death God's blessings. He struck left and right and strode across the roof, with each step two more defenders from the First Blood's regiment fell down dead.

Surprisingly, standing over the tower were two more crouched atop an inner wall that the defenders had built - the assault party began to take more casualties from hurled missiles and catapult batteries on these improvised defences.

The hatch leading into the tower from its roof was sealed and so Garthael clove it in twain with his battle-blade. With a great shout Kamoar leapt through the hatchway into the dark room below. He landed in a crouch and smiled as a score of bows sang and his pelt growled as it shrugged off the feeble shafts. Kamoar summoned his berserker rage and rushed about the room slaughtering and smashing everyone and everything there - his warband watched from above and wisely remained out of his way. When there was naught left to smash, Kamoar spied a door leading further into the tower and burst through it like it was made of straw. The rest of the tower was littered in bodies and bathed in blood from the brutal fighting between the Ormsfang and the defenders. Kamoar casually murdered any lunar survivors that he found and on the bottom floor calmed his fury when he met up with the Assassins. The tower was secured.

Garthael set to building ramparts with whatever materials came to hand, to ward his men from the persistent fire from the inner towers.

King Fazzursson had a much harder time in the breach. His men struggled up the rock slope and fought hand-to-hand with the First Furthest Foot who were dug in most firmly on the crest of the breach. His elite huscarls fought a bloody battle in the trenches before they broke the defenders and swarmed over the breach. Fazzursson led the Palashee Axe's and the Quivers down from the breach in a ragged, tired charge against the inner wall. The King found two towers, like Garthael faced, battering his host that was soon constrained between the main wall and the internal wall while missiles hit them from all sides. There was no way to push the attack on, casualties mounted. Sigmund brought his Hedkoranthi warband, the Breakers of Jelmir to the top of the breach and set about bombarding the two towers with thunderstones. They quickly caught fire and the defenders were forced from their perches causing enough of a slackening of the defenders missile fire to allow ladders to be brought over the breach to be deployed against the inner wall.

There was a sudden blast of horns and a gate opened in the nearby keep releasing the Kingslayers regiment, rested, eager to battle, and old enemies to the Quivers, they crashed into the tired attackers, forcing them back.

Lothar led his band of humakti killers alongside the King and his bodyguards. He eagerly clove his way into the Kingslayers and delivered a score of champions to Humakt in the time that it would take a fat man to belch. He was close to King Fazzursson when the fell-handed Pordangor Fastblade, commander of the Kingslayers, struck off the valiant king's left leg and right hand. Lothar cut two lunar Kingslayers from his path and stepped over Fazzursson's body before Pordangor could finish his killing. Pordangor turned the full weight of his intimidating glare onto the Deathlord and Lothar involuntarily took a step back. But Lothar shook his head, started his death song and launched a blistering assault, battering the champion with a hail of iron-edged blows. Fastblade staggered back under the ferocious assault parrying desperately, he made to lunge at Lothar and then stepped back behind his bodyguard and withdrew into the protection of his regiment. Lothar cursed him for a coward.

Lothar and his warband pushed on battling the Kingslayers and left it to the Palashee Axes to carry their felled King from the field. When the entire Tarshite host followed their fallen king back out of the city, their morale broken for now, Lothar was forced to fall back with them. They left many of their comrades behind them.

Warlord Dragonfriend sent the Tanisor Spears forth to hold the breach and to erect ramparts there with engineers from Mularik's army to aid them. In short order a strong defensive position was built amid the rubble and artillery was soon sited on the crest of the breach.

With that, the assaults were called off for the winter. The breach was fortified and the tower in the south was reinforced. The soldiers in the camps set about building cabins and dugouts to protect themselves from the winter storms.

Gudny danced naked in the driving rain and sleet with his hair flowing free in the icy winds welcoming the caresses of Valind's Daughters.

Harmony Week/Dark Season

It was about this time that Argrath Dragonfriend received another of the High-King's directives:

Directive for 1634
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, Besieger and servant of Orlanth.

The year begins with the final preparations for victory over Lunar Tarsh with the defenders of the capital near defeat. To that end, the High King will personally direct operations in Tarsh, aided by his noble servants. As a basic prerequisite of victory for the campaigns ahead, the Army of Dragon Pass will be created to ensure maximum efficiency. This will require several initiatives:

(1). The Sword of Sartar will be replaced in his post by Argrath Sharpsword who will command fresh forces from Sartar and from his own domains. These forces will be arriving with the High King after Sacred Time and will be incorporated into the Army of Dragon Pass.

(2). Argrath Dragonfriend will be assigned to the post of Warwyrm of Dragon Pass, the direct subordinate in all matters military below the High King and direct superior to all others in the army. We deem Dragonfriend to be the only man with enough experience and skill to take up such a position.

(3). A new guard unit will be formed, independent of the personal bodyguard of the High King (the Wolfskins). The Warwyrm will be commander of his new bodyguard, to be organised and outfitted by the Warwyrm at the expense of the Kingdom of Dragon Pass. The unit shall be called the High Guard and its members must be recruited from all aspects of Dragon Pass. It shall number 4000 infantry of various sorts and 1000 cavalry.

(3). The Free Army will be disbanded and assigned land settlements as well as donatives by the previous Sword of Sartar, Dragonfriend at his own expense, as it is recognised that the troops are primarily loyal to him and thus he should be loyal to them and gift them generously. The units of the Free Army in the siege will be replaced by Mularik's forces and an increased commitment from Free Tarsh.

(4). The Army of Dragon Pass will thus compose the combined forces of the Sun Domers, Sartar, Heortland, Esrolia, Tarsh, Uz, Beastmen and the Grazers. Mercenary forces separate from the Army of Dragon Pass yet attached to it, will include those units commanded by Mularik plus the Praxian contingents. All of these forces will be commanded by the Warwyrm who will issue direct commands from the High King or act in his stead should he be absent.

The Assault

All overt offensive operations will cease against Furthest until these reorganisations have been completed and fair weather plus a surplus of supplies are obtained. Mularik Ironeye is to command the organisation of the assault and his plan is to be vetted and passed onto the High King by the Warwyrm.

Victory in Tarsh.

With the defeat of the remaining Imperial force in the region, 1634 promises to be a year of wholesale advances against the Empire. Holay and Aggar are our next targets and we trust that efforts have been made by the Warwyrm and will continue to be made to ensure their ease of conquest. The Army of Dragon Pass must be able to fight a prolonged war deep in the Empire.


Argrath Maniskisson

Argrath Maniskisson
High King

It doesn't need to be said that this news threw Dragonfriend into a thunderous rage. He was being deprived of his command and his soldiers were to be disbanded at his own expense - remember, you, that the Dragonfriend considered 'cheap' to be a compliment.

With the hosts of King Fazzursson, Queen Nerestina and Lord Mularik to hold the siege lines, King Dragonfriend gathered the Free Army: The Freemen, the Guildsmen, the King's Own Foot, the Candledancers, the Wolfrunners, the Little Shadows, the March Light Horse, the Antler Chase, the Thieves' Arm, the Headhunters, the Earth Twins and the Warm Sisters. All totalled, there were some six thousands and four hundreds of footmen, cavalry and magicians, all veterans of the campaigns to free Sartar and Tarsh.

Well, Dragonfriend gathered this host and spoke with them. He praised their unquenchable valour and he named them the mightiest of warriors and truest of supporters. "Thou hast subjugated a greater kingdom than your own and thrown off the chains of slavery. You have taken the fight into the Enemy's lands and thrown down their false-kings." He went on to tell them that there was nothing left to do in Tarsh but to clear away the debris and stab the last few rats. "And it is all your doing," he told them. The crowd set up a roaring cheer that could be heard across the river and by most of the foraging parties.

Then Dragonfriend read the High King's instructions to disband the Free Army. "YOU won this war," he screamed. "But you will be denied part of the victory. I will not deny you. I will not forget the blood that you paid for this victory." Then he announced that he would supply each of the veterans with 10 cows worth of land or goods and the host lost their voices in cheering for their Warlord. He offered 20 cows to each of his captains.

Dragonfriend had won their loyalty forever.

And so it came to pass that many of the host abandoned their old lands and clans and moved their families into the Far Point or into Dundealos Valley to be ruled by High-King Dragonfriend. About four hundreds of the veterans refused to muster out and wanted to join Dragonfriend's personal warband. He had a better idea for them.

Two units would not be disbanded but would still receive the 10-cow gift: The Little Shadows and the March Light Horse, both were sent back to Aldachur to rest and refit. Most of Argrath Whitebull's contributions to the Free Army were also sent home: the Pavic Shieldwall, the Bullocks and the Sword Brothers. Wolfe's Heavy Horse also went home to rest and see their families.

The remaining units in the Free Army, mostly mercenaries: the Goldgotti, the Longspear Slayers, the Axe Brothers, the Bush Children and the Free Philosophers were all reassigned to the Army of Dragon Pass as directed by the High King.

Now there was a woman named Drasti Hillrunner. She was the daughter of Red-Breanna the Killer who was the daughter of King Solonir of the Dinacoli. Red-Breanna had been exiled by the Dinacoli and joined the Orgovalti clan before the liberation of Aldachur. Drasti was a young woman, long of leg and strong of wind. She could run the Gors of the Far Point faster than any pony and had once outrun a hunting wolf-pack. Drasti was part of Prince Orgovalt's Hearth-Troop.

As Warwyrm Dragonfriend sent letters across his lands to arrange for the payments to his veterans, Drasti Hillrunner came to his booth before Furthest. The Warwyrm greeted her well and bade her be seated. He called for warm mead and hot soup for he could see that she had ridden long and hard through the gathering winter. Drasti greeted Argrath in the name of Prince Orgovalt and passed onto him a parchment scroll. "My Prince's Knowing Man hast sealed this scroll so that it will only open when touched by thy ring." Argrath asked if she knew the contents and when she did not he bade her relax there in front of the fire and strode into his bed chambers to read it.

From Orgovalt, Prince of Far Point
To: His noble Champion of Far Point and rightful King.

My liege, I write with news of events in Sartar and the intelligence I have gathered on your behalf. I did not trust this information to word of mouth for reasons of secrecy.

As you are by now no doubt aware, Maniskisson has adopted a significant change in policy in the last year and I think we can surmise the pressures that forced such a shift in such a headstrong man.

Sharpsword pulled out of the war effort last year claiming bankruptcy, though this was true to a point, he was not without resources to pull himself out of his fiscal difficulties nor was he in as bad a shape as he claimed. Your agents have spent much time in Heortland and Esrolia and I have taken the liberty of piecing together the puzzle for you, as you are no doubt distracted by events.

Sharpsword played up his difficulties knowing it would force Maniskisson into increasing taxes at home to support the war effort. The High King has been struggling mightily with the problems of paying for the war effort, supplying the troops and funding the mercenaries we have hired. Sartar has groaned under the weight of his tribute gathering to the point where it seemed to exceed that of the Lunars.

Apparently Sharpsword has made many friends within Sartar of late and encouraged them to speak out on the Iron Ring against the High King's policy. Discord in the kingdom had grown to great levels with tribute not being paid and outright rebellion against royal rule in several places, particularly with the Malani and their allies.

Esrolia too was limiting its funding for the war as the Queens council seemed to loose all enthusiasm at around the same time Sharpsword began enacting very heavy tolls on all shipping entering Choralinthor Bay. Make no mistake, Sharpsword is the pre-eminent naval power in the region, if not Genertela and his naval strength is bringing him vast wealth, and power.

Some weeks ago, a clandestine meeting occurred, spied on by one of Bronwyn's deep agents. Maniskisson was forced to meet with Sharpsword and offer him concessions, including the role of Sword of Sartar and the disbanding of Dragonfriend's troops. In return Sharpsword would refinance the war effort, allow Esrolian troops and support to flow once more and reduce the troubles his supporters were causing in the kingdom to nothing. Maniskisson apparently destroyed most of his apartments in his fury at implications of the meeting but agreed nonetheless. He appeared to have no choice.

However, he has adhered to his word yet gone beyond it by creating the post of Warwyrm and putting you over Sharpsword in the new Army of Dragon Pass. Sharpsword is livid but is bound also by his word for he is true, if conniving and ruthless. Maniskisson has made a bargain with the devil but upped the stakes beyond what was expected. The devil will not forget this however.

Above all, Sharpsword wishes you gone, while Maniskisson relies on you to counterbalance Sharpsword and prove a target for his ire instead of himself.

I hope this information is of help to you.

Your loyal servant

Orgovalt

Prince of Far Point


It was about a week later that High King Maniskisson arrived at Furthest. With him rode Argrath Sharpsword, the Sword of Sartar, Argrath Venharlsson and Argrath Whitebull. Besides their personal warbands, the High King also brought some 16,000 levies to be formed into the Army of Dragon Pass. Warlord Sharpsword rode in with Baron Sanuel and his regiment of knights, the Vaantar Phalanx, and the Army of Tomorrow, knights and foot - all destined to join the Army of Dragon Pass.

The Companions quickly assessed the new troops: new conscripts, old men, stick pickers, criminals and more like them. Poor material but with a strong cadre a potent force could be built if enough time and experience was given them.

Warwyrm Dragonfriend rode forth to meet the High King and say "Good day." Maniskisson greeted Dragonfriend warmly. "Hail noble Warwyrm," he exclaimed. "Thou hast done wondrous feats here. Dragon Pass is very grateful for your efforts."

Dragonfriend thanked the High King for his words and gave the opinion that Warlord Sharpsword should be capable of finishing the mopping up. Maniskisson glanced at Sharpsword and reminded Warwyrm Dragonfriend that "The Sword Sharpsword is but a mere general in your army." Dragonfriend greeted Sharpsword warmly, the High King of Choralinthor replied curtly through gritted teeth, he was not content with being a 'mere general' to anyone, as ever Sharpsword's ambitions new no bounds.

Argrath Whitebull, the Prince of Prax greeted Dragonfriend with a massive grin and barely repressed chuckles, "We must speak later." Dragonfriend replied that it would be a pleasure.

Now it should be mentioned that the Wolfrunners spoke with King Dragonfriend before they left and let him know that they would refuse to serve alongside the High King and his Wolfskins bodyguard. "We await the day that we can bodyguard a true king of Sartar." Dragonfriend understood their feelings and wished them well, gifting them once more before they went home and sharing some time with them to talk of old times of outlawry and adventure.

Over the next few days the War Captains met with the High King and his Warwyrm and discussed the progress of the siege, how to carry it forth and what to do with the Army of Dragon Pass.

Queen Nerestina, King Fazzursson, Warlord Sharpsword, Lord Mularik, Argrath Venharlsson and Prince Whitebull were all made generals in the new army.

The High King turned to Dragonfriend and spake thusly: "We have 16,000 men to train. There are 3000 horses that we can use to mount some of them. I leave it up to you to arrange the men and to determine their training. Then you can assign the hosts to each of the generals."

The Warwyrm spake of his 400 veterans that had volunteered to form cadre for the new regiments, Sharpsword, Fazzursson and Whitebull all offered up soldiers as well and so there were two thousands of veterans to shore up the recruits. The total forces available were thus 18,000 of which 5,000 were to be formed into the High Guard, the new army within an army that the High King wished formed.

Come Fertility Week, Gudny gathered his Righteous Wind and rode off through the snows into Aggar. With him rode Lothar and his four-score humakti and Sigmund and his Breakers of Jelmir. Their self-appointed task was to see Aggar stripped from the Empire and its forces added to the rebellion.

Dragonfriend met with Whitebull and shared a private dinner with him. They spoke of this and that and feasted on into the night. Whitebull pointed out that he had deliberately withdrawn from the politics on the Argrath Council. "But I am itching to get back into the fighting," he said. "I will have no trouble fighting under your command." Dragonfriend replied that Whitebull was the only one of his generals that the Warwyrm could trust. They both acknowledged that they knew Sharpsword was trying for power.

Well, after much discussion with his generals and various war captains in the host, Dragonfriend decided on a force structure for the new men. In the High Guard, he chose to form one regiment of axe wielding huscarls, two phalanxes, a medium foot, a regiment of cataphracts and one of horse archers. The rest of the army would have two regiments of heavy foot, two phalanxes, four foot regiments, two archers, one light foot, one heavy horse, two medium horse and one light horse.

Training began immediately before the walls of Furthest.

Sea Season, 1634

For the rest of the winter, the new regiments trained. Dragonfriend organised competitions between the men and drilled them hard. Each regiment was formed around a cadre of experienced men drawn from the bodyguards and followers of the generals of the army. Many had served in the Free Army and were thus loyal to Dragonfriend. The Vaantar phalanx lent many of its drill instructors to the training of the phalanx in Sun Domer discipline while those regiments who had left the Lunar Tarsh army brought their experiences with them and trained the men in Lunar tactics.

In the city, the allies noticed that most of the horses had been slaughtered. One morning the allies found 2,000 starving peasants had been shoved out of the gates and were forced to care for them. When questioned the refugees said the defenders were prepared to fight to the death, as was King Pharadros. There would be no meek surrender in Furthest.

In the north, the tunnel passed under the city walls and breached the sewers without being detected, though the work was slow and hard through the tough rock. In the south and the east the besiegers burrowed down from their footholds in the tower and the breach and running battles erupted in the sewers that were a maze beneath the city. The Furthest defenders knew those tunnels well though and had fortified choke points within the system that restricted travel and protected entrance in the city proper.

Isildirian sent more engineers bringing the number of dwarves to 200. They built two massive assault towers before the eastern gate. Each was 40 ells tall and faced in bronze polished to mirror brightness. Each tower moved on wheels that lay their own roadway[1] and carried several breaching cannons. The construction was hidden from the city by great canvas sheets so that none within would know exactly what was being built. The dwarves brought with them several of their assault ladders that could be launched at a wall and form solid ramps to march over. They also built two massive rams that were powered, like the towers, by mysterious dwarven engines.

Dragonfriend gathered his generals and war captains to meet with the High King. He asked Mularik to present the assault plan the Tanisori had created and was free with his praise for it.

First Mularik described what had been learned of the city during the winter. He spoke of fortresses being built within the walls. He said that the palace, the theatre and Hippodrome, the temple district and several others had been surrounded in 30-40 foot walls to form independent strong points within the city, yet each was likely to be linked to the other by tunnels, to allow reinforcement and retreat. He also noted that the docks area had been largely abandoned and that the city gate there was often left open to facilitate movement between the city and the fortified docks.

Next, Mularik described his attack plan. He spoke of the two assault towers being moved up to assail the eastern keep while the battering ram breached the gate. The towers could suppress the gatekeep and the flanking towers while they were tall enough to dominate the inner wall. It was hoped that the polished bronze would render the Lunar's chaos beams ineffective. Three assault barges would be sailed down the river and used to pass troops into the docks. General Fazzursson, healed of his wounds, would lead the assault on and through the gatekeep. General Sharpsword would use the dwarven assault ladders to cross the inner walls before the breach. General Whitebull would attack from the southern tower. General Nerestina would launch a surprise attack through the northern tunnel. Mularik himself would lead a flying assault on the western gate, hopefully using infiltrators to seize the keep and allowing the troops from the barges easy access into the city.

In Disorder Week the Dragonfriend's Companions returned from Aggar with great news from that land, that a rebellion was underway against the Lunar lackey, King Rascius One-Eye. King Dragonfriend also received a letter from the Queen of Holay.

Proposal of Union

To the Lord of Dragons
From her Majesty Queen Karsalla of Holay
May the Earths bless this text with the fertility of understanding.

Dragonlord, I will speak plainly, for the Earth has little time for fripperies, your equal wife has made plain her desire to see your house rise triumphant over that of all other Argraths, and thus at first made me uncomfortable, for she is a ruthless and dangerous woman. Yet the Earth knows all and sees the past and future as one as everything we are and will be or have ever been is of the Earth, so I took my concerns to the depths in a great quest for the truth. Asrelia gave up her secrets to me on many deep quests to her hoarded wisdom and I have seen the truth. The Dragon will rise over the Earth either as a force of great good or great destruction, the determinant of which will be the willingness of the Earth to once more take up the challenge of Ernalda and tame the unruly passions which narrow the greatness of men to that of violence and wanton devastation.

The Empire reels from the defeats your alliance and that of Carmania, Rinliddi, Sylila and the nomad hordes have delivered to it. The disappearance of the true Red Emperor has cut the heart from the Lunar command of inclusion and unity, leaving the power of the Empire to be fought over by lesser folk as hounds squabble over scraps from the table. My Queendom is eyed covetously by Sylila who seeks to recreate the Kingdom of Saird and an Empire of the Provinces all of their own. This must not be. Our lands are ruled by ancient tradition and by the power of Ernalda and I would keep it so.

Thus I come to my offer. Should you wish it, my daughter will be offered to you as equal wife. She is a mere child as yet and needs 6 more years of training to take up her duties and be of age to marry, but should I pass on to the halls of Asrelia, for I spend much of my time there now, you shall be regent of Holay, commander of her armies and protector of your wife's rights to rule. You will be named Sacred King when married.

Such an offer does not come without peril or prerequisites. You must make pledge to defend our Queendom, to safeguard our people and to treat my daughter Inkarne with the utmost respect and when she turns 15 and is old enough to rule you must on the honour of your turbulent god step aside and obey her in all things relating to Holay. Be warned that there are Lunar elements within Holay who will oppose this move and I am unable to take war to them due to my infirmity. Those troubles will be for you to accept and overcome.

The dowry I offer is a land of 300,000 peoples and much wealth and troops to aid your cause. The bride price is you must obey my conditions to your very death.

How will you respond?

Karsalla

Karsalla, Queen of Holay


Harmony Week, Sea Season, 1634

The Final Assault on Furthest.

On the night of the Dying Moon, the army moved to assault the city. A band of Fazzurites flew into the docks dressed in captured uniforms from the Fourth Furthest Foot, the weakest of the garrison regiments and that assigned to the western keep. The Fazzurites seized the gate at dawn and General Mularik secured the entire keep with his flying band. The assault barges offloaded over 2000 troops, including Sigmund, who streamed through the open gates and into the city without opposition. The Phargentite Foot and the King's Own Lancers - the only cavalry left in the city - quickly responded and the fighting grew fierce in the streets with charge and counter charge strewing the cobbles with corpses.

With the coming of the dawn, the Temple of Resonance began to glow again. Sigmund tried to smash it with his stones but the traitorous Doburdani winds protected it from all assaults.

In the east the siege towers ground their way forward and the ram started smashing its way through the city gates, the iron tip of the ram ground through the bronze panels and stout beams quickly. The red beam from the Temple of Resonance struck out at the towers but was deflected by the mirrored bronze and instead smashed a hole in the Hippodrome.

General Sharpsword launched his attack from the breach over the dwarven assault ramps and achieved complete surprise hacking his way over the inner walls and into the city, the defenders were overwhelmed once their advantage of position was nullified.

Kamoar led the assault out of the northern tunnels and butchered his way through the light defences in the north emerging into the streets and forming up with Nerestina's Axe Maidens and Ernaldan fanatic warriors.

General Whitebull led the assault through the southern tower. Gudny Alakoringsson used his magics to sweep the inner towers clear of men and machines and the assault carried the inner walls.

General Fazzursson led his division through the now sundered eastern gates following the success of the rams.

At all points the city's outer defences were breached but the defenders were not daunted and retreated in good order to their inner defences.
The fighting raged through the day in bloody street-to-street battles. Sharpsword assaulted the palace and was driven off with heavy loss by a counterattack from the Kingslayers and several elite warrior cults. Gudny and his magicians battled five-score vecors when they assailed the temples and though they were defeated it was not before the crimson warriors slew many a brave Orlanthi.

Warwyrm Dragonfriend directed the mopping up and the systematic reduction of the strong-points within the city. The army stormed the Hippodrome and the defenders, the Retired Veterans and the First Futhest Foot, surrendered to the attackers after tenacious resistance.

Underneath the city a battle was fought to penetrate the tunnel system and deny the defenders travel along it from strong point to strong point. Many died in the dark but the defensive network was slowly unravelled and closed down.

Sigmund and his warband smashed the Temple of Resonance and gave a great cheer when their long-time foe in the siege was finally toppled. The ruin of the disc brought down a large section of the defences around it and allowed the soldiers of Dragon Pass to come to grips with their foes. Gudny smashed the temple of Doburdan and that of the Still Air and saw to it that their alters and artefacts were utterly destroyed.

It took the host a further six days to reduce all of the strong points though most of them surrendered once the attackers gained their walls in strength or once they tunnels were closed and they were cut off from retreat or reinforcement.

At last, only the Palace remained, a huge and solid stone building and fortress. Dragonfriend ordered the dwarf towers brought forth to pound the palace with their breaching cannon and reduced the walls to rubble. A path had to be made through the rubble to allow them in. Even though the palace was pounded into a heap of debris by artillery and magic, the Kingslayers and other Lunar fanatics holed up with King Pharandros refused to surrender and repulsed a dozen separate assaults.

Finally, Dragonfriend unleashed his own warband and led his elite Storm Dragon Guard in the assault on the final defences. The fighting was bloody and extended long into the afternoon for the palace was riddled with tunnels and barricades. The walls were buttressed and loopholed. After six hours of heroic, though bitter combat, Dragonfriend and his Companions burst into the throne room. Behind him came Fazzursson, Whitebull, Mularik and Nerestina with their elite bodyguards.

Before them stood the remnants of the King's Guard, the chosen core of the Kingslayers. The False-King stood in the middle of the room glowing in magics. He carried the Scimitar of Phargentes Kingslayer and appeared to have heroformed that lunar godling for he was taller and broader than he had ever been seen before and his presence was overpowering.

At the rear of the room, quiescent on a pile of rubble was Dragonfriend's bedraggled Seeing Companion Bronwyn Fallenstead. The Warwyrm used the powers of Mastakos to carry his thane into the midst of his guard and greeted him warmly. "I escaped when the walls came down," spake Bronwyn. "I guess they didn't notice me wandering around." Though the Companions knew that it was his ability to pass unnoticed that had likely saved Bronwyn's life in the confusion.

Pharandros spake thusly: "Congratulations Dragonfriend. You have pulled down my kingdom but my family escaped your foul talons. Enjoy your empty victory for they are even now in Glamour petitioning the Emperor for aid. They will return at the head of an army and bring you down with the Emperor's support."

With that, the lunar raised his malevolent blade and charged Dragonfriend along with his King's Guard. Dragonfriend's Companions leapt to meet them. Sigmund hurled a crackling thunderstone at the Red-king but struck and vapourised one of his guard. Garthael waded into the melee and struck down five of the best fighters in Tarsh with two swings of his dire blade. Kamoar leapt atop a mighty champion that was the victor of fifty duels and tore his heart out through his back. Lothar stepped in front of the Dragonfriend and parried the lunar king's god-strengthened assault. He struck back with Severance and the blow passed through the king's armour and hewed his arm from his body. Mularik struck from the other side and severed Pharandros' head, ending things in the manner of his people. When the Companions looked up from the suddenly small and bedraggled body of Pharandros, there was not a Lunar alive in the room, or the palace.

And so ended the siege of Furthest. One year of fighting and one afternoon of looting, pillaging and plundering reduced over 100 years of Lunar progress to nothing.

[1] They moved on tank-like tracks.

 


 


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October 20, 2002

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