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The Saga of the Gwandorlings - 79

"They sent emissaries. That was an act of war!"
- Kamoar on diplomacy

"We'll ravage the country-side!"
"Sheep included?

Earth/1634

Our tale needs now turn to the Zalador Hills in Aggar where the Summer tribes - led by their High King Argrath Stormchaser - met the Winter tribes - led by their Warlord Sandor Redsword.

Now both hosts had prepared extensively for the clash. The airs over most of Aggar were still for every storm priest in the highlands had summoned umbroli from far and away to serve their Storm King. High King Stormchaser summoned the Silver Age hero, Harangot the Conqueror to fight at his side and brooding black clouds hovered over the armies.

When the hosts finally came together, the Winter tribes numbered some 27,000 warriors - many of them veterans from the Church Militant. The bulk of the host was in the Great Fyrd, 2,000 huscarls and 8,000 fyrdmen. There were 1,000 of the Red-King's elite Royal Huscarls, 1,000 Zalador Huscarls, 1,000 Gormli Highlanders, 2,000 mounted thanes and 500 horsmen in the Oki Horse. The Lunar Provincial Church Militant sent the True Winds - 1,000 Doburdani warriors, 2,000 soldiers in Deezola's Faithful, 1,000 in Yanfal's Courage, 1,500 horse in Natha's Bounty, Etyries' Guardians and Jakaleel's Nightmares and there were 1,000 warrior priests and their guards in the Crimon Elites. There were 3,000 skirmishers in the Road Javelineers and 1,500 more in Danfive's Blessing. Sandor rode at the head of his own guard of 500 dragoons - the Redswords. Finally, there were 100 war mammoths, each 20 feet tall and girt around with armoured plates and a battle tower with four archers atop it. The hosts met before the village of Gerdal.

Map of the Battle of Summer and Winter

High King Stormchaser shrouded his host in a blanket of mist and deployed to the left of the road. Brave performers and the High King's trickster combined to create the illusionary sounds and sights of a host moving straight up the road. On his right, the king's magicians turned the earth into a muddy quagmire.

Sandor's cavalry attacked before Stormchaser could complete his deployment. The war mammoths crashed into the Forantin Screamers and shattered the regiment. The Highlanders stood their ground and held off the rampaging beasts though at grievous cost. The Oki horse charged into the Tarsh Light Foot before it could reach the forest. The Tarshites held firm in the face of the assault and drew the horsemen into a running battle in the woods that would ultimately destroy the lowlanders. The Thanic Horse charged at the gap between the Sun Dome Phalanx and the Highlanders. With a crisp command, Sota shifted the phalanx to catch the thanes and ground half of the regiment under his relentless advance. The rest of the horsemen crashed into the highlanders who barely moved and fought back with that famous ferocity of the mountain men.

The Summer tribes unleashed a sky-darkening horde of umbroli that were met by a crimson wave of vecors in a ferocious spiritual battle.

In the centre, Sandor's Fyrd couldn't turn fast enough to meet Gudny's host head-on and the Summer fyrd, led by the Vengeance Gale, Mitchuinn Moonhaters and the King with his own bodyguard smashed into the hapless Winter fyrd. Even outclassed as they were, the farmers and smiths of the low lands held their line in the face of the highland attack.

King Argrath Stormchaser himself tore through the forces arrayed before him slaying a man with every thrust of his Thunderbolt spear and scattering formations with the might of his magics. Seventy and nine of the Bad-King's Royals fell before the Stormking that day.

On the right, the regiments of the Church Militant were stopped by the field of mud and turned in behind the Great Fyrd adding to the carnage in the centre.

In the Winter rear, the Skanthi auxiliaries swarmed out of the woods and attacked the village burning down large portions of it in the fierce fighting with the Crimson Elite while the scouts from the Righteous Wind scoured the woods slaying stragglers and harassing the retreating.

After four hours of grinding battle Sandor sounded retreat on his war horns and surrendered the field to King Argrath. The Summer host let the Winter tribes withdraw as neither had the energy to continue the fighting. In all, 6000 of the lowland warriors lay on the field - most of them from the fyrd itself - while some 3000 of the highland warriors lay with them - most of the Forantin Screamers among them. We needs mention that King Stormchaser was little concerned over the losses to the Forantin Screamers for they were his least loyal regiment with nearly half of their number mustering from the Winter Tribes.

Over the weeks to come the hosts fought with raid and counter raid across the hills. King Stormchaser received word that forces of flying wyrms from the City of 10,000 Magicians were raiding his tulas in the west and the Stormlord grew wroth.

When word of the happenings in Aggar reached the Argraths in Fillichet the Sword of Sartar, Argrath Sharpsword spake thusly: "I would that I could go into Aggar and aid our fellow Argrath in his trails. He has invited me to guest with him in the past and I have some knowledge of that region that may aid him."

Warwyrm Dragonfriend replied thusly: "Noble as thy thoughts are, our own army marches soon to battle and thy skills would be of more use to our purpose here than in the hills of Aggar. I cannot agree to this request."

In breach of all protocol, Argrath Sharpsword spoke with High King Argrath Maniskisson who agreed and commanded that he attend to King Stormchaser. Warwyrm Argrath Dragonfriend spoke with the High King later about this to inquire as to why he had been overruled and Maniskisson replied thusly: "I don't want Sharpsword around me. I want the glory of our coming battles to be mine!" The Warwyrm could do naught but agree with the High King's command but he refused to send any soldiers with Sharpsword.

The Warwyrm turned his attention, now, to the north. He marched his host across Holay to Fyllich Kwan where he intended to establish a base for his campaign north of the Black Eel River. There were some minor skirmishes between his outriders and scouts from Mirins Cross.

Now one should know that the Dragonking intended to march on Hortugarth to draw out the Sairdite army. Once the enemy was moving, Argrath planned on turning back and attacking them in the rear.

The Warwyrm's Knowing Man, Bronwyn Fallenstead arranged for some dispatches to fall into King Ingkotarm's hands that spoke of arrangements for the assault on Hortugarth. Bronwyn also passed word through his contacts in Mirins Cross to Tothus Seven-Seventh's contacts there that he wished to meet with the Imperial spy-master to discuss their mutual Sylilan problem.

It was about this time that Argrath Dragonking sent most of his Storm Dragon Guards back to Stone Storm Valley where they would establish a depot and cadre and then muster up to a full regiment. The extra numbers would come from the best of the mustered-out veterans of the Army of Sartar.

Once the host was arrayed about Fyllich Kwan, High King Maniskisson issued another directive to the Warwyrm. It read thusly:

Directive for 1634 Earth Season
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 Army of Dragon Pass is now in place at Fyllich Kwan which will be designated our operational base. From this staging point it is my intention for our forces to bring war to the Sairdites, threatening Sylilan control over their lands and forcing King Ingkotarm to the field of battle where we shall crush his armies and isolate Mirins Cross for siege.

To that end:

(1). The Warwyrm will assemble the maximum forces available for the crossing of the Black Eel river, limited forces of lesser quality can be devoted to other theatres and a minimal garrison of 5000 troops of decent quality has to be deployed in Fyllich Kwan but otherwise the army for the invasion of Saird must be as large as we can make it to ensure victory in battle.

(2). The Issaries cult has offered, for fair remuneration, the use of its many mules as a means of carrying supplies for the army. In large part the army will have to live of the land and forage for food, though the enemies crops should be in and accessible to raid. Otherwise the mules will bear the bulk of the army's supplies. No wagons are to be taken with the army; it is imperative that speed be maintained.

(3). Upon crossing of the Black Eel, using the river fleet to be assembled at Fyllich Kwan by the Warwyrm, the army will advance to the east of the Isildon River threatening Hortugarth, raiding as we go the surrounding countryside. However our main intention is to use the Isildon to mask the left flank of our advance and guard our own line of communication while drawing the Sairdite army after us. A demonstration against Hortugarth will be necessary to convince the Sairdites that we intend to assail the city in force. It is vital that this is a convincing demonstration.

(4). After we have drawn the Sairdite army north east of Gold Cross, we shall cross the Fegral Ford by forced march south of Gold Cross and advance rapidly towards the north west, cutting their relief army off from its line of communication, coming between them and Mirins Cross. At this point we should be able to bring them to battle, on ground of our choosing, decisively crushing them. At no time can we allow the Sairdites to regain their access to Mirins Cross. It is only by threatening their line of communication can we successfully draw them to fight on our terms.

By defeating their field force, we can finally advance on Mirins Cross, once that has fallen then the southern provinces will be ours.

Argrath Maniskisson

Argrath Maniskisson
High King

Warwyrm Dragonking set about assembling a fleet of barges and marshalling the herds of mules as they arrived.

We needs now take our telling into Balazar where Kamoar Shadowstalker had gathered his host along with the newly proclaimed King of Balazar - Trayvus the True. With the King's muster and the Bovakite Light Foot, Kamoar commanded a host nye upon two-thousands and proceeded to march on Elkoi with it.

When the host passed into the lands around Elkoi they were met by emissaries from the local kingling - Sylveius the Barber. "We doth protest thy presence within our borders with this army. There must be some mistake in thy intentions. This is part of the Glorious and Benevolent Lunar Empire! Be thee gone and take thy grim faced soldiers with you." The emissaries continued like this for some time before Kamoar lost patience with their lunar platitudes and slew them all. The host marched on.

Kamoar set the Bovakite Foot to surrounding the citadel of Elkoi and then waited for nightfall. In the darkness he leapt to the top of the gate keep. He turned his back on the guardsman and fastened a rope to the walls for his warband to use. The brave stable boy-turned-militia-man lunged at Kamoar with his spear, missed and plummeted from the wall [1].

In the next hour Kamoar and his warband rampaged through the keep and the citadel throwing open the gates and slaying all who offered resistance. By morning, King Trayvus sat on the throne and had granted Sylveius a charter as the town's first barber [2]. The local clans rallied to Trayvus' claim and cheered the liberation by the Argrathi. Before his people, King Trayvus swore his loyalty to Kamoar and asked the Shadowstalker to be his warlord, Kamoar impatiently agreed.

Next Kamoar returned to Trilus. He passed over the citadel walls at night walking through shadows until he reached the kingling's rooms. With little more noise than a sigh he slew the guards and passed within. With a quick wrench of his clawed fist Yalvan and his wife were dead.

Before morning Yalvan's children were dead and any of his guards who felt the need to protest the executions were dead alongside them. Warriors loyal to King Trayvus arrived in the daylight to occupy the citadel and the king appointed a governor to rule in his name. In the weeks to come there was to be some minor squabbling between clans that supported the King and those that preferred dead-Yalvan but no serious threat to King Trayvus' rule was to arise.

Now Warlord Kamoar turned his attention to the citadel of Dykene. Dykene was the furthest from the Oslir, standing like a bulwark before the Elder Wilds. It would take the Bovakite Light Foot two weeks to march there. Kamoar and Gettig covered the distance in one on their own.

As they neared the citadel Kamoar espied several hunting bands watching them and saw large hawks with riders in the sky. The citadel itself was impressive. The outer bailey had recently been torn down and rebuilt in a style remarkably like that used by the Sun Domes.

At this point several giant hawks and their riders swooped low overhead and loosed arrows near to Kamoar. A band of riders came from the citadel led by a man wearing gilt iron armour marked with the runes of Yelmalio and several other subcults and heroes. The band rode under a banner of parley.

Riding with the leader were several warriors whose equipment Kamoar recognised, they belonged to the Scorched Swords warband, a unit that the Argrathi had thought destroyed after the fighting along the Dragon Spine.

"I am Cheus Starfire," spoke the leader. "I welcome Kamoar of Sartar and Gettig of Heortland. It is not often that we receive visitors from the Argrathi. This land is claimed by the Pentaverate and is blessed by the True Faith of Daysenarus. There is nothing here for you. Please return from whence you came."

Kamoar replied that he had come seeking mercenaries but Cheus would have none of that. "And what then of the Bovakite Foot following behind you? What then of the dead lord of Trilus and the new king in Elkoi. No. While I will not call thee a false-speaker, we will have no dealings with you. This land is sacred to Daysenarus."

Kamoar thanked Cheus for his time and passed back into the west. He turned that night and scouted the citadel to the best of his ability. He found that it was defended by some 200 of the Scorched Swords, 100 templars and 25 hawk riders. He estimated that the local clans could raise a further 1000 fyrdmen.

Kamoar returned to Trilus with his host and sent word to Dragonfriend of his findings. Warwyrm Dragonking sent word that aid was on the way. He asked the Deathlord Lothar Deathbringer if he would fare into Balazar to take the citadel - Lothar agreed. Dragonfriend then sent his follower Sigmund the Stormblade along with Lothar. With their two warbands combined there were 500 veteran warriors.

In Aggar, High King Stormchaser received High King Sharpsword in his be-ribboned pavilion in the hills east of the Autumn Mtns. Stormchaser greeted Sharpsword warmly and bade him be seated at his side. Sharpsword gifted Stormchaser with a rich golden torque encrusted with diamonds. Stormchaser gifted Sharpsword with an iron tunic encrusted with rubies. "My fyrd-man Skef the Meek slew an imperial champion with his dagger. I gave him the man's arms and a place in my Thunder Spears for his bravery. I give you the tunic," spake Gudny.

Well the two kings drank and ate and spoke of this and that. King Sharpsword spoke of the mean-spirited Warwyrm and the corruption of the army by his draconic influences. They then discussed the failings of the Dragonfriend in some detail.

In time their conversation turned to the free jolanti, known as the Drengi that lived in the hills of Aggar with a tribe of Aldryami. "I would that they would support me as king and aid me in throwing down the redmen," spake Gudny. Sharpsword agreed to speak with the jolanti for," I spent some time with them in my youth and they owe me a favour."

Now the kings spoke of the City of 10,000 Magicians. Stormchaser spoke of destroying their Explorer Dragon but that didn't stop them from raiding him. Sharpsword spoke of the differing factions within the city and opinioned that the flying wyrms were from the Celestial Faction. "I know how to deal with them as well." Stormchaser suggested that the city could be bought for less than it could be fought and Sharpsword agreed to look into the matter.

Now it needs be said that the orlanthings were winning most of the skirmishes that were occurring with the lunars. In late Earth Season, after both fyrds had returned to their fields to try and save the harvests, the Winter tribes again marched south to offer battle.

It was about then that General Sharpsword returned from his journeys with good news for the Aggaring king. In his company were five jolanti warriors, each standing a good 20 ells tall [3]. Sharpsword spoke of his visits with the jolanti and with the magicians.

Sharpsword told how the magicians had agreed to stop raiding the kingdom and to swear fealty to the king - even agreeing to pay taxes - in return for ten thousand golden wheels. Sharpsword mentioned that having most of the jolanti tribe along with him at that point was a helpful negotiating tactic. King Stormchaser agreed to the terms and wryly remarked that "they will spend the next 100 years paying back the money that I just gave them." Sharpsword laughed and replied that the City had also agreed to pay ten thousands golden wheels of tax in advance.

Of the Jolanti, Sharpsword said that they had agreed to swear fealty to Stormchaser and sent five of their best warriors to fight for him. Stormchaser thanked Sharpsword for his efforts and thanked the Jolanti for their support.

When he heard about the coming battle, Sharpsword asked to fight with King Stormchaser.

In Fyllich Kwan, Bronwyn told the Dragonfriend that he would fare north to Hortugarth and spread discord within the city. "It will reinforce the image of our impending assault." With that he passed unnoticed through the Dog Plains and into what was now Imther.

Hortugarth itself was not an imposing sight. The city had long seen peace and prosperity. The walls were no more than 10 ells tall at their highest and the towers were old and crumbling. The city was the centre of the Jajagappan peoples; it was the largest city on the Dog Plains and was a major market and trading stop with the east. The people there were well fed and contented with life.

Bronwyn began by spreading rumours among the merchants of slaughters in the south perpetuated by the Argrathi. "Our city needs protecting," he told the merchants with his most seductive voice. "They will ravage our women," he told the craftsmen in the pubs while he sang and waltzed for them. "They will plunder our temples," he told the acolytes from the depths of his hood.

He then began the other side of Hunting and Waltzing and sought information on the Sairdite and Imtherian hosts, on the local rulers and politics and on the feelings of the people.

In Fyllich Kwan, Bronwyn's messenger returned with a scroll from Tothus Seven-Seventh. With his Knowing Man gone King Dragonfriend met with the man himself. In puzzlement he turned to the messenger, "this scroll is blank, there is nothing on it, do you carry a verbal message?" The messenger smiled in reply, "I knew not which languages your man could read," spoke Tothus as his mystical disguise dissipated. "Worry not, thy messenger is safe and will be returned in time."

Well Argrath welcomed Tothus and offered him salt and mead. He spoke of Tothus' desire to see Sylila embarrassed and asked after any information that the mystic may have on the rulers and leaders that could help him do so. He also asked what the Sairdites knew of the Argrathi plans.

Tothus replied thusly: "King Ingkotarm is eager to battle you. He is waiting for you cross the Black Eel at which time he will march and attack your host. He is confident of victory - or at least that is what his messages to his father say. He has refused all offers of aid from his father insisting that he will destroy your host on his own." Tothus went on to say that King Ingkotarm expected Dragonfriend to either march north and west or north and east ravaging the plains. Tothus then spoke of how the Sairdites had to hold Mirins Cross at all costs, "for it is the King's capital, the Overseer's seat and the home of the Church Militant." Tothus reaffirmed that the Empire would not intervene as they wished to see Sylila bloodied.

With that the two went their own ways - and Argrath began an investigation into how he could stop Tothus from penetrating his security so easily.

 

[1] Kamoar was not concerned with the guard as his cloak (ability 2w2) was proof from all but the strongest blows. Unfortunately for the guardsman (ability 15) he bid everything he had, rolled a 20 and fell off of the wall.
[2] It turned out that Sylveius was a lunar puppet and was more than happy to take up barbering.
[3] Ell = roughly 2 feet.


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7 February 2003