Uhm, yeah… Protagonist. Not first of the redshirts, the protagonist who’s surely going to survive. Yeah…
Chapter 2: Encyclopedia
The Outskirt (territories)(click image to enlarge)
-Red: The Wild tribe
-Purple: The Dust tribes.
-Yellow: The Nihilists
-Blue: The kingdom of Park
-Green: The elven settlements of Eisblüme and Frühling
-Black: Blighted lands
(Ignore the units positioned here and the flaws of me printscreening the map into paint, they mean nothing.)
The endless salt desert:
As the name suggests, it’s a very large desert with high salt concentrations mixed in with the sand. Due to this salt, the desert is too arid for anything to grow even if there were drinkable water anywhere in these infertile lands. The size of the salt desert is massive, to the point where its size may actually be called infinite due to the unknown borders. Many have trekked around its outskirts in search for the answer, only to die of old age first.
The Lalala mountains:
This mountain range was named by a vengeful or just inconsiderate Goblin several centuries ago, and the dwarves were forced to accept this disrespectful name of the mountains despite their loathing. If it were not for their traditions and laws being absolute about the discoverer’s rights regarding naming new mountains they would have ignored this Goblin entirely, but unfortunately the Goblin had a strong case and the dwarves had to acknowledge his rights of being the first. It goes without saying that this Goblin is one of the most hated names in the book of grudges.
There were at one time dwarven clans inhabiting these mountains despite its name, but the loathing for its name persisted throughout the centuries and eventually proved greater than the pride in their own fortresses. After the first blight war, the clans left these ridiculous mountains to occupy the fortresses whose clans were completely wiped out by the immortals. The Dwarven fortresses of the Lalala mountain were sealed and abandoned, with only rumours of pale ghost still roaming these desolate places.
This place is supposed to be a fertile, bountiful meadow of grasslands and forests, perfect for humans and elves. This is not the case, as instead the salt and sand that has been blown through the passage has turned many miles of earth into harsh and dry deserts. While the ground is not as infertile as in the eternal salt desert, the vegetation around here has to be hardy and stubborn to survive.
The Wild tribe:
A band of savage orcs scorn by the other tribes, the Wilds used to be honourless warmongers who broke any and all rules the orcs made among one another. When they found the outskirt and settled there, these habits didn’t change. The Wilds have no qualms with slavery, suppressing other tribes and breaking ancient traditions when it’s beneficial for them.
But one of the most controversial systems of their tribe is their monarchy system. Since the dawn of time the tribe has been ruled by a single family rather than obeying the traditions of democratic government and positions of power being earned through combat. Instead, the Wild family has accumulated more and more power and influence for themselves and created a one-sided system much alike the humans’ nobility. While the laws of combat are officially still in effect, any combatants able of defeating the warlord in power are either send away during the annual tribe meeting, or arrested after obeying or refusing a command that’s in violation of orc traditions. Many mighty warriors of the Wild clan have been sentences to the Encampment just because they could be a threat to the established order.
While sending away quite a few mighty warriors, the Wild clan is still a powerful force to be reckoned with. They are strong, plentiful and cunning, but their main strategy of staying in control lies in a system of war that prevents the two other tribes in the outskirt from changing the status quo:
While the three orc tribes combined are powerful enough to annihilate the human dukedom located nearby, the Wilds have ensured that a perpetual war has been raging for centuries without a clear victor being decided. When the Dust tribe or the Nihilists grow too powerful, the Wilds declare war against the humans and force the other two tribes to be the vanguard and the ones to take the blunt of the humans’ counter attacks. By doing this before the other tribes could grow strong enough to challenge the Wild, and claiming the wealth of the fallen after the skirmishes, the Wilds have ensured the stalemate to persist to this day.
The Wild clan consists of approximately 2000 orcs, is currently led by the tribe leader / warlord / slavedriver Thallal Wild and is estimated to have about 8000 slaves from various races in their unmarked encampment. Their size and battle prowess is below average for a warlord-led tribe, but their wealth lies significantly above the average.
The Dust tribe
The Dusts are a tribe consisting of many smaller tribes each with their own colour and recipe for face paint dust. The farmer’s tribe of Sheepsdust is the largest and leading group of the tribe, although this is more at the hand of the Wilds than by their own merits. Other families worth mentioning are the Silverdust and the Summerdust, both of which also have a village of their own. The many Dust tribes that live among these three and in their own villages can vary greatly in size and influence, but rarely are they great enough to be called a real tribe rather than a large family.
While the Dusts were once known for their warriors and fierce battle prowess, who strived to ensure that their specific colour of face paint was feared and revered on the battlefield, nowadays they’re called Dusts for working in the desert sands. The battle paints have been reduced to recipes for traditional occasions and show of wealth or standing.
While they still have warriors and shamans, these are all part of a collective neutral organisation designed to counter human attacks with collective force and to prevent bloodshed over internal orc affairs. Or, in practical terms; all warriors of the Dust and Nil tribe are under command of the Wilds, are usually commanded by Wild officers, and have to obey the word of Thallal almost directly. The shamans have a greater amount of independence, for while Ushor is a member of the Wild as well he has always demanded more freedom to follow and obey the traditional rules of the orcs even when this was in conflict with Thallal’s will. As such, the shamans are often deemed a neutral force within the outskirt unbound to any tribe.
The Dust collective consists of about 1500 orcs, by far the greatest of them being the shepherds and farmers of Sheepdust with 450 members, followed by the 300 members of the trade-oriented Silverdust tribe and the 280 members of the magic and tradition oriented Summerdust tribe. The rest of the dusts are spread over roughly 28 different tribes in an ever changing network of influence.
The Nil tribe
The Nihilists, named for their rather bleak villages names and lack of creativity, are technically not a tribe. Rather, they were at one point a single village of orphans born from slaves and taken away from their parents when these were sold. These slave children were all dropped off at a nearby hamlet soon to be called ‘Flatness’ that grew out into a community. Being too close to the Wild’s centre of power and growing too big, they were told to settle elsewhere in the outskirts after a few decades.
The Nihilists have no traditions, no history and no rights like other orc tribes do. As they are slaves, children of slaves, and descendants of slaves, they were taught from birth that they had little to no right to consider themselves equal to the Wild tribe. A mixture of many orc tribes without discernible family lines is the result. And as the Wild have ensured that they never got any more power than absolutely necessary for self-sustainability, the Nihilists have never really grown a sense of ambition. Or rather, any Nil who did would usually end up in the encampment in the endless salt desert.
The Nihilists are not the main source of slaves for the encampment, but they are a consistent one and a large amount of the people born in this tribe end up as a slave. Those who do not are either farmers, simple grunt soldiers or collectors. Without a system of artisans and guilds that can withstand the Wild’s insatiable hunger for more slaves, few ever grow out to be more than that.
The Nihilists are about 2500 in number spread across a few villages and two cities that are officially theirs but ‘overseen’ by the Wild at all times.
The Dukedom of Park
The dukedom of park is a city-state surrounded by a ring of villages and hamlets. Ruled by the Koning family, it is a centralised and war-weathered capital of power that stands alone most of the time. While Grand Duke Amon of Koning the III, current ruler of Park, has tried to build relationships for years with the surrounding kingdoms and wed his daughters to people using large dowries, an alliance by the Dukedom is usually avoided by other human nobility. Not because of the Koning’s history, family or wealth, but because of the perpetual war with the orcs.
While the Koning family has tried to wipe out the orcs of the outskirt for generations with great persistence, their eternal quest is deemed a futile one which will never end. As no kingdom has interest in participating in this glory-less war against farmers and slaves, no kingdom wants to ally themselves to Park in terms of military support. However, Park has through the centuries accumulated many connections of trade and became a knot in the network of trade roads, becoming an uncharacteristically wealthy trade centre considering it being land-locked.
Park is home to many trade houses and larger facilities, as these lands are much safer and more stable to merchants than pretty much anywhere else. Being accustomed to war, the city and villages are built to withstand armies and sieges. But as neither the Nihilists nor the Dusts have the autonomy or spare troops to organise small raids or blitz attacks on a regular basis, the area is safe for travel between these skirmishes. In fact, due to the docile nature of the near orcs in comparison to most orc tribes and the absence of Goblins caravans in the area, the roads around Park are considered some of the safest around. And as there are many mercenaries around Park waiting to be hired for the next war against the orcs, the merchant houses have long since eliminated most human bandit groups in the area.
Eisblüme and Früling village
Rather two small communities of hamlets than actual villages, Eisblüme and Früling are elven settlements that have settled in these woods and given themselves the task of protecting it from the winds of the eternal salt desert. Using simple magic fuelled by their nearby mana pool to create weak wind currents, they have ensured that the sand from the outskirts won’t blow the salt any further inland than it already has. While both settlements have since grown from a handful of mages and priests to maintain these spells into actual communities, this task is still their single objective to this day. The elves have pledged not to involve them with the matters of man and orc and remain reclusive as long as the forests are left alone.
While the Lalala mountain range is a near impenetrable line of high peaks and canyons, there is a large valley between the mountains of Li and Lo that serves as a large passageway. Four miles in length and with large flat stretches of land that allow even large carts, this passage gives easy access into the infinite salt desert.
However, the passage cannot always be used. Sandstorms can rage through this and the whirlwinds of sand and salt raging through the passage into the valleys beyond can sometimes make the passage impossible to traverse for any mortal being. Strangely enough there never seem to be winds blowing the other way, into the eternal salt desert…
The mysterious scorch:
It is said that the sun created the dragons, and that from the scales of dragons the orcs were born. The power of the orcs comes from more than just the scales, as the lifeblood of dragons courses through the veins of many of them.
However, it is nearly impossible for an orc to obtain this power. When it is locked away in their genes it can be learned through shamanic rituals or unlocked by burning in dragon breath. But when an orc wants to obtain the power he was not born with, or wants to increase their power, the life force of a dragon is needed. And dragons are even more protective of this than of their own gold hoard.
As it is both against ancient traditions and a grave violation of the unwritten orc-dragon treaty to hunt and kill a dragon for their life force, orcs who wish to gain more power need to draw it from the graves of dragons who fell instead. Drinking the blood, turning the bones to paste, and especially the bone marrow can do this. However there are also a few ‘last stand’ craters, where a dragon breathed fire infused with their life force onto a foe as a last resort. This will burn the foe, and the ground beneath them, with so much intensity that the crater will be beaming with life force for decades even when there are orcs drawing power from it.
Mysterious scorch is one of the first and one of the greatest of these craters. Much greater and much more intense, the orcs don’t even recognise this crater as a dragon’s last stand. The idea of such a crater persisting for centuries without the life force running dry is too much to handle. If they knew it was the historical last stand of the dragon Mother Sola, first and god-touched of the dragons, this crater would be one of the holiest orc places.
A large wall clearly designed and used by orcs, but with some hints of dwarven architecture in its finer details. The wall is made from several massive chunks of sandstone from the Endless salt desert, each three orcs high and carved into squares. These boulders are simply lined up from Li all the way to Lo without any variation. Not even a gate was added.
With this wall as their basis, the Wild have built several more orc-like structures around it. The entire wall is covered by wood and leather acting as side rails and decoration, there’s a watch tower built on top of the wall every 100 yards, and in the middle of the passage there are two large towers with catapults and ballistae that looks more like a fortress than a gate. Instead of a gate, there’s a large draw bridge that allows caravans to get over the wall by climbing a 20° angle. Due to the difficulty of such a task, there are at all times slaves to help pull the caravans up and down.
In front of the wall is the Impaled wall: A wall made from wooden poles surrounded by moats, spikes and other methods used to slow down advancing armies, roughly fifty yards ahead of Thugs wall. While the Thugs wall is meant for stopping any horde of angry slaves regardless of their size, much more blood has been shed at the Impaled. Stopping stragglers, escapees and small bands of battle slaves trying to fight their way to freedom, this wall serves as a grim warning to anyone who’d dare to escape the encampment. And while the many pikes with severed heads and the wall itself with its many gaps do little to actually stop the more patient slaves, the many wolves hiding behind it do.
But the only part of the wall with engineering ingenuity is the Ramp. Where the rest a collection of quickly build stratagems, the Ramp is a necessary addition to the wall to keep it from weathering away. As the sandstorms can blow for days and literally erode the skin of a mortal in a matter of hours when they have no shelter, Even the sandstone basics of Thugs wall would have eroded away in less than a decade if no precautions had been taken. The Ramp is this precaution, as it serves as a quick way to turn the wall into a slope that makes the storms blow over it rather than allowing it to clash. It’s pretty much just a large leather screen when deployed, but thanks to some ingenuities through gears and chains just two people can lift these 50 square yard screens up and secure them so solidly that no wind can get underneath it. From the ground however it’s impossible to lift these screens into place without breaking them even with a hundred men, preventing the slave armies from using this ramp as an easy way to just walk over Thugs wall.
A pile of rocks that were set on fire at some point and never stopped burning.
What? That’s it. A pile of burning rocks, nothing special about them to expand upon.
Mammon my main man…i love this. I really do.
You really turned this project of yours into a real world befitting Blight of the immortals/ Buccaneers, Bounty and Boom.
I love the map, makes me feel dumb for not having used it before, and the politics between all factions. I love tge Wild clan since they are so very tricky. Machiavellian almost.
But its the terms you used that sold it to me like the Scorch and the Impaled wall and so on. Really makes it like its a lived in world. Kudos man. Thank you
Only slight i got in this…needs more dwarves ;D
Part 1 of the Exiled Knight.
Night had set in when the knight halted his horse as he reached his family’s estate. Despite the fact it was nearly two years since he was home, he barely looked up as the startled house guard let him in, only seeing the family crest on the man’s tabard than his actual face.
“Go home to your family, Elswin.” Queen Morganna said to him." You need your rest just as much as I do."
The Queen and her bodyguard’s armour was covered in blood and bile, the result of a fortnight of hard fighting.
At day 100 of the Iron Crown campaign, half of the province was retaken from the undead hordes. At the cost of many human, dwarven and orcish lives, the western and southern parts of the province were retaken leaving only a few human villages and dwarven strongholds to the east that spawned more undead horrors. The kingdom’s capital of Queenspark was still not retaken, that was going to be the next target after a week of regrouping and resting.
Elswin had seen his Queen grow during this conflict. From a scared child with the crown thrusted upon her and holding the burden of a scattered people to a warrior queen he has grown to admire…to love even.
Even now covered in blood and sweat and grim, her bright eyes shone like stars, her black hair danced like midnight. The urge to reach out his hand and touch her cheek…
He winced every time the thought came to him, he was her senior by fifteen years and she was the Queen. And yet every time she spoke kind words to Marshall Raynor, the smiles the two shared, a green jealousy took over.
When the offer came to return home he was going to decline but with these new emotions he needed time, reflection.
He rode passed the house guards and the gate towards the actual mansion proper. The Blight did not reach this far west so the flora and fauna were not affected. The grass was still green and slightly wet, the flowers still swayed in the soft night wind and above all else, the family’s symbol still stood. It was a hedge shaped like creature, the same creature that served as a crest for House Elswin.
A goat legged man stood triumphant as he played the syrinx, the horns made of actual wood whereas the rest was made of leaves. The satyr had a perpetual smirk on it’s face as he played the musical instrument, as if he knew a joke that nobody else got.
A small smile danced on Elswin’s lips as he recalled how his mother told the story of their house and how it began.
It all began back in Sanctuary nearly a hundred years ago with a knight. Her name was Ser Ophra Elswin of Dawnfort, a knight of the kingdom of Gryphon’s Crown sworn to protect the realm and it’s king. Her portrait that hung in the mansion showed her as a strong woman with blue eyes, long blonde hair with a faced graced as if elven beauty…which was true because she was a half-elf.
In Sanctuary the relations between humans, elves and dwarves were friendly and it was (and still is) not uncommon to see children of this nature (especially knowing the promiscuous nature of King Halmadir).
Born as the daughter of a human merchant and a elven ranger, Ophra’s childhood was pretty good. She lacked not for love from her parents or food and had many friends. But Ophra was a dreamer and often read books about great knights going on adventures to save maidens from orcs and their dragon masters, fighting off the Immortals alongside the dwarves as they climbed over the stronghold’s walls and charging her valiant steed into battle to save the weak. At age ten she had already decided what she wanted to be when she became a adult.
“Father.” she said over dinner." I wish to be a knight when I grow up."
“Of course you will, dear.” her father smiled and thought nothing of it. His plans for her were of course very different. She was either to take his place in the company or becoming a ranger like her mother.
A year later Ophra still persisted and fevers hit a pitch as her father forbid her to join the ranks of knighthood.
“There are only a few women who have become knights and no elves at all! Have you seen a elven knight, my sweet child? No you haven’t!” he shouted, his face as red as a dragon’ scale.
“Then I shall be the first!” she retorted." And I will make a house that will only have elven knights!" With her head held up high she returned to play with her toys with her younger brother.
Before the poor merchant could explode, his wife calmly took him to the side.
“We have another child on the way, husband.” she cooed the only way a cunning but caring wife did to her husband." Our son is interested in numbers, he can take your place in the company. Until then let our girl decide her own fate."
“But, dear…” her husband whined." She will be mocked at by the other knights!“
She rolled her eyes. “She won’t become a knight, husband. Last week she wanted to become a dragon rider, the week before the Queen of Park.” She smiled softly.” Give it time.“
He sighed.” I suppose…but what if she does? She’ll throw her life away following fairy tales along with the satyrs and the nymphs."
“Enjoy the time you have with her now, that is all that matters.”
But like all Elswins, when they want something they fight tooth and nail to get it. As the years passed, Ophra trained long and hard and earned her own way into the knight’s academy (although a few bribes from father dearest did help). As the first woman of elven heritage to enter the academy, a lot of eyes were trained on her both from humanity as well as elven kind. A pair of those belonged to the king who was intrigued that a half-elf wished to become a knight.
The knightly vows one had to take in the name of god to protect the realm, it’s people and the king did not leave much interpretation for other gods. Thankfully both the human god and the spirts of the wilds her mother worshipped both had a place in her home so Ophra had no problems with that.
The training was a bit harder as her peers were mostly all men (And the few women there were just as bad) who did not hold back at all during sparring, gests, hazings and other antics. They assumed she bought her way into the academy and used her race as a excuse to get through the training with ease. Day after day they teased, called names, spooked her horse, threw severed pig heads under her bed sheets. During all of this Ophra took it on the chin as the instructors watched. It was on the first night out that changed.
One of the knight errants, emboldened by ale and his dislike for elves, walked up to her and threw his drink in her face.
"Go back home to your trees, squirrel. We don-"
His speech stopped halfway as she punched him in the throat, knocked him down and broke his arm in three places. Either she knew the male mind or was very lucky but this sign of dominance broke all hostilities and the other errants gladly accepted the she-elf into their ranks. For she was one of them now, a hard nut to crack. You had to be to survive through the training.
Ophra persisted and through the mud, the sweat, the tears, blood, sleepless nights and insults and more she clawed her way to the title of Ser. After a year of training she was knighted by the king himself along with her peers and rose as Ser Ophra Elswin. After the ceremony the king took her to the side and for most of the night both ruler and new knight conversed.
“As a half-elf.” he began." How are your view on things?"
“Same as anyone’s, your majesty.” she replied.
“So you think I rule justly?” he asked.
She gave a wicked grin. “You have not wronged me yet to think otherwise, sire.”
Although she was not one of the best of the knights, she did become one of the most popular.
Whenever her exploits were reported, they were sung about louder than those of her peers and her opinions on matter of politics were asked more often. Her peers however did not seem to mind and often joked that she was the king’s mistress and his sway over the heralds made it happen. She neither confirmed or denied this.
This continued for a few years until of course, the incident happened.
A famine hit a year before the Blight came. Crops dried up, water was scarce and cattle seemed to die for no reason. Furthermore, the economy was doing poorly and large amounts of the king’s treasury went missing. Not even the dwarven banks giving two infusions of coin seemed to help. Because of this, Gryphon’s Crown had to act drastically.
King Leopold had ration to food with most going to the cities, let many soldiers go and increase taxes. All ingredients of disaster.
Everything was fine in cities like Gryphon’s Crown capital and Dawnfort but outside of it bandits bands (most ex-military) raided farms for what food was left, people starved and general chaos took over the countryside._
Inside the cities, no word of it was allowed to be spoken and as such none was rebelling. The knights of the realm were hard-pressed to keep order in the realm with many doubting the king’s choices. They were sworn to do the king’s bidding and were forced to be silent on the hell that took place outside of the city walls, silencing anyone who dared to speak about it. The king’s eyes and ears were everywhere and none dared to speak out against him.
But that would change.
Trade caravans were attacked often and despite goblin mercenaries protecting them, many were still attacked.
In one raid on a trade caravan, Ophra’s father and sister were both killed. She spoke to the king only once. Even the Elswins do not know what exactly was said but considering the following, it must’ve been a bad talk.
Ophra made the issue known openly and spoke on several forums in the capital demanding a reform of government, taxation and food distribution. She found many followers and verbally opposed the king.
The king replied by ordering a arrest on her. Forced to flee, Ophra and her followers left the kingdom. Among them many knights, farmers and others.
This is where the story really begins…
Part 2 of the Exiled Knight.
She was dining on a stale loaf of bread with a little bit of meat on it. Her teeth ached with every chew and bite, a far cry from her upbringing. Her brothers in arms to were eating their meagre meals, their facial expressions much like hers. None said anything for three days, none dared. The only those who spoke were the farmers who followed them and their own war steeds.
It’s been two weeks since they fled the kingdom and it would be three more before they arrived at the Dukedom of Park. She wondered idly how many of their company would arrive. At a place where they would be forced to live as mercenaries fighting orcs. No longer knights. No longer people of honour or virtue. Just surviving. All because of her anger, her bitter feelings that led them this path and nearly threw Gryphon’s Crown into complete disaster.
She felt a nudge. Her steed, dressed in green armour she called Valiant, just moved away from her and looked at her as if he knew what was going on in her mind. She strayed his cheek before she looked back to her fellow knights who were still silent.
Either they were to angry or afraid. It was frustrating. Why was it always her who had to make the first move. With a angry frown she spoke." It’s my fault you are all here. It’s alright to blame me."
“Nonsense, Ophra.” Ser Derrik said." It was our choice to follow you. We didn’t expect fancy meals or a willing maid to sit in our laps when we were given that choice.“
Derrik was a far cry from the man who threw ale in her face a few years ago. Where once he was a loud, big, thuggish looking man he became a even louder and bigger man. But his heart was on the right place and she would’ve died a dozen times if he wasn’t be her side.
The other knights nodded at his words. A slight smile appeared on Ophra’s lips.” Or unwilling maids in your case, Derrik."
Derrik was the first to laugh as the others joined in. Ophra joined in, laughing loud and deep with them. Tears came down from her eyes as she continued. She didn’t laugh like that ever since her father and sister died six months ago. She felt so guilty, why was she allowed to still draw breathe after all of this? And while she stopped laughing, she kept smiling. Her men deserved that much.
The laughter stopped however when the sound of music came. It sounded like as if someone was blowing through pipes, as if whistling. The knights drew their weapons when they saw a figure appear.
It merrily jumped from one cloven hoof to another as he played his music instrument. His horns protruded from his head like some demon of old but upon closer look all could see this creature was not a devil at all. As he came closer to the campfire they saw he had a merry look on his face and was dressed much like a elven druid would. A flask hang around his belt and swung with every jump he made. Derrik looked at Oprah who shrugged. This was clearly not a Immortal or any other dangerous being but something else.
The creature finished his town before he bowed deeply several times.
“Thank you, thank you!” he cried towards them as if he was addressing a audience." You were a wonderful audience!" a moment of stunned silence passed." PLEASE! Don’t…rush me all at once! I am but one satyr." He turned to one of the female farmers, a skinny young girl with red hair and spots." Except you love, you can rush me any time." he gave her a wink which made the girl look away with blushing cheeks.
“Alright, ENOUGH.” Ophra walked up to him." Who in the name of the woods are you?!
The satyr bowed once more. “Silenus at your service. Well not really, mostly Prince Halmadir’s. Me and my cohort were in the area and wondered if you needed food.” He smiled again.
“Food?” Derrick raised his brow." Unless you got a lot of booze in your flask I don’t-"
Oprah picked up movement, rustling of leaves. She motioned to the forest nearby. Derrick stopped as he saw a group of elves holding up bags and kegs. One moved to the farmers and placed a bag nearby and opened it. As she did, the sight of bread and other foodstuffs filled the eyes of the hungry farmers. No-one opposed, not even the knights, when food and drink was offered.
Oprah joined in as well as the mood of the camp immediately lifted as laughter and music roared high and the meagre campfires grew larger.
“Kin, it’s good to see you.” one of the elves spoke to Ophra. He held his arm over her chest, a sign of greeting. Ophra nodded and returned the gesture." You know me?"
“Yes we do. The first elf to become a knight, you may not live in the forest but we keep an eye on all of our kin.” she smiled.
The satyr joined in, drinking from his flask." Not in the creepy way at all of course." He hiccupped.
The half-elf smirked and turned to the other elf." So who are you and why did you come to see us?"
“I am Princess Thorondal of Simmersilver from Oasis, you already know Silenus. We’ve come to aid our brothers and sisters.” she replied." We made a small detour with food from the nearby dwarfhold after they told us they saw you pass by a few days ago.“
Derrick had stepped beside Ophra, not having said a word yet. The half-elf noticed he had not eaten yet either. She had to stop herself from frowning, his racism was going to get him killed someday. She would reprimand him later. She blinked.” Wait, you said aid? Aid what?"
“Oooooh…” Silenus winced." I don’t think she knows."
“Knows what?” Derrick finally spoke up.
“The Blight has arrived in Sanctuary.” the princess replied." Prince Halmadir is fighting a losing battle and unless the other dwarf strongholds or Gryphon’s Crown comes to help, the entire province will fall to the dead."
It felt like the earth moved from beneath the half-elven knight. A blight? Here? Now?! At first it didn’t make sense but then it did. Wild life was disappearing, the crops were failing, the famine and the drought…even the dwarves seemed on edge when they passed their hold a few days ago.
“How bad are things?” Ophra managed to ask.
“Last we heard, Dawnfort fell.” Thorondal replied. She must’ve seen the face of both knights for she quickly offered a apology." I am sorry for the loss of your home."
“God in heaven…” Derrick’s face went pale." My uncle lived there…he took me in when my father threw me out of the farm.“
Ophra placed her hand on the man’ shoulder. He shrugged it off and walked away. The half-elf let him walk, he needed time alone. Even the satyr knew not to press matters as he took another swig from his flask.
“So…you are going to help?” Ophra asked the princess who nodded.” Then count us in."
“Wait.” the princess held up her hand." We didn’t mean to-"
“Don’t insult me, princess.” Ophra glared." You gave us food just before unleashing that news and you don’t think you emotionally blackmailed us? I dealt with nobility before. I know how you think and care about other people’s feelings and moving them around like pawns. Let me speak to my men first, break the news to them first and then i’ll convince them but that won’t be to hard. Dawnfort was our home. It needs avenging. You have your knights."
“Excellent!” Selinus cheered." This calls for a drink and revelry!"
The half-elf called her knights together and indeed the convincing them was not hard at all.
“Despite that we are outlaws, we swore an oath to protect the realm. We will uphold that oath and defend our honour in that aspect.” Ophra said to them.
One of the knight agreed." We’ll make those undead bastards pay for what they did to Dawnfort. I swear this to God and his giants!"
“No just you, brother.” another knight, Annabelle, placed her hand on his shoulder." We all do! For God and Gryphon’s Crown, We will have revenge!"
“For God and Gryphon’s Crown, we shall!” Ophra agreed." Tomorrow we march but tonight, eat and rest."
There was not much resting that night.
Despite the news, or because of it, the merriment remained strong as knight, farmer and elf drank and ate away.
Towards midnight however the mood became more amorous. Ophra noticed one by one people were going to quiet corners of the camp to do what couples would do. After a while the quiet corners became not so quiet anymore. She herself was no stranger to love but she stayed away from it for that night.
She and a few remained by the fire to keep warm while others kept each other warm with other means.
It did not surprise her when later the satyr returned with the farmer girl from before, both covered in sweat and hastily redressed clothing before he kissed her goodbye and took his seat next to the half-elf and began eating some elf bread while the girl walked away. Oprah followed the girl until she picked up the princess and guided her to where she came before, stealing kisses where they could.
“Oh stop judging.” Selinus said which snapped the half-elf to the present." It’s only natural."
“It’s vile.” she replied." I know the elven ways and THIS is not it."
“Oh, I know it isn’t the elven way.” he grinned." It is my people’s way."
“Of course it is.” Oprah rolled her eyes." I’m surprised there aren’t more of your kind then.“
His smile faded slightly after that remark, a hint of soberness coloured him.” That is because my people are nearly all gone."
“Oh…” Ophra said softly." My condolences. I didn’t know…“
The satyr took a small collected sip from his wine.” My people were one of the first targeted by the First Blight. Took us off guard at first. Thousands of my kind died, eaten alive by those…husks. Our forest was corrupted, blighted. My people scattered across the four winds, losing even more to the elements and hunger. Some of my people, including some of my clan, joined up what mortal army we could and fought the Blight. We still do.
Me, my nephew Faunus and this old crone called Psykte joined with the elves and orcs of Oasis and went on several raids to rid the Blight all over Alundria. In return my clan were allowed to have a forest so my people can rebuild." he took another swig." I was a scribe you know, before it all. I like to learn things, gather knowledge. Hate war…"
“You hate war?” He nodded. “Do you fight?” Ophra asked to which the satyr shook his head.
“I am a healer.” he replied." It’s what I do. You get hurt, I patch you up with a jest, a drink and some magic. All the while hoping it will all be over soon." He paused." You know…everyone who spends a night with me tends to survive the coming conflict." he smirked at the half-elf." Care to have my blessing?“
The half-elf returned the smirk and took up a glass of wine and raised it.” To victory?“
The satyr joined the toast.” To victory."
The next day the newly formed host marched invigorated towards their first battlefield.
The dwarven stronghold from before was now under siege from the Blighted.
Ophra sat astride on Valiant as she oversaw the battlefield. The gate of the stronghold was already broken as the dwarves as they tried to fight the coming wave of death off and were failing despite dwarven steel and shield and dwarven blunderbusses that rang overhead. Her elven eyes spotted Captain Greta Dainson, the nice captain who let them through a few days earlier, holding the line along with her other warriors but it was only a matter of time before the fortress would be overrun.
Princess Thorondal, her elven warriors and what warriors they could get out of the farmers were preparing themselves on the other side of the forest. All they needed was an opening to get inside the stronghold to assist the dwarves. The knights were to charge through, lead the undead away and then return when the gate was secured and fixed.
But there were many dead, a sea of them nearly. Were she a knight errant, Ophra might’ve run. But she was no knight errant nor a coward. She was a knight of the realm and she swore a oath of duty. She turned to Derrick and her knights." Derrick, take the left flank and charge behind me! Anabell take the right and sweep towards the wall. “Both nodded as she gave them a pat on the shoulder.” Ride now and fear no darkness! We are knights of Dawnfort! Knights of the realm! We swore an oath to protect the innocent and god willing we will do so onto our dying breath!" She drew her sword." GOD IS WITH US! CHARGE! FOR GOD! FOR DAWNFORT! FOR GRYPHON’S CROWN AND FOR HONOUR!"
The men cheered as Derrick blew his horn and as one they charged.
The large group of knight charged down the hill towards the undead horde, the sound of thunder filled the valley. Only a few undead turned to face them but could not offer any defence against horse and steel.
Ophra cried out a battle roar that her knights mimicked and charged down the undead masses, steel swords and horse teeth gnashing. Valiant tore the undead apart she could with her teeth, stomping with her hooves as Ophra let her sword arm speak. She distantly heard a dwarven cheer go up as elven arrows cut down even more undead.
She heard some of her knights pulled down by the undead, screaming as they and their horses were being devoured. There was nothing she could do but charge forward through the masses. “ONWARD, ONWARD!” she shouted to both her men and herself. She would not die here, not that day.
After what seemed like a eternity, despite the fact it was perhaps only a minute, she broke through the tide. She took a moment to look back and sighed of relief when she saw most of her knights made it out. And most importantly, most of the undead were in pursuit.
Already the princess, her elves and the farmer militia charged in to dispatch those that were left.
After a big swoop around, making sure they made a lot of distance with the undead, they returned to the fortress, hooves splitting open the skulls of dead Immortals as they charged quickly towards the stronghold. Two dwarves quickly urged the riders in before they closed the fixed gates.
The half-elf looked around as she saw the warriors resting, the labourers worked and the wounded were being healed. The princess helped set her archers up along with the dwarven blunderbusses as the red headed famer girl from before, now sporting battle scars, gave the knight a weary nod as a dwarf gave her proper weaponry and armour.
She spotted Selinus was among the other healers, holding his hand over the wounded as a small light came from it. As she dismounted from her horse she saw the wounds on the wounded dwarf closed as his hand went over them.
“My god…” she whispered, she had never seen magic before.
“Ser Knight!” She turned to see Captain Greta walk over to her." My thanks for your timely rescue. That gate wouldn’t have been fixed in time if it wasn’t for you.“
Ophra took off her helmet.” It is nothing, we owed you."
“By my ancestors beards…” Greta laughed." The exiled knight!"
“Come back to save the day! The satyr said as he patted Ophra’ shoulder.” Welcome back.“
Ophra smiled back.” Glad to be back, sadly some of my knights didn’t…"
“A few of my kin have also lost their lives this day.” The princess walked over to them." They will be remembered."
“It’s only the start.” Ophra replied. She looked back to the gate that was being reinforced." We will lose many more friends before the end of it."
“Enough gloom.” Greta interrupted." We have to come together and plan for when the undead return. I got word from my aunt, my people are joining the war. Gnomish and elven reinforcements are headed their way here. Once they get here we’ll march for Gryphon’s Crown."
“Wow…” Derrick muttered." Seems we are going home after all."
“Indeed…” Ophra concurred.
“Come.” Greta motioned them to follow." I got some ale that needs opening. Mountains know we need it.“
The band nodded and followed the dwarf, the satyr smirking as he whispered to Ophra.” I told you, my blessing ALWAYS gets you true."
She replied with a elbow to his forearm as they entered the stronghold proper.
That was fantastic and unbelievably realistic!
I think that with this one you went beyond your abilities. I hope that one day all of this stories will be published, or something similar.
And thanks to add Silenus, one of my favourite roleplay character!
I agree with Jean, this was truly your work plus extra! And I do so enjoy Satyrs as a mythical race, especially since your mention of Nymphs suggests you know their… biology .
Thank Jean, he is the one who came up with the most Satyr lore.
Very glad you two liked it, really tried my best here.
You guys make this forum very nice. Thank you.
Chapter three, introducing one of the many players to come in this tale. (And @Gorvar: there might not be as much of a lack of dwarves in this story as you think. That comment in Ch2 about pale dwarven ghosts might be a not-too subtle hint to one of your sub-races. )
Chapter 3: Wall duty
‘So, what do you think thus far, runt?’
Jonn Snoh ignores his superior’s belittling name-calling with little effort. Garash had been calling him a runt at every opportunity he got this last week, even though they were only three summers apart. But because Garash deemed himself a veteran of the Thug’s guard and Jonn was only here for about a week now, the ‘supervisor’ had insisted on such petty ideas of hierarchy despite being the one who never saw any real combat.
‘Well, it’s certainly warmer than the last great wall separating our lands from an uninhabitable wasteland that I was stationed at.’
Garash snorted annoyed at this comment, being too vaguely positive or negative to jest at. The other supervisor laughs however.
‘Oh? Feinting experience again by bringing up one of your previous adventures, John?’ Baëal said.
Unlike Garash’s name-calling, this insult made him grind his teeth and clench his fists in anger. Calling him a runt only made Garash seem childish, but John is a human name. That stung. Even if it were just a slight difference in pronouncing the o, it was enfuriating.
‘Ha! Did you see that, Garash? I told you he didn’t like being called that!’ Baëal said.
‘You’re right, and here I thought you were jesting. A deal’s a deal, I’ll instruct all the other recruits to only call him John from now on out.’ Garash said.
Jonn grimaced but kept himself from lunging at either of these self-entitled Wilds. They hired him to guard the wall. But when he was stationed here it became painfully apparent that even the Wilds of equal rank saw no problem in putting themselves above him, despite being the bottom of the barrel themselves when it came to Wilds around these parts.
He sighed and reminded himself of the pay again. It was good, good enough for him to work for these tradition breaking outcasts and good enough to work at a thankless position that many of their own tribe sneered at.
Wall duty. He, Garash, Baëal and about 14 others would patrol the two miles between the gate and the mountain Lo all day long looking for runaway slaves. A different unit of the same number took care of the other two miles.
They didn’t really do much all day, there was a slave approaching the wall maybe two or three times per week and those slaves had no fight in them. Even if they weren’t sand beamed; that the skin had been eroded from their bodies by the desert winds, they were dehydrated and worn out from the trek. Just spotting them and telling them to stop and wait for a wolf rider to take them back to the slave encampment was usually all he’d have to do.
This last week, Jonn had seen just one slave. It was enough to know what kind of job this would be; Garash and Baëal had blown a silent flute to summon the wolves and then placed bets as to what would happen. Garash wagered that the slave would go through the Impaled and be torn apart by the wolves, a foresight he made even more gruesome by joking how that would spare them the effort of feeding the wolves that day, while Baëal said that the slave was too worn down to even try. Baëal won that bet and a wolfrider soon dragged the slave to the Gate.
But the pay was good enough to ignore this. That was a mantra that Jonn had been repeating to himself a lot this week. It was good pay, even though there was little change of moving upwards. Even if Garash or Baëal would be promoted to the Gate as they themselves claimed would happen one day, one of the two other Wilds patrolling here would gain their rank regardless of merit. Really, the only reason they even hired a mercenary like him was because the amount of Dusts in this department was getting too high for the Wild’s liking.
The pay. The pay and the easy job, those were the two things keeping him here. Even in the event that there would be a slave army approaching these walls, he’d only have to alarm the real garrison and lower the Ramp. And even that wouldn’t be a real fight, rather than a one-sided massacre.
It was dishonourable, sure. And beneath his warrior’s pride. But considering his condition…
Jonn rolled his shoulders to feel the familiar sting of pain, the eternal reminder of why he was no longer a warrior of the Laughing Axes. A stupid goblin arrow in the wrong place severed a tendon that couldn’t be healed. He and his unit were surrounded by 20 immortals when it happened, but a stray arrow was his undoing.
And now he was unable to lift an axe higher than eye height. Literally unable, the muscle to do so was simply absent in his right arm. Considering it took a blow to the head to kill an Immortal and holding up a heavy shield wasn’t a good idea with his condition either, he instantly became worthless as a warrior.
He didn’t wait for his superiors to tell him this, nor did he wait for word of this dishonourable condition to spread. He snuck out of the encampment after the healer told him the news and hoped that his comrades assumed him to be one of the fallen during the battle.
He didn’t tell the Wilds of his condition either. They had enough to sneer at without that piece of information, and it was surprisingly easy to hide his condition as long as he didn’t have to fight. Which was why this was pretty much the best job he could get, one he had to keep.
Even if it was a honourless job from a honourless tribe that was in violation with many orc laws and traditions.
‘Alright, John.’ Garash said. ‘It’s been a week, tomorrow you’ll have to make do without our gracious leadership. Think you can manage that?’
Jonn ignores Garash’s belittling insult and the chance to counter by saying he’d much prefer whatever group of mercs and Dusts he’d be working with after this. Instead he just gives a simple ‘Sure.’
‘Well, good to hear. I hope our guidance will ensure you’ll be a good grunt for years to come.’ Baëal says.
What guidance? You barely showed me the ropes at all, you even ordered a Dust to instruct me on operating the Ramp mechanics.
Instead of saying that, Jonn merely says: ‘Looks like we’ve got another runner.’
Jonn looks over the horizon and both Wilds follow his gaze.
‘A Goblin I’d say.’ Jonn says. ‘Though I can’t even tell their gender from here. It’s barely a blip on the horizon.’
‘Wanna bet it’s actually a dwarf?’ Garash says.
‘No thanks.’ Jonn says. He’s pretty sure it’s a Goblin, but he knows as well that Garash would probably weasel his way out of the bet with him. Unlike with Baëal, he’d probably have no qualms with denying it to Jonn or one of the other non-Wilds.
‘I bet that slave is going to make a run for the Ramp, if youyou feel like your coin pouch needs to get lighter again.’ Baëal says. ‘Goblins always make a run for it.’
‘Like I said, it’s a dwarf.’ Garash says. ‘He’ll probably take one of the pikes and try to fend the wolves off with it. Dwarves are too stubborn to run. So sure, I’ll take that bet. My pouch can never be heavy enough.’
Jonn ignores the two Wilds as they continue boasting about their predicting skills and the previous times they bet right. He just looked at that small figure over the horizon, if he hadn’t seen the previous slave also stagger like that he’d almost think it was an Immortal. But there were no Immortals around these parts, so that could not be.
And if it were, even these two smucks could stop a single undead Goblin.
That was great too!
Loved the little inter-clan politics going on here, Mammon. The Wilds are the top dog but everyone else seems to hate working for them. Love the backstory as well for Jonn Snoh ( I see what you did there sir, you know nothing ;D ) and how he ended up on this detail.
Also the foreshadowing of the incoming Blight, so delicious…cant wait!
I’m glad you decided to post your story here man, I am invested in this province of Alundria now
Especially now since we might get some Dark Dwarves!!! :DDDDD
Once I get to writing, I can’t seem to stop…
Chapter 4: The New Scorch contest
The female shaman focussed and created a ball of fire between her hands. Clearly struggling to keep it in control and making it grow stronger at the same time, she stays like this for a couple of seconds before throwing the ball a few feet.
A large explosion sends several chunks of sand flying and throws the shaman off her feet. A large plume of smoke bellows up and leaves a crater as the audience applauds. Thallal nods approvingly and holds up eight fingers, not the best explosion today but certainly a good effort.
He looks at his two fellow judges expecting similar results, but sees to his annoyance that Ushor is only holding up three fingers and Grrsh didn’t even bother raising his hand again.
‘Sloppy and unimaginative. And poorly aimed as well.’ Ushor says.
‘What are you talking about!?’ Thallal says. ‘I felt the ground shake just now, and look at the size of that crater! Besides, for a woman to produce results befitting a man…’
Ushor gives Thallal a condescending look and Grrsh remains completely unresponsive. And Thallal knew that unlike his usual passive behaviour, this time the old shaman was mocking him as well.
Ushor raises his voice. ’11 of 30 points. Next contestant.’
The shaman clearly wants to say something skating about this verdict, and for a moment Thallal hopes she does, but then she lowers her head and walks away.
A young shaman wearing nothing but a loincloth approaches, and from his golden face paint he’s clearly from the Summer dust clan. A Dusty who doesn’t even know how to dress properly for such an occasion? Thallal didn’t like him already.
The Dusty stands perfectly still for a few moments and holds his hands in front of his face much alike how the humans hold their hands when praying. Thallal was just about to say something about it, when the Dusty slowly moves his palms outwards while keeping his fingers firmly touching each other. A blue light radiates from between his hands.
This display of power takes a while as the Dusty slowly separates his palms further and further until they’re stretched as far as possible without the fingers disconnecting. The blue, pulsating light between his hands sparkles and shines until…
A single flash of light and it’s gone.
The Dusty is standing empty-handed all of a sudden and a perfectly round dark spot appeared in front of him. Thallal scratches his head, but then holds up two fingers, not only didn’t he hear or feel nothing but it took the Dusty so long to do this. Surely they’ll all give him a low grade.
His knuckles turn white as he clenches his fist and suppresses the urge to break Ushor’s nose. Ushor is holding up nine fingers and even the old fart raised two hands for the first time since the festival began to give the Dusty six fingers.
‘Calm down. You can’t strike down the head shaman, not when part of your own tribe is still too religious to condone such a thing.’ Thallal whispers to himself.
‘That Dusty took forever to charge up an attack only to show a single flash, you can’t possibly consider that a good burning.’ Thallal says to Ushor.
Ushor ignores him as he addresses the shaman and the crowds. ‘Original, incredibly potent and a good control of the amassing energy even at the last moments. 17 out of 30 points, that places him in the top 10 thus far.’
The Dusty bows and leaves. Needing to clear his head before he’d lose himself to the rage, so does Thallal. Ushor sighs and announces another short recess as Thallal leaves the judge’s booth.
Baëal laughs when he sees that the slave is without a doubt a Goblin now.
‘You might as well pay up now, Garesh.’
‘Not so quick, Baëal. We wagered on what he’d do at the Impaled, not what race he is.’ Garesh says sourly. ‘And you, John, blow the whistle to alert the wolves already!’
No need to be such a sore loser, Jonn thinks as he flutes. He can tell the Goblin winches when he does that, their ears are sensitive enough to hear the dog whistle as well.
The Goblin shouts something, but is still too far away for Jonn to hear anything distinct. Especially with the other two arguing right beside him. It takes a few minutes before the Goblin gets close enough to be audible.
‘Help! Help us! You’ve got to alert the Gate!’
‘Ha! Why would we listen to you, you filthy slave!?’ Garash shouts back.
‘I’m not a slave, I’m not a slave! I’m one of the caterers from the encampment! Listen, you’ve got to alert the Gate!’
‘Hmpf, it’s been a while since they’ve tried that.’ Baëal says. ‘But it’s just typical that a Goblin would introduce that age-old excuse again. Even if the slavers flee the camp, they never do so alone and they’d always follow the road directly to the Gate.’
‘Wait, don’t you think we should check him for a brand?’ Jonn says. ‘If the Wild’s mark isn’t burned in his neck, he’s telling the truth.’
‘Meh, maybe if he were an orc. We wouldn’t want to risk killing one of our own tribe. But this is just a Goblin, even if someone misses him we can always say he didn’t survive the trek here. Half the runaways don’t survive the deserts as is.’ Baëal says. ‘Besides, the wolves are almost here already. You might get torn apart yourself if you leave the wall now.’
‘Yeah, let’s have a little fun.’ Garesh says. ‘Neither of us won the wager, so let’s make a new one. I bet I can hit him with just three tries.’
‘Ha! With your aim you couldn’t even hit a troll at half the distance, I’ll take that bet!’ Baëal says.
‘You can’t be serious…’ Jonn says.
‘Of course I am, watch me!’ Garesh says as he takes his bow and draws it.
The Goblin shrieks as the arrow hits the ground just a few feet away from him.
‘You’ve got to listen to me! Alert the Gate, we need to mobilise the troops right now!’ It shouts.
‘You can tell that it’s a lie from the small details.’ Baëal says. ‘It’s a good lie, but if he were really part of the staff he’d know we never hurry to suppress an uprising. Not when the uninhabitable desert will do that job for us.’
‘They’ll kill us all if we wait too long! We can’t…!’
The second arrow misses the Goblin and Garash curses loudly as he grabs his last arrow. ‘Shut up, slave! You’re breaking my concentration! Besides, we could stop a puny slave army with half our numbers if we wanted to!’
Garash pulls back the string and breathes in slowly, closes one eye and holds still. For a moment he actually looks like a talented archer as he takes aim, checks the wind, releases the arrow and sees it whizz through the air to… miss.
‘Foul! I call foul! The wind suddenly turned!’ Garash shouts.
‘Even if it did, that arrow still counts. We said nothing about wind conditions.’ Baëal says. ‘Pay up.’
‘Damn it, damn it, damn it!’ Garash shouts before grabbing the flute from Jonn’s hands and blows on it. ‘Get him! Just get him already!’
The wolves howl enthusiastically as they jump through the gaps in the Impaled and charge at the Goblin. The Goblin shrieks in fear and tries to run away.
‘Damn it! If you don’t do anything, the unde…!’
That’s all the Goblin can shout before the wolves catch up on him and take him down. Everything after that is just screams of pain and fear.
‘Wait, what did he try to say just now?’ Jonn says.
‘Yes, a very good question, runt.’ Garash says.
‘Don’t try to weasel out of it, Garash. You lost, pay up.’ Baëal says.
Jonn is lost in thought as Garash tries a bit longer to change the subject. He thought the Goblin was about to say ‘undead’, but he wasn’t sure. If only those wolves had been a split second slower, if that Goblin had uttered just a single syllable more, he could’ve been sure. But now…
‘John!’ Garesh shouts. ‘Don’t ignore me when I talk to you!’
Jonn is torn from his train of thought and looks at his agitated supervisor.
‘Like I said, John, check the body for valuables and don’t you dare forget to retrieve my arrows! Wait for the wolves to finish, and then do it!’ Garesh says. ‘I’m headed back to the Gate, I could use a stiff one.’
Jonn sighs and sits down as his supervisors leave. At least he has a bit of peace and quiet now that they’re gone. Well, as far as the wolves chewing and the beta-males fighting over scraps allowed either peace or quiet.
‘I could’ve sworn he was about to say…’
‘You can’t be serious, Dahra!’
Dahra ignores her father as she packs her things.
‘He’s just a crush, Dahra. You’ll get over Kragnar in a few months, but if you leave the village now you’ll never be able to return to society!’ Her father shouts.
‘He’s not just some teenage crush, dad!’ Dahra shouts back. ‘I love him, and he loves me! I loved him, and now he’s…’
‘But Dahra dear, we don’t know he’d dead. He could’ve…’
‘Shut up! Shut up shut up shut up! We both know Kragnar will never survive the rite of fire and flesh! Not when there hasn’t been a member of his family in the dragon brigade for three generations! You’re just saying that to give me false hope and keep me here!’
‘Dahra, please. If you renounce your tribe name and leave the village, the Wilds can arrest you and throw you into the encampment without a trial! If they’d hear of this conversation they might even decide to make you a slave.’
Dahra ignores her father again as she furiously throws more items into her backpack.
‘A girl with your looks would sell for a high price, they’d take any excuse to turn you into a…’
Dahra gives her father a single angry glare to stop him from finishing that sentence. However, she can’t stop him from arguing further.
‘You can’t seriously intend to become a hermit because of that farm boy. Once you become a desert maiden around these parts, you’re almost assured to end up beyond Thugs wall.’
‘Don’t you think I don’t know that, father? That’s exactly why I’m leaving this Alundria-forsaken place now! There are a lot of pilgrims in the region right now for the Mysterious scorch festival, using them as cover is the only chance a lone traveller will get to avoid the Wilds gaze. I just need to hide in the desert for a few days and slip into a group to get past the checkpoints. Not even the Wilds are bold enough to harass shamans.’
‘Damn it Dahra, you…’
‘I won’t change my mind, father. I’m leaving this corrupted place, even a blight-infested desert must be better than this dictatorship.’
Her father sighs and lowers his head as Dahra puts on her backpack and walks out the door. Both he and his wife knew that their daughter would one day run away like this, they managed to keep her rebellious side hidden from the Wilds but they had never managed to make their daughter act more appropriately.
And when she fell in love with that Summer dust boy Kragnar, they were unable to change that as well. At the very least he seemed like a more down-to-earth kid, who wouldn’t be swept up in her headstrong ideas. If they could convince a marriage between their Dust tribes, quite possible considering his low standing amongst the Summer dusts, Dahra might’ve been able to lead a quiet and peaceful life.
But alas, once again the Wilds’ greed caused misery to their people and Kragnar was selected as one of the ‘potential chosen ones’ to become a fire brigade member. The plan was little more than a publicity stunt from Thallal to silence the other orc tribes nearby, and everyone knew it.
The candidates would go to Belron’s den and be turned, and then they’d have to make it back in time for the end of the Mysterious scorch festival. Thallal would announce these rookie warriors would serve as reinforcements for the neighbouring orc tribes to aid their battle against the Immortals, and the brigade members would be gifted to the pilgrim groups as ‘gracious charity’. Veiled slavery it was, the only thing missing would be the exchange of gold.
Same as last year, same as the next year. And as the best bloodlines belonged to the more powerful and influential families who had no interest in losing their sons this way, most of the candidates were actually thin-bloods marching to their doom.
Well, it didn’t matter. Kragnar was gone now, and Dahra was as good as gone as well.
There was nothing he could do about it.
He could only pray for his daughter’s safety.
Another good chapter there, Mammon. I like the changing perspectives in this chapter.
The tournament, a love story and of course the Blight plot, I just love how you got several storylines going in the same chapter! Love it.
Kinda hoping Garash and Baeal get what’s coming to them, dudes let the Blight in!
Hope you guys like running in circles with barely anything happening, because this chapter is mainly about politics! Yay? Also, knowing the names of the seven demon princes and which cardinal sin belongs to them may prove useful here, but it’s necessary.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Chapter 5: First cracks
Amon looks at the three orcs in front of him, all three on their knees and in chains. Two of them are looking at the ground in front of them without as much of a puff, only the third was looking him in the eye. If it wasn’t beneath him to descend the stairs and be standing on the same tiles as the prisoner, Amon would’ve struck the orc for such insolence.
But that would’ve been wasted effort.
‘I, Amon the third, Grand Duke of Park and current patriarch of the Koning bloodline, shall now come to a verdict and declare the punishment for your crimes.’ He says.
Silence reigns the court room as everyone is waiting for his next words.
‘You three orcs,’ Amon says, neither deigning the orcs worthy of saying their names nor remembering these names, ‘Have been found wandering within the borders of Park. While neither of you have been connected to acts of raiding or plundering, the Dukedom of Park states that any orc setting foot on these lands are in violation of our laws.’
‘That’s hogwash! Firewell is territory of the Wild tribe!’ The defiant orc shouts.
‘Silence!’ Amon shouts. One of the armoured knights strikes the defiant orc up the back of his head with a metal fist to shut him up.
‘You walked on grasslands. Even if you were unaware of the current balance of the Firewell dispute, that would be enough ground to disclaim your pleas based upon ignorance!’ Amon says. ‘Not knowing the laws of a country is no excuse for breaking them!’
‘If the laws of your country are in direct violation with the Alliance treaties, it is!’ The defiant orc is struck again, Amon needn’t even order it this time.
‘How typical that you Wilds would remember the laws of the Allegiance when it benefits you.’ Amon says loathingly.
‘I told you, I’m not part of that tribe of savages! I’m a traveller here for the Mysterious scorch festival! Our tribe is not at war with your kingdom!’
‘Are you claiming that I’m not intelligent enough to remember your words, orc?’ Amon says. ‘You pleaded that before, but gave no proof for such claims. Therefore it has been dismissed.’
‘You can’t…! Hrmpfh!’ With a single gesture from Amon, the guard gags the defiant orc.
Amon sighs and returns to his throne. He shouldn’t show such weakness in his court, but starting a war with a tribe from the Allegiance would be even more problematic. The moment he sits down, his advisors walk to his side to give advice once more.
‘Why have you returned to your throne after proclaiming you reached your judgement, sire?’ General Beelze asks. ‘One should not be able to sway your mind once it’s been made up.’
‘Indeed, your will should reign supreme in your court and in your lands.’ Viceroy Asmodeus says.
‘Why would you even hesitate to execute these filthy savages? House Koning is just in its actions against these invaders. If you choose to change your mind, choose to execute the other two as well, not to spare that orc whose insolence already warrants his death.’ Lucy says.
With his sister’s statement finishing their collective plea, the faction in favour of war with the orcs grows silent waiting for his response. Amon expected as much, they got what they wanted at the end of the last discussion and weren’t eager to lose that moral victory.
‘We can’t risk it, if this orc is speaking the truth and you do end up executing a member of a tribe we’re not at war with, we could turn the entire Allegiance against us.’ Ser Belphegor says. ‘Even the orc tribes of other countries have no problems with our laws because it’s turned against the Wild tribe, but if their people were to be harmed by it…’
‘No need to break our heads about it. The Wild tribe will make a big fuss of it either way, even if he is one of them they’ll see no problem claiming otherwise. There’s no need to give them more kindling for their lies and deceit.’ Baron Leviathan says.
‘The last thing we need in times like these is another war. Who knows when the blight shall reach these lands?’ Kristal, the ambassador of Frühling village says.
Amon listens to these arguments of the pro-peace faction with a straight face betraying none of this thoughts or feelings as well. He glances over to his last advisor, but as expected treasurer Mammon refrains from giving his opinion on the matter. Not when peace and war are both profitable to him.
The advisors wait in silence for Amon to speak, none but Mammon allowed to say another word until he speaks.
‘I care not for the orc nor do I seek to change my judgement. However, I fear that there are too many factors of uncertainty.’ Amon says. ‘There are indeed many pilgrims from other lands in the area right now, though the Wilds would see no qualms with using that to their advantage sending spies into our lands.’
‘I do not ask for you to repeat your opinions. I only ask the answers to three questions. First: Was the Firewell part of the Wild’s territory during last year’s festival?’
Most of the advisors remain silent, for it was a complicated question. Firewell was a mana pool that both the Dukedom of Park and the Wild tribe claimed as theirs.
Considering its position, the grasslands surrounding it and the fact that the Wilds controlled two mana pools further inland, it was self-explanatory that Firewell belonged to Park. However, the Wilds had claimed otherwise for generations based upon rumours that the humans would be using the same wind magic as the elves to prevent the desert from claiming the pool. Based upon these lies, many times did their armies fight over the pool.
And these skirmishes were chaotic. Dominion of the pool could switch daily when both sides had amassed their armies, and more often than not would both sides be claiming control without knowing whose armies had prevailed the latest battle.
Where the true wars between Park and the Wilds were years in between, there were few months where none died over the pool. It was a centre of death and carnage and only by stationing well over two hundred men there had Amon managed to keep it his’ these last three weeks.
Which was problematic. While Park had a stable supply of mana water from the two elven villages, Firewell was still an important source of power to keep the many gears of his city turning. And the import of this water from other places was expensive, even before many sellers started disappearing to the blight.
Worst of all, Amon knew that the Wilds were only fighting over the pool to keep the conflict going.
‘Wait, I believe I remember!’ General Beelze says. ‘The Wilds always get more protective of the pool around the festival, so their larger force didn’t retreat when we approached. Yes, that was a fine battle, one were many orcs were slain!’
‘We won, so we were in control of the pool this date last year. I remember, for that was the day we slayed Baoc the Axe, one of Thallal’s most ruthless lieutenants who…’ Beelze says, only to be interrupted by Amon before his tale would stray any further from the topic.
‘Thank you, general. Second question; is there anyone nearby who could verify or disclaim the orc’s identity?’ Amon asks.
‘Unfortunately the ambassadors of the Allegiance left last week, and there are no orcs with arranged legitimation to tread upon your lands for another 6 months, sire.’ Sir Belphegor says. ‘There may be merchants around with experience trading with orcs, but we all know that the words of a Goblin merchant are even less reliable than those of a Wild. Not if bribery is involved.’
‘His clothes are too common for their origins to be identified, but his axe bears many resemblances to those used by the Wilds. However, the salt that he was carrying came from the sea rather than the endless salt desert.’ Mammon says. ‘Considering how cheap desert salt is around here, it’s almost impossible to find sea salt in these regions. The Wilds may be cunning enough to give him such salt for exactly that reason though.’
‘So we have no way to tell if he’s a Wild or not?’ Amon says. His advisors remain silent.
Amon sighs. ‘Third question: What are the chances of war if our judgement is wrong?’
‘Like I said, the Allegiance only tolerates our racist laws because they’re aimed at an even more problematic country.’ Ser Belphegor says. ‘If we execute…’
‘Even if the orc is truly from another tribe, he’s neither important nor can anyone prove he made it to these lands.’ Viceroy Asmodeus interrupts. ‘Long pilgrimages were already dangerous before, in times with the Immortals popping up everywhere it’s even more likely that he met his demise on the road. And that’s if he’s from another tribe to begin with.’
‘Indeed, he’s not even a shaman.’ Lucy says. ‘Even if he’s from another tribe we can lob his head off without much hassle.’
‘We can’t be talking about ending sentient life so easily!’ Kristal says.
Amon raises his hand to silence the advisors. ‘We’re running in circles, as none of you are planning to change opinion. I only want to hear the opinion of the neutral party here before I make my final judgement. Treasurer?’
Mammon remains silent for a second. ‘The Viceroy and the Duchess speak true, this orc has little status if he is a pilgrim. The Allegiance will have to overlook this occasion if they want to keep their trade network intact and our stream of gifts supplies to continue. Not even the orc’s pride will allow them to declare war upon you when they are struggling against the Blight. Chances of a negative outcome are negligible.’
‘It is decided then.’ Amon stands up.
‘For the two orcs who were caught walking our lands, you are sentenced to fight on the frontlines of the Blight war raging in Sanctuary. You shall be added to the group scheduled to depart at the next full moon, and be detained until then.’ Amon says. As expected of orcs from the Nihilist tribe, they barely even respond with a solemn nod to this statement.
‘As for the Wild one who bared his axe when my troops apprehended him and showed signs of hostility before surrendering, you will be executed tomorrow. In respect to your traditions, your execution will be held at 12:00 once the sun shines upon you. If the clouds obstruct the sun the execution will be delayed, but for no more than three days.’ Amon says.
The gagged orc tries to shout something, but the guard already grabbed him by the neck and hoists him away. The two Nihilists stand up and obediently follow.
‘Hmpf, damn Nihilists.’ Amon says. They were easily captured and didn’t resist when detained or traded to the Allegiance as cannon fodder, but their lack of spirit had been one of the biggest issues in finding allies against the Wilds. No soldier considered these people a worthy foe, and saw no glory in fighting them.
Not unless there was a Wild one with a whip behind them. Those Nihilists could get extreme when surrender was no option, and many had spread tales of Nihilists fighting despite losing an arm of being on fire when their overlords were breathing down their necks. Even the Dust were preferable over such extreme behaviours, at least their fighting spirit was consistently mediocre.
Well, it wasn’t as if there were many nobles looking for a mortal on mortal war these days.
He’d still take a hundred Nihilists over a single Wild one, though.
‘Hurry up, will ya?’
‘Relax, relax. The storm is at least 15 minutes away.’
Babo looks annoyed at Grik, who waves away any worry about the several miles tall wave of death approach them.
‘Say, what do you think of the new guy? The one who’ll be joining us tomorrow?’
‘The merc? Jonn, wasn’t it? How would I know what I’ll think of him? Haven’t met him yet.’
‘Come on, you’ve seen him. You’ve heard of him. You’ve got no first impression?’
‘He’s not a Wild, so that’s a plus. And I’ve heard he’s got some actual fighting experience, though not much. Still better than most of us.’
Babo looks at the large mass of sand hurling their way, blurring the horizon and being just moments away from blocking out the sun itself. How Grik could predict how long this massive force of nature would take before reaching them was still a mystery to him, it felt like it was just mere minutes before it would reach the wall. But Grik had proven his predicting skills many times before.
[i]‘Heh, got that right. Too bad he’s not a Dust like us though. And he’s actually got a respectable name, unlike ours. It would’ve been kinda funny if he had a Goblin-esk name too, wouldn’t it?’
‘My name isn’t a Goblin’s.’
‘Whatever. So, you’re sure those slaves aren’t going to make it?’
‘The ones we saw? Nah, they’ll never beat the sandstorm here. I’d say the storm hits ‘em about four minutes before the first reaches the wall, they’ll be sand beamed all the way to the bone.’
‘Besides, these conditions are exceptional. We’re not supposed to risk the wolves nor the wall facing a sandstorm to stop just a few slaves, much less our lives. So we shouldn’t even lower the Ramp if there were a hundred slaves inbound.’
‘And you think Garesh shares that opinion?’
‘I’d be worried if the slaves stood a chance of surviving this. In fact, I’m more worried about the lack of booze at the Lo hideout, you’re grumpy when you’re sober.’
‘Make a run for the Gate if you think you’ll make it.’
‘I would’ve, half an hour ago. But someone thought we wouldn’t make it and insisted we’d weather the storm in that damn mountain shack.’
Babo and Grik continue their banter walking towards the mountain foot. Behind them the small figures continue walking towards the wall with the great winds of sand in tow.
Grik was right, they never made it to the wall in time. The sandstorm struck the immortals a hundred yards before the Impaled and each grain of salt acted as a little grinding stone on their skin, tearing it away. The strong wind in their back only made the undead accelerate though.
Three of the undead Goblins were stopped by the Impaled, stuck on the spikes that normally only created bottlenecks. Four more fell when the storm hit them and were quickly buried underneath a thick layer of sand. However, two undead goblins and the only undead elf of the group were blown past the Impaled and easily scaled the Wall using the Ramp.
As expected of Immortals, they didn’t stop there. Where any mortal would’ve hidden behind the wall until the storm would blow over, the three zombies continued walking towards civilisation.
Ushor asked one of the nearby soldiers if they’d seen where Thallal was, and sighed when he heard that the chieftain still hadn’t left his tent. Such a bad sport, just like his father.
Bored, Ushor looked at Grrsh. The old, almost ancient, shaman didn’t respond. Ushor always wondered whether the elder shaman could still see with those glazed over eyes, or if he was truly judging purely from sound. A question he’d never known, not when Grrsh couldn’t answer in anything but grunts and gestures. The latter of which were getting more sparse every year.
Ushor looked at the contestants waiting in line. He understood the impatience they showed, this wasn’t the first recess today nor was it the longest. He briefly wondered how much more impatient they’d be if they knew of the sand storm coming in. No doubt the festival would have to be postponed once that happened.
If only he and Grrsh could do this without Thallal, it would be so much easier and fairer. But it was tradition and Ushor knew what hell he’d unleash if he were to ever stray from tradition. It was his single strongest argument against Thallal’s almost absolute word of law and one of the few reasons why he had some sovereignty around here unlike the other orc leaders.
No, if he were ever to create a precedent of breaking with traditions, Thallal would never let him hear the end of it. Ushor sighed again and steeled his resolve to wait for Thallal’s return.
‘I know, Grrsh. I want to get this over with as well.’
I liked this chapter.
It was nice to see how Park’s politics are so influinced internally and externally. And despite Konibg’s flaws he does know better than Thrallal that eventually the Blight will come. And guessing by the three zombamboes over there i guess he is right.
Loved how the mana pool was a source of confkuct cause it would be wouldn’t it?
Well done man!
Also I noticed your self insert in there…cheeky
Part 3 of the Exiled Knight.
Elswin tossed and turned in his bed. Sleep was far away even at the best of times. The servants quickly made him a warm meal despite the late hour, which he ate before he retired to bed. It wasn’t for his sake he ate it but theirs for they were brave enough to remain in the estate.
His family were out of the estate for fear of the Blight and fled to their summer home in Queenspark, however with word that the nearby mana pools of Kins pond and Small pool and were not only reclaimed but restored thanks to the Pool Priestesses they would return home soon enough.
Elswin did not blame them for they were not warriors like their founder, Ophra.It wasn’t even from them he heard most of her tales. A old gardener and librarian, for he loved both the soil and books, hung around the estate when he was a child. He had taken a liking to the old man who always seemed interested in everything and was even more interested in telling stories. And when he wasn’t he was playing some kind of blowing instrument that made lovely tunes that even made the servants dance as they did their duties.
At play when the young boy was swinging a stick around like a sword is when he started telling tales about the founder of their house. He told of stories of valour and glory and honour. How she stood against the rotting tide of Immortals leading the fight alongside other heroes like Prince Halmadir, King Leopold and Mountain King Freya Daindotter. In his boyish dreams he dreamed he fought alongside her, side by side like true knights.
Looking back as a man he was slightly ashamed of having those dreams, if anything the life of a knight (especially that of a bodyguard to a princess) was not all that glorious. It involved a lot of standing around, keeping secrets and a heap of responsibilities he had to burden. And all the while keeping up appearances.
And yet he did not regret having chosen this profession, not once. The stories the old man said were just that, stories. But that spark he awakened, the need to serve and protect both the lowborn and the monarchy…that stayed.
With a sigh Elswin opened his eyes and looked at the wall where the family portraits were. One of them was him sitting on a horse when he was just knighted, holding his helmet under his arm and as always the satyr dancing on his tabard.
Again his mind turned back to the tales the old gardener told him about her. He foundly remembered his favourite tale, “the liberation of Dawnfort”.
It took place shortly after Prince Halmadir and Mountain King Freya Daindotter of Coolcraig joined forces at Buffs Wood but before King Leopold officially joined forces with them.
Gryphon’s Crown’s knights fought as well as they could but it took all their strength and courage to protect the capitol and the two twons of Dandys Park and Black Park.
Any other city, village and farm stood alone. However where their king failed, the people fought where they could.
Dawnfort was one of the first cities to fall to the Blight but yet pockets of resistance remained inside the city.
Safehouses of fortified buildings were scattered across the city, connected by a few streets not contaminated by the Blight or sewers. The few guardsmen who were left protected the few survivors there along with the local militia, brave men and women who fought tooth and nail to protect their homes and shops. The dwarven community that lived there threw away their merchant’s attire and again picked up their mining picks to cleave undead skulls and mine passages under the city. A few elven hunters that made their home nearby became food smugglers and brought in fresh fruit and even game when they could. Even a small Orc warband, en route to some secretive festival in the northern kingdom of Park, was stuck in Dawnfort and put their swords and fire magic to good use.
These people had not heard from a alliance being formed an yet they made one themselves.
Word from the outside was scarce and most of It was not good. Most of the outlying farms had no more food and every raid outside of the city walls provided with less food time and again, the nearby mana pool was destroyed and had no more mana to offer. Worse, a Dread Knight had risen from it and was leading the attack on Dawnfort.
And worst of all, no relief force was in sight either from King Leopold or Prince Halmadir.
Their only source of any kind of relief was a goblin merchant who had set up a Shadow Bazaar outside of town, his entire carriage covered in powerful magicks so the Immortals couldn’t see him. The prices for food and mana were steep but a cowardly noble who still remained in the city made up his cowardice with deep pockets.
A elf by the name of Ashila Elswin, leader of one of the safehouses, led a small band to clear out the sewers so more goblin smugglers could deliver in food and supplies.
She alongside a dwarf merchant turned warrior named Thror, a female orc shaman named Frenza, a few brave militia members and a Dragonhelm Knight slew their way through the sewers to clear it up for the runners. Despite having done this numerous times, along way daytime raids, they still didn’t like the smell of the sewers which even got worse as time progressed.
They operated in a church whose high, thick and sturdy walls protected them and other survivors on the inside. The church were connected to other safehouses across the city via the church’s crypts. Nobody appointed Ashila as the leader of the group, she didn’t even worship the human god and during sermons always prayed to the idols of the spirits of the wilds instead, but she took charge when nobody else did and nobody dared stop her ever since.
Ashila was shunned and yet pitied before the Blight. Her human husband and youngest daughter were killed by raiders the year before and her eldest daughter was exiled along with many other knights for daring to speak out against the king.
When Frenza heard the story she looked up from her watered down ale and saw the elf in a new light.
“Instead of wallowing in sorrow, she is burning herself out. I can respect that.” The orc said.
“What are you talking about?” Thror asked." She’s leading the people when all their leaders fled, died or got eaten. She can’t burn out." He pointed to the Dragonhelm Knight who was seated in the back as he was sharpening his sword with a whetting stone." That one over there is going to burn himself out. Rumour says his Wizard partner got killed the day the wall fell. Been trying to kill himself ever since yet no blighter got close to doing that."
“What’s his name?” Frenza asked to which Thror shrugged.
Before one could say more, Ashila came by." We got a job, runner just came from the Red Moon Inn. Sewers are flooded again."
“By the beards of my ancestors…” Thror cursed." Again?!"
“What, Thror? Scared of a few blighters?” Ashila smirked. She picked up her bow and quiver from one of the tables and motioned to the Dragonhelm Knight to follow. The knight dutifully stood and followed her.
Frenza picked up her own staff, winking at the dwarf who fumed as he finished his, and the orc’s, drink before he grabbed his mining pick.
The party cleared out the sewers easy enough, despite the large numbers they proved not much of a fight.
In the beginning of the siege, the undead tide was unstoppable. Every blockade created they smashed, every arrow or bullet absorbed and they fed on everything that had a heartbeat. But after most of the city fell, they fell into a lethargy. Only those near the Dreadlord occasionally attacked a safehouse or ventured outside the city to attack either the elven kingdom or Gryphon Crown.
As they cleared out the last of the undead, they came across the entrance outside of the city where a goblin merchant was waiting along with his servants, some troll bodyguards…and a human knight. A few undead were on the side of the tunnels, Ashilla knew they were attacked just before now. However for some reason, where before even the faintest whiff of a blighter would scare off a goblin, he and his entourage remained. The prize attacked to this must be a lot, she assumed.
The Dragonhelm Knight sliced the few undead in twain before he placed his swordtip on the ground and lend on it, his way of saying the last of the dead were gone.
“Here she is.” the goblin trader said to the knight." Right on schedule."
“We are a hour late.” Ashila replied as she pulled a arrow out of a Immortal’ skull." Thror’s dwarven sense of direction got us lost."
“I told you, i’m not that kind of dwarf! I left my stronghold because of it!” he replied.
The elf gave a small smile before she turned to the knight. He was wearing battered armour, his sword looked bloodied much like the trolls…and bore no tabard designating him to King Leopold’s forces. All the while the knight said nothing, observing her as well until he cracked a smile.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” he asked.
Ashila frowned her eyes until a light went on in her head." Derrick! Ophra’s friend!"
“It’s nice to see you again, Misses Elswin.” Ser Derrick replied and shook her hand." How are you all holding up?"
“What did the gobo tell you?” Thror asked.
Derrick turned to the dwarf." That things are bad…really bad.“
Thror nodded.” Aye, tis that bad.“
Derrick nodded.” Well I got good news. Especially for you, Mrs Elswin." the knight smiled." Your daughter has returned with an army. They’re just outside of Dawnfort right now."
Ashila’s heart soared as her brain processed the information." Ophra is back?!" A flood of questions raced through her mind. How is she? Is she alright? Is she eating well? Has she forgiven herself? But she kept her composure. There would be time later.
Derrick smiled." Yes, she is leading the army we gathered. It’s not much but enough to clean the city. But we need your help." The knight’s mood changed almost instantly which worried her as he shuffled his feet nervously.
“Oh this will be good…” Thror muttered until the elf shushed him.
“What do you need us to do?” she asked.
Derrick breathed before he spoke. “We need you to open the gate to let us in.“
A moment of dumbfound silence passed.
“The gates? You want us to open the gates?” Thror asked to which Ser Derrick nodded.” Are you mad boy?! The gate is crawling with undead! We closed it so not more of those things would spread across the land! People DIED to close the damn thing! It’ll be a suicide mission!“
The knight took the dwarf’s verbal assault before he replied.” I know but it is the only access point we can use so we can fully use our horses.“
The dwarf muttered under his beard as the knight turned to Ashila.” Please, we need your help. It’s the only way we can safe Dawnfort.”
“It would give us a glorious death.” Frenza laughed." Please elf, let’s do it."
Ashila did not waver. If it meant saving her city and her youngest child from undeath and the cost of her and a few other cells…so be it." You tell my daughter we will get those gates down."
“Great, i’ll tell her immediately.” he motioned to the goblin who handed her some kind of small dwarven blunderbuss." It’s a flare." he said." It will alert your daughter we can charge in." he smiled. " I’ll also tell her that you-"
“No. Tell her nothing.” Ashila interrupted as she put the flare gun away." If the spirits of the wild and green will it we will see each other again. If I am to die during this attempt…nothing lost.“
Derrick looked confused at her.” Are you sure, Misses Elswin?"
“Yes.” she replied." Now go.“
The knight sighed.” Very well. But before I go, my uncle. Did he…?"
“He died a hero.” Ashila replied." I am sorry for your loss.“
Derrick did not reply. He gave a faint acknowledgment before he slid his helmet back on, visor down.” We will attack tomorrow morning. Good luck. May God watch over you." With that he left with the goblins and the trolls.
“May the mountains watch over us all…” Thror replied before he turned to Ashila." You’ve signed our death warrants, you know that right?“
Ashila slung her bow on her back and picked up a bag of supplies the goblins left behind. “You can still back out.“
The dwarf scoffed and as if offended picked up two bags and slung them on his shoulders.” Over my beard!”
“It is decided then.” Frenza held up her staff as a small orb of fire danced above it, acting like a torch.” We will burn out in a blaze of glory?"
“If the spirits will it so, yes.” The elf replied.
Frenza laughed and turned to the Dagonhelm Knight." You hear that, Ser Knight?! We both get our wish!"
The silent knight did not reply and instead moved onward as the party followed back to the church. Back to one more sleepless night and then an end. One way or another.
She didn’t like being made a hero and yet here she was, being a banner for all these desperate people.
She saw Amelia, the red headed farmer, charge along with other militia as they jammed their borrowed dwarven steel pikes into the undead masses. The satyr stayed in back with the elves who fired arrow after arrow as he threw his healing magick at those in need, his music instrument serving as a motivator. The tunes stirred her heart into action, into a mad frenzy.
Greta and her dwarves provided a shield wall for the militia to hide behind, the undead clawed at them uselessly as dwarven steel and blunderbusses cut them down along with gnomish scythes. Now was the time, she thought, now they were all neatly lined up along with the shield wall.
“RUN THEM DOWN!” Ophra cried to her knights." RUN THEM DOWN!"
Her regiment of knights had grown a lot since they freed the dwarven stronghold. Among them now were many knights who had failed their duty elsewhere in Sanctuary and came to join her banner.
The banner was a satyr, a jest by Silenus that became a symbol to rally behind. Silenus, the satyr whose song and dance, healing and lovemaking motivated her men to keep fighting. Her mind snapped to the present again as she prepared her charge. Silently she made a prayer to God before she set off the charge.
Her knights rallied and charged with her once more, running down the undead along the shield wall.
Ophra’s lance pierced through the undead’ torso, taking it with him. Her arm caned immensely and she soon realized her right arm had dislocated. She maintained her momentum however and drew her sword with her left which she used to slash any rotting corpse around her, hacking madly.
The din of battle was enormously loud, but she kept hearing the same battlecry.
“STAY WITH THE EXILED KNIGHT! STAY WITH THE EXILED KNIGHT!”
“FOR OPHRA! FOR DAWNFORT!” Was another.
When she ran passed the shieldwall and looked back, she noticed the last of the undead were trampled or shot down by elven arrow or dwarven bullet. The militia took special care in spearing the downed undead, a savage glee in their eye. Amellia was the most savage as she kept spearing a corpse over and over and over again. Putrid blood danced and sprayed on her tunic as she laughed madly, a blood haze clearly in her eyes. It took a few moments before someone was brave enough to go over and calm her down.
“I’ve gathered a army of monsters…” Ophra said to herself. She was seated on a chair at camp.
“Yes, my dear knight.” Silenus said as he treated her wounds." But they are your monsters. And the proverb of my people did say, sometimes to fight fire you need fire.“
Ophra weighted those words.” …That sounds stupid."
“I didn’t say my people were that wise.” Selinus replied before he took a swig from his bottle." All done, patched up and ready to go for tomorrow."
“Lovely.” Ophra looked her arm over and smiled with approval as it followed her commands, fingers flexing and hand moving in the direction she wanted." I’ll best inspect the troops before Derrick arrives. Hopefully we’ll have those gates up or else…" she didn’t like thinking of any opposites. She had picked up some bridge builders who had doubled as sappers and some dwarven miners but to take down a gate it would take a lot of time and lives she could not afford to spend.
The Dread Knight who commanded the undead was no fool. It was playing with the resistance inside the city, a evil and cruel mind ruled that skull. That was the only reason they still lived.
If it knew Ophra was here, he no doubt would’ve eradicated all life in the city before marching out to face her. Only with the bridge down, to catch him off-guard was the only chance they had.
A delighted tone hovered over the camp as she made her rounds. The militia was in their cups of mead along with the gnomes who had joined them the week before.
“Ophra!” Amellia smiled as she raised her cup." Care to join us?! Gnomish ale made from flowers and…stuff!“
Amellia had really opened up the past few weeks. She went from a introverted farm girl to a extrovert who was the first to charge, drink and sleep with any man she wished (although mostly it was the satyr).
Ophra shook her head.” Making my rounds, perhaps later!"
“I hold you to it!” Amellia laughed and continued speaking to the gnomes." So is it true you fix up shoes for food or…?"
The half-elf shook her head amused as she moved along the line. Anabella and some of her knights were drilling still, this time testing their mettle against some of the orc reinforcements they received from Park. She never met orcs before but these lot seemed very quiet and soft spoken. They were good in a fight, a few hours prior they scored quite a few kills without any casualties on their own, but barely spoke to anyone.
Nowhere near the ruthless and savage barbarians that the monstrous Warchief Gorvar the dragonrider sacked half the continent with.
Greta and her dwarves were singing and drinking dwarven ale with some more of Ophra’s knights. The only ones that really kept to themselves were the elves.
Sombre music went through her ears as she went to their quarter. A few of their number fell, the first casualties on their end.
Their princess was speaking in quiet elven, a sad musical dirge as the elves in question were lowered into the ground. They were naked as the day they were born, oddly fitting. Each of them had a seed planted on their chest before dirt was thrown over them and water was sprayed over the newly made graves.
What little she remembered from her mother’s customs was that elves believed in reincarnation, that the end of one live was the beginning of something new. The deaths of these elves would mark new trees being born.
Somewhere deep inside her core, it felt right.
Ophra remained to the side as the elves finished the ceremony, each headed off to their quiet contemplations. Save the princess who walked over to the half-elven knight.
“We lost four of our brothers and sisters today.” Thorondal said." Four pairs of mothers and fathers I’ve broken my promise to that their children would come home safe."
“They died to save my home, princess.” Ophra replied." Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.“
Thorondal looked back to the place where she buried her people.” I promised them adventure. Away from watching orcs all day…a part of me wants to take what’s left of my people and sail back home. This isn’t our fight. Prince Halmadir can handle it." She turned to Ophra." You can join us if you like? Your elven blood will grant you safe passage to Oasis.“
Despite her lithe swiftness, she could not avoid Ophra’s hand smacking her across the cheek. Shock turned her skin paler than before as quickly her eyes turned to anger.” You…DARE?!"
“Yes I dare!” the half-elf replied." You lost some of your people and you want to get out and run?! You who pretty much blackmailed me into this?!"
“You do not understand, MORTAL.” she said the last with empathise." These people lived longer than your human passed three generations. I’ve known them for over a hundred years and I saw their lives sniffed out." she snapped her fingers." Just like that! You do not understand that kind of pain."
“Oh don’t you start.” Ophra glared." Your pain doesn’t outdo ours at all. Our pain is the same as yours. We have shorter lives yes but we do a lot in that timespan. We are born, we life to our fullest and we die. When I look into the eyes of my knights and those farmers I see a courage only us lowly mortals have. We risk what little lifespan we have to save our home. That makes us human!"
“Even you?” the princess asked." Even with your elven blood?"
“Even with my elven blood.” the knight replied." I see myself as human. Now more so than ever. The question is, are you strong enough to follow this lowly human, stay while you could have fled?“
Thorondal’s cheek began to redden where she was struck, a silent storm raged inside her.” We will see this through but the next time you strike me, you will pull back a stump."
“Then give me no reason to.” with that Ophra stomed off.
She fumed as she walked back to her tent. " I do not wish to be disturbed!" she said to the men who guarded her tent before she shut her tent flap. She undid her armour, being only in her tunic and breeches. She tried to read the book she had from her mother about he elves but could not focus on the words. She checked over the battlemap instead but after a few moments everything started to blur. She rubbed her brow as a tiredness nearly took over. Tired not just physically but also emotionally. She turned to the corner of the tent and knelt down in front of the small shrine she made. It was a small stand which had a statue of a giant, not a cyclops like they had on Alundria but of a two eyed kind looking giant in a brown robe.
She muttered no words, she merely knelt in front of the shrine. She asked for God to watch over the souls of her family. She asked God to be with them tomorrow and most important of all…she asked God to keep her strong. Not for her own sake but for her men.
Her half-elven ears twitched which made her angry.
“Selinus, not tonight!” she turned around…and found a tired Derrick instead. “Derrick!“
The knight smiled.” It’s on! We’ll have those gates down tomorrow!”.
Ophra smiled." Good. God willing, Dawnfort will be freed tomorrow." She placed her hand on her fellow knight’ shoulder." One hell of a homecoming tomorrow."
“Aye.” he agreed." We’ll be bringing it to the blighters and make them face justice."
Lovely story, and I hope we’ll see more of those guerilla tactics again. Zombie survival stories, especially that kind of reusing the fallen world’s constructs such as the sewers for new purposes, is a guilty pleasure of mine.
Only problem I have, and one I assume will be the case with my stories too, is that I sometimes wonder whether the characters that are mentioned are from previous stories. Ophra and her warriors are still fresh enough in my memory to know them and their story, but some are just months ago. I had to look up what my dragon brigade’s character was called to add his name to Dahra’s story, after all. And I was the one who named him… I vaguely remember some of the stories such as the knight and the wizard he was connected to, but there are gaps. :’(
(Note to self, add clipnotes for those previous stories refresh’ somehow.)
P.S. Of course Mammon had to be added. The moment I added the seven deadly sins, I obviously had to add the sin of Avarice to the mix as the one in charge of money.
(Because it turns out Wikipedia searches might actually be difficult in this regard when you don’t know what to look for: Amon=Wrath, Lucifer(Lucy)=Pride, Beelzebub(General Beelze, called Bub by his friends)=Gluttony, Viceroy Asmodeus=Lust, Ser Belphephor=Sloth, Baron Leviathan=Envy, treasurer Mammon=Greed)
Oh I agree there, I had to scroll up several times during the writing for this to double check on names. I feel ya man.
Glad you liked the story btw, I was inspired in turn by WWZ (the novel) and Warhammer: Vermintide.
Edit; Also looking at your cast…THREE GUESSES WHO THE BAD GUYS ARE?!
Love the research you did by the way.
World War Z, huh? That’s indeed a good book. (Unlike the movie, which only shares the title. Brad Pitt’s character isn’t even in the book…) And while I’ve never played Vermintide I’ve seen it played a few times (Left4Dead with wererats, right?) it looked interesting.
I don’t necessarily consider the 7 sins negative by default, rather than that they can be realistic and defendable motivations/character traits. A villain who’s evil for the sake of evil or a villain on a quest for revenge? A character who causes a problem because the plot demands it, or because their pride conflicts with the most rational solution? A friend who refuses to come with the MC on a quest for vague reasons, or because they’re envious of his relationship and think he’ll die during the quest allowing them to woo the girl instead? The sins make for more realistic characters if you ask me, and may even be good guy qualities.
Agreed Mammon, it makes the characters more realistic that way.
The thing about this story of yours is I see a lot of dark gray, both orcs and humans can be nasty or kind depending on the person and environment.
Also I highly recommend Virmintide, it is a ton of good fun.