The shadows faded beneath the trees as the morning brightened. The hunters dispersed among the thick tree-trunks, resting but alert. Ralnar Rohillion stood watching Halva Greggorson, a lancer in his cavalry tending to Rhinoch’s injuries. The huge man sat impassively as she stitched a major wound on his back, one of many she’d have to see to before she was done. Halva was also an accomplished healer and an asset to her troop.
“Rhinoch?” Ralnar asked. “How came you to be a captive of the Hewn Pillar Orcs? I’m certain you would never surrender to the beasts.”
The bulking man shrugged as Halva worked her needle and gave Ralnar a winced glance.
“I found work as a caravan guard in Nivrin. We were journeying to Attersee bringing silks from the elven weavers in Dormorion when we were ambushed by orcs as we approached the Nearcross bridge over the Nehm. We only had nine men-at-arms for guards but I managed to get the traders on the bridge before the orcs reached us.’
“I took the last cart and we blocked the bridge with it. We beat the tuskers off for two hours, for they could only hit us three or four at a time but eventually they wore us down, for there were two hundred of them and ten of us. We had spears and swords and we showed them the foolishness of trying to climb over the cart, but they had arrows and one by one, our numbers fell.”
Rhinoch sighed. “Finally, there was me and a young kid, Jesper, left. He was terrified but he wouldn’t run, even after I told him to go. By then we were ankle deep in gore and it was bloody hot. The tuskers pulled back to regroup and the boy took a moment to grab a swig of water from his waterskin. An orc arrow took him in the eye and then, it was just me.”
“They rushed me, jumping over each other, screaming like banshees, stabbing and hacking. I lost count of how many I killed but I knew my time was up. A big uruk jumped me and we strained against each other. My foot slipped in the blood and we went down. They swarmed on top of me and I knew I was seeing my last moments.”
“Something hit me in the head and the next thing I knew I was bound with many ties and being dragged off the bridge. I must have passed out because my next memory is being in Mugzurd, looking at the ugliest Orc I’d ever seen…”
“Lord Ralnar!” Linmaer cried, racing up. “The outriders report a large party of orcs approaching along the edge of the grasslands. They’re nosing their way along the forest edge.”
Rhinoch sprang to his feet. “I need a weapon!”
Halva pushed close, growling, “Stand still, idiot! Let me tie this stitch off, at least! And somebody find something he can cover himself with!”
Ralnar called his troop leaders to him. “Get your troops into cover. Be sure each archer has a swordsman or spearman covering him. Move the men upslope. Get some distance between us and the enemy. No one attacks until I say. GO!”
A tall bearded trooper passed Rhinoch his cloak and a length of rope. “Wrap this around your waist, Rodain, and tie it off with this cord. Take my pike. I’ll trust my sword.’
Rhinoch thanked him. “Aye and the pike will be better for me. Your butterknives won’t do me much good. Good luck.”
The trooper laughed and moved off. Soon, the forest grew quiet, an atmosphere of alertness seeming to emanate through the woods. Ralnar checked of his position and saw nothing to reveal the troopers crouching in the dimness. Even Rhinoch had vanished. He nodded, satisfied that all he could to prepare he had done. He took cover himself and waited, listening alertly.
A wind came up and sighed through the trees, bringing with it a distant rattle of metal on metal, soldiers marching toward them. It would not be long.
A horn sounded, a clarion-call some distance off. Ralnar tensed, wondering if they had been seen? Then they heard shouts and growls, unmistakably the battle-speech of orcs growing in volume as more horns began ringing!
“Dwarf battle horns, Ral, or I am a stableboy!” Linmaer grunted in surprise.
“Get me ten good blades and let’s go take a look.” Ralnar said, standing up. He signaled the rest of his soldiers to stay where they were. The elf woman came back leading troopers and Ralnar headed downslope. The edge of the forest was very near.
They crept up to the tree-line and beheld a line of orcs forming up meet a dark mass of horses and spears charging at them.ShareLatest Comments
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