In chapter 3 we pick up with Remence trying, unsuccessfully, to convince his tribe to flee. We their scouts return it is not an army of orcs but fifty. Remence tries to persuade the council that this is just a vanguard for the real army, but his pleas fall on deaf ears.
Do We Stay Or Do We Go?
Remence reached his village close to the time of the setting sun. He had run all day. He was drenched from the outpouring of rain, and though he was soaked and hadn’t slept, nor eaten in nearly two days he could think of neither victuals nor slumber as his mind had but one purpose: to warn his people of the impending danger.
Yet he was hesitant to enter his home. The day’s long journey had allowed him time to reflect on what his best course of action should be.
He had decided that he would circumvent his village and come in unnoticed. He desired his father’s counsel prior to letting any of his people see him in his disheveled state, which would cause them to inquire of his whereabouts the previous two days. Not wanting to alarm his village until there was a well thought out plan of action- -as to avoid panic- -he moved to the outskirts of the village.
He cautiously made his way toward his dwelling, moving from some brush on the outskirts of the land to a run-down barn that his neighbor no longer used. It was within a stone’s throw of his little stock of land. He stopped, looking all about in a furtive manner to make sure no eyes would catch him heading for his house.
As he was spying the landscape, he smelled the long stem pipe leaf and knew immediately that his father had recently finished his evening meal. He inhaled, taking in the familiar cherry flavor that was his father’s favorite.
Father probably just had his evening meal. He always takes in a good smoke after he has eaten, he thought. His stomach growled in response, and he began to salivate. The familiarity of his home, knowing he was so close, drained him of his last reserves of energy. His hunger pangs were on the wax, and he decided that he needed to eat.
As he peered through the uneven, rickety boards of the structure that once served as his neighbor’s barn he spotted his father, sitting outside, in his favorite chair, puffing on his pipe.
Slipping from the neighbor’s farm, then to the corral, and final to the edge of his property, he laid belly down on the ground, allowing it to swallow him up as he slithered the rest of the way to his house.
Once he reached his home he rose, and plastered himself to the wall, creeping up to the rear of his residence, then sneaking through an entrance into the kitchen area.
Unnoticed, Remence moved through his home with mind of getting to his father. He stopped briefly to grab a piece of bread from a meal his father had left out, presumably for him. He stuffed the small piece of food into his mouth to easy his hunger as he continued forward.
Sweeping through the familiar structure he and his father shared, Remence stepped through the open front door out onto their small porch. His father looked up, and Remence could see a look of relief on his father’s face as he laid his eyes upon him.
“Remence!” he cried as he sprang from his chair with the grace of a cat. “My boy! I was beginning to worry. It is a rare thing that you are away for nearly two days without warning beforehand.” His father embraced him in a hug Remence had not felt since he was a very young lad.
“I’m fine father.”
“You don’t look fine. You look as if you’ve been run over by a wagon being drawn by a couple of dragons. Where you been son? What is going on? You look worse for the wear.”
“Come inside father, we have much to discuss. You must hear what I have to say.”
“Yes, yes. Come to the cooking area, I’ve left out a meal for you.”
And that is when Remence sat and told his father of everything that had happened, and what was soon to happen, eating ravenously as he recounted the events that had transpired.
“Son, this is most distressing, we must convene The Hand. Get some rest, you need it. I will call upon council at once.”
Remence went to his sleeping quarters, thinking that he would not find slumber, for his mind was unsettled with the impending doom moving toward his village. But as he lay in his bed thinking of what might become of his friends and family, he drifted off.
Remence awoke to the din of battle. He jumped from his bed looking for his bow and sword. The orcs are here? How did they get here so swiftly! Where are my weapons?
As he began frantically searching for his weapons he noticed through his open window smoke. He took a closer look at the window and saw it billowing from all parts of his village. My people are dying.
“Where in the Nine Hells are my bow and sword? I left them right here!” he shouted to no one as he starred at the chair near his bedside, hands clinched in frustration.
Remence abandoned the idea of finding his weapons, instead deciding to try and help as many of his people find safety as possible. He bolted out into the village proper, his legs pumping with all his might. But as he ran toward the center of the village, passing home after home, he saw no one. He heard the clashing of weapons, saw smoke, but could find no one. Where is everyone, are they dead? Where are my weapons? I hear battle…
“Remence. Remence? Remence!”
He awoke to the visage of his father, in a cold sweat. It took him a minute, but he realized that it was just a dream. He was relieved that the ransacking by orcs was but a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare.
“You okay son? I’ve gotten the elders together, and they are gathering everyone from the village to the hall. They want to hear your story, from your mouth. I left a fresh tunic there, next to your weapons. I will meet you on the porch.”
Remence arose from his bed, kicking his legs over the side. He stood up, but much slower than usual as his muscles had stiffened from his arduous journey. He dressed slowly and gathered up his weapons. He decided he wasn’t going anywhere without them to ensure that his nightmare did not become a reality. He then met his father on the porch to discuss a possible alternative to him having to face the village.
“You are part of The Hand. Won’t your fellow council members take what you say as truth?” Remence questioned. “You are revered by them father, and a great deal wiser than me. A great deal wiser than most. And as brave as any man in the village. Would not your words carry greater weight than mine?” Remence finished, trying to convince his father to speak in his stead. He dreaded having to face The Hand. And his village.
“No son. They…we must hear from you. It is the way of our people.”
“But what is it that makes The Hand so important? Why do we even need them?”
“The Hand was created long ago and called such to represent what the human hand can do. The hand, which gives one the ability to write, representing our human intellect. The hand, which can caress, a means of showing love. And the hand’s capacity to wield a tool or a weapon, giving us the power to farm, fight, and defend ourselves.
“The Hand has been guiding our people for nearly a century. Helping to settle disputes among village members, making judgments on matters that possibly violate village law, and making suggestions and counseling our people about their individual needs. The Hand, like our human hand, which has no emotion attached to its actions, is suppose to give unbiased advice and judgment, so fairness will always accompany our counsel and decrees. That is our purpose.
“In this particular situation, we must help the village to decide on the proper course of action- -stay or flee. It is a matter that affects the entire village. It is how it has always been and how it must be now. You know this. This is a matter that affects us all, and we must decide as a village, and the village must hear from you, the one who witnessed it, how dire our circumstances are. I must sit in neutral judgment of your tale, like any other member. I cannot speak on your behalf.”
“But father, we must flee! We cannot hope to stop this wave of evil that is about to descend upon us. There is no way. You know that many will not want to run. They are too proud. They will feel that we must protect that which we have drawn from this harsh land. That we must defend our homes. But in defending our homes, there will be no one left to live in them. No one left to sow the fields. It is foolishness.”
“Then that is what you must tell them. You must convince them. Convince us, The Hand, and in particular, Jarden, Mand, and Grok. They are more of the mind of fighting than running. If you can sway them, they then will help you win the crowd. You know you have my belief and support. And Falen will stand with reason.”
“But I am no orator. No sage. I’m barely of age, only seventeen winters. And my story will seem so far-fetched,” Remence whined. Doing whatever he could to get out of his dreaded responsibility.
“You must,” reprimanded his father. “It is your responsibility, son.”
Remence sat in silence for a moment. He felt his stomach churning, as if he had become drunk on very bad mead. He wanted nothing more than to go back to his bed and bury his face in his pillow. I think I would rather face the onslaught of the orcs than speak in front of the entire village.
“You can do this, son. I have confidence in you. You have confidence in you.”
Remence took a deep breath. “Tymora guide my tongue,” he whispered to the wind as he and his father marched into the village proper.
The five council members, including his father sat upon a dais. They each sat in a wooden chair, carved out of strong oak, with animal skins placed upon the seats to make then more comfortable. The hall was packed. All of the village had come out to hear Remence’s tale.
Mand, the ostensible leader of The Hand, sat in the center chair. He silenced the hall and bade Remence come forward to stand before the five. As Remence walked forward, head hung low but even though he did not make eye contact with anyone he could feel the weight of the stares. Once he took the floor, he looked around at his entire village. A feeling of trepidation came over him and his stomach began feel as if it was tying itself in knots.
“Tell us what you have discovered young Brandt?” prompted Mand.
Remence’s mind went blank and when he went to speak he became tongue tied. He looked down in shame.
“Do you not have a tale to tell?” Mand said, giving Remence the right to address the council.
There was a long silence. Remence looked up, and when he did his eyes met his father’s. In those eyes he saw strength and he drew from that strength. Remence took a deep breath and inhaled his confidence. His father nodded his approval, and within that nod was his encouragement to Remence.
His fear evaporated and it was replaced with conviction. With his poise returned Remence retold his tale in full. When he finished there were many who looked at him with raised eyebrows, arms crossed, and visages that bespoke doubt.
Mand was the first to voice what the others seemed to be thinking. “Young Brandt has to be mistaken. I mean, that many? All the regional tribes working together? It is unheard of. In all my many years, it has never happened. It has to be an error, it just has to be.” His vehemence being laid bare at the end.
“But I’m telling you as it is. In the name of Tymora, you must listen, or we are all doomed!” urged Remence.
“Don’t get us wrong young Brandt, nor you Kael, you have never been known to be fanciful in your tales, but it is hard to imagine. Mand has a point. We have lived here on the Vaasan plains our entire lives, and or fathers before us, and never have we seen, nor heard, a tale such as the one you tell. And we are many winters old,” opined Jarden.
Gromken’s adoptive father, Grok spoke. His voice was intense and commanding, and it resonated from the depths of his soul, yet it was self-assured and smooth. It matched his outward appearance, that of a hulking man who had visible scars. He garnered great respect from all in the village because of his battle prowess. The entire village seemed to stand a little taller and listen a bit more intently as he spoke.
“I would normally have to side with Jarden and Mand in their view of the situation,” started Grok, “except that I am a warrior, an old warrior, and I’ve battled orc-kind more often than I care to remember. I understand the way of the orc, probably better than most. Mand’s point is acceptable and true. He has never seen orc tribes band together, but that doesn’t mean it has not occurred. The orcs can be a greedy, violent band of creatures and will supplicate themselves to the strong, especially if it appears to provide them gain and power, as has happened in the past. My grandfather had told me tales of tribes uniting. Usually to fight other tribes, a stronger tribe. Now, I have never heard of this type of behavior on the scale that young Brandt describes, but I have heard of it. I would tend to agree with Jarden and Mand, yet young Brandt has always been prone to honesty and is of sound mind. I have personal experience with him, as he and my son have grown together. I believe that we should at least send a scouting party to confirm Remence’s assessment. In the meantime, we will prepare our defenses.”
Jarden stood, and in a dismissive tone, as if all of this was absurd. “I for one believe the tale to be a bit fanciful. I vote that we ignore the entire situation as a child’s distorted view of the world. But would not be offended if we sent a scouting party, as Grok has suggested. What say the council?”
“I agree with Grok,” answered Mand. “He is the most-well versed on the orc and nearly the eldest of all on the council. And although I think that young Brandt is probably mistaken, it cannot hurt to discover the accuracy of his tale.” My vote is to send a tracking party out to assess a threat, if it exists. It is better known if there is a threat and be prepared, rather than to simply ignore it.”
Jarden responded, as he looked to the other two, “And the rest?”
Falen hesitated. “I agree with Grok’s idea, and I think it the most prudent, considering his experience.” He paused then added, “If there is any evidence to suggest that the orcs are even a fraction of the size of the force Remence has described, I’m with the lad.”
“Kael?” scoffed Jarden, as if he already knew his answer.
“My son saw what he saw. I stand by his word. So, I vote that we flee. Immediately, as he has counseled.”
“Brothers. Sisters. You have heard The Hand’s counsel. What say you?” Mand, the leader of The Hand inquired of the people.
Nearly the whole of the village was in accord with Grok, and the other three council members’ votes.
Remence plead with the council. “Please. We mustn’t stall. This army will be upon us within two days. We cannot afford to scout! I mean no disrespect, but if we delay, if we take the time to scout, we will be hard pressed to get to the Gates.”
“The council has decided, young Brandt. The village has decided. I have even shown my support for you. I think that you are correct that there is a threat, but we are more of the mind to fight as opposed to flee. We have forty, strong warriors here in the village. We should be able to hold off even twice our number, especially if we prepare our defenses,” commented Grok. “Orc-kind, even when they band together fight amongst themselves as opposed to acting like a cohesive group. That, my young Brandt, will work in our favor.”
“You don’t understand, I’m talking about hundreds! Five, six, seven hundred. And well-armed. This is no rag-tag group. They are organized, and they are heading this way. You heard what I said prior to my fight with the two orcs, they were yelling at one another then calmed. They did not come to blows. These orcs are acting different. Just the opposite of what you describe. This group of orcs is cohesive. It is disciplined. And there are many tribes who have banded together. Not wage war on another tribe, but to wage war on man. They are hell-bent on wiping out the goodly races of Vaasa. No matter what preparations we make we will be overrun. Please. You must listen. We have to flee,” implored Remence.
“The council has spoken. Four to one. We will do it Grok’s way, and there will be no more debate,” Jarden said forcefully, putting an end to Remence’s pleadings.